Monday, November 26, 2007
THAT STEERSMAN WE CALL GOD
That steersman we call God - (Robert Louis Stevenson)
Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not guide them by the road towards the Philistines, although that was the shortest; for he said, 'The people may change their minds when they see war before them, and turn back to Egypt.' So God made them go round by way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea; and the fifth generation of Israelites departed from Egypt. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, because Joseph had exacted an oath from the Israelites: 'Some day,' he said, 'God will show his care for you, and then, as you go, you must take my bones with you.' They set out from Succoth and encamped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. And all the time the Lord went before them, by day a pillar of cloud to guide them on their journey, by night a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel night and day. The pillar of cloud never left its place in front of the people by day, nor the pillar of fire by night.
He went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?' He replied, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me too.' The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.' Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice came to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'
But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come.
(Exodus 13:17-22, NEB; 1 Kings 19:9-13, NIV; John 16:13, JB)
Imagine Elijah out in the wilderness. See him standing there. He would have felt the powerful elements as God acted. The wind probably whipped his hair around his face, the earthquake would have shaken his very being and the fire seared his face. Certainly enough to shake up the most dismal servant of God who had doubts about God's power to direct a life. These three elements -- wind, earthquake and fire -broadcast the coming of God. This was not the first time he had produced smoke on a mountain in order to direct his people. Exodus 19:16,18 records a similar event. Similarly when David was in distress and called on God, he heard God answering through earthquake and fire (Psalm 18:6-13).
God has always supplied signs for people prepared to read them. His presence has continued through the ages. He has never been really away from his people. There are times when God has stepped back; times when people have ignored the guidance of their Creator but we cannot blame him for such times. Ours the rebellion, the stubborn ways, the refusal to accept guidance. When Christ came, he promised to guide his church and he promised his powerful presence when he said with force: 'And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age' (Matthew 28:20, NIV). God has given us the scriptures which provide broad principles by which we are to live. He never takes the cloud of his Spirit away from us no matter how much we may fear this could happen. Provided we sincerely desire his will he will always be present.
There is something else to remember. Take one step at a time, even if it's only a small step. Take the next step. Always the next step. Questions may flood your mind but always take the next step.
I came about like a well-handled ship. There stood at the wheel that steersman whom we call God.
Robert Louis Stevenson
God is able and willing to guide us far more than the hesitant faith of many of his children has yet made possible. The poverty of our spiritual lives; our unwillingness to put a fence around some definite portion of our day and keep it for him; our unbelief concerning his voice in the soul -- all these have hampered him. It is not denied that with all our blindness he has been able to guide us in some degree. But how much more effectively could he counsel and direct us if faith was really expectant and we listened as well as prayed.
W.E. Sangster, God Does Guide Us
God, our sovereign and immutable Master, openly declares that life is no will o' the wisp encounter with luck. His determined will is being accomplished free of frustration. The plan is comprehensive in scope and complete down to the tiniest detail. And it is all for his glory. Rather than causing us to fear, this truth is designed to put us at ease and calm our anxieties... What should be the Christian's attitude toward the determined will of God? He should recognise it as a reality -- clearly taught in the Word of God. Rest in it as good, because that's what God says about it -- he causes all things to work together for good to those who love him (Romans 8:28). Beyond that, don't worry about it and don't try to figure it out, because his ways are unfathomable (Romans 11:33).
Charles R. Swindoll, God's Will
There is an experience which becomes more and more familiar to everyone who is trying to follow Christ -- a feeling of the growing loneliness of his Christian life. It comes from a sense of the peculiarly personal interest which Christ takes in him, which sometimes seems so strong as almost to make him feel that his life is being detached from all the other lives around him, that it is being drawn out of the crowd of humanity, as if an unseen arm linked in his were taking him aside for a nearer intimacy and a deeper and more private fellowship. It is not, indeed, that the great family of God are to be left in the shade for him, or that he is in any way the favourite of heaven; but it is the sanctifying and, in the truest sense, humbling realisation that God makes himself as real to each poor unit as if he were the whole; so that even as in coming to Christ at first he felt himself the only lost, so now in staying with Christ he feels himself the only found.
Henry Drummond, The Will of God
You see, even Jesus did not say, 'I have explained the world.' What he did say was, 'I have overcome the world.' And if we can only trust where we cannot see, walking in the light we have, which is often very much like hanging on in the dark; if we do faithfully that which we see to be the will of God in the circumstances which evil thrusts upon us, we can rest our minds in the assurance that circumstances which God allows, reacted to in faith and trust and courage, can never defeat purposes which God ultimately wills. So doing, we shall wrestle from life something big and splendid. We shall find peace in our own hearts. We shall achieve integration in our own minds. We shall be able to serve our fellows with courage and joy, and then one day -- for this has been promised -- we shall look up into his face and understand. Now we see in a mirror, darkly. But then, face to face. Frankly, hard though it be to say so, it is a lack of faith not to be able to bear the thought of anything which God allows.
Leslie D. Weatherhead, The Will of God
Father, forgive my doubting your power to guide me whatever the circumstances. Help me to trust you even through the darkest night when it seems from my viewpoint that all hope is gone. Give me the faith to conquer my fears and faith to hold on when there is only what seems to me a slender hope that you will see my plight. Listen to my prayer and guide me in the way I should go.
Loving Lord, help me to believe that you know all about my life from start to finish and that you are fully prepared to lead me step by step, day by day along the path of your choosing. Give me l pray the wisdom to choose your way and to keep walking in your way.
Great God of wonders, lift me out of myself, I pray, to the lofty heights of belief so that I may soar like an eagle high above my cares and anxiety, confidently knowing you are able to show me how to deal with the barriers I put up that prevent me finding your will.
Lord God, help me to leave this topic of guidance with a far greater confidence than I started when I began reading this meditation. Through your grace, send me on my way confident in your guiding power. Amen.
Still Waters, Deep Waters ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 168-172