Is thy heart athirst to know
That the King of heaven and earth
Deigns to dwell with man below,
Yea, hath stoop’d to mortal birth?
Search the Word with ceaseless care,
Thou shalt ﬁnd this treasure there.
For if Christ be born within,
Soon that likeness shall appear
Which the heart had lost through sin,
God’s own image fair and clear;
And the soul serene and bright
Mirrors back His heavenly light.
Jesus, let me seek for nought
But that Thou shouldst dwell in me;
Let this only ﬁll my thought,
How I may grow liker Thee,
Through this earthly care and strife,
Through the calm eternal life.
— Laurentius Laurenti
Readers of Professor Adam Smith’s “Isaiah” will remember that on several occasions in the ﬁrst volume of his Commentary he calls attention to the word ambiguously translated “judgment,” and reminds us that the word means method, order, system, law; so that when we read in chapter xxx. 18, that “the Lord is a God of judgment,” Isaiah means that God has His own way and time for doing things, and that “having laid down His lines according to righteousness and established His laws in wisdom, He remains in His dealings with men consistent with these.”
"The great sin of man has always been in this direction, a preference of his own will to the will of God; a preference of his own inclinations for God’s obligations. It is the sin of the Church today, and the explanation of her enfeebled and pitiable position in the eyes of the world."
“It is a great truth,” says he, “that the All-mighty and All-merciful is the All-methodical too; and no religion is complete in its creed, or healthy in its inﬂuence, which does not insist equally on all these.” A full recognition of the orderliness of God in His working would save us from much of the disappointment which we now experience, and greatly increase the healthiness and consequent power of true religion.
This suggestive fragment of history is an illustration of the importance of the doctrine which this book is intended to enforce, for God will not allow the Divine Order in the puriﬁcation and perfecting of Christian character to be disturbed without penalty. Alarmed by Isaiah’s predictions of the siege of Jerusalem, the Jewish politicians were startled into doing something. Instead, however, of returning in penitence to God, and relying upon Him in the time of their threatened trouble, they sought to accomplish an expensive and proﬁtless alliance with Egypt. What scorn Isaiah pours upon this suicidal intrigue!
Then he pictures the caravan which Judah sent with tribute to Egypt. In a few graphic strokes he gives us to see asses and camels carrying their riches through the land of trouble and anguish, through lions and vipers and ﬁery-ﬂying serpents, to a people who will only deceive and disappoint them, for “Egypt helpeth in vain, and to no purpose, therefore have I called her Rahab Sit-Still” (xxx. 1-8).
It was not alliance they needed, as Dr. Smith says, but reliance; for “Thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in conﬁdence shall be your strength; and ye would not. . . . And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you; and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you, for the Lord is a God of method: blessed are all they that wait for Him.”
We sometimes congratulate ourselves on the cleverness and ingenuity of our plans, as the princes of Judah did in this instance; but Isaiah reminds them that “God also is clever, and will bring evil, and will not call back His words” (xxxi. 2). Until we have learned that no individual, church, or nation can play tricks with God, that He has His own way and time of doing things, He will wait, that He may be gracious; and blessed are they who turn away from Egypt, with her chariots and horsemen, and wait for Him.
The great sin of man has always been in this direction, a preference of his own will to the will of God; a preference of his own inclinations for God’s obligations. It is the sin of the Church today, and the explanation of her enfeebled and pitiable position in the eyes of the world. When we think we have discovered a short and easy road to success, and have forsaken the Fountain of living waters to hew out to ourselves cisterns, we shall always ﬁnd that our hewing has been labor lost, and that our cisterns are broken and will hold no water.
Does the Church of Jesus Christ think she can accomplish God’s work in the world without a deﬁnite experience of heart purity and the Pentecostal baptism? It is admitted that the early Christians were thus made usable to the Master; but there is an impression abroad that this qualiﬁcation for successful service can be dispensed with in these days. The result is failure, disheartenment, disappointment; for the Lord is a God of method. The Holy Spirit waits to show men and women how the Cross of Christ is the pathway of complete deliverance from the guilt and power of sin; and He will stand aloof from His people while they cherish those “low views” with which, as Faber says, it is as easy for the devil to contend against God as with mortal sins.
These “low views” of sin and of privilege explain the pride, the passion, the selﬁshness, the envy, the jealousy, the resentment, the barrenness, the worldliness, the secret sympathy with sin over which thousands of really converted people mourn, and from which, they sometimes think there is no deliverance. And God is raising up, all over the land, witnesses to His power to effect a “double cure,” not only to save from wrath and to pardon actual transgressions, but to deal with that moral depravity which lies further back and deeper down in our nature, and is at the fountain-head of all character and activity.
What command could be more imperative and explicit than that which the risen Christ gave to His disciples: “Tarry ye until ye are endued with power from on high”? They dare not go forth to their work without this power. To have done so would have been to court defeat and to expose themselves to ridicule. When they were thus equipped they reached the maximum of their usefulness, men and women were saved by thousands, and the kingdom of Christ advanced by leaps and bounds. Then the Church formed an alliance with the world; she laid her head in the lap of Delilah, and being shorn of her true strength, began making frantic efforts to do her work without the all-essential credentials. Those credentials are the possession of power over all the power of the enemy; and we vainly imagine that abiding work can be done in our pulpits, Sabbath schools, mission halls, or in any other direction, by activity minus the power of the Holy Spirit. Sooner or later we shall awake to the fact that the Lord is a God of method, and that blessed are all they that wait for Him.
Let us ponder, in conclusion, the four words which the prophet here uses to indicate in what direction their salvation lay, and upon what terms they might be sure of the Divine interposition and abiding protection.
The ﬁrst is the word “returning.” Instead of going to Egypt for help, and impoverishing themselves by an alliance, forbidden, senseless, and unproﬁtable, they might be assured of God’s forgiveness and favor by returning in brokenness of spirit to Him. Have we any reason to expect any large outpouring of the Holy Spirit until we too return in true and deep penitence to God?, The place of confession is the place of forgiveness. It is here God is pledged to meet us, and nothing is more striking throughout the history of this rebellious and wayward people, than God’s readiness to forgive and restore them to His favor on the ﬁrst indication of true repentance. “Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the ﬁrst works, or else. . . .” Immutable is the promise: “Return unto Me, and I will return unto you.” The God All-methodical is the God All-merciful. He waits that He may be gracious.
The next word is “rest.” The meaning is, of course, such a resting in God as would prove the genuineness of their return to him. Vain was their reliance on the multitude of chariots and the strong body of cavalry to which they would point as a valuable addition to the ﬁghting strength of Judah; for, as Isaiah reminds them, “The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses ﬂesh, and not spirit “ (xxxi, 3). Yet their perversity was such that they preferred the horses of Egypt to the steeds of God.
Rest! Thousands of hearts are longing for it! And it cannot be found, as some vainly dream, by ﬂying away on the wings of a dove from their surroundings. Rest comes through a true confession and determined forsaking of sin, and through the cleansing of the nature from its stains. for sin in every form is dis-ease, the opposite of rest. Material things are in a state of rest while fulﬁlling the laws and purposes for which they exist. The least variation of adjustment results in disquietude instead of repose. So rest comes to man through an adjustment of his will to the will of God. “Take My yoke (i.e., My will) upon you . . . and ye shall ﬁnd rest unto your souls.” The Romans forced their enemies to put their neck under a yoke as a sign of defeat. Hence we get the word subjugate — sub, under; jugum, a yoke. Rest comes through the subjugation of the whole being to Jesus. The perfect emblem of rest is God, and in proportion as man has his center in God he becomes a partaker of His rest (Heb. iv. 3).
The third word is “quietness.” How the very word rebukes the haste, excitement, and trepidation with which they had prepared for the siege of their city. “He that believeth shall not make haste.” What so surely indicates the feebleness of our grasp of these eternal truths as the fretted, harassed, feverish lives so many of us live! When all occasion for war has been put away, and we drink deep draughts of heavenly life, we shall know what has been called “the high pressure of the Holy Ghost,” which is not contrary to that reposeful and quiet spirit which characterized the Lord Jesus Christ, and which He means us also to possess.
The fourth word is “conﬁdence.” The word means the assurance and courage which comes of the settling down of the soul upon one who is known to be true and trustworthy. “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee” (Psalm ix. 10). To know God is to trust Him; to know Him perfectly, is to have that perfect conﬁdence in Him which alone inspires courage, and is the secret of all true spiritual strength. “In conﬁdence shall be your strength.” There are two departments in the school of grace where this conﬁdence is acquired, and in both of them the pupils must be taught, — one is the word of God, and the other is the walk with God. What can explain the conﬁdence of Judson; and many another noble missionary, working steadily on for years without any sign of visible success, but this settling down of the spirit upon God — an attitude which had, with them, become a habit of life?
As we learn to tread the way of the Cross we shall enter more fully than ever into the meaning of Paul’s words: “We are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no conﬁdence in the ﬂesh” (Phil. iii. 3). And loss of conﬁdence in ourselves will be followed by a constant glorying in Jesus as the source of all our life, the secret of all our strength.
Multitudes have yet to learn that the God All. methodical is, to those who practically recognize Him as such, the God All-mighty; and to be continually stayed upon Him is restfulness, quietness, conﬁdence, and strength.