By J.R. Miller
"The LORD upholds all those who fall--and lifts up all who are bowed down."
The God of the Bible--is the God of the weak and the unfortunate. The Bible is a book of love and sympathy. It is like a mother's bosom to lay one's head upon, in the time of distress or pain. Its pages teem with cheer for those who are discouraged. It sets its lamps of hope to shine in darkened chambers. It reaches out its hands of help to the fainting and to those who have fallen. It is full of comfort for those who are in sorrow. It has its many special promises for the needy, the poor, the bereft. It is a book for those who have failed, for the disappointed, the defeated, the discouraged, the crushed, for the broken lives.
It is this quality in the Bible, that makes it so dear a book, to the universal heart of humanity. If it were a book only for the strong, the successful, the victorious, the unfallen, those who walk erect, those who have no sorrow, those who never fail, the whole, the happy--it would not find such a welcome as it does in this world, wherever it goes.
So long as there are in this world, tears and sorrows, and broken hearts and crushed hopes, human failures and human sin, lives burdened and bowed down, and spirits sad and despairing--so long will the Bible be a welcome book; an inspired book and full of inspiration, light, help, and strength for earth's weary ones!
"The LORD upholds all those who fall--and lifts up all who are bowed down." Wherever there is a weak, fainting, stumbling one, unable to walk alone, to him the heart of the God of heaven goes out in tender thought and sympathy, and the divine hand is extended to support him and keep him from falling altogether. Wherever one has fallen, and lies in defeat or failure, over him bends the Heavenly Father in gentle pity, to raise him up and to help him to begin again.
In the East there was much cruel oppression of the poor. They were wronged by the rich and the strong. They could not get justice in the courts. But all through the Scriptures, we find stern condemnation of those who oppress the poor, who rob them of their rights. The bitterest thing about poverty is not the pain of privation and cold and hunger--but the feeling that no one cares, the sense of being forgotten, the absence of sympathy and love in human hearts, the cruelty of injustice, oppression, and wrong which are the portion of the poor--where the love of Christ is not known. But the Bible is full of divine commands against the oppression of the poor. God is ever the friend of the weak, the defender of the defenseless, the helper of those who have no human helper.
"The Lord hears the poor." "Whoever mocks the poor reproaches his Maker." "Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself--but shall not be heard." Thus the God of the Bible puts Himself on the side of the wronged and oppressed. The widow and the orphan are, especially in Eastern lands, very desolate and defenseless. But God declares Himself their special helper and defender. Amid other laws found in the old Mosaic Code, we come upon this bit of divine gentleness: "You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to me--I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath shall wax hot." Sheaves were to be left in the field, olives on the tree, grapes on the vine--for the fatherless and the widow.
There should be infinite comfort in these provisions of the ancient law for the widow and the fatherless in all times. The heart of God, which beat with such tenderness thousands of years ago--is unchanged today. The God of the Bible has a partiality of kindness for those who have lost the human guardians of their feebleness. Whereon there is weakness in anyone--the strength of God is specially revealed.
"The Lord preserves the simple." The "simple" are those who are innocent and childlike, without skill or cunning to care for themselves, those who are unsuspecting and trustful, who are not armed by their own wisdom against the evils of men. "The Lord preserves the simple;" He takes care of them; He keeps and guards them. Indeed, the safest people in this world--are those who have no power to take care of themselves. Their very defenselessness is their protection.
Have you ever seen a blind child in a home? How weak and helpless it is! It is at the mercy of any cruelty which an evil heart may inspire. It is an open prey for all dangers. It cannot take care of itself. Yet how lovingly and safely it is sheltered! The mother-love seems tenderer for the blind child, than for any of the others. The father's thought is not so gentle for any of the strong ones, as for this helpless one. "Those sealed eyes, those tottering feet, those outstretched hands, have a power to move those parents to labor and care and sacrifice, such as the strongest and most beautiful of the household does not possess."
Now this picture gives us a hint of the special, watchful care of God for His weak children. Their very helplessness is their strongest plea to the divine heart. The God of the Bible is the God of the weak, the unsheltered. Woe unto him, therefore, who touches the least of these!
The God of the Bible is the God also of the broken-hearted. There is a verse in one of the Psalms which says, "The Lord is near unto those who are of a broken heart." Then another Psalm says, "He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds." The world pays no regard to broken hearts. Indeed, men ofttimes break hearts by their cruelty, their falseness, their injustice, their coldness--and then move on as heedlessly as if they had trodden only on a worm! The world treads remorselessly upon bruised reeds. Like the Juggernaut, it rolls on, crushing and breaking, without pity, without feeling, never stopping to lift up, to heal, to restore those who are fallen in the way.
But there is One who cares. "He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds." Their broken-heartedness attracts God. The wail of human grief--draws Him down from heaven. Physicians in their rounds do not stop at the homes of the well--but of the sick. Surgeons on the battlefield pay no attention to the unhurt, the unwounded; they bend over those who have been torn by shot or shell, or pierced by sword or saber. So it is with God, in His movements through this world; it is not to the whole and well--but to the wounded and stricken that He comes. Jesus said of His own mission, "He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted." Men look for the glad, the happy, when they seek friends; but God chooses the sorrowing for the sweetest revealings of His love.
We look upon trouble as misfortune and failure. We say the life is being destroyed that is passing through adversity. But the truth which we are finding in our search, does not so represent suffering. "The Lord raises up all those that be bowed down." "The Lord heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds." He is a repairer and restorer of the hurt and ruined life. He takes the bruised reed, and by His gentle skill--makes it whole again, until it grows in fairer beauty than ever before.
When a branch of a tree is injured in some way, hurt or bruised, all the tree begins at once to pour of its life into the wounded part, to restore it. When a violet is crushed by a passing foot--air, sun, cloud, and dew all at once begin their ministry of healing, giving of their life to bind up the wound in the little flower. So it is with God; when a human heart is wounded, all the love and pity and grace of God begin to pour forth their sweet blessing of comfort to restore that which is broken.
Then, we know that much of the most beautiful life in this world comes out of sorrow. As "fair flowers bloom upon rough stalks," so many of the fairest flowers of human life spring from the rough stalk of suffering. We stand with the beloved disciple on the other side, and we see that those who in heaven wear the whitest robes and sing the loudest songs of victory--are they who have come out of great tribulation. Heaven's highest places are filling, not from earth's homes of festivity and tearless joy--but from its chambers of pain, its valleys of struggle, where the battle is hard, and from its scenes of sorrow, where pale cheeks are wet with tears, and where hearts are broken. The God of the Bible is the God of the bowed down, whom He lifts up into strength. Earth's failures are not failures--if God is in them.
Paul's experience is very instructive. Christ said to him, in his discouragement: "My strength is made perfect in weakness." That is, we are not weakest when we think ourselves weakest; nor strongest when we think ourselves strong. God's power is made perfect in our weakness. Human consciousness of weakness, gives God room to work. He cannot work with our strength, because in our self-conceit we make no room for Him. Before He can put His strength into us--we must confess that we have no strength of our own. Then, when conscious of our own insufficiency, we are ready to receive of the divine sufficiency.
Paul said, when he learned this blessed secret, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Then he added: "For when I am weak--then am I strong." The ones whom God upholds--are the ones who without His help would fall. Those whom He raises up--are those who but for His uplifting, would sink away into utter failure. The power of Christ rests upon those who are weak--and know themselves weak. You cannot struggle victoriously alone--but your very weakness draws to you the sympathy and the help of the Lord Jesus Christ. So it comes, that the feeblest are the strongest, if they but lean with all their feebleness on the arm of Christ! Your weakness is itself an element of strength, if you are truly following Christ.
As it were, weakness is a nerveless arm that God nerves, an empty heart that God fills with His own life. You think your weakness unfits you for noble, beautiful living, or for sweet, gentle, helpful serving. You wish you could get clear of it. It seems an ugly deformity. But really, it is something which if you give it to Christ--He can transform into a source of power! The friend by your side, whom you almost envy because he seems so much stronger than you, does not get so much of Christ's strength, as you do. You alone are weaker than he--but you and Christ are stronger than he.
Look at the life of Christ. He was God manifest in the flesh. What He did, therefore, was a revealing of God's manner of dealing with men. To what class of people did His sympathy and help go out most richly? Did He ally Himself with the strong? Was He drawn to the successful, the prosperous, the victorious? No! It was just the reverse. So marked was His sympathy with the people who had failed, that the prosperous classes said, with a sneer, that He was "the friend of publicans and sinners." All the poor wrecks of humanity in Palestine seemed to be drawn to Him--the sick, the blind, the lame, the lepers, the outcast--and He never turned one of them away unhelped. His whole life was given up--to those who had failed. He lived amid human wreckage all His days. His heart turned to the sad, the troubled, the needy, the lost.
His own parable told it all--He left the ninety-nine safe sheep in the fold, and went after the one that was lost. He explained it by saying, "Those who are whole have no need of the physician--but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous--but sinners to repentance." He showed Himself the friend of those who had failed--not because they had failed--but because they were weak, and in danger, and needed Him--and because He would save them. As sickness draws the physician with all his skill and power to heal; so human failure draws the Christ with all His love and life and all His power--to lift up and save. So much for the truth--the God of the Bible is the God of the weak, of the stumbling, of the fainting, of the fallen, of the unsuccessful, of those who have failed.
Who is there among us, to whom this precious truth brings no comfort? Some, perhaps, have not been successful in their earthly business. You have toiled hard--but have not got along well. Well, this world's affairs are but the scaffolding of our real life. If they have, meanwhile, been true to God, and faithful in duty, there has been going up inside the rough scaffolding of earthly failure--the noble building of a godly character.
It is ofttimes only at the cost of worldly success, that we can reach spiritual beauty. Michaelangelo used to say, as the fragments of marble flew thick on the floor beneath the blows of his mallet, "While the marble wastes--the image grows." So, ofttimes we may say, as God cuts away the externals of our life, "While the outward wastes--the spiritual shines out in greater and greater beauty." You are sure at least always, that your failures and losses do not drive God from you--but draw Him nearer and nearer. "He raises up those who are bowed down."