Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. WOE, BECAUSE GOD HAS SAID IT. He is wise, and knows the end from the beginning. We are dazzled with the show of power. The neighing of the war-horse and the glitter of the golden chariot and the flashing steel of the warriors, all look like strength. But God says to Israel, "This is not your strength. This may succeed for a time, but it is an empire held by the throat, not by the heart."
II. WOE, BECAUSE WE HAVE SEEN IT. The facts of history are on our side. When Israel was pure and pious she prospered. Deliverance from Egypt was wrought out in the face of superior force; and an undisciplined band of slaves were too mighty for the cohorts of Pharaoh. So have we seen in history ever since. In the end it is "righteousness that exalteth a nation;" but shame, reproach, and defeat come to those who forsake God. Woe! Yes; the fires of London had to hum out its profligacies. The plague followed its debaucheries.
III. WOE, BECAUSE DIVINE LAWS ARE IMMUTABLE. It is not only said and seen, it is sure. For to find true help in Egypt would be like reversing the law of gravitation, or making the stars change their courses, or water forsake its level. "God is not a man, that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent." There are many Egypts - force, fashion, fraud; these have empire at times; but woe to those who, forsaking the simplicities and spiritualities of the gospel, seek "help" therefrom! - W.M.S.
Isaiah 30:1). The disposition to lean on the arm of flesh instead of trusting in the living God is not Jewish, but bureau; not peculiar to any age or dispensation, but is an abiding spiritual peril. We learn here -
I. THE FALLACY WHICH IT INVOLVES.
1. The Jews were trusting in numbers. Looking to the horses and chariots of Egypt, "because they were many" (ver. 1). We are apt to be imposed upon by numbers, to think there is safety and even salvation in them, to indulge the notion that, because we are among a great crowd or are supported by a very large majority, we are all on the side of truth and victory. Yet nothing is more uncertain; often the vast hosts have been overthrown in conflict by the devoted and determined few; often the small section, "everywhere spoken against" and despised, has been proved to be in the right and has ultimately prevailed. If God be on one side and the mightiest multitude on the other, we may be sure that the fact that "the chariots and horses are many" will be of no account at all. Divine providence is not by any means necessarily or constantly "on the side of the strongest battalions."
2. They trusted in apparent human strength. "In horsemen, because they are very strong." Many regiments of cavalry have a very imposing aspect to the eye which looks upon and judges by the surface of things; they seem invincible, overwhelming, an invaluable ally when the enemy is approaching. And not only the well-equipped cavalry in time of war; but, in time of peace and in the ordinary life of men, the sagacious counselor, the wealthy merchant, the influential statesman or courtier, the eloquent and admired speaker or pleader - these men seem to have in them a source of strength on which we may build, or to which in the time of peril we may repair. But "the Egyptians were men, and not God," etc. (ver. 3); their promised word might be broken, their overtures might turn out to be selfishly made and to be unscrupulously withdrawn; their cavalry might be ridden down by troops still stronger than they. Being but men and but horses, they might prove - as they would prove - nothing better than a broken reed, which would pierce the hand that leaned on it (Isaiah 36:6). And the human strength on which we are all so inclined to lean will very likely prove to be nothing more or better. How often the sagacity of the prudent, the riches of the wealthy, the influence of the great, the eloquence of the orator, fail us at our hour of need, and we "go down to our house" bitterly disappointed, or perhaps stricken, stripped, ruined! "The arm of flesh will fail you."
II. THE FRUIT WHICH BELONGS TO IT. "God will not call back his words" of condemnation (ver. 2; see Isaiah 30:1-13). He is grieved and offended that his word has been disobeyed, and himself distrusted and deserted. (See homily in foe.)
III. THE PENALTY WHICH WILL FOLLOW IT. God will arise against both those that seek and those that offer help; at the stretching out of his hand they will both fall together (vers. 2, 3). They who, distrusting God, put their trust in man will fall under God's high displeasure, and, according to their circumstances and the character of their error, wilt fall into discomfiture, into disrepute, into disappointment, into shame.
IV. THE RESOURCE WHICH IT OVERLOOKS. All the while that Judah was leaning on "that broken reed, Egypt," it had at hand a sure Support, an almighty Deliverer, One that would be as a lion for fearlessness and irresistible strength, One that would be as a mother-bird for swiftness and tenderness (vers. 4, 5), to whom it might have looked, and by whom it would have been graciously received and effectually succored. By our side, in our time of trouble and of peril, is an almighty Friend, whose delivering hand no army can resist, who will come at the right time to redeem us, who will treat us with more than parental tenderness and care. Shall we not go unto him, and say, "My soul trusteth in thee, yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast" (Psalm 57:1)? - C.
the "Holy One of Israel." When the mysterious name "Jehovah" was given, another name, suited for more familiar use, was commended, even this, "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Instructive suggestions come from placing these three names together, as representing
(1) God absolute;
(2) God in relations;
(3) God in history.
I. "I AM" (YEHVEH); OR, GOD ABSOLUTE.
1. This name in truth involves the namelessness of God. It is as if he had said to Moses, "You ask for my Name. 'I am,' and that is all that you can say about me." The words are not, properly speaking, a name; they are but the assertion of a fact about God. They are a refusal of God to put all his great glory into a name. A name is the brief summing-up of a definition, and since it must ever be an impossible thing wholly to define God, he cannot permit any name to be used which shall appear to assume that a definition has been found.
2. This so-called name involves the unity of God. It is as if he had said, "I am, and there is none beside me." In a magnificent conception, the prophet represents Jehovah as rising up from his place, scanning the whole universe, from the infinite east to the infinite west, and then, seating himself again upon his eternal throne, saying, "There is no God beside me; I know no other."
3. This so-called name involves the self-existence of God. It is as if he had said, "I am, and no one made me." None gave him being. On no one has he to depend. He has life in himself. He is the very Fountain of life. And thus is declared the perfect and eternal distinction between God and all created existence. Nowhere can we find uncaused being. Everywhere are effects which can be more or less perfectly traced to their causes. In Jehovah we have effect without cause. "In the beginning God." "From everlasting to everlasting thou art God." 4. This so-called name involves the eternity of God. It is as if he had said, "I am, and shall be forever." It is absolutely impossible for us to conceive of the force which can stop his existence. There is no death that can touch him.
"How dread are thine eternal years, II. "GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB," OR, GOD IN PERSONAL RELATIONS WITH US. We are to know what God, is by observing what he has been to his people, and what he has done for them. By calling himself thus, God represents himself as the Promise-maker and Promise-keeper. At the call of God Abraham had broken away from his Chaldean home, and wandered forth, a sojourner in a strange land; but God was faithful to his word, and proved towards him an unchanging Friend. Guilty Jacob fled from home, and God met him, revealing himself as the faithful Watcher, willing to be in close and gracious personal relations with him. For years, while in service, God blessed his basket and his store. When journeying back to Canaan, God defended him, subdued the enmity of Esau, and gave him prosperity and honor. Few lives are offered for our study which bear such manifest traces of the nearness and providence of God. Few names could suggest so much to us as this most simple one - the God of Jacob. Stilt God is what he has ever been - Defense of his endangered people; Wisdom for his perplexed people; Support of his enfeebled people; Correcter of his mistaken people; Savior of his sinning people. For all the actual needs of a tried, toiling, tempted life, we may come, even as the patriarchs did, into close personal relations with God, for "this is his Name forever, and this is his memorial to all generations." Graves, in his work on the Pentateuch, says, "The peculiar and incommunicable character of God is self-existence; he is the great 'I Am.' But this abstract and philosophical description of the Supreme Being was not sufficiently calculated to arrest the attention, conciliate the confidence, and command the obedience of a people entirely unaccustomed to scientific speculations, and incapable of being influenced by any other than temporal motives; it was therefore necessary to represent to them the Governor of the universe in a more circumscribed and attractive form, as the God of the fathers, who had conferred the most distinguished honors on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to whom their posterity might - from the full confidence which fact and experience supply - look up and trust as their peculiar guardian God." III. "HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL;" OR, GOD IN HISTORY. This is the new name given to God, when his dealings with our race through many generations could be reviewed, and the character of all those dealings make due impression of the character of God himself. What one thing comes out most plainly from all reviews of God in history? The prophet says, in reply, his holiness. This estimate of God may be illustrated on the following lines. 1. The Holy One or Israel has ever been faithful to his covenant. 2. The Holy One of Israel has ever required the holiness of a simple and trustful obedience. 3. The Holy One of Israel has ever been swift to mark iniquity. 4. The Holy One of Israel has ever been redeeming and saving. 5. The Holy One of Israel has ever been jealous of his supreme claims. "His glory he would never give to another." So the three great names on which we have been dwelling (1) touch us with reverence and awe; (2) open our eyes to see his working all round about us; and (3) call upon us to render to him hearty trust and lowly service. - R.T.
II. "GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB," OR, GOD IN PERSONAL RELATIONS WITH US. We are to know what God, is by observing what he has been to his people, and what he has done for them. By calling himself thus, God represents himself as the Promise-maker and Promise-keeper. At the call of God Abraham had broken away from his Chaldean home, and wandered forth, a sojourner in a strange land; but God was faithful to his word, and proved towards him an unchanging Friend. Guilty Jacob fled from home, and God met him, revealing himself as the faithful Watcher, willing to be in close and gracious personal relations with him. For years, while in service, God blessed his basket and his store. When journeying back to Canaan, God defended him, subdued the enmity of Esau, and gave him prosperity and honor. Few lives are offered for our study which bear such manifest traces of the nearness and providence of God. Few names could suggest so much to us as this most simple one - the God of Jacob. Stilt God is what he has ever been - Defense of his endangered people; Wisdom for his perplexed people; Support of his enfeebled people; Correcter of his mistaken people; Savior of his sinning people. For all the actual needs of a tried, toiling, tempted life, we may come, even as the patriarchs did, into close personal relations with God, for "this is his Name forever, and this is his memorial to all generations." Graves, in his work on the Pentateuch, says, "The peculiar and incommunicable character of God is self-existence; he is the great 'I Am.' But this abstract and philosophical description of the Supreme Being was not sufficiently calculated to arrest the attention, conciliate the confidence, and command the obedience of a people entirely unaccustomed to scientific speculations, and incapable of being influenced by any other than temporal motives; it was therefore necessary to represent to them the Governor of the universe in a more circumscribed and attractive form, as the God of the fathers, who had conferred the most distinguished honors on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to whom their posterity might - from the full confidence which fact and experience supply - look up and trust as their peculiar guardian God."
III. "HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL;" OR, GOD IN HISTORY. This is the new name given to God, when his dealings with our race through many generations could be reviewed, and the character of all those dealings make due impression of the character of God himself. What one thing comes out most plainly from all reviews of God in history? The prophet says, in reply, his holiness. This estimate of God may be illustrated on the following lines.
1. The Holy One or Israel has ever been faithful to his covenant.
2. The Holy One of Israel has ever required the holiness of a simple and trustful obedience.
3. The Holy One of Israel has ever been swift to mark iniquity.
4. The Holy One of Israel has ever been redeeming and saving.
5. The Holy One of Israel has ever been jealous of his supreme claims. "His glory he would never give to another." So the three great names on which we have been dwelling
(1) touch us with reverence and awe;
(2) open our eyes to see his working all round about us; and
(3) call upon us to render to him hearty trust and lowly service. - R.T.
Exodus 32:14; 2 Samuel 24:16; Judges 2:18, etc.). "He heard their cry... and repented, according to the multitude of his mercies", (Psalm 105:44, 45). Yet, says the prophet, "he will bring evil and not call back his words." How explain this? The explanation of it is found in the fact that there is some necessary reservation understood, if not expressed, in the Divine promise and in the Divine threatening.
I. HIS RESERVATION AND CONSISTENCY IN PROMISE. God promises life to the obedient and the faithful; yet there are those who believe themselves, and are believed, to be among this number, whose end is destruction. Has God called back his word? No; for his promise was contingent on their steadfastness, and they have forfeited all claim on his promised word (Joshua 24:20; Psalm 85:8; Ezekiel 33:13; John 15:6; Hebrews 6:4:8).
II. HIS RESERVATION AND CONSISTENCY IN THREATENING. Although God may seem to call back his words of solemn threatening, yet he "will bring evil;" he is not inconsistent with himself.
1. God reveals his wrath against sin. He declares that it shall not go unpunished; that the soul that sinneth shall die; that the wages of sin is death.
2. God offers pardon. The message of the gospel of Christ is essentially and emphatically one of Divine mercy.
3. His mercy in Christ Jesus is large and free. It is not grudging, half-hearted. It is not like the forgiveness we extend to one another (Isaiah 55:7-9). It means a complete restoration of the estranged but reconciled child to full parental favor (Luke 15:22, 23). Where, then, is the Divine consistency? It is found in the consideration that:
4. His declaration of penalty was always contingent on the attitude of the sinner. (Ezekiel 33:14, 15.) It is not intended to be absolute and unalterable, whatever be the future career of the guilty. Like all his promises, God's warnings are conditional. God does not call back his own words from their meaning or their fulfillment, he calls us back, through them, to our duty and to our right relation to himself. And, besides:
5. He does bring evil in some serious measure. For:
(1) Previous to our penitence sin has wrought suffering, sorrow, weakness.
(2) At the time of penitential return it works self-reproach, shame, anxiety.
(3) Reconciliation is inevitably followed by some kind and some degree of spiritual deterioration; there is a lost power, a lessened influence, a narrowed sphere - the absolutely irremovable consequences of repeated wrong-doing and protracted ill-being. - C.
wisdom, rather than the mysteriousness, severity, or love, of the Divine judgments and chastisements. In sending calamities "God is wise." Covering the whole subject, the following divisions may be taken.
I. God's wisdom is seen in the threatenings, which act as warnings, and increase the guiltiness of the willful.
II. God's wisdom is seen in making his threatenings conditional, so that repentance of, and forsaking, sin may be hopeful.
III. God's wisdom is seen in fulfilling threatenings, so that no willful men may dare to presume.
IV. God's wisdom is seen in what he does for sinners themselves by his judgments.
V. God's wisdom is seen in what he does by his judgments for the spiritual training of the onlookers. "He is known by the judgments which he executeth." - R.T.
I. IT IS A RELIANCE UPON BRUTE FORCE. "Horses" are symbolic of martial strength. And Judah, being peculiarly deficient in cavalry, was "tempted to trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen" (Isaiah 36:8, 9). Famed in Homer was Egyptian Thebes, with the hundred gates, and the two hundred men who issued forth from each with horses and chariots ('Iliad,' 9:382). The memory of the pursuit of the Israelites at the time of the Exodus contained the picture of those chariots and horsemen (Exodus 14:6, 9). They were in request in Solomon's time (1 Kings 19:26). Egyptian cavalry, the very nerve and sinew of war; Egypt who possesses them, the most coveted ally. "On horses will we fly...on the swift will we ride," was the word of the party. Such was their "creaturely confidence." These horses were but "flesh," and "all flesh is as grass," and withers when the breath of the Eternal blows upon it. The strength of the creature is but the strength of the dependent nature; folly, then, to lean on that which is itself a leaning thing.
II. IT IS A RELIANCE UPON MAN, AND NOT UPON GOD. Here man, as usual in the Hebrew prophets, is sharply opposed to God; the dependent, the frail, the mortal, to the self-dependent, the Strong, the Immortal and Eternal; the tool to the hand that holds it, the might that alone can render it effective. The axe, the saw, the staff: they are dead and helpless things, until they are brought into connection with spiritual force. So horses and chariots can avail naught, unless they be the instruments of the Lord of hosts, the engines of a spiritual and enduring policy in the earth. Man himself, without tools and weapons, is the most defenseless of animals; with them, yet still without God, he is in no better plight.
III. IT IS TYPICAL OF IRRELIGIOUSNESS IN GENERAL. The folly is not so much in looking to material resources and defenses as in "not looking to the Holy One of Israel" - in "not consulting Jehovah." All worldliness is negative, and there lies its weakness. It is a strategy of life which defeats itself; moving far from the true base of operations, and finding itself presently cut off, without the chance of return. Again, it is a departure from the Source of true wisdom. The "wisdom of the wise, and the understanding of the understanding ones" - this is policy, prudence. In Jehovah is a higher wisdom than that of Jewish politicians; his is wisdom united with perfect rectitude. And without reverence for him, the "fear of Jehovah," men do not partake of this higher wisdom.
IV. THE END OF EGYPTIAN HELP. In the first place, the hollowness of the Jewish policy will be exposed. The word of Jehovah has gone forth, and will not come back to him void. For it is itself spiritual force, truth, mightier than any material force that is known. Put into the mouth of a prophet (Jeremiah 1:9), those words become mighty as fire, to devour all that stays their course as wood (Jeremiah 5:14). "All that the Lord speaketh must be done (Numbers 23:26). The wall of a worldly wisdom will bulge and suddenly fall, and the wisdom of the wise ones" be brought to naught. The words of the Eternal are backed up by the hand of the Eternal; and, when stretched out, the "helper" who has been so much looked up to will be seen to totter, and the "helped" one be buried beneath the ruins. - J.
I. THE LION. He is pictured watching over the holy city, the "peculiar treasure," the invisible Sanctuary of the religion and the people, as a lion over its prey, in the presence of threatening shepherds.
"As from a carcase herdsmen strive in vain
II. THE BIRD. Infinite tenderness mingles with irresistible might in the nature of God. It is no narrow view of the Divine attributes which the Bible gives. All that we see of nobility in living creatures, all traits of courage and of love, may be borrowed to enrich our representations of that nature which includes all other nature within its scope and grasp. Thus the magnificent queen of birds, no less than the magnificent king of beasts, supplies in its actions and habits a parable of eternal providence. The eagle fluttering over her young, spreading her wide wings and bearing them thereon, was a type of Jehovah's conduct to his people in the desert (Deuteronomy 32:10). So does he now hover over the city, protecting, rescuing. Nor was it otherwise in the days of the Savior, who employs also the simile of the maternal bird. Every ideal of lionhearted hero, of father, strong yet tender, of all-brooding mother, of living creatures inspired by mysterious and mighty instincts of love, helps to bring into momentary clearness some feature of the nature of him whose being is only "dark from excess of light." His voice, pleading with youth and innocence, with the unsophisticated conscience, says, "Come!" and with the sinner and the sophist, "Return!" - J.
Whoever appear against God, they are but like a multitude of poor simple shepherds shouting at a lion, who scorns to take notice of them, or so much as to alter his pace for them." Taking an illustration from another sphere of nature, the Divine calmness under excitement that alarms men may be illustrated by the following passage from Gosse: "There was a heavy swell from the westward, which, coming on in broadly heaving undulations, gave the idea of power indeed, but of power m repose, as when a lion crouches in his lair with sheathed talons and smoothed mane and half-closed eyes. But no sooner does each broad swell, dark and polished, come into contact with these walls and towers of solid rock, than its aspect is instantly changed. It rears itself in fury, dashes with hoarse roar, and apparently resistless might, against the opposition, breaks in a cloud of snowy foam, which hides the rocky eminence, and makes us for a moment think the sea has conquered. But the next, the baffled assailant is recoiling in a hundred cascades, or writhing and groveling in swirls around the feet of those strong pillars which still stand in their majesty, unmoved, immovable, ready to receive and to repel the successive assaults of wave after wave with ever the same result." There is a quality or power in man, which we call in a good sense sang-froid - a power of keeping calm in times of excitement, which we are accustomed to admire, and which may help us to realize the figure of God given in this passage. A remarkable story is told in connection with Prince Bismarck, who is a striking example of persistent keeping on at his designs, however loud may be the howlings around him. It is said that he wears an iron ring, on which is inscribed the Russian word "Nitschewo," or "It does not matter." In the winter of 1862 he was hurriedly journeying in Russia, and in answer to various appeals to his driver, he could get nothing from him save this one word, "Nitschewo." At last the sledge was upset, and taking an iron bar which had become detached from the sledge, Bismarck, in his annoyance, thought of striking the man, but feeling he had learned a life-lesson from the frequent repetition of this word, he kept the bar, and had a ring made of it to remind him, in the worryful times of life that "it does not matter." Consider -
I. THE THINGS WHICH GOD DOES NOT HEED. They go under this heading - the boasts of the proud. Empty words. Noisy deeds. The material forces which lie at the command of men. These greatly alarm us. Let but a sound of threatening rise into the air, and we cry in our fright, "The Church is in danger!" God is not disturbed. His Church is safe; the "gates of hell shall not prevail against her." Let but the nations unite for some act of violence towards the Lord's Jerusalem, and in fright her statesmen run off to Egypt for help. Jerusalem is in no real danger - a wall of Divine guardian fire is all round about her, and God will defend his own.
II. THE THINGS WHICH GOD DOES HEED. These will go under the heading - the cry of the humble. He who is best beard by man when he speaks with a "still, small voice," best hears man when he speaks to him with a "still, small voice." Not the thunder of men's anger, but the quiet evening breeze of men's humble prayer, goes right in to the throne of God. We may learn from this figure of God's patient indifference to what seems so alarming, how we may rightly estimate opposing forces and persons who show enmity to us. Most of such forces and persons had better just be passed by, left alone. "Nitschewo - It does not matter." We all of us make too much of evil things and noisy oppositions. We magnify them until they fret and weary and hinder us. Would that we were more like God, who -
"Moves on his undisturbed affairs!" R.T.
I. THE DISLOYAL ATTITUDE OF MANKIND TOWARDS GOD. Mankind is in revolt against the Divine rule. We have all said in our hearts, "We will not have this One to reign over us."
1. God righteously claims our allegiance - the homage of our hearts, the subjection of our will, the obedience of our life.
2. We have deliberately refused it, we have practically disallowed his claim; we have retained our power for our own enjoyment, to be spent according to our own tastes and choices. Amid various forms of iniquity there is one which is common to the race-we have all withheld from the Divine Father of our spirits the willing and practical allegiance for which he has looked.
II. HUMAN DISLOYALTY IN ITS DEPTH There are many degrees of rebelliousness. Only he who searches the hearts and knows the real nature of righteousness and iniquity can accurately measure them, but we can form an approximate idea. Men may be deeply disloyal by going far in the direction of
(1) open and flagrant transgression - the commission of baneful vices or cruel and devastating crimes;
(2) distinct and formal denial of God's existence - the avowal and advocacy of blank atheism;
(3) the public denial of the Divine claims - the representation of the cardinal error that God is indifferent to the character of his human children, and does not ask for their worship or service;
(4) deliberate and persistent disregard of his will as revealed in his Word - the turning a deaf ear to his inviting voice.
III. THE DIVINE SUMMONS TO RETURN. "Turn ye unto him."
1. God's message through inspired men. At sundry times God spake by the prophets. Then and thus he spoke in very clear and in very gracious tones; he said emphatically and repeatedly, "Return unto me" (see text; Isaiah 1:16-18; Isaiah 55:6-9; Jeremiah 3:12-16; Ezekiel 18:30-32; Hosea 14:1, 2, etc.).
2. God's invitation through his Son, our Savior.
(1) That the disloyal hearts of men should return to their allegiance and become the holy and rejoicing citizens of his heavenly kingdom was the very end, for which Jesus came.
(2) To accomplish this he lived, wrought, spoke, suffered, died.
(3) This is the spirit and the scope of the message he has left behind him, and of the work in which he is now engaged.
(4) The way of return through Christ is the heart's acceptance of him as its Divine Lord and Redeemer. The voice which comes from the Man of sorrows, from the ascended Lord, is "Come unto me;" "Believe in me;" "Abide in me."
IV. THE SPIRITUAL CONSEQUENCE OF RETURN. "In that day every man shall cast away his idols." Return to the service of Jehovah and to a sincere trust in him certainly meant the utter abandonment of idolatry. Our restoration to the favor and friendship of God in Jesus Christ must also mean the putting away of every form of idolatry; e.g.
(1) the worship of pleasure or indulgence in any unholy or injurious gratification;
(2) covetousness, "which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5);
(3) the worship of mammon, or absorption in the struggles and ambitions of this earthly life (Matthew 6:24).
(4) Such a devotion to any human object of love as leaves no room, or no sufficient room, for attention to the highest duties and the most sacred claims. It may be that not once nor twice, but again and again, the Christian man may find himself called on to "cast away his idols," to put them out of his heart, and therefore out of his life. - C.
turning are suggested.
I. TURNING TO GOD AS A VOICELESS SENTIMENT. Merely good sentiments, revivalistic emotions, gushing fervors, temporary excitements, have no voice that can reach to God.
II. TURNING TO GOD SPEAKING THROUGH ACTS. Putting away idols - God can hear that. He knows what that means. Giving up sins - God can hear that. Cutting off right hands - God can hear that. Plucking out right eyes - God can hear that. This is the voice for which God asks, and to which he so graciously responds. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." - R.T.
I. "OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FINE." He burns from that sacred oracular center in Jerusalem. And his foes are seen melting away before him - the Assyrian fleeing from and falling before the sword, the huge rock of his power disappearing, princes falling into panic terror as the rallying signal of Judah is raised. The briars and thorns of iniquity, all the weed-like growth of worldly ways are kindled and devoured.
II. OUR GOD IS A LIGHT OF SALVATION. "Light of Israel" goes along with "devouring fire" (Isaiah 10:17). To be enlightened is to know God and our relation to him. It is to know what is not Divine, and what is sinful, and what is worthless in reference to salvation. And so the people, having "returned," will be seen respecting their "not-gods of silver and their not-gods of gold," the sinful manufacture of godless art.
III. THERE MUST BE BOTH THE FIERY AND THE ILLUMINATING ELEMENT IS TRUE RELIGION. Enthusiasm is needed; without it we have no motive force. Evil will yield to nothing else than to the heart aflame with piety, the tongue of Heaven-kindled fire. Yet blind zeal is mischievous; and therefore the illuminated mind is needed, the discriminating intelligence. The union of intellect with piety, the white heat of zeal kindling all it touches into light-giving flame, - what can resist it? - J.
frightened away by the flags" of the enemy that was to have been so easily and so utterly subdued. Our thoughts may be directed to -
I. THE VANQUISHED FLEEING FROM THE VICTORIOUS. The annals of human history, which have hitherto been principally the record of human strife, are only too full of heart-rending illustrations (see, among others, Erckmann-Chatrian's 'Waterloo').
II. CRIME FLEEING FROM THE FEET OF JUSTICE. Both fact and fiction will supply abundant illustrations of the intolerable wretchedness of those who, pursued by the officers of law, are dogged by apprehension and alarm at every step they take. "Let no man talk of murderers escaping justice, and hint that Providence must sleep: there were twenty score of violent deaths in one long minute of that agony of fear."
III. WRONG FLEEING FROM REVENGE. See the vivid picture of Carker fleeing from Dombey (Dickens): "Shame, disappointment, and discomfiture gnawing at his heart, a constant apprehension of being overtaken: the same intolerable awe and dread that had come upon him in the night returned unweakened in the day... rolling on and on, always postponing thought, and always racked with thinking... pressing on ... change upon change... long roads and dread of night... and still the old monotony of bells and wheels and horses' feet, and no rest."
IV. GUILT FLEEING FROM THE FACE OF GOD. Guilt fleeing:
1. Weakly and vainly. Long before Jonah, in the hour of self-reproach that followed his act of disobedience, "fled from the presence of the Lord," men had tried to put a distance between their sin and its rightful Judge. And long since then have they tried to escape his eye and his hand. Saddest of all vain endeavors is the thrice-guilty deed of the suicide, who acts as if, by entering another world, he could flee from the face of the Omnipresent One.
2. But there is a sense in which guilt flies away from the face of God really and most blessedly. When God's conditions of penitence and faith have been fulfilled, then is our guilt "purged away," our transgressions are "removed from us as far as the east is from the west," our sins are "hidden from his face," they are "cast into the depths of the sea" (Psalm 65:3; Psalm 103:12; Psalm 51:9; Micah 7:19). Moreover, we look forward to the time when there shall be a glorious fulfillment of the Divine promises, and we shall have -
V. EVIL DISAPPEARING FROM THE FACE OF MAN; when "sorrow and sighing shall flee away," when "death and hell shall be cast into the lake of fire," when "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying... for the former things are passed away" (Isaiah 35:10; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:4). - C.
I. GOD'S PROMISED DELIVERANCES ALWAYS DO COME. "If it tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not tarry." "No good thing has failed God's people of all that he has promised." "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard, and saved him out of all his troubles."
II. THEY COME WHEN WE DO NOT EXPECT THEM, And therefore we are constantly urged to keep watchful and expectant. Disraeli truly remarked that "the unexpected is the thing that happens."
III. THEY COME IN WAYS THAT SEEM STRANGE. In some cases not seeming at all to be the deliverances which they really are.
IV. THE SURPRISE THEY BRING IS USUALLY FULL OF GRATITUDE AND JOY. For in most cases it is manifestly better than our thought. Then let God save us and deliver us just in his own way and time. Enough for us to wait earnestly on him in our prayer, and wait patiently for him, trustingly sure that he always has his "set time in which to favor Zion." - R.T.