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34. Those Who Desire
O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name. Nehemiah 1:11

Nehemiah believed that there were others praying besides himself. He was not so gloomy, so self-opinionated, so uncharitable as to think that he alone loved the house of the Lord, and prayed for it. He believed that the Lord had many praying servants besides himself. In this he was more hopeful than Elijah (1 Kings 19:10, 18).

Nehemiah valued the prayers of his fellow-servants, and felt supported in his own supplications by the fact that he was one of a crowd of pleaders.

Even those of the feebler sort, who could get no further than desiring to fear God, were prized by this holy man when they lifted up their prayers. The littles of supplication, when multiplied by the number of those who present them, help to turn the scale.

Who are the persons that make up this class: "Who desire to fear thy name"? We will try to find them out.

I. THIS INCLUDES ALL WHO HAVE ANY TRUE RELIGION.

l. True godliness is always a matter of desire.

  • Not of custom, fashion, habit, excitement, passion, or chance.

  • Nor of unwilling dread, or compulsion, or bribery.

  • Nor of boasted full attainment and conceited self-satisfaction.
2. Every part of it is a matter of desire.

  • Repentance, faith, love, etc. None of these can be found in a man unless he desires to have them.

  • Prayer, praise, service, alms, and all good deeds, are matters of the heart's desire. Oh, to abound in them!

  • Progress and maturity of grace are never so far attained as to content us. They are still matters of desire.

  • So, too, usefulness among our fellows, the prevalence of truth, the prosperity of the church, and the spread of Christ's kingdom ever remain things of desire.

  • The same maybe said of heaven, of resurrection, and of the future glories of Christ's reign on earth.

  • Good men are like Daniel, men of desires (Dan. 9:23, margin). Desire is the life-blood of piety, the egg of holiness, the dawn of grace, the promise of perfection.

3. The desire is accepted where there can be no more.

In giving, in working, in self-dedication, the Lord takes the will for the deed where the power to perform is absent. To him the essence of even the most self-sacrificing action is found, not in the suffering involved, but in a desire for God's glory.

4. But without even the desire, man is in a condition of spiritual death, and all that he does is as dead as himself.

II. THIS INCLUDES MANY GRADES OF GRACE.

Not the merely temporary wishers and resolvers, for these are only blossoms, and the bulk of blossoms never turn to fruit; of such we may say with Solomon,"The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing" (Prov. 13:4). But—

    1. Those who earnestly and heartily long to be right with God, though afraid to think themselves saved. These are always desiring.
    2. Those who do believe, but fear lest there should be presumption in their calling themselves God's people. Their faith shows itself far more in desire than in a sense of having obtained the object of their search.
    3. Those who know that they fear God, but desire to fear him more. Some of the best of men are of this order.
    4. Those who wish to serve the Lord with greater freedom, constancy, delight, and power. What would they not do if they could but obtain their heart's desire?
    5. Those who delight in the ways of God, and long to abide in them all their days. No man perseveres in holiness unless he desires to do so. Tender desires breed watchful walking, and, by God's Spirit, lead to consistent living.

  • Now all these people can pray acceptably: indeed, they are always praying, for desires are true prayers.

  • We need the prayers of all these people, as well as of advanced saints. The rank and file are the main part of the army. If none but eminent believers prayed, our treasury of supplication would be scantily furnished.

  • We should gratefully associate such beginners with us in our cries for prosperity to the cause of God: their struggling petitions will excite us all to pray better, and the exercise will increase their own prayer-power.

  • Lastly, LET US PRAY NOW — all of us, great and small. In the Holy Ghost let us pray, and thereby support our ministers, missionaries, and other workers, who, like Nehemiah, lead the way in holy service.
Spices

This description of God's servants — "who desire to fear thy name"- reminds us how largely their religion in this world consists of "desire." They have real piety, but are dissatisfied with their attainments, and aspire to better things. Their desire is, however, to be carefully distinguished from that of many who substitute occasional good wishes for actual piety. The real Christian's desire impels him to the diligent use of all those means by which a higher life is reached. He "exercises himself unto godliness"; and what he attains he employs in spiritual and moral living. But the word used rather dignifies "delight," expressing the pleasure which God's servants feel in their religion. — Pulpit Commentary

That which we desire when we have it not we delight in when we obtain it. At least, this is the case in matters which are really worth desiring. Those who never pine for grace will never prize grace.

When Napoleon returned from Elba, a man at work in a garden recognized the emperor, and at once followed him. Napoleon welcomed him cheerfully, saying, "Here we have our first recruit." When even one person begins to pray for us, however feeble his prayers, we ought to welcome him. He who prays for me enriches me.

The gospel ministry is so dependent upon the power of prayer that it should be a pastor's main object to educate the praying faculty among his people. There should be numerous prayer meetings, and these of a varied order, that women, youths, children, and illiterate persons may unite in the holy exercise. Every little helps. Grains of sand and drops of rain combine for the greatest of purposes, and achieve them. There may be more real prayer in a little gathering of obscure desirers than in the great assembly where everything is done with ability rather than with agony of desire.

Never let your pastor lose his prayer book. It should be written in the hearts of his people. If you cannot preach, or give largely, or become a church officer, you can, at least, pray without ceasing.

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


35. The Joy of the Lord
Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced; for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced; so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off. — Nehemiah 12:43

The people who had wept before, under a sense of sin, were now called upon to rejoice. Holy mourning prepares the way for spiritual mirth. Clear shining follows rain.

It was well that they kept themselves under such control that they could weep or rejoice as they were bidden.

Their joy was remarkable for its spirituality and universality, and in these and other ways it was an example for us.

I. THERE IS A JOY OF DIVINE ORIGIN. "The joy of the Lord."

    1. It rejoices in God himself, his character, his doings, his commands, and all that makes up his glory. It rejoices especially that he himself is ours. "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3:1).
    2. It possesses a deep sense of reconciliation, acceptance, adoption, and union with Christ Jesus. Joy must necessarily flow from all these founts of blessing (Isa. 12:3).
    3. It enjoys assurance of future perseverance, victory, and perfection, by reason of the finished work of Christ, and the immutability and omnipotence of divine grace (Heb. 6: 17-18).
    4. It is exalted by the present personal fellowship with God out of which it springs. "We also joy in God" (Rom. 5:11).
    5. It is happy in the honor of service (1 Tim. 1:12).
    6. It is acquiescent in the divine will, in providence, affliction, disappointment, etc. (Rom. 5: 3).
    7. It is full of hope for the future-a well of delight.

II. THAT JOY IS A SOURCE OF STRENGTH. "The joy of the Lord is your strength:'

    1. It arises from considerations which strengthen. The same truths which make us glad also make us strong.
    2. It is sustained by a life which is strong, even the life of Christ within us, maintained by the Holy Ghost.
    3. It fortifies against temptation, or persecution, or affliction, and so it proves a present strength in time of need.
    4. It fits for abounding service. He who is joyous of heart himself will seek the good of others.
    5. It forbids all fear by giving a sense of ability to face every enemy. It is calm, constant, humble, real, deep-seated strength.

III. THAT STRENGTH WHICH COMES OF HOLY JOY LEADS TO PRACTICAL RESULTS.

    1. Praise: "Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God; and all the people answered, Amen, Amen" (verse 6).
    2. Sacrifices of joy: "They offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced."
    3. Expressions of joy: "God had made them rejoice with great joy."
    4. Family happiness: "The wives also and the children rejoiced."
    5. This joy ensured the notice of the neighbors, "so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off."

IV.THAT JOY IS WITHIN REACH.

It was God's gift, but it came by:

  • Hearing attentively. "The ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law" (verse 3).

  • Worshipping devoutly. "They bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord" (verse 6).

  • Mourning penitently."All the people wept, when they heard the words of the law" (verse 9).

  • Understanding clearly. "Great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them" (verse 12).

  • Obeying earnestly. "They made booths, and sat under the booths;" etc. (verse 17).

  • Let us seek after joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the atonement; for this is a true, safe, sanctifying joy. It is such an ornament as well becomes the thoroughly devoted believer while on earth, and prepares him to unite in the hallelujahs of heaven.

  • There is such a thing as a joyless heart. God help us to have no personal experience of it!

  • There are also deadly joys. From these let us flee to the living joys of grace.
Sparkles

It is a bad fireplace where all the heat goes up the chimney: true religion spreads joy over all around. Yet the fire warms first the chimney in which it burns, and grace comforts the heart in which it dwells. Nobody will be warmed by a cold hearth.

Faith is the key of happiness; use it at the gates of the Lord's house, and chambers of bliss shall open to you. If your religion only admits you into vaults and dungeons it must be very incomplete. Christ comes from ivory palaces, and leads his chosen into banqueting houses.

That the Christian religion is favorable to human happiness, is, I believe, the secret conviction even of many who may not openly confess it; hence it is no uncommon thing to hear even the openly wicked say,"I believe that the real Christian is the happiest man in the world." I recollect the remark of a certain skeptic, made to myself, in the hour of affliction: "Oh, sir, you Christians have the advantage of us." — Addresses to Young Men by Rev. Daniel Baker

Mr. Moody says, "I never knew a case where God used a discouraged man or woman to accomplish any great thing for him. Let a minister go into the pulpit in a discouraged state of mind, and it becomes contagious: it will soon reach the pews, and the whole church will be discouraged. So with a Sabbath-school teacher: I never knew a worker of any kind who was full of discouragement, and who met with great success in the Lord's work. It seems as if G6d cannot make large use of such men."

When we are weakened by sadness we do not speak attractively. Our statements lack certainty, and energy. We are apt to quarrel over trifles, to be turned aside by discouragements, and in general to do our work badly. Soldiers march best to music, and sailors work most happily when they can join in a cheery note; and I am sure we do the same.

Joyful Christians set the sinner's mouth a watering for the dainties of true religion. When the prodigal returned, he was shod, and clothed, and adorned, but we do not read that the servants were to put meat into his mouth. Yet they were to feed him, and they did so by themselves feasting: "Let us eat and be merry." This would be the surest way to induce the poor hungry son to make a meal. If saints were happier, sinners would be far more ready to believe.

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


36. Satan Among the Saints
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. Job 1:6

IT is idle to enquire what day this was — Perhaps it was a special Sabbath kept both in earth and heaven, a day of solemn convocation. In the earliest ages the godly gathered together for worship, with the Lord as their center. Both in heaven and earth they so gather: the communion of saints is one. Alas, how soon the evil entered among the righteous! There is no need that the devil should have been in heaven as a place; but looking down from his throne the Lord saw Satan mingling with those who worshipped him; and he had a word for him. In a rightly-ordered congregation even the wicked have their portion.

From Satan's presence among the sons of God we learn:

I. THAT THE MERE ASSEMBLING OF OURSELVES WITH GOD'S PEOPLE IS OF NO VALUE.

    l. Very clearly, it is not acceptable worship to God: for nothing that Satan does can be accepted. His presence among the sons of God is presumption, and not reverence.
    2. It is not beneficial to the person's own self; for the fallen spirit remained a devil, and acted like one, even in the presence of God. We must come to the Lord by faith, or our worship is dead and unprofitable.
    3. It may be the occasion of more sin; for in the assembly Satan belied Job, and plotted his destruction.

From this we learn:

II. THAT THE BEST ASSEMBLIES ARE NOT FREE FROM EVIL ONES.

    1. This should make us continue to meet with the saints even though we know of some in the assembly who are false to their profession. Should the sons of God cease to meet because Satan may come among them?
    2. This should cause great heart-searching and the prompt inquiry, "Lord, is it I?" Out of twelve apostles one was a devil, and he was with the Lord at his farewell passover.
    3. This should make us watchful even while we are praying.
    4. This should make ministers faithful, so that the devil may not be at home
    in the congregation, but may be annoyed by the truth which he hates.
    5. This should make us long for the perfect assembly above where there will be no mixture, but a sinless congregation.

III. THAT SATAN MAY ASSEMBLE WITH THE SONS OF GOD.

1. To do mischief to saints:

  • By accusing them before the Lord, even in their holy things.
  • By calling off their thoughts from heavenly concerns, and making them heavy of heart and distracted with care.
  • By setting them to criticize instead of hearing to profit.
  • By sowing dissensions even in their holy service.
  • By exciting pride in preachers, in singers, in those who publicly pray, and in those who give. This is shown in different persons in their style, their tone, their dress, etc.
  • By cooling down their ardor, abating their love, chilling their praise, freezing their prayer, and, in general, killing their seal and joy.

2. To do mischief to unconverted hearers:

  • By distracting attention from saving truth.
  • By raising doubts; by suggesting skeptical ideas, raising dark questions, and putting the man before the Master.
  • By suggesting delay to those who may be impressed.
  • By quenching prayer, hindering enjoyment, preventing profit, deadening feeling, and robbing God of glory.
  • By taking away the word which had been sown; as birds peck up the seed scattered on the highway.

IV. THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE ALL THE MORE SATANIC FOR ASSEMBLING WITH THE SONS OF GOD.

Satan showed the cloven foot in that sacred gathering more than ever.

    1. He was brazenly impudent with his Maker.
    2. He railed at God's people, even at one of the best of them, whom the Lord himself called "perfect?"
    3. He resolved to tempt him, to torture him, and to lead him into rebellion against God, if he could.

    • The devil is here at this moment.

    • Let us not yield to his suggestions.

    • Let us cry to the Lord at once, and trust in the Lord Jesus, who can preserve us from the evil one, even when he is present.

Addenda

As soon as the sower goes forth to sow his seed, the fowls of the air go forth also. The more good is being done in any place, the more surely will Satan oppose it. Unusual provocations will be given to lukewarm professors by those whose zeal is aroused; and so there will be bickerings. Ready offense will be taken by cross-grained brethren during a revival; for things are apt to be a little out of the regular order; and here is another root of bitterness. Unusually large numbers of hypocrites will come forward, just as snails and slugs come creeping forth on a rainy day. Unusual bitterness will be felt by worldlings, and, as a consequence, unusual slanders will be current against the more active assailants of the enemy's kingdom. You cannot destroy a wasp's nest without being attacked in return. Yet this is better than stagnation. In a slumbering church it is the adversary's chief business to rock the cradle, hush all noise, and drive away even a fly which might light upon the sleeper's face; Satans great dread is lest the church should be aroused from her dreamy slumbers.

Since Satan will enter our assemblies, it behoves us to see (1) that no one of us brings him in our company; (2) that no one gives place to him when he enters the congregation; (3) that, like Abram with the ravenous birds, we drive him away; or (4) that we pray with all the more earnestness, "Deliver us from the evil one."

George Marsh, who was martyred in the reign of Queen Mary, in a letter to some friends at Manchester, wrote: "The servants of God cannot at any time come and stand before God, that is, lead a godly life, and walk innocently before God, but Satan cometh also among them, that is, he daily accuseth, findeth fault, vexeth, persecuteth, and troubleth the godly; for it is the nature and property of the devil always to hurt, and do mischief, unless he be forbidden of God; but unless God doth permit him, he can do nothing at all, not so much as enter into a filthy hog?' — Fox's Book of Martyrs

Did Satan review himself at the end of that Sabbath? Did he feel any compunction at having defied his Maker, at having intruded among the saints, and at having done them wrong in their own Father's Palace? We suppose not. But hearers, who are not Satan's, would do well to lay to heart the character of any one of their Lord's-days as God sees it. Sabbath sins well weighed and studied furnish plentiful material for repentance. Perhaps if this theme were well applied to the conscience it might arouse the heart to penitence, and lead it to faith.

Luther was in great danger of being stabbed by a Jew; but a friend sent him a portrait of the assassin, and so he was put upon his guard. We ought to be forearmed by being forewarned. The great enemy cannot now pounce upon us at unawares while we are at our devotions; for we are not ignorant of his devices We are bidden to watch as well as pray, to watch before we pray, and to watch when we pray.

Charles Hadden Spurgeon

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