THE WAY KNOWN
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"But He knows the way that I take." Job 23:10
The shadow of a palm of blessed consolation and comfort,
under which sat blessed old Job.
The Book of Job has been well defined to be "the record
of an earnest soul's perplexities, where the double difficulty of life is
solved—the existence of moral evil, and the question whether suffering is a
mark of God's wrath or not. What falls from Job's lips is the musing of a
man half-stunned, half-surprised, looking out upon the darkness of life, and
asking sorrowfully, 'Why are these things so?'" In his checkered experience
he loses at times the footsteps of a God of love. Through anguished tears he
gives voice to his soul-trouble, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him."
"If I go to the east, He is not there; and if I go to the west, I do not
find Him. When He is at work in the north, I do not see Him; when He turns
to the south, I catch no glimpse of Him" (Job 23:8, 9).
But though to sense and sight all is dark,
faith rises to the ascendant, and, piercing the environing cloud, her
voice is heard, "But He knows the way that I take." All that
Providential drama is arranged by Him—life, with all its lights and
shadows, its joys and its sorrows. It is enough for the sufferer to be
assured that his path and lot are not the result of wayward and capricious
accident. The furnace (to take the new figure employed in the same verse) is
lighted by the God whose hand was for the moment hidden; and that same faith
can add, "When He has tried me, I will come forth as gold."
Believer! what a glorious assurance! This way of
yours—this, it may be crooked, mysterious, tangled
way—this way of trial and of tears, "the way of the
wilderness"—"He knows it." The furnace, seven times heated—He
lighted it. Oh! how would every sorrow and loss be aggravated and embittered
if we had nothing to cling to but the theory of arbitrary appointment and
dreary fatalism! But we may take courage. There is an Almighty Guide
knowing and directing our footsteps, whether it be to the bitter pool
of Marah, or to the joy and refreshment of Elim. That
way, dark to the Egyptians, has its pillar of cloud and fire for His own
Israel. The furnace is hot; but not only can we trust the hand that kindles
it, but we have the assurance that the fires are lit not to consume,
but to refine; and that when the refining process is completed (no
sooner—no later), He brings His people forth as gold. When they think Him
least near, He is often nearest. "When my spirit grows faint within
me, it is You who know my way."
Can we realize these truths in our everyday experience?
Can we think of God, not as some mysterious essence, who, by an Almighty
fiat, impressed on matter certain general laws, and, retiring into the
solitude of His being, left these to work out their own processes: but is
there joy to us in the thought of His being always near; encircling our path
and our lying down? Do we know of One brighter than the brightest radiance
of the visible sun, visiting our room with the first waking beam of the
morning: an eye of infinite tenderness and compassion following us
throughout the day, "knowing the way that we take;" a hand of infinite love
guiding us, shielding us from danger, and guarding us from temptation—"The
keeper of Israel who neither slumbers nor sleeps?" Yes, too, and when the
furnace is lit, seeing HIM not only kindling it, but seated by, as "the
refiner of silver," tempering the fury of the flames?
The world, in their cold vocabulary in the hour of
adversity, speaks of "Providence"—"the will of Providence"—"the
strokes of Providence." PROVIDENCE! what is that? Why dethrone a
living, directing God from the sovereignty of His own earth? Why substitute
an inanimate, deathlike abstraction, in place of an acting, controlling,
Personal Jehovah? Why forbid the Angel of bereavement to point his hand up
the golden steps of "the misty stair," to "the God above the ladder,"
saying, "Our Father on high has done it!"?
How it would take the sting from many a sharp trial, thus
to see, what the same patriarch saw, (in his hour of aggravated woe, when
every earthly Elim-palm lay prostrate at his feet with stripped and withered
branches)—no hand but the Divine. He saw that Divine hand behind the
gleaming swords of the Sabeans—he saw it behind the lightning-flash—he saw
it giving wings to the rushing tempest—he saw it in the awful silence of his
plundered home—"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the
name of the Lord!" Thus seeing God in everything, his faith reached
its climax when this once-powerful prince of the desert, seated on his
ashes, could say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!"
We joyfully believe the day is coming when we shall write
under every mysterious providence, "He has done all things well."
Yes, bereaved ones, you shall no more weep over early graves, when you
yourselves pass upwards to the realms of glory, and hear from the loved and
glorified as they are waiting to greet you at the door of heaven, that by an
early death they were "taken away from the evil to come." Meanwhile let us
rejoice in the assurance, that "the Lord reigns!"—that He knows and
appoints "the way" both for ourselves and for others. Oh, comforting
thought! enough to dry all tears and silence all murmurings—"Is there evil
in the city," in the cottage, in the palace—is there evil which blights some
unknown poor man's dwelling—is there evil which clothes a nation in
mourning, "and the Lord has not done it"?
"If all things work together
For ends so grand and blest,
What need to wonder, whether
Each in itself is blest?
"If some things were omitted
Or altered as we would,
The whole might be unfitted
To work for perfect good.
"Our plans may be disjointed,
But we may calmly rest;
What God has once appointed,
Is better than our best."
"Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths."