and in the wilderness, where the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way by which you traveled until you reached this place."
I. TENDER LOVE. The love is likened to that of the best of fathers to a son (cf. Psalm 103:13). The New Testament goes further. It not only likens God to a father, but tells us he is one. He is "our Father in heaven," "the God and Father of Jesus Christ our Lord." This full revelation of Fatherhood only a Son could have given; and as given in the gospel it is the believer's daily comfort (Matthew 6:25-34).
II. CONSTANT CARE. This arises out of the relation and the love. It is a care:
1. Unceasing. "All the way."
2. Provident. "Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in."
3. Comprehensive; embracing every want of our lives. God "bare" Israel, i.e. took the entire charge of the nation upon himself; the whole responsibility of seeing them fed, led, clothed, kept, and brought safely to their final destination. So does he provide for his children in Christ.
4. Tenderly sympathetic. "As a man doth bear his son." And God has to bear with, as well as bear us.
III. SPECIAL GUIDANCE. This is included in the care, but is more prominent as a peculiar manifestation of it (ver. 33). Guidance is never wanting to those who need it. It is from day to day - just sufficient to show us present duty. It is given in the Bible, in the indications of providence, and in that inward illumination which enables us to discern the Lord's will in both, It was furnished to the Israelites through the pillar of cloud and fire - the symbol:
1. Of fiery guardianship with grateful shade.
2. Of guiding light with attendant mystery.
3. Of light shining to us in the midst of dark providences.
4. Of the adaptation of God's guidance to our needs - by day the cloud, by night the fire. - J.O.
I. The text supposes that DIFFICULTIES WILL BE ENCOUNTERED. In the Christian life there are many obstacles.
I. GOD, EVEN OUR GOD, IS GRACIOUSLY CONSIDERATE OF HIS SERVANTS, and would have them well fitted for high enterprise with good courage. He does not send them as a tyrant would send a soldier upon an errand for which he is not capable, nor does He afterwards withhold His succour, forgetful of the straits to which they may be reduced; but tie is very careful of His servants, and will not let one of them perish. The Lord our God hath strong reasons for being thus considerate of His servants.
1. Are they not His children? Is He not their Father? Does tie not love them? Now, none of us would send a child of ours upon a difficult enterprise without being anxious for his welfare. We would not put him upon a trial beyond his strength, without at the same time guaranteeing to stand at his side and make his strength equal to his day.
2. Moreover, the Father Himself is concerned as to His honour in all that they do. If any servant of God shall fall, then God's name is despised. The daughters of Philistia rejoice, and the inhabitants of Ekron triumph. His honour is too much concerned ever to permit this. Ye feeble ones, to whom God hath given to do or to suffer for His name's sake, rest assured that He hath His eye upon you now. He cannot leave you, unless He can cease to be "God over all, blessed for ever."
3. Observe well how far the tender consideration of God for His servants extends! He not only considers their outward state, and the absolute interests of their condition, but He remembers their spirits, and loves to see them of good courage.
II. GOD USES HIS OWN PEOPLE TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER. He did not say to the angel, "Gabriel, there is My servant Joshua, about to take the people into Canaan — fly down and encourage him." God never works needless miracles. Gabriel would not have been half so well fitted for the work as Moses. A brother's sympathy is more precious than an angel's embassy. To whom, then, should this work of encouraging the people be committed?
1. Surely the elders should do it; those of riper years than their fellows. I know of nothing more inspiriting than to hear the experience of a grey-headed saint. I have found much spiritual comfort in sitting at the feet of my venerable grandfather, more than eighty years of age.
2. Not the aged only, but the wise in the family should be comforters. All believers are not equal in knowledge. Oh, ye that have searched the Scriptures through and know its promises, be sure to quote the promises of God to trembling hearts, and especially to those engaged in arduous labour for the Master. Comfort them. Repeat the doctrine of God's faithfulness; say to them, "He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed." Oh, that the wise-hearted in the Lord's family would be thus employed at all times.
3. Nor can I doubt that the happier sort of Christians ought always to be engaged in comforting the mournful and sorrowing. You know whom I mean; their eyes always sparkle; wherever they go they carry lamps bright with animation, sunshine gleams in their faces, they live in the light of God's countenance.
4. Let the brother of low degree be likewise encouraged by those who are rich among you. You may frequently breathe comfort into a desponding spirit by seasonable help.
III. I advance to THE OBJECT that is uppermost in my mind. I believe there is a special occasion for the exercise of this duty of encouraging one another in the case of the minister and Church in this place. It is a fresh enterprise surrounded with peculiar difficulties, and demanding special labour. It is a work so solemn that if you do not encourage your minister your minister will probably sink down in despair. Remember that the man himself needs encouragement because he is weak. Who is sufficient for these things? To serve in any part of the spiritual army is dangerous, but to be a captain is to be doubly exposed. The most of the shots are aimed at the officers. There are all sorts of discouragements to be met with. Professing Christians will backslide. Those who do remain will often be inconsistent, and he will be sighing in his closet, while you, perhaps, are thanking God that your souls have been fed under him. Encourage your minister, I pray yon, wherever you attend — encourage him for your own sake. A discouraged minister is a serious burden upon the congregation. When the fountain gets out of order you cannot expect water at any of the taps; and if the minister be not right it is something like a steam engine in a great manufactory — everybody's loom is idle when the motive power is out of order. See that he is resting upon God and receiving His Divine power, and you will all know, each Sabbath day, the benefit of it. This is the least thing you can do. There are many other things which may cause you expense, effort, time, but to encourage the minister is so easy, so simple a matter, that I may well press upon you to do it. Perhaps you will say, "Well, if it is so simple and easy, tell us, who are expecting to settle down in this place, how we can encourage the minister here." Well, you can do it in several ways.
1. You can encourage him by very constant attendance. Those who are going from place to place are of no use to anybody; but those are the truly useful men who, when the servants of God are in their places, keep to theirs, and let everybody see that whoever discourages the minister, they will not, for they appreciate his ministry.
2. Again, let me say, by often being present at the prayer meeting you can encourage the minister.
3. Again, you can all encourage the minister by the consistency of your lives. I do not know when I ever felt more gratified than on one occasion when, sitting at a church meeting, having to report the death of a young brother who was in the service of an eminent employer, a little note came from him to say, "My servant, Edward —, is dead. I send you word at once that you may send me another young man; for if your members are such as he was, I never wish to have better servants around me." I read the letter at the church meeting, and another was soon found. It is a cheering thing for the Christian minister to know that his converts are held in repute.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Difficulties made by ourselves.
2. Difficulties arising from the conduct of others.
3. Difficulties expressly sent by God to test His servants.
II. The text gives a command to SURMOUNT THESE DIFFICULTIES. We should encourage our fellow Christians.
1. To meet their trials with patience.
2. Steadily to fight till they conquer them.
3. To profit by them.
III. The text contains A LESSON FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN PREACHER AND TEACHER. "Encourage" —
1. The penitent sinner.
2. The young believer.
3. The well-tried saint.
(J. W. Macdonald.)
I. HE IS LIABLE TO DISCOURAGEMENT ARISING FROM FEAR AS TO THE INEFFICACY OF HIS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LABOURS.
1. "Encourage him" by your regular attendance on the public, worship of God. Let. it ever be remembered that attendance on the House of God IS not a matter of choice, but a sacred duty.
2. "Encourage him" by endeavouring to derive personal benefit from his ministry.
3. "Encourage him" by endeavouring to counteract his fears in manifesting your readiness to cooperate with him in all his efforts to do good. It is heartless work to labour alone.
4. "Encourage him" by praying for him.
5. "Encourage him" by informing him of the success of his labours, whether on yourselves or on others.
II. A SECOND SOURCE OF MINISTERIAL DISCOURAGEMENT REGARDS THE UNFAVOURABLE IMPRESSIONS LIKELY TO BE MADE ON SOME MINDS BY THE FAITHFUL DISCHARGE OF HIS PROFESSIONAL DUTIES. Let it be your delight to "encourage" your minister by following him with patience and docility in all his researches into the inexhaustible treasures of inspiration.
III. ANOTHER SPECIES OF MINISTERIAL DISCOURAGEMENT SOMETIMES ARISES FROM FEAR RESPECTING THE FAILURE OF THE AFFECTION OF OUR PEOPLE AND THE DIMINUTION OF OUR OWN USEFULNESS SHOULD WE CONTINUE LONG TO LABOUR AMONGST THEM. There are some who will show less forbearance to a minister than to others; and who, not satisfied with exciting the hostility of their families, labour by partial statements of their own case to create a general prejudice against him. Contentions in parishes and in churches have often caused clergymen to sigh for a place in the desert, that they might leave their flocks and go from them; indeed, they have made them long for that place "where the wicked cease from troubling and where the weary are at rest." Encourage your minister, therefore, by endeavouring to be "all of one mind." As Christians, you must walk in love.
(T. Gibson, M. A.)
(Little's Historical Lights.)
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