Approbation in a Day of Darkness
by Inglis Fleming
It was a day of darkness in the history of Israel. A remnant had returned from the captivity. Under the prophets Haggai and Zechariah the work of God in the temple had prospered. Alas the recovery had been of short duration and Malachi, the messenger of the Lord, was sent to present before the people the desperate condition in which they were found. They were calling the proud happy, and they who wrought iniquity were set up. Yet they did not feel their true need and so did not acknowledge their sinful state. They were satisfied with that which was merely external. Their moral condition was overlooked entirely.
“Wherein have we despised Thy Name?”
“Wherein have we polluted Thee?”
“Wherein have we wearied Him?”
“Wherein have we robbed Thee?”
“What have we spoken against Thee?”
These were some of their insolent questions, when, by His servant, Jehovah sought to arouse their cons sciences, in order that they might return to Him.
Their state was much like that which prevails among those who profess the Name of Christ in these days. Of the Church, in its Laodicean condition, the Lord says: “Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
Thus history is repeating itself. Man has failed in every dispensation. And—let us not forget it—each one of us has had a share in the breakdown of the church in the present period of God’s grace.
In the midst of the failure and sin which marked the returned remnant there were those who loved the Lord, and they knew one another and lamented over the condition of things which existed. Of them we read,
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His Name” (Mal. 3:16).
These formed a remnant as it were amid the remnant of Israel. They had no title to leave the rest, but, in the midst of all the weakness and wickedness which surrounded them, they sought to answer to the Lord’s mind for His people.
The fear of Jehovah and the Name of Jehovah have repeated reference in this short prophecy. “Fearing His Name” became a centre for them and drew them into communion one with another. It has been suggested that the adverb “often” in the sentence, “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another,” should be omitted. What characterised them was that they spake one to another. They found common delight and expressed it openly to those who were of kindred feeling with themselves. And should not this be so with His loved ones today? Should we not speak together of our gracious Lord and of His interests freely when we meet together day by day.
“And the LORD hearkened and heard,” He listened, He bowed His holy ear to hear and He heard in detail that which was the subject of their conversation. The doubled expression would seem to carry this. He hearkened with interest and He heard their words with pleasure. His delight in their communications was such that “a book of remembrance was written before Him” on their behalf. “For them that feared the Lord.” Their names were enregistered in heaven. We know not their names. Earth published them not on its rolls of fame. But on high they were enrolled among the mighty who overcame all the influences of the time in which they lived. They were the overcomers of the hour.
The words, “And that thought upon His name,” many encourage any who, being shut in, or banished for the Name’s sake from the midst of other believers, cannot speak with kindred souls. Such can have high honour equally with their more favoured brethren. They can think upon His Name.
Attention has been called to the fact that in the Greek version of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint), the word translated thought is used for “Taking an inventory.” These lovers of Jehovah took an inventory of His Name. The revelation He had given of Himself under that Name of grace and power was dwelt upon in detail by them. They pondered over all that it meant; the self-existent One, who was and is and ever will be. The faithful-to-promise, covenant-keeping, unchanging Lord occupied their attention. Their meditation of Him was sweet and was appreciated by Him. Speaking of, or thinking of, Him were alike valued in His sight.
It is said that a well-known servant of God stated that he would at times make what he termed a necklace of pearls of the names and titles of the Lord Jesus. Taking the letters of the alphabet he would link one of His names or titles with each of the letters. (Some one hundred and thirty of these distinctions and designations may be found. Almost every letter of the alphabet may be supplied with at least one of them). Doing thus he had and we may have our thoughts profitably engaged as the manifold graces and excellencies and glories of our Lord come before us. Thinking of Him in His various beauties and offices will lead us to speak of Him to others, for, as we read, “While I was musing the fire kindled and at last I spake with my tongue.” May it be so with us, increasingly!
“And they shall be Mine, said the LORD of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” What encouragement is here! For us, as Christians, the day is near when the Lord’s special treasure will be made up. He is coming to take His own, all of them, to be for ever with Himself. Meanwhile He will care for them in all the details of their lives and goings, making all that seems most contrary turn out for their blessing. Then will be seen the result of serving God in the midst of all that was opposed to His glory. The portion of the overcomer will be to eat of “the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God;” to receive the “white stone,” a mark of His personal approval; to eat of “the hidden manna;” to “inherit all things,” and much else of everlasting blessing and enjoyment. May we so act as to gain these indications of our Lord’s approbation!