“STRENGTHEN ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.” - Isa. xxxv. 3.
It is difficult to conceive of language more sublime, or of metaphors more striking, to set forth the glory and prosperity of the kingdom of Christ, than those made use of in this chapter. It is a precious cluster of sweet things, and one which the christian loves to approach, and in which he rejoices, while he is enabled to pluck and feast upon its heavenly fruit. And we cannot but admire with all our powers of admiration, that perfect fullness, and fitness there is in Christ for his church. The saints of God are in themselves poor, weak, dependent and helpless; but the gospel of the blessed Redeemer presents full supplies for all their necessities. The church in her militant state is surrounded with Satan’s intrigues, and opposition powers. None of the powers of earth can fortify her walls, nor strengthen her gates. Her walls are salvation, and her gates praise. Hence she is invulnerable to all the attacks of the enemy. Her prosperity is in her king, and in him alone, and it is to this end that the chapter is dedicated, and its living and refreshing streams will never cease to flow into, and refresh the Zion of God. What was to be made manifest as the church of Christ, was at the time when this prophecy was written, a wilderness and solitary place, reference being had to the Gentile nations, in connection perhaps with the children of God among the Jews. The Lord had made promises concerning this church, and had said that not one of them should fail, and it is added, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” But upon the adversaries thereof sorrow and destruction are poured upon them. The promises referred to were not only in regard to the blessings which God had in reserve for his chosen people, but they embraced also the destruction of his enemies, through which his elect should be delivered from their rage and oppression. And it is in the development of this truth that the weak hands are strengthened, and the feeble knees are confirmed. None but the regenerated children of God can know how weak man is. Nature, in the pride of her towering glory, may boast of beauty, power and strength; the wicked may spread himself like the green bay tree, and flourish in his place; he may say, I have increased in goods, and have need of nothing; but the christian realizes that God hath said, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches.” “All flesh is as grass, and all the godliness thereof is as the flower of the field,” which passeth away. The church of Christ early learned where her strength is. And God in his wisdom has been pleased to lead his church in that way, that they shall know that by human strength no man can prevail, and that the strength of the christian is made perfect in weakness. If we look no higher than earth for support, we cannot fail to discover that the church, and the children of God, as it relates to their strength, have the most fearful odds against them. It will appear in the light of nature that a worldly religion will swallow up, and exterminate from the earth, the doctrine of the cross of Christ. And how often has it been said by self-sufficient and presumptuous man, that in a few years more that bigoted and uncharitable sect, who will receive nothing as a gospel observance, or as being in any way connected with the church of Christ, that has not positive authority in the New Testament, and cannot fellowship as orderly members of the church those who do, nor those who do not walk by the rule laid down in the New Testament, will become extinct, and exist only among the things that were. And in these very things there is a radiant evidence that this sect, which is everywhere spoken against, is the true church of Jesus Christ. For nothing but the real church of God could exist year after year, and age after age, and remain in her unsullied glory, surrounded and beset as she is, and ever has been, by so formidable machinations, and so powerful an adversary as the adversary of the cross of Christ has ever manifested himself to be. The power of wealth, the influence of the mighty and noble ones of the earth, the strong arm of human legislation, the power of kings, and the power of empires, have all been marshalled, and have marched forth in an untiring crusade against the remnant, the poor and afflicted people, the little flock, the helpless and dependent ones, who constitute, and are known by the God of heaven, as his church, and the sheep of his pasture. And yet they exist with strong hands, and grow and thrive, and God’s honor still has a place upon the earth. Nature often wonders, and is astonished that the strength of the saints does not fail them, and that they are not destroyed from off the earth. But their strength flows from a living and immortal fountain, and it is treasured up in Christ, proportined, and communicated to them according to their day, as the Lord hath said, As thy days, so shall thy strength be. Take from them the promises of God, the consolations of the gospel of his grace, and the strengthening influences of the Holy Ghost, and they would faint at once. Deprive them, if it were possible, of the presence, protecting power and the covenant mercies of their God, in a word, separate them in their vital union with Christ, their living Head, and the enemy would make them an easy prey. But of this union, the adversary is totally ignorant, and through this ignorance, and stimulated by a vain ambition, and an unparalleled hatred to the doctrine of the cross, he hopes for final success and triumph in his unholy warfare. But in this he is doomed to final disappointment, and everlasting shame and contempt. The final event, as well as passing ones, will demonstrate the truth, that all the power, strength, artifice and malignity of the enemy, have proved perfectly abortive in destroying the church of God, and in overcoming his saints. And the business of the ministration of the gospel is to present to all the subjects of it the fullness of Christ as Redeemer, Prophet, Priest and King, and the strength and perfection of all the church in him. This will comfort, strengthen and edify them, and redound to the declarative glory of God. To this end the Lord is still, from his lofty throne, commanding his ministers to cry unto his people, and say unto them that their warfare is accomplished, and their iniquity pardoned. And through this the weak hands are strengthened, and the feeble knees are confirmed.
By the term hand, as it occurs in the text, we understand that member of the body which is very necessary in the performance of certain offices for which God has both designed and formed it. It is also an important member of the body, and belongs to, exists, and is nerved, and made active and efficient, only by a vital union to the head. We could do but little in wielding the sword amongst our enemies, without a hand, in which to hold it. And these hands need strength to grasp the sword, and they need exercise to enable us to wield it. But this strengthening and teaching comes from the Lord. And if (advocating as we do) the ministration of the gospel, possesses strengthening and confirming qualities for the saints, we cannot impute those qualities to the preacher, but to Christ alone, the sum and substance of the gospel, and whom the gospel, or the preaching of it, brings forth as the strength and portion of the church, or as the children of God, whom David said taught his hands to war, so that a bow of steel was broken by his arms. Of Joseph it is said, “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob, from thence is the Shepherd the stone of Israel.”
While the temple was being rebuilt, the workmen wrought with one hand, and held a weapon of defense in the other. And in the gospel day, the children of God should never be found without the sword in their hand. And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. We have powerful enemies to contend with, and though they are spiritual foes, and our weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, yet they are compared to the carnal and deadly weapons of the warriors of this world, and in this light, Paul delivered the following exhortation to his brethren at Ephesus, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. The sword is God’s, and he made and gave the hands that hold and wields it. And with it one soldier shall chase a thousand, and two shall put ten thousand to flight; and David like, by his God he can run through a troop, and leap over the wall. By his God he can enter their fortification, and drive them therefrom. The Scriptures of truth, the testimony of Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God, which was made flesh and dwelt among us, will slay, and utterly demolish all the principalities, powers and systems of men and devils, and he will ride triumphantly in the radiance and power of his own glory, the world over. In bringing forward the true character of Christ, and the promises of the gospel, the hands are strengthened, or the christian is encouraged and emboldened to wield the sword. But some very charitable ones, or at least professedly so, say that we must let the sword be in its place, and not use it in these times, but use entreaties. But what has the Almighty God said by David about it? “Let the saints be joyful in glory.” “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people, to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written; this honor have all the saints. Praise ye the Lord.” Thus we can clearly see, that while men may, and do wrangle with a plain exhibition of the doctrine of Christ, vilify and traduce those who faithfully proclaim it, God owns and honors them for it. This honor have all the saints. Let us then, dear brethren, endure hardness as good soldiers of the cross, knowing that all who live godly in Christ Jesus (they who contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints), shall suffer persecution. The weak hands are not only to be strengthened, but the feeble knees are to be confirmed. The children of God are, in one sense, travelers, and on a journey, and if their knees fail, they are unable to walk. And while their only strength and soundness is in Christ, the gospel, the substance of which is Christ, strengthens and confirms them. The apostle was engaged in exhorting and confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, that we through much tribulation must enter into the kingdom of God. We here learn what is meant by the prophet in confirming feeble knees. Many of the saints are feeble in these things, and fearful under them, and they need confirming or strengthening. And whether the expression be used, knees or souls, we understand the same general principle or truth to be embraced. The saints are not only travelers, but they are wrestlers. But their wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against those institutions, doctrines and commandments, already referred to, and which have no authority in the command of Christ. And if they attempt to wrestle like Jacob in his own strength, like Jacob they will not prevail until it is taken from them, and they learn that so far as human strength is concerned, the lame man takes the prey. The gospel of Christ presents the only strength the christian has, and that strength is Christ himself.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” The ministration of the gospel feeds, strengthens and confirms the souls of the disciples; cheers and edifies them, and it ever exhibits before them Christ in his almighty fullness, as their all and in all; and while others contend that it is ordained as a means of regenerating sinners, we need it as a cheering and refreshing stream from the great fountain, and it is the river of the water of life which flows into the Zion of God. It saves believers (not unbelievers) from the things already referred to; for it has pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. The leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations; not for their creation, but for their healing. The fruit of this tree (Christ being the tree) and the fruit, or the ministration of the gospel, which comes from Christ, is for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine. Thus we discover that we need much, and all we do need is in Christ, and the meat shall not be consumed, neither shall the leaf fade.
Middletown, N. Y.
Oct. 1, 1854.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 136 - 142