Posted by: Sherry Goodwin | November 17, 2007

Softly and Safely

“I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure.” Genesis 33:14

The story of Jacob’s thoughtfulness for the cattle and the children is a beautiful little picture. He would not let them be overdriven even for one day. Verse 13: “My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.”

He would not lead on according to what a strong man like Esau could do and expected them to do, but only according to what they were able to endure. Verse 12: “Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.” He had had so much to do with them that he knew exactly how far they could go in a day; and he made that his only consideration in arranging the marches.

Perhaps his own halting thigh made him the more considerate for “the foot of the cattle” and “the foot of the children.” Besides, he had gone the same wilderness journey years before (Chapter 29:1) “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east”), when they were not yet in existence, and knew all about its roughness and heat and length by personal experience. And so he said, “I will lead on softly.”

“For ye have not passed this way heretofore” (Joshua 3:4). We have not passed this way heretofore, but the Lord Jesus has. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). It is all untrodden and unknown ground to us, but He knows it all by personal experience, the steep bits that take away our breath, the stony bits that make our feet ache so, the hot shadeless stretches that make us feel so exhausted, the rushing rivers that we have to pass through, Jesus has gone through it all before us. “For Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17). “For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). He was wearied with His journey; “Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey” (John 4:6). Not some but all the many waters went over Him, and yet did not quench His love. “All Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me” (Psalm 42:7). “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (Song of Solomon 8:7).

He was made a perfect Leader by the things which He suffered. Hebrews 2:10: “To make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Hebrews 5:8-9: “Though He were a Son yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” For now He knows all about it, and leads ua softly according as we are able to endure.

“For He knoweth our frame” (Psalm 103:14). And He does not only know, with that sort of up-on-the-shelf-knowledge which is often guilty of want of thought among ourselves, but He remembereth that we are dust. Psalm 78:39. “For He remembered that they were but flesh.” Think of that when you are tempted to question the gentleness of the leading. He is remembering all the time; and not one step will He make you take beyond what your foot is able to endure. Never mind if you think it will not be able for the step that seems to come next; either He will so strengthen it that it shall be able, or He will call a sudden halt, and you shall not have to take it at all.

Is it not restful to know that you are not answerable to any Esaus, for how much you get through, or how far you are led on in the day! “They” don’t know, or, knowing, don’t remember, the weakness or the drawbacks. Maybe they wonder you do not get on farther and faster, doing the work better, bearing up against the suffering or the sorrow more bravely. And maybe you feel wounded and wearied without a word being said, simply because you know they don’t know! Then turn to the Good Shepherd in whose”feeble flock” you are, and remember that He remembers. Talk to Him about it; and if too weary even for that, then just lean on Him with whom you have to do. For “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). It is only when we are coming up from the wilderness, leaning on our Beloved, that we can realize how softly He is leading us. “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?” (Song of Solomon 8:5) For if we are pulling this way and that way, straggling and struggling, and wasting our steps by little turnings aside, He may have to resort to other means to keep us in the way at all. But if we are willing to lean, we shall soon find that He is leading not only rightly, (that we never doubted,) but softly too. And leading softly will not be leading slowly. “And He led them forth by the right way” (Psalm 108:7).

Minds are differently constituted, and some do not readily grasp as a real promise what is indicated as a figure. But if the figure is a true illustration, we are sure to find the same promise somewhere else in a direct form. So if you hesitate to appropriate the promise that Jesus as your Good Shepherd “will lead on softly,” take the same thing from that familiar verse in Isaiah 40; “shall gently lead” is the very same word in the original; and in the dear old 23rd Psalm “He leadeth me” is still the same word, and might be read, “He gently, or softly, leadeth me.” These are the true sayings of your God.

One sees at a glance, by referring to a Concordance, the touching fact that our Leader Himself experienced very different leading. Never once was He gently led. He was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matthew 4:1); He was led by men filled with wrath to the brow of the hill, that they might cast Him down headlong (Luke 4:29); He was led away to Annas, led away to Caiaphas (John 18:13, Matthew 26:57); led into the council of the elders and chief priests and scribes (Luke 22:66); led to Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:2), and into the hall of judgment (John 18:28). And then He, our Lord Jesus Christ, was led as a sheep to the slaughter (Acts 8:32); led away to be crucified! (John 19:16) Verily, “His way was much rougher and darker than mine.”

That is how Jesus was led. But as for His people, “He guided them in the wilderness like a flock, and He led them on safely, so that they feared not.” (Psalm 78:52, 53)

Not only safely as to the end of the journey, but as to each step. For He employs another figure to prove this, saying that He led them “as a horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble.” (This exposition of the passage is familiar and obvious enough; but I was much interested by a friend’s calling my attention to the French translation, which brings it out beautifully…”As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest.”) Can you not see the steep stony path of the rocky descent into a desert valley, and the careful owner’s hand leading the hesitating horse, keeping fast hold of his head, and encouraging him with tones which he can understand, till the halting place at the bottom is safely reached! “So didst Thou lead Thy people: says Isaiah. So He leadeth me! responds your heart, does it not? Softly and safely, step by step, and mile by mile, till the desert journey is over and the Father’s home reached!

Then trust Him for to-day
As thine unfailing Friend,
And let Him lead thee all the way
Who loveth to the end.
And let the morrow rest
In His beloved hand,
His good is better than our best,
As we shall understand;
If trusting Him who faileth never,
We rest on Him today, for ever!

–Frances Ridley Havergal from  STARLIGHT THROUGH THE SHADOWS 



  1. Ingrid, First let me say thank you so much for this website. It’s quite a large work you’ve undertaken. I’ll be praying for you.

    Second, this is a wonderful excerpt. Sometimes there are so many struggles is life, that it can be a struggle to remember how deeply our Saviour loves us. Let us draw close to Him and find rest in that tender care.

  2. Ingrid, this is a beautiful post. I just found this website this morning, via another one of your sites. Thank you so much for this place and for what you’re sharing.

  3. At this point in my life, I am void of the Life of Chirst, lukewarm and I wanted to see what really happened to the Laodicean Church, her downfall. All in the process I came upon this site…very encouraging. Thanks from one who wants to get home and back on the straight & narrow.

  4. Lolita, this is for you. . .I am praying for you.

    Will You not Come?

    Will you not come to Him for Life?
    Why will ye die, oh, why?
    He gave His life for you, for you!
    The gift is free, the word is true!
    Will you not come? Oh, why will you die?

    Will you not come to Him for Peace?
    Peace through His cross alone!
    He shed His precious blood for you;
    The gift is free, the word is true!
    He is our Peace–Oh, is He your own?

    Will you not come to Him for Rest?
    All that are weary, come!
    The rest He gives is deep and true,
    ‘Tis offered now, ’tis offered you!
    Rest in His love and rest in His home.

    Will you not come to Him for Joy?
    Will you not come for this?
    He laid His joys aside for you,
    To give you joy so sweet, so true:
    Sorrowing heart, oh, drink of the bliss!

    Will you not come to Him for Love,
    Love that can fill the heart?
    Exceeding great, exceeding free!
    He loveth you, He loveth me!
    Will you not come? Why stand you apart?

    Will you not come to Him for ALL?
    Will you not ‘taste and see?’
    He waits to give it all to you,
    The gifts ae free, the words are true!
    Jesus is calling, ‘Come unto Me!’

    Frances Ridley Havergal

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