Luke 14:23
And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) The highways and hedges.—In the frame-work of the parable, this points to a yet lower class of the population of an Eastern country—to the tramps and the squatters who had no home, and who were content to sleep under the shelter of a hedge or fence. For the most part, these were low walls or palisades, rather than hedges in the English sense of the word. In the application of the parable, the men thus brought in can hardly be any other than the wanderers of the outlying Gentile world.

Compel them to come in.—It would have seemed all but incredible, had it not been too painfully and conspicuously true, that men could have seen in these words a sanction to the employment of force and pains and penalties as means of converting men to the faith of Christ. To us it seems almost a truism to say that such means may produce proselytes and hypocrites, but cannot possibly produce converts. There is, of course, something that answers to this “compulsion” in the work of Christian preachers, but the weapons of their warfare are not carnal (2Corinthians 10:4), and the constraint which they bring to bear on men is that of “the love of Christ” (2Corinthians 5:14) The only instances of the other kind of compulsion in the Apostolic age are when Saul “compelled” men and women to blaspheme (Acts 26:11), or the Judaisers “compelled” Gentile converts to be circumcised (Galatians 2:14; Galatians 6:12).

That my house may be filled.—It is obvious that we cannot introduce space-limits into the interpretation of the parable. The gates of the Father’s house are open for evermore, and in its “many mansions” (John 14:2) there is, and ever will be, room for all who come.

14:15-24 In this parable observe the free grace and mercy of God shining in the gospel of Christ, which will be food and a feast for the soul of a man that knows its own wants and miseries. All found some pretence to put off their attendance. This reproves the Jewish nation for their neglect of the offers of Christ's grace. It shows also the backwardness there is to close with the gospel call. The want of gratitude in those who slight gospel offers, and the contempt put upon the God of heaven thereby, justly provoke him. The apostles were to turn to the Gentiles, when the Jews refused the offer; and with them the church was filled. The provision made for precious souls in the gospel of Christ, has not been made in vain; for if some reject, others will thankfully accept the offer. The very poor and low in the world, shall be as welcome to Christ as the rich and great; and many times the gospel has the greatest success among those that labour under worldly disadvantages and bodily infirmities. Christ's house shall at last be filled; it will be so when the number of the elect is completed.Go out into the highways - Since enough had not been found in the lanes and streets, he commands the servant to go into the roads - the public highways out of the city, as well as to the streets "in" it - and invite them also.

Hedges - A hedge is the inclosure around a field or vineyard. It was commonly made of thorns, which were planted thick, and which kept the cattle out of the vineyard. "A common plant for this purpose is the prickly pear, a species of cactus, which grows several feet high, and as thick as a man's body, armed with sharp thorns, and thus forming an almost impervious defense" (Professor Hackett, "Scripture Illustrations," p. 174). Those in the hedges were poor laborers employed in planting them or trimming them - people of the lowest class and of great poverty. By his directing them to go first into the streets of the city and then into the highways, we are not to understand our Saviour as referring to different classes of people, but only as denoting the "earnestness" with which God offers salvation to people, and his willingness that the most despised should come and live. Some parts of parables are thrown in for the sake of "keeping," and they should not be pressed or forced to obtain any obscure or fanciful signification. The great point in this parable was, that God would call in the Gentiles after the Jews had rejected the gospel. This should be kept always in view in interpreting all the parts of the parable.

Compel them - That is, urge them, press them earnestly, one and all. Do not hear their excuses on account of their poverty and low rank of life, but urge them so as to overcome their objections and lead them to the feast. This expresses the "earnestness" of the man; his anxiety that his table should be filled, and his purpose not to reject any on account of their poverty, or ignorance, or want of apparel. So God is earnest in regard to the most polluted and vile. He commands his servants, his ministers, to "urge" them to come, to "press" on them the salvation of the gospel, and to use all the means in their power to bring into heaven poor and needy sinners.

23. highways and hedges—outside the city altogether; historically, the heathen, sunk in the lowest depths of spiritual wretchedness, as being beyond the pale of all that is revealed and saving, "without Christ, strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12); generally, all such still. Thus, this parable prophetically contemplates the extension of the kingdom of God to the whole world; and spiritually, directs the Gospel invitations to be carried to the lowest strata, and be brought in contact with the outermost circles, of human society.

compel them to come in—not as if they would make the "excuses" of the first class, but because it would be hard to get them over two difficulties: (1) "We are not fit company for such a feast." (2) "We have no proper dress, and are ill in order for such a presence." How fitly does this represent the difficulties and fears of the sincere! How is this met? "Take no excuse—make them come as they are—bring them along with you." What a directory for ministers of Christ!

that my house may be filled—"Grace no more than nature will endure a vacuum" [Bengel].

See Poole on "Luke 14:16"

And the Lord said unto the servant,.... A second time; that since the Jews put away the word of eternal life from them, and judged themselves unworthy of it by their contradicting and blaspheming it, he commanded his apostles to turn from them to the Gentiles; see Acts 13:45,

go out into the highways and hedges: the Persic version adds, "of the vineyards"; see 1 Chronicles 4:23 and may in general design the mean, base, vile, and sinful state of the Gentiles; who might be said to be "in the highways", because they were without the commonwealth and church of the Jews; were not admitted to civil conversation, nor to religious worship with them; and were left to walk on in their own ways, of their own devising and choosing, in which they delighted: they were not in God's highway, which is a way of holiness, Isaiah 35:8 but in their own highways; either following the various sects of the philosophers, which were vain and foolish; or going into different practices of idolatry, and walking in very sinful and vicious courses; and so were in the broad road and highway to destruction: and their being in, and under "the hedges", may denote their state of separation from God; being without him, alienated from the life of him, and afar off from him; being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, Ephesians 2:12 they were not in the gardens and enclosures, but under the hedges:

and compel them to come in; to the house of God, and church of Christ; to come and hear the word, and quit their former course of living, and attend the word and worship of God; and upon an evidence of the truth of grace upon their souls, to come into a Gospel church state, and partake of all privileges and ordinances in it; to which they are to be compelled, not by outward force, but by forcible words, by powerful arguments, and by the strength of persuasion; which expresses the nature of the Gospel ministry, which is to persuade Japhet to dwell in the tents of Shem; and the power that attends it by the divine Spirit; the case and condition of souls, who are generally bashful and backward, judging themselves unworthy; as also the earnest desire, and great liberality of Christ, the master of the feast, whose end in it is as follows:

that my house may be filled; with men, like a flock, and these with gifts and grace; with such as shall be saved, as with elect Jews, so with the fulness of the Gentiles.

And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 14:23. ὁδοὺς καὶ φραγμοὺς, “highways and hedges”; the main roads and the footpaths running between the fields, alongside of the hedges (Hahn); these, in the country, answering to the streets and lanes in the town. The people to be found there are not necessarily lower down socially than those called within the city, perhaps not so low, but they are without, representing in the interpretation the Gentiles.—ἀνάγκασον, compel; reflects in the first place the urgent desire of the master to have an absolutely full house, in the second the feeling that pressure will be needed to overcome the incredulity of country people as to the invitation to them being meant seriously. They would be apt to laugh in the servant’s face.—ἵνα γεμισθῇ: the house must be full, no excuse to be taken; but for a curious reason.

23. into the highways and hedges] i.e. outside the city; intimating the ultimate call of the Gentiles.

compel them to come in] By such moral suasion as that described in 2 Timothy 4:2. The compulsion wanted is that used by Paul the Apostle, not by Saul the Inquisitor. The abuse of the word “Compel” in the cause of intolerance is one of the many instances which prove the deadliness of that mechanical letter-worship which attributes infallibility not only to Scripture, but even to its own ignorant misinterpretations. The compulsion is merciful, not sanguinary; it is a compulsion to inward acceptance, not to outward conformity; it is employed to overcome the humble despair of the penitent, not the proud resistance of the heretic. Otherwise it would have been applied, not to the poor suffering outcasts, but to the haughty and privileged persons who had refused the first invitation. Yet even Augustine shews some tendency to this immoral perversion of the words in his “Foris invefiiatur necessitas, nascitur intus voluntas.” Others apply it to threats of eternal punishment, and a ministry which dwells on lessons of wrath.

Luke 14:23. Φραγμοὺς, hedges) which are the house-walls of beggars [the only kind of houses they have.]—[εἰς τὰς ὁδοὺς, into the highways) Pure unmixed paganism is hereby meant.—V. g.]—ἀνάγκασον εἰσελθεῖν, compel them to come in) It is not compulsion of every kind that is meant: for he who is altogether dragged or hurried by force cannot be said to come in [which implies a voluntary act]. Comp. the ἠνάγκασεν, Matthew 14:22, “He constrained His disciples,” etc. [which does not mean physical force compulsion, but by urgent command induced]; 2 Corinthians 12:11; Galatians 2:14; παραβιάζεσθαι, in Luke 24:29; Acts 16:15. It was in altogether different ways that Saul, when mad with zeal for Judaism, compelled men, and Paul the servant of Jesus Christ compelled men. [The later the call is, the more strongly urgent in proportion is he; Luke 14:23, εἰπεῖν, say, Luke 14:17, εἰσάγαγε, bring in, Luke 14:21, ἀνάγκασον, compel, Luke 14:23, are in successive gradation (form an ascending climax).—V. g.]—γεμισθῇ, may be filled) Neither nature nor grace admits of a vacuum. The blessed ones form a multitude, which acquires the greatest portion of its fulness in the last periods of the world. [In consonance with this is the prophecy that Christ after “having seen the travail of His soul shall be satisfied,” Isaiah 53:11.—V. g.]

Verse 23. - And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges. Hitherto the parable-story has been dealing with the past and the present of Israel; it now becomes prophetic, and speaks of a state of things to be. The third series of invitations is not addressed to inhabitants of a city. No walls hem in these far-scattered dwellers among the highways and hedges of the world. This time the master of the house asks to his great banquet those who live in the isles of the Gentiles. And compel them to some in. A greater pressure is put on this class of outsiders than was tried upon the favoured first invited. The indifferent ones were left to themselves. They knew, or professed to know and to appreciate, the nature of that feast in heaven, the invitation to which they treated apparently with so much honour, and really with such contempt. But these outsiders the Divine Host would treat differently. To them the notion of a pitying, loving God was quite a strange thought; these must be compelled - must be brought to him with the gentle force which the angels used when they laid hold of the hand of lingering Lot, and brought him out of the doomed city of the plain. Thus faithful men, intensely convinced of the truth of their message, compel others, by the bright earnestness of their words and life, to join the company of those who are going up to the feast above. Anselm thinks that God may be also said to compel men to come in when he drives them by calamities to seek and find refuge with him and in his Church. That my house may be filled. In ver. 22 the servant, who knew well his master's mind and his master's house too, and its capabilities, tells his lord how, after many had accepted the invitation and were gone in to the banquet, "yet there was room." The master of the house, approving his servant's words, confirms them by repeating, "Bring in more andyet more, that my house may be filled." Bengel comments here with his quaint grace in words to which no translation can do justice: "Nee natura nec gratis patitur vacuum." Our God, with his burning love for souls, will never bear to contemplate a half-empty heaven. "Messiah will see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied." "The love of God," says Godet, "is great; it requires a multitude of guests; it will not have a seat empty. The number of the elect is, as it were, determined beforehand by the riches of the Divine glory, which cannot find complete reflection without a certain number of human beings. The invitation will, therefore, be continued, and consequently the history of our race prolonged, until that number be reached." Luke 14:23Hedges (φραγμοὺς)

See on Matthew 21:33. It may mean either a hedge, or a place enclosed with a hedge. Here the hedges beside which vagrants rest.

Compel

Compare constrained, Matthew 14:22; Acts 26:11; Galatians 6:12. Not to use force, but to constrain them against the reluctance which such poor creatures would feel at accepting the invitation of a great lord.

May be filled (γεμισθῇ)

A very strong word; properly of loading a ship. "Nature and grace alike abhor a vacuum" (Bengel).

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