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Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.
A revelation of three great subjects
I. True worship (verses1-5)
1. True worship is the highest happiness, which consists in--
(1) Right activity. Worthy of our nature. In harmony with all our faculties.
(2) The highest love.
(3) The sublimest hope.
2. True worship is a Divine ordinance, binding on all moral intelligences.
(1) Right in itself.
(2) Essential to their happiness.
II. Divine kindness (Psalms 81:6-10). This appears in--
1. Their deliverance from thraldom. God’s mercy should inspire the soul with gratitude; and gratitude is an element of worship.
2. Answering their prayer.
3. Giving them direction.
III. Human foolishness (Psalms 81:11-16). By disobedience they lost--
1. His superintending care.
2. Victory over enemies.
3. The choicest provisions. Disobedience to the Divine law is supreme folly. Sinners are fools. The Bible calls them so, and the experience of humanity proves them such. (Homilist.)
Exhortation to sing God’s praise
If you begin praising God you are bound to go on. The work engrosses the heart. It deepens and broadens like a rolling river. Praise is something like an avalanche, which may begin with a snowflake on the mountain moved by the wing of a bird, but that flake binds others to it and becomes a rolling ball: this rolling ball gathers more snow about it till it is huge, immense; it crashes through a forest; it thunders down into the valley; it buries a village under its stupendous mass. Thus praise may begin with the tear of gratitude; anon the bosom swells with love; thankfulness rises to a song; it breaks forth into a shout; it mounts up to join the everlasting hallelujahs which surround the throne of God. What a mercy is it that God by His Spirit will give us greater capacities by and by than we have here! for if we continue to learn more and more of the love of Christ we shall be driven to sore straits if confined within the narrow and drowsy framework of this mortal body. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Where I heard a language that I understood not.
Ignorance of the language of a community
It is by no means uncommon for men to be thrown into a community of whose language they are entirely ignorant. Now, ignorance of the language of others is of two kinds, intellectual and moral.
I. Intellectual. By this we mean entire unacquaintance with the sounds, construction, and laws of the language. This kind of ignorance reminds us of two things.
1. An abnormal condition of human society. It is natural to suppose that He who made us all of one flesh, endowed us all with social natures, and united us all to each other with tender relationships, such as parents, children, brethren, would have furnished us with a language which all could understand, and through which we could all receive and communicate the thoughts and feelings of each other. Instead of this, hundreds of languages abound, thus creating social divisions amongst the race almost innumerable. Now the Bible directs us to an event which shows that this variety of language is not an original state of things (Genesis 11:1-9).
2. An enormous social inconvenience. The race, which should have been one harmonious whole, is split, through these many languages, into hostile sections, and become inaccessible to one another. “Languages shall cease.”
II. Moral. Through the moral dissimilarity that exists amongst men it often happens that those who speak the very same language misunderstand one another. Put a pure Christly-minded man into the society of gamblers, mercantile speculators, and daring infidels, and he will say, “I heard a language that I understood not.” The words honour, virtue, courage, love, justice, liberty, pleasure, happiness, which he might hear in these circles will not convey to him the ideas which they employed them to express. Again: imagine a thoroughly worldly and corrupt spirit transported into the heavenly regions, where all employ the language in which he was brought up, his vernacular, would he understand it? No; if he returned, he would say, “I heard a language that I understood not.” Thus, wherever we go, we are constantly hearing a language we understand not. The lesson is--
1. We must get Christ’s Spirit in order to understand His words. We cannot reach their deep, fathomless meaning without it.
2. That we should be thankful to the great Father for not making our destiny to depend upon the right interpretation of a language. “He that believeth on me,” etc. (Homilist.)
I answered thee in the secret place of thunder.
Answers to prayer often come mysteriously
God has a thousand “secret” ways of granting our requests.
I. He may do it by a wave of air. A man is the subject of a painful disease, that seems progressing to the utter extinction of his life; for the sake of others depending on him, he implores his Maker to restore him. A fresh breeze from heaven is let into his chamber, it not only sweeps his foul room, but heaves his lungs with a new force, oxygenizes his blood, and quickens his pulses with a new vitality. Wave after wave continues to play around him until he is able to rise from his couch and go into the open fields. God has answered him from “the secret place of thunder.”
II. He may do it by the birth of a thought, The good man may be enfolded in darkness, wrapped in perplexities, so utterly embarrassed by his circumstances that he knows not what step to take next. He cries to Heaven for guidance; all worldly resources have failed. A new thought springs up in his mind, solves his problems, scatters his darkness, removes his embarrassments, reveals a path to enter, safe and sunny, full of promise. He pursues it, and all is right. His prayer is answered from “the secret place of thunder.”
III. He may do it by the visit of a friend. As he talks, the burden of sorrow falls from his heart, and he breathes once more the free air of hope. His prayer has been answered from “the secret place of thunder.”
IV. He may do it by a verse of scripture. (Homilist.)
The place of thunder
As there is a secret place of natural thunder, there is a secret place of moral thunder. In other words, the religious power that you see abroad in the Church and in the world has a hiding-place, and in many cases it is never discovered at all. I will use a similitude. Many years ago there was a large church. It was characterized by strange and unaccountable conversions. There were no great revivals, but individual cases of spiritual arrest and transformation. A young man sat in one of the front pews. He was a graduate of Yale, brilliant and dissolute. Everybody knew him and liked him for his geniality, but deplored his moral errantry. To please his parents he was every Sabbath morning in church. One day there was a ringing of the door-bell of the pastor of that church, and that young man, overwhelmed with repentance, implored prayer and advice, and passed into complete reformation of heart and life. All the neighbourhood was astonished, and asked, “Why was this?” His father and mother had said nothing to him about his soul’s welfare. In the course of two years, though there was no general awakening in that church, many such isolated cases of unexpected and unaccountable conversions took place. The very people whom no one thought would be affected by such considerations were converted. The pastor and the officers of the church were on the look-out for the solution of this religious phenomenon. “Where is it,” they said, “and who is it, and what is it?” At last the discovery was made and all was explained. A poor old Christian woman standing in the vestibule of the church one Sunday morning, trying to get her breath again before she went up-stairs to the gallery, heard the inquiry and told the secret. For years she had been in the habit of concentrating all her prayers for particular persons in that church. She would see some man or some woman present, and, though she might not know the person’s name, she would pray for that person until he or she was converted to God. All her prayers were for that one person--just that one. She waited and waited for communion days to see when the candidates for membership stood up whether her prayers had been effectual. It turned out that these marvellous instances of conversion were the result of that old woman’s prayers as she sat in the gallery Sabbath by Sabbath, bent and wizened and poor and unnoticed. That was the secret place of the thunder. The day will come--God hasten it-when people wilt find out the velocity, the majesty, the multipotence of prayer. O ye who are wasting your breath and wasting your brains and wasting your nerves and wasting your lungs wishing for this good and that good for the Church and the world, why do you not go into the secret place of thunder? “But,” says some one, “that is a beautiful theory, yet it does not work in my case, for I am in a cloud of trouble or a cloud of sickness or a cloud of persecution or a cloud of poverty or a cloud of bereavement or a cloud of perplexity.” How glad I am that you told me that. That is exactly the place to which my text refers. It was from a cloud that God answered Israel--the cloud over the chasm cut through the Red Sea--the cloud that was light to the Israelites and darkness to the Egyptians. It was from a cloud, a tremendous cloud, that God made reply. It was a cloud that was the secret place of thunder. So you cannot get away from the consolation of my text by talking that way. Let all the people under a cloud hear it. “I answered thee in the secret place of thunder.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Blow up the trumpet in the new moon.
The savage and the child of civilization are alike in this, that they both draw their notions of time, and measure its lapse, by the movements of the heavenly bodies, thus fulfilling the primaeval prophecy that the sun, moon and stars should be for ever the means of marking time. The easiest of measures, and the one which would make the deepest impression on man’s mind, would be the circle of the moon’s changes--the thin crescent, the half-circle, and the full orb. Next would be marked the course of the sun. This is most to be observed when the sun sets behind some cliff or precipitous range of rocks, and after a certain anniversary begins to daily sink behind the horizon beyond that point. The idea of a regular year would, when once suggested by the heavenly bodies, be aided in many lands by the altered appearance of summer and winter, and thus the prehistoric races found themselves supplied with sufficient chronology for their simple needs. But amongst those nations where the higher instincts of religion were felt there was a need for measuring the recurring periods of religious festivals. The Jewish people strictly observed the weekly festival of the Sabbath, which, by its very peculiarity of dividing time by seven days, seems to point at once to its Divine origin. But in keeping other festivals they were guided by a more complicated system to fix the feast of the Passover in connection with the Paschal Moon; and the other feasts, such as Pentecost, and that of Tabernacles, had a certain relation to the harvest season. In addition to these great feasts, it was ordained that sacrifices and offerings should be made in the Temple on the occasion of each new moon. It was also usual to summon worshippers to remember this duty by the sound of the silver trumpets echoing through the air, and blown by the sons of Aaron. In addition to the festivals observed at each new moon, there was a special day of solemn observation called the Feast of Trumpets, on the first new moon of the first month of the year--in fact, on what answered to our New Year’s Day. This day was fixed with the Jews in September, and with the mediaeval Christians it was observed on the 25th of March, and by modern usage on the 1st of January. It is of little importance on what particular day the year begins. The essence of the matter is that we are entering on a new cycle of days--on a new course of the earth’s journeying round its great central sun; that another milestone on the road of life is passed; that another division of our mortal existence is entered on. The words of the text seem to call on the Priesthood of the magnificent Temple of Solomon to take up their trumpets and rouse the people to the great duties of offering sacrifice and acknowledging God. There is no other instrument of music that has such a wonderful power of rousing and exhilarating the soul as the trumpet. Its shrill, wild, exulting tones have ever been valued in martial music, and that person’s feelings must indeed be cold and stagnant whose enthusiasm is not awakened by the clarion’s sound. When the trumpet sounds the warrior ought to prepare himself for war. The imagery of the Christian conflict has lost its power by familiar usage, but it represents a great truth--the reality and force of temptation. Each new year will bring its temptations and difficulties. We should prepare to meet them by fresh resolves and more earnest prayers. (J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)
The new moon
The Jews thought a good deal of the new moon. When it first appeared they took note of it at once. Indeed, six times in the year they attached such importance to the appearance of the new moon that if any one saw it, and thought he was among the first to see it, he was expected to go to Jerusalem at once and state the fact to the Sanhedrim, who sat in the “Hall of Polished Stones “to receive the information. Those who went were carefully examined and cross-examined. If they had only seen the moon through a cloud, or anything like glass, or had only seen it reflected in water, their testimony could not be accepted. It was necessary that they should see it directly and clearly in the heavens above them. If no one saw the moon before the thirtieth day there was no special note taken of the fact, because they generally reckoned the month to be thirty days long, but if the new moon appeared on the 29th day of the month, special notice was taken of it, and a fire was lit upon the summit of Mount Olivet; then men who were on the watch on other summits kindled their fires, too, in order to show that they had noted the signal, and also in order to give the signal to those on other mountain tops; and thus from one end of the land to the other it was soon known that the new moon bad appeared before the thirtieth day. The Jews rejoiced exceedingly at the appearance of every new moon. It was a new beginning, and the Jews attached a great deal of importance to beginnings--the first fruits of the harvest, the oldest child in the family, etc. They consecrated the first of everything to God, and by so doing they felt they were consecrating all the rest. The first sheaves of harvest were consecrated for the whole harvest. They gave the first to God as aa acknowledgment of His right to all the rest. And so with regard to the months, they consecrated each month to God, by specially consecrating the first day of the month. Now, we may well follow their example in presenting the first of everything to God. I should like you to feel that you ought to give the beginning of your life to God as the Jews gave the first day of every month specially to Him. It is wonderful what is done by giving the beginning: so much depends upon how we begin. If every little boy here would give his heart to the Lord Jesus just now at the beginning of life, oh, what a blessing it would be! (D. Davies.)
Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
The more morally hungry, the better fed
I. Good men are the subjects of moral hunger--a craving for the chief good, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. This implies--
1. Health. The body without appetite for food is diseased; the intellect without appetite for truth is diseased; and the soul without appetite for righteousness is diseased.
2. Provision. The existence of any native desire, physical, intellectual, or moral, implies a corresponding object. Goodness, like the air we breathe, is ever at hand; it encompasses our path. If we really desire it, we shall have it.
II. The more hungry, the better fed. “Open thy mouth wide,” etc. The Great Father wishes His children to have the profoundest cravings, the largest expectations; for He has an infinity of blessings which it is His happiness to bestow. The more you desire from Him, the more you shall have. (Homilist.)
Motives to enlarged prayer
I. Explain the exhortation. It implies--
1. Warmth and fervency in prayer.
2. A holy fluency and copiousness of expression, so as to order our cause before Him, and fill our mouths with arguments.
3. Enlarged hope and expectation.
II. Consider the import of the promise.
1. If we open our mouths to God in prayer, He will fill them more and more with suitable petitions and arguments.
2. God will fill the mouth with abundant thanksgivings.
3. We shall be filled with those blessings we pray for, if they are calculated to promote our real good and the glory of God.
III. Notice the limitations with which the promise requires to be understood.
1. Though God answers prayer, yet He will do it in His own time, and not always when we expect it.
2. He seldom answers prayer in the manner we expect.
3. He sometimes answers prayer gradually, and not all at once.
4. It is not our performance of duty, but the inviolable faithfulness of God that binds Him to the fulfilment of His promises.
1. It is no wonder that many continue in a destitute and hopeless state: they live without prayer, and so without supplies of mercy.
2. If God thus fills the souls of unnumbered millions, how full must He Himself be! (B. Beddome, M. A.)
An invitation to prayer
I. The basis of the invitation.
1. “I am the Lord”--the Lord of the whole earth.
2. I am “thy God”--thy covenant God.
3. I “brought thee out of the land of Egypt.” He appeals to what He has already done on our behalf.
II. The invitation: “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” The invitation consists of an instruction and a promise: the instruction is, “Open thy mouth wide”; the promise is, “I will fill it.”
1. The instruction instructs us in two things--the manner of prayer and the measures of prayer. The manner of prayer is this--“Open thy mouth.” The measure of prayer is this--“Open thy mouth wide.”
2. The promise refers to both temporal and spiritual blessings. (P. Prescott.)
God’s gracious call and precious promise
I. What it is to open the mouth of the soul wide to Christ.
1. A sight of wants.
2. A sense of need.
3. A holy dissatisfaction with all things beside Christ.
4. The soul’s removing its desires from off vanities, and fixing them on Christ for satisfaction.
5. An assumed expectation of salvation from Christ.
6. A hearty willingness to receive Christ as He offers Himself in the Gospel.
II. Show how Christ fills the soul so as no other can do. “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” This promise imports--
1. Such a suitableness in Him to the necessities of the soul, as is to be found in no other.
2. A sufficiency in Christ for all needs.
3. A cominunication of this suitable sufficiency unto that soul which opens its mouth wide to receive it.
(1) Christ gives Himself to that soul, so that such an one might say (Song of Solomon 2:16).
(2) Christ gives them all good with Himself (Romans 8:32; Psalms 84:11).
4. The soul’s satisfaction upon that communication. When all the cisterns are dried up, the believer has enough, He can rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of his salvation (Habakkuk 3:17). He can say also with Paul (Philippians 4:18), “I am full”; and no wonder, for the soul having Christ, has--
(1) A fulness of merit to look to (1 John 1:7).
(2) A fulness of spirit in Christ to take away the power of sin (Revelation 3:1).
(3) A fulness of grace in Him, lodged in Him as the common storehouse of all the saints (John 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30). (T. Boston, D. D.)
Open thy mouth wide
I. The only source of full satisfaction for human life.
1. There is a recognition here of the vastness of human need. “Open thy mouth wide.” Man has--and this is one of the evidences of his greatness--a vast capacity for desire. The mouth of desire in man is not satisfied though all the treasures of the earth be poured into it.
2. The words imply that man’s vastest desires are not awakened until they are consciously turned God-ward. Israel will open its mouth “wider “if it turn to God than if it forsake Him. There is enough of desire for God in every man to make this world unsatisfying, but in the worldling this desire is Undeveloped and shrivelled. The life that is fixed in God expands, and its desires become richer and vaster. God fills us, not by lessening our desires, but by enriching them.
3. The words imply that nothing less than personal union with God can satisfy the life. “I will fill it.”
II. The condition of receiving from God. “Open thy mouth wide.” Probably the figure is taken from the feeding of young birds in the nest by the parent bird. The picture is one of simple dependence and trust. Proud self-sufficiency shuts out the fulness of God. The first step to strength is to realize our own helplessness, simply to “open the mouth wide,” that God may fill it.
III. The measure of receiving. “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it “According to the capacity for reception, so is the gift. We have to recognize natural differences of capacity. As an eaglet differs from smaller birds, so men differ from men. All are not, and cannot be, Isaiahs and Pauls. But, on the other hand, a man’s receptive power may have its development hindered by his own worldliness or negligence. His spiritual desires may be narrower than they ought to be. Faith, love, and hope grow larger through service. (J. Thomas, M. A.)
Encouragements to prayer
In our text we have God coming very near to His people, and coming near them to encourage them to come nearer to Him. We have the Lord speaking to them, that they may speak to Him. He opens His mouth to them, that they may open their mouths to Him.
I. God encouraging His people by saying, “Open thy mouth wide.”
1. I suppose that the Lord means by this exhortation, first of all, to help us to get rid of the paralyzing influence of fear. A man, in the presence of one whom he dreads, cannot speak boldly; and if he has been guilty of some great crime, and stands before one whom he regards as his judge, he is like the man in our Lord’s parable, “speechless.” A man on his knees, conscious of his sin, fearing the justice of God, would very naturally be unable to speak; and to encourage him God says, “Open thy mouth; be not afraid.”
2. Next, “Open thy mouth wide”; that is, speak freely in prayer to God, be not hampered in thy pleading. I have known children of God who have felt a terrible awe in the presence of the Lord. We want freedom, and liberty of access to God, when we come before the mercy-seat; and the Lord therefore encourages His people to break loose from all their shackles when He says, “Open thy mouth wide.”
3. It must also mean, ask great things: “Open thy mouth wide.” The greater the thing that you ask, the more sure you are to have it. With men it is, usually, the smaller the favour you crave, the more likely you are to obtain it; but with God it is the other way. There is nothing greater to ask for than Christ, and thou mayest have Christ for the asking, for God has already given Him to all who believe.
4. I think that it also means that we are to feel intense desires: “Open thy mouth.” Whenever a man speaks with very great earnestness, he opens his mouth widely.
5. Exercise a great expectancy. Consider--
(1) God’s greatness.
(2) His goodness.
(3) The channel by which mercies come to thee: Christ Jesus thy Lord.
(4) That the Holy Spirit is the Author of true prayer.
(5) The greatness of thy wants.
(6) God’s exceeding great and precious promises.
II. Observe God using two great arguments. “Open thy mouth wide”--
1. Because of what God has done. Child of God, this text belongs peculiarly to you. “I am Jehovah, thy God.” He has revealed Himself to thee; He has chosen thee, and thou hast chosen Him. Now, canst thou not open thy mouth wide to thine own God, to Jehovah, the great “I am” the boundless, the infinite, the Almighty God, canst thou not speak freely to Him? And then it is added, “I am Jehovah, thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt.” Now, that is the greatest thing that God could do for His people, and, if He has done that, will He not do the lesser things?
2. Because of what God will do. “I will fill it.” The story goes that the Shah of Persia, a strange man altogether, on one occasion said to a person who had pleased him very greatly, “Open your mouth,” and when he had opened his mouth, the Shah began to fill it up with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and all sorts of precious stones. I feel morally certain that the man opened his mouth wide. Would not you do the same if you had such an opportunity? Now, the Lord says to each of His own people, whom He has so highly favoured, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Suppose you open your mouth wide in prayer. “I cannot,” says one. Well, open your mouth, and God will fill it with prayer; and then, when you have prayed the prayer that He has given you, He will fill it with answers. God gives prayer as well as the answer to prayer. Only open your mouth, and, as it were, make a vacuum for God to fill. God loves to look for emptiness where He may stow away His grace. When you have done that, then open your mouth with praise. The praise of God is something like Mr. Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.’ He began to write, he says, and he does not know how he wrote so much; but he quaintly says, “As I pulled, it came”; and you will find it is so with the praise of God. Praise Him, and you will praise Him. If you do not praise Him, you never will praise Him. If you do not begin, you will never keep on; but once open the sluices of gratitude, and the streams will flow more and more copiously every hour. “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Opening the mouth
I. The exhortation.
1. Labour after a great sense of need. You are weakness itself, and emptiness itself, and a mass of sin and misery, apart from God your Father, and Christ your Redeemer, and the Spirit the indweller; and when you know this, then you will open your mouth wide.
2. Seek after an intense and vehement desire. “He that prays to God without fervour asks to be denied.”
3. Ask for large things, remembering the greatness and goodness of God, and the great pleas you have to urge when you come before Him.
4. Ask for enlarged capacities. If we had more room for the Lord’s gifts, we should receive more.
II. The promise. “I will fill it.” You might expect such a promise as that. You could not think it possible for the Lord to say, “Open your mouths for nothing.” It would not be according to His usual way of procedure. He does not set His servants praying and then say somewhere behind their backs, “they shall seek My face in vain.” Tantalus belongs to the heathen mythology, not to the Christian’s experience. “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.”
1. It is a promise only made to those who do open their mouths wide.
2. It is a promise given by One who can fulfil it, and will. How?
(1) With prayers.
(2) With the actual blessings.
(3) With praises. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Affluence and receptivity
This is a figurative expression, and it indicates that man is a creature of vast spiritual capacity. Men are rarely in full consciousness of that deep, strong, original aptitude of human nature for the things of God. For sin has so deeply impaired our nature, that atrophy and nausea have fallen upon our spiritual faculties, and our moral perceptions have become gross and insensible. But the faculties are in us. The ideas of God and duty, the fitness for responsibility, the spring of the inner nature towards immortal life, the sentiment of love, with its boundless range--these inhere in the soul of every man. They may lie dormant in the inner caves of our personal existence, unused and entrusted by guilt, but they are integral qualities. Nothing--riot guilt, not neglect, not the insane denial of these Divine qualities, not even the suicide’s hand, can cast out of our being these exalted powers and prerogatives. There is a section of our being “which cannot, but by annihilating, die.” It is a majestic fact, and it brings with it the most awful responsibility that we are beings of a constitution akin to the Divine, and that we shall live for ever! Now, the reference of the text, in its first section, is to this quality of our nature. When God says, “Open thy mouth wide,” He refers to an actual capacity in us, latent though it be, which, quickened by the Spirit, may reach up to heaven in lofty aspirations, and take in all the things of God. So, too, the other portion of the text, for it has two terms: “open thy mouth wide,” is one, and “I will fill it,” the other. The promise here given us is equally as significant with regard to our nature as is the command. It is a declaration that when the immortal demands of our inner being are once quickened into life, that there is but one Being in the universe who can answer and supply them. Hence the entreaty, “Open thy mouth wide,” etc., because God only can fill these infinite needs of the immortal soul. What, then, is the reach you are going to make in Divine holiness? How far will you stretch forth in godly desires and aspirations? First of all, if you would attain to a lofty, grand pre-eminence of spiritual growth, fix it in your minds to be men and women of a high order of morals. Not as though the advice be given to begin with morality. God forbid! The beginning of all true soul-life is in the spiritual; but, assuming that you are spiritual, that you have repented and believed, and that, having entered upon the Christian life, led by the Spirit of grace, you are anxious to reach the stature of perfect men in Christ. Lay the foundations of your piety deep in the purest morals! But observe, next, that another stretch of the soul to high spiritual excellence is to be attained by the exercise of duty, that is, the doing of good works. Practical goodness bears somewhat the same relation to eminent piety that husbandry does to the production of good crops, or the care of the gardener to the growth of beautiful flowers. It is, under God, the actual uplifting of the soul from one degree of holiness to another. It is the cultivation of the Christian graces; and, observe, all true cultivation tends to growth and expansion. By doing good to others for Christ’s sake, we expand our own being; we multiply the force of our sympathies and affections; we reduplicate the power of our loving energy. And so it will follow that obedience to the text will show itself, in the purposed rise of the soul to a high spirituality. This topic is left for the last, because it is the most important; it is the very base of all spiritual acquisition. In the domain of the spirit, spiritual things, spiritual aims, spiritual efforts, spiritual longings, are the foremost of all things. So much, then, for the ideal or principle descriptive of what is spiritual life. And now we can turn to the evidence that is to be found in ourselves that we have this principle implanted in us. That evidence discovers itself in those characteristic spiritual acts of the soul, into which, as sons of God, the saints are led by the Spirit of God. And here the whole field of saintly life lies spread out before us, so that we cannot err. All of its rich productiveness is the fruit of the Spirit. It brings, to our sight, in exceeding brilliancy, the faith and prayerful mightiness of Abraham; the calm meditativeness of Isaac; the crystal purity of Joseph; the serene and unspotted godliness of Samuel; the burning flames of Elijah; the calm constancy of David; the stern self-sacrifice and zealous fervour of the Baptisit; the fiery ardour of holy Paul; the loveliness of St. John the Divine. The sum of what has been advanced may be stated as enforcing these two lessons.
1. That you must avoid as though it were death, the idea of spiritual finality, in the attainments of grace. Never think you have enough of God and God’s Spirit. Never be satisfied with any successes you have reached in holiness. Never pause in your career, saying to the deceived and languid soul, “Rest and be thankful.” But press on ever to higher, nobler, and more spiritual heights.
2. That there is a law of progress implanted in our nature, which has no limitation. No man here can tell how high he can go in excellence--how far he can reach in godly purity. In the very idea of immortality is implied somewhat that is limitless and unconfined; and so we can by God’s grace stretch out further and further, until we are lost in God Himself. O grand and noble acquisition! O blessed and heavenly consummation! (A. Crummell, D. D.)
My people would not hearken to My voice, and Israel would none of me: so I gave them up.
Danger of presuming on God’s mercy
It is matter of painful observation, that very often when people enter on wrong courses, they think they shall be able to stop when they please. They don’t pretend to be very good, and they don’t mean to be very bad. Something between both contents them; and this they think is as much as can be expected of them, especially when vice and wickedness prevail in the degree they do. The root of this error, if we examine, seems to be want of love to God the Author of all good. Because if a person really loved God, or at least really desired to love Him, however he might fall short of accomplishing this his wish; yet at least he would not endure to do anything wilfully, which he might think would be displeasing to his heavenly Father, Redeemer, and Guide the supreme object of his affections. There is nothing about which we ought to be so watchful and suspicious of ourselves as of want of love, true and devoted love, to Almighty God. There are two great reasons why we should be thus watchful of ourselves in this respect. The one, because this Divine charity or love is the very life and soul of true religion: the other, because we are so peculiarly ready to deceive ourselves in our views of this; perhaps more than any other of the obligations of the Gospel. Every Christian is by his profession one of God’s people--of His chosen Israel. If he labours and prays constantly to live up to this his high profession, then the Holy Spirit-leads him as it were by She hand from grace to grace, till mortality be swallowed up of life. In God’s dealings with such an one, the ancient and just rule is eminently fulfilled (Matthew 13:12). If, on the other hand, this same Christian, having it in his power to go wrong, does go wrong--neglects duties which he knows are agreeable to his Lord’s will, and allows himself in thoughts, words, and actions which he knows must displease Him; then does the Holy Spirit after long forbearance withdraw His gracious aid, and leave us to go our own way, as we will not go His. There is not, perhaps, in all Scripture a more awful, startling, alarming passage than this; because it warns us so plainly, that our notion of keeping up a tolerable degree of goodness, and staying at a certain point, not intending to be very good, and resolving at the same time not to be very bad: that these kind of notions are vain and presumptuous, and, as we may with reason fear, will prove at last the ruin of many souls for whom Christ died. Can we then venture to stand trifling upon the edge of such a precipice? Are we to wait till the world grows better before we grow better? Are we sure that because we feel comfortable, therefore we are safe? If not, what are we trusting t,o? Our heavenly Father has in mercy warned us of our danger. He has warned us that even if we are His peculiar people, His chosen Israel, yet if we obey not His voice, He will give us up. (Plain Sermons by Contributors to the “Tracts for the Times. ”)
The day of grace
I. It is matter of just complaint and reproach for any people or person not to hearken to the voice of God.
1. What it is not to hearken to the voice of God (Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 7:28).
(1) His instructing and informing voice. That which discovers the nature of God, and our duty.
(2) His commanding voice, unto the authority whereof we all owe utmost obedience and subjection.
2. How this appears to be such just matter of complaint from God, and reproach unto us, who are guilty of it.
(1) Whose voice it is you refuse to hearken to (Hebrews 1:2).
(2) What kind of voice it is. How gentle, obliging, beneficent, condescending.
(3) Who they are that are said to refuse to hearken to the voice of God. “My people Israel.” Christians succeed in their privileges, not only as domestic servants, but as children, visibly related to God, as our Father by the covenant of baptism. And shall not children receive the instruction of a parent?
II. For wilful sinners to be given up to their, own hearts’ lusts, and to be left of God to walk in their own counsels, is one of the most tremendous judgments that can be threatened or inflicted in this world.
1. What it is for God to give up any to their own hearts’ lusts.
(1) Such persons are cast out of God’s special protection and care, and so are exposed to wander and go astray, and so are more easily assaulted and overcome by the devil, who seeketh whom he may destroy.
(2) They are left of God under the dominion and power and tyranny of their own lusts.
2. The severity and terror of this judgment (Proverbs 1:23; Hebrews 10:26; Luke 19:41-42).
(1) Take heed not to pass a definitive sentence against yourselves concerning the state of your own souls as to this judgment.
(2) Apprehend the danger of approaching to it if you are under any ill symptoms of that kind, and beware of those things that have a tendency to so sad a doom.
(3) Diligently improve the means you are yet under by the warnings of the Word, convictions of conscience, and the motions of the Divine Spirit, that you may effectually prevent it. That as it is not your case for the present it never may be so.
3. By what steps or degrees God doth usually proceed in inflicting such a judgment as this.
(1) When God forbears to afflict, and to restrain men from sin, by the rod of correction and the rebukes of His providence; or doth not sanctify such rebukes for their reformation.
(2) By taking away the external means of knowledge and grace, or otherwise disposing of persons so as they cannot enjoy such seasons (Acts 19:9).
(3) God is said to pour upon men a spirit of slumber and deep sleep, to suffer them to harden their hearts, and stupefy their own consciences the more by everything they enjoy; so that though the external means be continued, yet none of the Divine messages will be received, nor the most useful ministry do them any good: nor the providential goodness of God lead them to repentance. Inferences:--
1. How much to be pitied is the ignorance and folly of sinners that are afraid of any other calamity more than this.
2. How unreasonable is the displeasure and anger of men at the sharpest methods of Divine grace that would bring them to repentance.
3. How wretched and dangerous is their mistake who think their case good because their consciences now trouble them no more. (John Shower.)
The groundless doubts and mistaken apprehensions of some as to their being finally forsaken and left of God
1.To be under very great darkness, doubts, and fears, so as to create much trouble and torment to yourselves, will not of itself conclude your case desperate, and your souls finally forsaken. There are many reasons for soul trouble. Your own doubts and fears will not prove that you are given over, but rather the contrary. For--
2. If you are given up to your own heart’s lust, how is it that you thus mourn and grieve at the apprehension and fear of it?
3. Are you not resolved to hold on your fight and warfare against sin? To continue and maintain your conflict, notwithstanding all your doubts and all your complaints? You may sometimes take being tempted for being overcome.
4. You say you cannot weep and mourn and express your repentance as formerly, and as some others you know do; yet consider that it is the hatred of sin, and watchfulness against it, that is the truest sign of repentance and godly sorrow.
5. You may be sure that if you find your hearts penitent, and willing to return to Him, that it doth not reach you: it is not your case.
6. You that thus complain and fear, have you not many of the fruits of the Spirit visible and manifest in you? Therefore the Spirit of Christ hath not left you; God hath not given you over.
7. As to the complaint of a hard heart, remember it is the impenitent and the unpersuadable heart that is the only hard heart you need to fear.
8. That sight of sin, and sense of the burthen of corruption, which you complain of, as the ground of your fear, will argue the direct contrary to what you allege it for.
9. Though you cannot say so much as to present sense of your hatred of sin and loathing of it as you desire, yet examine yourselves as to the sins of others, and what sense you have of the dishonour of God by them.
10. But I do not grow, I rather wax worse, will some say. The promises of growth and faithfulness are not absolute, but depend on the improvement of grace received, and the performance of many duties, with great watchfulness and diligence in our whole Christian course.
11. Moreover, consider there may be much more of blaine and faultiness, of guilt and sin, in your unbelieving objections and despondency than you are aware of. Therefore while you complain of sin, take heed you do not increase and add to your sin by disobeying the command of God to believe and hope.
12. Lay this as a foundation truth and keep it, That you can never be more willing to come to Christ than He is to receive you.
13. As to the doubt concerning the sin against the Holy Ghost, I think such as make that objection do not well understand wherein it lies. Read Matthew 12:1-50. throughout, and Mark 3:28; Mark 3:30. Be sure none who own the Gospel to be true, and Christ to be the Saviour of fallen sinners, are guilty of that sin, though they may make dangerous approaches to it. Much less are they guilty of it who fear the guilt of this sin.
14. I do now tender you the grace and salvation purchased by Christ in His name. If now you are heartily willing to accept it, the case is determined and determined in the best manner that can be. (John Shower.)
So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.
Deliverance to a man’s own lust involves the greatest ruin
I. Man abandoned by his Maker.
1. This abandonment must be very painful to the loving Father. Can there be a greater sorrow in the world than that of the human father who feels bound to shut his door against his own son and give him up? But what is a father’s love to the love of God?
2. This abandonment must be very terrible to man. If the mother abandons her helpless infant, its condition is sad indeed; but a thousand times indeed sadder is the condition of a man whom God has abandoned. He is in a worse condition than the man in the furious and unabating tempest without a rudder or a chart, destined to sink into the fathomless abyss of ruin.
II. Man abandoned by his Maker to his own lusts.
1. Such an abandonment man’s conscience must approve of. He has always said, Self is everything to me, nearer than the universe or God. Very well, says God, you have yourself; I leave you with yourself.
2. Such an abandonment is inexpressibly terrible. “Unto their own hearts’ lust.” Let a man be given up to any lust--say avarice, drunkenness, sensuality, revenge, envy--and he is given up to the worst hell you can conceive of. (Homilist.)
Man Divinely abandoned to his lusts
I. It is an abandonment to a life most degrading. In it the man sinks into a brute. The brutal appetites govern him; the brutal pleasures engross his power and absorb his time.
II. It is an abandonment to a life morally abhorrent. Is there a more loathsome spectacle in the universe to the rational eye of moral purity than that of a being having the moral attributes, relations, and form of a man living the mere life of a brute?
III. It is an abandonment to a life of ruin.
1. The law of its enjoyments is decrease. The animal pleasures of men, unlike their intellectual and spiritual, decrease in their power of delectation by repetition. Age deadens the nerves, and “desire faileth,” and gradually the once delicious palls on the soul. It gradually brings on the awful, crushing ennui.
2. The continuation of its enjoyments is necessarily short. Disease and death terminate them.
3. The memory of its enjoyments must become morally painful--“Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime,” etc. (Homilist.)
The case of those who are given up to their own hearts’ lusts
1. The first dangerous symptom is security, or a false, ungrounded peace of conscience. This is frequently the prologue and forerunner of judicial hardening. It is often a part of it and an evidence of it.
2. Another symptom of this judgment or dangerous approach unto it, is when the ministry of the Word and Gospel of Christ becomes a tasteless, insipid, ineffectual thing; not attended with any such spiritual impressions as formerly.
3. When the Spirit of Grace gives over striving with the souls of men. This is a most dangerous case: for, except He return, they are irrecoverably lost.
4. Though the Spirit have not done striving; yet when the preaching of the Word, though you cannot resist the light of Divine truth, but somewhat of it shines into the mind and conscience; if yet your hearts stand out and will not yield, this is a dangerous case.
5. There are others, whose case is exceedingly dangerous, who, after some trial in the ways of God, for want of that sensible joy and comfort which they expected, grow weary of them and leave them off.
6. When men continue in sin, and put off their repentance and turning to God, with this thought and intention that they will some time or other repent and turn to God, but not yet. One can hardly tell whether the provoking guilt and danger of such a case be greater than the horrid absurdity of it. And yet this is a delusion that has ruined thousands, and made ample harvests for the devil.
7. There is another sort, whose case is exceeding dangerous, viz. who often fall into the same sins which they repent of and are sorry for (James 4:7; Luke 12:49).
8. When, notwithstanding the profession of religion, and outward attendance on the duties of it, yet sin has the dominion and mastery in the soul; and sensual inclinations are indulged without restraint, even as to gross and notorious sins (Hebrews 6:4-5). Their ease is next to hopeless and desperate.
And what reason have all backsliders to fear lest they sin themselves into such a dismal state? Use--
1. To awaken apostates and backsliders to consider their danger.
2. See that your hopes be of a right kind, grounded on Scripture evidence, purifying the heart, conquering the world, exciting thy desires after Christ and heaven, making thee to sin less, and to please and glorify God more. Such a hope you may hold fast, it will not make you ashamed. (John Shower.)
There is always something very pathetic about anything that is abandoned; an abandoned farm, where the field used to be filled with busy activity in the springtime, and where later the waving billows of grain rose and fell before the wind; the orchard that once was kept neatly pruned, and where the children played and the birds built their nests, and all watched for the first ripe apples of summer; the garden near by, that once was the object of so much care, now desolate; the front yard that used to have its long rows of hollyhocks and sweet-williams; the porch where once hung fragrant roses; the house that was the abode of love and joy, where dwelt hearts full of all the hopes and fears, the plans and purposes, that animate men and women and little children, a house made sacred by births and marriages and deaths--all now desolate and despoiled. An abandoned ship is also a sad picture. It started out from port with laughter and joy and hope. It had a precious cargo. It carried passengers full of courage for the voyage. But the storm came up, the ship was driven out of its course, the captain lost his reckoning, his chart was swept overboard, and in the blackness of the night and the tempest the ship swung aground on a ledge of rocks; every effort was made to get her afloat again, but she only settled the more solidly into her rough bed. The priceless cargo was thrown overboard in order to save the ship, but even that failed. But all these are cheerful subjects for contemplation compared to the thought of an abandoned man or an abandoned woman--the soul made in the image of God; fitted for a high and lofty destiny; that might hold communion with heaven; that might live a life so sweet and pure, so brave and splendid, that the angels would look upon it with admiration and delight, and yet drifted from its course, with compass gone, with reckoning lost, stranded and broken, abandoned at last by God and man; given up to its own lusts, to perish in its own evil ways. Don’t be deceived in thinking that it is a small thing when God says that He will turn you over to your own heart’s lust. I can imagine that in folly some reckless soul might say, “What do I want better than that? Just let me have my heart’s desire. Surely that won’t be very bad.” Ah, do you think not? To let the man who is getting fond of strong drink just go on getting more and more drunken, more and more like a beast, the hellish thirst for strong drink ever increasing in his parched and bloated body, his veins running with the fire of the insatiable longing until he cries out as others have done that even the fires of hell would be a refuge if it could quench this horrible and awful thirst--do you think that means nothing? To let the man or woman with impure thoughts and imaginations just go on thinking impure things, and meditating on wicked and evil pictures, until good thoughts come no longer; until the mind is full to overflowing with unholy and bestial imaginations; until after a while the soul loathes itself as a dirty thing; until the man or woman wallows in moral filth--do you think that means nothing? To let the greedy man go on with his greed, becoming more and more avaricious, until at last honour and love and faith and truth and goodness are idle words to him unless they bring him in money; until the soul is withered and dried up so that the one cry of the man’s nature is for gain; and grim and miserly, unloving and unloved, the man gets old in a hard and bitter and greedy spirit--does that mean nothing? To let anger and hate have their own way; to let them brood in the heart and hatch their young; to let them seek for vengeance until a man watches on the path of his enemies that he may make life harder for every one who has offended him; until all love and generosity and forgiveness and gentleness are crushed down under the heel, and a gruff, rough, brutal-hearted man hides in ambush waiting for revenge--does that mean nothing? Some of you, it may be, are quaffing the first draughts of sin, and the intoxication of it is in your blood, and you think the preacher maligns and slanders sin. May God save you from the biter dregs at the bottom of the cup! (L. A. Banks, D. D.)
Oh that My people had hearkened unto Me, and Israel had walked in My ways!
Jehovah’s complaint against the condition and conduct of His people
The humiliating position in which the Church is supposed to be standing towards its enemies. Think of the damnable heresies and apostasies from truth, which the abused name of religion is employed to cover, and the consummate wickedness with which the profession of Christianity has been converted by iniquitous laws into a tyranny and a trade. Look at every aspect of society, examine every walk of life, and what do you behold, but impiety triumphant in the very capital of Christianity? Take the most favourable estimate that Christian charity will allow, and yet how feeble in influence and numbers is the Church of Christ compared with its enemies! And if, after two thousand years, such be our position, how solemnly does it behove us to ask in what way this humiliating state of things is to be accounted for.
II. The sinful cause to which its humiliation is ascribed.
1. God has commanded His ministers to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature; and, in order that they might do so, His people are enjoined to send them forth, for “how,” says the apostle, “can they preach except they be sent?” And when the Church, in the warmth of her first love, responded to her Lord’s commands, consecrating her energies arid her treasures freely to His service, city after city, kingdom after kingdom, and one system of error after another, fell vanquished at her feet. But, corrupted by covetousness and love of the world, His people grew weary of hearkening unto Him, and to walk in His ways, and consequently soon lost the conquests that apostles won.
2. But, besides sending forth ministers to preach the Word, God has commanded His people, individually, to labour for the spread of truth. But the individual responsibility of Christians has been almost forgotten; while a few are making personal exertions in God’s service, how many hearers and even professors of the Gospel are no more concerned by any personal effort to extinguish the rebellion against God, than so many statues on a building wrapt in flames!
3. Again; as it is impossible by error to destroy error, and as the only antidote to darkness is light, Jesus Christ has commanded His followers to preserve the faith of the Gospel inviolably pore; warning them in admonitions of awful solemnity against adding to, or taking away, a tittle from His Word. And from how many sinful practices, how many debasing sentiments, how many idle ceremonies, how many bitter controversies and persecutions would the Church have been saved, had Israel walked in His ways, had His people hearkened to His voice. But, preferring the wisdom of man to that which cometh down from above, they have altered the constitution of the Church, perverted its ordinances, and corrupted its doctrines, suffering foreign mixtures, careless omissions, and presumptuous additions, to deface the beauty and destroy the simplicity of the truth.
4. Could the Christian Church, however, when she threw away the unity of faith, have preserved the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, she might, possibly, soon have recovered what she had lost; but converting every difference of creed into an occasion of division and strife, she advanced further in disobedience, and, consequently, further and further in weakness and disgrace.
5. Moreover, as the world is less likely to be subdued by precept than example, Christ has said to His disciples, “Let your light shine before men, that they seeing your good works may glorify your Father which is in heaven.” And had the Church paid a becoming regard to His repeated injunctions upon this subject, she would have appeared in every conflict as bright as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners.
6. And along with a far higher degree of holiness, would there not have been among the people of God, had they hearkened to His voice, an infinitely larger amount of fervent and effectual prayer?
III. The affecting manner in which both the cause and the consequences are by God himself deplored.
1. From all that God has spoken or accomplished, it is evident that His love for His Church is infinite and unchangeable. It is His husbandry and His vineyard, the garden He delights to water, His inheritance, and the place of His rest, the wife of His bosom, His peculiar treasure, His crown, His portion, and His joy. Next to His own glory, nothing, therefore, is so near to His heart, as the prosperity of His people; and while upon the warlike enterprises which historians and poets delight to celebrate, He looks with comparative indifference, the minutest victories of His Church have an everlasting record in heaven, and are celebrated by the angels of God in songs of ecstatic praise.
2. Nor must we exclude from our interpretation of this language the idea of infinite pity H a perishing world. In secular contests the triumph of one party is the disgrace, misery, or destruction of the other; and most justly and humanely has it been said by a great living warrior, nothing is so calamitous as a victory excepting a defeat. But to extend the conquests of the Church is to push forward the boundary of life and happiness into the realms of darkness and death; to subdue her enemies, to bring the haters of the Lord to submission is to save them with an everlasting salvation; to leave them unsubdued is to destroy them for ever. (J. E. Giles.)
With honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.
A little but wise teacher
You know it was said of the Holy Land, long before God led His people into it, that it was “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Such it was and still is. That bees swarmed abundantly in the East many years ago, we may infer from the honey found in the dried remains of the lion which was killed by Samson. And in these modern days the wandering Arabs who live in tents, especially those who dwell in the wilderness of Judea, are said to support themselves by bee-hunting, bringing into Jerusalem jars of wild honey like that on which John the Baptist fed in the wilderness. The visitor to the Holy Land, when he sees the busy multitude of bees about its cliffs, cannot but recall to mind the promise, “With honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.” But then these words of Asaph mean far more than that those who love and serve the Lord shall be thus fed. They mean that God will surely supply all the wants of His people; that He offers all His infinite resources as a security that they shall not be left to “want any good thing”; and that, as honey in abundance is gathered out of the hard and flinty rock, so He will provide for those who love Him, even though they are brought into the hardest trials, where it might seem as if they were beyond the reach of help. But a promise so large and rich as this we cannot expect to have made good unto us, no matter what we are, or do. No! this is a promise with a condition. That is, there are some things which we must do, if we would claim the fulfilment of this promise for ourselves. The bee which stores up honey that is gathered out of the rock may so teach us that we shall be truly wise, and be able to secure all the earthly blessings and all the spiritual riches which are promised by the text.
I. Obedience. Do you know that in every hive of bees there is one which is called the Queen Bee? Those who have studied most carefully the habits of bees tell us that the Queen Bee is beloved and obeyed by all the others, who show in all ways that bees have a desire to please her. And if bees are thus obedient and devoted to their queen, how much more ought children to “obey their parents in the Lord!”
II. Cheerful and happy industry. How diligent and industrious the bees are in building the cells of the honey-comb, in storing them with honey, and in taking care of their young. They are not satisfied to work an hour a week, or an hour a day, and then dance away all the rest of the time in the warm and bright sunshine. They are not like some children that I have seen, who are hardly satisfied unless they can give themselves up to “all play and no work,” which, as the rhyme says, “makes Jack a mere toy.” But the bee works all the day long, day after day, bringing home full loads of honey. It finds pleasure in its work, singing continually as it goes about it. What a fine example for boys and girls! Our blessed Lord Himself, when still a little child, felt that He “must be about His Father’s business.” Every community of bees is apt to be afflicted for a time with what are called drones--that is, with bees that won’t work. But the working bees very soon get rid of them, either by putting them to death, or by driving them out of the hive. And is not something like this the law of the Bible? Paul declared that, “if any would not work, neither should he eat,” and Solomon says that “an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” Idleness, then, brings a blight and a curse both upon the body and upon the soul.
III. We should guard watchfully and well what treasures we have. The bee uses all possible care and skill to protect from its enemies its stores of honey, and the wonderful cells in which that honey is laid up. It has many enemies, such as wasps, hornets, spiders, dragonflies, lizards, toads, and a kind of winged moth. This last is a very dangerous enemy, for at night, when the bees are asleep, it creeps in at the door of the hive, and lays its eggs, from which little worm-like caterpillars are soon hatched, and these crawling things soon make such havoc with the waxen cells that the bees are obliged to desert. They do the best they can to defend their treasures from enemies wit, hour, but sometimes they are overpowered. My children, learn a lesson from them to guard and keep such treasures as you have; for you, unlike the bees, may effectually do this, with such help as God will give you, if you seek help of Him.
IV. From the bee, again, we may learn the lesson that we can serve but one ruler and sovereign at a time. I have spoken of the Queen Bee. It is the supreme ruler of the hive, whom all the bees delight to obey. Not till one queen dies do they transfer their allegiance to another. You know that there is only One who has a right to demand, as He does demand, that you shall serve and love Him “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus Christ Himself has said, “No man can serve two masters,” etc.
V. Another lesson, and a most important one, for us to learn from the bee, is, not to trust too much to appearances. Many a bright and most attractive-looking flower does the bee pass by, to alight perhaps upon some plain and humble one that we would have thought altogether unworthy of notice. “All is not gold that glitters,” and not even the marvellous skill of the bee can extract honey from flowers which, though they may appear very beautiful, have no sweetness, and perhaps only deadly poison in them. There are many things which, to young eyes, and sometimes to eyes not so young, appear very beautiful indeed. Not having them, we greatly covet, and having, we greatly prize them.
VI. We should make wise and timely provision for the future. The bees do not eat their honey as fast as they make it, but they lay by a store for winter. In this, they are unlike some young people, who are inclined to spend everything as fast as they make it, and sometimes faster. They lay up nothing at all to fall back upon in a time of need. This is more especially and sadly true with respect to religion. How many are there among the young who spend the best part of their lives in worldly pleasure. They think not of a future day, and are making no provision for needs of which they will soon, and may be suddenly, be made aware, when it will be too late to provide for them. (G. C. Noyes, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 81". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17