He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him…
I. GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIS ANCIENT PEOPLE. God "found" Israel. Of His own inscrutable love, God chose to take this people to Himself; He found them, and made them into a nation for His praise. And it is said, "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness." I apprehend that this expression may relate as well to the position in which the children of Israel were at first found of God, in slavery in Egypt, as to their position during their forty years' sojourn in the wilderness. Then it is said further, that "He led him about." This is in allusion to the circumstance that God did not lead the people by a straight path through the wilderness, from the margin of the Red Sea towards the promised land; but in place of this, forty years were occupied in a circuitous route. And as He thus led the people about, "He instructed" them. He instructed them by many a type, by many a providential dealing, by many statutes and ordinances such as were given to no other nation besides. He instructed them by mercies, by warnings, by judgments; He instructed them by many a token of loving kindness, by many an interposition of power, by many a signal manifestation of His determination to bless the obedient and to punish the transgressors. And during the whole period, it is further said, "He kept him as the apple of His eye." He shielded them by His power, made it plain to all their enemies that the broad shield of Omnipotence was thrown over them, and that He was determined to protect them from peril, and to put them in possession of the land which He had promised to their fathers that He would give them.
II. Such is the literal application of the words. Now, let us look at their spiritual accommodation — their ACCOMMODATION TO THE SPIRITUAL ISRAEL OF GOD.
1. First, here is the believer "found" of God. "We love Him because He first loved us." Where does God find him? "In a desert land," etc. There is nothing in creation from which we can obtain the supply of the soul's spiritual wants. And even after a person has been found of God the description still holds. We have no fixed habitation upon earth; and we are in constant danger from enemies. But oh! it is a blessed thing to know, that just as God of old found His people Israel in the waste howling wilderness and in the desert land, so He finds His people still; and the proof of His finding them is that He leads them. And here, too, the description given in the text is very accurate, for it is said, "He led him about."
2. Often manifold trials enter into the dealings of God with His people; He permits them to encounter sharp afflictions, unexpected trials, it may be heartrending bereavements; He takes from them the earthly prop upon which they were wont to lean too fondly. But of this be assured: however God may lead His people about, He leads them by the right way.
3. Then, again; all the while God is thus leading His people about, He is instructing them. Have you not experienced this? A Christian has to grow in knowledge as well as in grace. As God continues His providential dealings towards us, we come to take a wider survey of the love and faithfulness and goodness of God in all His dealings with us. God instructs us in our own weakness and His all-sufficiency, our corruption and His grace, our own frailty and His constancy, our unbelief, and His unwavering faithfulness to His Word. And thus the believer is instructed; and he comes to take a bolder step, and to feel his stand more secure, as being anchored upon the Rock of Ages, and putting his trust in the sure Word of God.
4. And then we must notice, further, that it is said, "He kept him as the apple of His eye." What a beautiful metaphor this is! Of all the bodily organs that God has given to us, the eye is the most exquisitely tender and sensitive. You know how the tiniest particle of dust will irritate and distress the delicate fibres of this tender and sensitive organ; yet of all the organs of our body it is the most exquisitely provided for; and the very guards that God has placed about it are so sensitive and so quick to the perception of danger, that the very eye itself may be defended. Now, this is the figure that God makes use of in order to present His watchful guardianship over His saints. "He kept him as the apple of His eye," watched him with unceasing vigilance, placed around him unnumbered guards, defended him with the utmost possible precaution for his real welfare, and thus Shielded and protected him from approaching danger. God thus guards and defends His people. It is said they are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." And is there a man who walks this earth so happy, so truly blessed as the man who is thus under the guardianship of God?
(Bp. R. Bickersteth.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.