Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
wrath of Jehovah was but grieved affection. Its force is now for the time spent. He will now deliver and protect, reassemble and restore his people (Cheyne).
I. IT IS THE LOVE OF A PARENT. "Thy Creator, O Jacob; he that formed thee, O Israel." Of all the works of God, confessedly the noblest is man; and if man is only known as forming nations, these too are the works of God. And Israel especially is the embodied thought of God, in her laws and institutions, her place and mission in the world. Or, if we think of Israel as gradually fashioned, by schooling and by affliction, into a "new and singular product," not less is she endeared to her Maker and Builder. We cannot but love our children; and scarcely less dear to us are the children of our brain and of our heart - our schemes, our books; the house whose structure we have planned, whose arrangements have been made after ideas of our own; the flock we have overseen; the little body of disciples or friends whom we have made an organization for the diffusion of our views of life. That delight we feel in the reflected image of our mind in what is not ourself, we transfer by analogy to God.
II. IT IS THE LOVE OF A REDEEMER. And this implies sacrifice, love proved by expense of some sort. The tense gives a reference to history and to prophecy - past and future. No price can be too high for the ransom of Israel: other nations will be given up - Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba - for her. Cambyses, son of Cyrus, conquered Egypt and invaded Ethiopia. The Persian was destined to set free the chosen People; and those other peoples given into his hand as compensation are the ransom price for delivered Israel. If the "wicked are a ransom for the righteous" (Proverbs 21:18), if the sufferings of the evil are in some way connected with the deliverance of the good, - this helps to shed a consoling light upon many a dark page of human history. But not only the suffering of the evil may be thus viewed - the suffering of the good also, in the light of the great saying, "The Son of man came... to give his life a ransom for many" - for the greater or spiritual Israel in all ages.
III. IT IS AN APPROPRIATING, SPECIALIZING, HONOURING LOVE. TO "call by name" is an expressive phrase for selection and election. So was Bezaleel the artist called in connection with the tabernacle-work (Exodus 31:2); so was Moses called by name (Exodus 33:12, 17) and designated for his work. It is to "find grace" in the eyes of God; it is to be precious and honourable in his sight. It is to be a "peculiar treasure" (Exodus 19:5, 6), a property of the Eternal - "mine art thou." We are led into the heart of the covenant-relation by these words. And every association of affection and good which has belonged in the thought of the world to the spiritual bond which knits soul to soul, may be used to illustrate Israel's relation to her God - that of child to parent, of client to patron, of confidential servant to lord, of soul to guardian spirit or angel, may be thought of in this connection. What is true of the nation must be true of its individuals; what holds good of the Church must be valid for the life of each Christian.
IV. IT IS AN ALL-PROTECTING LOVE. Israel shall go through water and through fire unhurt. No stronger figure could be used for safety amidst calamity (cf. Psalm 66:12; Daniel 3:17, 27). We may think of the salvation of Israel from the waves of the Red Sea, of the three children in the furnace at Babylon, of the ever-consuming yet never-consumed bush seen by Moses. These things are parables of the indestructibility of the spiritual life in mankind, and of the perfect integrity of the empire of souls, ruled by the redeeming God. From the east and the west and the north and the south, these scattered souls are to be gathered to their home. Impossible to limit such words to any temporal reference merely. The bounds of time fade away as we listen; and there rises before us the inspiring picture of the world as one vast scene of trial, of education, of an elect people to eternity - in which many sons are being brought to glory, that glory the reflection of God upon their renewed spirits. - J.
I. THE SUPREME CLAIM. To every human soul, as to Israel of old, God says, "Thou art mine." He requires of us that we shall consider ourselves as belonging to him; so that he may employ us in his service, may direct our will, may command our affection, may control our life. God does not claim to own us in the sense of being at liberty to act arbitrarily and capriciously towards us, but in the sense of being free to rule our souls and fashion our lives according to the dictates of righteousness and wisdom. His claim rests on his fourfold relation to us.
1. His creation of our spirits. "The Lord that created thee" (ver. 1; and see vers. 7, 15). If we could make an estimate of our comparative obligations, how much should we consider that we owed to him that brought us out of nothing into being, that made us living souls, that endowed us with all the immeasurable capacities that are enfolded in an immortal spirit? How large a claim has God upon our thoughts, our gratitude, our service, in virtue of the fact that to his creative power we owe it that we are?
2. His shaping of our life. God has "formed us." He who formed Israel by all his providential dealings with that nation from the beginning is the God who has built up our life (see Hebrews 3:4). Our human relationships, our bodily health and strength, out' circumstances of comfort and joy, our mental strength and acquirements, - all this is the product of that shaping hand which "forms" the destinies of men as it gives figure to the foliage, arrests the tide, or determines the courses of the stars.
3. His redemption of our soul. "I have redeemed thee." God might well claim to be Israel's Redeemer, for he had mercifully and mightily interposed on its behalf. But with how much greater reason may he claim to be our Redeemer! How much greater is that "great salvation" by which he "saves his people from their sin," than that deliverance by which he rescued a people from political bondage or military disaster! The surpassing strength of this claim upon us is seen
(1) in that it is a redemption from the very worst spiritual evils to spiritual power and freedom; and
(2) in that it was wrought at such a priceless cost (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
4. His personal interest in every one of us. "I have called thee by thy name." The distinct and especial interest which Jehovah took in Israel has its counterpart in the individual interest he takes in each one of his children. Christ has led us to feel that he follows the course of every human spirit with a parental yearning, with a Saviour's restorative purpose and hope. He calls us by our name. To each wandering, backsliding soul he is saying, "Return unto me." To each striving, inquiring spirit he is saying, "Be of good cheer; I will help thee." To each faithful workman he is saying, "Toil on; I will come with a recompense" (Isaiah 35:4).
II. THE SURE STAY. "Fear not." There are many comforters who approach us and whisper these two words in our ear. Some of these are delusive, and others are imperfect and ineffectual. It may be an ill-grounded complacency, or it may be favourable surroundings, or it may be-human friendship; but the house of our hope, thus built upon the sand, may fall at any hour. If we would build our confidence upon the rock, we must rest on the promised stay of a reconciled heavenly Father, on the assured aid of an Almighty Friend, on the certain succour of a Divine Comforter. Having returned unto the living God, resting and abiding in Jesus Christ, we may go forth to any future, however threatening it may be; for One is present with us in whose company we may gladly enter the darkest shadows. And if we listen we may hear a voice, whose tones we may trust in the wildest storm, saying, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee." - C.
peace - they were his. And when Jesus Christ would make a great impression on his disciples of his personal regard for them, he said, "Henceforth I call you not servants... but I have called you friends.
1. Such relations are indeed involved in the fact that we are the creatures of God. He made us, and not we ourselves." He has the interest in us which we feel - in measure - in the work of our hands. He has great thoughts and purposes concerning us, and he is graciously concerned in their realization.
2. Such relations are further seen in his entering into covenant with a particular people. He drew them into a special intimacy; committed to them an unusual trust; made them depositaries, and by-and-by witnesses, of certain foundation-truths; and for generations guarded them while they guarded these truths. The closeness of relations between God and Israel is the basis of Hosea's exquisitely tender pleadings, the dearest and nearest human relations, of husband and wife, of parent and child, being used to bring home God's appeals (see Hosea 2., etc.). We direct attention to the practical side of this subject. If we are the Lord's, we -
I. ENJOY HIS FRIENDSHIP. Illustrate from Abraham, the friend of God, El-Khalil; or from Enoch, who "walked with God." To friendship is necessary:
1. Community of sentiment. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?"
2. Mutual trust. The grace unspeakable is that God should trust us. Our failure and sin is that we so half-heartedly trust him.
3. Frequent intercourse. Nothing blights friendship like separation. Keeping friendly means keeping together.
4. Jealousy of each other's honour. Here we come short, sadly short, in our friendship with God.
II. RENDER HIM SERVICE. Friends love to serve one another. In this friendship with God we should not forget that we have to take a dependent place. His is a condescending friendship, and our response to it finds best expression in loving obedience. All hardness is taken out of service when it is the expression of such near and loving relations as those unto which God has brought us. - R.T.
When. Then it is certain that such experiences will come. It is only a question of time. Tribulation is common to all the children. "The same sufferings," says the apostle, "are accomplished in your brethren which are in the world." When? We do not always know when the desolating floods of life are coming, but presently they will rise to our breast and to our throat - deep waters.
I. TRIBULATION DOES NOT DESTROY PROGRESS. We pass through these waters; they are part of the way in which the Lord our God is leading us. "Ever onward" is our motto. We are "a day's march nearer home," even in the days of desolation and distress. We need not hope to escape the waters. No detour will take us out of the way of the floods.
II. TRIBULATION BRINGS CHRIST NEAR. "I will be with thee." A brief sentence. But it is enough. We have but to study the little word "I It speaks of One who has all power in heaven and in earth; One who is human and Divine. A presence - that is what we want. Theologians talk of a real presence." How can a presence be unreal? We do not talk of real sunlight, or real bread, or real air! This is the presence of One who understands all, and whose infinite pity accompanies the infinite peace.
III. TRIBULATION DOES NOT DESTROY. "The rivers, they shall not overflow thee." It is life the Saviour seeks for us, not death. Neither faith nor hope shall be destroyed. And if these waterfloods be death - which they are so often taken to mean - then they do not destroy. No; we pass through them to the laud beyond. - W.M.S.
I. THE GREATER AFFLICTIONS OF HUMAN LIFE. The terms of the text point to the larger rather than the lesser troubles through which we pass; though even the vexations and annoyances to which we are daily subject are experiences in which we need to summon our higher principles if we would act rightly and live acceptably to God our Saviour. But it is the sterner sorrows, the more serious calamities, which most imperatively demand all the resources at our command. We pass through the waters, we walk through the fire:
1. When heavy losses reduce our possessions and make us face narrowness of means, hard toil, or dependence on the charity of men.
2. When grievous disappointment overtakes us, extinguishing the bright hopes by which our path had been lighted and our hearts had been animated and sustained.
3. When sickness assails us, and our strength fails, and we lie long on the couch of helplessness or pain.
4. When bereavement throws its dark shadow on our homeward way.
5. When the .failure of those from whom we looked for good or even great things sends a pang through our soul.
II. THE TRUE REFUGE OF THE SORROWFUL. "God is our Refuge... a very present Help in trouble." He is "the Lord our God... our Saviour." We may count on:
1. His sympathizing presence. "I will be with thee." Our Divine Friend will be with us, so that we shall be able to feel that he is looking upon us with tender and pitiful regard.
2. His limiting power. The rivers may rise high, but they shall "not overflow" the man whom God is befriending. His hand is on the adverse forces which oppress us, and there is a mark beyond which he will see that they do not come.
3. His sustaining grace. The fire may rage around his children, but such will be the resisting strength within that they "will not be burned." Their faith and love will not fail; they will triumph, in spirit, over the worst distresses.
III. THE CONDITIONS WHICH GOD REQUIRES. It is not every man, however he may stand with the Supreme, who may confidently count on this Divine succour. There must be:
1. Acceptance with God. God must be our God; Jesus Christ our Saviour; his service our portion. God makes no such promise as this to those who stand stubbornly aloof in waywardness or rebelliousness of spirit. It is his children who have a place of refuge (Proverbs 14:26). There must be also:
2. Submission of heart to his will.
3. Appeal for his help. "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee," etc. (Psalm 50:15). - C.
e.g. "Rock of ages, cleft for me"). The strength, the almost extravagance, of the poetical figures, are found specially helpful in meditative moods. From this assurance we note three things.
I. GOD DOES NOT REMOVE OUR TROUBLES. If the providences bring round to us a "passing through the waters," or a "walking through the fires," special grace will not prevent us or change our allotment or our circumstances. Through the waters and the fires we have to go. There were such reasons for the captivity of Israel, that special grace would not interfere with the chastisement. St. Paul may pray to have his affliction removed, but the prayer could not be answered.
II. GOD ASSURES HIS PRESENCE IN THE TROUBLE. And it is easier to bear when two are under the load, and One has "everlasting strength." God's presence in the fires may be illustrated by the fourth form which stood beside the Hebrew youths in the fiery furnace. God's presence in the waters, by the following incident. When the steamship Massachusetts was wrecked in Long Island Sound, there were two mothers, each with a child, who were noticeable for their respectful calmness during the hours of greatest peril and anxiety, when it seemed as if the vessel must shortly go to pieces. A passenger from Philadelphia says that his attention was first called to them by their voices in singing. Going towards them, he found a little boy standing there with his life-preserver on, and the little fellow was just joining with his mother in singing a hymn of trust and confidence. And when rescue came, and the passengers were safely on another vessel, those same sweet voices were again heard, this time in a ringing strain of praise for their deliverance.
III. GOD KEEPS THE TROUBLE WITHIN CAREFUL LIMITATIONS. His concern is about those who have to suffer, not about the trouble, or the circumstances that make the trouble. It may reach our circumstances; it may even reach our bodies; but God says, "No further." Job was ruined; Job was diseased; but God's hedge was round Job himself, and nobody and nothing could touch him. Waters nor fires can ever reach us, to injure or destroy the life in us which God has quickened. - R.T.
I. THE HIGH PURPOSE FOR WHICH HE CREATES US. "I have created him for my glory." There is no end so lofty in itself and so elevating in its influence for which God could have made mankind as this. It is for this, primarily, that the very highest intelligences in the heavenly spheres have their being.
II. THE PROFOUND INTEREST HE TAKES IN US. "Thou wast precious in my sight... I have loved thee." God regards the children of men (Psalm 33:13, 14). He attends to their requests, and meets their wants (Psalm 145:15, 19). He pities them in their griefs (Psalm 103:8). He yearns over them with parental love (see Isaiah 31:20; 2 Peter 3:9). He disciplines them with parental solicitude (Hebrews 12:5-11).
III. THE HONOUR WHICH HE CONFERS UPON US. "Thou hast been honourable." In Christ Jesus we are honoured in many ways. We are "made priests and kings unto God." What manner of honour as well as of love the Father hath shown us, that we should be called the sons of God; and that we should also be made his heirs, and also "labourers together with him" (1 Corinthians 3:9)!
IV. THE SACRIFICIAL MEANS HE EMPLOYS ON OUR BEHALF. "I gave Egypt for thy ransom... I will give men for thee." That which is of immeasurably greater value than gold or silver, than property of any kind - men, human lives, God would give for Israel. For us he has given that which is of far greater account than any nation or any multitude of men - his own well-beloved Son: "God so loved the world," etc.; "He spared not his own Son;" "He gave himself" for us.
V. HIS PURPOSE TO GATHER HIS CHILDREN TOGETHER to one place of rest and joy (vers. 5, 6). - C.
I. SALVATION IS THE WORK OF THE DIVINE TRINITY. This is variously taught in Holy Scripture, but the most complete and precise expression of the truth may be found in Titus 3:4-6, which Conybeare and Howson render thus: "But when God our Saviour made manifest his kindness and love of men, he saved us, not through the works of righteousness which we had done, but according to his own mercy, by the laver of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he richly poured forth upon us, by Jesus Christ our Saviour." The love of God appeared. The regenerations and renewings are by the Holy Spirit. And that Divine Spirit is shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ. God is our Saviour. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. The Holy Ghost is our Saviour. And yet we have not three Saviours, but one Saviour. Young Christians, in the earlier stages of religious apprehension, are wont to grasp firmly the one truth - Jesus is the Saviour. Many Christian people grow old in experience without coming to realize that this is a central truth, which has another truth on each side of it. On one side this truth - God is. the Saviour. On the other side - the Holy Ghost is the Saviour. Jesus Christ is declared to be God "manifest in the flesh;" God the Father manifest, so that we may apprehend him; and God the Holy Ghost manifest, so that we may realize his gracious inworkings. We know God the Father and God the Holy Ghost through Christ, the manifested Son. Such enlarging of our thought to embrace the full Divine agency in our redemption involves no kind of dishonour to the Lord Jesus. In his part and sphere he is the only One, the only "Name." As the Manifester and Mediator, he stands alone. His sphere is manes earthly life; he is God with us. He shares our humanity; bears a human name; lives through a human, lot; perfects an obedience in the flesh; endures the final testing of a painful and ignominious human death; and in his redemptive work in the human spheres he has none to share with him. When we speak of separate Persons in the Divine Trinity, we must apprehend the most absolute unity of purpose in them; and the differences of operation which we can trace are simply gracious modes of reaching men so as to be a perfect redemptive power on them. The Father-God, in his Divine fatherly love, initiates the redemptive purpose, and forms, in his infinite wisdom, the redemptive plan. God the Son executes that part of the Divine plan which required manifestation in man's earthly sphere - in the sphere of the senses. God the Spirit is entrusted with that part of the Divine plan which concerned man's inward state - the renewal of his mind and feeling and will.
II. THE ONE FOUNTAIN AND SOURCE OF OUR SALVATION, WHATEVER ITS FORM OR ITS AGENCY MAY BE, IS THE DIVINE LOVE. "We are saved by grace." We too often speak of the "mercy" of God, as if it were only an attribute belonging to him. Nay, it is far better than an attribute - it is God: "God is love." But when that love gains expression in man's sphere, so that we may apprehend it, we find it is working out a marvellous purpose, even the full redemption of a sinful race; and we see it in the blessed life of the redeeming Son and in the inward grace of the renewing Spirit. But all is of God. All is of free, sovereign, unbought, unconstrained, unmerited love. He saved us. He sent the Son. He sheds the Spirit. It is our Father in heaven whose fatherly love pitied us, yearned for us, and found the gracious ways in which to bring the prodigals home, and to make the prodigals sons again. It is the "grace of God that bringeth salvation." We may have laid hold of the truth that Christ for us is the Gift of grace. It may be that we need to gain firm hold of that other and answering truth, that the Holy Ghost in us is the Provision of grace. We want more than the doctrine concerning these high things. We want a living impression, which gives to them practical and persuasive power on our hearts. When we can really feel that our salvation is throughout, from beginning to ending, from predestination to calling, from calling to justification, from justification to sanctification, and right through to glorification, wholly of grace, then the last lingering confidence in our own doings will pass right away, and we shall rejoice altogether in "God our Saviour." - R.T.
Isaiah 41. is renewed, and Jehovah's claims are contrasted with those of the false gods.
I. ASSEMBLING OF THE NATIONS. Israel is first brought forth by the ministers of justice. The people were once blind and deaf, but now are in possession of their faculties. And then, over against this small company of the faithful, the vast host of the heathen appears. And the challenge is issued - What god of the nations can produce predictions such as those in vers. 1-7? If this can be done, let them name former things - appeal to past events correctly foretold, and establish this by testimony. But the appeal is met by silence, by impotence. There are no witnesses forthcoming. And so once more idol-power is convicted and exposed as being "nothing in the world."
II. THE WITNESS TO JEHOVAH Israel is now called upon. She has known again and again the power of Jehovah to foresee and foretell the future. Let their faith, then, be wholly given to him - a faith founded on evidence, a faith rooted in intelligence. This faith cleaves to Jehovah as the Eternal. He is both before and after all created things. These idols have been the objects of an illusory worship - formed and fashioned things. Their power breaks with the decay of the nations of whom they have been the imagined patrons. In the hour of adversity they have seemed, like Baal, asleep or gone on a journey - have lifted no arm to save. Jehovah remains the sole able God, the exclusive Deliverer. No "stranger," no foreign God had power for good or evil in Israel. To this test of ability to meet the wants of the times, true and false religions must ultimately be brought. The doctrine or the institution which visibly is saving men from evil, emancipating them from bondage to vice, must have a Divine element in it. And Christianity seems to need no other apology than the witness of what it has done and is doing to purify, save, and bless mankind.
III. His IRREVERSIBLE WORK. "I work, and who can turn it back?" Messengers of his vengeance have been sent to Babylonia, and all the mixed multitude will be brought down into their proud ships, hopelessly overwhelmed. The great deliverance from Egypt - eternally monumental of Jehovah's power to deliver - shall itself be surpassed by the coming deliverance of Israel from the recesses of the earth. It is seen already "shooting forth," and a blissful picture of the future, peaceful, abundant, victorious over savagery, closes the representation.
1. God is Eternal.
2. He is unchangeably the same. And this is the sure foundation of the security of his people. None can trust a fickle and a vacillating being.
3. He can deliver his people from all enemies, amidst every variety of circumstances.
4. None - whether man, demon, or god - can resist him. Opposition to him is both wicked and vain. The condition of happiness is to comply with his plans, and become servants in the furtherance of his designs. - J.
(1) in the absence of any possible power that could have performed it (ver. 12),
(2) he had foretold things which were far in the future; and
(3) he had wrought signal and splendid deliverances on their behalf, - he had "saved" as well as declared (ver. 12). Thus they were in a position to maintain that
(4) he was the One living God on whom the wise would depend for guidance and redemption (vers. 10, 11). His charge to his Church is similar. God demands that we shall bear witness to him and to his gospel of grace. To this end are we born, and for this cause came we into the world, that we should "bear witness unto the truth." Concerning this testimony, we are left in no doubt as to -
I. THOSE WHO ARE TO BEAR IT. We know who they are to whom God says," Ye are," etc. They are those who have themselves returned unto him in true penitence and faith. All others are unsuited by their character and their spirit (see Psalm 50:16; Psalm 51:12, 13; Romans 2:21; Isaiah 52:11). Only they who are in sympathy with God and are living in accordance with his holy will are qualified to bear witness to his truth.
II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THEIR MESSAGE. The first and greatest thing which men need to know is the nature and character of God. For it is the relation which they maintain towards him that determines their own character and destiny. Apart from him they are separated from the source of all true blessedness, of all real life. In him and with him they are safe, wise, rich, for evermore. We have, therefore, to testify of him:
(1) of his unity (ver. 10);
(2) his holiness;
(3) his redeeming love (ver. 11). We have to bear witness
(4) to the unique efficacy of his salvation; that there is no Saviour beside him; that there is "no other Name... by which we can be saved." And also
(5) to the conditions under which alone this salvation can be secured. Like St. Paul, to Greek and Jew, to cultivated and uncultivated, to those who esteem themselves to be righteous and to those who know themselves to be sinners, we have to testify "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
III. THE EXPERIENCE WHICH JUSTIFIES THEIR EVIDENCE. They have experienced that which amply warrants them in commending the gospel of the grace of God.
1. A profound sense of true deliverance. Their own consciousness makes it clear and positive that they have been rescued from the tyranny, the depravity, and the burden of sin, and led into the liberty, the purity, and the joy of sonship.
2. Peace and hope in regard to the future. God has revealed to them a home of rest and love - a future state where the highest and noblest aspirations of redeemed humanity will find fulfilment. In sure prospect of this they are in a position to speak freely in the presence of those who live without God and die without hope. - C.
book. The being of God is assumed by making a revelation in a book. The proper subject of a book-revelation is not God creating. That we might learn from the things created. Not God providing. That we could sufficiently understand by due observation of life. Not God ruling. That would be impressed upon us with ever-increasing force by the history of the ages as they accumulated. The great subject of a book revelation must be God redeeming. That we could not learn from the perfect order of creation. That we could not reach by the keenest observations of his providence. That is not traced upon human history save as the deeper, hidden lines which we need some key to decipher. With that our Scriptures are full. That must be told in human language, and shown in human signs. No researches of science will declare it; no natural relations of men involve it; no creature is commissioned to show it forth. No inquiry of the human mind can reach it. God the Redeemer. This is the unknown mystery - unknown till God himself declares it. Too glorious to be received by men until it is seen proved over and over again, and at last gets its most melting display in that cross whereon God's beloved Son dies in agony, for the glorifying for ever of the redeeming love of God. The Scriptures may have side information on matters of creation, providence, science, government, and duty; but these are not its great message. Creation is God's first work; redemption is his second and greater, called for by the world's confusion and man's moral ruin. That second thought God could tell to man in no other way than by words; only words could reveal the deep fact of the pitying love of God, which the heart, not the head, of man alone can grasp. The heart wants to be spoken to with human words.
I. REDEMPTION IS GOD'S CONSTANT WORK. Our Bible is full of it. It is the prominent thing on every page. Clouds of curse and woe hang heavy over the very first page of human history. The darkness of Divine indignations drops down on man and woman and tempting serpent. But right across the great thunder-clouds God threw a brilliant rainbow of promise. In symbol it said, "Redemption is coming." In words it read thus: "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Abraham stands forth the head of a new race. Behold a man redeemed from Chaldean idolatries, redeemed unto God. A mystery hangs round the second patriarch, Isaac. Behold a sacrifice redeemed by God, through the substitution of the ram caught in the thicket! Jacob reads his life, and sees everywhere the "angel who redeemed him from all evil." The national life of the Jewish people started in a glorious redemption, which was to be remembered for ever as giving the first and foundation-truth concerning God. A mighty host fled hurriedly forth from Egypt, and found themselves hemmed in by lofty hill-ranges, a flowing sea, and foes pressing hard upon their rear. But there is a pathway through the mighty waters, and the delivered sing of God their Salvation. Redemption is a constant theme in the Mosaic system. The story of the wanderings is a series of illustrations of redeeming grace. God was ever delivering in the time of the Judges. David was redeemed from Saul, Asa from the Ethiopians, Hezekiah from the Assyrians, The saints from all the ages unite to say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth."
II. ALL GOD'S REDEMPTIONS DISPLAY HIS POWER, HIS HOLINESS, AND HIS LOVE. If they did not, they could be no redemption for us. If there is not Divine power in them, then he cannot reach our case. If but one of those redemptions start a question of the Divine righteousness, then we can have no confidence in the worthiness of his scheme to rescue us in Christ. We cannot be satisfied with Christ's salvation unless it is perfectly plain that in his work "justice and mercy have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other." And if the redemption do not take such a shape as shall display a "love Divine, all love excelling," then our hard cold hearts will never be melted and won. But all these are fully seen in that great redemption wrought by Christ. His is a mighty salvation. The perfect obedience unto death of the beloved Son seals for ever the righteous Father's claims. And as to love, what shall we say about love in sacrifice? "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;" but "God commendeth his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Love! It drops from the overcharged heart in the agony of the garden. It drops from the thorn-crowned brow in the mock judgment-hall. It drops from nail-pierced hands on the cruel cross. It drops from the wounded side of him who "bore our sins in his own body on the tree." O melting drops! Let them fall afresh on your heart and mine, and melt us into penitence and responsive love! - R.T.
1 Peter 2:9). And the same view may be applied to every regenerate individual; he too is formed anew for God; in his new, regenerate life he is to show forth God's praise. Taking illustration from the older and the newer Israel, we may impress the truth of the text in its relations to the individual. The following line of thought may be worked out.
I. Our life on earth is but a limited and dependent thing. It is but a passing time, an interlude.
II. Its beginnings were wholly out of our own control. Whence we came, why we came, we do not know.
III. Its endings are equally beyond our reach. Where we are going, and what we are to be, we know not.
IV. Even in the passing time, we are in the midst of mysteries which we cannot fathom; and. we fashion aims of our own which never satisfy us, even if we attain them.
V. It is evident that there is One who gave us being for his own purposes; who supports us through our interlude to show forth his praise; and who holds the final issues of our lives as the completion of his own all-wise plan. Then this follows, and may be duly impressed - it is folly indeed for any dependent man to live his brief life unto himself. It is wisdom indeed to know him who gave us being for his own purposes. And he has not left himself without witness concerning himself and concerning his will. His revelation convinces us that the true end of life - which is to honour our Maker - is glorified by the apprehension of how good, how wise, how gracious our Maker is. That which is actually the chief end of life we come lovingly, thankfully, rejoicingly, to set before ourselves as our chief end. - R.T.
I. THE FAITHLESSNESS OF THE PEOPLE. They have forgotten the covenant of their God. They have neglected one of its first duties - prayer, which marks dependence; or they had prayed to other gods; or their prayers had been merely ritual and formal. And this was the less excusable as the burden of sacrifices had not laid upon them during the exile.
II. THE MINDFUL MERCY OF JEHOVAH. He promises to blot out their sins; and this simply for his own sake. God can swear by none mightier; he can appeal to no principle that is higher than himself. He must be true first and above all to his nature; and next to that covenant which is the expression of his nature and of his relations to the people. Let them remember that; let them remind God of his promises, and he will not fail to respond. Although their ancestors had sinned; their leaders, the prophets and the priests and the princes, had rebelled against him, and had by him been rejected; - the people are still dear to him, and must remain so while Jehovah remains Jehovah. For he is the Eternal; he changes not. Though he punishes, he will not destroy; in the midst of wrath he remembers mercy; and holds fast to the set counsels of his love, from generation to generation, despite all the fickleness of man's fancies, opinions, and inclinations. Their endeavours to overcome his good by their evil shall be met by his mightier will to overcome their evil by his long-suffering. - J.
I. THE REASONABLENESS OF GOD'S SERVICE. "I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense." God's service is not a servitude, a slavery; nor is it a burdensome task, hard and heavy to be borne. Under the Mosaic Law, special provision was made for the poor, so that the sacrifices asked of them should be within their reach (Leviticus 5:7; Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 14:21). Women and children were excepted from certain requirements, because of their sex or their years. Various exemptions were allowed in the spirit of considerateness. There was nothing hard, rigorous, ungracious, in the Law. Nor is there in the Divine demands now made upon us. God desires - indeed, he requires of us - that we should yield to him our thought, our remembrance, our worship, - regular, willing, spiritual; our love, our filial affection; our obedience to his precepts; our submission to his will. But there is nothing arbitrary or capricious about this demand; it is only that which grows, naturally and even necessarily, out of the intimate relation in which God stands to us and we to him. What is there less than this that we could rightly render to our Creator, our Sustainer, our bountiful Benefactor, our Father, our Redeemer? And in everything God makes full allowance for all our weakness and incapacity. He expects of us according to that which he has entrusted to us. From those to whom much is given, much will be required, etc. (see 2 Corinthians 8:12). From the very rich God will look for the talents of gold; from the very poor, small pieces of copper; from the strong man, his strength; from the weak man, his weakness.
II. THE SERIOUSNESS AND THE HEINOUSNESS OF HUMAN SIN. The Divine complaint is against us all, that we have:
1. Withheld from him what is due to him. We have "not called upon" him; for we have been "weary of him." We have not brought him even our smaller offerings; we have not honoured him, as we might and should have done, in his courts. And this shortcoming is only a small part of all our sin of omission. We have all failed to render him the glory due to his Name, the reverence and the affection due to himself, the obedience and the service due to his will and to his cause. It is also against many that they have:
2. Added aggravating offences to their shortcoming; "served him with sins," "wearied him with iniquities." Many have not only refused their worship, but they have flagrantly and heinously broken his commandments; have multiplied their iniquities, and made him to write down the most grievous and shameful transgressions in his book against them.
III. THE FULNESS AND FREENESS OF THE DIVINE MERCY. (Ver. 25.) For his own sake, not compelled thereto by anything which they had done or should do, but impelled by his abounding and overflowing grace, he would "blot out their transgressions" from his book of remembrance. God's pardoning love to us, revealed in the gospel:
1. Is large and free.
(1) He forgives the most flagrant offences.
(2) He receives those who have been longest in rebellion against his rule, and have most pertinaciously resisted his overtures.
(3) He takes back those whom he forgives into his full favour and treats them with unstinted kindness (Luke 15.).
2. Is granted of his own grace, and for the sake of his own Son our Savior.
3. Is conditional on our repentance and faith. - C.
Micah 6:3). And Malachi writes thus. Ye stud also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord" (Malachi 1:13). Matthew Henry suggests the signs of the people being thus weary of God's worship.
1. They had cast off prayer.
2. They had grown weary of their religion.
3. They grudged the expense of their devotion.
4. What sacrifices they did offer, they did not honour God with them.
5. Yet God made no unreasonable or burdensome commands upon them. The two points which may be illustrated and enforced, in direct relation to the religious life of our times, are these -
I. MEN SOON WEARY OF GOD'S WORSHIP WHEN THE HEART GOES OUT OF IT. The worship of human beings, enslaved by the senses, must be formal, ritual, ceremonial - in greater or less degrees. And these are most valuable and helpful when they are, what they should be, expressions of the soul's love and admiration and thankfulness. Worship is blessed if there is life in it, heart in it; if it says anything, if it means anything. As a round of formalities, it is but a "weariness." It may be kept up, but only as an irksome task that must be done. So our interest in Divine worship may become a test of ourselves. If there is life in the soul there is sure to be joy in the worship.
II. THE HEART GOES OUT OF THE WORSHIP WHEN WE NEGLECT THE PRIVATE CULTIVATION OF THE REGENERATE LIFE. So often men think to make up by diligence in public religion for neglect and indifference in private religion. But it can never be done. The preparation for worship is private soul-cultivation. We must bring the worship with us, or we shall never find it in the Church. Revive personal piety, and the result will at once be revived interest in Divine worship. If men neglect the house of God, it will always be found that they have "left their first love." - R.T.
motives? One, indeed, may seem to be bigger than the rest, and to have decided the course of conduct; but we are very imperfect readers of human nature if we rest satisfied with the easy statement that every act has a single reason, a supreme motive. We may venture to apply this to God. We cannot think of him as acting without motive. We may assume that he is influenced by various motives. But we may be sure that there is always the controlling motive - he will do that which is consistent with himself, that which upholds the honour of his own Name. He takes into account our prayers, and lets them be persuasions upon him; but behind all other impulses we must see this one ever constraining him - "for his own Name's sake." In the text this is applied to the blotting out of transgressions. Forgiveness comes to us because the Divine righteousness wants exhibition, and the Divine love wants expression. It is uninfluenced by any cause in us, save as our persuasions are permitted to be secondary causes. The sovereignty of Divine forgiveness is constantly pressed upon us in Scripture; and the atonement is the mode in which it gains expression, rather than the agency by which it is secured. God is a forgiving God because he is. No more can be said about it. But we may fully enter into the joy of his forgiveness. Three things may be opened and illustrated.
I. FORGIVENESS AS A HOLY FEELING AND PURPOSE IN THE HEART OF GOD. The father holds forgiveness of the prodigal in his heart long before the son comes back.
II. THE EXPRESSION OF THE FORGIVENESS TO THOSE WHO HAVE SINNED. This is made in Scripture promises, and in the words and works of Christ.
III. THE APPREHENSION OF THE FORGIVENESS BY THOSE WHO NEED IT. This only can be known by the penitent. On the figure used in the text, which recalls the blotting out of a cloud from the sky, Maclaren says, "Sin is but the cloud, as it were, behind which the everlasting sun lies in all its power and warmth, unaffected by the cloud; and the light will yet strike, the light of his love will yet pierce through, with its merciful shafts, bringing healing in their beams, and dispersing all the pitchy darkness of man's transgressions. And as the mists gather themselves up and roll away, dissipated by the heat of that sun in the upper sky, and reveal the fair earth below, so the love of Christ shines in, melting the mist and dissipating the fog, thinning it off in its thickest places, and at last piercing its way right through it, down to the heart of the man that has been lying beneath the oppression of this thick darkness." - R.T.