Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…
I. WHAT THEY ARE. The phrase might be read —
1. "Times of cooling," in allusion to the custom of labourers, especially in Eastern countries, of retiring to the shade during the heat of the day to recruit their exhausted strength. And what are these hallowed hours, whether on the week days or on the Sabbath, but times of refreshing, affording an agreeable pause amid the busy scenes of life, enabling us to retire from the burden and heat of the day to "the shadow of a great rock in a weary land?" Here grows the "tree of life," of which the grateful Church exclaims, "I sat down under His shadow with delight, and His fruit was sweet unto my taste." Here gently rolls "the river of the waters of life," "whose streams make glad the city of God." Here, like Nathanael under the fig-tree, we can review all ,'the way in which the Lord our God hath led us," and that is refreshing. Here we can contemplate the unfolded mysteries of redeeming love, and that is refreshing. We can inspect the work of grace in the heart, and that is refreshing. We can look into the promises and examine the covenant which is "ordered in all things and sure," and that is refreshing. We can think of heaven, and that is "refreshing,"
2. Times of refection. The renewed soul has an appetite as well as the body, and the blessings of salvation are adapted to our necessities. "In this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things," etc. To these rich provisions we have constant access. Here is food for all, and the whole in pleasing variety. Here is "the sincere milk of the Word" for "babes in Christ," etc.
3. Times of humidity, softening, and moisture, when the genial showers or refreshing dews saturate and revive the thirsty bosom of vegetation. Apt emblem of the refreshing influences of the Holy Ghost, which "come down like rain upon the new-mown grass, and as the showers which water the earth." And how welcome these heavenly showers! How they refresh the soul of the minister, who, having sown the good seed of the Word, is anxious to see "the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear!" How they revive the spirit of the people whose graces open and expand like "trees planted by the rivers of water!" What a happy effect they have upon our religious institutions! What a sweet perfume, as a "savour of life unto life," do they produce, as you find in a garden after a refreshing shower! And what a beautiful bow upon "the cloud of our mercies as in the day of rain," do they impress, when they descend in concert with the Sun of Righteousness, like "the bow of promise mid the storm."
II. THE SOURCE WHENCE THEY SPRING — "The presence of the Lord." This renders them doubly valuable. The gift is enhanced by the love which we bear to the Giver, especially when we recollect His motive, the way in which our supplies have been procured, the medium through which they descend, the impossibility of procuring others of equal worth, our own unworthiness and "the fulness of joy and the pleasure for evermore" of which they are the pledge and the earnest. They come "from the presence of the Lord," as the pool of Bethesda was rendered medicinal by the presence of the angel; as the bitter waters of Marah became sweet by the influence of the tree which was cast into them; or as the sorrowing disciples were made glad by the presence of the Redeemer. That the blessed God is present with His people whenever and wherever they meet together in His name, requires no proof. He has promised, "in all places where I record My name will I come unto you and bless you."
III. THEIR IMPORTANCE. What would the earth be without the genial showers which water it but a desert, whatever our skill or labour? Thus it would be in our Churches without Divine influences. Ministers might "break up the fallow ground, and scatter the precious seed," but it would not germinate. "We should labour in vain, and spend our strength for nought." But when the Spirit is poured out from on high, "The wilderness shall bud and blossom as the rose." The Holy Ghost is the fruitful source of vital religion. Without His fructifying graces, instructions, invitations, warnings, judgments, mercies, miracles — are all unproductive. But when He descends, "like showers of heavenly rain," the simplest means produce the noblest effects. And as the Holy Spirit produces vital religion where it has never existed before, so He revives it where it has withered, strengthens it where it is weak, and beautifies, expands, and causes it to unfold where it has been contracted and confined.
IV. HOW THEY ARE TO BE OBTAINED.
1. By a conviction of their value. This is requisite to give a proper impulse to our solicitude.
2. By fervent and persevering prayer. We must ask in order that we may receive. For the blessings which we require the Lord will be sought unto. And "if ye, being evil," etc.
3. Prayer must be followed by an avoidance of those inconsistencies and declensions which "grieve the Holy Spirit of God."
(W. B. Leach.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;