The Divine Response
“All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8).
“When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8).
Little did the children of Israel know what they were doing when they said: “All that the Lord hath spoken will we do.” There was no divine response in this. But a short three months before they had languished under the cruel bondage of Egypt. They had witnessed God’s mercy towards themselves; God’s judgment against their enemies. They had sung the triumphant song of redemption on this side of the Red Sea. They had boasted of the Lord as their strength and song and salvation. They had seen their enemies dead on the sea-shore. They had lived on God’s bounty since that day. Daily manna and water from the smitten rock testified to Jehovah’s loving interest in His people.
Without one thought of their utter inability to keep the law they boldly promised obedience to Jehovah; and every circumstance was calculated to deepen the seriousness of their undertaking and strengthen their desire to respond.
Bounds set to the Mount, Sinai altogether on a smoke, thunder and lightnings, a thick cloud resting on the summit, hiding the awful presence of Jehovah, the trumpet sounding long, and waxing louder and louder till the people trembled before the awe-inspiring spectacle.
Their leader Moses disappeared from view, and was engaged in receiving the law they had promised to obey. Would any one have been rash enough to have prophesied that before Moses returned to them they would be found breaking the first and most important law—“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”; that, stripped naked, they would be found worshipping a golden calf made out of their ear-rings and ornaments, and would be giving rein to their basest passions in the pretence of worship? Yet so it was. There was no divine response in their ready acceptance of the law. It was the arrogance of the flesh. The presumption of poor fallen nature. The ignorance of men, who did not know the awful power of sin.
How different is the testimony of the Psalmist. God exhorts him to seek His face, He wants light and comfort and support. Where shall he find these things? Father and mother may forsake. The best earthly props may go. He exults, “The Lord will take me up,” but that is not boasting what he can do, but what the Lord will do.
The divine response is evident, “MY HEART said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”
That lies in the HEART. The law demanded love from man in the flesh, and the full and awful response to that was seen when Love Incarnate was crucified on a gibbet, and the bitter message flung back to God: “We will not have this Man to reign over us.”
And as to Israel: of all the tens of thousands who boasted so proudly, “All that the Lord hath said we will do,” only two—Joshua and Caleb—passed into the promised land. All the rest fell in the wilderness—they failed to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
But in Christianity how happily different. If we are exhorted to work out our salvation with fear and trembling it is called “your own salvation”—it is ours, we possess it. It is no making bricks without straw. No demand without the hope of response. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
There is the secret. Before God calls forth the response, He gives the desire. Our hearts are won by Christ, and we desire to be like Him. The divine nature is ours, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, thus giving the Christian state.
I remember hearing someone say, “All exhortation is legal.” I responded, “Then a large portion of the epistles is legal.” He saw at once his mistake. He overlooked God’s gracious action in giving us the will—in setting our hearts right with Himself—so that when He exhorts us in His word as we read it, or by His word in living ministry, the response in desire can be counted upon and failure—for there is always such—mourned over.
And when we lay stress on the divine response we can only bow in worship before our God and Father, for our hearts would never in themselves have pulsated once in affection for Him if He had not worked in sovereign grace, making us partakers of the divine nature and giving us the gift of the Holy Ghost—the alone power of divine life—so that our hearts respond not as occupied with the response, but occupied with Him who calls it forth.
Words of Grace and Encouragement 1909