And saying, Sirs, why do you these things? We also are men of like passions with you…
I propose to call your attention, first, to what God does for us through nature, and, secondly, to the limit of His beneficence, a limit which in our case, as in the case of the Lycaonians, points toward the kingdom of grace. First, then, God "fills our hearts with food and gladness," or, rather, more literally, He "fills our hearts with nourishment and cheerfulness." If through the agencies of nature we have food and gladness, we owe these to the kindness of God. But, further, in the case of man, who is far the highest of the animals, God supplies other wants besides the hunger and thirst of the body. He feeds our minds and hearts by furnishing us with various interests and resources. While He gives us work to do, He gives us also times for rest, and in our times of rest He surrounds us with objects of interest. Paul gives this truth a still deeper meaning when he says that God fills our hearts with gladness, or with cheerfulness — i.e., He gives us the material not only for living, but for living cheerfully. Those fresh children of nature at Lystra were happy in their lives — with their oxen, and their garlands, and their belief that the gods might come down to them any day in the likeness of men. Far from blaming their happiness, the apostle told them that God was pleased with it, and had arranged the world so as to secure it. To us, as to them, nature is a witness that He intends us to be happy. There is a certain free and reckless pleasure in nature which is one of God's straight gifts to our humanity. And if Nature thus makes even the ignorant and thoughtless happy, it brings fuller and more lasting joys to the well-trained mind. Observe, however, what Paul says about those teachings of nature. Not that they convince all men of the goodness of the living God. There are many upon whom they have no such influence — many who take nature's benefits thanklessly and sceptically. He merely says that God has "not left Himself without a witness." The teaching of nature confirms our faith, and deepens our faith, and enlarges our faith; but it is not sufficient in itself; it is incomplete, variable, and broken, requiring other teachers. We shall take note of some points at which nature may fail, and does fail, to effect this good work of witness bearing with which God has entrusted her.
1. Observe, then, that God does not fill the hearts of all men with food. Even in this, the plainest of her offices, nature fails. There is a dark cellar in her workshop, where she keeps many prisoners, and appears rather as a pitiless monster, "ravening with tooth and claw," than as a kindly fostering nurse.
2. Observe, secondly, that even when He fills the mouth with food He does not always fill the heart with gladness. We have seen that His general design in surrounding us with what is good and pleasant is to make us happy. But not always. Sometimes, through no fault of ours, but through His mysterious providence, there are causes of bitterness which turn all life's comforts into gall.
3. Thus we are led to the last consideration which will occupy us, viz., that even if God fills our hearts both with food and with gladness, we require something more. In order to reach the purpose of our existence it is not enough that we should be comfortable, well fed, cheerful, and appreciative of the general goodness of God. Food and gladness, for example, however plentifully and liberally they are supplied, do not prepare us for the time when our food may be taken away from us and our gladness turned into mourning. On the contrary, they only serve to accentuate the severity of such an issue by giving it the bitterness of contrast. Still less do these things equip us for the hour of death and for our reckoning with the laws of God. We have the hunger of our souls for peace — a restless craving which is also sure to grow, and which we shall never be able to satisfy so readily as we can now, even at this present time. We need a grasp of the Great Hand that orders our life, to steady us when our cup overflows with blessings.
Parallel VersesKJV: And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:
WEB: "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the sky and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them;