Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
prophecy has in view the final conflict between good and evil in this world. Already, in the preceding prophecies, Ezekiel has been portraying the prosperous times of Messiah's reign; and now he has a vision of an age still more remote, when shall come the final clash of arms between God and a rebel world. We may take it that Satan, or Apollyon, will be the real leader in this final onset. All the forces of infidelity, and superstition, and v?, and earthly pomp, and carnal force will be led against the kingdom of Emmanuel. The conflict will be terrible, and defeat of the world-power will be complete and irreparable. The description of Ezekiel is most vivid and impressive. It was thrown in this parabolic form in order to meet the exigencies of that particular age.
I. MARTIAL AGGRESSION IS GOD'S SNARE FOR DESTRUCTION. When a man resists every friendly counsel of God, God allows him to pursue his own way, and removes even the restraints which before impeded his ruin. In a similar way he deals with kings and with nations. "Ephraim is joined to his idols: let him alone!" Thus God dealt with Pharaoh. In the first stages of Moses' intercourse with Pharaoh, we read, "And Pharaoh hardened his heart." But as the negotiation proceeded, and the proud king grew more obstinate, we read, "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart." It is true that "God tempteth no man," that is, allures no man into sin. Yet, by taking out of the way former barriers or ceasing to remonstrate, God helps on the final catastrophe. There is no advantage in prolonging the crisis. There is great disadvantage. Give a bad man full scope for his vile passions, and he soon rushes into the pit of ruin. In this way God purposes to deal with Gog: "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee." Nevertheless, God continues to say, "I will cause thee to come up and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel." Worldly success is only a covered snare.
II. HUMAN WEAPONS ARE POWERLESS AGAINST GOD'S KINGDOM. "I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand." Neither material instruments of assault nor human violence of any kind can injure the kingdom of Christ. That kingdom is spiritual, and has its foundations in the spiritual natures of men, so that ordinary weapons of war are pointless. The Jewish rulers imagined that they had uprooted the cause of Jesus when they nailed him with iron spikes to the tree; but three days later they discovered how powerless they were, and how deathless his kingdom was. If falsehood shall prove itself mightier than truth; if rebellion shall show itself mightier than loyalty; if wrong can develop a greater power than right; - then, and then alone, will God's kingdom succumb. In this great contest weapons must be suitable, or they will break in the warrior's hand and leave him dismayed and defeated.
III. WAR MATERIAL CONVERTED INTO BLESSING. "The shields and bucklers, the bows and arrows, the handstaves and the spears," served as household fuel for seven years. The period mentioned is intended to denote a sacred completeness. Not once merely, but often, the weapons of infidelity have been changed into instruments of righteousness. The devil's artillery has been turned against himself. Lord Lyttelton and Mr. West undertook to explode Christianity, and sat down to prepare their weapons; but they came from the armory with a splendid defense of the Christian faith. Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to assail the infant Church; but on the way he changed sides, and sharpened all his weapons for the defense of the gospel. The death-bed of Voltaire was enough to drive all his followers into the ranks of King Jesus. Tom Paine's writings were so coarse and scurrilous that present-day infidels am put to shame by them. The faggots of martyr-fires have kindled a light which has led many into heaven.
IV. GOD'S FOES ARE DOOMED TO A TERRIBLE DESTRUCTION. The prophet's delineation of the overthrow of proud antagonists is graphic and harrowing. The keen sword of death is used with terrific force. The numbers of the dead become a peril to health and to life. A considerable valley is set apart as a necropolis. Seven months, i.e. a whole cycle of time, is required for the sickening work of sepulture. So terrible and. complete is the carnage that the whole population of the land employs itself in burying the dead. Not a single soldier among the foe survives to tell to posterity the tale of woe. It is an unsparing slaughter. Thus shall perish all who refuse to serve their Maker and to work righteousness. Obedience is life; rebellion is death - death without alleviation.
V. BASEST DISHONOR IS ADDED TO DESTRUCTION. With the eye of a prophet Ezekiel foresees the contempt and dishonor in store for the slain. Their dead bodies shall become a banquet for the brutes. Birds of prey shall feed upon human flesh. Wild beasts from the forest shall quench their thirst in the blood of warrior-kings. The doom, though severe, is equitable. These slaves of wickedness - braggarts it crime - had degenerated to a level lower than the beasts of the field, and lower than the beasts shall be their final portion. As men fear dishonor more than they fear death, so, with thoughtful kindness, God would deter them from sin by the prospect of coming shame.
VI. GOD'S TERRITORY SHALL BE PURIFIED. "That they may cleanse the land." Whatever measures are required to purge God's universe from sin, these measures shall, sooner or later, be employed. Our God has transcendent patience with men; but no advantage can accrue to an undue prolonging of probation. When measures of restoration to virtue have been well tried, then the earth shall be swept of its impurities with the besom of death. The God of holiness will not allow his house to be defiled forever. The evil of sin shall cease. God shall be "all in all." The final triumph of God is certain. As surely as this globe was created this globe shall be purified. The same voice that said, "Let there be light," has said also, "There shall be no more death." To the eye of the inspired prophet this grand terminus of evil was visible. "It is done! saith the Lord God;" and Gods promise is as sure as its performance. - D.
I. GOD'S RIGHTEOUS INTERPOSITION. God Permits evil - in the form of bad institutions, wicked governments or powers, unprincipled men - to go certain lengths, and when they think they have finally established themselves he lays his hand upon them, takes away their weapons, reduces them to helplessness and humiliation. "A fool doth not understand it," but the very prosperity of the wicked is only a preparation for their utter and irrecoverable downfall; "When the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed forever" (Psalm 92:6, 7). God interposes to smite the weapons out of the hand of the disloyal and of the mischievous when:
1. He causes death to overtake the guilty before his time. And he is continually doing this; for under the action of his laws, which are at once severe and beneficent, the vicious man is the victim of his vice and the violent man of his violence. The one can sow no more of his pernicious seed, and the other can do no more of his lawless harm, because God has smitten them, and their weapons fall from their hand.
2. He makes the unprincipled adventurer to suffer an irretrievable disaster; when the man who has climbed to a throne by usurpation and bloodshed, and wielded authority in the exercise of despotic power, suffers some disaster which sends him to the lonely rock or to the quiet country house for the rest of his days.
3. He breaks the schemes of the wily plotter; when some dissatisfied, and consequently malignant and even (it may be) murderous citizen determines to wreak his vengeance on those whom he takes to be his enemies, and when, in the midst of his machinations, his plans are discovered and overthrown.
(1) Let the wicked pause before they begin their wicked course. They take many things into the account; let them not leave us, is one out of their reckoning, that when they have reached the field of their proposed achievement, though they may reach it well armed and eager for the fight, there may come down upon them, out of the heavens, a blow which will smite their weapons out of their hand, and leave them "naked to their enemies."
(2) Let the righteous hope, even if they be outnumbered and out-weaponed. It is not every well-equipped army that wins the battle. Victory does not necessarily go with the latest rifles and the cannon that carry the furthest. There is one Power that presides over all the forces that are at work; when he will and at he will, he will interpose on behalf of his children, and those who seemed so strong and so invincible will stand like a disarmed soldier in the midst and in the power of his enemies. It is worth while, by way of contrast, to glance at -
II. GOD'S GRACIOUS RESUMPTION. He who "smites the bow out of the hand" of the enemy is the One who gently and graciously takes the sword out of the hand of his own soldiers, that he may place on their head the "crown of righteousness," the "crown of life." When God sends the feebleness which can do no more active work below, or when he comes to us in death, he resumes the weapon he once put into our hands, and either (in the one case) bids us wait his time and our reward, or (in the other) he takes us where a stronger and a wiser hand will wield a far better weapon in a much nobler sphere. - C.
I. A SERIOUS PENALTY. The hosts of the invader should encounter those whom they thought to defeat, and be by them defeated and slain; they would perish where they fought, beneath the heavens, on the open field. Now, a life of sin is only too likely to lead to such a death as men would not willingly die, and such a death "on the open field" of battle is fitted to suggest:
1. A death of violence, or in some way that is unnatural. Sin begets strife, hatred, jealousy, the dominance of some evil passion; and in how many cases does this lead to the loss of life by some unnatural means! Instead of passing peacefully away, according to the order of nature, dying under his own roof and in his own chamber, a sinful man, more especially if he be a man who indulges in the greater transgressions, is likely enough to die an unnatural death in some form or other.
2. A death in loneliness. The hosts of Cog were to be stretched in the valley, and, though they would indeed keep one another company, how different is the near neighborhood of wounded and dying soldiers from the presence of the nearest and dearest of human kindred and of beloved friends! How often has a sinful course led the erring one to die a lonely death, far from a father's grasp, from a mother's ministry, from the sympathy and succor of dear ones at home!
3. A death in the midst of life. It is not the aged, but the strong and the young, who go forth to battle and die on the open field. The army of the slain in the open field is a large company of men who have perished before their time; their days are incomplete; they have been cut off from many (or from some) of the possibilities of life, of its engagements and achievements. This, too, is the frequent, the continually recurring, consequence of an evil course. They who enter upon it may reckon that their life will not hold all, or nearly all, the blessings which are the heritage of the holy and the wise.
4. A death without the consolations of piety. These are seldom, indeed, found "on the open field;" and they are usually absent from the experience of the man who abandons himself to an evil life. But while these words are meant as a penalty, they may be regarded, on the other hand, as -
II. AN ACCEPTABLE PROMISE. For the Christian workman would most willingly "fall upon the open field" of sacred usefulness. There is no vision of death more welcome to an earnest spirit than that of an end arrived at in the very midst of useful and fruitful activities. Good it may be to spend some months in retirement and contemplation before the eyes close in death and open in immortality; yet shall we not say that it is better to work on, in untiring and joyous devotion, building up the kingdom of Christ, cheering and comforting the feeble, raising up the fallen, leading the undecided into the fold of the good Shepherd, striking strong and faithful blows for righteousness and heavenly wisdom, and, "falling on the field" of spiritual conflict, pass from the battle-ground of earth to the peaceful shores and the blessed scenes of heaven? - C.
I. WHAT IS GOD'S NAME? An examination of the passages in Old Testament Scripture in which the expression occurs will convince the student that by the Name we are to understand the attributes and the character of God. It is generally held that the name Jehovah signifies the self-existing Being; and it might be argued that all Divine perfections are involved in and may be developed from the very definition. But it will be found that when "the Name" of God is used, as in this passage, it calls attention to these two attributes of Deity.
1. He is righteous in his judgments.
2. He is faithful to his promises.
II. AMONG WHOM WOULD GOD MAKE HIS NAME KNOWN? To whom would he have his attributes and the characteristics of his moral government revealed with clearness and unmistakable power? The text gives an explicit answer to this question.
1. Among the Hebrews: "In the midst of my people Israel." These, his people, had been prone to forget or to misunderstand his Name, and needed that their attention should be recalled to the revelation which Jehovah had given of himself.
2. Among the heathen: "The heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel." In this case it was not a revival of knowledge that had lapsed or grown dim; it was a fresh communication. Those who had trusted in their false gods should have their foolish confidence shaken; those who had thought lightly of Jehovah should learn to revere his power, and (better still) should learn to contemplate the moral attributes of the Supreme Power, and thus receive a special illumination, which might be for their spiritual good.
III. HOW WOULD GOD EFFECT THIS END, AND MAKE HIS NAME KNOWN?
1. By delivering his people. The dangers threatening Israel were great, and their foes were formidable. All the more marvelous was the interposition wrought upon their behalf. The Name of God, as the great Deliverer, was manifested and glorified by the experience of the rescued and saved.
2. By destroying the enemies of his people. In this manner the fame of the Most High, the God of hosts, was spread abroad, so that distant nations were impressed by the revelation of his power, by the proof of his universal sway.
APPLICATION. The preacher and teacher of religion should never lose sight of the fact that his one great aim is the honor and exaltation of the Name of God. This is often utterly misrepresented, either through the childishness or the malice of the enemies of religion, and it is affirmed to involve an unworthy conception of the Deity, as though in vanity God delighted in the adulations of men. This is anthropomorphism indeed. The Name of God is truth, righteousness, holiness, and love. To manifest and extol his Name is to display the supremacy of his glorious attributes. And than this man can have no higher object at which to aim. If man's chief end is to glorify God, if human life does not find its law and its aim in itself, then it is evident that the exaltation of the Divine Name is a worthy and most noble end for the Christian man, and for the Christian minister, to set before him. - T.
I. THIS FACT IS ENTIRELY CONTRARY TO HUMAN UNDERSTANDING AND EXPECTATION.
II. THIS FACT IS AN EXEMPLIFICATION OF A DIVINE PRINCIPLE THAT THE BATTLE. IS NOT TO THE STRONG,
III. THIS FACT IS A PROOF OF GOD'S CARE AND SOLICITUDE FOR HIS OWN.
IV. AND OF GOD'S UNIVERSAL GOVERNMENT AND CONTROL.
V. THIS FACT IS AN EARNEST OF FINAL AND EVERLASTING SECURITY AND VICTORY FOR THOSE WHOM GOD DELIVERS AND REDEEMS.
APPLICATION. In preaching the gospel of Christ, stress should be laid upon the Lord's power, as well as upon his love. Christ, in his resurrection, was proved to be "the Son of God with power." The same might which was then manifested is ever exercised for the protection and preservation of all sincere Christians. They who adhere faithfully to the Savior need to be encouraged by the assurance that Omnipotence is upon their side. Enemies and opposition they may have to encounter; but the Lord will deliver their foes into their hands. They shall be more than conquerors through him that loved them. There is therefore no ground for fear or for depression. The Lord shall fight for them, and they shall hold their peace. In returning and in rest they shall be saved. They shall pass through victory to rest. - T.
I. DEGRADATION. The unclean birds of the air and the foul beasts of the field eating the flesh and drinking the blood "of the princes of the earth"! To what a miserable and shameful death has human greatness, human dignity, fallen! For those who had sat on the loftiest seats of honor, and moved in the highest spheres of action, to lie unburied on the enemy's soil, and to furnish a meal for carrion birds and for "four-footed beasts"! Could dishonor or degradation go further than this? And is not degradation the constant end of persistent wrong, of willful and wanton disobedience to the Word of God? And shall we not acknowledge, when we think of it, that some of those things which seem to most men allowable, and some which seem even honorable and desirable, are, in the sight of God, deplorable and condemnable, because they are really a degradation and a descent? This is so when:
1. The powers of the human soul are exhausted upon very small things; when men seek their chief satisfaction, not in their relationship to God, in their service of Christ, but in the petty honors and conventional proprieties, and sensuous gratifications of this passing world. To allow the things of utter unimportance to absorb the manifold and noble powers of heart and mind, leaving no room for the heavenly and the Divine, is surely a pitiful degradation. Men do not know, they cannot see, how they are lowering their life, how they are dishonoring themselves. Similarly and more obviously when:
2. The lower passions tyrannize over the soul; when covetousness, or the craving for alcoholic or for social excitement, or the demon of lust, or jealousy, or overweening and maddening ambition, possesses the soul and leads it astray; any one of these passions wilt lead a man down into very dark depths; he has become the prey of the spoiler.
3. Human life is reduced to a pursuit of mere amusement or passing gratification.
4. The forces of a country are employed, not in the enrichment and the elevation of the people, but in fighting the armies and despoiling the strength and wealth of neighboring powers.
II. REVERSAL. Ordinarily and naturally birds and beasts provide the sacrifice for men. Here, however, the case is reversed, and men provide a sacrifice for them. Properly, men sit down to the table on which bird and beast are set forth for food; here, however, men are placed upon the table, and bird and beast are the partakers. What a strange and pitiful reversal! But under the dominion of sin, what do we look for but anomalies and reversals?
1. Instead of man moving constantly upward, we find him moving steadily downward.
2. Instead of habit being the faithful and valuable servant of man, it becomes its tyrannous and unrelenting master.
3. Instead of asking how we can serve men at every turn and in every possible way, we ask how we can use them, how we can make them serve us.
4. Instead of our seeking God with the eagerness that will not be denied, we hold aloof or wander away, and he is seeking us with a patience that does not fail and that follows us through many rebellious years.
5. Instead of the felt nearness of God being a heritage and a joy, it becomes an inconvenience and an intrusion.
6. Instead of death being regarded as the beginning of the larger and better life, it is treated as the melancholy end of the life on earth. But Christ comes to revolutionize and reverse the anomalies and the reverses of sin; and thus to bring again the primeval blessedness. Happy they who learn of him and follow him, for they will be restored to the truth and the life which they have lost! - C.
I. THAT GOD REVEALS HIMSELF AS THE ACTIVE RULER IN HUMAN AFFAIRS. Such men in Chaldea as had faith in their idols would attribute the prosperity of their kingdom and their success in war to the power of their deities. Others, and probably the larger portion, would conclude that military fortunes were matters of chance, and that the gods took little, if any, interest in the affairs of men. Human industry, sagacity, and courage, - these seemed then, as now, the main factors in success. The general impression was that the gods lived in remote serenity, sublimely indifferent to the needs and strifes of men. Unbelief, violence, and stoicism followed. Our God took pains to dispel this mistake. The living God takes a Fatherly interest in every man - in his personal, domestic, and national concerns. Not a hair of his head can be touched without the cognizance of God. He administers joy and sorrow, success and disappointment, with judicious care. The God of heaven manifests a friendly activity in all human affairs, as great as if this globe were the sole object of his care. "In all our afflictions he is afflicted."
II. THAT GOD REVEALS HIMSELF AS THE REAL FOUNT OF ALL BLESSING. It Was God's endeavor to make it clear to the world that Israel's prosperity was Jehovah's gift; that Israel's exile was the effect of Jehovah's anger. When Israel escaped from Egyptian bondage, plainly it was by the interposition of Jehovah. Their successful march through the desert was due to the leadership of God. Their triumphal march through Canaan was widely attributed to the personal power of Jehovah. As often as they loyally served him he smiled upon their fields and gave them prolific harvests. As often as they forsook him disaster befell them. If they asked his guidance he directed them in the choice of a King. From his hand they had personal liberty, just laws, beneficent government, agricultural plenty, national security, and the joys of ennobling religion. He taught their "hands to war, their fingers to fight." Unless the Hebrews were as blind as a door-post, they must have perceived that every good they had came from the liberal hand of Jehovah. To them he was the Fountain of life.
III. THAT GOD REVEALS HIMSELF TO THE WORLD AS THE WORKER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. "The heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity." We must never lose sight of the fact that God had raised up Israel specially to reveal to the world the righteousness of God. The Hebrews were ordained to educate the world in the truths and principles of righteousness. They were appointed to be par excellence a moral people, a nation in whom conscience was highly developed. The gods of paganism were renowned for strength and for cunning. The idea of righteousness they had not deified. Hence Jehovah was concerned to be known as essential purity. To him sin is intolerable - the root of all discord and all misery. The exile was no haphazard. It was Divine punishment for grievous sin. Defeat in war was the rod of God's righteous anger. Hence also the Jewish subjugation would not be permanent. The element of life was in the people still; and, as soon as repentance and moral renovation appeared, return to independence and to Palestine followed. It was a moral discipline.
IV. THAT PREVIOUS REVELATIONS OF GOD WERE PREPARATORY TO THE GREAT REVELATION OF HIS GRACE. "Therefore thus saith the Lord, Now will I... have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy Name." The glory of God is his compassion - pure, unstinted, self-sacrificing love. To Moses, who craved to see God's glory, the responding voice proclaimed, "The Lord God, merciful and gracious." Micah asked, in profound surprise, "Who is a God like unto thee?" In what respect did he mean? In the splendors of his kingly state? In the might of his arm? In the range of his government? Nay. "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, transgression, and sin?" Herein lies the central excellence of Jehovah, viz. that, providing for the violated interests of justice by his own suffering, he freely forgives, renovates, and uplifts the guilty sons of men. Men have not seen the full significance of his Name, nor conjectured the dazzling radiance of his goodness, until they have seen his mercy - seen him as the Healer of the fallen. But his mercy is a righteous mercy. Whom he pardons, he purifies. Righteousness is the foundation on which he erects the magnificent structure of his grace. So far as we know at present, this is the climax of his self-revelations.
V. THAT THE PERPETUAL ENJOYMENT OF HIS FAVOR IS GUARANTEED BY THE GIFT OF HIS SPIRIT. "Neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God." The possession of prosperity and blessing outside a man depends upon the state of feeling and desire within a man. And a right state of mind Godward is secured to the genuine Israelite by the indwelling of God's mighty Spirit. If men cannot withstand temptation in their native and unaided state, God will not leave them to themselves. As the supreme culmination of all blessing, God will impart himself to humble, suppliant men. He will weave his own Spirit into our spirit. He will unite himself with us by indissoluble bonds - will pour his life into the empty channels of our nature. His great salvation is first internal, then external. We cannot miss our highest destiny if God, by his Spirit, be within us. Then, surely, we have the highest guarantee of safety, elevation, and noble joy. We shall be renovated in the very root-principles of our nature, molded into a higher life by the silent workmanship of his Spirit. His mercy will never forsake us. - D.
I. GOD MUCH MISUNDERSTOOD. How seriously and sadly God has been and is misunderstood is seen in the facts that
(1) his very existence has been denied;
(2) he has been mistaken for a blind, unintelligent Force, without any knowledge or character;
(3) his unity has been disregarded, and his manifold activities referred to a plurality of heavenly powers;
(4) he has been believed to Be occupied with himself and indifferent to the conduct and the character of his children;
(5) he has been represented as partial, or as malevolent, or as unrelentingly and inconsiderately severe, or as simply good-natured without any concern for the righteousness of his rule and the moral integrity of his subjects, or as tied and bound by the laws which he has instituted, so as to be wholly unable to interpose in the affairs of men.
II. GOD IMPERFECTLY EXPLAINED. Many, indeed, have been the interpreters who have undertaken to "justify the ways of God to men;" and very unsatisfactory have their explanations been. They may have given a measure of comfort to a few and for a brief time. But as the world has moved on, and "the thoughts of men have widened," most of these solutions have gone their way, and given place to others which in their turn have been exploded and have disappeared.
III. GOD INTERPRETING HIMSELF. Cowper's line is true enough -
"God's his own Interpreter." He does make plain that which was inexplicable and perplexing. Thus we find that (vers. 21-24) the heathen nations were in time made to see that the Jews were not taken captive by them because (as they once ignorantly supposed) Jehovah was unable to protect them, but because he was determined to punish them for their transgressions. And we find further (vers. 28, 29) that Israel at length understood that he who sent them into captivity and then brought them forth therefrom was in very deed and truth "the Lord their God," whom they should serve, and in whose service they would find security and peace. We find ourselves perplexed by many insoluble problems; serious difficulties respecting our own human life, and the dealings of our Divine Father with ourselves; more serious difficulty and perhaps distressing darkness as to God's government of the human world. We wonder why he permitted this and that; why he does not act when and how we should expect that he would; how he can be both just and kind when such and such things are as they are and as they ought not to be, etc. Let us: 1. Remember that in the light of the present we can understand much of the once-mysterious past. 2. Be assured that in the light of the future we shall perfectly understand that which is troubling and even burdening us now. God will interpret himself, as he has been doing all through the ages of human history. We shall see one day what we now believe, that "all his paths are mercy and truth." - C.
1. Remember that in the light of the present we can understand much of the once-mysterious past.
2. Be assured that in the light of the future we shall perfectly understand that which is troubling and even burdening us now. God will interpret himself, as he has been doing all through the ages of human history. We shall see one day what we now believe, that "all his paths are mercy and truth." - C.
I. THE FACT OF ISRAEL'S SIN. Various terms are employed to set this forth: "iniquity," "trespass," "uncleanness," "transgression." By these various terms the Lord, speaking by his prophet, denotes our attitude in respect to God, in respect to moral law, in respect to the ideal of perfect human conduct. Nationally and individually, Israel transgressed and sinned.
II. THE DIVINE DISPLEASURE WITH ISRAEL. The Lord expresses this by a remarkable idiom: "I hid my face from them." The metaphor is simple. As favor is denoted by an open, radiant, smiling countenance, so the veiling or averting of the face which is clouded with a frown denotes censure and dissatisfaction. Making proper allowance for the imperfections of human speech, and the impossibility of using adequate language when referring to the Supreme, we may assuredly say that there is nothing in this representation derogatory to God. It is no infirmity, but a perfection of our Divine Ruler, that he is not indifferent to the moral conduct of his subjects. He is angry with the' wicked every day. He cannot look upon sin.
III. ISRAEL'S ENEMIES THE MINISTERS OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION. "I gave them into the hands of their adversaries;" "According to their transgressions did I unto them." There were many forms of chastisement from which Israel suffered. This was perhaps the sorest. David entreated the Lord that, whatever might happen to him, he might not be delivered into the hands of his enemies. It was an enfeebling and an humiliating form of chastisement which God's people were called upon to endure The attacks of the foe may not have been in themselves justifiable, but the Ruler of nations (as is shown nowhere more effectively than in this book) employs instruments to fulfill his purposes that are animated by no desire for justice and for the kingdom of God. The surrounding nations were employed as the scourge by which the culprits were chastised.
IV. ISRAEL'S CAPTIVITY AS PUNITIVE DISCIPLINE. It is remarkable that the chosen people of Jehovah, whose nationality was cradled (so to speak) in the bondage of Egypt, were called upon, centuries afterwards, to endure the bitter humiliation of exile and captivity in the East. They "went into captivity for their iniquity." Punishment is thus declared to be a characteristic of Divine government when dealing with the sinful and rebellious. There were certain ends answered by the special form which Israel's punishment and humiliation assumed; it is well known that, when the people returned, they returned free from the taint of idolatry and from all temptation to return to the heathen practices into which they had been misled. Still, it was punishment which they endured - punishment for past offences, as well as correction with a view to future Obedience and subjection. They learned by bitter experience that "the way of transgressors is hard." - T.
I. DELIVERANCE AND RESTORATION ARE WROUGHT BY THE SAME POWER THAT DECREED CAPTIVITY. "He that scattereth Israel shall gather." The Father who smites has pity; and he who wounds is he also who heals. The righteous Ruler and Judge who visits transgression with penalties proves himself to be the God to whom belong forgivenesses. He is not indifferent to sin; yet he delights in mercy. Men are wont to picture to themselves a Deity all wrath or all benignity. But revelation shows us, in that Supreme Being who hates sin and who corrects the sinner, "the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe."
II. TEMPORAL BLESSINGS, SECURITY AND PROSPERITY, ARE ASSURED TO THE RESTORED. To Israel the promise was given that they should, upon their return, dwell safely in their land, and none should make them afraid. We know that this promise was only partially realized, and that it must accordingly, so far as it refers to Israel, be considered as comparative; the people enjoyed a measure of security and peace beyond what they had experienced or could expect to experience. It is right to regard prosperity and all external blessings as the gift of God's goodness. And whether enjoyed now in this Christian dispensation or in the period of millennial happiness to which the Church looks forward, it must ever be considered as the gift of Divine bounty and the expression of Divine love.
III. SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS ARE PROMISED AS THE CHOICEST EXPRESSION OF GOD'S FAVOR TO THE RESTORED.
1. These blessings are conveyed by the outpouring of the Spirit of God. It is impossible to do other than refer this event to the Day of Pentecost, and to the dispensation of the Spirit which was then inaugurated. Other prophets concurred with Ezekiel in this prediction; and Peter authoritatively recognized the fulfillment of such prophetic words in the bestowal of the promise of the Father, and in that effusion which commenced at Pentecost, but which has never ceased.
2. These blessings are equivalent to the manifestation of the Divine favor. The Lord's promise was no more to hide his face from his restored ones. We know that Israel passed through many afflictions subsequently to the restoration; and that, on account of the rejection of the Messiah, Israel was condemned to endure Divine displeasure. We are therefore constrained to refer this promise to the accepted people of God, to whom is no con-detonation, and who walk in the light of his countenance.
3. These blessings are the occasion of the acknowledgment and of the hallowing of the Lord's Name. As is ever the ease, God is himself made the End of all. All things are of him and to him.
IV. IMPRESSION FOR GOOD IS TO BE PRODUCED UPON THE NATIONS. In former times Israel was a lesson for the world, as is the Church of Christ in these latter days. In the favor shown to God's people, his Divine hand is recognized. He is glorified both by the affliction and by the elevation of his own. All nations and all ages are summoned to behold the work of the Lord, to submit to his power and to adore his wisdom. His treatment of his own people does not end with them; it is designed for the instruction and for the highest benefit of mankind. There shall thus be made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God. - T.