James Smith, 1865
"What I am doing you do not understand now; but you shall know hereafter." John 13:7
The Lord teaches us not only by His words — but by His works. He taught His disciples by what He did — as well as by what He said. He was now teaching them humility and love — and in order to do so, He condescended to wash their feet. Peter was amazed, and said, "Lord, are You going to wash my feet" He could not think of letting his Lord stoop to such menial employment in reference to himself. But he did not read his Lord's design — he could not see the deep and tender love of his Lord's heart. Jesus said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now; but you shall know hereafter." The present shall be explained in the future. Be satisfied to believe that I am acting wisely and kindly, and the whole shall be made plain bye-and-bye. Thus our Lord seems to speak to us at times. He requires faith now, and promises us clear knowledge hereafter. Observe.
First, the works of Jesus may for a time perplex us.He is the great worker in providence. His hand is everywhere working — though it is not everywhere seen. The hand of Jesus is in all that happens to us. Yes, in reference to our trials — we may say of Him with Hezekiah, "He Himself has done this!"
He strips us, just as He does the trees in autumn, when the sap sinks, and the foliage withers and falls.
He stripped Lot — and brought him out of Sodom poor and desolate!
He stripped Job — and left him for a time barren and leafless!
He stripped Naomi — and she who went out full, returned empty!
He has stripped many of His people — and laid them bare!
He disappoints us. Our expectations are raised by men, or by circumstances; we fondly believe that good and great things will result from a connection, or an undertaking. But our hopes and our expectations are blown away like leaves on a tree, when blasted by a strong wind! "You expected much — but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home — I blew away!" Haggai 1:9
He humbles us. Stripped and disappointed, at first we think He deals harshly with us. We complain of instruments, or events. Like the sons of Zeruiah — we looked only at Shimei cursing; not like David — at the Lord bidding Shimei to curse David (2 Samuel 16:10). This produces hard thoughts, rebellious feelings, and a murmuring spirit.
One weight is laid on after another, until the spirit bends and we lay prostrate in the dust. At length the Holy Spirit breathes upon us, our graces revive, our sight is cleared, and we are not only humbled by the force of external circumstances — but we are truly humble in soul, as the effect of His grace.
Providence, that is — Jesus by His providence, often deeply tries us, fills us with perplexity — and we become bewildered, then He whispers, "What I am doing you do not understand now; but you shall know hereafter."
Jesus is the great worker in grace, as in providence, and here His work at times is no less trying. Instead of, as we hoped — carrying on His work by comforting, assuring, and sensibly upholding us; He reveals to us more and more the foulness, depravity, and awful wickedness of our own hearts! Turn the eye inward, He says, "See what Israel does in the dark, every man in the room of his idols!" Again and again, He bids us turn, and at every turn we discover some fresh abomination, some unexpected lust, some foul principle at work!
He empties us of all our false hope, vain confidence, fleshly assurance, and supposed excellency! And the heart appears to be a wilderness, void, and barren. Every evidence at times is concealed, every grace appears withered — and only lust and corruption remains!
Thus He exercises us — and sharp indeed, at times, the exercise is! We never expected it. Perhaps we were not warned of it. Or if we heard others speak of it — we never thought that it would be so with ourselves. But thus He destroys spiritual pride — causes our graces to root in Himself and His Word — and brings us, not only to be willing to be saved by grace — but to see and feel that we can be saved in no other way — and bless Him from the depth of our souls for a gratuitous salvation!
Tried believer, tempted Christian, Jesus says to you, as
He said to Peter, "What I am doing you do not understand now; but you
shall know hereafter!" Observe,
Secondly, the promise of Jesus should encourage us."We shall know hereafter." At present — He works in the dark, for the darkness and the light are both alike to Him. He has made no mistake in anything He has done. He has not caused us one needless pang — though we have caused ourselves many.
He works wisely and kindly — when He works invisibly. He assigns no reason for His actions. If we complain or repine — He seems to say to us, as to Job, "Should it be according to your mind?" This silences us, for we dare not say that it should. The time to assign His reasons to us — is not now; but now is the time He expect faith of us.
He often acts contrary to sense — and contrary to our carnal expectations. We had, perhaps, laid down a plan for Him to work by — and He goes just opposite to it!
He crosses our wills — to sanctify our minds and hearts!
He opposes our foolish schemes — to execute His own wise and gracious designs!
He promises to make all plain by-and-bye. The revealing day will come. It may soon be here, therefore let us patiently wait, and hopefully anticipate it. We shall then know the nature of what He does; and see that all is gracious, wise, and kind. We shall then know the needs be for all that He does — for all is necessary for our present good, or future welfare.
We shall know the design of what He does — that it was to humble us and prove us, to purify and perfect us; to exalt His own name, illustrate His own character, and glorify His Father's grace. We shall know and feel fully satisfied — for all difficulties will be completely cleared up. We shall know and be filled with admiration at the wisdom, perfection, and prudence of all He did! We shall know and praise Him for working it all, for working as He did — and for concealing the design He had in view while He was thus trying us!
Beloved, though we do not understand now — what Jesus is doing; we shall assuredly know hereafter! And this calls for PATIENCE — we must wait for His revealing, when all will be made clear to us. At present we have need of patience, we are required to have patience; and if we can have patience with anyone, surely we may with Jesus!
Can He do wrong? Impossible, for all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him!
Can He act unkindly? Impossible, for His heart is love, and the bruised reed He will not break, and the smoking flax He will not quench!
Can He make a mistake? Impossible, for He only fulfills the thing that is appointed for us, and many such things are with Him!
"We shall know hereafter!" This assurance calls for SUBMISSION; meek, uncomplaining, loving submission. There should be no complaining, no repining, no wishing — for our wishes spring from our ignorance, selfishness, or opposition to God.
This calls for FAITH — strong, steady, quiet faith — faith in His promises, which must all be made good, and are being fulfilled by our very trials and troubles! This calls for faith in His attributes and perfections, which are all combined and engaged, to secure our present and everlasting welfare. Faith in His presence — for He is with us when we see Him not, feel Him not, think not of Him. He is with us — to prevent evil. He is with us — to do us good. He is with us — to cause all, and everything to work together for our good.
It calls for SILENCE! Do not attempt an explanation at present — but be willing to leave it, and quietly wait until the Lord comes. His Word to us now is, "Be still — and know that I am God." His promise respecting the future is, "You shall know hereafter."
Let us then look through all — to Jesus! Let us amidst all — trust in Jesus! Let us notwithstanding all — expect from Jesus! And in the darkest hour, in the dreariest season, endeavor to say, "I will wait for the Lord who hides Himself!" Yes, "it is the glory of God to conceal a thing," and Jesus, your Jesus, is God. O blessed assurance, of a blessed Savior — that though I do not understand what He is doing, nor why He does it — at present; yet I shall know hereafter! Let me be satisfied, more than satisfied with it — for I shall bless and praise Him forever and ever — for His mysterious, wise, and kind dealings with me!