I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go: I will guide you with my eye.…
"A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back," is the pithy sentence of the Book of Proverbs. It describes the method by which God distinctly seeks not to rule us, if He can help it, but which we are constantly compelling Him to employ by wilful and determined sin. It is a deep pain to a wise and generous man to govern children or guide the State by fear. "I will have no state of siege. Any one can rule in a state of siege," said Cavour. How earnestly great teachers — men with the lofty faculty of head-masters like Dr. Arnold — strive to establish a nobler chain of influences than terror can generate, and to bring warm, generous young hearts into such vivid sympathy with their own natures that they can guide them with the eye. It is the principle of our Lord's words. "Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends."
I. GOD IS THE INSTRUCTOR AND GUIDE OF MEN. He is no Epicurean God, careless of the interests and concerns of men, but the God whose care for the world brought Him to live in it that He might share its burden and its pain. It is essential that we should understand that God cannot leave men unruled. He cannot surrender the powers of life to be wielded at will by sensual and malignant hearts. A fool's paradise, a knave's, a demon's — what sort of a world were that for any man to dwell in? Suicide then would be the queen of the arts, as it was once in the Roman Paradise, of which Virgil and Horace dreamed. No, God the Ruler, responsible for the universe He has made to suffer or to be blessed, appoints and holds the limits beyond which freedom shall not pass in defiance. His hand is on the most daring rebel, compelling him to range within bounds.
II. THE MORAL CONDITION OF VARIOUS MEN AND CLASSES WITH REGARD TO THE RULE OF GOD.
1. There are the utterly godless; men who care for no restraint, who ask, "Who is the Lord, that?" etc. Often they seem to escape the eye and hand of God. But it is not so. A hard bar meets them at every turn, a check at every breath. God rules them with a rod of iron. Blind to the glance of His eye, they must writhe under the pressure of His hand.
2. The indolent among His own children — hearts sluggish and lazy, that will not rise up to the sympathy of friends. They will not reject God. They know already that there is no blessing which is really worth anything but God's. They would weep bitterly, and feel that life was utterly impoverished, if God's presence were gone from it, and they were just left to make the best of a world that they love too well. But they will not risk too much in seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. One eye is always on the world, if the other is on God. But they have to be driven in the way which they say they love, and this at a cost of pain to them and patience to Him, which God only knows. And what are the instruments?There is —
1. Adversity. See how He dealt with Jacob. God kept him always in sorrow as a means of keeping him near to Himself. "I have lost my health," cried one to a minister — one who knew well that her health had not been nobly used. "Take care that you do not lose your sickness too," was the answer. It went home, and led her to turn to God.
2. The prison of circumstance. Many are bound as with iron bands to irksome, wearisome duties; but wrestle as they may, the bonds hold. They must work on or starve. And they do work on, but loveless, joyless; because they must, not because they would. It is God's school of compulsory discipline.
3. Inward terrors. God can speak to the soul when none hears. Out of the deep silence a voice may break to daunt and humble us, to make all mere possession worthless, and set us face to face with God.
4. Death. Many a child of God lives in almost slavish fear of dying. And God keeps the terror before them, that He may hold them by its chain, as they will not be held by the bands of His love. Multitudes are sobered and restrained by this fear, servile though it be.
III. THOSE IS WHOM THE LORD FINDS FULL SYMPATHY, and sees the end of His culture fulfilled. "I will guide thee with Mine eye." The eye indicates the desire, the lips the command, the band compels. Those who know the language of the eye have mastered the language of the soul.
1. It implies sympathy.
2. Vigilant duty.
3. Perfect delight. To be guided by the eye we must love supremely Him who guides. And as the fruit of this the light of God's countenance shines oil us evermore.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.