“And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.”
THE force of this parable lies in its succession of vivid contrasts, which rise to an irresistible climax. The judge is unjust. He neither fears God nor regards man. His one idea is to extort as much money as he can from the prisoners who desire to get out of jail, and from those that want to keep them in, or put others to share their fate. But God is our Father, unimpeachable in His integrity, and only eager to promote our welfare.
The judge had no personal interest in the claimant. She had no personal attraction for him. Had she been possessed of property, he might have cared more. But now he looked on her as a pest that plagued and worried him. But we are God’s elect, over whom His tender heart yearns. Did He not choose us before all the worlds unto His glory?
The judge answered the widow’s cry just to save himself trouble. Whenever he went to his seat, there she was. Though he had refused to hear her a score of times, there was her voice again, as clear and penetrating as ever. She had been forcibly hurried from his presence by his officials, and she had been borne screaming and remonstrating into the rear; but she never knew herself defeated. At last he could bear it no longer, and gave orders that her patrimony should be restored.
And will not God do as much, as, generation after generation, He sees His Church, like a widowed soul, oppressed by the great enemy and avenger? As He hears the cries of martyrs and saints; the perpetual prayer, Come, Lord Jesus; the insolent boast of the foe—will He not arise and avenge? Yes, verily, speedily! But it may seem long to us, because one thousand years with Him are as one day.
“And they said, The Lord hath need of him.”
OH, could I hear Thee say as much of me, my blessed Lord!
Here, where two ways meet, I have been standing long, waiting for a purpose worthy to fill my soul, and task the powers that are, as yet, only in the first burst of young life.
Thou needest much and many in Thy great redemptive work.
The boat to cross the lake; the line to catch the fish; the bread and fish to feed the crowds; the baskets to gather up the fragments; the chalice to hold the wine; the dish to hold the sop; the little child to be the text for Thy sermon; the clay for the blind man’s eyes; the tender women to minister of their substance; the apostles to preach Thy Gospel. Canst Thou not find a niche for me also?
Thou requirest undivided loyalty. Born of the Virgin’s womb, laid in death where man’s dust had never come, Thou must have a colt on which none had ever sat. I cannot give Thee a heart which has never known another; but I profess to Thee that there is no rival now. Thou mayest have all. Thine is the Kingdom.
Thou requirest patience and humility. But these, also, Thou hast taught. I have waited patiently till this glad hour, and am quieted and humbled like a weaned child. No longer do I seek great things for myself. It is enough for me to be and do anything, if only Thou shalt be glorified.
Thou requirest, perhaps, but one brief service. To serve Thee always with increasing fervor would be my choice; but if Thou needest only one brief, glad hour of ministry, like that the good Ananias did to Thy Church when he ministered to Saul, then be it so. To prepare for it, and revert to it, would be my satisfaction in having lived.
“Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it?
They answered and said, Caesar’s.”
OUR Lord more than once compared men to coins. He spoke of the woman who lost one piece of silver, and searched till she had found it. The analogy might be carried out in many particulars; for as the ore passes through the crucible, and many another process, before it is stamped with the image of the sovereign, so do souls experience many fiery trials ere they can receive and keep the impression of heaven’s mint, which is the face of Jesus.
Whose image dost thou bear?—Is there a clear-cut outline of the features of Christ, so manifest that those who touch and handle you are irresistibly reminded of Him; or have the features of your King, which were once clear-cut, become effaced?
Whose is thy superscription? Is A. D. there?—the year in which you were born into the kingdom of God, the year of our Lord, the year of your eternal life? Is “Dei gratia” there? (By the grace of God). So that all the while those who know you magnify the exceeding riches of His love as manifested in you. Is “Christus Rex” there? (Christ the King). Are you absolutely Christ’s—to serve and to obey? Is “Fid. Def.” there? (Defender of the Faith). Do you keep the deposit of Christ’s holy Gospel, as you look to Him to keep the deposit which you have committed to Him? Is the lion on the quarterings?—speaking of the strength of the Lion of Judah imparted to your soul. Is the harp amongst them?—indicating the subjection of every string of your life to His finger. Is the crown there?—indicating how absolutely you have placed the empire of your nature upon the brow of your Lord. Then weave together the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley as the symbol of His reign.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
LET us never release the girdle from around our loins, nor throw ourselves listlessly upon the bank to drink, whilst the enemy may be stealing up against the wind. It is the art of our great enemy to fill the air with the heavy breath of the poppy; that, like the lotus-eaters of the old legend, we may be indisposed for the perils and toils of our onward journey.
Watch ye in the season of festivity. When merry voices fill the chamber with mirth, and jokes pass; old stories are retold; quaint anecdotes circulated—remember to look frequently up into the Master’s face, to discover if aught has covered it with shame, or filled it with regret. Let not your heart be overcharged with surfeiting drunkenness.
Watch ye in hours of stress and anxiety. These will come between the soul and Christ, oppressing us with anxious care, leading us to think too much of the things which are seen and transient, and filling our hearts with dismay, as though the future would find us orphans and homeless, because the storm had swept away some few gatherings of the earth’s perishable stores. When stocks are falling, business declining and competition increasing;
Watch! Make supplication! Stand before the Son of Man as those whom He cannot forget or forsake.
Watch ye in seasons of tender love. We wear armor abroad, but when we come within the closed door of the home, and our hearts expand beneath the genial warmth of kindred natures, how apt we are to cry, Now, surely, we may unbend, ungird, and let nature have free course. But the Master says, Watch ye at every season; and He reminds us that we never cease to stand before the Son of Man.
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:”
THE Master apparently did not pray that temptation should be withheld. The quick eye of His affection had discerned the tempter’s approach. His quick ear had detected Satan’s request of the Father; as though he said, “Let me have the chance for one brief hour, and I will show that these men, so far from being gold, silver, and precious stones, are only wood, hay, and stubble.” But though He knew all this, the Master did not request that the winnowing wind should be withheld. Why? Because temptation is part of the present order of the world. Why it is so we cannot tell; that it is so we know assuredly. Why the Almighty permitted the evil one to intrude into paradise, and to assail every single soul of woman born, that has passed to years of consciousness, we shall probably never understand until mystery drops from our eyes in the meridian light of heaven. We only are sure that the permission of temptation is not inconsistent with His almightiness or beneficence.
Temptation tests character and reveals us to ourselves and to one another. Was it not well that Peter should know how weak he was; that he might become truly penitent and converted? Was it not befitting that Judas should be exposed before the day of Pentecost?
Was it not best that the foundation stones of the Church should be well tested? It is better to learn our weakness now and here than at the Judgment seat.
But if Satan tempts, our Advocate pleads. He anticipates the advent of temptation by storing up His prayers. He warns the soul when the hawk begins to hover. If He may not arrest temptation, He will at least ask that our faith may not fail; and will seek us out as He did Peter.
“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
TODAY!—Dost thou ask Me to remember thee at some distant moment, when the kingdom of which I am now laying the foundations shall have become the all-conquering kingdom of the world? Thou needest not wait so long. I say unto thee that this very day, when yonder sun now scorching above our heads is sinking in the west, and the shadows lie long from our crosses, and the people have gone to their homes, thou shalt be with Me, where the sun shall no more be thy light by day, nor the moon by night, but the Lord shall be thy everlasting light.
Thou shalt be with Me. Dost thou ask only to be remembered; that I should give thee the glance of a thought; that I shall recall thy voice and face for a brief moment? Thou shalt be with Me, for I will await thee on the confines of My home. The throngs which escort Me shall behold thee by My side, and when I sit upon My sapphire throne I will give thee to sit beside Me, the one who, in My mortal anguish, trod the vale of the shadow, and who, with Me, shall tread the paths of light and glory.
In Paradise. I am here regaining Paradise. All that was lost is being recovered. Within a few hours it will be Mine to give; within a few hours its key will be in My hand; within a few hours thou shalt walk with Me there in the cool of the day, and the angel that drove out Adam shall keep watch lest the Serpent enter to molest.
Verily, I say unto thee. All this is fixed and certain. I say “verily”
to thee because the Father hath said “verily” to Me. Oh, trembling soul, who hast fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before thee, thou mayest have strong encouragement from My Word and death.
“Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
THESE are the two poles of Christian life—Death and Resurrection. That which was true in the history of our Lord must have its counterpart in our own experiences. That Jesus died and rose again is not only the dual basis of justification, but it is the dual basis of sanctification. Did He die? Then we must arm ourselves with the same mind. The crucifixion was not finished on Calvary; it has continued through all ages, and will continue unto the end; not in its mediatorial and atoning aspect, but with the view of each man denying himself and taking up his cross to follow daily. So also we are perpetually leaving the things of time and sense where Christ left His grave-clothes, and are pressing up and on in the wake of His resurrection and ascension.
It is a solemn question, how far we are participating in this daily dying and daily rising. “Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed. Mortify your members which are upon the earth; seek those things which are above. If one died for all, then all died; that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again.”
It is not that the old nature dies, but that we die to it. As a matter of experience and walk, the results will be very similar from either of these ways of stating the fact. But it is true to Scripture and experience also to speak of reckoning ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin—that is, the root-principle which so often fruits in sins.
Reckon that the grave of Christ lies between thee and the solicitations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Deem thyself dead to thyself. All this, however, is only possible through the Holy Spirit.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.”
GOD’S dealings with us are always on an ascending scale. If we see clearly the lowest rung in the heavenly ladder, whilst we behold, the veil of mist will part, and we shall see the next above it, and then the next, and, in due order, the next; and so the steps that slope away through darkness up to God will always be beckoning to greater and yet greater things.
Have you known Christ as the Word? He is more; both Spirit and Life.
Has He become flesh? You shall behold Him glorified with the glory He had before the worlds.
Have you known Him as Alpha, before all? He is also Omega.
Have you met John? You shall meet One so much greater, that the latchet of His shoes the Baptist shall deem himself unworthy to unloose.
Do you know the baptism by water? You shall be baptized by fire.
Have you beheld the Lamb on the Cross? You shall behold Him in the midst of the throne.
Have you seen the Spirit descend as a dove on one head? You shall see Him come as a fire upon an unnumbered multitude.
Have you followed the Christ to the slight booth in the Jordan Valley? You shall enter with Him into mansions of eternal glory.
Do you acknowledge Him as King of Israel? You shall hear the acclamations that salute Him as King of the worlds.
Live up to all you know, and you shall know more. Be all you can, and you shall become more. Do all that your two talents permit, and you will find yourself ruler over four cities.
“And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.”
THE world gives its best first. As youth and beauty are ushered into the banqueting-room of life, the world spreads the table with its best. The zest of enjoyment is keen in those young days, but it is soon satiated; the delicacies with which the table is spread pall, and the appetite, unduly stimulated at the first, demands coarser and more passionate delights to stimulate. At last the table is served with provision, from which, in the first days, the banqueters would have turned away disgusted.
But if you let the King lead you into His banqueting house, beneath His banner of love you will find yourself feeding on dainties which never satiate nor pall—which whet the appetite and give the taste a more delicate appreciation of the vintages of heaven.
You may say this of the Word of God. At the beginning of Christian life it is full of meaning and inspiration; but as the years pass, and we realize ever more of its helpfulness, we repeat the refrain, “Thou hast kept the best until now!”
You may say this of Christian love. Let two love in Christ, and instead of their affection waning, as so often happens in the world, they will discover that the fellowship, which began in comradeship, will end in a sacramental meal; truest, purest, deepest enjoyment being kept for Paradise.
You may say it of heaven. Neither hath eye seen nor heart conceived the things, even now and here, that God has prepared for those that love Him. But so soon as the redeemed spirit shall awaken in the uncreated glory of God’s presence, it will exclaim,
“The half was never told; Thou hast kept the best until now.” At every moment and always God is giving His best.
“John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.”
AFTER six months of marvellous ministry, in which the Baptist had seen the whole land at his feet, had gathered a band of disciples, and introduced the Messiah to the Jewish people, he found the crowds dwindling. His disciples viewed with feelings of chagrin the transference of popular interest from their master to Him of whom he had borne witness.
What John the Baptist meant by it: He realized that the crowds, the hushed attention, the swift response, the power of speech, the message, the deep repentance, the office of morning star heralding the Dayspring from on high, had been the gift of God. He had nothing which he had not received; he would have received nothing, except God had given it to him. Whether these things went or came was a matter altogether beyond his control. His part was to receive and use what God gave; and then return to Him, at His bidding, the saved talent. This forbade alike pride and despondency.
What we may learn by it: Humility and peace. Humility. Is this the time of your prosperity? Crowds wait on your words; mighty movements circle around you; glorious results follow on your plans! Do not be puffed up. Boast not yourself. “Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? but if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” Peace. If it is not due to your lethargy or sloth that the crowds have ebbed away, and that the tide of conversions has dropped below its former level, be at peace. These are things which the Holy Spirit worketh, dividing to each one severally even as He will.