“Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?”
HAVE I not God? At sundry times and in divers manners, He spake to, and succoured His saints. Will He not come to me, and cast around me the soft mantle of His protecting love? And if I love Him, do I need any beside?
“Who that one moment has the least descried (caught sight of) Him, Dimly and faintly, hidden and afar, Doth not despise all excellence beside Him, Pleasures and powers that are not, and that are?”
Did He not walk with Enoch, and then take him home, before the deluge came? Did He not shut Noah in, with His own hand, that there should be no jeopardy from the overflowing flood? Did He not assure Abram that He was his shield and exceeding great reward, quieting his fears against any possible combination of foes? Did He not preserve His servant Moses from the fury of Pharaoh and the murmurings of Israel? Was not Elijah hidden in the secret of His pavilion from the wrath of Ahab? Did He not send His angel to shut the lions’ mouths that they might not hurt Daniel? Were not the coals of the burning fiery furnace as sweet and soft as forest glades to the feet of the three young confessors? Has God ever forsaken those that trusted Him? Has He ever given them over to the will of their enemies?
Wherefore, then, should I fear in the day of evil? I may be standing on the deck, whilst the ship is beset by icebergs and jagged splintered rocks; the fog drapes everything, as the way slowly opens through this archipelago of peril: but God is at the helm — why should I fear? Days of evil to others cannot be so to me, for the presence of God transmutes the evil to good.
“Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.”
THE years pass as snowflakes on the river; and as each drops into the mighty past, it cries, God will come! Each Advent season, with its cluster of services, herald-voices, reminiscences and anticipations, lifts the message clear above the turmoil and tumult of mankind, God will come! The disappointments of our fairest hopes, the overcasting of our sunrises, the failures of our politicians, statesmen and counsellors, to effect a permanent and radical improvement of man’s nature, all take up the word, Our God shall come!
“Surely He cometh, and a thousand voices Call to the saints and to the deaf and dumb; Surely He cometh, and the earth rejoices, Glad in His coming, who hath sworn, I come.”
Dear heart, get thee often to thine oriel window, and look out for the breaking of the day. Did not the Master assure us that He would soon return? Hearken, He saith again today, “Surely I come quickly.” (Revelation 22:20) The little while will soon be over, and He will come first to receive His saints to Himself, and afterwards to come with them to the earth. Why are we disconsolate and dismayed? The perplexities of the Eastern problem, the gradual return of the Jews to Palestine, the despair and lawlessness of men, the unrest of nations, the preparedness on the part of the Church — like so many minute guns at night — keep the heart awake. Oh, let your eyes flash with the glow of thanksgiving! Be glad and strong, confident and calm. Let your loins be girded, and your lamps burning. Through heaven’s spaces you shall detect the advent of your God; and when He comes He will break the silence of the ages with words of majesty and might.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
PERHAPS that is our chiefest need: especially so as we gird up our loins for a new stretch of pilgrimage. We do not need nobler ideals. They flash over our souls. We read of Browning kissing, on each anniversary of his wedding, the steps by which his bride went to the marriage altar; and we vow to lift our wedded life higher. We read of Henry Martyn mourning that he had devoted too much time to public work, and too little to private communion with God; and we vow to pray more. We recall the motto written on Green the historian’s grave at Mentone, “He died learning;” and we vow that each day shall see some lesson learnt from the great store of Truth. We read those noble words of W. C. Burns, “Oh to have a martyr’s heart, if not a martyr’s crown;” and we vow to give ourselves absolutely to witness and suffer for Jesus. But, alas! our ideals fade within a few hours, and the withered petals are all that remain. We need the steadfast spirit.
But this God can give us by His Holy Spirit. He can renew our will from day to day, and infuse into us His own unaltering, unalterable purpose. He can make possible, obedience to the apostolic injunction, “Be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Hear what comfortable words the Apostle Peter saith: “The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10) Then we shall move resolutely and unfalteringly onward; like Columbus, undaunted by discouragement, we shall cross unknown seas, till the scent of the land we seek is wafted across the brief intervening distance.
“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.”
IN its dress of evergreen, the olive is at all times a beautiful object.
Many reasons demand that we should resemble it. There are three ways of becoming like a green olive tree, mentioned in this and the following verses:— Trust in the mercy of God. — To trust when the light has burnt to its socket in the house of life, and the heart is as lonely as Job’s amid the wreck of his home. To believe that the mercy of God is not clear gone, nor His tender mercies have failed. To know that all is well, that seems most ill. This keeps the heart from withering.
Thanksgiving. — “I will give thee thanks for ever.” There is always something to thank God for. When someone condoled with the old slave woman, because she had only two teeth left, she replied quickly, “But I thank Him, honey, all the time, that they are opposite each other.” Find out with Paul something to be happy about, even when arraigned before a judge, on trial for your life. “I think myself happy, King Agrippa.” (Acts 26:2) Waiting on God. — Not always talking to Him or about Him, but waiting before Him, till the stream runs clear; till the cream rises to the top; till the mists part, and the soul regains its equilibrium.
This keeps the soul calm and still. The name of God is good, a wholesome theme for meditation, because it includes His nature.
To meditate on it is soul-quieting and elevating. O troubled one, get away to some quiet spot and wait on God! Look away from the wind and waves to the face of Jesus. The Divine Name is written on those dear features; and heaven looks forth from those true, deep, tender eyes. The house of God is a safe and sheltered place for his olive-trees!
“Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”
IT is wonderful to notice the many ways in which God brings us back to Himself. We may have been carried into captivity by a troop of anxieties or a horde of worries; by temptations like the sons of Anak; by pride and other evils, as when David found that the Amalekites had carried off his belongings into captivity. Then God comes to the rescue: sometimes by a drawing felt throughout the soul; sometimes by a little word dropped by another; sometimes by an incident from a biography. Any one of these acts upon us as the sunbeams on frost — there is a meeting and yielding, a desire to get alone, confession of waywardness and wandering, and earnest petitions for renewal of the blessed past. Thus God bringeth back the captivity of His people.
Are you a captive, pining in some distant bondage? It is not surprising that you hang your harp upon the willows, and weep as you remember Zion — how you went with the throng, and even led them to the House of God, with the voice of joy and praise. And as you contrast the past and the present, it is well that your soul is cast down. But when the Lord brings again your captivity, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.
Would it not be well to look out for your brother Lot if he has been carried off down the long Jordan Plain? Should you not arm and go to his rescue, as Abraham did? Perhaps the Lord would turn your captivity, if you sought to turn the captivity of others; and Melchizedek would meet you with the bread and wine.
“O my God!
Draw me still nearer, closer unto Thee Till all the hollow of these deep desires May with Thyself be filled!”
Psalm 54:1, 7
“Save me, O God, by thy name, and judge me by thy strength. ...
For he hath delivered me out of all trouble: and mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies.”
THERE are only seven stanzas in this psalm. It is one of the briefer of David’s compositions. Written when the Ziphites told of David’s hiding-place and compelled him to shift his quarters, perhaps its brevity attests some hasty moment snatched from the hurry and bustle of the necessary flight. It is said that Mr. Gladstone made his memorable Latin version of “Rock of Ages” during an interval of a House of Commons debate. It is worthy of remark that, however hurried David might have been, and however great the responsibility resting upon him, he found time to turn to God for help. He had learnt the secret of abiding in the Divine Presence.
It is said of one, “He was so accustomed to the Divine Presence that he received from it continual succour upon all occasions. It was his continual care to be always with God, and to do nothing, say nothing, which should endanger the perpetual intercourse.” But obviously, this frame of mind depended on a previous dedication of himself as a freewill offering to God. There must be no division of interests, if God is to be all. You must consider yourself as a stone before a carver, whereof he is to make a statue — presenting yourself before Him that He may make His perfect image in you and do as He will with your life. You must realize that He has permitted this interruption of your peace, this intrusion of Ziphite hate. You must look beyond the hand that smites, to the Father who permits. Then the soul will rock itself to rest; and before you have been five minutes with God you will be able to say as David, “He hath delivered me.” Be of good cheer; rest on His Name; He will deliver you out of all trouble.
“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
WE all know the story of the man wearily trudging along the road with the burden on his back, to whom a friend offered a lift in his cart. To the latter’s surprise the wayfarer sat beside him with his burden still strapped to his shoulder. “Why do you not put your burden down?” quoth he. “Thank you,” was the reply, “I am so obliged at your carrying me that I will not trouble you with my burden also.” And so he hugged it still. How many a child of God trusts Him with his soul, but not with his load! Yet if God has undertaken the greater, surely He may be trusted with the less. If He has borne thy sins, He can surely carry thy sorrows.
Thy burden is that which He hath given thee. Whatever it be — the weight of a church, the pressure of a family, the burden of other souls — thy Father hath given it thee. Give its pressure back to Him, whilst thou retaineth the salutary lesson of hourly patience and faith. God imposes burdens, to see what we will do with them.
We may carry them to our undoing, or we may cast them on Him for His blessed countenance.
“Oh for the faith to cast our load, E’en while we pray, upon our God,
Then rise with lightened cheer.”
Notice, that if we cast our burden, we must believe He takes it.
We must definitely leave it with Him, and count as a positive sin the temptation to reconsider it. When you cast your burden, God will take it, and will do more. He will sustain you. He will catch up your burden and you, and bear you all the day long between His shoulders.