God's Ways in Training His Own for His Service and Testimony: 8

 •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 11
“And when He was come near, He beheld the city and wept over it, saying: If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things, which belong unto thy peace But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:41-4441And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. (Luke 19:41‑44)).
What a different scene from that spoken of in our preceding chapter! There we heard Jehovah's prophet announcing the impending divine judgment to the then world's capital, hardened in sin and wickedness. We saw the immediate and general effect of the God-sent warning upon its inhabitants, and God (Whose natural work is grace, and judgment His strange work) sparing the penitent city.
But here we behold, not Jehovah's prophet, obedient and courageous, yet without a sign of compassion with those whose doom he had announced. but Jehovah Himself, Zion's King, presenting Himself to the city of David, whose Son He was. And how did He appear at the gates of that city, so privileged with all kinds of temporal and religious blessings, where once the queen of Sheba had done homage to king Solomon and admired his wisdom? How did He, Who was greater than Solomon, appear before the gates of Jerusalem? Was it in His war like apparel, with His “vesture dipped in blood,” as “King of kings” and “Lord of lords,” with His “sharp sword” at the head of His “heavenly armies” on the “white horses” of victory, as He will appear at a not very distant time for the battle of Armageddon, when His enemies will be made His footstool? No, the “Prince of peace,” approached the “city of peace,” in the humble peaceful train foretold by the prophet Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass."1
But alas! the city of peace “knew not the things which belong to her peace.” She knew not “the time of her visitation.” That happy moment, when all Israel will burst into the glorious song of praise, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,” had not yet come. Only the baby and the multitude of His disciples sung this song in happy anticipation of that moment: even “the stones would have cried out,” if they had been silent.
But the hearts of the builders at Jerusalem were harder than the stones of their streets. They rejected the Stone which God had laid in Zion, for He was to them a Stone of stumbling. Their hard unfeeling voices interrupted the sweet harmony of the song of praise from Christ's disciples with the shrill sound, “Master, rebuke thy disciples.” What blindness! What insolence against the “King of Zion,” Who by the few words, “I am He,” laid prostrate Judas and the whole band. But the perfect harmony of the meek and lowly heart of the King with the daughter of Zion could not be disturbed even by such a rude interruption. His only reply to the blind leaders of the people was, “I tell you, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”
And when Jesus then beheld the city, whose leaders had given Him such a reception, had their treatment chilled His affections for the “beloved city?” He wept over Jerusalem. He knew, that the same multitude now thronging around Him and chiming in with the “Hosanna” of His disciples, would, after a few days, clamor for His death, shouting, “Crucify Him! crucify Him!” Did this restrain His tears? No, it only called them forth, on account of the terrible judgment, which was impending over Jerusalem, after the last testimony of the wondrous grace and the longsuffering of God should have been rejected by their stoning His martyr Stephen. That judgment He was about to pronounce over the unhappy blinded city. It was a judgment still more terrible than that pronounced upon Nineveh by the prophet Jonah, just as Jerusalem's crowning sin was incomparably greater than all the sins of Nineveh had been. “And when He was come near, He beheld the city and wept over it.”
Oh, what tears were these, Christian reader! Precious as were those tears which the “Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,” wept at the grave of His friend Lazarus, no less precious were these which Jehovah-Jesus wept over that city, whose sole response to all the blessings she had received of Him was the tree of curse and the cup of gall and vinegar. The land, which, after the rain which had “oft come upon it,” had brought forth no fruit but a crown of thorns for Him, Who sent down the rain, and had in His own person watered that land for more than three years with showers of blessings, was now “nigh unto cursing,” and its “end to be burned.” Nothing but judgment remained. But the tears of the Judge preceded the pronouncement of the judgment.
Some years ago a very affecting scene took place at some court of assizes in this country. The judge had to pronounce sentence of death upon a young person of respectable family, who had committed murder. But the circumstances connected with that Misdeed were of a nature so affecting and appealing to human sympathy, that all present in that densely crowded judgment hall were deeply moved. And when the fatal word, “guilty,” had been pronounced, and the judge put on the “black cap,” and proceeded to pronounce sentence of death upon the young culprit, he hid, overcome by his feelings, his face in the sleeves of his black gown, and then, with a voice hoarse with emotion, pronounced the fatal sentence. In that hall scarcely a tearless eye was to be seen on that occasion, from the judge and the jurymen down to the roughest in the crowd of spectators.
We honor such a judge whose stern office had not made him forget to feel humanely. But in that case there were “extenuating circumstances” of such weight, that they deeply moved the judge's heart, and produced, on the part of the jury, a strong commendation to royal mercy, which was granted.
But could any “extenuating circumstances” be found in the case of Jerusalem? The parable of the vineyard is the answer to that question. The servants, whom the Master of the vineyard had sent from time to time, to receive the fruits thereof, had been beaten, killed, and stoned by the husbandmen. At last the Master had sent His Son, saying, “they will reverence him.” But the husbandmen said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.” “And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” That terrible moment had arrived, and to the Son of the Master of the vineyard nothing was left but to pronounce upon the blinded and hardened city its imminent terrible judgment, but not before He had wept over her, to whom already before (ch. 23.) He had addressed, in the wonderful and magnificent language of Jehovah, those solemn parting words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. Verily I say unto you, ye shall not see Me, until the time come, when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Those words of Jesus, “how often?” are the answer to the plaintive question, “how long?” pervading the whole of the prophetic part of the Old Testament, in the Psalms and the Prophets. When the wrath of God was “smoking over the sheep of His pasture,” and “the enemy had done wickedly in the sanctuary (roared in the midst of His congregations, and set up his ensigns for signs, and broke down the carved work at once with axes and hammers, and cast fire into the sanctuary,” leaving a scene of desolation), the most hopeless of all these circumstances after all was this, that “there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.” Even in the greatest calamity there remains some consolation so long as the end of it can be foreseen, and somebody is at hand who can tell how long it will last.
When the prophet Isaiah was charged by Jehovah with the solemn warning message of judgment concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which overwhelmed his heart as the glory and holiness of Jehovah just before had overwhelmed his conscience, he exclaimed sorrowfully, “How long, O Lord?” as much as to say, “How long is that terrible moral condition of heart of Thy and My own people to continue? O Lord, surely thou wilt not exterminate Thy people, till none remain?” The Lord's answer is, Till the result of their obstinacy has taken place, “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.” Then the promise of a “remnant” is given to the prophet. “But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten; as a teil tree and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.”
That judgment, announced by Jehovah's prophet, was first accomplished by the carrying away of Judah into the Babylonian captivity. According to His promise, given to His prophet, God sent in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah a remnant from the captivity back to Canaan, to rebuild Jerusalem. But even this “tenth” was again to be “eaten,” i.e., despoiled through a judgment more terrible than those that preceded; for the descendants of those Jews who had returned from Babylon sinned still more than their fathers. They were the husbandmen to whom the Son was sent, and who cast Him out of the vineyard and killed Him. The same “King, Jehovah of hosts,” who had announced that judgment to His people by the mouth of His prophet Isaiah (John 12:4141These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. (John 12:41)), now weeps over Jerusalem, but at the same time announces the impending judgment to the blinded city. His answer to the “How long?” of His prophets now is “How often.” “How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings; and ye would not.” Then He takes up the thread where he had left it, in Isa. 6. There He had replied to the prophet's question, “How long?” with, “Until the cities be desolate, and the houses without men,” &c. That “until” referred to judgment. But in His touching mourning over Jerusalem Jehovah-Jesus begins where He had ended in His answer to Isaiah. He says, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate;” and then concludes with a gracious “until,” at the final blessing at the glorious return of Him, the once rejected King Messiah, when His people, delivered from the terrible dominion of the false Messiah, will burst forth into the jubilant exclamation of homage, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Yes, we repeat, Blessed be He Whose coming again we may now expect daily, nay, hourly, to take us, together with all that are His, up into His Father's house. Thither He has gone before to prepare a place for us, and there we shall be forever with Him, in the full uninterrupted enjoyment of His love and grace, praising and appreciating it better than we have done here below, and whence we shall appear with Him and all His saints to reign with Him over this earth. Then the holy heavenly Jerusalem will, as a gloriously adorned bride, descend with Christ; and the earthly Jerusalem, then no longer to be wept over, but beloved and holy Jerusalem, will be an unenvious eye-witness of unheard-of earthly blessings, following upon unprecedented sufferings, “since there was a nation.” These blessings will be showered down by Jehovah upon her, then no longer a separate and desolate one, but restored to His full favor, when He who once wept over her, will say to her “Thou art fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.” And she will answer, “Awake, O north wind, and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my Beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits.”
Beloved, may we, to whom it is given, then to appear with Christ, to reign with Him over the then blessed earth, as His bride, the “Lamb's wife,” and to be witnesses of the re-acceptance, on the part of Jehovah, of His earthly people, when Isaiah's vision will have become a blessed reality, and heaven and earth be united in blessed and undisturbed union—may we walk worthy of our high calling, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love. It is not enough to announce, like Jonah, with the bold and courageous voice of faith, but with an indifferent and cool heart, to sinful “Nineveh” her approaching judgment; it is a very different thing to “weep over Jerusalem.” It is all right, like the apostle of grace and glory, “knowing the terror of the Lord, to persuade men,” but something more, like him, “constrained by the love of Christ, to beseech in Christ's stead, Be reconciled to God!”
The God of all grace give to His messengers of “peace by the blood” of His dear Son, not only the voice of Jonah, but also the heart of Paul, and the tears of his and our meek and lowly Master!