Bridgewater, Virginia …January 2011
"I said to the man
who stood at the Gate of the Year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, 'Go out into
the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way." … by
Minnie Louise Harkins 1875-1957
were my constant visitors when I lived at Arbreux, in
Shenandoah County, thirty miles north of where I now live. Finches, sparrows
and starlings now inhabit my winter world and life. Every morning enroute to
the Wellness Center where I swim, starlings line up on the same telephone line, always facing south, as if waiting for their
flight orders. Or could they be in prayer giving thanks for safe passage through
the night? I want to believe they are.
These days I have been immersed in studying the book of Isaiah or what some have called the “gospel according
to Handel”, a reference to Handel’s Messiah, the words for which were
taken verbatim from the King James’ Isaiah. Isaiah’s cry of
comfort and optimism about the future for God’s people at a time of immense disillusion and despair in Israel, not unlike
that of many in today’s world. Here we read of God’s forgiveness
of Israel’s idolatry, His plan of redemption, and His promise of a coming Savior.
Time and again the old Book refrains the promise to His chosen people: “I will not forsake you”; “Fear not, for I am with you”; “I
have called you by your name, you are Mine”; “I will not remember
your sins.”; and “O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.” For
me, no greater proof of Isaiah’s vision and truth emerges than the day of Jesus’ resurrection when two broken-hearted
disciples on the Emmaus road are joined by an unknown Traveller, to whom they confessed their dreams about Jesus, “we
trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” They invited
this Traveller to join them for supper, and behold they saw the nail prints in His hands, the scars on His face, and Dr. Luke
records that “then their eyes were opened and they knew Him.” Isaiah’s
song of hope sounds for Cleopus , for me, and for all who claim Him as Savior: “For you shall go out with joy, And be led out in peace; the mountains and hills
Shall break forth into singing before you and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)
“And – don’t you see? – this is the essential
optimism of Christianity. Here in
the Spirit of Christ is a force capable of bursting into the hardest paganism, discomfiting the most rigid dogmatism, electrifying
the most suffocating ecclesiasticism. This is the sovereign freedom of the Holy
Spirit. There is no citadel of self and sin that is safe from Him, no unbelieving
cynic secure beyond His reach. There is no ironclad bastion of theological self-confidence
that is immune, no impregnable agnosticism He cannot disturb into faith, no ancient ecclesiastical animosities He cannot reconcile. And blessed be His name, there is no winter death of the soul that He cannot quicken
into a blossoming springtime of life, no dry bones He cannot vitalize into a marching army.
This is the glory of Pentecost. “The wind bloweth where it listeth.” Come, Holy Spirit, come!” James
S. Stewart, The Wind of the Spirit.
And today we stand to lose terribly if we leave the Bible out of our
reckoning. For right through the pages of this Book runs the frontier-line between
two worlds. Here is your listening-post for messages from beyond. Here messengers of grace move to and fro between one world and the other.
Here angels ascend and descend upon the sons of men. A generation that
forsakes the Bible is shutting itself off from the eternal world, and depriving itself of indispensable resources for the
(quoting Francis Thompson)
The angels keep their ancient places;
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ‘tis your estranged faces,
That miss the many splendored thing.
James S. Stewart, The Strengthening Angel