"According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me." — Hosea 13:6
In this and the former verse, God places Israel before us in two situations and conditions — the Wilderness, and Canaan. He reminds us of his knowledge of them in the former, and of their disregarding him in the latter. He commended them in their low estate, but had to complain of them in their prosperity. "I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought." But, delivered from the privations an' hardships of the desert, they entered the land of promise, the glory of all lands; a land of wheat and barley; a land of vineyards and fig trees and pomegranates; a land wherein there was no scarceness; land flowing with milk and honey. And what was the consequence?
First, Selfish indulgence. "According to their pasture, so were they filled." And was this sinful? We plead for no monkish austerities. "Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." He "giveth us richly all things to enjoy." But the enjoyment of Christians differs from the excess of the sensual. We are not to feast ourselves without fear. We are not to make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. We are not to throw the reins on the neck of appetite, and feed ourselves to the full. The mistake of many is, that they suppose every thing is their own; whereas nothing is their own. They are only stewards of the manifold grace of God. They think they may sleep as much as they like, dress as much as they like, consume as much as they like; but the Scripture is our rule, and not our own inclination. There is the cause of God, and of the poor, to be thought of, as well as our own gratification. The first lesson in the school of Christ is self-denial. Where, in the lives of some, does this ever appear? Temperance is one of the graces of the Spirit. And does this consist only in avoiding the grossness of drunkenness and gluttony? No; but in not "filling ourselves according to our pasture."
Secondly, pride. "They were filled, and their heart was exalted." This was the case even with Hezekiah; even he rendered not according to the benefits done him, for "his heart was lifted up." And, by charging them that are rich in this world not to be "high-minded," nor to "trust in uncertain riches," the apostle shows the tendency there always is in worldly success to gender vanity and false confidence. Hence it is said, "Pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment." They even think more highly of their understanding, as if their wisdom grew with their wealth. They speak with authority, and answer roughly.
Thirdly, unmindfulness of God. "Therefore have they forgotten me." And how common is it for men, in the midst of their sufficiency, to lose the sense of their obligations to God, and dependence upon him, and need of him. Hence Agar prayed against being rich, "lest I should be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord?" Hence the caution of the Jews, at their taking possession of all the good things in Canaan: "Then beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." The admonition was unavailable. "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked. Thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation."
This gives us a very humbling view of human nature. Is it possible for us to consider it as so innocent, so amiable, so noble, as some would represent it to be? View it, not as it appears in the dregs of society; but as it is seen in common and reputable life. See men able to bear nothing without abuse; evil, because God is good; drawn from him, by the very things which should lead to him; ungrateful, in proportion as they should love and praise him, and even converting his gifts into weapons of rebellion against him. Lord, what is man?
Let the fact arouse us to caution and circumspection, if Providence smiles upon us, and we are placed in easy and agreeable circumstances. Yea, let us not only watch, but pray, lest we enter into temptation. Let us seek that grace which can alone enable us to manage a full estate properly, so as to elude its snares, and discharge its duties. Then we shall see, that what is impossible to men, is possible to God. It was said of Vespasian, that he was even the better man for being an emperor. So there are some, whose prosperity, instead of destroying them, displays and increases their excellency; and they are not only rich in temporal things, but rich in faith, and rich in good works. These instances, however, are rare.
The perils of the condition should check our eagerness after worldly affluence and ease. Why do we envy those that rise? Because we attach an undue value and importance to their acquisitions. Yet these possessions are not only transient, but unsatisfying and vexatious and corrupting. Yet, regardless of the testimony of Scripture, and all history and experience, how many, and even professors of religion, crave and pursue them as if they were the supreme good. But seekest thou great things unto thyself? seek them not. Bring your mind to your condition, for you never will be able to bring your condition to your mind. Your desires will enlarge with your indulgence, as fuel adds to the fierceness of the flame. Therefore let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have, for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Learn also resignation under afflictive dispensations, either in crossing your schemes, or in reducing your resources. "Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God." It was said of Moab, "Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity; therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed." The Prodigal was more favoured; a famine drove him home. Manasseh was mercifully ruined; in his affliction he sought the Lord God of his father, and he was found of him. And he gives you the valley of Achor for a door of hope. Do not think hardly of Him, under whose discipline you now are. He knew your danger, and interposed to prevent it. He has hedged up your way with thorns, but it is to keep you from following lying vanities, and forsaking your own mercies. He tries you, but it is for your profit. He sees what you can bear. And He who loved you, so as to give his own Son for you, will suffer you to want no good thing.
Morning Exercises For Everyday In The Year
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