One of the greatest evidences of how much Israel gained by leaving Egypt was, that God marked out their way for them, and always guided them. At His word (of which the cloud was the expression) they journeyed, and at His word they encamped. The two grand characteristics of the wilderness journey were, the guidance and the manna. Practically speaking, we are now in the wilderness; and if we are enjoying manna, we may surely conclude that we are entitled to enjoy guidance. Few saints would deny their title to this great privilege; but many, who would aver that they receive and feed on spiritual meat, would hesitate to say, with anything like confidence, that they are guided as distinctly and positively as were the Israelites in the wilderness.
Now this should not be so; for one is on the same ground as the other: the cloud was attendant on the wilderness-march as much as was the manna. True, to Israel both were visible to the natural eye, and both are spiritual now; but they are not more difficult of realization to the spiritual man; and if I can asseverate with thankfulness that I am divinely fed day by day, and if I can only know this spiritually, ought I not with equal certainty to be conscious of my guidance in the spiritual mind? If I am entitled to one, I am equally so to the other; both are connected with the wilderness; blessed evidence of God's care of His people thus cast on Himself.
Why then is one spiritual blessing admitted and owned while the other, though valued, is little known, and more or less doubtfully expected? The feeling of Israel in the wilderness was that they did not know their way; they had no idea of it; and were so completely cast on God for guidance, because there was no one else there that could guide them; nor had He, blessed be His name! any other thought than to lead them Himself,
The first feeling in my soul then for guidance must be that I am in a wide desert, and that I have to depend on God, and on Him alone, to direct me. But how? By circumstances? Never. He did not guide Israel by circumstances improvised for the occasion, but by a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. These were His own appointed agencies. Anything below this is not guidance in its proper sense. It is true our gracious God, who, in spite of ourselves and our lack of dependence, will not allow us to lose our way, often uses circumstances to correct us and drive us back into the path of faith; and when in the path, He may allow them as helps to our weakness; but they do not mark the path; they are never intended to guide us; and I believe the watching of circumstances, as indications of the path, is a preventive to many true-hearted souls from enjoying this their real and rightful privilege in the wilderness way.
Psalm 32 gives us the filling up of the Lord's grace to us as to this blessed privilege. "I will instruct thee in the way thou shalt go." "I will guide thee with mine eye." This is His appointed agency for us as distinctly as was the cloud and the pillar of fire for Israel. But how am I to discern His eye? I must watch for it. If I do, I shall surely see it; if I do not, I cannot be guided by it. Where His eye is looking, there I ought to look. Unless I am spiritual, unless my soul is near Him, this will not be; I shall not look where He looks, and if I am looking to anything else for guidance, I shall not see His eye; but never is that eye hidden from the soul that watches for it. The "bit and the bridle" are God's alternatives for the soul that will not depend on Him, and be led by His eye; but the eye is there, lighting up the wilderness track for any who will discern and make use of it.
The Spirit has now come down to guide us into all truth; the spiritual man discerneth all things. The soul should wait on God, unable to proceed without Him, reckoning on His instructing it, and depending on nothing else for instruction but the spiritual sense of the direction of his own eye.
If I do this, I shall, as I go here or there, be assured that the eye of my Lord is directed that way; that such is the peculiar spot searched out by Him for me in the wilderness.
The Lord lead us to exercise our souls more in this blessed nearness and dependence.