Well Supplied

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), who wrote  such beloved hymns as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Joy to the World,” also wrote hundreds of hymns which are virtually unknown.Three of his lesser-known hymns are based on the well-known Psalm 23…and each one is a precious reminder of the wonder of having the Lord God as our Shepherd.  Below are the first stanzas from each of these three hymns.  Given the uncertainty of the world in which we live, and both the physical and spiritual needs we all have, these are stanzas well worthy of our contemplation!  I have bolded the wording which has had the greatest impact on my heart today. The phrase in italics comes in a close second.  The result:  Greater stillness of heart and trust in God’s care.

My Shepherd is the living Lord; Now shall my wants be well supplied; His providence and holy word Become my safety and my guide. My Shepherd will supply my need, Jehovah is his name; In pastures fresh he makes me feed, Beside the living stream. The Lord my Shepherd is, I shall be well supplied; Since he is mine and I am his, What can I want beside?

Fear not.

Today I read some comforting words from Scottish minister Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), from a sermon on Isaiah 41:14-16.  That text says, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel…”Yet why shouldn’t we fear when we are faced with enemies and many fearful things?  Only because our trust is in the One who is strong enough to defend us.  Because of His great power, we know we have security in His care…and that unfailing care motivates us to act boldly and live fearlessly.  Rutherford explains:”‘I will help thee, saith the Lord…’  What ground of comfort were this if it were said by one that could not help?–but the Lord says it.”…He is a king of His word.  He helps indeed where He promises.  When God says ‘Fear not,’ albeit thou wert compassed about [even if you were surrounded] with enemies on all sides, and there were as many devils round about you as there are piles of grass upon the earth…thou needst not to fear; thou may go through the sea then, and the sea shall not drown you; thou may’st dance on the grave, for the grave shall not rot you.  And so this is a well-fard [well-favoured] word: ‘I will keep thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.’”

From Quaint Sermons of Samuel Rutherford (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1999), 2, 13.

Meditations on the Preciousness of Christ

When we speak of something as being “precious” we usually mean that it is very dear to our heart, and thus, greatly loved or treasured.  It is something that has great value to us…something which we are careful not to waste, ignore or treat carelessly.

“Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious…”

- 1 Peter 2:7

For each of us, the Christmas season is a good time to pause and ask:Is Christ precious to me?  How do I know?  What evidence do I have that He istruly precious to my heart?   Do I ever regard or treat Him as less than precious?In the book entitled The Precious Things of God, Octavius Winslow provides many wonderful meditations on the preciousness of Christ.   I would like to share a few of his thoughts with you over the month of December.  It is my hope that these meditations will result in a more passionate love for Christ, in an increased joy as we celebrate His birth, and in a greater anticipation of His next advent!

Meditation #1 on the preciousness of Christ:

But to whom is Christ precious?  This is a most important question.  He is not so to all.  It is a privileged class, a peculiar people, a little flock,few and scattered, hidden and unknown, who feel the Saviour’s preciousness.  Only to the believer is Christ precious…

-Octavius Winslow

Meditation #2 on the preciousness of Christ:

How precious, then, is our Lord Jesus as ‘bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.’  Think of His perfect humanity–

a humanity free from sin, and therefore capable of dying for the ungodly,–

a humanity laden with sorrow, and therefore capable of sympathizing with the afflicted.

 Precious to our hearts as God–precious as Man–

precious as both united in one–

inconceivably and eternally precious is He,

whose name is ‘Wonderful,’ to His believing saints.

-Octavius Winslow

May your heart be moved by gratitude and love as you ponder meditation #3 on the preciousness of Christ:

“In the hour of adversity, of trial, of sorrow, oh, how precious is Christ in the experience of the believer!

It would seem, beloved, as though we had never really known Him until then. Certainly, we never knew from experience that there was so much that was human, tender, and compassionate in His heart until sorrow touched our own…

Precious humanity!  that bears each burden, that is touched with each infirmity, that soothes each sorrow, and that succors each temptation of His people.”

-Octavius Winslow

Meditation #4 on the preciousness of Christ:

 “Who, then, is the Lord Jesus Christ?  In common parlance, men term Him, ‘our Saviour.’  But do the great body pause and reflect who Christ really is?  Do they regard Him and the CREATOR of this world–of all worlds?  of their being–of all beings?  Do they consider that ‘all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made?’
But what a grand and glorious truth is this to the believing soul–the absolute deity of the Saviour–the essential Godhead of Christ!
Precious in His Deity–
Precious as ‘God over all, blessed for evermore.’
-Octavius Winslow

Not Quite Done with Thanksgiving

Although it is well past Thanksgiving Day, my heart is convicted of the need to meditate more on thankfulness.  Too often I find myself focused on the immediacy of life: the work, the need, the hardship, the disappointment, the busyness…and not focused on the accompanying blessings: the love, the care, the strength, the faithfulness, the comfort, the presence, and the provision of God (whether from Him directly, through providence, or though the ways He moves the hearts of His people).Today, God brought Psalm 23 to my remembrance. 

Whether or not your thoughts are still on Thanksgiving, may your heart be blessed by the way Issac Watts has poetically expressed the message of this well-loved psalm.  I highly recommend reading it aloud–and then choosing one thought to meditate on with thankfulness!

 My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
In pastures fresh he makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wand’ring spirit back
When I forsake his ways;
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.
When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of thy supporting breath,
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days:
O may thy house be mine abode,
And all my work be praise!
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home.

The Necessity of Trials

As I have lately been studying, meditating, and teaching on spiritual comfort, questions regarding the reasons for trials and troubles (whether big or small) have repeatedly surfaced.   As I have searched out answers, one question has occupied my thoughts more than others:

How much does our sinful pride necessitate trials and troubles in our pursuit of Christ-likeness?

In other words, how successful would we be in putting pride and self to death if we did not have trials and troubles to attack our pride, humble us, and drive us to God for help and comfort?Thomas Charles (a preacher in North Wales in the 1770’s) writes:

The cross, which we must expect to meet daily in the way, will hurt nothing but sin and self:  and surely we would not wish to spare them.  I hope it is our happiness to think, that God is against them, and has determined their destruction in his own way.  Blessed be the Lord, there is a world where righteousness only dwelleth, and where sin and self shall no more trouble us for ever!

I don’t know about you, but I do not often meditate on the necessity of trials in life.  But it does make sense.  If trials were not needful for His people, God would surely not cause or allow them.  He does nothing without reason and He does nothing that is not for the good of those who love Him.  So although they can be grievous and heart-rending, sometimes to the extreme, I am thankful for trials, not only because they do indeed “hurt” sin and self, but also because they drive us to God, who is the God of all comfort, and there is no better place to be than utterly and totally dependent upon Him! (2 Corinthians 1)