They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel:…
It is an awful circumstance, and yet it is true, that our mercies may be our curses; that our desire may prove our ruin. It may strike some of you that it is a harsh, or at least a mysterious feature of the Divine dealings with us that tie may give us, or may permit us to acquire, what will work in us and for us sore mischief; and that it would be more merciful to withhold from us whatever will injure us. But let us see for a moment how far such a principle would carry us. It should be quite enough for us to know that whatsoever God doeth is right. This indeed is involved in our very conception of God, if we invest Him with the attributes of infinite wisdom, justice, and goodness. We can be more certain of the fact that God acts wisely and best, than we can be certain that our interpretations are right of any act of His that seems hard and cruel. Not to believe and trust Him where we cannot comprehend Him, is not to believe and trust Him at all, but to make our own reason the measure of our faith. If, then, we see His gifts becoming curses instead of blessings, let us not accuse Him because they are His gifts. As all man's toil is profitless without the blessing of God, so it may be said, when man succeeds in his labours and endeavours after any fancied good, God gives him his request. We have now to look at the other side of this picture. The man, you will say, who has obtained the object of his desire, whether through prayer or toil, ought to be happy. Who would not envy him? He sows and reaps abundantly; He casts his nets into the sea, and brings them up full of fish; all his bargains end in gain, he might have in his possession the philosopher's stone which turns all it touches into gold. But there is a dark set-off against all this. When you come to look down through the man's circumstances into himself, you find what the psalmist here terms leanness; and by leanness he means waste, emaciation, loss of strength and beauty; the leanness you sometimes see in a body when there is some fatal mischief at work which prevents the assimilation of the food, and day by day reduces the man until the spirit seems ready to leave its frail tenement. What is this leanness of soul? How shall we discover its presence in ourselves or in others?
1. By its trust in outward things. Grace is needed by every man, but great grace is needed by the man who gets his request. It is not easy to carry a full cup, to walk with a steady head and unfaltering step on the high places of prosperity, to have many of God's earthly blessings, and yet to trust in God alone. The eclipsing power of success is fearful.
2. Another symptom of spiritual leanness, and one of the results of having our request, is self-pleasing. How many men there are who have been earnest labourers in the vineyard of Christ during the early years of their life while they were comparatively poor, but who now are seen nowhere among the vines, who are digging nowhere, planting nowhere, pruning nowhere, training nowhere. And it is not that sickness has disabled them, it is not that old age has called them to enjoy its well-merited rest, it is not that the arrangements of providence have precluded all further active toil. It is nothing but the melancholy consequence of their having received their request. Their very success has been their snare.
3. I will mention but one more symptom, or rather class of symptoms, which may be all ranged under one head, loss of sympathy with all that helps to build up the spiritual life. Is it possible to lose this sympathy? Possible — do we need to ask it? Is it not our besetting danger? Are we not warned against it? Have we not known it? Our text speaks to us as with the voice of a trumpet, and rings out the great and impressive truth that we cannot be too guarded in our petitions, or in our desires for merely temporal things. It is certain that in Scripture we have no encouragement to ask for any great measure of them. The necessaries seem to define the limit, for in that Divine scheme of prayer our Saviour has left us we find the modest petition, "Give us this day our daily bread." Beyond these necessaries all else should be sought in very humble and willing subordination to the will of God. For who of us knows what beyond these is good for us?
(E. Mellor, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: