What Does It Mean? Pt. 5
Study Guide May 22, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
How many of you enjoy horseback riding? Years ago while working at a Christian Conference Center, one of my roles was working as a Wrangler with 25 head of quarter-horses. Horses are really amazing animals, and seemingly a favorite with God, as Revelation 19 even depicts the Lord returning on one. And guess who is riding horses with Him? Right…Us, His church. So, get ready to saddle up!
But horses come with all kinds of personalities. Some are very cooperative, while others are downright cantankerous. One big dark bay at the Center was especially cantankerous. His name was ‘Chief’, and he really thought he was. His nickname was ‘Ole Leather Lips’, because even with a bit and bridle he didn’t pay much attention to you. It wasn’t till we got a big switch to use while riding him that he began to pay attention. Then, whenever you nudged him to go or tried to turn him and he wasn’t paying attention, you could just show him the switch and he’d take right off.
Then there was another horse that was at the other end of the scale. His name was ‘Apple Jack’ and he was skewbald in color, or generally just called ‘paint’. And you were the one that had to be paying attention with Apple Jack, because all you needed to do was move the reins or press his side and he was going to take off. So when it came to guiding these two horses there was a huge difference in sensitivity and cooperation between them. Well, David also refers to the bit and the bridle of a horse in connection with being sensitive to God’s guidance.
Ps 32:8-9- “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.” NASU So here it seems that even if you did have a really cooperative and sensitive horse, what God is after is a step up from even that. He wants to be able to guide us not by pulling on our reins, but to guide us simply by the sense of His presence and the power of His Word . Let’s unpack this a bit.
First some have wondered if this was God talking here or if this was David making commitments to others after his earlier confession. And the answer is: ‘Yes’. In other words, like in many places God uses the message of His ‘scripture writers’ to certain individuals as an opportunity for Him to also speak to each of us. So David was God’s mouthpiece to both David’s people and to God’s people. And what an amazing promise from God to us here: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”
Many people throughout history have had what’s referred to as ‘Deist’ beliefs about God. They think that God produced all the created things of this world and those who dwell in it, but then just sort of stepped back and left it and them alone to work things out. Oddly enough, part of what caused them to believe this way was because that’s the way they wanted it to be. They wanted to be left alone, until they were done with this life and then they wanted God to be there for them. How convenient, and how like the sin nature of man to want God to provide all the stuff for life, but then let them rule themselves in life…and then to be there for them to fall back on when they’ve lived the way they wanted to live and done what they wanted to do.
Sounds like ‘Deism’ is still alive and well in much of Christendom, doesn’t it? But let’s clarify something about God right away in connection with this concept of ‘ruling’. As stated in the Biblical Illustrator on this passage of Psalm 32: “It is essential that all people should understand that God cannot leave people ‘unruled’. God cannot surrender the powers of life to be wielded at will by sensual and malignant hearts. A fool’s paradise, a knave’s, a demons—what sort of a world were that for any man to dwell in? No, God the Ruler, responsible for the universe He has made to suffer or to be blessed, appoints and holds the limits beyond which freedom shall not pass in defiance.”1
How remarkable, that whatever God makes, He then makes Himself responsible for it’s welfare; that is, as far as it depends upon Him. For you see, as the Creator, God is responsible to rule. And as such, He takes His place as Ruler and is ready and willing to rule, to lead, and to guide those whom He has made. But then, as those whom God created, we are responsible for following His rule, and are to be willing to be led, and are to want His guidance. But before we go deeper into that, we need to go higher into that promise that God made to us about that. Again, notice what God promises: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”
Once God’s people were guided by ‘a cloud’ and by ‘a fire’, but now it’s by ‘a face’! Again, there was a time when God’s people were guided by a cloud by day and by a fire by night, but here God says, now is the time when we will be guided by His face: “I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Not only is God not a God who is distant and uncaring, quite the opposite; He is a God who is up close and personal, who has His eye on us, upon His people, who are in fact the very apple of His eye. And note how it is God who initiates such an up close and personal relationship. As David earlier called out to God for His help, what an encouraging and probably surprising response He got from God. Ps 27:7-8- “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” NASU
God is the One who is calling us to this level of personal relationship. God is not only willing to instruct us and to teach us and counsel us as our God and our guide; but He wants to do so as our very personal God, who is also our ‘Abba, Father’. Remember, that’s what the Apostle Paul reminded us about in Gal 4:6- “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” NASU This is describing not a religion of formalism, but a relationship of intimacy. And notice even ‘Who’ it is that is moving us toward this level of intimacy: “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” It is God’s own Spirit within us that is instructing us, moving us to think of our God as our ‘Abba, Father’. That’s how anxious God is to personally relate with us and to personally teach us and to personally guide us. So now, our part is to reciprocate that desire. Like David, we are to say, “Yes, Lord. I will seek Your face. I now realize just how much You want my fellowship and communion, and I want that too.”
And yet, in doing so, we must be aware of a couple barriers that are embedded in our nature. That’s what the caution of “Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you” is all about.
Think about it: Even as endearing as a horse or even a mule can be, still, one tendency in a horse that you have to watch out for is ‘impulsiveness’, and in a mule, it’s ‘stubbornness’. Right? A horse is not called ‘a proud animal’ for nothing. Even a well trained horse can sometimes just ‘go off’ and do it’s own thing. And a mule, well, a mule is well known for often doing the opposite thing you want it to do. Again, as majestic as a horse really is, and as cool as a mule can be; what God is looking for in us is neither impulsiveness nor stubbornness, but rather consistency and sensitivity. Yes, He can move us by His power, but He prefers to guide us by His presence, and by His promises, and by His personal day to day relationship with us.
So here’s a question: Are you there yet? What does it take for God to get to you, and to guide you? Remember when Jesus met Nathaniel and how ready and willing Nathanael was to proclaim Jesus as Lord and to follow Him? John 1:47-51- “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” NASU How different was Nathanael’s eagerness to trust in Jesus and follow Him as Lord than was that of Thomas: John 20:25- “So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” NASU Remember, even before Jesus’ resurrection He had already told His disciples that He would rise again. But for Thomas, he sort of needed that bit and bridle before he would follow, whereas with Nathanael, all it took was Jesus’ presence and His word.
The point being, God is willing and ready and anxious to teach us and guide us and to fellowship with us in spirit just as Jesus did with His disciples while He was in the flesh. God wants us, in essence, to put a ‘face on Him’, as He said to David, and as He actually had in Jesus, and still has, in His forever resurrected body. He wants us to relate to Him in a very personal way, even to call Him our ‘Abba, Father’. But to do so we will have to present to Him a teachable disposition toward Him, as well as develop a sensitive spirit with Him, and then guard against anything that desensitizes us to the leading and guiding of God’s Spirit.
Briefly, we can accomplish that by this:
- Being convinced of God’s unconditional, sacrificial and continual love for us. You see, it’s not enough just to know God loves you; you must come to where you trust in His love for you regardless of the circumstances around you. 1 John 4:9-11- “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” NASU And note this as well; you will only pass on the kind of love that you let yourself experience from God. Once you are assured of God’s love for you, it’s easier to share some of that with others.
- Being willing to do His will. John 7:17- “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching…” NASU In other words; willingness to do precedes knowledge of what to do. The principle could also be stated this way: Dependence on God precedes direction from God. Remember Prov 3:5-6? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Dependence), And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him (Dependence), And He shall direct your paths.”NKJV (Direction and Guidance)
- Making sure our motives are right. Phil 2:3- “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…” 1 Cor 10:31- “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” NIV You see, our goal in whatever it is that we are deciding or looking to God for direction about must foremost be to honor the Lord we love and represent, as well as to further build the credibility of our Christian witness.
- And then add one other to it all: Making being more sensitive to God’s will and guidance a priority goal in your life. It’s interesting that much of the insistence of the writers of Scripture was not on the importance of discovering the will of God, but always on the necessity of doing it. Remember James 1:22? “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” NKJV
In many words and in many ways God has told us and showed us how much He longs to lead us because He loves us. So our part is to let Him as we draw nearer and nearer to Him. Our goal should be to try to make it as easy as we can for God to guide us by His presence and His promises.
1. The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.