The terror you cause and the pride of your heart have deceived you, O dwellers in the clefts of the rocks, O occupiers of the mountain summit. Though you elevate your nest like the eagle, even from there I will bring you down," declares the LORD.
I. THEIR FELLOW MEN HELP TO DECEIVE THEM. "Thy terribleness," etc. All around them held them in terror, were afraid of them, deemed them too mighty to be overcome. And the consciousness of this kept in them a confidence which now was to be shown to be but vain.
II. MEN'S OWN PRIDE. "The pride of thine heart." What myriads has not pride slain! what woe hath it not brought upon mankind! "Pride goeth before destruction," etc. (Cf. homily on Pride, Jeremiah 48:29.) See Sennacherib's army (Isaiah 37.), Pharaoh's overthrow (Exodus 14.); and "all the ages all along" pride has done the like and does so still.
III. MEN'S CIRCUMSTANCES. No dwellings could seem more secure than were theirs; their fortress seemed impregnable. Hence they said in their hearts, We shall never be moved." (Cf. on these dwellings, introduction to homily on Desirable habitations, supra, ver. 8.) Cf. the rich fool (Luke 12:20). Prosperity and security do tend to beget these vain confidences.
IV. PAST SUCCESS. Not only did these Edomites dwell in the clefts of the rock, but they had held them fast hitherto against all invaders. A career of success, opponents vanquished, difficulties surmounted, wealth and honour won; who can persuade such a man to call himself a poor, lost sinner, dependent utterly on the mercy of God? It is much easier to say, "Have mercy on us miserable sinners," than to foal and believe we are so. CONCLUSION. There are two ways in which this spirit of false confidence may be got rid of or kept under.
1. By surrender of the soul to Christ. He makes us like himself, forms his Spirit in us, so that the truer the surrender the more we become "meek and lowly in heart" as he was. This the best way, the easy yoke, the light burden.
2. By the crushing force of God's judgments. Edom was to be humbled thus. And there are many who will only be humbled so. They will have their own way, and they have it for their woe, and then, after a weary while, they come to themselves. They "made their bed in hell," and as they made it so they had to lie upon it, until even there God's band shall find them, and they shall humble themselves beneath the mighty hand they had heretofore dared to defy.
3. And in some way this humility must be wrought in us. For God will have all men to be saved; but without this lowly mind, this rejection of all vain confidences, we cannot be. Which way, then, shall it be - through Christ or through the fire of hell? - C.
Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart
1. By ingratitude.(1) Sinners receive all God's mercies with an unthankful heart. They sit down to their table and rise from it, they eat and drink like the brutes that perish; without considering, that whether they eat or drink, or whatsoever they do, they should do all to the glory of God. Many are the spiritual mercies which the unregenerate receive from God. He gives them His Word and ordinances, wherein the Bread of Life is exhibited. He warns them by His servants. He strives with them by His Spirit. They reject and despise the heavenly manna. Their souls loathe this light food.(2) Ingratitude is a sin eminently chargeable even against the children of God. When they are anxious for any mercy, they resolve, and perhaps solemnly vow, that if God will be pleased to bestow it, they will ever retain a grateful sense of His kindness. He condescends to grant their request. But often they remember not the multitude of His mercies, but provoke Him, like His ancient people, at the sea, even at the Red Sea. This conduct towards our gracious Benefactor is productive of bitter consequences. Our ingratitude for mercies received often provokes Him to deny us others which He would otherwise bestow, sometimes to recall those already given, and frequently, to blast them in the enjoyment.
2. By disposing us to make a God of our mercies. The deceitfulness of the heart, so violent is its opposition to the living God, works by contraries, and often by extremes. If it do not tempt us to despise His mercies altogether, it will excite us to put them out of their proper place. By either of these methods, although directly opposite, it gains its wicked purpose, in making us forget the God of our mercy. He will suffer no rival in thy heart, O Christian, for it all belongs to Him; and when thy love to worldly comforts ceases to be secondary and subordinate, it is an encroachment on His prerogative. Therefore must the usurper of the throne of God be cast down, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence. When precious comforts are thus converted into severe crosses, how great is the trial! There is a double bitterness attending it; not only that of the distress presently felt, but the painful recollection of the happiness formerly enjoyed.
3. By consuming Divine mercies on lust. The wicked ask that they may consume it on their lusts. They neither desire mercies, nor improve those which are bestowed, for the glory of God; but only as making provision for their inordinate or unlawful affections.
4. By ascribing their prosperity to some other cause than God. Even the Lord's people, from the prevalence of deceit, are in great danger of ascribing their mercies to some other cause than God, or to something besides Him. They will not wholly deny the praise to the God of their salvation; but they do not ascribe it entirely to Him. When they receive signal mercies from Him, they are apt to imagine that these are in some degree deserved by their holiness and integrity of conversation; that He could not justly deny them such tokens of His favour, when they are so faithful and diligent in His service.
5. By denying God the use of those mercies which He hath Himself bestowed. When, in the course of His providence, He confers on one a greater portion of common blessings than on another; it is for this end, that he may use them for His glory, and in the manner of laying them out, return them to the Lord. No talent is to be laid up in a napkin. According to the measure of temporal benefits received from God, we are stewards for Him.
6. By unsatisfied desires and immoderate longings for a greater degree of temporal prosperity. When the heart hath tasted of mercies of this nature, it is not satisfied; it craves more. If its desires be fulfilled, instead of being content with these, it flatters itself, that if such another mercy were bestowed, it would ask nothing further. But this only argues its deceit; for even though this be granted, it is still as importunate as ever. The more it receives, its desires are enlivened and enlarged the more.
7. By hardening itself under prosperity. No mercy whatsoever can leave us as it finds us. It must either prove a blessing or a curse. It will either have a mollifying, or a hardening influence on our hearts.
(J. Jamieson, M. A.)
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