Your shoes shall be iron and brass; and as your days, so shall your strength be.
Turning this old-time word into a promise for ourselves as we set out on a new year's journey, it suggests to us that we may have some rugged pieces of road before we get to the end. If not, what need would there be for iron shoes? If the way is to be flower strewn, velvet slippers would do. No one can live nobly and worthily without struggle, battle, self-denial. Then we may have special trials or sorrows this year. We shall need our iron shoes. It is said there was a compensation in Asher's rough portion; his rugged hills had iron in them. This law of compensation runs through all God's distribution of gifts. One man's farm is hilly and hard to till, but deep down beneath its ruggedness, buried away in its rocks, are rich minerals. One person's lot in life is hard, with peculiar obstacles, difficulties, and trials, but hidden in it there are compensations of some kind. One young man is reared in affluence and luxury. He never experiences want or self-denial, never has to struggle with obstacles or adverse circumstances. Another is reared in poverty, and has to toil and suffer privation. The latter seems to have scarcely an equal chance in life. But we all know where the compensation lies in this case. It is in such circumstances that grand manhood is grown, while, too often, the petted, pampered sons of luxury come to nothing. In the rugged hills of toil and hardship life's finest gold is found. Shoes of iron are promised only to those who are to have rugged roads. There is a comforting suggestion here for all who find peculiar hardness in their life. God will provide for the ruggedness. There is a most delicate connection between earth and heaven's grace. There is yet another suggestion in this old-time promise. The Divine blessing for every experience is folded up in the experience itself, and will not be received in advance. The iron shoes would not be given until the rough roads were reached. There was no need for them until then, and besides, the iron to make them was in the rugged hills themselves, and could not be gotten until the hills were reached. Some people are forever unwisely testing themselves by questions like these: "Could I endure sore bereavement? Have I grace enough to bow in submission to God if He were to take away my dearest treasure? Or could I meet death without fear?" Such questions are unwise, because there is no promise of grace to meet trial when there is no trial to be met. Grace for dying is nowhere promised while death is yet far off and while one's duty is to live. There is a story of a shipwreck which yields an illustration that comes in just here. Crew and passengers had to leave the broken vessel and take to the boats. The sea was rough, and great care in rowing and steering was necessary, in order to guard the heavy-laden boats, not from the ordinary waves, which they rode over easily, but from the great cross seas. Night was approaching, and the hearts of all sank as they asked what they should do in the darkness when they would no longer be able to see these terrible waves. To their great joy, however, when it grew dark, they discovered that they were in phosphorescent waters, and that each dangerous wave rolled up crested with light which made it as clearly visible as if it were midday. So it is that life's dreaded experiences when we meet them carry in themselves the light which takes away the peril and the terror. The night of sorrow comes with its own lamp of comfort. The hour of weakness brings its secret of strength. When we come to the hard, rough, steep path we find iron for shoes. "How can I get shoes, and where?" one asks. Do you remember about Christ's feet, that they were pierced with nails? Why was it? That we might have shoes to wear on our feet, and that they might not be cut and torn on the way. Dropping all figure, we cannot get along on this year's pilgrimage without Christ; but having Christ, we shall be ready for anything that the year may bring to us.
(J. R. Miller, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.