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Light and Truth: The Old Testament: Chapter 20 - The Outlines of a Saved Sinner's History

By Horatius Bonar

      "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye." -- Deuteronomy 32:10

      WE might take this figuratively, of Abraham, in Chaldea; or of Israel in Egypt; but Moses is speaking literally of the Sinaitic wilderness, and of Israel there. No sooner had they crossed the Red Sea than they became wanderers in the desert. There God found them; he came to them. It was truly a desert land; without bread, or water, or dwellings, or cities. All heat, barrenness, danger, terror. He met them, came to them, took their hand, and became their guide (Deuteronomy 1:31,33; Nehemiah 9:19); by day and night he kept and led them for forty years; taught, protected, watched, as if they had been the tenderest part of the tenderest member of His body. Such was Israel's story, till brought to Canaan; and such that of every Israelite indeed, every saved sinner from his first arousing till he enters into the joy of his Lord. Consider,--

      I. The sinner in his native country. That land of his nativity is a desert waste; it is the far country into which the prodigal went; the world where all is evil. It is a barren land, without comfort, or safety, or friends, or kindred. No living bread to feed his famished soul. No fountain of living water to quench his thirst. No peace, nor rest, nor gladness; no shelter from the wrath to come. He is wretched and empty; a poor wanderer of the desert, a man without a home.

      II. The sinner found by God. (Jeremiah 2:2) The three parables of our Lord bring out this: the lost sheep found by the Shepherd; the lost silver found by the woman; the lost son found by his father. It is not the sinner that seeks God, but God the sinner; and when God comes He finds him in the land of barrenness, and famine, and danger; He finds him in his sin and wretchedness; a child of wrath, an heir of hell. He goes in quest of him; seeks him; saves him. By convictions, by terrors, by disappointments, by a sense of want, by weariness; by these he pursues him from valley to valley, from refuge to refuge; and not by these only, but by a thousand such things great and small. Each believer, as he looks back reminds himself of this,--"He found me in a desert land, a waste howling wilderness." Ask them all, and they will tell you this. Ask Abraham, Moses, Manasseh, Zaccheus, Paul; ask the Corinthians, the Thessalonians,--they will tell you the same story,--"He found me in a desert land; "He chose me, sought me out, found me, called me, sent from above, took me, and drew me out of many waters. I was a lost sheep, but He found me! A prodigal, but He found me! Some in childhood, some in youth, some in manhood. Yet all the same at last.

      III. The sinner under God's care. The finding is not the ending, but the beginning of God's dealing with him; which from first to last is all marvellous; the display of wisdom and love.

      (1.) Guidance. No place needs a guide like the desert. One gets utterly bewildered in its intricacies and labyrinths of rocks and plains. He who finds him knows this, and takes him under his guidance, so that at every turn, every step, he shall be sure of being in the right way. Nay, and often does God bring him into circumstances, in which there can be no help save in Himself. The desert is pathless, the sinner is ignorant; there are false guides, uncertain ways, as well as darkness and enemies. Therefore does God lead us! By His word, His providence, His rod, His hand, His eye; by sorrows and joys, prosperities and adversities; by the footsteps of the flock; hedging up our way; denying us our own will. He "leads us about;" not directly, but with many a winding, and apparent backturning; many stages and unlikely bypaths. He does not take us at once to Canaan, but leads us about; for wise ends; of grace and discipline, and purifying; for the manifestation of Himself and the overthrow of Satan. What a leader! Whatever be the entanglements, briars, thorns, darkness, He will guide us; onward, still onward, to the city of habitation; we come up out of the wilderness leaning on the Beloved. We pray, "thy Spirit is good, lead us to the land of uprightness."

      (2.) Instruction. One of his first words is, "Learn of me." The sinner needs his teaching,--divine, not human teaching; as to what sin is, himself, God, Christ, the cross, the love of God, the grace of Christ, the glory to be revealed. These God teaches us. Every day and hour is a teaching time; and He who has found us is one who has compassion on the ignorant.

      (3.) Protection. He comes at once under the shadow of the divine shield; so that he is kept by the power of God; "preserved in Christ." No enemy prevails; no weapon injures, no evil comes nigh; he is made more than conqueror. How careful God is of the new found one! How sensitive about injury done to him, as if done to Himself, to the apple of His eye! What a guardian, what a protector do we find in God! The sun shall not smite by day nor the moon by night; nor shall the sand of the desert blow into our eye.

      O men of earth, are you still wanderers? Lost, unguided, uninstructed, unprotected? What will the desert do for you? Will it be an equivalent to Canaan and Jerusalem? God pursues you, appeals to you, seeks to win you, asks you, Have I been a wilderness to you? He calls! In every way, and by every agency; by the gospel, by the law, by a sense of want, by sorrow, by pain. He calls,--he pursues! Oh, flee no longer from him. Let him this day overtake you!

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The Old and New Creation
   Chapter 2 - The Link Between Being and Non-Being
   Chapter 3 - A Happy World
   Chapter 4 - The Sin, the Sinner, and the Sentence
   Chapter 5 - Man's Fig-Leaves
   Chapter 6 - Expulsion and Re-Entrance
   Chapter 7 - The Blood of Sprinkling and the Blood of Abel
   Chapter 8 - The Way of Cain
   Chapter 9 - The Man of Rest
   Chapter 10 - Going Out and Keeping Out
   Chapter 11 - The Shield and the Recompense
   Chapter 12 - Liberty and Service
   Chapter 13 - The Day of Despair
   Chapter 14 - The Blood of Deliverance
   Chapter 15 - How God Deals with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 16 - The Fire Quenched
   Chapter 17 - The Vision from the Rocks
   Chapter 18 - The Doom of the Double-Hearted
   Chapter 19 - Be Not Borderers
   Chapter 20 - The Outlines of a Saved Sinner's History
   Chapter 21 - Divine Longings Over the Foolish
   Chapter 22 - What a Believing Man Can Do
   Chapter 23 - Song of the Putting Off of the Armour
   Chapter 24 - The Kiss of the Backslider
   Chapter 25 - The Priestly Word of Peace
   Chapter 26 - Human Anodynes
   Chapter 27 - Spiritual and Carnal Weapons
   Chapter 28 - Divine Silence and Human Despair
   Chapter 29 - Jewish Unbelief and Gentile Blessing
   Chapter 30 - The Restoration of the Banished
   Chapter 31 - The Farewell Gift
   Chapter 32 - God's Dealing with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 33 - God Finding a Resting-Place
   Chapter 34 - The Moriah Group
   Chapter 35 - Diverse Kinds of Conscience
   Chapter 36 - The Soul Turning from Man to God
   Chapter 37 - Man's Dislike of a Present God
   Chapter 38 - True and False Consolation
   Chapter 39 - Gain and Loss for Eternity
   Chapter 40 - Man's Misconstruction of the Works of God
   Chapter 41 - The Two Cries and the Two Answers
   Chapter 42 - The Knowledge of God's Name
   Chapter 43 - Deliverance from Deep Waters
   Chapter 44 - The Excellency of the Divine Loving-Kindness
   Chapter 45 - The Sickness, the Healer, and the Healing
   Chapter 46 - The Consecration of Earth's Gold and Silver
   Chapter 47 - The Gifts of the Ascended One
   Chapter 48 - The Speaker, the Listener, the Peace
   Chapter 49 - The Believing Man's Confident Appeal
   Chapter 50 - The Love and the Deliverance
   Chapter 51 - The Sin and Folly of Being Unhappy
   Chapter 52 - The Book of Books
   Chapter 53 - The Secret of Deliverance from Evil
   Chapter 54 - The Voice of the Heavenly Bridegroom
   Chapter 55 - The Love that Passeth Knowledge
   Chapter 56 - The Vision of the Glory
   Chapter 57 - Man's Extremity and Satan's Opportunity
   Chapter 58 - The Day of Clear Vision to the Dim Eyes
   Chapter 59 - The Unfainting Creator and the Fainting Creature
   Chapter 60 - The Knowledge that Justifies
   Chapter 61 - The Heritage and its Title-Deeds
   Chapter 62 - The Meeting Between the Sinner and God
   Chapter 63 - God's Love and God's Way of Blessing
   Chapter 64 - Divine Jealousy for the Truth
   Chapter 65 - Divine Love and Human Rejection of it
   Chapter 66 - God's Desire to Bless the Sinner
   Chapter 67 - The Resting-Place Forgotten
   Chapter 68 - The Day that Will Right all Wrongs
   Chapter 69 - The Glory and the Love
   Chapter 70 - False Religion and its Doom
   Chapter 71 - No Breath No Life
   Chapter 72 - Every Christian a Teacher
   Chapter 73 - Work, Rest, and Recompence
   Chapter 74 - Human Heedlessness and Divine Remembrance
   Chapter 75 - Lies the Food of Man
   Chapter 76 - The Love and the Calling
   Chapter 77 - The Anger and the Goodness
   Chapter 78 - Darkness Pursuing the Sinner
   Chapter 79 - Jerusalem the Centre of the World's Peace
   Chapter 80 - Jerusalem and Her King
   Chapter 81 - Looking to the Pierced One
   Chapter 82 - The Holiness of Common Things
   Chapter 83 - Wearying Jehovah with our Words
   Chapter 84 - Dies Irae


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