Pathways of Promise

THERE ARE MANY varieties of natural pathways. There are the rough, the rugged, the smooth, the steep, the decline, the precipitous, and all these call forth skill, care, and judgment to negotiate. As Christians, we are more particularly concerned with spiritual pathways. In this connection the Bible is our guidebook. It makes clear the path we must take. The psalmist wrote, “O Lord, … Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not,” or, as the Hebrew text gives it, “that my footsteps be not moved.”—Ps. 17:1,5

Christians find that the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto all who keep his covenant. Our daily prayer should be, O Lord, “Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.” (Ps. 119:35) The Lord giveth wisdom and understanding to those who seek after him if they seek as though they were seeking hidden treasure. He giveth unto such sound wisdom; “He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints,” in order that they may “understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.”—Prov. 2:8,9


Jacob is an outstanding example of one who valued God’s favor and promise of future blessing above any immediate material gain. A very brief study of his history shows that he was a man of great faith and a chosen vessel unto God. Jacob, in receiving the birthright he purchased from his brother Esau, incurred Esau’s hatred, which forced him to leave home for a number of years. On his journey he vowed that, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God.”—Gen. 28:20,21

Consider Jacob’s condition at this time. He was solitary, lonely, and in exile. He had left his father’s house to avoid being murdered by Esau, his brother. He was journeying to Padan-aram at his father Isaac’s instigation, to take a wife from the daughters of his Uncle Laban. His heart was heavy with domestic trouble; the pathway before him was dark and dreary, and furthermore, clothed with uncertainty.

His first night away found him at Bethel. This was good traveling—forty miles the first day. Jacob was weary; the sun had set; and doubtless he would think of the four hundred miles of inhospitable desert, that lay between him and Haran, with uncertainty regarding the reception he would receive, even should he reach his journey’s end in safety. So, with the good earth for his bed, and stones for his pillow, he lay down in that place to sleep.

He dreamed, and in his dream Jehovah had united heaven and earth, by a stairway, and God said that the land whereon he was lying he would give to him and to his seed. God also said he would not leave him until he had done all that he had spoken to him. Jacob awoke, and was afraid; he was overcome with reverent awe at the presence of God, and, in thanksgiving, anointed the stones with oil from his very scanty store, thereby marking the spot as holy ground.—Gen. 28:10-19, New International Version

There he entered into a covenant with God, seeking a blessing on his journey. His requests at Bethel were moderate. He only asked to have God with him; to be kept in the way; to have bread to eat and raiment to wear, and that he might come again to his father’s house in peace.—Gen. 28:20,21

Have we as completely covenanted with God, asking him only for the things needful? Are we treading the unknown paths, trusting him whom we have not seen, but love? Are we prepared to trust our all with God? Jacob trusted God, and God delivered him from his Uncle Laban and family trouble, from the Canaanites, and from his brother Esau.

Jacob returned twenty years later to his native home. He had many mixed blessings, and hard experiences during his absence. Was he disappointed at the end? Listen to the joy and gladness that filled his heart as he returned to his native land:

“O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.”—Gen. 32:9,10

God gave Jacob the increase! No word of complaint is uttered; he does not dwell on the years of hardship and toil since he last walked by Jordan’s stream. He knows the Bethel covenant has been completely fulfilled—he had been greatly blessed having flocks, herds, menservants, and maidservants. Truth has accomplished what mercy covenanted.

God is ever faithful to his Word; he cannot deny himself! God will always do his part. He has said he will never leave us nor forsake us. (Heb. 13:5) Take God as your guide, counselor, and friend. Not one jot or tittle of his Word applied to us can ever fail.


“Neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Gen. 8:21,22) These words appear meaningless to many. They regard the seasons as commonplace. The spring blossoms, the rich glow of summer verdure, the bountiful harvest, the hoary frost, and the cold of winter, inspire neither hope nor fear in men today; they neither evoke gratitude nor bring consolation to their souls.

Pause and think, however, what these words meant to Noah and his family, after experiencing the great Deluge. They might well think that what had happened once might happen again. What assurance was there against a recurrence? God gave Noah assurance in the words we have quoted. God gave back to the earth the blessings he had removed for a time. Ever since that time the seasons have been orderly.

God’s faithfulness is here shown. He is a covenant-keeping God, and every harvest is an assurance of his faithfulness. What proof, too, of God’s power! Man may plant and sow, man may reap and mow, but he cannot clothe the fields with golden corn and green grass. God has retained the power of life and creation; he keeps this in his own grasp—it is sacred and not to be communicated to man.

The seasons prove God’s goodness to man. He showers his rain both on the just and the unjust. Men have despised and rejected God, yet he will not curse the earth with a devastating flood again for man’s sake. Four thousand years have elapsed, but the moon still knows its season and the sun its going down. Let us be fortified in appreciating the succession of the seasons, the recurring of which is an evidence of God’s covenant-keeping and his love and power.

The bow in the cloud brings promise to our pathway. We read: “The bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” (Gen. 9:16) The Hebrew word for ‘bow’ generally means ‘a battle bow,’ but in our quotation it means ‘an arch or iris of many colors, as seen in the rainbow.’ The rainbow appears to join heaven and earth, and figuratively speaks of God’s desire for man’s reconciliation to himself.

God did not set the rainbow in the heavens as a reminder to himself. He is not forgetful. It is placed there for our sake, that we might remember his mercy and goodness. Only in condescension to human weakness did the Almighty regard the bow as a reminder to him.

Our horizon will never be darkened if we always behold the bow in the cloud! The bow represents Jesus as our bow of promise, assuring us that he is our peace. The rainbow is a sign of peace. It appears on the cloud as the storm passes away. The symbolic rainbow round about the throne also speaks of peace in heaven.

There are, however, some views of Christ, which can only be obtained beneath a clouded sky. When darkness gathers around us and our soul is hard-pressed, look up, and our reviving faith will see the bow of promise! Then our storms will be hushed, and with the sweet singer of Israel we will say, “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.”—Ps. 36:5

Think, too, of that not far-off day when we will no longer need the emblem. We will then experience the full reality of God’s faithfulness and love. Here below we have no bow without a cloud. There, above, our sun will never set, because, if faithful, we shall be like him and see him as he is. However dark our prospects, or if by grief we may be bowed, it cannot last forever, if we look beyond the cloud.


“He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” (Deut. 32:10) Thus Moses described God’s great care over Israel of old. How accurate the description! God first found his people Israel in Egypt, groaning and oppressed as slaves writhing under their heartless taskmasters.

God found them! Finding presupposes seeking, and, in seeking, the love of the seeker is manifest toward those being sought. When God’s eye of love had been fixed on the Hebrew children he led them about from the Red Sea to the promised land. He led them by paths of promise, which were sometimes straight, sometimes circuitous, but all the while his loving kindness and providence were with them. He compassed them about and instructed them by various laws, and caused them to hear his voice out of heaven. He kept them as the apple of his eye. He gave them further instruction by mercies, judgments, and warnings.

Can we see in Israel the emblem of ourselves? Where did God find us? In a desert land—for earth, with all its loveliness and beauty is a desert place until the sinner finds grace in God through Christ Jesus. There is much in our beautiful earth to attract the eye, much to gratify the human sense; but, though beautiful, it is a desert land. It is a howling wilderness affording no sustenance, no refuge to our soul. If we are the Lord’s, he leads us to our ‘promised land,’ sometimes by devious ways, yet in the right paths to our eternal rest.

Has God permitted us to encounter some severe affliction? Has God taken away any earthly props upon which we too fondly leaned? If so, God is leading us. Our trials are just so many turnings in our pilgrim journey. No briar, no thorn, has been scattered in our path but that which is common to man and to the family of God. Our Good Shepherd is leading us, and he leads his flock with a skillful hand because he knows the right way. If he should bid us stand, do so; if he leads, follow!

How good for us that God kindly veils our eyes! It is good that we do not know his distant pathway for us. If we knew, how disheartening it might be, how long the way would seem! However, God knows, he loves, he hears, and he cares. If we will but put ourselves fully in his hands, the longer he leads us the more we shall learn to trust him.

His leading is instructive; it speaks of his faithfulness and goodness. He shows us that in our weakness he is our all-sufficiency, that our very frailty will demonstrate his constancy. Our security is that he keeps us as the apple of his eye. He that created the ear, shall he not hear; he that formed the eye, shall he not see?

God found us and is leading and instructing us, and we can safely resign ourselves to him to choose our pathway of life. Rest calmly, therefore, upon his precious promises. Let our prayer be as expressed in the hymn, “Lead kindly light; the night is dark, and I am far from home: lead thou me on. Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene—one step enough for me.”

Treat me, Father, as a little child, and guide me where to go. Give me childlike humility and trust. Make me genuine; give me the love and affection which is open and flows freely. “Be thou our guardian and our guide, o’er every thought and step preside.”


“As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deut. 33:25) The Christian is a pilgrim traveling ever forward through a dreary wilderness to his promised Canaan. En route, his experiences are varied and sometimes he meets with reverses. The path is sometimes steep; the road rugged and rough; storms are encountered; therefore he requires great strength, energy, and patience.

Often if he tries to anticipate tomorrow, or the future, his heart sinks within him, courage gives way, despondency and doubt set in. Varying vicissitudes, however, must of necessity come to the Christian in order that the heart may experience both sunshine and shadow. The bright star of today leading us on may be in deep gloom tomorrow. Why? That we might pause and halt a little while and hear his voice, ‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be.’

Stops along life’s journeys are as necessary as the pauses and stops in music. We must be renewed in grace, that the grace of God in us might overflow to others. We pause that we might recognize the source of life’s refreshing springs and his presence in our hearts. These sustain us, and we are reminded that we are the temples of the living God.

We need the cross we bear as much as the air we breathe, or the light by which we see. It draws us to our Father’s side in prayer. It binds us close to him. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”—Ps. 27:14

Does it seem hard to wait upon God? Let us consider two examples of waiting—Moses and Jacob. In his own strength, Moses waited until he was forty years old when he thought the time was ripe to deliver Israel, but God kept him another forty years in the wilderness preparing him for his subsequent forty years’ leadership of Israel.

Moses’ period of waiting proved four things to him: (1) his personal unfitness; (2) his fear of the people’s unbelief; (3) his lack of eloquence; (4) his need for humility, which caused him to request that some other leader be sent. God, however, having conditioned him, gave him all the necessary aid for his leadership.

Jacob served God fourteen years for Laban’s two daughters, Leah and Rachel. He served Laban another six years for his cattle. Jacob, too, was disciplined by his many trials.

Our times of waiting are times of preparation, mellowing our spirits, cleansing our hearts, preparing us both to receive and give with propriety the things we have received so graciously from our Father’s hand. Only when God has mellowed and molded our characters can he work in, and through, us according to his good pleasure. If we have good reason to believe that our daily lives are responding to, and attaining, the end we have in view, our trials will seem light, and all things will indeed work together for good to us who love God, and who are called according to his good purpose.—Rom. 8:28


“The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Prov. 4:18) “The light shall shine upon thy ways.” (Job 22:28) These two texts treat Christian life from the viewpoint of progress. There is however, a value in looking back, not going back, not retracing our steps, but looking back to see how we can render more unto the Lord for all his benefits toward us.

Spiritual progress is conditional. Job 17:9 reads: “The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.” Spiritual growth produces spiritual maturity. How is spiritual maturity reached? In the words of the Scriptures, by putting away childish things, cultivating understanding, and striving after the Christ ideal. Spiritual growth produces spiritual beauty, and spiritual beauty is something akin to spiritual fullness in Christ. Fullness in Christ produces the overflowing cup which is accompanied by blessing, joy, and the fullness of God.

The Christian’s life is comparable to a journey, because progress is to be made in the way. There can be no standing still as the days, the weeks, the months, and the years soon pass. The child of today becomes the youth of tomorrow, the youth becomes the man, and the man soon becomes the veteran.

There is another kind of progress to be made by all Christians. It is the pathway of character formation. Our daily experiences and our reactions to them, the thoughts occupying the mind, our companions, all combine in forming character. We must grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever pressing onward to the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. This can produce weariness. We must not, however, become “weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”—Gal. 6:9

There must be no standstill in the Christian life; we either advance or go backward; even when the pulse beats feebly, or the eye is growing dim, there is no single period when we can say, “Here will I rest.” With a firm grip on the cross it must be forward, onward, upward, and heavenward. This must ever be the Christian’s motto.

If ever you feel weary, think what it was that led Christ to the cross! It was the Savior’s love, his full resignation to the Divine will, and his loyalty to an eternal purpose. The Christian must ever be prepared to surmount fresh difficulties on his way homeward, being assuredly convinced that his pathway is leading him in triumph to glory.

What grounds have we to believe in such a pathway? We were once in darkness, and now, by the grace of God, we are in the light because we are in the Lord. Once we were ignorant of God, now we can say, “Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15) Now, no longer blinded by Satan, we follow the Light of the world, holding forth the Word of life in the midst of a “crooked and perverse” generation.—Phil. 2:15

This light is progressive. It is like the dawn of day which creeps gradually over the earth. The gray streaks of dawn bite into the horizon revealing at first the outline of the distant hills, and gradually illuminating the earth, completely sweeping away the darkness of night. From the very earliest spiritual dawn which lighted our lives, there is spiritual progress. Faith, hope, and love grow, leading to a mature spiritual understanding, bringing richer comforts and consolations which are the reward of the believer.


There cannot be true progress without prayer. How should we approach God? We should come reverently, yet boldly, to the throne of grace, that we might obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need. (Heb. 4:16) The psalmist says, “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare [margin, also translated establish] their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.”—Ps. 10:17

Prayer brings assurance. Prayer brings every grace of the Spirit into active, holy, and healthy exercise. Prayer is the stream that supplies refreshing vigor and nourishment to all the plants of grace. Prayer is a sacred channel—a channel through which the Lord supplies our every need.

For what should we pray? Pray for God’s glory, for the grace in every time of need. Pray for quickening, restraining, and sanctifying grace. Pray to be kept from falling, to be held up in slippery paths. Pray for a lowly mind, a contrite heart, and a close and humble walk with God. Pray that in prosperity we may not forget God, and in adversity that we may not be forgotten. Pray that in our health we may be given grace to use it to his glory, and in sickness for a patient submission to his will. “Taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”—Ps. 34:8

We have a throne of grace. This throne is available in a world of woe. God sits on that throne to dispense to us pardon, peace, comfort, light, direction, and help in every time of need. Do not linger because you feel you are unfit to approach the throne of grace. God desires us to understand that it IS a throne of grace, and not a throne of merit. As the poet has said, “Our daily load would lighter be, if only we’d draw nigh to thee. Draw nigh in faith and full belief—he’ll take the sting away from grief.”


“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (II Tim. 1:12) These are the words of Paul the aged. He was about seventy when he made this utterance, and in a Roman prison. But he was calm, positive, tranquil, full of joyful anticipation in the closing scenes of his life. Quite different from the morning of one’s life, when hope sheds its brightest radiance.

Paul was about to lay his hoary head upon the block in terminating his Christian ministry. He was ready to be offered; the time of his departure was at hand. Yet he had the spirit, the good cheer, with which to encourage young Timothy, his son in the faith.

At this crisis of Paul’s life his faith was not as a leaf driven with the tempest, not as a reed shaken with the wind, but as an oak deeply rooted, surviving the blasts of storms, still unmoved. His faith was ready for the last mighty whirlwind which was about to sweep through its branches. His attitude was of calm assurance. The shades of eventide gathered around the apostle, but the fire of heaven lighted the spirit of his heart. He saw the gleam of a brighter sky beyond, and with tenfold greater conviction he saw his goal and his life’s object accomplished; therefore he could say with assurance, ‘I know whom I have believed.’

The Holy Spirit witnesses that we are the sons of God, and this gives assurance. Obedience, however, is also essential to assurance, and obedience is the test of our love. Assurance comes as a result of right-doing—“the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness [will be] quietness and assurance for ever.”—Isa. 32:17

Assurance is not a grace given to the believer which may never again be weakened or removed. Christian experience is varied. A Christian’s journey is never all sunshine. To increase assurance, look back upon the pages of your experience, and be not afraid. You will see your pathway marked with ‘Ebenezers’ (stones of help, I Sam. 7:12) testifying to your Savior’s faithfulness and to God’s mercy. These have sustained us in trial, supported us in perplexity, and been our mainstay when vain has been the help of man. Therefore, take these things as pledges of future faithfulness!


Some Christians are apparently like some fruits, which ripen more quickly than others. There are those who become speedily ripe for glory. Although we have not all borne the great heat and burden of the day, the words of the Revelator are addressed to all alike, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10) Be fruitful all your life, all your days; though your life may be imperiled, be faithful until the hour of your departure.

Fidelity is the pathway of straightforwardness. God said to Israel, “Ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” (Deut. 5:32) Straightforwardness brings spiritual prosperity. Jesus, said, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) Paul said, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”—Phil. 3:13

Time, however, tries one’s love for God—time with its changes, sorrows, labors, and temptations. It is not so much the fierce onset that tries one as it is the endurance test. Whether in the workshop, or when we return home; when we rest in bed, or are in the bustle of the day; whether in our family circle, or in society; alone in the field, or in secret retirement, we can never elude the enemy.

The conflict goes on. There must be no season of rest, no truce. If we halt, it is at our peril. If we pause, we may be wounded. The conflict continues even unto death, and we must wrestle in God’s strength until the end. Even the oldest cannot relax if he would be a faithful soldier of the cross.

Faith must always abound. We must be in the world, yet not of it, for we have come out of it, not by monastic seclusion, but by overcoming its temptations and living apart from its spirit. We can appreciate innocent delights, yet we must not be ensnared by them. In the power of the Holy Spirit we must ever rise above the material things of this life.

Many things appeal to our sight, yet we must value rather the things unseen—seeing him who is invisible. Sometimes we pray and see no answer to our prayer. However, we must still watch and pray. Sometimes we shall be harassed with doubts and fears, seemingly walking in darkness and seeing no immediate light, yet by faith we must continually trust God. To endure to the end is no easy task, but it is not in our own strength that we shall continue steadfast. Like the Apostle Paul, we must look for our sufficiency in God.

What an array of triumphs is credited to Paul! He kept the faith at Lystra, Iconium, and at Antioch against erring Peter. Paul kept the faith at Philippi, and made the dungeon echo back his praises to God. Paul kept the faith at Ephesus, pointing men not to Diana, but to Jesus Christ as their only Savior. In Jerusalem, Paul kept the faith when he was bound with fetters.

This same strength, from the very same source, to help us continue faithful, is ours, through faith and obedience. Our conflict is not bereft of encouragement; our armor has been proven—we have a mighty champion. No warrior who has been faithful to the Savior’s banner ever perished eternally, for upon that banner is written, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” (Isa. 54:17) Listen to our Captain—‘Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.’

Consider our glorious leader, who was exalted above principalities and powers, and who led captivity captive! (Eph. 4:8) Think of the prophets, apostles, and others who had found God faithful, and then be inspired to action. “Quit you like men, [and] be strong.” (I Cor. 16:13) Be not “weary in well doing … we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal. 6:9) Toil on in patience, doing the Master’s work. Do battle with evil, both from within and without. Daily gain victory over sin. Deny yourself, and be a willing crossbearer. Anticipate that grand sabbatical rest, and come and let the thought of it nerve you for your daily struggle!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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