Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
— Jeremiah 33:3
I have very much enjoyed reading Andrew Bonar’s Diary and Life over the last few weeks. Some friends gave it to me when I was about 20 years old and I remember devouring it then (well, as best as a slow-reading scientist could). It had a big effect on me – one of those books that shapes you. I even remember starting a diary, just like Bonar. Maybe even the style was like Bonar. What fools we can be when we are young!
But I was clearly too young to appreciate many things he wrote about. It is hard for a 20 year old, who hasn’t experienced very much of anything, to appreciate the trials of various phases of life, the longings of the heart, the frustrations with one’s own limitations, the jolting tragedies of lost loved ones. So my reading of the book again, some 35 years later, with over 30 years of marriage under my belt, and a few years of ministry, it was like reading a new book.
It struck me with great power, Bonar’s sense of loss at the death of his wife in his mid-50s. It seemed he did not share his suffering with many people. He wrote about Isabella with great tenderness in the diary. In the first few years afterwards he constantly reflected on her departing. Everything else seemed to recede into the background.
However what emerged in his later years, it seems to me, is a more real, deeper trust in the Lord. His longing for heaven and for Christ grew stronger. He sought to devote more time to prayer and meditation. It was a tough discipline in the face of many distractions as a city minister, but he constantly wrote about it.
One of the verses that Bonar came back to again and again in latter years was the one quoted above from Jeremiah. It comes after the tough disciplines of Jeremiah 32 (Jeremiah has been imprisoned), but after the promise of future blessings and the everlasting covenant promise “they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Jer 32:38).
It seems to me it is a command for the New Covenant time, as well as for Jeremiah. Bonar thought so. In light of his great creative power, “call to me” is a is a command yet a warm invitation from the LORD to pray. Such an invitation is all over the Bible, yet it seems to be one of the most difficult ones for Christians to heed. We rest on our own native abilities to fix things in life and in the church, even when they don’t seem to get fixed (“but surely I can make things better this time!”). Yet all the time God says, “call to me”.
The promise is wonderful: “I will answer you”. Yes, we know it is according to his will, in his own time, etc etc. But he will answer. Is that not what we want to know? That God will speak to us and has spoken to us? Yes, his means is through the written word. But there is reading the Bible and there is reading the Bible. There is hearing the word preached and there is hearing the word preached. One is words on the page or words in the air. The other is God by his Spirit showing us Christ and laying out before us his plans and purposes.
“I will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Whatever we think we have known of the the Lord, there is more to be found, the hidden things. We mustn’t be satisfied with a superficial reading or merely attending church. Rather, we need to be on our knees, heeding the warm invitation to “call to me” eagerly desiring everything the Lord has for us.