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The harvest should not be gathered before it is ripe, nor should its fruitage be reckoned upon, until the time for its garnering has come. In spiritualities, as well as in temporals, we must abide the hour of the finished picture.
Our Scripture warns us not to judge our life in the light of our present chastening, for, "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous." We need to look beyond, and remember that God has said, "Nevertheless afterward."
"Afterward it yielded the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Why should we let our hands hang down, and our knees shake at every trial and testing? Beyond the cross is the crown; beyond the groans is His glory.
We sometimes allow a "root of bitterness" to spring up and trouble us, all because we fail to see the coming grace of God. If we allow ourselves to groan every time we are famished with hunger, we may be tempted, like Esau, to sell our birthright for a mess of pottage.
Let "afterward" be our watchword. Let us study the "end" of our trial, until, as Job did, we learn that God is merciful and kind.
There is no son who should despise the chastening of his father; for, the hand which wields the rod loves the son. It is "like as a father" that God deals with us. It is whom the Lord loveth that He chasteneth. God scourgeth us as sons, not as slaves, not as bastards.
We remember, in the days of our childhood, when our father corrected us, we gave him reverence; we even were wont to climb up into his lap and hug him tight. Shall we not much more give reverence to God? Shall we not love Him? He has only corrected us for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.
"Afterward" is a word we need to weigh. Satan desired to obtain Peter, that he might sift him as wheat. He wanted to destroy Peter, and to steal him away from his Lord. It is always thus. Satan works against God's sons. When, however, God "sifts us" He seeks only to cast out the chaff, that the wheat may be housed into His garner.
Satan would burn us with fire, in order to destroy us; God would burn us with fire, in order to purify us, and to bring us forth as gold.
It has been said that a German baron stretched wires across his castle, from tower to tower, to convert them into an Aeolian harp. He was disappointed, however, because the winds utterly failed to make them vibrate. One day, however, when a great storm was beating against the castle, the baron raised his window, in fear, to look out, and lo, his ear caught the sweetest of strains. It had taken the wild winds of the storm to make Heaven's melody. So it is in our lives we yield the sweetest melodies after the storms have swept against us,
I. AFTER HE HAD ENDURED (Hebrews 6:15 )
Long years passed by after the promise of a son was given unto Abraham. Every day the promise, so far as natural laws were concerned, became less and less possible of fulfilment. It was only after Sarah was as good as dead, and Abraham had waxed old, that Isaac came.
Why the delay? God was teaching Abraham the deeper meanings of Jehovah-Jireh. He was also testing Abraham to see what was in him.
What about Abraham? Sometimes, for the moment, he wavered. However, through it all he endured, and afterwards he received the promise.
There was another Son, the Seed of the woman, which had been long promised. For Him the saints of old patiently waited. They looked, and they longed for His coming, and yet He did not come; but afterwards He came. Four thousand years went by and then, the Lord came down, the Child was born. Generations came and went their way, yet afterward He came.
There is still another promise "I will come again." Sometimes we are weary with our waitings. He tarries still. However, we will not yield up our hope. The husbandman waiteth until he receives the early and the latter rain; yea, he hath long patience. Let us also be patient, and establish our hearts, for His Coming draweth nigh. He that said, "I will come," "will surely come," and come He surely will.
Let us never question God, never doubt His promise. Though He tarry, wait for Him, though He linger, hold fast to the confidence of thy hope. After we have endured awhile, He will come. After we have faithfully held to His promise, He will come. Heaven and earth may pass away, His Word shall never pass. He will come.
The clouds may lower and the storms may blow, yet, afterward, God will show His face. The sky will clear, the clouds will vanish, and God will send forth the light of His countenance.
The life that waits, and sweetly sings,
The life of faith that ever clings,
That trusts, in hope, when hope takes wings
Is the life that will receive.
What though His Word is long delayed,
What though His advent hour is stayed.
He'll come, dear heart, be not afraid,
He is true, trust on, believe.
II. AFTER THE FIRE (1 Kings 19:12 )
Elijah filled with fear had been running away from Jezebel. In the wilderness, when weary of life, an angel had come to comfort him. At Horeb, God appeared unto him, saying, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" Elijah sought to justify himself, and then concluded by saying, "They seek my life, to take it away."
Under command of God, Elijah then went forth and stood upon the mount before the Lord. The Lord passed by, and a strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces rocks before the Lord; "but the Lord was not in the wind." After the wind, there came an earthquake; "but the Lord was not in the earthquake." After the earthquake, there was a fire; "but the Lord was not in the fire." "After the fire a still small voice."
In that voice of quietness, and in the gentle stillness of that hour, the Lord said unto Elijah again, "What doest thou here?"
We often find God where we may have least expected Him. It is not in the buzz of commercial life; it is not in the flurry and the hurry of the pursuit of pleasure; it is not in the clanging of the bells, and the surging crowds upon the street; it is not in these that we may find the Lord. It is afterward, when we have gone apart to some sequestered spot on hill or in dale, that the still small voice may be plainly heard.
Let us go apart into a desert place, if we would hear the voice of God.
After the toil of the day is done,
After the hurry, the flurry, fun,
Then as you sit in your room, alone,
The Lord will speak to thee.
Only the one who is quiet, still,
Ready to go, and His Word fulfill
Only to such will He tell His will:
Does He speak oft to thee?
III. AFTER YE HAVE SUFFERED A WHILE (1 Peter 5:10 )
We read that the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning. There was much of suffering that lay between the blessings of Job's early life, and the enlarged blessings of his latter years.
There came a time when Job thought that he was left alone. His afflictions seemed more than he could bear. He wept and pled for death to come, and end his pains; and yet, he could not die.
Afterward, God greatly enriched His servant. Patience had had her perfect work; Job had come through the fire, tried, and purified. It was then that God gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job saw the end of his sufferings that it was good.
The Apostle Peter realized the truth concerning sufferings. He saw back of the present suffering the God of all grace. He saw that through their sufferings the God of all grace was making His saints perfect; establishing, strengthening, and settling them. He also saw beyond the suffering, the glory.
Oh, that Christians could always turn their clouds about, and seek to wear them inside out, to show their silver lining! Oh, that Christians would always look beyond the present suffering to the eternal glory!
IV. AFTERWARD, THEY SHALL COME OUT (Genesis 15:12-14 )
The story of Israel has been a story of checkered experiences. They have spent much of their history in the valley of the shadow. Their sorrows have been many.
When the Lord appeared unto Abram, He told him something of the travails that awaited his seed. He caused a deep sleep to fall upon Abram; "And, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him." Then God told Abram that Israel would be afflicted in Egypt for four hundred years. To Abram, however, God spoke another word. It was a word of prophecy. God said, "Afterward shall they come out with great substance."
All of those experiences were no more than a foregleam of Israel's history as a whole, and of her final restoration and enrichment. Unto this hour God's chosen people are wanderers upon the earth. They are scattered among all nations, as corn is scattered in a sieve. Their sorrows have been many, their persecutions have been more. God has, however, for Israel, another great "afterward."
Israel shall yet be united, twelve nations in the land. They shall no more be termed, "Forsaken." Their land shall be filled, and they will long enjoy the work of their hands. The Lord Jesus will rule and reign in their midst as King, and all nations will come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
We wonder if there will not be some place for us in this glorious "afterward" that shall come to Israel. We, too, if we have gone outside the camp with Him, will find our place and part in Christ's reign, and Israel's peace.
V. AFTERWARD, SEEN OF ABOUT FIVE HUNDRED BRETHREN (1 Corinthians 15:5-8 )
The death of Jesus Christ had taken the light from the disciples' sky. They were all forlorn. They knew not which way to turn. They had hoped that it was Christ who would have redeemed Israel, but their hope lay buried with their Lord in Joseph's tomb.
How full of glory is our "afterward!" He died, was buried, and the third day He rose again, after that, He was seen of Cephas; after that, He was seen of the Twelve; after that, He was seen of about five hundred brethen at once; after that He was seen of James; after that, of all the Apostles; after that, and last of all, He was seen of Paul.
"After that, He was seen," are words that have never been said of any other who had passed, forever, beyond the power of death. The daughter of Jairus, the widow's son, the brother of Martha and Mary, were all seen after death, but they were not seen as Christ was seen.
Christ died, and was buried, and after that He was seen with a resurrection body. He even said to His disciples, "Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have."
The "after that, He was seen," which was spoken of Christ is the same "after that," which will be spoken of all who have died, or may die in the Lord. Thank God for the "after that."
After our life and its conflicts,
After "to dust" has been said,
Christ will descend in His power
Raising us out from the dead.
Living saints then will be raptured,
With risen dead they'll go,
Meeting the Lord in the Heavens;
Past all of sorrow and woe.
VI. AFTERWARD, THEY THAT ARE CHRIST'S (1 Corinthians 15:23 )
There is an order in the resurrection. In Adam all die. In Christ all shall be made alive. The resurrection of the dead is universal, but the resurrection of the dead is not simultaneous. All will be raised, but not all will be raised at once. We read with positive words, "But every man in his own order; Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His Coming." "Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father."
"Afterward" carries with it, therefore, the order of the resurrection. Christ the firstfruits. After that they that are Christ's. After that cometh the end. Between the resurrection of the righteous, and that of the wicked, there lies one thousand years "The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished."
In the expression: "Afterward they that are Christ's at His Coming," lies the blessedness of the resurrection of saints "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power." This resurrection is the resurrection unto life. The resurrection of the wicked, one thousand years later, is the resurrection unto damnation.
How happy will they be who are included in the resurrection of the righteous! Christ is the firstfruit, "afterward" the harvest home will be garnered in. That which is sown in dishonor, will be raised in glory; that which is sown in weakness, will be raised in power; that which is sown in corruption, will be raised in incorruption; that which is sown a natural body, will be raised a spiritual body.
Verse forty-six says, "First * * that which is natural"; and afterward that "which is spiritual." Oh, what glory of enlargement; what glory of power; what glory of grace, is wrapped up in this word, "Afterward they that are Christ's at His Coming!"
VII. AFTER THEY HAVE KNOWN THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (2 Peter 2:21 )
We read, "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning."
We read, "It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them."
Jesus Christ went so far as to say of Judas, and to say it truly, "Good were it for that man if he had never been born." It is better never to be born, than to be born and to know Christ, and then reject Him. It is better never to have heard the Gospel, never to have known the way of life, than to hear and to know, and then to be damned.
Let the unsaved beware. You who have been brought up in the full glare of the glory of Christ; you who have known the way of righteousness; you who have been brought out of the pollutions of the world, through the heritage of Christian homes, if you continue in your sin, and reject Christ, to you there will be reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Stop and think of the "afterward" of your rejection of Christ.
THE OLD HOUSE TAKEN DOWN TO BE REBUILT
"If we lived in a house of our own, and the walls became decayed, and the roof ready to drop down upon our heads, we would desire to remove and depart for a while, but we should not therefore give up the ground, and the materials of the house. No, we would have it built up in a better manner." "Even thus the soul desires to leave the poor frail tenement of the body, but not that the body may be utterly destroyed: it quits it with the hope of having the house of clay rebuilt in more glorious form. "Not for that we would be unclothed," saith the Apostle, but "clothed upon with our house which is from Heaven"; not that we would be turned out of house and home; but that we would enter upon our better and permanent abode, which the Lord will surely provide for us.
"The Lord doth not despise this house of clay: He will rebuild it, and we shall inhabit it for ever. Wherefore let us be comforted when the wind blows through the chinks, and the rain drips through the roof; it will all the sooner come down, and all the sooner will it be restored. The little while in which we shall be unhoused will cause us no inconvenience, for even then we shall be with the Lord; wherefore let us in all things be of good cheer.
"O my Lord, Thou hast made me to know that this body will soon cease to be a body for me, therefore I will not pamper it. But Thou promisest it a resurrection, therefore I will not defile it. Teach me how, in the body or out of the body, to dwell in Thee, and honor Thy holy Name."
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Hebrews 12". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17