The Mystery of God’s Providence (Part 2)
“Should it be according to thy mind?” (Job 34. 33)
This is the second half of a sermon preached by John E. Hazelton at Streatley Hall, London, on August 1st. 1909. The occasion of this wonderful discourse was the death of his only son. The first section may be found here.
Secondly, the proper reply to make to this questions is one emphatically in the negative. “Should it be according to thy mind?” No! That is the reply of grace. Yes! That is the reply of sense and reason.
Why is that negative reply a right one? First of all, because our knowledge is so limited. We are permitted to see a good deal more than Job saw. Job was living just a day or an hour at a time, but here in the Book of Job God has lifted the veil, and we see the whole thing from the beginning to the end. We see God’s purposes, the workings of God’s love, the tender patience of God.
It is all mapped out before us here, but Job had not this book. We, through this revelation, see a great deal more than Job saw until the end, and we see in Job an object lesson to devils, angels and men. Here we see that which illustrates the love, the faithfulness and the patience of Job’s Redeemer. “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19. 25). My Redeemer, not only in the sense of ransoming Job with His precious blood, but my Vindicator, my glorious Kinsman, my Friend!
I know that He liveth. We see so little, dear friends, compared with what God sees, and because we see so little, so very little, things ought not to be, and cannot be, according to our mind.
Dr. David Livingstone wrote in his diary in Central Africa, “We see but small segments (cuttings, parts) of the mighty cycles (or circles) of Providence, and we imagine they are failures. If we could see the larger arc (the larger portion of the circle) we should often rejoice where now we weep.” That is true. God sees the whole; He guides the spokes of all that wondrous wheel of providence, but we, with our limited knowledge, are able only just to see the present moment, and not able to see two or three minutes ahead.
Once more in relation to this. Our knowledge being so limited, should we not seek for more grace that we may be restrained from premature judgement? Present things, present troubles, which are not according to our mind, are vitally united to future things. God works as a whole – past, present and future are one glorious chain. Then how can you judge of present things until the future things come? Should these present things be according to our mind? Are we to judge of the web before the pattern is fully formed? If we had our will we should say, “Lord, put in the fair colours in our lives now.” If the web of our lives were left to us, we should seek to do this, and we should weave a web of sackcloth, with no use or beauty discernible. One thread! There is no beauty there! One note of music, it is but one! One wheel! More wheels than one are needed. All the threads are needed for the pattern. With all the notes there is the harmony. All the wheels moving – there are the great transactions of our God in providence. All parts will be adjusted presently, not according to thy mind now, but according to His mind.
“Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own Interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”
Brother, sister, can we not say this, “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us”? (1 John 4. 16). What a mercy if we are brought to say that! “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us.” If that is true, “Should things be according to our mind?”
“We have known and believed the love that God hath to us” before all worlds in the “covenant, ordered in all things, and sure.” He has loved us with an everlasting love. Bless God if He has brought us to be grounded upon covenant truth; there is no gospel without. “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us” in the Person of His dear Son before all worlds. “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us” in sending His Eternal Son to take into union with Himself our nature, and in that nature to atone for our sins; to speak the words of the everlasting gospel to us; in that nature to enter into heaven, there to appear in the presence of God for us. “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us.”
“Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief’ (Mark 9. 24). “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us” – we cannot, we dare not, we would not deny it – in sending His Holy Spirit into our hearts, quickening us from the death of trespasses and of sins; warming these hearts that by nature are cold and dead as the stones; revealing to the eyes of our faith the beauty and preciousness of His own dear Son; causing our hearts to be warmed from time to time with the Saviour’s name, and making that name as ointment that is poured forth. He has caused our hearts, notwithstanding all our wicked rebelliousness, to say,
Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast.
How great, how wonderful is the love of the Spirit in coming into a heart like yours and like mine!
“We have known and believed the love that God hath to us,” whereby we cry Abba Father, whereby He has distinguished us from many around. And yet when God steps into our lives, when He touches us in the tenderest place of all, we begin to doubt the love that God hath to us. O what a mass of contradiction we are! O for grace to cry:
I do not ask my cross to understand.
My way to see,
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.
Our judgement too is so imperfect. We not only do not see far, but we do not see correctly. Not only so, but when we do see, we mistake the nature of what we see. What do you shrink from? Inconvenience, trouble, pain. What do you want? Life to be all harvest, and the pathway to be ever smooth. What is the way trodden by the footsteps of the flock? Across the sands we journey; among the rocks we move.
Now and then there is a green and a flowery place, and then it is according to our mind. We do not want to move. Like the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration we cry, “Lord … let us make here three tabernacles” (Matt. 17. 4). But that was not the Lord’s way or will. The cloud beckons on, the rough pathway has again to be trodden. “Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted” (Mic. 2. 10).
Take two illustrations. Look at Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees. Do you think that Abraham would have chosen to leave the old homestead in Ur of the Chaldees, and the pasture lands that belonged to his family for ages? “Go forth,” said the Lord to Abraham, and the word was with power, and “he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11. 8).
What do we read Abraham bought in the shape of land? God said, “All the land is to belong to your descendants.” But Abraham bought some land! We only read that he bought one piece, and that was for a grave. A pilgrim and a stranger was he. “Should it be according to thy mind?” It was not according to Abraham’s mind by nature, but God gave him grace and he went forward leaning upon his Beloved.
Look at Joseph. Will you go as a slave to the Ishmaelites? Will you be torn from your father? Jacob, will you part with Joseph? Never, never! Joseph would have shrunk from the slavery, the sorrow and the shame that awaited him in Egypt, but he was sold to the Ishmaelites. Jacob had to give him up; Joseph was torn from the embrace of a beloved father. What was it all for? Temporally, at least, for the salvation of his father and brethren. See how our God works with a never-failing skill, and brings out of His mind those deep and glorious designs which are so manifest in dear Joseph’s life – peace, joy, salvation, glory. See the great and the wonderful issue of it all.
Lastly, there is the prayerful response which we are enabled to make as the Holy Spirit enables. O how dependent we are upon the Spirit, are we not, dear friends?
“O you should believe, you should do this, that and the other!” How awfully empty all that talk is! We want the Holy Spirit to call into exercise the faith He gives, to fan the spark which He breathes into the soul. What is the will of God concerning us? We are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son. What does that mean? To be made like unto Christ. I am not like Him now, but the beginnings of the work are sure, and presently when we meet the Lord in the air, we shall be made absolutely – body, soul and spirit – like unto Him.
One feature is this. Our Lord said, “Not My will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22. 42), and so we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of our Lord. “To be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8. 6), and so the Lord brings us through our bereavements, sorrows and trials to wait upon God, and those who wait never wait in vain. We can testify to that. By the Holy Spirit He brings out of every carnal thought and sweetly humbles us.
O that the Spirit of the living God may reveal unto us Jesus, our dying Saviour, our ever-living Redeemer! Jesus in the omnipotence of His love, Jesus in the omniscience of His wisdom, Jesus the fountain of faith, hope and love. I will go out unto Him, for He has said, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isa. 26. 3).
“Should it be according to thy mind?” No, Lord, no. Give me grace to give up searching Thy providence with my candle, and just let me – and I speak for you – just let me, like a tired child, rest on Thy heart of love, and looking up to Thee say,
Blest is my lot whate’er befall,
What can disturb it? who appal?
While as my Strength, my Rock, my All,
Saviour, I cling to Thee.
“I know the thoughts,” says He, according to whose mind are all our affairs – “I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29. 11).
This article has been taken from the July edition of the Gospel Standard Magazine with the permission of the editor.
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