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Lord’s Day 5, 2010

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.

imgHymn XXV.
Hannah; or the throne of grace. I. Samuel i. 18.
John Newton (1725–1807)


When Hannah press’d with grief,
 Pour’d forth her soul in pray’r;
   She quickly found relief,
      And left her burden there:
Like her, in ev’ry trying case,
Let us approach the throne of grace.

   When she began to pray,
      Her heart was pain’d and sad;
   But ere she went away,
      Was comforted and glad:
In trouble, what a resting place,
Have they who know the throne of grace!

   Tho’ men and devils rage,
      And threaten to devour;
   The saints, from age to age,
      Are safe from all their pow’r:
Fresh strength they gain to run their race,
By waiting at the throne of grace.

   Eli her case mistook,
      How was her spirit mov’d
   By his unkind rebuke?
      But God her cause approv’d.
We need not fear a creature’s face,
While welcome at a throne of grace.

   She was not fill’d with wine,
      As Eli rashly thought;
   But with a faith divine,
      And found the help she sought:
Tho’ men despise and call us base,
Still let us ply the throne of grace.

   Men have not pow’r or skill,
      With troubled souls to bear;
   Tho’ they express good–will,
      Poor comforters they are:
But swelling sorrows sink apace,
When we approach the throne of grace.

   Numbers before have try’d,
      And found the promise true;
   Nor one been yet deny’d,
      Then why should I or you?
Let us by faith their footsteps trace,
And hasten to the throne of grace.

   As fogs obscure the light,
      And taint the morning air;
   But soon are put to flight,
      If the bright sun appear;
Thus Jesus will our troubles chase,
By shining from the throne of grace.

—from Olney Hymns. Book I: On select Passages of Scripture.


John 7:25–36

Christ’s Origins from the Father

So some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill? 26 Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they? 27 However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.” 28 Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. 29 I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” 30 So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. 31 But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?”

Christ’s Departure to the Father

   32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him. 33 Therefore Jesus said, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He? 36 What is this statement that He said, ‘You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come’?”

imgWe see in these verses, the obstinate blindness of the unbelieving Jews. We find them defending their denial of our Lord’s Messiahship, by saying, “But we know this man whence He is: but when Christ cometh no man knoweth whence he is.” And yet in both these assertions they were wrong!
   They were wrong in saying that they “knew whence our Lord came.” They meant no doubt to say that He was born at Nazareth, and belonged to Nazareth, and was therefore a Galilean. Yet the fact was, that our Lord was born at Bethlehem, that He belonged legally to the tribe of Judah, and that His mother and Joseph were of the house and lineage of David. It is incredible to suppose that the Jews could not have found this out, if they had honestly searched and inquired. It is notorious that pedigrees, genealogies, and family histories were most carefully kept by the Jewish nation. Their ignorance was without excuse.
   They were wrong again in saying, “that no man was to know whence Christ came.” There was a well-known prophecy, with which their whole nation was familiar, that Christ was to come out of the town of Bethlehem. (Micah v. 2; Matt. ii. 5; John vii 42.) It is absurd to suppose that they had forgotten this prophecy. But apparently they found it inconvenient to remember it on this occasion. Men’s memories are often sadly dependent on their wills.
   The Apostle Peter, in a certain place, speaks of some as “willingly ignorant.” (2 Pet. iii. 5.) He had good reason to use the expression. It is a sore spiritual disease, and one most painfully common among men. There are thousands in the present day just as blind in their way as the Jews. They shut their eyes against the plainest facts and doctrines of Christianity. They pretend to say that they do not understand, and cannot therefore believe the things that we press on their attention, as needful to salvation. But, alas! in nineteen cases out of twenty it is a wilful ignorance. They do not believe what they do not like to believe. They will neither read, nor listen, nor search, nor think, nor inquire, honestly after truth. Can any one wonder if such people are ignorant? Faithful and true is that old proverb,—“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
   We see, for another thing, in these verses, the overruling hand of God over all His enemies. We find that the unbelieving Jews “Sought to take our Lord: but no man laid hands on Him, because his hour was not yet come.” They had the will to hurt him, but by an invisible restraint from above, they had not the power.
   There is a mine of deep truth in the words before us, which deserves close attention. They show us plainly that all our Lord’s sufferings were undergone voluntarily, and of His own free will. He did not go to the cross because He could not help it. He did not die because He could not prevent His death. Neither Jew nor Gentile, Pharisee nor Sadducee, Annas nor Caiaphas, Herod nor Pontius Pilate, could have injured our Lord, except power had been given them from above. All that they did was done under control, and by permission. The crucifixion was part of the eternal counsels of the Trinity. The passion of our Lord could not begin until the very hour which God had appointed. This is a great mystery. But it is a truth.
   The servants of Christ in every age should treasure up the doctrine before us, and remember it in time of need. It is “full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons.” Let such never forget that they live in a world where God overrules all times and events, and where nothing can happen but by God’s permission. The very hairs of their heads are all numbered. Sorrow and sickness, and poverty, and persecution, can never touch them, unless God sees fit. They may boldly say to every cross,—“You could have no power against me, except it were given thee from above.” Then let them work on confidently. They are immortal, till their work is done. Let them suffer patiently, if needs be that they suffer. Their “times are in God’s hand.” (Psl. xxxi. 15.) That hand guides and governs all things here below, and makes no mistakes.
   We see lastly, in these verses, the miserable end to which unbelievers may one day come. We find our Lord saying to His enemies,—“Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am thither ye cannot come.”
   We can hardly doubt that these words were meant to have a prophetical sense. Whether our Lord had in view individual cases of unbelief among His hearers, or whether He looked forward to the national remorse which many would feel too late in the final siege of Jerusalem, are points which we cannot perhaps decide. But that many Jews did remember Christ’s sayings long after He had ascended into heaven, and did in a way seek Him and wish for Him when it was too late, we may be very sure.
   It is far too much forgotten that there is such a thing as finding out truth too late. There may be convictions of sin, discoveries of our own folly, desires after peace, anxieties about heaven, fears of hell,—but all too late. The teaching of Scripture on this point is clear and express. It is written in Proverbs,—“Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.” (Prov. ii. 28.) It is written of the foolish virgins in the parable, that when they found the door shut, they knocked in vain, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” (Matt. xxxv. 11.) Awful as it may seem, it is possible, by continually resisting light and warnings, to sin away our own souls. It sounds terrible, but it is true.
   Let us take heed to ourselves lest we sin after the example of the unbelieving Jews, and never seek the Lord Jesus as a Saviour until it is too late. The door of mercy is still open. The throne of grace is still waiting for us. Let us give diligence to make sure our interest in Christ, while it is called to-day. Better never have been born than hear the Son of God say at last, “Where I am thither ye cannot come.”

—J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007) [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)].

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