And He will give Israel over on account of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit."
I. HE WAS HENCEFORTH TO BE TROUBLED IN HIS OWN LAND. He is there to stagger and tremble under the stroke of God -
1. "As a reed is shaken in the water."
(1) The reed is a figure of frailty. Rabshakeh, in describing the inability of the Egyptians to support Hezekiah against the Assyrians, compares them to a bruised reed (2 Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6; see also Ezekiel 39:6). Contrariwise, our Lord, asserting the stability and vigour of John Baptist, said that he was no "reed shaken with the wind" (Matthew 11:7). In derision of the royalty of Jesus the soldiers put a reed in His hand for a sceptre (Matthew 27:29). Subsequent history bore emphatic testimony to the instability and feebleness of Ephraim.
(2) The reed is "shaken in the water." This element is at once a symbol of trouble and of people (see Psalm 69:17; Revelation 17:15). So disquiet, arising from popular tumults and civil war, is suggested. And did not this become fact? The frequent changes of dynasty kept the nation in perpetual broils. These evils were aggravated by wars with their brethren of Judah.
2. As a reed shaken by the wind.
(1) This is not asserted, but implied, since reeds shake in water when moved by winds. And foreign influences had much to do with the troubles of Israel.
(2) Foreign idolatries introduced by Solomon's wives were at the root of the troubles.
(3) The wars between Israel and Judah brought foreign armies upon the scene Egyptians, Syrians, and Assyrians. By these rough winds the troubles were aggravated.
II. THEN TO BE SCATTERED IN THE LANDS OF STRANGERS.
1. A captivity of Israel is foretold.
(2) This is now to be reversed. "He shall root up Israel out of this good land which he gave to their fathers." Suppose the vine had feeling; what a painful process!
2. Also the region of their dispersion.
(1) "I will scatter them beyond the river i.e., the Euphrates, for thus, by emphasis, this river is ever distinguished in Scripture (see Genesis 15:18; compare Deuteronomy 11:24 with 1 Kings 4:21 and Psalm 72:8).
(2) This river also stands for the Assyrians, through whose territory it flowed. Their armies invading Israel are likened to the Euphrates rising and overflowing its western bank (see Isaiah 8:7).
III. THESE VISITATIONS WERE TO EXPRESS THE ANGER OF GOD.
1. First provoked by their Canaanitish idolatries.
(1) These are represented here by their groves." The word Asherah (אשירה אשרת) occurs thirty-nine times, and is everywhere translated groves, yet it may well be doubted whether this is its meaning. For take the next occurrence after that in our text, viz., ver. 28 of this chapter: How could a grove be built under a green tree? How could a grove be made in the house of the Lord? (See 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:6, 18)
(2) These Asheroth, or Asherim, appear to have been images made of wood, cased in metal, perhaps fashioned like goats, which were worshipped with abominable rites. They were popular Canaanitish divinities, and for this reason to be execrated by Israelites (see Exodus 34:18; Deuteronomy 16:21).
2. Then by their complicity in the sin of Jeroboam.
(1) This addition to their earlier idolatries filled up the measure of their iniquity. For it completely alienated them from the worship of Jehovah in His temple.
(2) They forsook the Lord, so He threatens to "give up Israel for the sin of Jeroboam," as He had also given up the house of Jeroboam to judgment. - J.A.M.
Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin.1. Here we see the tendency of sin to produce sin — to go on propagating sin; here is the connection between the first sinner, who sets the thing in motion — a connection, clear to the eye of God — between him and the very lass result. The Bible does not create this — that book is not accountable for it; for if you had not the Bible, or if you put it out of the question altogether, there is still the fact in the nature of things. People nowadays are perpetually wanting us to keep away from the supernatural revelation, and to take our stand on the natural. Very well. Let us now look at it in that way. I mean to say it is just the natural course of things. Whether there is a God or not, does not alter the question. Put that aside for the moment, and just hear the reality as seen amongst us. The thing is an obvious, absolute fact, wherever it came from, that bad men make bad men — the corrupt produces corruption, and the evil thought, word, or act exerts an influence and propagates itself. Take a man that is dead and buried, and who has been in his grave a hundred years, and you can conceive of his mind coming actually into direct contact with the minds of the present generation, and producing a corrupting influence upon them. Well, then, imagine a man — picture to yourselves the writer of a popular book, aiming to overturn the faith of the young, the indiscreet, and unlearned. Supposing such a man to write such a book which continues to be circulated from generation to generation; copies of it are multiplied and sent forth. Young minds come into contact with it; these minds are corrupted by it; they are defiled and led away from the faith, giving up their confidence in God, and perhaps seduced to what is immoral. Do you not see that though he has been dead two or three hundred years, this author has still a living presence in society? His mind is coming into contact with other living minds; and thus, though dead, he yet speaketh — speaketh against God — speaketh with blasphemy — speaketh to corrupt — and men are thereby corrupted, and taught to blaspheme, and he is thus living, speaking, and operating till the present day by the printing and publication of that work.
2. I want you to see, in the next place, that there is no help for this. On purely natural principles it cannot be helped. If you could get all the readers of Tom Paine to give up their bad books, and agree that they should all be burned, would it not be a miracle? I should like you to try to get that done! But you must do more than that — you must not only destroy the books, but you must annihilate all the impressions on their memories and their hearts that this man's books have made, if you are to stop the evil influence he has set in motion by sinning and teaching others to sin.
3. If a bad man — a man that has sinned himself, and that has taught others to sin, seduced the innocent, sapped the foundations of virtue, destroyed the religious faith of men — supposing such a one to come to a better mind; supposing his heart is changed, and he becomes a penitent believer. He could never undo what he had done for the great mass of those on whom he had exerted a bad influence; and when he wanted to undo what he had done, and exert a good influence, they would just receive his words with mockery, and would go in the way he had led them at first. But even this could not be done. You know that it would be impossible for a man who has exerted a bad influence on others to collect them together and thus to reason with them. No! Before he comes to that better mind, some who were his associates, and whom he has influenced for evil, are dead and beyond his reach. Others are gone to the other side of the globe; and they are beyond his reach. He cannot find where these multitudes are; and they, because of what he did, have influenced others, and others have influenced again; and the thing has gone on, and it is not for him to know its ramifications and its consequences. Now this is the "course of nature," and you cannot help it.
4. Now I want you again to make a supposition for the sake of argument. Supposing that there should be a future life; and supposing that, after death, the souls of men are awakened into a new life, with all the recollections of this — with all the memories of this? The only difference, in all probability, is that they would be delivered from what here darkens the judgment — from what here misleads the mind — and from what here hides a man from himself — and what hides from him the characteristics and properties of his sin. Suppose that he will waken into another life — that he will see things as they are in themselves, and see people as they are; and, perhaps, be able to see and to trace the connection between his sin and the sinning of others? Suppose that he will be able to see and trace the influence on generation after generation, of the evil that he did, and of the influence which he set in motion? Supposing that he should waken up, in this other life, to a moral perception of what he did while alive, and what he continues to do by the influences he then set in motion, and which continued to be a power in the world after he had departed? Well, now; only think of a man waking up to that! Where is it to end, supposing the human spirit does wake up to that? You must take your choice; that, I believe, is the real fact of the case. You must take your choice, looking at nature, at the course of things, at the real, awful, terrible facts of our existence! You must take your choice between two things — either that there is nothing but nature, or that there is a fixed course of things, and we must look forward, both in this world and in the next; and, depend upon it, nature never deceives with respect to those great instincts that she has planted In all her creatures. There is not an instinct, in all animated being, which has not an appropriate good. I only state this. Take your choice. You must believe either that nature is all you have, or you must believe that God in His mercy and grace, and looking down on our condition in its natural state of sin, has done something above nature to reach us — to lead us up — to give us hope!
5. The Gospel comes to destroy the spiritual consequences of your sin, and, through repentance, and faith in God, to give you a hope in mercy, and to save your souls; but as long as you continue unfaithful, you continue subject to the course of nature; and any consequences of sin which you have brought on yourself must be taken to the grave with you, and the Gospel will not help you out of it. If you ruin your health by vice, or your character by crime, you may repent, and God will save you, and the interposition of His grace will sanctify your soul, and you may get to heaven; but it will not give you health, nor will it destroy the consequences which sin has brought on your body — it will not set you in society where you were befog — you will still be remembered as having been a criminal and dishonest man, as long as you live; and though people may rejoice at your conversion, and hope for the best, you will never stand where you once did stand in society. Never! There is another thing I am obliged to submit to. I do not understand it. It is a matter of faith, and I say I do not know how it can be, but I believe that it is, in some way or other. That is to say, I believe this — that a very great sinner, who has led a great many into sin, and been the means of the utter destruction and corruption of many, influentially — well, it is a great mystery, but I believe the Gospel is such, that the grace of God can so operate that that soul may hereafter enjoy repose! It is wonderful to think it; but I believe the Gospel makes a provision for it — I believe that it is within the resources of God's omnipotent mercy, that that soul may be happy in God, notwithstanding the consequences of its sin are going on injuring others! He will go to the grave mourning over that; but then his soul will enter into repose, though these consequences still remain going on.
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