But in spite of all this, you did not trust the LORD your God,
I. TENDER LOVE. The love is likened to that of the best of fathers to a son (cf. Psalm 103:13). The New Testament goes further. It not only likens God to a father, but tells us he is one. He is "our Father in heaven," "the God and Father of Jesus Christ our Lord." This full revelation of Fatherhood only a Son could have given; and as given in the gospel it is the believer's daily comfort (Matthew 6:25-34).
II. CONSTANT CARE. This arises out of the relation and the love. It is a care:
1. Unceasing. "All the way."
2. Provident. "Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in."
3. Comprehensive; embracing every want of our lives. God "bare" Israel, i.e. took the entire charge of the nation upon himself; the whole responsibility of seeing them fed, led, clothed, kept, and brought safely to their final destination. So does he provide for his children in Christ.
4. Tenderly sympathetic. "As a man doth bear his son." And God has to bear with, as well as bear us.
III. SPECIAL GUIDANCE. This is included in the care, but is more prominent as a peculiar manifestation of it (ver. 33). Guidance is never wanting to those who need it. It is from day to day - just sufficient to show us present duty. It is given in the Bible, in the indications of providence, and in that inward illumination which enables us to discern the Lord's will in both, It was furnished to the Israelites through the pillar of cloud and fire - the symbol:
1. Of fiery guardianship with grateful shade.
2. Of guiding light with attendant mystery.
3. Of light shining to us in the midst of dark providences.
4. Of the adaptation of God's guidance to our needs - by day the cloud, by night the fire. - J.O.
In this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God.o, but who would take leave to cherish his own suspicions with regard to the soundness of the other vowels? What of the man who is strong upon the letter b, but a little heretical upon the letter z? This is God's charge against us by the mouth of His prophets and apostles — "Yet in this thing ye did not believe." We must not only be careful about what we do believe, but about what we do not believe. Do we really believe in providence? — in the shepherdly God, in the fatherly God, in the motherly God, in the God of the silent step, who comes with the noiselessness of a sunbeam into the chamber of our solitude and desolation? Do we really believe in the God who fills all space, yet takes up no poor man's room, and who is constantly applying to broken or wounded hearts the balm that grows only in old sweet Gilead? Do we believe that the very hairs of our head are all numbered? I am not so old in faith as mighty Habakkuk, I could see many trees blighted without losing my faith; but there is ,one tree, if aught should happen to any single branch or twig of that tree, my soul's faith would wither. What, then, can be my faith, if it is true, and it is true, that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link? We believe in prayer. How much? At what time do we believe in prayer? Are there not periods of agony in life in which we dismiss all around, and look with dumb sorrow upon the unheeding heavens? It is in vain that we say we believe in prayer, and that we lament for those who do not pray, if our prayer does not stand us in good stead in the hour and article of life's extremest agony. Remember the possibility of our having a partial faith, a partial faith in providence, a partial faith in prayer, and remember that the chain is no stronger than its weakest point; and if in this thing or that we do not believe the Lord our God, we may strike the rest of our faith dead as with a sword stroke. Lord, save me, or I perish! What we want, then, is an all-round faith; in other words, what we want is an all-the-year-round faith. But our faith comes in fits and starts. Perhaps this may be accounted for by the fact that we have confounded the word creed with the word faith. Creed is weather, faith is climate; creed is a variable alphabet, faith is an eternal poetry. We live on faith, we walk by faith; without faith we have no life. As to our creed, take it, leave it, read it, despise it, adopt it, do what you like with it, but faith abides for ever, sometimes requiring new words and new modes, but never changing its inward and Divine substance and meaning. Let every man apply this text to himself. Let no man charge another about this merely occasional or spasmodic faith. Now and again we hear men say, My faith could not rise to that height. Sometimes I may ask for a little patience, now and again I may say, Give me time. Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee. That is the true faith. So long as that love lingers in the heart hell shall not have thee, nor the gates of hell prevail against the rock on which you build. This is very serious. This reflection makes life very solemn. Some of us have thought too much that we could take up our faith and set it down, that we may believe a little of this and a little of that; some of us have not thought much of the roundness of the orb of faith. Let us not give way to censoriousness upon others. You do not know how hard it is for some men to believe. It may be comparatively easy for you and me to believe. But we who are strong should bear the infirmities of the weak; we should be patient with the slow, we should desire that other men may know the joy and the blessedness and the triumph and the glory of the full life.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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