“WISDOM AND POWER”
“Rehoboth,” Henfield, Sussex
Mr. H. Crowter
Text: “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord ” Proverbs 21, 30.
This truth is a foundation upon which the church of Christ is built. If so be this truth was not contained in all Scripture from Genesis to Revelation the whole would collapse. It is upon this foundation that the promises rest, for if it was possible for any wisdom, or understanding, or counsel to prevail against the Lord, how could the Scriptures contain “they will” and “they shall”? The very certainty of God’s truth, the irrevocable nature of God’s counsel hinges on this, that “nothing” can prevail against the Lord. Does your faith leap out to it, sinner? Is there something within you that says “Ah, this is what I need; this is what I want; these are the truths which do my soul good”?
“There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” What does this convey to us? From the very beginning until now there has been an unfolding of Divine purpose, the universe over, without hindrance, a purpose unfolding in the experience of multitudes of human creatures; and God, through all, has been fulfilling His counsels. How solemn, is it not? The purpose of the devil, and the purpose of fallen man have both constituted a direct attempt to overturn and frustrate the fulfilment of these eternal counsels, but all their attempts have been in vain. In all their wicked devices, their plots and plans, in total ignorance, they have been helpless against the purpose of God decreed from before the foundation of the world, for “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.”
Now, as the Lord may help us, let us consider the beginning, when man was created in his innocency. God placed him in the garden of Eden, the devil plotted the terrible Fall, and that the fall indeed took place we have abundant proof within and all about us. When man fell from his created innocency, what a terrible introduction of sin and guilt was made into this present world in which we dwell. Even in the introduction of sin into the world the counsel of the Lord was not being overthrown. Let us be careful how we consider the matter, and let us be completely humbled before God as we contemplate itÂ—how the purpose, the council, the wisdom of God was not destroyed. How greatly God is glorified in redemption of sinners from the fall. None can sing the praises of Jehovah like redeemed sinners, none can reach the highest notes of praise in heaven but those which are saved from the ruins of the fall. “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel
against the Lord.” How beautiful! The purposes of the devil even in the introduction of sin into the world, when he sought to mar the whole of the glory of God in creation have, according to the counsels of heaven, been turned completely, to the honour, praise, and glory of a triune Jehovah by the saving power of redeeming love and grace.
Again, when the Lord of life and glory came into this world and took our nature, made Himself subject to the law He had given, tabernacled thus in this world in the fulfilment of God’s purposes, wicked men eventually laid hold upon Him. I say ‘eventually’ because not until God’s predetermined hour were they suffered so to do; they did attempt it, but we read “His hour had not yet come.” There was sufficient desire and design in the heart of evil men to apprehend Him prior to that hour, but God, ever in control, and according to His “determinate counsel” (Acts 2, 23), suffered them not to lay hold upon Him. When the hour was come, and His purposes must needs be fulfilled relative to the salvation of the church, these evil, wicked men are suffered by God to lay hold of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we read “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together. For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4, 27 & 28). There they are, wicked men, Herod and Pontius Pilate in their high, exalted places, the Gentiles, and the Israelites all combined, crying out in the bitterness of their spirit ” Away with Him, crucify Him, crucify Him,” and yet, through it all, the counsel of the Lord was being fulfilled. Do you not see something here that is beautiful to faith? Do you not see here the fulfilment of God’s decrees unhindered, that even the wicked are His servants? When the devil put it into the heart of Judas to betray Him, they were both fulfilling the Lord’s designs, and through that very means Jesus Christ the Saviour came to Calvary to shed His blood for the remission of sins.
The very position and place of redemption was accomplished. The bitterness and evil design to crown Jesus with ignominy and shame was used of God that He should suffer ‘without the gate’, (Hebrews 13, 12), in that place where even lepers who, according to the law were not allowed to enter into the city, could draw near to Him unhindered by their leprosy. Not even the bitterness and malice of man in the greatest outburst ever witnessed in this sin-cursed world could violate these sacred purposes of God for, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76, 10).
There are doubtless many here this evening who know what it is for wisdom, understanding, and counsel to be exercised to their detriment, and who fear the plot and plan of satanic and human adversaries seeking to destroy them. The text has a gospel note; it is something which does the soul of a poor, trembling sinner good.
Therefore the Lord can say this, through the pen of the apostle Paul by the Holy Ghost, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8, 28). Yes, ‘all things’. Everything is furthering God’s eternal design, it is fulfilling His counsel, despite all the temptations of the devil in bitterness and enmity, and the deceitful workings of unbelieving hearts, suggesting the contrary.
Have you ever felt for a few, fleeting moments what God’s counsel was to the salvation of your immortal soul? You may have been completely satisfied that your name is written in heaven, and that Christ has died to atone for your sins. But there is now a change, a different scene, yet “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord”, no more now than there was at that most favoured time in your life when you enjoyed the sweet assurance of faith, the rest and peace in believing. The counsels of the Lord in your discomforts are just the same as they are in your comforts, they are being fulfilled without let or hindrance. Salvation does not depend upon our feelings, no, blessed be God for that, for this is where our salvation stands “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise” (Isaiah 43, 21). Have you any inward feeling, inward persuasion, that the counsel of the Lord concerning you is ‘salvation’? Have you any season in your life to which you can return this evening, remembering the sweetness of the rest of faith in a promise-giving and promise-performing Jehovah? However you may have changed, and your joys declined “He changes not” (Malachi 3, 6).
Consider Satan, the arch-enemy of the church of Christ, deep is his counsel; subtle is his manner of working; dreadfully pernicious is his nature, but here is our rest as it concerns this foe, against whom we have no power, against whom we have no comparable wisdom. I feel such a fool with regard to Satan and his evil suggestions, so often caught in his snare without realizing who it is that has laid it, or what his object and end in placing it before me. Nevertheless, here it is, this is your hope of final deliverance from all the insidious workings, evil temptations, and wicked devices of this arch-enemy of your souls who seeks to destroy you (1 Peter 5, 8), “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.”
” Determined to save, he watched o’er my path,
When, Satan’s blind slave, I sported with death.” (Newton)
Mark it, ‘determined’, so that with those who, by God’s grace, have an interest in Covenant love and redeeming favour, no power in hell, no exercise of satanic wisdom or influence whatsoever, is capable of frustrating the purposes of the Most High God. Do you possess a little hope that God’s purpose of grace is towards you? Do you say, “Ah, but I am now tossed with tempests as never before; I feel weaker in the hands of Satan than ever before; I feel less able to withstand his suggestions than ever before? “Our
mercy, our hope is this, in the unequal conflict against the powers of darkness, Â“There is no wisdom nor counsel nor understanding against the Lord.Â”
Further, consider, sin within us. O, the power of sin, and how, if left, sin would destroy every one of us. Recently I felt so full of unbelief and destitute of faith that I thought Â“Whatever will it be if I am like this in a dying moment? I know I shall drop straight into the pit of eternal destruction. If I am like this, I do not know what I shall do!!Â” The devil suggested to me at that instant Â“You will be like this; you will find that when you need your religion most you will be destitute of it.Â” These things brought me into the experience of Peter Â“Beginning to sinkÂ”, but Â“There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.Â” Our hope of heaven and final entrance there is through GodÂ’s grace, His power to save, His wisdom exercised for our eternal preservation from all that we deserve. No unbelieving fears will destroy one of GodÂ’s elect, no depth of unbelief in the human heart will ever prove the undoing of those whom He has purposed to save. Though they mourn that they possess such unbelief, they lament they are so weak and powerless, so full of sin, and doubt the very word and counsel of God, yet Â“There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.Â” Here is a resting place is it not?
There is more power in Christ to save than there is in sin to destroy. Here is our hope, here our soulsÂ’ salvation. Whatever wisdom, understanding or counsel there may be in your sinful human heart, it will never prove your undoing if the Lord has manifested His purpose to save your soul. Fears are the fruit of spiritual ignorance, Â“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with GodÂ” (I Cor. 3, 19), and when we begin to assess the truth and purpose of God according to our own wisdom, we Â“begin to sinkÂ” amidst all our foolishness. When faith, that stands in the wisdom of God, is granted by God to a poor sinner, then he sees light in GodÂ’s light, then he realizes there is a Â‘rockÂ’ beneath his feet which can never be removed, and then he enjoys the security and rest of faith in believing.
Amidst all the changing experiences of GodÂ’s people, and the persecutions of which they have all been subjects generation by generation, there hope has been, ad still is, Â“There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.Â” Because of our finite state, we cannot possibly anticipate or understand all the plots and plans of devils or men which are designed to destroy us. We are often ignorant of what is taking place in an attempt to bring the church of Christ to ruin, and this may apply to your church life, your life as a minister of the Word, to some particular office such as deacon, to your membership of the church, or to your gathering together with the Lords people as one of a congregation. Sad to relate, there are at times secret schemes of devils and men which are hidden from the LordÂ’s people, and the subjects of them may be the last to hear of them, if ever they do. These are times
when we can well leave everything that is taking place in the Lord’s hands, for “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.”
To brethren in the gospel ministry, you may think “Why am I not asked to preach at certain places?” “Why is this man or that man invited, and yet I am on the very doorstep, and they do not ask me?” Here is a resting place, fellow-labourer, “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” As you are engaged in the Lord’s work, bearing His word about the churches, preaching His gospel, leave the matter of where and where not to preach in the hands of your God, knowing this, “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” If the Lord had determined to use you in a certain position and place, there is no power in earth or hell that could prevent it. You say “There is a strong prejudice in that place, and they will never have me to preach.” If the Lord has determined to use you in a certain place, the prejudice will have to give place before HIM. There is no power in earth or hell that can prevent the fulfilment of a Covenant purpose of grace in the experience of any of God’s children; the instrument determined to be used, will be used, and everything will give place to the fulfilment of God’s will. I believe that and so do some of you, therefore we can leave it all in the Lord’s good hands.
There are times when very heavy and dark clouds overhang a poor, apprehensive pilgrim, but is it not in the darkest cloud that the bow shines the brightest? The enemies of truth and of your own soul may be seen painting this black cloud, but a Covenant God can put a ‘bow’ in it. He has promised to do so, for He says in His Word “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9, 13). How opposite to all the intentions of those who may rise up in their wrath against your soul, when the Lord over-rules all their endeavours by bringing you to His precious feet and giving you a sweet taste of fellowship with Him in His sufferings, making your spirit comformable to His death. Circumstances may arise when there is a terrible plan to inflict a wound upon your spirit, and you may be grieved by someone saying “You are mad, you must have been out of your mind” or “You are devil possessed.” Words cannot convey what that cloud means as you travel home under the burden of it, for they may be godly, gracious people who speak thus. What occasion now to beseech the Lord to come and make His arm bare even if it is to your confusion and condemnation. What longing for Him to come, and make manifest that this is the truth rather than permit you to continue in a wrong pathway. Then for the Lord to speak this unforgettable word “He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?” (John 10, 20). What did that do? It put a bow in your cloud; gave you a morsel to feed on; gave you something that will remain whilst memory lasts.
The gathering black clouds seem so dark that we feel we cannot continue another step, and then the Lord puts His bow in it. What do you do then? Rejoice; rejoice in tribulation, and the power of Christ then rests upon you. The Lord is able to turn the most wicked device to a good issue, and He will do so, for He has said that all things shall work together for good.
Remember Joseph. Joseph was the subject of jealousy, envy, bitterness. Joseph was innocent as before his brethren; he spoke to them of that which the Lord had revealed to him, and they turned upon him with great bitterness and sold him into Egypt. Was the counsel against the Lord? Though so guilty in selling their brother to the Ishmaelites, they were forging a link in a Divine chain. Their purpose was to finish with him for ever, to sell him into a foreign land and to finally separate from him, but was the counsel against the Lord? It was fulfilling the hidden purposes of God, and it is wonderful to realise that in the loving-kindness and tender mercy of God this very act was used by God for their own preservation in future times. Yes, sometimes the Lord will so use the bitter experiences through which we have to pass, that we may be furnished with an ability to even feed those that have been guilty of maliciously wounding us. That will need grace. What a mercy it is that God so overrules all things, and the sovereign purposes of heaven unfold through the strange and mysterious dealings amongst men, proving continually “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.”
You may feel as I have done many times, and am not free from it even today, to tremble as to what may be taking place in certain places, the contrivances of men for the overthrow of the church and its members. You feel so ignorant of it all, so separate from it, and so helpless before it. There is no gathering where an omnipresent God is not. The eye of your God is upon such enemies of the church wherever they may be and “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” Ahithophel and Absalom may get together, they may contrive a plan, and of the wisdom of Ahithophel it is recorded “And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.” (II Sam. 16, 23). David feared it when he proved a traitor to him and turned over to assisting Absalom, but God knew that such a man as Hushai the Archite was necessary to remain in the city of Jerusalem, and it was appointed that he was to give his counsel to Absalom at the same time as Ahithophel. This sounded so attractive, for God can tune the ear, it sounded so attractive to Absalom and his followers that they forsook the counsel of Ahithophel, and accepted the counsel of Hushai. What was the end of the matter? Ahithophel destroyed himself, and Absalom, in the fulfilment of the counsel of Hushai, where was he? He was hung by his hair in the oak, eventually thrust through with the three darts of Joab, and then surrounded by Joab’s ten men and killed. David is anointed for the throne
of Israel, and all the plots and plans of Saul for the destruction of David are doomed to destruction, they cannot come to fruition for “The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” Even David’s own son, Absalom, turns and seeks the destruction of his father that he might occupy the throne of Israel himself, yet the counsel of the Lord, that must stand. No secret counsels of men remain unknown to God; he knows before they speak just what they will say. Throughout the Word of God we see that the Lord is beginning to overthrow. He is laying the means to overturn before ever counsel is given. “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.”
We may all leave our burdens here. This is a resting place for living faith, in the only living and true God, there is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the fulfilment of God’s Word and promise to His people. The application of your wisdom to your circumstances may furnish a strong argument for an unbelieving heart. You may say “I cannot see how this can be fulfilled now, it is beyond the realm of possibility, I cannot understand how the promise of God in this matter can be fulfilled.” “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord”, and though the unbelief of your heart may throw doubt upon the fulfilment of God’s promise to your soul that Word will be fulfilled, “I will work, and who shall let it.” (Isa. 43, 13). Yes, and it matters not how complicated relevant circumstances may appear to be, God, from the tangled skein, will bring forth the fulfilment of His Word to the letter.
Though many serve the Devil and do the Devil’s will yet the Lord will overrule to the accomplishment of His purpose. Beautiful it is to really enter into this truth. God over all, the King of Heaven sitting upon the circle of the earth. He who does as He will in heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, none staying His hand or saying unto Him “What doest Thou?” (Daniel 4, 35). There He is, and He is ruling over the minutest detail of our lives. He is there to control the thoughts of the mind, the intents of the hearts of all mankind, to bind the floods from overflowing, to save a sinner from falling into despair by preventing mercy and grace; a word here, a ray of light there; a conversation here, an opening of providence there. So He is working out His purposes supreme over all things. Do we believe it?