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In distinction to many others who have been taken away by death, we have been allowed to enter into this new year 1992. Many started 1991 with us, but their lives came to an end at God’s time. We may enter this year, but we have left much debt behind, which is not forgotten. Just as we regularly receive statements from the bank as to how much we are in debt, so it is also with the Lord. We have a debt which must be paid. Does it really concern us?
We do not know if 1992 will bring us prosperity or adversity, health or sickness. It is possible that empty places will come among us, but death can also come to us personally. How will it be with our country, our church, and our schools? Nobody can give an answer; there is a veil over it. We do not know what today or tomorrow will bring, but we know that the Lord rules over all things and He will fulfill His pleasure upon earth. His throne is in heaven, but He rules over the world and over our lives. Not one hair of our head will fall without His will. Blessed is the man who unconditionally may surrender to the Lord and entrust to Him his whole heart, as Asaph did.
Asaph lived in the days of King David, with Heman and Ethan. We know of twelve psalms of Asaph, among which Psalm 73 also is included. It is precious in content, but not always pleasing to the flesh. The sinfulness and enmity against God is portrayed. In this psalm man is humiliated to the deepest and God glorified to the highest.
Asaph received an important place among Israel because he was called to praise the name of the Lord on the Sabbath, and especially at the great feasts when Israel came up to Jerusalem. These were days when the favor of the Lord was felt. Still there was something wrong in the life of Asaph. He sang the praises to the Lord, but in his heart there was resentment and enmity. He suspected the Lord of injustice. “In what way?” you will ask. Asaph served the Lord faithfully but still he had adversity while the wicked had prosperity. He thought that the Lord made a mistake.
But Asaph, how do you dare to think or to say this? No one deserves prosperity. We are worthy to be cast away forever. It pleased the Lord to show this to him when He led him into the sanctuary. There he saw the end of the wicked and it became a wonder to him that this had not been his end. We read that he became as a beast before God. He confessed that the Lord is righteous and he was wrong. The confession was born: “Thou hast holden me by my right hand.” This means: Thou has protected and kept me in my foolishness and strife, that I did not wander away. He said it before: “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.” The Lord had helped him in his great need.
This same grace is necessary for all God’s children. When they are stricken by adversities, when the enemy attacks, then it is necessary that the Lord keep us; otherwise we will fall in the same sin as Asaph did. The keeper of Israel does not sleep nor slumber, as Asaph experienced: “Thou hast holden me by my right hand.” This is a priceless privilege. Men of note often have no time for their people. Although the Lord is in heaven and surrounded by saints and holy angels, He remembers His poor and miserable people, whom He has chosen, bought for a price, and are called by Word and Spirit.
Friends, how necessary that we also may put our trust in the Lord for this New Year, as we do not know what it will bring. We should not be concerned, in the first place, with what might happen in this year, but more importantly, how do we begin it? Can we say with Asaph, “Thou hast holden me by my right hand”? Is God really at our right hand? We all are traveling to eternity and many are still on the broad way. When it is slippery outside, then we do not go outside; it is too dangerous! But many travel under much more dangerous circumstances to eternity and do not care at all. May the Lord give to us that we will leave the broad way and that we may be converted unto Him. Then it will become true for us also: “Thou hast holden me by my right hand.” The following is also necessary: “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel.”
Counsel has two meanings: the decree or to give counsel. Some explain that Asaph was led by the Lord according to His unchangeable decree. This is according to Scripture; nothing happens without the will of God. He rules over the whole world and nobody can move without His will. No one expected the great changes which came in the world in the past year, but this was according to God’s decree.
We believe that the second meaning of the word counsel is applicable in our text. The Lord gives counsel, the Lord teaches on the pilgrimage. “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel.” When the Lord shows us what we are, then we need a leader, a guide, especially when we learn we cannot do anything that pleases the Lord. Asaph himself learned that he wandered like a sheep, and therefore this guidance became so needful: “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel.”
It is so necessary for all of us to receive the leading of the Lord in this year. We lack the wisdom to choose the right path; we lack the strength to keep from falling; we lack the courage to persevere to the end. Wandering sheep so easily become a prey of the wild animals.
Young people, probably you do not see it but Satan in our days is not only a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour — with drugs, drinking or sport — but he also comes as an angel of light to deceive us with a doctrine which is not according to God’s Word. Many think it is well with us when we live an outwardly decent life. It is good to live outwardly according to God’s Word, but please do not think that it is therefore well with us. In our lives we need the leading of the Lord by His Word and Spirit. Asaph could tell something of what it means, and I hope that there are still some of God’s children who have the freedom at moments to speak of it also to our young people, because this is missed so much in our days. Most of our children do not know how the Lord converts His people.
This guidance of the Lord is not direct, but by means of Word and Spirit. God’s Word must be a lamp for our feet. In His Word the Lord warns against dangerous paths and points to the ways which are pleasing to Him: “Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Ps. 77:20). Asaph became united with the will of God. Prosperity or adversity, happiness or sorrow — the Lord is righteous in all His ways. All that happens is according to God’s eternal and unchangeable counsel. Asaph had learned that he was for God’s account for time and eternity.
Do you have some of this confidence of faith? May you know that this divine guidance is also given to us for this new year, with all the problems which are awaiting us in the world, in our families, and in the church? We should storm the throne of grace that the Lord may go with us, notwithstanding our many shortcomings which make us unworthy that the Lord be our Helper. The Lord calls to us, “Harden not your heart.” Forswear the service of Satan. His imitation-happiness leads to eternal destruction. He does not seek our welfare, but our eternal damnation in hell.
Asaph had another guide: “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel.” Where we lose our rights and worthiness, there God and Christ become of great value. It is my wish that the Church may see the King in His beauty in this coming year and speak of Him. One kiss of Jesus’ mouth is more than the whole world. When by faith we may see the child of Bethlehem, then our language is too poor to express the richness which is found in Him. When the second Person of the divine Being has value in our lives, then the Church may say, “I will love Thee, oh Lord, my strength.” From then on the spiritual labor changes. They cannot rest on their feelings any longer, but they desire to appropriate Him, to possess Him, for time and eternity.
God’s counsel will stand, also in 1992; the Lord will do what is pleasing to Him. May we, with the help of the Lord, keep His institutions diligently. But it is also possible that during this year the day of our death will come. How will it then be? From our text we can learn that the Lord will not forsake His children, “And afterward receive me to glory.” Afterward — after all that they have experienced in sorrow and joy, after the enjoyment of God’s presence, but also after their sad departures, their sinful stumblings, their doubts and fears about God’s work, as to whether it was true or not. But at the end of the pilgrimage of Asaph and of all God’s people, they will receive the crown of salvation out of free grace: “And afterward receive me to glory.”
The radical word for glory points to the all surpassing glory of eternal life in heaven. Nothing can be compared with it on earth because everything is imperfect in this world, however nice it may look unto us. The best of this world is like a star compared with the sun. This heavenly glory is called Paradise, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city with foundations, the house of My Father with its many mansions, the city where the streets are of pure gold and the gates of pearls. It is the place where the angels are ready for the service of the Lord and where the saints glorify their God. There they will be perfect, without sin, clothed with long white robes, and clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
Is this everything which can be said of the glory of heaven? No, the most important we did not mention yet; there is the presence of the Lord, the triune God. This is salvation — to be satisfied with His likeness and to be with the Lord always.
When we may have a little of this knowledge of faith in our heart, then we are able to go further and will no longer be jealous of the prosperity of the wicked. With Asaph we may have that most blessed future, as John heard on Patmos, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth” (Rev. 14:13). At the moment of their death God’s people will go from the church militant to the church triumphant. The cross is taken from their shoulders and out of grace they receive the crown of glory.
As ambassadors of Christ we pray you to leave the broad way; otherwise the end will be terrible. Supplicate for God’s grace, because the chief of sinners can yet be saved.
Friends, may the Lord crown us with heavenly blessings and saving grace in this year. We pray that the Lord may bless us with temporal health and prosperity in His favor, but that the temporal goods may not be a snare unto us. The Lord only can protect us from accident, sin, error, sickness, adversity and disaster. Above all, that the Sun of Righteousness may shine upon us and we may find a refuge under His wings. May the Lord look down upon us and our children in mercy. We also hope that the instruction in church, school, and in the home may be blessed.
It is hidden for us what this year will bring. If oppression comes, may the Lord give comfort and patience to be united with His will. We end with the New Year’s wish: “The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace, that peace which passes all understanding, and keep your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.”
Rev. A.M. den Boer is pastor of the Netherlands Reformed congregation of Sunnyside, Washington.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 januari 1992
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 januari 1992
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's