Bonar, “Man’s Misconceptions of the Works of God”

Pestilence! Famine! Earthquake!

(Bonar, “Man’s Misconceptions of the Works of God”)

“By His mighty acts He governs the people.”
Job 36:31

God’s purpose comes in contact with earth and
its dwellers; not generally and by means of laws,
but directly and minutely. His will, His voice,
His hand, His arm, all come into contact with
this world, as well as with all other worlds,
the creations of His power.

He has not left them alone.

He sustains and rules as truly as He creates
them. Not for a moment does He let go his hold.

He is the governor among the nations.

He rules by His power forever.

His eyes behold the nations. He does according
to His will in the armies of heaven and among
the inhabitants of the earth.

It is with no distant, unheeding God that we
have to do; but with that God who fixes the
bounds of our habitation, who counts our hairs,
who feeds the ravens, notes a sparrow’s death,
and clothes the lilies of the field.

God governs the people by means of the changes
of nature. We use “nature” for lack of a better word.
We mean earth and sky with all their motions, and
alternations, and transformations, great and small,
all “natural phenomena” as they are called.

These phenomena, or appearances, appear to us
common things; by some ascribed to “chance”, by
others to “laws of nature.”

Here they are ascribed directly to God.

They are . . .
His voice by which He speaks to us;
His finger by which He touches us;
His rod by which He corrects us;
His sword, by which He smites us.

It seems to be the thought of many, that in
none of these can we or ought we to recognize,
directly and specially, the interposition of God;
that it is fanaticism to interpret them so as to
make them special messengers of God to us.
But the words before us are very explicit, “By
His mighty acts He governs the people.”

The things by which He is here said to govern
the people, are the common things of the day
and year–the rain, the clouds, the lightning,
and such like. He uses these as His voice in . . .
warning,
or commanding,
or chastising,
or comforting.

These common things do not come by chance,
or at random, or by dead law, but go out from
God as His messengers. Thus everything has
a divine meaning and a heavenly voice. Let
us listen and interpret and understand.

Summer speaks to us with its green fields and
fragrant gardens; winter speaks to us with its
ice and snow and frost. By these God governs
the people . . .
the pestilence,
the famine,
the earthquake,
the lightning,
the storm,
the shipwreck,
the overthrow of kingdoms and kings.

Each of these has a special message to the
nations–and to each of us. Let us see God
drawing near to us in them; showing His care
and love, manifesting an unwearied concern
for our welfare.

Woe to us if we either misinterpret them,
or refuse to interpret them at all.

The common daily changes of personal or family
life, all speak in the same way. Not only the
sweeping calamity that carries off its hundreds;
but the sickness, the pain, or the gentle
indisposition–these have a voice to us.

He who has an ear, let him hear!

We disjoin God from creation, and so see
nothing in it of divine life and power.

We disjoin God from the changes of creation,
and so find no meaning in these.

We disjoin God from the beautiful or the terrible,
and so realize nothing in them which overawes, or
attracts, or purifies, or comforts.

We have so learned to separate between God
and the ‘works of God’, that we seem to imagine
that they contradict each other. The fair sky,
and the clear stream, and the green hills–all
speak of divine goodness.

This separation of God from His works is one
of the awful features of human unbelief.

How much more of Him would we know, were
we to interpret His works aright, and hear His
voice in each, whether in love or discipline.

“By His mighty acts He governs the people.”
Job 36:31

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