The Remarkable Tarryings of the Lord
The text says, “the child Jesus tarried behind.”
There are many mysterious things about the Divine Being. One of them is the very fact hinted at in the passage, viz., the Lord’s passing by or out of the life at certain times. Again and again it seems to the regenerated soul as if He was about to leave it finally. It has occurred so frequently as an experience, and comes up so strikingly in certain cases in the Scripture that it is enough to arouse thought and diligent search for the reason.
We see it in the case of Abraham. When sitting before his tent he beheld three celestial beings passing by, one of whom was the Lord. And it is true that they were going by and would not have turned aside had not Abraham ran after them and begged them to stop. In the instance of Jacob we find that just before he received the great blessing at Peniel and while wrestling with the stranger, the Lord said, “Let me go.” (Genesis 32:26) If Jacob had loosed his hold He would have gone. With the Syrophenician woman we see the same treatment. Christ turned to her and said He was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Suppose her faith had failed here, and she had accepted that movement away from her as final; then would the world have been denied one of the most heart-thrilling instances of victorious faith and prayer that is on record. At Emmaus the identical course is repeated, when Christ who had been walking by the side of the two disciples made as if He would have gone on and by. And He would have done so if they had not pressed him to stay.
And here is the same thing in principle occurring in Jerusalem, where it is said the child Jesus tarried behind, allowing those who had been with Him to go on without Him. Who has not felt a similar experience in the spiritual life? Christ seems to go by the tent still. He has a way of withdrawing right in the midst of prayer, and of passing by when you thought He would remain.
Such an inexplicable feeling as if He was going to leave you has come over you at times. What does it all mean? It is not that Christ has a fluctuating love, nor is fitful in His treatment of us. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and could not be capricious. What He does is in highest wisdom and in obedience to laws that most Christians do not take time to study and understand.
It must be remembered that there is a jealousy in love. God announces Himself as a jealous God. He is worthy of being followed and sought after. Again there is the fact of free moral agency which can never be compelled, but has to be won over by a different treatment altogether. Again there is the fact of spiritual effort being required to develop the soul. The mother moves off from the child to make it walk to her. The Lord withdraws and is silent to make us pursue Him and call after Him.
The victories that follow, the fresh discoveries made of God in these ardent pursuits after His vanishing presence, enlarge and bless the soul beyond language to describe. Still again, there are grades of salvation on earth and of reward in heaven. It is evident at a glance that though under the same gospel and surroundings of all kinds, some Christians drag out a poor existence while others develop into moral stalwarts and become kings and priests unto God. The explanation is that the instant that God, in harmony with the law as hinted at, withdraws from the heart or life, the first class sits down at once in gloom or despair and lets Him go; while the other class rises up at once and follows the retreating Lord, and with importunate prayer and patient waiting constrains Him to return and remain. Like Abram they run after the angels. Like Jacob they say, “I will never let You go.” Like the disciples at Emmaus they urge the retiring Christ to stay, and like the Syrophenician woman they with tears say, “True, Lord, I am not worthy of the bread, but give me the crumbs.” This was why Fletcher’s face shone so. This was why Payson and Brainard can never be forgotten in the religious world. They were men who had a way of wrestling with God and would take no denial. They had a way of looking and calling into the silent heavens until the answer and the King Himself would come. In a word they ran after the angels, and if Jesus tarried they would at once seek and find Him.