by Mike Ratliff
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3 ESV)
Our dear brother in the Lord John Bunyan who lived in 17th Century England, was no stranger to the ups and downs of this life and God gave him a special insight into His workings through these high and low points in our own pilgrimage to the Celestial City. Bunyan was a gifted preacher and writer yet God allowed the government authorities at that time to imprison him for 12 years because he was a non-conformist. He was not an ordained pastor in the Church of England. He was a Baptist and preached to all who would hear. While in prison he supported his family by making bootlaces. He was imprisoned twice. It was during the second period in jail that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. John Owen helped him publish it when he was released. Even though Owen, who had a great deal of influence with the King and the rest of the government and tried very hard to have Bunyan released from prison, was unable to end the persecution. It did not end until the book had been completed. Through all of this, Bunyan never doubted his Saviour. He knew that his and his family’s hardships was simply part and parcel with the Christian’s partaking of the sufferings of our Saviour.
Since I posted Straining Toward the Goal last week, I have been in a very dry spiritual period. During this time, I became convinced that God was allowing our enemy to oppress me. God seemed far away. The spiritual attacks seemed to be geared to attempts to make me resentful about many things. The joy of my salvation seemed to have lost its luster. Worship and praise seemed to be forced. Digging into the Word was work instead of joy. Then God led me to write False Teachers and True Contentment on Monday evening. That was the first post in several days in which I really sensed the working of God through the Bible study and the working out of the theme and the actual writing of the post. I was still being oppressed, but the joy of being rewarded with nuggets of God’s truth from digging into His Word was starting to return. On Tuesday, I wrote God is My Strength and Portion Forever. The joy of my salvation was coming back, but it was not until God took me through writing that piece that the blinders fell away and God drew me fully into His warm and loving light. I started writing that piece still oppressed by the enemy and as I finished it then published it, I realized that God had revealed much to me spiritually. The enemy fled from me and I began rejoicing in the Lord. I was not fully back, but I was well on my way.
Last night I did not get started writing until after doing a couple hours of yard work. I was tired. However, as I sat down to pray and get the theme for last night’s post from our Lord, I was positive that the personal attacks I had experienced during the day were allowed by God to show me which direction to go. From that came The Unfathomable Depth of Spiritual Blindness. During the day, I kept remembering the prophet Jeremiah and the ordeal he had to endure in his ministry. I had not been studying Jeremiah this year. However, those passages I used in that post were crystal clear in my mind hours before I sat down here to put that post together. As I prayed before I wrote, I simply asked God to put the pieces together. I knew before I was even half way through that piece that God had given me that message and He was going to use it for His glory and the edification of His saints.
Today I have been walking in the joy of my salvation. I have been listening to the Sovereign Grace music CDs The Valley of Vision and Psalms all day. I have been in worship and prayer all day. As I reflected on this part of my pilgrimage, it was as if I was experiencing the ups and downs that John Bunyan wrote about. I thought of the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel. I could not get the theme of the “joy of my salvation” from my mind. The song on The Valley of Vision CD called “How Deep” caused me to weep. I kept playing it over an over again all day. Here are the lyrics.
Words and music by Stephen Altrogge
As recorded on Valley of Vision
You were broken that I might be healed
You were cast off that I might draw near
You were thirsty that I might come drink
Cried out in anguish that I might sing
How deep is Your love
How high and how wide is Your mercy
How deep is Your grace
Our hearts overflow with praise
You knew darkness that I might know light
Wept great tears that mine might be dried
Stripped of glory that I might be clothed
Crushed by Your Father to call me Your own
© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).
As I went through this song in my heart as I worked today I knew that God had taken me through something profound and that I needed to mark this somehow. Of course, this is just the latest of untold numbers of other periods of rejoicing after periods of dryness. I am sure there will be more. I also reflected on the prophet Isaiah’s wonderful “psalm” of praise.
You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 12:1-6 ESV)
Today, I have been particularly drawn to v3 in this chapter from Isaiah. As God comforts us after our affliction, the joy of our salvation seems to overflow and it is because God is allowing us to draw water freely from the wells of salvation. He is good to His children. Yes, He takes us through some dry times to do deep cleansing and maturing in our hearts, but when He gently draws us out of it, the enemy who has been oppressing us flees and we are cleaned up and given our Lord’s wonderful pure water from His well which will never run dry.
Christian, are you rejoicing in your salvation or are you in the throes of an assault by our enemy who is bent on leveraging you away from your devotion to your Lord? We make a huge error if we allow these attacks to bring us to despair and despondency. The only way up from these periods of oppression is through prayer and devotion all directed to our Lord. He may very well keep us in the valley of humiliation to train us to walk in humility. I am convinced that that is where I live. We can walk in the joy of our salvation in this valley. It is a special place my brethren. It is in this place that the Lord trains us and develops our character to line up more tightly with that of our Lord Jesus Christ. While others may do all sorts of things to live it up in the temporal, some of us are not allowed that. Instead, we are kept under His hand to live in such a way that He is glorified and we become useful to Him in the Kingdom. It is in this valley that we realize that the Lord is our strength, He is our portion, He is our song, He is our all and in this we will be content.
Out of the Depths
Words and music by Bob Kauflin
As recorded on Psalms
Out of the depths, O Lord, I cry to You
When I am tempted to despair
Though I might fail to trust Your promises
You never fail to hear my prayer
And if You judged my sin
I’d never stand again
But I see mercy in Your hands
So more than watchmen for the morning
I will wait for You, my God
When my fears come with no warning
In Your Word I’ll put my trust
When the harvest time is over and I still see no fruit
I will wait, I will wait for You
The secret mysteries belong to You
We only know what You reveal
And all my questions that are unresolved
Don’t change the wisdom of Your will
In every trial and loss
My hope is in the cross
Where Your compassions never fail
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)
Soli Deo Gloria!