O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? for your goodness is as a morning cloud…
Ephraim and Judah were made better neither by promises nor threatenings, so that their case was very hopeless, and nothing seemed to remain but that the Lord should leave them. In the text we have that which made their case so hopeless. They had at times some goodness — Hebrew, "kindness." They had at times some kindness for God and His way, some warmth of affections towards good. It was but sometimes. Their goodness was passing goodness. This instability is held forth by the similitude —
1. Of a morning cloud;
2. Of the early dew.Such is the instability of many in the good way of the Lord, that the goodness at which they sometimes arrive passeth away as a morning cloud and as the early dew.
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS DOES THIS LIKENESS HOLD GOOD? The goodness of the saints cannot pass away totally or finally. But even the saints may lose much of the degrees of grace.
1. Men's goodness often goes away very quickly as the morning cloud which appears only a very short while. Goodness of fellowship with Christ often fades quickly away. Goodness often passes quickly away after deliverance from trouble.
2. Men's goodness ordinarily goes away by degrees, almost imperceptibly. Carnal security creeps leisurely on men, until by it they are taken off their feet. When temptation comes, man's goodness is often amissing. Much goodness passes away in a time of persecution for the Gospel. And much when we are called to duty.
II. REASONS WHY THE GOODNESS OF MANY THUS PASSES AWAY.
1. Many, for all their goodness, have not the living Spirit of Christ dwelling in them.
2. Because the souls of many do not unite with Christ, who is the only head of influence.
3. Because, with many, religion is not their proper element. It is a forced matter with them that they have any at all. Self-love is their highest principle. They have no real love to the Lord, nor does the intrinsic beauty of holiness recommend it to them.
4. Because they have no spirit for difficulties and disappointments. They go forward cheerfully while things are laid to their hand; but disappointments take heart and hand from them, and they are knocked in the head.
5. Because of the entertaining of unmortified lusts, which, like suckers, draw the sap from the tree.
6. Because the profits and pleasures of the world soon charm away men's goodness.
7. Because of unwatchfulness over the heart and life. I would exhort you, then, that have attained to anything of goodness or kindness to the Lord in His way, that you would set yourselves to hold it fast.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.