And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I 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 51:16
And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
~ Genesis 7:1
And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
~ Exodus 12:22-23
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
~ Proverbs 18:10
Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,
~ Psalm 17:8
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
~ Psalm 30:5
Opening the Care of God for His People in Times of Trouble, as the Fifth Chamber of Rest to Believers, by John Flavel. The following contains Chapter 10 of his work, “The Righteous Man’s Refuge”.
Come my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be over-past.
— ISA. 26:20
Opening the care of God for his people in times of trouble, as the fifth chamber of rest to believers.
Sect. I. CARE, in the general notion of it, as it is applied to the creature, imports the studiousness and solicitousness of our thoughts, for the safety and welfare of ourselves, or those we love and highly value. Now, though there be no such thing properly in God, at whose dispose and pleasure all events are, and to whose counsels and appointments all difficulties must give way; yet he is pleased to accommodate himself to our weakness, and express his regard and love to his people, by such things as one creature doth to another, to which it is endeared by relation or affection. To this purpose we may find many significant synonymous expressions in scripture, all importing the care of God over his people, in a pleasant variety of notion and expression, as Nah. 1:7. “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in him.”
He knoweth them, i.e. he hath a special, tender, and careful eye upon them, to see their wants supplied, and to protect them in all their dangers; for in the common and general sense he knoweth them that trust not in him, as well as those that do; and farther to clear this sense of the place, it is said, Psal. 40:17. “The Lord thinketh on them.” Importing not only simple cogitation, but the immoration or abiding of his thoughts upon them, as our thoughts are wont to do upon that which we highly esteem, especially when any danger is near it. And yet farther, to clear this sense, it is said, Job 36:7. “He withdraweth not his eye from the righteous.” As when Moses was exposed in the ark of bulrushes, where his life was in imminent hazard by the waters of Nilus on one side, and the Egyptian cut- throats on the other: his sister Miriam kept watch at a distance, to see what would be done to him. Her eye was never off that ark wherein her dear brother lay; fear and care engaged her eye to keep a true watch for him. Thus the Lord withdraweth not his eye from the righteous. To the same purpose is that expression, Deut. 33:3. “Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand.” That which we dearly love and prize above ordinary, we keep in our own hands for its security, as not thinking it safe enough in any other hand or place. And once more, Isa. 49:16. God is said to engrave them upon the palms of his hands, alluding to what is customary among men, who, when they would charge their memories with something of special concernment, use to change a ring, or bind a thread about the finger, to put them in mind of it. Thus is the care of our God expressed to us in scripture-notions. The amount of all which is given to us in that one proper and full expression of the apostle, 1 Pet. 1:7. He careth for you. To open this chamber of Divine care as a place of sweetest rest to our anxious and perplexed minds, in times of difficulty and hazard, it will be necessary that you seriously ponder,
1. The grounds and reasons of the care of God.
2. The extent and compass of the care of God.
3. The lovely properties of the care of God.
(1.) The grounds and reasons of God’s care for his people, which are,
1. The strict and dear relations in which he is pleased to own them. Believers are his children, and you know how naturally children engage and draw forth the father’s care for them. This is the argument Christ uses, Mat. 6:31, 32. “Therefore, take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all those things.” Children, especially when young, disquiet not themselves about provision for back or belly, but leave that to the care of their parents, from whom, by the tye and bonds of nature and love, they expect provision for all those wants: Every one takes care for his own; much more doth God for his own children; and, indeed, he expects his children should live upon his care as our children in their minority do upon ours.
2. God’s precious estimation and value of them engage his constant care for them. Believers are his jewels, Mal. 3:17 his peculiar people, 1 Pet. 2:6 his special portion or treasure in this world, Deut. 32:9 and as such he prizes and esteems them above all the people of the earth, and accordingly exercised his special care in all the dangers they are exposed to. Special love engageth peculiar care.
3. The dangers and fears of the people of God in this world are many and great; and were it not for the Lord’s assiduous and tender care over them, they must necessarily be ruined both in soul and body by them. The church is God’s vineyard, its enemies as so many wild boars to root it up: Upon this account he saith, Isa. 27:3. “I the Lord do keep it; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” And, indeed, it is well for Israel that he who keepeth it, never slumbereth nor sleepeth, Psal. 121:4. That our houses are in peace, that we and our dear relations fall not as a prey into cruel and bloody hands skilful to destroy, that we find any rest and comfort in so evil and dangerous a world, is wholly and only to be ascribed to the care of God over us and ours.
4. Jesus Christ hath solemnly recommended all the people of God to his particular care. It was one of the last expressions of Christ’s love to them at the parting hour, John 17:11. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world; and I come to thee: Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me.” q. d. While I have been personally present with them, I took the same care of them as a shepherd doth of his flock, or a tender father of his children: but now I must leave them in the world, and in the midst of a world of dangers, fears, and troubles, against which they can make no provision or defence themselves. Father, remember them, look after them when I shall be removed from them, they are thine as well as mine; and I recommend them, with my last breath, to thy care and protection. This is a special ground also, of God’s care for them.
5. Believers daily cast themselves upon the care of God, and resign themselves unto it in their daily prayers, and by their often-renewed acts of faith, than which no act is found more engaging from the creature upon its God; though there be nothing of merit, yet there is much engaging efficacy in it, Isa. 26:3. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee.” We find it so among ourselves, the more firmly and entirely any one trusteth in us, and dependeth upon us, the more he engageth us to protect and relieve him. Now this is the daily work of Christians to trust God over all, and put all their concernments into his hand, which very trust and dependence draw forth the care of God for them.
6. In a word, the many promises God hath made to his people to preserve, support, and supply them in all the times of need, engage the care of God for them, as often as such wants or dangers befal them; for indeed, herein he at once takes care for their necessity, and for his own honour and glory. They trust to his word, and rely upon his promises, which therefore he will be careful to make good. This was the argument which the church pleaded in the time of imminent danger to engage the care of God for them, Psal. 74:20. Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty, q. d. O Lord, thy people are in the midst of cruel enemies, take care for their protection, and though there be no worth in them to which thou shouldest have respect, yet have respect unto thine own covenant: let the glory of thy name draw forth thy care to thy people.
Sect. II. We have seen the grounds and reasons of God’s care over his people, let us next view (2.) The extent and compass of this divine care; and here methinks the Lord saith to his people as he said to Abraham, Gen. 13:14, 15. Lift up now thine eyes from the place where thou art, northward and southward, and eastward and westward, for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed for ever. So here, poor timorous, dejected believer, lift up thine eyes from the place where thou art, and take a view of all the promises in the scriptures of truth; promises of supports under all burthens, supplies of all wants, deliverances out of all dangers, assistances in all distresses; to thee have I given them, all as a portion for ever. This care of God walks around, and encompasseth the souls and bodies of them that fear him day and night. There is no interest or concern of either found without the line of his all-surrounding care, and every one of his children are enfolded in his fatherly arms, Deut. 33:3. All his saints are in thy hand. All, and every one of their wants and straits are observed by this care, in order to their supply, Phil. 4:19. My God shall supply all your need.
1. Great is the care of God over the bodies of his people, and all the dangers and necessities of them as they daily grow; your meat and drink are daily provided for you by your Father’s care, Psal. 111:2–4. He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will be ever mindful of his covenant. It is from this care of thy heavenly Father, that necessary provisions have been made for thee, of which, it may be, thou hast had no foresight: this is the God that hath fed thee all thy life long, Gen. 48:15. It is from the same care thy body hath been clothed, Matth. 6:28. How much more shall he clothe you, O ye of little faith? It is through this care you sleep in peace, and your rest is made sweet unto you, Prov. 3:24 ‘When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.’ In a word, thou owest all thy recoveries from dangerous diseases, and narrow escapes from the grave, to this care of thy God over thee, He is the Lord that healeth thee, Exod. 15:26. That the incensed humours of thy body had not overflowed their banks, like an inundation of the sea, when they raged in thy dangerous diseases, is only because thy God took the care of thee, and set them their bounds.
2. Divine care extends itself to the souls of all that fear God, and to all the concernments of their souls; and manifestly discovers itself in all the gracious provisions it hath made for them. More particularly, it is from this tender, fatherly care that,
1. A Saviour was provided to redeem them, when they were ruined and lost by sin, John 3:16 Rom. 8:32.
2. That spiritual cordials are provided to refresh them in all their sinking sorrows and inward distresses, Psal. 94:19.
3. That a door of deliverance is opened to them, when they are sorely pressed upon by temptations, and ready to be overwhelmed, 1 Cor. 10:13.
4. That a strength above their own comes seasonably to support them, when they are almost over-weighed with inward troubles; when great weights are upon them, the everlasting arms are underneath them, Psal. 138:3. Isa. 57:16.
5. That their ruin is prevented, when they are upon the dangerous and slippery brink of temptations, and their feet almost gone, Psal. 73:2. Hos. 2:6. 2 Cor. 12:7.
6. That they are recovered again after dangerous falls by sin, and not left a prey and trophy to their enemy, Hos. 14:4.
7. That they are guided and directed in the light way, when they are at a loss, and know not what course to take, Psal. 16:11. 73:24.
8. That they are established and confirmed in Christ, in the most shaking and overturning times of trouble and persecution; so that neither their hearts turn back, nor their steps decline from his ways, Jer. 32:40. John 4:14.
9. That they are upheld under spiritual desertions, and recovered again out of that dismal darkness, into the cheerful light of God’s countenance, Isa. 57:16.
10. That they are at last brought safe to heaven, through the innumerable hazards and dangers all along their way thither, Heb. 11:19. In all these things the care of their God eminently discovers itself for their souls.
(3.) Once more let us consider the care of God for his people in the lovely properties thereof. As,
1. It is a fatherly care, than which none is greater or more tender, Matth. 7:8. “Your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.” And indeed the greatest and tenderest care of an earthly father is but a faint shadow of that tender care which is in the heart of God over his children; for to that end we find them compared, Matth. 7:11. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven, give good things to them which ask him.” The care of parents is carelessness itself, compared with that care which God takes of his.
2. The care of God is an universal care, watching over all his people, in all ages, places, and dangers, 2 Chron. 16:9. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him.” This was applied by way of reproof to Asa, who out of a sinful distrust of the care of God, relied upon the help of Syria, as if there had not been a God in heaven to take care of him and the people.
3. God’s care over his, is assiduous and continual; “his mercies are new every morning, great is his faithfulness,” Lam. 3:22, 23. “He keeps his people night and day,” Isa. 27:3. Could Satan, or his instruments find such an hour, wherein the seven eyes of providence should be all asleep, that would be the fatal hour to our souls and bodies; but he that keepeth Israel slumbereth not.
4. God’s care over his, is exceeding tender, far beyond the tenderness that the most affectionate mother ever felt in her heart towards the child that hanged on her breast, Isa. 49:15. “Can a mother forget her sucking child, &c. they may, yet will not I forget thee.” The birds of the air are not so tender of their young in the nest, as God is of his people in the world, Isa. 31:5. Mercy fills the heart of God, yea, tender mercy, yea, multitudes of tender mercies, Psal. 51:1.
5. The care of God is a seasonable care, which is always sure to take the opportunity and proper season of relieving his people; in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen; the beauty of providence is much seen in this thing, wherever you feel a want, this care finds a supply; and thus much briefly of the care of God absolutely considered in itself.
Sect. III. It remains that we also consider the care of God in its twofold respect, viz.
1. To his promises.
2. To his providences.
(1.) There are multitudes of promises found in the scriptures, exactly fitted as so many keys to open the door of this comfortable chamber, to receive and secure all that fear God, whatever their wants, fears, or distresses are. These are reducible into two classes, or ranks, viz.
1. More general and comprehensive.
2. More particular promises.
The general and more comprehensive promises are found in the general expression of the covenant, as that to Abraham, Gen. 17:1. “I am God Almighty, walk thou before me, and be perfect.” q. d. Let it be thy care to walk exactly in the paths of obedience before me, and I will take care to supply all thy wants from the never-failing fountain of my all-sufficiency; and of the same tenor is that, 2 Cor. 6:18. “I will be to them a Father, and they shall be my sons and daughters,” i.e. Expect your provisions and protections from my care, as children do from their father. More particularly, there are six sorts of promises wherein the care of God is particularly made over to his people in the greatest hazards and difficulties in this life, viz.
1. It is assigned and made over to them to supply all their needs, so far as the glory of God, and the advancement of their spiritual and eternal good shall require it, Psal. 34:9. “They that fear “the Lord shall not want any good thing.” All your livelihood is in that promise; thence comes your daily bread; your own and your family’s meat is contained therein.
2. It is made over to the church and people of God for their defence against all dangers, Isa. 54:17. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” This promise wards off all the deadly blows, and puts by all the mortal thrusts that are made at you; here the care of God forms itself into a shield for your defence.
3. The care of God is engaged by promise for the moderation and mitigation of your afflictions, that they may not exceed your abilities to bear them, Isa. 27:8, 9. “In measure when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it; he stayed the rough wind in the day of the east wind.” If the wind blow from a cold corner, this promise moderates it, that it blow not a storm; all the sparing mercies and sweetening circumstances, which gracious souls thankfully note, in the sharpest trials, come from this promise, wherein the care of God is engaged for that purpose.
4. Divine care is put under the bond of a promise, for the direction and guidance of all their troubles and trials to an happy issue, Rom. 8:28. “All things shall work together for good.” From what quarter soever the wind bloweth, God will take care that it shall be useful to drive you to your port; the very providences that cast you down, by virtue of this promise, prove as serviceable and beneficial as those that lift you up.
5. The care of God stands engaged in the promise, for the help and aid of his people in all the extremities and exigencies of their lives, Psal. 46:1. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Never is the care of God more visible and conspicuous, than in such times of need.
6. Lastly, The care of God is engaged to carry his people safe through all the dangers of the way, and bring them all home to glory at last, John 10:28. “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” This care of God, thus engaged for you, is your convoy to accompany and secure you, till it set you safe into your harbour of eternal rest.
(2.) You have heard how the care of God is engaged for you by promise; now see how it actuates and exerts itself for the people of God in the various methods of providence; and here, O here is the sweetest pleasure of the Christian life, a delight far transcending all the delights of this life. Sit down Christian in this chamber also, and make but such observations upon the care of thy God as follow; and then tell me whether the world, with all its pleasures and delights, can give thee such another entertainment.
1. Reflect upon the constant, sweet, and suitable provisions, that from time to time have been prepared for thee and thine, by this care of thy God; for whensoever thy wants did come, I am sure from hence came thy supplies, it hath enabled thee to return the same answer the disciples did to that question, Luke 22:35. “Lacked ye any thing?” And they said, Nothing.
2. Reflect with admiration upon the various difficulties of your lives, wherein your thoughts have been entangled, and out of which you have been extricated and delivered by the care of God over you; how oft have your thoughts been like a ravelled skaine of silk, so entangled and perplexed with the difficulties and fears before you, that you could find no end, but the longer you thought, the more you were puzzled, till you have left thinking and fell to praying; and there you have found the right end to wind up all your thoughts upon the bottom of peace and sweet contentment, according to that direction, Psal. 37:5. “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.”
3. Observe with a melting heart, how the care of thy God hath disposed and directed thy way to unforeseen advantages: Had he not ordered thy steps when, and as he did, thou hadst not been in possession of those temporal and spiritual mercies that sweeten thy life at this day. Surely the steps of good men are ordered by the Lord: and as for thee, Christian, what reason hast thou, with an heart overflowing with love and thankfulness, to look up and say, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth? It is sweet to live by faith upon Divine care. O what a serene life might we live, careful for nothing, but making known our requests unto God in every thing, Phil. 4:6. casting all our care on him that careth for us, 1 Pet. 5:7. perplexing our thoughts about nothing, but rolling every burden upon God by faith. Thus lived holy Musculus, when reduced to extreme poverty, and danger at the same time; then it was that he solaced his soul with that comfortable distich, a good lesson for others;
Est Deus in cælis, qui providus omnia curat. Credentes nusquam deseruisse potest.
That is, There is a God above, who, as he provides for, and takes care of all, can never forsake those that believe in him. The provident care of his heavenly Father made his heart as quiet as the child at the breast. Christian, thou knowest not what distressful days are coming upon the earth, nor what personal trials shall befal thee in this world; but I advise thee, as thou valuest the tranquillity and comfort of thy life, shut up thyself by faith in this chamber of Divine care; it is thy best security in this world: Reflect frequently and thankfully upon the manifold supports, supplies, and salvations thou hast already had from this fountain of mercies, and be not discouraged at new difficulties. When an eminent Christian was told of some that way-laid him to destroy him, his answer was, Si Deus mei curam non habet, quid vivo? In like manner thou mayest say, if God had not taken care for thee; how couldst thou have lived till now? how couldst thou have over-lived so many troubles, fears, and dangers as thou hast done?