May the bolts of your gate be iron and bronze, and your strength match your days.
I. NUMERICAL INCREASE. By a natural law of God's providence, rapid increase of the people is a fruit of material prosperity. When scarcity of food is a permanent condition, infanticide prevails, or children perish for lack of nutritious food. This increase of children was, in former times, a distinct token of God's favor, and a frequent subject of promise. As the numbers of Israel increased, so would their strength to resist aggression. It was when Israel's numbers were diminished by intestine wars, that the Eastern potentates gained decisive triumphs. Occupying, as Asher did, the extreme north-west of Canaan, numerical increase was a source of defensive strength. To the Christian parent - to the Church, children are a blessing. "Happy they who have their quiver full" of these Divine arrows.
II. THERE IS SET FORTH SOCIAL REPUTATION AND GOOD WILL. "Let him be acceptable to his brethren." So long as the tribal relationship was maintained in strength, there was a constant danger of mutual jealousies and animosities. Occasionally this evil passion took fire and broke into open flame. From tribal suspicion and dislike Asher would be free. It is an honor and a joy to live in the esteem and good will of brethren. The outward reach of influence is enlarged. Life is felt to have nobler interests. The better part of human nature finds development.
III. THERE IS FORESHADOWED AGRICULTURAL PROSPERITY. Upon the northern hills of Palestine the olive tree flourishes, and authorities affirm that no agricultural produce is so abundant and so remunerative as that of the olive. It is hardy, will flourish in rocky soil, and attains venerable age. Its fruit is valuable, is utilized for domestic purposes, and has always been a staple commodity of commerce. So prolific were the olives of Asher to become, that the people should have, not only the head, but the feet also, in the abundant oil; or the language may be designed as a bold figure, to indicate that so full should be the oil-vats at the base of every olive-clothed hill, that the very land should seem to be foot-deep in golden oil.
IV. THERE IS PREDICTED IMPREGNABLE DEFENSE. The poetical imagery here may be better translated, "Thy bars shall be iron and brass." It may be that these metals were found in veins among the hills, or rather iron and copper, it may that the gates of their cities were, in some cases, fashioned with these metals. Doors and gates of iron are still to be seen in the district of Bashan. But it is better to treat the language as elegant imagery, to indicate the matchless strength of Asher's fortresses. Over all her internal wealth there shall be a sure defense. The Chaldee paraphase reads, "Thou shalt be strong and bright, like iron and brass."
V. THERE IS PLEDGED INTERNAL STRENGTH PROPORTIONED TO NEED. "As thy days, thy strength." A precious promise this of universal application. Our days are under Divine inspection; our circumstances are under Divine control. It is better for the man every way that his strength should be increased than that the trial should be abated. The outcome is that the man emerges stronger, nobler, more highly developed. The supply is always adjusted to the particular need. God is the model of frugal economy. In his administration there is no waste. But there would be waste if the supply of strength daily given were in excess of the requirement. This would be a blot upon his wisdom. What should we say of the water company that sent daily into our houses ten times the quantity of water that is required? Or, what advantage would it be to us if the supply of light from the sun daily were a hundredfold in excess of this world's need? Our God is perfect wisdom, as well as infinite love. Strength shall be supplied, not in superabundant waste, but in exact proportion to our need. "As our days, our strength." The infant would be crushed with the strength of the full-grown man. - D.
Thy shoes shall be iron and brass.I. THY SHOES SHALL BE IRON AND BRASS. The passage has several translations, which may serve as divisions in opening up the meaning. The Lord's promises are true in every sense they will fairly bear. A generous man will allow the widest interpretation of his words, and so will the infinitely gracious God.
1. That Asher should have treasures under his feet — mines of iron and copper.(1) The Word of God has mines in it. There are treasures upon the surface of the Word which we may pick up very readily: even the casual reader will find himself able to understand the simplicities and elements of the Gospel; but the Word of God yields most to the digger. We waste too much time upon the pretentious, poverty-stricken literature of the age; and some, even Christians, are more taken up with works of fiction than they are with this great Book of everlasting fact. Remember that God has given to us to have treasures under our feet; but do not so despise His gifts as to leave the mines of revelation unexplored.(2) You will find these treasures not only in the Word of God, but everywhere in the providence of God, if you will consider the ways of the Lord, and ,believe that God is everywhere at work.
2. R.V. "Thy bars shall be iron and brass" — there shall be protection around him. Peace from all assaults, safety under all alarms, shutting in from all attacks — this is a priceless boon.
3. He shall have protection for his feet. It is no objection that shoes of iron and brass would be unusual, for the protection which God gives His people is unusual. Theirs are no common equipments, for they are no common people. You have peculiar difficulties, you are a peculiar people, you traverse a peculiar road, you have a peculiar God to trust in, and you may therefore find a peculiar consolation in a peculiar promise. We want to have shoes of iron and brass —(1) To travel with. We are pilgrims, journeying along a road which has not been smoothed by a steamroller, but remains rough and rugged as the path to an Alpine summit.(2) To fight with. These shoes are meant for trampling upon enemies.(3) For climbing. We ought not to be satisfied till we reach the highest places of knowledge, experience, and practice.(4) For perseverance. Since the Lord has shod you in this fashion, it is a warning to you that the way is long and weary, and the end not by-and-by.
II. AS THY DAY, SO SHALL THY STRENGTH BE. The words carry a tacit hint, that we have no strength of our own, but have need of strength from above. Come down from your self-esteem: stoop from the notion of your own natural ability: divest yourself of the foolish idea that you can do anything in and of yourself, and come now to the Strong for strength, and ask your Lord to fulfil this promise in your experience.
1. Strength to abide through days. Not for today only, but for tomorrow, and for every day as every day, shall come.
2. Strength to be given daily. A day's burden and a day's help, a day's sorrow and a day's comfort. A storage of grace would turn into self-sufficiency.
3. It will be given to us proportionately. A day of little service, little strength; a day of little suffering, little strength; but in a tremendous day — a day that needs thee to play the Samson — thou shalt have Samson's strength.
4. Our strength continuing as our days continue.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. R. Miller, D. D.)
And as thy days, so shall thy strength be1. It is not the design of these words to suppress forelooking and foreplanning in secular things.
2. It is not designed to teach men that God will maintain a providence of miracles in their behalf.
3. We cannot know beforehand what help will spring up from our circumstances.
4. Anxiety for the future is labour lost.
5. Application —
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (H. W. Beecher.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (H. W. Beecher.)
(3) (4) (5) (6) (H. W. Beecher.)
(6) (H. W. Beecher.)
(6) (H. W. Beecher.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. THY DAYS ARE ALL THE DAYS OF THY LIFE, HAVING GREAT RELATIONS, PURPOSES, OR INTERESTS, TO WHICH THE STRENGTH IS ADJUSTED.
1. Thy days are for salvation, and thy strength shall be proportioned to thy days' task. The days of life are the steps of the ladder by which we are to ascend the skies.
2. Thy days are for spiritual progress, and thy strength shall be proportioned to the task. Days are given to us on earth to educate us for heaven, for the acquisition of suitable excellence. Let us therefore go on to larger acquisitions. We shall never have cause, like the world's conqueror, to sit down and weep that there are no more worlds to conquer.
3. Thy days are for service and duty, and thy strength shall be proportioned to thy service.
II. THY DAYS ARE SPECIAL, DISTINCTIVE DAYS, DEMANDING SPECIAL STRENGTH. Thy days maybe special, as affected by events which can only be met by strength from the Fountain of strength, and the strength shall be proportioned to the emergency. That is not an assurance which man of himself could give. For life is so full of startling events, that we dare not, from all we see and experience, promise ourselves strength to cope with all possible events. No doubt some lives, in comparison of others, are tranquil to outward appearance, without almost any change, like some mountain tam, now bright, now clouded, but showing the same features through all the seasons; and others are like the ocean, never resting, often tossed by terrible tempests; but to all the promise applies — "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."
1. There are days dark with care, not merely selfish, but generous care. "Cast thy burden on the Lord," etc.
2. Then there are days dark with sorrow, when a man must sit alone under God's hand. And the strength is not mere endurance. There is a kind of dogged endurance of all the trials and ills of life, to which a man can accustom himself. He may not die under them, but he comes out of them with no increased capacity for action, for comfort, for hope. But we cannot suppose the Divine promise fulfilled in such a case. The strength promised will not only turn off the edge of calamities, but will make us more than conquerors over them, and turn their power into a tributary to our own enlargement.
3. Last of all, there is the day of our death. Not only in stormy seas or devouring fires does it need strength to master one's self, but on the most ordinary commonplace deathbed. Ah! it needs God-given strength to enable the father or mother dying to leave their little helpless children in a cold and wicked world.
(J. Riddell.)I. TO WHOM IS THIS PROMISE MADE? Some of the promises in God's Word are of universal application (Genesis 3:15; Genesis 8:21, 22; Genesis 22:17, 18). But there are promises which are special, and have regard to separate and distinct classes of persons: e.g., to the wicked (Isaiah 55:7); to the poor (Isaiah 41:17); to the penitent (Psalm 51:17); to the young (Proverbs 8:17); to the aged (Isaiah 46:4). In the text, Asher is the person to whom the promise is made; and if your character is similar to that of Asher, the promise is to you.
1. Asher received Christ, and believed the oracles of God. Do you answer to this description?
2. Asher attended the Divine ordinances. God will strengthen us in His sanctuary. It is in the Lord's house, on the Lord's day, that we receive light, instruction, and vigour.
3. Asher must have been diligent in his proper vocation; else he would not have dipped his foot in oil. We are to be diligent in business, fervent in spirit, actively serving our generation, according to the will of God.
4. Asher desired the lot of the inheritance. He looked for his place in the promised Canaan. So we are to look for our place in the inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. There is eternal life in the promise.
II. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS PROMISE? There are ordinary days, which have in them no signal event, no remarkable calamity or disaster, no striking prosperity or success. They roll round in the even tenor of their course. Perhaps the great majority of our days are of this character. But in all the ordinary days, have we not found corresponding resources of help, and strength, and mercy, and supplies according to our need? There are days of prosperity, and seasons when everything goes well with us. Then, too often, our goodness is like the morning cloud and the early dew. But if even then a man is kept humble and conscious of his responsibility; if he wishes to do good, and is concerned to be a blessing; where all this is accomplished, moral and spiritual resources are supplied according to our day. You may think the difficulty to be deeper in adversity; when the tide ebbs; when there are changes, overturnings, bereavements, desolation, etc. To pass through the rivers, and say, I am not overflown; to pass through the furnace, and say, I am not burned; this is by the secret sustaining hand of the Almighty. If we are humble and patient when He seems severe, it is by the grace of God. There may be days of personal temptation, when the adversary cometh in like a flood. The dark and evil day may arrive, when we have to stand in the firmness of opposition. If we triumph, it is by the grace of God. There are days of duty, which seem to be beyond our strength; as when the scholar has to pass through his examination; or when the minister ascends the pulpit and asks, "Who is sufficient for these things?"
III. WHERE IS OUR SECURITY?
1. It is in the power and faithfulness of God. Remember that one of His titles is, "The Strength of Israel"; then it follows, "He will not lie"; here is power and faithfulness in its loftiest form. God is able to keep us from falling; and He has sworn by two immutable things, that we might have strong consolation. No conjuncture shall arise, in which the strength of heaven shall not make us victorious.
2. We are also assured by the word and sympathy of Jesus. "The promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus"; that is, they are ratified in His blood, and established in His mediation; and He is a High Priest touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
3. There is our own experience in the past. Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.
IV. IF WE RECEIVE THE PROMISE OF OUR TEXT, WHAT SHOULD BE THE EFFECT UPON OUR LIVES? We answer, Dismiss all anxieties and fears.
(J. Stratten.)I. WHAT THIS PROMISE IS NOT.
1. It has no direct relation to the past — no power of retrieval and recovery. Negligence is negligence, and no spiritual alchemy can change it into diligence. This only may be done: precious lessons may be drawn out of that which has been; and thus the moral continuity of the results of what was evil may be in a measure interrupted, and good drawn out of the evil.
2. It does not bring us into any immediate connection with the future. No doubt there is what may be called grace in stock; in capital if you will, in the existence and operation of gracious principles and dispositions. You may reckon with certainty on getting large interest from these. But even that is on condition of continued faithfulness, and in order to secure that God gives by the day. It is only in the day itself — in the dispensation — in the duty — in the melting of the heart grief; in the bitterness of the disappointment, or in the fierceness of the temptation, that you can fully know what strength you will require — and only then, in the nature of things, can you receive it.
II. WHAT THIS PROMISE IS. You are going some distance to a banquet. It will, of course, be pleasant if the sun shines by the way, and all the world looks fair. But if the clouds hang heavy, and the air is cold, you will go to the banquet just the same. You are going across the sea to claim a property, and you are to sail in a ship that cannot sink. It will be pleasant if there is only the ripple of quiet waters from the prow of the ship, and the flashing of the sunlight from the scarcely crested waves. But if even there should come the roar and burly of the storm, and the dash of the angry waves against the sides of the vessel, until the very masts are white with spray, you will none the less, and probably even none the later, see and claim your good estate. If a man lives well each day — die well he must, whatever his feeling be. Death will be to him a very chariot of fire to take him to the banquet of heaven; or a ship that turns back for no weather, nor ever strikes sail till she enters the harbour. Lessons —
1. Do not be managing and masterful over circumstances and providence; hammering and hewing at the "days" to compel them into a certain shape. Take them as they come; for they come as they are sent, arrayed darkly or brightly by the hand of God, and filled with such elements as His wisdom and goodness have put into them.
2. Do not be timorous and fearful and full of anxious care; you see how little need there is for it, how well you are provided for!
3. Such a subject, and such a promise is surely a call to diligence. For here you see is an unlimited promise of strength — strength to match the "days" — that is God's side of it. Our part is to try to raise the "days" to match the strength.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. THE SELF-WEAKNESS HINTED AT IN THE TEXT. To keep to my figure, if this promise be like a star, you know there is no seeing the stars in the daytime when we stand here upon the upper land; we must go down a deep well, and then we shall be able to discover them. Now, as this is daytime with our hearts, it will be necessary for us to go down the deep well of old recollections of our past trials. We must first get a good fair idea of the great depth of our own weakness, before we shall be able to behold the brightness of this rich and exceeding precious promise.
1. Ye children of God, have ye not proved your own weakness in the day of duty? The Lord has spoken to you, and He has said, "Son of man, run, and do such and such a thing which I bid thee"; and you have gone to do it, but as you have been upon your way, a sense of great responsibility has bowed you down, and you have been ready to turn back even at the outset, and to cry, "Send by whomsoever Thou wilt send, but not by me." Reinforced by strength, you have gone to the duty, but while performing it, you have at times felt your hands hanging exceeding heavy, and you have had to look up many a time and cry, "O Lord, give me more strength, for without Thy strength this work must be unaccomplished; I cannot perform it myself." And when the work has been done, and you have looked back upon it, you have either been filled with amazement that it should have been done at all by so poor and weak a worm as yourself, or else you have been overcome with horror because you have been afraid the work was marred, like the vessel on the potter's wheel, by reason of your own want of skilfulness.
2. We prove our weakness, perhaps more visibly, when we come into the day of suffering. There it is that we are weak indeed. Ah! people of God, it is one thing to talk about the furnace; it is another thing to be in it. It is one thing to look at the doctor's knife, but quite another thing to feel it. That man has never been sick who does not know his weakness, his want of patience, and of endurance.
3. Again, there is another thing which will very soon prove our weakness, if neither duty nor suffering will do it — namely, progress. Let any of you try to grow in grace, and seek to run the heavenly race, and make a little progress, and you will soon find, in such a slippery road as that which we have to travel, that it is very hard to go one step forward, though remarkably easy to go a great many steps backward.
4. See what thou art in temptation. I have seen a tree in the forest that seemed to stand fast like a rock; I have stood beneath its wide-spreading branches, and have sought to shake its trunk, to see if I could, but it stood immovable. The sun shone upon it, and the rain descended, and many a winter's frost sprinkled its boughs with snow, but it still stood fast and firm. But one night there came a howling wind which swept through the forest, and the tree that seemed to stand so fast lay stretched along the ground, its gaunt arms which once were lifted up to heaven lying hopelessly broken, and the trunk snapped in twain. And so have I seen many a professor strong and mighty, and nothing seemed to move him; but I have seen the wind of persecution and temptation come against him, and I have heard him creak with murmuring, and at last have seen him break in apostasy and he has lain along the ground a mournful specimen of what every man must become who maketh not the Lord his strength, and who relieth not upon the Most High. We have all our tender points. When Thetis dipped Achilles in the Styx, you remember she held him by the heel; he was made invulnerable wherever the water touched him, but his heel not being covered with the water, was vulnerable, and there Paris shot his arrow, and be died. It is even so with us. We may think that we are covered with virtue till we are totally invulnerable, but we have a heel somewhere; there is a place where the arrow of the devil can make way: hence the absolute necessity of taking to ourselves "the whole armour of God," so that there may not be a solitary joint in the harness that shall be unprotected against the arrows of the devil.
II. THE GREAT PROMISE — "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."
1. This is a well-guaranteed promise. There is enough bullion in the vaults of Omnipotence to pay off every bill that ever shall be drawn by the faith of man or the promises of God. Now look at this one "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." God has a strong reserve with which to pay off this promise; for is He not Himself omnipotent, able to do all things? Remember what He did in the days of old, in the former generations. Remember how He spake, and it was done; how He commanded, and it stood fast. He hangeth the world upon nothing; He fixed the pillars of heaven in silver sockets of light, and thereon He hung the golden lamps, the sun and the moon; and shall He that did all this be unable to support His children? Shall He be unfaithful to His word for want of power in His arm or strength in His will? Remember again, thy God, who has promised to be thy strength, is the Cod who upholdeth all things by the word of His hand. Who feedeth the ravens? Who supplies the lions? Doth not He do it? And how? He openeth His hand and supplieth the want of every living thing. He has to do nothing more than simply to open His band. Who is it that restrains the tempest? Doth not He say that He rides upon the wings of the wiled, that He maketh the clouds His chariots, and holds the water in the hollow of His hand? Shall He fail thee?
2. It is a limited promise. "What!" says one, "limited! Why it says, 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be.'" Ay, it is limited. I know it is unlimited in our troubles, but still it is limited. First, it says our strength is to be as our days are; it does not say our strength is to be as our desires are. Oh! how often have we thought, "How I wish I were as strong as So-and-so" — one who had a great deal of faith. Ah! but then you would have rather more faith than you wanted; and what would be the good of that? "Still," says one, "if I had faith like So-and-so, I think I should do wonders." Yes, but you would get the glory of them. God does not want you to do wonders. That is reserved for God, not for you, — "He only doeth wondrous things." Once more, it does not say, our strength shall be as our fears God often leaves us to shift alone with our fears, — never with our troubles. The promise is "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." "When your vessel gets empty then will I fill it; I will not give you any extra, over and above. When you are weak then I will make you strong; but I will not give you any extra strength to lay by: strength enough to bear your sufferings, and to do your duty; but no strength to play at matches with your brethren and sisters in order to get the glory to yourselves." Then, again, there is another limit. It says, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." It does not say, "as thy weeks," or "months" but "as thy days." You are not going to have Monday's grace given you on a Sunday, nor Tuesday's grace on a Monday. No; "as thy days, so shall thy strength be."
3. What an extensive promise this is! "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." Some days are very little things; in our pocket book we have very little to put down, for there was nothing done of any importance. But some days are very big days. Ah! I have known a big day — a day of great duties, when great things had to be done for God — too great, it seemed, for one man to do; and when great duty was but half done there came great trouble, such as my poor heart had never felt before. Oh! what a great day it was! there was a night of lamentation in this place, and the cry of weeping, and of mourning, and of death. Ah! but blessed be God's name, though the day was big with tempest, and though it swelled with horror, yet as that day was, so was God's strength.
4. What a varying promise it is! I do not mean that the promise varies, but adapts itself to all our changes. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." Here is a fine sunshiny morning; all the world is laughing; everything looks glad; the birds are singing, the trees seem to be all alive with music. "My strength shall be as my day is," says the pilgrim. Ah! pilgrim, there is a little black cloud gathering. Soon it increases; the flash of lightning wounds the heaven, and it begins to bleed in showers. Pilgrim, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." The birds have done singing, and the world has done laughing; but "as thy days, so shall thy strength be." Now the dark night comes on, and another day approaches — a day of tempest, and whirlwind, and storm. Dost thou tremble, pilgrim? — "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."
5. What a long promise this is! You may live till you are never so old, but this promise will outlive you. When thou comest into the depths of the river Jordan, "as thy days, so shall thy strength be"; thou shalt have confidence to face the last grim tyrant, and grace to smile even in the jaws of the grave. And when thou shalt rise again in the terrible morning of the resurrection, "as thy days so shall thy strength be"; though the earth be reeling with dismay thou shalt know no fear; though the heavens are tottering with confusion thou shalt know no trouble. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." And when thou shalt see God face to face, though thy weakness were enough to make thee die, thou shalt have strength to bear the beatific vision: thou shalt see Him face to face, and thou shalt live; thou shalt lie in the bosom of thy God; immortalised and made full of strength, thou shalt be able to bear even the brightness of the Most High.
III. What INFERENCE shall I draw except this? Children of the living God, be rid of your doubts, be rid of your trouble and your fear. Young Christians, do not be afraid to set forward on the heavenly race. You bashful Christians, that, like Nicodemus, are ashamed to come out and make an open profession, don't be afraid: "As your day is, so shall your strength be."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)1. If God prosper His people He will still keep them humble. He ever plants some thorn in the flesh, sends some messenger of Satan to buffet them, that thus they may be kept mindful that the present life is not their home, nor the present enjoyments their heaven. An unpolished partner, or a vicious son, or a sickly constitution, or some other unpropitious circumstance, has ever preyed upon the spirits of the prosperous believer. And these mixtures of bitter ingredients in his cup of blessings, have kept him from selling his birthright for the perishing and contemptible objects of sense.
2. If God afflict His people, He will bestow those comforts which will keep them happy, and make them thankful. Hope is a grace which God is as much resolved to cherish in His people as humility. Hence, if He pain them, He is sure to preserve them from despair. While there is the deep conviction that His strokes are fewer than their crimes, and lighter than their guilt, there, too, is clear discovery of a parental hand which wields the rod, and a parental eye which smiles through every cloud that covers them.Remarks —
1. How safe and happy are the Lord's people. They are not exempt from trials, but are permitted to know that their strength shall be proportioned to their burdens.
2. Their present strength and courage do not decide how they shall appear in the hour of conflict, or what shall be their future condition. It is absurd that the believer should yield his hope because he does not find himself prepared for trials which have not yet come. He expects, in this case, a mercy never promised. God will prepare him when He tries him, will give him strength when He calls him to the onset. Our strength is not to be greater than our day, but equal. Should it be greater, we should become proud; should it be less, we should be discouraged. If, then, we find our strength equal to our present conflicts, we have nothing to fear. Our courage will kindle as the battle thickens, and our strength increase as we march on to the more desperate onset. If our present strength is sufficient for our present purpose, this is all that God has promised, and is enough. Here is the test by which we are to try our character. Do we submit cheerfully to present disappointments, and exhibit a right temper under all the present little corroding incidents of this conflicting world?
(D. A. Clark.)
I. INCREASE OF STRENGTH WITH INCREASE OF AGE. In its application to the individual life. Here is a promise dead in the teeth of nature, because all living things that belong to the material universe come under the law of growth, which ultimately passes into decay. The same sea of Time that flings up its spoils on some shores, and increases the land, when you get round the promontory is eating away the coast. And so, the years, which at first bring us strength, very soon begin to reverse their action. Nor is it only the physical life which dwindles as the days increase, but also much of the inner life is modified by the external, so that the old man's memory becomes less retentive, and the old man's impulses less strong. But "as thy days, so shall thy strength be," and when the eyes become dim, it is possible that they may be longer sighted, and see the things that are, just in proportion as they begin to fail to see "the things that do appear." They may be able to discern more clearly what is above them, as they see less clearly the things on their own level. It is possible that as the days increase, and the strength drawn from externals decreases, the power of the Spirit, the maturity of the soul, the insight into the Eternal, the Christ. likeness and assimilation to that which we more clearly behold, as the clouds thin themselves away, may all increase. And so, in all that makes the Christian life, it is possible that there shall be increase with the increase of our days. Why so? Just because the Christian life is a supernatural life that has nothing to do with dependence on physical conditions. If it were not so, if my Christian vitality stood exactly on the same plane as my vigour of intellect, my retentiveness of memory, my energy of purpose, or other capacities, which make up the non-material part of my being — the "soul," as people call it — then it, too, would share in the decrepitude and decay. We sometimes see people, in the measure in which their physical strength decays, drawing into themselves more and more of that supernatural and Divine strength which has nothing to do with the material or the external. Is that not a reason for believing that that life which thus obeys a law, as I said, dead in the teeth of nature, is a life altogether independent of this bodily existence, and our connection with this material universe? There is no better proof of immortality, if you except the fact of the resurrection, than the way in which, right up to the edge of the grave, and even when a man's foot is on its threshold, there burns in his soul, brighter and brightening as the darkness falls, all that makes the Christian life. But if this contradiction of nature by a supernatural life is to be ours, as it may be, let us not forget that this promise, like all God's promises, is a promise with conditions. They are not stated here, but we know them. "The youths shall faint and be weary; the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength" — they, and only they. God does not give gifts to men who He sees are wasting them, and the gift of growing strength that is promised to us is strength that is to be used for His service. Has my strength grown with years? Let me say one word, and it shall be but a word, about the other application of this great thought. As I said, it is a tribal benediction, and all the benedictions of all the tribes have passed over to the great community of New Testament believers. The Church is heir to the Divine promise that as its days increase its strength increases. And though, of course, there have been fearful instances to the contrary, and churches, like other institutions, are apt to stiffen and decay in their old age, yet the only institution in the world that has lasted so long, and kept up so much vitality through centuries, is the Christian Church. Why? If there were not a supernatural life in it, it would have been dead long ago. "As the Church's days increase, so will her strength grow." But the promise of our text is susceptible of another application, though that is not its true signification, and may be taken as meaning the necessities of the days shall determine the nature of the strength given. And that adaptation of supply to need will be true in many directions. It will be true if we consider the tasks imposed by each succeeding day. For God never sets His servants to work or warfare beyond the limits of the strength which they have or may have, if they will. Again, this adaptation will shape the day's strength according to the day's wants. The "matter of a day in its day" will be given. There will be daily bread for daily hunger. God makes no mistakes, sending furs for June or muslin for December. His gifts are never belated, nor arrive after the need for them is past. That adaptation takes effect for us on the same condition as the increase does, of which we have been speaking, namely, on condition of our waiting on God.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)I. MAN'S EMERGENCY.
1. Man's journey is along a rough and thorny road.
2. Conscious experience of wear and tear: "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." Fresh obligations of unfolding life, and hence increasing pressure. At first we only dream of bliss and peace from religion; at length we realise in it fidelity, obligations, responsibilities, sacrifices, conflicts. How real to every true man is the "wear and tear" of a religious life, the necessary exhaustion from duty. When the business and the bustle of life come in conflict with religion and pious reflection. When the conflict for principle leaves us consciously weaker, even if making us truer at heart. No conflict, however its success and triumph, without reaction. Such man's emergency.
II. GOD'S PROVISION.
1. For the rough journey, the shoes of iron and brass. Equipment proportionate to need. Thus in illustrations of the Christian life: "Conflict" — armour (Ephesians 6:12-17). "Duty" — conviction (2 Corinthians 1:12). "Journey" — "shoes of iron and brass" (Deuteronomy 8:2-4). With the same and yet higher provision men make against emergency does God provide for His people: The Arctic whaler is built for her voyage, no pleasure yacht for a summer's day. The soldier is equipped for service, not decorated for a holiday parade. Thus with God for us. Against every rough pebble there is a nail in the shoes of grace.
2. For the "wear and tear" — the supply: "As thy day, so," etc. Note — God's communications of grace never anticipative but always sufficient. Men paralyse their energies in the anticipation of possible emergencies. "What shall I do," says a man, "if so-and-so should happen?" and he forgets how he does new — the once future of anticipated forebodings. God gives not to the heart, unembarrassed by worldly cares and anxieties, and rejoicing in its gladsomeness, the strength for the hour of care and worry that may or may never come to it. God's provisions are economic. Waste has no part in the laws of God's moral government. "As thy days, so," etc. But God's provision is in the presence of man's emergency. God gives us our desires as fully in giving us strength for the rough journey, as in smoothing the way for us and strewing the path with flowers. And more. For the effort of manhood, assisted by grace, results in a bettering of manhood for ourselves; while the interpositions of grace merely — kindly, gracious though they be — leave us as we were before, "afraid of that which is high," and faltering in the presence of difficulties. How a man that has overcome gains confidence. "I have met a trouble before," says he, when trouble lies ahead, "and by God's grace I can meet this one." Results are more from efforts than helps. It is from "the swing of the heavy sledge, week in, week out, from morn to night, that the muscles of the brawny arm are strong as iron bands." And God assures us that the effort of our manhood will have His support. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."
Homiletic Review.1. Consider the width of the promise — thy days, that is, all thy days.
2. Consider the specificalness of the promise — each one of thy days,
3. Consider the adaptedness of the promise — for every sort of day. For the day of dull routine. For the day of" weariness. For the day of disappointment. For the day of sorrow. For the day of difficult duty. For the day of death.
4. Consider the maker of the promise. He makes the promise who knows all our days (Psalm 139:1-6). He makes the promise who measures our days (Psalm 31:15). He makes the promise who is with us through all the days (Matthew 28:20).Therefore
1. Be sure of a specific and caring Providence.
2. Do not fear.
3. Make alliance with God.
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