Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation.Job 27:21). In leaving God and following idols, Ephraim fed on what is unsatisfying, and chased after what is destructive. If a hungry man were to feed on wind, it would be light food. If a man could overtake the east wind, it were his destruction. Israel "fed on wind when he sought by gifts to win one who could aid him no more than the wind; 'he chased the east wind' when, in place of the gain which he sought, he received from the patron whom he had adopted no slight loss." Israel sought for the scorching wind, when it could betake itself under the shadow of God. "The scorching wind," says St. Cyril, "is the burning of calamities, and the consuming fire of affliction." "He increaseth lies and desolation"; for unrepented sins and their punishment are, in God's government, linked together; so that to multiply sin is, in fact, to multiply desolation. Sin and punishment are bound together as cause and effect. "Lying will signify false speaking, false dealing, false opinions, false worship, false pretences for colour thereof, false hopes, or relying on things that will deceive. In all these kinds was Ephraim at that time guilty, adding one sort of lying to another."
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
1. The following after vain, unprofitable things. When men please themselves in their own conceits and in their own counsels, and walk in ways that are, and certainly will be, unprofitable to them, they are said to feed on wind. When men think to please God with their own inventions, to escape danger by their own shifts, to prevail against the saints by their deep counsels and fetches, they feed upon wind; when men promise to themselves great matters by ways of their own, that are not God's, they feed upon wind, and for all this the prophet rebukes the ten tribes.
2. The prevailing pride and elation of heart. According to the food, so will the body be; those that feed on wind must needs have hearts puffed up with conceitedness of themselves, and contempt of others that are not in the same way as themselves: they lie sucking imaginary content and sweetness in their own ways; they are full of themselves. They feed on wind, yet one prick of disappointment will quickly let out all the wind from such bladders.
3. Dependence on carnal creature comforts. Evil men that live upon the applause of men, upon honours, feed on wind, and are puffed up for awhile; but any prick of God's appearing against them lets out the windy stuff, and quickly they are dead. Any member of the body that is puffed up with wind seems to be greater than any other part, but it is not stronger; no, it is consequently the weaker: and so it is with the hearts of men that are puffed up with windy conceits and with creature contentments, they have no strength by this inflation; though they seem stronger, yet when they are called either to do or to suffer for God, they then appear to be very weak, and therefore will change as the wind changes. Illustrate by the chameleon.
4. The turbulent, unquiet disposition of such. We know that the wind raises tempests and storms; and so men that are puffed up with, the wind of their own conceits are the men that raise such tempests and storms in the places where they live. The saints have better food to feed upon, food that makes them more solid and more staid.Learn —
1. Creature comforts will prove but wind. Those who seek to satisfy themselves with such, and to stay themselves on their own conceits, not only deceive themselves, and will be disappointed at last in their expectations, but they will find these their ways to be very pestilential, hurtful, and dangerous; they will find that they will undo them and bring them to utter misery.
2. It is a grievous thing, when troubles come, to have nothing within us to bear us out but the wind. Suppose men meet with the rough east wind, or storms and tempests befall them, yet if they have had solid food, whereby they come to get good blood and marrow and spiritS, they may be able to bear it; but when the body is empty and meets with tempests, this is very grievous to the poor frame. So it is with many when they meet with afflictions; but the saints have such solidity within them as bears them out, but other men that are empty, that have fed upon the wind all their days, have nothing to bear them out in great afflictions, but their hearts sink down in horror and despair.
Homilist.Delitzsch renders, "Ephraim grazeth wind." The idea is that it sought for support and satisfaction in those things which were utterly unsubstantial and worthless "wind."
I. II. III. (Homilist.)
II. III. (Homilist.)
And will punish Jacob according to his ways
And by his strength he had power with God.
Nay, but I yield, I yield;
I can hold out no more!Is that the end, then? It would have been with some men, but Jacob clings with all his remaining strength to his great antagonist, until he wrings a blessing from the struggle. It was after his defeat, you observe, after he was worsted and thrown, that he prevailed. Look at the text again (R.V. margin), "In his strength he strove with God; yea, he strove with the angel, and prevailed." But how? In this way: "He wept, and made supplication unto Him." He supplicates the possession he cannot win. The blessing he sought to wring from God was his in a free and gracious gift. The sun rose on a changed and chastened life. But the long struggle had left its mark on him. He halted on his thigh. He lost the proud, self-confident swing in his gait. He was a humbler and a better man. Is that an old story I have been telling you? Is it not your story? Yours and mine? Do you remember that dark and troubled day when the Unseen asserted its rights — when you wrestled, but not with flesh and blood? And you found that the tricks and quirks which avail in that warfare were no use, for you were dealing with God. Is that the explanation of some struggle in the darkness which is going on here and now? Have we never heard of the striving of the Spirit? Is that the meaning of some bitter disappointment which comes unexpectedly into the life of some self-confident man who has hitherto never known what failure means? The power which wrestles with you is. a power which longs to bless. If you will cling with all your strength, it may be you will come out of that struggle crowned and with a new name, because in the struggle you have learned His name, and in defeat you have learned to pray.
(A. Moorhouse, M. A.)
— The strength that God puts into us, though it be God's own, yet when we have it, and work by it, God accounts it as ours; it is called Jacob's strength, though the truth is, it was God's strength. It is a great honour to manifest much strength in wrestling with God in prayer. In this was the honour of Jacob, with his strength he prevailed with God. We should not come with weak and empty prayers, but we should put forth strength; if a Christian has any strength in the world for anything, he should have it in prayer. According to the strength of the fire, the bullet, ascends; so according to what strength we put forth in prayer, so is our prevalence. This strength of Jacob was a type of the spiritual strength which God gives His saints when they have to deal with Him. See Ephesians 3:16. Surely the strength is great that is by the Spirit of God, but such strength shall manifest the glory of the Spirit of God. This is the strength attainable for Christians, even here in this world. Let us not be satisfied with faint desires and wishes, when Jesus Christ is tendered to us as the fountain of strength. But do you walk so that your strength manifests that such riches of the glory of God dwell in you? Christians should seek to be strengthened with all might, according to the glorious power of God. The way to prevail with men is to prevail with God.
(Beaver H. Blacker, M. A.)
(Rowland Williams, D. D.)
I. JACOB'S FIRST CONVERSION. At Bethel Jacob cannot be called a "religious man." He had come into no personal relations with God. He acknowledged, but did not know, his father's God. His character had, as yet, received no shakings, so it had thrown down no personal and independent rootings; there were no signs of the sway of any central and unifying principles. He could still be described as "without God in the world." But out of the very consequences of his wrongdoings come the beginnings of nobler things. The vision gives us the time when Jacob first entered into personal relations with God. It may help us to understand in what our conversion to God essentially consists — a revelation of the personal God to the soul; and the acceptance, by the soul, of the responsibilities of that revelation. Jacob's new life begins with a personal revelation of God. This is the Divine arrest of the man in the very midst of his wilfulness and selfishness. God guides him with the hand of His Providence, and sets him just where He can best reveal to him Himself. We have no record of Jacob's struggling after the light, and at last reaching, after long efforts, to the light of God. In his case there is no growing of knowledge into the wisdom of God, no unfolding of moral feeling into spiritual life; but upon him, while actually in his heedlessness, the revelation of God comes: a new fact of his existence is impressively disclosed to him: this fact, that God, his father's God, Abraham's God, was with him. That fact at once, and altogether, changes the principle and spirit of his life. Religion is not a development; it is not an education; it is not something which man can himself start and nourish. It is the effect of a Divine salvation; an intervention of God; a gracious mode of bringing man into conscious and happy relations with God. It was a vision of God, and an assurance of the Divine nearness to him, and care of him, that bowed Jacob down with the profoundest awe and humiliation. The ungodly soul felt that God was about him, close to him. The vision opened Jacob's eyes —
1. To see God's relation to his life. The vision showed God caring for sinful, wandering Jacob, watching over his slumbers, peopling the desert for him with ministering angels, and assuring him of unfailing guardianship. He could never be the same man again when this fact had been brought home to his very heart.
2. To feel a conviction of the Divine claims of God is here, I must wait, listen, obey.
3. To realise the Divine love, the sovereign fulness and freeness of Divine grace, Jacob woke in the morning to feel — God loves me, even me.
II. JACOB'S SECOND CONVERSION. The wrestling represents the highest point in the spiritual history of Jacob. It was the time in which Jacob learned the mystery and the joy of trusting wholly, committing himself entirely to the Divine love and lead. The wrestling at Jabbok is the close of a scene of which each part requires careful attention. Anxious and scheming as he came within sight of Canaan, he had the vision of the guarding angels to recall him from his schemings to trust. He had hitherto only seen his helpless company and the approaching peril, and like the prophet's servant in later times, God opened his eyes to see, closer than any danger, the two angel-bands of watchers. Recalled thus to the thought of God's nearness, Jacob feels that he must blend prudent schemes with prayer, and the prayer he offers is full of humility, thankfulness, and pleading, that makes it in many ways a model of prayer. But it is easily overestimated. It is the prayer of one who is still rough too self-conscious, of one who has not yet quite given up his guileful ways: there is still something of Jacob's old mistake of "making terms with God." He is evidently learning his great life-lesson, but the prayer shows that he has not fully learned it yet. It was a kind of drama of his life which was acted through that night. It was a gracious way of shewing Jacob what had been the mistake of his whole career. He had always been wrestling. Now in his heart he was even wrestling with God. But He will find that a very different thing. If it does seem that a man's wrestling brings mastery, it is only because God does not put forth His strength in the conflict. When He does and Simply touches Jacob, the confident wrestler, is prostrate and utterly helpless; he can wrestle no more, he can only cling, he can only say, "Give me the blessing"; he gives up at last all self-efforts to win the blessing.
(Robert Tuck, B. A.)
Even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial.
1. Christ is, without all controversy true God, the same in essence and equal in power and glory with the Father; for this Angel (ver. 4) is even Jehovah, the God of hosts.
2. Great is their advantage and their dignity who have converse and keep communion with God, who hath being of Himself, and who hath all creatures ready as hosts at His command, as there is need. For this sets out Jacob's advantage, that in his wrestlings and other intercourse he had to do with the Lord God of hosts.
3. God is unchangeably still the same, as kind, able, and exorable to His people as ever He was at any time, if they would come and make use of Him; for He did all that to Jacob, not only for present use, but that, proving Himself to be Jehovah, this might be His memorial for the use of His Church in all generations; and upon this ground it is that in the next verse they are exhorted to turn to Him. See Exodus 3:15.
4. The Lord needs no images to keep up a memorial of Him; but His name and nature are manifested in His word and works sufficiently to keep them who converse with these in remembrance of Him; for Jehovah, and His manifesting Himself to be so, is His memorial.
Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and Judgment, and wait on thy God continually.
I. THE INSTRUCTION TO THE UNCONVERTED. Turn thou to thy God. An unconverted person is one whose heart is not changed and turned to God. Every person who is habitually proud, sensual, or covetous, indulging a self-righteous spirit, or following sin with greediness; or leading a worldly life, careless of his soul and eternity; every ]person who sins without remorse, and has, in fact, no other rule for his conduct but his own interest, gain, or will — every such person is an unconverted person. All unconverted persons are turned from God., They are estranged from Him in heart and affections. Those who are turned away from God must be miserable. the first step in real religion is conversion, that is, the turning of the heart to God. There can be no real religion till this step be taken. Do you inquire the way? There is but one way, even Jesus Christ. He is "the way" Would you then turn to God, you must come to Him by this way. You must draw nigh to God in faith; and pray to Him for Christ's sake to be reconciled unto you. You must beseech Him to grant to you the Spirit of Christ, to work in you true repentance. Thus turning to Him, you will be graciously and favourably received. He never casts out any souls that turn to Him through Jesus Christ.
II. THE INSTRUCTION VOUCHSAFED TO THOSE WHO ARE ALREADY CONVERTED. "Keep mercy and judgment and wait on thy God continually." The converted are those who, having through grace renounced the ways of sin and the course of this world, have turned unto God by faith in Jesus Christ their Saviour; with penitent hearts have joined themselves unto Him, and, being justified by faith, have peace with God. The instruction divides itself into two parts —
1. "Keep mercy and judgment." All who turn to God should be careful to maintain good works. They are called with a holy calling, and their life and conversation should accord with it. In mercy. In exercising kindness and compassion to all. In judgment. In doing justice and righteousness; in rendering, to all their due; in making restitution for wrongs or injuries committed.
2. "Wait on thy God continually." To wait upon God is to depend upon Him; to exercise a believing expectation of receiving from Him all those supplies and succours of which we stand in need.
(Life of C. A. Berry, D. D.)
He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress, etc
Homilist.I. FORTUNES BADLY USED.
1. Here there is no recognition of human co-operation. No man comes in possession of wealth without the efforts of some men either living or dead. Wealth, in most cases, is the result of the efforts of a large number of human workers But the possessor oftentimes takes no note of this. He thinks only of himself.
2. Here there is no recognition of Divine agency. All fortunes come of God. Out of His materials, out of His seasons, out of the activity of His creatures. Many fortunes are held and employed in a spirit of haughty egotism.
II. FORTUNES BADLY MADE.
1. Here is fraud. There is deceit everywhere. In all fabrics, groceries, trade commodities. Deceit in making, deceit both in the buying and the selling.
2. Here is oppression. Fraud is oppression, in some form or other.
3. Here is cunning. Ephraim — this typical fortune-maker — took such care to conceal all that was unfair and nefarious in his operations that he was certain no wrong could be found in his doings. Many who have made a fortune by a swindle have so guarded the transaction that they have clapped their hands and said, "None will ever find it out."
III. FORTUNES BADLY ENDED. To all such fortune-holders and fortune-makers retribution must come sooner or later.
And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
I. THE HIDING OF SIN. Ephraim is in truth most unrighteous, but he contrives to sin in such a way that he appears innocent. And do we not attempt by many subtilties to hide the real qualities of our actions, to shelter ourselves from their just penalties?
1. Men sin deeply, and yet keep within the civil law. National and international law were scrupulously observed by Ephraim. Men still flatter themselves that they keep the law of the land. A man may do that and still be an infinite scoundrel. He may be guilty of gross dishonesty. He may keep the civil law with very little sense of generosity. We may be guilty of deep cruelty to our fellows, and the law of the magistrate takes no cognisance of our actions. Often the very worst escape, whilst those far less guilty are denounced and punished.
2. Men sin deeply, and yet keep within public opinion. A public opinion exists which is more strict and pervasive than the civil law. This public opinion we are bound to respect, we do respect it, and some of us are abundantly satisfied if we succeed in meeting its exactions. But how much personal, commercial, political immorality is yet untouched by public opinion! A man may be a rascal, and yet a gentleman. With a plausible tongue, a polished style, with fine phrases and fine manners, a man may be guilty of fraud, cruelty, uncleanness, and yet remain throughout popular in society! Rotten at the core, he is painted on the rind, and the world sees the skin and not the soul. Some of the handsomest butterflies have the strangest tastes — they turn aside from the most glorious flowers to sip filthiest messes.
3. We sin deeply, and yet maintain the sense of personal dignity. Ephraim hid the fact of his guiltiness by looking at his successfulness. Men still forget their sinfulness in their prosperity. A man may be a conqueror, and yet his glory be his shame; he may attain honour, and his scarlet robe be the fitting sign of his scarlet sins; he may grow rich, and every coin in his coffers witness against him. "His honour rooted in dishonour stood." Proud, selfish, dishonest, sensual men flatter themselves in their own eyes until their iniquity is found to be hateful.
4. Men sin deeply, and yet keep within ecclesiastical discipline. Ephraim would do no iniquity that were sin from an ecclesiastical point of view. Yet all the while he was guilty of falsehood, robbery, injustice, uncleanness; he called himself Israel, but God called him a Canaanite. A man may be a terrible sinner, and yet observe all the ceremonial law.
II. MARK THE INEVITABLE EXPOSURE AND PUNISHMENT OF SIN. Cleverly disguised as sin may be, it will surely suffer detection. God knows nothing about appearances; He knows us as we think in our heart. And what stands revealed is bound to meet with just retribution. "Then in all life let us —
1. Aim at the highest; and —
2. Test ourselves by the highest; let us judge ourselves in the sight of God, and by the absolute standard.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
Make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feastthen make them to dwell in tabernacles. For all their service of Him was out of their own mind, contrary to His will, displeasing to Him. This, then, "I will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles," implies a distnt mercy, beyond and distinct from their present condition. Looking on beyond the time of the Captivity, He says that they shall yet have a time of joy, "as in the days of the solemn feast." God would give them a new deliverance, but out of a new captivity, The Feast of the Tabernacles typifies this our pilgrim-state, the life of simple faith in God, for which God provides; poor in this world's goods, but rich in God. The church militant dwells, as it were, in tabernacles; hereafter, we hope to be "received into everlasting habitations" in the Church triumphant.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
1. Explanation. Of ancient agreement, or according to appointed days; for God had promised to give the land of Canaan to the posterity of Abraham for their perpetual rest. Explanation —
2. Israelites are here reproved, because they neglected the command of God, who had instituted a festal day, on which they were to commemorate yearly their redemption. Explanation —
3. The prophet threatens the Israelites, as though he said, "God will again drive you out, that you may dwell in tents, as you formerly did in the desert." Explanation —
4. "Inasmuch as your former redemption has lost its influence through your wicked forgetfulness, I will become again your redeemer; I will therefore make thee to abide in tents as formerly; as your first redemption avails nothing, I will add a second, that you may at length repent, and know how much you are indebted to Me."
( John Calvin.)
I have also spoken by the prophets.
1. It is God who speaks by the prophets. Though the prophets and the messengers of God are mean, yet so long as they speak to you in His name, the authority of what they say is above any. They may be under their auditors in many ways, but the message they bring is above them; though they are weak, the power of God goes along with what they speak, to make it good. The Word does little good till men come to apprehend this, that it is God who speaks by His messengers.
2. It is a great mercy to a people for God to reveal His mind to them by His prophets. What would all the world be but as a dungeon of darkness, were it not for the prophets and ministers of God?
3. God will take account of what becomes of the word, labour, and pains of His prophets. So He here upbraids Ephraim with them. God will take account of all the spirits that His ministers spend, of every drop of their sweat, and of all their watchings in the night; I sent My prophets, rising early. God will take account of all, and you shall know that there has been a prophet among you; the ministers shall be brought out to say and testify, "Lord, I was in such a place, and I revealed Thy mind thus unto them; they could not but be convinced, and yet still they continued in their wickedness."
I. BEGIN WITH THE EARLY MORNING. This morning you awaked, and put on your garments. By a similitude God reminded you that you needed a garment for your soul. Taking meals. Going to business. Returning home in the evening, all are similitudes.
II. ALL THE YEAR ROUND GOD DOTH PREACH TO MAN BY SIMILITUDES. Seed-time. Then the time of blade; of ear, of full corn in the ear. The migration of birds. The wind, heat, etc.
III. EVERY PLACE TO WHICH YOU JOURNEY, EVERY ANIMAL YOU SEE, EVERY SPOT YOU VISIT, HAS A SERMON FOR YOU. Journeying, the mountains, the sea, all have their lesson for us.
IV. EVERY MAN IN HIS CALLING HAS A SERMON PREACHED TO HIM. Illustrate from the farmer, the baker, the butcher, the brewer, the salesman, the writer, the doctor, the builder, the jeweller, etc.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( John Calvin.)
Homilist.God is the great Teacher of mankind. He teaches the best lessons in the best way and for the best purpose. God has always employed prophets in His great school for humanity. The text indicates His method of teaching them.
I. BY VISIONS. He gives to these men inner revelations, unfolds to them spiritual realities, opens their spiritual eyes, and bids them look. What wonderful visions Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul, and John had. These visions serve to show three things.
1. The distinguishing glory of the human mind.
2. The accessibility of the human mind to God.
3. The reality of spiritual things.
II. BY SIMILITUDE. He showed them the invisible by the visible, the spiritual by the sensuous. He gave them parables. There are good reasons for this mode of teaching spiritual truth.
1. It makes the spiritual more attractive.
2. It makes the material appear more Divine.
Therefore shall He leave his blood upon him.