Abide With Me!
For reasons unknown to me, I’ve had the great hymn Abide With Me on my mind all week. If you don’t know it, you ought to. It’s majestic and moving. Consider the last line: “Hold thou thy Cross before my closing eyes; Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies! Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee: In life, in death O Lord, Abide with me!”
Henry Lyte wrote Abide With Me while he was dying. His great desire was to preach one more time before his beloved congregation. He spent his remaining energy doing so, and as that day drew to an end he handed over a piece of paper with the words of his newest and last hymn: “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide. When other helpers fail, and comforts flee: Help of the helpless, O abide with me!” Just a few weeks later he died and we’ve been singing his words ever since. Some of us might even remember its performance during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
Abide with me. Of all the New Testament writers, the apostle John was particularly interested in the redemptive presence of God with His people. While Paul focuses much of his Christology on our union with Christ, John (while agreeing with Paul, of course) focuses his attention on Jesus abiding with us. It was John, for instance, that wrote, “And the word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) By my count, John uses the word ‘abide’ over 30 times in this writings, frequently to say that we abide in God, and that God abides with us.
This is a central teaching of the New Testament. There is no other religion known to man that promotes the idea of God abiding with people. How could He, since any concept of God is that He is necessarily holy, and therefore distant? Yet the Living God, in great mystery and blessing, abides with each and every one of His children in a way that saves them, secures them and guides them.
Is there anything more comforting, more powerful and sacred than the One from whom the angels shield their faces abiding with frail sinners like you and me? He abides with us not because He is under obligation to do so, but because He is compelled by His love for us. So great is His love for us that He sings over us as He abides with us in life and death. (Zeph. 3:17).
When did you last spend considerable time in prayer exalting the Triune God because He abides with you? Isn’t it true that we tend to jump straight to “make your request known to God” without first stopping at, “He made His dwelling among us?” We tend to ask, “what should I do” at the expense of deep reflection on “Emmanuel, God with Us.” Sit under the shadow of His presence a while, because God abides with you in victory and triumph. Henry Lyte was right: Earth’s night is fleeing as heaven’s morning breaks. But more than that, heaven’s morning brings renewed mercy because He who changes not abides with you in sacred joy and divine love. He who abides with you desires one thing: His own glory. Give Him that glory by taking joy in His holy presence with you today.