by John Calvin
In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. Should anyone inquire in what way they did not attend to God’s counsel, he answers, because they had indulged in the gratification of their lusts; for the only way of acting with proper moderation is, when God rules and presides over our affections. It is therefore the more necessary to bridle that strong tendency to fleshly lusts which naturally rage within us. For whoever allows himself to desire more than is needful, openly sets himself in direct opposition to God, inasmuch as all fleshly lusts are directly opposed to him.
To tempt God is not to acquiesce in his will, but to desire more than he is willing to grant. And since there are a variety of modes of tempting God, the prophet here adverts to one mode of doing so, namely, that the people had been so presumptuous as to limit God to means of their own devising; and thus, in rejecting the way which they ought to have followed, they ascribed to God a property altogether novel, as much as to say, If God do not feed us with flesh we will not regard him as God. He gave them the food which ought to have satisfied them. And though God is not limited by any means whatsoever, yet it is his will that our minds be rendered subservient to the means which he has appointed. For instance, although he can nourish us without bread, nevertheless it is his will that our life be sustained by such provision; and if we neglect it, and wish to point out to him another way of nourishing us, we tempt his power.
The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan. The heinousness of their sin may be seen in the magnitude of the punishment by which it was visited. But the design of the prophet was to accuse and reprove publicly the obstinacy of the people, who, so far from being bettered by their corrections (although the vengeance of God was so terrible as almost to move the very stones,) conducted themselves the more perversely.
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John Calvin, A Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, is copyright © 1999 by P & R Publishing Company, all rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—except for brief quotations for the purpose of review or comment, without the prior permission of the publisher, P & R Publishing Company, P.O. Box 817, Phillipsburg, New Jersey 08865-0817.
Unless marked by an asterisk, italic Scripture excerpts preceding Calvin's exposition are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House, all rights reserved. Phrases of Scripture within Calvin's exposition are based on an unidentified older translation, or in rare instances modified to conform to the NIV excerpts preceding Calvin's exposition.
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