In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9)
I love the old version, but the new translation is also very appealing:
In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years. (NLT)
‘In all their afflictions he was afflicted’ – ‘In all their sufferings he also suffered, and he personally rescued them.’ These words are spoken of God and of our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. In our sojourn in this world there are times when we feel a desperate need of God and of Christ Himself, and there is nobody else that we need or that can draw alongside us: there is just Himself. And with tremendous comfort these words come to us: in all their afflictions he was afflicted – in all their suffering he also suffered. It is the fact that Christ has suffered that makes Him our kinsman, able to identify with us, and wonderfully we with Him.
There’s an old story of a Covenanter that has been with me this week. It is of one of the most famous Covenanters, Sandy Peden. He was one of the bravest. Minister and prophet, he was a very godly and spiritual man. Much of his preaching ended up being done out in the hills and valleys of Scotland, and in areas not too far from where we are here in Greenock. He was sought after by the soldiers, the dragoons of the King, again and again, and they would have taken his life. He was in fact one who eluded capture. On one occasion when he was fleeing from the dragoons as an old man, he said, in the Scots tongue: ‘Lord, please cast your cloak over puir auld Sandy.’ God brought a mist around him that covered him from his enemies, and he escaped. And God brought around Sandy Peden not just a mist, but He enclosed him in His own presence, and that’s what He does for us. We sometimes say: ‘Lord, cast Your cloak over me – cast your covering over me. Shield me – shield me from the enemy.’ And He does that. But His cloak encloses us with Himself, where we are shut up with Him, and in there we are safe. ‘In all their affliction He was afflicted.’
It has also brought to mind a story I have read in a book of that title, and again it concerns a Highland minister, a very godly young man who was peculiarly anointed to bring the love and compassion of God to his congregation. Some of his fellow ministers, hearing him on one occasion, asked him the secret of his spirituality and power. He said: ‘Come home with me and I’ll show you.’ They came home for a meal which he prepared for them, and after the meal he said: ‘Come with me.’ He took them into one room in his house, and there was a child very sick, disabled and retarded, and actually tied to the bed (it was a long time ago). Then he took them into another room, and there was his wife in an alcoholic stupor. And he said: ‘That’s my secret.’ God drew near and walked with him in his affliction, and his heart became filled with the love of God and the compassion of Christ for others.
These words of Sandy Peden’s, ‘Lord, cast Your cloak over puir auld Sandy,’ take me to a particular part in the Bible. There are different passages that speak of the mantle of God, such as the mantle of Elijah coming down upon Elisha. But there is one part very beloved and very appropriate for this thought of Christ walking with us in our need, and it is in the book of Ruth. Ruth the Moabitess had said to her mother-in-law:
Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee … Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. (Ruth 1:16)
And she really held to that resolution: ‘Thy God shall be my God.’ We hold on to that too: ‘Lord, You will be my God, and none other.’ There came that hour when she was in the land of Israel, an alien land, standing in Boaz’s field, and during the evening she said to him these lovely words: ‘Extend the corner of your mantle over me, for you are my near kinsman, you are my family redeemer.’ Such prophetic words! She was to be a forerunner of Christ – a forebear so far as natural descent is concerned. She is alone, with very little support, her mother-in-law actually dependent on her to bring support, and she says to Boaz: ‘Cast the corner of your cloak over me. You are my near kinsman.’ And we know that Boaz did that. He redeemed her, he married her, and they became forebears of King David, who was a forebear of Christ.
And to that Christ we come. We say: ‘Lord, cover me, extend the border of Your mantle over me … Lord, You know the way that I take. When You have tried me, I will come forth like gold.’ There is only one in all the world that we can totally lean upon and totally trust. There is only one whose mantle totally covers and encloses us, and it is the One who is our nearest kinsman, who is Christ. ‘Cover me, because You are my nearest kinsman … cover me.’
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