Not Pressed On
by Klaas Schilder
(For the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Rev. W. Sieders as minister of the Word)
Yet I have not pressed on . . . Jeremiah 17:16a [Schilder used the Dutch Statenbijbel. The whole verse, as will be published D.V. in the Dort Study Bible, reads: Yet I have not pressed on, more than befits a single shepherd following Thee. Nor have I desired the day of death, Thou knowest it; that which came from my lips has been before Thy face. RAJ]
The times are changing; and so are we. [A Latin proverb of unknown origin: Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.] Yet, what endures forever is the Word of our God. [See 1 Peter1:25.] And that Word did and does not lie. It tells us that with the advance of the centuries there will arise a power from below, surging like a tsunami of hell against the Kingdom of God. And thus what has been foretold we see happening.
Our time increasingly becomes more disheartening, and therefore it is not easy for him who believes the Word to celebrate. Especially for the Reformed minister of the Word an anniversary at this time why should we hide it? is a difficult matter. An anniversary in 1918 is, we speak simply in human terms, agony. In a hundred years it will be an even greater torment. For, surely, the modern spirits may rejoice about a civilization that cheers us with its blessing. However, he who believes his Bible sees the dark power of the Beast looming behind the apparent beauty of culture. And that Beast gives its "mark" [See Rev. 13:16f; 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4.] also to those who were born in Christs Church, with the result that apostasy is increasing everywhere.
And who would see greater distress in this than the minister of the Word? Do not forget that humanly speaking the business of the church is also his business. He stands on guard as a herald of the Spirit and he has to fight with the Beast. Will he win? Will he be able to keep his flock together? Ah, just look around you. Go wherever you wish, and you see them go, both out in the open or crawling secretly to the camp of the enemy. That is torture for the servant of Jesus Christ. And when he celebrates his anniversary in this depressing time, he encounters many of whom he has often said and also now says again with tears in his eyes, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ. [See Phil. 3:18.] All day long he extended his hands also to a rebellious people. [See Is. 65:2.] And now he wants to plead with his God, truly press Him, to stop the spirit of the time in its progress. He would press God not to allow that little book, in which those terrible things are mentioned, including the dread of apostasy, and also the awful shock of the many whose love would grow cold, to become so bitter in his stomach (Rev. 10:9, 11). [The text for Rev. Schilders first sermon in Vlaardingen.] After all, who would long for bitterness on the day of his sweet rejoicing? Is the preacher not also a man? Is he then never allowed to present the results of his work as a well performed assignment to God and man? May he then never rejoice in this dreadful, desolate, demonic time? O, gladly would he forcefully approach Gods throne, gladly press God to take hold of whatever can still be taken and stop the apostasy. Gladly would he press God that He should change His decree and make His congregation a flowering garden, a strong fortress, an impregnable front . . .
Yet, "do not press on," says the prophet Jeremiah. "Neither have I pressed on."
Jeremiah lived in a time that had much in common with our time. Rumours of war were not unheard of. There was unfaithfulness among the people of God. There was a siding with the world. There were so many who did not want to accept the strict zeal of Jeremiah. It was then that he had foretold them the and with it proclaimed that this judgment would begin with the house of God, that the cup of Gods wrath would first be presented to the people of the city, which was called after His name (Jeremiah 25:28, 29; compare 49:12a; 1 Peter 4:17). And it had come as he had foretold: the catastrophes, the anxieties, the difficulties: the judgment. Then the cowardly opponents of the prophet who had always stood in his way dared to say that he was a traitor to his country. In reality, they claimed, he didnt mind that God used the rod without mercy against the people. They thought that Jeremiah could hardly hide his smirk of malicious pleasure that he had been right in his predictions of severe judgment.
And what about Jeremiah? The people were unable to read his heart. Therefore he placed his self-defence before . "Lord," he cried, "Thou knowest it; that which has gone out of my mouth has been before Thy face. Yet I have not pressed Thee." That is the language of the ambassador of God, who places his words before God and dares to say that he did not act like Jonah. For Jonah indeed wanted God to change His decree. Jonah actually desired the day of destruction. Jeremiah did not. He had to prophecy. The Lord had spoken, who would then not prophecy? [See Amos 3:8.] But he had left the result to God.
Would God allow His people to perish? He knew what was right. Would He save it and keep His people together? Great was His mercy! Jeremiah merely passed on the message; and he did not want to take anything away from Gods decree. He did not want to wrest something from God which was not included in the decree of the Eternal One. He did not want to impose his own wishes on God. God should do that which was good in His eyes. Do not press Him, neither toward good nor toward evil.
Do not press Him: that is still the only secret to ensure for Gods office bearer. not press Him: for only can a servant of Christ celebrate, also celebrate in 1918, even without discernible results, even without displaying the trophies of his life-long struggle.
Yet, press the people: we implore you, be reconciled! [See 2 Cor. 5:20.] Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade people to believe. [See 2 Cor. 5:11.] Pressing the people, but not pressing God. At least: no pressing that would become intruding. Abraham did indeed press God when Sodom was threatened with brimstone and fire, "Lord, if there are fifty, forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty . . . ten" (Gen. 18). But when he was put to silence he kept quiet. Moses also pressed God, "Blot me out of Thy book" (Ex. 32:32), but when God turned him away, he kept quiet. Indeed, even Jeremiah himself had strongly pressed God, if it were possible, to change His decree for evil into a decision for good. But when the Eternal One denied him the prayer for that people and forbade the pressing (Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11), he kept quiet. Do not press to that which goes too far in Gods eyes: no self-will.
In this year of our Lord 1918 we have a servant of the Word in our midst who celebrates. [Wicher Sierders (1845-1930), Minister of the Word in the (Chr.) Gereformeerde Kerken in The Netherlands. He studied at the Theological School in Kampen and served Axel (1868), Herwijnen (1871), Enkhuizen (1873), and Vlaardingen (1880-1922). Rev. Sieders was ordained on Oct. 11, 1868. At the occasion of his 50th anniversary he was knighted as "Ridder in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau." He was an ordinary Reformed minister, whose strength laid in personal communication with the people.] And we wish him the understanding of Jeremiahs secret. We cannot hope anything better for him. For the ambassador of Christ there is no greater self-affliction than that foolish, determined, pressing God. When he sees the fruit of his labour, it is often so little. When he asks about the remembrance of his words, it frequently is so disappointing. When at someones sickbed he looks in vain for the power of Gods promises which he had passed on. And especially in todays setting, when in spite of his exhortations he sees great apostasy in the church of Christ, he can become so bitter that he no longer finds a place for grateful jubilation . . . Until the word of Jeremiah gives him peace: leave the outcome to God. Do not ask for the hidden things. Do not be more merciful than God, but neither be more severe than the Righteous One.
It is in this way that one can celebrate even in a year of blood [The First World War had not ended yet.] and a century of sin. And thus peace comes.
Ibsens [See Henrik Ibsen, Brand. A dramatic poem in five scenes. Originally published in Norway in 1864. This translation via the Dutch is from the fifth scene.] Brand wanted what Jeremiah did not want: to force the request from his God, to press God. But when the celebration came there was no celebration for him. Hear him mocking:
And my parsonage becomes full
Everyone wants to greet me; . . .
Isnt that my name appearing in gold?
One more hour and it will begin;
Everyone is only thinking of me by now,
My name is on the lips of everyone!
O, their song of praise cools my heart
As a current of ice it passes through.
Could I . . . O could I only as a beast of prey
Hide my head in a den,
Clothe myself in oblivion!
His day of celebration was not a festive day, for he had that one trouble: he had wanted to count, to visualize his results. And later when they chased him with stones into the night of loneliness, his life was broken. That is the end of him who presses God, of him who puts his hand to the plough and wants to count the fruit. And thus people disappoint us, and . . . also God!
Our celebrating minister will not likely be stoned anymore. But some day his successors will. In the future Gods faithful servants will be lynched, torn apart, and treaded upon. They are going into the den like Jeremiah did: traitors! And yes, some day there will likely be some Ebed Melechs, but . . . they will not even have "old and worn rags" left to help (Jer. 38:11). The times are becoming frightening. An anniversary celebration becomes increasingly more difficult for the church as the worlds revelry increases in intensity and brutality.
But for the faithful in the last days and for Gods servants in our time there is only one true way to have peace of mind on the day of remembrance: do not press; do not press Him, but hope in quietness for the redemption of the Lord. Preach the Word and leave the outcome to God.
And one day you will witness it! For then it truly will be a celebration, eternal and magnificent.
From: Gereformeerde Kerkbode van Vlaardingen, no. 98 (Oct. 12, 1918). Published in K. Schilder, Verzamelde Werken 1917-1919; bezorgd door Drs. Willem van der Schee; Uitgeverij De Vuurbaak Barneveld, 2004. Unless indicated, notes [in square brackets] in the article are from Drs. Van der Scheer.
At the time he wrote this article Rev. K. Schilder was minister of the Reformed (Gereformeerde) Church at Vlaardingen, The Netherlands
Translated by Roelof A. Janssen
KS19181012VLAARDKB-ENGLISH-Not Pressed On Jeremiah 17:16a
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