Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.A Threefold Cord (for the First Sunday of the Year)
This is not a commonplace. Nothing in God's Word is commonplace. Nothing inspired by the Holy Ghost could be commonplace. If you think it is a commonplace sentiment, I can tell you are commonplace. It is the deepest and truest philosophy of life. 'Thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.' And it is the very best philosophy by which to stimulate us Christians for the beginning of the new year.
First of all, there is the possibility that before the year is done you and I may have passed away. It may be in the sweet hope of the spring when everything is budding forth, or it may be in the brilliant summer-time, or it may be in the sad autumn. I do not know. It is far better that we should not know. While we breathe before God let us be happy men and women. We do not know what a day may bring forth, and it is very much better that we should not. But if we are uncertain about this, we ought to be certain about our God. No uncertainty there. You must know Him. You must know in whom you believe, and trust Him to the uttermost. You must have no uncertainty about God. Your mind must be sure and steadfast—made up. You must be able to say, like St. Paul, 'I am ready when the call comes. I have fought my own fight, I have kept my faith, and I am ready as He was ready'.
It is on the first Sunday of the year that we should look to the rock from which we are hewn and to the pit from which we are digged. We should make our calling and election sure. And having done all we can, let us stand upon our feet, and let the countenance of God shine on our face—uncertain about our days, but certain about our God. Look today straight up before the new year and say, 'O Lord, in Thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded'. And so I want to give you just a Scriptural cord to bind you to your God—a threefold cord, for it says a threefold cord cannot be broken.
I. The first part of the cord is this—live by faith in the Son of God. You know where it comes from. Paul said, 'He loved me and gave Himself for me. The life that I live, I live by faith in the Son of God.' Then you become citizens, not of the moments, not of the hours, not of the days, not of the months, not of the years, not of the centuries, but citizens of Eternity. Live by faith in the Son of God, and the terrors of time will not affect you. Oh, how some men are terrified by the tomorrow! To them tomorrow is a terror; it whips and scourges them, holds them over the crater, and shows them the pit. To-morrow we may be ruined, our character gone. 'I cannot face it; I know not what it may bring forth.' What a mystery it is, this future! It is not only that God is a mystery, but you are a mystery, and a mystery to yourself. Live by faith in the Son of God, and then all things are yours—things past, things present, and things to come.
II. The second twist in the cord to bind you is this—Cast all your care upon God. Some of us hardly like to face the many cares. Civilization, instead of easing the burden of cares, only increases it. Then we have other cares which trouble us—the difficulties, for instance, of this war, the difficulties of the Church, the difficulties amongst us. It is all natural. But here is my second point—Cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you. That is abandonment. The most beautiful thing you can say about death is this—abandonment. You know nothing about the state after death, but you give yourself up: 'Into Thy hands I commend my spirit'. And the most beautiful action of life is abandonment into the hands of God—casting all your care upon God. It is the beautiful abandonment of life which is the best preparation for the abandonment of death, because, finding that the everlasting arms are round you, and that your God has not deserted you, it becomes a matter of experience, and you are not afraid to go. That is the way to learn to die.
III. And now another cord to make it strong—'My times are in Thy hands'. Does God know what will happen to me this next year? Poor dear heart! of course He does. Does He know every little thing that will happen to me this new year? Yes, everything. There is no past or future with God. There is only one thing: the Eternal Now—'I am'. God can never say of Himself, 'I was and I shall be'. God is 'I am'. He is the Eternal Now. When did He begin? From everlasting. When will He end? Everlasting. 'From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God,' It is sweet to think that He Who brought me into the world, Whose hands made me, Whose heart redeemed me, settled the time when I should come into the world. I also want Him to settle the time when I go out.
Think of our Lord Himself. How did He speak of the future? Did He say, 'To-morrow at twelve o'clock?' No. Great minds use great words. He said, 'Hereafter'. That throws us forward right beyond temporal things. Sursum corda. Let your hearts go right up from the finite into the infinite Hereafter—out of time into Eternity. As the great historian begins his work: 'In the beginning God—' The Lord was never a pessimist. He could say to the people, 'Hereafter'. It was the same Lord who said to the poor snubbed publican, 'He is a son of Abraham'; the same Lord who said to the thief, 'Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise'; and the same Lord who said, 'Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man coming, and all the holy angels with Him'.
References.—XXVII. 1.—G. Salmon, Non-Miraculous Christianity, p. 218. F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. ii. p. 231. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 527. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No. 94. XXVII. 3.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 279. XXVII. 7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1227.
The Wandering Bird
I. You will note that the whole point of the rebuke lies in the emphasis we put on wandering. It is not the flying, it is the wandering bird that reads us a lesson on our discontent.
To all men come times when we must forward. The Christ-filled life has got its own ambition. The waters of God are not a stagnant pool. But all that earnest pressing forward, seizing new opportunities, taking the cross up—all that stands separated as by the poles asunder from the fickle, restless, discontented spirit that is the spirit of the wandering bird.
II. Sometimes, of course, we do not know our place. I mean, we are almost certain this is not our place, and it is only afterwards we find it was. So when our dear Redeemer hung on Calvary, the whole world said, That is no place for God! And it has taken the centuries to teach us that the love of God came to its beauty there. It is not the place that makes the man: it is the man and his heart who make the place.
III. I have two thoughts to give you:—(a) That as a bird that never wanders from her nest, so Jesus never wandered from His place. Through sun and tempest, through censure and through praise, in youth and manhood, in agony and death, Jesus was true to His redeeming work.
(b) The true place of our deepest life is God. It is not self—we are growing tired of self. It is not the world—we can embrace the world; and ever, for the spirit, there is a beyond. It is when the roots of my being run down to the Divine; it is when, beneath all other facts for me, there lies the great fact of a living, moving God; it is when my life is hid with Christ in God, that my wandering spirit is in its proper place.
—G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, p. 262.
References.—XXVII. 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2627. J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 108. XXVII. 17.—J. Duncan, The Pulpit and the Communion Table, p. 211. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 533. XXVII. 18.—J. R. Popham, Sermons, p. 81. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1118; see also vol. xlv. No. 2643. XXVIII. 1.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 537. XXVIII. 13.—Ibid. p. 541. XXVIII. 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2971. C. J. Vaughan, Last Words in the Parish Church of Doncaster, p. 19. XXVIII. 26.—H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 92. XXIX. 1.—W. Brooke, Sermons, p. 230. XXIX. 7.—J. Guinness Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, p. 279.
Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both.
Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?
Open rebuke is better than secret love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.
Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.
Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.
My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me.
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.
Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.
He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.
A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.
Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.
As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.
Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.
Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?
The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered.
The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field.
And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.