"Strength For The Days"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2005 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
The text is Deuteronomy 33 and verse 25, and specifically 25b, that famous statement which many children of God hold dear in their heart. These immortal words: "And as thy days, so shall thy strength be". Most of us are familiar in one form or an other with famous last words. I'm not going to quote any to you today, there are too many to quote, but the fact of the matter is: you can tell a great deal about a man's character, and of how a man has lived his life and what his life's goals, desires and passions have been, by how he exits this world and in fact, perhaps, what he says when he goes. Now we are helped by the Spirit of God to see what kind of character this man is that speaks these dying words: 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be', because we're told in verse 1 of chapter 33 that these blessings, not just this one to Asher but to all the twelve tribes of Israel, were spoken by - look at it - Moses, the man of God. Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death.
Before I go into any exposition of what I want to say today about 'strength as the days' from our text, let me just say as a preface that it is so important that we listen to men of God. Let me repeat that: it is so important that we listen to men of God, and I'm taking for granted that you know what a man of God is. It is a holy man who lives according to the precepts and principles of God's word, but I have come to this resolution - not claiming myself to be a man of God, as such - that it is dangerous to listen to anyone who is not a man of God. It is dangerous to listen to anyone who is other than a man of God, or as the apostle put it: children who are tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine. Now we never want to be guilty of setting any man on a pedestal, in fact the Spirit of God doesn't do that in the Scriptures, and we see even in the greatest men - particularly Moses here - that he is prevented from going into the promised land because he did not sanctify the Lord in the midst of the children of Israel. He is a man of God, yet he's also a sinner. He's a man of God, yet at one point in his life he was a failure. We saw a couple of weeks ago from good King Hezekiah, that this great man, the best of men, was only a man at best. But isn't it encouraging that even if you have failed, even if - and we all have to admit this one - we are not what we should be, we can still be classed by God as being men and women of His.
I want you to come with me to this scene and witness this elderly patriarch, who is a striking majestic figure standing, in his old age now, erect, strong; the Bible says his energy has not abated, he has 2020 eyesight at the age of 120. As he stands here, imagine what he thinks as the God who has guided him throughout all of his life now instructs him to go to his death. I wonder what would have been his reminiscence. Would he have thought of the burning bush, the bush that burned yet was not consumed? Would he have thought of how God spoke to him, and God chose him to be a deliverer for the people? Maybe he would think of the great plagues, ten of them, that came upon the Egyptians in order that God would judge them to let His people go? Maybe it would be the exodus as the people leave, and the Passover evening as the lambs are slain and the blood is put on the lintel and the door posts, and how the people are led out? Maybe it is the cleaving of the Red Sea as the people go over into the wilderness? Perhaps it's the pillar of cloud or the pillar of fire that leads them day-by-day as they go through their wilderness pilgrimage journey?
But as that pillar of cloud and fire guided Moses in his life, he is directed to the very place of his death, and God said: 'Go up to Mount Nebo and die'. Isn't that an astounding verse of Scripture? It's amazing, at times to me, the simplicity and the nakedness of Holy Scripture: 'Go up to Mount Nebo and die'. Just as we read in so many places of this great patriarch Moses in his life, in his death so we can say: 'Thus Moses did, according to all that the Lord commanded him, so did he'. But before he goes up to the Mount, before he ascends Nebo, before he takes a view of the land that God had promised them but that he is now not allowed to enter into himself, he speaks a farewell blessing, a benediction to the twelve tribes, to the flock that God has given him. Like Isaac, as he blessed Jacob and Esau, his children, before he died, like Jacob blessed his own twelve sons before he died; Moses, the figurative father of the children of Israel, now before he ascends Mount Nebo and dies, he blesses the people of Israel.
Can I just say before we look at this promise again, that perhaps a greater thing than being interested in the advice of men of God is to actually be included in the prayers and the blessings of men of God. If you can find a man of God to emulate, and to pray for you, do it. But we see in Moses here something that is quite Christlike, because if you bring your mind to the New Testament and try to recall what the last thing the Lord Jesus did on earth was, His parting work on earth was to, as the Bible says, lead out His disciples as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hand and He blessed them. Now we are not the children of Israel today, I assume none of us belong to any of the twelve tribes, but praise God: we are abundantly blessed in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1 and verse 3 tells us: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus'.
The blessing that we're going to look at today: 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be', is a blessing that was given specifically to Asher. It includes some physical blessings, we'll not go into those this morning, but what I want to share with you is the fact that we can own it today. We can own it as ours! Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that all the blessings and promises of God are yea and Amen in the Saviour. Let me give you one example: a distinct promise to Joshua was, 'I will not fail thee nor forsake thee'; yet when we come to the epistle to the Hebrews, the writer there encourages us to take that blessing and own it as ours. He tells us that the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us. Now we have to be careful that we always read Scripture in context, that we always apply it according to its original meaning and to the original characters that it was spoken to - but let us know today that in a spiritual sense we, as God's people, can own Moses' Christlike benediction to the tribe of Asher. What is it? That we can have strength for the days.
Now let me expound this statement: 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be', under three headings. First of all: what is promised in these words, 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be'? Then secondly: how can we be sure that the promise will be fulfilled? What is the promise? How can we be sure that God will fulfil it? Thirdly: what difference should this promise make to our lives? First of all: what is the promise? It's quite simple: 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be'. 'Strength', or some scholars say it should be 'rest', 'for the days', literally 'the days'. In other words, whatever our days dish up to us, God has promised that if we are His children, He will supply the needed strength for those days. We're often reminded of the truth - we didn't have time to read it, but you know of it - in Matthew chapter 6, that we are to take a day at a time. The Lord Jesus said: 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof', and just as all creation lives on a daily basis and takes a day at a time, the Lord Jesus instructs us as His children and disciples to live by the day.
Now Israel, as you would know if you're familiar with the Old Testament, they're about to face some very difficult days. They've left the land of Egypt and land of bondage, they've gone through the Red Sea, they're going through the wilderness, they are eventually going to enter into the promised land, and these twelve tribes are going to take up residence in that land - but they've got to fight for the land first of all. Although God has given it to them and promised it to them, it's going to be a hard conflict ahead. Yet God tells them, in the face of many adverse difficulties, conflicts and struggles, to just take life a day at a time. He says: 'I'll be with you, but only live a day at a time'. Notice that the verse doesn't say 'As thy weeks, so shall thy strength be', it doesn't say 'As thy years, so shall thy strength be', 'As thy days'.
Now can I ask you before we enter into this in any more depth: have you learned the elementary Christian lesson taught in the early chapters of Matthew's gospel of what it is to live a day at a time? But here's a further lesson, as Jesus said 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof', we could change that in the light of this text to say 'Sufficient unto the day is the strength thereof'. Whatever evil the days dish up to us, God will give us the needed strength for that day if we live day-by-day. Have you learned this lesson?
'Day-by-day the manna fell,
Oh to learn this lesson well:
Day-by-day the promise reads,
Daily strength for daily needs'.
You see strength for today will not do tomorrow or next year, and we need to learn to draw a daily strength for daily needs from God. Wasn't it our Father in the Lord Jesus that taught us to pray: 'Give us this day our daily bread', as God has taught us to pray for daily bread, God has chosen to give us that bread daily. Now friends this is profound, this is God's divine wisdom, I wish I had more time to go into it all - but imagine if God didn't dispense His goodness daily. Imagine if you had tomorrow's rain today, the chaos caused in our world. Imagine if you had tomorrow's sun today, or next summer's sun this summer - it would cause a drought. The rain for this winter would cause a flood, but God in His divine wisdom has chosen that He will give only today's grace for today's needs. Where would you store tomorrow's grace if you had it? Isn't God wise?
Now let me give you a definition of what is promised in this verse under two subheadings. One: God has promised us strength as different as your days are, strength as different as your days are. Secondly: strength as long as your days shall last. Let's take the first: strength as different as your days shall be. One translation translates the verse: 'And your strength will equal your days'. Your strength will equal your days, your strength will be proportionate to whatever your days have within them. We can testify, if we've lived long enough, that each day has its own peculiar variation - it has light and shade, maybe we could even say that at some times in our lives each hour has been different than the last hour. But God is saying that whatever kind of strength is required, that kind of strength will be given. For days of work, for days of rest, for days of peace, for days of war, for days of pain and sickness and days of health, for days of temptation and days of victory, for days of bereavement or even days when you face your own death, for modern days filled to the brim with technology and even the fear of terrorism; God will give the strength as different as the days are. In fact one person has rendered that famous verse in Isaiah: 'They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength', 'They that wait upon the Lord shall change their strength', in other words shall clothe themselves with the daily varied strength that is needed for whatever the days may dish up.
I think it's true that we generally think of God giving His grace when we're going through a hard time, in life's most trying circumstances - but the Bible doesn't say that. The Bible says that every day God gives us His grace, every day God gives us His strength, and even though we may unconsciously receive something that we have never asked for, we can say with the hymn writer:
'In every condition, in sickness and health,
In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,
At home, or abroad, on the land or the sea,
As thy days may demand shall thy strength ever be'.
Now maybe you do this, and you wouldn't be human if you didn't: you look at other people that are going through a very very difficult experience in their lives, and you look at their own specific predicament, and you say to yourself: 'Please God that I never go through that, because I just couldn't cope'. Do you ever think like that? We all have things we think we could cope with, and the things that we know or at least feel that we couldn't. I suppose in the one regard you can't face those things, and what this text reminds us in inference of is our own weakness, that we need God's strength every day and without it we are hopeless. But what we have here is that if we draw upon God's strength and grace, you don't need to say: 'I could never cope with this or that', the certainty is we will, and it has been promised!
Now the reason why you feel that you'll not be able to cope if you ever face that is because you haven't got that strength today. You don't feel it because you don't have it, because you don't need it, because God gives that daily - and when you have a day that needs that strength, God will give you that strength. Some of you, others can testify, that you have gone through certain circumstances that you could never have imagined how horrible they have been, yet you can look back and raise your Ebenezer and say: 'The Lord led me, the Lord helped me, the Lord gave me grace, the Lord caused me to hope'. What was it? Did you need mental strength? Did you need emotional strength? Did you need physical strength? Moral? Spiritual? Whatever it may be, just whatever strength is needed and lacking, He gives that strength peculiar in kind to your specific need.
Am I speaking to someone this morning, and you feel keenly weak in a particular area of your life? Maybe you're weak physically with sickness, or you're weak mentally with anxieties or even depression, or you're weak in your marriage, or you're weak in the family, or you're weak in the workplace. Your Achilles heel, perhaps, is a spiritual sin and besetting backsliding tendency that you have. Well, my friend, this is tremendous news: whether your weakness is in body, soul, mind or spirit, the very place that you feel your weakness is the very place that God has promised to send that strength if you seek it. What a promise! Divine strength will come to the place where you need it most.
Strength as different as your days, and then secondly: strength as long as your days shall last. Another paraphrase of the verse puts it like this: 'May your strength match the length of your days'. Not just the variation now is thought of, but the actual duration of the days. Though we've been saying that it's today's strength we need for today's needs, not tomorrow's, isn't it wonderful to know that as each day passes and comes you will have enough strength for ever, for every day, from birth-day to death-day and everything in between! As long as you have demands and needs for strength, so long will God give His sufficient grace to meet your need. Is that not why Paul said: 'For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day'. What did Isaiah say in the verse that I have already quoted? 'Even the youths shall faint and be weary'. Your outward man may perish in old age, but the inward man will be renewed - but in our world there are young people who are failing for fear and anxiety and because of the days in which they live. Even they, if they wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength!
What a verse for old and young alike, for everyone: whatever you are experiencing on your external, there is no reason for inward decay. Whatever your weakest physical, emotional, mental, spiritual predicament is; if you rest your spirit in Christ inside, you can know the joy of leaping in anticipation that God will always get you through and He has promised to do it. Strength as long as your days shall last, strength as different as your days shall be - that's the promise.
Secondly, the question we need to ask is: how can we be sure that the promise will be fulfilled? Well, it's obvious to say, I think, a promise is nothing unless there's good security that it will be honoured and it will be fulfilled. I don't know whether you've ever read Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, but there is a picture drawn by Mrs. Stowe within that book - though she was a spiritist, I need to warn you of that - but nevertheless she pictured in her sketch a slave. This slave is portrayed as being weary and worn, and is toiling in his occupation in the sultry afternoon sun. All of a sudden one comes along and quotes to this slave: 'Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'. The slave turns and says: 'Them's good words', and in reply he said, 'but who says them?'. 'Them's good words, but who says them?'. It all depends on that, doesn't it? It doesn't matter that we say 'As your days, so shall your strength be' - you can learn the like of that in positive thinking classes, but it'll not make any difference to your life unless it can be guaranteed, it can be validated. What is important here is who says these words, and these words are spoken by the Creator Himself! The God who set the planets in space, the One who in the beginning hung the earth on nothing, the One who spoke into darkness and the worlds sprang forth, the One who rides on the wings of the wind, the One who walked upon the waves and the storm, the One who holds the waters of this earth in the hollow of His hand - He is the one who says: 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be'.
Old Spurgeon put it like this: 'There is enough bullion in the vault of God's omnipotence to pay off every bill that ever shall be drawn by the faith of man or the promises of God'. In other words, you cannot drain dry the ocean of God's omnipotence. Whatever your days are, God has promised, this God - what God? The God who knows what our days will be, He knows what's going to happen to you, child, He is your Father. It is the God, not only who knows, but the sovereign God who orders our days, and the God who orders and tempers our days according to what we can bear. Corinthians tells us that we are not tempted above what we are able, but God is faithful, God will only give us testing that we can endure. This is the God who has loved us from everlasting days, the God who has concern and interest for us. The God whose love never changes with the days, for Jesus Christ, as His Father, is the same yesterday, and today, and forever, and the God who will be with us throughout the days and the end of days. 'I will never leave thee', the God who communicated that by sending Christ as a pledge that He would be with us even unto the end of the world. He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things. What more could you want in a promise from God and a God like this? Spurgeon said again: 'If our troubles should become high as mountains, God's grace would become like Noah's Flood, it would go twenty cubits higher till the mountains were covered'. That's why we can know that the promise is sure: God, and this God, is our God and He has made it.
Thirdly and finally: what difference should this promise make to our lives? Well, let's take one example in the apostle Paul. What difference did this promise make to him? Well, we find that as he went through the pilgrimage of his Christian life, his weakness became clearer. He felt more weak, his own inability was more focused. This is illustrated by the fact that on one occasion, first of all, he says in 1 Corinthians 15 that he was the least of the apostles; then when we come to Ephesians 3:8 he says that he is less than the least of all the saints; and then finally in his later writings in 1 Timothy 1:15 he says that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief, I am the chief of sinners. The least of the apostles, the least of all saints, the chief of sinners - as I've already said, it's inferred in our text that we are weak, but as Paul's weakness became clearer as he lived a Christian life, so God's grace became more blessed to him. That's why he says in Philippians 4:19: 'My God shall supply all your need'. He said in 2 Corinthians 12 that God said to him, because of the thorn in his flesh that he prayed three times would depart from him: 'My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly', Paul said, 'therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me'. Paul! The weaker he knew he was, what made the difference that pushed him on to death, to martyrdom? The fact that he knew that God would give grace for whatever days came along, and the weaker he felt the greater God's grace would be.
Oh, how evident that daily grace was also in the life of a man called Job. 'What were his days?', you say. They were days of weeping, days of wailing, days of bereavement, days of horror, days of tragedy. 'Master', one says, 'the oxen were ploughing, the asses feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them away'. Then comes another and he says, 'The fire of God hath fallen on the sheep'. 'Oh', says another, 'the Chaldeans have fallen upon the camels and taken them away, and I, only I am left to tell thee'. Yet God gives His grace, and he keeps growing every day; and as the weakness and trouble grew, God's strength and grace grew until at last one comes and says: 'A great wind came from the wilderness, and smote the house where thy sons and daughters were feasting, and they are dead, and I, only I am left to tell thee'. Where is the proof that grace grew for Job? Well, at the end of all these messages and his awesome experience, he cries: 'The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord'.
Do you say: 'O if my days were like so-and-so's days, if I had to go through the like of that, O I just couldn't cope'? My friend, you could cope, and by God's grace you will cope! Do you fear days of stress in your marriage? Maybe you're even going through it. Well, here's a third-party to mediate peace for your home: 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be'. Is it conflict in the workplace? Here's an advocate to lobby your cause, go into work tomorrow: 'As my day, whatever it dishes up, God will give me strength'. Maybe it's terrorism in a modern world, here is a personal bodyguard to defend us from all ill - whatever you're fearing, the arrow that flieth by day, the pestilence that walketh in darkness - God will give you the strength that your days dictate. Is it persecution in family or somewhere else from a post-modern society? We may have no rights as Christians in this world, but here is a Bill of Rights from God: that God will give the strength we need, whatever we face. Is it temptation in your flesh? Sensuality or lust, or a passion? Well, here's a fire escape that God is giving you. He will give you the strength so that you're not tempted above what you are able. Is it disease in your body? Here's a painkiller, and for anxiety of mind we have a tranquilliser of calmness - that as your days of illness come, as your days of depression may be upon you, God will give you the strength. My friend, when God says as He says to Moses: 'Go up Mount Nebo and die', your hope will be that on that day God will give you the strength for facing the unknown.
What a blessing Asher got! Do you know what Asher means? 'Happy'! Charles Wesley put it in his hymn:
'Happy the man that finds the grace,
The blessing of God's chosen race,
The wisdom coming from above,
The faith that sweetly works by love'.
You should be happy to be a Christian today. Know that you have this promise that as different as your days shall be, and as long as your days shall be, and as varied as your needs shall be, God's strength shall be.
Can I just say in a moment of closing: if you're unconverted today your strength will not match your days. Do you hear me? This promise is not yours. When you go through days of trouble you will not know who to turn to. When you go through days of trial and eventually face the day of death, you will not have strength to go through - and one day every sinner will stand on the day of judgment, and my friend you will not have strength. But the strength is there for the taking by faith, just as it is for the child of God, if you were to believe the gospel and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your own: 'As your days, so shall your strength be'. What a blessing!
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Strength For The Days" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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