by W. H. Sansom
A CHRISTIAN said to me recently, "Do you not think it strange that A—, whose labours have been so owned of God in S—, should have left for T—, where there seems to be no open door for the gospel?"
The question appeared difficult to answer but was in reality not so difficult as it appeared. I knew all the circumstances, I knew that before A— had moved, the matter had been put into the hand of God, and that for months, unceasing prayer had been made to Him for guidance, and it was not until it was felt, that it was His will that this step was taken.
He had exchanged a fruitful corner of the vineyard in S— for a great city in North Africa, whose population consists of Mohammedans and Romanists, both fanatical, ignorant, and superstitious, and each alike opposed to the gospel of God's grace and the Christ proclaimed in that gospel.
But the object of Divine guidance is not always immediately apparent, and the one who looks for signs and walks by sight, will often be sorely disappointed. Faith is tested, and the servant proved, before God's purpose is realized, and the work to which He has called yields the divinely intended harvest.
When Israel crossed the Red Sea and entered the wilderness, they were immediately placed under the guidance of the Lord in a pillar of cloud, and they never thereafter took a journey apart from that guidance.
Was their path then evermore plain and pleasant? By no means. In Exodus 17. 1, they journeyed from the wilderness of Sin according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink; murmuring followed, the heart of the people was disclosed in all its unbelief and forgetfulness of past help; but the heart of God in sovereign grace was also disclosed, for He says to Moses, "Smite the rock and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink."
Then came Amalek and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
Strange, was it not, that the Lord should lead His people into a place where there was no water, and where a deadly enemy lay in wait to attack them? It tested and brought out the unbelief that was in them.
But was it not His design also to show them that He was able to give them drink even from the flinty rock, and victory over their worst foe?
From Elim to Rephidim was a short journey, but what a change of circumstances was theirs. In the one place, they enjoyed "rest and refreshment;" in the other, they encountered "thirst and peril," yet God led them to both these places; in the one He displayed His thoughtfulness and care, in the other His patience and power, that they might learn the nature and attribute of the God who had redeemed them.
I came across an interesting remark the other day; it was this: "It is a good thing for us sometimes to lie fallow."
Now when a farmer allows a piece of ground to lie fallow, his object is that it may rest, and during such rest, store up energy and strength for future productiveness. And so, in the divine economy, God often allows a servant to lie fallow.
Think of Moses; he suddenly exchanges all the pomp and activities of Pharaoh's Court for a desert, where he who had been a leader amongst Egypt's multitudes for forty years, leads a few sheep from pasture to pasture.
Wherefore? that God might fit him to be for forty other years, the patient, gracious leader of His people through the wilderness.
Joseph became the man next in power to Pharaoh, and in a temporal way, the saviour of the world, but he first lay fallow in an Egyptian dungeon, and it was from thence, God called him to his high vocation.
Yet neither Moses nor Joseph during their respective periods of seclusion and painful duress, ever dreamed what God was doing with them, or what their destiny was to be.
Once, after the Lord had sent forth the twelve to preach, to heal the sick, and to cast out devils, and they had returned and told Him what they had done and what they had taught, He says to them: "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile" (Mark 6. 7-13, 30-32).
They might have answered: "Lord, the country is filled with perishing souls." The Lord of the harvest said: "Come and rest." Did He not care for these perishing, needy creatures? Indeed He did, but He also cared for His servants who needed rest, so He withdrew all His labourers from the field for a season.
Presently, these same men came forth, strong, vigorous, divinely prepared, heralds of the gospel—this was the result of their fallow.
But where did the Lord call them to for this preparation? Was it to a place of umbrageous trees, of rippling rills, and verdant pastures? Nay, to a desert, it was here they rested, but He was there, they had His company, and in the realization of His manifested love, sufficiency, and glory, the desert became heaven to them.
And I think the desert is where the Lord gives His servants rest to-day, and where He prepares them for work greater than any they have done before.
"Scripture Truth" 1915