Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty, and makes it waste, and turns it upside down, and scatters abroad the inhabitants thereof.…
These words give a vivid and a terrible picture of calamity that should befall the people of God. It is suitably called "the curse" (ver. 6), for it should prove an evil of the severest kind; and it would be other than a national misfortune - it would be the penalty of sin: therefore, because of the sins charged against the nation (ver. 5), these multiplied sorrows would overtake and overwhelm them; "for the Lord hath spoken this word" (ver. 3).
I. GOD'S CHARGE AGAINST HIS PEOPLE. (Ver. 5.) This is threefold.
1. Disregard of his spoken Word. "They have transgressed the laws." Those plain statements of the will of God which had been revealed in "the Law" had been deliberately disobeyed - requirements unfulfilled, prohibitions set at naught.
2. Perversion of Divine truth. "Changed the ordinance." The Jews were subtle and sinful enough to appear to keep the Law when they were habitually breaking it. This they did by changing or perverting it, by making it mean something different from the Divine intention, by taking the heart out of it, by minimizing and dwarfing it (see Matthew 15:3-9).
3. Violation of his will as revealed in our common human nature. "Broken the everlasting covenant." This covenant is well summarized in Psalm 34:15, 16; it has fallen into grievous and guilty disregard. Men refrained from righteousness and "did evil," yet they shrank not from the accusing eye and the uplifted hand of God (see Romans 2:14, 15). The people of God will do well to ask themselves whether they are not in danger of being obnoxious to the same charge; whether they are not neglecting the will of God as expressly revealed in the words of Christ and his apostles; or are not changing, by radical misconstruction, the purpose of their Lord; or are not setting aside some of the first principles written in their nature by the Father of spirits.
II. THE CALAMITY WHICH ATTENDS DISOBEDIENCE. This is manifold, as indicated in the text.
1. Desolation. Emptiness, waste, dispersion (ver. 1), inaccessibility (ver. 10; see also vers. 3, 6, 12).
2. Degradation. The land "turned upside down," so that what was meant for higher ends is employed for baser ones (ver. 1); "utterly spoiled" (ver. 3); defilement (ver. 5); resort to stimulants for false courage (ver. 11).
3. Enfeeblement. The land "fadeth away," "languisheth" (ver. 4); the strength of the city is gone, for even the gate (the strong place) is "smitten with destruction" (ver. 12).
4. Abject misery. (Vers. 7, 8.) Even that which usually excites with pleasure has lost its charm (ver. 9).
5. Completeness and commonness of the scourge (ver. 2). Such, in various manifestations, according to the nature of the subject and the character of the guilt, is the calamitous issue of disobedience; so heavy is the devouring curse (ver. 6) when Divine laws are disobeyed and the Divine claims denied. The land, the Church, the family, the individual life, is desolate, is degraded, is enfeebled, is rendered joyless. The best companions are dispersed, and life is lonely; the loftier and worthier ends of existence are surrendered for those less worthy, and ultimately for those which are positively base; the strength of righteousness and virtue gives place to the feebleness of folly and to the degeneracy of vice; song dies into silence and then into a wail.
(1) Beware of spiritual and then moral decline.
(2) Seek and find, in repentance and faith, a way up even from the dark depths of ruin. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.