ZEPHANIAH III. 12.

“I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.”

Notwithstanding the fact that Israel was the chosen people of God, taken out of the world of idol worshipers, and tillers of the soil, to he led about by the hand of the Lord and instructed in the way of the Lord, and to receive their instructions directly from the Lord, “unto them were committed the oracles of God,” the presence of the Lord continually overshadowed them; the Canaanites were destroyed that they might inhabit the land of Canaan, yet they were a stiffnecked and rebellious generation, and worshiped gods of their own making, entering into all manner of evil, and forgetting the God of their salvation, who had delivered them from all former troubles. It was not through ignorance that they yielded to the whisperings and temptations of their deceitful nature, and traveled in the path of disobedience, for there were true prophets of the Lord who were with them in all their wanderings, warning them continually that if they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God they would be cut off from the immediate presence of their God by the sword, the famine and by captivity. Let us always remember that the children of Israel as a nation were chosen of God to show forth in them the power of his might, his long-suffering and patience, his enduring mercy, and also to present them as a type of his spiritual Israel. Therefore whatsoever they did manifest in their walk, whether in obedience or in disobedience, is also manifested in this gospel day, in the walk and travel of the church of Christ, we have not whereof to boast. As it was in the days of Israel as a nation, so it is to-day; there was and there is “a remnant according to the election of grace.” There were those in every generation of the life of and existence of national Israel who walked in obedience to the Spirit of Christ which was in them, and not according to the dictates of their flesh. Therefore the declaration of the prophet, of the words which are the subject of this communication, apply to every age of the church, whether under the law or under the gospel. The church in any age has never been without witnesses to the constancy, loving-kindness and continual presence of the God of Israel. As many days as the natural sun has shined upon the earth, just so many days has the Sun of Righteousness shone in the hearts of the chosen people of God, to manifest and display his glory in the earth. And those who do make manifest his glory and sovereign power are the very characters as described in the text: “an afflicted and poor people.” The very first signs of a soul coming out from under the darkness of the law into the open fields of God’s grace are, poverty and affliction of that soul, and this is made manifest in the midst of the church, and not to the world. The words of the Lord by the prophet are clear, distinct and positive, there can be no doubt as to their proper application: “I will also leave in the midst of thee | Israel | an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.” The Lord had commanded the prophet to pronounce a convincing and direful woe upon the oppressed, filthy and polluted city for her obstinancy, her disobedience and her dreadful depravity. We want to keep in mind that this is Israel, and not the outside world, that has fallen so low and become a bloody city. The apostle Peter says: “But there were false prophets also among the people, oven as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” Were not those false prophets Israelites! and are there not false teachers today of the church walking not after the Spirit but after the flesh? Why do we go out into the world to find that which is so plainly within our own boundaries and in our own deceitful hearts? The Scriptures are the testimony of Christ and his church, and in that church (in time) we can find every element that is found in the world. Hophni and Phinehas were sons of Eli the priest, and according to nature would succeed him in his priestly office, but God removed them because of their lewdness, and raised up Samuel unto Eli.

“I will also leave in the midst of thee.” When Jerusalem was about to be overthrown and her inhabitants carried captive into Babylon, there was by the word of the Lord a man in the city “clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; and the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” Judah at that time was at the lowest ebb of her adversity, and notwithstanding the woes which had been pronounced upon her, yet in her direst straits the Lord remembered her in love, and so left in the midst of her “an afflicted and poor people,” that should “trust in the name of the Lord.” Mow wonderful is the God of our salvation! Wheresoever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is security. The angel of the Lord gave the promise to Abraham that Sodom should not be destroyed by tire from heaven if there were ten righteous found within the city. But the moment all the righteous were delivered out of the city, then was the city destroyed. The question arises in our mind, Why does the world go on in its wickedness generation after generation? We are answered from the cloud of witnesses by the voice of Wisdom, There are left in the midst of it an afflicted and poor people, who trust in the name of the Lord: in other words, there are yet righteous men in the city. The army of Gideon was reduced to three hundred men (by command of the Lord) to appear before the vast army of Philistines, but that little handful manifested their faithfulness and their trust in their manner of their taking the water from the brook to drink. The Lord declared by his servant, the psalmist, “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.”

“And they shall trust in the name of the Lord.” It is not a light thing to trust in the name of the Lord, such a consummation is never brought about by any influence upon the natural senses, they are influenced and made subservient to surrounding circumstances, and things which are seen; but the invisible things of God’s kingdom take root in the heart, springing up and making manifest from within. We learn to trust in Jesus through the knowledge of him, and love for him, and the knowledge and love come to us by revelation of him through the Spirit. Our whole experience of grace is a revelation of the work of the Spirit within us, which is Jesus our hope of glory, and in him we trust. All of God’s dealings with us lead to trustfulness on our part, because his judgments go hand in hand with his mercies and his loving-kindnesses, because we follow him, fining where he went. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and to be a true follower we must necessarily partake of the same. If in a small measure we enter into his sufferings, we have fellowship with him, and with the Father through him. Having been redeemed with his blood and raised to newness of life, (which life is his) we have access to the Father through his mediation. If we have a desire in our heart to walk in the way of holiness, and feel that we have turned from the world and all its seductions, then do we have a hope within us that God has been merciful unto us, even to our unrighteousness. If we feel that we have been deceived in what we had hoped was the work of grace in our hearts, then may we be sure that that work is going on within us, for if it were not, we would have neither doubt or fear. It is our trust in tin? Lord, and our love for him, that causes us to walk softly and to keep silence before him. If we cry in the desert for water, and there is none, we will ere long discover that the Lord hath caused our emptiness, that he hath created our need, that he hath indited our prayer, that he will hear our cry, and supply all our wants, and we will learn the oft repeated lesson that he is our very present help. This is the people who trust in the name of the Lord and call upon their God.

May we ever remember, as long as the world stands the promise of God will be fulfilled, “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.”

B. F. COULTER.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa.

Signs Of The Times
Volume 74., No. 6.
MARCH 15, 1906.