For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. — Ezra 8:22
On many accounts, a convoy from the king would have been desirable for the pilgrim band but a holy shame would not allow Ezra to seek one. He feared lest the heathen king should think his professions of faith in God to be mere hypocrisy, or imagine that the God of Israel was not able to preserve His own worshipers. He could not bring his mind to lean on an arm of flesh in a matter so evidently of the Lord; and therefore the caravan set out with no visible protection, guarded by Him who is the sword and shield of His people.
It is to be feared that few believers feel this holy jealousy for God. Even those who in a measure walk by faith, occasionally mar the luster of their life by craving aid from man. It is a most blessed thing to have no props and no buttresses but to stand upright on the Rock of Ages, upheld by the Lord alone!
Would any true believers seek state endowments for their Church—if they remembered that the Lord is dishonored by their asking Caesar’s aid? as if the Lord could not supply the needs of His own cause! Should we run so hastily to friends and relations for help—if we remembered that the Lord is magnified by our implicit reliance upon His solitary arm? My soul, wait only upon God!
“But,” says one, “are not means to be used?” Assuredly they are but our fault seldom lies in their neglect—far more frequently it springs out of foolishly believing in them—instead of believing in God. Few run too far in neglecting the creature’s arm but very many sin greatly in making too much of it. Learn, dear reader, to glorify the Lord by leaving means untried—if by using them you would dishonor the name of the Lord.
I sleep, but my heart waketh. — Song 5:2
Paradoxes abound in Christian experience, and here is one—the spouse was asleep, and yet she was awake. He alone can read the believer’s riddle—who has ploughed with the heifer of his experience.
The two points in this evening’s text are—a mournful sleepiness and a hopeful wakefulness.
A mournful sleepiness: “I sleep”. Through sin that dwells in us—we may become lax in holy duties, slothful in pious exercises, dull in spiritual joys, and spiritually supine and careless. This is a shameful state for one in whom the quickening Spirit dwells; and it is dangerous to the highest degree. Even wise virgins sometimes slumber but it is high time for all to shake off the bands of sloth.
It is to be feared that many believers lose their strength, as Samson lost his locks, while sleeping on the lap of carnal security. With a perishing world around us, to sleep is cruel. With eternity so near at hand—it is madness. Yet we are none of us so much awake, as we should be; a few thunder-claps would do us all good, and it may be, unless we soon bestir ourselves, we shall have them in the form of war, or pestilence, or personal bereavements and losses! O that we may leave the couch of fleshly ease forever and go forth with flaming torches to meet the coming Bridegroom!
A hopeful wakefulness: “My heart wakes.” This is a happy sign. Life is not extinct, though sadly smothered. When our renewed heart struggles against our natural heaviness, we should be grateful to sovereign grace for keeping a little vitality within us. Jesus will hear our hearts, will help our hearts, will visit our hearts; for the voice of the wakeful heart is really the voice of our Beloved, saying, “Open to Me!” Holy zeal will surely unbar the door.