Now I propose pointing out and describing to you some of the lofty peaks along the mountain ranges of God’s dealing. These peaks stand like glorious sentinels proclaiming God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness.
‘I will declare what He hath done for my soul.’ But first of all may I interject with some memories from boyhood? When I think of scanning mountain peaks I am back again high on the slopes of Table Mountain. The moon casts a bright radiance over the surrounding crags. Try-me, alert and attentive, jingles his bridle bit which glistens like silver in the moonlight.
Dolly the big white mare shakes herself, making the saddle creak. The stranger (visiting from Germany) turns round with a jerk, ‘What’s the matter with the horse?’
Presently he is gazing again, as if spell bound, at the mountain across the river.
‘See that long mountain over there, just beneath the Southern Cross – what’s its name?’
‘That is Dumbe,’ I replied. ‘Dumbe with an oscillating ‘u’.’ He tries. ‘No, that is a German ‘u’, I protest. I have to laugh.
‘Truly the Zulu’s have a language which no man can pronounce!’ he exclaims, laughing himself.
‘And that high peak over there – what’s its name?’
‘Mkatiskop,’ I reply, and pointing west to where a mountain lies dark and threatening, ‘That is Ncaka.’
‘What’s that word? – please repeat it.’
‘You won’t be able to pronounce it. It contains a click sound. Unless you are born with it you’ll never manage it properly. Ncaka.’ Then I point in a north westerly direction.
‘Do you see that peak over there? Well that is the king of mountains around here. Hlongamvula. Another difficult word.’
We remount our horse and descend slowly to the homestead where the dog jumps into my horse’s reins causing my horse to shy violently.
‘You silly old dog,’ I shout, clinging with my knees to the bucking horse. In this wild welcome there is, perhaps, an unconscious reproach for my being so late.
‘Oh…what’s the good of scolding you! You’re only a dog and know nothing of the wonder or the glory of the mountains. What would it help to tell you about the splendour of their peaks?’
Now let me move from this parable out of bygone days to tell you of the splendour of the spiritual peaks. These are not before the outward eye, true. But to the spiritual eye they are just as clearly discernible.
The time immediately following the purchase of the ‘Bible House’ was a difficult one. We were trying to discover the pattern for this new venture. The question that perplexed us so deeply was: ‘Should we start a new organisation with a committee, salaries and all that goes with it? – or should we leave greater liberty to heed and obey the leadings of the living God according to the example set in the New Testament church?
As I saw it, the Lord’s will seemed to lie along the latter course. But oh to be sure! We were aware of the tremendous issues at stake.
One evening I was reading the story of Gideon, who had received a divine commission but was not sure whether the Lord Himself had spoken to him. He forthwith humbly prayed for a sign, and, when it was granted, repeated the request. He wanted to make absolutely sure.
My heart, tormented by uncertainly, kept asking, ‘When in doubt has one the right to ask the Lord for a sign to ascertain His will?’ After long hesitation and much self-examination this seemed a permissible course in certain circumstances where so much was involved.
In the study, from which it was impossible fully to exclude the light from the street lamps, I prayed that night for a sign. I asked the Lord to reveal His mind by sending, the next day, a sum of money earmarked exclusively for personal use instead of being for our combined evangelistic work.
I lay down to sleep. My heart was in perfect peace. True, we had never yet received a gift like that. Nor had such a condition ever been attached to any donation.
‘May God Almighty act,’ I breathed as I fell asleep.
No one on earth knew of my petition for a sign. Nor did I reveal it to a soul the next day.
The day dawned, bringing with it much work and disturbance. But my heart was secretly waiting all the time for the divine sign. The morning post brought nothing. In the afternoon the postman again passed the house by.
‘Had the Lord really spoken?’ I asked myself.
‘Had I completely misunderstood His commission? Or had I kindled wrath with this sinful request for a sign as I had done in that childhood day long years before? – Lord, forgive Thy erring child if that is the case,’ I sighed.
The sun was setting behind golden evening clouds and sending his rays into our beautiful garden. A warm glow lit up the wall opposite and the picture of Peter walking on the water. On my request an artist had painted that for me. Strangely, artists always paint `Peter sinking. It seems they never catch sight of the rest of that incident: Peter trustingly stepping out, his eyes fixed on those of his Master.
My eyes followed the beams of the sun. I suddenly felt so glad about Peter – and still more about the Lord, who was, a few moments later to receive him into His arms.
Then something happened. A dear friend arrived – do you remember, brother? You with your old faithful Chevrolet? You handed me an envelope saying, ‘You may not use the contents for the work. It is only for your family.’ You knew nothing about the sign, but, though you did not know it, you were used as an angel by the Lord.
The Lord had answered. The following day I told my brothers of my experience hoping it would be a deciding factor. But they considered it to be due to chance or to a deception of the enemy. My assurance faltered. Doubt assailed my soul again. So I followed Gideon’s example, praying: ‘Show me a sign again Lord. Let it be the same.’
The morning’s post, next day, brought a letter from a great distance, containing a gift. The accompanying note said that the money was to be used exclusively for the family, not for the work of evangelisation.
To me it was as if the Lord laid His hand gently upon my soul and whispered:
‘Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.’ My mind went back to the perennial truth of David: ‘He restoreth my soul.’
But who can know the human heart. Before very long doubts returned, for beloved and highly esteemed persons considered the whole thing a stratagem of the evil one.
A little while later, on a day when conflict and anxiety surged within and around, my brother called on me.
‘Listen, something’s worrying you. What’s the matter?’ he asked. I told him that once again everything seemed to be in darkness.
‘I am just about at my wit’s end,’ I finished despairingly.
‘What shall we do?’
‘We’ll do what we have proved over and over again to be the right way; we’ll pray until the Lord reveals His will to us.’ He said it simply and as if it were the most obvious thing to do.
So we locked the door, knelt down, and besought the Lord for guidance. After some time something moved outside our door. We did not want to rise from our knees and break into the spirit of prayer. A moment later there was a sound of rustling on the floor at the door. I looked up in time to see a letter sliding slowly under the door, into the room. Obviously someone, considerately forbearing to interrupt, was getting a letter to us in this way.
Still kneeling I slit open the envelope. It contained only a type written card:
‘Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.’
We both paused, dumbstruck. God in His love had answered in words clear as sunshine. Across the long centuries the utterance of Shekinah had come again to encourage and reassure. The Lord God had used these words to undergird Ezra as he faced the disturbing commission to break into well loved ways and bring about separation. So, now, He used them again to confirm His will for the way of the venture ahead of us.
We stopped crying to the Lord and praised Him instead for His gracious working. How well He knows how to make His voice heard by those who truly seek His will.
Today this verse is framed and hanging in my room, reminding me continuously of God’s faithfulness and the great responsibility to which He has entrusted us.