Two things have I required of you; deny me them not before I die:…
We have in these most instructive words a wise and good man -
I. CALMLY CONFRONTING THE FUTURE. Whether we read "before I die" or "until I die" (Wardlaw), we have a good man deliberately facing the future of his life. He realizes that before him stretches out a tract of time which he has to cross; he knows that he must keep steadily, incessantly, moving forward; that he will meet with difficulties and dangers on his way; that he will want all and more than all the power and the wisdom he has at his command; and he is sobered and solemnized by the thought. In view of this serious aspect of things, we find him -
II. EARNESTLY ADDRESSING HIMSELF TO GOD. "Two things have I required of thee." To whom, thus situated, should we go? Surely unto him who is:
1. The Lord of the future, who holds all time in his sovereign hand, who alone "can set new time upon our score."
2. The Father of our spirits, who is deeply interested in our highest welfare, and cares more about our well-being than does any human relative or friend.
3. The Lord of our life, who traces the path our feet will tread, who can and will hedge that path with his protecting care, who can and will lead us along the road we travel. And what better "requirement" or request could he prefer than that of -
III. ASKING FOR DELIVERANCE FROM DELUSION? From "vanity and lies." Whatever may have been the form which this evil took in the land and time of Agur, we know what withering and wasting delusions we need to be preserved from now.
1. From under-estimating the value of our life. There are many - are there not many more than there once were? - that say, "Who will show us any good?" Their name is legion who are discussing and even denying the worth of human life. Indifference, ennui, weariness and dreariness of spirit, disgust - leading down to a pessimistic philosophy in theory, and to suicide in action - this is the strain and spirit, and this is the current of our time. It is a delusion, both sorrowful and sinful. For it is a virtual abandonment of a noble heritage, and it is a rejection of a good and a great gift from the hand of God. A life of holy service, of unselfish devotion, of spiritual growth, of filial gratitude and joy, of Christian hopefulness, is a blessing of simply inestimable value.
2. From over-estimating the value of the sensuous and the material. Always and everywhere men have been in the gravest danger of supposing that "a man's life does consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses," or the number and sweetness of his bodily gratifications. This also is vanity; it is a falsehood which sin sows freely and which quickly takes root in the minds of men. What we need to know, what we may well ask God to teach us so that we shall not only accept but realize it, is that all the rivers of earthly good and of sensuous satisfaction may run into the sea of an immortal spirit, made for God and for goodness, and they will not fill it.
IV. PRAYING TO BE EXEMPT FROM THE EXTREMES OF CIRCUMSTANTIAL TRIAL. Give me neither poverty nor riches."
1. The trial of poverty. This we can all understand, and it takes but little wisdom or sanctity to pray for exemption from its evil.
2. The trial of wealth. We think we could endure this without, suffering. Nearly all those who have not experienced it are inclined to slight the danger of being rich. Those who have never walked on the ice imagine that they could do so without slipping; those who have never gambled indulge the idea that they could stop at the moment of prudential retirement. We do not know ourselves. He who "knew what was in man" knew how great is the peril of worldly wealth (see Mark 10:23): We do well to strive and to toil for an honourable maintenance; but we do not well to sacrifice health or usefulness - how much less our self-respect and the love of Christ! - in order to be rich We do wisely to ask God to save us from the temptation - the real, the strong, the frequently whelming temptation - of great worldly success.
V. ASKING FOR THE GOOD WHICH WILL PROVE TO BE A BLESSING. "Feed me with food convenient for me;" i.e. which thou knowest to be suited to my need. God only knows what we want - what we want; what will be really and abidingly food for us, considered in all our relations. God knows what will nourish our spiritual nature, what will supply us as citizens of this life, what is our bodily need for those few years which he is about to give us here before he translates us to a heavenly sphere. Let us ask him to grant us what he knows is best, surely believing that what he gives in answer to our prayer is the best for us to receive - that, whatever the measure be, and not something sweeter, or finer, or more enduring. But let us, understanding what it is we ask - as they who first used the words did not - say continually, "Lord, evermore give us this bread." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: