We are now in the wilderness!
(James Buchanan, "Comfort in Affliction" 1837)
"He led them forth by the right way — that they might go to a city of habitation." Psalm 107:7
There is a striking analogy between the Israelites in the wilderness, on their journey to Canaan — and believers in the world, on their journey to Heaven. The history of the former, has been recorded mainly for the purpose of guiding and comforting the latter.
Dear brethren, we are now in the wilderness! This poor world is not our rest! We too have heard of a city of habitation, a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. And many of us, I trust, have been separated from the world and united to that company of pilgrims who have set their faces steadfastly to go up to the Jerusalem above.
God is our leader, as He was theirs. And as God is our leader, so our path through life is as really ordered and directed by Him, as was the way of the Israelites in the wilderness. True, we hear no audible voice from Heaven, directing our steps; but God leads us by His providence, shutting us up to a particular line of life, fixing the bounds of our habitation, determining our work, our connections, our success, by a variety of circumstances over which we feel that we have no control, and many of which are apparently trivial — but not one of them are by chance or accidental. And as God is our leader, and as our path in life is prescribed and ordered by Him — so, if we belong to the number of His people, we may rest assured that He is leading us by the right way.
Our experience, indeed, may often resemble that of the Israelites in the wilderness. God may seem to lead us in a circuitous and indirect way. We may be, we shall be, subjected to tribulation. We must leave the world behind us, as the Israelites left the flesh pots of Egypt. We must encounter difficulties, and endure the assault of enemies, and sustain trials — such as will humble us and prove us, and show what is in our hearts. Our hearts, too, may be much discouraged because of the hardness of the way. It may seem a tedious, a dreary, a perplexing way — and, when faith is ready to fail, it may lead us to murmur against the Lord.
All this is true — but the Lord knows the way which we take in this great wilderness; and as sure as God is our guide, so sure is it, that He is leading us by the right way.
All the difficulties,
all the trials,
all the disappointments,
all the bereavements,
all the delays,
all the chastisements
which befall us — are as needful for us, as they were for the children of Israel.
We, too, need to be proved.
We, too, need to be humbled.
We, too, have evil hearts of unbelief which must be subdued.
We, too, must be educated by instruction, and trained by discipline, and purified by suffering — that we may be fitted for our glorious inheritance above.
There is an inheritance for us, as there was for them. Their inheritance in the land of Canaan — was but a type or shadow of the incorruptible, undefiled, unfading inheritance, reserved in Heaven for us.
And seeing that God has opened up such a glorious prospect before us — oh! why should we doubt that He will lead us by the right way on our journey towards it. Why should we quarrel with any of His appointments here — if they are all designed to fit and prepare us for such a glorious destiny hereafter?
Would we take the regulation of our life out of God's hands — and keep it in our own?
Would we think it safer and better for us to be guided by our own will — rather than by His unerring wisdom and infinite love?
No, our safety is, that we are in God's hands! The Lord is our Shepherd, and we may rest assured, that however perplexing the path may be by which He conducts us — He will lead us like a flock through the wilderness; that while we are in it, goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life; and that in the end we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!
"Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom!" There we shall be able to look back on all the way by which the Lord has led us in the wilderness — and we shall then see it to have been "the right way." And, in admiration and gratitude, we shall acknowledge with Moses, "In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling!" Exodus 15:13