"When the Morning arose, then the Angels hastened Lot."—Gen. 19:15
Were these personages angels, or divine appearances? It matters not: they were messengers sent from God to save. In any case they teach us how to deal with men if we are to arouse and bless them. We must go to their homes—"They turned in unto Lot" (verse 3); they stated the case—"The Lord will destroy this city" (verse 14); they urged and persuaded—"Up, get you out of this place"; and they resorted to a loving violence—"The men laid hold upon his hand," etc. (verse 16). Picture the two angels with all their four hands occupied in leading out Lot and his wife and his two daughters.
1. In what?
In matters of obedience to their Lord. Few can say, "I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments."
In coming out from the world. "He lingered." "His wife looked back" (verse 26). The urgency of the command which says—"Come ye out from among them; be ye separate," shows how loth we are to "rise up and come away."
In seeking the good of their families. "Hast thou here any besides?" (verse 12).
In general quickness of movement in spiritual things. "Escape for thy life" (verse 17). "Haste thee" (verse 22).
The flesh is weak. Lot was an old man, too much tinctured with worldliness, and he was away from Abraham, the nobler spirit, who had helped to keep him right.
Perseverance is difficult. "I cannot escape to the mountain."
Sodom has a sluggish influence. We often traverse the "Enchanted ground," where sleep seizes on the traveler.
When our worldly occupation is incessant, and takes up most of our thoughts, we are hindered from decision.
Idle leisure is still worse. Men with nothing to do in the world seldom do anything in religion.
3. By what means?
By reminding them of their obligations, their opportunities, and the days already wasted.
By leading them to consider the flight of time and brevity of life.
By warning them of the sure ruin of their impenitent friends.
By setting before them the fact that delay in duty is sin, and leads to other sins.
1. Sinners are very slow, and apt to linger.
They have settled down in the Sodom of sin. Like the sluggard, they desire "a little more folding of the arms to sleep."
They are bound by many ties to the City of Destruction.
They do not believe our warning. "He seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law" (verse 14).
They trifle with our message when they dare not contradict it.
Delay is Satan's grand device for their ruin.
Procrastination baffles our persuasions. Delays act like bales of wool dropped over the wall of a besieged city to deaden the blows of a battering-ram. Felix quieted his conscience by the idea of "a more convenient season."
2. Our business is to hasten them.
We must be in earnest ourselves, as these angels were.
We must also be patient, and repeat our pleadings.
We must be resolute, and lay hold on their hands.
3. We have many arguments with which to hasten them.
May the Holy Spirit make them see—
Their imminent danger while lingering.
The sin of loitering when God commands them to escape for their lives.
The fitness of the present above any possible future.
The uncertainty that any available future will come.
The supreme necessity of immediate decision with some; for it may be "now or never" with them: they will "die in their sins" if they do not hear the voice of God today.
A Christian tradesman bethought him that he had never spoken to a certain regular customer about his soul, though the man had called at his shop for years. He determined to plead earnestly with him the next time he came in his way. There was no next time: his customer died suddenly, so that he saw him no more.
When a young man made an open profession of the gospel, his father, greatly offended, gave him this advice: "James, you should first get yourself established in a good trade, and then think of the matter of religion." "Father," said the son, "Jesus Christ advises me differently; he says, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God.' "
Earnestly may we urge men to seek a present salvation since even the voluptuary pleads against delay in such words as these,—
O, gather roses while they blow
Tomorrow's not today;
Let not one moment vainly flow,
Time fleeth fast away.
Much of the beauty of obedience lies in its being rendered at once, and without question. God's will is done in heaven immediately, because love is perfect there. That child is disobedient who is slow in obeying.
"Brother," said a dying man, "why have you not been more pressing with me about my soul?" "Dear James," replied the brother, "I have spoken to you several times." "Yes," was the answer, "you are not to blame; but you were always so quiet over it; I wish you had gone on your knees to me, or had taken me by the neck and shaken me, for I have been careless, and have nearly slept myself into hell."
The poor needle-woman with her inch of candle has work to finish. See how her fingers fly, for she fears lest she should be left in darkness, and her work undone.
Some Christians are slow to obey a command because it has not been laid home to their hearts with power. Fancy a child saying this to a father, or a soldier to his officer! Something else would soon be laid home with power.
Do not some professors cause sinners to loiter by their own loitering? A man taking a seat at the Tabernacle came to the minister and said, "Sir, do I understand that if I become a seat-holder I shall be expected to be converted?" "Yes," was the reply, "I hope you will, and I pray that it may be so. Do you object?" The answer was, "O sir, I desire it above everything." Was not the man hastened by the general feeling of hopefulness which pervaded the Church? Assuredly there is much in the atmosphere which surrounds a man. Among warm-hearted Christians it is hard for the careless to remain indifferent.
"As a Prince hast thou Power with God." —Gen. 32:28
Power with God is a sublime attainment; it leads to the possession of every form of power. No wonder that it is added "and with men." When Jacob had prevailed with God he had no reason to fear Esau. Observe that it is the power of a single individual, exhibited in a time of deep distress: how much more power will be found where two or three agree in prayer. Let us note,—
Cannot be physical force. "Hast thou an arm like God?" (Job 40:9).
Cannot be mental energy. "Declare if thou hast understanding" (Job 38:4).
Cannot be magical. Some seem to fancy that prayers are charms, but this is idle. "He maketh diviners mad" (Isaiah 44:25). "Use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do" (Matt. 6:7).
Cannot be meritorious. "Is it gain to him that thou makest they ways perfect?" (Job 22:3). "If thou be righteous, what givest thou him?" (Job 35:7).
Cannot be independent. It must be given by the Lord. "Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me" (Job 23:6).
1. It arises from the Lord's nature: his goodness and tenderness are excited by the sight of our sorrow and weakness. A soldier about to kill a child put aside his weapon when the little one cried out, "Don't kill me, I am so little."
2. It comes out of God's promise. In his covenant, in the gospel, and in the Word, the Lord puts himself under bonds to those who know how to plead his truth and faithfulness. "Put me in remembrance; let us plead together" (Isaiah 43:26).
3. It springs out of the relationships of grace. A father will surely hear his own children. A friend will be true to his friend. Story of the power of a child in Athens who ruled his mother and through her his father who was the chief magistrate, and so controlled the whole city; love thus made a babe to have power over a prince and his people. The love of God to us is our power with him.
4. It grows out of the Lord's previous acts. His election of his people is a power with him since he is unchanging in his purposes. Redemption, regeneration, calling, communion, are all arguments for our final preservation, for mercy will not forsake that which wisdom has commenced. Each blessing draws on another like links of a chain. Past mercies are the best of pleas for present and future aid.
1. There must be a deep sense of weakness. "When I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).
2. There must be simple faith in the goodness of the Lord.
"He that believeth on me the works that I do shall he do also" (John 14:12). Faith is the prevailing grace,
It treads on the world, and on hell;
It vanquishes death and despair:
And, what is still stranger to tell,
It overcomes heaven by prayer.
3. There must be earnest obedience to his will. "If any man doeth his will, him he heareth" (John 9:31).
4. There must be fixed resolve. "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (verse 26).
5. With this must be blended importunity. "There wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day" (verse 24).
6. The whole heart must be poured out. "Yea, he wept and made supplication" (Hosea 12:4).
7. Increased weakness must not make us cease. Jacob was lame, yet he prevailed. "The lame take the prey" (Isaiah 33:23).
1. For ourselves.
For our own deliverance from special trial.
Our honorable preferment. "Thy name shall be called Israel."
Our future comfort, strength, and growth, when, like Jacob, we are called to successive trials.
2. For others.
Jacob's wives and children were preserved, and Esau's heart was softened. If we had more power with God we should have a happier influence among our relatives.
In other instances, Abraham, Job, Moses, Samuel, Paul, etc., exercised power with God for the good of others.
We shall win souls for Jesus by this power. He that has power with God for men will have power with men for God.
O for a holy ambition to possess power with God!
If we have it, let us not lose it, but exercise it continually.
How terrible to have no power with God, but to be fighting against him with our puny arm!
Jacob, though a man, a single man, a traveling man, a tired man, yea, though a worm, that is easily crushed and trodden under foot, and no man (Isa. 41:14), yet in private prayer he is so potent, that he overcomes the Omnipotent God; he is so mighty, that he overcomes the Almighty.—Thomas Brooks.
A stern father has been conquered by a tear in the eye of his daughter. An unwilling heart has relented and bestowed an alms at the sight of the disappointment caused by a refusal. Sorrow constrains to pity. When importunity takes the hand of grief, and the two go together to the gate of mercy, it opens of its own accord. Sincerity, earnestness, perseverance, confidence, and expectancy are all potent instruments of power with God.
How often have I seen a little child throw its arms around its father's neck, and win, by kisses and importunities and tears, what had else been refused. Who has not yielded to importunity, even when a dumb animal looked up in our face with suppliant eyes for food? Is God less pitiful than we?—Dr. Guthrie.
It were easy here to expatiate into a large history of the great exploits which prayer is renowned for in Holy Writ. This is the key that has opened and again shut heaven. It hath vanquished mighty armies, and unlocked such secrets as passed the skill of the very Devil himself to find out. It hath strangled desperate plots in the very womb wherein they were conceived; and made those engines of cruelty prepared against the saints recoil upon the inventors of them, so that they have inherited the gallows which they did set up for others. At the knock of prayer prison doors have opened, the grave hath delivered up its dead; and the sea's leviathan, not able to digest his prey, hath been made to vomit it up again. It hath stopped the sun's chariot in the heavens, yea, made it go back. And that which surpasseth all, it hath taken hold of the Almighty, when on his full march against persons and people, and hath put him to a merciful retreat.—W. Gurnall.
In a certain town (says the Rev. Mr. Finney), there had been no revival for many years; the church was nearly run out, the youth were all unconverted, and desolation reigned unbroken. There lived in a retired part of the town an aged man, a blacksmith by trade, and of so stammering a tongue that it was painful to hear him speak. On one Friday, as he was at work in his shop alone, his mind became greatly exercised about the state of the church, and of the impenitent. His agony became so great, that he was induced to lay aside his work, lock the shop door, and spend the afternoon in prayer. He prevailed, and on the Sabbath called in the minister and desired him to appoint a conference meeting. After some hesitation, the minister consented, observing, however, that he feared but few would attend. He appointed it the same evening, at a large private house. When evening came, more assembled than could be accommodated in the house. All were silent for a time, until one sinner broke out in tears, and said, if anyone could pray, he begged him to pray for him. Another followed, and another, and still another, until it was found that persons from every quarter of the town were under deep convictions. And what was remarkable, was that they all dated their conviction at the hour when the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful revival followed. Then this old, stammering man prevailed, and, as a prince, had power with God.
—My Sermon Notes