PROVIDENCE AND GRACE
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord."
"The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord."
Psalm 37:23, 39
Here are two fronds of God's palm-grove bending over His
Comforting, as we have seen, is the great fundamental
truth of theology—"The Lord reigns"—that all events are ordered and
controlled by a supreme superintending Providence. But there is a
special comfort to believers—the spiritual Israel of every age—that their
'steps,'—their plans and purposes in life (in a better and nobler than the
heathen sense—their "destinies")—are overruled by a gracious
That is a beautiful picture given in Hosea (11:1-5) of
God, as a Father, watching and guiding the steps of His own children. Israel
is first spoken of as a child in its parent's arms. The Almighty, all-loving
Parent is represented, next, as assisting the feeble little one in its first
attempts to walk, supporting it in case of stumbling—"I also taught Ephraim
to walk, taking them by the arms." Then, still farther, He is
described as putting them in leading-strings, following them step by
step—"I led them with cords of human kindness." And now, in this psalm, when
the child has advanced to years of spiritual maturity, the inspired writer
asserts the continuance and permanency of this same gracious paternal care
and supervision—"A good man's steps are ordered by the Lord."
The earthly parent, after a few brief years, leaves the
child to its own resources, to walk alone, and care for itself. Not so our
Heavenly Father. The man's footsteps, as well as the child's,
are 'ordered.' In all the varied circumstances of existence, the Eternal God
is still his refuge; and, with the eye of the watchful mother on tottering
infancy, "underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deut. 33:27). "Though he
stumbles, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand!" (Ps.
37:24). And as he pursues his onward way, at times ready to faint, ready to
fall—stumbling along the rough, stony path—his cry is never unaided, his
prayer never unanswered, "Uphold me, and I will be delivered"—"Your right
hand shall save me!" Oh blessed assurance, that every event, every so-called
contingency—every step from the infancy of grace, to the manhood of glory,
every rugged ascent, every thorny thicket, every trial and every tear, is
"ordered by the Lord."
The sweet singer of Israel rises, before the psalm is
closed, to a similar and yet loftier subject of gratitude and adoration.
While he exults in a God of Providence, he keeps his last note for a
God of GRACE—"The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord" (ver. 39).
It was the theme which cheered and supported himself in the ever-present
consciousness of a guilty, though forgiven, past. It was the theme ("the
everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part") which thrilled on
his dying lips when the checkered glories of earthly sovereignty were
passing away forever, and he was about to take up the nobler singing of the
skies—"This is all my salvation and all my desire!" He magnifies the name
and doings and sovereign love of the same God whom He had trusted as his
Shepherd (Ps. 23:1), who had nerved his arm for battle, and tuned his lips
for praise, who had led him to the green pastures of grace, and at last
brought him to the gates of glory.
"Salvation comes from the Lord!" Let that, too, be
the keynote of our life song. All is of grace. When the vessel of our
eternal destinies was wrecked and stranded, it was a tide flowing from the
sea of His own infinite love which set it once more floating on the waters.
He might have left us to perish. He might have put a vial of judgment into
every angel's hand to pour down vengeance on an apostate world; or, taking
the figure suggested by this Volume, He might have left our earth the
waste-howling wilderness sin had made it; morally and spiritually, without
shade of palm, or music of fountain. How different! In the words of the
Great Prophet, "The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with
compassion on all her ruins; He will make her deserts like Eden, her
wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness (not dirge or
wailing) will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing." (Isa.
51:3). "God did not send His Son into the world to CONDEMN the
world, but to SAVE the world through Him."
And what is there to hinder any from making every
blessing of that great salvation their own? Not God, for He "has justified!"
Not Christ, for He "has died!" We cannot say with the king of Nineveh,
"Who can tell if God will turn?" He will turn. He has
turned. To each individual sinner He declares, "I take no pleasure in the
death of anyone." To all who are willing to listen to His pleadings, He
seems to say in the words He puts into the mouth of Isaiah: "I will make an
everlasting covenant with You, My faithful love promised to David" (Isa.
55:3). The "faithful" love!
What is sure or abiding under the sun? Our health?
The strong frame may in a moment be bowed. Our wealth? By some sudden
collapse it may take wings and fly away. Our friends? A word—a
look—may estrange some; the grave, in the case of others, may have put its
impressive mockery on the dream of earth's immortality. Our homes?
The summons comes to strike our tent, and leave behind us the Elim-palms
under which we long rested, or the smoldering hearths of a hallowed past, so
that "the place that once knew us, knows us no more."
But here is one sure thing. Here is a
Covenant which has the pillars of immutability to rest upon. Casting our
anchor within the veil, we can outride the storm; the golden chain of
grace links us to the throne of God. And when the varied scenes and
circumstances of the present are ended, and we are brought to take our stand
with the multitude which no man can number—"the harpists on the glassy
sea"—it will be to resume the twofold song and theme of earth—the God who
reigns, and the God who saves—the anthem of Providence and the
anthem of Grace; for there they sing "the song of Moses the servant of God,
and the song of the Lamb" (Rev. 15:3).
"'A little while' for patient vigil keeping,
To face the storm, to wrestle with the strong;
'A little while,' to sow the seed with weeping,
Then bind the sheaves and sing the harvest song.
"'A little while,' 'mid shadow and illusion,
To strive by faith Love's mysteries to spell;
Then read each dark enigma's clear solution,
And hail Light's verdict—'He does all things well.'
"'A little while,' the earthly pitcher taking
To wayside brooks from far-off fountains fed,
Then the parched lip its thirst forever slaking
Beside the fullness of the Fountain-head.
"And He who is at once both Gift and Giver,
The future glory and the present smile,
With the bright promise of the glad 'forever,'
Will light the shadows of 'the little while.'"
"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from