|A WARNING AGAINST UNBELIEF|
FB Meyer - Chapter 9 of Way Into the Holiest
THE CAUSE OF THE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE.
They could not enter in because of unbelief. See how unbelief raises a barrier which shuts us out ofblessing. A fortune may have been left you, but if you do not believe the intelligence and apply for it, you willnot profit by it. A regiment of angels may be passing by your home, with blessings in their hands that mightenrich you forever, but if you do not believe the tidings that they are on the march, you will not go out to greetor welcome them.
A noble character may rear itself in the neighbourhood in which you live, or the society in which you move;but if you do not believe in it, you will derive no stimulus or comfort from its genial and helpful influence. Sowhatever Christ may be, and however near, He will be nothing to you unless you have learned to trust Him. There are three conditions in which unbelief thrives with us, as with the children of Israel.
1) "They murmured".
The first outbreak was in the wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16), within a few days of the Exodus. There was nobread. The provisions hastily brought from Egypt were consumed. They had their kneading-troughs, but noflour to knead. There was no organised commissariat.
"And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron in thewilderness, and the children of Israel said unto them, Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in theland of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, when we did eat bread to the full, for you have brought us forthinto this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
The second outbreak was at Rephidim (Exodus 17). There was no water. The scanty desert brooks wereheaps of scorching stones, and not a leaf of vegetation trembled in the burning sunshine. And again the sullensounds of discontent were heard as the people muttered their belief that they had been brought out of Egypt toperish there.
But the most serious outbreak occurred shortly after they left Sinai (Numbers 13). The green hills ofPalestine at last appeared in view, and spies were sent forward to search the land. After forty days theyreturned laden with luscious fruits; but they had a story to tell of the strength and fortifications of theCanaanites, which filled the people with dismay; and "all the people murmured against Moses and againstAaron, and said, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt."
"Yes, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word, but murmured in their tents, andhearkened not to the voice of the Lord. Therefore He lifted up His hand to them, that He would overthrow themin the wilderness" (Psalm 106.24-26).
A murmuring, complaining heart is one which has already commenced to disbelieve in the wise and lovinglead of Christ, and in which unbelief will thrive.
2). "They departed from the living God." God is the Home and Source of life. From Him, as from a fountain,all things derive their being, strength, and beauty. If Israel had remained in living union with Him, there wouldhave been no failure in their supplies, and there would have been sufficient grace to make the people calm andrestful and strong amid these privations and difficulties.
But they departed from Him. They thought they could do better for themselves. They forsook the Fountainof living water, and went up into the hills to hew out for themselves broken, i.e. cracked cisterns, which couldhold no water.
Of the Rock that begat them they grew unmindful; and so became as the desert tamarisk, which inhabitsdull and uninhabited wastes, in contrast to the tree whose roots are fed by rivers, and whose arms shadowgenerations.
Let us ask ourselves whether there has been any declension in our heart-religion, less prayerfulness, lesscloseness in our walk with God, less enjoyment in the worship of His house; for, if so, unbelief is sure tomanifest itself, as the fungus which grows fat on the damp and fetid soil. Unbelief cannot live in the sunlight offellowship with God.
3). They failed to learn the lessons of the past. They did not deny the past. They would have told you withflashing eyes the wonderful story of deliverance. But they did not trust God's love and wisdom, they did not relyon His repeated promises that He would most certainly bring them in as He had already brought them out; theydid not find in the past a guarantee that He would not fail nor forsake them.
At Sin they should have said, "He gave us these bodies with these appetites and needs: we may trust Him to provide them with food. 'Our heavenly Father knows that we have need of all these things'."
At Marah they should have said, "He gave us manna, surely He can supply our thirst."
At Paran they should have said, "God has promised to give us the land; and so, though the Canaanites are strong, and their cities walled to heaven, we will dare believe in Him." Instead of this they cried, "He smote the rock, and the waters gushed out; and the streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Can He give flesh for his people?"
As we pass through life we should carefully store our hearts with the memory of God's great goodness, and fetch from past deliverances the assurances that He will never leave, neither forsake.
Has He conveyed us across the Atlantic to leave us to drown in a ditch? Has He been with us in six troubles to desert us in the seventh? Has He saved, and can he not keep? Has He redeemed us from hell, and can He not bring us to heaven?
"His love in time past forbids us to thinkHe'll leave us at last in trouble to sink;Each sweet Ebenezer we have in reviewConfirms His good pleasure to help us right through."
If we would guard against unbelief, we should reinforce our faith by constantly recapitulating the story ofGod's past dealings, and thus, through the stream of memory, the uplands of our life will send their deposits ofblessed helpfulness to reinforce us in our daily anxieties and perplexities. "The Lord has been mindful of us,He will bless us." "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more,being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
You were happy in your childhood. Your early days were set in a golden frame. But dear ones havevanished, as the oak's shadow from the forest undergrowth, and you feel unprotected and lonely. But the Godof your childhood will not be less thoughtful of you than in those happy bygone days.
You have stepped out on the waters, and as the storm threatens you, you almost wish yourself back, butHe who was with you in the fair haven will be as near you when the winds rave and the waves lift up theirvoice.
You are on the point of exchanging the flesh-pots of Egypt for the new land of Canaan, with its blessedpromise, and on the way, heart and flesh fail at the new and untried scenes that daunt and perplex. But Hewho delivered you from Pharaoh can shield you from Amalek; He who cleft the Red Sea will divide the Jordan.INSPIRED CAUTIONS. " Take heed lest there be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief in departingfrom the living God."
Unbelief is the child, not of the head, but of the heart. It is always well to know the source of disease, thenthe physician can attack it in its citadel. If unbelief were the creature of our intellect, we must needs meet itthere with argument, but since it is the product of a wrong state of heart, of an evil heart, we must meet it there."This," says William Law, "is an eternal truth, which you cannot too much reflect upon, that reason alwaysfollows the state of the heart; and what your heart is, that is your reason. If your heart is full of sentiments, ofpenitence, and of faith, your reason will take part with your heart; but if your heart is shut up in death anddryness, your reason will delight in nothing but dry objections and speculations."
Guard against an evil heart. If the heart were in a right condition, faith would be as natural to it as flowers inspring, or as smiles on the face of healthy, innocent childhood. As soon as the heart gets into an evil state -harbouring sin, cherishing things which you would not excuse in others but condone in yourself, permittingunholy thoughts and desires to remain unchecked and unjudged, then, beware! for such a heart is no longerable to believe in God. Its head turns dizzy, its eyes are blinded, and it is in imminent peril of fallingirretrievably.
Take heed, then. Watch and pray. Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith. Prove your own selves!Expose yourselves to the searching light of God's Spirit. Cultivate the honest and good heart.Most of the infidelity of the present day arises from man's disinclination to retain God in his knowledge.More scepticism may be traced to a neglected prayer closet than to the arguments of infidels or the halls ofsecularists.
First men depart from God, then they deny Him. And, therefore, for the most part, unbelief will not yield toclever sermons on the evidences, but to home thrusts that pierce the points of the harness to the soul within."Keep your heart beyond all keeping, since out of it are the issues of life."
Guard especially against heart-hardening. Hard hearts are unbelieving ones, therefore beware ofossification of the heart. The hardest hearts were soft once, and the softest may get hard. The chalk which nowholds the fossil shells was once moist ooze. The horny hand of toil was once full of soft dimples. The murdereronce shuddered when, as a boy, he crushed a worm. Judas must have been once a tender andimpressionable lad.
But hearts harden gradually, like the freezing of a pond on a frosty night. At first the process can bedetected by none but a practised eye. Then there is a thin film of ice, so slender that a pin or needle would fallthrough. At length it will sustain a pebble, and, if winter still hold its unbroken sway, a child, a man, a crowd, acart will follow. We get hard through the steps of an unperceived process.
The constant hearing the truth without obeying it. The knowing a better and doing the worse. Thecherishing of unholy things that seem fair as angels. The refusal to confess the wrong and to profess the right.All these things harden. Beware of the deceitfulness of sin! Take heed to yourselves! Exhort one another daily.Guard against a fickle heart. This is the sin which this epistle especially opposes. There are many aroundus who eagerly embrace a novelty, but when the stress comes, as it always does, like the settling of a house,there is a slackening off. We must hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope steadfast to the end. Wecan only become partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm to the end.
We should see not only to our own heart, but to the heart of our brethren; and exhort one another daily, watching over each other, and seeking to revive drooping piety and reanimate fainting hope.
Let us take heed to these things today. Now is God's time. The Holy Ghost says, 'Today'. Every day of delay is dangerous, because the hardening process becomes more habitual.
Today restore what you have taken wrongfully, adjust a wrong, promote a right. Today renounce some evilhabit, some unhallowed pastime, some unlawful friendship. Today reach out after some further realisation ofthe fair ideal which beckons you. Today leave the wilderness forever, and enter by faith the Land of Promise.