When thus it shall be in the middle of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree…
We learn -
I. THAT GOD TEMPERS JUDGMENT WITH MERCY. (Ver. 13.) There will be some fruit spared, though the olive tree be terribly shaken, though the grapes have been gathered. All will not be taken from the holy land; a remnant shall be left. Though God strip a man or a nation of his (its) resources, yet will he leave him (it) a remainder, something to console him, something with which he may start anew. A starry night succeeds a stormy day; a calm and quiet age closes a life of struggle and of sorrow;, "the old familiar faces" have disappeared, but a few faithful souls still linger who can go back with us in thought and sympathy to early days.
II. THAT FROM THE LIPS OF THE CHASTENED THERE OFTEN COME SWEET AND EVEN TRIUMPHANT STRAINS. (Ver. 14.) Those who have been visited in Divine wrath, and have seen their compatriots carried away into captivity, shall not give way to despondency; they shall learn to honor and to rejoice in the majesty of Jehovah; they "shall lift up the voice," "shall sing," "shall shout" (exult). Something (it does not appear what) in the Divine character will appear to them so majestic, so glorious, so beneficent, that their sweetest and strongest accents will be called forth. To those who stand outside it often seems wonderful and incomprehensible that those who are inside a great affliction should find such occasion for thanksgiving. But it is certainly true that the sick in their sickness, the poor in their poverty, the bereaved in their loneliness, often find more reason for thankful song than do the strong in their strength and the wealthy in their riches. And the song they sing is not one in which submission struggles with complaint, but rather, as here, the happy outpouring of perfect acquiescence in the Divine will, - the voice of sacred joy.
III. THAT GOD WILL BE GLORIFIED BY THOSE FURTHEST OFF AS BY THOSE NEAR TO HIS SANCTUARY. (Ver. 15.) "Glorify ye the Lord" in the east ("in the fires"); in the west ("the isles of the sea "); "from the uttermost part of the earth," etc. (ver. 16). Under the chastening hand of the Lord Israel went into exile; in exile the truth of God was made known as it otherwise would not have been. In other ways the judgments of God led, and still lead, to the circulation of his truth and to the magnifying of his Name. A cleansed and purified Church will be a missionary Church, through whose instrumentality the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will be known and sung on every hand.
IV. THAT THE RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL RELIGIOUS SERVICE. "Glory to the Righteous One" (ver. 16). Ill indeed would it be for the land in which the piety of the people lost its hold on the righteousness of God. In the absence of righteousness from his character, there would be nothing worth calling goodness or mercy on his part and nothing worth calling reverence or devotion on ours. All religion worthy of the name rests on the righteousness of God. The wave of sentiment that would weaken our sense of it is one that washes against our deepest and highest interests, and should be steadfastly opposed. Above and beneath all other things God is the Righteous One, at the remembrance of whose holiness we do well to give thanks (Psalm 30:4), in whose purity and perfection we do well to glory. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.