James Smith, 1861
"But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this! I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul. O Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too." Isaiah 38:15-16
The believer's path is often trying, and he is required to walk by faith, and not by sight. But the most trying path is often the safest, and generally turns out to be the most profitable. Tried Christians are generally lively Christians, and very often shining Christians. Whatever hinders the growth of the flesh — helps to strengthen and invigorate the Spirit. This was Hezekiah's experience, hence his testimony in allusion to these things, "O Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too." Isaiah 38:16.
The Reference."By such things." He had been suffering from bodily sickness and pain. He had been exercised with fears of death and dying. He had been harassed with sad forebodings of the future. He had been tried by the nature of his prayers, which he compares to the chattering of the crane, or the chirping of the swallow. He had appealed to the Lord as one over-burdened, straitened, and oppressed, "O Lord, I am oppressed! Undertake for me." He had come to the conclusion to acknowledge God's hand, and ever walk as a poor, bruised, humbled penitent, "But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this! I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul."
He had been painfully disappointed, "Behold, for
peace I had great bitterness." Yet he found deliverance, "But you
have in love to my soul, delivered it from the pit of corruption; for you
have cast all my sins behind your back." Many Christians, have now to pass
through a similar experience. "These things" are trying things. But let us
The Fact Asserted."By such things men live." AFFLICTIONS are often used by the Holy Spirit to quicken sinners, who are dead in trespasses and sins; and many have to look back to a fit of sickness, or a painful bereavement, or a stripping loss — as to the time when, and the means by which, they were first led to seek the Lord.
So also by such things, many are awakened who have fallen to sleep on the lap of ease, and have forgotten that they were purged from their former sins. Others are restored to the joys of God's salvation, who had wandered far from righteousness and God.
Believers in general by such changes and
trials, are . . .
led to exercise a more simple, direct, and steady faith in God;
brought into closer fellowship, and sweeter communion with God;
revived and invigorated when they have grown dull and heavy;
and are led out of self, to live upon, and make use of the fullness of Christ.
The most painful trials, are often most useful — in
quickening, reviving, and animating the soul in the ways of God! Most
probably Hezekiah found it so, let us look at,
It was HONEST, therefore he bears it before the Lord, "O Lord, by such things men live." We may deceive our fellow-men, and in speaking to them, there may be a lack of sincerity; but we know that the Lord searches the hearts, and tries the thoughts, and there is no deceiving him.
It was intended to INSTRUCT others, and many have been instructed by it. The writing of Hezekiah has been made a blessing to many. We might not have seen that our afflictions and troubles were intended to revive and quicken us, and to deepen the work of grace within us — but for this, or some similar testimony.
It was likely to PREVENT MISTAKES, and no doubt but many a mistake has been prevented by it. The result of his troubles, was no doubt, very different to what he once thought or expected — he therefore bears his testimony to prevent our being mistaken as to the outcome of our own.
It is to the HONOR of God.
It honors his wisdom — in making a seeming evil, a real good.
It honors his kindness — in supporting him under, and bringing him out of his trials, not only uninjured — but really benefitted.
It honors his care of his people — showing its constancy, and proving its efficacy.
It was an EXPERIMENTAL testimony, and may therefore be used by us against Satan's devices and injections. We can point to Hezekiah, to his fears, cries, complaints, and doubts; and then quoting his testimony, reply, "And so will it be with us. By our various afflictive trials, painful and bitter — our spirit finds life in them too!"
Observe, the best and holiest of men — are often most tried. Look at Job, Jacob, Joseph, Hezekiah, and Paul. Where there are few trials — there are seldom many excellencies, nor is there much usefulness. Who ever suffered like Jesus? "He was made perfect through sufferings;" and as his character was completed or perfected by his sufferings — so must ours be.
Trials do us no good without divine grace. The natural effect of trouble is bad — but when accompanied with grace, and made the instrument by which the Holy Spirit deepens and carries on his work — they are real blessings.
We need to be constantly reminded, that everything is just what the Lord makes it; and does us good or harm — just as it is attended with his special blessing or not. We ought therefore, to be most anxious to receive grace with our troubles; and whenever we see a trial coming, we should cry mightily to God, that the Holy Spirit may come with it, and make it an especial blessing.
Sanctified trials always promote holiness.
This accounts for so many of the Lord's afflicted ones — being especially
holy. And this should prevent our being afraid of trials — for
however painful to the flesh, or mortifying to man's naturally proud spirit
— if sanctified, they will . . .
deepen our humility,
increase our gratitude,
strengthen our faith, and
foster our devotion.
Mature Christian experience is a trophy won in battle. No
one can bear Hezekiah's testimony without his experience; and no one can
have the experience necessary, without many . . .
and deep afflictions.
When we pray for mature Christian experience — we pray for trouble.
So also when we desire to be very useful — we desire to be deeply tried, either inwardly or outwardly. It is an honor to be able to bear testimony for God. This honor may be ours in a greater or less degree; for though we may not be able to go so far as Hezekiah did — yet in some measure we can bear witness to the wisdom, care, and kindness of God in his dealings with us — especially in seasons of sorrow, grief, and pain! Yes, we can say that we have found God faithful — and all trials work for our good.