God moves in a mysterious way
Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. 1 Kings 8:12
Oliver Cromwell, who in the seventeenth century became the Lord Protector of the British Commonwealth, was known for finding reasons from "necessity and providence" to justify his actions and the actions of Parliament in the days of the English Civil War. Of course, by providence Puritans like Cromwell meant what the Shorter Catechism calls God's "most holy, wise, and powerful preserving, and governing all his creatures and all their actions." However, when Cromwell said "providence," what he really meant was "my interpretation of providence." The problem here was not his belief that God's providence is all-encompassing. The problem was identifying God's purposes in providence with his own interpretation of it.
For example, when Cromwell's New Model Army did well and defeated its enemies, he interpreted this as a sign of God's favor. The difficulty with this type of reasoning, however, is that it can be used to justify almost anything.
Cromwell has not been the only one to make this mistake. I would argue that we are all tempted to do this very thing. Again, this doesn't mean that we shouldn't see God's hand in the details of history. We should believe that and we should rejoice in that, because the Bible teaches it. It's true and incredibly stabilizing and comforting. But we have to be careful that we don't identify our own interpretations of providence with God's purposes in it.
There are several reasons for this. The first is related to what Solomon said in the text for today. God dwells in thick darkness: his ways are not always obvious to us. He doesn't always reveal to us the reasons he does things. There are things revealed to us and there are things which are not revealed to us. The things revealed belong to us and to our children; the things left unrevealed we should be happy to leave to the Lord (cf. Deut. 29:29).
Another reason for this is that we can only see a sliver of God's providential dealings. We are only often looking at a snapshot, whereas God sees the whole program. We are only looking at a frame, when God see the whole show. We are looking at a moment, when God is looking from eternity past to eternity future. It is impossible, given our finitude and limitations, for us to properly interpret on our own the purpose of God in history - whether history in general or our own lives in particular - because we simply do not have this eternal perspective.
Let us therefore tie ourselves to Scripture, to the words of the prophets and apostles who communicate to us clearly the Word of God. In the pages of the Bible, we have God's infallible interpretation of things. We can bank on this with certainty. Believer, don't wed your faith to your own limited insights. Trust in the true and certain Word of God.
William Cowper put it so well in his famous hymn, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way:"
God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.
You fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds you so much dread Are big with mercy and shall break In blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding ev'ry hour. The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow'r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err And scan his work in vain. God is his own interpreter, And he will make it plain.