The Blessedness Of The Unoffended
"Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me"(Matt. 11:6).
Are you offended with Christ? It is very easy to be when we do not understand His dealings with us. It is very natural, too, when in the midst of the "fiery furnace" of suffering, in some desert of temptation, or some prison house of denied privileges and opportunities, to become offended with the One who could have saved or delivered us from it if only He would! Truly, to take no offense at Godís varied and often mysterious dealings with us is one of the marks of genuine piety and spiritual maturity. How few attain!
The context of this passage before us reveals the discouragement, questioning and doubt which had entered the heart of John the Baptist as he languished behind prison bars. He was there because of the uncompromised truth he preached and the separated life he lived. The darkness of the lonely cell was a fitting picture of the shadows which had entered his soul as the great door had swung to and he had found himself a prisoner of Herod instead of a herald of Jesus.
John had had a miraculous birth, a divine commission and a mighty message. His was no ordinary ministry, for he had been ordained to announce the coming Messiah and the setting up of His Kingdom, and this significant background of his calling had given him confidence in the message he preached. Doubtless, too, he had looked forward with great anticipation to participating in the affairs of a triumphant King and a victorious nation. And then, like "lightning out of a clear sky," instead of a throne, a prison; instead of freedom, incarceration; and instead of expected blessing, a curse of the direst nature! Of course, he could not understand [who could?] and like myriads of other humans down the long centuries of time, he asked the age-long question, "Why? Why? Why?" Godís dealings seemed so contradictory to Godís call and his own worthy hopes and ambitions.
Have you, dear reader, ever felt that Godís promise had apparently failed, His love had evidently ceased, His pity had been seemingly withdrawn, and His mercy irrevocably cancelled? Sooner or later we all pass this common road of temptation and doubt, and with John we cry from the depths of our heartís anguish, "Why? What can it mean?"
To such we would say in the words of Paul, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13). Jesus offered this "way of escape" to His tried forerunner. He did not answer Johnís question as to whether or not He was the Messiah. Instead, indirectly He called attention to the Scriptures as found in Isaiah 61:1: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." This not only authenticated the works He was doing, but interpreted His own person and mission as well.
What an uplift it must have been to Johnís poor, stricken heart to be thus reminded of the Scripture at a time when it was most needed! "To the Law and to the Testimony" (Isa. 8:20) is ever sound advice when we find ourselves in a "slough of despond" with no way out, no way through and sometimes even no way up, for the heavens themselves seem brass.
And thus, for those who may be questioning Godís love in His present dealings with them we would point to a well-known and much loved passage: "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). Have you been "called" to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, then you have been called also for a high "purpose" and that purpose, according to Romans 8:29 is that you may be "conformed to the image of His Son." We are called to no general, indefinite "good" but to one which is specific, well-defined and God ordered.
If we can but believe this plain statement of fact and "cast anchor" (Acts 27:30) during the tempestuous night of misfortune, sickness, prejudice, misunderstanding, abuse, neglect, poverty, or any other of the varied unpleasant experiences of life, it will save us much suffering at the time and much repentance in the future, for we are bound to be distressed when we disbelieve God, and we are equally as bound to undergo the deep anguish of repentance when once we realize the sin of our unbelief.
During trial, especially when it is long-drawn-out, one is very apt to settle down into a state of hopelessness and despair and say with Jacob of old, when he was about to be bereft of his one remaining joy in life, "All these things are against me" (Gen. 42:36). How much better it would be and how much more pleasing and glorifying to God if we could take our stand with Jacobís well-beloved son, Joseph, and although deprived of everything which life holds sweet and dear, say from a determined and chastened heart, even to the bitterest enemy of our happiness, "As for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Gen. 50:20).
Was ever mere human tried as Joseph was tried? Deprived of home and loved ones, sold into slavery, lied about maliciously and finally cast into a prisonís dungeon! And not the least of the severe testing was the fact that Godís promise to him seemed utterly to have failed, for we read in Psalm 105:19 that "the Word of the Lord tried him." Even that condition could be traced back to the envy and jealousy of the ten brethren, those who should have loved, protected and cared for him, for God had given the Word in a dream and they had thwarted it. Yet Joseph refused to see the evildoers and attributed his state to the direct will of God.
Jacob in his conclusion saw only the calamity, and forgot all the blessing; Joseph on the contrary, saw only the benediction and forgot all the disaster. In other words, Jacob "looked at God through circumstances," but Joseph "looked at circumstances through God."
"Every joy or trial falleth from above;
Traced upon our dial by the Son of Love."
Be sure there are usually three elements that enter into our every sorrow: the infernal, the human and the divine. Satan means to destroy us; man aims to discomfit us, but God desires to refine us.
It is not difficult to become blinded to Godís mercies when the furnace is seemingly heated "seven times more than it was wont to be heated," but that same furnace is refining and conforming and changing us until He who is "like the Son of God" walking by our side (Dan. 3:19,25), sees His image transferred upon our countenance, and the order goes forth, "It is enough."
I believe there are none dearer to the heart of God than those who can pass through the deepest depths of furnace suffering and yet retain an unoffended spirit toward Him who allows to be administered to the parched lips the bitter cup of anguish, yes, even the wormwood and the gall.
Madam Guyon, writing from a prison in Vincennes in 1698, exquisitely portrays the unoffended spirit when she gives to the world "A Prisonerís Song" in the following:
A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields and air;
But in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, My God, it pleaseth Thee.
What have I else to do?
I sing the whole day long;
And He whom well I love to please
Doth listen to my song;
He caught and bound my wandering wing,
But still He bends to hear me sing.
Oh! It is good to soar
These bolts and bars above,
To Him whose purpose I adore,
Whose providence I love;
And in Thy mighty will to find,
The joy the freedom of the mind.