Public Service And Private Discipline
“And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, know of a surety, that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years: and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.....And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces” (Genesis 15:12-14+17).
The entire of Israel`s history is summed up in those two figures, the “furnace” and the “lamp.” The former presents to us those periods of their history in which they were brought into suffering and trial; such, for example, as the long period of Egyptian bondage, their subjection to the kings of Canaan, the Babylonish captivity, their present dispersed and degraded condition. During all these periods they may be considered as passing through the smoking furnace. (See Deut. 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51; Isa. 48:10)
Then, in the burning lamp, we have those points in Israel`s eventful history at which Jehovah graciously appeared for their relief, such as their deliverance from Egypt, by the hand of Moses; their deliverance from under the power of the kings of Canaan, by the ministry of the various judges; their return from Babylon, by the decree of Cyrus; and their final deliverance, when Christ shall appear in His glory. The inheritance must be reached through the furnace; and the darker the smoke of the furnace, the brighter and more cheering will be the lamp of God`s salvation.
Nor is this principle confined merely to the people of God, as a whole; it applies, just as fully, to individuals. All who have ever reached a position of eminence as servants, have endured the furnace before they enjoyed the lamp. "An horror of great darkness" passed across the spirit of Abraham. Jacob had to endure twenty-one years of sore hardship, in the house of Laban. Joseph found his furnace of affliction in the dungeons of Egypt. Moses spent forty years in the desert. Thus it must be with all God`s servants. They must be "tried" first, that, being found "faithful," they may be "put into the ministry." God`s principle, in reference to those who serve Him, is expressed in those words of St. Paul, “not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim 3:6).
It is one thing to be a child of God; it is quite another to be a servant of Christ. I may love my child very much, yet, if I set him to work in my garden, he may do more harm than good. Why? Is it because he is not a dear child? No; but because he is not a practised servant. This makes all the difference. Relationship and office are distinct things. Not one of the Queen`s children is, at present, capable of being her prime minister. It is not that all God`'s children have not something to do, something to suffer, something to learn. Undoubtedly they have; yet it ever holds good, that public service and private discipline are intimately connected in the ways of God. One who comes forward much, in public, will need that chastened spirit, that matured judgement, that subdued and mortified mind, that broken will, that mellow tone, which are the sure and beautiful result of God`s secret discipline; and it will, generally, be found that those who take a prominent place without more or less of the above moral qualifications, will, sooner or later, break down.
Lord Jesus, keep thy feeble servants very near unto thine own Most Blessed Person, and in the hollow of thine Hand!
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