He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields…
Everything about the Jewish people was significant and emphatically prophetic. Canaan itself was a type of the condition both here and hereafter of the disciples of Christ. Whatsoever, therefore, the terms in which the richness of the literal Canaan is described, we may justly suppose that these terms, metaphorically taken, are expressive of the provision made "in Christ" for His Church, and of the privileges" "appertaining" to those living and trusting in Him, "with all the heart, and all the soul, and all the strength. It would seem rather indicated by the text that a great struggle should precede the possession of the rich produce of Canaan. And this we wish you particularly to observe — that "riding on the high places of the earth" is in order to, — is preparatory to the "eating of the increase of the fields"; as though that "eating" were in recompense for the mastery won over the strongholds of the enemy.
I. Christianity, as it was not set up at once in the world, but was left to make its way by slow and painful struggle towards the dominion which it has not yet attained, so is it progressive, and not instantaneous in acquiring empire in individual cases. There maybe no inconsiderable analogy between the history of Christianity in the world and its history in the individual. Christianity when first published made rapid way, as though but few years could elapse ere every false system would vanish before it. But there came interruptions — backsliding, degeneracy, and afterwards repentance and partial reformation. But the consummation is still a thing only of hope, and Christ must "re-appear in power and great majesty" ere His religion shall prevail in every household and every heart. In like manner, the converted individual devotes himself at first with the greatest ardency to the duties of religion; but after a while, too commonly, the ardency declines, and duties are partially neglected, or languidly performed. Then the man is roused afresh, and labours in bitterness of spirit to recover the ground so unhappily lost. Though on the whole he advances, there remains much languor, and it will not be before the day of the Lord that he will be sanctified, holy in body, soul, and spirit. Nevertheless, the true characteristic of religion in both cases is that of progressiveness, or rather, perhaps we should say, of an inability to be stationary. There is such a thing, according to the apostle, as continuing in infancy, and being "fed with milk." There is also such a thing as advancing to manhood, and being fed with meat. This is but another typical representation of what seems suggested in our text, that some merely eat of what the field yields of itself, whilst the richer increase is reserved for such as toil earnestly at cultivating the land. Not, indeed, that the richer truths are wholly different from the others; for Christ must be the staple in all truths to the soul; they are rather the same truths in a more refined and exquisite state prepared for those who have toiled here to secure a portion in the world to come.
II. We now proceed to consider the second part of the prophecy, or promise of our text — for it is either; that which has to do with the obtaining "honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock." This part, perhaps, goes even further than the first in connecting the blessing with the diligence of those on whom it is conferred. If "honey" be obtained from the "rock," the "rock" must be climbed; and since it Will not lie on the surface, the clefts or fissures must be carefully explored; so that the promise appears to presuppose labour, and therefore bears out what we have all along argued, that the text belongs peculiarly to those who are working out their salvation with more than ordinary earnestness. But, however it may be supposed that bees might swarm in the clefts of the rock, and thus there might be literally the obtaining "honey from the rock," there would seem to be a sort of opposition intended between the thing produced and the place, that produces it. The little apparent likelihood of the "rock" yielding "honey" is paralleled by the certainty of the fact that Christ conquered by yielding, and subdued death by dying. And if you take the "rock" as meaning that typical rock which was smitten by Moses at Horeb, then the promise of honey from the rock may be as much a promise of peculiar privileges to such as are diligent in righteousness, as that of the "eating of the increase of the fields," Every believer draws water from the rock, but the honey may be reserved for those "who by patient continuance in well doing show forth eminently the praise of Him who bore our sins in His own body on the tree." And there is, indeed, a hidden preciousness in the Saviour, in that "Rock of Ages cleft for us," which is appreciated more and more as the believer goes on to acquaintance with Christ, striving to magnify Him in all the actions of his life. It is not merely a general sense of the sufficiency of the atonement which such men obtain — the persuasion that there is provision made by the Mediator for the wants of sinners, even the very chief: they go deeper than this; they find in Christ such stores of consolation, such treasures of wisdom and knowledge, that they are never weary of searching as they are never able to exhaust. Every necessity as it arises is supplied from these stores of Christ; every cloud scattered by His brightness; every desire either satisfied, or satisfaction guaranteed by the unsearchable riches of His work of mediation. And this "honey" is from the "rock" — from the clefts of the rock. I must go, as it were, to the wounds of the Saviour if I would obtain this precious and ever multiplying provision. I must be much with Him in the garden and at the cross. Surely we may confidently say, that if there be a fulness and preciousness in the Redeemer, that is ascertained though left unexhausted as His mighty sacrifice is contemplated, and the lessons which it furnishes wrought into practice; if there be this reward to meet constant persevering piety, — that it finds deeper and deeper abundance in the Saviour — a sweetness and a richness in His office which give indescribable emphasis to the Scriptural expression — "Chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely"; and if, moreover, it be Christ as bruised and broken, pierced and riven like a vast mass of stone on which the thunderbolt has fallen, who yields these rich treasures, then it must be true that "the soul which hungers and thirsts after righteousness" shall not only "eat of the increase of the fields," but be permitted to "draw honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock."
III. This idea is put yet more strongly, you see, in the concluding words of our text — "and oil out of the flinty rock"; the addition of the word "flinty" giving a stronger image of rockiness, and therefore making the place less promising for such rich and delicate productions. What is denoted by the metaphor thus interpreted, if not that affliction is made by God to comfort His people; so that when they are brought by His providence into wild and rough places, they are enabled to find there even richer provisions than in verdant and cultivated spots? We need not adduce any lengthened proof that the promise thus interpreted is verified to the very letter in the experience of the Church. The testimony of believers, in every age of the world, has been, that the season of affliction has proved a season of rich communications from above — a season when God's faithfulness and love have been more realised than they ever were before — a season in which texts of Scripture have assumed new and deeper meaning, and truths hitherto dwelt on only in the head have made their way to the heart, and diffused there a "peace passing all understanding."
IV. And perhaps, even yet, our text may not have been fully expounded, for if in its primary application to the Jews it denoted the sustenance to be afforded them in Canaan, as applied to ourselves it may relate to provision laid up for us in heaven, of which Canaan was the type, when God shall have made us "ride on the high places of the earth," and exalted us to His kingdom, where the promise before us may be always receiving accomplishment. God shall be always communicating supplies from His own fulness, as age after age of expansion or enlargement passes over the redeemed; and these supplies may still be supplies of honey from the rock. There will be no exhausting of Christ and redemption. Never shall glorified spirits be weary of searching into the mysteries of grace, or consider those mysteries as thoroughly explored. Keep up, if you will, the metaphor of our text. Eternity shall be spent in contemplating and examining the "Rock of Ages"; every moment shall discover a fresh depth; the clefts in this rock, most strange, but most true, fitting it to bear up the universe, and every fresh cleft yielding fresh stores of honey, satisfying desires which shall but grow with their supply.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;