Peter the aged, in a summing up of what Christ has done for “them that have obtained like precious faith,” says:
“According as His Fdivine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:1, 3, 4).
On these promises the hope of the Christian rests. “Which hope,” says the apostle Paul, “we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil” (Hebrews 6:19). The soul of the servant of God is anchored to the throne above. His hope is as sure and stable as that throne itself.
Heaven’s part in the great plan of redemption has been faithfully performed. God’s purposes in the salvation of men are sure and unalterable. Sometime this earth will be peopled by the redeemed of the Lord. From each generation since the fall will be gathered a remnant of those who have been true to God and the principles of His government. To such the sure promises of God have been as a beacon light, to guide their feet through the gloom and darkness of earth’s error and sin.
While God’s promises are always sure, man must meet them in faith and hold their blessings by prayer. Faith in God and earnest prayer will bring to any human being the sure mercies of the wonderful plan of redemption.
Though we may wander far, and may long reject the overtures of a merciful God, yet the story of the prodigal son teaches how the arms of Infinite Love are ever stretched out to receive the returning wanderer.
The record of God’s dealings with Israel has brought hope and confidence to many a despairing soul. This history is but a rehearsal of the experiences of the human heart. Tempted by Satan we wander from God, but the road is not easy. Afflictions overtake us. As a parent chastens a loved son, so our Father allows difficulties and troubles to overtake us. These are God’s agencies to turn back our feet into right paths. As soon as we turn we find a loving Father with arms stretched out to receive us.
Over and over again did Israel wander from God into sin and idolatry. Then they were delivered into the hand of their enemies. But when these afflictions brought them to seek the Lord, how quickly He returned to them and brought confusion to their enemies. God’s position toward His people during these experiences is well illustrated in the ninth of Isaiah:
“The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still” (verse 12).
At this time Israel had gone into abominable idolatry, hence God had removed His protecting hand, and the heathen had come against them. His anger was strong against His people, yet through it all His hand was stretched out to receive them and protect them at the first indication of repentance and returning.
There is a human side to the plan of redemption. This calls for our co-operation with the efforts of Heaven in our behalf. And although we cannot work out salvation for ourselves, neither can Heaven save us unless we take our stand by the side of holy intelligences, and by earnest faith and humble prayer secure the help we must have.
Heaven listens to the faintest plea from those who come to God in sincerity. No one, however far he may have wandered, need fear to approach the throne of grace. Our Saviour left the promise, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
And the very throne of God is pledged to the protection of those who place themselves in the keeping of Almighty power. Our Lord has left to such the pledge, that “no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28 R.V.). Only our own action can take us out of the hand of our God.
Guarded well are the true followers of our Lord. David says, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7).
When the armies of Syria surrounded the prophet of God at Dothan, heaven sent a host to protect him. The Lord opened the eyes of the trembling servant of the prophet, “and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).
About Job was placed a rampart or hedge of angels which the devil could not pass. (See Job 1:10.)
When Jacob was about to meet his brother Esau, who was marching against him, he was allowed to see God’s host which had been sent from heaven to protect him. (See Genesis 32:1, 2.)
All heaven would move to the aid of the weakest child of God if necessary, to protect him from the attacks of the enemy. The hosts of evil are strong, but if the battle wages fiercely, the angel guards will be reinforced by the most powerful beings from the very presence of Jehovah.
When Daniel prayed for the deliverance of Israel, the Lord sent one of the most powerful angels of heaven to the king of Persia to induce him to let Israel go. For full three weeks this mighty angel labored with King Cyrus, but without success. Then came Michael (Christ), and the release of God’s people was assured.
God’s people represent on earth the principles of His government in heaven. Hence injury to God’s people on earth is an insult to God’s throne in heaven. Our Lord Himself would come to earth, if necessary, to carry out His purposes concerning His people.
Our Saviour came to earth for the resurrection of Moses. At the grave of that servant of God He was met by the devil, who has “the power of death.” (See Hebrews 2:14.) In thus invading the territory of the enemy, being withstood by him, Christ did not rely on Himself, but invoked the highest power of heaven in the words, “The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 9).
It is not alone to the mighty deeds in great emergencies that we must look for evidences of heaven’s aid to God’s people. The prayer of the humble saint and of the repentant sinner is as sure of a hearing and an answer as that of the most godly prophet of Bible days.
David said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6).
But we must come to God in faith. The prayer of faith commands the most powerful forces of heaven. Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” But He adds, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20, 21).
But our will must be subject to the will of God. The beloved John writes, “If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him” (I John 5:14, 15).
If we are true followers of Christ, our will is in accord with His will. Then the Holy Spirit leads and directs our prayer, and it is, therefore, in harmony with the will of heaven, and the very throne of God is pledged to the answer.
But if we come with our will unsubdued, and with sins cherished and unrepented of, we are out of harmony, out of touch, with heaven. Then the line of communication is broken, and our prayers cannot reach the throne. We will then ask according to our unsanctified, unsubdued heart, and God can neither hear nor answer such prayers. “If I regard iniquity in my heart,” says the psalmist, “the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).
But more than this, God cannot accept the prayers of those who disobey His requirements. Solomon says, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). And David speaks of prayers that “become sin,” because of wickedness and deceit. (See Psalm 109:7).
When our prayers go forth in harmony with the mind of the Spirit of God, they will be prayers of faith, and cannot fail to bring their answer. But no doubting, no wavering must be allowed to mingle with them. “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord” (James 1:6, 7).
The waters composing the waves of the sea do not rush on with the waves. The wave is but the upheaval of the waters. The ship upon the billows does not move along with the wave. As the wave rushes along, the vessel rises upon the crest, and then falls into the trough of the sea, but it does not move forward with the wave unless propelled by sail or steam. And so with the life of many vacillating Christians—sometimes on the mountain top, and again in the valley of doubt, but with no visible advancement in spiritual attainments or experience. Their condition is well described in the jubilee melody,
“Sometimes up, and sometimes down, Sometimes almost to the ground.”
Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, slave spiritual, 1867.
God’s promises to His children represent all the power of heaven. They are not promises merely, but they are backed by the oath of Jehovah. Paul, presenting these sure promises, says:
“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it [to Abraham] by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17, 18).
And to show that this assurance applies to our day, Paul writes, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
The Christian’s hope is based upon the promises of God. Faith brings the reward. The sincere faith of the humblest suppliant at the throne of grace is more powerful than “all the power of the enemy.” True is the word of the poet,
“Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees.”
What Various Hindrances We Meet, William Cowper, 1779.
Simple faith makes real the promises of God. Paul writes: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Through faith the hope of the child of God becomes very real and tangible. We have a loving heavenly Father. Jesus Christ is our Elder Brother, and our Advocate with the Father. Heavenly angels are our constant attendants. A city with mansions is being prepared for us in heaven. (See John 14:2, 3).
The true and faithful of earth will have homes in that beautiful city. This earth will be made new and glorified, to become the eternal dominion of the saints. Here they will dwell through an endless life of joy and bliss beyond our comprehension.
These are the rewards which the Christian contemplates “with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8). And these are the promises which become as real and substantial to us as the events of every-day life. Through faith they are the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Past, Present, and Future, James Edson White, 1909, 38–48.