Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken. 16 Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. 17 But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD’S flock is carried away captive.
“Be not proud” the Lord says; that is the same as saying “do not walk as you naturally would, do not be what you are by nature, after the flesh.” God is commanding us to hear, to give ear, which means to hear obediently the exhortation but God alone must give the hearing ear — we are all deaf to it, in our own strength, due to this body of death. He must awaken the ear so that we will hear, understand, and do.
God commands that we give glory to Him… but how? Pride is so natural to our condition that the way to go, the way to turn, the strength to do so seems so far from us. But God says to turn unto Him and give Him glory. Set our affection upon Him and make Him the center of our thoughts and desires. Rebel no more and seek His yoke at all times because His yoke is easy and His burden light. Deny yourself knowing that the feeding of the flesh only increases the distance between you and your God. Worship and praise Him, seek His goodness, and give no occasion to the flesh. Seek to do good and right for His Name’s sake.
And what is the alternative? It is to go our own way, to do our own thing, seek our own pleasures, and to embrace death and sin rather than life and righteousness. What happens when we go our own way rather than going after His Way? What happens when we promote our interests and wants at the expense of His word and honour? The answer is simple, if we are not given strength to glorify Him then we are, by default, given darkness. If He does not give us experimental light, natural darkness will proliferate. If He does not work righteousness in us we will work carnality, or legality, ourselves. Whether good works or bad, He ordains both, purposes both, but one is the working of His own hand unto experimental righteousness and the other is the molding of our own sin unto transgression — but all is according to his eternal purpose and for the ultimate good of His people. But what a blessing it is when that ultimate good brought about results from God-wrought fruit and faithfulness rather than from the necessary stumblings and falls we experience as a result of our sin. So though our failings work (ultimate) good, our desire should be to watch, pray, wait on the Lord, all so that our feet may be kept by Him according to His grace, so that our falls are not grievous and painful to ourselves, others, and that we do not cause those without to blaspheme our Lord because of our actions.
But what if He leaves us in darkness for a time? What if He does ordain that we should walk blindly for a season, to stumble about without effectual light, according to our own natural coldness and deadness? How bitter and disheartening that is to our soul. To lose communion, fervency of heart, peace and joy, even our credibility as it pertains to sharing the truth with others — how wretched is that. There is nothing worse for a Christian, in his or her own experience, than to do that which is displeasing in the sight of God and to have this reality brought home to the conscience – that we have sinned, and perhaps, even caused others to do so as well. To sin against God is temporal (experiential) death, especially when God says to you “thou art the man,” and leaves you to feel the smite of this reality for a season, to linger in your coldness and dullness of heart. However, if that season of darkness rolls into another such season, and another, and another… then we have stumbled upon darkness amounting to dark mountains. We are in heights of dark vanity, the deep valleys of coldness and hard-heartedness. We have ventured into the treacherous terrain of barrenness and complacency. In such a state, while we look for light, we find nothing but a greater sight of our own sin and the deadness of our carnal being, and instead of finding that light, instead of escaping from the darkness, we find a greater degree of darkness… He has made our darkness even gross darkness.
Gross darkness can be blamed on nothing else but our own sin. To go from warmth and fervency; to coldness, dimness, and darkness; and then into gross darkness requires a prolonged period of forsaking the means that God has given us to quicken us (experimentally) according to His word. It is nearly impossible to be deep in the word of God, pondering it, discussing it with brethren, sharing the blessings received from searching and studying scripture, receiving sweet morsels of truth brought heavily to the conscience by the Spirit of God, exhorting one another and being exhorted, and in the next moment end up in gross darkness. These things are the means that God uses to prevent such darkness, not to lead us into it. So it is only the neglecting, the forsaking of such means that could bring us into such a state. It is a horrible state, a terrible place to be in and none but Christ can deliver a child of God from such a condition.
How sad and disheartening it is to see any saint go into such darkness, such captivity. Though God will be as a Judge and deliver His people experientially, the time of captivity is a demoralizing one… it can lead to despondency and despair. We are saddened by our own wretched state during such times, as well as the state of others who have been led captive by the things of self, time, and sense. Only a hard heart will be unaffected by such darkness in ourselves or in others. Only someone indifferent to the precepts of God, or more likely antagonistic to them, can linger long, or watch others linger long, in such a state without having any lament over, empathy for, or desire to aid and comfort them (or be aided and comforted) as God enables.
Finally, deliverance from darkness occurs in God’s time and in His strength. We get ourselves into this mess (even though He ordains all things, it is still our sin) but He must get us out. We must wait on Him, hope in Him, repenting of our folly and trusting in the one who is Faithful to restore that experimental light to us. He who is Light delights in shedding Light, restoring Light — and in due time, the darkness will be repealed and the brightness of His glory will shine forth with power. Until that happens however, we must simply wait. We must wait and, as much as is currently in us, make use of the above-mentioned means until the condition is remedied.
May the light shine often and may the darkness be few and far between. Unto God be the glory.