God's Ways
From Help and Food

Moses, when interceding for the people after their apostasy, asked God to show him His way (Ex. 33:13). He had seen the perverse ways of the people and some of God's ways of patience with them, and his great desire was to know that way in its fullness. This was granted, as we read, "He made known His ways unto Moses" (Ps.103:7). What can be more necessary for the child of God than to know His way? "Can two walk together, except they be agreed" (Amos 3:3)? We may be sure, if we are to walk with God, it must be in His way. He will never walk with us in ours. He has come down in grace to meet us in our deepest need, at our greatest distance from God. He has come down in the person of His Son, met the need, annihilated the distance, not that He should walk in our path but that we should walk in His. Thus only can we enjoy communion, testify for God, or in any way serve Him. Hence the absolute necessity of knowing His ways. In three Scriptures, we will consider three different views of those ways.

I. "Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known" (Ps. 77:19). Here we have the truth stated that God's ways are past finding out. And who has looked at the book of providence without realizing this? Here, a faithful servant of the Lord is cut off by death. There, the head of the house is removed, leaving a helpless family without any human support. Bright earthly prospects are blighted, health is lost; yea, even to the little disappointments and surprises of each hour, we are compelled to say, "Thy way is in the sea." For surely God's ways are in all these things. There is no step of the road but is His; no hour in which He leaves His people alone. It is just the failure to see God's ways in the affairs of each day that leaves us dwarfs and babes. The effect of learning the lesson of God's ways being in the sea is the knowledge of our helplessness. Provide as we may, all is in vain to guard us from unforeseen contingencies. Growing out of this will come a self-distrust, and a corresponding confidence in God. As long as we think we have a plain path, the eye will not be on our guide. It is in the passing through deep waters, through the sea, that all self-trust must go, and we must lean on Him alone. This is terrible to sight, even to the believer; it is impossible for the unbeliever, as for the Egyptians, who found a grave where Israel found a way. What a sense of the reality of God's presence it gives, thus to be thrown upon Him! How Peter learned the Lord's presence as never known before when he began to sink in the waves of Galilee. As the eagle stirs up her nest, and the young cannot understand her apparent cruelty, so we cannot understand God's ways in the sea.

II. But this brings us to the second verse, "Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary" (Ps. 77:13). The psalmist had been in great trouble; all seemed black and hopeless, so that he cried out, "Will the Lord cast off forever? and will He be favorable no more" (v. 7)? This is the result of being occupied with circumstances and personal trials. He saw it as his infirmity, and turned to meditate on One who never changes. He learned His way, and it was in the sanctuary that he found that way. It is only in the presence of God that we can fully learn His ways. For us, how that presence shines with the glories of our Lord Jesus! He Himself has gone into the sanctuary, has opened the way for us through the rent veil, and now we have boldness to enter also. What precious thoughts cluster about this truth! The sanctuary! the holiest! We have a right to be there, the precious blood is our title, the work of redemption is our ground. How solid! how secure! Thus the end is secure. The sanctuary is on the resurrection side -- no death, no life on earth, no devil, no man can work there; it is beyond all these powers of evil. And there is our place. Ah! what matters it if the way be rough or long? The sanctuary is our future home, our present abiding place. We must leave our loads behind when we enter there. The worshipper in the tabernacle of old had his feet on the sand of the desert as he stood in the holy place, but we can be sure that he gazed not on that, but on the splendors before and about him. So for us -- if by faith we are in the sanctuary, the way does not occupy us, but the One who leads us fills our eye.

Yet it is in the sanctuary we learn God's way. The light of that place must be shed on the book of providence if we are to read its pages aright. As the psalmist was well-nigh stumbled at the prosperity of the wicked until he went into the sanctuary (Ps. 73), so will we find much to make us wonder, perhaps to doubt, unless we go into the same quiet and holy place. Here, first of all, we learn what God's perfect love means. It is a love that has bridged the distance between what we were in our sins and what we will be in glory -- bridged this distance at a cost which only God's love could or would have done. In the light of Jesus living, dying, risen, interceding for us, coming to take us to be with Himself, we can understand how Paul could call anything that might take place, "our light affliction which is but for a moment" (2 Cor. 4:17). In the light of the glory, how small the trials seem, how easy the way seems, to faith! But it is also in the sanctuary that we learn much of God's thoughts and of true wisdom. It is the spiritual man who discerns. He is in communion with the Father and His Son. If the companion of wise men will be wise, how much more will one who enjoys fellowship with Perfect Wisdom understand! Many a dear child of God, with much of what is called common sense, fails to grasp the meaning of God's ways, because he does not go into the sanctuary.

III. We come now to the results: "...in whose heart are the ways" (Ps. 84:5). The ways are no longer only the dark ways of a providence we cannot understand, but of a Father whose perfect love and grace we know. The ways are in our heart, loved because they are His. The path is, as it were, transferred from the outward circumstances to the heart. Our true history is heart history. We are apt to think we would do much better under different circumstances, but the state of the heart is the all-important matter. So too for usefulness; God does not ask us to do great things, but to have His ways in our heart. We may be sure our Lord had God's ways in His heart as much in the thirty years of His retirement as in His public ministry. So we may be laid aside, sick, helpless, apparently useless; but if in the heart we say, "Thy way, not mine, O Lord," we are doing true service which will bear enduring fruit. In this way, the hostile scene around us contributes to our fruitfulness; the valley of Baca (of weeping) becomes a well.

How differently the same scene affects different persons! As the same soil sustains the noxious weed and the sweet flower, so the world contributes either to our murmuring or to our confidence in God. If His ways are in the heart, each sorrow is the means by which we grow, as the rough wind drives the ship nearer home. "Be careful [or anxious] for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:6-7). The word rendered "keep" is a strong one, meaning to "occupy as a garrison." What foe can come in when His peace thus fills the house and keeps the door? Nothing is said in this precious verse of the circumstances being changed. The heart is filled with God's peace, and the circumstances will then only furnish occasion for the effects of its guard over the heart to be seen.

"Ill that He blesses is our good,
And unblest good is ill,
And all is right that seems most wrong,
If it be His sweet will."

So sings the heart in which God's ways are. How blessed, how precious a portion, within the reach of all the Lord's people! May we all know more of God's ways

"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

"Deep in unfathomable mines.
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and will break
In blessings on your head.

"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace:
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

"His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

"Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain."

-- W. Cowper