Faith of Old

Psalm 46  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Gen. 22 and Psalm 46
We cannot meditate upon Old Testament scriptures without being struck with the faith of the Old Testament saints. It was, no doubt, the pattern of that of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when upon earth, who alone is the perfect example of faith, as of every other perfection. It will also be that of the godly Jewish remnant in the latter day under their last and bitter trials. It counts upon the faithfulness of God and pierces through all difficulties, discouragements, and natural impossibilities, right up to God Himself. We have a very striking example of it in Psalm 46 which may well put many of us to shame, as it often does me.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." A refuge is a place to flee to from impending and known danger. A sinner's fleeing for refuge to Christ implies a sense of imminent danger. He is everlasting security from impending judgment; He is the true city of refuge from the avenger of blood (Numb. 35:1313And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge. (Numbers 35:13), etc.). He is also the strength of His people in their conscious weakness. He does not always deliver us out of our troubles, but sustains us in them, and carries us through them, which is far better, and enables us to say in our feeble measure, "Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight." Matt. 11:2626Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. (Matthew 11:26).
Mary and Martha could never have known the present sympathy and resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ if they had not experienced the death of their brother. It was when sickness, death, the grave, and corruption had each done its worst and seemed to have robbed them forever of their beloved one, that the Lord stepped in and showed them Himself as they had never before known Him. The sisters had sought the Lord in their trouble, and such is always its effect where there is real faith. Blessings tend, because of what we are, to elate us; and often we run off with them to enjoy them, and forget God. Trouble brings us to our knees. It is good when our blessings also have this effect. See the beautiful example of this in Gideon (Judg. 7:1515And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. (Judges 7:15)). He did not rush off, elated, to tell the hosts of Israel the cheering tidings he had heard, but first worshiped, before returning to the host. God was a very present help to him in his trouble, and such was the effect. But the psalmist goes on to say, "Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea."
First, let us reflect, for a moment, what faith it was for a Jew, whose revealed hopes were connected principally with the earth, to use such language as this! All that was properly a Jewish hope was, humanly speaking, gone if the earth were removed. What faith it was, then, that could enable a Jew thus to count upon the faithfulness of God to fulfill His promises in the face of such a catastrophe! But faith always counts upon God. Again, what but implicit faith in the living God could enable the psalmist to speak of a city and a river to make it glad, if the earth were removed? The city here is not the heavenly Jerusalem, but the earthly. The land was yet theirs only by promise, and they waited till God should give it to them and settle them in it. In patience, they possessed their souls, and did not forestall God by building a city for themselves. The heavenly country they sought in Canaan was one with Jehovah in their midst. They waited for that, and confessed in the meantime, that they were strangers in the land (Heb. 11:99By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: (Hebrews 11:9)).
We must not explain away what is Jewish and earthly, because of what is Christian and heavenly. The city spoken of in Psalm 46 is surely Jerusalem in Canaan, which is to be the center of blessing and of government for the whole world; as it is written, "Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge [rule] among the nations" etc. (Isa. 2:3, 43And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:3‑4)). If all the saints of old were looking for heaven, death would have been a step in the direction of their hope, and there would have been nothing particularly remarkable in their dying in faith. But seeing that, for the most part, they looked for the fulfillment of God's promises concerning Palestine, it was stupendous faith for them to believe that, though they died out of it, God would give it to them. But, to return-"God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early." This must be the earthly city. The heavenly one, when established, will need no help. It will be out of the reach of harm. Not so the earthly; even at the close of the millennial peace and blessing, there will be the hosts of Gog and Magog gathered against her. But God shall help her, and that right early; no long conflict, no long siege, no protracted slaughter shall characterize her deliverance. Fire shall come down from heaven and consume them (Rev. 20:99And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Revelation 20:9)).
How needful the exhortation is, "Be still, and know that I am God." We are very prone to agitate and busy ourselves in times of trouble, but it avails nothing; it only betrays our want of faith and entangles and distracts us still more. The proper effect of trouble is patience, and of patience, experience in the ways of God, etc. (Rom. 5:3, 43And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (Romans 5:3‑4)). "I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." This is emphatically an answer to the faith expressed in the Psalm; it is Jewish and earthly, but we can and do share with those faithful Jews, and rejoice with them in the prospect and assurance of their blessing, although God has prepared some better thing for us.
Having already alluded to the brilliant faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah, who counted upon God to give them the land of promise when dying out of it, I will close these few lines with references to that of Abraham in Gen. 22
God had called upon him to offer up his only begotten son in whom all the promise centered. We are familiar with the scene, but there are one or two features in it well worthy of continual notice.
We see, first, the promptness of the patriarch, the absence of all hesitation. "And Abraham rose up early in the morning." "He staggered not" at the requirement of God, through unbelief, any more than he had done at the promise of God (Rom. 4:2020He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; (Romans 4:20)). His promptness was equal to his faith, and the fruit of it. Again, he was not more prompt than he was steadfast. He had ample time in his three days' journey to have reasoned himself out of his purpose, and to have persuaded himself that there must have been some mistake, etc. But no, he had the living God before his soul, and could trust Him to make good all He had spoken concerning Isaac, though he slew him. "Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." What implicit faith in God that raiseth the dead (see Heb. 11:17-1917By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Hebrews 11:17‑19))! And when they had come to the place, and the altar and the wood had been deliberately arranged, he "bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood," etc.
In Abraham, we see, in type, the Father offering up His Son, and now, at this point, we have the Son giving Himself. An obedient father had an obedient son; for, whatever others may think, I do not believe that the binding was to prevent resistance; I believe that Isaac here was an intelligent and willing victim. But every type is imperfect, for what created thing could set forth the excellency of the Person or the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in perfection? Hence the importance of our not interpreting Christ by the types, but the types by Christ, lest we should attach to Him the imperfections of the types. This has been done, and teaching subversive of atonement and the personal glory of Christ has been based upon it to the damage of many souls. Isaac, although a beautiful type in the scene before us, was imperfect in three momentous particulars, at least.
He did not know, till the very last, what was coming upon him. The Lord Jesus Christ did. "Lo, I come to do Thy will, 0 God.... By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once" (Heb. 10:9, 109Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:9‑10)). Oh, what devotedness to His Father! What unspeakable love to us! It was more than a cruel and ignominious death that He suffered; He bore the judgment of God due to us.
A way of escape was found for Isaac. There was none for the Lord! "0 My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matt. 26:3939And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39)).
3) If Isaac had died, he would not have made atonement for one sin. There could have been no virtue in his death, for he was only a man, and a sinner also. "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man" (Jer. 17:55Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:5)); but of the Lord it is said, "Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him" (Psalm 2:1212Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Psalm 2:12)). He was God, as well as man.
Does not such faith as we have been reviewing, put us to shame? Well it may. Yet, if we have not the faith of Abraham or of David, we have the all gracious, all-faithful and Almighty God, the same yesterday and today and forever. Let us look unto Jesus, the only perfect object and pattern of faith. Who could ever be tried as He was? Yet, when persecuted, crucified, and reviled, He patiently bore it all. Such contradiction of sinners He endured against Himself; that is, to His own disadvantage and reproach. "If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matt. 27:4040And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. (Matthew 27:40)); so He was taunted, but He endured. Everlasting praise to His precious name!