Better Than Ever
Isaiah 53:5 “By His Stripes we are healed.”
From: Our Daily Bread
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:12
The story is told of a group of salmon fishermen who gathered in a Scottish inn after a long day of fishing. As one was describing a catch to his friends, his arm swept across the table and knocked a glass against the wall, shattering it and leaving a stain on the white plaster surface. The man apologized to the innkeeper and offered to pay for the damage, but there was nothing he could do; the wall was ruined. A man seated nearby said, “Don’t worry.” Rising, he took a painting implement from his pocket and began to sketch around the ugly stain. Slowly there emerged the head of a magnificent stag. The man was Sir E. H. Landseer, Scotland’s foremost animal artist.
David, Israel’s illustrious king who penned Psalm 51, brought shame on himself and his nation by his sins. He committed adultery with the wife of one of his friends and engineered the death of that friend—both deeds worthy of death. It would seem his life was ruined. But he pled with God: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (v. 12).
Like David we have shameful acts in our past and the memories that accompany them, recollections that taunt us in the middle of the night. There’s so much we wish we could undo or redo.
There is a grace that not only forgives sin but also uses it to make us better than before. God wastes nothing.
Lord, I’ve failed You again. Please forgive me again. Change me. Turn me around. Teach me to follow Your ways.
God has both an all-seeing eye and all-forgiving heart.\
The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin, but that the nature of sin, namely, my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race through one man. But it also says that another Man took upon Himself the sin of the human race and put it away— an infinitely more profound revelation (see Hebrews 9:26). The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self-realization which leads us to say, “I am my own god.” This nature may exhibit itself in proper morality or in improper immorality, but it always has a common basis— my claim to my right to myself. When our Lord faced either people with all the forces of evil in them, or people who were clean-living, moral, and upright, He paid no attention to the moral degradation of one, nor any attention to the moral attainment of the other. He looked at something we do not see, namely, the nature of man (see John 2:25).
Sin is something I am born with and cannot touch— only God touches sin through redemption. It is through the Cross of Christ that God redeemed the entire human race from the possibility of damnation through the heredity of sin. God nowhere holds a person responsible for having the heredity of sin, and does not condemn anyone because of it. Condemnation comes when I realize that Jesus Christ came to deliver me from this heredity of sin, and yet I refuse to let Him do so. From that moment I begin to get the seal of damnation. “This is the condemnation [and the critical moment], that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light…” (John 3:19).
After a while, the stream dried up because there had been no rain in the land. (1 Kings 17:7)
The education of our faith is incomplete if we have not learned that there is a providence of loss, a ministry of failing and of fading things, a gift of emptiness. The material insecurities of life make for its spiritual establishment. The dwindling stream by which Elijah sat and mused is a true picture of the life of each of us. “It came to pass … that the brook dried up”—that is the history of our yesterday, and a prophecy of our morrows.
In some way or other we will have to learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver. The gift may be good for a while, but the Giver is the Eternal Love.
Cherith was a difficult problem to Elijah until he got to Zarephath, and then it was all as clear as daylight. God’s hard words are never His last words. The woe and the waste and the tears of life belong to the interlude and not to the finale.
Had Elijah been led straight to Zarephath he would have missed something that helped to make him a wiser prophet and a better man. He lived by faith at Cherith. And whensoever in your life and mine some spring of earthly and outward resource has dried up, it has been that we might learn that our hope and help are in God who made Heaven and earth.
—F. B. Meyer
Perchance thou, too, hast camped by such sweet waters,
And quenched with joy thy weary, parched soul’s thirst;
To find, as time goes on, thy streamlet alters
From what it was at firs
Hearts that have cheered, or soothed, or blest, or strengthened;
Loves that have lavished so unstintedly;
Joys, treasured joys—have passed, as time hath lengthened,
If thus, ah soul, the brook thy heart hath cherished
Doth fail thee now—no more thy thirst assuage—
If its once glad refreshing streams have perished,
Let HIM thy heart engage.
He will not fail, nor mock, nor disappoint thee;
His consolations change not with the years;
With oil of joy He surely will anoint thee,
And wipe away thy tears.
—J. D. Smith