Where can we find comfort in a troubled and uncertain world? Who will be there for us unconditionally? What remarkable effects should unconditional love produce?
In his Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul says: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:5)”
The promise is made the argument for the precept. Obedience is enforced by a covenant blessing. He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”; what then? Shall I be discontented and covetous? Nay! but for the very reason that he has made, by his promise, my very safety absolute and unconditional, assuring me, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” for that reason I will keep out of my conduct covetousness and every other evil thing, and will seek to walk contentedly and happy in the presence of my God. See, brethren, this gospel’s motive. It is not a weapon taken from the arsenal of Mount Sinai, but taken from the region of the cross, and from the council-chamber of the covenant of love.
Another thing in the text, to which I would call your notice is this: that an inspired apostle, who might very well have used his own original words, nevertheless in this case, as indeed in many others, quotes the Old Testament. “He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Behold, then, the value of Holy Scripture. If an inspired man quotes the text, as of divine authority, much more should we so regard it, who are without such inspiration. We may think a thing, but what of that? Our thinkings are but of little worth. General authority and universal opinion may sustain it, but what of that? The world has been more frequently wrong than right, and public opinion is a fickle thing. But God has said — immutable truth and eternal fidelity have said; God that made heaven and earth, and that changes not, though nations melt like the hoar frost of the morning; God who ever liveth when hills, and mountains, and this round world, and everything upon it shall have passed away — “He has said.” Oh! the power there is in this, “He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” So, then, let us be much in searching the Scriptures, much in feeding upon them, much in diving into their innermost depths, and then afterwards much in the habit of quoting them, using them as arguments for the defence of truth, as weapons against error, and as reasons to call us to the path of duty, and to pursue it.
Sad is it for human nature that we must say it — how many have been forsaken when they have been no longer able to minister to the pleasure and comfort of those who admired them while they profitted by them? Some are thus thrown aside, just as men throw away household stuff that is worn out, and is of no further use. Depend upon it, men will not forsake us while they can get anything out of us; but when there is no longer anything to profit by, when the poor woman becomes so decrepit that she can scarcely move from her bed to her chair, when the man becomes so laid aside by accident, or is so weak that he cannot take his place in the great march of life, then he is like the soldiers in Napoleon’s march, he drops out of the line to die, and thousands either march over him, or if they are a little more merciful, march by and round him, but few are those who will stop to care for such, and attend to them. How often are the incurable forsaken and left! But he has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” If we should get so old that we cannot serve the church of God, even by a single word; if we should become so sick that we are only a burden to those of our house who have to nurse us; if we should grow so feeble that we could not lift our hand to our lip, yet the eternal love of God would not have diminished, no, not so much as by a single jot, towards the souls whom he had loved from before the foundation of the world. However low our condition, we shall find God’s love is ever underneath for our uplifting. However weak we are, his strength shall be revealed in the everlasting arms that will not permit us to sink into disaster, and our souls into perdition. This, then, is a very precious text. Others may forsake us, for different reasons, too many to be mentioned now, but he has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
He that believes in Jesus shall never be so left of God as to fall finally from grace. He shall never be so deserted as to give up his God, for his God will never give him up so far as to let him give up his confidence, or his hope, or his love, or his trust. The Lord, even our God, holds us with his strong right hand, and we shall not be moved, and even if we sin — sweet thought! — “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Over the heads of all our sins and iniquities, this promise sounds like a sweet silver bell, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
Now, there are some that would make licentiousness out of this, and go into sin, but in doing so they prove themselves not to be the children of God. They show at once that they know nothing of the matter, for the genuine child of God, when he has a promise which is unconditional, finds holiness in it. Being moved by gratitude, he wants no buts, and ifs, and conditions, and racks, and scourges, in order to do right. He is ruled by love, and not by fear, governed by a holy gratitude which becomes a stronger bond to sacred obedience than any other bond that could be invented. Hence to the child of God, the knowledge that God will not leave nor forsake him, never suggests the thought of plunging into sin; he were an awful monster, indeed, if he did any such thing, but he hates it.
What remarkable comfort can we derive from this promise? We are told not to be covetous. Why? Why should we be covetous? God has said he will never leave us, and if we have him we possess all things. Who has need to be covetous when all things are his, and God is his? We are told to be contented, not to seek to hoard up so much for the future, because God has provided for the future in the very promise, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” God guarantees to his servants that they shall have enough; well, let that guarantee prevent both covetousness and discontent. How shall this promise apply to temporal things? “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” does not look at first sight as if it had anything to do with our ordinary expenses, but, according to the text, it has, for we are told not to be covetous, but to be content with such things as we have. So, then, the text applies to the ordinary working-man, to the merchant, to every Christian, even in his money matters, as well as in his soul matters. “I will not leave you, even in these.” He that doth not let a sparrow fall to the ground without his permission will not let his children want. If they should for a little time be in need, that shall work their lasting good, but they shall dwell in the land, and verily they shall be fed. The fulness that lies in the promise is perfectly unbounded. When God says he will be with his servants, he means this, “My wisdom shall be with them to guide them; my love shall be with them to cheer them; my Spirit shall be with them to sanctify them; my power shall be with them to defend them; my everlasting might shall be put forth on their behalf so that they may not fail nor be discouraged.” To have God with us were better than to have an army of ten thousand men, and a host of friends were not equal to that one name, the name of God, for he is a host in himself. When God is with a man, he is not there asleep, negligent, indifferent, regardless in his time of suffering, but he is there intensely sympathizing, bearing the trouble, helping and sustaining the sufferer, and in due time — his own good time — delivering him in triumph. Oh! precious word of heartening promise! Plunge ye into it, for it is a sea without a bottom, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
I cannot enlarge further upon the promise, and need not do so, because it opens up itself, or rather God the Holy Spirit will open it up to you if you sit awhile in your room and meditate upon it. I do not know of a richer text, or one more full of consolation. It is a long skein of truth; unwind it. It is a precious granary, full as Joseph crammed the granaries of Egypt; open you the door, and feed to the full; there will be no fear of your ever exhausting it. “For he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
What remarkable effects should such a promise produce? Surely the first blessed fruit of such a glorious promise should be perfect contentment. The fact is that the grace of God makes the people of God to sing sweetly, where other people would murmur. They are satisfied where others would find easy ground for discontent. But how easy it is, how easy it must be, for a man to be contented when he knows that God has promised to be with him in all circumstances and at all times! Surely, if anything could be a kind of conservatory, a hot-house, in which to grow the delicate plant of contentment to perfection, it must be this full belief that high or low, rich or poor, well or sick, God has said, “I will never leave, nor forsake you.”
Dear brothers and sisters, if the Lord shall call some of us even to things we cannot do, he will give us strength enough to do them; and if he should push us still forwarder till our difficulties increase and our burdens become heavy, still, as our days, our strength shall be, and we shall go on with the tramp of soldiers, with the indomitable spirit of men who have tried and trusted the naked arm of the Eternal God. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
Let us praise God with the song “Blessed Assurance”: