Israel’s God And God’s Israel
“There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rides upon the Heaven in your help, and in His excellency on the sky. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and He shall thrust out the enemy from before you; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also His heavens shall drop down dew.”
MOSES lived to be 120 years of age, and his life was divided into three periods of 40 years. The first 40 he spent as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter in the Courts of Egypt. The second in the wilderness, at the foot of Horeb, as a shepherd, and the third 40 he reigned as king in Jeshurun, leading the Lord’s people from Egypt to the borders of the promised land. Observe how each of these periods terminated. The time of his apprenticeship in Egypt concluded with his refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, his avowal of brotherhood with the afflicted Israelites, his attempt to avenge their wrongs and his consequent flight from Egypt, because of the king.
Brethren, it is to be desired that thus our original connection with the world may once and for all be snapped–we are not of it though we are in it–and may Divine Grace so work in us that, like Moses, we may count the reproach of Christ to be greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt, and, therefore, may flee from all worldly conformity, resolving to come out from among the ungodly, not touching the unclean thing, but separating ourselves, cost what it may, from the world which lies in the Wicked One. It will be well for us, if that which divides us from the world shall be as clear, sharp, definite and impassable as that which cut off Moses from Egypt.
The second part of Moses' life was spent in the solitudes of Horeb and was concluded by a manifestation of God and a commission for service. He saw Jehovah in the burning bush–the bush burned with fire, but was not consumed–and he was bid to deliver the Lord’s message to Pharaoh. Yes, and our times of quiet meditation are good for nothing if they do not end and culminate in bright discoveries of God and a call to heavenly labor. It is of little avail to be in the wilderness unless God is seen there. Meditation and retirement shall be but as barren fields unless they yield to us the harvest of communion with the Invisible and give us sheaves of blessing for our Brethren! You bookworms, you solitary students and men of meditation, think of this and pray that your meditations may so end likewise.
The third part of his life closed with the song which is now before us. The last 40 years were crowded with events and full of trials. He was greatly vexed with the unholy spirit of the people, yet, in meekness and patience he endured with them and was tender as a nurse with her child. He led the people like a flock out of Egypt with a high hand and an outstretched arm in the midst of miracles and wonders. And, then, afterwards, for 40 years he conducted them as they went winding about through the wild desert.
A great man, indeed, was Moses in what he saw, and did, and said and suffered. His life was spent in unmeasured toil. From the day when he first went in unto Pharaoh till he climbed the steeps of Nebo, he must have been, night and day, incessantly engaged, and yet he finished his life-work with a song! Even thus let it be our prayer, that we, bearing the burden and heat of the day, may hear in our souls the voice, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter you into the joy of your Lord.” And then may we, in our departing hours, pour out a stream of praise unto our God, blessing and magnifying the Most High who has worked our works in us, and made us, unworthy as we are, to be instruments fit for His use.
We shall now consider these words which compose the last stanzas of the song of Moses. May the Holy Spirit remarkably assist me because I am, this morning, so unusually unfit for ministering among you that the weakness of the creature will be painfully manifest. Both brain and voice are choked up, but the Holy One of Israel helps our infirmities!
- Observe, in the first place, that Moses' song MAGNIFIES ISRAEL’S GOD. He declares, “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rides upon the Heaven in your help, and in His excellency on the sky.” The Lord is the great joy and the delightful portion of His people. In nothing were the tribes of Israel so favored as in having the true God to be their God. This was the great glory and the peculiar privilege of the chosen people–that the only living and Most High Jehovah had manifested Himself unto them and to their fathers–had taken them to be His people, and given Himself to be their God.
Truly, when Moses looked upon the gods of Egypt, a country so superstitious that the satirist wrote of them, “O happy nation, whose gods grow in their own gardens”–when he heard the wild mythology of their idolatry, he might well have said, “There is none among them all that is like unto the God of Jeshurun.” Perhaps Moses had seen those vast catacombs of idolized animals which Egyptian discoverers have lately opened–where the crocodiles, cats, and birds which had been worshipped in life–were afterwards carefully consigned. Wise as Egypt professed to be, she preserved her dead gods in myriads.
Dead gods! Hear it and be amazed at the folly of humanity! Truly, the fancies of the most civilized nations have invented no deity comparable for a moment to the living God who made the heavens and the earth! The plagues of Egypt, as we have often been told, were all aimed against the gods of Egypt and there was not a single deity adored by Egyptians that could stand against the Most High God. The river which they adored became loathsome to them when it was turned into blood and yielded frogs in such abundance that the land stank. Their sacred insects swarmed till the very dust was full of horrible life and the land was corrupted. Vain were their soothsayers and their idols, for Jehovah laughed them to scorn!
Not only was Pharaoh put to the worst before Jehovah, but Egypt’s gods were humbled. When all the chivalry of Egypt came to the Red Sea and descended into the space which God had cleared to make a highway for His people–when the bounding billows leaped upon them, covered as they were with the emblems of their false deities, and bearing standards inscribed with idolatrous signs–there was a triumph over all the idol gods as well as over their votaries. Moses saw this, and therefore sang, “Who is like unto You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”
Moses was often grieved when he saw the people of Israel going back in their thoughts to the foul idolatrous house of bondage, when he knew that they were ready at any time to make the image of Isis, the golden calf, and bow before it. He mourned that they harbored the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of their god, Remphan. He must have felt a holy horror that these images of mere demons, these pieces of gilded wood and carved stone should ever be objects of Israel’s adoration. For what had they done? What could they do? They had eyes, but they could not see. They had hands, but they could not handle–feet, but they could not move! But the God of Jeshurun made the heavens and then, before their eyes, made the heavens to drop with manna! He made the earth, and for their supply made the flinty rocks to flow with rivers!
He it was who went before His people with a pillar of fire and cloud, made them victorious over all their enemies and promised to bring them into the promised land. “Well,” said the man who had seen all this, “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun.” Brothers and Sisters, there is no fear that you or I shall worship any false god literally as Israel so basely did, yet there is still need to say, “Flee idolatry.” Among all the comforts which you now enjoy, and in which there is always the tendency for you to find idols, there is none like the God of Jeshurun! Your home, the place of your love, must always be dear to you. Your relatives and the children of God’s gift must always be the fond objects of your affection–but remember John’s words, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
None of your dearest and most cherished loves are at all worthy to sit upon the throne of your heart–far down in the scale must they be placed when the God who gave them to you is brought into comparison. That broad bosom of your beloved husband beats fondly and faithfully–but when death lays it low, as before long it must–how wretched will be your condition if you have not an everlasting Comforter upon whose breast to lean! Those dear little sparkling eyes which are like stars in the Heaven of your social joy–if these are the gods of your idolatry, how wretched will you be when their brightness is dim, and the mother’s joy is moldering back to dust!
Happy is he who has an everlasting joy and an undying comfort–and there is none in this respect like unto the God of Jeshurun. There would be fewer broken hearts if hearts were more completely the Lord’s. We should have no rebellious spirits if, when we had our joys, we used them lawfully and did not too much build our hopes upon them. All beneath the moon will wane. Everything on these shores ebbs and flows like the sea. Everything beneath the sun will be eclipsed. You will not find in time that which is only to be discovered in eternity, namely, an immutable and unfailing source of comfort. “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun.”
Let me remind you that this is the case with all the objects of human pursuit. Some have lived for wealth, but when they have gained it they have been disappointed with the result. Though they have heaped gold in the bag, and added house to house, and field to field, yet their aching spirit has craved still for food–for gold can no more feed a soul than dust can satisfy the hunger of the body. Some have followed the star of ambition–they would be famous and make unto themselves a name like the great men that are in the earth. And when they have gained the bubble reputation, they have wept to find that, “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Even the best of earthly joys pall upon the appetites of those who attain them.
Christian, stand to your God. Be it your life to live for Him that made you, to live in Him that bought you, to live with Him that chose you, to live like Him who lived and died for you. You shall find that such an object of life will satisfy all the powers and passions of your soul, for to this end your soul was formed and suited. You shall run in this race without weariness, and walk without fainting–and if you get the prize, it is one that shall not wither in your hand like the ivy wreath of Greece, or like the laurel crown of Rome. It will not decay upon your brow–for you shall win a crown of life that fades not away. Moses, in the particular words here used, seems to intimate that there is none like the God of Jeshurun as the ground of our confidence.
Now, you who have trusted in God, remember there is room for you to trust Him still more–and the more you shall confide in Him, the more emphatically will you declare, “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun.” If we rely upon men we put trust in fickleness itself! Brethren, my own public life enables me to speak very plainly and positively here. If we trust in men, even the very best of men, either they may deceive us or else, good enough though their intentions may be, they will not be able to bear us up in times of great and serious difficulty. If we depend upon the generosity of our fellow men in carrying on the Lord’s work–especially if we depend upon committees and upon the usual machinery which is so popular nowadays–we shall very often have to cry, “Woe is me!”
But if we trust in God, there may be famine over all the world but there shall be corn in Egypt for the Lord’s people! And if every society that depends upon its subscribers goes to rack and ruin, we who depend upon the everlasting God will stand fast and firm! There are two kinds of policy adopted by the Christian Church nowadays–the one is to trust in man, and the other to trust in the living God–and I daily notice that where man is trusted to more and more, there comes the withering and the fading of the leaf. But where God is relied upon, that work becomes like a tree planted by the rivers of water, the leaf whereof does not wither and which brings forth its fruit in its season. And whatever it does is prosperous.
If I had to address any Christian minister today, I would say to him, “Let the very first point of all your Christian policy be to trust in the Lord, for cursed is he that trusts in man and makes flesh his arm; but blessed is he that trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” I say the same to every one of you, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ–place your reliance upon the Most High! Get a good leverage upon the Rock of Ages, for when you are firmly fixed there you may lift a world of difficulties and remove a mountain of troubles. Oh, to be clean delivered from every confidence which is not derived from the Covenant God of Israel! Brethren, however sharp the strokes that bring us down to this, they are blessed strokes! However bitter may be the medicines that rinse our mouths and put them out of taste with worldly confidences–I say, however bitter they are–they are all the healthier and the Lord be thanked for them!
When we drink from the pure fountain at the fountainhead and turn from the stagnant puddles of the broken cisterns, cleaving to our God, and to our God alone, we are then growing in Divine Grace, and only then. That Moses meant this, I think is clear, from the words he uses, “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, which rides upon the Heaven in your help [to help you], and in His excellency on the sky.” Men can come to our help, but they travel slowly, creeping along the earth. Lo, our God comes riding on the heavens!
They who travel on the earth may be stopped by enemies, they certainly will be hindered. But He that rides upon the heavens cannot be stayed nor even delayed. When Jehovah’s excellency comes flying upon the sky on the wings of the wind, how gloriously are displayed the swiftness, the certainty, and the all-sufficiency of delivering Grace. God has ways to help us that we dream not of. “Your way, O God, is in the sea.” He has a way in the tempest, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. Jehovah has made for Himself a highway, a chariot road along the heavens, that His purposes of love may never be hindered. If we will but trust in God, invisible spirits shall fight for us! The great wheels of Providence shall revolve for our good, and God the Eternal, Himself, dressed in robes of war like a valiant champion, shall come forth to join us in our quarrel!
Fall back upon yourselves, lean upon your fellow creatures, trust upon earth-born confidences and you fall upon a rotten foundation that shall give way beneath you! But rest upon your God and upon your God, alone, and the stars in Heaven shall fight for you! Yes, the stars in their courses and things present and things to come, and heights, and depths, and all the creatures subservient to the will of the Omnipotent Creator shall work together for good to you, seeing that you love God and are depending upon His power. Thus, and thus sweetly, does Israel’s Prophet sing of Israel’s God.
II. The second note of the song is ISRAEL’S SAFETY. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Two sentences, with a little variation of expression, containing essentially the same sense. God is first said to be the refuge of His people, that is, when they have strength enough to fly to Him He protects them. But it is delightfully added, “underneath are the everlasting arms,” that is, when they have not strength enough to flee to Him, but faint where they stand, there are His arms ready to bear them up in their utmost extremity.
First, God is the refuge of His people–and He is this, let me remind you–always and under all difficulties. If it should rain today on your journey home, you will be glad of a little shelter beneath some friendly doorway. It would not have killed you, certainly, if you had not found the refuge, but still it was comfortable to be protected. Now remember that your God is not only a shelter from the avenging tempest at the last, but from the little present trials of the day. Do we not lose very much of comfort by our forgetting that God is as willing to help us in our minor sorrows as in our major griefs? He is your refuge, dear Friend, from a little loss, a little pain, a little grief–tell Him all.
As a father thinks nothing little that belongs to his well-loved child, so will your heavenly Father think no grief too little for His notice. He who guides a sparrow and counts the hairs of your head will be a refuge for you in your daily griefs. But suppose a storm of thunder and lightning should come on today, and a perfect hurricane should blow–then some neighbor’s house would be a shelter which you would value more–and so your God is a refuge to you when your heavier griefs come on. Do not, I pray you, think that anything in Providence can be too hard for God, or that your position ever can be beyond the reach of His delivering arm.
If you have lost all, so long as you have not lost Him, your losses shall turn out to be gains. If your friends and children should sicken and die, yet you are not alone so long as the ever-living Father is with you. It is a blessed thing to learn habitually to make use of God. There is no benefit in having a friend if we do not use him by making application to him. There are some friends who would love us all the less if we were often to avail ourselves of their friendship, but our God is such that He would have us draw upon Him. He delights to give–it is His pleasure to assist those who trust Him. Come, make your needs, your burdens known. Hesitate not, stand not away with an unholy bashfulness, but with a childlike boldness approach your heavenly Father and tell Him what your griefs may be, be they little or be they great–for the Lord is a refuge for us, a sure refuge, an open refuge, a constant refuge–a refuge at this very moment if we have but Divine Grace to fly to him.
Moses, I believe, in this passage alluded to one remarkable privilege of the children of Israel in the wilderness. All day long the cloudy pillar covered them. I do not think of it as being simply a column of smoke arising from the center of the Tabernacle–it was such, but besides that it covered the whole camp as a vast canopy or pavilion–so that in the great and terrible wilderness they fainted not under the burning heat of the sun. This pillar of cloud interposed a friendly shade so that they passed through the wilderness beneath the wings of God! At night their encampment would have been like a great city wrapped in darkness, but the pillar of fire supplied to them a light far superior to that which glows in London or in Paris through the art of man–that great flaming pillar lit up every tent and habitation so that in point of fact there was no night there.
They were always sheltered by God both by day and by night. If they strayed away from the camp for a little time in the heat of the sun, they had only to come flying back and there that emblem of the present God became their shelter! Or at night, if they wandered for awhile, that vast blazing lamp conducted them back again to their place of rest. So it is with us. In nights of trouble and grief, the fire of Divine comfort glows within us–the precious promises are round about us and we rejoice in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. And when by day we travel over this burning wilderness to the rest appointed, God interposes perpetually the sweet presence of His love to screen us from the sharper sorrows of the world that we may still, while walking onward to Heaven, behold the shield of Heaven uplifted above our heads.
Dwell, for only one second upon that word, “The eternal God is your refuge.” Brethren, God is not only our refuge, but He is such as the eternal God! I do not understand, my dear Brethren, how some of the very best of men are satisfied to believe that God will forsake His people. I thank God I cannot receive their teaching. I believe that He is my refuge today and He was my refuge in the days of my youth–and when this hair is gray He will be my refuge, still. Yes, and when the sun of time has set beneath the horizon, never to rise again, and eternity is ushered in, the same refuge will remain to all His believing people! “The eternal God is your refuge.”
What are you doing, my Brother, over there? What are you doing? You found God to be your refuge years ago when you were in great distress, and you are in some fresh trouble today, and you fancy God will not help you. He is the eternal God, man! If He had changed, if He had died, you might be in despair. But since He is eternal and immutable, surely He will do for you today what He did for you then. Cast your present burden upon Him who helped you in the burdens past. “The eternal God is your refuge.” It is all very well for me to stand here and talk about this, but the sweetness lies in getting under the refuge! It is of no use to know, when you are climbing the storm-beaten Alps, that there is a refuge on the hill-side against the storm unless you get into it. Beloved Believer, get into your God this morning!
I will tell you what I have often had to do. I have had perplexities in the work which grows out of the Church, and I have mused over them and puzzled my brain till I could see no way of escape. And at last I have come to this conclusion–“It is beyond me altogether. Gracious God, take it in Your hands.” I have put it upon the shelf and have resolved I would never think of it again–if God did not see to it, I would not. I gave up the case to Him, and I have often found that then the matter has been cleared up directly. Whereas, while I was fretting and worrying like a drowning man, I struggled myself deeper and deeper into the water–but when I laid quite still I could float and help came.
Do so with your troubles. When you have done the little you can do, then say, “This is evidently a thing beyond my power. What is the use of my straining at it? I am told God will appear for me in the time of my extremity, and so He shall. I will have nothing to do with it.” “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
The second sentence is, “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” This seems to anticipate that the child of God may be in such a condition that he cannot run into the refuge, but falls down in a fainting fit. And where does he fall? Into Hell? Ah, no, he is redeemed, and Hell can never enclose a redeemed soul! Where does he fall, then? Fall to the hard, unsympathizing earth, to lie without help till he is strong enough to recover himself? Not at all! Even when he falls, he falls into the everlasting arms! I will mention some times when a Christian needs these arms peculiarly. These are when he is in a state of great elevation of mind. Sometimes God takes His servants and puts them on the pinnacle of the temple. Satan does it sometimes–God does it too–puts His servants up on the very pinnacle where they are so full of joy that they scarcely know how to contain themselves! “Whether in the body or out of the body they cannot tell.”
Well, now, suppose they should fall! It is so easy for a man, when full of ecstasy and ravishment, to make a false step and slip. Ah, but in such moments, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” They are safe enough! As safe as though they were in the valley of humiliation, for underneath are the arms of God. Sometimes He puts a man in such a position in service–there must be leaders in the Lord’s Church, captains and mighty men of war–and the Lord sometimes calls a man and says to him, “Now, be Moses to this people.” Such positions are fraught with temptation–and is God’s servant in greater danger than an ordinary Christian? Yes, he is, if left to himself–but he will not be left to himself, for God does not treat His captains as David treated Uriah, and put them in the forefront of the battle, to leave them, that they may be slain by the enemy. No, if our God calls a man to tread the high places of the field, that man shall say with Habakkuk, “He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon my high places.” “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Another period of great need is after extraordinary exaltations and enjoyments when it often happens that God’s servants are greatly depressed. I suppose some Brethren neither have much elevation or depression. I could almost wish to share their peaceful life, for I am much tossed up and down, and although my joy is greater than the most of men, my depression of spirit is such as few can have any idea of. This week has been in some respects the crowning week of my life, but it closed with a horror of great darkness of which I will say no more than this. I bless God that at my worst, underneath me I found the everlasting arms! What a grand day that was for Elijah when he saw the fire come down upon his bullock, in answer to his prayer, and he cried in holy wrath, “Take the prophets of Baal, let not one escape.”
I think I see the grim pleasure in the Prophet’s face as he saw them taken to the brook and slain. Behold his exhilaration as he binds up his loins and runs before Ahab’s chariot, keeping pace with the monarch’s horses with an agility in which soul and body joined. And then, what happens a day or two afterwards? In the wilderness, all alone, he has fled from a woman’s face, and you hear him cry, “Let me die, I am no better than my fathers.” Yes, the man who never was to die at all, prayed that he might die!
Just so, high exaltations involve deep depressions. But what was under Elijah when he fell down in that fainting fit under the juniper tree? Why, underneath were the everlasting arms! So shall it be with you who are called thus to fall into the depths of depression–the eternal arms shall be lower than you are! Brethren, there are many such occasions in which the spirit sinks sometimes through a sense of sin, through disappointments, through desertions of friends, through beholding the decay of the Lord’s work, through a lack of success in our ministry, or a thousand other mischiefs which may all cast us low. Yes, as low as Jonah, who went, he says, to the bottoms of the mountains. But when Jonah went to the lowest, underneath him were the everlasting arms! And when the earth, with her bars, was about him forever, and the weeds were wrapped about his head he came up again–because still lower than he was the hand of God–the everlasting arms were underneath him still.
There is blessed comfort when we come to die. I remember being at the funeral of one of our Brothers, and a dear friend in Christ offered prayer in which there was a sentence which struck me, “O Lord,” he said, “You have laid our friend low, but we thank You that he cannot go any lower, for underneath him are the everlasting arms.” Yes, underneath the bodies of the saints are the everlasting arms of God! They cannot sink to Hell–they must rise again at the sound of the archangel’s trumpet! Think, next time you go to the grave with your dear one–you will fancy that you are putting the body into the cold earth to leave it there–but if you will think that there are God’s arms at the bottom of that grave, you will drop your child into them, oh, so gently!
You will put father and mother, yes, and the dearest one you have, softly and happily down into the Father’s arms, believing that He will raise them up again after a little sleep upon His bosom. You see here, then, the safety of God’s people. God is such a help to them that they shall not faint–or fainting, shall only fall into His arms.
III. The second half of the verse tells us of ISRAEL’S FUTURE. “And He shall thrust out the enemy from before you; and shall say, Destroy them.” You have seen a man in our streets with a telescope through which you may see Venus, or Saturn, or Jupiter. Now, if that gentleman, instead of revealing the stars, could fix up a telescope and undertake that everybody who looked through it should see his future life, I will be bound to say he would make his fortune very speedily for there is a great desire among us all to know something of the future! Yet we need not be so anxious, for the great outlines of the future are very well known already. We have it on the best authority that in the future as in the past, we shall meet with difficulties and contend with enemies.
My text, like the telescope, reveals to those who trust in God what will become of their difficulties and we see that they are to be overcome. God will work, and you will work. He shall thrust out your enemies, and He shall say to you, “Destroy them.” What may be our future lot, as I have said, we do not know–save that the Holy Spirit testifies that in every place–bonds, and adversities, and struggles, and trials certainly await us. We shall not have an easy path to Heaven. As it has not been, so shall it not be, but onward–till we lay aside this body–we must contend for very life in spiritual things.
How precious it is to see that God has promised to thrust out the enemy from before us! This He does sometimes by Providence. Providence often removes enemies that would have been more than a match for us. When the children of Israel came to the promised land they found that the population had been thinned–God had sent the hornet before them. It was a land, as the spies said, that did eat up the inhabitants thereof–God had sent a hornet and a pestilence to clear off the hosts of Canaan. You do not know, Brothers and Sisters, how strangely God, by a very evident Providence, clears away temptations from before you–temptations which you might not have been strong enough to resist. You may be losing today something which will cause you grief for the present, which, if you had kept it, would have been your destruction in three years to come. The hornet has come and driven away your present comfort–really taking away from you a future curse.
Now, whatever your enemies or your difficulties may be, God is on your side and He will thrust them all away before you. It is a grand thing to go straight on in the path of duty, believing that God will clear the road. Like the priests, when they came to the edge of Jordan and saw the billows rolling up, yet on they went–and not so much as one of them was touched by the waves–as they put down their feet the waters receded! Oh, it must have been grand to be the first man in that march–to see the waters flow away before your feet! So shall it be with you! The water shall come up to where you are, yet it shall not touch you–you shall find it disappear as you, by faith, advance. If you are called to march through floods and flames, they shall not hurt you, but shall work your lasting good and expedite you on your journey towards the promised inheritance.
God has promised, then, by His Providence to thrust out your enemies. He will also do it by His Grace. His Holy Spirit will give you Divine power by which every uprising sin shall be put down. If all the devils in Hell should tempt you at one time, and all the lusts of the flesh should rise against you in one moment, and all the pride of life should assail you at the same instant–yet the eternal God, the Comforter–would be able to put them all back and to deliver you, and to put a new song into your mouth as He gave you deliverance! Therefore, go on, Brothers and Sisters, even through the valley of the shadow of death–for God will thrust aside your foes and make a pathway for you. But not without your fighting will you win the victory, for He will say, “Destroy them.”
You are not to be taken to Heaven as though you were a corpse carried there on a litter–you are to struggle according to the struggling of the Spirit within you. You shall work because He works in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure. Sins too hard for you today shall be destroyed tomorrow. You shall not merely escape from them, but you shall kill them! There are the eggs of the old serpent within your heart, and they continue to be hatched one after another–but you shall one day drive out the old dragon and all his hellish crew! Your heart shall be pure and holy–as pure as Heaven, and as holy as Christ Himself!
Thus much, then, with regard to God’s people in the future–you and I can take comfort from the precious promise here contained.
IV. And now, lastly. Moses sang of ISRAEL’S BLESSEDNESS. Israel is to be blessed in three ways: First, “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone.” Brothers and Sisters, notwithstanding all our fights and our struggles by virtue of our salvation in Jesus, “We which have believed do enter into the rest,” for Jesus is our peace and our rest. Now see our privilege–we dwell alone. We have no alliance with the world. We stay not in Egypt–we rest not upon Assyria. God alone is our comfort and our confidence and we dwell in safety. Dwelling with God in communion–having with Him one object, one affection, one desire–we dwell apart from the rest of mankind, coming out daily more and more from them, and desiring to be nearer and nearer to Christ and further and further from men.
Here we dwell safely! There is nowhere safe except when alone with God, but always safe then. I would roll this precious morsel under my tongue, “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone.” Like a sparrow, weak and defenseless and on the housetop alone, but still in safety. Hunted by Satan, molested by inward corruptions, tempted by the world, slandered by cruel tongues–but in the bosom of Jesus Christ like a dove, alone, always secure! Perish? That you shall not! Be destroyed by the adversary? It must not be! In time and in eternity God’s honor is pledged for your salvation! Earth’s old pillars may bow, but the promises of God must stand fast!
Safe you are, and safe you shall be when the world is on a blaze. What a mine of comfort in two or three words! “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone.” It does not promise that you shall dwell in wealth, nor in fame, nor in respectability, nor even in moderate comfort–but you shall “dwell in safety alone.” You may have to lie upon the sick bed, bedridden year after year. You may be exiled from your native country. You may be among the poorest and most despised of mankind, but you shall surely dwell in safety! Where God guarantees safety, there safety is. All the princes of this world cannot make that man safe against whom God aims His arrow, but all the devils in Hell cannot wound that man over whom the everlasting shield is uplifted to keep him secure–“He shall dwell in safety alone.”
Come, Brothers and Sisters, let us take our harps from the willows and begin a tune of quiet joy, for we are safe! Ah, poor world, you know nothing about this. The legalist, standing upon Sinai’s mountain, has done much–but he has more to do. He knows he is not safe–he is to be saved by his own good works, he says, and he never thinks that his good works have come to a sufficiency–therefore he is never safe. But we are safe, sinners as we are, for our righteousness is finished–it is the righteousness of Jesus! Our standing is secure for we are accepted in the Beloved. Blessed safety! This is what old Rome could never promise! Serve her faithfully, and she offers you but a place in “purgatory” as your reward! But we who have believed, have Christ today, and are safe today, and safe forever–
“More happy, but not more secure
Are the glorified spirits in Heaven.”
Oh, it is blessed, going to sleep with this satisfaction, “If I never wake in this world, I shall wake in Heaven.” And it is blessed, living in this world, on land and on sea, in the midst of storm or of plague, when one is sure that neither life nor death shall affect our safety. Having confided in God, as He manifests Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ, our everlasting safety is secured by the promised oath, the Covenant of the everlasting God.
The next blessing which is given to Israel is abundant provision. “The fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine.” God’s people are to be supplied from a fountain, and around that fountain there shall always be a superabundance of corn for their necessities, and of wine for their comfort and their luxury. Those who come to God receive no stinted allowance–they are gentlemen commoners upon the bounty of God. There is a daily portion allotted to them and it is measured on a princely scale, equal to the dignity of the new birth. We drink from an ever-overflowing fountain. Other men get a little stock of grace, and goodness, and comfort, as they think, and they are pleased. But these things dry up and are gone!
But the Believer has no personal dependence whatever. He has everything in Christ–Christ is his fullness, and it pleases the Father that in Christ should all fullness dwell! The Believer comes to Jesus as to a fountain always bubbling up with waters fresh and sweet. The Believer’s provision is of all kinds, to meet his necessities and to meet his more luxurious desires. Brethren, we are not only saved from Hell–that is like the corn, but we are made meet for Heaven–that is the wine. We are not merely saved day by day from our besetting sins–that is as the corn, but we are made to have enjoyments, high enjoyments, fellowship with Jesus, the sitting in the heavenly places with Him–this is the wine. Believe me, Brothers and Sisters, all that your souls can need, when your desires are stretched to the utmost, you will find in Christ Jesus!
If you have learned to trust Him, you may make your capacities of intellect as large as those of a Locke or Sir Isaac Newton–you may have a mind which knows no limit, which, like the horse-leech, cries, “Give, give!” It may be as expansive as the all-embracing sky, but in your God you shall find all and more than all, for you shall be in your God as the fish that is in the sea, the bounds of which it cannot find, the limit of which it cannot learn–you shall be satiated, filled, satisfied with a superabundance from Him whose name is God All-Sufficient. Nor shall you merely have enough for your needs–your joys shall be high, bright, ecstatic! There shall be wine as well as corn.
Believe me, we have our dancing days, our times of sacred merriment–there are seasons with us when we would not envy the angels the mirth they have–when our Jesus, the Bridegroom, puts the fasting days away and gives us to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory! Oh, to know Him, to see Him, to feast upon Him is Heaven below! The fountain of Jacob, then, is upon a land of corn and wine to us.
Lastly, God’s people are furnished with another unspeakable blessing, namely, celestial unction. “Also His heavens shall drop down dew.” How we need this! How dry we get, how dull, how dead, unless the Lord visits us! The Oriental knew the value of dew. When he saw the green pastures turn brown and at last dry up till they were nothing but dust and powder, how he sought for the shower and the dew! And when it came, how thankful he was! When that dew of the Holy Spirit is gone from us, what dead prayers, what miserable songs, what wearisome preaching, what wretched hearing! Oh, there is death everywhere when the Holy Spirit is denied us! But we need not be without Him, for He is in the promise–“His Heaven shall drop down dew.”
The words read as if there were much dew, superabundance of moisture. So, indeed, we may have the Holy Spirit most copiously if we have but faith enough to believe it and earnestness enough to seek it. Would God we had such a down-dropping of dew today! If it has not come this morning, as I fear it has not, may it yet descend on your classes and on your private meditations this afternoon! May you be favored with it this evening! O God, what are our services without Your Holy Spirit? It were better for us to be dumb than to speak without the Spirit of God! What is all the work the Church attempts without Your power, most blessed Holy Spirit? When we have You, then all is well–and You are promised–therefore come and glorify Yourself and glorify the Lord Jesus. Amen and Amen!