For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
(with ver. 15): — Does this expression embody a universal principle — one applicable under all possible circumstances? The least consideration will convince us that this cannot be the case.
1. You are naturally, it may be, somewhat apathetic. I fear we all are so in religion — in the concerns of the soul. And this natural indolence is sometimes greatly strengthened by a false theology, a one-sided, overstrained evangeliser, which, by forever insisting on the one point of human inability, has a tendency to lull men asleep. And thus it is that multitudes sit down with folded hands, in an attitude of waiting, as they say, for I know not what mysterious influence from on high to visit their souls. The error is a very grievous one. Scripture bids us awake out of sleep, it bids us flee from the coming wrath, it bids us turn from sin unto God, avoid temptation, resist Satan, restrain our own evil tendencies; it bids us repent, and believe, and pray, and use the means of grace.
2. There is another class, however, who are likely to fall into an opposite error. They are not apathetic, their natural constitution of mind is the very reverse of this. These are your active, bustling, restless people. There is no quietness about them, no repose, no calmness. You read their character in their very look. There is an uneasy air, a feverishness, a fretfulness, characterising them and all their actions, which distinguish them from others, and place them in a class by themselves. When the Gospel comes to one of this class, saying, Cease from all efforts of your own for acceptance; — "your strength is to sit still, to rest in God, to believe in Jesus; in returning and rest thou shalt be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength," — is there no risk that there be a temporary recoil from a system that thus comes so directly into collision with his individualism of character? His first prompting is to something quite different. Let him have his own way, then; it is humbling he needs. It is not necessary we should follow him in his efforts; they are the same as the efforts of those who "go about to establish their own righteousness." We know what the result must be; nor are we mistaken, for by and by we find him by the Cross — he has sunk down there exhausted. Yet there are other occasions on which his natural constitution — strong, because deeply rooted — will rise up, and place itself in antagonism with the dealings of God; and chiefly, perhaps, in these two ways — duty and suffering.
(1) Suffering. He is now a child of God, but not on that account exempt from chastisement; nay, rather on that very account exposed to it as part of that salutary discipline by which he is training up for Heaven. Perhaps such a man as he needs a severer discipline than that of a more quiet, subdued, restful disposition, to humble him, and wean him from all vain confidences; and so affliction comes in some shape or other — such as will touch him most acutely. We need not think it strange if he go down to Egypt for help; if he have recourse to false physicians; if, instead of looking to God, he trust in an arm of flesh to deliver him; if he weary under God's chastening hand, and wish it removed ere the end in view has been answered. He finds no rest till he returns to God, and says, He hath put me into the furnace, and here will I lie quietly till He take me out again.
(2) Passing now from the sphere of suffering to that of duty, we find him maintaining the same conflict between the Divine authority and his own will. Remember he is essentially active. He loves a conspicuous position. It is not exactly that he is vain or ambitious, but something within him stimulates him to come forward; he feels as if he were formed for a position of usefulness and eminence; and perhaps he is right. Only he must wait God's time for this; he must suffer God to choose for him; and this is what he is rather unwilling to do.
(A. L. R. Foote.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.