"As for God, His way is perfect."—Psalm 18:30
"And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation."—Psalm 107:7
There are times in the experience of not a few—and this is one especially on which you have entered—when, amid adverse and baffling providences, "the foundations of the world seem out of course," and all things appear to be rushing into wreck and darkness. The Divine, everlasting vigil seems to have ceased, and echo only answers to the wild cry of despair—"Where is now my God?" "Where is my God?"—creating affections only to wither them; severing me, in the twinkling of an eye, from those He had sent to be helpers of my faith, interpreters of His own goodness, and wisdom, and mercy—youthful priests in the domestic temple, whose removal leaves a silent, desolated altar, with incense unkindled and lamps put out, cherished memories alone surviving to read and reveal the blank! I was taught to imagine that His dealings to His own were those of a Father, not retributive or judicial, but paternal—that I could see no hand, and hear no lullaby but love. Why has the promised parental solicitude been superseded by the harsh voice and the rebuking rod? Why has the All-gracious belied His own saying, "As one whom his mother comforts?" "You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer; Your name is from everlasting…Where is Your zeal, and Your strength, the sounding of Your compassions and of Your mercies toward me? Are they restrained?" (Isa. 63:15, 16).
Seek to repress these, and such like unworthy surmises. "As for God, His way is perfect." This was a lesson impressively taught to pilgrim Israel, as suggested by one of the two verses which head this meditation. They, like many of Jehovah's people still, were tempted at first to misinterpret the Divine dealings. At the very outset from Egypt, the cloudy pillar appeared to mislead them. Instead of taking them the near and direct route to Canaan, it conducted them round "by the way of the wilderness." They had the Red Sea in front and their pursuers behind. The shout goes up from the Egyptian army—"They are entangled; the wilderness has shut them in!" Even Moses yields to the panic and despondency of the hour. "Why are you lying on your face?" were the words addressed to him as he crouched a skeptic at God's feet; "speak to the children of Israel that they go forward."
Forward they did go, under the guidance of the symbol of the Divine Presence; and what was the song with which they made the opposite shores resound? It was the adoration of the all-perfect ways of God; vindicating the rectitude of His procedure; "You in Your mercy have led forth the people which You have redeemed." "O Lord God Almighty, who is a strong God like unto You? You rule the raging of the sea—when the waves thereof arise, You still them!"
This loving and gracious Guide still "leads Joseph like a flock;" even although often, in a spiritual sense, He makes 'the depths of the sea' a way for His ransomed to pass over. You, too, may now be having your circuitous routes through the desert, your Red Seas of trouble, your Marahs of bitterness. His way may truly seem to be "in the sea, and His path in the deep waters, and His judgments unsearchable." But it is for you to listen in submissive faith to His sovereign mandate, and to follow, however mysterious, the guidance of the Pillar-cloud. It is not for us to judge of the reasons for apparent harsh procedure, hidden from our gaze, and known only to the Infinitely Gracious ONE.
"God is His own interpreter,
"Why," says one of the saintliest men of the past generation, "Why are we not amply satisfied and acquiescing in the wise management of the Great Counselor, who puts clouds and darkness round about Him, bidding us follow at His beck through the cloud, promising an eternal and uninterrupted sunshine on the other side?"
There is a beautiful saying in the 94th Psalm, "The Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance; but judgment shall return unto righteousness" (14, 15). Judgment often at times seems divorced—deflected from righteousness—never more than in sparing the ripe and taking the green. We can discern no righteousness, no mercy, no 'good' in such dispensations.
"Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass." "Although you say you can not see Him, yet judgment is before Him, therefore trust in Him." "You, O God, led Your people of old by the right hand of Moses, with Your glorious arm dividing the water before them to make Yourself an everlasting name" (Isa. 63:12).
"Awake, awake," on our behalf still, "O Arm of the Lord!" Finite wisdom has no place in Your dealings. Let us seek no other way, let us surrender ourselves to no other guidance; remembering that "all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies." We may now be, like the panic-stricken Hebrews, confronting the barrier waves; the foe behind, the desolate wilderness around. But fear not! that sea will, in some gracious way, recede to make a dry-shod pathway; that wilderness on the other side, with dreary sand and beetling cliff, will be wilderness still; but it will provide spiritual resting-places with overshadowing palms and refreshing springs.
To the eye of sense, however baffling be the ways of the Supreme, however seemingly unlike His righteous wisdom, it is not for us to judge, and surmise, and conjecture—but to believe; not to question, but, like Job, to kneel and to adore. Not venturing presumptuously to arraign the faithfulness of dispensations the most inscrutable; but rather, in reverent submission to say, amid crossed wills and adverse providences, even when we see innocent infant smiles or youthful aspirations arrested, and many a joyous parental hope buried with them underneath the sod—"I will hear what God the Lord will speak." "I know that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me"—looking forward to the hour when, reaching "the city of habitation," the wisdom and love of the 'perfect way' will be fully revealed—when, in the true resting-places above, we shall join in the triumphant ascription, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works."
"Soon," says one now experiencing the reality of her own words, "Soon our tale shall be finished; the history of our lives will be put by in the library of God as a volume of His faithfulness." Yes! and heaven will resound with the song, which on earth is often warbled with trembling lips.
The present life, in its conflicting relations, its discords and confusions, is the tuning of the musical instruments before the great Hallelujah chorus—the magnificent harmonies of eternity. Then that chorus, like the anthem of the myriads in the prophet's vision, will become a louder and yet louder ascription, deepening until its effluent waves of sound become "like the noise of mighty thunderings"—its everlasting refrain of praise—the sovereignty of God—"Alleluia! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!"