Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
"Therefore glorify the Lord in the fires" (Isaiah 24:15).
The context presents a fearfully solemn picture. It describes a time when
the judgments of God are abroad: when He causes the earth to mourn, and the
world to languish; when His curse devours, and makes desolate; when all
classes are alike made to smart from His rod. The merry-hearted do sigh, the
joy of the harp ceases, the new wine mourns; yes, we are told "all joy is
darkened, the mirth of the land is gone" (Isaiah 24:11). Then it is that
this remarkable word is given to God's people: "Therefore glorify the Lord
in the fires."
It is true that conditions on earth today are not nearly
so dreadful as those described in the first part of Isaiah 24, yet they are
of such a character as to make this exhortation a timely one for many.
"Therefore glorify the Lord in the fires." These are the
words of a godly remnant who had been preserved in the midst of desolation.
How few they were in number may be seen from verse 13: they are likened unto
the handful of berries still on the boughs after the olive tree has been
shaken, and unto the odd grapes remaining on the vine after the vintage.
Thank God there always has been a faithful remnant preserved by Him in the
most evil times, for He will not leave Himself without a witness on the
earth. This little remnant is here seen triumphing, for it is said, "They
shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord, they
shall cry aloud from the sea" (v. 14), that is, from amid the nations in a
state of tumult. Those who comprised this little remnant are here seen
calling upon one another to delight themselves in the Lord, to rejoice amid
their afflictions. Instead of giving vent to complainings and repinings,
their word is "Therefore glorify the Lord in the fires."
It is easy to be thankful and happy in times of peace and
plenty, but it is contrary to flesh and blood to sing songs in the furnace:
yet this is what the saints are here enjoined to do! No matter what may be
their circumstances, how scant their portion, how trying their lot,
Christians ought to glorify the Lord in them. For what purpose does He leave
us here upon earth, but to honor Him, to witness for Him, to make manifest
unto others the sufficiency of His grace? "Therefore glorify the Lord in the
We shall not here attempt a strict exegesis of this
verse, rather would we endeavor to make a practical application of it unto
ourselves in these difficult days. At all times, in all cases, it is both
the privilege and the duty of the Christian to "glorify" the Lord. He must
not succumb to fear, but seek the Holy Spirit's strengthening of his faith.
He is not to be the "victim of circumstances," but obtain grace to rise
above and be victor over them. He is not to give way to abject despair like
the poor worldling, but make it evident to those about him that the Lord is
"a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). "Therefore glorify the Lord
in the fires." But how are we to do so?
1. By honest self-judgment: by which we mean,
a frank acknowledgment that we fully deserve the chastening rod of God which
is now upon us, owning with David, "I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are
right, and that You in faithfulness have afflicted me" (Psalm 119:75). God
will not allow His people to sin without rebuke (see Psalm 89:30-32), and He
is "glorified" when they candidly own His righteousness in correcting them.
The cause of all affliction is sin, and therefore God's justice must
be acknowledged in His visitation upon it. He is grossly insulted if we say,
"I know not why God should deal with me so hardly; I have been guilty of
nothing which calls for such severe treatment"—that is the language either
of rebellion or self-righteousness. Rather say with Micah, "I will bear the
indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him" (7:9).
If we are to "glorify the Lord in the fires" we must not
only affirm the general truth that all His disciplinary dealings under
providence are "right," but particular application must be made thereof: "in
faithfulness You have afflicted me." We must not only own the
faithfulness of God when we are at ease, but under the sharpest
chastisement. God's judgments do not come upon us at random: "for this cause
many are weak and sickly" (1 Cor. 11:30). Say, then, with Nehemiah, "You are
just in all that is brought upon us; for You have done right, but we have
done wickedly" (9:33). Yes, own with Ezra, "You our God have punished us
less than our iniquities deserve" (9:13). It is much for the honor of God
that we have good thoughts of Him when under the rod, and that we vindicate
Him in all His ways with us.
2. By not murmuring. Why should we grumble when we justly
suffer what we do? "Why does a living man complain, a man for the punishment
of his sins?" (Lam. 3:39). If we are now reaping as we sowed, then there is
none to blame but our foolish and wicked selves for sowing what we did.
Therefore, to put it on the lowest ground, we act irrationally when we sulk
and growl under God's rod. Of Hannah we read that "she was in bitterness of
soul," yes, but observe what follows, "and prayed unto the Lord" (1 Sam
1:10). Instead of allowing her trouble to drive her from the Lord, it cast
her back the more upon Him. To murmur is only to tempt the Lord to smite
us yet more sharply! What did the children of Israel gain by their
murmurings in the wilderness? Nothing; only they were made to smart for it.
Certainly we do not "glorify the Lord in the fires" by
chafing and repining against His disciplinary dealings with us. O to say
with David, "I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress" (Psalm
17:3). We are kept from uttering much that is grievously dishonoring to God
when we rigorously muzzle our mouths. For a Christian to murmur against
God's providential dealings is for him to deny His justice, impugn His
wisdom, and call into question His love—sins of the deepest dye are these!
Remember that things might be much worse: God has not cast us into the
everlasting burnings—then why resemble, in any degree, those who gnash their
teeth against Him? Let us not forget the Word declares, "If any man among
you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own
heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:26).
3. By not fainting. This is the other extreme
which a suffering saint needs to guard against. When God's grace subdues our
hearts from rising up in rebellion against the One who is righteously
smiting us, there is ever a real danger of our spirits sinking into a state
of despondency; therefore does our loving Father say, "My son, despise not
the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him" (Heb.
12:5). Certainly the Lord is not glorified by us in the fires if we give way
to a spirit of gloomy despair. Rather are we to diligently seek the
supernatural aid of the Holy Spirit that we may heed that exhortation, "Wait
on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait, I
say, on the Lord" (Psalm 27:14).
It is a great support to the Christian's heart to
remember that the chastening rod is wielded by love (Heb. 12:6), and that
God is as much our Father when He frowns as when He smiles, when He whips as
when He embraces. God's strokes do not make void His promises, nor do they
retract His pardon. Tribulation and trouble are no proofs of God's disfavor,
but tokens of His faithfulness; therefore instead of doubting His goodness
we should return thanks for His discipline.
The "all things" of Romans 8:28 as surely include the
cloud and shadows, as the showers and sunshine; yes the immediate context
treats directly of sufferings and sorrows! Then doubt not God's mercy,
repine not at His providences, faint not under His rod; all will be well at
4. By exercising faith. God's purpose in
leading Israel through that "great and terrible wilderness, wherein were
fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought," was that He might "humble"
them, "prove" them, and do them "good" at their latter end" (Deut. 8:15,
16). God has promised to support His people under their trials (Deut.
33:27), to bring them safely through their afflictions (Isaiah 41:10), to
turn all things to their advantage (Romans 8:28), and to "perfect" that
which concerns them (Psalm 138:8). Then say with Job, "Though He slays me,
yet will I trust in Him" (13:15).
God disposes all things for the eternal welfare of His
people. Do you answer, "But I am greatly afraid that I have provoked the
Lord to leave me to myself"; even so, that word still stands good, "If we
confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" (1 John
1:9). We greatly glorify the Lord in the fires when we seek and obtain from
the Holy Spirit that strengthening of faith which enables us to trust God
"with all our hearts" and lean not unto our own understandings (Proverbs
3:5). Faith may be likened unto a life-belt; it is of little or no value
unless it supports its possessor in the deep and dark waters. Faith does not
make us impervious unto the chilliness of the waters; or, to change the
figure, it does not make the furnace any cooler or more pleasant; but it
does enable its favored possessor to say with Job, "When He has tried me, I
shall come forth as gold" (23:10). "The God of all grace, who called you to
his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will
himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast" (1 Peter 5:10).
5. By perfect endurance. "Take, my brethren,
the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of
suffering affliction, and of patience" (James 5:10). The final words of that
verse mean far more than the prophets meekly tolerated their sufferings;
they signify that they also continued steadily in the path of duty. Now that
so many are out of secular employment, they have more time for reading,
meditation, and prayer, and unless they are giving themselves regularly unto
these spiritual exercises, they are lamentably failing to heed that
exhortation, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16). No
matter how dark the outlook may appear to carnal reason, the Christian ought
to ever say, "But I will hope continually, and will yet praise You more and
more" (Psalm 71:14).
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because
when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has
promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). To "endure" trials or
temptations is to bear them patiently, and with constancy go through all
difficulties in the way of duty. The word "tried" here signifies approved as
in Romans 14:18, 1 Corinthians 11:19: there must be testings to make evident
the integrity of our profession and to make manifest the genuiness of our
graces. Thus there is a needs-be for the furnace (cf. 1 Peter 1:7). Then let
us seek grace to heed that word "In your patience possess you your souls"
6. By thanksgiving and praise. "Giving thanks
always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ" (Eph. 5:20). Be thankful things are not worse. Be thankful that if
the Lord be our shepherd we shall not lack any good thing (Psalm 23:1). Be
thankful that our trials are only for a comparatively brief moment, whereas
the sufferings of the wicked will last for all eternity. "We glory in
tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience,
experience; and experience, hope:" (Romans 5:3, 4). But what is there in
"tribulations" which can afford ground for "glorifying"? This: they furnish
an opportunity for faith, hope, love, to be exercised. They supply occasion
for God to manifest His unchanging faithfulness. They bring spiritual
blessing to the soul.
We recently received a letter which touchingly
illustrated this 6th point. While on the foreign field a missionary's wife
was taken ill, and ordered back. On arriving home she was operated upon, to
find a terrible cancer in an advanced stage, the doctors pronouncing "No
hope." Her stricken husband wrote, "This was a terrible announcement to me
at first, but the Lord has given grace to bear it, and I trust that I shall
be able to sincerely say—not that I put up with His will, but that I rejoice
7. By cheerfulness. God is greatly glorified
when His people preserve a bright countenance before the world, and by their
demeanor give evidence that they have a source of peace and joy which others
are strangers to: this is something which speaks much more forcibly than any
sermons we preach with our lips! "Let your light so shine before men, that
they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven"
(Matt. 5:16). Yes, we may honor or dishonor God by the very expressions on
our faces! Ponder the principle enunciated in Matthew 7:17, 18: "Even so
every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth
evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt
tree bring forth good fruit." "They looked unto Him, and were lightened—and
their faces were not ashamed" (Psalm 34:5).