Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE DAY OF THE REVELATION OF THE LORD'S POWER. Memorable are such days as those which witness a great king's accession to the throne, a great battle deciding the fortunes of nations, the passing of a great measure affecting the welfare of millions, the sending forth of a religious mission to a heathen community. But, whilst every day upon which some grand deed is wrought, or some noble institution founded, is in a sense a day of the Lord, there are days in which Divine providence signally asserts or vindicates itself, in which the might of the Omnipotent is convincingly displayed; and such days are emphatically designated by the term employed in the text.
II. THE DAY OF THE EXECUTION OF THE LORD'S RECOMPENSE AND JUDGMENT. Judging by the language here employed by the prophet, the day of the Lord he announces seems especially of this character. "Howl ye! Woe worth the day!" are expressions which surely betoken the coming of the Lord in vengeance - "a day of clouds," "the time of the heathen." Long-deferred correction is now to be inflicted; threatenings often repeated are now to be fulfilled. Forbearance is exhausted, and the day of the Lord shall see him arise to judgment.
III. THE DAY OF THE REDEMPTION OF THE LORD'S PEOPLE. The defeat and confusion of the adversaries is accompanied by the deliverance and exaltation of the friends of God. When the day comes which shall see the destruction of Israel's foes, Israel shall go free and shall rejoice in her liberty, with the shout, "Now is the day of salvation!" "Lift up your heads, for the day of redemption draweth nigh!"
IV. THE DAY WHICH DISPELS THE NIGHT OF HUMAN MISUNDERSTANDING AND DOUBT. The day of man is the day of ignorance and of fear, and is little better than the night when compared with the brightness which God's presence brings. To Christians, the day of the Lord is the day of their Savior's birth and coming to this world of sin. "The people which sat in darkness saw a great light." Then the errors and hopelessness of long ages were rolled away, like mists before the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings.
V. THE DAY WHICH SHALL MANIFEST THE LORD'S GLORY AND FULFILL HIS PURPOSES. The day of the Lord has interest and significance for men; but the very term implies that its central meaning is not human, but Divine. The fools who have said in the heart, "There is no God!" the hypocrites and formalists, who have professed belief in God, but to whom the meaning of such belief is limited to words; the defiant and rebellious sinners, of whom it may justly be said, "God is not in all their ways; " - all these are addressed with power, and are aroused from their infidelity, when the day of the Lord breaks upon the world, and when the Lord himself draws near. - T.
I. THE CAUSE OF DIVINE JUDGMENTS IN EGYPT. This is explicitly stated, "I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause their images to cease." Idolatry is not merely a system of error; it is a fount of immorality, it is a seed-bed of moral corruption. In the realm of religion you cannot separate theory from practice. Theories of atheism today become habits of sensuality tomorrow. Where God is ignored, every vice will speedily appear. The depravities of Egypt had tainted all the nations round about.
II. THE SEVERITY OF DIVINE JUDGMENTS. It is impossible for the wisest man to estimate the demerit of sin. No human jurist can place a competent penalty against transgression of the Law of God. He alone who created man and imposed law can determine adequate punishments. We can leave God to do what is wise and right. Usually, the sky over Egypt is transcendently bright; now that clear sky shall be covered with a cloud.
1. A foreign sword shall invade the land. "It shall be the time of the heathen." A sharp sword wielded by a fierce enemy was ordained to mow down the people.
2. Desolation was decreed. So great was the decimation to be, that populous cities would be silent, and death-like desolation would prevail throughout that once prosperous land. Like the deserts which envelop Egypt round - barren and dreary - so was Egypt itself to become!
3. Fire was to complete the overthrow. "I will set fire in Egypt." Her mansions and cottages, built of most combustible material, would be ready food for flames; and, for lack of water, towns and villages would speedily disappear. How vulnerable on every side was this renowned empire!
4. Her very foundations would be rooted up. Under this language there is portrayed, not the removal of material substructions of cities, but the demolition of imperial and. national foundations. The throne should be completely undermined; the government should pass into other hands.
5. The overthrow should be coextensive with Egypt. No part was to be excepted. Beginning at the first stronghold - the tower of Syene - the devastation should sweep throughout the land. Flourishing cities are mentioned by name as devoted to doom. One calamity shall befall one; some other calamity is prepared for another. God calls to his service ten thousand agents.
III. THE INSTRUMENT OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. In this ease God has announced beforehand what instrument he will employ. The main leader in this great tragedy was Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. Some good reason prevailed with God why he should be selected. To be the tool of a bad man is a great dishonor, but to do any service for our righteous King is a substantial honor. Sometimes God has seen fit to employ material forces to execute his vengeance, as in the eases of Lisbon and Pompeii. Sometimes he has employed an angel, as when he discomfited Sennacherib, as when he smote the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Yet, if the human instrument be not himself righteous, he shall also in his turn be chastised. God gives to men rewards on earth to whom he is bound to deny the possession of heaven.
IV. THE CERTAINTY OF DIVINE JUDGMENTS. It is made sure by the testimony of Jehovah. "Thus saith the Lord;" "I the Lord have spoken it." Not even the actual overthrow of Egypt made the event more certain than it was made by the word of Jehovah. His declarations are as good as his performances. His words are deeds. As soon as he speaks the event begins to evolve, although we only perceive the final stroke. Our business, therefore, is simply to ascertain whether God has spoken; if he has, we may conclude that the word will become fact. Between his word and its fulfillment there is an iron link of necessity. It must be done.
V. THE COLLATERAL EFFECTS OF DIVINE JUDGMENTS. "The men of the land that is in league, shall fall with them by the sword." Allies shall suffer along with the principal offenders. To prop up a rotten throne is a crime. Judicious care is needed in the choice of friends, whether public or private. By thoughtlessly identifying ourselves with bad men, we become "partakers of their sins." Such overwhelming judgment as this in Egypt would strike terror into the hearts of neighbors. "In that day shall messengers from me make the careless Ethiopians afraid." All who dwell in the vicinity shall be awed by the great catastrophe. If such disaster overtook the Egyptians, might it not also overtake them? Had they no sin to be chastised? If the Egyptians were unable to buy off, or resist, the foe, what could they do in the day of visitation? Well may all wrongdoers tremble! "When thy judgments are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."
VI. THE FINAL PURPOSE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT. "They shall know that I am the Lord." In their death they shall be convinced of a truth which they refused to acknowledge during life. In the crisis of the conflict between Jehovah and the idols men shall learn on which side the real strength lies. So is it still - when too late to reverse the course of life, too late to change character - men discover that there is a God in the earth, and that they must pass through the crucial process of judgment. Yet how slow are the nations still to recognize and revere Jehovah! What patience and forbearance cloth our God show! Nevertheless, it is true - men shall confess that Jehovah is Lord. Is it not wiser to learn the lesson forthwith?
VII. SENTIMENTS PROPER TO THE NEAR APPROACH OF JUDGMENT. "Howl ye! Woe worth the day!" It is an impressive proof of the tender love of God that he employs all suitable means to warn us of the gradual approach of doom. Of him it is not true that the "gods have feet of wool." The noise of his chariot-wheels is heard in the distance. He sends messengers of various kinds in advance, to prevent, if possible, the threatened disaster. What gratitude ought to break forth from our hearts! And with what awe should we hear the thunderous tread of his footsteps! Verily, men are as the small dust of the balance Compared with the majesty of God. For the creature to contend with his Creator is folly inexpressible! While yet the day of opportunity lingers, let counsels of wisdom prevail! - D.
Ezekiel 29:16) depend on our principle of biblical interpretation, together with our reading of ancient history. For the purpose of religious edification it is enough that we accept these words as a picture of the desolation to which a course of guilt, whether national or individual, may be expected to lead.
I. NATIONAL DESOLATION. Of this Ezekiel furnishes, in the whole chapter, a most graphic picture.
1. Prosperity (fullness) departs, and there is no more boast of its great population (Ver. 10).
2. Violent death lays numbers of its people low; the land is "filled with the slain" (Vers. 4, 11).
3. Its hope, in the person of its young men, is slain (Ver. 17).
4. Its beauty, its pride, in the person of its daughters, is removed (Ver. 18).
5. Its physical resources are dried up (Ver. 12).
6. Its natural leaders are lost to it (ver 13).
7. Its religious institutions are broken up (Ver. 13).
8. Its allies and dependencies are dragged down with it to the ground (Vers. 5, 6); "its yokes are broken" (Ver. 18).
9. Its people are stricken with dismay; instead of its ancient pride and pomp (Ver. 18), fearfulness fills the heart of its inhabitants (Ver. 13); a cloud of dire misfortune throws the whole country into dark shadow (Vers. 3, 18). The final, comprehensive touch is in the language of the text.
10. Desolation in the midst of desolation. It does not appear that Egypt ever presented so desperate a scene as this; and we may understand either
(1) that God, for some sufficient reason, forbore to visit the land with the last extremity of woe (see Jonah 3:4, 10); or
(2) that the language of the prophecy is to be taken as hyperbolical, and thus interpreted. But we must also understand that
(3) the ultimate issue of collective (national) iniquity is destruction, desolation; witness the cities of the plain, Nineveh, Babylon, Jerusalem. The "day" of sin and of defiance, of tyrannical power and guilty gratification may last long, but its sun is sure to set in dark clouds, and when the morrow comes, as it will come, there will be a day of dire and widespread desolation. "Woe worth the day!" when it arrives.
II. THE DESOLATION OF THE SPIRIT.
1. In what it is found. Spiritual desolation is experienced when all that is really precious to the human soul is broken up and has departed. When
(1) the good habits of devotion and of virtue, formed in childhood, have become loosened and have given way;
(2) the soul has lost its faith in the providence, the nearness, the notice, and perhaps even the being of God;
(3) the man has become separated, both in sympathy and in action, from those with whom he once walked and worshipped;
(4) hope of future blessedness has left the heart bare of all expectancy beyond the grave, and the future is nothing but a blank;
(5) life has lost all its sacredness, and therefore nearly all its worth. This sad desolateness of son culminates in
(6) the loss of all self-respect, and in
(7) the extension of the same spiritual waste to those who are within range of its influence; when one is "desolate in the midst of desolation."
2. How it may be averted. "None of them that trust in him shall be desolate," says the psalmist (Psalm 35:22). The fear of God, walking in the light of his truth, communion with Jesus Christ and association with his friends and followers, the daily prayer for the restraining and the prompting influences of the Spirit of God, - this will secure the soul from loss and from decline. He who lives thus will not enter even the outer shadow of this calamity.
3. The way of deliverance. Men once thought that there was no way for a human soul to ascend from the pit of spiritual ruin to the lofty levels of holy service and sacred joy and immortal hope. We think thus no more now that he has spoken to us who has said, "I am the Way." - C.
I. POLITICAL AND NATIONAL ALLIANCES ARE OFTEN BASED UPON INTEREST RATHER THAN UPON MORAL PRINCIPLES. The weak seek the support of the strong; the strong would be stronger through the support of their neighbors. A common hope of profit and aggrandizement in many cases accounts for the leagues into which states enter with one another.
II. SUCH ALLIANCES ARE EASILY DISSOLVED WHEN THEIR OBJECTS ARE FOUND INCAPABLE OF REALIZATION. They do not deserve to endure, and as a matter of fact they do not endure. There is no guarantee of permanence in such combinations, and it is well for the world that this is so. The political center of gravity shifts, and the instability of alliances based upon interest is made apparent.
III. CONJOINT HUMAN POWERS ARE EVER VAIN WHEN THEY OPPOSE THE PURPOSES OF GOD. Such was proved to be the case with regard to the alliances between Egypt and the neighboring states mentioned by the prophet. "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished." Add together as many finites as you will, and you are no nearer the Infinite; and all the resources of all the nations upon earth are as nothing, are less than the dust of the balance, when weighed against the incalculable, inexhaustible, irresistible power of the Omnipotent. "Why do the nations rage, and the peoples imagine a vain thing?"
IV. THOSE WHO SHARE IN SIN SHALL SHARE IN PUNISHMENT. "They also that uphold Egypt shall fall." "All her helpers are destroyed." The leagues of the righteous and godly shall contribute to the common strength; the measure of the Church's influence in the world is determined by the Church's unity. But as there is no cohesion in wickedness, the blow which falls dissolves the superficial combination, and overwhelms all the elements in a common destruction. Notwithstanding all recrimination, there is no escape and no consolation; confidence is destroyed, succor there is none; one ruin overtakes all.
V. A COMMON FATE IMPRESSES THE SAME LESSON UPON SOCIETY. The downfall of one proud, self-confident nation is impressive and instructive; but when a league is dissolved, and disaster comes upon those who have encouraged one another in injustice and impiety, the attention of the world is arrested, and men are the more disposed to ]earn how vain are all merely human projects, how unstable are all alliances based upon worldly principles, and how utterly powerless are the nations when they array themselves together against the truth, the Word, the Church, of the living God. When God arises, his enemies are scattered. There is none that can stand before him. Might is feebleness, wisdom is folly, and unions fall to pieces, when they are directed against him who is mighty to punish as he is mighty to save. - T.
I. THE VANITY AND INABILITY OF IDOLS TO HELP THOSE WHO TRUST IN THEM.
II. THE HELPLESSNESS OF THEIR DEVOTEES TO RETAIN FOR IDOLS THE ALLEGIANCE OF THEIR WORSHIPPERS.
III. THE CERTAINTY THAT PROVIDENTIAL OCCURRENCES WILL SHAKE THE CONFIDENCE OF IDOLATERS IN THEIR IDOLS, AND WILL BRING IDOLATRY TO NAUGHT.
IV. THE DIVINE PROVISION THAT, AS IDOLS ARE CONFOUNDED, THE TRUE AND ONLY GOD WILL BE EXALTED.
1. The principles underlying this prophecy are a great encouragement to all those who labor for the propagation of the gospel among the heathen; their labors shall, sooner or later, meet with a full success and recompense.
2. There is here an implicit counsel as to the replacing of idolatry by true religion. It is one thing to destroy, another thing to construct. In our Indian dominions at the present time, education is shaking the faith of the native population in their idols and idol-worship. But in very many instances, education has done nothing to supply the place made vacant by the exorcism of superstition. Hence the importance of philosophical and historical instruction in connection with Christian missions; so that provision may be made for the deep-seated needs of the spirit of man, so that a reasonable faith in the Supreme may be encouraged, and so that the evidences of supernatural Christianity may be presented in a convincing and satisfying form. It should be the aim of the Church, in her missionary capacity, to replace idolatry, not by an irrational atheism or a degrading secularism, but by intelligent and scriptural Christianity. - T.
I. HUMAN OPPRESSION. The sad story of the human race is, to a very large extent, the history of human oppression. "Man's inhumanity to man ' may well "make us mourn" as we dwell upon it. And among his various cruelties and wrongs we have to give oppression a prominent place - political, domestic, personal oppression. It includes the denial of the rights of manhood and of womanhood, the exacting of hard and burdensome labor, or of heavy and excessive tribute, or of a dishonoring and hurtful homage, the inflicting of pain and suffering of many kinds. It seems to be in the nature of sin to harden men's hearts against one another, until they not only endure but positively enjoy the sight of the oppression they impose. Ezekiel speaks of" the yokes of Egypt." No doubt that country, in the plenitude of its power, exacted tribute, enforced labor, laid heavy burdens upon many of its own subjects or (as in an earlier time, when Israel was under its heel) on other peoples. But when the Babylonian power came up and subdued it, its hard hold on these had to be relaxed, its yoke was broken in twain. This, in the providence of God, has frequently happened. Power becomes wealthy; wealth leads to luxury and indulgence; indulgence leads to effeminacy and decline; weakness succumbs to some other power that has arisen; and then and thus its "yoke is broken."
II. THE SERVITUDE OF SIN. "Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants [slaves] ye are to whom ye obey? Ye were the servants [slaves] of sin" (Romans 6:16, 17). Sin conducts, by sure steps, to spiritual bondage; it lays a hard and heavy yoke upon the soul; it may be that of a grasping selfishness, or of an absorbing worldliness, or of a degrading vice, or of such a fatal habit as that of procrastination. But it is a hard bondage, a cruel yoke, which must be broken if there is to be spiritual liberty and eternal life. God, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, can and does break this deadly yoke.
1. He fills the soul with a sense of shame, and with a holy, renewing sorrow.
2. He leads the awakened soul to a Divine Savior, in whoso love and service the bond is broken.
3. He gives to the seeking, trustful soul the cleansing, liberating power of his Holy Spirit; and thus the yoke is broken and the man is freed. There is another yoke of an entirely different nature; it is in -
III. THE SERVICE OF JESUS CHRIST. "Take my yoke," he says; "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." In that which is the service of love and of righteousness there is real liberty and lasting joy. - C.
I. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CHANCE IN HISTORY. Men often suppose themselves to account for events when they attribute them to fortune, to caprice, to chance. But chance is no cause, it is the name for our ignorance of causes - a useful name if its signification is not transformed, and if in its use men do not impose upon themselves.
II. THE OPERATION OF DIVINELY INSTITUTED LAWS EFFECTS CHANGES IN THE PROSPERITY AND POWER OF NATIONS. Some of these laws are physical, some intellectual, others moral. They are of the greatest interest to the historian, who traces their action and interaction, their cooperation and conflict, as these are manifested in the rapid or gradual, the unobserved or conspicuous, changes which take place in the relations of great communities, and in the succession of one people to another in the development of the great drama of humanity.
III. YET TO THE THOUGHTFUL MIND LAW IN ITSELF IS INSUFFICIENT TO ACCOUNT FOR HISTORY. The mind craves, not indeed for something competing with law, but for something behind law, expressing itself by means of law. Law in its phenomenal manifestations is mere uniformity. Now, just as our actions may be accounted for on their phenomenal side by physical laws, whilst yet we know that purpose, intention, thought, do really and in the highest sense govern our actions, and that we are therefore moral and responsible beings; so in human history religion teaches us to look through facts and laws to Mind beyond them all, controlling, inspiring, and governing them all, in a word, accounting for them all. That is to say, we are taught by the prophet to see God in history. And reflection shows us how reasonable and justifiable is this view.
IV. A GENERAL DIVINE PURPOSE RUNS THROUGHOUT HUMAN HISTORY. It is God who raises one nation and humiliates another. These changes may for the most part be justified by the well-informed and thoughtful student. It is admitted that there are cases which occasion us the greatest perplexity. But the obscure must be interpreted by the plain. We should never forget that we are ignorant, short-sighted, and very fallible beings, and should avoid dogmatizing upon individual cases. But the reflecting and pious man will make a point of recognizing the Divine hand in the affairs of nations, and in the continuity of human history. This lesson has been taught most effectively by modern philosophers of history, from Herder to Hegel, and from Hegel to Bunsen.
V. OUR ACCEPTANCE OF THIS PRINCIPLE DOES NOT INVOLVE THE APPROVAL OF HUMAN PASSIONS WHICH IMPEL TO MANY HISTORICAL CHANGES, OR THE DELIGHT IN HUMAN SUFFERINGS WHICH FOLLOW UPON THEM. As a matter of fact, God in his wisdom makes use of many agencies and instrumentalities of a character which cannot be approved. The ambitions, jealousies, envies, etc., which animate nations and rulers are overruled by the Lord of all to secure ends which appear good and desirable to him. "He maketh the wrath of man to praise him." It is not for a moment to be supposed that the King of heaven takes any delight in the bereavements and desolations which befall the innocent as a consequence of those wars which are incident to the achievement of great, historically important ends. We can only reconcile much that happens with our highest view of the Divine character by remembering that God has a higher end before him than human enjoyment, and that in the execution of his purposes he is not limited by the horizon of time.
VI. ALL THE EVENTS WHICH TRANSPIRE AMONG THE NATIONS SHALL ULTIMATELY BE SEEN TO SUBSERVE MORAL AND RELIGIOUS ENDS, ESPECIALLY THE GLORY OF DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS. This is the faith of the godly, and is encouraged by revelation. Faith shall be justified. "The day shall declare it." - T.
I. THAT A CONFLICT BETWEEN NATIONS MAY BE REGARDED AS A PERSONAL COMBAT. The bulk of an army are tools, who, for considerations of pay, fight the battles of their sovereign king. It would often be more just, and more advantageous, if the persons who pick a national quarrel would personally and singly fight it out. Yet even the military equipment of a king is simply his arm magnified. Hence we call weapons of war arms. They are the artificial arm of the monarch. In almost every ease the cause of war is a personal matter between two sovereigns, or their representatives. The nation is expected to identify itself, willingly or unwillingly, with their sovereign, and act as his confederates.
II. THAT IN SUCH PERSONAL COMBAT THE ARM IS AN ESSENTIAL INSTRUMENT. As many animals are furnished by God with weapons of defense, so the human arm, so skillfully constructed, is man's chief instrument in battle. Without question, it was designed to serve other purposes. It is more adapted for industrial pursuits than for martial engagements. Yet, as self-existence is a law of nature, the right arm has an unspeakable value in defending one's self against a foe. In armament it is man's masterpiece. Shield and sword are reduced to uselessness unless there be a brawny arm.
III. THAT THE CREATOR OF MAN CAN WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN MAN'S ARM AT PLEASURE. No part of man's nature has been constructed by himself. No part can be maintained in vigor by himself. He is, in every part and through every moment, dependent on his Maker. As man cannot make an arm, neither can he maintain its life and energy. The strength of that arm depends on occult forces of nerve and ligament, that mail knows little about. He is just discovering some of the channels and laws through which his Divine Creator works: so far he can act with God; but still the Fourth of life is in God alone. Wisely did King David recognize that it was God who "taught his hands to war, and his fingers to fight." The maintenance of vitality rests with God. Every increment of strength is due to him. His favor invigorates us; his frown makes us weak. The man of giant strength is but an infant in God's hands. Without his upholding power our arms would fall at once, paralyzed at our side.
IV. THAT IF GOD BREAKS THE ARM OF ANY COMBATANTS DEFEAT ENSUES. How completely is God the Arbiter in every battle! Very clearly, we are told, God inter poses, in a hundred different ways, to decide the wage of war. If a spirit of timidity or fear fills the hearts of rank-and-file, the arm on which the monarch depended is broken. If treachery lurks in any department of the military service, or even in one man's breast, the arm of the king is broken. On the other hand, God has a sword of his own, and there are times when he places this in the hand of a combatant. There are times when God gives extraordinary strength, or skill, to a human arm. For wise reasons his assistance is not seen, his action is not discovered. Men put down the result to chance or to the fortunes of war. It is a common failing to forget God. We may always have God's strength in our arm if we will. If we keep closely at his side, and calmly do his will, he will surely be on our side if we are forced into battle. Then we shall feel that the battle is not ours; it is the Lord's. - D.
I. GOD'S ACTION ON ALL THE NATIONS. God was in an especial sense "the God of Israel," but certainly not in an exclusive sense. He was, as he is, the God of all the nations. He was observing, directing, overruling everywhere. If Egypt fell, it was because he "broke the arm of Pharaoh;" if Babylon triumphed, it was because he made it strong in the day of battle. Statesmen and warriors were supposing that all events were the outcome of their policy and of their strategy; but, in fact, there was a power behind them and all their schemes, laying low or raising up, bringing into humiliation or causing to succeed. And there has been no age of the world, as there has been no part of the earth, in which the Divine hand has not been engaged either in breaking or in building.
II. THE BROKEN ARM OF INIQUITY. We may truly say that God is continually occupied in "breaking the arm" of wrong and sin. He does so in one of two ways.
1. Either by his direct active interposition; so touching the chain of events at one of its links, as to bring about disaster; intervening at some point by the introduction of some factor which makes all the difference in the end.
2. Or by the steadfast action of his wise and holy laws - those laws which compel all wrong-doing to others and all violation of what is due to ourself to lead down to weakness, to misery, to death. Iniquity often seems very strong; it is sustained by stone fortresses, by armies and navies, by high rank, by great wealth, by numbers, by deep-rooted customs, by venerable institutions. Nevertheless, it is on its way to overthrow and ruin. For God has designed to "break its arm." He may do so by unexpected means; he may take longer time than we wish he would take in the process; but he will accomplish it. He will bring Divine justice, Divine wisdom, Divine penalty, to bear upon and against it, and its power will be broken. It is a vain thing to be on the side of prevailing wrong; for if we are, God is against us, and, sooner or later, we shall "be confounded."
III. THE STRENGTHENED ARM OF RECTITUDE. It may be that God will "strengthen the arm... of Babylon," of some "power" or of some man who has no claim on the ground of righteousness, doing this for the accomplishment of some wise and holy purpose. But there is no promise to unrighteousness. Those who regard not the works nor the Word of the Lord need not expect that he will "build them up" (see Psalm 28:5). It is those who fear him, who seek to do his will and to follow in the footsteps of his Son, - it is they who may hope to have "their arm strengthened," their work crowned with success, their hopes fulfilled. Not, indeed, that all good men will receive from God all that they would like to have; for we cannot "choose our own inheritance" with any deep wisdom, and it is well for us that many things on which we set our heart should be, as they are, denied us of God. But, making all needful exceptions, the soul that earnestly seeks God's face and strives to live his life will find that his Divine Lord will "strengthen his arm" by;
1. Directing his course in ways of competence and peace.
2. "Strengthening him with strength in his soul," and thus fitting him for all duty, trial, and temptation.
3. Making him the source of blessing to those whom he seeks to serve in the fields of sacred usefulness. - C.