David tells us in his twenty-third Psalm that God not only leads us by relaxing, “still waters,” but sometimes by exhausting “ways of righteousness” (Psl. 23:2-3). God has promised to “continually” guide those who follow Him (Isa. 58:11), with His eye, if possible, or with a “bit and bridle,” if need be (Psl. 32:8-9). He leads them in; and sometimes He leads them “out” (John 10:3); but He leads them one and all, in one way or another.
In the case of young Isaiah, God had to speak with a “strong hand,” because His instructions wouldn’t be something Isaiah would have chosen for himself. He would have to be shoved into giving the people of God a message that didn’t want to hear, which would end with them blaming the messenger. For all practical purposes, he would be separating himself from them: (“…[He]instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people…” Isa. 8:11b). Remember, it’s the “goodness of God” that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4); or that leads us to an unsought for change of direction. The path ahead in the will of God may not be the softest one, but it will be the safest one. You can rely on that.
Not only that, the heavy hand of God may manifest itself as a closed door. We read in Acts 16:7, “After they [Paul, Luke, and Timothy] were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.” They wanted to go one way, but God wanted them to go another. Whether the prohibition was an invisible lack of spiritual freedom or visible surrounding circumstances, the fact remained, it was obvious God had used His strong hand to shut the door. And of course, it served to make God’s later vision to Paul of the call to Macedonia more inviting…and immediate: “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia…”(16:10).
God doesn’t always show us His will immediately, and this is a good thing. How else would we learn the disciplines of patience, hope, and self-control that mark us for greater things in the service of God and others? But He does promise to lead His sheep anytime, anywhere, and by any means. Valiant Nehemiah reveled in “the good hand of my God upon me”; and suffering Job begged, “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me” (Job 19:21). But either way, they both experienced the Hand of God in their lives. Only those who have no Shepherd have no experience with His touch. Thank God today for His “strong hand” in your own life!
“He leadeth me; He leadeth me,
By His strong hand He leadeth me.
His faithful follower I would be;
For my His hand He leadeth me.”
— Joseph H. Gilmore