Yet they say to God: 'Leave us alone! For we have no desire to know Your ways.
(1) in prolonged life;
(2) in the power and influence they are permitted to gain;
(3) in their family prosperity;
(4) in their freedom from calamity;
(5) in their domestic security;
(6) in their abundance and joy.
This mystery Job does not instantly unravel But what is the effect of all this prosperity on the wicked? It does not humble him nor make him thankful As an uneven glass distorts the fairest image, so their impure and ill-regulated minds turn the goodness of God into an occasion of impious rejection. "Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us." The distortions of the evil mind pervert the goodness of God into -
I. AN OCCASION OF IMPIOUS DESPIAL OF THE DIVINE NAME. They refuse to know God. They shut out the knowledge of God from their hearts. With a wicked "Depart!" they resist the Holy One. They have no aspiration after a holy corn reunion, or the vision of the pure. The Lord is abhorrent to them. Their tastes are corrupt; their preferences are for evil. Truly they pervert and reverse all good things. They put darkness for light, and light for darkness. They put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. The very call to adoration and praise they turn into an occasion of despisal and rejection.
II. In their perversions they make the Divine goodness AN OCCASION FOR A DESPISAL OF THE DIVINE WAYS. This is always the danger of them who have abundance and yet lack the fear of God. This is the basis of a teaching long afterwards touchingly taught concerning the rich, to whom it is so "hard" to "enter into the kingdom of heaven." The satisfied man becomes the self-satisfied, even though indebted to another for his possessions. Then the spirit of independence becomes a spirit of revulsion against all authority that might be raised over it. So they who "spend their days in wealth" say," We desire not the knowledge of thy ways."
III. This same spirit ripens into AN ABSOLUTE REFUSAL TO SUBMIT TO THE DIVINE AUTHORITY. "What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?" So far is the goodness of God from leading him to repentance who is evil in spirit. Wickedness is the fruit of an ill-directed judgment, and it tends to impair the judgment more and more. It distorts all the moral sensibilities, and therefore all the moral processes. If the judgment were accurately to decide in favour of the Divine Law and its obligatory character, the perverted preferences of the mind would reject the testimony, and by a rude rebellion within would prevent a right decision from being arrived at. Even the check and restraint of the enlightened judgment becomes a signal for resistance. Its goad is kicked against; its repressions refused; its warning unheeded; its plain path, narrow and difficult to follow, is rejected, and a broad and easy way, in which the foolish heart finds its pleasure, chosen in preference. So the Divine authority is rejected and despised. The ill effects of rejecting the Divine authority are seen:
1. In the loss of the guidance of the supreme wisdom.
2. In the inevitable injuries resulting from following a false and erroneous judgment.
3. In the demoralization of the life.
4. In the final vindication of the Divine authority. - R.G.
I. THIS PRAYER REVEALS TO US THE AWFUL CONDITION OF THE HUMAN HEART. Lower than this neither man nor demon can sink, for what is it but saying, "Evil be thou my good, darkness be thou my light"? Here we have the climax of criminal audacity. The climax of self-deception. And the climax of ingratitude.
Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.
1. It is an appetite of the soul to grace, when the heart doth even go out of itself for the attaining of grace. A hungry appetite signifies a hunger unfeigned, which is unsupportable without meat, so that he who truly desires grace cannot be without grace: nothing can satisfy him but meat, though he had all the wealth of the world. Hunger is irrepulsable, so he who truly desires grace will not let God alone, but begs and cries for it. And hunger is humble, it is not choice in its meat, it will be content with anything.
2. It is a supernatural appetite, distinguished from that which natural men have, and yet hate grace.
3. It is an appetite or desire after grace not had. No desire is desire indeed, but true desire; because grace is above the reach of nature; because grace is contrary to nature; because grace is a hell unto the natural man. The first step to grace is to see that we have no grace. Grace which wicked men desire, is not true grace. Thy hands and thy heart are full of corruption, so that though grace lie even at thy feet, yet thou canst not receive it up, unless thou empty thy hands and thy heart. Wherefore if there be any lust, though never so dear, any bosom sin, which thou wilt not part with; it is an evident sign that thou hast not a true desire of grace. It is a vehement desire, if true; a lukewarm desire is no true desire. Though delight be an effect of true desire, yet it is also a sign of grace, because grace in potentia is in the ordinance of God. Therefore the man that desires grace, he will delight in the ordinances of grace. The more delays the greater becomes the desire; delays are as oil cost into the fire, which makes the flame the greater. If thy desires be true, thou hast gotten some grace: examine therefore thyself. They that truly desire grace, desire the means of grace. Men that desire a crop of corn, they will be at the cost, charges, and pains, for ploughing, harrowing, and sowing of their ground. How shall we get our hearts truly to desire grace?
1. Learn to know it. Grace is such an admirable thing, that if men knew it, they could not bet desire it. The taste of grace is sweet and dainty, that if we could but once taste it, our hearts would ever water after it, and we should have little lust to the contrary evil. If you would desire grace, then purge out the ill-humours of sin out of thy soul. Fear to offend God, for the fear of evil is the desire of good. The desire of the righteous is only good; he desires God, and Christ, and the eternal love of God in Christ to be manifested to him, and therein he rests himself; but the hope of the wicked is indignation, he only desires the base self of the world; but the wrath of heaven is with that, and he shall bewail his own soul, that for such base things he should refuse the eternal good, and neglect it. In God there is all good. God is such a good, that without Him nothing is good.
(William Penner, B. D.)
II. THIS PRAYER SHOWS US THE NEARNESS OF GOD TO MAN. The difficulty is not for man to find God, but to avoid finding Him. There is underlying this prayer a profound consciousness of the Divine presence. The sinner fools that God is near, but he would be altogether without Him, if he could.
III. THIS PRAYER EXPRESSES THE CONVICTION OF MEN, THAT THE LORD'S CLAIMS UPON THEM ARE FOUNDED ON REASON AND TRUTH. God invites them to reason with Him, to consider their ways, to ascertain the character of His commandments. They desire not the knowledge of God's ways. It is this reluctance to give the Gospel any attention, this indisposition to think about eternal things, which hardens men in their sin and folly, and ensures their destruction.
IV. THIS PRAYER SETS BEFORE US THE GREAT CONTRAST WHICH EXISTS BETWEEN THE CONVERTED AND THE UNCONVERTED. Those who are not converted, pray in their hearts and lives that the Lord will depart from them. The converted thirst after God as the hart pants for the water brooks.
V. THIS PRAYER ILLUSTRATES THE LONG SUFFERING OF GOD. The very fact that men offer this prayer and still live, exhibits the Lord's forbearance and compassion in the most striking manner.
VI. THE ANSWER TO THIS PRAYER INVOLVES THE MOST SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES TO THOSE WHO OFFER IT. If persevered in, the answer will come. There is a bound beyond which men cannot pass with impunity. It is a fearful thing to be left alone of God, to be suffered to sin unrestrained, and to drink in iniquity like water. This is the result of the prayer being answered.
(H. B. Ingrain.)
I. OBSERVE THE LANGUAGE OF IMPENITENT PROSPERITY.
1. "They say." They not only conceive it in their thoughts, but utter it in words. Persons are lost to all fear and shame, when instead of suppressing, or so much as concealing their sinful thoughts, they can publish them abroad, and let the world know their strong propensity to evil.
2. "They say unto God." To speak to the Lord is a great privilege, and to do it with humility, reverence, and delight, is an important duty. How opposite is the language we are contemplating. How full of irreverence and daring impiety!
3. "Depart from us." The Divine presence is exceedingly desirable to a good man, nor can he be happy without it; but it is far otherwise with the carnal heart.
4. They impiously say, "We desire not the knowledge of Thy ways." Sinners are not only ignorant, but willing to continue so. They dislike the way in which God walks. And they are equally averse to the way in which God has directed His creatures to walk, the way of holiness and happiness, of humility and self-denial, of faith and love, and evangelical obedience.
II. THE SOURCES OF THIS IMPIETY. No reason can be rendered for a thing in itself so unreasonable.
1. This ignorance proceeds from pride.
2. From practical atheism.
3. From hatred and aversion.
4. From slavish fear and dread.
5. There is an utter contrariety of nature which renders the sinner averse from God, and from a knowledge of His ways. Reflections —(1) Without considering the depravity of human nature, nothing could appear more unaccountable, because nothing can be more unreasonable, than that man should feel averse from God, and from a knowledge of His ways.(2) If anyone should presume to say to God, "Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways," let him tremble at the consequences. If God takes him at his word, he will be given up to hardness of heart.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
II. SOME REPEL THESE GRACIOUS OFFERS. The practical response of every unregenerate soul, acquainted with the Gospel, to these proffers of God, is "Depart from me." This is the virtual utterance, not only of the profligate and profane, but of all who practically repudiate the law of the Lord as a rule of their lives. Every sinner makes the gratification of his own propensities and desires — not the will of the Lord — the rule of his life. Even what he does that is right and good, he does because he chooses, not because God requires it.
III. THE SINNER'S STRANGE REASON FOR HIS REPULSE OF GOD. "We desire not." Yet the human intellect craves for knowledge. Men want to know what history, literature, philosophy, science can teach. But of the ways of the great God, who made and governs all things, they desire not to know. See some of the causes of this unreasonable aversion.
1. The mode of acquiring knowledge of God is too humbling for the depraved, human will.
2. A subtle, scarcely acknowledged unbelief in the inspiration and authority of the Bible.
3. The supreme reason is the love of sin,
4. Others do not desire a knowledge of God's ways now. Not yet, but at some convenient future season they hope to learn more of this matter.
(J. L. Burrows, D. D.)
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