Like the air and the light, equally needful in every clime, and in every circumstance, the promises and assurances of GOD'S precious Word meet us with help and comfort in all our various surroundings. It is the will of our FATHER that His children shall be absolutely without carefulness. "Be careful for nothing," is as definite a requirement as "Thou shalt love the LORD thy GOD . . . . and thy neighbour as thyself" on the one hand, or as "Thou shalt not steal" on the other. To enable us, however, to carry out this command, we need to know the constancy of HIS solicitude who ever careth for us; and we need to make use of the direction, "In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto GOD."
Were we to observe the winds and the waves, or to mind earthly things, we might easily become anxious in the present aspect of affairs in China. The Franco-Chinese difficulties appear most threatening. The mass of the Chinese people are little accustomed to discriminate between one foreign nation and another. As to the Jews of old, a man was either a Jew or a Gentile; so to the mass of the Chinese, a man is either a citizen of the Middle Country or an Outsider; and therefore no foreign trouble affects merely the citizens of the nationality giving rise to it. Our own missionaries—many of them residing far inland, and either located or travelling in nearly every inland province of the Empire—are, of course, sure to feel more or less the effects of any foreign war. We have, however, this assurance, "The LORD reigneth," and know that HE is not unmindful of the interests of HIS own people; and the further assurance that "the LORD is our Shepherd," carries with it the guarantee that no one of HIS sheep will lack that help, that protection, that guidance, for which their varying circumstances may call.
The comfort of this blessed assurance is the happy portion of all the people of GOD, of our friends and supporters at home, equally with our toiling labourers abroad.
What a comfort it is to notice how largely the Indicative Mood is used in the Scriptures. In the present Psalm, for instance, we find the Subjunctive Mood only in one clause of the fourth verse. All the definiteness and assurance we can desire are conveyed by positive affirmations in the Indicative Mood; and it is noteworthy that each encouragement is either conveyed in the present tense, or is based upon it: —"The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want."
It is cheering to remember that for the sake of HIS own Name, and of HIS own glory, as well as for the sake of HIS great love, the full supply of all our needs is guaranteed by our relationship to HIM as our Shepherd. A lean, scraggy sheep, with torn limbs and tattered fleece, would be small credit to the shepherd's care; but unless we will wander from HIM, and will not remain restfully under HIS protection, there is no fear of such ever being our lot. We may lie down in peace, and sleep in safety, because the Shepherd of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. No lion or bear can ever surprise our ever-watchful Guardian, or overcome our Almighty Deliverer. He has once laid down His life for the sheep; but now He ever liveth to care for them, and to ensure to them all that is needful for this life, and for that which is to come.
It is well to be fully assured of the verbal and plenary inspiration of GOD'S Holy Word, and very striking to notice how important arguments in Scripture sometimes tum on the word used, and sometimes even on the accidence of the word. As an illustration of the first, we may refer to our SAVIOUR'S argument for the Resurrection. This He demonstrates in a very simple manner from the use of the word for GOD, a word that indicates the relationship of a living GOD with a living people: "He is not the GOD of the dead, but of the living."
As an illustration of the second class, the remarkable argument of St. Paul that CHRIST is the seed of David is based on the number of the word "seed." "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, 'And to seeds,' as of many: but as of one, 'And to thy seed,' which is CHRIST" (Galatians iii. 16). Let us, therefore, take our full measure of comfort from the passage with which we head this article, and not be afraid of building on each word, and even on its mood and tense.
"The LORD is my Shepherd." He saith not was, he saith not may be, or will be. "The LORD is my Shepherd"—is on Sunday, is on Monday, and is through every day of the week; is in January, and is in December, and in every month of the year; is at home, and is in China; is in peace, and is in war; in abundance, and in penury.
Let us live in the joy of the truth here pointed out: "The LORD is my Shepherd: I shall not want;" and let us learn to trust for others as well as for ourselves. Not only are the sheep of the flock safe, but the little lambs—about which the ewes may be more solicitous than about their own safety—are all under the same guardian Eye, and the same Shepherd's care. He will be with our dear brethren and sisters; He will care for the mother and the tender little ones in far-off inland China, as truly as He does for those in England; and should war break out and dangers threaten, they have the direction, "Call on ME in the day of trouble," and the assurance, "I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify ME." Let us then trust and not be afraid—the LORD is our Shepherd; we shall not want.—Hudson Taylor, China's Millions, February, 1844