THE DARKNESS OF TESTING

Pastor James J. Barker

Text: ISAIAH 50:10, 11




INTRODUCTION:


  1. One of the great themes of Scripture is darkness versus light (cf. Genesis 1:1-4).
  2. Generally, darkness represents sin and unbelief. First John 1:5 says, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."
  3. Three times in the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord referred to hell as "outer darkness."
  4. Matthew 8:12 says, "But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
  5. Matthew 22:13 says, "Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
  6. Matthew 25:30 says, "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
  7. The word "darkness" is found 28 times in the book of Job. Job 18:18 says the wicked sinner "shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world."
  8. Throughout the Gospel of John we see a contrast between darkness and light.  John 1:5 says, "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
  9. John 3:19 says, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
  10. First Peter 2:9 says God hath called Christians out of darkness and "into his marvellous light."
  11. Our text is not as well known.  Isaiah 50:10 says, "Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?"
  12. Isaiah is not speaking here in verse 10 of the darkness of sin and unbelief, but of the darkness of testing.  Sometimes God-fearing, obedient Christians find themselves surrounded by darkness.
  13. This is not the darkness of sin and unbelief; it is the darkness of testing.

 

I. WHEN DARKNESS COMES WE ARE TO TRUST IN THE LORD.

  1. Grief and despair come, and often when we least expect it to come.  We had a wonderful week of VBS, and right in the middle of the week my brother died.
  2. No matter what trial we are going through -- the death of a loved one, sickness, marital problems, loss of a job, betrayal by a friend, etc. we are to trust the LORD.
  3. Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago back in the 1860ís.  He and his wife were prominent supporters and close friends of the great evangelist D.L. Moody.
  4. In 1870, the Spaffords' only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four.   That was the beginning of the darkness of testing.
  5. Horatio Spafford had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan, and in 1871, every one of these holdings was wiped out by the great Chicago Fire. Mr. and Mrs. Spafford were now entering deep into the darkness of testing, and there was still more to come.
  6. Aware of the stress that these trials had put on the family, Horatio Spafford decided to take his wife and four daughters on a vacation to England.
  7. They needed the rest, and DL Moody needed their help. He was traveling around Great Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna made plans to join Moody in late 1873.
  8. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to take the French steamer Ville de Havre across the Atlantic. But just before they were set to sail, a last-minute business development caused a delay.
  9. Not wanting to ruin the family vacation, Horatio Spafford persuaded his family to go on ahead as they had planned.  He told them he would follow on later. With this agreed upon, Anna and their four daughters sailed to Europe while Spafford returned to Chicago.
  10. Nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read: "Saved alone."
  11. On November 2 1873, the Ville de Havre had collided with the Lochearn, an English vessel. The ship sank in only twelve minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people.
  12. Only 61 passengers and 26 crew members survived.
  13. Anna Spafford was one of those who survived the wreck, but her four daughters drowned. After the collision, a fellow survivor, a Pastor Weiss, recalled Anna saying, "God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why."
  14. Anna Spafford was picked up unconscious, floating on a plank of wood, by the crew of the Lochearn, which itself was in danger of sinking.
  15. Later on she was to say that her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters.
  16. When the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete despair.  She was thrust into the darkness of testing, but she trusted in the LORD and He brought peace to her soul.
  17. Upon hearing the dreadful news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. During the voyage, the captain of the ship called him to the bridge, and said, "I believe we are now passing the place where the ship sank. The water here is three miles deep."
  18. Horatio then returned to his cabin and wrote the words of that beautiful hymn.
  19. When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul!
  20. Isaiah 50:10 says, "Let him trust in the name of the LORD..."
  21. Proverbs 18:10 says, "The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."

 

II. WHEN DARKNESS COMES WE ARE TO STAY UPON THE LORD (50:10).

  1. Why does darkness come to the child of God? Jesus said in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
  2. And yet here in Isaiah 50:10 we read, "Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?"
  3. Matthew Henry said this about Christians walking in the darkness of testing: "They walk in darkness when their evidences for heaven are clouded, their joy in God is interrupted, the testimony of the Spirit is suspended, and the light of Godís countenance is eclipsed. Pensive Christians are apt to be melancholy, and those who fear always are apt to fear too much."
  4. When this happens, Isaiah 50:10 says, "Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay (to lean on, trust in) upon his God."
  5. Isaiah uses similar language in Isaiah 10:20, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth."
  6. And in Isaiah 26:3 and 4, we read, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.  Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength."
  7. Isaiah 26:4 literally reads, "Trust ye in JEHOVAH for ever: for in JAH (an abbreviated form of Jehovah) JEHOVAH is everlasting strength."
  8. The way out of the darkness of testing is to stay upon Jehovah (Isa. 50:10).  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee."
  9. Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
    Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
    (Frances Havergal)

 

III. WHEN DARKNESS COMES WE ARE TO GET OUT OF IT

  1. The Christian may find himself in darkness, but he is not to stay in it because God wants us to walk in His light.
  2. First John 1:7 says, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
  3. Ephesians 5:8 says, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light."
  4. First Thessalonians 5:5 says, "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness."
  5. Christians are children of light.  We are to walk in the light.
  6. There is an interesting contrast between Isaiah 50:10 and 11.  Those described in verse 11 are not saved.
  7. They are not walking in God's light. They walk in the light of their own fire. Isaiah describes people who build their own fire and walk in the light of their own fire instead of God's light.
  8. They may get a fire going but God is not in it. The LORD warns them, "This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow" (50:11).
  9. There are multitudes of lost sinners charmed and bedazzled by the bright sparks that spring from worldly fires, but soon these lost souls will leave this world and face the judgment of God (Isa. 50:11).
  10. So we have here an important contrast. A genuine believer may get caught up in darkness, gloominess, despondency and despair, but he won't stay there.
  11. The way out is found in verse 10 -- "fear the LORD," and "obey" the LORD, and "trust in the LORD," and "stay" upon the LORD.
  12. David found himself in darkness but he got out of it by repenting and by trusting in the LORD.  David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).
  13. On the other hand, King Saul entered into terrible darkness and never got out of it.  He wound up going to a witch and then dying on the battlefield.
  14. First Chronicles 10:13 and 14 says, "So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse."
  15. Peter entered into darkness and he denied the Lord three times.  But Peter repented and got right with God.  All the Lord had to do was look at Peter, and Peter repented.
  16. Luke 22:61 and 62 says, "And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.  And Peter went out, and wept bitterly."
  17. On the other hand, Judas Iscariot went into terrible darkness.  He betrayed our Lord, but he never repented.  The Bible says Satan entered into Judas.  You cannot go any further into darkness than that!
  18. Judas hung himself, and to this day no one in his right mind would name his son Judas!

 

CONCLUSION:

  1. "Fire" (Isa. 50:11) is mentioned 549 times in the Bible.  It is used in different ways, but usually it has reference to the judgment of God.
  2. For example, there is the rule of Bible interpretation ("hermeneutics") called the "law of first mention."
  3. The first mention of fire in Scripture is found in the book of Genesis. The Book of Genesis is the seed plot of every doctrine found in the Bible.
  4. Genesis 19:24 says, "Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven."
  5. Therefore, tracing the references to fire in Scripture, we see that it often refers to the judgment of God.
  6. Our Lord said sinners shall be cast "into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:42, 50).
  7. There was a great preacher named Len Broughton, who told a true story about a family in Jersey City, who were sitting at the breakfast table one morning, when suddenly they noticed their house was on fire.
  8. They all ran out into the yard, when the wife said, "Oh, I'd like to save that old sideboard!  I don't mind if the house burns down but I'd hate to lose that old sideboard!"
  9. So her husband and their son went back into the dining room.  The husband got on one end of the sideboard, and the son the other end, and they pushed and pulled till they got to the front door of the house.
  10. But unfortunately they got it wedged in the doorway and could not get it through.  The son was unable to get himself out, and there was no back door.  He was trapped in the house and the fire was raging.
  11. The father ran around to the back of the house and saw his son through the window.  The son was screaming for help, but there were heavy iron bars on the window.
  12. The father grabbed those heavy iron bars, pulled them off, and reached in and rescued his son from the raging fire.
  13. A certain preacher heard this story and decided it would be a good illustration for him to use before he gave his invitation.
  14. He told the same story, but forgot one detail.  He told of the family, and how they ran out into their yard, and how the wife wanted the old sideboard, and how her husband went in with their son to get it, and how the sideboard got stuck in the doorway, and how the boy couldn't get out of the house because the door was blocked, etc.
  15. He told with great enthusiasm how the father jerked those heavy iron bars off the window and pulled his son out through the window.
  16. When the preacher finished the story he noticed all the people were staring at him with strange faces.
  17. When he got home, he asked his wife about it and said, "I do not know why people looked at me like that.  What happened?"
  18. "Well," she said, "You forgot to mention that the house was on fire!"
  19. Len Broughton said, "You think that is a very ridiculous picture.  Well, it is.  Yet I want to tell you that just such things as this are occurring in a large number of pulpits Sunday after Sunday."
  20. If you are not saved, you are facing eternal darkness in hell!
  21. Second Peter 2:17 warns sinners: "the mist of darkness is reserved for ever."
  22. Reserved forever!   You do not need to call ahead for a reservation.  God has already reserved a place for all those who leave this world without Christ.
  23. But if you are in darkness, there is a way out (Isa. 50:10).


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