Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?Memorable Sights in Life
How many passages are there in Scripture that begin with 'I have seen'? Probably no man has counted the number. Let us keep, however, to that formula; it is interesting and useful to deal with a personal witness, to have a man so to say face to face and in your very grip. How many voices we shall hear if we listen well—the solemn voice, the monotone that has not heart enough to vary its expression, a gamut in one note, and then the lightsome tone of youth and the cheeriness of the early days when all things were dripping with dew and all the dew shot through and through with morning light. These days are gone, but there is a joy in melancholy, there is a species of festival in misery. All that some people now have is their grief; that grief is their wealth, their song, their hope.
I. Take the wonderful instance in the text, 'I have seen the foolish taking root'. That is impossible! No, it is not impossible, it is a fact. It must have been a fact only in very ancient times? No, it is not only a fact in ancient times, it is this morning's fact, God's journal of this day. Such things are permitted. We cannot understand them, they baffle our faith, they confound our imagination. The whole scheme of a righteous universe seems to be turned upside down by that one fact. A bad man can take root, a upas-tree can strike its roots into the earth and from its bending branches can shed deadly poison; the thief and the gambler and the fraudulent may have more money than the man who prays every morning and says amen as if he would hand the case over to high heaven to answer in heaven's own way. Yes, the wicked take root, the foolish have a kind of standing-place; but some things come only for a moment. The "mushroom has a root, and so has the oak. We must define even the word root, we must get at its history and its environment, and tear it open that we may read the secret of its fibre. Do not be content with glittering generalities when you judge Providence and propound some critical theory concerning the government of these trembling, awful, gladsome things which we gather up under the name of human life.
II. The Psalmist saw also very much what Eliphaz saw; he says in one Psalm, 'I have seen'—what?—'the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay-tree'. You saw that? I saw it You have no doubt whatever that it was a real fact? I have no doubt whatever as to the actuality of the circumstances. I have seen the wicked in great power, I have seen him taking up so much of the fresh air that there seemed to be no room for any other tree. In everything he seemed to have his own way; he asked, and received; he spake, and 'twas done; he had all manner of things at his immediate disposal. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay-tree; yet he passed away, and lo, he was not; yea, I sought him, but not a fibre of him could be found even in the dust. It is very wonderful how fortune even seems to change. That is not the man we knew five-and-twenty years ago, who was surrounded by all things comfortable, who was indeed characterized by an entourage of extreme richness and delight; he had everything that heart could wish. Yes, that is the man. What! that doubled-up, bent-backed old creature there who seems to have hardly a rag to wear? That is the same man. What has happened? God—has happened. There is no real abidingness in the stuff which is wrongfully gotten or atheistically appropriated, though there may be nothing commercially dishonourable in the mere process of acquisition. It is not blessed bread, there is no nourishment in it.
III. Do not let us yield to the spirit of disappointment. What did you expect? Disappointment is the measure of expectation. You must correct yourself at the point of expectancy.
'I have seen that they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.' This is a great law. There must be something behind the plougher and the sower. Yes, there is something behind the ploughman and the seed-sower. What is that something? It is less a something than a personality. It is God who is conducting the whole thing, do what you like.
If the wicked man reaps his black harvest, the good man reaps his honest and nourishing wheat. This is not a law that goes on one side; the whole case of life is contemplated by the inspired writers, and the wide outlook and complete grasp at once explains and vindicates their inspiration. Be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatsoever a man soweth, good or bad, he shall reap the same. That is discouraging on the one side, and encouraging on the other. Seed does not die, it grows, and it cries as it were to be reaped; and the good man, who has sown in tears and in self-distrust and with some measure of gloomy disappointment, was bidden to go forth with his sickle; and lo, he returned in the gloaming with sheaves, and with sheaves of song in his heart.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. IV. p. 250.
Prince Louis de Rohan is one of those select mortals born to honours, as the sparks fly upwards; and alas also (as all men are) to trouble no less.
—Carlyle, The Diamond Necklace, chap. IV.
So long as any fault whatever seems trifling to us,—so long as we see, not so much the culpability of as the excuses for imprudence or negligence—so long, in short, as Job murmurs, and as providence is thought too severe,—so long as there is any inner protestation against fate, or doubt as to the perfect justice of God,—there is not yet entire humility or true repentance. It is when we accept the expiation that it can be spared us; it is when we submit sincerely that grace can be granted to us. Only when grief finds its work done can God dispense us from it. Trial then only stops when it is useless; that is why it scarcely ever stops.
Reference.—V. 17-27—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Job, p. 33.
In the fourth volume of Modern Painters Ruskin speaks of the repose amid the wild, torn crags of the Alpine valleys. 'It is just where "the mountain falling cometh to naught, and the rock is removed out of his place" (XIV. 18), that, in process of years, the fairest meadows bloom between the fragments, the clearest rivulets murmur from their crevices among the flowers, and the clustered cottages, each sheltered beneath some strength of mossy stone, now to be removed no more, and with their pastured flocks around them, safe from the eagle's stoop and the wolf's ravin, have written upon their fronts, in simple words, the mountaineer's faith in the ancient promise—"Neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh"; "For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field; and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee".'
Lord Jeffrey said in his old days, which were some of the gentlest and most affectionate that could be passed: 'It is poor wine that grows sour with ye'... And now her latter days embodied a storehouse of all that had gone before, with the latest and ripest fruit added. She had deeply studied the successive lessons of life, and met the last and gravest with reverence and thankfulness. She grew gentle and tender, at no sacrifice of courage and brilliancy. She clung more and more to her friends and to her kindred, and became a centre, round which gathered the tenderest deference and affection.
—Lady Eastlake on Mrs. Grote.
Pass through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.
The spectacle of an old man with his intellect keen, with his experience bitter, with his appetites un-satiated, with the memory of past enjoyment stinging him, and deprived of the physical power to enjoy it, is so familiar that we accept it as one of the commonplaces of life. Scarcely anyone of us remembers that he will in turn live on into such an old age, if he does not sacrifice daily to the invisible powers.
—C. H. Pearson.
The Parable of Harvest
This text is a perfect vision of the closing days of harvest. Every harvest-field is a place of reconciliation between God and man.
I. The first parable of harvest is that harvest is God's memorial, and the parable of His love. His promise is that while the bow is in the heaven, springtime and harvest shall not fail.
II. The order of the world is use first and beauty second. Christ never illustrates Himself by a superfluity. He is bread, water, light, life; He never says that He is fragrance, or colour, or luxury. He is something we all need.
III. Harvest is the parable of life itself. Youth is wedded to age as spring is wedded to summer and springtime to harvest, and that which a man sows in youth he likewise reaps in manhood.
IV. Harvest is again the parable of death. Nothing perishes, because there is no waste in nature.
V. The purpose of life is use. That is the great lesson of nature from first to last.
—W. J. Dawson, Harvest and Thanksgiving Services, p. 50.
References.—V. 26.—H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines, p. 240. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 43. V. 27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2175.
For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.
I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation.
His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.
Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.
Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;
Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause:
Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number:
Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields:
To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.
He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.
They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.
But he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.
So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth.
Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:
For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.
He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.
In famine he shall redeem thee from death: and in war from the power of the sword.
Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue: neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.
At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth.
For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.
And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin.
Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth.
Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.
Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.