A Drink from Brooks: If God Is Not Your First Portion, You Get No Seconds

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“Most men are mad upon the world, and so they may have much of that for their portion, they care not whether ever they have God for their portion or no. Give them but a palace in Paris, and then with that French duke [the Duke of Burbone (Bourbon)] they care not for a place in paradise; give them but a mess of pottage, and let who will take the birthright; give them but manna in a wilderness, and let who will take the land of Canaan; give them but ground which is pleasant and rich, and then with the Reubenites they will gladly take up their rest on this side the Holy Land; give them but their bags full, and their barns full, and then with the rich fool in the Gospel they can think of nothing but of taking their ease, and of eating and drinking, and making merry, Luke 12:16–22. So brutish and foolish are they in their understandings, as if their precious and immortal souls were good for nothing but as salt to keep their bodies from rotting and stinking.

Oh that these men would seriously consider, that as a cup of pleasant wine, offered to a condemned man in the way to his execution, and as the feast of him who sat under a naked sword, hanging perpendicularly over his head by a slender thread, and as Adam’s forbidden fruit, seconded by a flaming sword, and as Belshazzar’s dainties, overlooked by an handwriting against the wall; such and only such are all earthly portions to those that have not God for their portion.” —Thomas Brooks, An Ark for All God’s Noahs

“Where?” “Why?” (Jeremiah 8:18–9:11)

Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:

‘Is the LORD not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?’

‘Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
and with their foreign idols?’ (Jeremiah 8:18)

Judah asks “Where?” God asks “Why?” Do you see how His question silences theirs? They seek for Him in tragedy, but not in their lives. Judah has incessantly committed adultery with her idols showing no remorse; but now that the taxes are due for her lavish lifestyle, she accuses her husband of abandoning her.

Who has not acted so foolishly when grieving? C.S. Lewis captures the agony well in A Grief Observed. What Lewis unpacks is not always rooted in such profound sin. Often God seems absent to His faithful servants in the midst of trials. But frequently, we wickedly want God more in our grief than we want Him otherwise.

haunted-house-1225739-1599x1148.jpg“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will be come. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’

…Of course it’s easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent—non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it quite frankly, we don’t ask for Him?”

We ignore God, and then we blame God for not being there when we taste something of the rod. Those who care nothing for God in their lives shouldn’t be surprised when He seems to care not for them as they taste of death. The scariest thing about running away from God, is that God just might let you. Of course you cannot escape Him totally. But one can, as it were, run from His long-suffering and into His judgment.

Of course, if one by grace turns in repentance, God is right there. But it’s quite presumptuous, isn’t it, to think one can spend a life running from God when happy, and then genuinely seek Him when sad? Such cries of “Where?” will be met with “Why?”

A Drink from Brooks: I Will Not Desire to Live Long from Him

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Was Jesus Christ so willing to leave heaven, his Father’s bosom, his crown, his dignity, his glory, his royal attendance, to come into this world to suffer the saddest and the heaviest things that ever was thought of , that ever was heard of , for thy sins, for thy sake? and wilt thou be unwilling to die, and to go to him who hath suffered so much, who hath paid so much, who hath prepared so much for thee ? Ah, Christian, Christian! why dost thou not rather reason thus with thy own soul: Did Christ die for me, that I might live with him? I will not therefore desire to live long from him. All men go willingly to see him whom they love, and shall I be unwilling to die, that I may see him whom my soul loves? Oh, I will not! oh, I dare not! oh, I may not! Others venture through many dangers and many deaths to see their friends and relations, and why then shouldst not thou, 0 Christian! be willing to venture through death to the Lord of life, to him that is thy crown, thy comfort, thy head, thy husband, thy heaven, thy all ? &c. —Thomas Brooks, A String of Pearls

Sin Don’t Make No Sense (Jeremiah 8:4–17)

“You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD:
When men fall, do they not rise again?
If one turns away, does he not return?
Why then has this people turned away
in perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit;
they refuse to return.
I have paid attention and listened,
but they have not spoken rightly;
no man relents of his evil,
saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turns to his own course,
like a horse plunging headlong into battle.
Even the stork in the heavens
knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane
keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not
the rules of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 8:4–7)

wedgie-1355140-1280x960.jpgJudah’s behavior is “unnatural.” When a man falls, he gets up. When he has gone the wrong way, he retraces his steps. Judah however, has intentionally chosen the forbidden path leading to death and insists on continuing down it despite incessant warnings. Earlier God called for them to “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for [their] souls.” Their reply was, “We will not walk in it” (6:16).

Judah has fallen and it is not that she can not get up; she will not get up. Prideful idolatry has let to her fall, and now her pride refuses to rise. She is like the child who has ignored repeated warnings, and because they’ve done so, she now lies flat on her back. When you encourage the child to get up, her rebellious pride now refuses to stand. The problem isn’t that the mind is slow, but that the heart is hard.

The birds know their times and seasons for turning and returning. They are not made in the image of God and follow a less glorious rule. Whereas God’s people, not mankind generally, but specifically God’s people, those He has redeemed in covenant love, do not know His rules. Derek Kidner, ever the master of succinct commentary, summarizes the gist of the passage well, “In matters spiritual and moral we act with a perversity which is quite unlike our common sense at other levels, let alone the impressive wisdom of our fellow creatures (even the bird-brained, 7a!).” Isaiah observes the same “unnatural” behavior. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:2–3).

In one sense, sin is now natural. Sin is our default condition in Adam. This is why Scripture speaks of the “natural man” as it does. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Wisdom is folly to us, and folly is wisdom.

Even so, what is now natural to us is unnatural, it is contrary to creation. When we sin we are going against the grain of creation. Sinful man is like a fish trying to live on dry ground. This is seen in the penalty Paul unfolds for man’s denial and suppression of the truth in worshipping the creation rather than the creator. “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26–27).

Sin is a kind of insanity unto greater insanity. Sin is a plunge down the rabbit hole. Sin is senseless. Sin is nonsensical. Sin is our nature, and yet, sin is unnatural. It doesn’t compute. All of God’s creation and revelation testify against it. Sin sticks out like a sore thumb, and yet, we call it a healthy finger.

Sin is drinking poison knowingly and intentionally and expecting health. Sin is losing your way on purpose and continuing when you know the path leads to destruction, and yet expecting to find happiness thereon. Sin is the rebellion of a finite creature against an omnipotent God and hoping for victory. Sin is falling down and refusing to get up but expecting to be exalted. Sin is as obviously foolish as adding one plus one over and over again and expecting anything other than two. Sin is eating the same forbidden fruit again and again and expecting something other than death and the curse.

What hope can there be when fallen man’s nature is so “unnatural,” so nonsensical? Only the supernatural grace of God. It is not something natural, not something from within, not something below; but something supernatural, something without, something above. When fools turn wise, all glory is God’s. No sinners are self-educated unto sainthood. When sinful fools graduate unto saintly wisdom, summa laud, highest praise is ascribed to God, not man.

“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’ ” (1 Corinthians 2:14, emphasis mine).

A Drink from Brooks: Death the Cure

And as death will cure all your bodily diseases, so it will cure all your soul-distempers also. Death is not mors hominis, but mors peccati, not the death of the man, but the death of his sin; peccatum erat obstetrix mortis mors sepulcchrum peccati, sin was the midwife that brought death into the world, and death shall be the grave to bury sin. Death shall do that for a Christian that all his duties could never do, that all his graces could never do, that all his experiences could never do, that all ordinances could never do. It shall at once free him fully, perfectly, and perpetually from all sin, yea, from all possibility of ever sinning more. —Thomas Brooks, A String of Pearls

When You Should Just Eat What You’re Trying to Serve (Jeremiah 7:16–8:3)

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Jeremiah 7:21–22).

Here’s a confusing command, unless you’re reading your Bible carefully. For those who wonder what’s with all the details about the sacrifices in Leviticus, well, here’s one example of where the dictionary of Leviticus makes for quite a dramatic story later on.

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On the surface God seems to be saying two contradictory things in vv. 21 and 22. “Add another one to the fire.” “I never asked for any.” The catch is that burnt offerings were to be consumed whole on the altar; whereas, there were sacrifices of which the offerer partook. God tells them, that when they make a sacrifice, of which they may eat, to add a burnt offering to it, and go ahead and eat that as well. They might as well please their own palate because they’re not pleasing Yahweh. He told them in 6:20 that “their offerings are not acceptable, nor [are their] sacrifices pleasing to [Him].” Since they’re not worshipping, they might as well have a BBQ. Because the lamb is wasted as a sacrifice, they should eat it up so that it’s not a complete wash.

If our baptisms are more about getting the excited wet, rather than signifying the death and resurrection of disciples, we might as well turn the baptistry into a hot tub so that it serves some practical purpose.

Many churches are right to replace congregational worship with concerts, because worship of the true God is far from their hearts and thus cannot be on their lips.

If we’re not going to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, let’s deck out the minivan of the church with the entertainment package so that they can be amused as they are driven to hell.

If you give offerings as though they are indulgences, you might as well have kept them for yourself.

Because such sacrifices are full of idolatry, Judah might as well eat the world whole and quit trying to play religion. Many “churches” should follow suit.

Rest? Stop!

rest-area-we-approve-1225977-1280x960.jpg“This life is full of trials, full of troubles, and full of changes. Sin within, and Satan and the world without, will keep a Christian from rest, till he comes to rest in the bosom of Christ. The life of a Christian is a race and what rest have they that are still a-running their race? The life of a Christian is a warfare; and what rest have they that are still engaged in a constant warfare? The life of a Christian is the life of a pilgrim; and what rest has
a pilgrim who is still a-travelling from place to place? A pilgrim is like Noah’s dove, that could find no rest for the sole of her foot. The feast, the snare, the cares, the changes, etc., that attends believers in this world, are such that keep them from taking up their rest here. A Christian hears that word always sounding in his ears, ‘Arise, for this is not they resting-place,’ Micah 2:10. A man may as well expect to find heaven in hell, as to expect to find rest in this world.” —Thomas Brooks, A String of Pearls

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