Hedged In

“Reckon it nothing but joy…whenever you find yourself hedged in by the various trials, be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance” (James 1:2-3) Weymouth

God hedges in His own that He may preserve them, but oftentimes they only see the wrong side of the hedge, and so misunderstand His dealings.  It was so with Job (Job 3:23). Ah, but Satan knew the value of that hedge! See his testimony in chapter 1:10.  Through the leaves of every trial there are chinks of    light to shine through.  Thorns do not prick you unless you lean against them, and not one touches without His knowledge.  The words that hurt you, the letter which gave you pain, the cruel wound of your dearest friend, shortness of money–are all known to Him, who sympathizes as none else can and watches to see, if, through all, you will dare to trust Him wholly.

“The hawthorn hedge that keeps us from intruding,
Looks very fierce and bare
When stripped by winter, every branch protruding
Its thorns that would wound and tear.

“But spring-time comes; and like the rod that budded,
Each twig breaks out in green;
And cushions soft of tender leaves are studded,
Where spines alone were seen,

“The sorrows, that to us seem so perplexing,
Are mercies kindly sent
To guard our wayward souls from sadder vexing,
And greater ills prevent.

“To save us from the pit, no screen of roses
Would serve for our defense,
The hindrance that completely interposes
Stings back like thorny fence.

“At first when smarting from the shock, complaining
Of wounds that freely bleed,
God’s hedges of severity us paining,
May seem severe indeed.

“But afterwards, God’s blessed spring-time cometh,
And bitter murmurs cease;
The sharp severity that pierced us bloometh,
And yields the fruits of peace.

“Then let us sing, our guarded way thus wending
Life’s hidden snares among,
Of mercy and of judgment sweetly blending;
Earth’s sad, but lovely song.”

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)

Waiting and Over-Waiting

“I have begun to give;…begin to possess” (Deut. 2:31).

A great deal is said in the Bible about waiting for God. The lesson cannot be too strongly enforced. We easily grow impatient of God’s delays. Much of our trouble in life comes out of our restless, sometimes reckless, haste. We cannot wait for the fruit to ripen, but insist on plucking it while it is green. We cannot wait for the answers to our prayers, although the things we ask for may require long years in their preparation for us. We are exhorted to walk with God; but ofttimes God walks very slowly. But there is another phase of the lesson. God often waits for us.

We fail many times to receive the blessing He has ready for us, because we do not go forward with Him. While we miss much good through not waiting for God, we also miss much through over-waiting.  There are times when our strength is to sit still, but there are also times when we are to go forward with a firm step.

There are many Divine promises which are conditioned upon the beginning of some action on our part. When we begin to obey, God will begin to bless us. Great things were promised to Abraham, but not one of them could have been obtained by waiting in Chaldea. He must leave home, friends, and country, and go out into unknown paths and press on in unfaltering obedience in order to receive the promises. The ten lepers were told to show themselves to the priest, and “as they went they were cleansed.” If they had waited to see the cleansing come in their flesh before they would start, they would never have seen it. God was waiting to cleanse them; and the moment their faith began to work, the blessing came.

When the Israelites were shut in by a pursuing army at the Red Sea, they were commanded to “Go forward.” Their duty was no longer one of waiting, but of rising up from bended knees and going forward in the way of heroic faith. They were commanded to show their faith at another time by beginning their march over the Jordan while the river ran to its widest banks. The key to unlock the gate into the Land of Promise they held in their own hands, and the gate would not turn on its hinges until they had approached it and unlocked it. That key was faith. We are set to fight certain battles. We say we can never be victorious; that we never can conquer these enemies; but, as we enter the conflict, One comes and fights by our side, and through Him we are more than conquerors. If we had waited, trembling and fearing, for our Helper to come before we would join the battle, we should have waited in vain. This would have been the over-waiting of unbelief. God is waiting to pour richest blessings upon you. Press forward with bold confidence and take what is yours. “I have begun to give, begin to possess.”  –J. R. Miller

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)

Thy Rod and Thy Staff

“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).

At my father’s house in the country there is a little closet in the chimney corner where are kept the canes and walking-sticks of several generations of our family. In my visits to the old house, when my father and I are going out for a walk, we often go to the cane closet, and pick out our sticks to suit the fancy of the occasion.  In this I have frequently been reminded that the, Word of God is a staff.

During the war, when the season of discouragement and impending danger was upon us, the verse, “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord,” was a staff to walk with many dark days.

When death took away our child and left us almost heartbroken, I found another staff in the promise that “weeping may endure for  the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

When in impaired health, I was exiled for a year, not knowing whether I should be permitted to return to my home and work again, I took with me this staff which never failed, “He knoweth the thoughts that he thinketh toward me, thoughts of peace and not of evil.”

In times of special danger or doubt, when human judgment has seemed to be set at naught, I have found it easy to go forward with  this staff, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”  And in emergencies, when there has seemed to be no adequate time for deliberation or for action, I have never found that this staff has failed me, “He that believeth shall not make haste.”  –Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, in The Outlook

“I had never known,” said Martin Luther’s wife, “what such and such things meant, in such and such psalms, such complaints and workings of spirit; I had never understood the practice of Christian duties, had not God brought me under some affliction.” It is very true that God’s rod is as the schoolmaster’s pointer to the child, pointing out the letter, that he may the better take notice of it; thus He pointeth out to us many good lessons which we should never otherwise have learned. –Selected

“God always sends His staff with His rod.”

“Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut.33:25).

Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths He will provide us with strong shoes, and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip us well. –Maclaren

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)

Evidence of His Love

“But the dove found no rest for or the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him…And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf” (Gen. 8:9-11).

God knows just when to withhold from us any visible sign of encouragement, and when to grant us such a sign. How good it is that we may trust Him anyway! When all visible evidences that He is remembering us are withheld, that is best; He wants us to realize that His Word, His promise of remembrance, is more substantial and dependable
than any evidence of our senses. When He sends the visible evidence, that is well also; we appreciate it all the more after we have trusted Him without it. Those who are readiest to trust God without other evidence than His Word always receive the greatest number of visible evidences of His love.  –C. G. Trumbull

“Believing Him; if storm-clouds gather darkly ’round,
And even if the heaven seem brass, without a sound?
He hears each prayer and even notes the sparrow’s fall.

“And praising Him; when sorrow, grief, and pain are near,
And even when we lose the thing that seems most dear?
Our loss is gain. Praise Him; in Him we have our All.

“Our hand in His; e’en though the path seems long and drear
We scarcely see a step ahead, and almost fear?
He guides aright. He has it thus to keep us near.

“And satisfied; when every path is blocked and bare,
And worldly things are gone and dead which were so fair?
Believe and rest and trust in Him, He comes to stay.”

Delays are not refusals; many a prayer is registered, and underneath it the words: “My time is not yet come.” God has a set time as well as a set purpose, and He who orders the bounds of our habitation orders also the time of our deliverance.  –Selected

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)

A Very Present Help

“Why standest thou afar off, O Lord?” (Psalm 10:1.)

God is “a very present help in trouble.” But He permits trouble to pursue us, as though He were indifferent to its overwhelming pressure, that we may be brought to the end of ourselves, and led to discover the treasure of darkness, the unmeasurable gains of tribulation. We may be sure
that He who permits the suffering is with us in it. It may be that we shall see Him only when the trial is passing; but we must dare to believe that He never leaves the crucible. Our eyes are holden; and we cannot behold Him whom our soul loveth. It is dark–the bandages blind us so that we cannot see the form of our High Priest; but He is there, deeply touched. Let us not rely on feeling, but on faith in His unswerving fidelity; and though we see Him not, let us talk to Him. Directly we begin to speak to Jesus, as being literally present, though His presence is veiled, there comes an answering voice which shows that He is in the shadow, keeping watch upon His own. Your Father is as near when you journey through the dark tunnel as when under the open heaven! –Daily Devotional Commentary

“What though the path be all unknown?
What though the way be drear?
Its shades I traverse not alone
When steps of Thine are near.”

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)

He Has Overcome the World

“None of these things move me” (Acts20:24).

We read in the book of Samuel that the moment that David was crowned at Hebron, “All the Philistines came up to seek David.” And the
moment we get anything from the Lord worth contending for, then the devil comes to seek us.

When the enemy meets us at the threshold of any great work for God, let us accept it as “a token of salvation,” and claim double blessing,
victory, and power. Power is developed by resistance. The cannon carries twice as far because the exploding power has to find its way
through resistance. The way electricity is produced in the powerhouse yonder is by the sharp friction of the revolving wheels. And so we shall
find some day that even Satan has been one of God’s agencies of blessing. –Days of Heaven upon Earth

A hero is not fed on sweets,
Daily his own heart he eats;
Chambers of the great are jails,
And head winds right for royal sails.
–Emerson

Tribulation is the way to triumph. The valley-way opens into the highway. Tribulation’s imprint is on all great things. Crowns are cast in
crucibles. Chains of character that wind about the feet of God are forged in earthly flames. No man is greatest victor till he has trodden the
winepress of woe. With seams of anguish deep in His brow, the “Man of Sorrows” said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation”–but after this
sob comes the psalm of promise, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” The footprints are traceable everywhere. Bloodmarks stain the
steps that lead to thrones. Sears are the price of scepters. Our crowns will be wrested from the giants we conquer. Grief has always been the lot of greatness. It is an open secret.

“The mark of rank in nature.
Is capacity for pain;
And the anguish of the singer
Makes the sweetest of the strain.”

Tribulation has always marked the trail of the true reformer. It is the story of Paul, Luther, Savonarola, Knox, Wesley, and all the rest of the mighty army. They came through great tribulation to their place of power.

Every great book has been written with the author’s blood. “These are they that have come out of great tribulation.” Who was the peerless
poet of the Greeks? Homer. But that illustrious singer was blind. Who wrote the fadeless dream of “Pilgrim’s Progress”? A prince in royal purple upon a couch of ease? Nay! The trailing splendor of that vision gilded the dingy walls of old Bedford jail while John Bunyan, a princely prisoner, a glorious genius, made a faithful transcript of the scene.

Great is the facile conqueror;
Yet haply, he, who, wounded sore,
Breathless, all covered o’er with blood and sweat,
Sinks fainting, but fighting evermore Is greater yet.
–Selected

Music and the Rest

“Into a desert place apart” (Matt. 14:13).

“There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it.” In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by
“rests,” and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives; and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator. How does the musician read the “rest”? See him beat the time with unvarying count, and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come between.

Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the tune, and not be dismayed at the “rests.” They are not to be
slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we look up, God Himself will beat the time for us. With the eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear. If we sadly say to ourselves, “There is no music in a ‘rest,'” let us not
forget “there is the making of music in it.” The making of music is often a slow and painful process in this life. How patiently God works to
teach us! How long He waits for us to learn the lesson! –Ruskin

“Called aside–
From the glad working of thy busy life,
From the world’s ceaseless stir of care and strife,
Into the shade and stillness by thy Heavenly Guide
For a brief space thou hast been called aside.

“Called aside–
Perhaps into a desert garden dim;
And yet not alone, when thou hast been with Him,
And heard His voice in sweetest accents say:
‘Child, wilt thou not with Me this still hour stay?’

“Called aside–
In hidden paths with Christ thy Lord to tread,
Deeper to drink at the sweet Fountainhead,
Closer in fellowship with Him to roam,
Nearer, perchance, to feel thy Heavenly Home.

“Called aside–
Oh, knowledge deeper grows with Him alone;
In secret of His deeper love is shown,
And learnt in many an hour of dark distress
Some rare, sweet lesson of His tenderness.

“Called aside–
We thank thee for the stillness and the shade;
We thank Thee for the hidden paths Thy love hath made,
And, so that we have wept and watched with Thee,
We thank Thee for our dark Gethsemane.

“Called aside–
Oh, restful thought–He doeth all things well;
Oh, blessed sense, with Christ alone to dwell;
So in the shadow of Thy cross to hide,
We thank Thee, Lord, to have been called aside.”

(From the Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)

He Knows Us

“I know him, that he will command his children” (Gen. 18:19).

God wants people that He can depend upon. He could say of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children . . . that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken.” God can be depended upon; He wants us to be just as decided, as reliable, as stable. This is just what faith means.
God is looking for men on whom He can put the weight of all His love and power and faithful promises. God’s engines are strong enough to draw any weight we attach to them. Unfortunately the cable which we fasten to the engine is often too weak to hold the weight of our prayer; therefore God is drilling us, disciplining us to stability and certainty in the life of faith. Let us learn our lessons and stand fast. –A. B. Simpson

God knows that you can stand that trial; He would not give it to you if you could not. It is His trust in you that explains the trials of life, however bitter they may be. God knows our strength, and He measures it to the last inch; and a trial was never given to any man that was greater than that man’s strength, through God, to bear it.

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert) 

Unadorned Life

“These were the potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges: there they dwelt with the king for his work” (1 Chron. 4:23).

Anywhere and everywhere we may dwell “with the king for his work.” We may be in a very unlikely and unfavorable place for this; it may be in a literal country life, with little enough to be seen of the “goings” of the King around us; it may be among the hedges of all sorts, hindrances in all directions; it may be furthermore, with our hands full of all manner of pottery for our daily task.

No matter! The King who placed us “there” will come and dwell there with us; the hedges are right, or He would soon do away with them. And it does not follow that what seems to hinder our way may not be for its very protection; and as for the pottery, why, that is just exactly what He has seen fit to put into our hands, and therefore it is, for the present, “His work.” –Frances Ridley Havergal

“Go back to thy garden-plot, sweetheart!
Go back till the evening falls,
And bind thy lilies and train thy vines,
Till for thee the Master calls.

“Go make thy garden fair as thou canst,
Thou workest never alone;
Perhaps he whose plot is next to thine
Will see it and mend his own.”

The colored sunsets and starry heavens, the beautiful mountains and the shining seas, the fragrant woods and painted flowers, are not half so beautiful as a soul that is serving Jesus out of love, in the wear and tear of common, unpoetic life. –Faber

The most saintly spirits are often existing in those who have never distinguished themselves as authors, or left any memorial of themselves to be the theme of the world’s talk; but who have led an interior angelic life, having borne their sweet blossoms unseen like the young lily in a sequestered vale on the bank of a limpid stream. –Kenelm Digby

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert) 

Lawn Care

“He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass” (Ps. 72:6).

Amos speaks of the king’s mowings. Our King has many scythes, and is perpetually mowing His lawns. The musical tinkle of the whetstone on the scythe portends the cutting down of myriads of green blades, daisies and other flowers. Beautiful as they were in the morning, within an hour or two they lie in long, faded rows.

Thus in human life we make a brave show, before the scythe of pain, the shears of disappointment, the sickle of death.

There is no method of obtaining a velvety lawn but by repeated mowings; and there is no way of developing tenderness, evenness, sympathy, but by the passing of God’s scythes. How constantly the Word of God compares man to grass, and His glory to its flower! But when grass is mown, and all the tender shoots are bleeding, and desolation reigns where flowers were bursting, it is the most acceptable time for showers of rain falling soft and warm.

O soul, thou hast been mown! Time after time the
King has come to thee with His sharp scythe. Do
not dread the scythe–it is sure to be followed
by the shower. –F. B. Meyer

“When across the heart deep waves of sorrow
Break, as on a dry and barren shore;
When hope glistens with no bright tomorrow,
And the storm seems sweeping evermore;

“When the cup of every earthly gladness
Bears no taste of the life-giving stream;
And high hopes, as though to mock our sadness,
Fade and die as in some fitful dream,

“Who shall hush the weary spirit’s chiding?
Who the aching void within shall fill?
Who shall whisper of a peace abiding,
And each surging billow calmly still?

“Only He whose wounded heart was broken
With the bitter cross and thorny crown;
Whose dear love glad words of Joy had spoken,
Who His life for us laid meekly down.

“Blessed Healer, all our burdens lighten;
Give us peace, Thine own sweet peace, we pray!
Keep us near Thee till the morn shall brighten,
And all the mists and shadows flee away!”

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)

Cushion of the Sea

“And the peace of God, which transcends all our powers of thought, will be a garrison to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7) (Weymouth).

There is what is called the “cushion of the sea.” Down beneath the surface that is agitated by storms, and driven about with winds, there is a part of the sea that is never stirred. When we dredge the bottom and bring up the remains of animal and vegetable life we find that they give evidence of not having been disturbed in the least, for hundreds and thousands of years. The peace of God is that eternal calm which, like the cushion of the sea, lies far too deep down to be reached by any external trouble and disturbance; and he who enters into the presence of God, becomes partaker of that undisturbed and undisturbable calm.–Dr. A. T. Pierson

When winds are raging o’er the upper ocean,
And billows wild contend with angry roar,
‘Tis said, far down beneath the wild commotion,
That peaceful stillness reigneth evermore.

Far, far beneath, the noise of tempest dieth,
And silver waves chime ever peacefully,
And no rude storm, how fierce soe’er it flieth,
Disturbs the Sabbath of that deeper sea.

So to the heart that knows Thy love, O Purest,
There is a temple sacred evermore,
And all the babble of life’s angry voices
Dies in hushed silence at its peaceful door.

Far, far away, the roar of passion dieth,
And loving thoughts rise calm and peacefully,
And no rude storm, how fierce soe’er it flieth,
Disturbs the soul that dwells, O Lord, in Thee.
–Harriet Beecher Stowe

“The Pilgrim they laid in a large upper chamber, facing the sun-rising. The name of the chamber was Peace.” –Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)