Present Imperative!

Present Imperative!

M. J. Michaux

“Prove me now, herewith” (Malachi 3:10)

Sometime, somewhere, in all the experiences of life there is an end to speculation, hesitation, and doubt. We come to a place where we stand still in a decisive moment of time and say, “But now.” We have come to a conclusion. We have faced the ultimate in speculation and inquiry. We must decide now on that doubtful issue which lies before. We no longer dare to continue in uncertainty.

A long time ago there was a just man who was crushed by God’s irrefutable arguments. He said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.”‘ It was an historic moment in one man’s life. The revelation of himself had reduced his righteousness to dust and ashes. God could then say, “Job, my servant has spoken of me the thing that is right.”

God’s purpose, however, is not to crush his children, but to shape them; not to defeat them, but to bring victory into their lives; not to discourage them, but encourage them to rise again to seek communion with him. “I will arise now… I will seek him whom my soul loveth,” said the troubled Shulamite maiden whose carelessness let her beloved slip away during the night.

Are you thirsty for a satisfying drink, hungry for reality, filled with loathing for labor that does not satisfy? Then says the prophet, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” For the time may come when he may seem afar off, unreachable, unknowable.

But the urgency of life is often overlooked. Not until we come to the end of it do we see how much of it we have wasted. “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest,” said Solomon. Now is all we shall ever see of this life. “For man, also, knoweth not his time.” It is even a vapor, a diaphanous thing, disappearing with the rising of every day’s sun.

The Imperative of Salvation

We found one day that salvation was immediate. “Now is the time of salvation.” We came to a place of urgency where God spoke and the servant was compelled to answer, “Yea, Lord, thy servant heareth.” Or else in a spirit of rebellion we said, “Not so, Lord!”; and the die was cast, the judgment rendered, in that very moment. But for the one who saw his helpless state, who saw his need in Christ and fell at His feet, his heart shot through with the arrow of repentance, “there is now no condemnation.” That very moment he believed, the life-giving, refreshing streams of joy began to flood his soul. He saw the deep, purple-dyed, guilt-stained carnage of his natural life swept out to the sea of God’s love and there drowned forever, never again to be brought up to haunt and judge him.

The Imperative Of Service

But the urgency of life does not stop with salvation. It carries over into service and responsibility, now that we believe. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Service follows immediately after the granting of freedom. This service presumes that there will be fruit with the eternal weight of glory reflected in it. “But now are we delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”

We are called to service, but with a different will, a different spirit, one that is new and not in accordance with the old law that condemned us to hopeless and helpless frustration. We were always trying to serve God, trying to get better, trying to rid ourselves of guilt, but sinking deeper into despair with every effort. Why shouldn’t our reaction be instant, now as the man at Lystra with a loud voice, “Stand upright on thy feet!” To have our feet restored is a wonderful thing, but to have our souls delivered from sin and the wrath to come is far more wonderful, and it lasts forever. When Jesus called the world to Himself to find rest, He called them to take a yoke, a burden upon them.

Now is the beginning of forever. To live for Christ now, this very moment, is to enjoy eternal life. “Now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.” Therefore the apostle cried out, “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep.” Can’t you see, he seems to say, that it is late? The day is already gone and the night is almost gone. Cast off the works of darkness—those purposeless, endless days of squirrel-caging, running without purpose, exhaustion without profit, those days of frantic barn-building and safe-stuffing. Put on the armour of light, defend yourselves from the delusion of darkness, flood these lustful areas with light, and walk decently in the daylight of truth with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now is all we have. Let us recognize the immediacy of our position. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We cannot change either. Let us do now what we always planned to do and not waste one moment more on anything not of eternal significance.

“And now, Lord,” David said, “what wait I for? my hope is in thee… O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.” We have been deceived. We did not realize how we were wasting time. Lord, we thought we would do for you tomorrow what we don’t seem to have strength for today. We did not realize our strength is sufficient for the evil of today. But fear and doubt and unbelief have robbed us of our strength. Give us another chance before we have no chance. We have waited a long time to understand this, but we shall wait no longer. “What wait I for?” Our hope now is in thee. We shall move forward from strength to strength, not as the world, from strength to weariness. “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength!” said David, when God delivered him from Saul that day.

The Imperative Of Sowing

Not all service is sowing, but now certainly is the time of sowing. “I speak this to your shame—some have not the knowledge of God.” What more urgent appeal could be made to those who will be raised from the dead incorruptible. Shall we stand before Him bearing the shame of a slothful servant? Sometimes we hesitate from fear and uncertainty, but “as thou knowest not the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the work of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.”

In the morning and evening we sow the seed. We do not say in the morning I shall wait until evening, or in the evening say it is too late, I shall wait until morning. But now, while it is called today, this very moment, we put ourselves at the Master’s disposal, going forth bearing precious seed, redeeming the time, for the days are evil.

The Imperative Of Savoring

Surely this is a strange way of putting it. Must we be compelled to enjoy the Lord? Certainly not. But we can, like the Shulamite maiden, fall asleep in His presence. Then the imperative of our life is to find Him whom our soul loveth; to hold him and not let him go (Song of Solomon 3:4). The urgencies and imperatives of life must not rob us, like Martha, of our time at the feet of the Lord, but we should choose that better part without which all the rest is simply vexation of spirit.

The savoring of Christ becomes the strength of Christ in our lives. We are the product of our meditations. Jesus once said that even the look of lust is the essence of infidelity. How much more, then, does the longing of love produce the fruit of devotion.

How many days and nights and hours have we been tossed about, tormented with our fears and blasted hopes, suffering from wounds in the house of our friends, while the Lover of our souls was there “showing Himself through the lattice,” saying to us, “Rise up…come away…the winter is past”? But no, we preferred to listen to the “evening wolves” and hug the worn rags of our misery rather than be wrapped in the brightness of His presence. We never once stopped to think that He cares for us” and that we can safely cast our cares upon Him. We do not believe that walking in the light as He is in the light means the light of His presence, savoring the things of Christ who is the bright, outshining of God, the Father, Himself, and that “in His presence is fullness of joy.” If we believed it, now would be very dear to us, now would be rich and full, now would impel us forward to seek Him. We would not rest until we found Him, though men beat us for it.

We don’t know what it will be like when He comes, John writes, but now, beloved—this very moment—he says, we are the sons of God. The darkness is past. The true light now shineth. The blind cannot see it. Only those filled with the Son, the light of the world, have eyes to see it.

Now is the time to savor these things. In service and sowing we can miss the joy of now, which is the death of time. For eternity is now, this moment; it is the full tide of blessing, swallowing up all the isolated pools of yesterday and tomorrow.

Now we should love, now we should savor our families, our children and wives and husbands, now we should enjoy our friends, our health our eyesight, our hearing, for they will all be claimed by the past one day. Now we should worship our creator, enjoying that foretaste of endless worship. Now we suffer with Him, bearing this light affliction of the moment for a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Now the end is almost in sight. We shall awake one day, no longer looking through a glass darkly, but face to face. The quality of that moment will not be different than now, only the consummation of it.

The end of life should be its solace, its comfort. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” How we keep the rational imperative of now will determine the solace and comfort then. “Lord, I have seen thy salvation Now let thy servant depart in peace.” Then, unable to do more, we wait with patience for our release, neither anxious nor remorseful, but confident that He who doeth all things well, will not mar the exodus of His servant.