"For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day." II. Tim. i. 12.
"Kept by the power of God to salvation." I. Peter i. 5.
The more precious any treasure is, the more important is it that it be guarded and kept. The figure of our first text is that of a bank deposit and literally reads, "He is able to keep my deposits against that day." When great deposits of gold are being conveyed to the vaults of some rich bank, whole squadrons of police stand guard, and the most powerful locks, bolts, bars, and walls and the most ceaseless and sleepless vigilance of watchmen and detectives are employed to guard them. Sometimes the figure is used in a military sense. The second text is of this kind and literally should be translated, "Who are garrisoned by the power of God through faith to salvation." What vast expenditures and mighty armaments and armies are employed to garrison the great strategic points that guard the gates of nations, such as Port Arthur, Gibraltar, Quebec, and other citadels. Sometimes the figure is used of the shepherd and his flock, "He will gather Israel and keep him as a shepherd does his flock."
But whatever figure or phrase may be employed, the one great thought that God would convey to the hearts of His tried and suffering people is, that they are safe in His keeping, and that He is able to guard that which we have committed to Him against that day. Let us look at some of His gracious promises to keep His people.
He will keep us wherever we may go or be. Listen to the first promise of our Divine Keeper as it was addressed to Jacob in the hour of his loneliness and fear, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you in all places where you go; for I will not leave you until I have done all that which I have spoken to you of." How He kept that word to Jacob! How many the various places where providence cast his lot! The land of Laban, the cities of the Shechemites, the land of Goshen,-everywhere his covenant God guarded and kept him. He was not an attractive figure, he was not deserving of any special consideration. He was the "worm Jacob," but God loved him in his infinite grace, and kept him, disciplined him, taught him, and prepared him to be the head of Israel's tribes, and the day came when he could say, "The God that fed and led me all my life long, the angel that kept me from all evil."
Some of you may be in strange places, lonely places, hard places, dangerous places; but if you have taken Jacob's God as your covenant God, you can rest without a fear in that ancient word, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you in all places to any place whatsoever you go; for I will not leave you until I have done that which I have spoken to you of."
"To me remains nor place nor time,
My country is in every clime,
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore, since God is there.
"Could I be cast where You are not,
That were, indeed, a dreadful lot,
But regions none remote I call,
Secure of finding God in all."
He will keep us as the apple of His eye. "Keep me as the apple of the eye" (Ps. Xvii. 8). This is a beautiful figure founded upon the sensitiveness of the eyeball to the approach of any intruding cinder or particle of dust. Instinctively the eyelid closes before the object can enter. There is no time to think, for the action is intuitive and involuntary. The idea is that we are as near to God as our eyeball is to us, and as much a part of the body of Christ as if it were really the crystalline lens of His very eyes, and that He is as sensitive to the approach of anything that could harm us as you would be to the intrusion of a floating mote or grain of dust to your sensitive eye before you can even think or pray.
"God is the refuge of His saints,
When storms of sharp distress invade,
Before we can utter our complaint.
Behold Him present with His aid."
He will keep us in His pavilion. "You shall hide them in the secret of Your presence from the pride of humanity: You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues" (Ps. xxxi. 20). It does not take Him long to erect that pavilion in the most solitary place and hide His children safely within its curtains. The story is told of a Scottish assembly of faithful worshippers in one of the glens of the fatherland in the clays when the cruel Claverhouse was hunting for the blood of the saints. Suddenly the cry was made from the sentinel watching on a neighboring cliff that soldiers were coming, and the little company had been discovered. Escape was impossible, and they just knelt down and prayed, claiming this precious psalm, "You shall hide them in Your pavilion." Immediately there began to gather among the hills a thick Scotch mist, and everything was enveloped as in a curtain. Their enemies were baffled, and they quietly and securely escaped through the familiar pathways of the mountains. God had hidden them securely in His pavilion. We may not have the same bloody foe as the Scottish Covenanters, but the strife of tongues is here with sharper swords and more cruel hate. Oh, how often we find the psalmist calling out against the envenomed words of men, "What shall be given to you? Or what shall be done to you, you false tongue?
Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper" (Ps. cxx. 3, 4). But He can shield us even from these and give us a blessing for every bitter blast from human calumny. "Let him curse," said David when they tried to quiet old Shimei, who was abusing the king in the hour of his sorrow; "it may be the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day." Why let them that suffer from the strife of tongues "commit themselves to Him in well doing as to a faithful Creator."
He will keep us in perfect peace. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" (Isa. xxvi. 3). Literally this reads, "Peace, peace." It is the double peace with God and of God. It is the Old Testament original of the Apostle's still more beautiful promise in the fourth chapter of Philippians, "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." In both verses it is the same peace which is referred to, that deep, divine rest which Christ puts into the heart where He comes to dwell. It is the peace of God, and it passes all understanding. It is not the result of reasoning or sight; it is not because things have changed, and we can see the deliverance coming. It comes when all is dark and strange, and we have nothing but His bare word. The Assyrian was at the gates of Jerusalem, and there seemed no possible escape when the voice of the prophet said, "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, neither be dismayed; for they that be with you be more than they that be with him. With us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles." And then it is added, "The people rested themselves." The Assyrian was still there, and the danger was just as imminent, but there came upon them an unreasoning and supernatural confidence, for God had undertaken their defense. We know the sequel. How easy it was for Jehovah by the touch of a single angel's hand to lay those mighty hosts silent in the dust! So God's peace comes not by sight, but by faith. Its conditions are, "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusted in you."
Someone tells of two competing paintings of peace for which a great prize was offered. One was a beautiful and tranquil scene, a woodland valley with a gentle streamlet softly winding through grassy banks. There were warbling birds, and happy, playing children with the flocks lying down in green pastures, and earth and heaven were at rest. The other, and the picture that won the prize, was a raging sea, flinging high its billows and its foam around a naked rock, with a ship in the distance, driving before the hurricane with every sail furled, and the seabirds whirling through the leaden clouds in wild confusion-anything but peace. But far up in a cleft of that naked rock, above the surf and sheltered from the storm, there was a dove's nest with the mother quietly spreading her soft wings above her young in perfect peace.
When is the time to trust?
Is it when all is calm?
When waves the victor's palm
And life is one great psalm
Of peace and rest?
No! But the time to trust
Is when the waves beat high,
And storm clouds sweep the sky,
And faith can only cry,
Lord help and save.
The beautiful figure of the text in Philippians is that of a garrison, the peace of God which garrisons the heart and mind. The need of the garrison here is not because of outside, but inside foes. Nothing can harm us from the outside if we are kept in God's perfect peace. Notice also that there are two sections of this citadel that have to be garrisoned and guarded. One is the heart, the seat of doubts, and fears, and cares. The other is the mind where our thoughts become the sources of unrest, and we wonder, and worry, and look forward and back, and look everywhere, but to God. The peace of God can quiet all our thinking and hold us in stillness and sweetly say to us,
Cease your thinking, troubled Christian,
What avail your anxious cares?
God is ever thinking for you;
Jesus ev'ry burden bears.
Casting all your care upon Him,
Sink into His blessed will
While He folds you to His bosom,
Sweetly whisp'ring, "Peace, be still."
He will keep us by His power. This is the meaning of our second text, "Garrisoned by the power of God through faith to salvation." It is a very fine passage. The apostle has just told us that the inheritance is kept for us up yonder. Now he tells us we are kept for the inheritance. The inheritance is reserved for you, and you are preserved for the inheritance. But while the figure of the garrison is the same as in Philippians, yet it is a different garrison. There it was peace, now it is power. The garrison of peace is to preserve the city from internal foes; the garrison of power is to protect it from its outward enemies. The one garrison polices the streets; the other mans the walls. And it adds to the force of the figure to note that the word power here in the Greek is dynamite. The garrison is armed with heavenly artillery. When first the English troops under Lord Kitchener met the vast armies of the Mahdi, the conquering leader of the fanatical hordes of the Soudan, who outnumbered them ten to one, they protected their camp by modern artillery while the Africans came against them with the old-fashioned muskets and rifles. A hundred thousand strong, that vast array hurled itself upon the little company of English soldiers and marched to the assault with flying banners, galloping horses, and splendid enthusiasm. The historian graphically tells how quietly and confidently the English waited the onset, for they knew that they had power in their midst before which those legions could not for a moment stand. Suddenly the Maxim guns began their terrific rattle and like a hailstorm from the heavens a rain of bullets and shells was poured upon that black host, and they melted like snow before a summer sun. It was dynamite against mere human courage. God has garrisoned us with heavenly dynamite, the power of the Holy Ghost, and, like the English soldiers, we must have confidence in it, for we are kept by the dynamite of God through faith. We must count upon His mighty strength and ever go forth with the battle cry,
"Thanks be to God that always leads us in triumph."
He is able to keep us in the world and from the evil. This was the Master's prayer for His disciples. In John xvii. 15, we read, "I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil." Here is a double keeping. Kept from death and sickness and anything that could take us out of the world, and yet kept from the evil of the world and especially the evil one. This is a portentous phrase in the original, tou ponero, the Evil One. This is no abstract evil, but a great personal Devil, the adversary "who walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." But the Lord's power and the Lord's keeping stand between us and his devouring jaws. He is a conquered foe, and we are to treat him as such and to go forth against him with the prestige of a victor in the name of his Conqueror, the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes he assails us by his wiles and sometimes by his fiery darts, but with the shield of faith we shall be able to stand against and quench them both. We must not be too frightened of the devil. Some people get so afraid of him that they almost fear to let the Lord have right away in His own meetings. The dread of fanaticism, it is to be feared, has kept a good many well meaning people from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Let us boldly come and take all God has for us and trust Him to keep the counterfeit away, for if we ask bread, He is not going to give us a stone, and if we ask fish and really want what He wants, He will not let us have a serpent. In the name of Jesus and through His precious blood, we shall be safe and kept from the evil one.
He is able to keep us from stumbling. Jude says, "Now to him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." The English translation is inadequate. The word falling means stumbling. Of course, He is able to keep us from being lost, and too many Christians are content to just get through, if it be by the skin of their teeth. That is a poor, ignoble ambition. He is able to keep you even from stumbling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. If He is able to keep you for one second, He can keep you for thirty-three million seconds, which means one whole year, and as much longer as you keep trusting Him moment by moment. Will you rise to a higher ambition and take Him to keep you even from slipping, and tripping, and stumbling?
He is able to keep you from the touch of the adversary. There is a fine promise in the last chapter of I. John. "He that was begotten of God keeps him, and that wicked one touches him not." This is a different reading from the ordinary version, but it is very blessed to say, the only begotten Son keeps the saint that trusts Him and so keeps him that that wicked one touches him not. It is the old familiar picture of the fly on one side of the window and the bird on the other. The bird dashes for its prey and thinks it has it. The fly shudders and thinks so too, but there is a have, and a thud, and some flustered feathers, and a badly frightened bird, but the fly is still there, wondering how it all did not happen. But to you and me the secret is all plain, there was something between which the bird did not see and the fly forgot. Thank God, when the devil makes his fiercest dives, there is something between. He has to get through Jesus Christ to get you; and if you only abide in simple confidence, the devil will get a good deal more hurt than you.
He is able to keep His servants and ministers. Listen. "I the Lord have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles "(Isa. xlii. 6). This blessed promise belongs primarily to the Lord Jesus, but secondarily to every other true servant of Jehovah who is abiding in Him and working for Him. God holds His ministers in His right hand and says, "Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm." He is a very reckless man that lightly speaks or acts against any true servant of the Lord. Be careful how you criticize the Master's servants. Listen. "Who are you that judgest another man's servant?
To his own master he stands or falls, for God is able to make him stand."
"Who are you that judgest another?" If you are serving Christ with a true heart, my brother, be not afraid. He whom the Father beholds will hold your right hand, and keep you, and say to you, "Fear not, I will give men for you and people for your life." "I will work and who shall let it?" God will keep you and say to you, "I have covered you in the shadow of Mine hand that you may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth and say to Zion, You are my people." A single soldier of the cross standing for Jesus and trusting in Him is mightier than legions of powerful foes. Trust Him though dangers and foes surround you and friends may often be few, the heavens will fall and earth be dissolved before He can fail one of His trusting servants.
He will keep His cause, His Church, His vineyard. "Sing you to her, A vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." Isa. xxvii. 2-3. We sometimes seem to get the idea that we are the keepers of God's cause, and that he has forgotten all about it, and we have to shout and cry to get Him to help us look after His own property. Why, dear friends, the Lord is looking after you and the cause too. "I, the Lord, do keep it, lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." No doubt there are dangers, trials, adversaries, but there is one thing more, the Lord. And two little words are stronger than all the D's in the dictionary, whether they be difficulty, discouragement, division, declension, the devil, or the D.Ds.-and these two words are BUT GOD. There is a fine prophetic picture in the opening of Zechariah which was written to comfort people in troublous times. First the prophet saw four horns, coming from all directions, sharp, cruel, powerful horns, pushing and piercing everything before them. If he looked north, there was a horn there, and south, there was another there, and they were soon to meet and he would find himself between the two. If he looked east, there was a horn there, and west, there was another there, and they were meeting in his unprotected breast. Then the scene changed, and he looked and saw four carpenters coming in the same direction, and each of them had a lot of tools-a good stout ax, and a sharp saw, and no doubt a heavy maul-and soon could be heard the sound of blows of axes and the buzzing of saws, and lo, the horns had lost their points and were pounded to a jelly and were soft cushions that could not hurt anything. Beloved, God has a carpenter for every horn and if the work you are doing is His work, the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.
He is able to keep everything that is committed to Him. "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day" (II. Tim. 1:12). The great question for you and me is, how much have we really committed?
From the Fourfold Gospel by REV. A. B. SIMPSON, D.D. with an Introduction by REV. FREDERIC H. SENFT, D.D. Published by CHRISTIAN PUBLICATIONS INC. in 1890. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Fourfold Gospel - A.B. Simpson
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.