March 15

“Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.” (Isaiah 41:14-15 | KJV)

Could any two things be in greater contrast than a worm and an instrument with teeth? The worm is delicate, bruised by a stone, crushed beneath the passing wheel; an instrument with teeth can break and not be broken; it can grave its mark upon the rock. And the mighty God can convert the one into the other. He can take a man or a nation, who has all the impotence of the worm, and by the invigoration of His own Spirit, He can endow with strength by which a noble mark is left upon the history of the time.

And so the “worm” may take heart. The mighty God can make us stronger than our circumstances. He can bend them all to our good. In God’s strength we can make them all pay tribute to our souls. We can even take hold of a black disappointment, break it open, and extract some jewel of grace. When God gives us wills like iron, we can drive through difficulties as the iron share cuts through the toughest soil. “I will make thee,” and shall He not do it?

Christ is building His kingdom with earth’s broken things.(Streams in the Desert)

If you grew up in a Baptist church like I did, you gleaned much of your theology from the Baptist Hymnal. Contemporary choruses and praise tunes have largely replaced hymns in church, but I keep a couple of old copies near my Bible and incorporate into private worship and study. I learned this from A. W. Tozer who writes:

“For purposes of inward devotion, there is only one book to be placed before the hymnal, and that of course is the Bible. I say without qualification, after the Sacred Scriptures, the next best companion for the soul is a good hymnal. . . . After the Bible, the hymn book is next. And remember, I do not say a songbook or a book of gospel songs, but a real hymnal containing the cream of the great Christian hymns left to us by the ages.”

I am old enough to have used The Broadman Hymnal, and have sung my way through three newer editions. Some improvements have been made in the later versions, but I will never forget a change I encountered when singing

“Alas, and Did My Saviour Bleed” in the 1975 revised edition. Perhaps you recall that old hymn. One line was as follows:

”Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,

And did my Sovereign die?

Would he devote that sacred Head

For such a worm as I?”

In today’s hymnals, it reads “For sinners such as I.” This appears a subtle attempt to water down harsh wording by replacing it with a more palatable substitute. More contemporary hymnals have weakened it even further by altering the line to read “for such a one as I.” I do not know the minds of the editors, but I do know that I do not need any help softening the blow of disobedience in my own mind. I am adept at minimizing the seriousness of my own sin; therefore, what I need most is a strong dose of honesty. The truth is that I am a worm, but therein lies the glory of the Gospel. Christ accepts me as I am, not to keep me there, but to transform me into what I could never be on my own.

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