A short time since, in conversation with a very estimable Baptist family who have, during the past few years been called to undergo some severe trials, the following declaration of Scripture among others was mentioned in the course of the conversation: I have felt since like offering some remarks upon this portion of Scripture, hoping that what I write may contain some comfort to the family referred to, and be of some interest to the readers of the “Signs.” The text is found in Psalm xlvi. 10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
It is one thing to read the letter of the Word, and quite another to have that Word applied unto us in our experience. We possess no power at all in and of ourselves to embrace the precious promises, to lay hold upon the things revealed in the Word of our God. The Spirit alone can open up and apply those things unto us, and this blest Comforter is always nigh. That it is in the hour of temptation, the time of severe trial, that the comfort is received. The trial comes first, and then the word of comfort. There must be mourning before we can taste of the sweetness of comfort. There must be trouble and distress of mind before we can experience the joy that is found in the deliverance there-from. We must pass through tribulation before we can rest in the haven of peace. There is a desire to walk in the beaten track over which the saints in all ages have traveled, but when these things come, you would shun them if you could. “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” But there is no way to avoid it; you must endure it; here is the cross. There is a cross to bear, as well as a crown to wear. We bear the one before we wear the other. He does not say, I will take them out of the fire; no! but “I will bring the third part through the fire.” The strength of Israel’s God sustains the believer while passing through the trial. “I will bring them through.” Herein is the mourning. The trouble and distress of mind, the sore bereavement, the severe conflicts, the heartrending trials, the manifold temptations that are found in the pathway of the saint.
The trial may be a protracted one, extending throughout many weeks, months, and perhaps years. Sometimes it is felt more forcibly than it is at other times. At times it appears to be almost unbearable. Truly you are in Doubting Castle, under the hands of Great Despair. The heavens above are as brass, and the earth beneath as iron. There is a sinking down in the lethargy of despair. None but the power of God can reach the case. The Gospel minister cannot. He can only point you to the great repository of all comfort; but he cannot open the door and cause the treasure to flow unto you in your experience. Nor can one in this condition bring himself into a calm and waiting frame of mind. All his efforts to do this are abortive. His thoughts run far beyond his control in many different channels, often culminating in a feeling of rebellion and opposition to the way in which the Lord is leading him. In vain he searches through the pages of eternal Truth for comfort. It is to him a “sealed book.”
“I read, the promise meets my eye,
But will not reach my case.”
His case is far beyond the reach of any save the God of all comfort. And when the voice of Israel’s God is heard, how changed the scene! The change from, the darkness of midnight to the light of the noonday sun could not be greater. The fearful frame of mind, the turbulent passions of the flesh which before appeared to control us, the wretched condition of despair in which we were, have all disappeared before the warming and reviving rays of the ever shining Son of Righteousness, which now shines forth in His ineffable brightness, and with healing in His wings. The voice of our God is heard in our experience, as by the prophet upon “Horeb, the mount of God;” a still small voice, “Peace, be still.” “Be still, and know that I am God.” Calmly and quietly you can now rest in this knowledge , and shelter beneath the covert of His wings. You can quietly wait for His salvation; and a heavenly peace rests upon the wind. The assurance is felt that in the end His delivering hand shall be seen; that in His appointed time the waters shall be parted before us, and that we shall walk forth in perfect safety from between the very jaws of the destroyer. Thus His speech distills as the dew, as the gentle falling dew. It is no trouble to be still now, and wait for His salvation. Before, as well might one have stood upon the shores of the angry ocean and attempted to calm its swelling billows, as to attempt to bring himself into the frame of mind in which he now finds himself to be. But when o’er the billows the voice of our Beloved sounds, instantly the storm is hushed to silence. And what indescribable pleasure it is to experience this heavenly frame of mind, to rest in the arms of His everlasting love, to shelter beneath the covert of His wings. Its price is far above rubies; its value cannot be measured by the jewels of nature.
“And know that I am God.” Here is the source from whence the heavenly peace proceeds. Here is the widespread banner, the “strong tower,” the glorious shelter into which the tried, trembling and tempted saint is enabled to flee for refuge. And a glorious sheltering place it is: the knowledge of the sovereignty of God. There is no sheltering place short of this. This is the only place of refuge for the flock of Christ! Where can we find one besides? Can we trust in a god who is so shortened that he cannot save without our “letting Him”? Can we trust with perfect safety in the god of this world whose purposes may be thwarted; the unhallowed designs of ungodly and wicked men, or who has to invoke the aid of any beings in the execution of his designs? Can we with perfect safety trust in a god who has not complete control over temporal and eternal things? If a god cannot save a man without his aid, how shall He bring him forth from the grave in the resurrection, seeing the man cannot then lend a hand? We know that we cannot. If the arm of our God were shortened to this measure, something over which He had no control might and would work in such a manner as to separate His people from Him, and thwart His designs in regard to them. We could not then, as we do now, rest in the full assurance of the fact that each and every one of His is and shall be preserved, or kept, through the various trials found in their pathway here, and finally be brought into the full enjoyment of their eternal inheritance in the world of glory.
The declaration, “I am God,” presents the fact that there is no God besides Him. The inspired prophet declares the same fact in the language, “I am God, and there is none else: I am God, and there is none like Me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” Isaiah xlvi. 9, 10. “I am the Lord, and there is none else: there is no God besides Me.” Isaiah xlv. 5.
“I am God.” What a fullness there is in the declaration when our mind is filled with the knowledge of His sovereignty. He is emphatically JEHOVAH; the self-subsisting God. When Moses inquired to know by what name He should declare Him to Israel, the reply was, “I am that I am.”
“He sits on no precarious throne,
Or borrows leave to be.”
He inhabiteth eternity; the universe is filled with His presence, and He fills the heart of His people. This God is our God whom we worship; and truly we can unite in the question of the psalmist, “Who is so great a God as our God?” He controls the movements of the distant planets, as well as those that are near, and the bright suns around which they move. The little globe upon which we live, and all things pertaining to it, are held in the hollow of His hand. War, pestilence and famine arise in all of their hideous forms, sweeping over our earth and carrying desolation, destruction, misery, wretchedness and death in their track. But our God has as certainly fixed their bounds as He did the bounds of the raging sea, when His sovereign voice was heard, “Hither to shalt thou come, but no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” – Job xxxviii. 11. The myriads of His creatures that are found in the waters of our earth, in the surrounding atmosphere, and that roam through her forests, and are seen everywhere upon her surface, are all fed and nourished by His wisdom and power, and the bounds of their habitation fixed. He clothes the lily with beauty, and gives the raven food. If God’s protecting care is thus manifested toward His creatures, will it not be much more manifested toward His children? Will not He who clothes the lilies, clothe His people too, and He who feeds the ravens give His children bread? This fact is presented very forcibly in Matthew vi, the last ten verses. Not only is the protecting care of our God manifested unto His people in supplying their temporal necessities, but the same protecting power is experienced by them through all their walk as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. The troubles without and the trials within are all meted out to us according to His own eternal purpose of love and mercy toward us. They must all eventually redound to our good, and to His glory. God has a purpose in every one of these trials; not one is experienced in vain. He has charge of the fiery furnace in which we are tried. Had we charge of this fiery furnace, probably we would not heat it to the extent to which it is sometimes heated to burn out the dross. The trial must continue until His purpose is accomplished. The famine must continue in all the land of Canaan until the sons of Jacob go down the second time into Egypt after corn. The bondage of Israel must continue until our God show His power in Pharaoh, and His name be declared throughout all the earth. It is a good thing indeed that the heating of the furnace is not given into our hands. We have no power to lift the trial while passing through it. Did we possess this power, probably in every instance the trial would end too soon. One in passing through the trial may be led to exclaim with Jacob, “All these things are against me.” In all that is transpiring, not one thing favorable can be seen. Yet Jacob made use of this language just before the dawn of day in his experience. Those very things which apparently were against him, were even then working together for his good. And probably in every instance it is so with us.
It is wonderful indeed with what heavenly calmness our God at times enables His people to undergo the severest trial. When we can rest in the arms of His everlasting love, in the knowledge of His sovereignty, and can “be still, and know that He is God,” it is then that we find Him a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. And now we can lie down in green pastures, and are led beside the still waters, and for a little season on the shores of time the weary are at rest. May our God grant this heavenly frame of mind to His tried and tempted people, as far as is embraced in His purpose of love and mercy toward them, and may He continue unto us the blest assurance that the “Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."
Yours in the Cause of Truth,
WM. M. Smoot. 1874