"And they came to Elim ['Valleys'], where were ... threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there." -- Exodus 15:27
"This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing"--
"He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ." -- Phil 1:6
"We shall not die." -- Hab 1:12.
In looking from underneath the shade of the palm-trees, on the long untrodden journey ere the true Canaan can be reached, the thought cannot fail to obtrude itself, Can we trust to be safeguarded through this great and terrible wilderness? Can we rely on the God of the Pillar-cloud conducting us to the brink of Jordan and thence to "the shining fields" beyond? Rather, is there no danger to be apprehended of spiritual drought and famine, or spiritual death, overtaking us? May it not be sadly fulfilled, with us, in a spiritual sense, as it was with the Pilgrim Hebrews in a literal, that through apostasy, unbelief, and backsliding, "we shall never enter into His rest"?
No. We have the sure word of promise of "a God who cannot lie," "Ye shall go over and possess that good land" (Deut. 4:22). "But now thus says the Lord that created you, O Jacob, and He that formed you, O Israel, Fear not; for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle on you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour" (Isa 43:1-3). All is guaranteed to us in what the old writers call "the charter-deed of the Everlasting Covenant." The immutability of the Divine counsel has been confirmed to us by oath. In the first of our motto-verses the great Apostle speaks with unhesitating assurance; --"being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ." He does not, indeed, aver that "good work" is never to be impeded. God has never given promise in Scripture, with regard to spiritual experience, of an unclouded day--uninterrupted sunshine. "The morning without clouds" is a heavenly emblem. The earthly one is "a day in which the light shall neither be clear nor dark" (Zech 14:6). The analogy of the outer world of nature, at least under these our checkered and ever-varying skies, teaches us this. Spring comes smiling, and pours her blossoms into the lap of summer. But the skies lower, the rain and battering hail descend, the virgin blossoms droop their heads and almost die. Summer again smiles, and the meadows look gay; the flowers ring merry chimes with their leaves and petals and swing their fragrant censers. But all at once the drought comes with her fiery, merciless footsteps. Every blade and floweret, gasping for breath, lift their blanched eyelids to the brazen sky; or the night winds rock the laden branches and strew the ground. Thus, we see, it is not one unvarying, unchecked progression, from the opening bud to the matured fruit. But every succeeding month is more or less scarred by drought and moisture, wind and rain and storm. Yet, never once has Autumn failed to gather up her golden sheaves; aye, and if you ask her testimony, she will tell that the very storm, the blackened skies, and descending torrents you dreaded as foes, were the best auxiliaries in filling her garners. Do not be despondent now, because of present passing shadows, but "thank God, and take courage." "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with His hand" (Ps 37:24). It is written, that "at evening time it shall be light" (Zech 14:7). The sun may wade all day through murky clouds, but he will pillow his head at night on a couch of vermilion and amber. "Though you have lien among the pots, yet shall you be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold" (Ps 68:13).
The second of our motto-verses forms part of an impassioned appeal of the Prophet Habakkuk in the prospect of impending national calamity. The great military power of that era of the world was menacing the cities and homes of Palestine. "Terrible and dreadful"--their horses "swifter than the leopards, and more fierce than the evening wolves" (1:7-8). Overwhelmed at the thought of imminent judgment and desolation; the seer can discern no silver lining in the cloud. He turns from man to God. He takes refuge in that sublime truth--the Immutability of a covenant Jehovah; and breaks out in these beautiful words of calm confidence, "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die!" No: though the hosts of the Chaldeans should sweep the battle-plains; though they should leave behind them a track of blood and ashes and smoke; though the cry of suffering thousands should ascend apparently succoured to heaven, "We shall not die." The God of our Fathers will not be untrue to His oath, or unmindful of His covenant. He will not cast off forever, or root out our name and remembrance from the earth.
"I give unto them," is His own blessed word and guarantee to His true Israel still, "eternal life, and they shall never perish." "What God hath spoken, He is able also to perform." The good work begun, He will also finish. Let this ever be our rallying call when wounded in the fight, "This is mine infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High!"
He will not forsake;
His eternal covenant,
He will never break.
Onward, then, and fear not,
Children of the Day!
For His Word shall never,
Never pass away!"
"It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God."