But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked--becoming fat, bloated, and gorged. He abandoned the God who made him and scorned the Rock of his salvation.
I. A GOOD NAME BELIED. Jeshurun, equivalent to righteous. An honorable name, but sadly falsified by the conduct described. How many Jeshuruns have thus forsaken the God of their early vows! Notice, a good name is of no account without the good character. Balaam praised Israel's righteousness, and wished to "die the death of the righteous" (Numbers 23:10, 21); but it is the being righteous, not the being called so, which makes the happy deathbed.
II. As EVIL EFFECT OF PROSPERITY. "Waxed fat - kicked." How common! The effect foretold or warned against in earlier chapters (Deuteronomy 8:12-18, etc.). Prosperity, then pride, then stubborn self-willedness. The self willed heart refuses to submit to God's government; throws off the memory of past obligations, and treats God with ill-concealed indifference and dislike; turns from the true God to gods of its own choosing. Two steps in the great apostasy - forsaking the fountain of living waters, and hewing out broken cisterns, etc. (Jeremiah 2:13). Such conduct is
(4) fatal (vers. 22-25).
III. RESULT OF AS ITCH FOR NOVELTY. (Ver. 17.) The newness of the gods was a chief attraction. The worship of them was a change, a novelty. It pleased them by variety.
2. When God has been abandoned, novelty is greedily accepted as a substitute for truth, in theories, in creeds, in styles of worship, in religious nostrums.
3. Apostasy from God means transference of the affections to that which is degrading. In this case to "destroyers," so the word means; devils, malignant deities. But we worship devils, or the devil (Matthew 4:9), when we bow in spirit to the world's modes and shows; when we serve gold, or fashion, or the opinion of society; when we are slaves to lust of power; when we bow to a false ghosts, etc. - J.O.
Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked.
Homilist.I. A COMMUNITY REALISING WORLDLY PROSPERITY. Worldly prosperity sometimes comes to a man —
1. Irrespective of his efforts.
2. By his honest efforts.
3. By his dishonest efforts.
II. A COMMUNITY ABUSING WORLDLY PROSPERITY.
1. In sympathy they withdrew from God.
2. In life they disregarded God.
(1) (2) (Homilist.)
I. Let us regard men in their social capacity, and with respect to their general worldly interests, and OBSERVE HOW THEY ARE COMMONLY AFFECTED BY ABUNDANT PROSPERITY. History is full of instances to show how national character has deteriorated as the wealth and power of a nation have increased. A people, while struggling for existence and contending for liberty, have displayed all the virtues of industry and frugality, of energy and courage, of public spirit and self-denying regard for the common good. Thus they establish their commonwealth and grow strong and powerful. Then riches flow in; luxury follows in their train; the sons soon forget the virtues of their fathers, or despise them; then parties are formed; each class, each individual, is ambitious to cope with or outshine the other. All the petty passions of our nature soon spring up into rank activity. Selfishness reigns, the general good is forgotten, and principles which once were held in honour are derided and spurned.
II. Turn from those aspects of the subject which are national and social TO THOSE THAT CONCERN OUR CHURCHES. Here it is that such an evil is most perilous, and most to be condemned. Nations, societies, even classes of men, undoubtedly have relations to God; they stand indebted to Him for the rich benefits of His providence; and they are verily guilty when they abuse these by self-indulgence and forgetfulness of Him. But their guilt is far less than that of Churches, societies of professing Christians, who decline from the love and allegiance they owe to their Lord. Now, that is the aggravation that is here insisted on by the very use of the title "Jeshurun" — the Upright. What a base part for those who should be distinguished by this excellence to turn the abundance of the ministries of grace into the occasion of pride, self-confidence, and carelessness! Yet this has happened again and again. In various forms this wanton temper, this self-satisfied, self-indulgent spirit shows itself. Sixty or seventy years ago it came out in Anti-nomianism, which made the Gospel all privilege and no duty, under the pretence of zeal for the freeness of Divine grace. This delusion, which ruined many souls and grievously weakened the energies of the Churches, has vanished to a large extent; but the spirit of it — the spirit of carnal indolence and complacency — lingers still. Self-flattery can assume many shapes, slipping its neck out of the gentle yoke of Christ. But the besetting temptation now is the pride of enlightenment, the conceited notion that we have attained to larger and more liberal views of Christianity; and so the great doctrines of grace are explained away, or so diluted as to be robbed of their strength.
III. Having thus shown the injurious influence of continued prosperity, let me now INDICATE HOW THIS INJURIOUS TENDENCY MAY BE CORRECTED.
1. By a constant and grateful recollection of the Source and Giver of our prosperity. This will keep us in our proper place as lowly recipients and debtors, dependents on His bounty.
2. Let us use our resources and advantages as God intends they should be used, and as He Himself sets us an example. God is constantly bestowing. He keeps nothing to Himself.
3. Let us not desire prosperity for itself.
(A. Thompson, M. A.)
I. For the proof, that you may understand the more distinctly, let me lay it down in a double distinction of mercy. Mercies are either privative or positive: privative, that is deliverances, preservations from varieties of evils and dangers, which otherwise we were liable unto; our privative mercies are greater and more than our positive mercies are, though we perceive them not: the dangers that we are delivered from are more than the present mercies we do enjoy. Now let us see whether privative mercies make men the worse; when men are delivered, do they grow the worse for their deliverance? Look to this (Deuteronomy 32:26), the Lord speaks of a great privative mercy. What good, now, did this deliverance do this people? In the thirty-second verse. Their vine is the vine of Sodom, and their grapes are the grapes of Gomorrah. Here is the fruit now that these men brought forth of their privative mercies, that the Lord did not give them into their enemies' hands, for all that the people grew more wicked under these, and their grapes were, etc. In this manner they improved their corruptions. In Psalm 78:38, many a time he turned His wrath away, and would not suffer His whole displeasure to arise. Were the people the better for it afterwards? No, they grew so much the more rebellious. Thus privative mercies may make men grow the worse. And men may be delivered, and a nation delivered, and they growing worse for it, the Lord may reserve them to further plagues. Secondly, there are positive mercies, and they are of two sorts, and men are in danger of growing worse by both of them. Either temporal or spiritual mercies, as if the Lord give men the Scriptures, they are in danger to wrest them to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:6); if God give them His Gospel, they are in danger to turn His grace into wantonness (Jude 1:4). Not the word of grace, but the privileges of grace; if God give men the ordinances, they say, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord. And we are delivered to commit all this abomination (Jeremiah 7:8, 9), and so in Hebrews 6:7, 8, There is the ground that drinks in the rain of ordinances and influences, and yet brings forth briars and thorns. So if men receive spiritual privileges, they may be the worse for them (Matthew 3:9). Nay, spiritual divination, and be in danger to be the worse for it: Paul was so (2 Corinthians 3:7). Nay, spiritual motions and operations (Hebrews 6:5, 6).
II. But you will say, What is the reason? are the mercies of God of such a malignant nature that they make men grow the worse? A man would think, if anything would make men the better, mercies would; it is true, had men ingenuous natures as grace brings. But there are four great reasons why it is a dangerous thing for a person or people to enjoy mercy, and not be the worse for mercy.
1. First, is from the corruption that is in the heart of man; it is true, the mercy of God is not a cause why men grow the worse: for it infuses no malignant disposition into the soul of man. But the mercy of God is an occasion, though it be not the cause; as it is said of the law of God (Romans 7:11).
2. Secondly, from the general curse that by reason of sin is come upon all the creatures, and all God's providential dispensations.
3. Thirdly, from the especial malice of the devil against mercy. It is true, he is an enemy to all the creatures, and he would destroy them all as creatures out of his enmity to God. But in a more especial manner the devil is an enemy to the mercy of God more than to any other creature of God. Why? because the devil's sin is direct enmity, and malice and revenge. God looks for most glory from His mercy, and therefore of all other things the devil hath the greatest envy to that, that God may be dishonoured by them.
4. Fourthly, there are some mercies that God hath given to persons and people out of a particular displeasure; you heard of the general curse that came upon all the creatures before. But now I say, there are some mercies that God gives out of peculiar displeasure, and they prove a more peculiar curse. I conceive that will appear plain to you in Zechariah 5:3. No wonder these men grow the worse for mercies, because it is out of a peculiar displeasure that the Lord gives them, as Austin saith of God's hearing prayers, He hears wicked men's prayers and gives them things they ask, though not properly as an answer to prayer. God hears prayers with revenge. Gives the things prayed for, but out of a peculiar displeasure. God doth as much rain snares on men in mercy, as in any other of His dispensations whatsoever, and therefore look to it; it is a dangerous thing for a people to receive mercy if they do not improve it.
III. I shall now speak a few words of application; there are two uses that I would make of it. First, of examination. Look back upon all the mercies that you have received from God — temporal and spiritual mercies; privative, positive mercies. Indeed, it is your duty (Psalm 68:26). Not only for late mercies received, but look to the Fountain from whence all mercies did first flow (Micah 6:5), it is from the first beginning of mercy to the latter end of them, ask but the question now of your own hearts, look to your own personal mercies everyone in private family mercies, and the public mercies that God hath afforded the nation, and tell me, are you the better or the worse for them, have you brought forth fruit answerable to the mercy? There are six things that are the ordinary ways by which men do appear to be the worse for mercy. And pray let us see whether all these be not to be found amongst us; this is a day wherein you should lay yourselves naked before God. First, the ordinary abuse of mercy is forgetfulness of God (Deuteronomy 6:14). Secondly, when they are settled upon them, and satisfied with them. Let them but keep this mercy, and it will be well with them. Let us enjoy this, and all is well. Thirdly, when men grow refractory unto duty, and oppose the things of godliness with a higher hand. Fourthly, when a people do begin to dote upon their own beauty, God sets them in a good condition, and they begin to rest in it, that evil was the fruit of their mercy (Ezekiel 16:15). Fifthly, when men ascribe mercy to themselves, and would take the glory from God (Habakkuk 1:16). Lastly, when men employ all to their own use, when all men's mercies do but serve their lusts; one man saith, we have obtained this mercy, therefore I will be rich; now I must sit at the stern, saith another; the management of all the negotiations of the State is in my hands; as much as to say, God hath given all these mercies to serve me: remember that place in Isaiah 29:1. There is a second use of caution and admonition; do you take heed seeing it is so dangerous a thing, that the same thing be not justly said of you, and charged on you as was here upon Jeshurun: that they were the worse for their mercies; the mercies they received did but ripen their sins and hasten their ruin; take heed you bring forth fruits worthy of the mercy you receive. First, the proper fruit of mercy is an humble acknowledgment of our own unworthiness. Secondly, the proper fruit of mercy by which a man may be said to be the better for it is when they ascribe all mercy to God. Thirdly, when mercies do bring a man's sins to remembrance, the soul stoops under the apprehension of mercy: what, will God show mercy to me one so rebellious and disobedient as I! and then the soul reads over the guilt of his sin with new remorse. Fourthly, when mercies lay upon the man the stronger obligations, and a man makes this use of it; looks upon himself as more firmly bound to God; that is the use they make of mercy in Ezra 9:13. Fifthly, when the soul studies what he shall return to God for all His mercies: you know that God not only expects returns, but proportionable returns. And I desire you would take notice of it (2 Chronicles 32:26). Lastly, that soul is the better for mercy when it loves God the more for it (Psalm 18:1). But how shall I know that I am the better for mercies? Pray observe these four rules. First, thy mercies will never make thee the better, unless they be mercies that proceed from a covenant right and interest. Secondly, when a man, as he receives all from God, doth direct all to God. Thirdly, consider, this is the mercy that doth you good, when it makes thy soul prosperous. Lastly, wherein your prayers to God are drawn forth more for a sanctified use of the mercy than for the mercy itself.
1. He is our Creator and absolute Proprietor.
2. He is the Author of our salvation.
II. THAT, NOTWITHSTANDING THESE OBLIGATIONS, MANY PERSONS FORSAKE GOD.
1. By mere forgetfulness.
2. By neglecting the ordinances of religion.
3. By inattention to relative duties.
III. THAT UNSANCTIFIED PROSPERITY IS VERY OFTEN THE CAUSE OF THESE EVILS. It is quite possible to be very prosperous, and very religious too — but, though possible, it is very difficult (Jeremiah 20:21).CONCLUSION —
1. One way of preventing these evils is to remember the uncertainty of earthly things.
2. Another way is to be earnest in prayer to God for His upholding grace.
(W. G. Barrett.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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