Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.The Consecration of Suffering
Religion consists in taking things out of their common places, and in removing them from a lower to a higher level. To hold everything in God, to use it for God, to dedicate it to God—this is consecration.
I. The Great Danger of Suffering—whether it be physical or mental suffering—is threefold:—
a. Pride, because we become exceptional, and are made much of.
b. Indolence, because the nerves become unstrung.
c. Selfishness, because at such times it seems excusable, if not even a duty, to think very much about ourselves.
These things are just the most antagonistic to consecration, which is essentially a humbling process; an energetic process; a self-forgetting process. We have to consider what it is to consecrate suffering; or, as Isaiah expresses it, to 'Glorify God in the fires'.
II. To Consecrate your Suffering you must Dedicate it.—This must be done in a very positive, serious manner. As soon as the suffering comes, feel and say, say it distinctly: 'I will dedicate this trial. It shall not be an ordinary, profane thing. It shall be set apart for God. It shall be taken away from the world. It shall be God's. I dedicate it.' From that moment, your sickness, or your pain, or your trial, or your loss, or your bereavement, is hedged round. It remains sacred ground. This special committal of yourself and your suffering at the outset, by a religious act of devotion, is a very necessary part of the consecration; but it must be repeated very often. From that time you may call your pain, or your sorrow, not so much a suffering as an offering; as much as if you laid it upon an actually material altar, it is an offering.
III. Real Consecration is a very Practical Thing.—Our offering to God will seldom be real unless it is in some way an offering made to God through His creatures. Consecrate the uses of suffering, whatever those uses may be. Do not let them be natural, ordinary results, but let them be dedicated to a holy purpose. All our sorrows and sufferings are available for others, and are intended as means for usefulness.
a. A trial is an experience, and an experience is a talent. Consecrate the talent. You are laying in a great power of sympathy. Consecrate that sympathy. Put yourself under a sacred obligation that that pain, that trouble, shall make you more tender, more wise, more religious in your dealings, ever after, from that moment, with other sufferers.
b. A season of affliction is a vantage ground. Consecrate the vantage ground. Take opportunity to speak, to say something, which you could never say so well or so effectively; say it there; say it very lovingly, but say it very plainly. And let your words be consecrated words, as said before God; prayed over well, and then say them. Patience, simple, kind, unselfish patience, is always eloquent. A sufferer's smile is a sweet sermon!
c. If all this be true of physical and mental suffering, it is truer still of spiritual trial. Take care. No trials are more in danger of being selfish and useless than spiritual ones. Your depression, your inward temptations, your repentance, your conflicts, all Lenten feelings, they are not ends, they are not for themselves only; use them; turn them to good account; consecrate them.
IV. Of all this Consecration of Suffering, the great Exemplar is the Lord Jesus Christ.—If you wish to know the way to consecrate, study Him.
And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.
The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.
The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.
The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.
The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted do sigh.
The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.
They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.
The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.
There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.
In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction.
When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.
They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea.
Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea.
From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.
Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.
And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.
The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.
And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.
Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.