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THE SHEPHERD AND THE FOLD

‘. . .Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitation.’—EXODUS xv. 13.

What a grand triumphal ode! The picture of Moses and the children of Israel singing, and Miriam and the women answering: a gush of national pride and of worship! We belong to a better time, but still we can feel its grandeur. The deliverance has made the singer look forward to the end, and his confidence in the issue is confirmed.

I. The guiding God: or the picture of the leading. The original is ‘lead gently.’ Cf. Isaiah xl. 11, Psalm xxiii. 2. The emblem of a flock underlies the word. There is not only guidance, but gentle guidance. The guidance was gentle, though accompanied with so tremendous and heart-curdling a judgment. The drowned Egyptians were strange examples of gentle leading. But God’s redemptive acts are like the guiding pillar of fire, in that they have a side that reveals wrath and evokes terror, and a side that radiates lambent love and kindles happy trust.

‘In Thy strength.’ Cf. Isaiah xl. 10, ‘with strong hand.’ ‘He shall gently lead.’ Note the combination with gentleness. That divine strength is the only power which is able to guide. We are so weak that it takes all His might to hold us up. It is His strength, not ours. ‘My strength is made perfect in (thy) weakness.’

‘To the resting-place of Thy holiness.’ The word is used for pasture, or resting-places for cattle. Here it meant Canaan; for us it means Heaven—‘the green pastures’ of real participation in His holiness.

II. The triumphant confidence as to the future based upon the deliverance of the past. ‘Hast,’ a past tense. It is as good as done. The believing use of God’s great past, and initial mercy, to make us sure of His future.

(a) In that He will certainly accomplish it.

(b) In that even now there is a foretaste—rest in toil. He guides to the ‘waters of resting.’ A rest now (Heb. iv. 3); a rest ‘that remaineth’ (Heb. iv. 3, 9).

III. The warning against confidence in self. These people who sang thus perished in the wilderness! They let go hold of God’s hand, so they ‘sank like lead.’ So He will fulfil begun work (Philippians i. 6). Let us cleave to Him. In Hebrews iii. and iv. lessons are drawn from the Israelites not ‘entering in.’ See also Psalm xcv.

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