The LORD shall bring on you, and on your people, and on your father's house, days that have not come…
The reference of these verses is clearly national; nevertheless they may be pointed so as to bear upon individual men; for we may be sure that it is on the same principles on which God governs communities that he rules the heart and life of each one of his subjects. We gather concerning Divine retribution -
I. THAT IT MAY BE WROUGHT BY VARIOUS INSTRUMENTALITIES.
1. Sometimes by unconscious instruments.
(1) It may be, as here, by men acting blindly. Egypt and Assyria would be wholly unaware that they were employed by God to do his punitive work. It often happens that men suppose themselves to be simply seeking their own ends when they are really fulfilling the purpose of the Most High.
(2) Or it more frequently is by the regular action of physical or social laws.
2. Sometimes by conscious agents. As when the parent utters his strong displeasure in the Name of the heavenly Father, or the Church passes its sentence of reproach or exclusion in the Name of the Divine Master.
II. THAT IT MAY TAKE ONE OR MORE OF VARIOUS FORMS. Retribution may assume the form of:
1. Diminution. (Vers. 21-23.) All diminution is not directly caused by sin, but sin always tends to despoil and to diminish. The result of doing wrong is to come down from the higher estate to the lower, from power to feebleness, from eminence to obscurity, from influence to nothingness.
2. Dishonor. "It shall also consume the beard" (ver. 20). When men have long persisted in folly and in transgression they become the mark of general dishonor. From qualified respect down, through all stages of ill opinion, to absolute aversion and contempt, does sin conduct its victims. Sin may start in lofty defiance, but it ends in lowest shame.
3. Degradation. (Vers. 24, 25.) The country that was once cultivated by the hand of skilful diligence is left to yield the wretched and useless crop of "briers and thorns." The mind that once produced noble thoughts now yields guilty imaginations; the heart that was once full of holy love is now crowded with unworthy passions; the spirit that once soared heavenward with lofty hopes now circles round ignoble aims and ambitions that are of earth and sense; the life which once brought forth all honorable and admirable activities has nothing to offer now but selfish schemes or even deeds of darkness. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.