Bible Teaching By
being chapter 17 of his book
A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and an howling of the principal of the flock, shall be heard: for the Lord hath spoiled their pasture.
he prophet Jeremiah, in describing the visitation of God on the land because of sin, says of the shepherds that God “spoiled their pastures.” The figure is easily understood. The teaching is not for the years of the past any more than for the present, as the things written aforetime were written for our instruction [Romans 15:4].
Did you ever have your pasture spoiled? Sometimes it seems about the only way that we can be reached and roused from the untoward drift we are in. You know the heart has its pastures, its feeding places, where it seeks the comfort and support of its life. It is usually in devotion to that which it most loves. To this ruling passion the soul goes for its life, there it retires when released from ordinary care, and with it all the day’s labor and care is threaded together like beads on a string. Destroy that passion or interest, or its object, and the heart seems to experience an actual kind of death. When such pasture is spoiled, life becomes as a heavy burden and everything pleasant is disorganized and wrecked. It is a hard, a terrible hour for all souls that know not God and His salvation. Indeed, it comes as a great trial to God’s children when some pasture field of earthly hopes is laid waste.
The laws of loving are not wrong, for God made us to love; nor is the loving the special persons who just fill our ideals wrong. So He does not blame us for having the power, nor for loving persons possessing the attractions which we look for. Nor in a sense can He blame us for being attracted to that for which we were made. If our affection is wrongly directed, He must reach us in some other way, for we are created to follow our desires. One such way is by spoiling our pasture. The death of care in us for an object of special desire is a sure end to our pasture field. With the end of caring for the pasture, all going thither ceaseth. When love for gold ceases, men will cease buying tickets for a gold-field. When the appetite for drink is gone, men no longer care to go to the saloon. When hell shows through the thin guise of sin, the soul flees in horror from its great pasture lands in disgust and terror. The sight of hell under every green tree, and burning under every fallen leaf and dry blade of grass spoils the pasture. You now see, in a general way, at least, what spoiling a pasture is. Perhaps you have had your own peculiar experience. You may have need of more. Have you considered your ruling passion or center of your heart’s life?’Where flow the currents of life’s desire? What is the satisfying portion of your soul? Where are the heart’s wishes, desires and preferences? When you answer these you will have found out where it is that you can be hurt the most, and where God will come, if need be, to spoil your pasture.
I knew a man once who was just in the first successes in a long business life. He had been well raised in a Christian home, but once out in the world, though he went to church and did his part in financial relations to it, yet he did not give God his heart. After a while he married a choice young lady and came West to live. Still he neglected God in the depths of his heart. It was a few years later that I first met him. He was a sad man then. After a while he told me his heart. There came to their home a bright little babe. Home was dear and precious, and this gift of added sunshine only made it dearer. Still he did not give God his heart. By and by the death angel came and the sunshine passed out of that home forever. The heart cried for its treasure that did not come back. Still he did not see that God had to spoil his whole pasture before he would heed. As the days went on, and he did not read nor heed the lesson, the wife also stepped into the chariot one day and he was left utterly alone. “Then,” said he, as he told me, “I saw it was the only way God could reach me.” He was sad that he had persisted in making it needful for God to do this to win him from his wrong going and purpose to do his own pleasure.
The reverses often coming in life are not purposeless. Our disappointments may, after all, be the Lord’s appointments. The break in life’s going that reveals the drift of the current in the wrong direction is God-sent and is for our good. The spoiling of some of our fond dreams are often blessings in disguise. The disabusing of the heart of its loveblind view, where wrongly directed, may be a sore experience, yet a needful one. But in the bliss of its emotion it is needless to try to correct it by telling of the wrongness of that which affords it such particular joy. So, about the only thing left to be done is to spoil that pasture in some way. Many a young lady has found her heart separated from its fond attachment by the discovery of some sad defect in the character of her lover.
After Ahab met Elijah and they had that talk about Naboth, I imagine the king had no pleasure in seeing the dead man’s vineyard [1 Kings 21, esp. verses 17-22]. The comfort and delight he expected in that special spot where his heart thought it had such nice pasture had died forever. The pasture being spoiled, there was no care for it.
My dear reader, did you know this is the very philosophy as well as theology of full salvation? Why holiness succeeds better than any less measure of grace is because of its power to spoil the pasture. The cure for the worldly spirit is the spoiling of the worldly hanker. It is the hanker that makes the trouble. Destroy this and the man is saved from his cups and the young lady from the dance. When the “want to” in us is spoiled the devil has a poor time holding out his blandishments. The law of appetites and loves and preferences in us needs continual study. The more we do this, the more we will see that all other remedies fail to reach the real source of the trouble. As a rule, we will not do that which we do not want to, on one hand, and on the other we are always seeking to do what we want to do. This is the law of desire, preference, and ratherness in us. God wants the heart—this ratherness, this preference, these desires in us. When He gets that He gets us. So long as He holds that, He holds us. He may often have to use heroic measures, and He does, and oftentimes we cannot understand Him and our hearts are sad and our eyes fill with tears when He begins the despoiling of our pasture. Happy are we if we have more grace than Jonah, and do not get into a huff when our gourd vine falls under the heat of God’s providential sunshine [Jonah 4:5-9].
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