“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you” (Psalm 32:8-9).
In these two brief verses God gives us one of the greatest lessons concerning guidance in all of Scripture. First there is a precious promise to us, a foundation upon which we can build a great faith. This foundation is his willingness to lead and guide us in everything! In the beginning of the chapter, you discover that this promise is offered to a special people — those whose sin is covered and in whom there is no deceit; who have the Lord’s hand heavy upon them; who are godly and pray in a time when they may be heard; who are hidden and preserved from trouble; and who sing songs of deliverance.
Yet the Word of God says a person may be a believer who enjoys all the spiritual benefits of being a child of God and still be like a stubborn mule when it comes to submitting to his guidance. God said of Israel, “For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways’” (Psalm 95:10).
God was essentially saying, “After all those long years of receiving my tender guidance and miraculous deliverances, they still don’t have the slightest idea of the way I work! And they never even try to understand my principles of guidance.”
God wants a people who know him well enough to move at his slightest urging, but most believers do not spend enough time in his presence to know him in this way. The Israelites were mule-headed children, too self-centered to trust God with their future. They wanted a quick, easy way out of the hard places and they learned nothing from the supernatural leadings that took them from slavery to the very edge of the Promised Land.
Beloved, God would much rather lead us with his eye than with a bit and bridle. He wants us to have a settled knowledge of his ways and a constant assurance of his hand of guidance upon us.
We know what it means when we hear it said that people have “the touch of God” upon them. They may be simple men or women by the world’s standards, but they have been alone with God and they speak with authority and conviction of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Daniel was such a man.
Daniel was disciplined, courageous, especially gifted; an ordinary believer might feel he could not measure up. But Daniel is an example of a great man who was wholly human and possessed the frailties of the human condition. His story is meant to teach us how to touch God — and be touched by him.
Daniel represents God’s holy remnant in an evil time, and his captivity in Babylon illustrates our present struggle in a modern Babylon. He shows us today how to persevere in seeking God until his hand is upon us as well.
If Daniel could stay true to God in a day of apostasy and idolatry, we can do so today, no matter how wicked the times become. If he could not only keep his faith but also become so engrossed with the Lord that God came down and touched him, this too is possible for us today. The same God who touched Daniel will touch us!
Daniel’s prayer life had turned him into a man of such great faith that when he was lowered into the lions’ den, he didn’t utter a word. His faith in God shut the mouths of the lions and instead of being devoured by them, Daniel just went to sleep, resting in the Lord. When he was brought out of the den, the king attributed his deliverance to his faith: “No injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God” (Daniel 6:23).
Do you want a special touch of God on you? Then you should consider following Daniel’s example of prayer: “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications … And I prayed to the Lord my God” (Daniel 9:3-4).
The prophet Isaiah often preached about God’s vengeance against sin. He spoke of the day of doom and despair coming upon those living in rebellion, yet in the midst of one of his most frightening messages about the Lord’s day of wrath, Isaiah stopped and cried out, “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord … according to His mercies, according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses” (Isaiah 63:7).
In the midst of all the sin, apostasy and rebellion in Israel, Isaiah looked deep into his own heart and recalled a revelation of what God is truly like. He essentially cried, “Lord, have pity on us and save us again. We have rebelled against you and vexed your Holy Spirit, but truly you are full of lovingkindness.”
God’s lovingkindness is one aspect of the Lord’s character that many Christians know little about. When David looked back at God’s past dealings with his beloved children, he tells us that it is possible to understand the lovingkindness of the Lord. The key to understanding this aspect of God’s character was simple and uncomplicated — God extended his mercy because the people cried out to the Lord. “Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the Lord” (Psalm 107:5-6). When God’s children wandered away from him, lost because of their sin, they cried out to him and “He sent His word and healed them” (107:20).
Once more, when God’s people came to their wits’ end, what did they do? “They [cried] out to the Lord in their trouble” (107:28) and he brought them out of their trouble and calmed the stormy sea.
The Lord was teaching David that he could take a look at his record of dealings with the children of Israel and discover his nature. This lesson holds true for us today. “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43).
You have a loving, tender Father who cares about you. He has bottled each of your tears; he has seen every need; he has known your every thought — and he loves you!
God created man for fellowship with him. His eternal intention was that man would share in his Triune community of love, acceptance, tenderness, and true knowing of one another. Sin entered the world and shattered this whole relationship concept, and with sin came shame, alienation, separation, hopelessness. But then Christ appeared on the scene!
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace … So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:12-14, 19).
Paul addresses the personal transformation that comes by the power of the cross of Jesus Christ. But he also talks about bringing peace and restoration to broken interpersonal relationships. Where you once related to others with hostility, fear, separation and anxiety, you are now able to walk in reconciliation, peace and love. You are made righteous in Christ, and that wall of anger and resentment is gone. From now on you will walk in love and peace and acceptance and freedom and healing. Words that are said toward you may still hurt, but you will not build up a wall of hostility as you have done in the past.
The Word of God addresses it this way: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). In other words, God will give you grace to forgive and extend mercy to others but it may not be well received. Nevertheless, you are able to “remember that you were separated from Christ” but that is in the past. You are now a member of the household of God and you are free because of the sacrifice of Christ. In this wonderful new place, you now walk in his victory!
“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2-4, TLB).
James gives a command here: “Be happy when the way is rough.” He goes on to reason that if you obey this imperative, your patience will have a chance to grow and you will be ready for anything!
Everyone is looking for a way to live a happy life. In fact, when Yale University offered a class in its curriculum called “How to Live a Happy Life,” half the student body signed up to enroll. That class, Psych 157, became the most popular class in the history of the school.
One version of James 1: 2 reads, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (NIV). The word consider literally means to think forward. Don’t get stuck in the now — the present; think about what you’re facing in the future. This is huge because what James is saying is, “I want you to realize that the end of where you’re going has a purpose. Something good is on the other side.”
Peter says, “So be truly glad! There is a wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here” (1 Peter 1:6, TLB). What we can learn from both James and Peter is that heaven is not a location. Heaven is a motivation for us right now; a future thought when we are in present struggle. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to “count it all joy.” If we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better.
It is vitally important to understand that when you are tested, your trials are not taking from you, they are producing in you — which is pretty amazing.
Pastor Tim pastored an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years before serving at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years. He and his wife Cindy presently pastor in Lafayette, Louisiana.