Surely we have even now seen the white azalea in the garret. For where should we expect to find a man of God? Dwelling in the holy temple in Jerusalem, surrounded by everything to remind him of God breathing in the very atmosphere of religion, with godly people all around him, with everything to help him to be holy and pure, no one would be astonished to find a man of God in such a place as that.
But here is Nehemiah the Rab-shakeh, living in a heathen palace, in the midst of a wicked court, surrounded by drunkenness, sensuality, and all that is vile and impure, breathing in the very atmosphere of sin, yet we find him a plant of the Lord, pure as the azalea, a man of faith, a man of prayer, a holy man of God. With everything against him, with nothing to favour his growth in holiness, he is a flourishing plant in the garden of the Lord. So it ever is. The plants of God’s grace often thrive in very unlikely places. There was a holy Joseph in the court of Pharaoh, a faithful Obadiah in the house of wicked Jezebel, a righteous Daniel in Babylon, and saints even in Caesar’s household.
Are we ever tempted to say, I cannot serve the Master faithfully? If I were in another position, if my home life were favourable to my becoming decided for Christ, if I had different companions, different occupation, different surroundings, then indeed I would grow in grace, and bring forth the fruit of a holy life. But as I am, and where I am, it is a simple impossibility; I can never, under existing circumstances, live near to God, or be what I often long to be, a true Christian.
What does the Master say as He hears words like these? ’My grace is sufficient for thee.’ ‘As thy day so shall thy strength be.’
Even in most unlikely and unfruitful soil God can make His plants to grow and flourish. Where I am, and as I am, and with exactly the same surroundings as I now possess, God can bless me, and give me grace to serve and to glorify Him. If I do not become a flourishing plant, it is not my position that is to blame, it is because I will not seek that grace which the Lord is ready to give me. ’Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.’
The King’s Table.
It was midnight in London, in the year 1665. The houses were closed and barred, but strange lurid fires were lighted in every street, a stifling odour of burning pitch and sulphur filled the air, and from time to time came the heavy rumble of wheels, as a terrible cart, with its awful load, passed by in the darkness of the night. With the cart came a cry; so loud, so clear, so piercing, that it could be heard in all the closed houses of the street. ‘Bring out your dead, bring out your dead!’ Then, one door after another was hurriedly opened, and from the plague-stricken houses one body after another was brought out, and was thrown hastily into that awful dead cart.