The charge that God levelled against Israel was not only that they failed to walk in the ways of God, but that they didn’t know the ways of God. God demands that we learn more than His acts; we must first learn His ways if we are to walk in them. Read on.
“He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel” (Psalm 103:7).
God is talking about two different things here, His ways and His acts. The former He disclosed to Moses, yet to Israel He only disclosed the latter. There is a reason for this differentiation. On the one hand, Moses was a faithful steward of God’s house, being in this respect a type of Christ.
Consider Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews says (3:1) “being faithful to the One appointing Him, as also was Moses in all His house” (Hebrews 3:2).
On the other hand, Israel turned away from God and walked in their own ways.
“……..Because they have forsaken Me…….and have not walked in My ways” (1 Kings 11:33).
This was Israel’s problem; they failed to walk in His ways. Despite many entreaties from God, despite the word brought directly to them from prophets, despite countless warnings, Israel stubbornly refused to walk in the ways of God.
“O that My people had listened to Me, that Israel had walked in My ways!” (Psalm 81:13).
But it was not to be. Israel hardened their hearts. Yet it was more than not walking in His ways, as we shall see.
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says; “This very day, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, like the day of trial in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me in a test, and they saw My works forty years. Therefore I angered at this generation and I said; ‘They are always led astray in their hearts and they did not know My ways’. So that I swore in My wrath; ‘Surely they will not enter into My place of rest’ (Hebrews 3:7-11).
Here we see that Israel did not walk in His ways because they did not know His ways; and it was for this reason that they were excluded from His rest. They were led astray in their hearts. The word translated as “led astray” is planontai and means to wander in the sense of being deceived or seduced. The King James version translates the word in this passage as “err”, but since it is in the passive voice, “led astray” is a better translation. So the reason that Israel did not know His ways was that they were led astray in their hearts and that tells us that the key to knowing the ways of God is the condition of our hearts.
Now there are three conclusions we can draw from the above scriptures;
- The terms “the ways of God” and “the acts of God” speak of different things and reflect different levels of intimacy with Him;
- You can know the acts of God and not know His ways;
- Knowing the acts of God will not lead you into the promised land of rest.
One of the foundational principles of relationship with God is that we walk in His ways; He has always demanded that from His people.
“And you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to fear Him” (Deuteronomy 8:6). A similar sentiment can be found in many passages of scripture including, for example, Deuteronomy 5:33, 10:12 and Joshua 22:5.
But before we can walk in His ways, we must first know His ways, as Moses did and Israel didn’t. We have seen that to do that, we must firstly be careful of our hearts; they must not wander or be led astray. But how else can we learn the ways of God?
We note what Paul had to say;
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable are His judgements and unsearchable His ways!” (Romans 11:33).
His ways, Paul says, are unsearchable, in the Greek anexichniastos; unfathomable, unable to be searched out by man, as in Ephesians 3:8 “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. This “unsearchable” nature of God’s ways, this impossibility of the human mind comprehending them, is something that God told Isaiah centuries before Paul wrote the same thing to the Romans.
“For my thoughts are not as your thoughts, nor are my ways as your ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
Thus, on the one hand God instructs us to know His ways and on then other, tells us that His ways are unsearchable. So the dilemma for faithful believers who want to do His will is this; if we can’t search them out, how can we come to know them?
David, that man after God’s own heart, shows us the way;
“Show me your ways O Lord, teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me. For You are the God of my salvation and on You do I wait all the day” (Psalm 25:4,5).
We can know God’s ways only if He shows them to us; that is what David is saying. But there is more to it than that. What is implied by David here is total surrender to the Lordship of Christ. David asks God to lead him and teach him, promising to wait on God all day long if need be to know His ways. That is what it takes. God will only show His ways to the one whose heart is absolutely yielded to Him; to the one who spends time with Him, watching and listening closely. This is God’s security system over His ways; He guards the door of knowledge of His ways by ensuring that He only shows them to those whose hearts are completely His.
Satan doesn’t know the ways of God; he knows His acts, but not His ways. Compromised Christians do not know the ways of God; they know His acts, but not His ways. Even God’s angels don’t know the ways of God; that is reserved for those whose hearts, and free wills, are willingly given to Christ. It is reserved for those who can say;
“Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. And He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths……….” (Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:2).
Each believer must go up to the mountain of the Lord for Himself if he is to discover the ways of God. While we may learn about the acts of God from men, we can only learn about the ways of God from God Himself. And for that we must go up to the holy mountain, yield our hearts to Him and spend time with Him. One of the privileges of the royal priesthood is to learn the ways of God and as we take up our priesthood and begin to walk in it under Christ, the Great High Priest, we start learning about God and His ways.
The yielded heart is the key, because the only acceptable reason for knowing the ways of God is so that we can walk in them. He will jealously guard His ways from those who seek out of curiosity or ambition and who have no intention of walking in God’s ways. And the economy of God works in this way;
For whoever has, to him shall be given and he will abound; but whoever has not, even that which he has will be taken away from him (Matthew 13:12).
Applying this principle to the knowledge of God’s ways we can say that if, when we learn of God’s ways, we walk in them, He will show us yet more. And the time to learn them and walk in them is in this life. This life is a time of preparation and if we don’t learn God’s ways and walk in them in this life, how can we expect to dwell with Him in eternity? David said;
“The one living in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the Shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).
We must learn to live with Him here is we hope to dwell with Him forever! Every day in which we fail to walk in the ways of God is a day wasted and that day can never be made up. How vital it is to be conscious of the passing of the days! That’s why Moses wrote “…..teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom (Psalm 90:12).
Finally, apart from God’s ways, there is another way;
“There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is death” (Proverbs 14:12).