Taken from, “Words of Comfort to the Christian Pilgrim”
Written by, John MacDuff, 1818-1895.
“He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.”
Thus Moses describes God’s care of ancient Israel…
…How accurate the description! In the land of Egypt–groaning under oppressive slavery, and writhing under the lash of heartless taskmasters–God found His chosen people. And, when His eye of love was fixed upon them, He “led them about,” from the Red Sea shore to the Promised Land–sometimes along a straight, sometimes a circuitous path–and all the while “He instructed them” by many a providential dealing, and many a token of loving-kindness. He instructed them–by mercies, by warnings, by judgments, by frequent interpositions of His power, and, by remarkable proofs of His determination to bless the obedient, and to punish the transgressor.
Yes, “He kept them as the apple of His eye”–He shielded them in the hour of peril–He manifested Himself strong in their behalf–He placed around them the broad shield of omnipotence, until at length He brought them to the goodly land promised to their fathers.
Christian! see the emblem of yourself in Israel. Where did God find you? He found you in a “desert land.” Yes, earth with all its loveliness and beauty is a desert place, until the sinner has been found by God. There is much, it is true, to attract the eye and to gratify the sense, but fair and lovely though it be, in a moral and spiritual view it is “a desert land.” The soul can find in it no sustenance–no refuge; and, as in a “waste howling wilderness,” it is surrounded, on every side, by dangers, and exposed to countless perils. But, oh! it is a blessed thing to know, that God seeks out, and finds the wanderer, in the desert; and, when He has found him, “He leads him,” not always by a direct path, to the promised land, but by a circuitous route, and in the right way, to “a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.”
Has God permitted you to encounter the sharp stroke of affliction? Has He taken from you the earthly prop, upon which you were used to lean all too fondly? Remember! God is leading you about. These unexpected trials–these heart-rending bereavements–are just so many turnings in your pilgrimage. No thorn has been scattered on your path, but what is common to the one family of God. “This honor have all the saints.” The Shepherd is leading you, as all the flock are led, with a skillful hand, and in the right way. It is yours to stand, if He bids you, or to follow, if He leads.
And, O Christian! is it well you don’t know the future path, along which God is leading you. How disheartened would Israel have been, had they known the long and weary pilgrimage which was before them–the need, and suffering, and privation of their forty years travel! Even so would it be with you, if you could look into the dark and mysterious future, and see the rough and stony places in life’s path–the thorns and briars in the hills of difficulty–if you could mark, how often and how painfully you were to be wounded and stricken–if you could gaze on those grassy mounds, which will yet cover the ashes of the loved and cherished, and behold yourself, at the close of life’s journey, it may be, a worn and weary pilgrim, tottering on the verge of the grave, feeble and exhausted, with the perils you have encountered. Oh! it is better far to leave all to God–
“Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”
Although, in leading His people, “God gives no account of any of His matters,” yet, if we put ourselves confidingly into His hands, the longer He leads us, the more we shall be inclined to trust Him. It is even thus He “instructs us”–instructs us in His love, and faithfulness, and goodness; He instructs us in our own weakness and His all-sufficiency–our impotence and His omnipotence–our corruption and His grace–our own frailty and His steadfastness–our unbelief and His unwavering faithfulness to His word.
And, mark the believer’s security, “He keeps him as the apple of His eye.” Such is God’s watchful guardianship over His saints–such His unceasing vigilance. Yes! humble, unknown, obscure believer, dwelling in a lowly cottage, in some sequestered glen, far removed from the hum of human voice or occupation, if only you can say of God, that He is your reconciled Father in Christ, you are more to be envied than princes of the earth, for you are in possession of a blessedness, such as no monarch can bestow, no wealth can purchase, no earthly power procure. Be sure that God, even your God, does not, for a solitary instant, forget or overlook you; your most trivial actions are not without interest in His sight–not a hair falls to the ground without your Father; He orders all things, for the sake of His own great name, and for the discipline of your soul, to prepare you for the glories and the blessings of eternity.
Christian! God has found you–God is leading you–God is instructing you–oh, then, leave to Him to choose your path in life! Rest, calmly and unhesitatingly, upon the sure word, “kept by the mighty power of God,” and, the nearer you come to the land of your inheritance, the stronger will grow the conviction that God is faithful to all His promises. As He carries you, securely, over the rough and stony places of life’s journey, you will sing of “mercy and of judgment;” and, when descending the brink of the dark waters of Jordan, which divide Canaan from the wilderness, you will take up the language of the Psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not lack. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
And oh! thrice-animating prospect! As you stand upon the cloudless summits of the heavenly Zion, welcomed by angelic bands, greeted with the loud hosannas of the redeemed, methinks this will prove the theme of your song, “He found me in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led me about, He instructed me, He kept me as the apple of His eye.”
“Oh God! who has sent Your own Son into the world to seek and save the lost, and who has prepared for those who love You, such good things as pass man’s understanding; pour into my heart such love towards You, that, loving You above all things, I may obtain Your promises of guidance and strength in this world, and of joy and happiness at Your right hand in the world to come.”
“Oh! for that bright and happy land
Where, far amid the blest,
The wicked cease from troubling, and
The weary are at rest.
“Where friends are never parted,
Once met around Your throne;
And none are broken-hearted,
Since all, with You, are one!
“Yet oh! until then, watch o’er us keep,
While far from You away;
And soothe us, Lord, often as we weep,
And hear us when we pray.”
–J. S. Monsell