James Smith, 1865
"O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me." Isaiah 38:14
If grace will not make us pray--trouble shall! Our troubles are often sent from God--to lead us to God. Hezekiah was a good man and a great man; high in station and useful in his day--but deeply tried. If he had not been so deeply tried--he would never have been so useful. But for his affliction--he would never have prayed as he did; if he had not so prayed, he had not been so remarkably delivered; if he had not been so delivered, he had not composed this writing; and if he had not written his experience, we should not have been benefitted by him as we have been.
We now see that believers are pretty much the same, whether they live in a palace--or a cottage, sway a scepter--or work at a trade. Hezekiah, under the moonlight of the law, was very much like some of us who are under the sun-light of the gospel. We can claim relationship to him, and enjoy fellowship with him. We will now,
First, consider his COMPLAINT."O Lord, I am oppressed!" He complains to the Lord--this was right; had he complained of the Lord, it would have been wrong. We should carry all our complaints to our Father, not to men; and let us never complain of that to others which we cannot or do not, spread before the Lord in prayer.
"I am oppressed." And who has not been? What Christian is not? Some are oppressed by their fellow-men. The magistrate, the master, the menial, have all been oppressors in their turn. Sin produces selfishness, and selfishness is always cruel. Many of the brethren of Jesus are under the iron hand of oppression in America, as slaves; and in other places, as servants. They must submit, for they cannot get away. They are under the yoke, and they cannot break loose. Oppression in temporal things is bad, very bad; but there is an oppression that is worse than that.
Satan is a great oppressor. By his vile suggestions, base insinuations, alarming misrepresentations, and cruel buffetings--he burdens, distresses, and bows down the soul. Oh, how he oppresses, the poor, the weak, the wavering, and weary ones of the Lord's family! Hence the Lord has said, when his patience can bear no more, "Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise. I will protect them from those who malign them."
Slavish fears often oppress us. Unfounded fears of the wrath or displeasure of God, of being overcome by our numerous and determined foes, or of falling away from our profession of Jesus our beloved Lord.
But unbelief is the chief cause of all our oppression. Had we faith in God's love, in Christ's work, in our covenant union to Jesus; did we believe the promises and doctrines of the gospel with reference to ourselves--we would be light, lively, cheerful, and vigorous. But an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God, brings us into bondage, darkness, doubt, and gloom. Then we feel oppressed. We cannot breathe freely. Prayer is irksome. The Bible is dry. The means of grace have little life or power in them. We are "shut up and cannot come forth." There is a weight upon the spirits, a burden upon the heart, gloom over the mind, and we can neither fly nor run in God's ways.
But the margin reads, "O Lord, I am in distress." And this is often the case with us. It is a part of the heart's bitterness, of which no one knows but the Lord. It arises sometimes from outward trouble--the many, the successive troubles which some of us have to pass through, deeply distress us. They are compared to fire and water, those opposite elements. But, blessed be the Lord, He has said, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!"
Still they often distress us, especially when, like Peter, we take our eye off Jesus, and look at the rolling waves, or listen to the howling winds. A long succession of temporal trials, disappointments, vexations, and troubles, will make us cry, "O Lord, I am in distress!"
So, also, will a sense of guilt upon the conscience; for guilt always awakens fears, straitens the spirit, palsies the mind, bewilders the judgment, obscures the prospects, and dejects the soul. Oh, the distress which guilt produces if it is permitted to remain on the conscience, instead of being taken to the open fountain, the precious blood of Jesus, at once.
Unfitness for duty, and a fear of failure in our attempts to honor our Lord and Master--at times distress us. There is the duty before us, there is the precept requiring it of us, there is the desire in the heart to perform it; but, oh, how unfit to engage in it we feel! To will is present with us--but how to perform that which is good we find not.
In a word, sometimes the state of the world so affects us, at others, the condition of the church so afflicts us, at others, the trials of the domestic circle so oppress us, at others, the temptations of Satan so harass us, and more frequently, perhaps, the inward conflict so exercises us--that we cry out in bitterness of soul, "O Lord, I am in distress!"
Every Christian of any standing in the church will be
able to set his seal to this, for, more or less, we all know it to be true.
All do not suffer alike--but all suffer. Some of us seem to have a double
portion--but, no doubt, all is necessary, and by-and-bye we shall say, "He
led us forth by the right way, that we might go to a city of
Secondly, let us join in his PRAYER."O Lord, undertake for me!" What a mercy to have a friend in need--a friend in trouble--a friend that is accessible, sympathizing, and able to help us. Such is our God. We may go to Him, we may lay our case before Him, we may fully plead with Him to undertake for us. Such a prayer indicates self-knowledge and self-renunciation. It is as if we said, "O Lord, I am so weak, so foolish, so fearful, so sinful--that I never can conquer my foes, master my difficulties, endure my trials, or patiently carry my cross of myself. Therefore, in Your great mercy, in Your tender love, according to Your most blessed Word--undertake for me!"
There are many things we need the Lord to undertake to do for us, and, blessed be His holy name, He has promised to do so. We need Him to undertake to teach us, that we may know His name, His truth, and His holy will--to deliver us from sin, Satan, self, and all the difficulties and dangers we meet with in our pilgrimage--to lead us in the right way, the way in which we shall honor His name, serve our generation, and acquire a good report--to strengthen us in all our tribulations, for all our duties, that we may conquer all our foes--to comfort us under all our sorrows, griefs, and woes--to work in us both to will and to do of His own good pleasure--and to perform in us all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power.
Oh, that God would undertake to make us--all he requires us to be, and to supply us with all we may need, both for body and soul, for time and eternity!
Undertake to be a Father unto us, caring for us, protecting us, and daily communing with us. Undertake to be our Surety, discharging every debt, meeting every obligation, and delivering us from all legal responsibility. Undertake to be our Captain, equiping us for the fight, leading us against the foe, and giving us complete victory over every opponent. Undertake to be our Advocate, pleading for us in every court, and pleading in us against every adverse power. Well, Jesus is pledged to be all, and to do all this--for every one that believes on His name, walks with Him in fellowship, and labors in His cause.
But our faith is so weak, our fears are so strong, our foes are so vigilent, and our hearts are so misgiving--that we doubt, disbelieve, and often fret. Let us, therefore, daily, yes, many times in the day, flee to the throne of grace, and in the prospect of all that tries our faith, alarms our minds, wakens our fears, or disturbs our peace, cry,
"O Lord, undertake for me!
Undertake for me in prosperity--to save me from its snares!
Undertake for me in adversity--to preserve me from its temptations!
Undertake for me in health--to make me useful!
Undertake for me in sickness--to make me patient!
Undertake for me in life--to make me holy!
Undertake for me in death--to enable me to bear a testimony to Your faithfulness, veracity, and love!"
Reader, God does undertake for sinners--for sinners who believe in Jesus. He undertakes for all who honestly and heartily put themselves and their cause into His hands. Has He undertaken for you? Have you requested Him? Have you been driven by trouble, or drawn by love--to plead with Him to do so? All real Christians are brought to this. They all feel too weak, too foolish, too fearful--to accomplish the journey, run the race, conquer the foe, and arrive safe in heaven of themselves; therefore they are all brought to cry right heartily and right earnestly, "O Lord, undertake for me!"
Tried Christian, this subject will just suit you; may the Lord make it a blessing to you. You often feel oppressed. You are bowed down greatly. You are in a great strait. You scarce know what to do, where to go, or to whom to look. You are encompassed with trouble. The waters come in unto you, even unto your soul. Go at such times to Jesus! Go as Hezekiah did. Go often until you obtain present relief, and the assurance of complete deliverance. Plead, plead as for your life, that the Lord would undertake for you. That He would undertake to BE all to you that you need--even a Savior, Friend, Husband, Deliverer, and Place of Defense to protect you. That He would undertake to DO all for you that is necessary--even to supply, direct, support, solace, and perfectly deliver you. That He would undertake WORK all in you that is required--washing you, sanctifying you, and conforming you to His own beautiful image; that you may have to say with the church, "Lord, You will ordain peace for us; for You also have wrought all our works in us." That He would undertake to MAKE you just what you should be, and having done this, to keep you so.
Give no place to the foe that threatens, give no place to the fears that frighten, give no place to the unbelief that disheartens--but cry day and night to God, "Undertake for me!"
Believer, Jesus did undertake for you in the everlasting covenant; He is under engagements now, His promises are His bonds, He never forgets them nor can He be false to them. Therefore take courage, look to Him, trust in Him, converse with Him, expect from Him, and set your heart upon glorifying Him. Take His yoke upon you daily, undertake to do His will, to seek His honor, to promote His cause, to extend His kingdom--and He will undertake for you, to keep you as the apple of His eye, to feed you with the hidden manna, to strengthen you with strength in your soul, to make His way plain before your face--in a word, to guide you with His counsel, and afterwards receive you to glory!