Egypt's help is vain and empty; therefore I have called her, 'Rahab Who Just Sits Still.'
Relying upon human aid, involving a distrust of the Divine promises, was a crying sin of the ancient Church, not at one time only, but throughout her history. It is quite as truly the crying sin of the modern Church, and of the Christian individual. In every time of pressure and need we first fly to some form of human help. It is either the expression of "first simplicity," or else of "cultured sanctity," to act on the words, "Our help is in the Lord our God."
I. THE DELUSIONS ON WHICH OUR TRUSTING OTHERS REST. Some of these take shape, and we can recognize them. Others lie down in men's souls, doing their mischievous work, but never getting put into propositions, which can be fairly dealt with. They are such as the following:
1. God is far away, and his help is not anything really practical.
2. God does not heed; he is so largely concerned in the great affairs of the universe that it is only an imagination that he can take interest in an individual life.
3. God is so long about his work; and impatient man cannot bear waiting - if he is in any trouble, he wants it dealt with at once. Compare the King of Israel, in the famine-time, saying pettishly to Elisha, "What should I wait for the Lord any longer?"
4. God makes such hard terms. He always wants repentance and submission, and letting our own hands hang down; he crushes human energy and enterprise. The very statement of these cherished delusions of men suggests their correctives. Surely to all who cherish them the great Father is an unknown God.
II. THE FORMS WHICH OUR TRUSTING OTHERS MAY TAKE. The Jewish nation leaned on the help of another nation in her extremity. We, in our individual life and experience, are in danger of some form of sacerdotalism; we pin our faith to some sect-leader, some scientific teacher, some admired statesman, some popular preacher, some assertive priest. Thousands of people find individual responsibility in religion too heavy a burden for them to bear, and do not grasp the truth that God is with them in the bearing, and that it is their dignity to stand under the yoke only with God. Sacerdotalism is just the "man-trust" which prophets denounce. In public life and association the tendency is to lean on, and worship material strength. We seek the help of riches for the carrying out of all our religions schemes. We fly to men rather than to God.
III. HISTORY AND EXPERIENCE ALIKE PROVE THE PRACTICAL FOLLY, AS WELL AS THE INGRATITUDE AND REBELLIOUSNESS, OF THUS FORSAKING GOD. Our trusts prove, like Egypt, only shebheth, inactive, do-nothings (see ver. 7). Egypt promised much, but failed utterly in the day of trial. - R.T.
Their strength is to sit still.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Homilist.The context reveals two things.(1) A great national danger.(2) A great national sin. Wherein is the truth of the statement, that man's strength is in sitting still? or, rather, what is meant by sitting still? It is not the stillness of indolence. Indolence is weakness — is ruin. Activity is the condition of strength. Industry is essential to progress in all that is great and happy. What, then, is the stillness? It is the stillness of unbounded trust in God.
I. STILLNESS OF CONFIDENCE IN RELATION TO GOD'S REDEMPTIVE PROVISION IS STRENGTH. The sacrifice of Christ is all-sufficient.
II. STILLNESS OF CONFIDENCE IN RELATION TO YOUR FUTURE HISTORY IS STRENGTH. "Take no thought for the morrow," etc.
III. STILLNESS OF CONFIDENCE IN RELATION TO PRESENT PROVIDENTIAL TRIALS IS STRENGTH. The Israelites, with piled mountains on each side of them, the sea rolling before them, and Pharaoh and his host approaching them, were exhorted by their leader to "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." Peter slept between two soldiers; and Paul said, "None of these things move me."
1. It will not apply when we have to get our daily bread. We are to be diligent in business, as well as fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Neither do we say so when learning is to be acquired. This is to be sought by application, and earned by incessant toil. Neither is our preaching by sitting still. If any think to enter the ministry that they may sit still, and spend a life of ease, they utterly mistake the office.
3. Nor when any temptation is to be resisted, or any evil overcome. You are to resist the tempter. And you are to maintain that particular virtue, which is in direct defiance of the particular temptation. If you are tempted, there is another thing which you can do. You can flee. Safety is often in flight. Joseph fled. "Flee youthful lusts."
4. Nor does the text apply when duties of any kind are to be done. Idleness is a base condition. Better dig a hole and fall it up again. Better roll a stone up and down a hill, than pass your time in listlessness and languor. There are duties belonging to every state of life. Let them be attended to in promptitude and despatch.
5. Nor is the text applicable when good works are to be undertaken. We have many instructions in Scripture on this subject. "Be not weary in well-doing," etc. "Be steadfast, unmovable," etc. "These things," says St. Paul, "I will that ye affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, may be careful to maintain good works."
6. We do not say it when the heavenly prize of eternal life is to be contended for.
II. STATE THE CONDITION OF THINGS TO WHICH THE AXIOM DOES APPLY.
1. It will apply to many important questions concerning the salvation of the soul. It will apply to the expiation of guilt. So respecting regeneration. "Ye must be born again." There must be wrought an inward change. It will be wrought of God. And the Spirit of God works when, how, and where He pleases.
2. There are some matters belonging to our daily and nightly life, in which the principle is likewise of great value and importance. For example, the evening is come. The day's labour is finished. It is time to cease. God says to you, Lie down; go to sleep. And when you sleep, "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." Be not afraid. God will keep both the city and the watchman. Then, here is God's own day. This is the day when God emphatically says, "Sit still"; and in quietness and rest is your strength. Be not afraid. Commerce will be uninjured, and none the worse for your being quiet on this day. You will return to your occupations with augmented might and vigour on the morrow.
3. Then, again, there are providential conjunctures, in which we can do nothing, in which every effort and interference of ours is of no avail. And now the end of all this is manifest. Man's chief wisdom is —(1) To be active and diligent in all his appointed fields of labour and exertion.(2) To be tranquil, and resigned, and passive in matters over which he has no control.(3) To trust God, and acquiesce in the Divine will in everything.
(J. Straiten.)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.)
1. They do in regard to our character. When shall we understand we are clay in the Potter's hand, and our grand business the simple yielding of ourselves to the fashioning of God's sovereign Spirit? How often our overweening care, our intrusive curiosity, our vanity and self-will have spoiled God's grand handiwork, and arrested the growing completeness of our spirit!
2. And so in regard to our circumstances — our safety is in quietness. In days of tempest the helm is safest in charge of the pilot; in moments of alarm the reins are best in the driver's skilful grasp; and if the man overboard will only be still all the Waves of the sea shall not drown him. Oh! when shall we learn the blessedness of resignation, the power of passivity, the victory of faith?
(W. L. Watkinson.)I. REST IN ANOTHER NECESSARILY IMPLIES THAT WE MUST LEARN TO REST IN OURSELVES. No man has a right to say that he is living the Divine life, without faith, without patience, without trust in God, without that spirit of waiting upon God, to which all the Scriptures exhort and encourage us. The patient places himself in the hands of a physician, but he will keep meddling with the physician's prescriptions; he will keep taking nostrums of his own. And the physician says very properly, "Not so; this must not be. I can do nothing for you if it is so." And men who put their salvation into God's hands, as Israel ought to have done, must stand by that — stand by it always.
II. As arising from this, WE ARE STRONG IN LIFE JUST AS WE LAY HOLD OF THIS PRINCIPLE and learn to restrain ourselves.
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.)I. NEGATIVELY.
1. The strength of the Church in troublous times is not in listening to carnal counsel.
2. Nor in trusting in carnal confidences.
1. The strength of the Church in troublous times is to sit still in the way of seeking and obeying Divine direction.
2. To sit still in the way of exercising a humble dependence upon Divine aid (ver. 15).
3. To sit still in the way of holding fast all her scriptural attainments.
4. To return to the Lord in those respects in which she has departed from Him.
5. To go forward in the performance of whatever work God is laying to her hand.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
(W. L. Watkinson.)
(W. L. Watkinson.)
(W. L. Watkinson.)
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