When Israel was a child.
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
I. GOD'S LOVE TO CHRIST, AS A CHILD, MANIFESTED TO US BY HIS CALLING HIM FROM EGYPT. In the fulness of time the beloved of the Father became flesh, and dwelt among us. But no sooner did He appear than His life was threatened. The child was borne for safety into Egypt. In due time Christ was called out of Egypt, brought again to the Holy Land, there to exercise His ministry and perform the will of God.
II. GOD'S LOVE TO US, WHILST WE WERE YET AT A DISTANCE FROM HIM. We who are redeemed are loved with the self-same love with which God loved His only begotten Son.
II. THE EFFECT WHICH THE POSSESSION OF THIS LOVE WILL NATURALLY PRODUCE IN OUR HEARTS. It will produce love to others. What should be the effect of God's love in our minds? A disinterested love to our fellow-creatures. Thus shall we have a scriptural evidence that we are of the spiritual Israel, whom God hath loved and called out of Egypt.
(G. C. Tomlinson.)
Homilist.I. A HIGHLY FAVOURED PEOPLE.
1. God loved them.
2. God emancipated them.
3. God educated them.
4. God healed them.
5. God guided them.
6. God relieved them.
7. God fed them.
II. A SIGNALLY UNGRATEFUL PEOPLE.
1. They disobeyed, God's teaching.
2. They gave themselves to idolatry.
3. They ignored God s kindness.
4. They persistently backslided.
III. A RIGHTEOUSLY PUNISHED PEOPLE. The judgment would be —
1. Extensive; and
2. It should continue; and
3. It should be destructive.Is not this history of this people typical? Do not they represent especi ally the peoples of modern Christendom, highly favoured of God, signally ungrateful to God, and exposed to punishment from God?
1. This is the great sin of the visible Church, to which she hath a strong inclination naturally, even in her best frame.
2. Men's hanging sometimes in suspense, and having some inclinations to return, will neither double out their point against the power of corruption within them, nor will it extenuate their backsliding.
3. The great backsliding of God's people is their backsliding from God and communion with Him; which draweth on all other apostasies and defections.
4. It is of the Lord's great mercy that He ceaseth not to follow backsliders with messages from His Word.
1. It is adopting love. God loved Israel in Egypt, Israel in captivity, Israel among the brick-kilns, and called him "His son." It is by no merit or righteousness of our own that we are made sons of God. We become children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. God's love is adopting love. God delights in adopting children, and giving them the spirit of adoption, and taking them to the home of the ransomed family.
2. It is a tender love. The Lord describes the manner of a mother teaching her babe to walk. "I taught Ephraim to go." The Omnipotent became as a nurse to Israel. When difficulties arose He bore him in His arms as a man doth bear his little child. And the heavenly Father is ever the same.
3. His inviting love. "Called My son out of Egypt." We know how cruel Pharaoh was, and how hard were his taskmasters. But there was One who loved them, who said, "I have heard their cry, and have come down to help them." His fiery cloudy pillar was the symbol of his inviting love.
4. It is weeping love. God mourns over their iniquities. God's love as weeping love was displayed by "The Man of Sorrows," whose grief was for the hardness of men's hearts, and whose hot tears over Jerusalem were because she knew not the things which belonged to her peace.
5. His incarnate love. "The cords of a man." Incarnate love is the magnet by which souls are drawn to God. "The Word was made flesh" begins the story of redemption. Christ became man, to stand in man's place and deal with God in man's behalf, and to be able to enter into our feelings and fears as a merciful and compassionate High Priest.
(A. Clayton Thiselton.)
1. God stands much upon the clearing of Himself to be a God of love and mercy. Whatsoever becomes of the wicked, yet God will make it clear before all the world that He is a God of much mercy. God takes it very ill that we should have any hard thoughts of Him; let us not be ready to entertain such thoughts of God, as if He were a hard master. "When Israel was a child." That is, at his first beginning to be a people, in his young time, My heart was towards him. When he knew little of Me. When he could do little for Me. When there was much vanity and folly in him, as there are generally in children. When he was helpless and succourless, and knew not how to provide for himself. The love of God to Israel is expressed in these three particulars.(1) God "entered into a covenant" with him.(2) "Thou becamest Mine," that is, I had separated thee for Myself, and took thee for a peculiar one to Me, and intended special mercy and goodness to thee.(3) I confirmed all this by an oath, "I sware unto thee." Observe —
2. It is the privilege of the Church and of the saints to be beloved of God. God loves His people; this is their privilege, He loves them with a special love.
3. It is a great aggravation to sin, to sin against love.
4. It is very useful to call to mind God's old love.
5. All God's old mercies remain engagements to duty and aggravations to sin.
6. Let not our hearts sink in despairing thoughts, though we see that we are able to do but little for God, and though we are unworthy of His love.
7. God's love begins betimes to His people; let not His people's love be deferred too long.
1. God's love to the Church is her first and great privilege, which prevents her in her lowest condition, when she is unworthy and base. When Israel was a child, witless and worthless, then I loved him. And this is the fountain of all God's bounty to him.
2. The Lord will make His love to His people conspicuous in their preservation in a low condition, and under much trouble, when He seeth it not fit to deliver them from it.
3. The Lord also will magnify His deliverance from trouble and bondage, not only spiritual, but outward also, in so far as is for their good.
3. As the Lord doth ofttimes manifest His love, and put special honour on His people, by putting them to sufferings and trouble, so He will specially make His delivering of them proclaim His love and estimation of them, and His peculiar interest in them.
(James Hastings, M. A.)
pleroma — alike the radiant point and the circumference of all things. As God called out of Egypt His son, so out of Egypt does He call His Church. It was literally true of some of the most eminent of the fathers, — , , , . It is spiritually true of all God's people.
(G. D. Boardman.)
They sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.i.e., a carved image), in reference to the inner solid figure of wood, and a molten (i.e., an overlaid or covered) image, in reference to the outer metalline case or cover. Sometimes both epithets are applied to it at once (Nahum 1:14; Habakkuk 2:18). The English word molten conveys a notion of melting or fusion. But this is not the case with the Hebrew word for which it is given. The Hebrew signifies to spread, or cover all over, either by pouring forth a substance in fusion, or in spreading a cloth over or before, or by hammering on metalline plates.
I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms.i.e., of Christ our Passover sacrificed for us — and gives them His law, telling them to serve Him, He does not leave them to their own strength, but gives them power to do what He bids them: He teaches them how to go, taking them, as a nurse would, by the arms. Our obedience is not the cause which procures or awakens God's love to us, but His love is the cause that procures and awakens our obedience. The text tells us what God is doing for the true disciples of Jesus, and how God undertakes to teach them how to go. "Taking them by the arms." As a nurse teaches a helpless child to walk, He invites us to rely upon His strength and watchful care. He knows our weakness. The thought may be illustrated by Deuteronomy 32:11. In this life we cannot go without the support of Christ; but there are different ways in which He gives this to His people. At first He teaches them to fight against their own evil passions, to resist their own wayward wills, to quench their fiery temptations. But soon they pass onward. The new nature moves, stirs, waxes stronger, grows; the old decays. At first He leads, He guides them against their will, then without it, and it is a happy day when their will cheerfully goes along with His; then they are taught to go.
But they knew not that I healed them. —
1. At the words uttered by the Lord to Cyrus, the Persian king — "I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me" (Isaiah 45:5). From these words we learn that while God uses His own people for a gracious purpose, they are not the only people that He uses for the furtherance of His designs. He places men in high positions, and by their instrumentality He often brings about the fulfilment of His own purpose, though they themselves have had no conscious part in the accomplishment of such a glorious end.
2. Our text points to a very different dealing, namely, God's .treatment of the Jewish people. The ignorance of Cyrus, as a heathen, was not the culpable thing that ignorance of God on the part of any king of Israel or Judah would have been. God had granted Israel a special revelation, and admitted them into an exceptional relationship with Himself as His people. Notwithstanding all God's goodness to Israel, Hosea says, in God's name, "They knew not that I healed them." Thus we have two types of ignorance. That of the man who has never been brought under godly influence; and the wilful ignorance of those who sin against the light, and in spite of gracious influences. The latter is the only ignorance possible to us. The surprising thing about Israel was that they could be so ignorant of God's goodness after all that He had done for them. Knowledge of God they had, but it had formed no part of their being, had not permeated their character and life, and had not given a bent to their conduct. Their attitude Godward was atheistic. They talked flippantly enough about their history, but there was no gratitude in the heart that would mould and fashion life into submissive obedience to the law of God. Thus their ignorance was all the worse for being so wilful and persistent. "Ye are weary of Me," exclaimed God to them. I know of no charge more pathetic than that. This ignorance is the result of the blinding power of a sinful passion; an ignorance which will not let a man know the truth because he is too closely wedded to his evil.
I drew them with cords of a man.I. GOD IN THE ACTION OF GREAT SOLICITUDE. "I drew them." There are two ways by which this thought is confirmed —
1. By Scripture.
2. By experience.God is represented in the Song of Solomon as drawing us with the odour of a great ointment.
II. GOD DRAWING MAN THROUGH THE PRINCIPLE OF HUMAN AGENCY — "Cords of a man."
1. God did this in the use of the prophets.
2. God did this in the Person of Christ.
3. God is now doing this in the Christian ministry.
III. GOD DRAWING MAN THROUGH THE PRINCIPLE OF SPIRITUAL CONDITIONS: "With hands of love."
1. There is the voice of the inner life, — telling of wrong, and pointing to right and duty.
2. There is the agency of the Holy Spirit, — pointing to holy decisions. Dr. Doddridge once said to his daughter, "My dear, how is it that everybody seems to love you?" She answered, "I do not know, papa, — unless it is that I love everybody." Jesus loves us. Shall we not love Him?
(W. A. Perrins.)
Homilist.I. THE UNCOERCIVENESS OF HIS REDEMPTIVE AGENCY. He draws, not drives. This Divine mode of action implies two things —
1. That God respects the moral freedom of human nature. He has endowed us with moral agency. We have a consciousness of freedom which defies and spurns all the logic that would prove us slaves. The Holy Father treats us according to the natures He has given us. God neither condemns nor saves men contrary to their own will.
2. That God's moral power in the Gospel is extraordinarily great.(1) It is a power to draw souls. Brute force can only drive bodies. Mere might has no magnetism for the soul. There is a moral power, the power of anger, falsehood, disgusting immorality, that can drive souls away — repel them with disgust. But holy moral power alone can draw the entire soul.(2) It is a power to draw depraved souls. It is something therefore extraordinary — greater than the moral power of nature. It is the power of infinite love, embodied in the life of Christ.
II. THE HUMANITY OF GOD'S REDEMPTIVE AGENCY. It is by a man's intellect, heart, life, example, influence that he draws. God saves man by man.
1. The reasonable draws man. God appeals to our reason through man.
2. The merciful draws man. God appeals to our gratitude through man.
3. The excellent draws man.
4. The desirable draws man.
I. THE GOSPEL IS A REVELATION OF LOVE. Herein lies its power, the secret of its strength. It reveals the love of God. That God loves virtue, and will compensate and make up for the sufferings of the good, is a tenet which needs not a revelation. But that God loves all men, even the sinner, is that quite right? Must there not be something here not altogether sound in doctrine, because not altogether conducive to morality and good? The Gospel risks this perversion. It refers us to Christ. Did Christ's example, did Christ's life, encourage or favour sin? There is, in the immeasurable love of God, room for all His creatures. There is a yearning of soul over the scattered, dispersed, erring, and straying race. He loves, therefore He pleads. The whole secret of the drawing lies in the spontaneity of the love. Tell a man, — "Seek God, and He will be found of you," — and you waste words. Tell him — "God loves you as you are. God has come after you, with far-reaching endeavour." He will find there is strength in that which will not, cannot, be resisted.
II. THERE IS AN INVITATION OF LOVE. There is something always pathetic, to the unsophisticated ear, in the petition of love. The outcries of barren, thirsting affection waste themselves oftentimes upon the desert. And yet there was a love for them, would they but have had it, a love better than of son or daughter, better than of wife or husband, a love indestructible, satisfying, eternal. It is permitted to you to love God. Ought not that to be joy enough and privilege enough for any man? God makes it religion to do the thing which will make us happy; and therefore He turns the invitation into the injunction of love, and bids the fallen self-ruined creature just love and be happy — just love and be saved.
III. THERE IS A COMMUNICATION, OR TRANSMISSION, OF LOVE. He who has been loved, and therefore loves, is bidden by that love of God to love his brother also; and then, in that transmission, that handing on of the love, the whole of the Gospel — its precept as its comfort — is in deed and in truth perfected. Little, indeed, do they know of the power of the Gospel who think either that obedience will replace the love of God, or duty be a substitute for the love of man. Christ teaches us that both towards God and towards man love goes first and duty follows after. Not, indeed, that we are idly to wait for the feeling, and excuse the not doing on the plea of not loving. There is such a thing as worshipping because I desire to love. So there is such a thing as doing good to my brother, if so be I may love him; a setting myself to every office of patient and self-denying charity, if by any means it may at last become not a labour but a love to me. But how can we love the unlovely? Surely whosoever sees with the eye of Christ, can discern, if he will look for it, on the most tarnished, debased, defaced coin of humanity, that Divine image and superscription in which God created, and for the sake of which Christ thought it no waste to redeem. This is love's place in Christ's Gospel. Love revealed, love reciprocated, then love handed on.
(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
I. I DEALT WITH THEM RATIONALLY, AS MEN, NOT AS BEASTS.
1. My statutes were according to right reason.
2. They were supported by many arguments.
3. And by persuasions, motives, and exhortations.
II. I DEALT WITH THEM GENTLY, NOT WITH RIGOUR AND VIOLENCE.
1. Suiting Myself to their dispositions.
2. Dealing with them when they were in their best temper.
3. Giving them time to consider.
III. I DEALT WITH THEM HONOURABLY, IN A MANNER SUITABLE TO THAT RESPECT WHICH IS DUE TO MAN.
1. My instructions ever exceeded My corrections.
2. Whatever spark of ingenuousness remained in them, I took care to preserve it.
3. I aimed at their good, as well as My own glory, in all things.
1. Some are drawn to Christ by seeing the happiness of true believers.
2. Another cord of love is the sense of the security of God's people, and a desire to be as secure as they.
3. Some will tell you they were first drawn to Christ by the holiness of godly relatives.
4. Not a few are brought to Christ by gratitude for mercies received.
5. Some have been caught by becoming convinced that the religion of Christ is the most reason. able religion in the world.
6. A far larger number, however, are attracted to Jesus by a sense of His exceeding great love.
7. The privileges which a Christian enjoys ought to draw some of you to Christ.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. ATTRACTION. "I drew them." God attracted the Jews to Himself as their Lord and portion by conviction and affection. The attraction is to Him as well as by Him. In pushing and driving you urge a thing from you; but in drawing it you bring it towards you. God's aim is to bring us to Himself. This aim regards the state that we are previously in — a state of distance and alienation from Him. As in this state we see his sin, so we equally see his misery, for with God is the fountain of life, and we can never be happy save as we are near Him. Look at the manner in which this attraction is accomplished. "With the cords of a man." That Is —
1. "Rationally. Hence religion is called a reasonable service."
2. Affectionately. Love is the supreme attraction. There are four heads of goodness which are peculiarly attractive and powerful.
(1) (2) (3) (4) II. PROVISION. "I laid meat unto them." Meat means food generally. To show the plenitude and riches of the Gospel provision it is represented in the Scriptures by a feast. The provision is found in the Scriptures. It is "laid unto you in the preaching of the Gospel." III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke? 1. The yoke of Judaism. 2. Of popery. 3. Of persecution. 4. Of bigotry. 5. Of ignorance. (William Jay.)
(2) (3) (4) II. PROVISION. "I laid meat unto them." Meat means food generally. To show the plenitude and riches of the Gospel provision it is represented in the Scriptures by a feast. The provision is found in the Scriptures. It is "laid unto you in the preaching of the Gospel." III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke? 1. The yoke of Judaism. 2. Of popery. 3. Of persecution. 4. Of bigotry. 5. Of ignorance. (William Jay.)
(3) (4) II. PROVISION. "I laid meat unto them." Meat means food generally. To show the plenitude and riches of the Gospel provision it is represented in the Scriptures by a feast. The provision is found in the Scriptures. It is "laid unto you in the preaching of the Gospel." III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke? 1. The yoke of Judaism. 2. Of popery. 3. Of persecution. 4. Of bigotry. 5. Of ignorance. (William Jay.)
III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke? 1. The yoke of Judaism. 2. Of popery. 3. Of persecution. 4. Of bigotry. 5. Of ignorance. (William Jay.)
III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke?
1. The yoke of Judaism.
2. Of popery.
3. Of persecution.
4. Of bigotry.
5. Of ignorance.
(J. A. Gordon, D. D.)
My people are bent to backsliding from Me.
I. WHO ARE THEY WHO ARE BENT ON BACKSLIDING?
1. The first mark is a neglect of secret and family prayer. The neglect of one kind of prayer usually follows neglect of the other kind.
2. Habitual neglect of the Bible. Whoever walks closely with God takes delight in His Word. It is a bad sign when the Scriptures are read only from a conviction of duty.
3. Backwardness or reluctance in efforts to do good. Does a civil, political, or pecuniary enterprise awaken an energy and zeal which you never evince for the Saviour's cause? If so, what does it indicate?
4. The undervaluing of religious ordinances. Lightly to esteem the house of God, its praises, prayers, instructions, hallowed associations, indicates a backsliding heart. Other marks of a backsliding believer are, — censoriousness; high regard for gaiety and fashion; preference for vain amusements and frivolous company.
II. THE GUILT WHICH THIS MORAL CONDITION INVOLVES.
1. Every such professor is acting the part of a hypocrite. We may not charge him with wilful hypocrisy, we may with practical hypocrisy.
2. Their influence goes to depress the standard of piety which the Saviour has fixed, to adulterate that system of truth and duty which He has given as the hope of the Word. Christianity is a holy religion. What we charge upon every Christian professor whose heart is bent on backsliding, is the guilt of adulterating this holy religion, and depressing, so far as his influence goes, its Divine standard of duty. What is it we are doing when we put a base alloy into the gold of heaven? Inter mingling principles of selfishness with those of a heaven-born beneficence. Of course, no Christian could intend to perpetrate so audacious a crime. The inten tion to work such mischief is not charged upon any one. Yet all this mischief is involved in the course pursued by every backslider.
3. The backslider retards the progress of Christianity in the world. He cuts the sinews of its strength; he takes off its chariot wheels.
4. While bent to backsliding you cannot be depended on in religion. You are not reliable persons. You prove recreant to duty. Christianity may well exclaim in reference to many of its professed votaries, "Deliver me from my friends."
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF CONTINUING IN THIS GUILTY COURSE. There are two rods in the hand of God for offenders, the rod of discipline and the rod of retribution. The former is to correct, with a view to reclaim the offender. The latter is to punish the incorrigible, with a view to vindicate and maintain His outraged authority. With the rod of discipline come oftentimes desolation, rebuke, discomfort, darkness and barren ness in spiritual experience.
1. The first appliances which God will use are disciplinary. The first consequence to be apprehended by a backslider — whether an individual or a Church, is outward rebuke.
2. Another consequence is the discomfort of the forsaken soul: its restless condition, the possibly deep gloom which may settle like night upon it. It must be unhappy when comforts are with drawn, with a grieved departing Saviour, the sweet influences of His grace, as well as the joyful assurance of blessedness hereafter.
3. The last consequence relates to the future world. It takes hold of retribution. Unless you repent and do your first works, you must perish. There is no talismanic charm about the name of Christian, or about a profession of religion which can rescue the hopeless back slider. He must lie down, like other sinners, under the wrath of God. And connected with this consequence to yourselves are melancholy consequences to the unconverted in your families, and in the community. How seldom a sinner repenteth while the Church is far from God!
1. The word teluaim signifies "perplexed." The people would suffer a just punishment through being anxious and looking around them, and yet finding no comfort; for this would be the reward of their defection or apostasy.
2. God here complains of the wickedness of the people, as of those who deliberated whether they ought to repent. They then take suspense for doubt. "My people are in suspense." They debate on the subject as on a doubtful matter, when I exhort them to repent, and they cannot at once decide what to do, but alternate between divers opinions, and now incline to one thing and then to another; as if the subject itself made it necessary for them to deliberate.
( John Calvin.)
Author of, Foosteps of Jesus."I. A CERTAIN COURSE DESCRIBED. "My people are bent to backsliding from Me."
1. What this fact proves. The doctrine of human depravity.
2. What it involves.
(1) (2) (3) II. A CERTAIN FEELING INDICATED. "How shall I give thee up?" 1. Its nature. It was a feeling of perplexity. 2. Its causes. His back sliding children deserved to be punished; hut He waiteth to be gracious, and is ready to forgive. III. A CERTAIN RESOLUTION FORMED. "I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger." This should — 1. Excite our astonishment. 2. Kindle our gratitude. 3. Subdue our opposition. 4. Dissipate our fears. (Author of "Foosteps of Jesus.")
(2) (3) II. A CERTAIN FEELING INDICATED. "How shall I give thee up?" 1. Its nature. It was a feeling of perplexity. 2. Its causes. His back sliding children deserved to be punished; hut He waiteth to be gracious, and is ready to forgive. III. A CERTAIN RESOLUTION FORMED. "I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger." This should — 1. Excite our astonishment. 2. Kindle our gratitude. 3. Subdue our opposition. 4. Dissipate our fears. (Author of "Foosteps of Jesus.")
(3) II. A CERTAIN FEELING INDICATED. "How shall I give thee up?" 1. Its nature. It was a feeling of perplexity. 2. Its causes. His back sliding children deserved to be punished; hut He waiteth to be gracious, and is ready to forgive. III. A CERTAIN RESOLUTION FORMED. "I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger." This should — 1. Excite our astonishment. 2. Kindle our gratitude. 3. Subdue our opposition. 4. Dissipate our fears. (Author of "Foosteps of Jesus.")
II. A CERTAIN FEELING INDICATED. "How shall I give thee up?"
1. Its nature. It was a feeling of perplexity.
III. A CERTAIN RESOLUTION FORMED. "I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger." This should —
1. Excite our astonishment.
2. Kindle our gratitude.
3. Subdue our opposition.
4. Dissipate our fears.
(Author of "Foosteps of Jesus.")
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?
I. MAN IS ABLE TO RESIST GOD IN THE DISPENSATIONS OF HIS MERCY. The supposition that man is governed by some Divine fate, that he is a passive being, destitute of a capacity to act in any way besides in accordance with the Divine will, has arisen partly from three sources.
1. Unacquaintance with the nature of the human will Man is so constituted as to be able to exercise authority not only over his own feelings, actions, and character, but also over the heart itself; he can regulate his disposition, so as to turn his whole soul to be a sanctuary to particular objects. Three reasons for this view.(1) Mankind in general believe that they are free — at liberty to choose any course of action they please.(2) Our own consciousness. We are conscious that our actual volitions are such and only such as we please to put forth.(3) Our moral nature implies the same truth.
2. Unacquaintance with God's moral government — confounding the natural with the moral. God does not rule man with an irresistible force, but with motives of gentleness and love.
3. Misinterpretation of some particular portions of the Word of God.
II. THAT MAN'S RESISTANCE RENDERS IT NECESSARY, ON GOD'S PART, TO GIVE HIM UP.
1. The most applicable means is insufficient for recovering him.
2. The only means is insufficient to recover him.
III. THERE IS AN INFINITE, COMPASSIONATE RELUCTANCE ON GOD'S PART TO GIVE UP MAN.
1. The relation that exists between God and man renders Him reluctant to give him up. One is a father, the other is a child.
2. God's knowledge of man renders Him reluctant to give him up.
3. God's dealings towards man prove that He is infinite in mercy, reluctant to give him up. The most illustrious display of Divine mercy was the sending of God's only begotten Son into the world. This mercy was displayed also in sending the Holy Spirit. Then if God feels so intensely for those who are strangers and aliens from Him, ought not the same compassionate feeling to characterise His Church universally? And if we are free agents, having control over our dispositions and actions, or endowed with capacity to choose the right and reject the wrong; and if we are the objects of Divine pity, is it not our most incumbent duty to pity ourselves by receiving God's mercy, and obeying His commandments?
(J. A. Morris.)
Homilist.The Bible is pre-eminently an anthropomorphetic book. That is, it represents God through man's emotions, modes of thought and actions. It is in the character of a father that these verses present Him to our notice. No human character can give a full or perfect revelation of Him. Yet it is only through human love, human faithfulness, human justice, that we can gain any conception of the love, faithfulness, and justice of the Eternal.
I. MERCY AND JUSTICE AS CO-EXISTING IN THE HEART OF THE ETERNAL. To give up to ruin, to deliver to destruction is the demand of justice. "Mine heart is turned within Me, My repentings are kindled together." This is the voice of mercy. What is justice? It is that sentiment which demands that every one should have his due. What is mercy? A disposition to overlook injuries and to treat things better than they deserve. These two must never be regarded as elements essential]y distinct, they are branches from the same root, streams from the same fountain. Both are but modifications of love. Justice is but love standing up sternly against the wrong, mercy is but love bending in tenderness over the helpless and the suffering. In the heart of God this love assumes two phases or manifestations.
1. Material nature shows that there is the stern and mild in God.
2. Providence shows that there is the stern and the mild in God. The heavy afflictions that befall nations, families, and individuals, reveal His sternness; the health and the joy that gladden life reveal His mercy.
3. The spiritual constitution of man shows that there is the stern and the mild in God. In the human soul there is an instinct to revenge the wrong, often stern, inexorable, and heartless. There is also an instinct of tenderness and compassion. These came from the great Father.
II. MERCY AND JUSTICE AS EXCITED BY MAN in the heart of the Father.
1. The moral wickedness of Ephraim evoked His justice. Human wickedness is always stirring, so to say, the justice of the Infinite heart.
2. The filial suffering of Ephraim evoked His mercy. God calls Ephraim His son, and Ephraim was in suffering, and hence His compassion was turned.
III. MERCY STRUGGLING AGAINST JUSTICE IN THE HEART OF THE GREAT FATHER. Even as the human father finds a struggle between what justice requires, and mercy pleads for, in dealing with his wilful son.
IV. MERCY TRIUMPHING OVER JUSTICE IN THE HEART OF THE GREAT FATHER.
1. Mercy has so triumphed in the perpetuation of the race.
2. In the experience of every living man.
3. In the redemptive mission of Christ.How comes it to pass that mercy thus triumphs? Here is the answer: "For I am God, and not man."
1. To the debate which is represented between justice and mercy.
2. The determination of the debate. After a long struggle mercy prevails.
3. The ground and reason of this determination: "For I am God, and not man." He who is God, and not man, alone could overcome the difficulty.Draw some profitable reflections.
1. How exactly does the view here given of the Divine mercy and forbearance, in this particular instance, agree with the general representations of them in Scripture. Illustrate times before Flood. Israel in wilderness. The spiritual redemption of man.
2. How greatly do these views increase and aggravate the sinfulness of sin. Sin is rebellion against a just and rightful Sovereign. It is robbery committed against a good and a gracious Master. It is ingratitude to a most kind and bountiful Friend and Benefactor. Sin is despite done to the richest mercy and tenderest compassion. If God were not so very merciful, sin would not be so exceeding sinful. How great must be the guilt of those who disregard the mercy offered in the Gospel I
3. What great encouragement does the subject give to every humbled and penitent sinner! Such are apt to be full of doubts and fears. They cry for mercy, but cannot believe that they shall find it. Was God so unwilling to give up even penitent Ephraim? And will He be unwilling to receive and pardon penitent offenders? Surely He feels for you the tenderest pity. He will meet you with loving-kindness.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
(Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
I. GOD'S BACK WARDNESS TO PUNISH SIN. The very strength of God's love for His creatures kindles His indignation against that which works their ruin, whilst regard for His own character and government necessitates the punishment of the ungodly and impenitent. One great difference between God's anger and man's is this, — whilst man's anger is soon kindled, God is "slow to anger, and of great mercy."
II. GOD'S YEARNING DISQUIET FOR THE SALVATION OF MEN. Of this the words of the text are an earnest expression.
1. God's earnest and most pathetical exciting of sinners to turn and repent, that iniquity may not be their ruin, is of itself sufficient to assure us hereof.
2. 'Tis God's ordinary method to give warning to sinners before He strikes. He wants reformation and repentance to stay His hand and prevent the blow. Illustrate by the warning of Noah's ark, and the warnings sent by the prophets, etc. Signs of the times are God's warnings nowadays.
3. It is God's usual course to try a wicked people with lighter judgments first, before He brings the heaviest upon them.
4. When God determined to pour down the vials of His vengeance upon a wicked people, He sometimes plainly intimated that He did it not, until their wickedness was come up to such a height as did necessarily call for them.
5. It is likewise apparent that God Almighty is most backward to the destroying of a wicked people, or putting them into miserable circumstances until necessitated, in that He hath again and again declared His being diverted from so doing by such motives as one would think could have but very little influence upon such a Being as He is, or rather none at all. The following are some of these motives.(1) A mere partial humiliation, one far short of true repentance, as in the case of Ahab and Rehoboam.(2) The prayers of a few good people. As in Moses' intercessions.(3) The advantages taken by God's enemies from His destruction of His people (Deuteronomy 32:27). Learn from this what strange folly, or even desperate madness, doth lodge in the hearts of sinful men. Will sinners still persevere in this their madness?
(E. Fowler, D. D.)
1. God's mercy interposing on the behalf of sinners doth produce not only good wishes but real effects to them.
2. God's mercy towards His sinful people, doth not see it fit to keep off all effects of His displeasure, or leave them altogether unpunished.
3. When a sinful people are under saddest temporal judgments, yet so long as they are in the land of the living, they are bound to reckon that their condition might have been worse if all God's just displeasure were let out.
4. The Lord's moderating of deserved judgments, if it were but to preserve a people from being utterly consumed, is a great proof of God's mercy, and ought to be acknowledged as such.
5. It is the great mercy and advantage of the Lord's sinful people that they have to do with God, not with man, in their miscarriages.
(D. L. Moody.)
Ephraim compasseth Me about with lies.
1. Many, in their prayers, in the solemn act of worship, beset God with lies. Can God be deceived? No, but they did what lay in them to deceive Him; if it were possible for God to have been deceived they would have deceived Him.
2. Many also beset the business and affairs that they manage with lies. They plot with themselves how they may handsomely contrive to put together a goodly number of lies, that so they may beset men's understandings. There are such cunning attempts in the world to beset the understandings of men, that men shall not know what to say to things; and yet, whilst they cannot tell how to believe them, neither do they know what to say, things are so contrived. Deceitful men think with themselves, If such a thing shall be questioned, then I have such a shift to put it off; and if another thing shall be doubted of, then I have such a report, and such a fair pretence, to make it good.
3. When men are once engaged in shifts and lies, they grow pertinacious in them, and there is little hope of their recovery.
( John Calvin.)
But Judah... is faithful with the saints
1. With Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with Moses, with the prophets, with the forefathers.
2. Faithful with such as are sanctified, the true priests of God, that God has sanctified to Himself. Whereas Jeroboam took of the lowest of the people and made them priests to God, Judah would have no other priests but the sanctified ones of God.
3. Faithful with the people of God. For all of Israel that were holy, that were godly, that were saints, and were not detained by some special hand of God, went up from the Ten Tribes to Judah, to the true worship of God; now Judah entertained them, and used them well, and was faithful to them. But on the contrary, Israel, the Ten Tribes, were unfaithful, by using the saints of God evilly that would worship God according to God's own way; they were cruel and oppressing and unfaithful to them, but Judah was faithful towards such, embracing and encouraging them. For us to go on in faithfulness, though we have none to join with, is a commendation; and the ways of God are excellent, whether any or no do join with us in them. But it is a great encouragement to be faithful with the saints; that is, to go on in those ways in which we see the saints walk: and to join with the saints, with such as are the choice saints of God, greatly encourages and strengthens the people of God in their way.