HELP IN EXTREMITY
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"The poor and needy search for water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I,
the God of Israel, will not forsake them." Isaiah 41:17
Has not this been God's way and method of dealing with
His people in every age!—in the hour of desert privation, when the
heavens above them were as brass and the earth as iron, to bring them the
shade of palm-grove and the refreshment of fountain?
It was when the disciples were in their hour of
extremity, during the storm on Gennesaret, giving themselves up to the
hopelessness of despair, that, "in the fourth watch of the night," when
darkness was deepest and danger greatest, the great Deliverer appeared on
the crested wave—"Jesus went out to them walking on the lake!"
It was when the bereaved of Bethany had, as they
imagined, consigned the fond treasure of their affections to
everlasting silence; and, as they were sitting in the pillaged home,
wondering at the mysterious delay on the part of the one Being who could
alone have arrested that winged arrow which had laid low the delight of
their hearts; at that crisis-hour, the great Conqueror of death appears, to
revive the smouldering ashes of their faith, and reanimate the joy and prop
of their existence! Yes, how often still, does God thus delay His comforting
mercy to the very last—"the tongue failing for thirst"—that they may see His
hand, and His hand alone, in the gracious intervention or
deliverance, and be brought to say, with grateful adoring thankfulness,
"Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the
silence of death!"
Even when He does not appear visibly to support;
when some treasured comfort is withdrawn; or when deliverance from some
threatened earthly trial or threatened evil is not given—it is in order that
we may, the more significantly and submissively, cast ourselves on Him. The
shelter of the canvas tent is removed. But it only the more endears to us
the shadow of the Elim-Palm. Observe the difference between the failing of
the world's consolations and refuges and joys; and those of the true
Christian. When the worldly man mourns his dried-up brooks or his
stripped and dismantled tents, he has lost his all—he has nowhere else to
turn; there is nothing left him but the waterless channel—the dreary
stretches of blinding sand—the tear of despair—the broken heart—the grave!
But, in the case of the believer, when one comfort
is withdrawn, his God has other spiritual comforts for him in store.
Miserable, indeed, are those who have nothing but the poor earthly streamlet
of this world to look to! Sooner or later this must be their history (as
multitudes can bear testimony), "And it came to pass after a while,
that the brook dried up" (1 Kings 17:7), Or the earthly tent!—"In an
instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment." (Jer. 4:20).
But, "happy is the man who has the God of Jacob for his
help, whose hope is in the Lord his God"—who can say, in the words of a
faithful and venerated member of the Church of Christ recently entered on
his rest and reward—'In the crowded city, "You are about my path." In
the secret chamber, "You are about my bed." In the trackless
desert, "You, God, see me." In the lonely journey, "Surely the
Lord is in this place, though I knew it not." In the assembled
congregation, "Wherever I cause my Name to be honored, I will come to
you and bless you." In the little company at home, "Where two or
three come together in My Name, there am I with them." In distant cities and
foreign lands, "I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries
where they have gone." In looking back on all the places of residence,
"Lord, You have been our dwelling-place throughout all generations." And
humbly depending on the promise for the great future, "Where I am, there
shall also My servants be."'
Beautifully have the two greatest religious poets of
Germany (Gerhard and Lange) thus sung—
"You were not born that earth should be
A portion fondly sought;
Look up to heaven, and, smiling, see
Your shining, golden lot!
Honors and joys which you shall share,
Unending and unenvied there!
"Then journey on to life and bliss,
God will protect to heaven;
And every good that meets you is
A blessing wisely given.
If losses come—so let it be,
The God of heaven remains with thee!
"Yes, the light of comfort shall return,
Joy's sweet sun shall shine again at last,
I shall sing the gladsome song of morning,
When the watches of the night are past.
"I shall find again the hopes long vanished,
Like the swallows when the storms are
Fountains shall be opened in the deserts,
Streams by the wayside, while journeying on.
"Flowers of love and promise shall be springing,
Where the cruel thorn and wormwood sprung,
And the homeward path lie bright in sunshine,
Where my sad harp upon the willows hung!"
"O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul
thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there
is no water."