It is one of the conceits of the carnal mind that it thinks itself capable
of discerning and understanding the designs of God. The unbeliever thinks
he fathoms God and finds the Almighty wanting. The deluded believer hesitates
to embrace the teaching of Scripture unless he thinks he perceives the
divine design in it. Those of a mature and spiritual frame of mind are
not so haughty as to believe that they can trace the ways of God with
full understanding. This is not to say that the spiritually mature walk
through life in blind ignorance of the ways of God. It is rather the case
that as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, the realisation
increasingly dawns upon us that our God works in ways deeper, higher,
more powerful, loving, and wise than we could ever expect or imagine.
In short, the spiritual man understands that he lacks capacity to fathom
the divine designs.
The Apostle Paul exclaims that the wisdom and knowledge of God are profoundly
rich, while the Lord's judgements are unsearchable, and His ways are unfathomable
(Rom. 11:33). It should humble us when we realise that the ways of our
God are so magnificent that our poor finite and fallible minds cannot
take them in. Such a realisation should also alert us to a most practical
truth regarding how we are to understand choices and make decisions in
Our calling and care are not that we discover or seek knowingly to follow
the deep, hidden designs of our God. The Lord does not reveal to us all
of His plans and purposes (Dt. 29:29). We are not to endeavour to fathom
the divine designs; we are rather to follow the divine directions. Indeed,
it is only as we hear and follow the clear commandments of our God that
we attain a growing approximation of knowledge of the designs of God.
We may put the matter in another way: In our pilgrimage through this world,
we do not proceed by our beholding the face of the Lord so much as His
back side. It remains for us now as true as it was for Moses when he wanted
to behold the glory of God (Ex. 33: 18ff) that no man can behold the face
of God and live.
Our God ever goes before us, preparing our way by His grace and power
(Mk. 14:28). The way He prepares for us is in accordance with His perfect
will. Yet it may to us appear dark, stormy, chaotic. We do not perceive
the perfection until we are well into the divine way walking by faith.
If we wait to see the perfection of the way before we enter into it or
pursue it unreservedly, we shall never set out on that way, or if we do
set out, we shall grow fearful and discouraged by our not seeing the perfect
divine design of the way soon enough, and we shall seek some other course.
The matter may be illustrated by biblical examples. The career of the
Apostle Paul, for instance, appeared full of failure and needless anguish.
Yet, he was walking not by his perceiving the design of the Lord but rather
by this obeying the directives of the Lord. Paul knew that the course
of his life was set before him by the divine directive that he was to
serve as a chosen instrument to bear God's name before the Gentiles and
kings and sons of Israel, and to suffer much in doing it (Acts 9:15,16).
What is the design in that? Paul did not know prior to his setting out
in obedience to the heavenly directive, but came to see the profound design
in the course of his obedience to the Lord's commands. We, too, now see
that design, at least in part. God planned, purposed, and accomplished
the planting of many Gentile churches through Paul, and, at the same time,
the Lord taught the apostle by what he suffered that Christ was worth
any cost (Phil. 3:7,8; 4:11-13).
The supreme example, of course, is Jesus himself. Our Saviour took many
turns in his earthly life which perplexed and frustrated His disciples.
The divine design was certainly hidden from the disciples at such turns,
and whether even Jesus perceived them as the Son of Man we cannot always
be sure (Mt. 24:36). But what is clear is that our Redeemer pursued the
clear commands of His Father, as is evident from Jesus citing Scripture
at some of those critical turns. Thus, the Son of Man pursues his way
to the cross, enduring all cost - the abuse of enemies, the betrayal of
one of the twelve, the abandonment of the rest of the disciples.
Why did he do it? He tells us that He was doing so in fulfilment of Scripture,
saying that it is written: I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep
shall be scattered (Mk. 14:27; Zech. 13:7). The design of this way of
sorrows and suffering was, prior to Christ's resurrection, not clear to
the disciples. After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus it became
so gloriously clear that the disciples went about turning the world upside
down in their proclamation of the gospel.
It is not bad that we are called to hear and heed the voice of the Lord
directing us by his Word, without our seeing the design of the things
He calls us to do. For our calling is not so much to know the way and
understand all of its turns, but rather is to know the divine Lord of
the way. Our following the voice of the living God is infinitely better
than our seeing and understanding any course set before us. The writer
to the Hebrews exhorts us to run the race set before us, fixing our eyes
not upon the course, but upon the Christ (Heb. 12:1,2). Our calling is
to follow the Lamb of God wherever He may go (Rev. 14:4), to follow the
living author and perfector of faith (Heb. 12:2), knowing that thereby
we are following the good Shepherd who knows the way perfectly, and who,
by His laying down His life for us, has borne the cost of the way, drawing
out its sting, and replacing it with sweetness. Too often we sit paralysed
and perplexed in our Christian walk, trying to discern divine design before
we act, failing to realize that the design is to be drawn out in the living
characters of our steps as we walk by the directives of our Lord. Let
us rather hear and heed divine directives; then we shall behold divine
design for our good.