And ye shall know that I am the Lord that smiteth.
( M. Henry.)
The rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded.I. BEAUTY MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH EVIL. Well would it be for men to remember they may be thus connected in fact as well as figure. For there may be beauty of countenance and form that covers and quickens the corrupt, for "in all Israel there were none to be so much praised as Absalom for beauty." And is not the genius of poetry often the brilliance of the fires of passion: and eloquence the engine of error, and art the bribe of superstition? Do not magnificent mansions and picturesque acres often stand chiefly as the symbols of the careful selfishness, the cold self-containedness of their owners? Yes, other evils than pride seem to have the blossoms that make the world exclaim beautiful, splendid, great! Such is the love of display, that there is many a man who "for the spangles wears the funeral pall."
II. SUCCESS IS NO TEST OF MORAL RIGHT OR WRONG. Pride blossoms, so does envy, so does selfishness, so sometimes does every bough on the upas tree of sin. Lowliness often seems sterile, so does love, so does prayer, so, indeed, often in the winter of our soul seems every branch on the tree of life. The Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, and had success. Judas betrayed Jesus, and had success. What then? We dare not test our life work and the work of others by the standard of success or failure.
III. THE FORCES OF RETRIBUTION ARE EVER AT WORK. Just as the circulation of the sap through all the vessels of the tree, the influences of sunlight and air, and all the forces working out the mystery of growth are gradually and silently (though probably not silently, if our ears were keener) preparing for the hour of bud and blossom, all actions are ever setting at work retributive results. These results gradually, and sometimes silently, but ever surely, are tending to the crises that are days of judgment, and to the great crisis that "is the day of judgment."
(U. R. Thomas.)
For the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, which shall not return.
1. The first contrast I notice is the passing away of the Jewish land, and the sure continuation of a better land in its place. In the second verse of this same chapter where our text is it saith, "An end, the end"; — that is a remarkable form of speech — "An end, the end," — the ultimate end, as it means, the final end — "is come upon the four corners of the land." Let us then see what we have to put in the place thereof, after just observing that that land was to pass away by violence, by war, famine, and pestilence, and everything that was awful. Now we go to the 60th of Isaiah, and we get something to put in the place thereof. There is a land of which it is written, "Violence shall no more be heard in thee," etc. And what land is this? Why, the land spoken of in the 1st chapter of the First Epistle of Peter, — "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." Here, then, by Jesus Christ, we have a land into which no violence can come. No sin can defile the Saviour, and no sin can defile the people as they stand in Christ, and no sin can defile that heavenly land into which He hath entered. There is therefore no violence. "Violence shall no more be heard in thee." Jesus is not crucified there, but glorified; the people are not persecuted and hated there, but universally loved. The people have no pain, no sorrow, no sigh, no tear there. And this blessedness, in place of the old land, is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And now mark, — "Thou shalt call thy walls salvation"; that is, "salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks"; so that God will take care of you as a citizen by salvation; He is round about you by the perfect work of Jesus Christ. Can you think of a position so lovely as this?
2. The second contrast I give is that in ver. 11 — "Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness; none of them shall remain," etc. Here is a positive declaration. Now go to the Saviour's day, and see how literally this is fulfilled. Was not the government of the Pharisees, as described in the 23rd of Matthew, a sceptre or rod of wickedness? They must be taken away, and taken away forever. Now let us look at the contrast to this. Let us come to the new covenant, and hear what is said there. In the new covenant the Lord speaketh thus: — "For as the new heavens" — meaning the Christian economy of eternal salvation "and the new earth" — meaning in substance the same thing — "which I will make" — and which were made when Christ was on the earth, for when Christ was on the earth He made, as it were, a new earth; that is, He established a new life, a new inheritance, a new kingdom, a new heaven, old things passed away, all things become new; — "As the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain." All now is spiritual. "The time is come when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him."
3. The third contrast I notice is, I think, a very strong one. "The seller shall not return to that which is sold." Now, this seems a simple declaration, but it means a great deal more than may at first sight appear. Under the Old Testament dispensation when a man waxed poor, he sold his inheritance, but he sold it only up to the day of jubilee. Then, when the jubilee came, that man. without money, without price, by virtue of the order of things that God had established, returned to his inheritance. Now, this chapter says "The seller," alluding to that same circumstance, "shall not return to that which is sold." The meaning of it, therefore, is, — there shall never be another jubilee, and there has not been from that day to this, and there never will be down to the end of time. Where shall I now find the true jubilee? Why, in Christ. He has paid the mighty debt we owed; He has set the prisoners free; He brings His brethren into the inheritance.
4. Is there from the first chapter of Matthew to the last of Revelation a single hint about the restoration of the old Jerusalem? The Saviour says, "Your house is left unto you desolate." Does He say it shall some day be restored? Does He say, "Your house is left unto you desolate till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord"? No, He says no such thing. He says, "Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." If I should get an invitation to preach in some Jewish synagogue, where they wanted to hear the Gospel, what would that be but their saying, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord"? that is, in the name of Jesus Christ. And if God were to open their eyes, and they should see Jesus, what would they say then? Ah, they would say, let the shadow go; let us have the substance. Let the ceremonial go; let us have the vital, the living, the eternal. They would turn their backs upon the temporal, and look at those things which are eternal.
Make a chain.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.
Mischief shall come upon mischief.1. When a people is under Divine displeasure there is a succession of evils for them, mischief after mischief; they may not expect a few, but many.
2. God proceeds by degrees and steps to severity of judgments. God pours not out all His wrath at once. First, some drops of a vial, then some little streams, after that the strength.
3. Wicked men in great straits will sue to them for help whom before they hated. They could seek for a vision from the prophet now they were in extremities, and they run from prophet to prophet to get some counsel and comfort.
4. They that will not hear God's servants when they are at ease, shall not have help from them in time of their distress.
5. It is a dreadful evil when God takes away the signs of His presence.
6. Truths are not confined to any sort of men, not to prophets, priests, or ministers, in these or any days; the prophets should be without vision, the law should perish from the priests, and counsel from the elders.
7. God gives vision, law, counsel, and takes them away at His pleasure; He creates light and darkness. They shall seek vision of the prophets, and there shall be none.
8. Those who will not do what they know, shall not know what to do.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.).
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