and on the third day he said to them, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God.
Genesis 15:13, 14). But it is not merely a fact in the historical preparation for what he was bringing to pass; a link in the chain of events leading on to Christ. We must look upon it as part of a series of types foreshadowing gospel truths. The famine was a step towards the promised possession, and has its counterpart in the work of the Holy Spirit. It represents the spiritual want of man; conviction of sin (John 16:8; cf. Romans 7:9), leading to know the power of Christ's work (Matthew 18:11).
I. The first step is CONSCIOUSNESS OF FAMINE; that a man's life is more than meat; more than a supply of bodily wants. It is realizing that he has wants beyond the present life; that in living for time he has been following a shadow. This knowledge is not natural to us. Bodily hunger soon makes itself felt, but the soul's need does not; and until it is known, the man may be "poor and blind and naked," and yet suppose that he is "rich and increased with goods."
II. WE CANNOT OF OURSELVES SUPPLY THAT WANT. Gradually we learn how great it is. We want to still the accusing voice of conscience; to find a plea that shall avail in judgment; to see clearly the way of life that we may not err therein. In vain we look one on another, seeking comfort in the good opinion of men, in their testimony to our upright life. In vain we try to satisfy ourselves, by promises to do better, or by offerings of our substance or of our work. In vain is it to seek rest in unbelief, or in the persuasion that in some way all will be right. The soul cannot thus find peace. There is a voice which at times will make itself heard - "all have sinned" - thou hast sinned.
III. GOD HAS PROVIDED BREAD. "I have heard that there is corn in Egypt" (cf. Romans 10:18), answers to the gospel telling of the bread of life. As to this we mark -
1. It was provided before the want arose (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). The gospel tells us of what has already been done, not of a gift to come into existence on certain conditions. The ransom of our souls has been paid. We have to believe and take (Revelation 22:17).
2. How faith works. They must go for that food which was ready for them. To take the bread of life must be a real earnest act, not a listless assent. The manna which was to be gathered, the brazen serpent to which the sick were to look, the command to the impotent "Rise, take up thy bed and walk," all show that it is not enough merely to wish, there must be the effort of faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3). This is a law of the spiritual kingdom. As natural laws regulate results within their, domain, so spiritual results must be sought in accordance with spiritual laws.
3. It is our Brother who has made provision for us. This is our confidence. He waits to reveal himself when in humility and emptiness we come to him, and to give us plenty (1 Corinthians 3:21, 22). - M.
For I fear God.1. The first impression which the human mind receives from the conviction of an over-ruling Power, is that of fear. It is a moral impression. It is made upon the conscience. A feeling of awe at the thought of an invisible witness, who judges and will requite.
2. "For I fear God." The text begins with a word that connects it with something else; that supposes a reason for the assertion it makes. Why should we thus "fear" Him? Because He is present to every agreement that is made, to every promise that is spoken, to every purpose that is secretly devised, to every action, however silently done. Because He is holy, and "the righteous Lord hateth iniquity." Because He is mighty, and who can stand before His displeasure? Because He requires the duty by which we feel ourselves bound. Because He appoints every law, and chastises for its infraction. Because, if through that subduing veneration, that salutary dread, we hold fast our integrity and depart from evil, we are encouraged by His assurances, we are encompassed by His defence.
3. There are various ways in which these effects are produced upon the children of disobedience.(1) They fear the powers of the visible world, as if they were ready to betray or smite their delinquencies; as if their sounds might publish something concerning them, or their "arrows upon the string" had an aim towards them. The stormy wind or the voice of the waters may have a word to fulfil for their condemnation. The rustling leaf has a warning. The bare bough points. "A bird of the air shall carry the matter." There is a Greek story of a poet who, falling under the daggers of robbers, called upon some cranes who was flying overhead to avenge his death. While his name and fate were yet upon the public tongue, in a great assembly of the people — when in the vast theatre of Corinth, open to the sky, the solemn chorus and personation of the Furies were exhibiting the truth, that "there is no shadow of death where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves" — a flock of those noisy birds darkened and shook the air. A cry escaped from the assassins, who were present at the spectacle. Their detection followed, and their just death was added as the terrible conclusion of the sacred song, and fulfilment of its prophecy. The story may be true, for doubtless such things have been. And they illustrate one part of the fact, that the creation, even in its innocent objects and pleasant forms, is the enemy of those who will not make the Author of it a friend.(2) There are surprises of Providence, in disappointment, deprivation, pain. These are trials wherever they fall; but to persons sensible that they have given them the right to surprise, they are peculiarity full of dismay. Sudden accidents will occur. The usual order of our lives will be broken in upon by strange occurrences. Dangers springs up by the wayside. Sorrows invade the dearest neighbourhoods of our life. Many, like old Israel's son's, find a journey made to the south terminate into captivity, and have to bear "the burden of Egypt," while they were seeking for its corn. Wretched, indeed, if what they must suffer then admonishes them of their trespasses, and forces from them the confession, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother." But, without imagining any of these casualties and violent interruptions, and troubles that may come, there are others that must come. The God whom we "fear" deals with us in the slow course of His appointments, through the gradual changes of time and age. If He continues our days upon the earth, we must pay for the privilege by parting with many of their delights, feeling some unwelcome alterations, and witnessing more. The soul will have to retire further inward for its satisfactions or its repose, as remembrance out-measures expectation, and the veils of the flesh grow thin. When the world is declining, its weight greater and its pleasure less, will not everything appear departing from us, if the answer of a good conscience and a hope towards an immortal possession do not remain behind? To feel forsaken of God, or obnoxious to His judgments then! — is not that a dreary and terrible occasion of fear?
4. The several topics hitherto mentioned touch upon what is outside of us. They have been immediately connected with natural objects, or distressful incidents, or waning powers. But all these are only circumstances. The individual consciousness of every one dwells in the midst of them, and impresses them with a character of its own. Here is the true seat of the principle. Let each stand in awe of what is within him; of the judgments that are pronounced beyond mortal hearing, and executed through the habits, the fancies, the passions, the memories, of the mind itself. Are these habits depraved — these fancies disordered? Do these passions start away from holy motives? Do these memories condemn the past, that cannot be restored to be tried again and live better? The hostilities of nature the utmost rage of the air and sea, are nothing to this. Pain and misadventure are nothing. The wear and losses of encroaching years are nothing.
(N. L. Frothingham.)
(C. Kingsley, M. A.)
(J. Foot, D. D.)
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