The Divine Discipline

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.” — Deuteronomy 32:11, 12.

The Israelites had for their guide, instructor, and tutor, in order to prepare them for Canaan, none other than Jehovah himself. … God himself was their guide and their instructor. And it is so with us. The Holy Spirit is the teacher of the Christian Church. …

The text speaks of “the Lord alone.” Brethren, it is well for us that in providence we are led by “the Lord alone.” There is an over-ruling hand after all, notwithstanding our follies and our willfulness, so that God’s purposes are ultimately fulfilled. But I wish this were more true to our consciousness, that we are led by “the Lord alone;” I mean that we waited upon him at every step of life. I am persuaded that the holiest of characters take more matters to God than you and I are accustomed to do: I mean they not only consult him, as we do, upon certain great and critical occasions; but those saints who live nearest to Christ, go to him about little matters, thinking nothing to be too trifling to tell into the ear of Christ.

Some things about which they will not even consult their kindest and wisest human friends will be matters of consultation between them and their Savior. Oh, what mistakes we should escape, what disasters we should avoid, if “the Lord alone” did guide us: and if we watched the signs of his hands in guiding us, if our eyes were to him as the eyes of the handmaidens are to their mistress, anxious to know the Lord’s will, and saying ever to our own self-love, “Down, down, busy will; down thou proud spirit! What wouldest thou have me to do, my Master, for thy will shall be my will, and my heart shall ever give up its fondest wish, when once I understand what thy will is concerning me.” Beloved, I am afraid that some strange god is often with us, even with us who are the people of God. We are united to God, and he will gladly teach us, and from him alone should we learn; but oftentimes we harbor in our heart idolatrous thoughts. All selfishness is idolatry; all repining against the providence of God hath in it the element of rebellion against the Most High. If I love my own will, and if I desire my own way in preference to God’s way, I have made a god of my own wisdom, or my own affection, and I have not been true in my loyalty to the only living and true God, even Jehovah. Let us search, and look, and see if there be not some strange god with us. It may be hidden away, perhaps, and we may scarce know it; it may be hidden, too, in that very part of us where our dearest affections dwell. Some Rachel may be sitting in the tent on the camel furniture under which the false gods are concealed. Let us, therefore, make a thorough search, and then invite the Great King himself to aid us. “Search me, O God, try me, and know my ways, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

The great truth which I want to bring forward, if I can, is this: that God in his providence and in grace, as far as we have been made willing to learn of him, is educating us for something higher than this world. This world is the nature in which we dwell. Sometimes we who love the Lord, mount up from it with wings as eagles, but we do not keep on the wing. We drop again: we cleave to earth. ‘Tis our mother, and it seems as though we can never rise permanently above our kinship to it. Very powerful is it in its attraction over us. Down we come again. We have not yet learned to keep up yonder, where the atmosphere is clear, and where the smoke of the world’s cares will not reach us. But God is educating us for the skies. The meaning of these trials of yours, the interpretation of your sorrows, is this: God is preparing you for another state, making you fit to dwell with angels and archangels, and the spirits of the just made perfect. If this earth were all, then, your teachers at school, or your tutors when you passed through college, might have sufficed; but this world is but the vestibule to the next, and if you know, as well as man can teach you, how to play your part here with a view only to secular advancement, yet are you not educated at all in the highest sense. God himself must teach and train you, that you may be fit to sit among the princes of the blood-royal before his throne, and to have communion with those celestial spirits who —

“With songs and choral symphonies
Day without night circle his throne rejoicing.”

God is teaching you. God alone can do it, and he will do it, but take care that you put away all strange gods, and give yourselves up wholly to his guidance, submitting your will and your affections, and all parts of your spirit and nature to his teaching; that so you may be found fully ready when he shall say, “Come up hither to dwell with me forever.”

— Charles H. Spurgeon, 1867