An Absent God
1 Samuel 7:2
And it came to pass, while the ark stayed in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years…

Well might it be said, "The time was long." Twenty hours, without Thy presence, are long indeed, and cloud the brightest day, and veil the loveliest scenes. How should you like to be twenty years away from your beloved father or mother? Would not the time seem very long? And have you ever mourned an absent God? Have you been like Job, when he looked on every side and found Him not? (Job 23:8, 9); or, like Mary Magdalene, whose tears were her meat, day and night, until she found Him whom her soul loved? See how she stands beside the empty gravel Peter may leave — John may leave — they may go to their house, or to their nets. The place where the body of Jesus had lain was sweeter and dearer to Mary than all the sweets of earth: and though her tearful eyes had too plainly told her His precious body was not there, yet again she stoops, again she looks in, as though she hoped her ardent wishes might bring Him back again. Yes, blessed woman, and they have power with thy God, and prevail. Quickly was He at her side whom she sought sorrowing: and quickly, at His presence, are tears exchanged for joy unspeakable, Happy art thou, O Israel, when thou canst mourn an absent God! We have a beautiful description given us of real, godly sorrow, in 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11. If one of you were to ask a gentleman or lady to come and see you, would you sit with the cottage all in litter and confusion? would you not be tidying it, cleaning out every corner, dusting every piece of furniture, and getting it as nice as you could? Oh! when you truly cry to the Lord to return unto you, how diligent you will be preparing your hearts unto the Lord! (2 Chronicles 30:19.) What carefulness, lest there should be anything left undone! What clearing of idols and rubbish! what indignation against the things which have usurped His place in your heart, and robbed you of all your joy! what vehement desire to see Him again filling the whole, and bringing every thought into captivity! what zeal to make up for lost time! what revenge against ungrateful, treacherous self! Would you wish to know the first step a soul takes in departing from God? You may find it in your secret chamber — beside the little bed or chair, where you once used to hold sweet communion with Him. "Thou hast restrained prayer," is the print of the first footstep in the downward road. Would you know the first step of the returning soul? Go again, and look in the secret chamber: now that distressed soul seeks Him early; and soon its youth is renewed like the eagle's — it walks, it runs, it flies (Isaiah 11:81).

(Helen Plumptre.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

WEB: It happened, from the day that the ark stayed in Kiriath Jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after Yahweh.

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