MEN OF THE BIBLE
D. L. Moody.
Chicago: New York: Toronto
Fleming H. Revell Company
Publishers of Evangelical Literature
Copyright, 1898, by The Bible Institute Colportage Association.
I. ABRAHAM'S FOUR SURRENDERS
II. THE CALL OF MOSES
III. NAAMAN THE SYRIAN
IV. THE PROPHET NEHEMIAH
V. HEROD AND JOHN THE BAPTIST
VI. THE MAN BORN BLIND AND JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
VII. THE PENITENT THIEF
Men of the Bible
ABRAHAM'S FOUR SURRENDERS
A great many people are afraid of the will of God, and yet I believe that one of the sweetest lessons that we can learn in the school of Christ is the surrender of our wills to God, letting Him plan for us and rule our lives. If I know my own mind, if an angel should come from the throne of God and tell me that I could have my will done the rest of my days on earth, and that everything I wished should be carried out, or that I might refer it back to God, and let God's will be done in me and through me, I think in an instant I would say:
"Let the will of God be done."
I cannot look into the future. I do not know what is going to happen to-morrow; in fact, I do not know what may happen before night; so I cannot choose for myself as well as God can choose for me, and it is much better to surrender my will to God's will. Abraham found this out, and I want to call your attention to four surrenders that he was called to make. I think that they give us a pretty good key to his life.
In the first place, Abraham was called to give up his kindred and his native country, and to go out, not knowing whither he went.
While men were busy building up Babylon, God called this man out of that nation of the Chaldeans. He lived down near the mouth of the Euphrates, perhaps three hundred miles south of Babylon, when he was called to go into a land that he perhaps had never heard of before, and to possess that land.
In the twelfth chapter of Genesis, the first four verses, we read:
"Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." Now notice the promise: "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy five years old and when he departed out of Haran."
It was several years before this that God first told him to leave Ur of the Chaldees. Then he came to Haran, which is about half-way between the valley of the Euphrates and the valley of the Jordan. God had called him into the land of the Canaanite, and
HE CAME HALF-WAY,
and stayed there—we do not know just how long, but probably about five years.
Now, I believe that there are a great many Christians who are what might be called Haran Christians. They go to Haran, and there they stay. They only half obey. They are not out-and-out. How was it that God got him out of Haran? His father died. The first call was to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go into Canaan, but instead of going all the way they stopped half-way, and it was affliction that drove Abram out of Haran. A great many of us bring afflictions on ourselves, because we are not out-and-out for the Lord. We do not obey Him fully. God had plans He wanted to work out through Abram, and He could not work them out as long as he was there at Haran. Affliction came, and then we find that he left Haran, and started for the Promised Land.
There is just one word there about Lot—"and Lot went with Abram." That is the key, you might say, to Lot's life. He was a weaker character than Abram, and he followed his uncle.
When they got into the land that God had promised to give him, Abram found it already inhabited by great and warlike nations—not by one nation, but by a number of nations. What could he do, a solitary man, in that land? Not only was his faith tested by finding the land preoccupied by other strong and hostile nations, but he had not been there a great while before a great famine came upon him. No doubt a great conflict was going on in his breast, and he said to himself:
"What does this mean? Here I am, thirteen hundred miles away from my own land, and surrounded by a warlike people. And not only that, but a famine has come, and I must get out of this country."
Now, I don't believe that God sent Abram down to Egypt. I think that He was only testing him, that he might in his darkness and in his trouble be
DRAWN NEARER TO GOD.
I believe that many a time trouble and sorrow are permitted to come to us that we may see the face of God, and be shut up to trust in Him alone. But Abram went down into Egypt, and there he got into trouble by denying his wife. That is the blackest spot on Abram's character. But when we get into Egypt we will always be getting into trouble.
Abram became rich; but we don't hear of any altar—in fact, we hear of no altar at Haran, and we hear of no altar in Egypt. When he came up with Lot out of Egypt, they had great possessions, and they increased in wealth, and their herds had multiplied, until there was a strife among their herdsmen.
Now it is that Abram's character shines out again. He might have said that he had a right to the best of everything, because he was the older, and because Lot would probably not have been worth anything if it had not been for Abram's help. But instead of standing up for his rights, to choose the best of the land, he surrenders them, and says to the nephew:
"Take your choice. If you go to the right hand, I will take the left; or if you prefer the left hand, then I will go to the right."
Here is where Lot made his mistake. If there was a man under the sun that needed Abram's counsel, and Abram's prayers, and Abram's influence, and to have been surrounded by the friends of Abram, it was Lot. He was just one of those weak characters that
NEEDED BOLSTERING UP.
But his covetous eye looked upon the well-watered plains of the valley of the Jordan that reached out towards Sodom, and he chose them. He was influenced by what he saw, He walked by sight, instead of by faith. I think that is where a great many Christian people make their mistake—walking by sight, instead of by faith. If he had stopped to think, Lot might have known that it would be disastrous to him and his family to go anywhere near Sodom. Abram and Lot must both have known about the wickedness of those cities on the plains, and although they were rich, and there was chance of making money, it was better for Lot to keep his family out of that wicked city. But his eyes fell upon the well watered plains, and he pitched his tent towards Sodom, and separated from Abram.
Now, notice that after Abram had let Lot have his choice, and Lot had gone off to the plains, for the first time God had Abram alone. His father had died at Haran, and he had left his brother there. Now, after his nephew had left him, he moved down to Hebron, and there built an altar. "Hebron" means communion. Here it is that God came to him and said:
"Abram, look around as far as your eye can reach—it is all yours. Look 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. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee."
"Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord."
It is astonishing how far you can see in that country. God took Moses up on Pisgah and showed him the Promised Land. In Palestine, a few years ago, I found that on Mount Olivet I could look over and see the Mediterranean. I could look into the valley of the Jordan, and see the Dead Sea. And on the plains of Sharon I could look up to Mount Lebanon, and up at Mount Hermon, away beyond Nazareth. You can see with the naked eye almost the length and breadth of that country. So when God said to Abram that he might look to the north, and that as far as he could see he could have the land; and then look to the south, with its well-watered plains that Lot coveted, and to the east and the west, from the sea to the Euphrates—then God gave His friend Abram a clear title, no conditions whatever, saying:
"I will give it all to you."
Lot chose all he could get, but it was not much. Abram let God choose for him, and was given all the land. Lot had no security for his choice, and soon lost all. Abram's right was maintained undisputed by God the giver.
Do you know that the children of Israel never had faith enough to take possession of all that land as far as the Euphrates? If they had, probably Nebuchadnezzar would never have come and taken them captives. But that was God's offer; He said to Abram, "Unto your seed I will give it forever, clear to the valley of the Euphrates." From that time on God enlarged Abram's tents. He enriched His promises, and gave him much more that He had promised down there in the valley of the Euphrates when He first called him out. It is very interesting to see how God kept
ADDING TO THE PROMISE
for the benefit of His friend Abram.
Let us go back a moment to Lot, and see what Lot gained by making that choice. I believe that you can find five thousand Lots to one Abram to-day. People are constantly walking by sight, lured by the temptations of men and of the world. Men are very anxious to get their sons into lucrative positions, although it way be disastrous to their character; it may ruin them morally and religiously, and in every other way. The glitter of this world seems to attract them. Some one has said that Abram was a far-sighted man, and Lot was a short-sighted man; his eye fell on the land right around him. There is the one thing that we are quite sure of—he was so short-sighted that his possessions soon left him. And you will find that these people who are constantly building for time are disappointed.
I have no doubt that the men of Sodom said that Lot was
A MUCH SHREWDER MAN
than his uncle Abram, and that if he lived twenty-five years he would be the richer of the two, and that by coming into Sodom he could sell his cattle and sheep and goats and whatever else he had for large sums, and could get a good deal better market than Abram could back there on the plains of Mamre.
For awhile Lot did make money very fast, and became a very successful man. If you had gone into Sodom a little while before destruction came, you would have found that Lot owned some of the best corner lots in town, and that Mrs. Lot moved in what they called the bon-ton society or upper ten; and you would have found that she was at the theatre two or three nights in the week. If they had progressive euchre, she could play as well as anybody; and her daughters could dance as well as any other Sodomites. We find Lot sitting in the gates, he was getting on amazingly well. He might have been one of the principal men in the city; Judge Lot, or the Honorable Lot of Sodom. If there had been a Congress in those days, they would have run him for a seat in Congress. They might have elected him
MAYOR OF SODOM.
He was getting on amazingly well; wonderfully prosperous.
But by and by there comes a war. If you go into Sodom, you must take Sodom's judgment when it comes, for it is bound to come. The battle turned against those five cities of the plain and they took Lot and his wife and all that they had, and one man escaped and ran off to Hebron and told Abram what had taken place. Abram took his servants,—three hundred and eighteen of them,—went after these victorious kings, and soon returned with all the booty and all the prisoners.
On Abram's way back with the spoils one of the strangest scenes of history occurs. Whom should he meet but Melchizedek, who brought out bread and wine; and the priestly king blessed the Father of the Faithful. After the old king of peace had blest him, he met the King of Sodom, and the King of Sodom said, "You take the money, and I will take the people"; but Abram replied:
"Not a thing will I take, not even the shoe-latchets, lest thou shouldst say, I have made Abram rich."
There is another surrender. There was a temptation to get rich at the hands of the King of Sodom. But the King of Salem had blessed him, and this world did not tempt him. It tempted Lot, and no doubt Lot thought Abram made a great mistake when he refused to take this wealth; but Abram would not touch a thing; he spurned it and turned from it. He had the world under his feet; he was living for another world. He would not be enriched from such a source.
Every one of us is met by the prince of this world and the Prince of Peace. The one tempts us with wealth, pleasure, ambition: but our Prince and Priest is ready to succor and strengthen us in the hour of temptation.
A friend of mine told me some years ago that his wife was very fond of painting, but that for a long time he never could see any beauty in her paintings; they all looked like a daub to him. One day his eyes troubled him and he went to see an oculist. The man looked in amazement at him and said:
"You have what we call a short eye and a long eye, and that makes everything a blur."
He gave him some glasses that just fitted him, and then he could see clearly. Then, he said, he understood why it was that his wife was so carried away with art, and he built an art gallery, and filled it full of beautiful things; because everything looked so beautiful after he had had his eyes straightened out.
Now there are lots of people that have
A LONG EYE AND A SHORT EYE,
and they make miserable work of their Christian life. They keep one eye on the eternal city and the other eye on the well-watered plains of Sodom. That was the way it was with Lot: he had a short eye and a long eye. It would be pretty hard work to believe that Lot was saved if it were not for the New Testament. But there we read that "Lot's righteous soul was vexed,"—so he had a righteous soul, but he had a stormy time. He didn't have peace and joy and victory like Abram.
After Abram had given up the wealth of Sodom that was offered him, then God came and enlarged his borders again—enlarged the promise. God said:
"I will be your exceeding great reward; I will protect you."
Abram might have thought that these kings that he had defeated might get other kings and other armies to come, and he might have thought of himself as a solitary man, with only three hundred and eighteen men, so that he might have feared lest he be swept from the face of the earth. But the Lord came and said:
"Abram, fear not."
That is the first time those oft-repeated words, "fear not," occur in the Bible.
"Fear not, for I will be your shield and your reward."
I would rather have that promise than all the armies of earth and all the navies of the world to protect me—to have the God of heaven for my Protector! God was teaching Abram that He was to be his Friend and his Shield, if he would surrender himself wholly to His keeping, and trust in His goodness. That is what we want—to surrender ourselves up to God, fully and wholly.
In Colorado the superintendent of some works told me of a miner that was promoted, who came to the superintendent, and said:
"There is a man that has seven children, and I have only three, and he is having a hard struggle. Don't promote me, but promote him."
I know of nothing that speaks louder for Christ and Christianity than to see a man or woman giving up what they call their rights for others, and "in honor preferring one another."
We find that Abram was constantly surrendering his own selfish interests and trusting to God. What was the result? Of all the men that ever lived he is the most renowned. He never did anything the world would call great. The largest army he ever mustered was three hundred and eighteen men. How Alexander would have sneered at such an army as that! How Caesar would have looked down on such an army! How Napoleon would have curled his lip as he thought of Abram with an army of three hundred and eighteen! We are not told that he was a great astronomer; we are not told that he was a great scientist; we are not told that he was a great statesman, or anything the world calls great; but there was one thing he could do—he could live an unselfish life, and in honor could waive his rights, and in that way he became the friend of God; in that way he has become immortal. There is
NO NAME IN HISTORY
so well known as the name of Abram. Even Christ is not more widely known, for the Mohammedans, the Persians, and the Egyptians make a great deal of Abram. His name has been for centuries and centuries favorably known in Damascus. God promised him that great men, and warriors, and kings, and emperors, should spring from his loins. Was there ever a nation that has turned out such men? Think of Moses, and Joseph, and Joshua, and Caleb, and Samuel, and David, and Solomon, and Elisha. Think of Elijah, and Daniel, and Isaiah, and all the other wonderful Bible characters that have sprung from this man! Then think of Peter, of James, and John, and Paul, and John the Baptist, a mighty army. No man can number the multitude of wonderful men that have sprung from this one man called out of the land of the Chaldeans, unknown and an idolater, probably, when God called him; and yet how literally God has fulfiled His promise that through him He would bless all the nations of the earth. All because he surrendered himself fully and wholly to let God bless him.
The last surrender is perhaps the most touching and the hardest of all to understand. Perhaps he could not have borne it until the evening of life. God had been taking him along, step by step, until now he had reached a place where he had learned to obey fully whatever God told him to do. I believe the world has yet to see what God will do with the man who is perfectly surrendered. Next to God's own Son, Abraham was perhaps the man who came nearest to this standard.
FOR TWENTY-FIVE YEARS
Abraham had been in the Promised Land without the promised heir. God had promised that He would bless all the nations of the earth through him, and yet He did not give him a son. Abraham's faith almost staggered a number of times. Ishmael was born, but God set aside the son of the bondwoman, for he was not to be the ancestor of the Son of God. God was setting Abram apart simply that He might prepare the way for His own Son, and now, at last, a messenger comes down from heaven to Hebron, and tells Abraham in his old age that he should have a son.
It seemed too good to be true. He had hard work to believe it; but at the appointed time Isaac was born into that family. I don't believe there was ever a child born into the world that caused so much joy in the home as in Abraham's heart and home. How Abraham and that old mother, Sarah, must have doted on that child! How their eyes feasted on him!
But just when the lad was growing up into manhood Abraham received another very strange command, and there was another surrender—his only son. Perhaps he was making an idol of that boy, and thought more of him than he did of the God that gave him. There must be no idol in the heart if we are going to do the will of God on earth.
I can imagine that one night the old patriarch retired worn out and weary. The boy had gone fast to sleep, when suddenly a heavenly messenger came and told him that he must take that boy off on to a mountain that God was to show him, and offer him up as a sacrifice. No more sleep that night! If you had looked into that tent the next morning I can imagine that you would have seen the servants flying round and making preparations for the master's taking a long journey. He perhaps keeps the secret locked up in his heart, and he doesn't tell even Sarah or Isaac. He doesn't tell the servants, even the faithful servant Eliezer, what is to take place. About nine o'clock you might have seen those four men—Abraham, Isaac and the two young men with them—start off on the long journey. Once in a while Abraham turns his head aside and wipes away the tear. He doesn't want Isaac to see what a terrible struggle is going on within. It is a hard battle to give up his will and to surrender that boy, the idol of his life. Oh, how he loved him!
I can imagine the first night. The boy soon falls asleep, tired and weary with the hot day's journey, but the old man doesn't sleep. I can see him look into the face of the innocent boy, and say:
"Soon my boy will be gone, and I will be returning without him."
Perhaps most of the night his voice could have been heard in prayer, as he cries to God to help him; and as God had helped him in the past so God was helping him that night.
The next day they journeyed on, and again a terrible conflict goes on. Again he brushes away the tear. Perhaps Isaac sees it, and says:
"Father is going away to meet his God, and the angels may come down and talk with him as at Hebron. That is what he is so agitated about."
The second night comes, and the old man looks into that face every hour of the night. He sleeps a little, but not much, and the next morning at family worship he breaks down. He cannot finish his prayer.
They journey on that day—it is a long day—and the old patriarch say: "This is the last day I am to have my boy with me. To-morrow I must offer him up; to-morrow I shall be without the son of my bosom."
The third night comes, and what a night it must have been! I can imagine he didn't eat or sleep that night. Nothing is going to break his fast, and every hour of the night he goes to look into the face of that boy, and once in a while he bends over and kisses him, and he says:
"O Isaac, how can I give thee up?"
Morning breaks. What a morning it must have been for that father! He doesn't eat; he tries to pray, but his voice falters. After breakfast they start on their journey again. He has not gone a great way before he lifts up his eyes, and yonder is Mount Moriah. His heart begins to beat quickly. He says to the two young men:
"You stay here, and I will go yonder with my son."
Then, as father and son went up Mount Moriah, with the wood, and the fire, and the knife, the boy turns suddenly to the father, and says:
"Father, where is the lamb? We haven't any offering, father."
It was a common thing for Isaac to see his father offer up a victim, but there is no lamb now.
Did you ever think
HOW PROPHETIC THAT ANSWER WAS
when Abraham turned and said to the son, "God will provide Himself a sacrifice?" I don't know that Abraham understood the full meaning of it, but a few hundred years after God did provide a sacrifice right there. Mount Moriah and Mount Calvary are close together, and God's Son was provided as a sacrifice for the world.
On Mount Moriah this father and son begin to roll up the stones, and together they build the altar; then they lay on the wood and everything is ready for the victim. Isaac looks around to see where the lamb is and then the father can keep it from the son no longer, and he says:
"My boy, sit down here close to the altar, and let me tell you something."
Then perhaps that old, white-haired patriarch puts his arm around the lad, and tells how God came to him in the land of the Chaldeans, and the story of his whole life, and how, by one promise after another, God had kept enlarging the promised blessings, and that He would bless all the nations of the earth through him. Isaac was to be the heir. But he says:
"My son, the last night I was at home God came to me in the hours of the night and told me to bring you here and offer you up as a sacrifice. I don't understand what it means, but I can tell you one thing: it is much harder for me to offer you up than it would be for me to be sacrificed myself."
There was a time when I used to think more of the love of Jesus Christ than of God the Father. I used to think of God as a stern judge on the throne, from whose wrath Jesus Christ had saved me. It seems to me now I could not have
A FALSER IDEA OF GOD
than that. Since I have become a father I have made this discovery: that it takes more love and self-sacrifice for the father to give up the son than it does for the son to die. Is a father on earth a true father that would not rather suffer than to see his child suffer? Do you think that it did not cost God something to redeem this world? It cost God the most precious possession He ever had. When God gave His Son, He gave all, and yet He gave Him freely for you and me.
I can imagine that Abraham talks to Isaac and tells him how hard it is to offer him up. "But God has commanded it," he says, "and I surrender my will to God's will. I don't understand it, but I believe that God will be able to raise you up, and maybe He will."
They fell on their faces, and prayed together. After prayer I can see that old father take his boy to his bosom, and embrace him for the last time. He kisses and kisses him. Then he takes those hands that are so innocent, and binds them, and he binds the feet, and he ties him up, and lays him on the altar, and gives him a last kiss. Then he takes the knife, and raises his hand. No sooner is the hand lifted than a voice calls from heaven:
"Abraham, Abraham, spare thy son!"
You remember that Christ said, "Abraham saw my day, and was glad." I have an idea that God then and there just
LIFTED THE CURTAIN OF TIME
for Abraham. He looked down into the future, saw God's Son coming up Calvary, bearing his sins and the sins of all posterity. God gave him that secret, and told him how His Son was to come into the world and take away his sins.
Now, my friends, notice: whenever God has been calling me to higher service, there has always been a conflict with my will. I have fought against it, but God's will has been done instead of mine. When I came to Jesus Christ, I had a terrible battle to surrender my will, and to take God's will. When I gave up business, I had another battle for three months; I fought against it. It was a terrible battle. But oh! how many times I have thanked God that I gave up my will and took God's will. Then there was another time when God was calling me into higher service, to go out and preach the gospel all over the land, instead of staying in Chicago. I fought against it for months; but the best thing I ever did was when I surrendered my will, and let the will of God be done in me. Because Abraham obeyed God and held back not even his only child, God enlarged his promises once again:
"And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."
If you take my advice, you will have no will other than God's will. Make a full and complete surrender, and the sweet messages of heaven will come to you. God will whisper into your soul
THE SECRETS OF HEAVEN.
After Abraham did what God told him, then it was that God told His friend all about His Son. If we make a full surrender, God will give us something better than we have ever known before. We will get a new vision of Jesus Christ, and will thank God not only in this life but in the life to come. May God help each and every one of us to make a full and complete and unconditional surrender to God, fully and wholly, now and forever.
THE CALL OF MOSES
There is a great deal more room given in Scripture to the call of men to God's work than there is to their end. For instance, we don't know where Isaiah died, or how he died, but we know a great deal about the call God gave him, when he saw God on high and lifted up on His throne. I suppose that it is true to-day that hundreds of young men and women who are listening for a call and really want to know what their life's mission is, perhaps find it the greatest problem they ever had. Some don't know just what profession or work to take up, and so I should like to take the call of Moses, and see if we cannot draw some lessons from it.
You remember when God met Moses at the burning bush and called him to do as great a work as any man has ever been called to in this world, that
HE THOUGHT THE LORD HAD MADE A MISTAKE,
that he was not the man. He said, "Who am I?" He was very small in his own estimation. Forty years before he had started out as a good many others have started. He thought he was pretty well equipped for service. He had been in the schools of the Egyptians, he had been in the palaces of Egypt, he had moved in the bon ton society. He had had all the advantages any man could have when he started out, undoubtedly, without calling on the God of Abraham for wisdom and guidance, yet he broke down.
How many men have started out in some profession and made a failure of it! They haven't heard the voice of God, they haven't waited upon God for instruction.
I suppose Moses thought that the children of Israel would be greatly honored to know that a prince of the realm was going to take up their cause, but you remember how he lost his temper and killed the Egyptian, and next day, when he interfered in a quarrel between two Hebrews, they wanted to know who had made him judge and ruler over them, and he had to flee into the desert, and was there for forty years hidden away. He killed the Egyptian and lost his influence thereby. Murder for liberty; wrong for right; it was a poor way to reform abuses, and Moses needed training.
It was a long time for God to keep him in His school, a long time for a man to wait in the prime of his life, from forty to eighty. Moses had been brought us with all the luxuries that Egypt could give him, and now he was a shepherd, and in the sight of the Egyptians a shepherd was an abomination. I have an idea that Moses started out with a great deal bigger head than heart. I believe that is the reason so many fail; they have
BIG HEADS AND LITTLE HEARTS.
If a man has a shriveled-up heart and a big head he is a monster. Perhaps Moses looked down on the Hebrews. There are many people who start out with the idea that they are great and other people are small, and they are going to bring them up on the high level with themselves. God never yet used a man of that stamp. Perhaps Moses was a slow scholar in God's school, and so He had to keep him there for forty years.
But now he is ready; he is just the man God wants, and God calls him. Moses said, "Who am I?" He was very small in his own eyes—just small enough so that God could use him. If you had asked the Egyptians who he was, they would have said he was
THE BIGGEST FOOL IN THE WORLD.
"Why," they would say, "look at the opportunity that man had! He might have been commander of the Egyptian army, he might have been on the throne, swaying the sceptre over the whole world, if he hadn't identified himself with those poor, miserable Hebrews! Think what an opportunity he has lost, and what a privilege he has thrown away!"
He had dropped out of the public mind for forty years, and they didn't know what had become of him, but God had His eye upon him. He was the very man of all others that God wanted, and when he met God with that question, "Who am I?" it didn't matter who he was but who his God was. When men learn the lesson that they are nothing and God is everything, then there is not a position in which God cannot use them. It was not Moses who accomplished that great work of redemption, for he was only the instrument in God's hand. God could have spoken to Pharaoh without Moses. He could have spoken in a voice of thunder, and broken the heart of Pharaoh with one speech, if He had wanted to, but He condescended to take up a human agent, and to use him. He could have sent Gabriel down, but he knew that Moses was the man wanted above all others, so He called him. God uses men to speak to men: He works through mediators. He could have accomplished the exodus of the children of Israel in a flash, but instead He chose to send a lonely and despised shepherd to work out His purpose through pain and disappointment. That was God's way in the Old Testament, and also in the New. He sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be the mediator between God and man.
Moses went on making excuses and said, "When I go down there, who shall I say has sent me?" I suppose he remembered how he went before he was sent that other time, and he was afraid of a failure again. A man who has made a failure once is always afraid he will make another. He loses confidence in himself. It is a good thing to lose confidence in ourselves so as to gain confidence in God.
The Lord said, "Say unto them, 'I AM hath sent me.'"
Some one has said that God gave him
A BLANK CHECK,
and all he had to do was to fill it out from that time on. When he wanted to bring water out of the rock, all he had to do was to fill out the check; when he wanted bread, all he had to do was to fill out the check and the bread came; he had a rich banker. God had taken him into partnership with Himself. God had made him His heir, and all he had to do was to look up to Him, and he got all he wanted.
And yet he seemed to draw back, and began to make another excuse, and said:
"They will not believe me."
He was afraid of the Israelites as well as of Pharaoh: he knew how hard it is to get even your friends to believe in you.
Now, if God has sent you and me with a message it is not for us to say whether others will believe it or not. We cannot make men believe. If I have been sent by God to make men believe, He will give me power to make them believe. Jesus Christ didn't have that power; it is the work of the Holy Ghost; we cannot persuade men and overcome skepticism and infidelity unless we are baptised with the Holy Ghost and with power.
God told Moses that they would believe him, that he would succeed, and bring the children of Israel out of bondage. But Moses seemed to distrust even the God who had spoken to him.
Then the Lord said, "What is that in thy hand?"
He had a rod or staff, a sort of shepherd's crook, which he had cut haphazard when he had wanted something that would serve him in the desert.
"It is only a rod."
"With that you shall deliver the children of Israel; with that rod you shall make Israel believe that I am with you."
When God Almighty linked Himself to that rod, it was worth more than all the armies the world had ever seen. Look and see how that rod did its work. It brought up the plagues of flies, and the thunder storm, and turned the water into blood. It was not Moses, however, nor Moses' rod that did the work, but it was the God of the rod, the God of Moses. As long as God was with him, he could not fail.
Sometimes it looks as if God's servants fail. When Herod beheaded John the Baptist, it looked as if John's mission was a failure. But was it? The voice that rang through the valley of the Jordan rings through the whole world to-day. You can hear its echo upon the mountains and the valleys yet, "I must decrease, but He must increase." He held up Jesus Christ and introduced Him to the world, and Herod had not power to behead him until his life work had been accomplished. Stephen never preached but one sermon that we know of, and that was before the Sanhedrim; but how that sermon has been preached again and again all over the world! Out of his death probably came Paul, the greatest preacher the world has seen since Christ left this earth. If a man is sent by Jehovah, there is no such thing as failure. Was Christ's life a failure? See how His parables are going through the earth to-day. It looked as if the apostles had made a failure, but see how much has been accomplished. If you read the book of Acts, you will see that every seeming failure in Acts was turned into a great victory. Moses wasn't going to fail, although Pharaoh said with contempt, "Who is God that I should obey Him?" He found out who God was. He found out that there was a God.
But Moses made another excuse, and said, "I am slow of speech, slow of tongue." He said he was
NOT AN ORATOR.
My friends, we have too many orators. I am tired and sick of your "silver-tongued orators." I used to mourn because I couldn't be an orator. I thought, Oh, if I could only have the gift of speech like some men! I have heard men with a smooth flow of language take the audience captive, but they came and they went, their voice was like the air, there wasn't any power back of it; they trusted in their eloquence and their fine speeches. That is what Paul was thinking of when he wrote to the Corinthians:—"My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
Take a witness in court and let him try his oratorical powers in the witness-box, and see now quickly the judge will rule him out. It is the man who tells the plain, simple truth that has the most influence with the jury.
Suppose that Moses had prepared a speech for Pharaoh, and had got his hair all smoothly brushed, and had stood before the looking -glass or had gone to an elocutionist to be taught how to make an oratorical speech and how to make gestures. Suppose that he had buttoned his coat, put one hand in his chest, had struck an attitude and begun:
"The God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has commanded me to come into the presence of the noble King of Egypt."
I think they would have taken his head right off! They had Egyptians who could be as eloquent as Moses. It was not eloquence they wanted. When you see a man in the pulpit trying to show off his eloquence he is making a fool of himself and trying to make a fool of the people. Moses was slow of speech, but he had a message, and what God wanted was to have him deliver the message. But he insisted upon having an excuse. He didn't want to go; instead of being eager to act as heaven's messenger, to be God's errand boy, he wanted to excuse himself. The Lord humored him and gave him an interpreter, gave him Aaron.
Now, if there is a stupid thing in the world, it is to talk through an interpreter. I tried it once in Paris. I got up into a little box of a pulpit with the interpreter—there was hardly room enough for one. I said a sentence while he leaned away over to one side, and then I leaned over while he repeated it in French. Can you conceive of a more stupid thing than Moses going before Pharaoh and speaking through Aaron!
But this slow-of-speech man became eloquent. Talk about Gladstone's power to speak! Here is a man one hundred and twenty years old, and he waxed eloquent, as we see in Deuteronomy xxxii:1-4:
Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, My speech shall distil as the dew, As the small rain upon the tender herb, And as the showers upon the grass: Because I will publish the name of the Lord: Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect: For all His ways are judgment: A God of truth and without iniquity, Just and right is He.
He turned out to be one of the most eloquent men the world has ever seen. If God sends men and they deliver His message He will be with their mouth. If God has given you a message, go and give it to the people as God has given it to you. It is a stupid thing for a man to try to be eloquent. Make
YOUR MESSAGE, AND NOT YOURSELF,
the most prominent thing. Don't be self-conscious Set your heart on what God has given you to do, and don't be so foolish as to let your own difficulties or your own abilities stand in the way. It is said that people would go to hear Cicero and would come away and say, "Did you ever hear anything like it? wasn't it sublime? wasn't it grand?" But they would go and hear Demosthenes, and he would fire them so with the subject that they would want to go and fight at once. They forgot all about Demosthenes, but were stirred by his message; that was the difference between the two men.
Next Moses said: "O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send."
Did you ever stop to think what Moses would have lost if God had taken him at his word, and said:
"Very well, Moses; you may stay here in the desert, and I will send Aaron, or Joshua, or Caleb!"
Don't seek to be excused if God calls you to some service. What would the twelve disciples have lost if they had declined the call of Jesus! I have always pitied those other disciples of whom we read that they went back, and walked no more with Jesus. Think what Orpah missed and what Ruth gained by cleaving to Naomi's God! Her story has been
TOLD THESE THREE THOUSAND YEARS.
Father, mother, sisters, brothers, the grave of her husband—she turned her back on them all. Ruth, come back, and tell us if you regret your choice! No: her name shines one of the brightest among all the women that have ever lived. The Messiah was one of her descendants.
Moses, you come back and tell us if you were afterwards sorry that God had called you? I think that when he stood in glorified body on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and Elijah, he did not regret it.
My dear friends, God is not confined to any one messenger. We are told that He can raise up children out of stones. Some one has said that there are three classes of people, the "wills," the "won'ts," and the "can'ts"; the first accomplish everything, the second oppose everything, and the third fail in everything. If God calls you, consider it a great honor. Consider it a great privilege to have partnership with Him in anything. Do it cheerfully, gladly. Do it with all your heart, and He will bless you. Don't let false modesty or insincerity, self-interest, or any personal consideration turn you aside from the path of duty and sacrifice. If we listen for God's voice, we shall hear the call; and if He calls and sends us, there will be no such thing as failure, but success all along the line. Moses had glorious success because he went forward and did what God called him to do.
NAAMAN THE SYRIAN
I wish to call your attention to one who was a great man in his own country, and very honorable; one whom the king delighted to honor. He stood high in position; he was captain of the host of the King of Syria; but he was a leper, and that threw a blight over his whole life. As Bishop Hall quaintly puts it, "The meanest slave in Syria would not have changed skins with him."
Now you cannot have a better type of a sinner than Naaman was. I don't care who or what he is, or what position he holds—all men alike have sinned, and all have to bear the same burden of death. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." All men must stand in judgment before God. What a gloom that throws over our whole life!
"But he was a leper." There was
who could help him in Syria. None of the eminent doctors in Damascus could do him any good. If he was to get rid of the leprosy, the power must come from on high. It must be some one unknown to Naaman, for he did not know God.
But I will tell you what they had in Syria—they had one of God's children there, and she was a little girl, a simple captive maid, who waited on Mrs. Naaman. Naaman knew nothing about this little Israelite, though she was one of his household.
I can imagine that one day, as she was waiting on the general's wife, she noticed her weeping. Her heart was breaking because of the dark cloud that rested over her home. So she told her mistress that there was a prophet in her country that could cure her master of his leprosy. "Would to God," she said, "my lord were with the prophet in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy."
There's faith for you!
She boasted of God that He would do more for this heathen than He had done for any in Israel; and
GOD HONORED HER FAITH.
"What do you say? A prophet in Israel that can cure leprosy?"
"Why, did you ever know any one that was cured?"
"Well, then, what makes you think there is a prophet that can cure leprosy?"
"Oh, that isn't anything to what Elisha can do. There was a little child that lived near us that died, and he raised him to life. He has done many wonderful things."
She must have had a reputation for truthfulness. If she hadn't, her testimony would not have been taken.
Some one told the general of it, and he made it known to the king. Now, Naaman stood high in the king's favor, for he had recently won a great victory. He stood near the throne. So the king said:
"You had better go down to Samaria, and see if there is anything in it. I will give you letters of introduction to the King of Israel."
Yes, he would give Naaman letters of introduction to the king. That's just man's idea. The notion was, that if anybody could help him it was the king, and that the king had power both with God and man. Oh, my friends, it is a good deal better to know a man that knows God! A man acquainted with God has more power than any earthly potentate. Gold can't do everything.
Away goes Naaman down to Samaria with his kingly introduction. What a stir it must have made when the commander of the Syrian army drove up! He has brought with him a lot of gold and silver. That is man's idea again; he is going to pay for a great doctor, and he took about five hundred thousand dollars to pay for the doctor's bill. There are a good many men who would willingly pay that sum if with it they could buy the favor of God, and get rid of the curse of sin. Yes, if money could do it,
HOW MANY WOULD BUY SALVATION!
But, thank God, it is not in the market for sale. You must buy it at God's price, and that is "without money and without price." Naaman found that out.
My dear friends, did you ever ask yourselves which is the worse—the leprosy of sin, or the leprosy of the body? For my own part, I would a thousand times sooner have the leprosy of the body eating into my eyes, and feet, and arms! I would rather be loathsome in the sight of my fellow-men than die with the leprosy of sin in my soul, and be banished from God forever! The leprosy of the body is bad, but the leprosy of sin is a thousand times worse. It has cast angels out of heaven. It has ruined the best and strongest men that ever lived in the world. Oh, how it has pulled men down! The leprosy of the body could not do that.
There is one thing about Naaman that I like specially, and that is his earnestness of purpose. He was
THOROUGHLY IN EARNEST.
He was quite willing to go one hundred and fifty miles, and to take the advice of this little maid. A good many people say:
"Oh, I don't like such and such a minister; I should like to know where he comes from, and what he has done, and whether any bishop has laid his hands on his head."
My dear friends, never mind the minister; it is the message you want. If some one were to send me a telegraph message, and the news were important, I shouldn't stop to ask about the messenger who brought it. I should want to read the news. I should look at the message, and not at the boy who brought it.
And so it is with God's message. The good news is everything, the minister nothing. The Syrians looked down with contempt on the Israelites, and yet this great man was willing to take the good news at the hands of this little maiden, and listened to the words that fell from her lips. If I got lost in New York, I should be willing to ask anybody which way to go, even if it were only a shoeblack; and, in point of fact, a boy's word in such a case is often better than a man's. It is the way I want, not the person who directs me.
But there was one drawback in Naaman's case. Though he was willing to take the advice of the little girl, he was not willing to take the remedy. The stumbling-block of pride stood in his way. The remedy the prophet offered him was a terrible blow to his pride. I have no doubt he expected a grand reception from the King of Israel, to whom he brought letters of introduction. He had been victorious on many a field of battle, and held high rank in the army; perhaps we may call him Major-General Naaman of Syria, or he might have been higher in rank even than that; and bearing with him kingly credentials, he expected no doubt a distinguished reception. But instead of the king rushing out to meet him, he, when he heard of Naaman's arrival and his object, simply rent his mantle, and said:
"Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me."
Elisha heard of the king's trouble, and sent him a message, saying:
"Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel."
I can imagine Naaman's pride reasoning thus: "Surely, the prophet will feel very much exalted and flattered that I, the great Syrian general, should come and call upon him."
And so, probably, full of those proud thoughts, he drives up to the prophet's humble dwelling with his chariot and his splendid retinue. Yes, Naaman drove up in grand style to the prophet's abode, and as nobody seemed to be coming out to greet him, he sent in his message:
"Tell the prophet that Major-General Naaman of Syria has arrived, and wishes to see him."
Elisha takes it very coolly. He does not come out to see him, but as soon as he learns his errand he sends his servant to tell him to dip seven times in the river Jordan, and he shall be clean.
That was a terrible blow to his pride. I can imagine him saying to his servant:
"What did you say? Did I understand you aright? Dip seven times in the Jordan! Why, we call the river Jordan a ditch in our country."
But the only answer he got was, "The prophet says, Go and dip seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall become like the flesh of a little child."
I can fancy Naaman's indignation as he asks, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean? Haven't I bathed myself hundreds of times, and has it helped me? Can water wash away leprosy?"
So he turned and went away in a rage.
It isn't a bad sign when a man gets mad if you tell him the truth. Some people are afraid of getting other people mad. I have known wives afraid to talk to their husbands, afraid of getting them mad. I have known mothers who were afraid to talk to their sons because they were
AFRAID THEY WOULD GET MAD.
Don't be afraid of getting them mad, if it is the truth that makes them mad. If it is our foolishness that makes them mad, then we have got reason to mourn over it. If it is the truth, God sent it, and it is a good deal better to have a man get mad than it is to have him go to sleep. I think the trouble with a great many nowadays is that they are sound asleep, and it is a good deal better to rouse them even if they do wake up mad.
The fact was, the Jordan never had any great reputation as a river. It flowed into the Dead Sea, and that sea never had a harbor to it, and its banks were not half so beautiful as those of the rivers of Damascus. Damascus was one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is said that when Mahomet beheld it he turned his head aside for fear it should divert his thoughts from heaven.
Naaman turned away in a rage. "Ah," he said, "here am I, a great conqueror, a successful general on the battlefield, holding the very highest rank in the army, and yet this prophet does not even come out to meet me; he simply sends a message. Why, I thought he would surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place and recover the leper."
There it is. I hardly ever knew a man yet who, when talked to about his sins, didn't say:
"Yes, but I thought so and so."
"Mr. Moody," they say, "I will tell you what I think; I will tell you my opinion."
In the 55th chapter of Isaiah it says that God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. And so it was with Naaman. In the first place, he thought a good big doctor's fee would do it all, and settle everything up. And besides that there was another thing he thought; he thought going to the king with his letters of introduction would do it. Yes, those were Naaman's first thoughts. I thought. Exactly so. He turned away in rage and disappointment. He thought the prophet would have come out to him very humble and very subservient, and
BID HIM DO SOME GREAT THINGS.
Instead of that, Elisha, who was perhaps busy writing, did not even come to the door or the window. He merely sent out the message:
"Tell him to dip seven times in the Jordan."
And away went Naaman, saying, I thought, I thought, I thought.
I have heard that tale so often that I am tired of it. Give it up, and take God's words, God's thoughts, God's ways. I never yet knew a man converted just in the time and manner he expected to be. I have heard people say, "Well, if ever I am converted, it won't be in a Methodist church; you won't catch me there." I never knew a man say that but, at last, if converted at all, it was in a Methodist church.
In Scotland a man was converted at one of our meetings—an employer. He was very anxious that all his employees should be reached, and he used to send them one by one to the meetings. But there was one man that wouldn't come. We are all more or less troubled with stubbornness; and the moment this man found that his employer wanted him to go to the meetings he made up his mind he wouldn't go. If he was going to be converted, he said, he was going to be converted by some ordained minister; he was not going to any meeting that was conducted by Americans that were not ordained. He believed in conversion, but he was going to be
CONVERTED THE REGULAR WAY.
He believed in the regular Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and that was the place for him to be converted.
The employer tried every way he could to get him to attend the meetings, but he wouldn't come.
After we left that town and went away up to Inverness, the employer had some business up there, and he sent this employee to attend to it in the hope that he would attend some of our meetings.
One night as I was preaching on the banks of a river I happened to take this for my text: "I thought; I thought." I was trying to take men's thoughts up and to show the difference between their thoughts and God's thoughts. This man happened to be walking along the banks of the river. He saw a great crowd, and heard some one talking, and he wondered to himself what that man was talking about. He didn't know who was there, so he drew up to the crowd, and listened. He heard the sermon, and became convicted and converted right there. Then he inquired who was the preacher, and he found out it was the very man that he said he would not hear—the man he disliked. The very man he had been talking against was the very man God used to convert him.
Whilst Naaman was thus wavering in his mind, and thinking on what was best to be done, one of his servants drew near and made a very sensible remark:
"My lord, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?"
There is a great deal of truth in that.
If Elisha had told him to go back to Syria on his hands and knees, one hundred and fifty miles, he would have done it and thought it was all right. If he had told him to go into some cave and stay there a year or two, he would have done it and thought it was all right. If he had told him that it was necessary to have some surgical operation performed, and that he had to go through all the torture incident to it, that would have suited him. Men like to have something to do about their salvation; they don't like to give up the idea that they can't do anything; that God must do it all. If you tell them to take bitter herbs every morning and every night for the next five years, they think that's all right, and if he had told Naaman to do that he would have done it. But to tell him merely to dip in the river Jordan seven times, why, it seemed absurd on the face of it! But this servant suggested to him that he had better go down to the Jordan and try the remedy, as it was
A VERY SIMPLE ONE.
Now, don't you see yourselves there? How many men there are who are waiting for some great thing; waiting for some sudden feeling to come stealing over them; waiting for some shock to come upon them. That is not what the Lord wants. There is a man that I have talked to about his soul for a number of years, and the last time I had a talk with him, he said:
"Well, the thing hasn't struck me yet."
I said: "What?"
"Well," says he, "the thing hasn't struck me yet."
"Struck you; what do you mean?"
"Well," said he, "I go to church, and I hear you preach, and I hear other men preach, but the thing hasn't struck me yet; it strikes some people, but it hasn't struck me yet."
That was all that I could get out of him. There are a good many men who reason in that way. They have heard some young converts tell how light dawned upon them like the flash of a meteor; how they experienced a new sensation; and so they are waiting for something of the kind. But you can't find any place in Scripture where you are told to wait for anything of the kind. You are just to obey what God tells you to do, and let your feelings take care of themselves. I can't control my feelings. I can't make myself feel good and bad when I want to, but I can obey God. God gives me the power. He doesn't command me to do something and not give me the power to do it. With the command comes the power.
Now, Naaman could do what the prophet told him; he could go down to the Jordan, and he could dip seven times; and that is what the Lord had for him to do; and if we are going to get into the kingdom of God, right at the threshold of that kingdom we have to learn this doctrine of obedience, to do whatsoever He tells us.
I can fancy Naaman still reluctant to believe in it, saying, "Why, if there is such cleansing power in the waters of Jordan, would not every leper in Israel go down and dip in them, and be healed?"
"Well, but you know," urges the servant, "now that you have come a hundred and fifty miles, don't you think you had better do what he tells you? After all, you can but try it. He sends word distinctly, my lord, that your flesh shall come again as that of a little child."
Naaman accepts this word in season. His anger is cooling down. He has got over the first flush of his indignation. He says:
"Well, I think I might as well try it."
THE STARTING-POINT OF HIS FAITH,
although still he thought it a foolish thing, and could not bring himself to believe that the result would be what the prophet had said.
At last Naaman's will was conquered, and he surrendered. When General Grant was besieging a town which was a stronghold of the Southern Confederacy, some of the officers sent word that they would leave the city if he would let them go with their men. But General Grant sent word:
"No, nothing but an unconditional surrender!"
Then they sent word that they would go if he would let them take their flag with them. But the answer was: "No, an unconditional surrender."
At last the beleagured walls were broken down, and the city entered, and then the enemy made a complete and unconditional surrender. Well, it was so with Naaman; he got to that point when he was willing to obey, and the Scripture tell us, "To obey is better than to sacrifice."
God wants obedience. Naaman had to learn this lesson. There was no virtue, probably, in going down to the Jordan, any more than in obeying the voice of God. He had to obey the word, and
IN THE VERY ACT OF OBEDIENCE
he was blessed.
Look at those ten New Testament lepers who came to Christ. He said to them: "Go show yourselves to the priests."
"Well," they might have said, "what good is that going to do us? Here we are all full of leprosy, and if we go and show ourselves to the priests they will order us back again into exile. That is not going to help us."
But those ten men started off, and did just what the Lord Jesus Christ told them to do, and in the very act of doing it they were blessed; their leprosy left them.
He said to that man that had the palsy, whom they brought to Him upon a bed: "Take up thy bed and walk."
The man might have said: "Lord, I have been trying for years to take that bed up, but I can't. I haven't got the power. I have been shaking with the palsy for the last ten years. Do you think that if I could have rolled up that bed that I would have been brought here and let down through the roof? I haven't the power."
But when the Lord commanded him He gave the power. Power came with the command, and that man stood up, rolled up his bed, and started off home. He was blessed in the very act of obedience.
My friends, if you want God to bless you, obey Him. Do whatsoever He calls upon you to do, and then see if He will not bless you.
Christ went to a Pharisee's house one day while He was down here upon earth, to be entertained. They wanted to get Him to do something to break the law of Moses, that they might condemn Him to death, and so they put a man right opposite to Him at the table with a withered hand, to see if He would heal upon the Sabbath day. He said to the man:
"Stretch out thy hand."
Now, the man might have said, "Lord, that is a very strange command. I haven't got the power. That hand has been withered for the last twenty years. I haven't stretched it out for the last twenty years; and you say, 'Stretch it out.'"
But when He told him to do it He gave him the power, and out went that old withered hand, and before it came out straight, right in the very act, it was made whole. He was blessed in the very act of obedience.
Now, Naaman had to be taught the lesson that he had to obey; and so, finally, he went down to the Jordan just as he was told to do. And if you will do just what the Lord tells you the Lord will bless you as He did Naaman.
You may ask, "What does He tell me?"
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."
The word of God to Naaman was to go and wash; and the word of God to every soul out of Christ is to believe on His Son. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." If a man believes with all his heart on the Lord Jesus Christ, God will never bring him to judgment for sin; that is all passed—that is all gone. Take Him at His word; believe Him; believe what He says, and you shall enter into life eternal. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." HIM—mark you—not a dogma, not a creed,
NOT A MYTH, BUT A PERSON.
"He came to His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons and daughters of God." That is the way you get the power.
Naaman goes down to the river and takes the first dip. As he comes up I can imagine him looking at himself, and saying to his servant:
"There! there I am, no better than I was when I went in! If one -seventh of the leprosy was gone, I should be content."
The servant says: "The man of God told you to dip seven times. Do just as he told you. There is no discount on God's word."
Well, down he goes a second time, and he comes up puffing and blowing, as much a leper as ever; and so he goes down again and again, the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth time, with the same result, as much a leper as ever. Some of the people standing on the banks of the river probably said, as they certainly would in our day:
"Why, that man has gone clean out of his mind!"
When he comes up the sixth time, he looks at himself, and says:
"Ah, no better! What a fool I have made of myself! How they will all laugh at me! I wouldn't have the generals and aristocracy of Damascus know that I have been dipping in this way in Jordan for all the world. However, as I have gone so far, I'll make the seventh plunge."
He has not altogether lost faith, and down he goes the seventh time, and comes up again. He looks at himself, and shouts aloud for joy.
"Lo, I am well! My leprosy is all gone, all gone! My flesh has come again as that of a little child."
If one speck of leprosy had remained, it would have been a reflection on God.
Ask him now how he feels.
"Feel? I feel that this is the happiest day of my life. I thought when I won a great victory upon the battlefield that that was the most joyful day of my life; I thought I should never be so happy again; but that wasn't anything; it didn't compare with this hour; my leprosy is all gone, I am whole, I am cleansed."
First he lost his temper; then he lost his pride; then his leprosy. That is generally the order in which proud, rebellious sinners are converted.
So he comes up out of Jordan and puts on his clothes, and goes back to the prophet. He was very mad with Elisha in the beginning, but when he was cleansed his anger was all gone too. He wants to pay him. That's just the old story; Naaman
WANTS TO GIVE MONEY
for his cure. How many people want to do the same nowadays. Why it would have spoiled the story of grace if the prophet had taken anything! You may give a thank-offering to God's cause, not to purchase salvation, but because you are saved. The Lord doesn't charge anything to save you. It is "without money and without price." The prophet Elisha refused to take anything, and I can imagine no one felt more rejoiced than he did.
Naaman starts back to Damascus a very different man than he was when he left it. The dark cloud has gone from his mind; he is no longer a leper, in fear of dying from a loathsome disease. He lost the leprosy in Jordan when he did what the man of God told him; and if you obey the voice of God, even while I am speaking to you, the burden of your sins will fall from off you, and you shall be cleansed. It is all done through faith and obedience.
Let us see what Naaman's faith led him to believe. "And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant."
What I want particularly to call your attention to is the words
There is no hesitation about it, no qualifying the expression. Naaman doesn't now say, "I think"; no, he says, "I know there is a God who has power to cleanse the leprosy."
Then there is another thought. Naaman left only one thing in Samaria, and that was his leprosy; and the only thing God wishes you to leave with Him is your sin. And yet it is the only thing you seem not to care about giving up.
"Oh," you say, "I love leprosy, it is so delightful, I can't give it up; I know God wants it, that He may make me clean. But I can't give it up."
Why, what downright madness it is for you to love leprosy; and yet that is your condition.
"Ah," says someone, "I don't believe in sudden conversions."
Don't you? How long did it take Naaman to be cured? The seventh time he went down, away went the leprosy. Read the great conversions recorded in the Bible. Saul of Tarsus, Zacchaeus, and a host of others; how long did it take the Lord to bring them about? They were effected in a minute. We are born in iniquity, shapen in it, dead in trespasses and sins; but when spiritual life comes it comes in a moment, and we are free both from sin and death.
You may be sure when he got home there was no small stir in Naaman's house. I can see his wife, Mrs. Naaman, when he gets back. She has been watching and looking out of the window for him with a great burden on her heart. And when she asks him, "Well, husband, how is it?" I can see the tears running down his cheeks as he says:
"Thank God, I am well."
They embrace each other, and pour out mutual expressions of rejoicing and gladness. The servants are just as glad as their master and mistress, as they have been waiting eagerly for the news. There never was a happier household than Naaman's, now that he has got rid of the leprosy. And so, my friends, it will be with your own households if you will only get rid of the leprosy of sin to-day. Not only will there be joy in your own hearts and at home, but there will also be
JOY AMONG THE SAINTS IN HEAVEN.
Once, as I was walking down the street, I heard some people laughing and talking aloud. One of them said:
"Well, there will be no difference, it will be all the same a hundred years hence."
The thought flashed across my mind, "Will there be no difference? Where will you be a hundred years hence?"
Young man, just ask yourself the question, "Where shall I be?" Some of you who are getting on in years may be in eternity ten years hence. Where will you be, on the left or the right hand of God? I cannot tell your feelings, but I can my own. I ask you, "Where will you spend eternity? Where will you be a hundred years hence?"
I heard once of a man who went to England from the Continent, and brought letters with him to eminent physicians from the Emperor. The letters said:
"This man is a personal friend of mine, and we are afraid he is going to lose his reason. Do all you can for him."
The doctor asked him if he had lost any dear friend in his own country, or any position of importance, or what it was that was weighing on his mind.
The young man said, "No; but my father and grandfather and myself were brought up infidels, and for the last two or three years this thought has been haunting me, Where shall I spend eternity? And the thought of it follows me day and night."
The doctor said, "You have come to
THE WRONG PHYSICIAN,
but I will tell you of one who can cure you"; and he told him of Christ, and read to him the 53d chapter of Isaiah, "With His stripes we are healed."
The young man said, "Doctor, do you believe that?"
The doctor told him he did, and prayed and wrestled with him, and at last the clear light of Calvary shone on his soul. He had settled the question in his own mind at last, where he would spend eternity. I ask you, sinner, to settle it now. It is for you to decide. Shall it be with the saints, and martyrs, and prophets, or in the dark caverns of hell, amidst blackness and darkness forever? Make haste to be wise; for "how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?"
At our church in Chicago I was closing the meeting one day, when a young soldier got up and entreated the people to decide for Christ at once. He said he had just come from a dark scene. A comrade of his, who had enlisted with him, had a father who was always entreating him to become a Christian, and in reply he always said he would when the war was over. At last he was wounded, and was put into the hospital, but got worse and was gradually sinking. One day, a few hours before he died, a letter came from his sister, but he was too far gone to read it. Oh, it was such an earnest letter! The comrade read it to him, but he did not seem to understand it, he was so weak, till it came to the last sentence, which said:
"Oh, my dear brother, when you get this letter, will you not accept your sister's Savior?"
The dying man sprang up from his cot, and said, "What do you say? what do you say?" and then, falling back on his pillow, feebly exclaimed, "It is too late! It is too late!"
My dear friends, thank God it is not too late for you to-day. The Master is still calling you. Let every one of us, young and old, rich and poor, come to Christ at once, and He will put all our sins away. Don't wait any longer for feeling, but obey at once. You can believe, you can trust, you can lay hold on eternal life, if you will. Will you not do it now?
THE PROPHET NEHEMIAH
I should like to call your attention to the prophet Nehemiah. We may gain some help from that distinguished man who accomplished a great work. He was one of the last of the prophets, was supposed to be contemporary with Malachi, and perhaps his book was one of the last of the Old Testament books that was written. He might have known Daniel, for he was a young man in the declining years of that very eminent and godly statesman. We are sure of one thing at least—he was a man of sterling worth. Although he was brought up in the Persian court among idolaters, yet he had a character that has stood all these centuries.
Notice his prayer in which he made confession of Israel's apostasy from God. There may be some confessions we need to make to be brought into close fellowship with God. I have no doubt that numbers of Christians are hungering and thirsting for a personal blessing, and have a great desire to get closer to God. If that is the desire of your heart, keep in mind that if there is some obstacle in the way which you can remove, you will not get a blessing until you remove it. We must cooperate with God. If there is any sin in my heart that I am not willing to give up then I need not pray. You may take a bottle and cork it up tight, and put it under Niagara, and not a drop of that mighty volume of water will get into the bottle. If there is any sin in my heart that I am not willing to give up, I need not expect a blessing. The men who have had power with God in prayer have always begun by confessing their sins. Take the prayers of Jeremiah and Daniel. You find Daniel confessing his sin, when there isn't a single sin recorded against him; but he confesses his sin and the sins of the people. Notice how David confessed his sins and what power he had with God. So it is a good thing for us to begin as Nehemiah did.
It seems that some men had come down from his country to the Persian court, perhaps to see the king on business. This man, who was in high favor with the king, met them, and finding that they had come from Jerusalem he began to inquire about his country. He not only loved his God, but he
LOVED HIS COUNTRY.
I like to see a patriotic man. He began to inquire about his people and about the city that was very near to his heart, Jerusalem. He had never seen the city. He had no relations back there in Jerusalem that he knew of. Nehemiah was not a Jewish prince, although it is supposed he had royal blood in his veins. He was born in captivity. It was about one hundred years after Jerusalem was taken that he appeared upon the horizon. He was in the court of Artaxerxes, a cupbearer to the king, and held a high position. Yet he longed to hear from his native land. When these men told him the condition of the city, that the people were in great want and distress and degradation, and that the walls of the city were still down, that the gates had been burned and never restored, his patriotic heart began to burn. We are told he fasted and prayed and wept, and not only did he pray for one week, or one month, but he kept on praying. He prayed "day and night." Having many duties to perform, of course he was not always on his knees, but in heart he was ever before the throne of grace. It was not hard for him to understand and obey the precept, "Pray without ceasing." He began the work in prayer, continued in prayer, and the last recorded words of Nehemiah are a prayer.
It was in November or December when those men arrived at that court, and this man prayed on until March or April before he spoke to the king. If a blessing doesn't come to-night, pray harder to-morrow, and if it doesn't come to-morrow, pray harder, and then, if it doesn't come keep right on, and you will not be disappointed. God in heaven will hear your prayers, and will answer them. He has never failed, if a man has been honest in his petitions and honest in his confessions. Let your faith beget patience. God is never in a hurry, said St. Augustine, because He has all eternity to work.
In the first chapter of Nehemiah is
of this wonderful man, his cry which has been on record all these years, and a great help to many people:
"I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: but if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."
When he began to pray I have no idea that he thought he was to be the instrument in God's hand of building the walls of Jerusalem. But when a man gets into sympathy and harmony with God, then God prepares him for the work He has for him. No doubt he thought the Persian king might send one of his great warriors and accomplish the work with a great army of men, but after he had been praying for months, it may be the thought flashed into his mind:
"Why should not I go to Jerusalem myself and build those walls?"
Prayer for the work will soon arouse your own sympathy and effort.
Now mark, it meant a good deal for Nehemiah to give up the palace of Shushan and his high office, and identify himself with the despised and captive Jews. He was among the highest in the whole realm. Not only that, but he was a man of wealth, lived in ease and luxury, and had great influence at court. For him to go to Jerusalem and lose caste was like Moses turning his back on the palace of Pharaoh and identifying himself with the Hebrew slaves. Yet we might
NEVER HAVE HEARD OF
either of them if they had not done this. They stooped to conquer; and when you get ready to stoop God will bless you. Plato, Socrates, and other Greek philosophers lived in the same century as Nehemiah. How few have heard of them and read their words compared with the hundreds of thousands who have heard and read of Nehemiah during the last two thousand years!
If you and I are to be blessed in this world, we must be willing to take any position into which God puts us. So, after Nehemiah had prayed a while, he began to pray God to send him, and that he might be the man to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
After he had been praying some time, he was one day in the banqueting hall, and the king noticed that his countenance was sad. We might not have called the face sad; but much prayer and fasting
CHANGE THE VERY COUNTENANCE
of a man. I know some godly men and women, and they seem to have the stamp of heaven on them. The king noticed a strange look about this cupbearer, and he began to question him. Then the thought came to Nehemiah that he would tell the king what caused his sorrow,—how his own nation was degraded, and how his heart was going out for his own country. After he had told the king, the king said:
"What is your request?"
Now, some men tell us they don't have time to pray, but I tell you if any man has God's work lying deep in his heart he will have time to pray. Nehemiah
SHOT UP A PRAYER
to heaven right there in the king's dining hall that the Lord would help him to make his request in the right way. He first looked beyond Artaxerxes to the King of Kings. You need not make a long prayer. A man who prays much in private will make short prayers in public. The Lord told Nehemiah what to ask for, that he might be sent to his own country, that some men might go with him, and that the king would give him letters to the governors through whose provinces he would pass so that he might have a profitable journey and be able to rebuild the walls of his city. God had been preparing the king, for the king at once granted the request, and before long this young prince was on his way to Jerusalem.
When he reached the city he didn't have a lot of men go before him blowing trumpets and saying that the cupbearer of the great Persian king,
THE CONVERTED CUPBEARER,
had arrived from the Persian court, and was going to build the walls of Jerusalem. There are some men who are always telling what they are going to do. Man, let the work speak for itself. You needn't blow any horns; go and do the work, and it will advertise itself. Nehemiah didn't have any newspapers writing about him, or any placards. However, there was no small stir. No doubt every one in town was talking about it, saying that a very important personage had arrived from the Persian court; but he was there three days and three nights without telling anyone why he had come.
One night he went out to survey the city. He couldn't ride around; even now you cannot ride a beast around the walls of Jerusalem. He tried to ride around, but he couldn't, so he walked. It was a difficult task which he had before him, but he was not discouraged. That is what makes character. Men who can go into a hard field and succeed, they are the men we want. Any quantity of men are looking for easy places, but the world will never hear of them. We want men who are looking for hard places, who are willing to go into the darkest corners of the earth, and make those dark places bloom like gardens. They can do it if the Lord is with them.