Verse 14. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man. Grass grows as well as herbs, for cattle must be fed as well as men. God appoints to the lowliest creature its portion and takes care that it has it: Divine power is as truly and as worthily put forth in the feeding of beasts as in the nurturing of man; watch but a blade of grass with a devout eye and you may see God at work within it. The herb is for man, and he must till the soil, or it will not be produced, yet it is God that causeth it to grow in the garden, even the same God who made the grass to grow in the unenclosed pastures of the wilderness. Man forgets this and talks of his produce, but in very truth without God he would plough and sow in vain. The Lord causeth each green blade to spring and each ear to ripen; do but watch with opened eye and you shall see the Lord walking through the cornfields.
That he may bring forth food out of the earth. Both grass for cattle and corn for man are food brought forth out of the earth and they are signs that it was God's design that the very dust beneath our feet, which seems better adapted to bury us than to sustain us, should actually be transformed into the staff of life. The more we think of this the more wonderful it will appear. How great is that God who from among the sepulchres finds the support of life, and out of the ground which was cursed brings forth the blessings of corn and wine and oil.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 14. -- He causeth the grass to grow. Surely it should humble men to know that all human power united cannot make anything, not even the grass to grow. -- William S. Plumer.
Verse 14. -- For the cattle, etc. To make us thankful, let us consider,
- That God not only provides for us, but for our servants; the cattle that are of use to man, are particularly taken care of; grass is made to grow in great abundance for them, when "the young lions," that are not for the service of man, often "lack, and suffer hunger."
- That our food is nigh us, and ready to us: having our habitation on the earth, there we have our storehouse, and depend not on "the merchant ships that bring food from afar," Proverbs 31:14 .
- That we have even from the products of the earth, not only for necessity, but for ornament and delight, so good a master do we serve. Doth nature call for something to support it, and repair its daily decays? Here is "bread which strengtheneth man's heart," and is therefore called the staff of life; let none that have that complain of want. Doth nature go further, and covet something pleasant? Here is "wine that maketh glad the heart", refresheth the spirits, and exhilarates them, when it is soberly and moderately used; that we may not only go through our business, but go through it cheerfully; it is a pity that that should be abused to overcharge the heart, and disfit men for their duty, which was given to revive their heart, and quicken them in their duty. Is nature yet more humoursome, and doth it crave something for ornament too? Here is that also out of the earth: "oil to make the face to shine", that the countenance may not only be cheerful, but beautiful, and we may be the more acceptable to one another. -- Matthew Henry.
Verse 14. -- For the service of man. The common version of these words can only mean for his benefit or use, a sense not belonging to the Hebrew word, which, as well as its verbal root, is applied to man's servitude or bondage as a tiller of the ground ( Genesis 3:17-19 ), and has here the sense of husbandry or cultivation, as in Exodus 1:14 , Leviticus 25:39 , it has that of compulsory or servile labour, the infinitive in the last clause indicates the object for which labour is imposed on man. --J.A. Alexander.
Verse 14. -- That he may bring forth food out of the earth. The Israelites at the feast of the Passover and before the breaking of bread, were accustomed to say, "Praise be to the Lord our God, thou King of the world, who hath brought forth our bread from the earth": and at each returning harvest we ought to be filled with gratitude, as often as we again receive the valuable gift of bread. It is the most indispensable and necessary means of nourishment, of which we never tire, whilst other food, the sweeter it is, the more easily it surfeits: everybody, the child and the old man, the beggar and the king, like bread. We remember the unfortunate man, who was cast on the desert isle, famishing with hunger, and who cried at the sight of a handful of gold, "Ah, it is only gold!" He would willingly have exchanged for a handful of bread, this to him, useless material, which in the mind of most men is above all price. O let us never sin against God, by lightly esteeming bread! Let us gratefully accept the sheaves we gather, and thankfully visit the barns which preserve them; that we may break bread to the hungry, and give to the thirsty from the supplies God has given us. Let us never sit down to table without asking God to bless the gifts we receive from his gracious hand, and never eat bread without thinking of Christ our Lord, who calls himself the living bread, who came down from heaven to give life unto the world. And above all, may we never go to the table of the Lord without enjoying, through the symbols of bread and wine, his body and blood, whereby we receive strength to nourish our spiritual life! Yes, Lord, thou satisfiest both body and soul, with bread from earth and bread from heaven. Praise be to thy holy name, our hearts and mouths shall be full of thy praises for time and eternity! --Frederick Arndt in "Lights of the Morning", 1861.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 14. -- In the Hayfield. (See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No. 757.) "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle."
- Grass is in itself instructive.
- As a symbol of our mortality: "All flesh is grass."
(b) As an emblem of the wicked.
- God is seen in the growing of the grass.
- As a worker: "He causeth," etc. See God in common things -- in solitary things.
(b) See God as a caretaker: "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle." God cares for the beasts -- the helpless -- dumb and speechless things -- providing suitable food for them: "grass". Let us, then, see his hand in providence at all times.
- God's working in the grass for the cattle gives us illustrations concerning grace.
- God "cares for oxen" and satisfies their wants: there must then be something somewhere to satisfy the needs of the nobler creature man, and his immortal soul.
(b) Though God provides the grass for the cattle, the cattle must eat it themselves. The Lord Jesus Christ is provided as the food of the soul. We must, by faith, receive and feed upon Christ.
(c) Preventing grace may here be seen in a symbol: before the cattle were made, in this world there was grass. There were covenant supplies for God's people before they were in the world.
(d) Here is an illustration of free grace: the cattle bring nothing to purchase the food. Why is this?
- Because they belong to him, Psalms 1:10 .
In the text there is a mighty blow to free will: "He causeth the grass to grow." Grace does not grow in the heart without a divine cause. If God cares to make grass grow he will also make us grow in grace. Again; the grass does not grow without an object; it is "for the cattle": but the cattle grow for man. What then, does man grow for? Observe, further, that the existence of the grass is necessary to complete the chain of nature. So the meanest child of God is necessary to the family.