Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Amos 2:3), was so insulted by the Chaldeans as if he had been smitten on the checks To smite on the cheek was esteemed by the Orientals the greatest affront. This insult, we know, was offered by the nation to him who is the "Prince of the kings of the earth." "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheek to them that plucked out the hair. I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6). It is perfectly legitimate to take these words as a symbolical portrait of the Church of God. Look at it -
I. AS MILITANT IN ITS CHARACTER. Jerusalem is addressed as "daughter of troops." As Jerusalem was a military city, containing a great body of soldiers within her walls, so is the Church on earth; it is military. The life of all true men here is a battle; all are soldiers, bound to be valiant for the truth. They are commanded to fight the good fight, to war the good warfare. They are to "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places." The warfare is spiritual, righteous, indispensable, personal. No one can fight the battle by proxy.
II. AS PERILOUS IN ITS POSITION. "He hath laid siege against us." The dangerous condition of Jerusalem, when the Chaldean army surrounded its walls in order to force an entrance, is only a faint shadow of the perilous position of the Church of God. It is besieged by mighty hosts of errors and evil passions, and mighty lusts that "war against the soul." Hosts of enemies are encamped round every human soul. The siege is planned with strategic skill and with malignant determination. How it becomes every spirit to be on its watch tower, fully armed for the fight of defence I "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God," etc. (Ephesians 6:13).
III. AS INSULTED BY ITS ENEMIES. "They shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek." Were the enemies of Christianity ever more insolent than in this age? And their insolence, we regret to state, has been encouraged by the brainless utterances and doings of religious fanatics. The argumentative opponents of conventional evangelicism seem to me mere insulting in their spirit and behaviour than ever.
IV. AS SUMMONED TO ACTION. "Now gather thyself in troops." The men of Jerusalem are here commanded by Heaven to marshal their troops and to prepare for battle, since the enemies are outside their walls. Far more urgent is the duty of the Church to collect, arrange, and concentrate all its forces against the mighty hosts that encompass it. "Let us not sleep as do others;" "let us quit ourselves like men," etc. "Gather thyself in troops."
"Sounds the trumpet from afar! "Arm! the conflict has begun;
"Arm! the conflict has begun;
hamlets, not even attaining to the dignity of a parish. From this village there went forth a youth unknown to fame, and almost unnoticed among his own kindred (1 Samuel 16:11; Psalm 78:70, 71). Even after the establishment of David on the throne, his birthplace was allowed to remain in its former insignificance; or, if honoured for a time, sank into obscurity again (as Micah testifies), just as the royal family of David itself sank into such a low estate that it could be compared to the stump of a tree cut down and giving little promise of a renewed vigorous vitality (Isaiah 11:1). This lowly condition of both the home and the house of David corresponds to the debased condition of the Jewish Church at the time of the advent. It was "despised," "hated," "afflicted" (Isaiah 55:14, 15). In that hamlet Jesus, the Christ, was born. Now note the contrasts that have followed.
1. Bethlehem has become one of the most notable places in the world - a theme for poets, a subject for artists, a goal for pilgrims. Its names have received a new and higher significance. Bethlehem has become a "house of bread" for a dying world; Ephratah has been "fruitful" in the richest blessings for the human race.
2. The family of David is now, through Jesus Christ, the most exalted family of the earth. Contrast the Ptolemies, Caesars, and other royal names.
3. The Jewish Church sprang to a now life. It has taken a place of supreme influence among the nations, not simply through Christ himself, but through the works and writings of his apostles and evangelists. Great as these blessings are already, we shall see greater things than these. "The kingdom" shall be restored, "yea, the former dominion shall come (Micah 4:8). For ages there had been "no king" (Micah 4:9), at the best only a temporary "judge" (ver. 1). Israel still held as its ideal king David the great. Its ideal should be more than realized. A new David shall come forth "unto me," and in God's Name and strength shall rule (ver. 4). Victory is promised under figures suggested By existing foes (vers. 5-9). In those spiritual triumphs of Jesus Christ we shall see the fulfilment of the predictions of his everlasting dominion. And in these victories of grace his nation will take a share, and will be still further glorious in the eyes of God and man (Isaiah 55, 66, etc.). The prediction of a Ruler so mighty, yet of such lowly origin, prepares for the description of a still greater glory. And the fact of the power and influence in the world of the Babe of Bethlehem prepares us to receive, nay, more, requires us to believe in, his Divine dignity. The "coming forth" from Bethlehem can only be explained by previous "goings forth." These words declare:
(1) The preexistence of the Messiah (John 8:58).
(2) His previous manifestations and operations - in creation (John 1:3), providence (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3), and as the Divine Angel of Jehovah (Genesis 18., etc.).
(3) Eternal existence. Because thou art "from everlasting," therefore "thou art God" (Psalm 90:2; John 1:1). Nothing but the truth of the Deity of Christ can explain the predictions of him or unlock the mysteries of his character and his life. The more lowly his origin and all the facts of his earthly life, the more inexplicable his present majesty, unless we acknowledge him as personally Divine. - E.S.P.
i.e. righteous rule and self rule would perish. But when things were at their worst a new Ruler would arise. He would come, not from the city of Jerusalem, but from the village of Bethlehem, so small a place that it was never reckoned amongst "the thousands" (the chief divisions of the tribe) of Judah. Yet he who came from that obscure birthplace would be "he whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." This prophecy was universally regarded as applicable to the Messiah. It was quoted by the scribes in their reply to Herod (Matthew 2:6); and at a later period, when it was popularly supposed that Jesus was of Nazareth, it was used as an argument against those who believed him to be the Christ (John 7:42, etc.).
I. WHENCE CAME THE PROMISED KING?
1. In his origin he is Divine. "His goings forth," etc. The prophet and the New Testament concur in asserting the pre-existence and Divinity of our Lord. Jehovah, speaking through the prophet, says, "he shall come forth unto me." i.e. was a son is born to his father; and the disciples heard a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son," etc. Micah says, "His goings forth have been from of old;" and in harmony with this John declares, "In the beginning was the Word," etc. Divinity was a necessity to the Redeemer-King. He could not save humanity if he was simply part of it. He could not suffer as the spotless Lamb of God if it was true of him as of us, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity," etc. In order to assume a true humanity he was "born of a woman;" but the active cause of his earthly being was not in man, but in God. Hence Gabriel said, "That holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of the Highest." "The Word was made flesh," etc. Signs of his Divine origin may be seen in the accompaniments or his birth - the angels' song; the effect of the emperor's edict in bringing Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem; the star seen in the east; the Scripture evidence (Matthew 2:6) unwittingly adduced by the scribes; the general expectation which presaged the advent, as the fragrance of the spice islands foretells to the sailor that they are near. The Babe of Bethlehem was the Son of God.
2. In his birth he was human. In spite of its association with David and with Ruth, Bethlehem never became great. From the first God chose "things despised." To a people like the Jews, to whom names were never without significance, these in the text would be suggestive. Bethelehem the "House of bread." was the birthplace of him who spoke of himself as "the Bread of life" (John 6.). Ephratah, the old and still the poetic name of the village, signifying "the Fruit field," was connected with him who was the seed corn of the worm's life (John 12:24). Had he been born in Jerusalem, an earthly policy might have sought to use him; but being born in Bethlehem, only loyal hearts welcomed him, so that the cradle, like the cross, tested men. Further, had Jerusalem been his birthplace, it might have been considered the world centre of his kingdom, which we know is "not of this world."
II. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF HIS RULE?
1. He reigns by lawful right. If he is "from everlasting," we should approach him with reverence. Insistence on Christ's humanity has been of advantage in making him less a theological abstraction, and more manifestly our Brother; but there is some danger of our forgetting his royal dignity. The familiar expressions, "dear Jesus," "my Jesus," etc., are too lightly used of our Lord. Nor are we justified in speaking of him as one superior to other teachers merely in his moral excellence and mental power. Ours should be the reverence of Thomas, who exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!"
2. He reigns by the power of love. Because he will only rule thus he lost, and is losing, an earthly kingdom. If he appeared in the glory of his power, defiance would break down, hesitation would cease. Yet he is satisfied that instead of this men should be stirred by an exhortation the effect of which may soon pass. Why? Because he only cares for willing service; he would not weaken moral responsibility, and would only have that sway which is deepest and widest, because truest. His is not the power of a tyrant who is repressing by force the aspirations of his people, but the influence of a father who bids his child do something which he is free to leave undone, though he is confident the child, for love's sake, will do more than he says.
3. He reigns for the welfare of his people. Note the association of "feed" and "rule" in Scripture. David had training for the exercise of royal power, and at the same time saw a type of it, in his care for the sheep at Bethlehem. Show how Christ used the figure of the shepherd to denote his work and sacrifice. Contrast his reign and its issues with that of many an earthly monarch.
III. WHO ARE THE SUBJECTS OF HIS SWAY? Not always those whom we should expect. Not the scribes, with their knowledge and preparation and responsibility as religious leaders. Not the Jewish people, who did not find their expectations fulfilled in the Babe of Bethlehem, the Lad of Nazareth, the Prophet of Galilee. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." Who are the "Israel" now - heirs of the promises? The men who have come from a far country like the Magians, because they seek holiness and truth; the women like Mary, whose hearts are big with hope of "sweeter manners, purer laws;" the children who pray with all their hearts, "Thy kingdom come;" the busy men like Joseph, who are struggling with temptation, and wanting help and hope outside themselves; the sinful and outcasts, who find rest at Jesus' feet, etc. These are the heirs of Jacob, who at Bethel gained his name "Israel;" for they see in Christ the ladder that reaches heaven, though its foot rests on earth; they pledge themselves to serve him, and in agonizing prayer say, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me."
CONCLUSION. May we have given to us of God some thought which shall be to us what the star in the East was to the Wise Men, that we may say, "Where is he who is born to be King? for we have seen his star... and have come to worship him"! - A.R.
I. HIS BIRTH AS THE SON OF MAN. Two remarks are suggested here.
1. He was born in obscurity. "But thou, Bethlehem," etc. Bethlehem Ephratah, where Jacob says, "Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come into Ephrath:... the same is Bethlehem" (Genesis 48:7), or Bethlehem-Judah, so called to distinguish it from Bethlehem in Zebulon. It is a few miles southwest of Jerusalem Bethlehem means "the House of bread;" Ephrath means "Fruitful;" both names referring to the fertility of the region. "Though thou be little among" - though thou be scarcely large enough to be reckoned among, etc. It was insignificant in size and population, so that in Joshua 15:21 it is not enumerated among the cities of Judah; nor in the list in Nehemiah 11:25. Under Rehoboam it became a city (2 Chronicles 11:6). He built even Bethlehem. The scribes quotation of Micah, in answer to Herod's inquiry prompted by the Wise Men of the East, who asked, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:6), seems to contradict Micah, thou art not the least, but the contradiction is only seeming. What is meant in Matthew is that though "thou art least in worldly importance, thou art morally greatest, inasmuch as thou art the birthplace of the Messiah." Why was this Illustrious One thus born in such obscurity? He had what no other man ever had - the power of selecting his own parentage and birthplace. He might have been born of royalty and nursed in a palace. No doubt there was the highest reason for this. It was a protest to the ages against the popular and influential opinion that human dignity consists in birth and ancestral distinctions.
2. He was born according to Divine plan. "Out of thee shall he come forth unto me." Unto whom? Jehovah. The fact of his birth, the scene of his birth, the object of his birth, were all according to a Divine plan. "He shall be called Great, and... the Son of the Highest." "Behold my Servant, whom I upheld, mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth." "He shall come forth unto me"
(1) according to my will;
(2) to do my will.
3. He was born to an empire. "To be Ruler in Israel." He is the Prince of Peace, on whose shoulder the government is laid. He is a Ruler. Not a temporal ruler; temporal rule is but a shadow. He is to rule thought, intelligence, soul. He is the greatest king who governs mind; and no one has obtained such a government over mind as he who, eighteen centuries ago, "came forth out of Bethlehem Ephratah." His kingdom is increasing every day. "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty," etc. Speed the time when the "kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ," etc.
II. HIS HISTORY AS THE SON OF GOD. "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," or, as Delitzsch says, "whose goings forth are from olden time, from the days of eternity." Micah does not announce here the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, or of the Logos from God, the generatio Filii aeterna, as the earlier orthodox commentators suppose. Eternal generation, humanly speaking, is a theological fiction, a philosophical absurdity. He who was before all time. "I was set up from everlasting;" "In the beginning was the Word;" "He was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifested in these last times;" "Glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee; Whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting." "Goings forth!" What for? To furnish immensity with innumerable worlds, and to people them with sentient and intelligent beings, to participate in the infinite bountihood of God. As the Son of God, he never has had a beginning and has always been active. "The Father worketh hitherto, and I work." His activity explains the origin and phenomena of the universe. "By him were all things created."
"Oh, who can strive
Christ as the great, Shepherd of mankind; and looking at them in this light the following points come up to notice.
I. HIS INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD AS A SHEPHERD. "Therefore will he give them up [that is, leave them to suffer their calamities], until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth." Christ came into the world through sufferings that may be fairly represented as partarient. The whole Jewish nation groaned and travailed together until he came; and although the throes of his mother are perhaps specially referred to here, the Hebrew people through all preceding times had struggled in agony in order to give birth to the Messiah. Herein is a mystery - the world's Deliverer came into the world through suffering. And does not all the good we have come out of anguish? Every true enjoyment, like every birth, implies previous pain. "Through much tribulation" we enter into kingdoms. "Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment," etc.
II. HIS QUALIFICATION FOR HIS WORK AS A SHEPHERD. "He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord his God." Observe:
1. His attitude. "He shall stand." The word "stand" here may mean one of two things - either a commanding position, by which he can observe and direct all, or stability, indicating his endurance and unswerving perseverance. He is settled and fixed in his work as a Shepherd. Both these ideas are true. It is true that Christ, as a Shepherd, has a commanding view of all, and a controlling power over all; and it is also true that he stands immovable as a Shepherd. "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, until he hath set judgment in the earth" (Isaiah 42:4).
2. His Divinity. "In the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord his God." He is endowed with the strength of Omnipotence, he is invested with the majesty of God himself. He is "Almighty to save," he is the Image of the invisible God. Here is a competent Shepherd!
III. HIS BENEFICENCE IN HIS WORK AS A SHEPHERD. He "shall feed in the strength of the Lord." The word "feed" means both "feed" and" rule;" indeed, feed implies rule, for human souls can scarcely be nourished without a wise and merciful control. "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isaiah 40:11); "They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat or the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them" (Isaiah 49:10).
IV. THE EXTENSION OF HIS FAME ON THE EARTH AS A SHEPHERD. "For now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth." His authority on the earth as a spiritual Shepherd is limited today, but is wider than it has been; and it will widen and widen until it fills the earth. His Name will one day be above every name on the earth. All other names will be esteemed as mean and contemptible unless they reflect his.
CONCLUSION. "All we like sheep have gone astray," etc. But a Shepherd from heaven has come to seek and restore us. Would that all heard and responded to his Voice! "Come unto me, all that are weary and heavy laden."
"Good Shepherd, hasten thou that glorious day,
Seven shepherds and eight principal men. Seven expresses perfection.; seven and eight are an idiom for's full and sufficient number. And they" (that is, these seven and eight shepherds) "shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof." The land of Nimrod means Babylon, including Assyria, to which it extended its borders. "Thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land." As the Assyrians invade our borders, so shall their own borders and entrances be invaded. "He." Who? The Messiah, mentioned in the fifth verse, "This Man shall be the Peace." We have here two things.
I. A TERRIBLE INVASION. The Assyrian, which, as we have said, may be regarded as the representative of all the enemies of Israel, enters the Holy Land, takes Jerusalem, and treads in the "palaces" of the chosen people. A faint picture is the Assyrian of the hellish invader of human souls. He breaks his way through all bulwarks, enters the sacred territory, and treads even in the palaces of the intellect and heart. Satan is a strong man armed, that enters the human soul and "keepeth his palace." Moral invasion is the worst of all invasions.
II. A TRIUMPHANT DEFENDER. There are "seven shepherds, and eight principal men" who now hurled back the Assyrian invader, entered his own territory, and carried war into the midst. Who is the Deliverer? "This Man shall be the Peace." The Man mentioned in the preceding verses, "whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting." He did it.
1. He did it successfully. "Thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian." "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils." Christ will one day ruin this moral Assyrian; as "lightning falleth from heaven he shall fall." He will hurl him from the habitation of men.
2. Christ, in doing this, uses human instrumentality. "Seven shepherds, and eight principal men." Christ destroys the works of the devil by the instrumentality of men.
(1) The instrumentality that he employs may seem to us very feeble. "Seven shepherds, and eight principal men," against unnumbered hosts of the enemies. "He chooseth the foolish things of the world to confound the wise," etc. (1 Corinthians 1:27).
(2) Though the instrumentality may seem feeble, it was sufficient. The work was done. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord" (Zechariah 4:6). - D.T.
1 Kings 19:18), Uzziah (Isaiah 1:9), or Christ (Romans 11:5). The people of God, the Church of Christ dispersed among the "peoples" of the earth, have a twofold aspect - gentleness and terribleness. This twofold aspect is seen in God (Exodus 34:6, 7; Psalm 18:25, 26; Isaiah 8:13, 14), in Christ (Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42-44; Luke 2:34), who is both a "Lamb" and a "Lion;" and therefore in his people who are called into fellowship with himself. They are -
I. GENTLE TO BLESS. Notice the figures.
1. "A dew from the Lord. The dew is of heavenly origin, and comes fresh from the hand of God (Job 38:28; cf. John 1:13; John 3:3, from above"), reflecting God's light, transparent and glistering (cf. Matthew 5:16; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Philippians 2:15, 16), evanescent and apparently one of the frailest of nature's forces, yet powerful to quicken and sustain life that would otherwise perish (cf. Corinthians 1:26-28; 4:15; 2 Corinthians 4:12; James 5:19, 20). Such spiritual qualifications in individuals made the Church of Christ a life-giving power. Issuing from Judaea, Christ's disciples were as dew to the parched and perishing Roman world, both by their teaching (Deuteronomy 32:2) and still more by the testimony of the wondrous beauty of their lives (Psalm 133:3). Therefore they were scattered abroad - John to Asia, Thomas to India, Paul to Rome, etc. - that the life-giving dew might be conveyed to the distant "peoples" of the earth.
2. "The showers upon the grass. Christ shall come down like rain," etc. (Psalm 72:6), not only by his individual blessings, but through his people. Like the rain, they "tarried not for man." Once the vision was seen and the appeal heard before the mission was commenced (Acts 16:9); yet even then, as elsewhere, the prophecy was fulfilled in the disciples as well as the Master, "I am found of them that sought me not" (Isaiah 65:1). Nor did they depend upon or, "wait for the sons of men" (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). By both proclaiming and living God's Word they became identified with the promise, and sharers in the blessing of the old Messianic predictions (Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 55:10, 11).
II. TERRIBLE TO VANQUISH OR DESTROY. Courage and fearlessness are implied, such as were promised (Luke 21:15) and enjoyed (Acts 4:13-21; Acts 5:29-42, etc.). But the lion is not always on the defensive. The Church of Christ, with its new doctrines, maxims, morals, and threats of a wrath to come, was terrible to the pagan world of the first century, with its foul gods, its godless creeds, its nameless immoralities, its revolting cruelties and crimes. The contrast of the "dew" and the "lion" may be marked even in the apostles' teaching both to heathen and to professing Christians (Acts 17:24 31; 24:24, 25; 2 Corinthians 5:11, 20; 2 Corinthians 13:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). Its one object was to vanquish souls by destroying sin and bringing them into captivity to Christ. It trod down its foes and "went forth conquering and to conquer" (cf. Acts 21:20; Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 2:14), till, less than two hundred years later, Tertullian could speak of the Christians thus: "We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you - cities, islands, fortresses, towns, marketplaces, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum; we have left nothing. to you but the temples of your gods" ('Apology,' c. 38). In a similar way the Church of the Reformation was terrible to the corruptions of the papacy, which it sought to "tear in pieces" with weapons not carnal, but spiritual. And today the true Church of Christ, with its lofty standards and ideals, is hateful to the world with its maxims of expediency and fraud, its sins and shams; and to many also who would claim the sacred name of Christian. Such foes of Christ and his people must submit (Isaiah 60:14) or perish (Isaiah 60:12). The Church of God will at last be terrible in the day of the destruction of those who love darkness rather than light, and who will be driven away in their wickedness. "The saints shall judge the world" (1 Corinthians 6:3; Jude 1:14, 15; Revelation 19:11-15); "Let thine hand be lifted up," etc. (ver. 9). - E.S.P.
as refreshing dew. "Their signal victories against such formidable armies, attracting attention to him whom they worshipped, and to whom they ascribed their success. During the existence of the new Jewish state, the members of the theocracy had much intercourse with foreigners, multitudes of whom became proselytes to the faith of Jehovah, and were thus prepared to receive the gospel when preached by the apostles" (Henderson).
2. Their power on the nations would be as terrible as the lion's on the herds of the flock. It will not, I think, be unfair to use the passage to illustrate the twofold aspect of the people of God in this world - the tender and terrible, the restorative and the destructive. Like Israel of old, godly men in every age have only been a remnant, a very small minority of the generation in which they lived. It will not always be so. Speed the day when they shall become, not merely the majority, but the whole. Notice -
I. THE TENDER ASPECT OF GOD'S PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. They are spoken of here as "dew." Silent in its fall, beautiful in its appearance, refreshing in its influence. Three things are suggested concerning this "dew."
1. It is Divine. It is "from the Lord." All that is quickening and refreshing in the thoughts, spirits, character of good men on this earth descends from heaven. "Every good and perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights," etc. (James 1:17).
2. It is copious. "As the showers upon the grass." There have been seasons when those spiritual influences have descended on men with plenitude and power, such as on the Day of Pentecost. Would it were so now! The moral heavens seem, alas I closed, and only a few drops fall here and there.
3. It is undeserved of men. "That tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men." Man has something to do in bringing down those moral showers. Though he is powerless to unseal the natural clouds and bring down the rain, these moral showers do not descend altogether independent of his efforts. Good men in this world are to their generation what the gentle dew and the fertilizing shower are to the thirsty earth. Their speech distils as dew and their influence descends on the souls of men like rain upon the new-mown grass.
II. THE TERRIBLE ASPECT OF GOD'S PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. The same men as are represented under the metaphor of dew are here spoken of as a "lion." Bold, terrible, and destructive. Elijah was a lion in his age, so was John the Baptist, so was Luther, so was Latimer, etc. Indeed, every good man has these two aspects, the tender and the terrible - gentle, sympathetic, succouring towards the weak in goodness, but strong in indignation towards wrong wherever found. Christ, the great Model, who did not "cause his voice to be heard in the street," hurled his fulminations on the ears of hypocrites. In truth, love - which is the essence of all goodness - is constantly taking these two forms. The same love which whispers in the softest tones of pity, often comes out in the fiercest thunder and lightning: no wrath is so terrible as the wrath of love. Every good man is like the pillar that guided the children of Israel through the wilderness; it gleamed a guiding light to the Hebrews through the sea, but threw a shadow of confounding darkness to the Egyptians who assayed to follow.
CONCLUSION. This subject suggests:
1. A picture of the unregenerate world. There are some germs of goodness in its soil that require the fertilizing influence of Heaven to quicken and develop; and there are some things in it so pernicious and baneful that it requires all the courage, force, and passion of moral lions to destroy.
2. A picture of the completeness of moral character. A complete character is not all "dew" or all "lion," but both combined. - D.T.
Deuteronomy 17:16), kept up a formidable body of cavalry and war chariots, trusted in their fortified cities, encouraged sorcery, and indulged in abominable idolatry. These were all to be removed when the Jewish state was broken up; and after God had employed the heathen in punishing his apostate people, they in their turn should be punished for their obstinate adherence to idol worship, notwithstanding the testimony borne against their conduct by the Jews who lived among them." The grand subject of these words is God's depriving dispensation towards men. Here the Almighty is represented as taking away from Israel many things they greatly valued - "horses, chariots, cities, soothsayers, witchcrafts, graven images, groves," etc. God's providence deprives as well as bestows. "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away." He is constantly taking away from men. In relation to his depriving dispensations I offer two remarks.
I. THEY ARE VERY PAINFUL. The things here referred to were the dearest things to the hearts of Israel. They loved them, they trusted in them, and they would feel life to be perilous, if not intolerable, without them; yet they were to be taken away. The thugs he takes away are of two classes.
1. The temporally valuable. Here chariots and horses and cities are taken away. These are valuable. Whatever is dearest to the heart - property, friends, health, fame - is the most painful to lose. And is not the Almighty constantly, in his providence, taking these things from men? He takes from the rich man his property, the strong man his health, the ambitious man his power, the social man his dearest friends. And such deprivations are the constant sources of human sorrow and anguish. All temporal good must go - chariots, horses, cities, etc. The other class of things he takes away are:
2. The morally vile. Here are "witchcrafts, soothsayers, graven images," etc. Whatever man indulges in that is wrong - false worship, all the sorceries of intellectual or physical pleasure - must go, the sooner the better. It is well when all that is morally wrong is taken from us in this world.
II. THEY ARE VERY USEFUL. It is often well to be stripped of temporary good; it is always necessary to be stripped of the morally wrong. All is done in mercy for the soul. God takes away temporal property from a man in order that he may get spiritual wealth; and often does a man's secular fall lead to his spiritual life. He takes away physical health from a man in order that he may get spiritual; and often do the diseases of the body lead to the cure of the soul. Did we understand things thoroughly, see them as we shall when we have done with this mundane system, we should often acknowledge more mercy in God's depriving than in his bestowing providences. Ever should we remember that the great end of all his dealings with us is our spiritual advancement in intelligence, holiness, power, and blessedness. "Lo, all these things worketh God with man, that he may bring him back from the pit in order to enlighten him with the light of the living" (Job 33:30).
CONCLUSION. Though I know not the future - and no one does - I know that severe depriving providences are ahead, but that mercy underlies the whole.
"And so beside the silent sea "I know not where his islands lift And thou, O Lord, by whom are seen
"I know not where his islands lift And thou, O Lord, by whom are seen
And thou, O Lord, by whom are seen
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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