The Everlasting Arms
By Charles H. Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)
“...Underneath are the everlasting arms...” (Deut. 33:27).
This short passage is found in the midst of a mass of gold – sentences containing the richest treasures of truth. All this spiritual wealth is the heritage of the people of God – not only to those to whom these words were spoken, but to all believers. If you are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, you may take these precious words home to yourself, and you may live upon them and rejoice in all the refreshment they bring to your spirit.
In the four verses (Deut. 33:26-29), notice how near God is said to be to His people. He is described as being above us, arching us over with His divine power: “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and His excellency on the sky” (v. 26). Faith can hear the tramp of the celestial cavalry above our heads. We who trust in the Lord are always safe, for the angels of God are looking down upon us from the battlements of heaven, ready to show themselves strong on our behalf as soon as their presence is needed by us. Then, our text tells us of God beneath us. As He is above us in the heavens, so underneath us are the everlasting arms. The next sentence shows us God before us: “...And He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them” (v. 27). The remaining verses of the chapter represent Him as being all around us, so that we are encompassed with God; not only with His presence, with which He fills heaven, and earth, and all deep places, but with the glorious presence of His mighty love. He is above, beneath, before, and all around us. He never forsakes us, for in Him we live, and move, and have our being. Let us rejoice, therefore, in our Lord’s nearness.
God Is Close to Us
The everlasting arms are there; and that means, first of all, that God Himself is close to us, guaranteeing the eternal safety of all those who trust in Him. This is our joy and comfort, that God is with us. What strength it gives to faith to believe that God is present! Underneath is God Himself. He who made the heavens and the earth cannot forsake those who do not forsake Him. If thou lovest Him, if thou trustest in Him, He might as soon cease to be as fail anyone who is relying upon Him. This is the glory of the Lord that, while the gods of the heathen are worthless idols, our God hears prayer, and answers the cry of His people. Try Him, and see if it be not so. Blessed are they who trust in the Lord, for they shall find in the living God help in every time of need, and strength sufficient for every day of trial.
God Is Accomplishing His Purposes
Our text also means that the Lord’s immutable purpose is being fulfilled. Where God’s arms are, He is at work, and He is at work accomplishing His purposes of grace. The text speaks of everlasting arms. That is a strength that never fails, and never turns aside from the purpose to which it has bound itself. O child of God, down deep where thou canst not see it, the divine power of the Eternal Godhead is always at work for thee! The arms of God are busy on thy behalf. He hath made them bare to show Himself strong in thy defense. Be thou sure of this, God hath a purpose of love to all who believe in Him, and that purpose of love shall stand fast to all eternity. Whatever changes there may be in the appearance of this world, and in the great universe of which it forms a part, there shall be no change in the infinite resolve of God to bless His people, and preserve them even to the end. Therefore, believer, be of good comfort, and say to yourself, “At the bottom of everything that happens to me, there is the immutable purpose of God, and God Himself is working it out.”
God Has Inexhaustible Patience
Beside the Lord’s immutable purpose, and His infinite power by which He is at work for you at all times, our text means that His inexhaustible patience is waiting its time. “Underneath are the everlasting arms,” bearing up thy load, sustaining it with long endurance, while He keeps on working for thee – invisible, yet ever active on thy behalf. Art thou willing to walk by faith, and not by sight?
Oh, that the Holy Spirit of God would bring you to this point! Having trusted God in the person of His dear Son, having laid the whole weight of your eternal interests upon Him whom God hath revealed to be your Savior, you may leave them there in perfect safety, without a moment’s care or anxiety. God’s everlasting arms must carry out God’s eternal purposes. Not one of His promises can fall to the ground, for “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19). It is God Himself who undertakes to bear thee up, and bear thee through; therefore, rest thou assured that He will do it.
There are times when this text “underneath are the everlasting arms” is very precious to believers:
In Times of Sickness and Feebleness
One of these times is, I think, when we are very sick and very feeble. Perhaps there comes a faintness over you, and you seem to be sinking, sinking – you know not where; still, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” You try to rise, but you cannot. You would clutch at something by which you think you might get back to activity, but you fall back into the same state of weary languor and pain. Well, but still, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” It is delightful to feel that our feebleness impinges upon Omnipotence; that, just when there is nothing left to us, then God comes in with all His fullness, and bears us up. He is ever faithful, and full of compassion. If there be wearisome months of sickness and disease awaiting thee, carry this text with thee: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”
In Times of Trouble
Is not this word very sweet, too, when burdened with sore troubles, or oppressed with heavy labors? You feel that you need double strength, and you say, “I cannot keep on any longer. There is too much for mortal powers to endure, I cannot bear up under these repeated trials. The last time I felt thus, I thought that I had no strength left, and now this feeling comes over me again. What shall I do? I am thrown down, I am crushed, as though men were riding over my head. I seem to be cast out like the mire in the streets.” Yes; but still, “underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Ask God’s people as to their past experience, and they will set to their seal that God is true. You, too, shall find it true. Oh, how wondrously God’s saints have been borne up under persecution and cheerful and glad under oppression! The sweetest songs that ever were heard on earth, were sung behind prison bars. Christians can be happy without happy circumstances. They can sometimes, like nightingales sing best in dark nights. Their joy is not mere outward mirth. Sorrows fall upon them; yet, from the deep that lieth underneath, wells up yet more exceeding joy. Yes, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” When we can no longer stand, it is a blessed thing to lean or fall back on them.
In the Time of Old Age
Another time when this text is very sweet is when you are going downhill; and some of you may be going downhill pretty fast just now. Never mind: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” When you come down the hill of old age, you know what lies at the bottom. But then you go up again, higher than ever you went before, renewing your youth, and being forever with the Well-beloved.
In Times of Spiritual Progress
He who helps us when we go down, down, down is equally ready to do so when we are going up in His service. When our ardent zeal is bearing us forward to do something more for the Lord than we are quite equal to, then, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” And if you are seeking greater holiness, be bold and daring. Your wing-feathers will grow by your very attempt to fly. The possibilities of grace are boundless; leave yourself to them. Be not always weak and trembling; God will help you to become as a David, and you who are as a David to become as an angel of the Lord!
In the Time of Death
Once more, the hour will come when everything will begin to melt away beneath your feet. Earthly comforts will fail you, friends will be unable to help you. They can wipe the sweat from your brow, and moisten your lips with a drop of water, but they cannot go with you on the great voyage upon which you are about to be launched. When heart and flesh fail, then may the Lord speak to you the sweet words before us, “Underneath are the everlasting arms!” It will be a sinking to the flesh, but a rising to the spirit. Underneath dying saints there is the living God. Be not afraid, therefore, even to die; for, to the Christian, “to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). I recollect, at a funeral, when we laid the body of one of God’s saints in the grave, a dear minister prayed, “Lord, we thank Thee that, though our dear friend has come so low as to be in his grave, he cannot go any lower, for ‘underneath are the everlasting arms.’ And in due time Thou wilt bring him up again in those everlasting arms, raised in the likeness of his Lord.” That is true of all believers; therefore, let this text come sweetly home to your heart: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”
– Adapted from a sermon.