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God Moves in a Mysterious Way

by | Oct 22, 2015 | Blog, News, Worship

Our church loves to sing the Hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper.  I personally love this hymn, (and hymn writer) and want to expound on some of the reasons why. Here is the text before I dive in.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform
He plants his footsteps in the sea
and rides upon the storm
Deep in his dark and hidden mines
with never failing skill
He fashions all his bright designs
and works his sovereign will
Ye fearful saints new courage take
The clouds that you now dread
are thick with mercy and will break
in blessings on your head
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
but trust him for his grace
behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face
God’s purposes will ripen fast
unfolding every hour
the bud may have a bitter taste
but sweet will be the flower
Blind unbelief is sure to err
and scan his work in vain
God is his own interpreter
and he will make it plain

It seems that each week there is a need for our corporate worship to reflect a wide range of human emotions and responses to God, His word, His providence and His Gospel. This song has served our congregation well in allowing folks to sing the truths relating to a “frowning Providence.” Every week there are people who are struggling, hurting and wondering if God can be trusted. To their questions we sing together these truths.

God’s Sovereign Hand

For everyone who is walking through a trial, these words remind us who is ultimately in control. Though we are not able to trace his footsteps in the sea, He is alive and engaged in the world. He is not distant from whatever joy and pain that He has ordained in our lives.

God can be trusted

Though our circumstances may be experienced as cruel, God is good. Many times, in trial, the most difficult thing to remember is that we can trust God. This song reminds us that God is good, His purposes are good, bringing Him glory and us benefit. We only see the means presently, and it is almost impossible to see the end until Christ returns and makes all things new. Behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face. His love for his covenant people is not diminished through our suffering.

Temptation in trial

In times of trial, there is a particular temptation to judge the Lord while trying to make sense of our circumstance. It is easy to understand suffering when it is directly caused by our own sin, or sin of others. The harder truth is suffering that is a result of the fallen world we live in. God is making all things new, but what is already realized for us spiritually has not been realized physically. This is part of our longing for a new heaven and new earth where Christ’s Lordship will be acknowledged by all of creation. While we wait, there is a temptation to “Judge … the Lord by feeble sense” or to have a “Blind unbelief” that is “sure to err.” Both of these lyrics serve as a warning to be careful when we seek to understand our circumstances from a worldly unbelieving, untrusting position. These lyrics also serve to comfort us. God is the Judge, he has the advantage of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. What healthy truths to sing when our hearts are unable to make sense of God’s providence!

For those who may find these words challenging to sing, it may be helpful to think through Job’s story, specifically his response after God has done his merciful work of helping him think rightly about his circumstance, himself, and the Lord.

Then Job answered the LORD and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”

(Job 42:1-6 ESV)

Here are a couple of resources:

William Cowper – Insanity and Spiritual Songs in the Soul of A Saint by John Piper

The Hidden Smile of God – John Piper

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