He found him in a desolate land, in a barren, howling wilderness; He surrounded him, He instructed him, He guarded him as the apple of His eye.
I. WHERE GOD FOUND HIM. (Ver. 10.) Partly metaphorical - the state of Israel in Egypt being likened to that of a man perishing in the desert; partly literal - it being in the desert that God found the people when he took them into covenant. An image of the helpless and hopeless condition of the sinner. Cut off from life, without shelter, provision, resting-place, or final home.
II. HOW GOD DEALT WITH HIM. (Vers. 10, 11.) That Israel was kept in the wilderness so long was his own fault. But grace overruled the discipline for good. The long sojourn in the desert made Israel's case, also, a better type of our own. There are ends to be served by this sojourn (John 17:15). God showed himself:
1. Condescending to Israel's feebleness (Hosea 11:3, 4).
2. Mindful of his ignorance. "Instructed him."
3. Watchful of his safety. "Kept him."
4. Careful of his training (ver. 11).
The love and solicitude implied in such phrases as, "kept him as the apple of his eye" (ver. 10), and "as an eagle stirreth up," etc. (ver. 11), specially deserve notice. The apple of the eye is a sensitive part, which we protect with the utmost care, and from the slightest injuries. (On the eagle, see below.)
III. WHITHER GOD CONDUCTED HIM. (Vers. 13, 14.) To a land of plenty and rest. Made his defense the munitions of rocks. Provided him with all that heart could desire. So does God bring the believer to a large and wealthy place - a place of "fullness of joy," of richest satisfactions, of most perfect delights. Spiritually, even here, where the most unpropitious circumstances yield him unexpected blessings. Eternally and in perfected form hereafter. Note: God alone did all this for Israel. (ver. 12). - J.O.
I. THE STATE IN WHICH GOD FINDS HIS SERVANTS. "In a desert land, in the waste howling wilderness."
I. GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIS ANCIENT PEOPLE. God "found" Israel. Of His own inscrutable love, God chose to take this people to Himself; He found them, and made them into a nation for His praise. And it is said, "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness." I apprehend that this expression may relate as well to the position in which the children of Israel were at first found of God, in slavery in Egypt, as to their position during their forty years' sojourn in the wilderness. Then it is said further, that "He led him about." This is in allusion to the circumstance that God did not lead the people by a straight path through the wilderness, from the margin of the Red Sea towards the promised land; but in place of this, forty years were occupied in a circuitous route. And as He thus led the people about, "He instructed" them. He instructed them by many a type, by many a providential dealing, by many statutes and ordinances such as were given to no other nation besides. He instructed them by mercies, by warnings, by judgments; He instructed them by many a token of loving kindness, by many an interposition of power, by many a signal manifestation of His determination to bless the obedient and to punish the transgressors. And during the whole period, it is further said, "He kept him as the apple of His eye." He shielded them by His power, made it plain to all their enemies that the broad shield of Omnipotence was thrown over them, and that He was determined to protect them from peril, and to put them in possession of the land which He had promised to their fathers that He would give them.
He found him in a desert land.I. Now, although one of the chief objects of this discourse will be to adapt this portion of Scripture to our own times, it will be well to offer some few remarks in regard to THEIR PRIMARY APPLICATION; and they may be considered as containing a summary of all that had been suffered by the Israelites, of all that had been wrought by God on their behalf, of their departure from the bondage of Egypt, the perils of their journey, and the might of their deliverance.
II. I would now speak on THREE STATES AND CONDITIONS OF BELIEVERS WHICH THE TEXT APPEARS TO DEPICT.
1. We behold the believer or spiritual Israelite in his natural state — "A desert land, a waste howling wilderness." We must be humble; for the idea of a "good heart," which is so much prated about, is just like a cankerworm in the soul. Whatever the consolations of faith are, it is not possible that Christ should be all, unless man actually feels himself to be nothing.
2. Our text depicts the believer in a regenerate state. Found of God, led and instructed by God. Here are the several stages of Christian experience. Man is found of God, rather than God is sought of man. The work of redemption is Divine in its commencement, as well as its consummation; and the Holy Spirit, through whose operations alone the soul is prepared for final glory, gives the first impulse, and excites the glorious aspiration. "I was found of them that sought Me not"; and, however these words may especially allude to the calling of the Gentile Church, you observe that they are descriptive of every believer's individual experience. "Found of God." This, then, is the commencement of spiritual life; and although when the arrow of conviction first enters into the conscience the sinner exclaims, as Ahab did to Elijah, "Hast thou found me, O my enemy!" Yet presently the soul rejoices in its deliverance. A sense of the burthen of sin gives way before the manifestation of Christ: and the man that is thus found of God finds his guilty burthen removed, and a full salvation amply provided and ensured. But whilst religion's "ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace," yet the course of God's dealings with His people is never one of undeviating serenity; it is, on the contrary, "through much tribulation" that the kingdom of heaven is entered; and the path which a Christian travels is generally so circuitous that it can only be described by saying, God led him about — from gardens smiling with the flowers of hope, to deserts stript of leaves, of foliage, of beauty.
3. He who is in a regenerate state is also in a secured and guarded state, which is the last condition our text depicts; God keeps true believers "as the apple of His eye."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
II. Such is the literal application of the words. Now, let us look at their spiritual accommodation — their ACCOMMODATION TO THE SPIRITUAL ISRAEL OF GOD.
1. First, here is the believer "found" of God. "We love Him because He first loved us." Where does God find him? "In a desert land," etc. There is nothing in creation from which we can obtain the supply of the soul's spiritual wants. And even after a person has been found of God the description still holds. We have no fixed habitation upon earth; and we are in constant danger from enemies. But oh! it is a blessed thing to know, that just as God of old found His people Israel in the waste howling wilderness and in the desert land, so He finds His people still; and the proof of His finding them is that He leads them. And here, too, the description given in the text is very accurate, for it is said, "He led him about."
2. Often manifold trials enter into the dealings of God with His people; He permits them to encounter sharp afflictions, unexpected trials, it may be heartrending bereavements; He takes from them the earthly prop upon which they were wont to lean too fondly. But of this be assured: however God may lead His people about, He leads them by the right way.
3. Then, again; all the while God is thus leading His people about, He is instructing them. Have you not experienced this? A Christian has to grow in knowledge as well as in grace. As God continues His providential dealings towards us, we come to take a wider survey of the love and faithfulness and goodness of God in all His dealings with us. God instructs us in our own weakness and His all-sufficiency, our corruption and His grace, our own frailty and His constancy, our unbelief, and His unwavering faithfulness to His Word. And thus the believer is instructed; and he comes to take a bolder step, and to feel his stand more secure, as being anchored upon the Rock of Ages, and putting his trust in the sure Word of God.
4. And then we must notice, further, that it is said, "He kept him as the apple of His eye." What a beautiful metaphor this is! Of all the bodily organs that God has given to us, the eye is the most exquisitely tender and sensitive. You know how the tiniest particle of dust will irritate and distress the delicate fibres of this tender and sensitive organ; yet of all the organs of our body it is the most exquisitely provided for; and the very guards that God has placed about it are so sensitive and so quick to the perception of danger, that the very eye itself may be defended. Now, this is the figure that God makes use of in order to present His watchful guardianship over His saints. "He kept him as the apple of His eye," watched him with unceasing vigilance, placed around him unnumbered guards, defended him with the utmost possible precaution for his real welfare, and thus Shielded and protected him from approaching danger. God thus guards and defends His people. It is said they are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." And is there a man who walks this earth so happy, so truly blessed as the man who is thus under the guardianship of God?
(Bp. R. Bickersteth.)
1. Their condition, therefore, if viewed as a picture of the original condition of man, teaches us that the people of God were by nature at a great distance from Him. The enemies of God by Wicked works; the willing slaves of Satan; tied and bound with the chain of a thousand lusts; with all their affections fixed on sin, and all their desires turned from God — how shall they find Him, how approach Him?
2. A desolate condition. Let us look back to the days that are past. We imagined that we had need of nothing, but what was our real condition? We were wretched and miserable, poor and naked, ready to perish. The world appeared fair before us; it promised us much, and we were willing to credit it. Fools that we were, we tried it; but what could it do for us? It gave us, among its briars and thorns, a few flowers to amuse us, but it left us starving for want. It brought us no pardon for our guilt, no peace for an accusing conscience, no deliverance from the grave, no refuge from hell. It left us destitute, forlorn, and wretched.
3. A state of danger. The territory of an enemy.
II. IN WHAT MANNER THE LORD ACTS TOWARDS HIS PEOPLE AMID THEIR WRETCHEDNESS AND DANGERS. "As an eagle," etc. This beautiful similitude strikingly illustrates the tenderness with which the Almighty led Israel from Egypt to Canaan, and the loving kindness which He still manifests towards all who seek Him in the wilderness of this world. It shows us what He does for them, and how He does it.
1. It shows us what God does for His people. It tells us that He afflicts them, guides them, and preserves them.
2. But in what manner does the Lord thus afflict, guide, and defend His servants? He exercises His mercy towards them constantly, patiently, with delight.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
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