Clouds Big with Blessing
Former Senior Pastor of The Moody Church, Rev. P.W. Philpot’s sermon preached on Sunday morning, January 23, 1949.
When I think of all these young people that were little wee ones when I held some of them in my arms, and I kissed all the girls too that I carried in my arms; Yes, there are some that are married and then we see their children here, and then some of the young fellows at that time are now without any hair and those who have, have got pretty white hair, I begin to think I am getting old myself. I was telling Mrs. Philpott a few weeks ago, “I think I am getting old. I found a couple of passages in the Bible that have convinced me.” She wanted to know what they were. I will tell you what the passages are. You’ll find one in the Old Testament and one in the New. One in the Minor prophets and one in the Acts of the Apostles. “Old men dream dreams”—and, you know I have been dreaming—day-dreaming a great deal lately. It’s not bad at all if you have been trying to live for God; if you have been trying to help somebody along the road. As you think back over the past a lot of precious memories come to you that really make the sunset a little brighter and a little more blessed, but I mustn’t talk about that.
I want to read this morning two or three verses from the 22nd chapter of Genesis, and then announce my text after reading these verses. You will find them in verses 15 to 18:
“And the angel of the Lord called upon Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By Myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou has done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”
And the text we have selected is the 14th verse of the same chapter, “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh.” Now you will know that at the first God revealed Himself to His servant as Jehovah, and then on various subsequent occasions He made qualifying additions to that name, such as you have in this verse, Jehovah-rapha, Jehovah-tsidkenu, Jehovah-nissi, Jehovah-Shalom and other additions of this character were made to that mysterious and marvelous name of Jehovah from time to time in the history of God’s ancient people. Now, if you would take the trouble to find those passages, this would be what you would discern, that in each instance the addition to the name signifies a fuller vision of God. The servant of God or servants of God to whom the revelation came knew Him after that in a way that they had not known Him before. That is particularly true of Abraham here.
In this 22nd chapter of Genesis God meant more to Abraham after that experience and the experience that is recorded here than he had meant to him before and it is true in each instance. Another thing you will discern, that these fuller visions of God came to His servants at a time when they were meeting some real test, some severe trial, maybe we might call it the trial of their life. You know, I sometimes think there is such a thing as the trial that comes to every believer sooner or later, the trial that settles things for him in his own heart and the trial that settles things that would appear with God. For you remember that when this trial was finished, God said, “Abraham, now I know that thou fearest Me seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son.” The Lord likes to see our faith. I was talking one day upon that this week—He saw their faith and then said something to the man lying down at His feet. Their faith made it possible. I sometimes think if we could see more of that kind of faith we would see more people at His feet in this day in which we are living. I sometimes think we have lost it. Oh my! It’s such a common thing to hear people say, “I don’t believe we are ever going to have any great spiritual awakening any more.” What license has anyone to say such a thing? The Holy Spirit is here and God knows the need is here. I am praying that yet before the Lord calls me home I will see another sweeping revival in America, God bless you.
Well, now let me come back to this. Now Abraham, nationally speaking, was the father of the Hebrew peoples, but Abraham had two seeds—one like the stars of the heaven and another like the sands on the sea shore. A spiritual seed as well as a natural seed, and we learn from the New Testament that Abraham is really the father of all men who believe in God. I sometimes think we overlook that, and if we do we miss a lot that we need for our spiritual courage and strength. For example, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, speaking of this very event from which I have taken the text, Paul says this, “As Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” That’s plain, isn’t it? Then he goes on to tell us that “The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen (or the Gentiles) through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Then he finishes that third chapter of his epistle by saying, “If ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” You know that lets you in on all the Old Testament promises. I am glad of that for I need all the promises in the Bible myself. I am glad that I am an heir to all the promises of God, and as I am a believer Abraham is the father. That is our heritage.
Now Abraham had another distinction. Up in heaven he was known as the friend of God, and isn’t that wonderful? Oh about one half dozen times in the Old Testament; two or three in the New Testament, Abraham is referred to as God’s friend, as a friend of God. I would like to have that distinction. I would like to be known as the friend of God. But you know, just this morning I was reading a chapter in the Bible that greatly encouraged me. It is the 15th of John where Jesus says, “If ye keep My commandments ye are My friends, or ye are My friends if ye obey My word.” That gives us all a chance to get in there—obedient faith—friends of God.
But now I want you to see something else here. Though Abraham had all these distinctions and had this intimate fellowship with God, he was not exempt from trial or testing such as come to us all. Indeed this story begins with a word, “It came to pass.” God did try Abraham and that trial, I guess, cost him something. “Now it came to pass that he tried.” Very frequently people come to me after a meeting like this and they say, “I can’t understand myself. I can’t understand God’s dealings with me. You know I have never been living so near God as I am now.” And they sometimes say, “A year ago or six months ago I dedicated my life to God in a new way and I have been striving to do His will, but I have never had so much trouble; I have never met with so much opposition.” They seem to think if you live near God you won’t have any opposition; you won’t have any trial; you won’t have any more trouble. I think there is kind of a religious philosophy to that effect nowadays. But it isn’t taken from the Bible. You are not taught that in the Word of God—no—“If the world hates you,” said Jesus, “don’t marvel at that; it hated Me before it hated you, and the servant is not greater than his lord.” No, you shouldn’t marvel at that trial, that trouble. The devil will see to it that we get plenty if we come to follow our Lord down the path. Don’t forget that, beloved friends. It doesn’t promise exemption from trouble as a consequence or as a reward for consecration or for godly living. Remember how Peter expressed it. He was an old man when he said, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad.” Isn’t that a nice word,—glad? You should be glad with exceeding joy that you suffered something for Jesus’ sake. Paul says, “It is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” The Bible never tries to deceive us concerning the great realities of Christendom. Wasn’t it Annie Johnson Flint, the poetess, who said:
“God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives thro’;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.”
Well, what has He promised? This is it. This is what you should never forget:
“But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.”
That is what God has promised. When you walk with Him you feel strong, you feel sufficient. You feel at least your sufficiency is of Him. Oh, that’s worth saying, isn’t it? I would like all the Christians to remember that.
Now, if we are going to experience, as I understand it, if we would experience His deliverance or that undying sympathy the poetess talks about, that unfailing love, you just have to have a trial or two. Why be delivered if there is nothing to be delivered from? You don’t need a deliverer if there is nothing to be delivered from. Remember what the Lord said to one of the old prophets? He said, “I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned! neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.” Not only your Saviour from hell but your Saviour from the asylum sometimes; your Saviour from despair sometimes. Oh friends, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” and there is not a ghost of a chance for any of us having victory unless we abide in Him. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” That is what I want you to see. “When thou passest through the flood and the fire I will deliver you. You know, when I became a Christian, indeed, I don’t know but what we used to sing this old song when I was around here, because you had Paul Rader as a pastor before I came here and Paul Rader used to sing this very thing. One of the verses goes something like this:
“If all were easy and if all were bright,
Where would the cross be and where be the fight?
But in the hardness God gives to you
Chances of proving that you are true.”
Now, that’s the way it is in the hymn book, but I have a revised version of my own for the last line:
“But in the hardness God gives to you
Chances of proving what He can do.”
And so He lets us go in the fire, gives us the experiences of deliverance sometimes, lets us meet with opposition to show us how much greater He is for us than all those that can be against us. What a wonderful thing it is to be a Christian. I marvel at it more and more as I grow older; at the blessings and benefits, and oh, so many other things you can’t talk about that belong to a fellow just because he is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Wonderful!
Now, I want to say something about Abraham’s experience. Have you ever noticed in the study of his life that his spiritual experience is divided by four great crises and in each one of these he was called to give up something that was very precious to him or somebody? For example, in the 12th chapter he is called to leave his kindred and his country and go out in a land that he knew nothing about. God said, “I’ll tell you all about it when you get there.” And then in the 13th chapter he has with him his nephew who [Abraham] has no children and so Lot is with him and he is sure Lot is to be his successor and heir, but God let some circumstances and conditions come into his life and the call is to separate from Lot and he does it. And Lot is the kind of a believer that it is sometimes better to forsake. It is better to just separate from some kinds of people who call themselves Christians. You’ll pardon me—I’m an old man but you’ll bear with me for saying that I believe that. God said separate. Let there be no quarrel, just separate; and they did.
And then you go on into the 17th chapter and God calls him to give up his plans concerning Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman who had been born in his own home. When you come into the 22nd chapter from whence we have taken our text, God calls him to take the darling of his heart and lay him upon the altar. Now it says that he went out of these stands not knowing. He just couldn’t understand how that covenant that God had made with him and had been repeated again and again could ever be fulfilled in the natural way. It just looked impossible. He went out not knowing, but he found out as he went down the road and obeyed God the whole thing was interpreted to him.
You know I was telling the people up in Toronto where I minister every Sunday morning, I was telling a man a few weeks ago that some of the most blessed truths in this book have been interpreted to my heart. God can interpret truths to our heart sometimes that you can’t get into your head. I know the passage and I could quote the Scripture maybe correctly, but one day the whole thing was made plain—maybe that day—a terrible disappointment; maybe that day when the fear went out of my mind for something else on the line of testing and sorrow. You remember when Jesus stooped down to wash Peter’s feet, Peter said, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus said, “Peter, what I do thou knowest not now, but you shall know hereafter.”
I was standing with a woman at a grave not so long ago, and she left her little six or seven year old girl there—her only child. The father was almost convulsed with tears and grief. The mother never shed a tear. When we were turning away from the graveside I said a word to the husband, and when I turned to her she took my hand in both hers and just held it. She said, “You are a preacher. You say you believe your Bible. Now interpret this to me.” I said, “What do you mean by ‘interpreting this to me’?” “Tell me why God took our little girl.” She said, “We prayed for years for a baby and then this child came and now when she is hugging us closer and closer together, the little child is taken out of our life. You explain it.” Well, I couldn’t explain it. I did what most ministers do and I said, “God is too good to be unkind. God is too wise to err.” And then I added, “I found out that there are worse things than having a baby in heaven.” Do you believe it? Worse things than having a baby up in heaven, and I believe that babies go there, you know. I believe that is what Jesus wanted us to know when He put out His arms to the multitudes and said, “Suffer the little ones to come unto Me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And there is a great deal in the Bible to warrant that. He takes them to be with Himself. I believe that, and I said, “There are worse things than having a baby up there.”
Now, let me tell you about another mother. Mr. McKee and I had a meeting in Buffalo shortly after I left here. We had a union meeting, and one night in the midst of the meeting, in the middle of it, the pastor stood up and he said, “Mr. Philpott and Mr. McKee are going down to the penitentiary Sunday morning and a number in the choir will go with them, and they are going to have a meeting there with the prisoners.” So we went down to the state penitentiary, I guess 40 or 50 miles downstate, and we had two or three carloads and we had our service. I don’t need to go into all the details. When the service was out I was seated beside the chaplain and I said, “Chaplain, I met Mrs. (giving the name of a woman up in Buffalo). I met her Friday night at the close of the meeting and she told me her son is here and he is here for life.” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Is he in this audience?” “No,” he said, “he wouldn’t be here.”
And I said, “Do you think I could see him? I promised her I would try to contact him.” “Well,” he said, “I’ll tell you what you do. Let the choir go on and you stay here and I’ll go down to the office and maybe I can arrange for you to have an interview to meet him.” Well, I think I waited 12 or 15 minutes. It seemed an awful long while. I moved off the platform and walked down front, and I was getting ready to go out when I heard them coming. There came two guards, a chaplain and a handsome young man. He had irons on his sides and on his feet. Did you ever hear anybody walk with those manacles? You would think you were in hell. There he was, and he walked down the aisle and he got about half way and the officers stayed where they were and motioned for him to come up to me, and the poor fellow was bewildered and he didn’t know what all this was about, and he came up to me. I put out my hand and said, I met your mother,”—I could hardly speak—“I met your mother Friday night.” And then he broke right down and cried. He wouldn’t have done that had not the place been empty, you know. He just broke right down and cried and said, “Good God! My mother! My mother! Oh, it had been better for my mother had I never been born.” Sure, there are worse things than having a baby in heaven. We can’t always understand it but we will find out. Don’t make any mistake. One of the glorious things that I anticipate is the fact that a lot of things that I can’t understand today will all be made perfectly clear.
You know now we just see through a glass darkly, but then it is going to be face to face. Now we know only in part, but then shall we know even as we are known. Oh, bless God, the best is yet to come, beloved. Then shall we know. “Not now. But in the coming years, It may be in the better land, We’ll read the meaning of our tears. Sometime we’ll understand. We’ll know why clouds instead of sun were over many a cherished plan. My song had ceased (like it ceased in the heart of the woman at the grave). My song had ceased when scarce begun. Up there sometime we’ll understand.” Blessed be God, I am not going to take the time to dwell on it.
Abraham found out the meaning when he came to the place that God had told him. He would never have found out the world if he had gone to another mountain or any other place. God told him where to go and when he got there he found that God had been there before him, and had made preparation for him, provision for him, and here was a ram tied in the thicket, and he went and took the ram and placed him on the altar instead of his son. And I think that Jesus was referring to that moment in the Abraham’s life when He said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day. He saw and he was glad.” Abraham saw Calvary there at Mount Moriah that morning. God bless you, you are always glad when you see Calvary. It takes the burden away, the sighs away, the sorrow away, when you see Calvary. Abraham went to the place that God had told him of and there he found Him.
Well, the Lord bless you. It is nice of you to sit here and give me one more chance to look into your faces. I think it may be the last time. I have got kind of a feeling that it isn’t far from here until sunrise.