The Pastures of the Wilderness

Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Psalm 85:6

Good Monday Morning to this week 38 of 2019

Spring 1859

Faith grew. Hope brightened. The power of prayer began to be known, felt and seen. A contemporary account describes the Year of Grace in this way; The winter was passed; the time of the singing of birds had come. Humble, grateful, loving, joyous converts multiplied the great concerns of eternity were realized as they had never been before. Many walked about in deep anxiety about the one thing needful; while others rejoiced in the experience of a present peace and a complete salvation. The community was altogether changed in its outward aspects, and a pervading seriousness prevailed a total transformation has been affected in the hearts and lives of those who were the subjects of the change, and throughout all the neighborhood was heard thanksgiving and the voice of melody. The 1859 Revival in Ireland edited by William E. Allen

Fruit of Revival 1859

Full sanctuaries, full Sabbath schools, full prayer meetings, brotherly love, increased generosity and additions by the hundreds to the communion of the churches. These are the fruits that remain to the summer Revival of 1859 in Coleraine.

Wilderness

Shortly before the “Year of Grace” they had  Joel 1: 19 ringing in their ears:

O LORD, to you will I cry: for the fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame has burned all the trees of the field.

The sorrow of the people is turned into repentance and humiliation before God. With all the marks of sorrow and shame, sin must be confessed and bewailed. A day is to be appointed for this purpose; a day in which people must be kept from their common daily in’s and out’s.

The School in Coleraine in Summer 1859 

One boy after another silently slipped out of the classroom and after a while the schoolteacher looked out to see boys on their knees throughout the playground, each one in earnest prayer. He turned to the two boys and asked them; Do you think you can go and pray with these boys? They did so and kneeling down with one after another, they began to implore the Lord to forgive their sins for the sake of Him who had borne them all upon the Cross. Silent grief soon turned into bitter cries.

As these cries reached the girls’ school, they too fell upon their knees and wept in grief over their sins. The cries of the boys and girls at school reached passers-by in the adjoining streets and conviction of sin came upon them and they fell on their knees in the streets pleading to the Lord for mercy.  Pastors and men of prayer were sought and they spent the rest of the day in counseling and praying with these mourners. The sweetest of all toils, when to intercede for those who are brokenhearted by the sight of their sins,  dinner was forgotten, tea was forgotten, and it was not until 11pm at night that the school premises were freed from their unexpected guests.

The Pastures of the Wilderness 

Words translated as “wilderness” occur nearly 300 times in the Bible. A formative Hebrew memory is the years of “wandering in the wilderness,” mixing experiences of wild landscape, of searching for a promised land, and of encounters with God. The  wandering takes place in the, uninhabited land where humans are nomads. This common Hebrew word refers often to a wild field where domestic animals may be grazed and wild animals live, in contrast to cultivated land, sometimes “the pastures of the wilderness” (Joel 1:19–20). “The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice” (Isaiah 35:1).

The wilderness is a “given” for intense experiences, of stark need for food and water (manna and quails), of isolation (Elijah and the still small voice), of danger and divine deliverance (Hagar and Ishmael), of renewal, of encounters with God (Moses, the burning bush, the revelation of the divine name, Mount Sinai). There is a psychology as well as a geography of wilderness, a theology gained in the wilderness. R. Homes

Turning to the New Testament,  the word most often translated as “wilderness” is “eremos” an isolated place. The wilderness figures at critical junctures in the life of Jesus. Jesus is baptized by John and then is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days. The Devil is there, but so is the Spirit. “A great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed”. This records a search for solitude, for self-discovery, for divine presence, but this process, crucially, seems to require the ambiance of the natural environment.

They drop on the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. Psalm 65.12

In those wastes, however, there would be valleys or places watered by springs and streams that would afford pastures for flocks and herds. Such are the “pastures of the wilderness” referred to here. God’s passing along those valleys would seem to “drop,” or distill, fertility and beauty, causing grass and flowers to spring up in abundance, and clothing them with luxuriance. The freshness and beauty of plant life, which suddenly, as by a miracle, clothes the hill-sides, resembles a fair mantle thrown around their shoulders, as if to deck them for some festival.

In conclusion, I summarize: 

Our dwelling place: The wilderness.

Our spiritual provision: Pastures.

Our heavenly refreshment: Thy drop.

******************

Wishing you a very good start to this week

Philemon

 

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