I will make your forehead like a diamond, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or dismayed at their presence, even though they are a rebellious house."
I. THE OUTWARD OCCASIONS OF FEAR. There are many circumstances which are likely to arouse the apprehensions, and so to depress the energies, of God's messengers to Their fellow men.
1. Want of sympathy with his message on the part of those to whom he is sent.
2. An attitude of deliberate indifference and unbelief.
3. Determined resistance and resentment.
4. Threats of personal violence.
The former occasions of fear are such as every minister of religion must expect to encounter. But the Hebrew prophets sometimes met with actual ill treatment - blows, bonds, and death. So it was with the apostles of our Lord, and so it has been with missionaries of the cross, who have fulfilled their ministry among the unenlightened, prejudiced, and hostile heathen. Many have "resisted unto blood, striving against sin."
II. THE INWARD INCLINATION TO FEAR. There is great difference in the matter of constitutional temperament; some men are naturally timid, and prone to be overawed by opposition and intimidation, whilst others have a certain delight in antagonism, and care not what odds are against them in the conflict.
1. Sometimes the messenger of God is too prone to regard his own peace and comfort, and is averse to any step which may bring him into collision with others.
2. The feeling on the part of God's servant, that he is but one against many, inclines him to retirement and reticence.
3. And this is increased when there is no countenance or support from colleagues in labour and warfare. The consciousness of personal feebleness and insufficiency, combined with the feeling of isolation, may naturally account for the prevalence of fear in the presence of difficulty, opposition, and hostility. He who made man, and who is perfectly acquainted with human nature, is aware that his servants are subject to such infirmities, and that they need accordingly a special provision of Divine grace to fortify them against the spiritual danger to which they are exposed.
III. THE DIVINE PRESERVATIVE FROM FEAR.
1. The consciousness of a message from God to be delivered, whether man will hear or forbear, is fitted to take away all dread of men's displeasure, as well as all undue desire for men's favour.
2. The assurance that Divine authority accompanies the Lord's servant is in itself sufficient to make his face and his forehead hard as adamant in the presence of opponents whose only authority lies in force or in the conventional greatness attaching to earthly rank or station.
3. To this is added the express promise of God's aid. The opponents may be mighty; but the soldier of truth and of righteousness has the assurance that he who is with him is mightier still. "Fear not," says the Almighty, "for I am with you." - T.
Ezekiel 3:9). The world's hardening is death: God's hardening is strength; the yielding became unyielding, and those rippled with every breath became immovable. Yes, it is wonderful what God can enable us to bear!
As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead.Zechariah 7:12): — A great and good man who served and suffered for Christ in North Africa seventeen centuries ago won for himself a noble name by which he is still known, Origen the Adamantine. There isn't a boy nor, in her own quiet way, a girl who does not feel some glow of heart or flush of face at the magic of this name, "the Unsubduable," "the Invincible." But he was not the first who bore the name. It was given long before by God Himself to His captive prophet in Babylon, whose forehead, as he faced the people, whose hearts were cold and hard as stones, might well be firm as adamant, since, in his very name, Ezekiel, he carried the great power of God. Now, what is adamant? Look at a lady's finger ring, and find among the precious stones set in its golden circle one that is quite clear and lustrous, and that throws off from every facet whatever rays of light are falling upon it. We call this sparkling gem, as you know, a diamond. But that is just another form of the word adamant, which we owe to the old Greeks, who naturally called the precious stone which could not be broken, adamas or "the unsubduable."
1. The diamond now flashing on your mother's finger was not always the hardest of stones. It was once a bit of soft, vegetable matter. For the diamond is not really different from the coal which makes our winter fires, and which, long, long ages ago, was a thick, steaming forest. Hence it is quite true that "the sunbeams are driving our railway trains." And the exiles in Babylon, who had grown so adamantine in evil that the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God made no more impression on their hearts than your penknife on the angles of a diamond, were once boys and girls playing in the streets of Jerusalem, singing the songs of Zion, and dreaming their day dreams of ministering to the Lord like Samuel, or fighting with Goliaths like David, or leading the dance of triumph like Miriam. This terrible process of heart petrifying, or turning to stone, comes about by the action of the wise and good, though solemn and awful, law of habit. "The oftener, the easier." How woeful to reach at last the state when, as regards all that is highest and best, one is "past feeling," as though the conscience had been burned with a hot iron, or the heart made as hard as an adamant stone! From which may the good Lord deliver us!
2. We may find a promise of better things even in Zechariah's awful image of disobedience. The exquisite diamonds, or carbon crystals, are combustible, and, if subjected to a sufficient degree of heat, will pass off in carbonic acid gas. Fine ladies need not be so proud of their diamonds, since they may all be dissipated by fire; and poorer folks need not so greatly covet their possession, since they are breathing out diamond essence with every exhalation! And if we were so foolishly greedy as to want our diamond breaths back again, they would poison us. However this may be, it is certain that hearts as hard as an adamant stone are every day being softened, melted, transformed, by the fire of God's holy love, which saves the sinner by consuming his sins.
3. But "the broken heart," though it may seem strange to say so, is the stoutest and bravest of hearts. The true hero has always a tender conscience. He who fears God has no other fear. If Christ is your Master, and you are learning in His school, you may well appropriate the sturdy words over the gate of Marischal College, Aberdeen: "They say: what say they? let them say." God has His diamonds as well as the devil. Against the whole "House of Disobedience" stood up the son of Buzi, the prophet of the exile, in the strength of God. If the people were hard as flint in their own evil ways, he was firm as the adamant, which is harder than flint in the service of God. They did well to call Origen, the Adamantine, the Invincible, for when, at the age of sixteen, his father was thrown into prison for his confession of Christ, he wanted to go and suffer with him; and when it was shown him that this was not his duty, he wrote to his father not to falter in his faith for their sakes, for he would undertake the support of his mother and his six younger brothers. And nobly did he fulfil his promise, selling his books, working early and late as a teacher in Alexandria, and inspiring his pupils with such devotion that they called his college "a school for martyrs."
(A. N. Mackray, M. A.)
(Footsteps of Truth.)
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