ALL THESE THINGS – A SERMON WITH THREE TEXTS
“ALL THESE THINGS are against me.” Genesis 42:36
“O Lord, by these things men live, and in ALL THESE THINGS is the life of my spirit: so will you recover me, and make me to live.” Isaiah 38:16
“No, in ALL THESE THINGS we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
The patriarch must needs use the expression, “all these things.” He had gone through the catalogue: there were BUT THREE ITEMS AT THE MOST, and yet nothing narrower than “ALL these things are against me” will suit him. OUR NOTATION of our trials is very apt to present them in EXAGGERATED number, but when we come to count OUR MERCIES, as a usual rule our tendency is to DIMINISH them. We magnify the number of our troubles, and under-estimate our many benefits. It were well if it were not so, for the habit is most painful to ourselves and dishonorable to God.
“ALL these things,” indeed! And what a little “all” compared with the benefits of God! What an insignificant “all” compared with the sufferings of our covenant Head! What a trifling “all” compared with the amazing weight of glory which shall soon be revealed in us! However, allowing the timorous expression to stand, it shall be my business this morning to show that while, ACCORDING TO THE VERDICT OF UNBELIEF, “all these things are against us,” yet there are OTHER LIGHTS IN WHICH TO LOOK UPON THE MULTITUDE OF OUR GRIEFS- lights which shall enable us to perceive their BENEFIT to us, and even to TRIUMPH in them through him that loved us.
Our first text is THE EXCLAMATION OF UNBELIEF. Genesis 42:36. “ALL THESE THINGS are against me.” (EVERYTHING is against me.) In Jacob’s case it was a very plausible verdict. Joseph he had long lost sight of; Simeon did not return from the journey into Egypt; his sons now requested that Benjamin might be entrusted to their thriftless care; and it might well APPEAR to the anxious father as if one by one his children were sinking into untimely graves, and THAT GOD WAS DEALING SEVERELY WITH HIM. Even the insinuation by which he ascribed these bereavements to the malice or carelessness of his sons, “You have bereaved me of my children,” had an air of great likelihood thrown around it. Yet plausible as was the old man’s mournful conclusion, IT WAS NOT CORRECT; and hence let us learn to FORBEAR RASH JUDGMENT, and never in any case conclude against the faithfulness of the Lord.
There may be peculiarities in our case which look as if the Master had treated us with the harshness of a cruel one. There may be thorns of unusual sharpness in our pillow, but we must not dream that ANGER placed them there. We may be pining under a grief which we could not tell into another’s ear, but which makes our lot appear to be singled out and separated for peculiar misery, and hence it may seem just to conclude, “God has forsaken me; he has turned upon me in his fierce anger, and his loving kindnesses have failed forevermore;” but rest assured, my brethren, that THE MOST PLAUSIBLE IS NOT ALWAYS THE MOST TRUE, and the most natural is not the most sure.
God is and ever must be LOVE to his people; let nothing disturb you in this belief: believe not the clearest inferences from his providence, but believe HIM, let outward circumstances say what they may.
Even if your understanding should lead you to doubt the Lord, remember that God is greater than your understanding, that his ways are past finding out, and IN THE END HIS DISPENSATIONS MUST PROVE TO BE WISE, LOVING, AND GRACIOUS. Yet I can well imagine that souls in distress feel it almost ungenerous to dispute the verdict at which they have arrived, for the evidence appears to be so multiplied and clear. Sitting alone, silent in your sorrow, crushed out of all hope, you claim the unhappy right to declare, “Everything is against me;” and yet, beloved, IT IS NOT SO.
Jacob’s exclamation was most evidently EXAGGERATED- exaggerated in the term he used, “EVERYTHING,” for there were only THREE evils at the most; exaggerated, too, in most of the statements. He said, “Simeon is not.” Now, his sons had told him that the ruler of the land of Egypt had taken Simeon and bound him before their eyes, but they gave him no reason to believe that Simeon was put to death. The old man JUMPS TO A CONCLUSION for which he has no warrant, and laments because “Simeon is not.” He added, “You would take Benjamin away.” Yes, but only to go into Egypt to buy corn; a short and needed journey from which he would soon return. You would suppose, from the patriarch’s language, that beyond all doubt, Simeon had fallen a victim in Egypt, and that Benjamin was demanded with a view to his instant execution; but WHERE WAS EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS ASSERTION?
We frequently talk of our SORROWS in language larger than the truth would warrant. We write ourselves down as unique in the realms of misery, whereas we do but bear THE COMMON BURDENS OF ORDINARY MEN. We dream that no others have ever passed along our rugged path, whereas the road is hard with the footsteps of the flock. We imagine that the furnace has been heated seven times hotter for US, whereas, compared with martyrs, and the afflicted in all ages, and especially compared with our Master, it is probable that our griefs are of the LIGHTER KIND.
The exclamation of Jacob was also as BITTER as it was exaggerated. It lead him to make a speech which, however accidentally true, with his information as to his sons, was ungenerous, and even worse. He said, “You have bereaved me of my children.” Now, if he really believed that Joseph was torn of beasts, as he appears to have done, he had no right to assail the brethren with a charge of murder; for it was little else.
In the case of Simeon, the brethren were perfectly innocent; they had nothing whatever to do with Simeon’s being bound, IT WAS WRONG TO ACCUSE THEM SO HARSHLY. In the taking away of Benjamin, though there may have been a jealousy against him as aforetime against Joseph, yet most certainly the brethren were not to blame. They told their father most correctly the message, which the lord of Egypt had sent to him. It was Joseph who had said, “If you bring not your younger brother with you, by the life of Pharaoh you shall not see my face again.” That was no invention of theirs, and it was UNJUST on the part of the old patriarch to cast over his sons, who probably loved him much, and were anxious for his welfare, an accusation little short of a charge of triple murder. “You have bereaved me of my children.”
Oh, cruel words! Brethren, when our griefs are heavy, we are apt to accuse our fellows, to be angry with the secondary causes of our suffering, and to say things which ought not to be said by the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. A dog will bite the STICK with which you smite him; if he had sense he would see how little the secondary cause has to do with it; and so we oftentimes are PROVOKED AGAINST THE PERSON through whom we are troubled, whereas, after all, THE ROD IS WIELDED BY THE HAND OF GOD, and HE is the true source of affliction.
If you drink of the river of affliction near its outfall, it is brackish and offensive to the taste, but if you will trace it to its source, where it rises at the foot of the throne of God, you will find its waters to be sweet and health-giving. Even the waters of affliction when they are tasted at the well-head are sweet with divine love, but if you follow them along the miry channels of secondary causes and instrumentalities, you will perceive a bitterness in them creating ENVY, MALICE, and all UNCHARITABLENESS within you. Jacob was, in the expression before us, even BITTER TOWARDS GOD.
There is not a hint of submission in the sentence, nothing of resignation, nothing of confidence. HE KNEW VERY WELL THAT ALL THINGS CAME FROM GOD, and, in effect, he declares that God is in all these things fighting against him. God forbid that these tongues, which owe their power to speak to the great God, should ever pervert their powers to slandering him; and yet if our TONGUES have not spoken unbelievingly, how often our HEARTS have done so! We have said, “WHY has God dealt thus with me? WHY are his strokes so multiplied? and WHY are my wounds so blue? Oh, WHY am I thus chastised? WHY does he put cross upon cross upon my galled shoulders, and crush me into the dust with heaviness of sorrow?”
Peace, child of God, peace. Your Father loves you- love him in return, and let your love assure you that it is not possible for him to measure out to you a CRUMB of sorrow more than is needed, nor a GRAIN of bitterness more than your soul absolutely requires for its spiritual health. The exclamation, then, of Jacob was sadly bitter, both towards God and man; if it had not been for unbelief it would have never dishonored his lips.
Observe that this speech was rather CARNAL than spiritual.
You see more of human emotions, than of grace wrought faith; more of the CALCULATOR THAN THE BELIEVER; more of JACOB THAN OF ISRAEL. Jacob is more the man, and less the man of God than we might have expected him to have been. SEE HOW HE DWELLS UPON HIS BEREAVEMENTS! “Joseph,” that dear name, as it brought up the beloved Rachel before his mind, wrung the old man’s heart. “Joseph is not.” Alas! that wound was still bleeding. Then “Simeon is not;” the reckless, daring, valorous Simeon, is fallen in the stranger’s land. Then, worst of all, Benjamin, the dear name intertwined with the saddest of his funerals- the mother’s Ben-oni and the father’s “Benjamin:” the last and dearest must be taken away.
You see it is THE FATHER all through- THE LOVING PARENT thinking only of his children, the NATURAL AFFECTIONS predominating; but you see nothing here of THE GRANDEUR OF FAITH, nothing of the nobility of Job, when he said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Here we meet with no such question as that of the patriarch of Uz: “Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord? and shall we not also receive evil?”
But Jacob acts like a wayward child, vexed and out of temper, crying against its father; he manifests a petulant spirit, tempted by the natural promptings of the flesh to rebel against God. For a while the work of the Spirit was beclouded and eclipsed in that venerable man of God; and so, brethren, we also must set ourselves upon our watch-tower, lest by any means we permit even the allowable affections of the flesh to overshadow our spirit and dim the luster of the work of grace.
Jesus wept, and therefore we may weep: SORROW is licensed by the Redeemer’s example. Our Lord was no Stoic, and he would not have his people restrain natural emotion. WE ARE BOUND TO SORROW WHEN WE ARE AFFLICTED AND CHASTENED OF THE LORD. But though Jesus WEPT, he did not MURMUR; though he SORROWED, yet he did not REPINE; there is a bound beyond which our mourning must not pass. Jacob should have said, “Joseph is not, Simeon is a prisoner, and Benjamin is to be taken away from me: the cup is bitter, and if it be possible, O Lord, let it pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but your be done;” and then he might have burst into a flood of tears, and there would have been no sin in it all, but much of sacred tenderness.
But HE WENT TOO FAR, for his natural affections, instead of taking their proper place, usurped the place in which faith should have sat supreme. He did not merely give his feelings vent, but mastery; he not only wept, but salted his tears with MURMURING; and THIS WAS AN EVIL THING.
But oh! how often you and I forget the steps already trod, and all the mercies which attended them, and fear that God will forsake us and become our enemy. The Ebenezers which we have raised, do they count for nothing? His love in times past, has that no argument in it for the present and for the future? Will we not say with David, “Because you have been my help, therefore in the shadow of your wings will I rejoice”? He has been with us in ten troubles; can we not trust him for the eleventh? We went through fire and water, men did ride over our heads, yet he brought us out into a wealthy place, and set our feet in a large room, and can we not rely upon him now that new difficulties obstruct our path?
Yes, beloved, we will learn from the past, for the lesson of our experience is that THE LORD HAS NOT FORSAKEN THOSE WHO TRUST IN HIM, and that those who trust in Him shall NEVER BE ASHAMED OR CONFOUNDED, WORLD WITHOUT END!
Read the full sermon –