If only my request were granted and God would fulfill my hope:
Job 2:9); but he begs that God will take his life.
I. IT IS WELL TO BRING THE DESPAIR OF THE SOUL TO GOD. The despair is not utter and complete if it has not stifled the fountains of prayer. When it can be said of any one, "Behold, he prayeth," all hope is not yet gone. Although for the time being he had lost sight of it, still there is a point on which hope for better days may lay hold. When all things seem to be rushing to ruin, and there is no other outlook for the soul, the outlook to heaven is still open. If we can do nothing else, the way is still before us to cast our burden upon the Lord. Though the very prayer be one of horror and despair, like Job's, still it is a prayer. There is the saving element. The Soul is looking up to God. It is not quite alone in its desolation.
II. GOD UNDERSTANDS THE PRAYER OF DESPAIR. He is not like Job's purblind censor Eliphaz, who judged in ignorance and wounded when he thought to heal. The breaches of conventional propriety in religion, which shock the more precise sort of piety, are not thus misapprehended by God. He views all with a large eye of charity, with a penetrating discernment of sympathy. The wild utterance that only scandalizes the superficial hearer moves the compassion of the Father of spirits. He knows from what depths of agony it has been forced, and he pardons the extravagance of it in pity for its misery.
III. THE PRAYER OF DESPAIR IS FOOLISH AND SHORT-SIGHTED. These two words "prayer" and "despair," are quite incongruous. The one should utterly banish the other. If we quite understood the meaning and power of prayer, despair would be impossible. For prayer implies that God has not forgotten us; or why should one pray to heedless ears? When we carry our grief to God we bring it to Almighty Love, and such a haven must be more congenial to hope than to despair.
IV. GOD REFUSES TO ANSWER THE PRAYER OF DESPAIR, There are prayers which God will not answer, and that, not because he is inexorable, but because he is merciful; and as the mother is too kind to give her infant the flaming candles for which it cries, God is too good to bestow on his foolish children the evil things which they sometimes crave from his hand. Thus the very refusal to respond to the prayer is a result, not of disregarding it, but of giving to it more than that superficial attention which would have been enough for an unquestioning response. God sifts and weighs our prayers. We cannot present them as cheques on the bank of heaven, expecting immediate payment, exactly according to the measure of what we have set down in them. God is far better than our prayers. He exceeds our fears even when we beg him to act according to them. His sane mind corrects the wild fancies of our haste and passion. Therefore we need not shrink from the utmost freedom in prayer. God will not deal with us according to our words, but according to his love and our faith. - W.F.A.
Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt?
I. TAKE A MOTHER AND HER BABE. If we look at her disinterestedly, we shall see what a vast amount of unpleasant labour she must undergo. No toil is too great, no work too exhausting, no effort too repulsive. In itself such patience or self-denial would be considered an intolerable hardship. But when the unsavoury morsel is taken with the salt of love, how sweet to the taste does it become! What would otherwise be a painful labour is turned into a delightful joy.
II. TAKE A MAN AND HIS BUSINESS. What is business but a toil — a painful, bitter, wearisome contest, rising early and toiling late? It is One of the unsavoury things to which the words of the patriarch may allude. To swallow it for its own sake alone would cause a good many to make a very wry face. And what is the salt of business? Why, it is money and gain. What a zest these impart to the hardest labour and the early toil! How sweetly goes down the hardship when the clinking coins are counted from the till at night.
III. TAKE THE TOILING STUDENT. How hard he labours over his midnight lamp! Amusement is forsworn, pleasures and relaxation are given up. But the flavour improves when eaten with the salt of ambition or the desire of honour. Then the toil is transformed into a pleasure and the trouble into a labour of love.
IV. SO ALSO WE MAY TAKE THE CHRISTIAN SOLDIER. Who can say that the Christian life is pleasant in itself? It is humiliation, sorrow, bitterness, disappointment. It means an apparently unavailing contest with powers that are more powerful than ourselves. But once flavour the Christian life with salt, and how different it becomes! Flavour the bitterness with the love of God, the blessed sympathy of Christ, the glorious reward beyond, and then as the golden sunshine gilds and beautifies the most rugged scene, so the bitterness is turned into a sheen of glory and the toil is forgotten.
(J. J. S. Bird.)
I. The first point will be this, that A WANT OF SAVOUR IS A VERY GREAT WANT in anything that is meant for food. Everybody knows that all kinds of animal life delight in food that has a flavour in it. It is exactly the same with regard to the food of our souls. It is a very great fault with a sermon when there is no savour in it. It is a killing fault to the people of God when a book contains a good deal of what may be true, but vet lacks holy savour — or what, in others words, we call "unction." But what and of savour is that which we expect in a sermon?
1. I answer, first, it is a savour of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The next necessity to secure savour is a devout spirit in the preacher — a savour of devotion.
3. Another matter goes to make up sweet savour in a discourse, and that is, a savour of experience. But these three things are not the whole of it. There is a sacred something: it is not nameless, for I will name it by and by: it is a heavenly influence which comes into man, but which has no name among the things that belong to men. This sacred influence pervades the speaker, flavouring his matter, and governing his spirit, while at the same time it rests upon the hearer so that he finds his mind awake, his faculties attentive, his heart stirred. Under this mysterious influence the hearer's spirit is in a receptive condition, and as he hears the truth it sinks into his soul as snowflakes drop into the sea. Take away from any preaching or any teaching Christ as the subject, devotion as the spirit, experience as the strength of testimony, and the Holy Ghost as being all in all, and you have removed all the savour; and what is left? What can we do with a savourless Gospel?
II. I find a rendering given to the text, which, if it be not absolutely accurate, nevertheless states an important truth, namely, that THAT WHICH IS UNSAVOURY FROM WANT OF SALT MUST NOT BE EATEN.
1. There is a great deal in this world which is unsavoury for want of salt; I mean in common conversation. Alas, it is easy to meet with people — and even people wearing the Christian name — whose conversation has not a particle of salt, in it. Nothing that tends to edification is spoken by them. Their talk has an abundance of gaiety, but no grace in it. They exhibit any amount of frivolity, but no godliness. Again, there is some talk in the world — I hope not among professors — which has no salt in it even of common morality; and consequently it corrupts, and becomes impure and obnoxious.
2. Now, the same thing is true, not only of common conversation, but of a great deal of modern teaching. If a man's discoursing has not salt enough in it to keep false doctrine out of it, it is not the kind of food for you. Clean provender is not so scarce that you need to eat carrion.
III. The third point is, that THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS IN THE WORLD WHICH NEED SOMETHING ELSE WITH THEM. "Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?" There are many things in this world which we cannot tolerate by themselves; they need seasoning with them.
1. One of the first of these may read us a lesson of prudence; that is, reproof. It is a Christian duty to reprove a brother who is in a fault, and we should speak to him with all gentleness and quietness, that we may prevent his going farther into evil, and lead him back to the right way. It is the habit of some brethren to do everything forcibly; but in this case one needs more love than vigour, more prudence than warmth, more grace than energy. Rebuke, however kindly you put it, and however prudently you administer it, will always be an unsavoury thing: therefore, salt it well. Think over it. Pray over it. Mix kindness with it. Rub the salt of brotherly love into it. Speak with much deference to your erring friend, and use much tenderness, because you are not faultless yourself. Savour your admonitions with affection, and may the Lord make them acceptable to those who need them.
2. Now for other matters which many people do not like by themselves; I mean, the doctrines of the Gospel. The true doctrines of the Gospel never were popular, and never will be; but there is no need for any of us to make them more distasteful than they naturally are. Man is a king, so he thinks, and when he hears of another king he straightway grows rebellious. If the Gospel be distasteful we must add a flavouring to it. What shall it be? We cannot do better than flavour it with holiness! Where there is a holy life men cannot easily doubt the principles out of which it springs.
3. Now, a third egg which cannot be eaten without salt is affliction. Afflictions are very unsavoury things. Afflictions are unsavoury meat. What is to be done with them, then? Why, let us salt them, if we can. Salt your affliction with patience, and it will make a royal dish. By grace, like the apostle, we shall "glory in tribulations also."
4. I will not detain you longer to speak about persecution, though that is another unsavoury article, with which salt of consolation is much to be desired.
5. But, lastly, there is the thought of death. Is not death an unsavoury thing in itself? The body dreads dissolution and corruption, and the mind starts back from the prospect of quitting the warm precincts of this house of clay, and going into what seems a cold, rarefied region, where the shivering spirit flits naked into mystery untried. "What salt," say you, "shall I mingle with my thoughts of death?" Why, the thought that you cannot die; since because He lives you shall live also. Add to it the persuasion that though you be dead, yet shall you live. Thoughts of the resurrection and the swinging open of the pearly gates, and of your entrance there.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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