"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"The Lord needs them."—Matthew 21:3
Greatly would an Israelite, in the "Desert of the
Wandering," have been startled and saddened, if, as he sat reclining under
the shadow of one of these Elim palms, he had seen an axe suddenly placed at
its root; and that which hour after hour had been gladdening him with its
screening boughs, laid prostrate with the ground.
Similar, often, is it in the case of the bereaved; when
loved ones, under whose shadow they have rested, have suddenly succumbed to
the stroke of the Great Destroyer! In a moment, the joy and zest of life
seems gone. Today, it was the gentle rustling of the green leaf overhead.
Tomorrow, the place that once knew it knows it no more. "The shadow from the
heat" is exchanged for the pitiless rays of the scorching sun and a dreary
outlook of drifting sands. "How is the staff broken, and the beautiful rod!"
"What do you mean by this waste?" are the words which in
such seasons and experiences ring their dreary echo in the ear. Why that
life of consecrated activity so suddenly paralyzed? Why this Isaac
laid on the altar of sacrifice? Why is yonder Lazarus laid low in the
prime of youthful manhood? Why that loving and useful existence lost
prematurely to the Church and the world? The seared and withered leaves
of autumn drop in their season to the ground; but why this withering of the
early blossom—this abnormal falling of the green and tender
foliage? The blighted thorns of the wilderness may be swept away, but
why make havoc among that Elim palm-grove?
One reply we have placed at the head of this meditation.
They are words once put by the Divine Savior Himself into the lips of His
disciples. We need not stop to note upon what occasion. But like many of the
gracious utterances which proceeded from His lips, they were intended and
designed to be a quieting solace for His people in all time of their
tribulation—"The Lord needs them." There are flowers needed to waft
their perfume and swing their censers in the gardens of immortality. There
are "ministering ones" needed in the Sanctuary above. Yes, if there are no
battles there to fight—no armor to prove—no harps "on the willows"
forbidding to sing the Lord's song—there are noble positions of active
service in which the unresting energies of the glorified are engaged.
Christian mourners! who, it may be, are now lamenting
over your withered flowers—the empty places at your table—the music of
cherished voices hushed for the forever of time. They formed a part of
yourselves; sharers of your thoughts and toils, identified with all your
plans in life: soothers and strengtheners in your anxious hours—ministering
angels at your beds of pain. Their presence had become apparently
indispensable: and now their absence or withdrawal is like the blotting out
of the sun from his place in the firmament.
Too truly you may feel, day by day, in the depths of your
lonely, aching hearts, how you could ill afford—how much you had "need" of
'the loved and lost.' But take this as the explanation—let all murmurs
be stilled by the higher claim and Claimant. It is a beautiful thought in
one of the finest of the sonnets of Dante, as he wails the absence of
Beatrice, that "the angels had asked God for her." We do not have to imagine
the intervention of angels—"The Lord has need" of the crowned and
glorified. At such deathbeds we are too apt, like Jacob with the mysterious
Wrestler at Jabbok, in the agony of nature's fond struggle, to say, "We will
not let you go!"—But hark! as the wing is pluming for its immortal flight,
let the gentle whisper come to us, rebuking all tears, "Let me go,
for the Day breaks!"—let me go, for "the Lord needs me!"—"If you
loved me, you would rejoice because I said, I go unto my Father!" Glorify
God by meek submission to His holy will.
"You have done well to kneel and say,
'Since He who gave can take away,
And bid me suffer, I obey.'"
Rejoicing, that the loss you mourn is not that of a
treasure hidden in the earth: no, rather, a golden coin stamped in the mint
of heaven is withdrawn from its uses in the Church below, for the
higher and holier purposes of the Great Master in the Church of the
glorified. It is the infant life of the present, passed, it may be at a
bound, to its full development in the manhood of heaven. "The Master has
come, and calls for you" (John 11:28); and the word accompanying the call is
this: "Friend, come up higher!" If it was from strength to strength
and from grace to grace on earth, it is now from glory to glory!
"Up above, the tree with leaf unfading,
By the everlasting river's brink,
And the sea of glass, beyond whose margin
Never yet the sun was known to sink.
"Up above, the host no man can number,
In white robes, a palm in every hand,
Each some work sublime forever working
In the spacious tracts of that great land.
"Up above, the thoughts that know not anguish,
Tender care, sweet love for us below;
Noble pity, free from anxious terror,
Larger love, without a touch of woe.
"Up above, a music that entwines
With eternal threads of golden sound,
The great poem of this strange existence,
All whose wondrous meaning hath been found.
"O the rest forever, and the rapture!
O the hand that wipes the tears away!
O the golden homes beyond the sunset,
And the hope that watches o'er the clay!"
"At the Lord's command they encamped, and at the Lord's
command they set out."