"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's
sake." Psalm 23:3
There is a world of comfort contained in the sublime
simple words, "He leads me." It was the cloudy pillar of old which conducted
the Hebrew host from encampment to encampment; which marked out for them
their Elims and their Marahs. "That is how it continued to be; the cloud
covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from
above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the
Israelites encamped. At the Lord's command they encamped, and at the Lord's
command they set out. They obeyed the Lord's order, in accordance with His
command through Moses. Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, 'Rise up, O
Lord! May Your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.'
Whenever it came to rest, he said, 'Return, O Lord, to the countless
thousands of Israel.'"(Num. 9:16, 17, 23; also Num. 10:35, 36).
The God of the pillar-cloud still directs the journeyings
of His people. He still appoints the bounds of their habitation; and if His
leadings do not be to the bitter pool, but often (most frequently) to some
gracious palm-grove—in the words of one of the saintliest spirits of the
passing generation, in referring to the loveliness of his appointed earthly
home, "Oh, for peace to feel that it is but a beautiful tent pitched in the
wilderness; and by the exceeding mercy of my God in calling me from darkness
to His marvelous light, I may add, pitched on the green margin of the well
of living water." (Memorials of Dr. M'Leod Campbell, p. 60) Whether,
however, bitter or sweet, joyful or sorrowful, how comforting the assurance
that our lives are no accidental concurrence of events and circumstances; we
are not like weeds thrown in the waters, to be tossed and whirled in the
swirling pools of capricious accident, our future a self-appointed one.
There is a Divine hand and purpose in all that befalls
us. Every man's existence is a biography, written chapter by chapter, line
by line, by God Himself. It is not the mere outline sketched by the Divine
Being, which we are left to fill in; but all the minute and delicate
shadings are inserted by Him. Looking no further than our relation to Him as
creatures, it is impossible for a moment to entertain the thought of
our being beyond the leadings of God, and to speak of a life of
self-government and self dependence. The complex machinery of the outer
world, dumb inanimate nature in all its integral parts, is upheld by Him.
"He weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance." "He counts
the number of the stars." He guides Orion and Arcturus in their magnificent
marchings. If one of these orbs were to be jostled from its place—plucked
from its silent throne in the heavens, it is well known that the equilibrium
and perfect balancing of the material system would be fatally
disturbed—anarchy and revolution would reign triumphant.
And shall we own Him as the leader of stars and planets,
and ignore His sovereignty over the human spirit? Shall we acknowledge that
He is Lord in the universe of matter, and not supreme in the empire of
thought and human volition? No, "His kingdom rules over ALL." Angel,
archangel, cherub, and seraph; man, beast, worm, "these all wait upon You!"
He "leads in righteousness." He has an infinite reason for all He
does. It is not for us to attempt to unravel the tangled thread of
Providence. Israel cried for deliverance from Egypt. Their cry was answered.
How? By leading them at once to Canaan? No, as we have seen, by a
forty years' period of probation and discipline. God is often, like
Jacob of old, blessing the sons of Joseph with crossed hands. We, in
our half-blind, short-sighted faith, would presume to dictate to Him, and
prejudge the wisdom and correctness of His procedure. We are tempted to say
with Joseph, "Not so, my father." But like the old patriarch, "He guides His
As the sheep of His pasture, He may not be leading you
along the bright meadow or sunny slope; He may be lingering amid stunted
herbage; He may be turning down some bramble thicket—plunging into gloomy
forest glades, while acres of rich sunny pasture are close by. But He sees
what you did not see; He sees an adder here; He sees a lion
there; He sees pitfalls here; He sees a precipice there. He
knows you better, He loves you better, than to set you in slippery places,
and cast you down to destruction. He sees, if that fortune had been
unbroken, that dream of ambition realized, that clay idol left
on its throne—the alienated heart would have gradually, but terribly, lapsed
away from Him. Trust Him. "We expect," says Evans, "the blessing in our
way, He chooses to bestow it in His." In the midst of perplexing
dealings say, "I know." You cannot say, "I see," but let faith
say, "I know, O God, that Your judgments are right, and that You in
faithfulness have afflicted me."
What a grandeur and dignity, what a
safety and security it would give to life, if we sought ever to
regard it as a leading of the Shepherd—God shaping our purposes and
destinies, that wherever we go, or wherever our friends go, He is with us!
Even in earthly journeyings, if our pathway be the great and wide sea—"He
gives to the sea His decree"—winds and waves and storms are His voice. If it
be speeding along the highway, nothing but that tiny iron thread of the
railway track between us and death—He curbs the wild frenzy of the
fiery charger; He puts the bit in his iron mouth; He gives His angels charge
over us to bear us up and keep us in all our ways.
If it be our position in the world; He measures
out every drop in the cup, He assigns us our niche in His temple, fills or
empties our treasuries, makes vacant the chairs of our homesteads. Let us
seek to say, in the spirit of Galileo when he became blind, "Whatever is
pleasing to God shall be pleasing to me." We can take no more than
the near, the limited, the earthly view of His dealings: let us pause for
the infinite disclosures of eternity. Look at the farmer laboring in his
field. All this deep ploughing is for the insertion of the needful seed. In
doing the work, he may appear to act roughly. Ten thousand insects nestling
quietly in their homes in the ground are rudely unhoused. All at once their
covered dwellings are pulled asunder. Many a happy commonwealth is scattered
and overthrown in the upturned furrow—little worlds of life and being
demolished by the ruthless, remorseless ploughshare. So, some of our earthly
schemes may be assailed—our worldly treasures scattered by the iron teeth of
misfortune. But all is preparatory to a higher good, a harvest of rich
blessing crowning the soul, as He does the year with His goodness, and
making its paths drop fatness!
There is a beautiful saying in the 94th Psalm, "The Lord
will not reject His people; He will never forsake His inheritance; Judgment
will again be founded on righteousness, and all upright in heart will
follow it" (14, 15). A healing word to all poor afflicted ones. Judgment
often at times seems separated—deflected from righteousness. We can
discern no righteousness, no mercy, no good in His dispensations. Like the
sun setting at night, all is darkness. But that sun will return. It will
rise again tomorrow. Judgment shall return in righteousness. "Weeping may
remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."
"Hereafter you shall know where God doth lead thee,
His darkest dealings trace;
And by those fountains where His love will feed thee,
Behold Him face to face.
"Then bow thine head, and He shall give thee meekness,
Bravely to do His will;
So shall arise His glory in thy weakness,
O struggling soul, be still.
"Watch on the tower, and listen by the gateway,
Nor weep to wait alone;
Take thou thy spices, and some angel straightway
Shall roll away the stone.
"Thus wait, thus watch, until He the last link sever,
And changeless rest be won;
Then in His glory thou shall bask forever,
Fear not the clouds—PRESS ON."
"The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them, to
find them a place to rest."