Home Sweet Home
If a man who had lived all his days in obscurity and poverty were asked to dine with royalty, he would, no doubt, consider himself as very highly honoured. The day would at last arrive when respectful and courteous servants would usher him into the queen’s royal presence. He would touch her hand, enjoy her smile and hear her voice. And at her table he would sit down for a while.
But in that palace he cannot stay.
The hour would arrive when he must bid her goodbye and depart. In that kind and courteous way laid down by court etiquette he would find himself at last passing through the palace gates, never to enter them again. He is outside. The great occasion is over. Now he sits in his own humble home with only a fading recollection of that day and of the privilege he enjoyed.
But in the kingdom of grace it is not so. As God’s children we not only sit at His table, but we stay in His Home. Born and adopted into the family of God we have a right to all the privileges of His sons and daughters. God is now our Father in Christ and we enter His Palace to go out no more. He Who is our portion is also our eternal Home.
Poets down the ages have been weaving a golden halo around the word ‘Home.’ When Rebecca ended her journey and entered her own home she must have felt that sense of wistful enjoyment which, they say, is in the heart of every bride as she stands on the threshold of her own home. But the pleasing sentiments which are associated with the words do not altogether fit the widespread domestic tragedies of this age.
For many the words, ‘Home, sweet home’ have only the embittered ring of disillusionment. For others, whose homes are blessed with harmony or, better still, the felt presence and peace of God, home, indeed, is ‘sweet.’ It may be a place of unhappiness, or a place of rest and quiet enjoyment. The tragedy of man as a fallen being is that while he may have his uncertain home here, where his mortal self may momentarily dwell, something tells him that he is spiritually homeless and a wanderer under the sun.
Like the dove that went out of the ark he flits to and fro, never finding rest. Is there not in his heart also a nostalgic pain which goes to prove that once upon a time he was happy in God? The great saying of Augustine is true to all human experience. ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.’
There is much truth in the words of the Poet -
‘This is not a place for thee;
Never doubt it, thou hast come
By some dark catastrophe
Far, far from home.’
It was this sense of spiritual estrangement that welled up in the soul of the younger son of Christ’s parable when he found himself longing for the home which, in his folly, he had left. He was not driven out of that home. He left it. So it is with man. ‘Left to the freedom of his own will’ he parted with God. But throughout the great waste over which he wandered he has found no rest.
Man without God is indeed like an orphaned child who frets for the bosom and love of its mother. We may try to calm and distract its little mind and instincts with unsatisfying fare and alien sounds or empty toys, but, unconsciously, it yearns for the lost joy of her breast, the sight of her face, the touch of her hand, and the sound of her sweet, endearing voice. In other words the soul of man can rest only in God.
Our Lord tells us of a man who tried to quieten his own spirit with ‘much goods laid up for many years.’ But he failed to still his restless, apprehensive spirit. This was the man whom God called a ‘fool.’ Mere things can never give us peace. The fatal flaw at heart of a Godless materialism is that it seeks to fill the vacuum within man’s soul with the promise of an earthly paradise into which God must not enter.
Long, long ago the words were written: ‘Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God’ These words tell us that long before the universe came into existence God had a place in His love and purposes of grace for men.
Why did Christ dwell among us here with nowhere to lay His head? Was it not that He might gather us to Himself? He was homeless that we who had none might have a home in Him. To all those who came within the reach of His glorious voice on earth He said: ‘Come unto me... and I will give you rest.’ And on earth when men passed Him by He wept over the eternal consequences of their refusal.
How often would He have gathered them ‘as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings’ but they would not. And here I want to tell a story which might serve to illustrate how true all this is in human experience.
A young girl in England, in the days when it was a crime to preach the Gospel outwith the pale of the State Church, was the means of saving a godly servant of Christ from prison and banishment. She was but a mere child but, because of her kindly act of intercession on his behalf, the man concerned invoked upon her head the blessing of the Triune God for time and eternity.
Then, forgetful of his words, she went her way to spend her life and fortune in an empty round of amusement and gaiety. But wherever she went and whatever she enjoyed, her head remained empty and her spirit restless.
One Saturday night in London she went to bed and dreamed. In her dream she saw herself on the way to an unknown church. Into this church she saw many people hurrying. Following the eager throng she found herself sitting in a pew listening to the singing, the prayers and the sermon. It was all so very, very real and so very wonderful.
The minister took for his theme the words of Psalm one hundred and sixteen: ‘Return unto thy rest O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.’ When she awoke the dream remained in her mind with startling clarity. She felt that in some mysterious way God and her destiny were present in her vision.
When she awoke on the Sabbath morning she told her companion that she felt she ought to go to church. London, as we know, is a vast city, but after much searching she was amazed to see the very people of her dream hurrying toward a certain church. It was the same building, and the service was exactly, word for word, as she had seen and heard in her dream.
Her palpitating heart was deeply affected by the sermon which was on the very words of that Psalm. It was all about the rest which is in God for the homeless soul of man. ‘Sweet words these!’ she thought within herself. And the mystic dream became a living reality. The forgotten prayer of God’s servant was at last answered. God had remembered it, and at the set time He answered it in the conversion of her soul.
Then for the first time she knew that the secret of peace and joy could only be found in God. She also knew that what she enjoyed of this peace on earth was but a mere earnest of the perfect peace and rest awaiting her in Heaven with the Lord.
How beautifully is this sure hope of an ‘eternal home’ with God expressed in our Scottish Paraphrases and in Watt’s famous hymn.
‘O spread thy covering wings around
Till all our wanderings cease,
And at our Father’s loved abode
Our souls arrive in peace.
‘God our help in ages past
Our hope in years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal Home!’
As the Home is eternal so also is the bond of union between us and Christ. ‘Because I live ye also shall live.’ Earthly ties are necessarily dissolved, but ‘who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’
Dr. Andrew Bonar once called on a Christian lady whose home had been desolated by death. As he approached this home of sorrow he wondered what appropriate word of sympathy he could leave with its lone inhabitant. But as the door opened these words, framed on the wall, met his eye:
‘They shall perish; but thou remainest’ Here it was: ‘Thou remainest.’ Christ, in the unchangeableness of his promise, His love and His sympathy, is the solid foundation of all true comfort. The ray of sure hope which reaches us from this promise should brighten our darkest night and sweeten every cup of sorrow which God in His providence might apply to our lips.
A minister once told his congregation of an incident which was meant to strengthen the assurance of God’s children and which is a fit comment on how the Lord, who is forever with His people, is able to sustain them in every trial. This is the story of a young girl who had trusted her soul to Christ and to whom He had given a promise that, bound to her in covenant faithfulness, He would be her true Friend forever.
To this young woman her conversion was so astonishingly wonderful that she immediately bought a Bible which became her greatest treasure in this world. God’s statutes became her songs. But her upbringing and religion, which she had now renounced, brought her under severe persecution in her home. One day she had to flee with only her Bible in her hand. But one of her pursuers tore it out of her grasp. All but one leaf.
When at last she reached a place of safety she looked at the torn but precious fragment in her hand. ‘When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.’ These were the words which fell as a balm on her spirit.
Did this happen by a mere coincidence or chance? No. It was God Himself, Who had so miraculously preserved these words, present in the promise and reminding her that from His love and care she could not be separated. Truly, ‘this God is our God for ever and ever.’