The Creation Groans for Deliverance
Romans 8:19-23
For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.…

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1. The assertion will sound strangely to many ears, and there are certain outward appearances at variance with it.

(1) There are, for instance, those who fix their hearts on coarse enjoyments. Are they not happy? Now, even if we granted that the drunkard or the impure had so effectually unstamped themselves of the image of God as to rejoice in the likeness of brutes, I should count them of all men the most miserable. I should be ready to weep for their dreadful delusion, as for a madman who fancies himself a king. But I need not grant so much as this. No such men are happy — their Maker has taken good care of that. There is conscience, a troublesome guest whom they cannot expel. I care not for their snatches of merriment, for that intoxication of the senses which every now and then makes the brain whirl and puts the blood on fire. I would tear the bosom open and look upon the heart, and at the bottom of that I see wretchedness. And, at all events, even if you would allow that all this was delightful, yet the end of it must come. What is there to uphold these pleasure-seekers in the valley of the shadow of death? "Then, indeed, all is turned into groaning and travailing!"(2) There is the same lack of peace and real joy in the world's vanities. I speak of squandering away noble capacities in baubles and playthings, which is just as absurd as giving pearls and diamonds for feathers or stones. That constant idle flutter of life, with no aims worthy of a rational being, not to say a never-dying soul, is not only the most contemptible, but the most miserable of existences! And it has its end; when the poor soul which has lived on shadows finds itself in the presence of realities more terrible than it has ever dreamed of, and God and eternity, and heaven and hell, supply for ever the place of the childish delights of vanity and the laughter of fools. Then to it comes the groaning and the travailing with pain.

2. When we have disposed of these two classes, we have removed the only exceptions to the sad statement in the text.

(1) I need say little of those who wear out heart and soul in the pursuit of wealth, which the moth consumes and the rust corrupts, and which, some time or other, will turn into fire and burn into their very souls. If the earth were forced to render up all its treasures it could neither feed the soul nor satisfy one single noble desire or real want of the heart. And then, naked we came into the world, and naked we must go out of it. The pursuit of gain, like that of pleasure, is vanity and vexation of spirit.

(2) So with those few nobler things on which men set their hearts, the pursuit of power and influence over our fellow creatures, and the cultivation of knowledge. God forbid that I should undervalue this, but it has no remedy for our real evils. We have affections, and it does not touch them — we have souls with boundless longings for an eternal resting-place, and it cannot supply it; we have sin, it cannot make us holy; we are subject to death, and it cannot strip it of its sting. And as for greatness, if you think that you would be better off because you might hide your heart-ache in a palace, why then thus much it can give, but no more (Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12, 16, etc.). Out of this mighty kingly heart, the most capacious of wisdom and satiated with all which the heart could give, power, wisdom, pleasure, comes the same sad cry which gives an articulate voice to the universal sorrow.

(3) So with youth. With what a sad pleasure we look at the light and buoyant hopefulness, unchastised as yet by failure. All this is beautiful, and if a thing would last for ever because it was lovely, this would certainly. But then comes sorrow and disappointment, and hopes prove dreams that lie and disappear when one awakes, and the joy of youth departs, and nothing remains but the profound conviction that though all that was so pure and beautiful has a home somewhere, yet certainly it is not to be found upon earth, which is a place of sighing and earnest longings for deliverance.

II. THE SAINTS OF GOD. Are we to suppose that they too are groaning under the same load, and that joy and gladness are not to be found with her, all whose ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace? Yes, to a certain extent. "We ourselves groan within ourselves." True, they are reconciled to God. True it is that peace and joy in believing always accompany the reception of Christ. But —

1. They live by faith and not by sight — they have not received their reward, they have not entered into their inheritance. Surely they may be excused for longing and sighing after this.

2. They have indeed their earthly consolations, and take sweet counsel together with them who are heirs of the same hope; but what is this to that Divine company wherein is no sinner, nor so much as one soul which is not a-flame with the love of God. Surely they may be excused for sighing after this.

3. They, even now, see dimly, yet surely, reflected on the face of nature the image of the Creator. But what is this to the temple where there is neither day nor night, but the unveiled God is in the midst of it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

4. Their hearts are fixed on the things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, etc. Surely it is but natural that they should mourn over all which detains them from this unutterable glory.

5. Their happiness is dashed by all the common sorrows of humanity; but more than this, they have a sorrow of which the men of this world know nothing.

(1) They mourn over sin in themselves, subdued as indeed it is.

(2) They mourn over it in others. It makes their hearts die within them, and their eyes fountains of tears to look at a perishing world.

(J. Garbett, M.A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

WEB: For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

The Connection Between Man and Nature
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