‘We rest on thee’ are the stirring words of faith uttered by Asa, in the early years of his reign, probably around 900 BC, as he is confronted by an enemy army of huge proportions. They express his positive dependence and reliance on the Lord in a day of great extremity and crisis. Here is faith in action; he prays as he goes forth to engage the enemy in the field of battle; ‘in thy name we go against this multitude’. The Lord destroys the enemy and then we read, ‘they [Judah] smote all the cities round about Gerar’, v. 14. Victory is complete. His prayer and the Lord’s answer stir and galvanize thousands of the sons of Israel.
In 1872 a girl is born whose life is to be blighted by ill-health. At sixteen months, she suffers paralysis from polio and a stroke at twelve years of age. Yet her faith is strong and finds expression partly through poetry, which she writes from early teenage years. The Master’s Touch is a volume of her poems, one of which is unfinished; probably the last she writes before her life’s journey ends at the age of twenty-five.1 It begins, ‘What will it be to see Him, When the journey of life is past… Whom having not seen we love?’ Edith Gilling Cherry, however, is best remembered for the poem, written in 1895 and inspired by Asa’s prayer, a hymn that has stirred many thousands of the followers of the Lord Jesus.
‘We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
Yes, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendour,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days’.
It is about 7. 00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 3, 1956. Five missionaries are in the jungles of Ecuador. They pray and then sing a hymn together, expressing their confidence and trust in the Lord. It is a critical moment for they anticipate direct contact with the notorious Auca Indians. The hymn is known by heart by at least two of them - We rest on Thee’. They sing it to the tune, Finlandia. Five days later they are violently killed by the men they have gone to help. Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian and Jim Elliott now await the day of resurrection; the passing through ‘the gates of pearly splendour’. Sometime later, Elisabeth Elliott, Jim’s widow, writes two books about this missionary endeavour and the men who were killed, Through Gates of Splendour and Shadow of the Almighty, books that have stirred many thousands of readers.2
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