“Harden not your hearts as in the day of provocation in the wilderness.” When I was young, I went to my grandfather’s farm and saw the fields of rye and oats. When cut, placed in the field, a few sheaves stood together and we called them stooks. Now looking back they were like little groups of God’s people scattered throughout the world. “Wherever you ripe fields behold waving to God their sheaves of gold.” I was at a graveside, and the threshing scene came back to me. The grain had been gathered into the barn and we were just laying to rest the old withered stock. Just 8 days from that time, I got word that my father had passed from time into eternity. I had dreams again of that little graveside and saw the little scene. It was as if I had been to my father’s funeral, thinking of what took place in his life after the gospel came. The sickle is put in for the harvest has come. The sickle is put in when the meetings are tested and people are gathered in. We find people gathered together bound like the little string. It’s like the love of God binding us together. My father was so unconcerned about getting on in this life and making money. I used to wonder why. I was interested in everything connected with a ball. My father kept restrictions on me. My father was only interested in the things above; he was always wanting to be in the meetings. He was like those stooks of corn no longer getting anything from below, but the sun from above was ripening the grain. That is what I saw that day as I pictured the grave scene.
We spend a lot of time on that old stook; it’s just a waste of time. Wonderful thing when our affections can be on things above. What brings about that kind of hope? Because someone has died. Jesus talking to His disciples, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone but if it die it beareth much fruit.” “Go ye into all the world.” It’s just like God casting seeds that landed where they fell. The result was a crop that has been reaped all down through the ages. Some has been sown again. Maybe there were times when the seed was just on the shelf, not being sown. If you take the dying out of it, it will just become a cold lifeless organization. It’s true things are done differently today. We travel differently. Long ago they went by foot or donkey. Today we have the planes. Wherever the seed lands, God’s messengers, they must fall into the ground and die. The sickle is put in again and again because the harvest is ripe. What is the secret of making life easier for yourself? Harden not your hearts.” This has to do with the Children of Israel being on a journey, leading them into the Promised Land. The way was not easy and it’s not easy today. This way of God is narrow enough that it is safe. It’s hard enough to accomplish something at the end of the journey. The Lord tried to accomplish getting out everything of Egypt before they entered the Promised Land.
Gold is taken out of the earth and into the fire. It takes the earth out of the gold. Lord knows how much to turn up the heat. If the way ever gets too hard for us, the hardness is in ourselves. God didn’t make it harder than was necessary, just makes it hard enough to accomplish what He wants before the end of the journey. The Lord tempers it, sweetens it so that it’s not too bitter. “In the hand of the Lord is a cup and it’s full of mixture” – bitter and sweet together. I remember my mother having to give us cod liver oil. She mixed orange juice in it trying to disguise it, but she couldn’t disguise it. No matter how much we frowned or made faces, we had to take it. Somehow I can still taste the cod liver oil in orange juice. The wicked will drink the dregs. If we ever try to avoid the hardness and only have the sweetness of it, the easy things, we will only end up with the dregs. Wonderful hope that’s set before the children of God: if we’re just willing to drink that cup that Jesus drank of, saying not my will but Thy will be done.
Jesus was looking forward to drinking wine in the kingdom without the dregs. “I will drink it new with you in my father’s kingdom.” He was holding out the same to His disciples. They erred in their hearts, that’s an easy thing to do. They didn’t enter in because of unbelief. They didn’t trust God enough. Sometimes we criticize them, but I don’t think we should. I think if we were honest about it, they were just the same as we are. Sometimes when He has helped us in a miraculous way, we wonder who did it. Yes, He helped me that time but will He help me in this situation? We must have the assurance that the One who has helped us will still help us. The Lord sees fit to lead us into situations where we cannot do anything but trust Him. Nothing else they could do in situations but trust God. They went back in their hearts to Egypt, they were thinking about the fish, the leeks, onions, and garlic.
We must close the door to those things left behind. They were feeding on the wrong things. When they opened their mouths, they were complaining about the hardness of the way – Lord has brought us out here and forgotten us. (Hebrews 11) If they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they would have had opportunity to return. They were feeding on something that was in them. They had rejoicing in their hearts. Learn not to look back. This man had to row across a little village. This time he had a little bit of scotch in him and he wondered why he was making no headway. He blamed the current against him. After a while, he saw he hadn’t untied the rope. I worked with a man who had started to serve God. People could see he was making no progress and wondered why. I knew, he couldn’t hide it from me. It made a stain on his fingers. He hadn’t untied the rope. Before the end of his life, people were saying what progress he was making. I knew he had untied the rope. Until you get the wall up, everything is against you. Many years ago there was a man in the British Police Force. His parents had listened to the Gospel and had a hard time to get him to go. He did and was impressed with the simplicity of those men. He thought he couldn’t make his choice in the Police Force. One night he filled himself with Scotch. He went to bed and when he woke in the a.m., he found he was sleeping with one of the workers he was trying to get away from. When the worker woke up, he had a visit with him and there he made his choice. They gave him a bad time in the barracks and kept asking him to have a drink. He would say, “I have had my last drink, played my last cards.” One day he was getting it very hard and was going upstairs to pray. Dave Lynas was his name. He met this Bob coming down who made sniggering remarks going past. Later he came to apologize in the bedroom, and said, “Every time I did something against you, it hurt me more.” Dave said, “Don’t worry, it’s already forgiven.” Bob said, “You have got something in your life you hadn’t before or you wouldn’t be able to take it all.” Dave told him his experience and said, “I wish you could have it, too.” He decided there right by Dave’s bed. Dave preached the Gospel in the U.S. When not in the work, he was an elder in the church I belonged to and was a great help. I stood the other day at the very spot in Belfast where his house stood.