Robinson Crusoe found a footprint on his island: yet how little that footprint told him!
Was it the footprint of who?
Was it the footprint of a friend or of a foe;
Was it the footprint of a man or of a woman?
He could not tell. I want more than a footprint.
The lover is not satisfied with the footprint of his lady: he wants her!
I am not satisfied with the footprint of God: I want Him!
“Is there, in all literature,
a more sweet,
a more winsome,
a more pathetic figure than little Naomi,
the daughter of Israel Ben Oliel?
She is, of course, the heroine of
Sir Hall Caine’s Scapegoat.
She is blind and deaf and dumb.
She is lonely too, terribly lonely.
Her father was lonely enough,
for he was a stranger in a strange land—
a Jew in Morocco—
and he felt that every man’s hand was against him.
To make matters worse, his young wife died
when little Naomi was born,
and then his loneliness was more acute than ever.
And, after awhile, he discovered that Naomi was lonely too.
She could not tell him so.
But often, in the night, Israel would awake to find
a little white-robed figure standing beside his bed.
Day and night were both alike to her;
the darkness was as the light.
She could as easily find her way about the great silent house at midnight as at noonday.
And so she came to his side and just stood there!
What she wanted, ’Sir Hall Caine says,
Israel’ could never know,
for her deafness denied him the power to ask,
and her dumbness deprived her of the power to answer.
Was she sick or in pain?
Or, in her sleep, had she seen a face
from the invisible world,
Had she heard a voice that summoned her away?
Or had her mother’s arms seemed to be about her
once again only to be torn from her afresh?’
No; it was none of these things!
It was just that she was lonely and wanted him—
wanted to feel that he was very near to her
and that she was very near to him.
I have sometimes felt that Hall Caine’s picture
of Naomi seeking her father’s presence in the night
is the most vivid illustration in our literature of
man’s blind search after God.
Man cannot live without air—and food—and sleep—
No tribe has ever been discovered that has not
made some gesture in the darkness
as little Naomi made.
In his Autobiography, Mark Rutherford insists
that all the religions of the heathen world
are eloquent and pathetic evidences
of man’s insatiable hunger for God.
Religions and philosophies, he says,
were not created by idle people
who sat down and said:
Let us build up a system of beliefs upon the universe!
What shall we say about immortality?
What shall we say about sin?’
Unless there had been antecedent necessity,’ he argues,
there could have been no religion.’
He goes on to show that the faiths that men invented
left their hearts eased, yet still aching.
Then Jesus came.
He satisfied man’s inner hunger.
For ‘Christ,’ Mark Rutherford concludes, ‘
is essentially the relationship of the lonely!’
The satisfaction of the lonely!
The consolation of the lonely!
We seem to be back in Israel’s silent room once more.
Little Naomi could only still the inner cry
of her solitary soul by entering her father’s room
in the darkness and feeling the warmth of his presence.
Man could only satisfy the deepest instincts
of his complex being by groping blindly after God.
In the history of the world there have been three heroic moments,
of which this gesture of little Naomi reminds me.
There was the venture of Philosophy.
It was a brave enterprise.
Nobody can read the history of philosophy
without being moved to the highest admiration.
Good and great men—
the purest minds of all time—
set themselves to think out the secrets of the universe—
to think out God.
And we all know the result.
Read any mythology—
Grecian, Roman, Egyptian; what you will;—
and see how these old thinkers conceived of gods
and goddesses galore.
They crowded the heavens with their divinities.
And what did it all amount to?
One can see at a glance that they had but magnified themselves.
They had done what the barbarians did at Brocken.
At Brocken, in Prussian-Saxony,
the highest summit of the Harz Mountains,
a weird and awe-inspiring phenomenon is to be witnessed each day at sunset.
If a man stands on the summit when the sun is sinking over the plains below,
a huge and ghostly shadow of himself is flung
athwart the banks of cloud in the eastern sky.
It is called the Specter of Brocken;
and, years ago, simple barbarians climbed to that summit
in order that they might behold and adore the gigantic figure in the heavens.
But one day there came disillusionment.
They discovered that,
in worshipping the huge and ghostly form
upon the clouds,
they were merely reverencing
the many times magnified shadow of themselves!
That is exactly what the philosophers had done.
The gods and goddesses
who sipped nectar around the celestial tables of the philosophers’ fancies were but magnified mortals.
How, without some external illumination
of the philosophers’ minds,
could their conception of God be anything else?
There was the venture of Science!
Learned men, skilled to interpret
the riddles of the universe,
searched the stars and the strata
in quest of eternal truth.
And they returned from that noble quest
to assure us that, everywhere,
they had discovered the footprints of God!
It sounded well; but what did it amount to?
The footprints of God!
It certainly proves that there is a God:
but I want more than that.
Robinson Crusoe found a footprint on his island:
yet how little that footprint told him!
we want more than a footprint.
We want HIM!
We are not satisfied with the footprint of God:
We want him!
And science, is failing to reveal Him,
Failing to meet our soul’s deep need.
And there was the venture of Judaism. The Jew became possessed of oracles in which the Son of God— the express image of the Most High—was actually described. All the details of his coming were set down in black and white. It seemed like a scheme of revelation so explicit that it could not possibly fail.
And yet, when he came to whom
all those inspired oracles pointed,
the people did not recognize Him!
He came unto his own, and his own received Him not.
So all three of these stately ventures collapsed
or met with but a partial and a transitory success.
Yet, in reality, they were
too good to fail,
too brave to perish.
And, in the end, they were saved from such disaster
The climax of Philosophy was reached on Mars’ Hill.
Paul stood in Athens,
amid the schools of the philosophers.
‘He told them the story of Jesus,
Wrote on their hearts every word,
Told them the story so precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard;
Told how the angels in chorus
sang as they welcomed his birth
Glory to God in highest
Peace and good tidings on earth!”’
That was the climax of Philosophy;
its long, long quest had ended at the feet of Jesus!
The climax of Science was reached when the Magi—
the sages of the East—
knelt at the manger,
offering, in deepest love and adoration,
their gold and their frankincense and their myrrh
to the Babe of Bethlehem!
And the climax of Judaism?
The climax of Jewish history was reached
when three typical Jews—
Peter and James and John—
ascended the slopes of a Syrian mountain
and saw the Son of Man transfigured.
There appeared with him Moses,
the representative of the Law,
and Elijah, the representative of the Prophets.
But the Law and the Prophets—
Moses and Elijah—vanished.
Theirs was not the ultimate unfolding
of the divine heart.
And the three Jews saw, we are told,
no man, save Jesus only!
Judaism, like Philosophy and Science,
had reached its climax
by looking full into the face of Jesus.
The summit of all revelation is to be found there!
It is thus that human hearts,
blindly feeling after the Father,
joyously find him.
Naomi had never heard the word ‘Father’:
she had no conception of such a relation-ship;
yet she knew what she wanted;
and she found the dictates of her heart.
Later on, as readers of Hall Caine’s great story
know, Naomi, seeing her father’s face,
and hearing his voice,
rejoiced every day
in the dear delight of his fond companionship.
And they who, in some dark, dumb sense,
have once entered the Father’s presence,
invariably undergo a similar experience
of progressive illumination and deepening love.”
Dr. F.W. Boreham