#AN EARNEST ENTREATY
"Show Your marvelous loving-kindness."
- Psalm 17:7
IF one were about to have an audience with the Queen, or with some other royal personage, he might be apt to say, "How shall I behave myself? What am I expected to do? What is the proper form of address?" Now, in entering into the presence of the great King of Kings, the eternal God, we may suppose the trembling penitent saying, "What shall I do? How shall I come before the Most High God? What words shall I use and into what fashion shall I cast my desires?" Well, Holy Scripture has been very rich in answers to this question, for you have hundreds of most appropriate prayers made ready to your hand! We might readily enough compose a Biblical Liturgy, if one believed in Liturgies at all! Nor would it be difficult to find Scriptural words for every desire that could possibly strike the human heart. The Bible, besides all its other excellences, is a great and universal prayer-book, and has in it petitions suited to all classes and conditions of men at all times, whatever their desires and necessities may be. Now I take out of this prayer book this one short supplication. I know the children of God will join with me in praying it, and I trust that before we have done, some who never prayed before may make this their firm prayer, "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness." Now, in the first place, we may offer up this prayer—
I. DESIRING THAT GOD WOULD SHOW MARVELOUS LOVING-KINDNESS IN OUR MEDITATIONS.
What marvelous loving-kindness there is for us to look at! Old as the everlasting hills—but old as it is, and majestic as it must be—there are some eyes that never saw it! Others, too, who, though they have read their Bibles and heard gospel sermons from their infancy, have never yet seen God’s marvelous loving-kindness! Let us spend, then, a few minutes in meditation, in order that the Lord may hear this prayer and show us His loving-kindness while we muse upon it.
You see the root-word, the core-word of the text is "love." The rest is a description of that love. Well now, in meditating upon God’s love, let us remember how extraordinary it has been. It was in love that, before the world was formed, God chose His people and enrolled them in His covenant. When, with prescient eyes, the Almighty beheld all men immersed in ruin by their sin, His finger pointed to one man and another, "There will I dwell forever. There shall be My rest," said the Lord of Hosts, "for I have chosen him." What love was that which made him choose you and me? Or what motive could prompt Him but that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion? Electing love having dug the fountain, consider, beloved, how vast that love which entered into the covenant of grace to effect the purpose of our redemption—when there was a striking of hands between the Persons of the Trinity, that by that covenant transaction, promises might be made sure to all the seed by the covenanting God in Christ. Ponder, I pray you, upon the love that did not cool when the covenant required sacrifice—which did not refrain when the well-beloved Son of the Father must be the victim! Surely Solomon must have had this in his mind when he said, "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." Did not Jesus leave His father and His mother that He might cleave unto His Spouse, and that they two might be made one flesh? Herein was love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent His Son to be our Redeemer!
Need I tell the story of the sufferings of Calvary again? We have painted that picture a thousand times in crimson colors. Dipping our brush into the bloody sweat, we have tried to set forth the agonies of the saints’ great Substitute. Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God! You know the results of that love. ‘Twas love that called you when you were afar off, quickened you when you were dead in sin and raised you out of the grave of your not say that love laid the foundation stone, and love has gone on piling up the walls, stone by stone, and love shall bring in the top stone with shouts of, "Grace, Grace unto it"? Oh, as I read the matchless story of love without beginning, which can never, never cease, I marvel that our hearts are not all on fire, that our passions do not boil over and that our lips do not become like the red lips of Vesuvius when the burning lava sweeps down her sides! Surely our souls ought to feel a fervor and a heavenly flame for love like this! Lord, while we turn these matters over, "show Your marvelous loving-kindness."
But you perceive that this love issues in "kindness." There may be a sort of kindness that is not loving and, on the other hand, there may be a sort of love that is not kindness. We have known man to be very kind to the poor but he never thought of loving them. What thousands of people we meet with every day who would be kind to negroes, but they would not think of loving them. And we know, too, that there is a sort of love that is not kind—or if there is kindness at the bottom, it is not very gentle and tender in its manifestation. Love can sometimes be cruel, or at least it can give hard cuts and cause acute pain, forgetful of that debt of mercy and compassion which is due to the infirmities of man’s nature. Now we ought, while we look over the Lord’s dealings with us, to remember the minute traits of His kindness as well as the majestic tokens of His love. Beloved, when the Lord made provision for us in the covenant, He did not merely provide bread and water for us—just enough to keep His people alive—but He provided for you the generous wine of Jesus’ blood! He provided for you the scarlet and fine linen of Jesus’ righteousness, the downy pillow of the divine promise and the soft bed of gracious, sweet, everlasting peace. He did not provide for you a place where you might take refuge from the storm and solace your soul with humble contentment, but He provided for you a heaven of delights—a heaven which eyes have not seen, of which ears have not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man to conceive! There are streams of kindness gushing up and flowing out from the fountain of love! When He called you by His grace, how kindly He did it! You were not whipped to Christ, or if you were, how soon the stripes disappeared from off your back! How kindly He met you! Oh, that day when you tremblingly came to the foot of His cross! How He fell upon your neck and kissed you! How He cried, "Take off his rags and put on the best robe!" How He healed the blisters of your weary feet, put silver sandals upon them and taught you how to dance! How generously He attired you in the sumptuous robe of a prince’s son, put a crown of pure gold upon your head and gave you such thoughts of mercy and such gentle words of loving-kindness that your heart, which was earlier ready to burst with grief, was well near bursting with joy! Lord, while we think how kind You have been to us from the day when we first knew You, even until now, we may truly wonder that we do not love You better, and pray that while we turn over Your acts of mercy, You will show Your marvelous loving-kindness.
Oh, yes, it is indeed "marvelous!" We must say a word upon that. What is so fit to excite wonder and keep up a sense of continual surprise as the love of God? Do men tell us there are no such things as miracles? Why, every Christian is a living reply to their allegation! No such thing as a miracle? The existence of a believer from day to day is a string of miracles which the laws of nature will not account for. Every Christian will tell you that his experience is miraculous from the beginning of his faith to this day, and so will it continue to be to the end. What a marvel it was, brothers and sisters that God should ever have bestowed His loving-kindness upon such as we have been! We were not among those good people who never did anything wrong. There was nothing in our disposition or character to recommend us. We were sinners, and in our own esteem, sinners of the most crimsoned dye whose iniquities were like scarlet double-dyed! Yet He had mercy on us! We were poor and unlettered, feeble and unbefriended, yet He was moved with compassion toward us! Passing by many of the great and deserving of esteem, He called the base things of our order and the things that men despise, that these might be nurslings of His care and precious in His sight. From what did He call us; from the silliness of the foolish? Some of us from the fellowship of drunkards, from the harlot’s haunts, or it may be others of you from the thief’s den, from the seat of the scorner, or from the chair of the blasphemer. And if not steeped in crime, you were, perhaps, puffed up with self-righteousness and so fast held in Satan’s stronghold. When we think of what we were and what we came from, we see that the loving kindness must be marvelous, indeed!
And then, if you recollect what you would have been if He had not called you, here again is a marvel! Why, we might have been in hell! Certainly we should have been ripening for it, going on with rapid footsteps down to the place where hope could never reach us! And think yet further of what He has called us to. Oh, how marvelous is this! The criminal has become a child, the rebel has become a prince, the traitor wears a crown—we who were like firebrands fitted for the flame, are waving the palm, wearing the crown and singing the song! I know not what you think of it, brothers and sisters, but in every view I take of the great acts of God’s grace towards believers, it is to me, marvelous loving kindness! Meditation upon these great acts of divine grace might tend very much to promote gratitude, and it were well if we sometimes set apart a time to go over in our thought and recollection all the mighty acts of the gracious God of Israel. But I have said enough upon the first point—so let me proceed briefly to speak upon a second. Surely David meant to say—
II. "SHOW YOUR MARVELOUS LOVING-KINDNESS IN OUR EXPERIENCE."
It may be there is a man over yonder who did not think of coming in here tonight at all, till, as he was passing by the building, he saw so large a crowd that he decided he would step in, though he fully meant to go out again. But, somehow or other, here he is. Man, you know what you have been. It is not for me to recount your sins before this assembly, but be assured the darkness of night has not covered them—neither has the silence of your confederates concealed them! The Lord that searches all hearts and tries the reins knows your iniquity. No feature of it is hidden from His eyes. Still, thus says the Lord of Hosts unto you this night, "Turn you, turn you! Why will you die?" And thus say I unto you—Pray this prayer this evening and who can tell but God may have mercy upon you, that you perish not? Pray it now. Let me offer it aloud for you, "Show Your loving-kindness." I know you say, "If God should have mercy on me, it will be a great wonder! If He should change my heart and make me a saint, it would be a marvel, indeed!" Just so, sinner, but that is just why I put this prayer into your mouth, for it suits you—"Show me Your marvelous loving-kindness." Do you not see that you have been a marvelous sinner? Marvelously ungrateful have you been! Marvelously have you aggravated your sins! Marvelously did you kick against a mother’s tears! Marvelously did you defy a father’s counsel! Marvelously have you laughed at death! Marvelously have you made a covenant with death and a league with hell! But your covenant with death is broken, and your league with hell is disannulled—and He who does great wonders meets you tonight and says, "Come, now, let us reason together; though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they are red like crimson, they shall be whiter than snow." Believe on Him that died upon the tree, who Himself bore our sins in His own body! There is life in Jesus Christ for those who turn their eyes on Him! Look to Him! Look to Him, now, and live! I wish this prayer might be taken up in many parts of this congregation by some who have been outcasts in Israel, that they might pray, "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness."
Yes, I know that young man yonder, and his history. He has been for months anxious about his soul. Sermon after sermon has stirred him up. He gets no sleep. He goes to his little chamber and cries to his God. He is almost despairing and the devil almost tempts him to make away with himself, or to give up all hope. "Oh," he says, "God will never have mercy on me! It is too great a thing to hope, too great a wonder to expect!" Young man, here is a new prayer for you, "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness." I have heard of a poor old woman who had long been bowed down with a sense of guilt, who said, when she found the Savior, that if Jesus Christ would but save her, He would never hear the last of it, for she would praise Him as long as she had any being! I remember that I thought, myself, if Jesus Christ would but save me, that I would do anything for His sake—and if anybody had told me that I should ever be such a sorry coldhearted dolt as I have been, I would not have believed him nor would any Christian believe it if he were told it about himself! We thought we could do anything for Christ, burn like martyrs, or live like servants! We have not done it, but yet it is a marvelous thing that God should save us! Young man, take that prayer. I was going to say, take it home, but I do not like to put even half an hour between you and this prayer! Now put your hands to your eyes, or, if you do not care to do that, yet say in your soul, "Oh, God, You that do great wonders, You who are the Miracle-worker, show Your marvelous loving-kindness." Why, this prayer will just suit my Christian brother, there, who has come in here tonight. He is a Christian, but he has long been a backslider. Poor man! His brothers and sisters have looked very coolly on him—and well they may—for he certainly did disgrace the cause. But he is a child of God for all that, and the Lord still loves him! Brother, you have been much depressed—you have thought the Lord had forsaken you and now you almost think it is impossible that you should be one of His. Well now, here is a prayer that will suit you, "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness." Surely it will be a marvel if He should again make your bones which have been broken to rejoice, and restore unto you the joy of His salvation! And He will do it, if you can but plead this prayer!
And I know my friend over yonder, too, who has had so many losses in business, and such a succession of trials, wave upon wave—
"You see each day new straits attend,
And wonder where the scene will end."
Brother, God can deliver you! Oh, what a blessing it is to have such a God to deal with! Come to Him with your great load and say, "Lord, here is wondrous work needed—show Your marvelous loving kindness." But, you say, you are placed in very peculiar circumstances. Just so: Now take the words of my text, you that are growing old in grace, and are growing feeble in body at the same time—can you not say, "Now, Lord, now, before Your servant goes hence. Before these gray hairs shall lie with the clods of the valley, show me once more Your marvelous loving-kindness." And, I think, this is a prayer I would like to die with, when the cold stream begins to rise above the ankles, even up to the knees— when the floods overflow till they come even unto the chin—how sweet it will be to say in death, "Show Your loving-kindness." This will help you to die! It will enable you to meet the adversary with the shout of victory! Yes, as you stand on Jordan’s shore, you will raise one more sacred pillar, and then mount with joy and sing in heaven, "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness."
So this prayer will do for beginners; but it is also suitable for those who are ending their course. I may call it the Alpha-prayer and the Omega-prayer—fit for babes, and fit for strong men! Take it up, each one of you, and say, "Show me Your marvelous loving-kindness." Having thus taken this prayer first as to meditation, and then as to experience, we will now take it as—
III. A REQUEST PREFERRED FOR SOME SIGNAL GIFT.
"Show Your marvelous loving-kindness by some special revelation to me at this time." I think one of the best translators of the Hebrew gives it, "Distinguish Your loving-kindness." I do not know which to quote, but several of them seem to treat the passage in this way, "Lord, You have a great many loving kindnesses. I am just now in great trouble. Pick out one of Your loving-kindnesses—distinguish—give me in my time of extraordinary need some extraordinary loving-kindness. Show Your marvelous loving kindness." If you lay the stress on the word, "marvelous," you will then get the pith of it. I think it is Trapp who said that "God is good at a dead-lift"—and he has put a deal of meaning into that homely phrase. When you and I can do nothing, and it has come to a dead-lift, then we need our God and then we may say to Him, "Now, Lord, show me more than Your known goodness—show Your marvelous loving-kindness. Oh, let us see what Omnipotence can do! Human wisdom fails—let Omniscience come to our aid! Lord, we are at our wits’ end—may this, our extremity, prove to be Your opportunity. Show Your marvelous loving-kindness." Do you not think we shall be warranted in using this prayer as we gather round the table, tonight, to partake of the Lord’s Supper? (My sermon seems to have more praying than preaching in it). Lord, here are the emblems that set forth Your body and Your blood—now "show Your marvelous loving-kindness." Oh, do give us some choice token for good, some special mercy such as we received not when last we met for this communion! Lord, we are very weary. We have been harassed in the world. We need rest—give us some marvelous peace, some sacred calm, some sweet repose which we have not known before! Gathered as we are here, can we not, as believers, cry, "Have You not a blessing, O my Father? Give it to me, even to me, O my Father"?
I am always afraid lest, as a church, your graces should droop, lest your zeal should cool, lest your prayers should grow feeble, lest the green, vigorous life of the church should begin to wither and lose its force. I put up this prayer for you all—Lord, give us a revival season tonight! "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness." Let us now feel the quickening touch of Your divine presence. Let us now be illuminated by the presence of Your Spirit, and comforted with the whispers of Your Son! If any of you here are despondent, I pray that you have "marvelous loving-kindness shown you tonight, that the Lord may dip your morsel in His cup that you may lean on His bosom and feed from His table! You feeble saints, I pray that the Lord, your Strength, may manifest Himself to you—that He would be pleased to cheer and refresh you by choice revelations, by the outgoings of His grace towards you, and by the drawings of your heart towards Himself. Thus you may get the full meaning of this prayer unfolded and verified to you tonight, "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness."
I do not know, dear brothers and sisters, how it is with you, but there are times with me when I do get visions of "marvelous loving-kindness." No doubts cast their shadows across my soul, then! No fears alarm, no cares distract me, then. Even my anxieties for you are hushed. I have no remembrance of anybody’s faults, no recollection of my own troubles, no thought about the pressure of work, or the perils of adversity—all is loving-kindness from beginning to end! My soul revels in it. Like a strong swimmer, we bathe and swim in the river of His pleasure! We dive to the bottom and rise up again. The spirit is filled with ecstasy and flooded with delight! These seasons, when they do come, give us strength to perform fresh labor and to endure future trial. They are, indeed, the wells of Elim and the palm trees thereof under which we sit and drink! May this night be to us some such season as that!
But you are going away, many of you. I beg you not to pass from under yonder columns until you have paused a minute and said, "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness." Let us all pray that prayer, "O Lord, show Your marvelous loving-kindness. Show it to me."—
"I the chief of sinners am,
But Jesus died for me.
‘Show Your marvelous loving-kindness.’ Oh, forgive me. I do accept Your Son. I do believe in Jesus, that He is able to save my soul, and my soul does rest on Him alone. Lord, for Jesus’ sake ‘show Your marvelous loving-kindness.’" Amen.