The Divine Purpose In Trial

Deuteronomy 8:2-6

"When my sense of safety pales,
Show Thy nail-marked hand in mine.
When my sense of comfort fails,
Place my trembling hand in Thine.
I held of Thee, Thee holding.
Thy strong love me enfolding. "

Although "trials make the promise sweet," yet to the people of God suffering has its mystery as well as sin. Abraham suffered, being sorely tried not because of his disobedience or unbelief, but because of his faith (Gen. 22). So the "afterwards" yielded peaceful fruits. If we cannot see the wisdom of His hand in affliction we can trust the love of His heart. While the Israelites were in the wilderness it was to them verily a time of trial.

I. The Nature of it. It was-

1. Long. "These forty years" (Deuteronomy 8:2). Our Lord fasted forty days, and was tempted of the devil. "These forty years" remind us of the patience of God. He can afford to wait. The great wheels of the divine purpose move slowly but surely.

2. Severe. "Suffered thee to hunger" (Deuteronomy 8:3). God could easily have prevented this, but He suffered it. It is good for us at times to feel the pinch of need (2Co 12:8-9).

3. The Result of Unbelief. "They could not enter in because of unbelief" (Heb 3:19). Unbelief always disinherits from the enjoyment of the promise. The name of those who profess to be the followers of Christ and who, like these wanderers, live an aimless life is legion. Doubting the Word of God, they cease to be warriors for God.

4. Under His Leading. "The Lord thy God led thee" (Deuteronomy 8:2). Blessed be His holy Name for this. Although we may fail to lay hold of all that He in His mercy has provided for us, yet will He not forsake those whom He hath redeemed. He abideth faithful.

II. The Blessings enjoyed while in it.

1. Bread from Heaven. "He fed thee with manna" (Deuteronomy 8:3). During the covenanting struggle, in what were called "the killing times," one woman declared that "she got more good out of one verse of the Bible now than she used to get out of a chapter before. "

2. Their Clothing Preserved. "Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee" (Deuteronomy 8:4). It is wonderful how far a very little will go when the blessing of God is on it (Mat 16:9). The robe of God's righteousness which adorns every blood-bought pilgrim never gets the worse for the wear. The clothes suggest the outward appearance of our daily life.

3. Their Feet Kept. "Neither did thy foot swell these forty years" (Deuteronomy 8:4). He is able also to preserve the feet of His saints in their going out and in their coming in (Psa 121:8). This implies preserved ability to walk in His ways and to witness for Him. It is when we turn aside from the Lord's way that the feet of faith fail and we begin to limp.

4. His Presence with Them. "The Lord thy God led thee" (Deuteronomy 8:2). It was while in the furnace of affliction that the three Hebrews proved the preserving presence of their God. If they were chastised, they are reminded that the rod was in the hand of their redeeming God (Deuteronomy 8:5). "Why can ye not trust God?" said a wife to her alarmed husband the other night when a terrific storm was shaking the house and making the tiles fly off the roof. "Lo, I am with you alway" (Heb 12:5-6).

III. The Purpose of it. God has a purpose (Rom 8:28), and that purpose is as big as the universe, and as definite as the light of truth. To Israel it was threefold-

1. To Humble Thee (Deuteronomy 8:2). Those who walk humbly with their God will love mercy and do justly. The haughty head of pride is ever ready to lift itself up to the grieving of the gentle Spirit of God, who delights to dwell with the contrite and humble in heart. To be humbled is a great mercy, as it puts the soul in a better position for the enjoyment of hidden heavenly things.

2. To Prove Thee. "To know what is in thine heart" (Deuteronomy 8:2). The furnace of trial is intended to make manifest the real inner character. Did not the Lord say to Abraham, after he had been severely tested, "Now I know that thou fearest God?" (Gen 22:12). We would never have heard of the "patience of Job" but for the fiery trials. Faint not, then, at the rebuke of the Lord. Whom He loveth He "chasteneth" (Deuteronomy 8:5).

3. To Teach Thee. "To make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3). What the manna was to the Israelites the Word of God should be to us-"bread from Heaven," "angels' food," "the living bread. " Evermore give us this bread. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. In closing His testimony regarding Himself as the "Bread" our Lord connects the bread with the words of truth, saying, "The words that I speak unto you are spirit and life" (Joh 6:63). If affliction and adversity make us realise our vital need of His Word it will be as the opening of a living fountain of water to a parched soul. This is the cup of the New Testament, drink ye all of it.

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