For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
I. The ATTITUDE enjoined by the text. What is it to "sit still"?
1. It indicates a condition of silence. Times occur for silence before men — when it is best to refrain from all vindications touching our character and doings. There are seasons for silence before God — times when our lips are neither opened in complaint nor importunity. "Rest in the Lord (be silent to the Lord), and wait patiently for Him."
2. A condition of resting is suggested. We must resign our opinions, anxieties, merit, strength, and resources, looking simply into heaven.
3. It is also the attitude of waiting. "I bide my time," is the motto of one of our noble families, and he who can bide his time, or, to speak more accurately, can bide God's time, is perfect in the sublime art of sitting still.
4. The text also sets forth a condition of expectation. Sir Thomas Lawrence painted the portrait of the Duke of Wellington, and when the portrait was half finished, the Duke was represented as holding a watch in his hand, waiting for the Prussians at Waterloo. When the great soldier understood what the watch was intended to indicate, he observed, "That will never do. I was not waiting for the Prussians at Waterloo. Put a telescope in my hand, if you please, but no watch." The temper here enjoined is very different to stoicism, involving no sacrifice of sensibility; it is distinct from fatalism, because it recognises the good and righteous God freely acting in all the government of the world; and it cannot be confounded with despair, for its inspiration is faith and hope.
II. The SEVERAL OCCASIONS when the admonition before us is specially applicable.
1. In the development of our religious life we may sometimes remember the text with advantage. Spiritual life commences in the passive mood.
2. But "justified by faith" "we often forget we must "live by faith," and by pure and simple faith pass into the highest stages of spiritual life.
3. There are two sides to a complete Christian life — the contemplative and enterprising, the hearkening and speaking, the receptive and communicative and it is of prime importance that both sides receive full attention.
4. Distressed by the problems and tribulations of life we may justly rest in the passive mood. Sometimes we are bitterly bereaved. In these days when our eyes are full of heartbreak let us not go down into the Egypt of carnal reason for light or help — only be still. God does not even expect us to say big words in such crises — only to be still. Sometimes we are prostrated by extreme physical suffering. Said a poor afflicted woman, "All that God requires from me now is to lie here and cough." Yes; simple suffering and quiet confidence — that, and nothing more. Sometimes we are defamed. When our reputation is unjustly eclipsed, are we to agitate and worry ourselves? Let us rather exemplify the maxim of Lavater: "I can wait"; let there be no impatience, no fretfulness, no bitterness. In the days of sorrowful surprise, of overwhelming misfortune, of sore dilemma, let us not go down into Egypt for wisdom to explain, or strength to bear, or consolation to soothe, but looking up to the everlasting Love, a whole army of fiery cars and coursers shall shelter and deliver us.
5. The counsel of the text is applicable to us when oppressed by spiritual conflict and darkness. "Who is there among you that feareth the Lord," etc. (Isaiah 50:10).
6. This monition is applicable to us also when we are discouraged in our evangelistic enterprises. The Indian juggler is said to contrive to make a flower grow from a seed to maturity before the eyes of the spectators in a few moments; and thus we expect the truth we sow to spring forth speedily bearing its rich crown of beauty and fruit. But alas! we wait, wait long, and sometimes sink into a state very like despair. Then again, when the triumph of the truth is delayed, workers are tempted to alloy it, with a view to its speedier popularity; hoping that in its debased form it may secure an entrance denied to pure doctrine. And yet once more, when the faith of Christ has not forthwith run and been glorified, the Church has been tempted to form political, artistic, and worldly alliances, which in the end only betray and mock. Paradoxical as it may seem, it is a grand thing for workers to "sit still"; having with both hands toiled for God, calmly and confidently to wait the issue (James 5:7, 8). The difficulty of rendering obedience to this injunction is really great. There is a sitting still easy enough and common enough, but to rest in God with an absolute faith is neither easy nor common.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
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.