Posted by: rcottrill | April 4, 2019

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

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Words: William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) (b. Nov. 15, 1731; d. April 25, 1800)
Music: Belmont, by William Gardiner (b. Mar. 15, 1770; d. Nov. 16, 1853)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: William Cooper was one of England’s most celebrated poets. He was also a Christian, and a friend of John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace. Together, they produced a hymnal called Olney Hymns, which contains many songs by both of them.

It happens once in awhile, in a mystery story. Perhaps the master of the house is bending over the dead body of his wife, his hands stained with blood. And he doesn’t realize that someone is watching. Or an old miser has lifted a floor board and withdrawn his secret store of gold from its hiding place, but someone sees it through the keyhole, and has learned his secret.

Remember those old keyholes that required a hole right through the door that you could put your eye to, and peer into the room beyond? But what was briefly glimpsed by stealth does not necessarily give the whole story. Possibly for that very reason, the keyhole works so well as a fictional plot device that it’s been used over and again.

But, as such stories unfold, we learn that things may not be quite as they seemed. There are a couple of problems with that stolen peep through a keyhole. One is it gives only a momentary look at what’s happening, a kind of snapshot. Maybe things went on before and after that seriously affect the meaning of what was observed. The other problem is that the keyhole view is quite narrow. It doesn’t take in the rest of the room. And again, if there were a broader view, it could yield a different understanding of what was seen.

This can be a helpful illustration of our viewpoint when it comes to the workings of Almighty God. Human limitations obscure our perceptions of an infinite God. A snapshot in time can’t explain His eternal program fully. It’s one reason the word “why” is used over four hundred times in the Bible. The question is asked twenty-two times in Job, as that good man tries to understand the cause of his terrible suffering.

The Bible can certainly help us in this regard, but even there we’re merely peering through a kind of keyhole at what the Lord is doing, seeing what Job calls “the mere edges of His ways” (Job 26:14). As Elihu says later, “God is greater than man” (Job 33:12). Though that may seem obvious, it’s important. The bright side is that what we can see of God’s handiwork can lay a firm foundation for trusting Him with other things beyond our understanding.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).

“I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure’” (Isa. 46:9-10).

This involves the sovereign providence of God. A hint of the meaning of the word “providence” can be seen from its Latin roots pro and video, before-seeing. The omniscient God is able to see before what will be needed to fulfil His purposes, and act sovereignly toward that end. This includes not only His use of the pleasant things that happen to us, but the painful trials we face too. It’s why Paul can say with confidence,

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

William Cowper has given us our finest hymn about the need to trust in divine providence, even when we don’t fully understand what the Lord is doing.

CH-1) God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

CH-3) Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

CH-4) Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

CH-6) Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

1) Can you look back on something you fretted about at the time, in which, now, you can see the hand of God at work for good?

2) Is there some challenge or difficulty you’re going through presently that you don’t understand? (Why do you feel confident in trusting God to lead the way through it?)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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