The Broad Highways - A.E. Myles
THE BROAD HIGHWAYS
Romans 8 : 28, 29 ; Acts 9 : 10-15, 17 I 2 Samuel 12 : 9-13
I know that the elder brethren will bear with me patiently in speaking of things that are well known to them, for I have it upon my heart to seek to help the young people into the vast realm of the thoughts of God. I desire to show you how to find your way about, as it were, in the Scriptures—how to identify the great movements of God. I notice that many of the Lord's people seem to be more or less dependent on verses or parts of verses which they gather here and there in the Scriptures—little thoughts of comfort or cheer, precious indeed, yet little when compared to the vast thoughts of God's word—the unfolding of His mind. Others again are dependent upon meetings. Now, one would not disparage what may be gathered in this way, yet at the same time, one is assured that God's thought for all of us is that we should be able to stand upon our own feet, as it were, not independent of the brethren, or of ministry and gift, but getting the gain of all the Spirit's activities through these channels ; but not only so but adding something to it in the way of individual gain which you will get as you prayerfully read the Scriptures in the light of the unfolding of God's great movements. In this way any precious thought of Christ, or any fresh apprehension of Him will be enlarged or beautified as you are able to definitely connect it in your mind with the greatest thoughts of God. Our God is a great God and every movement of His is great and blessed in itself, and all His movements, as I hope to show, are related to the greatest thing in Scripture, and that is, that God should have something for Himself, for His own eternal pleasure and delight. To limit one's study of the word of God, to noticing only that which relates to the meeting of man's need, is to think and move in a small sphere, but to touch the sphere of divine pleasure is to get away from oneself as an object or centre, and to give God His true place as the object and end of all His blessed movements.
Before I pass on to the consideration of the scriptures read, suffer me to speak a word to the young men. I have observed in the recent years of my life that to be a man of God in the full sense, one cannot be a specialist in the Scriptures. You cannot hold or emphasise any one feature of truth to the weakening of another. To apprehend the greatness of divine movements you must be in the light of the mind of God as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments. Some are specialists in the former, some in the Psalms, some again in a particular Epistle, but if I may be permitted to give a word of counsel, it is, do not be a specialist; have nothing less before your soul than to be a man, a man of God, thoroughly furnished by all Scripture. If you seek to follow these lines you will secure the help of the Spirit and your right hand will be as strong and skilful as your left. " The legs of the lame are not equal," Prov. 26:7. God would make you to grow up comely and strong so that your eye will be as discerning as your ear, your mind equal to your affections, the movements of your feet—indicating service—corresponding to what is in your heart. Have nothing less than this before you, dear young brother—to hold all the truth in its perfect balance and perfection.
Now, it was something of this pressing upon my spirit that encourages me to speak, as grace may be given, on the subject of what I may call the broad highways. In Judges 5 : 6 we read " In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through the byways." The days referred to were days of intense weakness which continued until a " mother in Israel arose." The spiritual significance is that the great thoughts of God were for the moment neglected. Scripture refers to highways and byways, cities and villages ; in short, everything is not of equal importance. Some things are greater than others. The broad highways, as I love to think of them, are four in number. These four main roads run right through the Scriptures. They cannot be mistaken or confused when once they have been identified. Once the map is before the soul—and you perceive where these main roads begin, and where they lead to, you can ponder with never failing delight on the word of God in all its vastness, in all the minute perfection of its detail, and be able to identify whatever feature occupies you with one of the four main highways. You may see a little bit of ornamentation, a feature of the beautiful handiwork of God, and as you are able to identify it with one of the broad highways, its beauty will be enhanced as you place it in your mind in the setting given to it by the divine mind.
It is characteristic of God's movements that they are fourfold. Scripture speaks of four points of the compass, north, south, east and west. There are four gospels which detail the life of Christ; these four, as apprehended in our souls, give us a sense of one glorious whole. Men have introduced all kinds of intermediate points but God moves in straight and clearly defined lines. These are, first, His movements in purpose; second, His movements in sovereignty ; third, His movements in His ways; and fourth, His movements in government.
I do not attempt to unfold the detail of these fourfold movements, all that is on my mind is to give you a suggestion that they are there, to show you how you can identify them, to see the relation of one to the other, and how those that are relatively lesser contribute towards the end of securing the greatest thing, the most wonderful thing, that is, the pleasure of God. I am sure that every Christian will at once see that anything that can minister to the pleasure of God eternally is the most blessed and the greatest thing that can occupy the attention of men. Some may not have progressed much farther than to have apprehended the work of Christ as meeting their need, and may say with very real joy, " He died for me." It is very blessed to be able to say that of the Lord Jesus, but there is a possibility of saying that in such a way as to make yourself the centre and object of His work. If this is so, however blessed and joyful it may be to you, it is a small thought. I would not weaken the joy of the feeblest apprehension of the work of Christ, but I would like you to find your feet on the broad highways and to perceive that He died also to remove all that had come in—sin and death—in order that those blessed purposes and counsels of the will of God in all their vast meaning and blessedness might be given effect to. This thought of the death of Christ makes God the centre and has in view that eternity may yield to the heart of God all that His heart longs for.
God's movements in purpose can be identified by this key, that they are connected with His love. Purpose is a movement of love. It does not stand in relation to anything other than the pleasure and love of God; that is purpose. It refers to those great counsels of blessing that divine Persons planned long before time began, before there was any question of need or breakdown amongst men. The purpose of God has no direct relation to need or failure. As scripture presents it, it stands related to the holy love of God. It is a movement of love not limited to the time scene and it will never come to an end, it is an eternal thought. Things that come to an end are provisional and are not part of His purpose. Things that are but for a period are connected with His ways. For instance, the world to come— the millennial day—it will come to an end. It continues for a thousand years—a long time—but it will terminate, therefore it cannot be a part of His purpose but belongs to His ways. His purpose is like a straight line which comes out of eternity and goes into eternity, which passes through the interval of time, without deflection or divergence on God's part. God has never departed by a hairsbreadth from His purpose. Men make plans : they draw up designs of buildings, machinery or works, and as the plan is executed it is found that alterations have to be made. Here is something that was not provided for : there something that can be improved, or after the work is finished another and better design can be drawn as the result of experience gained, but the purpose of God cannot be improved. It is according to counsel; Eph. 1:11. Think of divine Persons in counsel! Counsel suggests that more than one is engaged as to that which would minister to the divine pleasure; all has its origin, its blessed origin in the will of God. He works all things according to the counsel of His own will.
I want now to show you, dear brethren, that God has not been diverted from His purpose in the smallest degree. He brought Adam into the world but he was not the man of God's purpose; he was as we read, the figure of Him that was to come. The bringing in of Adam was not a movement of purpose. You may say, how do you know that ? Well, the answer is that Adam failed. Nothing that is connected with God's purpose can fail. His purpose has in view that men should be conformed to the image of His Son; Rom. 8 : 29. He wanted men like Christ in every moral feature, and what a point is gained in our souls when we apprehend this. " Except a corn (the grain) of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone : but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit," John 12 : 24. It was all alone : not another like it. The purpose of God called for men like Christ—His brethren—of whom He would be the first-born, the pre-eminent One. That was God's eternal thought, and He is now securing it. The first man was formed out of the dust of the earth, was breathed into by God and thus made a living soul; but God's purpose was to have men like Christ, and the only way God could secure men morally like Christ is that " the grain " must . . . die. It is only out of death that fruit like unto the grain is secured. In Genesis 1 we read " God said let the earth cause grass to spring up . . . and the earth brought forth grass." Note it sprang out of the earth. " He shall see of the fruit of the travail of his soul."
I turn now to speak of God's ways. Adam as created in the image of God was made the centre of a vast system over which he had universal dominion, but failing in his responsibility God brought out in His ways the principles which will ultimately be established in power by Christ when all will be headed up in Him in the administration of the fulness of times. Thus He will be the last Adam, the true Noah, the One in whom all the promises will be yea and amen, the true Son of David, and the head of the Gentile world. This will be the issue of God's ways. Every position man was placed in he broke down in, but God will glorify Himself by His ways in Christ, who will take up and maintain for God every position in which man failed. The rejection of Christ, in whom all will be accomplished, closed God's dealings with the earth, and before the means of blessing can be made good in power, Christ must return. But meanwhile, on the ground that the question of sin, which had come into the world has been settled by the death and resurrection of Christ, God brings in the glad tidings of His grace by which He is effecting His purpose, and there is no possibility of God's purpose failing in achievement. If you quietly contemplate this you will get a sense of the greatness of God. He was not taken unawares by the failure of man. He was not unprepared, and when the failure came in, He developed in His ways the principles which He will yet establish publicly, and by which He will be glorified. But as the result of the death of Christ, where God's nature was met in regard of the question of sin, and of His resurrection, the gospel has come into the world to effect His purpose. How great and wonderful are His thoughts!
All is being effected on the principle of resurrection, and therefore no power of man or the devil can thwart the accomplishment of divine purposes and they are being given effect to now, but all based upon the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a work that was! The public establishment of every divine principle on this earth in the day to come, when Christ the Lord will come again, and the accomplishment of God's eternal purposes, are all based upon it. The death and resurrection of Christ are the righteous foundations upon which all will be established and accomplished. How enlarging it is to contemplates this! How it delivers us from smallness of thought and from being self-centred! What meaning is connected with His death as our minds are expanded to take account of the broad highways!
My death does not accomplish anything. True, it takes me out of this scene and brings my period of education to a close, but the death of Christ has vast meaning in connection with the will of God. God's ways are provisional, they are for time, and are to work out moral ends; after that they will cease, but eternal counsels are in view of eternity, and are accomplished for the pleasure of God and for the satisfaction of His love. May we all yield ourselves more to the operations of God's holy Spirit in us, who is forming and fashioning us in view of God's eternal day.
In God's ways as they apply to us personally, you and I are in this scene of tribulation. Are you feeling the pressure and sorrow of it ? It is only for a time. Peter says, " After that ye have suffered awhile . . .", that is in God's ways—a little while. The suffering is in the time scene and there is a limit to it. In God's ways with me I learn His marvellous wisdom. I may not always follow His ways for Paul says, " How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! " (Rom. 11 : 33). I do not need to try to find out or understand them, but in the faith of my soul I can see where they lead to and what they produce. In blessed contrast to this, scripture would encourage us to seek to understand God's purposes in Christ; nothing is hidden there. It was in mystery but is now fully revealed; Eph. 1 : 9. What we are in Christ, in the thoughts of God, is all connected with His blessed purposes of love. In His ways with us we learn His compassion, His tenderness, His care for His people, and we learn too to glory in the God that can bring His people triumphantly through such circumstances. In His ways the sorrow, the tribulation, the pain, and weariness are all measured with divine skill to produce something for eternity. It is not part of God's purpose that we should suffer ; it belongs to the sphere of His ways, so that whatever is connected with suffering and pressure is in the time scene and we can take courage as we pass through the wilderness, in the knowledge that His ways are necessary. Every drop that He puts into the cup is for us all measured. You may look back to some deep sorrow in your life which at the moment seemed like an avalanche, but, dear friend, every particle of it was measured in the wisdom and perfection of God's ways. God takes no pleasure in suffering; it is what suffering produces that God delights in. It is in His ways that He " repented . . . that he made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." Such a passage suggests that God felt deeply the failure of what was on His side a perfect movement. For forty years He bore with the people of Israel, followed them in their wanderings, waited for them, and went after them; all in His ways.
And now, let me briefly indicate the movements of God's sovereignty and God's government. I think you will find that sovereignty and purpose are linked together as are His ways and government. Without a movement of sovereignty God could not have accomplished His purpose, for when He created man in innocence he fell; when He gave him the law he failed to keep it, and when God drew near to men in grace they refused Him. Can you conceive God leaving Himself without resource in such a situation ? If that were possible, then the breakdown or refusal on the part of man could hinder God's purposes of blessing being put into effect, but it was not possible. So, running all through Scripture you will find one of the broad highways is the sovereign movement of the blessed God. His sovereignty is His right to do as He will without regard for any creature. His sovereignty does not in any way becloud His righteousness, for they do not conflict, but as God He is supreme. He chose us in Christ; it was a sovereign movement. Why did He do it ? I do not know, but I can rejoice that He has done it.
Sovereignty comes to fight in the history of Abraham; the whole world was given over to idolatry. What is God's resource in such a situation ? It was a movement of sovereignty. He said to Abraham, " I will bless thee, and make thy name great." He did not put conditions upon Abraham, but He put conditions upon Himself by the bond of an oath, and although Abraham's faith answered to this unconditional blessing, the movement was all on God's side; it was a movement of sovereignty and necessary to ensure God's purpose. He is the potter; He has the " power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour," Rom. 9 : 21.
The mind of man will not tolerate the thought of God's sovereignty. If there is one feature of God's movement that the flesh rebels against, it is His right to choose in sovereignty. His movements of sovereignty are not manifested until men have refused all other overtures. It is when men have refused to be what His heart seeks for, that the light of sovereignty shines as one of the broad highways. This highway can be identified in that it is not related so much to man's need as to God's purpose. The Lord said, " Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," John 15 : 16. The movement was all on His side—a sovereign movement. Flesh rebels against it, but faith accepts it.
Sovereignty is seen in two ways, in choosing men for blessing in Christ and in the distribution of gifts. How noticeable it is in Scripture that the Lord will not tolerate any interference with His sovereign movements. When He spoke to Ananias about Saul of Tarsus, Ananias displayed great hesitation until the Lord said, "he is a chosen vessel unto me," thereby indicating to Ananias that it was a movement of sovereignty to which he must bow. How happily he bowed! He went straight to the man whose name was so dreaded and, putting his hands on him said, " Brother Saul." If it was the Lord's choice, it was all right, and Ananias recognises the family relationship at once. We get another instance of the same kind of thing in Numbers 12, where Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses. They made the occasion of their complaint that he had married an Ethiopian woman, what they might call an excuse, but not an honest one, for the real issue is suggested in their words, " Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses ? Hath He not spoken also by us ? " How quickly the Lord heard and moved in regard to this questioning of His sovereign movement in putting Moses over the people! He called them before the tabernacle of the congregation and there He brought to light what was at the bottom of their questions. It was a bit of unjudged flesh working in both of them, but more actively in Miriam seeing that her name is put before that of Aaron (v. 1)—a little bit of intolerance on her part of Jehovah's sovereign movements, and when He brought to the surface that which had been working underneath she became leprous, white as snow. We read that Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous. He saw fully developed in her that which had been at work in his own soul, and he said unto Moses—not to Jehovah, but to Moses of whom he had been jealous, " Lay not the sin upon us." The flesh always rebels most strongly against God's sovereign movement. Dear brethren, if there is one thing we must bow to, without hesitancy, and without question, it is the sovereign movements of the Lord in His choice of His brethren, and in the distribution of gifts. How many we have seen turn aside because they have refused to recognise the sovereignty of the Lord in giving a place of prominence to another! It is flesh, and the Lord brings it to the surface. Now these are just a few indications of sovereignty; I trust you will follow me in it. Whenever you detect the Lord in a movement of sovereignty bow to it quickly, for it will mean much blessing. The Lord is graciously pleased to indicate to any honest inquirer if any such movement is of Himself. If we do not bow, we shall come under the hand of God in government.
Now government is the remaining one of the broad highways which we have under consideration. I have already suggested that God's government is definitely connected with His ways. I think I can show you the connection. God's ways with us indicate His compassion, His tenderness, His care and interest, His patience and forbearance with men. If we had not the light of God's fourfold movements, and had only the light of His compassions, we might get a wrong impression of God. We might think that He was not holy. His government gives us to see that He is holy, and it always accompanies His ways. Along with every manifestation of His compassions and interest in men, is the manifestation of His government. His government maintains, in the eyes of the universe, that He is a holy God. His government is the working of fixed principles which never change " For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," Gal. 6 : 7. That is God's government; the sowing and the reaping are definitely related to each other. One loves to think that God's government is tempered for His saints. He added fifteen years to the days of Hezekiah. When David sinned the Lord said, " The sword shall never depart from thine house," but He also said, " Thou shalt not die." There we see the working of God's government. David had killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword ; that was a sowing, and the reaping was that the sword should never depart from his house.
God's government operates in two ways, " For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting," Galatians 6:8. In 1 Timothy 5:9, 10, instruction is authoritatively given as to the provision to be made for a widow who had been well reported of for good works. Here again we see the operation of government; the good works are the sowing, and the care of the saints for her is the reaping. One has observed the workings of God's government amongst the brethren. For instance, I know a brother, who through many years of his life kept the brethren at a distance. He only liked to mix with them on official lines and in the meetings, and outside his own home there was an invisible fence which advised the poorer brethren that they could come so far but no further. This brother grew old; he began to feel lonely and desired the companionship of the brethren. He tore down the fence, so to speak, and opened his arms, but the brethren did not respond to the invitation. They stood where the fence had been; God's government! You think little of a thing to-day; to-morrow you will want it; you cannot have it; God's government! In government God perfectly co-relates one thing with another. A bitter word, that is meant to hurt, which passes the lips lightly, a thing so small in the eyes of the speaker that it is soon forgotten, will involve the working of God's government. Do not allow wrong impressions of God, impressions which will give you a licence which would be checked if you recognised His government. Refuse mercy to another, and it will be refused to you, " With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again," Matt. 7: 2. He is a compassionate and merciful God, but He cannot be untrue to Himself, and side by side with His tender compassionate movements is His holy government. Hosea speaks about it; " They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind : it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up," Hos. 8 : 7. That sarcastic remark, that proud word, will come back as a whirlwind. God in government misses nothing. His eyes see everywhere. " The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good," Prov. 15 : 3. The seed sown is weighed and measured and there it awaits the reaping, and one day, for time is nothing to God, it comes back. The consideration of these things should solemnise us. It is written, " Our God is a consuming fire," Heb. 12:29.
Moses said, " I exceedingly fear and quake," Heb. 12: 21. While all this is intensely solemn it is encouraging to see that God's government is contributory to His purpose, and always in favour of the righteous, so that while we have a sense of holy fear in regard of it, we see that God in all His blessed movements is altogether for us, never against us. I believe the workings of God's government make way in our souls for the apprehension of His purpose. We could not conceive that any one movement of our God could defeat the purpose His heart is set upon. In the light of this we take courage, for while His government may put us on our backs in pain, may limit our movements amongst the brethren, it will never defeat the greater object of securing all the blessed purpose of God in Christ. What God set Himself to do in the past eternity, what He purposed in Christ, He will do.
I feel I have given but a feeble suggestion of what was on my mind, but I trust it may awaken interest and enquiry as to these things, for as you apprehend the main highways of Scripture, and see the great end in view, you will be able to compare one thing with another. Comparison has in view the apprehension of what is greater. In bringing these things to your notice, my desire is that the younger brethren might find their feet in the things of God, and while getting the gain of the meetings yet not to be altogether dependent upon them. May the Lord give enlargement in regard of these great things for His name's sake.
A. E. Myles