Psalm 81:12

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 12. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust. No punishment is more just or more severe than this. If men will not be checked, but madly take the bit between their teeth and refuse obedience, who shall wonder if the reins are thrown upon their necks, and they are let alone to work out their own destruction. It were better to be given up to lions than to our hearts' lusts.

And they walked in their own counsels. There was no doubt as to what course they would take, for man is everywhere wilful and loves his own way, -- that way being at all times in direct opposition to God's way. Men deserted of restraining grace, sin with deliberation; they consult, and debate, and consider, and then elect evil rather than good, with malice aforethought and in cool blood. It is a remarkable obduracy of rebellion when men not only run into sin through passion, but calmly "walk in their own counsels" of iniquity.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 12. So I gave them up. The word give up suggests the idea of a divorce, whereby a husband sends away a capricious wife, and commands her to live by herself ... Transferred to God, it teaches us nothing else than that God withdraws his protecting and guiding hand from the people, and leaves them to themselves; so that he ceases to chasten and defend them, but, on the other hand, suffers them to become hardened and to perish. Venema.

Verse 12. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts, etc. A man may be given up to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the soul may be saved, but to be given up to sin is a thousand times worse, because that is the fruit of divine anger, in order to the damnation of the soul; here God wounds like an enemy and like a cruel one, and we may boldly say, God never punished any man or woman with this spiritual judgment in kindness and love. John Shower (1657-1715), in "The Day of Grace."

Verse 12. I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts. O dreadful word! The same will the Spirit do upon our rejecting or resisting of his leading. He may long strive, but he will "not always strive," Genesis 6:3 . If the person led shall once begin to struggle with him that leads him, and shall refuse to follow his guidance, what is then to be done, but to leave him to himself? Continued, rooted, allowed resistance to the Spirit, makes him so to cast off a person as to lead him no more... Let it be your great and constant care and endeavour to get the Spirit's leading continued to you. You have it; pray keep it. Can it be well with a Christian, when this is suspended or withdrawn from him? How does he wander and bewilder himself, when the Spirit does not guide him! How backward is he to good, when the Spirit does not bend and incline him thereunto! How unable to go, when the Spirit does not uphold him! What vile lusts and passions rule him, when the Spirit does not put forth his holy and gracious government over him! O, it is of infinite concern to all that belong to God, to preserve and secure to themselves the Spirit's leading! Take a good man without this, and he is like a ship without a pilot, a blind man without a guide, a poor child that has none to sustain it, the rude multitude that have none to keep them in any order. What a sad difference is there in the same person, as to what he is when the Spirit leads him, and as to what he is when the Spirit leaves him! ...

OBJECTION. -- "But does the Spirit at any time do this to God's people? Does he ever suspend and withdraw his guidance from persons who once lived under it?"

ANSWER. -- Yes; too often. It is what he usually does, when his leadings are not followed. This is a thing that grieves him; and when he is grieved he departs, withholds, and recalls his former gracious influences, though not totally and finally; yet for a time and in such a degree. As a guide, that is to conduct the traveller; if this traveller shall refuse to follow him, or shall give unkind usage to him, what does the guide then do? Why, he receded, and leaves him to shift for himself. It is thus in the case in hand: if we comply with the Spirit, in his motions, and use him tenderly, he will hold on in his leading of us; but if otherwise, he will concern himself no more about us. O, take heed how you carry yourself towards him: not only upon ingenuousness, it is base to be unkind to our Guide, (Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way? Jeremiah 2:17 ,) but also upon the account of self love: for "as we behave ourselves to him, so he will behave himself to us:" "Ita nos tractat, ut a nobis tractatur." Thomas Jacombe (1622-1687), in "Morning Exercises."

Verse 12. I gave them up...and they walked in their own counsels. That was to give them up to a spirit of division, to a spirit of discontent, to a spirit of envy, and jealousy, to a spirit of ambition, of self seeking and emulation, and so to a spirit of distraction and confusion, and so to ruin and destruction. Such, and no better, is the issue, when God gives a people up to their own counsels; then they soon become a very chaos, and run themselves into a ruinous heap. As good have no counsel from man, as none but man's. Joseph Caryl.

Verse 12. God calls upon Israel to hear and obey him, they will not: But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. What was the result of their refusal? So I gave them up unto their own hearts lust: and they walked in their own counsels. God doth not testify his anger for their contempt of him be sending plague, or flames, or wild beasts among them. He doth not say, Well, since they thus slight my authority, I will be avenged on them to purpose; I will give them up to the sword, or famine, or racking diseases, or greedy devouring lions, which would have been sad and grievous; but he executes on them a far more sad and grievous judgment, when he saith, So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels. God's leaving one soul to one lust, (One's soul to one's lust?) is far worse than leaving him to all the lions in the world. Alas! it will tear the soul worse than a lion can do the body, and rend it in pieces, when there is none to deliver it. God's giving them up to their own wills, that they walked in their own counsels, is in effect a giving them up to eternal wrath and woe. George Swinnock.

Verse 12. God moves everything on his ordinary providence according to their particular natures, God moves everything ordinarily according to the nature he finds it in. Had we stood in innocency, we had been moved according to that originally righteous nature; but since our fall we are moved according to that nature introduced into us with the expulsion of the other. Our first corruption was our own act, not God's work; we owe our creation to God, our corruption to ourselves. Now since God will govern his creature, I do not see how it can be otherwise, than according to the present nature of the creature, unless God be pleased to alter that nature. God forces no man against his nature; he doth not force the will in conversion, but graciously and powerfully inclines it. He doth never force nor incline the will to sin, but leaves it to the corrupt habits it hath settled in itself: So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels; counsels of their own framing, not of God's. He moves the will, which is sponte mala, according to its own nature and counsels. As a man flings several things out of his hand, which are of several figures, some spherical, tetragons, cylinders, conics, some round and some square, though the motion be from the agent, yet the variety of their motions is from their own figure and frame; and if any will hold his hand upon a ball in its motion, regularly it will move according to its nature and figure; and a man by casting a bowl out of his hand, is the cause of the motion, but the bad bias is the cause of its irregular motion. The power of action is from God, but the viciousness of that action from our own nature. As when a clock or watch hath some fault in any of the wheels, the man that winds it up, or putting his hand upon the wheels moves them, he is the cause of the motion, but it is the flaw in it, a deficiency of something, is the cause of its erroneous motion; that error was not from the person that made it, or the person that winds it up, and sets it on going, but from some other cause; yet till it be mended it will not go otherwise, so long as it is set upon motion. Our motion is from God, -- Acts 17:28 , In him we move, -- but not the disorder of that motion. It is the fulness of a man's stomach at sea is the cause of his sickness, and not the pilot's government of the ship. God doth not infuse the lust, to excite it, though he doth present the object about which the lust is exercised. God delivered up Christ to the Jews, he presented him to them, but never commanded them to crucify him, nor infused that malice into them, nor quickened it; but he, seeing such a frame, withdrew his restraining grace, and left them to the conduct of their own vitiated wills. All the corruption in the world ariseth from lust in us, not from the objects which God in his providence presents to us: 2 Peter 1:4 , The corruption that is in the world through lust. Stephen Charnock.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 11,12.

  1. The sin of Israel. They would not hearken. The mouth is
    opened in attentive hearing: open thy mouth wide; but
    my people, etc. Their sin was greatly aggravated
    1. By what God had done for them.
    2. By the gods they had preferred to him.
    3. The punishment.
    4. Its greatness: I gave them up, etc.
    5. Its justice: They would none of me. G. R.