Sermon 2654. Wakeful and Watchful Eyes
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, DECEMBER 24, 1899.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, AUGUST 13, 1882.
"Behold, He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Psalm 121:4.
"Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hands of their masters, and as the eyes ofa maiden unto the hands of her mistress;so our eyes wait upon the LORRD our God, until He has mercy on us."
NOTICE, dear Friends, that both these texts begin with the word, "Behold." That word is meant to attract the readers' attention.In some books, which are intended to be sensational, you are asked to behold-and when you look, there is nothing to see! Butwhen God's Word bids you behold what it has to say, you may be sure that the exclamation is not superfluous or misleading!It would be a marring of the Word of God to leave out even one of its smallest expressions and, therefore, when we see thisword, "Behold," placed at the beginning of each of these texts, we may rest assured that there is, in both of them, somethingworth noting, worth examining and considering-and worth remembering and carrying away!
A very useful series of discourses might be preached upon the "Beholds" of the Old and New Testaments which culminate in Johnthe Baptist's, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world," and Pilate's, "Behold the Man." And still morein our Lord's own message to John, "Behold, I come quickly." But two Old Testament, "Beholds," are to furnish us with a themeof meditation at this time. It is somewhat singular that they both relate to eyes. The first tells us about God's eyes-"Behold,He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." His eyes are never closed. No feeling of weariness or need of slumberever causes them to be heavy and to shut. And the second text tells us about our eyes-"Behold, as the eyes of servants lookunto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORDour God, until He has mercy on us."
See, Brothers and Sisters, both our texts speak about eyes, and they ask for the use of our eyes by saying, "Behold," whichis as though God said to us, "I am going to tell you about My eyes which never slumber. Therefore, look and see, for you shallfind them always open and always watching over you." Then the next text tells us about our eyes and reminds us how God givesto His people clear and quick eyesight, so that they observe all the motions of their Master's hands and are glad to notethem-and prompt to do as He directs. I have put these two texts together because I hoped that when you saw with joy how theeyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ears open to their cries, you would then feel that it was a fit return thatyour eyes should be unto the Lord your God, and that your ears should be open to receive His teaching and to learn His commands.God grant that this may be the result of the sermon upon these two texts!
I. First, then, I am to speak to you concerning THE WAKEFUL EYES OF THE LORD OUR GOD. We are told, in our first text, thatthe Lord, who keeps Israel, shall neither slumber nor sleep.
We learn from these words, first, that the Lord keeps Israel. Read the 121st Psalm through and you will find the word, "preserve,"or, "keep," or, "keeper," repeated many times. God has Himself undertaken the work of keeping His people-it is His high officeto preserve those who are His chosen ones!
"He that keeps Israel." By this expression we understand that the Lord keeps His people as a shepherd keeps his flock. Thereis a great depth of meaning in that word, "keep," as it is thus used, for a shepherd keeps the sheep by feeding them, by supplyingall their needs and also by guarding them from all their adversaries. He keeps the flock with vigilance so that it is notdiminished either by the ravaging wolf or by the straying of the sheep. Even an ordinary shepherd takes great pains and theutmost care to preserve his sheep both by night and by day-while, "our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep," whowas brought again from the dead, uses His Omnipotence, His Omniscience and all His Divine Attributes in the keeping of Hissheep! O Beloved, if you are, indeed, His people and the sheep of His pasture, rest assured that He will preserve you! Youare in good keeping, for He is the Good Shepherd, and the Great Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd and He will perform all theduties of His office well and faithfully, that He may securely keep all whom His Father has committed unto Him!
Another figure may equally well illustrate the meaning of this expression. The Lord keeps His people, not only as a shepherdkeeps his sheep, but as a king keeps his jewels. These are rare and precious things which are his peculiar treasure and hewill not lose them if he can help it. He will go to war sooner than be deprived of them. He will put them in the most securecase that he has in his strong room-and set his most faithful servants to guard the place wherein they are stored. He willcharge those who have the custody of his crown jewels to take a full and accurate account of them-and to be careful to examinethem, from time to time, to see that they are all there, for he greatly prizes them and is not willing for one of them tobe lost. They probably cost him a great price, or, if not, they are part of his royal heritage and of the glory and honorof his kingdom, so he desires to keep them all. Even so does the Lord Jesus keep His people, for they are His jewels. He delightsin them-they are His honor and His glory! They cost Him a greater price than they can ever realize. He hides them away inthe case of His power and protects them with all His wisdom and strength. Concerning those who feared the Lord and thoughtupon His name, it is written, "They shall be Mine, says the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels." It is God'swork to keep His own jewels. He does not commit them even to the custody of the tall archangel who stands nearest to His Throne,but the Lord, Himself, keeps them-and no one shall be able to pluck them out of His hands!
This is not all, for we might multiply figures to almost any extent and still not exhaust the meaning of the text. The Lordkeeps His people as a governor keeps the city committed to his charge. He places his guards around the walls, he has his cannonon the battlements to defend the place against those who besiege it. And he is constantly on the watch. Early in the morningand late at night he is on the walls-and through the night, the watchmen keep their continual rounds, for the city must bepreserved from scaling ladders and from assaults of every sort. The Lord will not let even the suburbs of the New Jerusalembe conquered by the foe! He will preserve the holy city, His own Church, until the day when His Son shall come to reign inher forever.
I find that in all probability, the figure here used is an allusion to the common custom of having guards to watch the tentsof travelers passing through the desert. At this very time, if you were journeying through the Holy Land, you would find thatwhen you came to your camping ground, and nightfall drew on, there would be certain persons employed to watch over the differenttents, for, otherwise, the wandering robbers of the desert would soon enter and take away your valuables, or even your life.I have noticed in the books of two or three travelers, this observation, "We found it exceedingly difficult to obtain a tent-keeperwho could stay awake all night." One gentleman speaks of discovering a thief in his tent and when he went outside to callthe watchman, he found that the man had gone so soundly to sleep that he could only be awakened by one or two gentle kicks!When a man has been traveling with you all day, it is unreasonable to expect him to stay awake through the night to take careof you. Therefore, see the beauty of the expression used by the Psalmist, "Behold, He that keeps Israel shall neither slumbernor sleep." There shall be no deep sleep falling upon Him! No, there shall not even be a brief period of slumber, not evena wink of sleep shall ever overcome Him! A man may say, "I am so tired that I cannot keep my eyes open," but God never saysthat.
Now turn to the second part of our first text-"Behold, He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep," and think, first,of God's eyes as never wearying of His people. I suppose that the fondest mother is sometimes glad when she can put her childrento bed and have a little quiet time by herself. She at last grows weary even of their pretty ways and she is willing to letthem go out of her sight for a while. But the Lord never grows weary of His people. If some of you had such children as Godhas, you would never be able to endure their trying ways. None but the God of Infinite patience could bear with such a familyas He has. Any one of us might exhaust the patience of a hundred Jobs rolled into one- yet, shout it out and let even theangels hear it-we have not exhausted the patience of God! He has never been so wearied and worried by us as to say, "I mustgo to sleep, My children, and leave you to take care of yourselves." Our Savior's eyes are never weary of looking on us-thoseeyes that closed upon the Cross and then that opened, again, on the Resurrection morning, like bright stars. Those eyes that,from the heights of Heaven, have looked down upon the redeemed with ineffable delight of love-those eyes never grow wearyof the chosen ones! Our Lord Jesus has such joy in His people as keeps Him from ever being weary of them. That is one meaningof His never slumbering or sleeping.
The next is, that God is never forgetful of His people for a single moment You and I forget things which we most need to remember.Have you not, my Sister, often shifted your ring from one finger to another and then had to say to yourself, "How did it cometo be here?" And then you remembered the reason why you removed it? Yes, I know you have done so and we have had a hundredingenious inventions to keep us in mind of something that we wished not to forget- yet we have forgotten it, after all. Thefondest human heart at times forgets, but that Divine heart, alone, never does. And those eyes which look down on us withInfinite love flashing forth from them are never sealed in the slumber of for-getfulness. We forget all things in our sleepand lie completely indifferent to all that is happening around us, but God never does so-He never forgets us and He is neverindifferent to us. Oh, what a blessed Truth of God this is!
Sleep also throws us into a condition in which we are incapable of helping ourselves. But God is never in such a state asthat. He is always awake to show Himself strong on the behalf of those who trust Him. You will never have to call to Him invain, or get from Him the answer, "I cannot help you right now." Elijah, in his irony, said that perhaps Baal was sleeping,or on a journey, and the idol god was quite unable to deliver those that called upon him. But our God, who made the heavens,is quick to hear the faintest cry of any of His people! He is perpetually girt with all might and energy-if you do but appealto Him, He will speedily fly to your relief! Yes, He will fly upon the wings of the wind, for He is prompt to deliver allthose who put their case into His hands. God is never asleep in the sense that He is unable to help us.
And, moreover, God is never asleep in the sense that He ceases to consider us. I do not know whether you can catch the thoughtso as to lay hold of it by faith, but we have an instance of it in the 40th Psalm where David says, "I am poor and needy;yet the Lord thinks upon me." When? Now? Yes. Tomorrow? Yes. And yesterday? Yes. He was alwaysthink-ing of us and He is alwaysthinking of us! The Infinite mind of God can think of all things at once. You and I, in thinking of one thing, often forgetanother-but it is not so with God. He is so great that His center is everywhere and His circumference is nowhere! And you,dear Brother or Sister, may be the very center of God's thoughts and so may I-and all His redeemed may at the same momenthave His thoughts fixed upon each one of them! Can you realize the wondrous Truth of God that there is never a moment, nightor day, in which the great mind of the Eternal ceases to think of you? Then, how safe you are with God always looking uponyou! How happy you ought to be with God always thinking of you! Yes, how joyful you ought to be because, even if others forgetyou, He never does!
You remember how Cowper represents Alexander Selkirk, when far away an that island of Juan Fernandez, saying-
"My friends, do they now and then send A wish or a thought after me?"
He could not bear, in his loneliness, to be altogether forgotten by everybody. And none of us would like to be in that condition,but even if we were in such a plight, we could still find comfort in that ancient promise, "Can a woman forget her suckingchild, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget." It is rarely enough that mothersare so unnatural-still, "they may forget. Yet," says the LORD, "will I not forget you." Oh, drink that down! Is it not a sweetdraught? Of all the luscious drinks that men ever delighted in, there can be none with such flavor as this choice wine ofCovenant faithfulness!
So much, then, for our first text, "Behold, He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." I have only given you afew brief hints. Lay them up in your memories and come with me to consider our second text, "Behold, as the eyes of servantslook unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon theLORD our God, until He has mercy on us."
II. The lesson of these words is that THE WATCHFUL EYES OF THE SAINTS ARE FIXED UPON THEIR GOD.
Which is the more wonderful text of the two? Certainly, it is a great marvel that God should always fix His eyes upon us,but I think it is a greater marvel that you and I should ever be brought to fix our eyes on God! For God to look at His peopleis according to His own Nature, but for usto look upon God, is something superior to human nature-it is the giftof God andthe work of Sovereign Grace! I think that both looks are to be regarded as miracles of mercy. For a child of God to be sosanctified that He always fixes His eyes upon God, as a servant does upon his master's hands-this is a very eminent degreeof sanctification and is a thing worthy to be looked at, and worthy to have the word, "Behold," put before it! I wonder whetheryou and I have yet reached such a height of consecration to God as to be able to truly use the language of this text?
Alas, in many cases we cannot get men's eyes fixed upon God at all. There is this natural world, with all its wondrous beauty.God has painted every flower and tinged the clouds with the glory of the setting sun. He is everywhere and yet men walk throughHis great house of nature and-fools that they are-they say, "There is no God." It is hard to get men to see God. We put theBible into their hands. They read it and are interested in its stories, but they see not God in it. Providence comes to theirvery doors with marvels, yet they say that they do not see God's hand in anything that happens to them! And even when we preach-andthis is the woe of woes-we cannot get men to look to the Lord! God knows that I have never tried to speak that you would thinkof mefor a single moment. I have sought to tell my tale as plainly as I could and to force it home on man's hearts and consciencesas God might help me. And yet, at the end of the sermon, often the hearer's only remark is, "How did you like him?" It doesnot matter at all how you like me! Is that what we came here for-to fiddle to you, as men do in your orchestras, or speakbefore you as if we were mere actors playing for your amusement? It is of no concern to us what you think of our style ormanner-it is the Truth of God itself which we would drive home to you! It is that Truth of God which, if we could, we wouldmake you feel as the ox feels the sharp goad! It is the blessed Doctrine of Christ Crucified which we would have you feedupon, as the hungry man devours the bread that is given to him and does not care whether he ever knows the baker's name, ornot! Still, I must say again that it is a hard thing to get men to see God. They look around, above, beneath, everywhere-butto get them to fix their eyes upon God, "This is the work. This is the difficulty."
The man of God who wrote this 123rd Psalm had been taught to look to God in a very remarkable manner. And I call your attentionto it in the hope that many of you will do likewise. First, his eyes were reverentially fixed upon the Lord. He looked toGod's hands, wherever they were, with deep reverence-"as the eyes of servants look unto the hands of their masters." He was,of course, talking about Oriental servants-the Hebrew word bears the meaning of slaves-and travelers tell us that when theygo into the house of a wealthy person in the East, the master will give certain signs to his slaves and refreshments are broughtin. But, except when they are called, the servants stand at a distance, watching for the slightest motion of their master'shands-they do not have the liberties that we happily accord to our servants-they are nothing and nobody, mere tools for theirmaster to use as he pleases. And, as to the maidens, I have heard that the women in the East have a harder time of it withtheir mistresses than the men do with their masters and that the lady of the house is a more severe taskmaster than her husbandis. So the maidens watch their mistress' hands very carefully, for they are sorely afraid of them-and they look with greatcare and fear to see what "Madam" would have them do. Now, casting aside everything of human fear out of the figure, thisis the way in which we ought to look to God-He is in Heaven-we are upon earth. He is great-we are nothing. He is good-we arelumps of sin. It is for us, therefore, with the utmost reverence, to seek to learn God's will in every point-in His Word andin His works-and at once, without question, reverently to do what He commands us.
The next point is that the truly sanctified man looks to God's hands with obedience as well as with reverence. Orientals,as a general rule, speak far less than we do, except when they sit around the fire at eventide and tell their tales. But anEastern master seldom speaks. A gentleman went, some time ago, into an Eastern house and as soon as he entered, the masterwaved his hand and the servants brought in sherbet. He waved his hand again, and they brought dried fruits. Then he movedhis hands in a different way and they began to spread the table and, all the time, not a word was spoken, but they perfectlyunderstood the motion of his hands! They had to look sharply to see how the master moved his hands so that they might do whatthat motion meant. We have not very much of that dumb action among us, but, on board a steamboat you may see the captain movinghis hands this way or that, and the call-boy is ready at once to pass the word down to those who are in charge of the engine.
That is just how the child of God should watch the hands of God in the Bible and in Providence, so as to do at once whateverwe plainly perceive to be our Lord's will. Ah, me, I know some professing Christians who will not do God's will till theyhave had a good whipping, or not until they have been chastened again and again! Remember that ancient injunction, "Be younot as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest theycome near unto you"? You know how the drivers have to pull at their reins. They say, "This creature is so hard in the mouththat we do not know how to manage him at all." And some of God's people are terribly hard in the mouth-they need very roughhandling to make them move. Yet we ought to be different from horses and mules. We ought to be ready at once, at a beck, ora wink, or a nod, to know what God would have us do-and do it reverently and obediently.
Then, also, our eyes should be absolutely fixed upon our Lord. The eyes of servants ought to be so directed to their mastersthat they not only see the sign, but obey it, whatever it means. It may be a very little thing, but yet the little thing shouldnot be neglected. I would again say what I sometimes feel ashamed of having to say. I sometimes meet with a person who says,with regard to the matter of Believers' Baptism, "Now, you know that Baptism will not save me." You evil, miserable soul!Will you do nothing but what is necessary for your salvation? Is that the spirit that drives you? Will you do only what isnecessary to save your poor soul, which is hardly worth saving if you talk like that? It is too small a thing to be worthanything, but unless Baptism will save your soul, you will not attend to it? "Well," says another, "I have reversed the Scripturalorder-I have put my baptism before my believing." Who gave you leave to alter the Lord's order? If servants were to act likethat, what mischief we would have! Suppose they were to bring us in our dessert before they brought in our dinner-that wouldbe a very small affair, yet it is important to observe the right order even in such matters! Or suppose we were to tell themto sweep the room and dust it-and they should dust the room and then sweep it? It is only altering the order, but you knowwhat would happen! So is it with those who put Baptism first and believing afterwards-it spoils the whole transaction-andit violates the intention of God in the ordinance. You have no right to act like that!
I may remind you of a story which I think I told you some time ago. A poor youth earnestly wished to join the Church, buthis friends thought he was somewhat deficient in brain power and that he had better not be baptized. He lay sick and was evidentlydying. And he said to his mother, "Mother, I wish I had been baptized and joined the Church." She replied, "My dear boy, youknow that being baptized would not have saved you. You will go to Heaven because you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ.""Oh, yes," he said, "I know that! You do not think I am so stupid as to fancy that Baptism would save me, do you, Mother?I know that has nothing to do with going to Heaven! But when I get there, I shall see my Savior and, perhaps He will say tome, 'Isaac, why did you not join the Church?' If I should say, 'Lord, that was a very little thing,' He would say, 'Yes, thenyou might have done it to please Me.'" That story is just to the point- the smaller the matter is, the more careful we shouldbe to attend to it, if it would please the Lord Jesus Christ! Do not be so clever, you servants who fancy that you know betterthan your Master, for perhaps He may find somebody else to be His servant if you behave like that!
Suppose that I was starting on a journey, early in the morning, and I said to my servant, "I would like a cup of coffee beforeI start"? And suppose that when I came down, she brought me a glass of cold water? I would ask her, "Why did you do that?"If she should reply, "Oh, Sir, I thought that the water would be better for you than coffee!" I would say, "Well, I am verymuch obliged to you for thinking of me in that considerate way, but I shall have to engage another servant who does what sheis told." So I advise you not to alter or judge God's Word, but to obey it! Do not begin to calculate as to whether what youread in His Word is right in your sight, or in the eyes of other people-the one question for you is-Has my Lord bid me dothis? If so, then, as the eyes of the maiden are to her mistress, so let your eyes be unto the Lord your God!
Once more, our eyes are to be turned ONLY to the Lord. The Eastern servant is not allowed to think. It is no business of histo have his eyes upon his master's guests. They are to be fixed upon his master. And the maiden does not think it to be herbusiness to watch the movements of the hands of the lady who calls to see her mistress-her eyes are to be on the hands ofher mistress. She does not dare to take them off, for, perhaps, just when she is looking out of the window, or gazing in curiosityat some object, her mistress may be waving her hand and she may not see it. And then there will be a serious scolding andpossibly something worse when the mistress gets her alone. So you and I must not take our eyes off our God at any time-Hisway and His will must be our only law-and for this we must live, that we may please Him whose servants we are, for has Henot bought us with His precious blood? So we are not our own, we are "bought with a price."
"Ah," says one, "we have not come to that yet." No, I fear you have not, but you ought to. There is no peace for us till wedo. He who, either by omission or commission, neglects to do or goes beyond His Lord's command will find sorrow in his soul.Depend upon it, the roots of our most bitter griefs strike into our sins and, if our sins were overcome, the major part ofour sorrows would be removed! Oh that God would give us Grace to be very tender in conscience, to tremble before Him, as wellas to rejoice before Him, for in very deed the man who does not tremble at His Word has not yet learned to truly love Him!
Now I must speak to some here who, perhaps, know nothing about what I have been saying, for they have lived without God. Iwill finish my sermon by just reminding you that this may do very well for this world-though it is a poor business at thebest-but when you come to die, you will need God! Now, when I die and go to be with God, I know that Christ will not say tome, "I never knew you." I am sure He cannot because He has long known me. I was about to say that He has known me to His cost,for I have long been a beggar at His door every day and I cannot live without Him. I am naked, poor and miserable apart fromHim. I have always some errand or other to make me go to Him-some sin to confess, or some need to be supplied. So He knowsme well enough. You are sure to know a beggar who is always at your door. Perhaps he says that he has not been there before,but you reply, "Why you have been here every morning for the last six weeks! I have always seen you begging here the firstthing in the morning." You cannot say that you do not know him, yet that is what will happen to those of you who have neversought the Lord Jesus Christ and never prayed to Him. Christ will say to you, "I never knew you."
I feel that the spot I occupy just now is a very solemn one, for, like the captain of a ship, I can see all over this place.Often, when I come here on a Sunday, somebody says, "So-and-So has gone." There is one gone out of that seat which you occupy,my Friend. He was there last Sabbath, but he has gone. And I can point to many of you and say, "You are sitting in the seatwhere one used to sit whose face was vary familiar to me, but he has gone Home." And some go to my great surprise. I havethought to see them again many times, and when I have missed them, I have said, "Oh, she has gone to the seaside for a littleholiday." But someone has said to me, "No, she is dead. She was suddenly taken away." Or, "He was called away only this lastweek." Ah, me! Ah, me! And what faces I may be looking into now that I shall never see again! Give me your hand, my Friend,for this is the last time I may ever speak to you. I beg you to get ready to go on that last long journey. Oh, do not dieunsaved! I beseech you, do not attempt to enter the eternal world, with all its dread, without a Savior!
This is the way of salvation. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! Trust yourself with Him! Put your soul, as a sacred deposit,into the hands of that dear Banker whose bank has never failed-no, more-who has never lost a penny that was entrusted to Him!And before you sleep, just rest in Jesus. God help you to do so, for Christ's sake! Amen.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-194, 119 (SONG VI), 123, 538.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: JEREMIAH30:1-22.
Verses 1, 2. The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus speaks the LORD God ofIsrael, saying, Write you allthe words that I have spoken unto you in a book We believe in Verbal Inspiration and, though some people treat with contemptthe very ides of words being Inspired, be you sure of this, if you have not Inspired Words, you are not likely to get Inspiredmen! Besides, words are to the thought what the shell is to the egg and if you break the shell, you have destroyed the egg.Somehow or other, the thought will ooze out unless it is conveyed in God's own Words. Observe that the Lord does not say toJeremiah, "Write you all the thoughtthat I have given you," but, "Write you all the wordsthat I have spoken unto you in abook."
3. For, lo, the days come, says the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of My people Israel and Judah, says the LORD:and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it And so they did, and sothey shall in a yet fuller sense, for this is a promise that has fulfillments and fulfillments. Man's promises, once kept,are ended, but God's promises are perpetual-they are springing wells which never run dry! That which He fulfilled once, Heoften takes the opportunity to fulfill again on a yet larger scale, as He will doubtless do to His ancient people in the latterdays. You who are in spiritual captivity tonight may derive comfort from these words, "I will bring again the captivity ofMy people." It is the way of God to deliver the captives. What He does once is only an index of what He is in the habit ofdoing. It is God's delight to devise means by which He will bring back His banished ones. So, in due time, He will end yourcaptivity and you shall enjoy the blessed liberty which is the portion of His people.
4, 5. And these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus says the LORD, We haveheard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. God hears His people's voices when they cry. He knows the tone andaccent which they use and, sometimes, when He is listening to them, He hears "a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace."Possibly that may be the condition of some who are here tonight. If so, may the Lord, who hears their cry, bring them outof their trembling and fear-and fill their mouth with laughter and their tongue with singing!
6, 7. Ask you now, and see whether a man does travail with child? Therefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins,as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it iseven the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it This passage evidently alludes to a time of very great distress,when men's hearts were swollen within them as if they would burst for very grief. Not simply here and there one, but the greatmass of the people seemed to be in sore trouble. Even the stout-hearted ones began to feel inward pangs of affliction, yetit was then that the Lord said, "It is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it."
8. For it shall come to pass in that day, says the LORD ofHosts, that I will break his yoke from offyour neck, and will burstyour bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him. Here is a word for you tried ones! God, who sometimes permitsHis child to wear the yoke of the oppressor, will take that yoke away! He will snap the bands that are around your neck andenable you to rise into the glorious liberty wherewith Christ makes His people free! O enslaved ones, be of good comfort andlook for speedy deliverance through the power of the great Emancipator!
9, 10. But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them. Therefore fear you not,O My servant Jacob, says the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save you from afar, and your seed from theland of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. Thereare great things in reserve for God's ancient people Israel, but there are not less laid up for God's spiritual Israel, forby them shall the greatest fulfillment of the promise be realized! They shall indeed be quiet and none shall make them afraid.Note that these are the very men who had their hands upon their loins and whose faces were pale with fright! These are theywho were ready to die of heartbreak! Yet even they shall, by the rich Grace of God, be in rest and quiet-and no one shallmake them afraid. I wish that we could all realize the fulfillment of that promise even now and that our gracious God woulddwell with us as He is known to abide with those who bear His name and thus give us that blessed quiet and rest which we somuch need.
11. For I am with you, says the LORD, to save you: though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yetwill I not make a full end of you: but I will correct you in measure, and will not leave you altogether unpunished. Look abroadand see what God has done to Israel. This is peculiarly the time of Israel's trouble and the Jewish people were, perhaps,never worse persecuted than they now are in certain parts of the world. Yet the Lord will not allow any nation to crush themand He will, Himself, avenge all wrongs that they suffer. He still says to them, "He that touches you touches the apple ofMy eye." And it is very noteworthy that whenever God has used any nation as a rod to chasten the Jews-and He has used manyin that way-He has always broken that kingdom up when He is done with it. Think of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Lookat Spain and see how mean and despicable that nation has become because of its cruelty to the people of God. Now, if thisis true of Israel after the flesh, depend upon it that it is also true concerning God's spiritual people! Though He will correctus when we deserve chastening, it will always be in measure and He will not make a full end of us. God has measureless wrathagainst the ungodly for their measureless sin, but as for His own people, He has cast their sin behind His back and only asa wise and faithful Father does He chasten them for that sin.
12-14. For thus says the LORD, Your bruise is incurable, and your wound is grievous. There is none to pleadyour cause, thatyou may be bound up. You have no healing medicines. All your lovers have forgotten you; they seek you not;
for Ihave wounded you with thee wound ofan enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude ofyour iniquity;because your sins were increased. God never gave His people leave to sin-and sin in them is worse than sin in any other people,for they sin against more light, more love and, therefore, it grieves the Lord more-and He smites all the more heavily and,mark you, when God smites, there is nobody who can comfort us! A quaint old writer, whose book I was reading the other day,commenting on that part of the parable where the friend, disturbed at midnight, said, "My children are with me in bed; I cannotrise and give to you," wrote something like this, "When God is in bed, there are none of His children up to help us. If Hedoes not open the door, there are none of His saints to give us a crust-all must come from Him." Therefore we must cry untoHim and say, "Awake for my help, O God; for all my lovers have forgotten me; they seek me not in the time of my distress."When God wounds us, men often desert us-and those that seemed to be most fond of us forsake us when God smites us.
15, 16. Why do you cry for your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable for the multitude ofyour iniquity: because your sinswere increased, I have done these things to you. Therefore all they that devour you shall be devoured. How striking is thissentence! And what a surprise it gives us as we read it! We might have thought, after the Lord had spoken as He did, thatHe would have given His people up to their enemies, but, instead of doing so, He says, "Therefore all they that devour youshall be devoured;"
16, 17. And all your adversaries, everyone of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil you shall be a spoil, andall thatprey upon you will 1give for a prey. For I willrestore health unto you, andl willhealyou ofyour wounds, says the LORD;because they called you an outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeks after. Did you notice that word, "therefore,"in the 16th verse? Can you see any, "therefore," in it-any logical conclusion that could be drawn from the Prophet's premises?The argument seems to be, "Because your disease is incurable, therefore will I restore health unto you. Because no one elsecan heal your wounds, therefore I will heal them." It is a blessed thing to feel that you are incurable, for then it is thatGod will cure you! When there is an end of you, then you shall begin with God! But as long as you are full of self or sin,that passage shall be fulfilled to you, "He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent away empty."
18, 19. Thus says the LORD; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places;and the city shall be built upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof And out of them shallproceed thanksgiving and the choice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will alsoglorify them, and they shall not be small Well might the Lord introduce such a promise as this with the word, "Behold"!
Again I remind you that these are the people who had their hands on their loins! These are they who were in sore trouble ofsoul! Yet now they are merry and full of gladness! And we, also, have learned to sing-
My mourning He to dancing turns, For sackcloth, joy He gives, A moment, Lord, Your anger burns, But long your favor lives.
20, 21. Their children also shall be as before, and their congregation shall be established before Me, and I will punish allthat oppress them. And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and Iwill cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto Me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto Me?saysthe LORD. There is One, whom we call Master and Lord, who approaches the Throne of God on our behalf-One who fulfils thatancient Word of God, "I have exalted One chosen out of the people." Our glorious Savior, through His humanity, is one of usand He appears before God on our behalf, blessed be His holy name!
22. And you shall be My people, and I will be your God. Happy are we if we can rejoice in this precious Truth of