I Will Not Let Thee Goby A.W.Tozer on April 12, 2022
Dear friends,The Old Testament book, The Song of Songs, is a poetic book about a King and His beloved bride. Many scholars throughout history, before and after the Reformation, considered it an allegory about Christ and the Church, or a poetic picture of God's love for His people and His dealings with them. The book offers some insights into our relationship with the Lord. When we have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, when we have illumination by the Holy Spirit of who He is, His glorious attributes, we realize as the beloved Shulamite bride did, that "Your love is better than wine..Your name is ointment poured forth.." (Song of Songs 1:2,3), which is what David said, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elswhere.." (Psalm 84:10), and what Paul expresses in the above verse. We also see that our seeking of God is only a wonderful indication that He Himself is drawing us to Himself: "Draw me away and we will run after you.." (Song of Songs 1:4). As Jesus said, "For no one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws them.." (John 6:44) A.W.Tozer articulated that in his classic book, The Pursuit of God:
"Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.
Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.
We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. "No man can come to me," said our Lord, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him," and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the out working of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: "Thy right hand upholdeth me."
I Will Not Let Thee Go Wounded Jacob is renewed by his hunger for God By A.W.Tozer
IT is AMAZING to me! There are people within the ranks of Christianity who have been taught and who believe that Christ will shield His followers from wounds of every kind. If the truth were known, the saints of God in every age were only effective after they had been wounded. They experienced the humbling wounds that brought contrition, compassion and a yearning for the knowledge of God. I could only wish that more among the followers of Christ knew what some of the early saints meant when they spoke of being wounded by the Holy Spirit. Think for a moment about the apostle Paul. I suppose there is no theologian living or dead who quite knows what Paul meant when he said, "From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17). Every commentary has a different idea. I think Paul referred to the wounds he suffered because of his faith and godly life. When we return to Old Testament Jacob, whose experiences we were considering in the previous chapter, we see a young man who for years had operated in his own sphere of life without wounds. He was a true Jew. He knew that he was intelligent. He knew that as long as he could get around unwounded, he would come through every skirmish on top of the heap. It was not a question of his being proud or vain. He just knew that in matters of this world he was good. Jacob prospered in Haran. He gained not only a wife but wives. And children. And flocks and herds. After 20 years, he decided he would return with his family and his possessions to his own country. Jacob was still worried, however, about meeting Esau, his brother. Learning enroute that Esau was coming to meet him with a sizable contingent of 400 men did not ease Jacob's fears. Sending his family before sunset across the ford of the river Jabbok, Jacob remained behind alone. There at the ford of the Jabbok, Jacob encountered a heavenly Being. The Scriptures simply say, "There wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day" (Genesis 32:24). In the darkness of that Middle Eastern night, Jacob wrestled. At daybreak, the Stranger touched Jacob's thigh, wounding him, putting the thigh out of joint. But still Jacob wrestled. “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me,”Jacob vowed. "What is thy name?" the Man asked. "Jacob." The name means schemer, supplanter, literally, heel grabber. It fit Jacob's character exactly. The Visitor replied, "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” And He gave Jacob the blessing Jacob had wrestled for. Jacob called the name of the ford Peniel. He said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." At Peniel Jacob was wounded. The Bible informs us that for the rest of his life "he halted upon his thigh”—he limped. But the Bible informs us of something else. It says that as Jacob passed across the ford of the Jabbok, "the sun rose upon him.” Before, Jacob had been in the shadows so much of the time that the sun had difficulty reaching his troubled face! And about his wound. Certainly we would agree that the matter of a limp for the rest of his life was a very small price to pay for the benefits of a wound administered by the Lord Himself. From the hurried glimpses we have seen of Jacob in this chapter and the last, I want to consider some spiritual lessons to be drawn from the lives and attitudes of Jacob and his twin brother Esau. If we had been neighbors to the household of Isaac and Rebekah and dependent only on our human judgment, we very probably would have selected Esau above Jacob as the brother more likely to succeed. We would have agreed that Esau was a good and promising young man. To be sure, he had some rough edges, we would have said, but overall he had what it takes. He was a hunter and he was active and red-blooded. He smelled of the fields and the outdoors. He was kind to his parents. His character was unquestioned. His reputation was good. On the other hand, everyone seemed to know about Jacob's moral shortcomings. If we were living in the same tent with Jacob, we would lock up our valuables at night. With scheming, cheating Jacob around, a person could not be too careful. No, if we had to pick Jacob or Esau to live with, we would have picked Esau at that time in their lives. But it turned out that Jacob had something Esau never possessed. Jacob had an inner longing for God. Yes, Jacob was deep in sin, but when it came to the time of soul crisis, he felt the tug and the lift of another, better world. By comparison, Esau's controlling vice was his continuing and complete self-satisfaction. The thing that damned him was his spiritual complacency, his satisfaction and contentment in being just what he was. He had no desire to change, to be godly, to be God's man. Knowing his own many faults and flaws, Jacob sensed within himself a great dissatisfaction. In every generation, the people who have found God have been those who have come to the end of themselves. Recognizing their hopelessness, they have been ready to throw themselves on the mercy and grace of a forgiving God. Numbers of people come to me not to discuss their talents and abilities, but to talk about their flaws and their spiritual yearnings for God. That encourages me, and it should encourage any pastor. We ministers can do little to help a person whose discontent is with things: job, circumstances, possessions or their lack. That which we cherish is the discontent with the condition of the soul and inner spirit. We welcome the one who has a deep-seated longing for God and a yearning to live more pleasing to Him. God had been faithful in trying to get His signals through to Jacob and Esau. Esau was so intent upon the things of earth and flesh that he heeded them not. He was satisfied, content. Let everything continue as it is, was his attitude; that's fine! Never mind the voice of God trying to get through. I sense a description of the humanness of Esau in the words of the poet Browning about a man he called “a finished and finite clod, not troubled by a spark." That is a terribly condemning epitaph: “A finished and finite clod”! How many people in our world today are all done—finished, never to change? No one is going to work on them anymore. They are clods. Finitte. Finished. Never any spark within and never any response to what God is trying to do. It is the spark of God within a person that troubles him or her That spark is placed within by the Spirit of God. Conviction. Longing. Desire. That spark within does not save. But that spark must be there to lead the person on to salvation. Why is it that some men and women seem never to have any awareness of that spark from God? They may be nice people, nice neighbors, nice friends. But they live every day without any spark of discontent, without any spark of need for God. I sense that Esau was that kind of finished clod. And I note with grief the caution voiced in the letter to the Hebrews: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." (12:15-17). In the Genesis account of Jacob and Esau, we are in touch with the faithful overshadowing of God, the eternal Mystery, in the life of Jacob. We do not sense that the same can be said of Esau. He was not bothered. He was not longing for that Presence which goes beyond the physical satisfactions of food and drink and family and friends. Do not ever forget that God has made us with the right to make our own choices. We were not created to be robots. God made us in His own image, but with the right and the ability to choose. We are free moral agents. When our first parents made the wrong choices, the human race became alienated from God. Since that time, every person has been faced with choices and decisions. The person who wants to be God's man or woman has to choose to follow the Lord. God's invitations are found throughout the Bible. He has never ceased saying, "Come unto Me." Each person has to make the decision to take God at His word. When that happens, his or her heart closes down tight upon the Word of God. The person testifies, "I have chosen the way of truth!" This is one point where we have to be dogmatic. There is only one way to God, and the choice must be made. There is no other way to get into the kingdom of God. If a person does not make the choice to enter, he or she will never get in. Jacob made his choice and became one of God's men. Esau did not choose. He never did decide. Esau represents a large company of people in the world today. They keep on assuring themselves that they will "make it" into the kingdom of God by a kind of heavenly osmosis. They have a fond hope that there is a kind of unconscious "leaking through" of their personalities into the walls of the kingdom. That is a vain hope. No one ever comes to God by an automatic or unconscious process. It does not happen like that at all. The individual man or woman must make the choice. On that we must be dogmatic! We have the Book, the Word of God. We know that God has revealed Himself as our God. We know that God has offered Himself through His giving of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son. We know that the saving message is the gospel—the good news—of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know that we have had an authentic experience of the grace and mercy of God. We have made our decision. Our own hearts, like bear traps, have clamped down on God's gracious offer. In our rejoicing we have said, "This is it! We have chosen! This is it!” There is no way that God can come to us and help us until we make the choice. There is no way that He can forgive us, cleanse us and restore us to the position of son or daughter until we consciously let Him. The Lord has been waiting long and patiently for a great company of people who say they are searching. They are having their own way. They claim to be "testing." The tragedy is that most of them are related to Esau. They are satisfied with things as they find them. They will never come to a point of decision. They will never choose to be God's men, God's women. The worst part is the fact that so many of them are holding back because "we don't want to give up our freedom." That is one of the great fallacies held by unbelievers—thinking that the Christian must surrender his or her freedom in order to be a Christian. The notion is one of Satan's inventions, but it is still effective in our day. The devil is able to make sinners imagine they are free! But it is the Christian who is really free. The Christian has liberty from his or her burden of guilt. The Christian is free from the nasty temper and human jealousies. The Christian is free from slavery to alcohol, tobacco and other substances. Best of all, the Christian is finally free from a thousand fears, including the fear of death and hell. The unsaved person is hanging on to his or her freedom to sin, to pile up judgment, to get old and to die without God. What about you? Can it be that you are satisfied spiritually because you are not uneasy about anything? You can hear a strong Bible sermon or an appealing gospel song, and they do not even scratch the surface of your emotions. You manage to let the television entertain you until midnight, you sleep, you eat a hearty breakfast and go to work—entirely untroubled by any spark. You are satisfied with yourself and with the things that compose your earthly life. There are two great evils apparent among us today. The two are related in that both spring from callous, apathetic human attitudes. The first is the prevailing spirit of impenitence. The second is the total willingness to exist day after day without any longing for God. If we yearned after God even as much as a cow yearns for her calf, we would be the worshiping and effective believers God wants us to be. If we longed for God as a bride looks forward to the return of her husband, we would be a far greater force for God than we are now. Our hindrance, our difficulty is our lack of desire for God. We have reduced this entire spiritual matter to a kind of mail-order, automatic acquisition: Christ died on the cross. I believe He died for me. Now I have nothing to do but wait for His return and He will give me a big, bright crown. Let me tell you, there will be some bitter disappointments in that coming day when we find how wrong we have been. We have tried to reduce our relationship to God to an automatic coin-in-the-slot proposition. And it will not work that way. I remind you that we live in a spiritually troubled time in history. Christianity has gone over to the jingle-bell crowd. Everyone is just delighted that Jesus has done all of the sorrowing, all of the suffering, all of the dying. Christian believers are emphasizing happiness. They no longer want to hear what the Bible says about death to self and the life of spiritual victory through identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. The number is great of those who will no longer admit that spiritual victory often comes through wrestling in a long, dark night of the soul. "That is not for us,” they contend. "Jesus did all of the suffering so we can be happy. And we are going to be happy even if we have to invent new ways to happiness!” The worst part is that we also expect Jesus will do all of the loving. We have largely forgotten the first and great commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” What I am anxious to see in Christian believers is a beautiful paradox. I want to see in them the joy of finding God while at the same time they are blessedly pursuing Him. I want to see in them the great joy of having God and yet always wanting Him! (From the book, Men Who Met God, By A.W.Tozer)