The Satisfaction and Anticipation of Faith
Or, "The Patriarchs Contentment and Resolve"
And Israel said, "It is enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die." Genesis 45:28
If ever a plant was known by its flower, or a tree by its fruit, it is the principle of faith implanted in the heart of man by the Spirit of God. We considered in the last chapter the swooning of faith through the excessive joy produced by the tidings that Joseph was yet alive. We then glanced at the revival of that drooping faith by the visible, tangible evidence of the fact. "When he saw the wagons, the spirit of Jacob their father revived." His faith was, as it were, turned into sight, and this brought his mind into perfect contentment and repose. We are, in the present chapter, to meditate on a marvellous result of that revived faith- perhaps one of the most striking and instructive illustrations of this divine principle in the soul. What was it? And Israel said, "It is enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die." This marks the highest point of faith, the loveliest, and most fragrant fruit borne on that divine plant- contentment and repose, amid all the dealings of God. There are two points to which we would direct the reader's attention- the PERFECT SATISFACTION, and the ANTICIPATED DEPARTURE.
The PERFECT SATISFACTION. And Israel said, "It is enough." There is but one class of our race from whose lips, in truth and emphasis, this sentiment could breathe, and that is the renewed and sanctified man. Take the other and probably the largest portion of our species, and where will you find language corresponding with this, indicating the perfect repose and full satisfaction of the soul? Is not the cry of our unregenerate humanity that of the horse leech, "Give, give, give." Is there not, as we have shown in the former part of this volume, a restlessness, marking every individual we meet, the language of which is, if properly interpreted, "Who will show us any good?" No, our nature will never arrive at anything like perfect satisfaction until it finds its way back to God, drinks its happiness and draws its bliss from Him. Then it will adopt the language of the patriarch, "It is enough. I have obtained the chief good; I have found the jewel for which I have excavated earth's mine; I have plucked the flower that never dies, and have partaken of the fruit that never gluts, have drunk of the stream that has quenched my desire, and I shall thirst no more."
But these are only general observations; let us descend to a few particulars. What is implied in this language of the patriarch, "It is enough?" As I have already hinted, it expresses the feeling of full satisfaction: "It is enough." Israel was now satisfied with all the government of God, satisfied with all that had transpired, satisfied with the present, and, as we shall show you presently, fully satisfied with regard to the future. Beloved, does not this feeling of full satisfaction find its corresponding experience in the bosom of every child of God? Most assuredly! The soul that has found God in Christ, that has been brought to rest in Jesus, that has tasted what is divine, spiritual, and heavenly, has in it an element, a feeling of perfect satisfaction.
Are you not satisfied with the Lord's gracious dealings with your soul, in choosing you to be His from all eternity? in directing all your course during your unconverted years? in effectually calling you by His sovereign grace to a knowledge of Himself? Are you not satisfied to rest your salvation on the one offering, the one atonement, the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus? Are you not willing to accept Christ's righteousness as your justification, Christ's merit as your pardon, and Christ's work as the sole ground of your everlasting hope? Ah, Yes! I anticipate your reply: "Heavenly Father with such a Savior, with such a salvation, I am satisfied! It is enough, I want no more. I abjure my own righteousness, I cast from me my own merits, I utterly renounce my own works. I am satisfied to be saved as a, poor, empty, self-condemned sinner, by faith in the atonement of Your dear Son, and go to heaven clad in no other robe, saved by no other merits, washed in no other fountain, than that which my Lord and Savior has graciously provided; and with Your salvation, from its beginning in eternity past to its consummation in eternity to come, blessed Lord, I am satisfied; it is enough!"
In connection with this feeling is the believer's perfect satisfaction with all the conduct of God's providence. During the process that God is providentially dealing with His people, there is often much that seems to ruffle the surface of the soul, disturbing its repose with a wavelet here, a billow there, and the swelling yonder. His providential dealings are sometimes so inexplicable, painful, and dark, that for a moment the child of God is, as it were, unbalanced. He begins to think that all these circumstances and events are about to militate against his best interests; and there cannot be, while that is transpiring, the feeling of perfect satisfaction. But let him calmly wait and trustfully hope until God himself interprets these mystic symbols, gives him light on what now is so shaded, perfects the thing concerning him, and then, as he takes a retrospect on the past, he will say, "Lord, it is enough; I am perfectly satisfied with all Your dealings with me. I thought that stroke severe, I felt that burden crushing; I trembled as I entered into that cloud; my unbelieving heart murmured; but now, my God, my Father, in clearer light I can see it was a divine plan, a complete whole, a discipline of love, and my soul bows to the perfect rectitude of Your government, and my heart exclaims, It is enough, You have done all things well."
But, oh! the blessed period awaits us when we shall, with deeper emphasis of meaning, and more prolonged melody of song, exclaim, "It is enough; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." The full, the perfect satisfaction is reserved when we enter glory, and look back on all the past, and see how wise, how loving, how holy, was the whole arrangement of God's gracious and providential dealings with us. "I shall be satisfied" fully, forever satisfied- and exclaim, "It is enough!"
"Enough, my gracious Lord,
Let faith triumphant cry;
My heart can on this promise live,
Can on this promise die."
But these words are not only the expression of satisfaction, but they are the reasoning and conclusion of faith. It is faith traveling through dark and trying dispensations, and arriving at this its blessed goal- "It is enough." Whatever may be the trials and temptations of our faith, whatever the assaults made upon it by the subtle foe of God's people, whatever its depressions and becloudings, its soundings and strugglings, the ultimate conclusion to which the true believer arrives is this, "Lord, it is enough! I am perfectly content with the process You have taken to separate my faith from its foil, to purify it from its dross, though it has been as by fire. It is enough!" Does this page address one whose faith is severely assailed, painfully tried, perhaps deeply depressed? Let me remind you that whatever may be the present battle, temptation, or despondency of this principle, the issue will be triumphant. The language of Israel breathing from your lips will proclaim your victory, "It is enough. Every trial of my life has, been more precious than gold; and now that the storm is passed, and I can calmly view all the way You have led me, my heart in the depth of its satisfaction exclaims, It is enough!"
Nor must I omit to add that these words of the patriarch express praiseful gratitude. The soul of Israel was now touched with the true spirit of praise, in the review of all the past of God's conduct. The harp, so long silent on the willows, plucked from thence, now breathed the softest and sweetest strains of thanksgiving and praise to Him to whom all praise is due. He seems to be brought into similar experience with David, who, after tracing the gracious dealings of God with him, exclaimed, "Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you!" Such was the spirit, if not the language, of Israel: "It is enough, my soul. My past history, painful, chequered, and somber though it has been, rude and thorny though my way, yet the Lord has dealt bountifully with me. He has kept me alive in famine, He has brought up as from the grave my long lost child, He has clothed with sunshine life's closing evening; and now, return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you!" Such, my reader, will be your language, whatever may be the path along which God is conducting you, or whatever may be the landscape of life now unfolding to your eye. Yes; you shall at last be brought to this blessed conclusion, "The Lord my God has dealt liberally and bountifully with me; return unto your rest, O my soul! It is enough."
We reach the second point- the ANTICIPATED DEPARTURE: "I will go and see him before I die." It is quite clear that thoughts of life's close, anticipations of the termination of his long pilgrimage, occupied the mind of Israel. It was natural that it should be so. And yet we sometimes meet with examples of extreme old age, associated, too, with a religious profession, in which there is such an absence of the idea of death, such a faint conception of the nearness of eternity, as presents one of the most affecting and solemn spectacles in human life.
We scarcely can conceive of a more melancholy sight than old age, not only without religion, but without any serious thought of death! With the last enemy almost at the door- with eternity about to burst upon the soul in all its dread reality, its personal scrutiny, its solemn judgment, its final and changeless destiny- and yet to trace the indifference, the worldliness, the covetousness, the scheming, that marks so many standing on the brink of the grave, its very earth crumbling beneath their feet, is a phenomenon in the history of our race over which angels might weep. But not so was it with the aged patriarch. He realized that he was an old man, that life's taper-light was almost extinguished, and he seemed to hear the music of Jordan's waves as they murmured in sweet cadence at his feet. He felt that the time of his departure was at hand; and, in the solemn realization of the fact, he girded himself to meet life's last mission at the bidding of God. "Joseph my son is yet alive- I will go and see him before I die."
An impressive event is referred to in those words, "I die!" Whether uttered by youth, by middle age, or by hoary hairs, they are words of solemn import- "I DIE!" Oh, it is an overwhelming thought, that through that portal our spirit must pass. Through that shaded valley, along that gloomy pathway to eternity, you must travel. Are you prepared, my reader, to die? Have you solemn thoughts of death? Are you taking it into the account? Are you so numbering your days, fast-fleeting and few, as to apply your heart to heavenly wisdom?
"I die." Oh, interpret the solemn words, view the impressive truth in the light of the gospel, in the exercise of faith in Jesus, and the whole character of death is changed, the whole scene is transformed. "I do not die," exclaims the believer; "I only sleep in Jesus. I do not die, I languish into life. Mine will be a departure, a translation, a soft slumber in which there are no fitful, fevered dreams. Absent from the body, I shall in one moment be present and forever with the Lord."
But what made the thought of death so pleasant, its prospect so cheerful, its coming so hopeful to the aged saint? It was the sight of Joseph! "Joseph is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die." The living Christ- on reposes, as Israel's eye rested on his living son Joseph, is the grand preparation for death. No individual can meet death with dignity, composure, and hope, but as by faith he sees Christ and Christ is in him. We need no other preparation for death but a living faith in a living Savior. Here is your true and only preparation for death, my reader- Christ in you the hope of glory. As we shall recur to this thought in a subsequent part of this work, we will be content now simply and briefly to remind you who are all your life subject to bondage through fear of death, that when death comes, a living Christ will come with it; therefore, do not die a thousand deaths in anticipating one. Leave your departure to Him who is the "Resurrection and the Life," who will accompany the "king of terrors," the white robed messenger; and as the earthly house is being dissolved, beam after beam removed, pin after pin loosened, a living Christ in you will lift you, in calmness, grandeur, and dignity, above the wreck and ruin of your mortality, and you shall sing,
"Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on His breast I lean my head,
And breathe my soul out sweetly there."
This suggests our last remark. A living Christ, clung to by faith, will fill the soul with longing desires to depart and be with Jesus. You will say, "Jesus is alive, I will go and see Him, and be with Him forever." Oh, beloved, nothing will make you so long to break from the body of sin and death, to sever even the fondest, sweetest, dearest ties of nature, as having your faith firmly rooted and grounded in the doctrine of a living Christ! It will intensify your desire to depart and be with Jesus. What made Jacob so willing to leave Canaan? Was not his estate there? Was not his pleasant homestead there? Were not all the sweet, fond, sacred associations of birth, of family, and of friendship there? Yes; but Joseph in Egypt pt eclipsed it all, and he exclaimed, "Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die."
With this I close. Get more of a living Christ in your believing heart, and your heart more deeply enshrined in heaven with Jesus, and then, sweet and fond and precious as are earth's attractions now, you will pant to sunder from them all, and fly away and be forever with the Lord.