A Study Of Numbers 11:23
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.”
In this chapter we find Moses the servant of God, sorely oppressed with grief through the rebelliousness of the children of Israel. It appears they had been feeding for sometime on the manna which God in His tender mercy had sent to them; but they had got tired of it, calling it “light food,” and now they begin to lust after flesh. Yes, they carried their rebellion so far as to wish that they had stopped in Egypt, and had never come into the wilderness to eat this light food. So that the heart of Moses was sorely grieved.
Then “Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased. And Moses said unto the LORD, wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant?” (it was not right to lay the blame upon God! However, the Lord is merciful and kind to His people) “and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? For they weep unto me, saying, give us flesh that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.” (Num. 11:10-15) God was not so ready to take and kill Moses, as Moses was to ask the Lord to do it.
After this, the Lord in mercy tells His servant that He would put His Spirit upon seventy of the elders of Israel, in order that they might assist him in governing the people. How kind it was of the Lord to hear Moses, and grant him his request! For “it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.” But there were two others remaining that had the same Spirit resting upon them, and they prophesied in the camp; and it appears a young man came running to Moses and said, “Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.” Joshua his servant directly came forth, and desired that he might go and stop it. But Moses would not have it so; he says, “Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” You see, Moses did not seem to be jealous like we poor creatures are!
Well, we find the Lord telling Moses that He would give the people plenty of flesh to eat, that they should have enough for their lusting. He says, “Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; but even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you.” And I tell you, I never lusted after one thing or another but God generally gave me enough of it. If it were a worldly idol, in His own time He has ground it to pieces, and made me to drink it: and then sad work it has been for my soul. But Moses seems to be astonished how the people could have flesh to eat; he could not make out where the supply was to come from. Therefore we find him saying, “The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them to suffice them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them to suffice them?” Do you not see now, that even in Moses the servant of God, although the Lord had wrought so many miracles by him what a deal of fleshly reasoning there was. God having told him that Israel should eat flesh for a month, he begins now to enquire whether all the flocks and herds were to be slain to suffice them? Or whether all the fish of the sea were to be gathered together to satisfy their wants? But where was Moses looking? Was it to the covenant God of Israel who had divided the waters of the Red Sea, and made a way for His ransomed people to pass over? O no, he was looking merely to the creature. The Lord’s people can only look up to God, as He is pleased to look upon and draw them up to Himself, whether it be Moses, Joshua, the prophets, or our own souls!
Then follow the words of our text, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” Here God proved His servant, and manifested forth His power and faithfullness, though Moses wondered how it were possible to come round, by fulfilling His promise to the uttermost, to the astonishment of His servant, and the glory of His own name.
It is the desire of my soul, if it be the will of God, so to be led in what I say, that it may be the means of comforting, strengthening, and encouraging the Lord’s children in the various crosses and exercises which they are called to meet with in the wilderness.
Now, God’s people, who have come up here tonight, are made sensible of their helplessness and misery, and are brought to know their need of His salvation. They are made to feel that they cannot do without the Lord Jesus Christ; they are continually enquiring and panting after Him, and they daily want to feel fresh testimonies and tokens of His grace. And how kindly and tenderly the Lord commissions His servants to speak to His people! He says, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees: say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong.” And, “Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-blocks out of the way of my people.” So my desire is, as far as the Lord may be pleased to bless the word from my lips, to pick up those who have come here weary and heavy-laden, and speak to the comfort and encouragement of their needy souls.
1. It may be that God has opened the eyes of one or more present to see what you are as sinners before Him. The sins of your past life have been charged upon your conscience; it has been given you to see that you were going the broad road that leads to destruction; you have been brought to feel that everything under the sun is “vanity and vexation of spirit;” and feeling the burden of your sins, with the terrors of a guilty conscience in a broken law, the cry of your heart has been that of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Perhaps you are now looking back at the way in which you have lived, at the many transgressions you have committed, at the dreadful scenes you have been engaged in against God and His law: and under the accusations and buffetings of Satan a thousand fears have arisen, that surely there cannot be mercy for such a sinner, that God will never look with an eye of pity and tenderness on such a wretch who has gone to such awful lengths in sin and iniquity. Why, if grace has taken possession of your heart; if the life of God has entered and brought forth this cry, the Lord has spoken very kindly in His word respecting you. He says, “he that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Prov. 28:13)
Now, recollect this is one of God’s “shalls;” and He will speak it home with power to your soul in His own time; for He is omnipotent in power, infinite in wisdom, immutable in holiness, and righteous in His judgments. He is full of mercy; pity, and compassion; He will never break His word, nor alter the thing that has gone out of His mouth. Therefore, if He has put a cry for mercy in your heart, it matters not to what lengths of sin you have gone, nor however desperate a servant you have been to the Devil; yea, though you may have been bold and valiant as a captain and ring-leader in his service, yet if God has dethroned the kingdom of darkness in your heart; if He has brought you to see and feel that everything under the sky is full of emptiness and nothingness; if your soul is now panting for the mercy of God, and you are seeking it through the precious blood of the Lamb, you shall see in the Lord’s own time whether His hand is waxed short, and whether His word shall come to pass unto thee or not. You will find Him faithful to His word of promise; and He says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matt. 7:7) These blessed words come from the lips of Him who cannot lie.
I deeply sympathize with those dear souls who are under these feelings I have been attempting to describe. When God first brought me there, I would have given ten thousand worlds for any man to have said a word to encourage such a vile sinner as I felt myself to have been. I thought there never could be mercy for such a wretch as me. I felt assured I had sinned beyond the riches of God’s grace; I had been such a vile swearer, drunkard, and sabbath-breakerand stealer too! For I once went into an orchard and stole fruit therefrom: and after this I was going again to steal fowls. But a very remarkable thing happened to prevent it. I went for this purpose with a brother-in-law, whom God quickened into spiritual life about twelve months after, but who had more tenderness of conscience and natural conviction than I had. Before we got to the hen-roost, and while we were planning that no one should see us, he said, ‘I tell you what, John, if no one else does, God will.’ ‘There now,’ I said, ‘I wish you had never come; if you had not mentioned about God seeing us we could have done it very well; but this has shaken me to pieces.’ ‘Ah, John,’ he said, ‘the day of judgment is coming!’ The Lord picked me up before him, and brought me first to His feet to cry for mercy.
If there be a sinner, who has just got his eyes opened to see his lost and ruined state, who feels that he cannot pray, nor knows how to utter a word before the great Jehovah who is so infinite in holiness and justice, while he is such a vile and polluted sinnerwho is so infinite in wisdom, while he is such an ignorant foolif, dear soul, you have not many words to utter, can you from the bottom of your heart say, “God be merciful to me a sinner?” That is the best prayer for you and me. God will not despise it; “He will regard the prayer of the destitute.” (Ps. 102:17) And He says, in the words of the text, for your comfort and encouragement, “thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” Blessings on His name, you shall find Him to be a God, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” In His own time, He will enrich your soul with a sweet and blessed enjoyment of His undertaking.
2. I believe the greatest number of God’s children are cast down in their minds, and grievously perplexed at times respecting the reality of their repentance and faith, and the genuineness of their religion before God. One reason why I draw this inference is because there are many “fear nots” in the word of God; they come from God’s mouth, and are not spoken at an uncertainty. There are some professors to whom the “fear nots” in God’s word have no manner of use; for they never feel the bonds and fetters that the Lord’s people do; neither do they appear to have any afflictions or bitters in their cup; consequently, as they have nothing to try and cast them down, so they need not these encouraging “fear nots” from God’s blessed word.
There may be some here tonight, who are questioning whether the Lord has ever picked them up, and began the good work of grace in their souls, or whether their religion is only of the flesh, through the workings of natural conscience; so that they are full of anxiety to know whether they belong to the Lord’s quickened family. I never find empty professors of religion, those great and high-flown six feet gentlemen who are full of their own wisdom and fleshly confidence, ever in anxiety to know whether the good work of grace was ever begun in their hearts. But, wherever the good seed of the word is sown, it is always in the heart that has been ploughed and harrowed. When the good seed is dropped into good ground, then there is honesty in that soul, and it is honest before God; so that he cannot come and grasp the promises as he please; he is not able to take hold of this and that passage and claim it as a child’s portion. No, no; the poor soul wants God to claim him as His child and His portion; and he will come begging and crying to the Lord to give him some testimony of His favour, and speak home some promise with power, to satisfy the desires of his soul. There is true heart-work going on in such a sinner as this. He will say, ‘Lord, give me a token to satisfy me I am not a hypocrite; give me to feel that Thou art mine, and I am Thine!” What, be a hypocrite, and yet have the good work of grace in the soul! Depend upon it, no hypocrite can ever come here! If you search all through the word of God you will not find any but the living family who come into this spot. Never, never.
‘But then,’ says the tried soul, ‘Is not the Lord a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God? Yet I have been praying and beseeching for a long time past; I have been waiting at the pool of mercy for so many years; I have gone from one place to another, and have tried every means possible to come to some satisfaction that my heart is right in the sight of God, but I have many fears that I have neither part nor lot in the matter. I want to come where David was, and be enabled to say without a single doubt or fear, “I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice, and my supplications: because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.” (Ps. 116:1,2) Well, have a little patience; God will work in His own way: He has waited for you a good many years, and now you must wait a little while for Him. ‘But,’ replies the soul, ‘if the work were of God should I have such things rising up in my mind as I do? I feel as though I could not cry any more, but must give it all up, for it is no use to pray any longer.’ Well then, give it up! But how is it that you do not give it up? ‘O,’ says the soul, ‘I do not know; I am brought to this point that I cannot give it up. I seem to be a complete mystery to myself; for while I feel as though I should give up all my profession of religion, yet at the same time I cannot rest satisfied unless the Lord comes and bears witness to my conscience that He is mine, and I am his.’ Well then, cheer up; wait a little longer; and in the Lord’s own time He will give you the desires of your heart.
What does the Lord say to His dear people by His servant Isaiah? “Fear thou not, for I am with thee.” ‘But,’ says the poor child of God, ‘to whom are these words addressed? Are they spoken to the soul that is fearing? To the soul that is doubting? To the soul that cannot lay claim to God?’ Yes, the Lord lays claim to His people, though they cannot lay claim to Him until He manifests that claim. ‘Ah,’ he replies, ‘I cannot believe the Lord is with such a vile and polluted sinner as I am? No matter for that; God has said that He is with you; and you shall prove it at the appointed time. “Be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isa. 41:10) What! After the Lord has declared He is “thy God,” and that He will “strengthen and help thee,” do you think that He will ever let you sink into dismay, or prove a hypocrite or an apostate at last? O no; He will never let you come here. He says, “Fear not; behold your God will come, even God with a recompense, he will come and save you.” (Isa. 35:4) He will come, arise for your help, deliver you from your doubts and fears, and from the cruel workings of unbelief and the Devil; He will lead you into the right way; and by His gracious presence save and deliver you.
Now this is one of God’s wills and shalls; and “thou shalt see now whether his word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” Blessed soul, you are in union and oneness with the Lord Jesus Christ: for if He had not have taken possession of your soul, He never would have given your hungerings, thirstings, and pantings of heart after Himself; never would you have asked it of yourself, or have been brought to this spot, to question everything else but what God has wrought in you, if you were not one of those whom He has redeemed. Blessed be His name, “he giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” (Isa. 40:29) So God has settled the matter, that poor stammering, hobbling, fearing, doubting, hungering and thirsting souls shall be satisfied in His own good time. “The vision is for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habak. 2:3)
3. There may be some here this evening who may have come up with a ‘may be’ or ‘a peradventure’ for the last time, just to make one more trial of the mercy of God. Perhaps the Devil has been whispering in your minds, ‘There is no hope for such a one as you; you had better be your own executioner, cut off your own life, and know the worst of it at once.’ But “do thyself no harm” all is right; and in a little time you shall find it so. The poor harassed soul says, ‘I fear I am totally lost! I have tried my prayers and tears, my vows and resolutions, and have found them altogether useless; I have been from chapel to chapel but all in vain. I have striven to serve God with all my might; and for that purpose I have sat up late at night and rose early in the morning: but now I am brought to see that God would be just in damning me, but I cannot see how He can be just in saving me.’ Stop, stop, do not be in a hurry; the Lord will evidence His own work in your heart, and He is not in a hurry; and He will bring you to see that He is as just in your salvation through a crucified Jesus, as He would be in your damnation for your many and aggravated sins!
‘Ah,’ replies the soul, ‘but I have gone to such lengths of iniquity; the sore is still running in my heart and conscience, and does not the word of God declare that “he will not at all acquit the wicked?” (Nahum 1:3) This keeps following me up so that I fear I am a reprobate just like Esau, and that my end will be like his. He cried for a blessing, and sought it carefully with tears; but he was rejected, and so I fear it will be with me. I see that it is only those that are elected that shall be saved, and I fear I am one of the non-elect, and that God is just in damning me. ‘Ah,’ says the poor tried soul, ‘I envy horses, beasts, dogs, and everything else that is not possessed of a soul like me; for I have to appear before God to receive the things done in my body. I am lost! Surely there cannot be mercy for such a one as I? My cry has been again and again, “O LORD, let the sighing of the prisoner come up before Thee; according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to death.” (Ps. 79:11) But the Lord turns a deaf ear to my cries and tears; and tells me, because He called, and I refused; and because I set at nought His counsel, and would have none of His reproofs, therefore He laughs now at my calamity, and mocks now that my fears have overtaken me!’
Come, come, dear soul, cheer up; there is hope for you yet. You have just come to the door of mercy; for this is the very way to come to God’s salvation through the door of damnation. There is no coming to the blood of the Son of God for salvation, but through condemnation in the conscience. “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Cor. 3:6) Wherever this is felt, such are brought to the place of the stopping of mouths; to lay low in the dust, if so be there may be hope; and to cry earnestly for mercy at the foot of the cross. Now, let us hear whether God has said anything concerning you, or not; and if He has, it is of no consequence what men or devils may say to the contrary. Nay, even if some who are Christians doubt whether it is the work of God, it is no matter; the Lord will come in His own time, and convince you it is His blessed work in your soul; and when He does, He will bring you to a point about it. Is it not said, “The LORD doth build up Jerusalem; he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds?” (Ps. 147:2,3) Now you are an outcast; cast out of the world; cast out of yourself, and feel nothing but your wretchedness; cast out of your own righteousness, and find nothing but filthy rags; cast out of all your refuges of lies, and brought to see there is no hope for you but in the mercy of God; cast out of conscience, feeling it full of guilt, and telling you you have merited eternal death. And thus feeling cast out of everything, you know not what to do, nor whither to flee. There is only one spot left that will take in such destitute, undone, lost and ruined wretches as these. And where is that? It is in the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God,” who has died for His people, by bearing their sins in His body on the tree, by being made a curse for them, by working out and bringing in an everlasting righteousness for their justification, and by opening up a fountain for the washing away of sin and uncleanness in His own most precious blood. May the Holy Ghost bring you to this sacred spot, the cross of the Son of God; and there to cry out, “Lord, save me; or I perish!” I believe God brings all such exercised souls as these there at last. Hear what the Lord says, “Come now, and let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as snow; though red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa. 1:18)
‘But where,’ says the soul, ‘can I find it?’ It is in the “fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.” (Zech. 13:1) It is “the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanseth from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) ‘Yes,’ replies the soul, ‘but is it for me? I want to know that it is for me by feeling a blessed application of it to my heart and conscience.’ And so you shall have the desire of your soul granted in God’s own good time. Hear what the Lord has said, and left on record for your encouragement, “And it shall come to pass that day (for there is an appointed time in which God has promised His Zion happy liberty) that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” (Isa. 27:13) It is not said, ‘they may come,’ ‘they shall have an opportunity to come,’ ‘they are exhorted to come if they please,’ or ‘they have an offer to come;’ but they “shall come,” and have happy sweetness and gospel liberty given to them to know God as their covenant God and Father; and be brought at length to say, “I have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:7) Thus you shall know the truth of this promise in the text, “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.”
Though for more than twenty years I have been preaching, I never felt satisfied in the work unless the Lord is pleased to give me some particular sweetness in it; I always feel so fearful and naturally timid without that. I have often wished that I might open up some of the great mysteries of the gospel, and unfold dark and hidden parts of truth, and explain obscure parables; and bring forth the riches of great wisdom and understanding. But whenever I have tried this I have always found myself shut up and confused. Of late I feel more satisfied in simply telling out what the Lord is pleased to bring to my mind, and to leave it with Him to bless it and make what use of it He will. I believe God’s ministers have different gifts given them to qualify them for their work, and that each have their particular labour to perform, some in one way, and some in another. But I believe the Holy Spirit blesses my ministry, by giving me a different part of the work to perform from that of most others. It falls to my lot to labour at the dunghill; and that, you know, is no pleasant spot. I would much rather be talking about the King, be privileged to go to court, and see Him in His beauty, than be employed in my part of the work. But when I am favoured with the light of His countenance, and privileged to hear Jesus whisper, “Fear not, I am with thee” and “I am thine, and thou art mine,” (John 17:10) I am quite satisfied; all is well; and then I am content to be whatever the Lord is pleased to make me.
4. There may be some in the presence of God tonight who are doing business in deep waters; who not only know the plague of their own hearts, the wretchedness and vileness of their evil nature, and the enmity of their carnal minds; but they have also to mourn and lament over their insensibility, stupidity and want of feeling. This so staggers them at times, that their souls tremble within them, and they are brought to this standto fear that after all their profession will prove nothing but hypocrisy at last; for sometimes they find so much devilism, such anger and passion, and such carnal workings in their mind, that they cannot think it possible they are children of God; so that they cry out, “Can ever God dwell here?” While mourning over these dismal feelings, they say, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24) And with Job, they utter forth their lamentations, saying, “I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls;” (Job 30:29) or with David, “I am like a pelican of the wilderness, I am like an owl of the desert: I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop.” (Ps. 102:6,7) ‘Can such a wretch as I look up to God for mercy. It seems nothing but awful presumption.’
No, no, there can be no presumption in crying out for mercy. ‘But ah,’ he replies, ‘I have gone beyond every one else; none of the Lord’s people can have so much sin and misery as I have felt in my heart. Mine iniquities are so great, they overwhelm me; and sometimes I am afraid they will burst forth afresh and bring me to open shame; so that I cannot find words to express my baseness before the Lord. But still, there are some moments, blessed by His name, in which I would not change my state with any man in the world; when the mercy, love, blood, and righteousness of a three-one Jehovah is revealed to my soul; and then my joy is so full that “my cup runneth over.” O how good it is to enjoy this feast; it is very sweet to be here, it is indeed; and it is what you and I love. Then we can say with David, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” (Ps. 23:6) At such moments as these, when we can enter into the presence-chamber of the King, the Devil and our unbelief soon rise up and flee away. When my God brings me here, and I am able to enjoy His blessed smiles and love-tokens, the Devil and my corruptions are not able to stir at all: the sun is up, the sky is clear, and all the beasts of the forest have gone to their dens; the road is now so free that not one dares to approach while the Master is present. But as soon as He is gone, darkness and gloom come on again, and doubts and fears return with it.
It is quite different with some people; they can always be in the light; they can enjoy the smiles of God’s countenance, whether He shines on them or not; it is all the same to them whatever their circumstances may be. But David knew something of the difference; he says, “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” So that when the light of the Lord’s countenance is withdrawn, what a change then takes place in the scene. Sometimes enmity, carnality, pride, presumption, the world and all its cares, will rush into the soul like a crowd; so there appears to be only light enough to see the swarms of devils within, and just life enough to cry to God for mercy. Ah, I have known something of what it is to be in this horrible pit; I have said, ‘Can I dare to call upon the Lord for mercy?’ While I have been praying that these feelings might be kept down, and not rise up, I have feared lest I should presume on the goodness and bounty of God. At last I have come and said, ‘O Lord, Thou knowest me altogether; Thou knowest what a wretch I am; if there can be an instance of Thy shewing mercy to one so base, do shew it to me.’
‘O,’ says one, ‘do not bring in any of your ifs.’ When the Lord gives me to feel the light of His countenance, then I am full of ‘shalls;’ when I can feel my feet on the rock, then I can feel at home; when the south wind blows, it is full of fragrance and sweetness. But when the wind turns round to the north, I feel all my wretchedness and misery return, and I sink down into barrenness and hardness, with but little softening of soul: and I cannot pray feelingly with a heart as hard as stone. I cannot do without a religion of feeling; and I would not give a grain for any man’s profession who is without it; I want neither his religion nor his company. But when such a passage as this has been applied with power, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and have said, ‘Lord, if I have been too presuming in tender mercy look over and forgive it.’ When the Lord gives a sweet breaking into such a word as this, what a comfort it is! How the humbled soul will confess his sin, and again and again experience a lift; so that he will say at last, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.”
Well then, “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were, the company of two armies.” If you are here, you shall surely find the truth of the promise in the text, “Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”
5. There may be some child of God here who is quite shut up in a way of providence. All expectation is closed on the right hand and the left; with every future prospect so dark and cloudy, that he cannot see how it is possible to be extricated out of his difficulties. Has not the Lord said, Thy bread shall be given, and thy water shall be sure? (Isa. 33:16) Is it not written, “He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee?” (Job 5:19) Has He not said, “Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills?” (Ps. 50:10) Is not all the gold and silver His? Has He not said too, “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them?” (Isa. 42:16)
‘Ah,’ says the soul, ‘this is very true, these are the Lord’s people; but I am such a peevish, fretful, repining creature, that it cannot be for me. Sometimes I am so deeply cut up, because of my crosses and troubles, that I feel as though I could bear them no longer.’ The cross is what the Lord is pleased to make it. If He make the weight of a feather to be a cross, it will be as heavy to your soul as one that weighs fifty pounds at another time, when you have more strength and grace given to bear it; and this God will teach you, to cure you of looking anywhere else but to Himself to sustain you under thy cross. That great and infinite Being, “who comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance;” (Isa. 40:12) nothing is beneath His notice every particle of sand is present before Him, every blast of wind is in the hollow of His fist; and every creature, from the highest to the least, is under His supreme direction. He gives to the lion his nature; and He marks out the path of all the fowls of heaven. He that does all these things, appoints every trouble in your path that through which you have already come, and that through which you will yet have to pass. But in so leading you He will mortify your pride, and bring you to see that His arm shall be made bare for your deliverance; and that He is faithful to His truth and promise; as His word declares, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num. 23:19) The Lord help thee to be quiet under the cross; to be still, and know that He is God.
I speak from experience; for never was there a more kicking and plunging soul than mine. O what a cause have I to love the Lord from the bottom of my heart. He has been so kind and tender to me, when I have been in such destitute and miserable circumstances, and when I could not in any way help myself. But alas, when things were more comfortable with me in providence, and God has been pleased to try and cross me in other ways, such has been the pride, enmity, and risings up of my wicked heart, that I could scarcely bear myself. How have I found at such a time the truth of the Apostle’s words, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7) ‘Well,’ say you, ‘how could you think of going to the Lord after this again?’ Why, I thought it was all over with me; that I had committed the unpardonable sin, the sin against the Holy Ghost, for which there is no forgiveness, neither in this world, nor yet in that which is to come. Here I sunk fathoms deep; I found there was no help for me; that all my ability to help myself was like trusting to a broken reed; and that I could not pour out my soul in prayer to God. Nevertheless the Lord brought me up again, after He had humbled me in the dust of death, by sealing home His forgiving mercy to my heart. These are troubles that bring a man into sore affliction and distress; and it is only God Himself that can deliver out of them. But when all is straight again and the soul is quiet, how it will praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy to him! When I was brought low by these afflictions, I saw that I deserved ten thousand times more chastisements than came upon me; so that I said, ‘Do with me, Lord, what Thou wilt. If it is for Thy glory, cut up all the plans that gratify my flesh, and mold and fashion me according to Thy blessed will.’ So that when I am quiet and in my right mind, everything is as it should becrooked things are made straight, rough places plain, and the Lord alone is exalted. We feel then that His arm is not shortened that it cannot save; and while we are brought to receive all the mercy, we are made willing to give Him all the glory.
6. There may be some in the presence of God who are greatly terrified and cast down with the fears of death. They are much dismayed in their minds, fearing that when death overtakes them they shall not be found among the Lord’s saved people. But it is written for their comfort, “forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage.” (Heb. 2:14,15) The Lord speaks kindly to His people and says, “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; and when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:3,4) Hear His blessed language! “Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.” (John 17:24) Yea, He says, “I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3)
What! Jesus be in glory without His Bride? The husband without the wife? The body without the head? Can “the eye say unto the hand, I have no need of thee? Or the head to the feet, I have no need of you?” (1 Cor. 12:21) Bless His dear name, if you are only a little toe in the body, Christ the head will take care of you, and bring you up to glory; for the whole of His elect body constitutes one “perfect man,” without any difference of superiority. What then! Shall the Husband of the Church be satisfied in being at home without having His wife with Him? The Everlasting Father” content without having His beloved children to surround His table? The glorious Captain of salvation rest satisfied without having His warriors with Him to share the spoils of victory, who have fought their way through hosts of hell? No, no, it is His highest happiness to have His people with Him; nay, the very honour and glory of His crown hangs upon His bringing them safely home. The Father gave them to Jesus to be redeemed; He says, “thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” (John 17:6) He has engaged to bring them all into the realms of everlasting bliss and blessedness. But O, when the last vessel of mercy is safely landed what a scene of triumphant glory will open to view what a glorious shout will be heard when Jesus shall say, “Here am I, and the children which thou hast given me!” (Heb. 2:13) O what a blessed state to be in for ever at home!
Lift up your heads, then, ye poor and needy, tried, tempted, and discouraged followers of Jesus. The Lord has made a way for you through all the hosts of your enemies. He has overcome every foe, spoiled principalities and powers, and has entered in before you into the holiest of all as the great Forerunner. There is nothing now that can stop you from entering into His blessed presence, and dwelling with Him in uninterrupted bliss and glory for evermore!
Preached at Founder’s Hall Chapel, Lothbury, London on Tuesday evening, April 9th, 1844 – by John Warburton.