Two Choice Assurances
“Fear not, Abram: I am your shield and your exceedingly great reward.”
IN the splendid Psalm that sets forth the Divine Glory of the matchless Word of God as compared even with the greatest wonders of God’s visible Creation–that is in the 19 th verse, “Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” This is applied to “the judgments of the Lord” which are “true and righteous altogether.” Of course, this expression sets forth David’s esteem of the Law of God as he knew it–a very small volume compared with our complete Bible–and yet we may surely apply it to the whole of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments! The Hebrew original has it, “Sweeter than the dropping of honeycombs.” Whereupon gracious Thomas Brookes, the Puritan Divine, observes, “it is sweeter than those drops which fall naturally and instantly from the comb without any force or act, and which are counted as being the purest, choicest and richest honey.” How true is this! There are some texts of Scripture that may yield their treasures of instruction, comfort, or direction after deep study and holy meditation–but there are others which are marvelously free in the giving forth of their sweetness, calling for little else than a heart that loves and longs to hear God speak!
As little children have their own confections that need no vigorous chewing, but will melt in the mouth, so some passages of Scriptures are prepared as choice morsels for the Lord’s children–they have only to receive them by transparent faith and unaffected love–and their enjoyment is great.
I know that some of the words of the Lord are as nuts that need breaking open to secure their nourishment, or as grapes that must be trod in the winepress, for their richest meaning lies not upon the surface and plain to all. But these others of which we speak–as the droppings of the honeycomb–are simple sweetnesses, prepared pleasures. Plain, unmistakable, choice delicacies for God’s loved ones!
To enjoy these, one needs not to be a deep theologian, a learned grammarian, or even much less, a profound philosopher or baffling mystic! The honey of the meaning flows easily and sweetly out of the comb of the words as liquid love, pure joy, choice consolation and perfect Truths of God! The student does not require to pore over his books, or the preacher to search his library, or the hearer to gather up all his knowledge to receive and enjoy these. The dainty comfort offers itself at once to the soul’s receiving and, without effort, the sweetness and savor pervade the whole inner being.
So as the Holy Spirit shall open up the word to me, I hope to be able to give you, Beloved, some honey out of the Rock by dwelling on one or two choice, plain texts that speak their sweetness direct to the heart. Not so much for intellectual gratifying–though that is included–as for spiritual satisfying and stimulating. Some preachers seem to make their main business to be the leading of people among the thorns, to be torn with perplexities, or into the fog to tantalize with uncertainties. Be it ours on this occasion to run as did Ahimahaz by way of the plain–along the level road of gracious and comforting teaching! We do well, sometimes, to let the heart have undivided play and gain, thereby, the solace and joy that we so much need!
The droppings of the honeycomb are not so much for labor and toil as for renewal and delight–that the mere student and man of affairs may for a while come and sit and indulge in holy pleasures!
Let this suffice for introduction to our first word of sacred assurance as given to Abram.
“Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceedingly great reward.”
“Fear not, Abram.” No more necessary or practical word could be spoken to the great Father of the Faithful than this. Fear, alas, is a malaria which haunts all the marshlands of earth! It can beset the king on his throne, the peasant in his cottage, the statesman in his lofty office and the poor old mother who dreads the pauper’s lot and fare. It is the shadow that follows us when the sun is shining brightly before–how to escape it is the problem that perplexes thousands of the saints of God. We might be sure that it was so, when so mighty a Believer as Abram was in great peril of it! Does he need a, “fear not,” from Jehovah’s lips? Then we may be sure that we shall require it, too. I am afraid that wherever there is faith there will also be a measure of fear, though the less of it, the better. How tenderly the Lord quiets the fears of His children and lulls their forebodings to rest! “Fear not, Abram.” As much as if He had said “You are all alone, but fear not, for I am with you. You are in much labor, needing great strength, but fear not, I will help you. You have no portion, but are a stranger and sojourner in this land, but fear not, for I am your God. Do not fear concerning the past, nor the present, nor the future. Fear neither the fury of foes, nor the worse trial–the failure of friends. Be brave, calm, trustful, hopeful, joyful. Fear not, Abram.” “You have just been fighting the kings–you desired to be a man of peace and were not, indeed, accustomed to the deadly strife. But I have given the marauders and plunderers like driven stubble to your bow–and you have brought back Lot and all his train of servants that were taken prisoners. You need not fear even for your relatives! I will bless and keep them for your sake. Besides, since you have borne yourself in a right royal fashion and not touched a thread or a shoe lace of the king of Sodom’s goods, do not fear to enjoy your success, for you shall be safe from all attacks and shall command the respect of the great ones around you.” This blessed “fear not” was a quietus to every form of alarm and misgiving which might come near and threaten this man of God!
Is not this our Lord’s own message to His children everywhere today? He has scattered His, “fear nots,” all over His blessed Word as some riverbanks are all spread with sweet forget-me-nots! And these “fear nots,” cover every emergency of our life and answer to them with the assurance that His love will never forget or fail us! And if we will but remember this, we shall have no cause whatever to fear.
But the Lord appears to teach Abram that after his conflict and signal victory he might begin to sink. Such is often the case with the bravest men. The natural reaction, unless special Divine Grace is given, is very great. It was so with Elijah, the Prophet of Fire. Men have little time or space to dread while the fierce conflict is raging–their spirit of dash and enterprise is awakened and equal to the struggle and the danger! But when all is over and strained body and brain and nerves begin to assert themselves, then they greatly need the Lord’s reviving and fortifying, “fear not.”
Beloved, have you never felt yourself strangely supported under the direst afflictions, so that they seemed not afflictions at all? And yet when pressure has been removed you have been ready to faint like Samson after he had slain the Philistines! Fear is a strange contradiction, a grim inconsistency, for it is apt to be greatest when the reason for it is least and smallest.
We are often quiet in a storm and distracted in a calm. We are mysteries to ourselves and riddles to our neighbors. Our constitutions and dispositions sometimes appear to be made up of odds and ends and gatherings from all manner of beasts, and birds, and fishes– and none can understand us but the Lord who made us! But, blessed be His name, He knows us altogether and therefore He can and does bring forth at the right moment the exact consolation and the precise heartening that we need, saying, “Fear not,” in the instant wherein we are most likely to fear!
“Fear not, Abram.” Were there not mainly two things about which the Patriarch might have feared? First, about his own safety. This was met by the assurance, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield.” When he had no other guard, Abram was garrisoned in God. He was like a sheep in the midst of wolves, a lone stranger surrounded by hostile nations! But a strange Divine spell had fallen upon the Canaanites, for the Lord had made them hear Him saying, “Touch not My anointed and do My Prophet no harm.” The protected of the Lord needed not to wear armor, nor bear a sword, nor have any human panoply, for Jehovah had said, “I am your shield.” Abram possessed no fortress, commanded no army but his few servants. He had not even a permanent house in which to dwell. His tents were frail and undefended and yet so guarded by Heaven, that no one ever broke into them or dared molest or threaten those who dwelt within! No assassin waylaid him, no marauder attacked him–he dwelt at ease, for was he not under the broad shield of the Almighty? He was as safe as if he had been enclosed within walls that reached to the skies! The armor of God covered him from head to foot!
So, dear Friends, when we seem to have nothing, certainly nothing visible, to protect us, what a blessing it is to know that we are nevertheless completely guarded by the Omnipotent though invisible God!
The visible is necessarily the limited and finite, but the invisible God is Infinite and there is no searching of His understanding, or resistance to His power. You are infinitely safe if you really trust the living God–your beginning and ending, your waking and sleeping, your resting and journeying, your work and suffering, your honor or your reproach, your poverty or wealth, your success or failure, your life or death–your all forever and ever is most secure when the Lord is your Keeper and your Shield upon your right hand. Be it ours in truest wisdom and sincerest trust to give up our hearts to the repose of simple faith in Him!
Come, sing with me that verse of the beloved singer Toplady–
“Inquirer and Hearer of prayer,
You Shepherd and Guardian of Thine,
My all to Your Covenant care,
I sleeping and waking resign!
If You are my shield and my sun,
The night is no darkness to me–
And fast as the moments roll on,
They bring me but nearer to Thee!”
We are invulnerable and invincible if God is with us! We may be in the very midst of cruel adversaries, but no weapon that is formed against us can prosper if God is our Shield. Our Lord did not say to Abram, and does not say to us, “I will shield you,” but that I, that am the Almighty, I am your Shield: it is not alone My power, My wisdom, My love which will protect you, but I, Myself, will be your Shield!
Then Abram may have thought, “I shall be protected, but shall I not spend my life in vain?” He might have fearedfor his success. He led the life of a gypsy, roaming through a land in which he owned no foot of ground. Therefore the Lord added, “I am your Reward.” Do you see? He does not say, “I will reward you,” but “I am your Reward.” If we whowork for Christ see souls saved, how we rejoice, for they are a kind of reward to us–but nevertheless we will not rejoice so much but rather rejoice that our names are written in Heaven! I have in these words quoted an old text, first spoken to chosen men who had healed the sick and cast out devils in Christ’s name. And if many receive our word it is a joy to us, but still we may be disappointed even in professed conversions and, at best, our success will not equal our desires. The only reward that a Christian can fully rejoice in–and without any reservation–is this assurance of his Master and Lord, “I am your Reward.” Did not the father in the parable say to the elder son, when he growled and grumbled at the reception given to his brother, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours”? That was reward enough, was it not? It is wealth enough to a Believer to possess his God, honor enough to please his God, happiness enough to enjoy his God. My heart’s best treasure lies here–“This God is our God forever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.”
“Oh, but,” you say, “people have been so ungrateful to me.” True, but God is not unfaithful to forget your work of faith and labor of love. “Ah, Sir, but I am dreadfully poor.” Yet you have God All-Sufficient, and all things are yours! “Alas! I am so ill.” But Jehovah-Rophi is the Lord that heals you! “Alas! I have no friends left.” Yet this best of friends changes not and dies not. Is He not better to you than a host of other friends?
How great is your God? Does He not fill all things? Then what more can you seek? Would you have two persons occupying the same place? If God fills all, what room is there left for another? Is not God’s Grace sufficient for you? Do you bemoan a cup of water that has been spilled at your feet? A well is near! Did I hear you cry, “I have not a drop in my bucket?” A river flows hard by–the river of God which is full of water! Oh, mournful Soul, why are you disquieted? What ails you that you should fret your life into rags?
Very fitly does the Lord say to Abram, “I am your exceedingly great reward.” He is infinitely more as a reward thanwe could ever have desired, expected, or deserved! There is no measuring such a reward as God Himself. If we were to pine away into poverty or sickness, it would still be joy enough to know that God gives Himself to be our portion. The tried people of God will always confess that in their sharpest time of sorrow, their joys have reached their floodtide when they knew and felt that the Lord is their Covenant God, their Father, their All! Our cup runs over when faith receives Jehovah, Himself, as the crown of the race, the wages of the service! What more can even God bestow, than Himself?
Now you see what I meant at the beginning by droppings from the honeycomb. I have not strained after novel thoughts or choice words, but have persuaded you to taste the natural sweetness of this fine Scripture promise. Receive it as God gives it and go your way–and let the flavor of it fill your souls all the week! Fear not, Mary! Fear not, William! Fear not, Sarah! Fear not, John! The Lord says to you, even as to Abram, “I am your shield and exceedingly great reward.” No Scripture is of private interpretation–you may take out the name of Abram and put your own name into the promise if you are of Abram’s spiritual seed–and do not stagger at the promise by reason of unbelief. “If children, then heirs” applies to all the spiritual family and to the pledging of all the promises to them!
The ground whereon you lie, the Lord your God has given you. If you can rest on this Word of God, it is truly yours to rest upon. The Lord is your Defender and Rewarder and by the double title He designs to shut out all fear and so make your rest and safety to be doubly sure! Therefore, cease you from all anxiety! Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him! This day He bids you dwell at ease and delight yourself in Him!
But we turn from Abram to Moses and we find this sweetly solacing assurance given also to him in time of special need and strain.
“And He said, ‘My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’”
It was not a pleasure trip that Moses was taking–it was a journey through the wilderness on most important business–and with a great pressure of burden on his heart. He took his case to his God and earnestly appealed to Him, “See, You say unto me, Bring up this people, and You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, I know you by name, and you have also found Grace in My sight. Now, therefore, I pray You, if I have found Grace in your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You, that I may find Grace in Your sight: and consider that this nation is Your people.”
It is very beautiful to notice the argument that Moses uses. He says, “Lord, You have set me to take care of this people. How can I do it? But they are Your people.” Therefore he appeals to Jehovah, Himself, for assistance. “You have not let me know whom You will send with me” is his complaint, but he seems to always have before him the fact that He, whose people they were, who had put him into commission to guide them, and to bear all their provocations, must intend to give him some very superior help! The answer to that is, “My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” What more could Moses need, and what more can we need? We are so foolish that we look about for strength away from God–but there is none except in Him! For all preachers and evangelists, how precious is this promise! They need Divine help in journeying from place to place–and that help lies in the constant fellowship of heart with their Lord–the continual Presence of God consciously enjoyed! They have a great burden of souls lying upon them–their only strength to bear it bravely and triumphantly is that each hears for himself the promise from God’s own lips, “My Presence shall go with you.” It may not appear to some that the quarter of an hour in the morning spent in looking into the face of God with ecstatic joy can fill us with strength, but we know from blessed experience that there is no strength like it! If the Eternal overshadows us, then Omnipotence comes streaming into us! Jehovah in Infinite, condescending liberality gives forth His might to us!
Notice, Beloved, that Moses was not informed that God would send Hobab, his father-in-law, to go with him. Nor that Joshua, his successor, should accompany him. Nothing either was said about the 70 elders who were, by-and-by, to share the burden of responsibility with him. Moses was, indeed, to have their presence and help, but his true power was to lie in this–“My Presence shall go with you.” The journey upon which he was to start was one of great importance foreseen by God to be a journey of great trial and great provocation–a journey that was to last for 40 years–but this is all the provision that he needs and God, Himself, could give him no more.
And then He adds, “ And I will give you rest.” Little as we sometimes imagine it, yet it is still true, that the most important possession of any Christian worker is rest–deep rest of soul in God–“A heart at leisure from itself.” “I do not expect any rest,” says one, “while I am here.” Do you not? Then you will not do much mighty and effective work for the Lord! Those who work most must learn the holy art of resting in the Lord. Indeed, it cannot be done well at all unless they have plenty of rest. You will notice how people that get greatly excited often talk sad nonsense–and people who are very fretful or fearful do not speak or act as they should. If we are to move others, we must have both feet firmly fixed–there is nothing like having a good grip of the ground if you are to wrestle with and throw your antagonist! My restfulness in God enables me to wrestle and conquer all sorts of difficulty and hard toil that is to be overcome.
“Do you think Moses had this rest?” someone will ask. Yes, I am sure he had because of the meekness of his spirit. You remember how the Lord Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest to your souls.” It is true that meekness of heart produces rest. And yet it is a still deeper Truth of God that rest produces meekness of heart! You can very well afford to be quiet with your fellows when you, yourself, are perfectly restful in the living God. I remember a man being run over in the street one day. Somebody rushed off, post haste, for the nearest doctor. And when the medical man heard of the accident, he went calmly into his surgery, turned over his case of instruments, selected those he thought he might need and then walked quietly to the spot where the injured man lay. The messenger tried to hurry him, but it was of no use. “Be quick, Doctor,” he cried, “the man’s leg is broken, every moment is precious.” Now the surgeon knew that he was doing the very best thing that he could do, and he was far wiser than he would have been if he had rushed off in wild haste, perhaps forgetting the very instrument he most needed, and arriving out of breath and quite unfit for the delicate duty required of him! The doctor’s composure was not the result of coldness of heart, but of the resolve to do the best possible thing in the best possible fashion.
If you are conscious of the Lord’s Presence, you will do the best thing possible by being very calm, deliberate and quiet in His service. “He that believes,” in that sense, “shall not make haste,” but he shall go about the business in a restful spirit.
Mark, too, the kind of rest that is here mentioned. “I will give you rest.” All the rest that God gives we may safely take! No man ever rested too long on the bosom of Jesus. I believe many Christian workers would be better if they enjoyed more. I was speaking to a large gathering of preachers the other day upon this very matter, my subject being the Savior asleep during the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He knew there was a storm coming on, but He felt so happy and restful in His Father’s love and care that He went into the back part of the boat–the best place for sleep–and taking the steersman’s cushion for a pillow, lay down and went to sleep! It was the very best thing He could do. He had been busy all day, teaching and feeding the multitudes, and He felt that it was His duty to go to sleep that He might be ready and fit for the next day’s toil. When you get very weary and perhaps worried as well, the best thing you can do is to go tosleep. Go to bed, Brother, and go to sleep!
It is astonishing what a difference a night’s rest makes with our troubles. I would say this literally to fidgeting, worrying people like myself, “Go to bed, Brother, go to bed!” But I would also say it spiritually to all sorts of people! When you are feeling weak and disturbed, and you do not know what to do for the best, “Go into the Presence of Lord and there get rest.” “My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” I will give you a little bit of worldly wisdom, which is also of Divine inspiring. Whenever you do not know what to do, do not do it! But some people, when they do not know what to do, go and do it, directly, and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. Many of us, like Moses, need to be taught to rest. Moses has to bear two millions of people on his heart–he needs rest. He has to put up with them for 40 years–he needs rest. Never had another man such a family as that! Never was another so likely to be fluttered and worried! And he was a meek-spirited man, too, who could not make a dash as others might have done. This is his strength–that he dwells in the Divine Presence and is, therefore, restful, calm and strong! It is only now and then that he let the human meekness be for a moment clouded. Thus was he enabled to march along, like a king in Jeshurun, as he was–and his soul dwelt in the eternity of God, ever singing amidst ten thousand graves, for he had 40 of his people dying every day!
Shall not we who love the Savior hear this same gracious promise sounding clear and sweet in our souls and trusting in the abiding Presence of God find that He gives the unparalleled rest, the rest that endures? And if, on the other hand, we are strangers to that brave, strong peace, shall we not listen as He calls, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest”? And answering to it, enter into that rest that always follows true believing! The Lord grant it may be so, with each one, for His name’s sake!