For he said, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people…
1. Let us reflect on the total forgetfulness of God, and the unwillingness to recognise His power and presence, with which objects of human interest and ambition are frequently prosecuted and enjoyed.
2. Let us dwell on the spirit with which worldly men engage in the pursuit of their favourite objects, the temper and disposition of mind with which they encounter disappointment, and the kind of happiness which they derive from the success of their enterprises.
(1) The ardour with which they prosecute these is virtually a declaration that they are determined to be happy independently of God; the firmness and perseverance with which they struggle with adversity, and labour to retrieve their losses, are so many attempts to dispute with Him the determination of events, and to wrest from His hand the government of the universe; and when they have been successful almost or altogether to the extent of their expectations, and when they contrast the success that has rewarded them with the failure and disappointment that have befallen others in similar circumstances, — the principle which lies at the foundation of all their enjoyments, and gives zest to every other gratification, is substantially that which is expressed in our text, "By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am prudent."(2) It is not, however, to those only who place their chief good in a given portion of this world's wealth, that these observations are applicable. They will be found to hold equally true in the case of those who can find in the exercise of high intellectual endowments a gratification which mere worldly wealth never could furnish, — but who have not yet acquired any capacity for the purer and more permanent happiness of a growing conformity to the Divine image in this world, and the enjoyment of eternal communion with God in the world to come. Elevated as such pursuits may be, and profound as is the homage of respect which the world is called upon, and readily consents to pay to them, yet, wherever they constitute the only portion that the soul seeks after, and occupy that place in the affections which God claims as His own, then they bear upon them the same impress of ungodliness which characterises the schemes of worldly aggrandisement, and may ultimately be traced to the very same principle.
(3) The same remark is applicable also to the man who, by the benevolence of his character and the irreproachable regularity of his life, has secured the world's respect, and who builds with confidence on his many virtues as a sure foundation of hope for the future; for when such a man contrasts his own character with that of multitudes around him, it will be with feelings of self-complacency.
3. It would be easy, by entering on the detail of particular cases, to show how the principle in the text pervades all the business and the pleasures of an unregenerate world.
4. The sentiment is as foolish with regard to the sinner, as it is impious with respect to the Almighty; for as well might it be supposed that the movements of the material universe would remain undisturbed, though the principle that is essential to its stability were annihilated, as that an intelligent and moral creature could be permanently blessed, if released from the law of dependence on his Creator.
(R. Gordon, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man:
WEB: For he has said, "By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I have understanding: and I have removed the boundaries of the peoples, and have robbed their treasures. Like a valiant man I have brought down their rulers.