I. It is a beautiful conception.—Around the chosen city the mountains stand like sentinels, leaving no part without its barrier. So is God around us, and this enables us to understand how His permissions may become His appointments. It is easy to accept pain and disappointment which comes to us direct from His hand; but not so when they approach us from the plotting and malevolence of a Judas or Shimei. We shall, however, never arrive at a settled peace, so long as we make a distinction between the afflictions which come to us from the Divine, and those which visit us from the human; and indeed, the distinction is untenable.
II. For the assaults of our foes are at least permitted by God, and His permissions are His appointments.—This will become evident if we clearly apprehend that God is round about us, as a rampart to the city, as an envelope to a letter, as the atmosphere to the configuration of our bodies. If then He chooses, He can pass off from us any arrow that might harm us, but if He opens His environing protection, so as to let it pass through to us, by the time it has traversed the atmosphere of His care, it has become His will for us. Put God between yourself and everything. Plenty put their anxieties between them and God, and see God as the sun through a fog; mind that you put God between you and the entire world of men and things.
‘The Lord is round about. He is both before and behind.
My eyes look ahead; they peer into the untrodden future; and He is there. Mystery and perplexity may be there; but into the unexplored territory He goes in my company, His word a touchstone to discriminate between friends and foes, His Spirit a constant enlightenment and guide. Loneliness may await me; but He makes His angels my ministers, and His saints my counsellors and comrades. Weariness will probably be my portion; but when there is most to discourage, “the best of all is,” as John Wesley said, “God is still with us.” Struggle lies in front; but what of that? His name is Jehovah Nissi, The Lord my Banner.
My eyes look backward; they scrutinise my past; and He is there. He is the Author of the joys behind me. Every Elim with its shade, every great rock in the weary land: it was of His preparing. I have nothing that I have not received from Him. Is it not the antidote to pride? Is it not the medicine which cures the lofty spirit? And He is the Healer of the sins behind me. He redresses the wrongs I have done. He neutralises the consequences of my folly. He gives me a sense of recovered freedom. He enables me to begin anew. I bless Him that He follows as well as leads.’