Why Hymns? (The Blessing and Benefit of Hymns)
God Moves in a Mysterious Way
The benefit and blessing of hymns is singing and learning about the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the subject of our song and the reason why we sing. God Moves in a Mysterious Way and many other hymns like it, teach us sound doctrine. They help the believer reflect on God's truth. They provide confidence for the present, and comfort for the future.
Now, I've heard many use the phrase “God moves in a mysterious way”, as if His ways are mystical—ways that cloud the clarity of the way in which he acts. Spoken as if we can't know what God has made known about himself. It’s often said in such a way that implies we can't understand how God acts, what He’s up to, or why He does what He does.
The beginning line of verse 4 of this hymn reads, “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense”.
In others words, do not charge God with wrongdoing. Job was both faithful and foolish in this regard: faithful in his reaction to God's providence regarding his family, wealth and health, foolish in questioning God's sovereign purposes in testing him. Job recognized the error of his way when he put his hand over his mouth after he realized who he was questioning.
“Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. ..Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
(Job 40:4; 42:3)
So, at a very basic level, it is true that we may not understand the “why” many times, but we certainly can understand the “who” all the time. For it is God at work. It is He who works all things according to the counsel of His own will. As the lyrics say, “God moves and works his sovereign will”.
Scripture is clear, God has revealed himself in creation and to all His creatures. In fact, Paul writes to the Romans as if they know the God they have rejected, and they do. “Although they knew God”...which is to say you know He exists and you are without excuse (Rom 1:21). Paul speaks this way because God is not actually mysterious. God is transcendent but also very near. Who God is, what God does, and how God works has been made known.
This hymn powerfully and faithfully instructs us in the way in which God moves mysteriously. Mysteriously meaning not apparent to the senses or obvious to the intellect. God moves in ways that are higher than our own. His thoughts far exceed the creaturely calculations of the wise and understanding yet He reveals them to little children.
Finally, when someone speaks of God moving in a mysterious way, I hope this wonderful hymn comes to mind with all its biblical glory pointing us to its message. The message is clear to those who have ears to hear.
As the late R.C. Sproul said, "God never calls people to take a blind leap into the darkness as an exercise in faith, in fact the New Testament calls us everywhere to leap out of the darkness into light."
The mystery of Christ has been revealed. The way God moves is no secret, and what He has done is not hidden.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain
For God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain
In His own time
In His own way
Pastor Mark Hamilton