Metaphors such as storms, mines, and clouds are used by Cowper as he explores the difficulties we all face in the light of God’s sovereignty, wisdom and goodness. No doubt Cowper’s own experience of long periods of darkness and despair was the inspiration for his poem. His encouragement to take courage and trust in God in difficult situations has made the hymn a favourite of many.
Yesterday morning at Hobart Baptist we began a new series of messages exploring God’s Mysterious Ways looking at God’s declaration in Isaiah, “… my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).
Sometimes our familiarity with the Bible stories masks how strange they can be. Stories such as Jesus instructing Peter to find a coin in a fish’s mouth (Mt 17:24-27), Jesus spitting in a man’s eye to give him back his sight (Mk 8:22-26), Jonah swallowed by a big fish (Jon 1, 2), Balaam spoken to by an ass (Num 22:21-39), Elijah whisked away in a chariot never to die (2Kgs 2:1-12), are just strange. But none so strange as the Son of God dying on a cross (Mt 27:32-54).
Our world needs help, don’t you agree? Too many people face malnutrition, disease and war. There is too much hatred, anger and revenge; and much division, inequality, and racism. We would like the world to be better, but how do we fix it?
Many have high expectations of governments and treaties, but they ultimately disappoint. Many look for a superhero. We all look for someone who will use power wisely and crush all our enemies. We want them to hunt down criminals, stifle terrorism, right wrongs, fix injustice and make the world the way we know it should be.
Strangely God didn’t send a powerful superhero to rescue this broken rebellious world, instead he did something rather strange. God came himself, not as a superhero but as a defenceless, vulnerable baby. While the baby grew up to perform miracles signs and wonders he rescued the world not through super human powers but by dying on a cross. How strange is that?
When Cowper wrote, “God moves in a mysterious way” he did so out of the mystery of pain and distress, he was mirroring how God brought life out of death. In doing that, the apostle Paul explains, God deliberately chose to confound the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
As we explore God’s strange ways over the next few weeks my hope is we grow in our expectation that God works in the most unexpected ways, even in the midst of some of our more difficult moments.
Stephen L Baxter