And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by is me messengers, rising up betimes
Homilist.I. We see here CONTINUED REBELLION, which suggests —
1. That habits are easily commenced. There is little difficulty in forming' habits. They are not acquired by one mighty bound, but by a series of almost imperceptible steps.
2. That habits are readily strengthened. Every step that is taken is planted with firmer grip. With every ripple that flows the stream becomes wider and swifter, fed as it were with other streamlets on the way. Every time an action is repeated the easier it becomes, and the more deeply rooted in the soul.
3. That habits are seldom eradicated. Can the Ethiopian change his skin? Yea, easier than a man unassisted by Divine help can break away from evil habits. They become part of the nature of the man himself.
II. WE SEE THE PRESUMPTION OF CONTINUED REBELLION. We are constantly reminded of the fact that God is merciful. But there is a limit to the mercy and forbearance even of God. This is evident —
1. From the fact that it is impossible always to continue His warning and judgments on the impenitent. If the obstinacy of one person cannot be overcome it were unjust on that account to remove the chance of salvation from others.
2. From the inevitable progress of temporal affairs. Death comes on with his rapid step and cuts short the life and with it the opportunities of repentance from the obdurate spirit. Then the door of mercy must be shut for ever.
3. From the very nature of the refusal. Is it likely that He, the Lord of all, will continue offering heavenly treasures to human swine who only trample His gifts in the mire? Oh, it is a sad and an awful truth that man may presume too far even on infinite love!
III. WE SEE THE AWFUL END OF PRESUMPTUOUS SIN. The consequences are at the last utter destruction and irretrievable loss. This stands to reason if we remember —
1. That God must vindicate His character.
2. That an example must be set to the world at large.
3. That the sinful must be removed out of the way.
Till there was no remedy
1. That there was, at least at one time, a remedy.
2. That the remedy went on, and might have been used, for a very long period.
3. That there came a time when the remedy ceased.
I. ALL LIFE IS A REMEDY. The conditions of things require it. Life a great restorative process.
1. Comes that marvellous provision of God in Jesus Christ.
2. All providences have a curative character.
3. Every one carries within himself an antidote to evil. Conscience, till silenced, a sure antidote to evil.
II. Notice the word "TILL." It shows how slow God is to take away the remedy. We may sin ourselves into a state, not in which there is no forgiveness, but no thought or desire to seek forgiveness. "No remedy," not on God's account, but your own; not in God's want of will to save you, but in your own incapacity to will your own salvation.
(J. Vaughan, M.A.)
Now, in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persta.I. GOD STIRRED UP CYRUS TO DO A GREAT AND NECESSARY WORK.
II. CYRUS WAS A FITTING INSTRUMENT FOR THE GREAT WORK.
III. GOD HAS VARIOUS MEANS WHEREBY TO INCITE TO ACTION.
IV. THE DIVINE INCITEMENT TO THE NECESSARY WORK WAS AT A MOST OPPORTUNE TIME.
V. GOD TEACHES HIS INSTRUMENTS HOW AS WELL AS WHEN TO ACT.
VI. AS THE LORD STIRRED UP THE SPIRIT OF CYRUS, SO HE CAN STIR MEN NOW.
He made a proclamation.I. GOD USES KINGS AND RULERS FOR HIS CHURCH. That the Lord raises up men within the Church to be leaders and mighty workers in her behalf is a fact which the Bible and all history fully prove. Such men were Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley. But He calls men from without also to work for her. Conspicuous among this number is Cyrus, the Persian king. Though Cyrus be a marked illustration of the matter under discussion, especially so because of the clear declarations of prophecy on his behalf, still he is by no means the only one. Through the intervention of Joseph, God made Pharaoh the preserver of His people. The immediate successors of Cyrus on the Persian throne followed his example. Through the influence of Esther and Mordecai, Ahasuerus, in a most critical time, became the saviour of the Jews. Later, in the time of Darius, the interrupted work upon the temple at Jerusalem was renewed and pushed forward. Still later, in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, Artaxerxes expended his royal treasure in establishing the remnant of the Jews in their ancient and. Alexander the Great, marching upon Jerusalem with a bitter purpose in his heart, is suddenly changed from foe to friend. Like Cyrus, he too doubtless was shown the sacred books of the Jews, and in the prophesy of Daniel saw himself described and his career delineated. The general policy of the Roman government was severe, but many of the emperors, moved by kindness of disposition or considerations of State, were lenient towards the Christians. Ere long the government itself became Christian, and throughout the Middle Ages, power was on the side of the Church. At the Reformation, whenever and wherever needed, men were raised up among the rulers of the world to be abettors of the new faith and breakwaters against the floods of persecution. Such were the elector of Saxony in the days of Luther, and measurably so of England. Such were the Syndics who stood around Calvin at Geneva. Such Elisabeth, , Cromwell. And the same thing is transpiring in our own days.
II. GOD HANDLES THE NATIONS FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH. We know that the nations round about the Hebrews in all their history were instruments in God's hands for disciplining them and fashioning them to His will. To this end He ordered their affairs. And the same thing is apparent in these modern ages. Was it fortuitous that England early became Protestant and the champion of the new faith? Was it a thing of chance that Saxony, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, resisted the tyranny of the Pope? Did it merely happen that this broad land of ours was sealed against the efforts of Rome to possess it, and was preserved as virgin soil for a pure faith and a free government? Is not God's hand in England's occupancy of India, and can we not see that thereby that land is bespoken for Christ? Is Italy's emancipation from the Pope wholly of man? Is Germany's attitude to Rome of Bismarck as much as it is of God? Blind is he who cannot see God's use of the nations in these modern times!
III. GOD USES THE WORLD'S MATERIAL RESOURCES AND FORCES FOR THE CHURCH. God has always put the world's wealth under tribute as He has needed it, from the day when Israel went out of Egypt to the present time. And the tribute increases as the Church increases. More of the world's wealth is flowing into the channels of the Church now than ever before. But not merely wealth — money expression of value — but every good and uplifting form at work among men God uses for the development of His plan. Discovery, invention, progress in economical and industrial arts, natural science — all these things, which are represented in the complicated civilisation of our day, are likewise represented in the Christianity of the times. Providence takes them up and utilises them as they appear; nay, more, orders the time and the manner of their appearance. How true of the art of printing! The first book printed was the Bible, And from that day forward God has been presiding at the printing press and scattering its leaves for the healing of the nations. The fleets of commerce beam the gospel to the corners of the world. Discovery in geography, ethnology, philology adds new buttresses to Christianity. All these and the like, though material and natural forces, yet work spiritual results.
1. By all these means God fulfils His prophecies and accomplishes His purpose. None can hinder, none compel. On the trains of providence there are neither accidents nor delays.
2. Herein we see the undying nature of the Church. Great has been the heat of her affliction, but by it have her enemies been consumed.
3. The Spirit of God is abroad in the world, preparing the way for the coming of Christ's kingdom. How should the servants of the Lord be encouraged in labour and in prayer by the Spirit's antecedent work in every heart!
4. In all these things we have the assurance of the triumph of God's kingdom.
(H. S. Kelsey.).