Haynes Mr. V. Parley
October 15th, 1969
“And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.” Isaiah 33, 6.
Many changes have passed upon the world since God created it, both in the nations and in His churchÂ—that “remnant small of humble souls.” There have been times of prosperity and adversity Â—times of peace and of war. God’s dear people likewise have experienced so very many changes. This is apparent in surveying the history as recorded in the Old Testament times and, on the whole, it would seem correct to say that the periods of adversity, darkness and declension were more prominent and more frequent than those happy seasons when God poured out the blessing from on high. Coming to the New Testament times, there were occasions outstanding when the glory and the majesty were manifest, the beauty of salvation revealed to the sons of men, and, as we take a glance over the history of the church since the days of our blessed Lord, we could nearly number those wonderful times upon one handÂ—the Pentecostal season when God sent “a plentiful rain to refresh His inheritance when it was weary”. Succeeding that, the Apostles in their powerful ministry, or that of the Reformation, followed by the advent of those champions for truth in the sixteenth century (I mean the Puritans)Â—there were giants in those days. Again, we remember, I suppose, most of us, reading of the remarkable visitation of blessing in the eighteenth century from which season we derive so very many of the precious hymns that are in our books, and, such valuable outstanding treatises and expositions of the Scripture. The nineteenth century, the days of our grandfathers, these dear folks, it would appear, still enjoyed some of those heavenly showers, those outpourings from God. A hundred years ago they were building chapels in our land, saying, “Behold, now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.” 2 Kings, 6, 1. They were marvellous times and the people, gathering in their cottages that were too small, needed more room, and so they built their chapels. What shall we say to the twentieth century? Things have changed very much. We have lived to see churches decline and pass away, chapels emptied and sold, to be pulled down, and, we live in times that are called “the last times” and they are “perilous times” and they are very troublous times and, in short, one of the outstanding features of our times is this instability. Is it not at the very heart of our complaints? Unfaithfulness, unsteadiness, so that from all quarters this lament arises, the spirit of wavering, of compromise, of turning back, a lack of courage, of conviction, an absence of that sound divinity, that sterling godliness, that holy resolution to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3, 14.
Oh what wavering we see! What appalling weakness we witness! How many run well for a time and fall out of the course! How many are bewitched by this present evil world! We have nothing to boast ofÂ—very much to mourn over.
The text looks our way, then, for it proposes the remedy for this situation. As we meditate thereon, we shall find occasion for self examination. Also there is ground for confession and, moreover, it will furnish us with a basis for believing prayer, as it is in the nature of a promise. “And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.” If thy times are to be worth living and they are to be good times, profitable times, here is the secret, mark it well, “And wisdom and knowledge shall be”Â—shall furnish, shall introduce, shall bring to pass this stability which is so vastly wanting at every viewpoint in the nation and in the church.
Let us now come to the text, and notice the order of this opening clause, “wisdom and knowledge.” Here you may see the order of excellence, that wisdom is superior to knowledge. Wisdom is the fruitÂ—knowledge the root. There may be a tremendous amount of knowledge acquired where there is little or no wisdom as yet. It applies naturally. It is true spiritually. Wisdom is the principal thingÂ—the greatestÂ—wisdom is the treasure. Wisdom is the more glorious of the two, although they cannot be separated. I would have you read them the other way. “Knowledge and wisdom”. This would be the experimental order of things. It must be so, for first of all, we are ignorant of divine truth altogether. We are in darkness. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. 2, 14. The first need then, is to recognize our ignorance, the darkness and blindness of our hearts. The next step, under the blessing of God, is thisÂ—that our minds be graciously informed with sound and saving knowledge. “How shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?” Romans 10, 14. See how essential is the acquisition of divine knowledge. This would prepare the way for the third thing, which is now so plain, that wisdom flows out of divinely applied knowledge. We may acquire a tremendous amount of knowledge and yet not be wise, but, if God the Spirit applies that knowledge, then are we in wisdom’s ways; then it will sink down into our hearts and be assimilated, digested into that spiritual wisdom of which the Scriptures speak so much. Let us take it in that order, bearing in mind that this knowledge and wisdom of which we speak is the very basis and way to stability of character, experience, and service in the church.
Knowledge comes first. Now most of us have been accustomed to hearing the truth of God perhaps all our days until now. We have imbibed a very great deal of religious doctrinal knowledge, and have an experimental idea of truth. So far, so good. Let us pause and remember that we may collect all this, and have no more than a speculative knowledge, an intellectual knowledge, a
knowledge which goes no deeper than the letter. With a good memory, and walking so much with God’s people and attending regularly upon the sound of the truth, we must needs have a good deal of religious knowledge, but that, in itself, will not lay a foundation for this stability, this strength. God indeed may use it and does, but, in itself, it provides no guarantee. What then, does our knowledge amount to? Does it stop at our reading powers? Does it stop at our intelligence? Does it lie dormant in our memories? Is it something we have heard and could not well and easily forget? In a word, has it left us unchanged, unimpressed? We have a word in Ezekiel to this effect, where the Lord speaks to His prophet and says “They hear thy words, but they will not do them … And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument:
for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” Ezekiel 33, 32. You see it is like the water on the rock, it does not sink inÂ—flows byÂ—no gracious, deep and revolutionary change effected. My text says “Wisdom and knowledge”. Has our knowledge distilled into our soul, producing spiritual wisdom indeed?
Let us pursue this point respecting spiritual and saving knowledge, as God may help us to unfold it. Take John 17, 3. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God.” Now, pause there. Let us ask then what is our knowledge of the true God? Sometimes the question has been raised as to which is the first subject that bursts upon our enlightened minds when we are born again. Is it that our thoughts are fixed upon God, is that first? Or is it that our thoughts are concerned chiefly with ourselves? Which is it? It might be hard to define, but I would venture to say this, that we cannot know ourselves rightly until we have seen God. Then, by comparison, and perhaps immediately, we get a sight of ourselves, as one who said “Woe is me! for I am undone”; “I am unclean.” What is our knowledge of the only true God? Has it been deeply impressed upon us that He is the eternal God, the uncreated God, the self existent God, that He is the “everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth who fainteth not, neither is weary. There is no searching of his understanding.” Isaiah 40, 28. Have we perceived Him to be the great and glorious Lawgiver Who, having created us, places us automatically and immediately under law, and prescribes to every one of His creatures,Â—”This is the way; you must walk in it. This is the way I will be worshipped. I am your King. I am the King of kings, Lord of lords, and you are bound, duty-bound to obey and keep the law which I prescribe to you.”
What are our views of the only true God? Do you see Him to be the great and terrible God? Do you realise somewhat of the awfulness of His holiness, before Whom the angels bow and say “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty?” Rev. 4, 8. Dost thou see Him “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of
the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” Isaiah 40, 12. Dost thou see this? What are thy thoughts? What is thy knowledge of the only true God? Dost thou believe Him to be a heart-searching God? “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17, 10. Is He One Who cannot look upon iniquity to allow it, to pass by it, to connive at it? One Who is Himself a God of light, no darkness at all ? One Who is just and right and true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Dost thou have these thoughts? Is this thy knowledge of the only and altogether glorious God, unseen, but dwelling in the light which no man hath seen or can approach unto? Well, many might claim to know as much as this. They are ready to say we have heard it preached that there is this great and glorious, self-existing, invisible God, Jehovah, Who built the world, dwells in heaven, all things are in His hand, so that not any one thing or person can move or event can happen without His notice. Some might go as far as that and say, “We know, we know this is the true God.”
Well, that leads us on to the second point, the knowledge of thyself. If our knowledge of God is merely speculative, theoretical and in the letter only, then we may admire His works, we may flatter Him with our lips but the language of our hearts is “We will not have this Man to reign over us.” Luke 19, 14, as it was also the language of Pharaoh. “Who is the Lord that I should serve Him and let Israel go?” Others say “Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.” They are not interested. What are thy views of thyself by way of contrast? If we are born again, if our eyes are opened, our understanding enlightened, enlightened by the Spirit of God, we have looked up and seen by faith the nature and being of our God. We have realised it is with Him we shall have to do. “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do.” Heb. 4, 13. Oh men say they do not want anything to do with this God. “I wish to live my own life. I do not want Him to interfere with my life and my affairs. I want to live that myself.” “With Whom we have to do.” “For all souls are Mine.” Ezek. 18, 4. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezek. 18, 4. “As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Heb. 9, 27. Verily there is a judgment. “Verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth.” Psalm 58, 11. What are thy thoughts of thyself and thy reflections in respect to thy knowledge of God? It will bring a comparison. God will lay His law in thy heart. There will be some searching of heart as with godly Job who said “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42, 5 and 6. It was certainly the experience of the saints in the Scripture that, as and when they were blessed with a view of the Almighty God, the great Lawgiver, the Holy One of Israel, they were led at once to reflect upon their
condition, and behaviour, compared with the rule established in His holy law, “Conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” Romans 2, 15. That is far different from speculative knowledgeÂ—or mere historical knowledge of God. Has this happened to you?Â—whereby you have trembled in the presence of the Most High, seen yourself a vile sinner, feeling compelled to justify Him in your condemnation? as one has written:
“And if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.”
Here is the knowledge sinking down, distilling like the dew into the hard and the thirsty ground, softening it, reaching the root of things, producing these earnest, gracious, confessions and acknowledgments. You find it so all along. Take godly Abraham for an example. “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.” Genesis 18, 27. This plainly shews that his knowledge was not theoreticalÂ—it was applied knowledge digested into spiritual wisdom by the revelation he had of himself. A sight of God came first, and very quickly, who knows how quickly, a sight and realisation of himself. Also that word in Isaiah 6 is a very graphic illustration, “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6, 5. So one said,
“The more Thy glory strikes my eye,
The humbler I shall lie.”
It is a question, then, is it not, what is thy knowledge of thyself? Has it produced any such gracious, humbling and trembling effects before Him in secret? You find it has always been so with the saints. There is godly Jacob. What does he say? “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shewed unto thy servant.” Gen. 32., 10. You will find godly Moses trembling before this great God, in Psalm 90 where he takes up the various facets of our sinful, guilty position, and says “All our days are passed away in Thy wrath.” Ps. 90, 9, and, compares our days like the fleeting, perishing grass, to the everlasting existence of the Most High God, “Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” Ps. 90, 1. Here is the knowledge of GodÂ—man is dust and ashesÂ—a blade of grassÂ—today it is, tomorrow it is notÂ—the effects of knowledge growing into Divine and soul-humbling wisdom, “Knowledge and wisdom then, shall be the stability of thy times” and so with all the saints of God that are recorded here. You will find them expressing themselves after that manner. Look at Paul at the moment of his illumination when a light from heaven beamed down upon him. He looked up, he heard a voiceÂ—his attention was drawn upwards to see God, that Lord Jesus Christ Whom he had been persecuting in His saints: “Who art Thou Lord”? His thoughts ascend in the knowledge of GodÂ—terrible thoughts he had, though his knowledge was very limited at the beginning; but the next thing was respecting himself, “What wilt Thou have me to do”? Acts 9, 6. Trembling and astonished, he had that second view.
Have we anything like it in our life’s experience, for this is the beginning of saving knowledge in our soulsÂ—saving knowledge;
first of God, then of ourselves, and these are the foundations, this is the root, the very spring of being a stable character in the church of God, and I would say that for the lack of it, persons are thoroughly unstable in divine things. Either they never make a beginning or, if they do, they are so weak they are among those that are “scarcely saved”,, like Reuben, “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.” Gen. 49, 4. I am not forgetting whence this knowledge comes, nor Who can give it. I am not forgetting that, but I say it is for the lack of it that there is so very much instability in our times. This lies at the root of the matter. Does it not follow of necessity that the man, who has seen God as I have said, in His holiness, in His heart searching nature, in the application of His law, and has seen Him to be the great, glorious and holy God;
this man, who has upon reflection been enabled to look into himself and taken his place by Job “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee.” Job 42, 5, he, having passed through that phase of experience, has the preparation to be a stable person in the church, because God has dealt with him by way of true and distinct teaching. “The preparations of the heart in man and the answer of the tongue is of the Lord.” Prov. 16, 1. “Wisdom shall be the stability of thy times.” That indicates that it must be the primary ingredient of thy times. It is indispensable for thy times, if thou art to be a stable and useful person in the church of God. It must be because, where this is not so, we find just that state and condition of instability, wavering, compromising, turning back, being bewitchedÂ—all that. But all these things that I speak of, these blessings, they come from above, “from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1,17.
I refer again to John 17, 3, the next part “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.”
Once more, by the same two words, dost thou know the Lord Jesus Christ, paving the way for this ancient question “What think ye of Christ?”
Well here, as before, we have all heard from our earliest childhood this glorious Name. We are acquainted with the promises concerning Him in the Old Testament. We have read and heard over and over again the charming narrative of His advent into this world. His being born as He was, flesh of our flesh, in the manger; the choir of angels; their visitation to Mary and Joseph; the story of Elizabeth and Mary; the conversation concerning this glorious Person, the Lord Jesus Christ; first a Babe,
then a lad, last a Man “The Man of constant grief” “A Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53, 3. We have heard of this, read of His marvellous. His wondrous words that proceeded out of His mouth. His sermons filled with heavenly wisdom. His holy sayings. His kindnesses, healing men and women who were sick. His raising of the dead. We have all traced Him to that agonizing Garden, we have listened to those words describing the solemn scene when He was bowed down with that indescribable weight of the cup and prospect of further sufferings awaiting Him, as He prayed to His Father “O, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Matthew 26, 39. We have heard, have we not, and read over and over again the trial by the Sanhedrin, in the judgment hall, the sad and sorrowful scene, the crown of thorns, the cross, the anguish of our blessed Lord. We have read of Him suspended on that accursed tree and we have heard that this Man came into the world to save sinners, and there He was, dying the just for the unjust that He might bring them to God. We have heard His last word “Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” Luke 23, 46. followed by that solemn scene at the Garden tomb and the watch that was set, and the seal, awaiting the three days, until that morning when the angels were there sitting, the one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain, and of those women who went early in the morning, and the tidings were published so gloriously and quickly that “the Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared unto Simon”. We have traced Him down those 40 days when He gave infallible proofs of His resurrection, we have heard of His ascension from the Mount at Bethany when He lifted up His hands and blessed that little company and ascended up through the clouds where He was before. So many know this. You know it. It is familiar to you, but what think ye of Christ? That is the point. Perhaps you can go with those weighty words of John, and say “We believe Him to be the everlasting and true Son of God,” which is right. “We believe Him to be the Son of God in our human nature”, which is true. We have seen Him obeying the law of God and suffering the penalty of that law in the interests of His people. We have heard and we have known this text that “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” 1 John 1, 7 and so you may, but what sort of knowledge is this? That is the crucial question. Has it done anything for you and for me? Has this knowledge gone no further than our brains? If so, it is dry knowledge and it is dry doctrine which will not suffice.
But then, can we appeal once more and ask, what think ye in your own soul of this Christ? If this knowledge which you have and which I have is true knowledge of Him, if it is saving knowledge, if it is brought to us by the Holy Ghost, then it will be like this, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as
the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.” Deut. 32, 2. It will percolate; it will penetrate; it will soak in; it will produce some godly change in us. What has been the effect? What think ye of Christ, this glorious Person? Has this knowledge ripened, matured into the wisdom of the just? Hast thou truly believed on Him, trusted in Him, hoped in Him, felt any relief from Him? Has your heart been drawn out in love to Him, any gracious, stedfast obedience to Him, cleaving to His laws. His statutes. His judgments, any conforming to His image and pattern? What think ye of Christ? For where these evidences are present in a small degree, not necessarily all at once, when they are present, there is gracious proof that our knowledge is not dry, or barren, not speculative only, but has matured into this heavenly wisdom of which the Scriptures speak, which “Wisdom shall be the stability of thy times,” thy own times, and in regard to thy influence upon the church, the church’s times.