From Notes of Addresses
I suppose that there are few things that astonish and try the Lord’s people so much as the silence and non-intervention of God, especially when they are under pressure and cry for relief. It was this that almost stumbled Asaph, as he records in Psalm 73:2. It was most trying to him that God should be as though He were asleep in the presence of all the oppressive evil of men. Have we the smallest conception of what those years of silence, between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Luke, meant to the faithful remnant of Israel, whose hearts beat true to God amid all the corruption and ruin that surrounded them?
Just imagine, if you can, what it must have meant to them when generation after generation had been carried to the grave, and never a voice from heaven had been sent for their cheer: no prophet had been raised up to encourage them. Yet they were not left resourceless. Though not to be found in one another, yet resources were there for the uplift and cheer of that true remnant. But what a test it must have been to the endurance and faith and patience of those dear saints! There was to them no hope of improvement till the Lord—the Messiah—should come. What had they to count upon? Simply GOD, and the word of His law and the promise of the coming of the Messiah.
What sort of people were these? Were they a company of dejected pessimists saying, “It’s all up! What is the use? God used to send His prophets in days gone by. Now He sends no one to cheer and help us.” No. Nothing of the kind.
Nowadays people want to make so much of environment. They think that favourable surroundings are quite necessary for their happiness and prosperity. But what was the environment of these people? They were surrounded by those who were corrupted and indifferent, who had lost all conscience toward God and were full of their own importance. Seven times over are they depicted in the book of Malachi as answering God back! (1:2, 6-7; 2:17; 3:7-8, 13). They absolutely refused to own that there was anything wrong about them, or that they had in any way departed from God.
Now notice in chapter 3:16, that significant word of four letters—THEN. In the midst of this apostate mass there were found some who feared the LORD. How many there were who thus “thought upon His Name,” we are not told, but apparently they were but a small minority. It does not look as if there were enough of them to hold conventions, or arrange special meetings for lectures, for it just says that “They spake often one to another.” This was evidently something quite informal that sprang out of their thinking upon His Name. They conversed together in spite of their busy lives, and they did it OFTEN.
The day in which we live is a serious one, and every true believer, who is spiritually minded, is made to feel it. We can see almost all the vital truths of Christianity being thrown overboard by the very men who by their profession should have stood for their maintenance. The very bulwarks of the faith seem to be breaking down before the rising tide of apostasy, now quickly reaching its height. Many that we had hoped would have been foremost in withstanding it, are falling before it.
It is not that we have not been fore-warned of it, but we seemed to relegate the state of things predicted to a later date than our own, so that now when it comes upon us we are shocked and taken aback. As we look around and see the wholesale departure from the truth which we have learned, we may be ready to cry, “Who will show us any good?” We may stand all amazed and say, “What have we left to us? What shall we do?
The answer comes to us from Job 22:21. “Acquaint thyself now with Him [God] and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.” What we have left to us is, “God and the Word of His grace,” to whom Paul commended the elders of Ephesus, in view of all the departure that should come in, as recorded in Acts 20. What we have to do is to STAND FAST on the great foundation truths of the Gospel, as revealed to us; and HOLD FAST all that which we have, without wavering, without swerve or bend.
Never give up the thing you have got. “Hold that fast which thou hast.” “Hold fast till I come.” We have God Himself for protection. We have the Word of His grace for direction. Moreover, that which we have from God abides. There is not a principle of evil, which has arisen, that has not already been exposed by the light of the Word; and there is not a principle of good, that has not been preserved to us. We have all the essential things that they ever had in the church’s brightest day.
God and His Word—Christ and His Spirit—the Apostles in their written teachings—the coming of Christ as our hope—the fellowship of saints—all these things remain to us. We are not badly off. It is not a new Bible we are needing, nor is it so much an increased intellectual understanding of the Bible we have, as it is a more devoted heart, thoroughly subject to the truth which already we have received.
In John 8:12, the Lord said, “He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Let us follow HIM. We shall not then walk in darkness, nor even “amid the encircling gloom.” On the contrary our experience will the rather be summed up in these words,
“Light divine surrounds thy going,
God Himself shall mark the way,
Secret blessings richly flowing
Lead to everlasting day.”
Does anyone say, “This is all well as an ideal, but are there not times when we feel that God has forgotten us, seemingly maintaining an indifferent silence?” Yet God is to be trusted in the dark as much and as surely as in the light. Some of our best lessons are learned when in some dark passage God seems to have forgotten to be gracious. To trust, when we see circumstances favouring us, is not faith. To trust when all seems against us, IS.