Christian, take good care of thy faith; for recollect faith is the only way whereby thou canst obtain blessings. If we want blessings from God, nothing can fetch them down but faith. Prayer cannot draw down answers, from God’s throne except it be the earnest prayer of the man who believes. Faith is the angelic messenger between the soul and the Lord Jesus in glory. Let that angel be withdrawn, we can neither send up prayer, nor receive the answers. Faith is the telegraphic wire which links earth and heaven-on which God’s messages of love fly so fast, that before we call He answers, and while we are yet speaking He hears us. But if that telegraphic wire of faith be snapped, how can we receive the promise? Am I in trouble?-I can obtain help for trouble by faith. Am I beaten about by the enemy?-my soul on her dear Refuge leans by faith. But take faith away-in vain I call to God. There is no road betwixt my soul and heaven. In the deepest wintertime faith is a road on which the horses of prayer may travel-ay, and all the better for the biting frost; but blockade the road, and how can we communicate with the Great King? Faith links me with divinity. Faith clothes me with the power of God. Faith engages on my side the omnipotence of Jehovah. Faith ensures every attribute of God in my defence. It helps me to defy the hosts of hell. It makes me march triumphant over the necks of my enemies. But without faith how can I receive anything of the Lord? Let not him that wavereth-who is like a wave of the Sea-expect that he will receive anything of God! O, then, Christian, watch well thy faith; for with it thou canst win all things, however poor thou art, but without it thou canst obtain nothing. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
n the land of Uz there lived a man named Job; and he was blameless and upright, one who revered God and avoided evil. He had seven sons and three daughters. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred asses; and he had many servants, so that he was the richest man among all the peoples of the East.
One day when the sons of God came before Jehovah, Satan came with them. Jehovah said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Satan answered, “From going back and forth on the earth, and walking up and down on it.” And Jehovah said to Satan, “Have you seen my servant Job? For there is no man like him on the earth, blameless and upright, who reveres God and avoids evil.” Satan answered, “But is it for nothing that Job reveres God? Have you not yourself made a hedge all about him, about his household, and about all that he has? You have blessed whatever he does, and his possessions have greatly increased. But just put out your hand now and take away all he has; he certainly will curse you to your face.” Then Jehovah said to Satan, “See, everything that he has is in your power; only do not lay hands on Job himself.” So Satan left the presence of Jehovah.
One day, as Job’s sons and daughters were eating and drinking in the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were ploughing and the asses were grazing near them when Sabeans suddenly attacked and seized them; the servants were put to the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Lightning has fallen from heaven and has completely burned up the sheep and the servants, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
While this man was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans, attacking in three bands, raided the camels and drove them away; the servants were put to the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
While this one was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking in their oldest brother’s house when a great wind came from across the wilderness, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men and killed them. I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Then Job rose, tore his robe, shaved his head, threw himself on the ground and worshipped, saying:
“Jehovah gave, Jehovah has taken away;
Blessed be the name of Jehovah!”
In all this Job did not sin nor blame God.
On another day when the sons of God came before Jehovah, Satan came with them. And Jehovah said to Satan, “From where do you come?”
Satan answered, “From going back and forth on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” Jehovah said to Satan, “Have you seen my servant Job? For there is no man like him on the earth, blameless and upright, one who reveres God and avoids evil; he still is faithful, although you led me to ruin him without cause.” Satan answered Jehovah, “Skin for skin, yes, a man will give all that he has for his life. But just put out your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he certainly will curse you to your face.” Jehovah said to Satan, “See, he is in your power; only spare his life.”
So Satan left the presence of Jehovah, and afflicted Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head with leprosy so terrible that Job took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself.
As he sat among the ashes, his wife said to him, “Are you still holding to your piety? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak like a senseless woman. We accept prosperity from God, shall we not also accept misfortune?” In all this Job said nothing that was wrong.
When Job’s three friends heard of all this trouble that had befallen him, they came each from his own home: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, for they had arranged to go together and show their sympathy for him and comfort him. But when they saw him in the distance, they did not at first know him. Then they all wept aloud and tore their robes and threw dust upon their heads. And they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights without any one saying a word to him, for they saw that he was in great trouble.
Then Job began to speak and said:
“Why did I not die at birth,
Breathe my last when I was born?
I should then have lain down in quiet,
Should have slept and been at rest
With kings and counsellors of earth,
Who built themselves great pyramids;
With princes rich in gold,
Who filled their houses with silver.
“There the wicked cease from troubling,
There the weary are at rest;
Captives too at ease together,
Hearing not the voice of masters.
There the small and great are gathered,
There the slave is free at last.”
Then Eliphaz, the Temanite, answered:
“If one dares to speak, will it vex you?
But who can keep from speaking?
See! you have instructed many,
And strengthened the drooping hands.
Your words have upheld the fallen,
Giving strength to tottering knees.
But now that trouble comes, you are impatient,
Now that it touches you, you lose courage.
“Is not your religion your confidence;
Your blameless life, your hope?
Remember! What innocent man ever perished?
Or where were the upright ever destroyed?
Happy the man whom God corrects;
Therefore, spurn not the Almighty’s chastening.
For he causes pain but to comfort,
And wounds, that his hands may heal.”
Then Job answered:
“What strength have I, that I should endure?
And what is my future, that I should be patient?
Is my strength the strength of stones,
Or is my body made of brass?
A friend should be kind to one fainting,
Though he lose his faith in the Almighty.
Teach me, and I will keep silent.
Show me how I have sinned.”
Then Bildad, the Shuhite, answered:
“Is God a God of injustice?
Or can the Almighty do wrong?
If your children sinned against him,
He has let them suffer the penalty;
But you should earnestly seek him,
And devoutly beseech the Almighty.
If you are pure and upright,
He will surely answer your prayer,
And will prosper your righteous abode.”
Then Job answered:
“To be sure, I know that it is so;
But how can a man be just before God?
He is wise in mind and mighty in strength,
Who has ever defied him and prospered,
Blameless I am! I regard not myself;
I hate my life; it is all one to me.
Therefore, I openly declare:
He destroys the blameless as well as the wicked.”
Then Zophar, the Naamathite, answered:
“If you would cleanse your heart,
And stretch out your hands to God,
And put away sin from your hand,
And let no wrong dwell in your tent,
You would then lift your face without spot,
You would then be steadfast and fearless.”
Then Job answered:
“Verily you are the people,
And with you wisdom shall die!
But I have a mind as well as you,
And who does not know all this?
Oh, that my words were now written,
That they were inscribed in a book,
That with an iron pen and with lead
In rock they were carved forever!
“For I know that my Defender lives,
That at last he shall stand upon earth;
And after this skin is destroyed.
Freed from my flesh, I shall see him,
Whom I shall behold for myself;
My own eyes shall see, and no stranger’s.”
Job again spoke and said:
“Oh, to be as in months of old,
As in days when God guarded my steps,
When his lamp shone above my head,
And I walked by his light through the darkness;
As I was in my prosperous days,
When God protected my tent;
When still the Almighty was with me,
And my children were all about me!
“When I went to the gate of the city,
And took my seat in the open,
The youths, when they saw me, retired,
And the aged rose up and stood;
The princes refrained from talking,
And laid their hands on their mouths;
The voices of nobles were hushed,
And their tongues stuck fast to their palates.
“He who heard of me called me happy,
He who saw me bore me witness,
For I saved the poor who cried,
And the orphan with none to help him.
The suffering gave me their blessing,
And I made the widow’s heart glad.
“Eyes was I to the blind,
Feet was I to the lame,
And a father to those who were needy.
I defended the cause of the stranger,
I shattered the jaws of the wicked,
And wrested the prey from his teeth.
“Men listened to me eagerly,
And in silence awaited my counsel.
After my words they spoke not,
And my speech fell as rain-drops upon them.
But they sing of me now in derision,
And my name is a by-word among them.
“Oh, for some one to hear me!
Behold my defense all signed!
Let now the Almighty answer,
Let Jehovah write the charge!
On my shoulder I would bear it,
As a crown I would bind it round me;
I would tell him my every act;
Like a prince I would enter his presence!”
Then out of the whirlwind Jehovah answered Job:
“Where were you when I founded the earth?
You have knowledge and insight, so tell me.
You must know! Who determined its measures?
Or who measured it off with a line?
On what were its foundations placed?
Or who laid its corner-stone,
When the morning stars all sang together,
And the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
That abundance of water may answer you?
Can you send on their missions the lightnings;
To you do they say, ‘Here we are’?
“Does the hawk soar because of your wisdom,
And stretch her wings to the south wind?
Does the eagle mount up at your bidding,
And build her nest on high?
“Will the fault-finder strive with Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer.
Will you set aside my judgment,
And condemn me, that you may be justified?”
Then Job answered the Lord:
“How small I am! what can I answer?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I spoke once, but will do so no more;
Yes, twice, but will go no further.
“I know thou canst do all things,
And that nothing with thee is impossible.
I spoke, therefore, without sense,
Of wonders beyond my knowledge.
I had heard of thee but by hearsay,
But now my eye has seen thee;
Therefore I despise my words,
And repent in dust and ashes.”
Then Jehovah gave back to Job, twice as much as he had before. And Jehovah blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first part; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand asses. He also had seven sons and three daughters. And after this Job lived an hundred and forty years.
This message from Jehovah came to Jonah, the son of Amittai: “Arise, go to that great city, Nineveh, and preach against it; for their wickedness is known to me.” But Jonah started to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went aboard to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah.
But Jehovah made a furious wind blow over the sea, and there was such a great storm that the ship was in danger of breaking to pieces. Then the sailors were afraid and each cried for help to his own god. They threw into the sea the things that were in the ship, in order to make it lighter. But Jonah had gone down into the bottom of the ship and lay fast asleep. Then the captain of the ship went and said to him, “How is it that you are asleep? Call on your god; perhaps that god will think of us, so that we may not be lost.”
And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us, what is your business, and where do you come from? What is your country and to what race do you belong?” He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and a worshipper of Jehovah, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were greatly frightened and said to him, “What is this you have done?” For they knew that he was fleeing from the presence of Jehovah, because he had told them.
Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may be calm for us?” for the sea grew more and more stormy. He said to them, “Take me up and throw me into the sea, and the sea will be calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has overtaken you.” But the men rowed hard to get back to the land; they could not, however, for the sea grew more and more stormy ahead.
Therefore they cried to Jehovah and said, “We pray thee, O Jehovah, we pray thee, let us not die for this man’s life, nor let us be guilty of shedding innocent blood, for thou art Jehovah; thou hast done as it pleases thee.” So they took up Jonah, and threw him into the sea; and the sea became calm. Then the men greatly feared Jehovah, and they offered a sacrifice and made promises to him.
But Jehovah prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. There Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God; and Jehovah spoke to the fish, and it threw Jonah out upon the dry land.
This message from Jehovah came to Jonah the second time, “Arise, go to that great city, Nineveh, and give to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah started for Nineveh, as Jehovah commanded. Now Nineveh was so large a city, that it took three days’ journey to cross it. And Jonah began by going through the city a day’s journey, and he said, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they ordered a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. And when word came to the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his robe, dressed in sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he gave this order: “By the order of the king and his nobles: Man, beast, herd, and flock shall not taste anything; let them not eat nor drink water. Let both man and beast put on sackcloth and let them cry earnestly to God; let them turn each from his evil way and from the deeds of violence which they are doing. Who knows but God may be sorry for us and turn away his fierce anger, that we may not die.”
When God saw that they turned from their evil way, he was sorry for the evil which he said he would do to them, and did not do it.
But this displeased Jonah very much and he was angry. And he prayed to Jehovah and said, “Ah, Jehovah, was not this what I said when I was still in my own country? That was why I fled at once to Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a God, gracious and merciful, patient, and loving and ready to forgive. Therefore, O Jehovah, take now, I beg of thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live!” But Jehovah said, “Are you doing right in being angry?”
Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down on the east side, and there made a hut for himself and sat under it, until he might see what would become of the city. And Jehovah prepared a gourd and made it grow up over Jonah as a shade for his head. So the gourd gave Jonah great pleasure; but at dawn the next day God prepared a worm which injured the gourd, so that it wilted. And when the sun rose, God prepared a hot east wind. And the sun beat upon Jonah’s head, so that he was faint and begged that he might die, saying, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Are you doing right in being angry about the gourd?” He replied, “It is well for one to be angry, even to death!” Jehovah said, “You care for a gourd which has cost you no trouble and which you have not made grow, which came up in a night and wilted in a night. Should I not care for the great city Nineveh, in which there are one hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left; besides much cattle?”
It was a very unequal struggle on which Pharaoh had entered; for he opposed not the Hebrews, but Jehovah. It is thus that the great ones of this world have ever spoken and acted. “Let us build a tower;” “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” “Against Thy holy child Jesus, both Herod and Pontius Pilate were gathered together.” In every case, He that sits in the heavens has laughed at the boast of human pride. His cause and His people’s are one. Yet times of affliction have always been on times of multiplication.
In the history of the Church. – When has she made her greatest number of adherents? When her pulpits have been filled with eloquent preachers, and her aisles crowded with fashion and wealth? No; but when she has been driven to the dens and caves of the earth, and her sons have been proscribed outcasts. The real triumphs of the early Church were in the first centuries of opprobrium and persecution; her decline began when Constantine made Christianity the religion of the State.
In the history of each earnest soul. – It is rarely the case that we make much spiritual headway when winds and currents favor us. We do best when all is against us. We grow quickest in the dark. In times of persecution we realize the security, and comfort, and joy, which are in Christ Jesus our Lord; and as God goes the round of the world, it is in chambers of pain, sickness, and bereavement, that He beholds the multiplication of the choice graces of holy character and temper. The affliction, which is for the moment, is working out an exceeding weight of glory.
Then the common people and their wives raised a loud cry against their fellow Jews. Some said, “We must give up our sons and our daughters in pledge to get grain that we may eat and live.” Others said, “We must give up our fields and our vineyards and our houses, that we may get grain because there is so little.” Others said, “We have borrowed money to pay the king’s taxes. Although our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children as their children; yet we must sell our sons and our daughters as slaves. Some of our daughters have already been made slaves, and it is not in our power to stop it, for our fields and our vineyards belong to the nobles.”
When I heard their cry and these words, I was very angry. After I had thought about it, I rebuked the nobles and the rulers and said to them, “You make each of your fellow Jews pay what you loan him.”
Then I called a great meeting to protest against what they were doing. And I said to them, “We ourselves have, as far as we could, bought back our fellow Jews who have been sold to foreigners. Would you sell your fellow Jews, and should they be sold to us?” Then they were silent and could not find a word to say. So I said, “What you are doing is not good. Ought you not to live in the fear of God, so as not to be an object of shame to our foreign foes? I, too, my relatives, and my servants lend the people money and grain. Let us stop taking anything for what we lend. Give back to them at once their fields, their vineyards, their olive-yards, and their houses, and whatever you have made them pay for the money, the grain, the new wine and the oil.”
Then they said, “We will give them back and will ask nothing from them; we will do even as you say.” Then I called the priests and made them solemnly promise that they would do as they had said.
For twelve years from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, I and my relatives did not eat the food which was my right as governor. But the governors who were before me were an expense to the people and took from them bread and wine and forty pieces of silver each day. Their servants also were cruel to the people. But I did not do so, for I feared God. I also gave myself to the work on the wall, and we did not buy any land, but all my servants were gathered there for work. Also a hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those who came to us from other nations, were fed at my table. Each day one ox and six choice sheep and fowls were prepared at my expense, and once in ten days plenty of wine for all. Yet with all this expense, I did not demand the food which was due me as governor, because the public work was a heavy burden upon this people. Remember to my credit, O my God, all that I have done for them!
“Let Israel hope in the Lord.” Has she ceased to hope in the creature? Does she despair of salvation from any other source or quarter but the blood of the Lamb? Is she crying, sighing, longing, panting, and begging of the Lord to appear in her soul? “Let Israel,” then, “hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy.” He will not spurn his waiting Israel from his feet; he will not smite her with the lightnings of his wrath; he will shew mercy to the poor, guilty sinner that comes with dust upon his head, clothed with sackcloth and ashes, mourning and lamenting his vileness before the Lord. There is no wrath in the bosom of the Lord against him; there is mercy, pardoning mercy in the bosom of Jehovah for Israel; therefore “let Israel hope in the Lord.” If Israel look to herself, she cannot have one grain of hope; if she look to the law, she cannot have one ray of expectation; or if she look to an arm of flesh, none can do her good. But if Israel look “to the hills from whence cometh her help”–to God the Father, in his electing love–to God the Son, in his redeeming blood–to God the Spirit, in his sanctifying work; if Israel is thus enabled to anchor within the veil, thus to “hope in the Lord,” her hope shall not be cut off, shall not be disappointed; it shall not be as “the hope of the hypocrite,” a spider’s web, that the first gust of eternal displeasure shall for ever sweep away.
Hagar had once found deliverance there and Ishmael had drank from the water so graciously revealed by the God who liveth and seeth the sons of men; but this was a merely casual visit, such as worldlings pay to the Lord in times of need, when it serves their turn. They cry to Him in trouble, but forsake Him in prosperity. Isaac dwelt there, and made the well of the living and all-seeing God his constant source of supply. The usual tenor of a man’s life, the dwelling of his soul, is the true test of his state. Perhaps the providential visitation experienced by Hagar struck Isaac’s mind, and led him to revere the place; its mystical name endeared it to him; his frequent musings by its brim at eventide made him familiar with the well; his meeting Rebecca there had made his spirit feel at home near the spot; but best of all, the fact that he there enjoyed fellowship with the living God, had made him select that hallowed ground for his dwelling. Let us learn to live in the presence of the living God; let us pray the Holy Spirit that this day, and every other day, we may feel, “Thou God seest me.” May the Lord Jehovah be as a well to us, delightful, comforting, unfailing, springing up unto eternal life. The bottle of the creature cracks and dries up, but the well of the Creator never fails; happy is he who dwells at the well, and so has abundant and constant supplies near at hand. The Lord has been a sure helper to others: His name is Shaddai, God All-sufficient; our hearts have often had most delightful intercourse with Him; through Him our soul has found her glorious Husband, the Lord Jesus; and in Him this day we live, and move, and have our being; let us, then, dwell in closest fellowship with Him. Glorious Lord, constrain us that we may never leave Thee, but dwell by the well of the living God.