By Horatius Bonar
"Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness; those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned; in those is continuance, and we shall be saved." -- Isaiah 64:5
THE verse preceding is quoted by Paul (1 Corinthians 2:9), in reference to "the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory," so that we may take it and our text, as indicating God's thoughts of wisdom as coming out in his dealings with us in Christ; his dealings with Israel, his dealings with the church; as seen both at the first and the second comings of Christ; his dealings with man in grace, that is, according to his own free love. "My thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways my ways." In our text we have a specimen of God's thoughts and ways.
I. God meets man. "Thou meetest." Distance is our natural condition; sin produced it; Adam shewed it; man loves it. As far from God as possible. Depart from us, men say. So the prodigal went into the far country. Man wants no meeting with God. He would rather that the distance were preserved forever. The thought of meeting God is unpleasant. Hence the irksomeness of religion, the weariness of Sabbaths, even though the meeting be of the vaguest and most formal shadowy kind. He must meet Him at the judgment day, but he tries not to think of this, and hopes that he may be ready when it comes. But though man will not draw nigh to God, God draws nigh to man. He does not love the distance and separation. He comes nigh. He did so in the person of the prophets and such like messengers. He did so specially in the Angel of the Covenant, and in the Word made flesh. But his object is not merely to visit earth, but to come up to, to draw near to each of his creatures. He is desirous of a meeting, a loving friendly meeting, not of judgment, or reproof, or vengeance, but of grace. Isaiah speaks as one who knew this. "Thou meetest," he says; that is, thou art in the habit of doing so. It is thy practice, thy wont to meet the sinner. This is our message in the gospel, God wants to meet you,--to meet each of you. He proposes a meeting. He tells you that there is no coldness nor unwillingness on his part; that all things are ready. Come, meet with me, I wish to meet with you.
II. How does he meet man. In love. As the Lord God merciful and gracious. He meets him as Jesus met the Galilean fishermen, and said, follow me; as Jesus met the woman of Sychar, Zaccheus, Mary Magdalene. He meets him with pardon and reconciliation. He meets him as Melchizedek met Abraham, to bless him. Man dislikes the meeting, either for blessing or cursing; God desires it, that he may bless.
III. Where does he meet man. At the cross. That is the meeting-place. There is no other. It is a safe one, and a blessed one. There there is no wrath, no condemnation, no darkness. God stands at the cross and cries aloud, Meet me here. Not on a spot of your own choosing, but here on the spot which I have chosen; here where the blood was shed, and Christ's sacrifice offered up. This is the meeting-place. Two meeting-places; one the cross, now; the other the judgment-seat, hereafter. Which do you choose? One you must have.
IV. What men are they whom he meets. Now in what follows we are not to understand that the class is narrowed or restricted; that he shuts out the worst, and will have none of them. The description given refers simply to the footing on which he receives them,--on that footing he is willing to receive any, all. On that footing all may place themselves, and so be sure of a welcome. Our text, however, evidently does not refer exclusively to the first meeting, but to the whole subsequent intercourse, and describes the footing on which that fellowship is to go on and be maintained. There are three things declared as to those with whom God meets; and these three things follow each other in a certain order.
(1.) The rejoicing man. He is one who has found in the gospel glad tidings of great joy; one of those described by David in the 32nd Psalm, a man of blessedness. He has found the rejoicing of the hope; and he holds it to the end. He has accepted the good news, and as such he is accepted of God. God meets him.
(2). The man that worketh righteousness. (1.) He works,--he is not slothful; (2.) he works righteousness,--good works; (3.) he works righteousness, because he rejoiceth. He does not rejoice because he works, but he works because he rejoices. His joy makes him a worker,-- a doer of the will of God; able for suffering or labouring. His life is a doing of righteousness.
(3.) Those that remember thee in thy ways. This corresponds with the apostolic "looking unto Jesus." We remember God,-- we remember him in his ways, his footsteps, his doings, as recorded in Scripture. When we call him to remembrance we do so in connection with some of his many ways recorded there.
This meeting is a life-long one. Not yesterday, nor today, nor tomorrow, but continual; begun at conversion, carried on through life, consummated in the kingdom. It is a meeting for pardon; a meeting for fellowship; a meeting for the bestowal of all love and blessing; prelude of the more glorious meeting when Jesus comes the second time to begin his endless reign.