Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel.The Works of God
The text brings the works of God and the name of God into one focus, and makes use of both as an argument with man to raise himself from the low and unworthy pretences of religion to Him Who sits high above the magnificence of all material forms, yet deigns to listen to the whisper of a kneeling child.
I. Seek Him because He is Immutable.—This is declared by 'the seven stars and Orion,' and by all the constellations among which the Pleiades are set. It is a wonderful thought that when we look up to the mighty heavens we see precisely what Adam and Eve saw when, through the openings among the trees of Eden, they looked on the same heavens. They beheld the Pleiades, that group of stars so beautifully likened to 'a knot of fireflies tangled in a silver braid'. They beheld those shining orbs in which we detect the appearance of an armed warrior, and call Orion. Through all the changes of human history those celestial bodies have shone with like brilliancy, and moved with like pomp in the great spaces overhead. The continuance of those material forms may be for millenniums multiplied by millenniums, but eventually they will fade. Yet 'Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end'. He was before them, and when they have vanished He will be, in all the grandeur of His being, what He is at the present moment
II. Seek Him because He is All-powerful.—This also is declared by 'the seven stars and Orion'. Many have looked on the Pleiades as but an insignificant group in the heavens; but that constellation has depths of glory which the unaided eye cannot reach. We count seven stars, but the telescope announces fourteen magnificent sun-like bodies clustered comparatively near to one of the seven. An astonishing universe; and yet we can stand beneath all that pomp of worlds; we can look on the constellations, which are but as the index of wonders far withdrawn into the depths of space, and we can say, 'My Father made them all'.
III. Seek Him because of His Beneficent Activities.—'And turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waves of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth.' How beautiful is morning as it comes with golden sandals and rosy veil through the gates of the east! How beautiful is night! How soft and soothing the shadows with which it enwraps the earth! How beautiful the silent processes by which the rain is distilled on the thirsty ground! Think of the oceans—those mighty reservoirs of the Most High. Think of the clouds drawn from them; now white as the snows which crown a mountain's forehead; now gorgeous, as if woven of a thousand rainbows; now black as a funeral pall. Think of the rain, how it falls; not in a sudden and overpowering splash; not in a flood, tearing the leaves from the trees and the young shoots from the soil, but in a succession of gentle drops. Is not this gracious Being, Whose hand is in the pleasing changes of day and night, and in 'rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness,' One with Whom it is desirable to live in filial relationship? If we seek Him, He will turn the shadow of every trouble that may hang over us into the beautiful morning of His love; and when He makes the day of life dark with night, He will be so near us, and speak in such a strain of tender, helpful promise, that we shall not be afraid of the darkness; nor will He fail, while we stay below, to make our souls as a fruitful field with the genial, gentle rain of His Holy Spirit.
IV. Seek Him because of His name.—'The Lord is His Name.' It is not simply that He is as Jehovah, or the Self-Existent; for with the announcement of that awful name there is also the announcement of gracious qualities, which embolden us to call Him, not only Lord, but also our Father. Glance at some of those ideas which the ancient saints attached to the Divine name. Jehovah-jireh—the Lord will provide. Jehovah-nissi—Jehovah my banner. This was the name which Moses gave to the altar he built as a memorial of Israel's victory over Amalek. What a banner! Jehovah-shalom—the Lord is my peace. Jehovah-Tsidkenu—the Lord our righteousness. This title is specially connected with the manifestation of God in Christ Jesus. What honour, what safety, in being able to appropriate this name as the confidence of our souls! 'And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.'
References.—V. 8.—B. W. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 125. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. liii. No. 3034. V. 18.—E. C. S. Gibson, Messages from the Old Testament, p. 215. V. 24.—J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, p. 388. V. 25, 26.—T. G. Rooke, The Church in the Wilderness, p. 265.
The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel.
For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live:
But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought.
Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel.
Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth,
Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name:
That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress.
They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.
Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them.
For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.
Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.
Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.
Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.
Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing.
And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee, saith the LORD.
Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.
As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.
Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?
I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.
Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.
Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.
But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?
But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.
Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.