“COME, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.” – Psalms xlvi. 8.
Peculiar notions float in the minds of most men as to what constitute the works of the Lord. The shining of the sun and of the moon, the blossoming of trees and flowers, the falling of the snow and the rain, the singing of birds, the blowing of the wind, the birth of a child, the bestowal of happiness and of prosperity, all these most people would say are the works of God; but when it comes to the reverse of all these pleasant and cheerful things, to the things that produce pain or sorrow, death or disease, these things most people prefer to ascribe to some other power than that of God. The truth is, that all these things come from the Lord, both those things that bring peace in their train as well as those things that leave a streak of fire behind them. War, famine and pestilence are a trio that go together, and rarely ever are separated; where we find one we are very apt to be able to discover the other two. A terrific world war has just spent its force in taking its terrible toll of the blood and treasure of the nations. Accompanying this whirlwind of destruction and following upon the heels of it comes famine, taking its toll of precious lives throughout Europe and Asia, many persons starving to death for lack of the wherewithal to sustain life. Probably even in our own land, and perhaps not far from our very doors, scores, and maybe hundreds, are suffering for the lack of the necessities of life. Hard upon war and famine comes the third of the trio: disease, or pestilence. The present epidemic of influenza raging all over the United States is really a pandemic, because it is worldwide, prevailing in the countries of the old world as well as here. The total of those who succumb to the pestilence will exceed in number the victims of the war. Thus we find ourselves in this present generation living in the midst of these monsters of destruction, things we have all read about in the history of the past, but which we ourselves hardly expected to see for ourselves. These are not the agencies or instruments of Satan, they are the works of the Lord. As it has been in the past, so it is now, and so shall it ever be as long as this old world remains constituted and organized as it is. The Lord in the days of Noah saved eight. persons in the ark from the Hood; all others living at that time were swallowed up in the deluge. Many people expressed themselves during the last four years that this war was the worst thing that has ever come to pass, but we think they must have forgotten about the Hood in the days of Noah, which desolation must have been terrible to those who perished in it, but which nevertheless was the work of God. Again, what desolation was that which God wrought when he overwhelmed Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, thus delivering his own elect people. Again, what desolation was the work of God when the earth opened and swallowed those who replied against Moses and Aaron, and two hundred and fifty men who offered incense were consumed by fire from the Lord. The word of the Lord by Ezekiel declares, “So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave thee; and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and I will bring the sword upon thee. I the Lord have spoken it.” You will notice it is not Satan who says this, but the Lord himself. In the ninth chapter of Ezekiel we have the vision given the prophet of the slaying to occur in Jerusalem: to six men who came from the way of the higher gate with slaughter weapons in their hands, the Lord commanded, “Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women.” This is by no means the only place in the Bible where the Lord commanded the killing of women and children. The Lord is not only a God of construction, but also of destruction; he both kills and makes alive as he sees tit.
But let us come to the forty-sixth Psalm and consider the desolation there spoken of. The first thing mentioned as being destroyed is war: “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth.” And, by the way, the Lord is the only being that can effectually make an end of war. Some doubt the success of the attempt that is being made to make war obsolete. The world to-day is trying to devise a league of nations to establish world-wide peace. We hope for success. This plan may not succeed, and we do not have to be a prophet to make such a statement. One needs only to carefully read the Scriptures to learn there that God alone is the author of peace, and that only the peace of God can endure forever. As long as human nature is what it is, and as long as the governments of the nations are organized as they are, there can be no worldwide permanent peace. However, the Psalm says that to the ends of the earth the Lord makes wars to cease. This does not convey the idea that God makes wars to cease all over the earth, but to the ends of the earth. The ends of the earth are the Lord’s people. Every subject of God’s grace is brought to the end of all earthly things, to the end of his strength, to the end of his wisdom, to the end of all confidence in himself or in the flesh. Thus, by the revelation of God’s Spirit, the sinner finds he is full of all that is earthly, sensual and vain, and that there is no hope of salvation coming through the help or power of man. He finds the end of a man, and that the end of a man is vanity. This, the end of a man, is the end of the earth. Here is where the war ceases. Whereas before the sinner was fighting against God, at war with heaven and in league with hell, now by the work of the Son of God, and the death which Jesus suffered, this war or opposition against God is ended, and he is reconciled to God through the mediatorial work of the Redeemer. This is the war that ceases, and it ceases only to those who have been brought to the end of the earth. He takes from us all our weapons of warfare so that we can no longer struggle against him. “He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.” The reason many believe that their works save them is because they have never experienced the destruction of their weapons of war at the hands of the Lord. No one can believe in salvation by works who has witnessed the Lord making wars to cease to the end of the earth. The Lord strips the sinner of all his works, he humbles his pride in the dust, he destroys all self-confidence and all line spun theories and philosophies which have for their aim the elevation of the creature in the place of the Creator. It is no wonder the Lord’s people believe wholly in salvation by grace, for the Lord has wrought a work of desolation in them, a work in which he has destroyed their spears and bows and chariots, so that they no longer can trust in their own defences, but must be still and know that he is God. No one is ever still, that is, ceasing his own ineffectual efforts, until the Lord makes him to be still, and creates within him the knowledge of God, through the destruction of all creature fortresses and self-sufficiency. The Lord destroys as he builds up. There is no such thing as growing in grace without at the same time growing out of self. In order to be built up in the faith that is God’s elect’s one must have had faith in one’s own self destroyed. Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, but one never waits upon the Lord until he gets to that place where he can no longer wait upon himself. This, for that one, is the end of earth. Here every vain imagination is cast down, every idol shattered; the sinner is abject in the dust, wholly surrendered to the King of heaven, for God has destroyed all his weapons whereby he might longer fight, and has consumed all his strength, so that he could not fight had he still the weapons. Thus does God exalt himself among the heathen. One who is an unbeliever in God is a heathen, whether he dwell in Asia, Africa, Europe or America. None can convert the heathen but God himself. He does it through the operation of the Holy Spirit and the revealing power thereof in the soul and the life of the one who is a heathen. Self, and all the things of self: the mind and the will and the affections of self, are abased, that God shall be all in all. This is the way God exalts himself among the heathen. It is through these bitter things that God’s people are taught to lie passive in his hand and know no will but his. Thus comes into the soul that final abolition of all war, the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that the world can neither give nor take away. Experimentally, God’s people are taught that God’s glory is advanced through their self-abasement. That which is exalted must be abased, and that which is abased must be exalted. God’s plan of salvation leads downward instead of upward, downward into the abysmal depths of self-knowledge, that one may know what is the height of that wisdom and knowledge that is of God. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 87, No. 3
February 1, 1919