With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
~ Isaiah 26:9
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
~ Hosea 13:14
And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
~ Ezekiel 37:21
After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.
~ Hosea 6:2
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
~ Isaiah 26:19
And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the LORD shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies.
~ Isaiah 66:14
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
~ Isaiah 43:19
That God’s Attributes, Promises, and Providences, Are Prepared for the Security of His People, by John Flavel. The following contains an excerpt from Chapter Six from his work, “The Rightous Man’s Refuge”.
Demonstrating the fifth proposition, viz. That God’s attributes, promises, and providences, are prepared for the security of his people, in the greatest distresses that can befal them in the world.
Sect. I. Having more briefly dispatched the foregoing preliminary propositions, it remains that we now more fully open this fifth proposition, which contains the main subject matter of this discourse; here therefore our meditations must fix and abide, and truly such is the deliciousness of the subject to spiritual hearts, that I judge it wholly needless to offer any other motive besides itself to engage your affections. Let us therefore view our chambers, and see how well God hath provided for his children in all the distresses that befal them in this world; it is our Father’s voice that calls to us, Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers. And the
1. Chamber which comes to be opened as a refuge to distressed believers in a stormy day, is that most secure and safe attribute of Divine Power: into this let us first enter by serious and believing meditation, and see how safe they are whom God hides under the protection thereof, in the worst and most dangerous days. In opening this attribute, we shall consider it, 1. In its own nature and properties.
2. With respect to the promises.
3. As it is actuated by providence in the behalf of distressed saints.
And then give you a comfortable prospect of their safe and happy condition, who take up their lodgings by faith in this attribute of God.
1. Let us consider the power of God in itself, and We shall find it represented to us in the scriptures, in these three lovely properties, viz.
1. Omnipotent Power.
2. Supreme Power
3. Everlasting Power
1. As an omnipotent and all-sufficient power, which hath no bounds or limits but the pleasure and will of God, Dan. 4:34, 35. “He doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What dost thou?” So Psal. 135:6. “What-soever the Lord pleased that did he, in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and in all deep places.” You see Divine pleasure is the only rule according to which Divine Power exerts itself in the world; we are not therefore to limit and restrain it in our narrow and shallow thoughts, and to think in this, or in that, the power of God may help or secure us; but to believe that he is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think. Thus those worthies, Dan. 3:17. by faith exalted the power of God above the order and common rule of second causes. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.” Their faith resting itself upon the omnipotent power of God, expected deliverance from it in an extraordinary way; it is true, this is no standing rule for our faith ordinarily to work by; nor have we ground to expect such miraculous salvations, but yet when extraordinary difficulties press us, and the common ways and means of deliverance are shut up, we ought by faith to exalt the omnipotency of God, by ascribing the glory thereof to him, and leave ourselves to his good pleasure, without straitening or narrowing his Almighty Power, according to the mould of our poor, low thoughts and apprehensions of it: for so the Lord himself directeth our faith in difficult cases, Isa. 54:8, 9. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” He speaks there of his pardoning mercy, which he will not have his people to contract and limit according to the model and platform of their own desponding, misgiving, and unbelieving thoughts; but to exalt and glorify it, according to its unbounded fulness; as it is in the thoughts of God, the fountain of that mercy; so it ought to be with respect to his power, about which his thoughts and ours do vastly differ; the power of God as we cast in the mould of our thoughts, is as vastly different and disproportionate from what it is in the thoughts of God the fountain thereof, as the earth is to the heavens, which is but a small inconsiderable point compared with them.
2. The power of God is a supreme and sovereign power, from which all creature-power is derived, and by which it is over-ruled, restrained, and limited at his pleasure. Nebuchadnezzar was a great monarch, he ruled over other kings, yet he held his kingdom from God; it was God that placed not only the crown upon his head, but his head upon his shoulders, Dan. 2:37. “Thou, O king, art a king of kings; for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.” Hence it follows, that no creature can move tongue or hand against any of God’s people, but by virtue of a commission or permission from their God, albeit they think not so. Knowest thou not, saith Pilate unto Christ, that I have power to crucify thee, and power to release thee? Proud worm! what an ignorant and insolent boast was this of his own power! and how doth Christ spoil and shame it in his answer? John 19:11. Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.
Wicked men, like wild horses, would run over and trample under foot all the people of God in the world, were it not that the bridle of Divine Providence had a strong curb to restrain them: Ezek. 22:6. “The princes of Israel every one were in thee, to their power to shed blood.” And it was well for God’s Israel that their power was not as large as their wills were; this world is a raging and boisterous sea, which sorely tosses the passengers for heaven that sail upon it, but this is their comfort and security: “The Lord stilleth the noise of the sea, the noise of the waves, and the tumult of the people,” Psal. 65:7. Moral, as well as natural waves, are checked and bounded by Divine power. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath thou shalt restrain,” Psal. 76:10. As a man turns so much water into the channel as will drive the mill, and turns away the rest into another sluice.
Yea, not only the power of man, but the power of devils also is under the restraint and limitation of this power, Rev. 3:10. “Satan shall cast some of you into prison, and ye shall have tribulation ten days.” He would have cast them into their graves, yea, into hell if he could, but it must be only into a prison: He would have kept them in prison till they had died and rotted there, but it must be only for ten days. Oh glorious sovereign power! which thus keeps the reins of government in its own hand!
3. The power of God is an everlasting power; time doth not weaken or diminish it, as it doth all creature-powers, Isa. 40:28. “The Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary,” Isa. 59:1. “The Lord’s hand is not shortened,” i.e. He hath as much power now as ever he had, and can do for his people as much as ever he did; time will decay the power of the strongest creature, and make him faint and feeble; but the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not. “Thou (saith the Psalmist) abideth for ever, thy years flee not,” Psal. 102:27. In God’s working there is no expence of his strength, he is able to do as much for his church now as ever he did, to act over- again all the glorious deliverances that ever he wrought for his people from the beginning of the world; to do as much for his church now, as he did at the Red-sea; and upon this ground the church builds its plea, Isa. 51:9, 10. “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord, awake as in the ancient days, as in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?” q. d. Lord, why should not thy people at this day expect as glorious productions of thy power, as any of them found in former ages?
Sect. II. Let us view the power of God in the vast extent of its operations, and then you will find it working beyond the line,
1. Of creature-power,
2. Of creature-expectation,
3. Of human probability.
1. Beyond the line of all created power, even upon the hearts, thoughts, and minds of men, where no creature hath any jurisdiction. So Gen. 31:29. God bound up the spirit of Laban, and becalmed it towards Jacob. So Psal. 106:46. “He made them also to be pitied of all them that carried them captives.” Thus the Lord promised Jeremiah, Jer. 15:11. “I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well, in the time of evil.” This power of God softens the hearts of the most fierce and cruel enemies, and sweetens the spirits of the most bitter and enraged foes of his people.
2. Beyond the line of all creature-expectations, Eph. 3:20. “God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.” He doth so in spirituals; as appears by those two famous parables, Luke 15:19, 22. “And am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants. But the Father said to his servants, bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” The prodigal desired to be but as an hired servant, and lo, the fatted calf is killed for him, and music to his meat; and the gold ring upon his finger. And in Matth. 18:26, 27. the debtor did but desire patience, and the creditor forgave the debt. Oh! thinks a poor humbled sinner, if I might have but the least glimpse of hope, how sweet would it be! But God brings him to more than he expects, even the clear shining of assurance. It is so in temporals, the church confesses the Lord did things they looked not for, Isa. 64:3. And in both spirituals and temporals this power moves in an higher orb than our thoughts, Isa. 55:8, 9. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor my ways your ways; but as far as the heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts.” The earth is but a punctum to the heavens; all its tallest cedars, mountains and pyramids cannot reach it: He speaks, as was said before, of God’s pitying, pardoning, and merciful thoughts, and shews that no creature can think of God, as he doth of the creature under sin, or under misery; our thoughts are not his thoughts; either first, by way of simple cogitation we cannot think such thoughts towards others in misery, by way of pity; or under sin against us by way of pardon, as God doth: Nor secondly, are our thoughts as God’s in respect of reflexive comprehension; i.e. We cannot conceive or comprehend what those thoughts of God towards us are; when we fall into sin or misery, just as he thinks them, they are altered, debased, and straitened as soon as ever they come into our thoughts. See an excellent instance in Gen. 48:11. “I had not thought to see thy face, and lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.” A surprizing providence; and thus the divine power works in a sphere above all the thoughts, prayers, and expectations of men.
3. It works beyond all probabilities, and rational conjectures of men; this Almighty power hath created deliverances for the people of God, when things have been brought to the lowest ebb, and all the means of salvation have been hid from their eyes. We have divers famous instances of this in scripture, wherein we may observe a remarkable gradation in the working of this Almighty power: It is said in 2 Kings 14:26, 27. “The Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter, for there was not any shut up, or any left, nor any helper for Israel.” A deplorable state! How inevitable was their ruin to the eye of sense? Well might it be called a bitter affliction; yet from this immediate power arose for them a sweet and unexpected salvation: And if we look into 2 Cor. 1:9, 10. we shall find the apostles and choicest Christians of those times, giving up themselves as lost men; all ways of escaping being quite out of sight, for so much those words signify, We had the sentence of death in ourselves; i.e. We yielded ourselves for dead men. But though they were sentenced to death, yea, though they sentenced themselves, this power, which wrought above all their thoughts and rational conjectures, reprieved them. And yet one step farther, in Ezek. 37:4, 5, 6, 7. The people of God are there represented as actually dead, yea, as in their graves, yea, as rotted in their graves, and their very bones dry, like those that are dead of old; so utterly improbable was their recovery: Yet by the working of this Almighty power, which subdueth all things to itself, their graves in Babylon were opened, the breath of life came into them, bone came to bone, and there stood up a very great army; it was the working of his power above the thoughts of man’s heart, which gave the ground of that famous proverb, Gen. 22:14. “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” And the ground of that famous promise, Zech. 14:7. “At evening time it shall be light;” i.e. Light shall unexpectedly spring up, when all men according to the course and order of nature, expect nothing but increasing darkness. How extensive is the power of God in its glorious operations!
Sect. III. Let us view the power of God in its relation to the promises, for so it becomes our sanctuary in the day of trouble; if the power of God be the chamber, it is the promise of God which is that golden key that opens it. And if we will consult the scriptures in this matter, we shall find the Almighty power of God made over to his people by promise, for many excellent ends and uses in the day of their trouble. As,
1. To uphold and support them when their own strength fails, Isa. 41:10. “Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee, with the right hand of my righteousness.” And which of the saints have not sensibly felt these everlasting arms underneath their spirits, when afflictions have pressed them above their own strength! So runs the promise to Paul, in 2 Cor. 12:9. “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness;” i.e. It is made known in thy weakness. Our weakness adds nothing to God’s power, it doth not make his power perfect, but it hath the better advantage of its discovery, and puts forth itself more signally and conspicuously in our weakness; as the stars which never shine so gloriously as in the darkest night.
2. To preserve them in all their dangers, to which they lie exposed in soul and body, 1 Pet. 1:5. “You are kept (saith the apostle by the mighty power of God.” Kept as in a garrison; this is their arm every morning, as it is Isa. 33:2. “O Lord be gracious unto us, we have waited for thee, be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” The arm is that member which is fitted for the defence of the body, and for that end so placed by the God of nature, that it may guard every part above and below it; but as good they were bound behind our backs, for any help they can give us in some cases: It is God’s arm that defends us and not our own. This invisible power of God makes the saints the world’s wonder. Psal. 71:7. “I am as a wonder to many, but thou art my strong refuge.” To see the poor defenceless creatures preserved in the midst of furious enemies, that is just matter of wonder; but God being their invisible refuge, that solves the wonder; to this end the power of God is by promise engaged to his people, Isa. 27:3. “I the Lord do keep it, I will water it every moment, lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” And thus they subsist in the midst of dangers and troubles; as the burning bush (the emblem of the church) did amidst the devouring flames, Exod. 3:3.
3. To deliver them out of their distresses; so runs the promise, Psal. 91:14, 15. “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he hath known my name; he shall call upon me, and I will answer him, I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him.” And Jer. 30:7. “Alas for that day is great, so that none is like it: It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but ye shall be saved out of it.” And surely there can be no distress so great, no case of believers so forlorn, but,
1. It is easy with God to save them out of it. Are they to the eye of sense lost, as hopeless as men in the grave? Yet see Ezek. 37:12. “O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” And he doth whatever he doth easily, with a word, Psal. 44:4. “Thou art my king, O God, command deliverances for Jacob.” And it requireth no more violent motion to do it, than he that swimmeth in the water uses, Isa. 25:11. A gentle easy motion of the hand doth it.
2. And as the power of God can deliver them easily, so speedily. Their deliverance is often wrought by way of surprizal. Isa. 17:14. “Behold, at evening-tide, trouble, and in the morning he is not.” So the church prays, in Psal. 136:14. “Turn again our captivity as the streams in the south.” The southern countries are dry, the streams there come not in a gentle and slow current, but being occasioned by violent sudden spouts of rain, they presently overflow the country, and as soon retire: So speedily can the power of God free his people from their dangers and fears.
3. Yea, such is the excellency of his delivering power, that he can save alone, without any contribution of creature-aids. So Isa. 59:16. “He wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore his hand brought salvation unto him, and his righteousness sustained him.” We read indeed, Judg. 5:23. of helping the Lord, but that is not to express his need, but their duty; we have continual need of God, but he hath no need of us: he uses instruments, but not out of necessity, his arm alone can save us, be the danger never so great, or the visible means of deliverance never so remote.
4. Once more, let us view this chamber of Divine Power, as it is continually opened by the hand of providence, to receive and secure the people of God in all their dangers. It is said, 2 Chron. 16:9. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him.” Where you have an excellent account of the immediacy, universality, and efficacy of Divine Providence, as it uses and applies this Divine Power for the guard and defence of that people who are its charge; he doth not only set angels to watch for them, but his own eyes guard them, even those seven eyes of providence mentioned, Zech. 3:9. which never sleep nor slumber; for they are said to run continually to and fro, and that not in this or that particular place only, for the service of some more eminent and excellent persons; but through the whole earth. It is an encompassing and surrounding providence which hath its eye upon all whose hearts are upright; all the saints are within the line of its care and protection; the eye of providence discovereth all their dangers, and its arm defends them, for he shews himself strong in their behalf.
The secret, but the almighty efficacy of providence is also excellently described to us in Ezek. 1:8. where the angels are said to have their hands under their wings, working secretly and un-discernibly, but very effectually for the saints committed to their charge. Like unto which is that in Hab. 3:4. where it is said of God, “that he had horns coming out of his hands, and there was the hiding of his power.” The hand is the instrument of action, denoting God’s active power, and the horns coming out of them are the glorious rays and beams of that power shining forth in the salvation of his people. Oh that we could sun ourselves in those cheerful and reviving beams of Divine Power, by considering how gloriously they have broken forth, and shone out for the salvation of his people in all ages. So it did for Israel at the Red-sea, Exod. 15:6. So for Jehoshaphat in that great strait, 2 Chron. 20:12, 15. And so in the time of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 19:3, 7. Yea, in all ages from the beginning of the world the saints have been sheltered under these wings of Divine Power, Isa. 51:9, 10. Thus providence hath hanged and adorned this chamber of Divine Power with the delightful histories of the church’s manifold preservations by it.
Section IV. Having taken a short view of this glorious chamber of God’s power, absolutely in itself, and also in relation to his promises and providences, it remains now, that I press and persuade all the people of God under their fears and dangers, according to God’s gracious invitation, to enter into it, shut their doors, and to behold with delight this glorious attribute working for them in all their exigencies and distresses.
1. Enter into this chamber of Divine Power, all ye that fear the Lord, and hide yourselves there in those dangerous and distressful days; let me say to you as the prophet did to the poor distressed Jews, Zech. 9:12. “Turn ye to your strong hold, ye prisoners of hope.” Strong holds might they say; why, where are they? The walls of Jerusalem are in the dust, the temple burnt with fire, Sion an heap; what meanest thou in telling us of our strong holds? Why, admit all this, yet there is satis præsidii in uno Deo; refuge enough for you in God alone, as Calvin excellently notes upon that place. Christian, art thou not able to fetch a good subsistence for thy soul by faith, out of the Almighty Power of God? The renowned saints of old did so. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob met with as many difficulties and plunges of trouble in their time, as ever you did, or shall meet with; yet, by the exercise of their faith upon this attribute, they lived comfortably, and why cannot you?