A Grateful Acknowledgment
James Smith, 1864
"I was pushed back and about to fall but the Lord helped me!" Psalm 118:13
The psalmist had been reviewing his toils, his trials, and his dangers; he commemorates his deliverances, his conquests, and his triumphs; and he ascribes the whole to the help of God. If God had not helped him his faith would have failed, his expectations would have been disappointed, and his foes would have prevailed. Through the Lord, he did valiantly; and now, with joyful heart, he records the loving-kindness of the Lord.
How sweet to look back upon the rough road, the bloody battle-field, the scenes of peculiar trial when we have arrived at some pleasant resting-place, enjoy peace within and around us, and see our trials as past exercises. Then, if ever, gratitude will work within us, and praises will flow from our tongues and hearts. Delivered from the mouth of the lion, and the paw of the bear we thankfully acknowledge, "The Lord helped me!"
In looking back we see that we have needed help and more help than any creature could afford us!
The daily cross,
the inward conflict,
the domestic troubles,
the perplexities of business,
the state of the church,
the affairs of the world
have all combined to teach us that Divine help was necessary. If God had not helped us . . .
we would have fallen into sin,
we would have disgraced our profession,
we would have been crushed by our foes,
we would have fainted under our trials,
we would have apostatized from the faith!
God alone knows what would have been the result if we had been left to our own resources. We needed help in infancy, in youth, in manhood. We needed help in prosperity and in adversity! We needed help in temporals and spirituals. We found our own strength to be weakness, and our own wisdom to be folly. The feeblest of our foes would have been more than a match for us! The least corruption in our hearts would have overcome us!
And we need help now as much as we ever did; for, unless the Lord helps us . . .
our foes will yet triumph over us,
our crosses will prove to be too much for us,
and we shall faint in the day of adversity!
We feel that we need help at present:
we feel it in the field of labor,
we feel it on the bed of sickness,
we feel it in the church of God, and
we feel it at the throne of grace.
The Lord has promised help. He has said, "Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God! I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness." And because his people feel themselves to be vile, weak, and incompetent; because their foes despise them, scoff at them, and treat them with contempt he stoops to speak to them according to their own views of themselves, and their enemies' representations of them, and says, "Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel for I myself will help you! declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. See, I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff!"
When the Lord helps a worm can scatter mountains, and conquer the most formidable foes; and the Lord has promised thus to help the poorest, the lowest, the most despised of his people. Oh, precious promise, of a good and gracious God!
It extends to all times,
it embraces all circumstances,
it belongs to all believers, and
it ensures us a triumph over all our foes!
Nor is it a solitary promise, only once made, only recorded in one place in God's book. No; it is repeated again and again. When his people imagined that he had neglected them; when their hearts were rising against him, and their mouths complaining of him he comes forth to correct their mistake, to still their fears, and to silence their complaints. He refers to their knowledge of his character and perfections; to his constant dealings with his people; and promises not only to help them but to do exceeding and abundantly above all that they could ask or think! "Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel: 'My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint!"
This gracious promise, in all its glorious meaning, belongs to us! Let us understand it, believe it, plead it before God's throne, and expect its fulfillment!
The psalmist had sought help of the Lord. "In the day of my trouble I cried unto you." If God has promised then we should pray. The promises tell us what God is willing to do, and to give; but God intends that we shall believe his word, and apply to him for the needed blessing. When troubles drive us to the Bible, and to the throne of grace then they do us good, as they are sanctified to us. This is the effect that trials are intended to have. Help may be had but help must be sought. It is sometimes the case that we "have not because we ask not, or because we ask amiss."
God is willing to help us; but he says, "You must feel that you cannot do without me; you must come and ask me; you must believe my word; you must wait my time and you shall receive the help you need, in my way." We do not always understand what the Lord means, or we do not cheerfully submit to God's method; and therefore we are left for a time without the needed, the desired, help. Let us endeavor to understand God's method, to approve of God's plan, to wait at God's throne, to watch in God's ways; and then, in reference to every trial, trouble, or conflict, we shall have to say, "The Lord helped me!"
Yes, help had been received not once or twice but all through the writer's pilgrimage. But there were some special seasons in which the Lord displayed his power, and manifested himself as the hearer and answerer of prayer.
Just so has it been with every Christian. We have had daily help, for we could not live the Christian life without; but we have had special help in times of peculiar trouble and trial. We can look back with David to the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites to the hill Mizar. We can remember the lion, the bear, Goliath, and Saul. Times of peculiar danger were times when we received special help; and we may say with the apostle, "The Lord stood with me and strengthened me, and I was delivered!" And again, "Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day."
Where would we have been now but for supplies of the Spirit of Christ? but for special interventions of Divine Providence? but for the necessary communications of Divine strength? Yes, the strength of Jesus has been perfected in our weakness; we have found his grace to be sufficient for us, and to the praise of his glorious grace, in reference to all our trials, troubles, and conflicts, we can say, "The Lord helped me!"
Help is here gratefully acknowledged. The least we can do is to be grateful for the help we have received. And yet, this is the very last thing which some think of; they pray, receive, and forget to acknowledge unless stirred up by some special event. Few Ebenezers are set up by some professors of religion on the road to glory; they but seldom sing with a grateful heart, "The Lord helped me!" Indeed, we are all defective here. Oh, that God would pour out upon all his people a spirit of gratitude and not teach us the value of our mercies by the loss of them!
The help we have received is only introductory to what our God intends to give; for his mercies are like a chain, and every link draws the next nearer to us until we receive the crowning mercy, even eternal life in glory. Let us, therefore, look to the Lord as our helper; remember that he is a very present help in times of trouble; and endeavor to say boldly as the apostle directs us, "The Lord is my helper I will not fear what man shall do unto me." What can man do that shall harm us if God is with us, and for us? What is the power of the mightiest mortal if matched with Omnipotence?
Oh, beloved, it is an unspeakable mercy to have God for our helper; and to be able to look back upon our past course, and trace the helping hand of God working for us, working with us, and working out our deliverances! Let us reflect upon past help, as Paul upon past deliverances and draw the same conclusion as he did, "He who has helped us in time past, who does help us at present we trust that he will yet help us!" And if we honor the Lord by trusting him he will be sure to honor us, by helping us under all our difficulties, and out of all our troubles. So that to us may be applied the language of Moses, the man of God, respecting Israel; "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms! He will drive out your enemy before you. So Israel will live in safety alone. Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places!"
"Rouse, rouse, my soul, and fight your way,
Should earth and Hell oppose;
Though you are not, your Savior is
A match for all your foes!
Yes, you are weak but he is strong,
And will his strength impart;
He will teach your feeble hands to war,
And cheer your fainting heart!
A few successful struggles yet,
Then not a conflict more;
Satan and sin shall ne'er assault
On the celestial shore!"