Almighty God, how near thou art in thy heaven, yet how far; near unto those whose trust is in thee and whose life is hid with Christ in God, who are branches of the true vine; and far from those who do not know God nor love him nor care for his word and his law. Teach us that our life is in thy hand and not in our own, that there is an appointed time to man upon the earth, that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without thee—teach us, therefore, that thou art round about us always, understanding our thoughts, looking into our motives, considering our desires, listening to our sighings and prayers. Thus may we live and move and have our being in God; may God always be the nearest to us, always at hand and not afar off. Help us to consult thee in every movement of our life, to stand still and see the salvation of God, to look up unto the hills whence cometh our help, lo take nothing into our own hands, to wait the disclosure of thy counsel and the indication of thy power, and to walk humbly but steadfastly and with persistence and loyalty in the way thou dost mark for our feet.
Thou hast led us wondrously; behold, if we look back, our yesterdays are full of the fire of heaven. Thou hast led us by a way that was right, thou hast defended us from danger, seen and unseen, thou hast opened doors for us of which we had no key, thou hast sent an angel to throw back the gate and deliver from the prison. Glory and honour and praise and power be unto thy name, thou mighty Deliverer and Saviour of our souls. Now we are in thy house, and it is the gate of heaven: quiet us, fill us with thy peace, make us calm with thy restfulness, shed upon us the Spirit that is holy and eternal, and make the fire of the Lord abound in our hearts, and the wisdom that cometh down from heaven enlighten our understanding. May we feel that thy word is light and life and peace and comfort, the very beginning of heaven, the life of God in the soul, the first throb of our immortality.
May thy word come to us today from ancient time, as new as if but just spoken. May we know that thy word abideth for ever, that its accents and purposes and commandments and injunctions are not measurable by time—that it is the ever-spoken word, the ever commanding “Be” and fiat of Jehovah, our present and almighty sovereign. And thus may we come to it as the oldest book and the newest, old as thine own eternity, new as our present need. Thus may thy word be unto us meat and drink, manna in the wilderness, and water out of the rock, a great joy, a perpetual light and satisfaction. If so be we are tempted to think we have read all thy word, show us our mistake; may the wonder of its revelations, the awful suddenness of its surprises, be the outflaming of a fire we have never seen, from heaven—be the utterance of a new music, tender as our own sighing, loud as our own triumphing, surrounding us with all the grandeur and force of Almighty God. And if it enter into the heart of man to believe a lie, and to consider that he knows all that is written in thy book, and has fathomed the depths of infinitude and taken into his nostrils the whole breath of eternity, let him be rebuked even to his shame and confusion today, as hearing new tones and seeing new lights and being bowed down by undisclosed presences and unrevealed glory, so that he may say, The word of the Lord abideth for ever: it is the perpetual word, the everlasting testimony, and the incessant challenge to our minds.
O this wonderful life of ours, a truth, a lie, a reality, a delusion: something to be touched and yet never to be approached: here and yet there; luring us as if by mockery, and jeering our disappointment, and yet now and again opening up prospects and stretches of landscapes and visions of heaven and realities of being that astound the imagination and confound all attempts to explain it. O wondrous life—it is God in us, it is a spark of the essential fire. It is a voice from the eternal courts. O that we may be stewards of ourselves, that we may feel the responsibility of our own being, that we may find in Christ the only answer to our sin and the only consolation of our sorrow, the only interpretation of our discipline, our All and in all, today and yesterday and tomorrow and for ever the same, the eternal Christ, the eternal Judge.
If now and again we have been straying from thy way, even in our thinking—whilst our heart has been right, yet our thoughts have gone out to make new creations of our own—surely thou hast brought us back again, humbled and subdued and broken in pieces, that we might ask for the old way and inquire for the ancient path, and drink again out of the river of God which is full of water. Thou dost not chide us to our destruction, but to our conversion: wherein we have hewn out cisterns, broken cisterns, their brokenness has been thy best correction, the disappointment has been the interpretation of thy purpose, and we have made a sword for our own hurt, and cut ourselves in pieces before the Lord.
O that we may in future cling to thy testimony, be steadfast to thy word, firm and loyal to thy revelation, contented with what thou hast shown unto us and receiving it with all thankfulness and delight, and yet with all the hopefulness of fuller revelation. If it be thy will, oh continue our days a little longer, but make our life as useful as it is continuous; may every day bear some fruit which shall be the development of some new grace: the formation of character, the ennobling of principle, the outwidening and glory of our best purpose and highest aspiration. And when the day is done, the work all closed, it will be our fruition to hear thee say, Well done.
Console the grief-stricken, lift up those that be bowed down; if any be in special perplexity or have a cloud of unusual gloom, Lord, look upon such—do thou meet them in all the pain of their need and comfort them with the infinite grace of God. Show us how brief our life is and how vain if it be not rooted in Christ. Lead us along with new penitence, new contrition and brokenheartedness to the cross of the Lamb of God, the Saviour of all mankind. Amen.
-People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – 1 Kings 15 – 1 Chronicles 9: Volume 8.