by Alexander MaclarenThe Satisfier of All Desires
About the author:
Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was genuinely converted at the age of twelve. After studying at Glasgow University, he attended Baptist College Stepney, later knaown as Regents Park College. At the age of thirty-two, he was called to the Union Chapel, Manchester, where he served for forty-five years. Alexander Maclaren was famous for his expository preaching of Scripture, preparing all his sermons from the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament. He had no time for life's trivialities but concentrated his efforts on the work of preaching. His memorable Expositions of Holy Scripture are considered the work of a genius.
‘Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing....He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him: He also will hear their cry, and will save them" (Ps. 145: 16,19).
Note the recurrence, in these two verses, of the emphatic word "desire." The psalmist evidently wishes to show a parallel between God's dealings in two regions. Here is the true extension of natural law to the spiritual world. It is the same teaching to which our Lord has given immortal and inimitable utterance, when He said, "Your heavenly Father feedeth them." And so we are entitled to look on all the wonders of creation, and find in them buttresses which support the edifice of our faith-and to understand that God is the sender of food to every creature. "Thou openest Thine hand and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." But looking not only at the text of these verses, but also at the context, we see here two sets of petitioners, two kinds of wants, two forms of appeal, and two processes of satisfaction.
I. Two Kinds of Petitioners
1. "Every living thing....": All of life makes a claim on God, and whatever desires arise in the living creature by reason of its life, God would be untrue to Himself if He did not satisfy them. In the act of creating, the Creator obliged Himself to see to the creatures that He has chosen to make. As one of the New Testament writers put it, He is a "faithful Creator" (1 Pet. 4:19).
2. Then take the other class, "them that fear Him," or the righteous. While having a basic claim on God, like the worm or the raven, for His gift of life, we shall have a similar but higher claim on Him if we are "them that fear Him"-that is, those who love and reverence Him, yearning to be holy like Him. And just as the fact of physical life binds God to care for it, so the fact of man's having in his heart the faintest tremor of reverential dread, the feeblest aspiration of outgoing affections, the most faltering desire after purity of life and conduct, binds God to answer these according to the man's need.
It comes to this: wherever you find in people a confidence which grows with their love of God, be sure that there is, somewhere in the universe of things, that which answers it.
Take an example: Even if there was not a word in the New Testament about Jesus Christ's resurrection, the fact that as men grow in devotion to God, their conviction also grows that there must be a life beyond the grave. That fact alone would be enough to make any one who believed in God sure that the hope thus rooted in love to Him could not be a delusion, nor be destined to be left unfulfilled.
II. There Are Two Sets of Needs
1. The first of them is very easily disposed of. "The eyes of all wait upon Thee, and Thou givest them their meat." That is all. Feed the beast, and give it the other things necessary for its physical existence, and there is no more to be done. But there is more wanted for the desires of the men that love and fear God.
2. These are glanced at in the context, "He also will hear their cry, and will save them...the Lord preserveth all them that love Him.' That is to say, there are deeper needs in our hearts and lives than any that are known amongst the lower creatures. Evils, dangers, sorrows, disappointments, losses of all sorts shadow our lives. Man longs for and needs something more than a full belly and a snug hole.
Do not let us vulgarise the text, "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him," as if it meant that if a man fears God he may set his longing upon any outward thing, and be sure to get it. There is nothing so poor, so unworthy as that promised in Scripture. For one thing, it is not true; for another, it would not be good if it were. The way to spoil children is not the way to perfect saints; and to give them what they want because they want it, is the sure way to spoil children of all ages. We may be quite certain that our heavenly Father is not going to do that. The promise here means something far nobler and loftier. It is the desires which spring from our love and fear which the psalmist is thinking of.
What is the object of desire to a man who loves God? God. What is the object of desire to a man who fears Him? God. What is the object of desire to a righteous man? Righteousness. And these are the desires which God is sure to fulfil to us. Therefore, there is only one region in which it is safe and wise to cherish longings-the region of the spiritual life where God imparts Himself. Everywhere else there will be disappointments-and we should thank Him for them. Nowhere else is it absolutely true that He will "fulfil the desires of them that fear Him." But in this region it is. Whatever any of us desire to have of God, we are sure to get. We open our mouths and he fills them. "Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Ps. 37:4).
III. There Are Two Forms of Appeal
1. "The eyes of all wait upon Thee." That is beautiful! The dumb look of the unconscious creature, like that of a dog looking up in its master's face for a crust, makes appeal to God, and He responds. But a dumb, unconscious look is not for us.
2. "He also will hear their cry." Put your wish into words if you want it answered; not for His information, but for your strengthening. "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things before ye ask Him," but the asking will clear your thoughts about your desires. It will be a very good test of them. There are many things that we all wish, which I am afraid we should not much like to put into our prayers, not because of any foolish notion that they are too small to find a place there, but because of an uncomfortable suspicion that perhaps they are not the kind of things that we ought to wish for. And if we cannot make the desire into a cry, the sooner we make it dead as well as dumb, the better for ourselves. The cry will also reinforce the petitions of our hearts. There is a wonderful power in the audible utterance of our petitions to God. Let us remember, dear brethren! The condition of our getting the higher gifts is not only that we should love and fear, and in the silence of our own hearts should wish for, but that we should definitely ask for them. Not only desire, but "their cry," brings the answer.
IV. Two Processes of Satisfying
1. "Thou openest Thine hand." That is enough for the creatures. They have enough when they have the meat that drops from His hand. But God's best gifts cannot be separated from Himself.
2. God must breathe Himself into us in order to "satisfy the desires of them that fear Him." That is a mystery deep and blessed. Oh, that we may all know, by our own living experience, what it is to have not only the gifts which drop from His hands, but the gifts which cannot be parted from Him, the Giver! He has to discipline us for His highest gifts, in order that we may receive them. And sometimes He has to do that by withholding or withdrawing the satisfaction of some of our lower desires, and so emptying our hearts and turning our wishes from earth to heaven. If you are going to pour precious wine into a vessel, you begin by emptying out the less valuable liquid that may be in it. So God often empties us, in order that He may fill us.
In giving us our deepest desires, He does not give them as individual fulfillments. Instead, He gives us Jesus Christ. We are to find all these blessings in Him, and it depends upon us whether we find them or not, and how much of them we find. You will always find as much in Christ as you want, but you may not find nearly as much in Him as you could; and you will never find as much in Him as there is. God sends His Son, and in that one Gift are all the gifts He has to bestow.
So expand your desires to the width of Christ's great mercies; for the measure of our wishes is the limit of our possession. He has laid up the supply of all our need in the storehouse, which is Christ; and He has given us the key. Let us see to it that we enter in. "Ye have not because ye ask not....To him that hath shall be given" (James 4:2; Luke 19:26).