Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) exhorts in this article to careful watchfulness over what we feed our minds on in our reading. Let us apply her exhortations also to what we nowadays might feed on through television, CD’s, videos and the Internet.
“Eat ye that which is good” (Isa. 55:2). “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before Thee” (Psa. 73:22). Had I not been so, this commandment would not have been needed. Good, wholesome, delicious food is set plentifully before us, and yet we have to be told to eat that which is good, and to let rubbish and poison alone! Is it not humiliating?
We know too much about feeding on that which is not good, and what profit had we in those things whereof we are now ashamed? The Lord has had to testify of us, “He feedeth on ashes” (Isa. 44:20), “feedeth on wind” (Hos. 12:1), “feedeth on foolishness” (Prov. 15:14). Most gracious was His decree to those who thus feed: “They shall eat, but not be satisfied” (Mic. 6:14). He would not let us be satisfied. And now, if we have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Pet. 2:3), we cannot be satisfied with the old ashes and wind.
But what about our daily practical obedience to this command? How much are we going to eat today of that which is good, in proportion to that which satisfies not? Will it be a question of minutes for the Word by which we live (Matt. 4:4), and hours for books which are at best negative as to spiritual nourishment? What is our present obedience to the parallel command,“Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby”? (1 Pet. 2:2).
What about our appetite for the “strong meat” (Heb. 5:12, 14), “the deep things of God”? (1 Cor. 2:10). We may be called to use other books which contain “necessary food”(Job 23:12) mentally, so that by study of His works and His natural, mental and moral providences, we may be more meet for the Master’s use (2 Tim. 2:21). But do we practically and consciously esteem more highly the words of His mouth? Can we say, they are “in my mouth as honey for sweetness”? (Ezek. 3:3).
But perhaps we are even purposing to eat that which is not good. We may argue that there is no harm in certain readings, and that if we don’t read what others do, we shall get narrow and lose conversational influence. People will think nothing of our opinion if we can’t say we have read such and such books.
But all the time, do we not know, down in our heart of hearts, that this is all unsound reasoning? (Job 13:7). We know, though we do not like to acknowledge it, that the books in question blunt our spiritual appetite and hinder our close communion with Jesus. We know that the influence we profess to want is not purely desired “for Jesus sake only” (John 12:9). In short, we like the reading (Isa. 2:6), and we do not want to resist pleasing ourselves (Rom. 15:1-3). And so we deliberately disobey the command to eat that which is good, excusing ourselves by pretending that we “saw that the tree was good for food,” when the truth was that we simply saw that it was “pleasant” (Gen. 3:6).
We are solemnly responsible for the mental influences under which we place ourselves. “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24) must include “take heed what ye read.” “Lead us not into temptation” is “vain repetition” (Matt. 6:7,13) when we walk straight away into it, hoodwinking our own eyes because we are drawn away and enticed by our own desires (Jas. 1:14).
Do we feel that we are not strong enough to resist? “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright” (Prov. 10:29); and His “way to escape” (1 Cor. 10:13) is, “eat ye that which is good” (Isa. 55:2). Perhaps, if Eve had fully availed herself of God’s permission, “Thou mayst freely eat” (Gen. 2:16), she would not have been so ready to disregard His prohibition. If we “eat in plenty” (Joel 2:26) of “angels’ food” (Psa. 78:25), of course we shall not care about the “onions and the garlic” (Num. 11:5). Just fancy wanting them! When we are“satisfied” (Jer. 31:14), of course, there is no craving.
The devil is very fond of persuading us that we have “no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 6:31) when it is a question of Bible study. He never says that if we have a novel “of the earth, earthy” (1 Cor. 15:47), or a clever magazine of modern thought on hand! He knows better. He wants us not to let our souls delight themselves in fatness. Jesus, our wisdom, says,“Come, eat of My bread” (Prov. 9:5), “Eat, O friends” (Song 5:1). One is utterly ashamed that it should ever be an effort to obey this loving invitation. How weak we are! But His hand touches us, and He says, “Arise, and eat” (1 Kgs. 19:5). May He open our eyes to see and rejoice in the provision so close beside us, the feast that He has made for us (Isa. 25:6).
Not only His Word, but the happy doing of His will be our meat (John 4:34), and we shall “afterward eat of the holy things; because it is His food” (Lev. 22:7). He will give us to eat of the tree of life and of the hidden manna (Rev. 2:7, 17). And He will give us Himself, the living bread which came down from heaven, saying, “He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me” (John 6:51, 57). Is not this enough?
From My King and His Service by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879)