When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you go through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, and the flames will not set you ablaze.
When. Then it is certain that such experiences will come. It is only a question of time. Tribulation is common to all the children. "The same sufferings," says the apostle, "are accomplished in your brethren which are in the world." When? We do not always know when the desolating floods of life are coming, but presently they will rise to our breast and to our throat - deep waters.
I. TRIBULATION DOES NOT DESTROY PROGRESS. We pass through these waters; they are part of the way in which the Lord our God is leading us. "Ever onward" is our motto. We are "a day's march nearer home," even in the days of desolation and distress. We need not hope to escape the waters. No detour will take us out of the way of the floods.
II. TRIBULATION BRINGS CHRIST NEAR. "I will be with thee." A brief sentence. But it is enough. We have but to study the little word "I It speaks of One who has all power in heaven and in earth; One who is human and Divine. A presence - that is what we want. Theologians talk of a real presence." How can a presence be unreal? We do not talk of real sunlight, or real bread, or real air! This is the presence of One who understands all, and whose infinite pity accompanies the infinite peace.
III. TRIBULATION DOES NOT DESTROY. "The rivers, they shall not overflow thee." It is life the Saviour seeks for us, not death. Neither faith nor hope shall be destroyed. And if these waterfloods be death - which they are so often taken to mean - then they do not destroy. No; we pass through them to the laud beyond. - W.M.S.
I. THE PATHWAY THAT THE PEOPLE OF GOD TREAD. Through waters, rivers, fires, and flames. "It is through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom."
When thou passest through the waters.I. Notice the frank and matter-of-course way in which your AFFLICTIONS AND TRIALS are mentioned. "The waters," "the rivers," "the fire," "the flame"; it takes it for granted that you will meet with some or all of them before you have finished your course, and they are mentioned in a way, too, that will not suffer you to think lightly of them. "Waters," many of them, and may be deep; "rivers," rushing calamities that threaten to carry you away; "fire and flame!" hard words these, and I gather that your tribulations, Jacob, are great, various, and sure.
II. But the words, "When thou passest," — "And when thou walkest," clearly intimate that JACOB IS TRAVELLING, MOVING FROM ONE POINT TO ANOTHER. We may be quite sure that the "waters," "rivers," "fire," "flame" we read of:here have reference only to such of them as are met with on Jacob's proper track. If these perilous possibilities do not confront him on the way of duty; and if he makes a voluntary circumbendibus, to serve only his own pleasure, so that he confronts them; then, such waters and such fires are very likely to destroy him. Lot goes and settles down in Sodom; he had no more business there than has flour in a soot-bag; and the fire burnt him. The waters overflowed Jonah to some purpose; but that was because he went where he liked, and not where he ought.
III. Not only shall Jacob be safe in the flood, and brought through the fire; not only shall both flood and fire become vanquished perils living only in the victor's memory, but THE PASSING THROUGH THEM SHALL DO GOOD TO JACOB! He shall be a nobler soul for being tossed by waves; he shall be a purer being for being tried by fire, and like the finely tempered steel which was first in the red-hot furnace, and was then plunged into the ice-cold cistern, and so became the keen, invincible blade: so the trial, afflictions, testings of the Christian do mould and temper and shape and brighten Jacob's character, and ennoble after the Christly pattern his moral manhood, which is the glory of his immortal soul! Note two things to be remembered in the day of the flood and fire.
1. Thy God has promised to be ever at thy side.
2. This gracious God, who controls the waters and restrains the fires end conducts His people through them both, reveals Himself here as "the Lord that created thee, O Jacob; and He that formed thee, O Israel." He made thee, O Jacob; then He knows thee, knows thy frame; remembereth that thou art dust, — will not put upon thee more than thou canst bear, neither will He forsake the work of His hands. He raised us from the ruins of the fall, made us temples for Himself to dwell in. Then He will never suffer the structures He has erected at so much care and cost to be thrown down by violence, swept away by turbulent waters, or devoured by the ruthless flame. "Thou art mine!" He says. It is the language of complacency and delight. Thou art mine! My property! My charge! My joy! My jewel! And I will guard My own! Surely with such a text as this to fall back upon, O thou redeemed one, thou wilt not doubt or fear.
(J. J. Wray.)
1. If I look at the temporalities first, the wilderness through which we pass is full of troubles. Thorns and thistles has it brought forth ever since the curse was pronounced upon it; and you can scarcely look into a circle of your acquaintance without finding sicknesses, sorrows, losses, cares, broils, contentions, all the fruits of sin, constantly presented to your view. Is not this, then, a tribulated path?
2. Mark, among the tribulations, the rigour of a fiery law.
3. In this unceasing warfare "the flesh hateth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh."
4. Look at the grand adversary of souls, and his fiery temptations. That is another fire to pass through — Satan's suggestions.
II. THE UPHOLDING POWER. I will be with thee." Good company at all events. Was He not with all the worthies recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures, in their sharp conflicts, giving them all the victory? There are two views that may be taken of this precious promise. There is such a thing as God being with His people, and they not knowing it; and there is such a thing as their sensible enjoyment of it. There are two things to be considered. The immutable faithfulness of God has bound Him never to desert the objects of His love. But there have been many instances in which people have been groping in the dark; it has been a long while before they could find Him; and in many instances they have been ready to say, "My prayer is shut out"; and led to exclaim, "Hath God in anger shut up His tender mercies? Will His compassion fail?"
III. THE TERMINUS. Heavenly rest — not a wave of trouble shall roll across this peaceful breast.
I. THAT SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE IS THE SAME IN ALL AGES. These words were written by the prophet of the Exile, who could speak of himself and his comrades as passing through the waters. He shows in this way that he realises that the exiles are one in experience with their ancestors who passed through the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan. Though their circumstances were different, the variation in outward detail was insignificant. The same parts of their nature were tested, and the same virtues were disciplined. Thus this prophet becomes the link between us, who are the disciples of Christ, and the Israelites who crossed the Jordan.
II. THAT IN EVERY LIFE THERE ARE A FEW BRIEF BUT INTENSE TRIALS. There was the long and weary strain of desert life to be constantly borne. The passage of the sea and the river came but twice, and then lasted but a few hours, though the agony for the time was intense. They entered the sea in a night of awful storm, because the terror of their enemies was upon them. They entered the river in broad daylight in utter trust of God, knowing that only thus could the enjoyment of Canaan's goodly land be theirs. One was a struggle of fear, the other the yielding of all to God in simple faith. In the Christian life peace only comes after this second struggle.
III. THAT LIFE BEFORE AND AFTER SUCH A CRISIS IS WHOLLY DIFFERENT. The Red Sea was the boundary line between bondage and freedom; the Jordan between wandering and rest, between hope and possession. It seems as though such struggles were the birth-throes of a new life. To pass on to a higher plane such struggle must be encountered. It was such a trial as God called upon Job to pass through.
IV. THAT ONE SUCH CRISIS IS DEATH. In the life of Christ it would appear that the temptation connected with His baptism was His Red Sea, just as St. Paul tells us that the sea was Israel's baptism: "They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." We know that this temptation was one of the crises of our Saviour's life. Then the devil leaveth Him for a season, not to return with like power until he meets Him again at Gethsemane. This was Christ's Jordan. Not until this was passed was His sorrow vanquished or His labour "finished." When Christian reached this river he was dazed and despondent, and began to look this way and that to see if he could not escape the river. Truly, death is the last and not the least enemy.
V. THAT HUMAN FRIENDSHIP CAN AVAIL BUT LITTLE HERE. Friends may say, "I am with you" in sympathy; but they can render no help. Viewing the struggle, they may long to share it, but here they must leave their friends in the hands of God.
VI. THAT GOD IS WITH US IN ALL SUCH CRISIS MOMENTS. Hopeful's comforting words did Christian little good. But he heard a voice say, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee." Indeed, that is His name, Immanuel, God with us. And Christ has said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end." If God has brought us through the sea, if He has commenced the good work within us, He will bring us through the Jordan, and thus complete what He has begun. In virtue of such a precious promise we need have no fear.
(R. C. Ford, M. A.)
Clergyman's Magazine.I. CONTEMPLATE THE SCENES THROUGH WHICH THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE CALLED TO PASS. No metaphor is more frequent in the Bible than that by which sudden calamities are represented by a deluge of waters (Psalm 42:7; Psalm 69:1, 2).
1. All must pass through —(1) The waters of temptation (James 1:12).(2) The waters of affliction, in circumstances, person, mind, family.(3) The river of death. "How wilt thou do in the swellings of Jordan?"
2. We are all familiar with affliction under the image of fire (Psalm 66:12; 1 Corinthians 3:13; Isaiah 48:10; 1 Peter 4:12). It is the tendency of fire to —(1) Consume (Malachi 4:1). Affliction, like a fire, will tend to consume our corruptions, whilst we ourselves remain uninjured.(2) Melt. All metals can be melted, and receive whatever stamp the artificer may impress.(3) Try. Place any substance in the fire, and its nature and properties are made manifest. Thus Abraham was tried; Job (Job 23:10); Israel (Deuteronomy 8:2); Hezekiah.(4) Purify and refine (Isaiah 1:25; Malachi 3:2, 3).
II. CONSIDER THE PROMISES MADE TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD WHEN PASSING THROUGH THESE SCENES.
1. The Divine presence. We naturally look for sympathy in the day of trouble (Job 6:14): Sometimes friends who are with us in sunshine forsake us in storm (Job 19:21; Acts 28:15, with 2 Timothy 4:16). But God will never forsake us.
3. Divine deliverance. We are not always to be fording rivers, struggling with floods, or walking through fires. We are to leave them all behind. The rest of Canaan compensated for all the toils of the wilderness (Romans 8:18).
(Clergyman's Magazine.)1. The godly have the best company in the worst places in which their lot is east. "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee."
2. The godly have special help in their times of deepest trouble. "And through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee."
3. The godly are the subjects of miracles of mercy in seasons of greatest distress. "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. R. Miller, D. D.)
(J. R. Miller, D. D.)
When thou walkest through the fire.! — Walking through the fire here is put for the severest form of trouble. You have, in the commencement of the verse, trouble described as passing through the water. This represents the overwhelming influence of trial, in which the soul is sometimes so covered that it becomes like a man sinking in the waves. "When thou goest through the rivers," — those mountain torrents which with terrific force are often sufficient to carry a man away. This expresses the force of trouble, the power with which it sometimes lifts a man from the foothold of his stability, and carries him before it. "When thou passest through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee." But going through the fire expresses not so much the overwhelming character and the upsetting power of trouble as the actual consuming and destructive power of trouble and temptation. The metaphor is more vivid, not to say more terrific, than that which is employed in the first sentence, and yet, vivid and awful though it be, it is certainly not too strong a figure to be used as the emblem of the temptations and afflictions through which the Church and people of God have been called to pass.
I. THIS TERRIBLE PATHWAY. The sacramental host of God's elect has never had an easy road along which to journey. I see the fields on fire, the prairie is in a blaze, the very heavens are like a furnace, and the clouds seem rather to be made of fire than water. Across that prairie lies the pathway to heaven, beneath that blazing sky the whole Church of God must make its perpetual journey. It started at the first in fire, and its very glory at the last shall take place in the midst of the fiery passing away of all things. When first there was a Church of God on earth, in the person of Abel, it was persecuted. Since that day, what tongue can tell the sufferings of the people of God! It hath fared well with the Church when she hath been persecuted, and her pathway hath been through fire. Her feet are shod with iron and brass. She ought not to tread on paths strewn with flowers; it is her proper place to suffer.
II. There is AN AWFUL DANGER. The promise of the text is based on a prophecy that follows it. The chapter tells us how God taught His people by terrible things in the past, and how He hath terrible lessons to teach them in the future. The Church has had very painful experience that persecution is a fire which does burn. How many ministers of Christ, when the day of tribulation came, forsook their flocks and fled. Again: I see iniquity raging on every side. Its flames are fanned by every wind of fashion- And fresh victims are being constantly drawn in. It spreads to every class. Not the palace nor the hovel is safe. We may give the alarm to you, young man, who are in the midst of ribald companions. I may cry "fire!" to you who are compelled to live in a house where you are perpetually tempted to evil. I may cry "fire!" to you who are marked each day, and have to bear the sneer of the ungodly, — "fire!" to you who are losing your property and suffering in the flesh, for many have perished thereby. We ought not to look upon our dangers with contempt; they are dangers, they are trials. We ought to look upon our temptations as fires.
III. Here is A DOUBLE INSURANCE. It strikes me that in the second clause we have the higher gradation of a climax. "Thou shalt not be burned," to the destruction of thy life, nor even scorched to give thee the most superficial injury, for "the flames shall not kindle upon thee." Juat as when the three holy children came out of the fiery furnace it is said, "Upon their bodies the fire had no power, nor was a hair of their head singed; neither were their coats changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them"; so the text seems to me to teach that the Christian Church under all its trials has not been consumed; but more than that — it has not lost anything by its trials. Upon the entire Church, at the last, there shall not be even the smell of fire.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)Isaiah 42:25), but now with Jehovah on its side it is invulnerable in the severest trials.
(Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
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