How to Know the Will of God
- Thursday, June 24, 2010
It is God's nature to reveal Himself. And God's revelation always involves a disclosure of His will for the individual person. On this basis Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say that it was actually impossible for a Christian who wanted to know the will of God for his life not to know it.
Now this statement by Dr. Barnhouse also brings us to the first of the great biblical principles by which a Christian may unquestionably come to know God's will. For the Bible teaches that if you really want to know God's will, you must be willing to do it even before you know what it is. This is clearly taught in John 7:17: "If any man will do His will [and the phrase means 'wants to do it'], he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." In this verse, although Jesus was speaking literally of the rejection of His doctrine by the Jewish leaders, He was actually teaching the great principle that knowing the will of God consists largely in being willing to do it.
Now if we are going to come to the point where we are willing in advance to do God's will, we must recognize first that in ourselves we do not want to do it. If you are saying to yourself, "Oh, but I have always wanted to do the Lord's will," you are kidding yourself. For "the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be" (Romans 8:7). And there is a great deal of the carnal mind in all of us.
In ourselves we are a bit like the Israelites when they had first come out of Egypt. They were a huge company. The Bible says that there were 600,000 men, and in addition to that there were the women and children. So the total must have been in the neighborhood of two million. Now this great host had been led into the desert where the temperature goes much above 100 degrees in the day-time and often falls below freezing point at night. When I was in Egypt in the middle of the summer of 1961, the temperature was 140°F at Luxor. And it was even hotter in the middle of the desert. In these circumstances the people would have perished from the extremes of temperature if God had not performed a great miracle to save them.
The miracle was the miracle of the cloud which signified God's presence with the people and led them in their wanderings. The cloud was large enough to spread out over the camp of the Israelites. It provided shade during the day-time; and it gave warmth by night, when it turned into a pillar of fire. It was the banner by which they regulated their march. When the cloud moved the people moved, and when the cloud stopped they stopped. One of the great hymns describes it by saying,
Round each habitation hovering,
See the fire and cloud appear,
For a glory and a covering,
Showing that the Lord is near.
Thus, deriving from their banner
Light by night and shade by day,
Safe they feed upon the manna,
Which he gives them when they pray.
The cloud was the single most distinguishing feature of their encampment.
Now we must imagine how it would be when the cloud moved forward and how weary the people would have become of following it. We read in the final verses of Exodus, "When the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up" (Exodus 40:36-37). Sometimes it moved often, at other times not at all. We must imagine a family coming to a stop under the cloud's guidance in the middle of a hot afternoon and immediately beginning to unpack their baggage. They take down their bedding and set up their tent. And then, no sooner has it all been arranged, than someone cries out, "The cloud is moving." And so they repack their baggage and start to go on again. One hour later the cloud stops. They say, "We'll just leave our things packed this time and sleep on the ground." Well, they do. And the cloud stays that night and all next day and all that week. And as they are going into the second week the family says, "Well, we might as well get it over with." They unpack. And immediately the cloud begins to move again.
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