Feeding on the Word
“Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” — Isaiah lv. 2.
How important it is that we should hear God, that we should have an attentive ear to his Word; and that it should, through our ears, reach our souls, and become to us, consciously, the living Word of the living God! The great gate of commerce between heaven and the town of Mansoul, is Ear-Gate. We can see but little of the things of the kingdom; but we can hear much concerning them.
We are told, not only to “hearken” to God, but to “hearken diligently.” You cannot have too much hearing of the right kind of truth, nor too much of the right kind of hearing. Some people like few sermons, and those very short; but, when a soul is hungry after God and eternal life, it puts another meaning on this exhortation, “Hearken diligently.” It cannot hear too much; it cannot hear too often; it cannot hear too intensely. Faith comes by hearing; and hence, Satan tries to block up that gateway of mercy. If he can persuade men not to hear, then he can keep them out of the way of grace; but the exhortation of our text sets wide open this door of salvation, at which the Lord himself stands and cries, “Hearken diligently unto me.”
You, dear friends, love to hear the Word of the Lord; therefore, I need not dwell upon that exhortation; but I do pray that no one may hear in vain. “Take heed what ye hear,” and “take heed how ye hear.” Do not be content merely to open Ear-Gate; but rest not satisfied until the King himself comes riding through that gate right up to the very citadel of the town of Mansoul, and takes possession of the castle of your heart.
With this brief introduction, we will come to the consideration of our main text, which follows upon the exhortation. We are to “hearken diligently” to this message from the Lord’s lips, “Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” Here are four things; first, the food; next, the feeding; then, the welcome; and lastly, the delight.
I. First, here is FOOD: “Eat ye that which is good.”
I ask about this food, first, How is it presented to us? It is presented to us freely. The invitation is, “Come and eat.” There was a word about buying; but, as I said in the reading, that was soon covered up with, “Buy without money and without price.” Others are trying to get salvation by their own efforts. The rich man spends his money; the poor man spends his labour; but both of these ways come from self, and they mean self-salvation— every man his own saviour. This is not the method to which you are called; you are, indeed, put off that way. “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” You are called simply to hear, that your souls may live; and, having heard, you are bidden freely to partake of that which is good, and that which is rich, which God has provided. We need still to say that the grace of God is free. No merit is asked, nothing to fit you for its reception, nothing as a compensation to God for the gift of it. Grace is free as the air you breathe. Eternal salvation comes without a penny of cost to every hungry, needy, bankrupt soul that is willing to receive it.
Further, while it is thus presented freely as to any labour with which to procure it, it is also presented freely as to its quality, its highest quality. You are not permitted to drink freely of water, and then to purchase wine. You are not invited to come and eat freely that which is good, and then to spend your labour for that which is fat. No, the richest dainties of God’s house are as free as the bread he gives to hungry souls. You think that you will be highly favoured if you are allowed to partake of the crumbs that fall under the table, and so indeed you will be; but the daintiest morsels on the table are as free to you as those crumbs. Sanctification is as much a gift of God as justification; and the highest perfection in heaven is as much the gift of grace as the first cry of, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” It is all graciously given; and you are invited to come, not only to the waters, but to drink wine and milk, to eat that which is good, and to delight yourselves in fatness.
This royal bounty is freely given; and freely given to the most undeserving. The only limitation is no limitation at all: “Ho, every one that thirsteth!” All of you who are dissatisfied, or discontented, who have not obtained what you wanted; who are longing for something, you hardly know what it is you do long for; you who have a thirst insatiable but yet indescribable, who came here to-night saying, “I wish I had it; others that I know have it; I hardly know what it is that they have; but oh, that I might have it!”— you will find out what it is when you have received it. You hardly know yet what the taste of wine and milk may be. You hardly know yet what the fat things full of marrow, that are part of Christ’s great gospel feast, can possibly be. You shall know them by-and-by; but, be you who you may, come and welcome; sinner, come. If thou hast nothing, Christ is everything. Though thou art unworthy, he is infinitely worthy; and so he presents to thee food to-night on the freest possible terms; or, indeed, without any terms or conditions at all, for he puts it thus, “Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
I ask, next, What is this food? I answer, first, it is the Word of God. The soul can never feed to the satisfying of the understanding, the conscience, the heart, except upon divinely-revealed truth. Thou must know what God would have thee know. Therefore attend, and hearken diligently, that the God-breathed truth may become nutriment to thy spirit.
Better still, the food is the Incarnate Word of God; for Christ Jesus, the Son of man, the Son of God, is the Word. If men feed on him, they shall find that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed. Remember his own words, “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this broad, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” This is God’s Bread given to you, his Only-begotten Son, clothed in human flesh, living and dying for the sons of men. Happy are they who feed on this heavenly manna.
What is this bread? Well, it is the grace of God. As you read this chapter through, you find that the Lord refers first to his Word, and bids you hear it. Next, he speaks of his Son, whom he has given to be a witness to his people. Further on, he magnifies his grace, and speaks of wonderful changes which that grace works in those to whom it is given. Oh, how satisfying is the grace of God! “He giveth more grace.” We live upon grace; it is our daily bread, grace for every trial, grace for every duty, grace for every sin, and grace for every grace. “Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” This is the food for you. Thirsty with sin, thy sin is quenched with grace. May God grant us grace to feed upon grace, to live upon his Word, and to feast upon his Son!
I ask yet another question, What is the nature of this food? It is good; it is good, in every sense of the word “good.” It is satisfying. It is pure; no harm can ever come by eating it. This heavenly food is good, and good for you, good for you to-night, good for you at any time, good for you living, good for you dying. All other foods that men seek after are unsubstantial; they can surfeit, but they cannot satisfy; they can cloy, but they cannot content; but the food that has come down from heaven, if a man does but take it into himself, shall be the best food he ever ate.
Moreover, this food is described here as being fatness: “Let thy soul delight itself in fatness.” Within the Word of God, there are certain choicer truths; in Christ, there are certain choicer joys; in grace, there are certain choicer experiences than men at first realize. It is not merely bread and food, but it is marrow and fatness. There are “tit-bits” for the Lord’s children. “Let your soul delight itself in fatness.” “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” I hope that, before we have done to-night, we shall have introduced some poor soul to the fatness, the choice, special parts of God’s most holy Word. It is not lean meat that God gives you, not scrapings from a bone; but he feeds us royally, he gives us of the best he has, and plenty of it. “He daily loadeth us with benefits.” He gives us meat to eat of which even angels do not know.
“Never did angels taste above,
Redeeming grace, and dying love.”
These things are our soul’s daily nourishment.
II. But now, secondly, here is FEEDING. One of the most important words in our text is that little word eat: “Eat ye: eat ye.”
Food is of no use until it is eaten; and here, often, is the crucial question with seeking souls. “I see that Christ is the Bread of life that I want; but how am I to eat him?” Well, now, really, you ought not to need any instruction on this point. We take a great many orphans into the Orphanage, and some of them are very ignorant, and we have to teach them a great many things; but we have no class for teaching them to eat. They all know how to do that, and to do it pretty heartily, too. If men were hungry, they would know how to eat, if they had the bread. It is because men are not really hungry on account of sin that they come and ask us, “What do you mean by this eating?” Yet it maybe that some are sincere in asking the question, so I will answer it.
To eat is, first, to believe. To “eat” a truth, you must believe it to be true. To “eat” Christ, you must believe him to be the Christ of God. To “eat” the grace of God, you must believe it to be “the grace of God, which bringeth salvation.”
“Artful doubts and reasonings be
Nailed with Jesus to the tree.”
I will gladly lend you a nail or two, and the use of a hammer as well, for I like not these doubts. They are in the air like midges; they fly about everywhere, and certain brethren endeavour to multiply the pests. But, oh, that you, poor sinner, would have done with doubts, and simply believe! Believe what is certainly true, for God cannot lie, and what he reveals is infallibly sure. Believe it.
Well, after you have done that, to eat is chiefly to appropriate. A man takes a piece of bread into his hand; but he has not eaten it till he has put it into his mouth, and swallowed it, and it has gone down into the secret parts of his very self, and has become his very own. When a thing is eaten and digested, it cannot be restored.
You may take away my house; you may take away my money; but you cannot take away from me yesterday’s dinner. You must take Christ in the same way that you eat your food; that is, appropriate him. Say, “He is mine; I take him to be wholly mine. This Christ, this grace, this pardon, this salvation, I believe it; and I now trust in it, rest in it, appropriate it, and take it to be my own.” “Suppose that I should make a mistake in taking it,” says one. Nobody ever did. If thou canst take it, God has given it to thee. If thou hast grace to grasp Christ, though thou thinkest thyself a thief in doing so, there is no roguery in it. What God sets before thee, take, and ask no questions. Oh, what a blessed thing it is when a soul is enabled to feed upon the Word of God, to feed upon the Christ of God, to feed upon the grace of God! You cannot do wrong in so doing. It is written, “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” This is to eat,— to appropriate.
But after you have eaten, you know, the full process of eating includes digestion. How do I digest the Word of God? I know what it is to read, and mark, and learn it; but how do I inwardly digest it? When thou dost meditate upon it. Oh, what a blessed work is that of sacred meditation, turning the truth over and over and over in the mind, throwing it into the winepress of memory, and treading it out with the feet of thought, till the ruby juice flows out, and thou dost drink thereof, and art satisfied! Meditate upon the Word; think much of what God has done for thee. Think over his thoughts; turn over his words; and thus thy soul will grow strong.
Feeding also means trusting yourself wholly to Christ. The man who cats his breakfast, goes about his business trusting to the strength which that morning’s meal will give him; and when noontide comes, and he feels faint, he eats again, without a doubt that what he eats will nourish him; and he goes back to his work, and uses muscle and sinew, trusting his food to supply him with power. It is just the same with Christ. Take him, and believe that he will help thee to go about thy business, to bear thy trouble, to meet thine adversary, to serve without weariness, and to run without fainting. This is to eat that which is good; it is to take freely into thine own self Christ, his grace, his Word, and to live thereon, that thou mayest grow thereby.
I should like to make this plain to all of you; but I cannot make it any plainer than this. You have Christ before you; take him. “Oh, but I am not fit,” says one. A man who is very hungry might say that he is not “fit” for dinner; but, if he is a sensible man, he just falls to and eats. So let it be with you; whatever your unfitness may be, you are welcomed by the invitations of this chapter. Come along with you; enter the banquet-hall at once, and feed to the full.
III. My third head is WELCOME. What does the Lord say? “Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
Do you see, here is, first, no stint? “Eat, eat, eat, eat, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” It is not said, “Here is a pair of scales; here is a plate; here is a knife. The law allows so many ounces of meat to you, just so much, and you must not have half -an-ounce over.” Nothing of the kind. You are just taken to the table, and the exhortation is, “Eat to your heart’s content. Let your soul delight itself in fatness.” There is no stint.
As there is no stint, so there is no reserve. It is not said, “Now you may eat those two things; but you must not touch that nice fat morsel over there; that is for Joseph; that is for the particular favourite, not for you.” No, poor soul, when God invites you to his table, you may have anything there is on the table. No matter though it be eternal life, though it be communion with Christ, though it be immutable love, thou mayest eat it. Take it, take it; for thou art not called here to sit, as they used to have it, “below the salt”, among the inferior folk; you are called to sit at the table like any of the princes, and the great King himself says, “Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
So, too, there is no end to the feast. “Eat; keep on eating. Delight yourself in fatness; keep on delighting yourself in fatness. You will never use it all up.” I read of a country once, though I hardly believed the description of it; for it was said that the grass grew faster than the cows could eat it. Well, there is a country that I know of, where the grass grows faster than the sheep can eat it. You may eat all you will out of the divine Word; but you will find that there is more left than you have taken; and it seems as if there were more after you had taken it, as if the grass grew deeper as you fed more ravenously upon it. You will find it so. God puts no reserve as to time. In the morning, feed on his Word; at noontide, drink to strengthen thy life out of the Sacred Scriptures; and at night, feed thy heart, yet again, upon thy evening portion.
I want to talk to you a little about this feeding, and especially in reference to the fatness of divine truth. There are some of God’s people who do not live upon the richer meats of his Word. Poor souls, some of them never get a taste of them. Perhaps they attend a ministry where the richer meat is never brought out. The “clods and stickings” of the gospel they will get; but not the prime joints, not the best parts of the gospel. Well, well, if that is all that their ministers have to give them, it is well that they should give them that; but if any man has learned by experience to feed upon the deep things of God, and the meat that sustains the soul, let him not fail to put it in due season upon the children’s table. Why, some of you dare not make a good meal on the doctrine of election! If you did, you would find it to contain “fat things full of marrow.” The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, the doctrine of the immutable love of God, the doctrine of the union of the believer with Christ, the doctrine of the eternal purpose that can never fail— why, I have seen many a child of God sniff at these things! Well, well, well, we must not find fault with them. Babes, of course, do not like meat. Poor creatures, they have not teeth enough yet to bite meat, and we must give them milk. Only let not the babes kick at us who can eat meat. We must eat the strong meat, for it is the very food of our souls.
Different foods are for different growths of grace; but it is a pity that the children of God should habitually neglect the richer joints of the gospel. There are some of them who measure themselves by others. I do believe that some of God’s people are afraid of being too holy, which fear need never haunt them much. Some of them are afraid of being too happy, because they know a dear soul, who is a kind of weather-glass to them, and she is not very often happy, and so they are afraid that they must not be. How many a person has set up Mr. Little-Faith to be his model, or Mr. Ready-to-Halt, with his crutches, to be a kind of pattern to him! Now, Ready-to-Halt was a very sensible man; he would not advise other people to use crutches. They were good for him; but he wished that he had never wanted them. So is it with a mournful child of God, there are some of the best who are of a sorrowful spirit; but I would not recommend you to be like them. If that man on the other side of the table dares not eat the marrow and fatness, that is no reason why you should not have your share if you can enjoy it.
There are some people (I will not judge them), who always want to know, when they come to God’s feast, how little food will be sufficient, what is the minimum upon which a person could live. Dear, dear, I never tried that plan; and I do not recommend you to go to-night, and consult a doctor to know what is the smallest amount of food upon which a man could live. There are, I fear, a good many of you working out that problem with regard to your souls. You say, “Well, now, do you not think that one sermon on Sunday is quite enough?” Then, there is the prayer-meeting, and you say, “It is only a prayer-meeting; we shall not go to that.” So you go from Sunday to Sunday, sometimes, you one-sermon-a-week people, and you say, “I feel unhappy; I have many doubts and fears.” I should think you have. If you had only one meal a week, you would feel a little hollow here and there; and if you only get one spiritual meal a week, it is no wonder that you are weakly. The text says, “Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” It does not put to you that strange proposition of trying how little spiritual food you can live upon.
There are others, who are very sincere, who always ask how much they may take. May I take a promise? Poor soul that I am, may I dare to call Jesus mine? Why, I am the very lowest of the people of God, may I dare to think about everlasting love? When you go to a feast, the question is not what you are, but what the host is; and, if he has spread the table, and invited you, make no “bones” about it, as men say, but eat what he sets before you. Ah, dear hearts! if we had not more than we deserved, we should not even be alive in the land of mercy. Everything that God gives is of grace, not of merit, not of desert; therefore, unworthy though thou be, take it.
“Oh! but,” says one, “I am afraid of being presumptuous.” Oh, yes, I know! There are a great many who are afraid of presumption, and they make a mistake about what presumption is. I think I told you, one day, of two little boys, to whom their mother said, “Now, John and Thomas, I shall take you out next Monday for a day’s holiday.” Well, it was Thursday or Friday, and one of them began to talk about it with all his might: “I am going out for a holiday next Monday; I know I am; I am going out for a holiday next Monday.” His little brother was “afraid to presume”; so he said that he thought, perhaps, he might go out for a holiday next Monday, but he was afraid to presume. The other little fellow, when he got up on Saturday morning, said, “Mother, is it Monday yet?” and he was as happy as a lark with the idea that the Monday must come very soon. Now, which of the two was presumptuous? I do not think that the boy who believed his mother’s promise was presumptuous; I think that he was a good, humble, believing child; but I think that the other boy, who argued, “Well, you see, mother cannot afford to take us out; perhaps it will be wet; and mother, perhaps, will not keep her word; she will forget it.” I say, he was presumptuous, and did not deserve to go at all. You who doubt are vastly more presumptuous than you would be if you would simply believe.
Let me encourage you, dear friends, to put in practice my text, “Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” Feed your souls on precious truth. Do not say, “Oh, that is high doctrine!” My dear friend, you have no business to call doctrine high or low. If it is in God’s Word, believe it, and live upon it. “Oh, but those are deep things!” Some people even say that they are “Calvinistic.” Never mind if they are; they will not hurt you. I am of the mind of the old lady who said, when she heard a certain preacher, “I like to hear that kind of minister, he is a high Calvary preacher.” That was a good mistake to make; I would like to be a “high Calvary preacher”; and preach up Jesus Christ and him crucified with all my might. Do not be afraid to feed on anything that Christ is, or did, or promised. Fall to with a glorious appetite, “and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” If there are any high enjoyments, raptures, ecstasies, delights, if you lose yourself in heaven begun below, if you can feel the Lord very near you, well, be ready to dance for joy. “Let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
But as to holy exercises, such as prayer, and prayer continued, prayer strong and mighty, and such as praise, too, that is akin to the music of heaven, do not hold back from them. Go in for them with all your might. “Let your soul delight itself in fatness.” Oh, our poor starveling services, our weak, impotent drawings near to God! May we be delivered from them, and may we get into the marrow and fatness of real communion with the Most High!
Above all, do not neglect to feed on what you have not yet received, but what is yours in the hand of Christ. On the glory yet to be revealed, on the glories of the Second Advent, especially, often dwell; and let your hearts take fire as you think of them, and let your spirit grow strong with an intense delight, because HE is coming. HE is coming quickly; and who knows when he may appear? Live upon the promise of his coming, and rejoice therein. “Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
IV. Now, my time has gone, and therefore I will not preach upon the fourth head, which was to have been DELIGHT; but I will just say these few words on this part of my theme.
There is no peril in holy joy, in delighting yourself in God’s Word, and delighting yourself in Christ. You may be as happy as ever you can be, and there will be no danger in it: for “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The joy of the Lord is your safety; the joy of the Lord will be your restoration, if you have wandered away from him.
There will be no idleness, or selfishness, produced by this fat feeding. The more you feed on God’s Word, the more you will work for the good of others. You will not say, “I am saved, and therefore I will let others perish.” Oh, no! You will have an intense, burning desire to bring others in to feed upon “free grace and dying love.” There are none who love the souls of men so much as those who love their Lord much. When they have themselves had much forgiven, and they know it, they go and seek their fellow-sinners, and try to bring them to the Saviour’s feet.
Dear friends, may you get such meals upon the rich things of the Word of God that you may come to a sacred contentment, till you shall not say, like Esau, “I have enough,” but shall say, like Jacob, “I have all things”! May you be unable to wish for anything more! May you be so complete in Christ, so fully supplied in him, that you can say, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want”!
May you also attain to a sense of holy security; not of carnal security, for that is dangerous; that is ruinous; but holy security, so that you can say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” “Of what persuasion are you?” said one man to another. “Of what persuasion am I? I am of this persuasion, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.” This is a blessed persuasion. May you have it, and keep it all your days!
Then, next, may you come into a state of perfect rest! “Best in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” “We that have believed do enter into rest.” “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” But there is a rest which they enjoy even now; may you get it!
May you also come into a state of complete resignation to the will of God! If we sang with our hearts that beautiful hymn (Number 691) just now, we are able to leave everything with God, and let him do what he likes with us. May you just feel that your will is what God’s will would have it to be, and that God’s will shall be your will! Then you will lot your soul delight itself in fatness.
Lastly, may you be filled with a happy expectancy! May you be able to say with our poet,—
“My heart is with him on his throne
And ill can brook delay;
Each moment listening for the voice,
‘Rise up, and come away.’ ”
Oh, to live in the suburbs of heaven, to get into the vestibule of God’s great palace, and to stop there, and hear the singing of the seraphim inside the walls! There is such a thing as feeling, on the Hill Beulah, the breezes from the distant Celestial City. When the wind sets the right way, you may often smell the spices of the glory-land where Emmanuel is King, and his beloved lie in his bosom for ever. I pray that you may all have this. Do not say, “We cannot.” Do not fear that you cannot, but rather listen to the text, and carry it out, “Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
Oh, that some poor soul would get his first mouthful of Christ tonight! Take him. I have seen a hungry child sent by his mother to the baker’s. There is a little piece of bread put in as a “makeweight”, and the poor child eats it on the way home. I give you leave to do that to-night. Carry the truth away with you, and keep it; but eat a bit as you go home. Lay hold on Christ to-night, now, before you leave the Tabernacle. May his grace enable you to do it; and then sit down, and eat, and eat, and eat for ever of this precious, inexhaustible provision of God’s infinite love; and to him shall be glory for ever and ever. Amen.