And the children of Israel cried to the LORD, saying, We have sinned against you, both because we have forsaken our God…
I. MAN MUST HAVE SOME RELIGION. If God is forsaken, Baal is followed. The soul cannot endure a void. This temple must always have some deity in it. If the higher religion is rejected, a lower superstition will take the place of it. The decay of the national religion of old Rome was accompanied by the adoption of strange Oriental cults, and by the spread of a religion of magic. Modern scepticism gives birth to extraordinary forms of superstition - religions of nature, of humanity, of spiritualism. Accordingly, the effort to attain freedom by escaping from the restraints of Christianity is a delusion, and ends only in the bondage of some lower influence. The soul must have some master, and if it rebels against God it will serve Baal, mammon, the world, the flesh, or the devil. True liberty is only found in willing obedience, in the submission of love, in sympathy with the mind of God, in delighting in his law. Perfect freedom of will arises from perfect harmony between our will and God's will, so that we gladly desire what he requires (Psalm 40:8).
II. SIN HAS TWO LEADING FEATURES, A POSITIVE AND A NEGATIVE. It is forsaking God and serving Baalim; omission and commission. The tendency is to regard one of these two much to the neglect of the other. Over-scrupulous people are very sensitive about the minutest act of positive wrong, but sometimes indifferent in regard to the neglect of duty. Energetic people often make the opposite mistake, and show great anxiety to do good service, while they are not sufficiently careful to avoid hasty acts of a questionable character. These two sides of sin are closely connected. Devotion to God is the great safeguard to purity; when this grows cold the soul is open to the attack of temptation, leading to direct transgression. On the other hand, positive sin is poison to religious faith. The commission of evil deeds inclines us to the omission of duties. Impurity paralyses zeal. We cannot serve God while we are serving Baalim.
III. CONDUCT ALWAYS TENDS TO RUN INTO EXTREMES. We serve God or Baalim, light or darkness, good or evil. There is no middle course. There appears to be more variety, gradation, and mixed character in life than is allowed for in Scripture (e.g. 1 John 3:8-10). But life is only yet beginning to develop, its true nature will be seen in eternity. Two seeds may look much alike, and the first sprouts from them may not be very dissimilar, yet the gardener who knows the natural history of the plants, judging by their whole growth, may pronounce them to be very different. In this early growth of the soul's life on earth, the great question is, What tendencies does it show? The twilight of sunrise looks very like the twilight of sunset, yet the one is the prophecy of day and the other the portent of night. Two streams which flow from one watershed are at first near together, yet if one is running east and the other west, they may come at last to be divided by a whole continent, and to end in two separate oceans. We must be moving in one or other of two directions. The question is, Are we going to the light or from the light, to God or from God? The tendency determines the character of the life, and this must be justly estimated by the full issues involved in the tendency, not by the present early stages of it. Thus we are all children of the light or children of the darkness, ripening into saintly servants of God or corrupting into wretched slaves of sin. - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.