Those who have sought and gained Christ know that they are unable to calculate the blessings that lie in waiting for them (the hope that you have stored up in heaven: Colossians 1:5). There is a wealth of good things reserved for those who by faith and fortitude are advancing towards the kingdom. “God will show us the path of life; in his presence there is fullness of joy: and at his right hand there is pleasure for evermore (Psalm 16:11).
It is in the character of God for his generosity to mount up increasingly until it is beyond all measure. Favours here are pointers to the future. This fallen world does not provide the conditions for the full display of God’s benevolence and we do not have the holy capacity to receive them. They can only be bestowed when the recipients are perfected by grace to accept and appreciate them in righteous gratitude and application to God’s glory. Gifts require discernment as to their value and wisdom in their utilization. Earthly creatures do not possess these qualities yet, nor until they receive their inheritance in the heavenly Father’s presence. Then they shall arrive at a proper estimate of the value of the riches spread before them and at what cost they are available. The best is kept until last and the course of our preparation to know its worth is complete. It is no insult to swine to aver that they do not recognize the preciousness of pearls. That ability is simply not in their nature, and it is not in the nature of fallen and imperfect men to perceive the true worth of heavenly gifts. Our tastes have to be educated and attuned. This is why many of our most earnest desires remain unfulfilled in this life. As Augustine opines, yearnings make the heart deep, and we can slowly learn that our longings and frustrations are the tools God uses to make the wells of our hearts more capacious so that he can pour his goodness, bliss, and gladness into them. Indeed, in heaven our hearts will continually swell with the outpourings of divine affection and peace.
It is truly disquieting to see that many of the “best” and most honoured of mankind admit to no attraction to God or any desire to enjoy or admire him. They profess to enjoy beauty wherever it is manifest, and they indulge in noble quests through realms of thought. But their imperviousness to God sounds a sombre and hopeless note. Intelligent folk struggle in their minds to fight off an inevitable sense of futility. Minds crowded with preoccupations, and lives cluttered with distractions, eventually face a void. They engage in speculation or fantasy to carry themselves away from God, and they often indulge in the absurd, satire, cynicism, or some addiction to cope with the pain of not acknowledging him or knowing him. They wound their souls here and their hearts will be pierced with agony at the coming of the Son of Man who bore their nature to heal such. The arms outstretched on the cross, bidding all to come to him, will ultimately point to the great and final separation of those on the right from those on the left. The nail prints in those hands will be signs of joy to the saved and signs of doom to the lost, whose convictions of sin never drove them to the Redeemer.
The sweetest invitation possible is addressed to all persons. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”(Psalm 34:8). The spiritually inclined and the unspiritual stand on the same footing before God and hear the same inducements whatever their disposition. Believers will have their expectations met, and atheists should take up the challenge to experiment and either prove or disprove their theory. Their stance also is a matter of faith – faith in the comprehensiveness of their perceptions and intellectual grasp of reality, a gamble against the possibility that God may be “hiding” until they humbly seek him with the humility of a child. We all have blind spots and often revise our view of things. When a taste of God is granted it creates a craving for him that nothing else can satisfy. It banishes the void and fills the present and the future with his presence, provision, and purpose. His providence overarches our lives and all that is or shall be. If men deprive themselves of a taste of the Lord, and deny their appetite a sample of him, their deprivation is self-wrought. They did not bring themselves to the table and eventually their spiritual starvation cannot be reversed. They will lose a relish for the celestial banquet from which they exclude themselves.
Our readings for this Sunday (2 Kings 4:1-17 & John 2: 1-11) provide examples of the lavish and extravagant generosity of God. In the first an impoverished widow is in need of a supply of oil. Elisha the prophet instructs her to gather all her jars and those of her neighbours to collect a bonanza from God. “Don’t ask for just a few”, exults the man of God merrily, and the woman receives more than enough to be free of debt and future need. In the account of the wedding at Cana a not well-to -do family receives a miraculous abundance of wine from the Saviour to relieve them from poverty and embarrassment in a tricky situation that obligated them to satisfy their guests with sufficient wine according to their heart’s (or palate’s) desire. It is pronounced by the master of ceremonies, “You have saved the best till now”. That is God’s way – to keep his blessings flowing and to surprise us with his amazing bounty at the end. The taste will turn into a tide of refreshment.