Good Advice for Troublous Times
“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” — Isaiah xxvi. 20.
THE Lord has a very peculiar care for his own people. He is their Shepherd, and he feeds them like a flock. He is their Father, and he guards them as his own dear children. Whenever times of great trouble come, he thinks specially of them. He drowned the antediluvian world, but not till Noah was safely in the ark. He burned Sodom and Gomorrah, but not till Lot had escaped to the little city called Zoar. In all his judgments he remembers his mercy towards his believing people, he does not suffer them to be destroyed even in the day of the destruction of the ungodly. Child of God, your Father’s eye is lovingly fixed upon you; his heart cares for you every moment. Unhappy men and women, of whom we cannot say this! Unhappy you who have never trusted and never loved your God, your Maker, and your best Friend! But thrice happy is the poorest and most tried among us who knows that the Lord is his refuge, his castle and high tower, his Defender and Provider, his God, and his all.
Whenever there is any evil to come upon the land, God knows all about it, for he knows everything, he foresees all that is going to happen. He sometimes gives foresight to men, as in the case of his prophets; and I do not doubt that, even now, believing men, when they live very near to God, see farther into the future than others can. There were several occasions, in the life of John Knox, when he expressly foretold the deaths of certain men; and similar power has been given to other eminent saints who have walked on the hill-top with God. They have looked much farther than the dwellers in the plain, who forget God, have ever seen. But, whether we can see into the future, or not, is of little consequence, for the Lord can see. If the father of the family knows what is to occur, his children will not be without due warning; therefore God, when he foresees that his judgments will be abroad in the earth, takes care to forewarn his children; and when any great calamity is coming, he provides for them a shelter in the time of storm. Let us thank God for this.
O you who have no God to go to, the future must often look very dark to some of you, especially that blackest spot of all, where rolls the chilly stream of the river of death! When you come there, you will have to take a plunge in the dark; but the heir of heaven knows that, whatever lies before him, all is ordained and fixed, arranged and settled, by the infinite wisdom and love of God, and he can trust himself without fear to the Lord’s preserving mercy. Without wishing to pry into the future, he leaves himself entirely in the hands of God.
I began by saying that believers are the objects of God’s special care, and next that God has a foresight which he exercises on their behalf. Now, further, the advice which our careful and foreseeing God gives us, is sure to be wise. We should all of us be wise if we could do before an event what we would wish to do after it; unfortunately, we are often wise when it is too late. I do not know a better definition of a fool than that he is a man who is wise too late; but God will make us wise in time if we are willing to take his advice. If we will do what he bids us, we shall do the right thing. Listen, then, to the advice that God here gives us when times of trouble come, — and they will come, — and before times of trouble come, when we foresee them. The proper and wise course for us is plainly marked out in our text: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”
I. My first observation upon these words shall be that, BEFORE OR IN TIMES OF TROUBLE, IT IS WELL TO DRAW NEAR TO God.
Is not that a sweet call from God, “Come, my people. Come, my people”? As the hen gives her peculiar “cluck” when the hawk is in the air, to bid her chicks come and hide under her wings, so does God here give a gentle loving note of alarm, and a gracious call of invitation, as he says, “Come, my people.” “No, do not go, my people, scattered hither and thither by the approach of danger; but, come, my people. Be not driven from me by affliction, but be driven to me by adversity. Come, my people.” How sweet the words sound to me! If I had the voice of an angel, I should hardly be able to bring out all their sweetness: “Come, my people. Come, my people. The clouds are in the sky the first flash of lightning has seemed to split the ebon darkness of nature. Come, my people, hasten home, be quick about it, come, my people. Nay, linger not; halt not through fear, be not paralyzed with apprehension. Come, my people; come to me, come to your God, come to your Father, come to your Friend.”
For what purpose should we come to the Lord? I think that, in times of trouble, or when we are apprehending trial, we should come to spread our case before God. You fear that you are going to be very ill, or that your dear wife is likely to die; you are afraid that your property will be taken from you, or that something else that is dreadful will happen. Then come, and—
“Tell it all to Jesus, comfort or complaint.”
Remember how Hezekiah acted when he received that abominable letter from Rab-shakeh; he took it, and spread it before the Lord. Now, do the same with any trouble of yours, present or impending, come and tell it all to Jesus. You were just going across the road to consult a neighbour, were you? I do not forbid you to do that by-and-by; but first listen to this electric bell: “Come, my people! Come, my people!” It calls you to your God first; go and tell him all about it. He will patiently hear your story, he will listen without weariness, and he will efficiently help you; therefore spread the case before him.
The next thing you should do in coming to God is, to consider his mind about such a case. Have you ever done that? When we consult a counsel, it is because we want to have his judgment upon some difficult point of law. We expect that he has had to decide something like it before; he knows the precedents that bear upon the case, and we therefore ask his judgment. I love to see a man turning to his Bible when a trouble is coming, to see what God has to say about such a case as his. If I am going to be bereaved, or if I am already bereaved, I wish to know how Jesus comforted those who lost their loved ones. If I am ill, I ask, “What do the Scriptures say to the sick?” If I am going down in the world, I want to learn what is God’s direction to the man who is falling into poverty. Let me come and hear what God has to say about the matter. I believe that, if we acted in that fashion, we should be much more calm than we are under surprising sadnesses, for we should say to ourselves, “My main question is not, How can I get out of this trouble? but, How should I behave myself in it? What ought a man of God to do under the trying circumstances which have now come upon me?” Does not God bid you, first of all, to consider what will be for his glory, and afterwards to consult your own comfort? “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and so the lesson of your trouble shall be shown to you. “Come, my people, then, tell me your anxiety, and ask what my will is about it.”
“Come, my people,” means, next, come to your God, in times of trouble, to make sure of the greatest matters. You are going to lose your little money, are you? Well, well, that is bad enough; but you have some jewels which you are not going to lose. You remember Little-faith being robbed down Dead-Man’s Lane. Bunyan says that, when the three sturdy rogues, Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt, fell upon him, they robbed him of most of his spending money, but he had certain jewels that they never found, and of which therefore they could not rob him. So, the world may come, and take away many of our external and temporary comforts, but we have a treasure that it never gave us, and cannot take away from us. No, my brother, you did not gain that treasure by keeping shop, and you will not lose it by keeping shop. If you have true religion, you did not buy it, and you shall never sell it; it is yours for ever, an inheritance that never can be alienated from you. Now that you have lost so much, and suffered so much, I want you to come to God, and just think of what you still have, God as your Father, Jesus as your Brother, the Holy Spirit as your Comforter; you have still all the resources of providence, all the riches of the promises, all the superabundance of the covenant of grace. Well then, you have not lost much, after all, have you? I think I have told you before of a friend of mine, who went to the Bank of England, and came away to his business with a couple of hundred pounds in his pocket; and as he passed down the Borough, he was robbed. His wife looked very white when he said that he had been robbed. “Yes,” said he, “my dear, I have been robbed of my pocket-handkerchief.” Then the good man smiled; what did he mind about his pocket-handkerchief so long as the hundreds of pounds were safe? So, if you only have to say, “My Lord, I have lost this little, and that little,” so long as your soul is safe, your eternal welfare is safe, your heaven is safe, why, surely, you will thus be helped to bear without murmuring those ills which are common to men!
Once more, “Come, my people,” means that, having made sure of the great things, you may leave all the little things with God. I was thinking, the other day, suppose any one of us had power over the weather, to make it rain or make it shine, just as we pleased; and I thought I should not like to be that individual, because I should have people at me from morning to night, tearing me to pieces, one wanting rain, and another wanting sunshine. I would rather not have any such power; but if God gave me the control over winds and waves, and clouds and rain, if I had it to-night, the first thing I would do when I reached home would be to go upstairs, and say, “Lord, thou hast given me power over the wind and the rain, but I know that I shall make all manner of mistakes with it; I have not the wit to manage these matters; O Lord, graciously tell me what to do.” If you do like that, is it not much the same thing as if you had not any power, and left it to God altogether? You may have just as much rest as that, and even more; for, to be without the power is to be without the responsibility. So, beloved, when you go to God in times of trouble, say, “Do what thou wilt, Lord; I desire to leave the care and burden of all this trial to thee. I am too foolish and too weak to deal with it; therefore, undertake for me; and henceforth, having left it entirely in thy hands, I would be quiet even as a weaned child, and say, whatever happens, ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.’”
I will just ring that little silver bell, and then leave this point. “Come, my people. Come, my people. Come and tell me your trouble. Come and study my mind about your trouble. Come and make sure of the greatest matters. Come and leave your little matters with me. Come my people, draw near to me in times of trouble.”
This is the first division of my subject.
II. The second is, that IT IS WISE TO ENTER INTO THE CHAMBERS OF SECURITY WHICH GOD HAS PROVIDED FOR us: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers.” My business, in this second part of my discourse, is to bring a candle, and to show you the way along the passages leading to the rooms provided for you: “Enter thou into thy chambers.” It is a time of trouble with you: “Enter thou into thy chambers.” “What chambers?” you ask. I am going to show you; here is the candle to light your way, take it, and follow me: “Come thou into thy chambers.”
One of the rooms into which a man should enter in times of trouble is the store-chamber of divine power. God is able to bear you through every trial; God is able to bring good out of all evil; God is able to comfort you; God is able either to prevent the trouble, or to make you strong enough to bear it. Nothing can happen to you which will be beyond the power of God; and according to his mighty power he will certainly deliver you. He will show himself strong on your behalf, if you do but trust him, and you shall be able to sing, “The Lord is my Shepherd and my Shield.” “Come, my people,” get into this chamber, this well-guarded room of the Lord. Of what are you afraid? Afraid of the devil? God is stronger than Satan. Afraid of death? God is stronger than death. Afraid of poverty? Christ is stronger than poverty. Afraid of sickness? The power of God will sustain you while suffering from the most terrible disease that can possibly come to your mortal frame. “Come, my people.” Hide away in this chamber of the divine omnipotence. Thou wilt never be afraid, surely, after that invitation, for the almighty God shall be thy defence.
May I take you into another chamber, which will, perhaps, suit you better? That shall be the council-chamber of divine wisdom. So you are in trouble now, and you are a great deal perplexed; but God is not perplexed or troubled. He sees the end from the beginning; he has all means at his disposal; there are no entanglements and knots to him, he has the clue to every labyrinth, and he can guide you into the centre of joy. Be not afraid, though thou art thyself utterly undone, though thou seest no way of escape; the Lord can see where thou canst not. There are no such things as darkness and night to the eyes of him who perceives all things. Oh, I do delight to know that God is infinitely wise! I, a poor fool, have done this and that, and nothing comes of it; so it seems. I have tried to do right, but apparently without success. What then? There is a higher wisdom than any man’s, and that divine wisdom is at work on behalf of the heirs of heaven. “Come, my people,” enter into this bright room, and take a delightful rest in this council-chamber of divine wisdom.
Let me show you into another chamber; possibly some of you will feel more at home there, for it is the drawing-room of divine love. This is the state-chamber of the palace: “Come, my people,” and enter into it. Think of this wondrous truth, that God loveth thee. Whether he strike thee or stroke thee, the Lord loveth thee. Whether he chasten thee or caress thee, he loveth thee. He loved thee from before the foundation of the world; and he will love thee when the world’s foundations shall be overthrown. He loves thee without beginning, without measure, without change, without end. He has betrothed thee to himself in bonds of everlasting love. Come into this chamber with its golden hangings; come to this couch that is softer than down, and rest here. Let earth be all in arms abroad, there is perfect peace for the man who enters into this chamber of divine love.
But if these three chambers are not enough for your protection and comfort, may I take you to the muniment-room of divine faithfulness? This is a wonderful chamber. God is true; God is faithful; God keeps his promises. My dear friends, do you study the promises recorded in the Bible? If you do not, I am sorry for you. The promises of God should be the constant subject of study by the child of God, because, when you get a hold of a promise from God, it is as good as the thing itself. God’s promise to pay is always at par with those who trust him; they want no discount on a divine promise, it is as good as the thing itself to their believing hearts. Oh, what an innumerable company of promises there is in this blessed Book! We need never be downhearted if we would but study this wonderful Book of God, which has a promise to meet every trial and sorrow; and all the promises of God in Christ Jesus “are yea and Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” You are going into trouble; did you say that you are suffering from cancer? Oh, come into this chamber of the faithful promises! You have need to come. Did you say that your trouble is a bankruptcy caused entirely through misfortune? Come, then, into this chamber; look at the motto hanging on the walls, “Bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” Believe it. You shall have bread and water as long as there is any beneath the cope of heaven. God will never fail you, therefore trust him. Be not dismayed. “Come, my people, enter into thy chambers.”
There is one chamber into which I am very fond of entering, that is, the strong-room of divine immutability. This is the one into which God took his servant Moses before he sent him down to Egypt. Moses asked the Lord what his name was, and he answered, “I AM THAT I AM.” The children of Israel were not able to comprehend that glorious name of Jehovah, so the Lord gave them a shorter one instead, “I AM.” But to the full-grown child of God, this is the name in which he delights, “I AM THAT I AM,” the same immutable Jehovah, never altering, with “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Oh, how my soul does delight in the Lord’s immutability! We change like the weather-glass. We never are at “Set Fair;” or, if ever we do get to “Set Fair,” it is sure to rain, as I notice that it generally does when the weather-glass is at that point. But, dear friends, God is always the same. We wax and wane, like the moon; God is the sun, without parallax or tropic. Blessed is the immutability of God! What a chamber to get into! When I enter it, I feel like a man in the strong-room of the Bank of England. I hear a voice saying, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
There is only one more room which I will mention at this time, though I could have described many more, and that is, the best chamber of divine salvation. Look at the scarlet curtains dyed in the precious blood of Jesus. What a chamber this is for a man to dwell in, where his pardon was bought for him by the death of his Lord, where the new life is given to him by the life of his Lord, and where a throne and crown in heaven are promised to him through the victories of his Lord. “Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” What a restful chamber does this salvation make! “Come, my people. Come, my people. Come, my people. Enter into thy chambers.”
I have rung the silver bell, I have given you your candles, now go and enter into your chambers, and rest in divine power, wisdom, love, faithfulness, immutability, and salvation.
III. But now comes one thing more. God gives us, in the third place, further good advice. WHEN WE ENTER THOSE CHAMBERS, IT IS NECESSARY TO SHUT THE DOOR. Listen: “Enter into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee.” If you go into a room, and leave the door open, you have not hidden yourself much, and you have not gained any protection by entering the chamber. I earnestly invite the people of God to enter the chambers I have pointed out; but I would also persuade them to shut the doors of those rooms. What for?
First, to shut out all doubt. You have entered the chamber of divine power. Now, do not doubt your God. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Shut the door. Shut the door. You have come into the chamber of divine wisdom. Do not doubt your God; do not say, “This is a mistake. Surely, I have been led in the wrong way. Providence has erred.” Shut that door. Shut that door. We cannot let any draughts come in to blow upon our trust in the infinite wisdom of God. And if thou hast entered into the chamber of divine love, how blessed it is to feel, “He has loved me from before the foundation of the world.” Does there come in an “if”? Shut that door. There is no rest or comfort till we shut out all doubt; we must know of a surety that the Lord loved us, or we cannot have any enjoyment in his love. And suppose that it is the chamber of divine faithfulness into which we have entered, we must have no doubt about that; we must not say to ourselves, “God may forget his promise, perhaps he will break his word.” Oh, shut that door, and lock it, and bolt and bar it! Say, “That door can never be opened any more; we cannot have any doubt about God’s faithfulness; he cannot lie. Is he the Lord, and shall his love grow feeble to his saints? Is he God, and shall he turn aside from his word, and break his covenant and oath?” Shut that door. Let not anything come in that way to disturb our peace. And as to the divine immutability, we cannot allow the door to be open to let even the supposition of change come in. “Oh, God loved me,” says one, “twenty years ago!” And do you think that he does not love you now? “Oh, but he helped me so graciously then!” Will he not help you now? What, has he changed? Thou art blaspheming God by the very thought of such a thing.
“Whom once he loves, he never leaves,
But loves them to the end.”
Do thou believe this, and whenever there comes a doubt that he has cast thee away, shut that door, and drive a nail through it, that it may never be opened again, for the Lord cannot change. If he be God, he must for ever be the same. “Come, my people, enter into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee.”
I think that we must first shut the doors to shut out all doubts.
But we must also shut the doors to shut ourselves in, to shut ourselves in with God. Now, my Lord, a great storm is coming; but I am shut in with thee. I trust thy power; I trust thy wisdom; I trust thy love; I trust thy faithfulness; I trust thine immutability; I trust thy salvation. I trust nothing else, but I repose wholly in thee. You must often have noticed what our Saviour did in the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He knew that a great tempest was coming on, and he looked about him — for what? For a pillow. What, for a pillow? Why, if you and I had been there, we should have looked round for a hen-coop or a spar! But Jesus looked round for a pillow; not for a life-belt, but for a pillow; and when he found the pillow, what did he do? He went to the stern of the ship, stretched himself out, and went to sleep! Why did he so act? Because he felt that he was perfectly safe in his Father’s hands; and there were his poor disciples wide awake, fretting and worrying. Did they stop the wind by fuming? Did they calm the waves by complaining? No, no; they tramped up and down the little vessel, but the sea did not take any notice of them. At last, they went to wake their Master. He was so soundly sleeping that they could not get him awake as soon as they wished, so they cried, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” O faithless disciples, your Master was doing the grandest thing that he could do, he was just leaving the vessel in the hands of God, and himself going to sleep. Brethren and sisters, sometimes, when you get into a great deal of trouble, may I be allowed to be your solicitor, and give you a piece of advice? Go to bed, and go to sleep. “Oh, but I want to be doing something!” Yes, I know you do; and you will make a mess of it. Go to bed. Look for a pillow, and go to sleep. Nine times out of ten, when we worry and fret, we undo what we try to do; and to sit still, would be a far wiser thing. Come, my people, hurry not into the market; worry not in the shop; “come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee;” rest in God, and wait patiently for him, for he can do all things, and winds and waves shall be quiet at his bidding.
I wish that I could talk like this to you all, but I must not. Some of you have no chambers to go to, you who are out of Christ have no place to rest in. Oh, that you had! God grant that you may have before to-morrow’s sun has risen! May you believe in Jesus this very night! Then you shall have God for your Friend for ever and ever, and all these chambers that I have mentioned shall be at your disposal.
IV. I finish up with this last remark, borrowed from the text. IT IS DELIGHTFUL TO THINK THAT THE TROUBLE WILL NOT LAST LONG. Let me read the text again: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”
Is not that a wonderful expression, — “a little moment”? A moment is but the tick of the clock; but here it is “a little moment”— a little moment. Ah, me, we do not think so when the trouble comes! Perhaps it is some disease; possibly it is incipient consumption. You have been coughing a great deal. Ah, my dear friend, come and tell your God about it! It will only last a little moment, and then you will be where you shall cough no more, but you shall sing God’s praises, world without end. “But it is the commencement of a cancer.” I know; and that is an awful thing; but, my dear sister, go to God, get into these blessed chambers of divine power, wisdom, love, and so on, and you will hear him say, “It is only for a little moment.” “Ah!” says one, “but I am hopelessly poor, and have been so for a long time, and I expect that I shall be so till I die.” Well, if so, it will be but for a little moment, and then you will be rich for ever.
I am not an old man yet, though I am not young; but I am obliged to tell you that years are much shorter to me than they used to be twenty years ago. And weeks, — why, they seem to fly! I never get to Sunday night without seeming to have another Sunday morning close on my heels. Do you not find it so? When Jacob said that his days were few, why did he so speak? Because he was an old man. If he had been a man of five-and-twenty, he would not have said that; he would have thought that he had lived a good long while, but when he got to be over a hundred, then his days seemed very few. After all, what is the longest life? Suppose that you should live to be seventy or eighty. We who are over fifty feel that it hardly needs an effort of mind to project ourselves through the next five-and-twenty years, and find ourselves old and grey-headed, and ready to depart; and we shall depart in due season. It is only for a little moment that we are to be here. The cup is very bitter, but then there is not much in it; let us take it all down at a draught. These pills are too small for us to make two bites at them. Besides, to chew them is to get their bitterness, to swallow them is to know nothing about it. So do with the troubles of this life; take them as they come, cheerfully and contentedly, thankfully praising God that there is good in the evil, and sweetness in the bitter. Take it all. It will not last long.
“A scrip on my back, and a staff in my hand,
I march on in haste through an enemy’s land;
The road may be rough, but it cannot be long,
And I’ll smooth it with hope, and cheer it with song.”
Get into the chambers that the Lord has prepared for you, and hide yourselves “for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”
Here I stand, on this ninth of September, in the year of grace eighteen hundred and eighty-eight, still preaching to you; but there will come a time when there will be no voice of mine from this pulpit, and no glance of your eyes towards the minister here. We shall be in the world to come; and then, in a short time, we shall all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. If we have never hidden in these chambers, if we have never fled to Christ, ah! then will come the time of woe, a darksome time, indeed; sorrows without a shore, griefs without a terminus, a bitterness that must be everlasting. God help us to drink ten thousand cups of bitterness here rather than have to drink that cup of wormwood and gall for ever! Come, fly to Christ to-night; the Lord help you to do so! Believe in him, trust in him, that you may never know his indignation; but, having hidden for a small moment from the present trouble, you shall wake up to endless joy at God’s right hand, for ever and ever. Amen.