When the psalmist speaks of the power of the word, by which God created the heavens and the earth, he says: "He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: He layeth up the depth in storehouses" (Psalm 33:7). It may be well to notice here, in passing, the words, "And it was so," with which the record of every new step in creation is closed. God said, "Let it be," and "it was so." His simple word was sufficient to establish it. Let it be remembered that this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto us. Its power has never diminished; it is as able to save as it was to create.
It is impossible that anyone who is acquainted to any degree with the Lord should stand by the sea without being reminded of the mighty power of the Creator. Yet many gaze upon the sea day after day with never a thought of its Maker, and even openly defy Him. To such the Lord says: "Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: Fear ye not Me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at My presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?" (Jeremiah 5:21, 22).
But it is not in order to produce the fright that the Lord reminds us of His mighty power that can set bounds for the sea, so that it cannot pass over in its fiercest tumult. No; it is that we may trust Him. Perfect faith and love drive fear away. So the power of God over the sea is referred to as evidence of His faithfulness. "O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto Thee? or to Thy faithfulness round about Thee? Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, Thou tillest them" (Psalm 89:8,9). An example of this faithfulness is given in the gospels. "And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish? And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" (Mark 4:35-41).
This was but the manifestation of the original creative power. He who created the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that in them is, retains full control over all. In those words, "Peace be still," we hear the same voice that said: "Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place." And this is the word which by the gospel is preached to us; so we are to learn from God's power over the sea, which is His because He made it, His power over the waves of strife that surge through human hearts.
For the angry sea represents the wicked. "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isaiah 57:20). Christ is our peace. The word which He spoke to the sea of Galilee that night is the word which He speaks to us. "I will hear what God the Lord will speak; for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints: but let them not again turn to folly" (Psalm 85:8). Surely here is comfort for those who have long struggled in vain with fierce passions.
Not only is God's power over the sea a symbol of His power to save men from the tide of sin, but it is also a pledge and surety of their final complete deliverance. It also shows the power with which God is going to clothe the preaching of the gospel message in the last struggle preceding His second coming. Read the following soul-thrilling words:
"Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the days of old, the generations of ancient times. Art Thou not it that cut Rahab [Egypt] in pieces, that pierced the dragon? Art Thou not it which dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; that made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over? And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou art afraid of man that shall die, and of the Son of man which shall be made as grass; and hast forgotten the Lord thy Maker, that stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and fearest continually all the day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he maketh ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor? The captive exile shall speedily be loosed; and he shall not die and go down into the pit, neither shall his bread fail. For I am the Lord thy God, which stirreth up the sea, that the waves thereof roar: the Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of Mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art My people" (Isaiah 51:9-16, R.V.).
Surely the fact that "the sea is His, and He made it" (Psalm 95:5), and that He "hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand" (Isaiah 40:12), is sufficient ground for confidence in Him by any of His people, whether it be for deliverance from danger, for overcoming grace, or for help in carrying on the work to which He has called them.
Christ in the Tempest
Storm on the midnight waters. The vast sky
Is stooping with the thunder. Cloud on cloud
Reels heavily in the darkness, like a shroud
Shook by some warning spirit from the high
And terrible wall of heaven. The mighty wave
Tosses beneath its shadow, like the bold
Upheavings of a giant from the grave
Which bound him prematurely to its cold
And desolate bosom. Lo, they mingle now--
Tempest and heaving wave, along whose brow
Trembles the lightning from its thick fold.
And it is very terrible. The road
Ascendeth into heaven, and thunders break
Like a response of demons from the black
Rifts of the hanging tempest--yawning o'er
The wild waves in their torment. Hark! the cry
Of the strong man in peril, piercing through
The uproar of the waters and the sky;
As the rent bark one moment rides to view
On the tall billows, with the thunder-cloud
Closing round above her like a shroud.
He stood upon the reeling deck. His form
Made visible by the lightning, and His brow
Uncovered to the visiting of the storm,
Told of a triumph man may never know--
Power underived and mighty. "Peace, be still."
The great waves heard Him, and the storm's loud tone
Went moaning into silence at His will;
And the thick clouds, where yet the lightning shone,
And slept the latent thunder, rolled away
Until no trace of tempest lurked behind,
Changing upon the pinions of the wind
To stormless wanderers, beautiful and gay.
Dread Ruler of the tempest! Thou before
Whose presence boweth the uprisen storm;
To whom the waves do homage round the shore
Of many an island empire! If the form
Of the frail dust beneath Thine eye may claim
Thine infinite regard, O breathe upon
The storm and darkness of man's soul the same
Quiet and peace and humbleness which came
O'er the roused waters where Thy voice had gone,
A minister of peace--to conquer in Thy name.
Early poem by J. G. Whittier
A LESSON FROM THE GRASS: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:11,12).
God said, "Let it be so," and it was so. "He spake, and it was; He commanded, and it stood fast." And that word liveth and abideth forever. It never loses any of its life and force. The lapse of time does not diminish its power. The word which created all things, upholds all things. Consequently that command, "Let the earth bring forth grass," is still causing the earth to bring forth grass, and herbs, and trees. If the effect of that word had ceased as soon as it was spoken, then there never would have been any more grass. The grass that was brought forth would have ceased to exist. And especially after the fall of man had brought the curse upon the earth, and death had come not only to man, but to animals and plants; if the word by which the grass was brought forth in the beginning had not been in full force, the earth would speedily have become a barren waste. But that word still lives, and therefore we have the earth clothed with grass, and abundance of fruit for the food of man.
This is not a mere theory, but it is a practical fact. That which is so common a thing as the growth of grass, ceases to call forth our wonder, and we get to thinking that it simply grows of itself without any interposition on the part of God. Indeed, most people would think that it is beneath the dignity of God to pay any attention to so small a thing as the growing of grass. That is just the reason why so few people derive any practical benefit from their professed faith in God. Their idea of God is of some being far off, who has so much to do with attending to His own affairs of state that He has no time to look after the details of His kingdom. They forget that looking after and caring for His creatures, from the greatest to the smallest, is the especial work of God. They forget that His greatness consists in His ability to manage the most stupendous affairs, and at the same time to pay attention to the smallest details.
Satan is well pleased to have men regard God as one who does not trouble Himself with their small affairs. That is just the charge which he brings against God, and it is only at his suggestion that men have adopted it. Leaving aside the matter of evolution in its most extreme phase, consider for a minute the very common idea that in the beginning God did indeed set the universe in motion; but that He then endowed matter with a certain amount of force, and subjected it to certain definite laws, so that everything should run forever after much the same as a clock that has been wound up and left to itself. With what confidence can one who holds such a view offer prayer? What can he expect to receive? No wonder that people complain that their prayers are not answered. The god that they worship is too far off to hear their prayers, and too indifferent, or too rigidly circumscribed by the laws which he has laid down, to interfere in their behalf if he should hear. Such a god is not the God of the Bible.
It is not a trivial matter that "the latest deductions of science" have drawn so many professed believers in the Bible to modify their views of the story of creation. The time was when men believed that the Bible means what it says. The men in whom God wrought mightily to the conversion of thousands were men of faith, and their faith was in that divine power that made the heavens and the earth, and in the word which upholds even the smallest things. Their belief and practical application of the fact that God lives, and that everything is within His power, and under His immediate control, was what sustained them to battle with difficulties and dangers; it was the Source of their strength, and the secret of their success.
But now what a change has taken place! It is a very rare thing to find a minister of the gospel who dares risk his reputation enough to express a belief in the literalness of the story of creation in the first chapter of Genesis. They are afraid that they will be thought "behind the times." Would to God that there were more men willing to be behind these perilous times, and not afraid to be counted fools for Christ's sake.
As men have become afraid to believe the word of the Lord, lest they should disagree with that philosophy which is only a legacy handed down from ancient heathenism, the power of the word has not been openly manifested. It has been given too little opportunity. Christians pray for a revival of religion. If they would but revive belief in the simple word of God, and recognise it as a living thing, and as the source of all life and power, there would be a revival of religion. Let the gospel be preached, not with wisdom of men, but in the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth; let it be set forth as the living, active word of God, and men will believe, and it will be seen to work effectually in those that believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
There could be no more sure way to undermine the gospel, and rob it of its power, than the substitution of the teachings of "science falsely so called" for the simple word of God. God has been relegated to the rear and is regarded as afar off. So although many do accept that gospel which is preached to them, and do sincerely wish salvation from sin, evolution, even though they have no conscious belief in it, has so taken the edge off of faith that they are not able to come close to the Lord, to walk and talk with Him, and to make Him an active factor in every affair of life.
But let us note some simple facts that will justify one, even in this scientific age, in believing that the word of the Lord, which in the beginning said, "Let the earth bring forth grass," is still causing the earth to bring forth grass. Who has not watched the springing forth of the tender blade of grass or corn? Have you not at times passed along by the field of corn, and noticed a tiny blade pushing its way to the surface, in spite of heavy clods of earth? Have you not seen a portion of the baked earth heaved up, and, looking beneath, have seen that it was held up by a tiny spire, so tender that it could not support its own weight if released from its position? The blade had as yet scarcely any colour, and was but little more than water, for if you had crushed it in your fingers, there would have been scarcely anything but moisture on your hand. Yet this tiny thing was pushing away from before a clod of earth ten thousand times its own weight.
Whence comes this power? Is it something that is inherent in the grass? Try it, and see. Take that blade of grass that is full grown. Select a small clod of earth, not half the size of the one that was pushed away from before it when it was crowding its way to the surface of the ground and put it upon the grass. What is the result? Anybody can tell you. The grass is crushed to the ground. It has no power of itself. Test it again. Take that blade that is pushing its way to the surface from beneath that clod, and remove it from the ground. You take it in your fingers and it lops down over the side of your hand. It cannot stand upright. Scarcely anything can be thought of that is weaker. And yet but a few moments before, it was standing erect, and bearing a burden infinitely heavier than itself. Here is a miracle that is wrought hundreds of millions of times every year, and yet there are those who say that the age of miracles is past.
Will any scientist tell what is the source of the marvellous power exhibited in the grass, or in the bursting of the hard shell of the peach stone by the little germ within? There is something there that no microscope can discover, and no chemical analysis can detect. We can see the manifestation of power, but cannot see the power itself. Sceptics may sneer if they please, but we are content to believe that the power is nothing else than the power of God's word. The word of the Lord said in the beginning, "Let the earth bring forth grass," and the power of that word causes the grass to spring forth in spite of all the clods of earth. There is no power in the grass, but that most feeble instrument is used to exhibit to man the mighty power of God. In that every man may learn a lesson if he will.
Did I say that we were content to believe that it is the power of the word of God that is manifested in the blade of grass? Nay, not content merely, but glad that we can recognise God's power in small things. In that we see the assurance that God is able to do for us "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20). For the same power that works in the grass of the field also works in the man who puts his trust in the Lord. "All flesh is grass" (Isaiah 40:6). Man is as weak and frail as the grass, having absolutely no power in himself; yet he is able to do all things through Christ, who strengthens him.
Recall again the "voice pictures." There we saw that the voice of man can produce the forms of living things; but the voice of God produces the very living things themselves. Not only do the grass, the trees, and the myriad forms of fruits and flowers, grow in obedience to the command of the Lord, but they are the visible representation of His voice. In nature we see the voice of God, and that is the basis of our trust in that word when we read it in the Scriptures. It was not an accident that the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, which is a record of some of the mighty works that have been wrought in feeble men by simple faith in the word of God, begins with the statement that "by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God." Men may smile at the simplicity of--
The poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds, and hears him in the wind.
but better far that "untutored mind" than the mind filled with the "instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge" (Proverbs 19:27).
To us Christ says, as well as to His disciples of old, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:16). But how are we to bring forth fruit? By the same power that causes the natural fruit of the earth to grow. That word which said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit," and whose power we can see manifested in the grass and trees, says to us, "Bring forth fruit"; and if we are willing to be as submissive to the word as is the inanimate creation, the fruit will be as abundant. But take notice that the fruit is to be to the glory of God. "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8). If the power to bear the fruit were in us, there would be nothing to the glory of God; but whatever fruit is borne is to the glory of God, because the power is all from Him. We, like the grass, are but the powerless instruments through which God manifests His own power.
The divine command is, "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). But how are we to grow? Just as the seed grows in the ground. Hear the words of Christ: "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how" (Mark 4:26, 27, R.V.). We may not know how the good seed of the word of God springs up within us, to cause to bring forth fruit, but that make no difference. "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him." Our part is to yield to the divine husbandman; His part is to cause the growth and the perfect fruit.
The growth of plants is again and again used in the Scriptures as illustrating Christian growth. The apostle Paul says, "Ye are God's husbandry" (1 Corinthians 3:9), or tilled land. So the Lord says, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound . . . to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified" (Isaiah 41:1-3).
Bear in mind that the whole thing is of the Lord. We are His tillage. We are His planting, that He might be glorified. But note further how likeness to the growth of plants is carried out. See how salvation from sin--a life of righteousness--is indeed as when one casts seed upon the earth.
"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations" (Isaiah 61:10,11).
It is wonderful what God can do if we will only let Him. Does someone say, "If He is so powerful, why does He not have His way in spite of us?" Simply because His power is the power of love, and love does not use force. God wants everybody in the universe to be satisfied, and so He gives to all the right of perfect freedom of choice as to what they will have. He tells them the relative value of things, and begs of them to choose that which is good; but if any are determined to have that which is evil, He lets them have it. He will have free men in His kingdom, and not a race of slaves and prisoners. Such they would be, if He compelled them to have salvation against their will. He wants subjects whom He can trust in any part of the universe; but if He were to compel any to be saved, He would still have to exercise force to retain them in the kingdom. Christ came to preach deliverance to the captives, and He does not propose to deliver them to bondage.
But when anyone wants salvation, no matter how small and weak he is, no matter how insignificant he may be in the eyes of the world, even though he be regarded no more than the grass which is trodden under foot, God can work wonders with him. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, much more will He clothe with power the men whom He has made in His own image, if they but submit to Him. That promise that He will clothe us does not refer exclusively to clothing for the body. "The life is more than meat, and the body than raiment" (Matthew 6:2). If He gives us that which is least important surely He will give us that which is of infinite value. So the promise that He will much more clothe us than the grass, refers as well to the garment of salvation and the robe of righteousness, with which we are to be clothed. That power which works so wonderfully in the tiny blade of grass will work still more mightily in the man who trusts the Lord.
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow" (Matthew 6:28). I have said that this is written for our encouragement in our growth in grace. As they grow, so must we. Now read some words of inspiration, which show clearly that the growth of the lily is but an illustration of the Christian's growth in grace:
"O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves [offerings] of our lips. Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods; for in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy" (Hosea 14:1-3). There is no doubt but that it is sin and righteousness that the Lord is here speaking of. He tells His people, who have departed from Him, to return, and He tells them what to say when they return. Note that they are to say that they will not any more trust in the work of their hands. Their works are not to be from self, but those that are wrought in God. Now see the assurance that He gives those who thus turn to Him:
"I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely: for Mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow [margin: blossom] as the vine."
But this is not all. God's people are His vineyard, the branch of His planting, that He might be glorified; and He would not be glorified if through any lack of personal attention they should be destroyed. So He assures them of His constant care. "In that day sing ye unto her, a vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. Fury is not in Me: who would set the briars and thorns against Me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me. He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit" (Isaiah 27:2-6).
But what need of carrying the likeness any further? We could not exhaust the Scriptures if we should try. And the only design of this writing is to lead the reader to study the word more closely for himself, and appropriate it as the living word of the living God, which works effectually in all that believe. Do not put the Lord off, but let your faith prove that He is near, even a very present help in trouble. He is a God nigh at hand, and not afar off; and nothing is too hard for Him. He has written His love and His power upon all creation, and wants to speak to us through the things that He made. In Him all things consist. That same word that spoke the universe into existence, which said to the earth, "Bring forth grass," speaks to us in the words of God's law. But His law is not a hard, lifeless decree which weak mortals are to strive in vain to keep, while God watches them with a stern eye ready to taunt and punish them for failure; but we "know that His commandment is life everlasting" (John 12:50). That word which says to us, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself," sheds that love abroad in our hearts, just as the word of God brings forth the fruit in the plant. Then well may we sing:
How gentle God's commands!
How kind His precepts are!
Come, cast your burdens on the Lord,
And trust His constant care.
Beneath His watchful eye
His saints securely dwell;
That hand which bears al nature up
Shall guard His children well.
Why should this anxious load
Press down your weary mind?
Haste to your Heavenly Father's throne,
And sweet refreshment find.
His goodness stands approved
Through each succeeding day;
I'll drop my burden at His feet,
And bear a song away.