The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melts in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.…
The text is a homely and unusual one, but its graphic force may help all the more to impress the truth taught by it. "The prophet likens the people of Israel to a mass of metal. This mass of metal claimed to be precious ore, such as gold or silver. It was put into the furnace, the object being to fuse it, so that the pure metal should be extracted from the dross. Lead was put in with the ore to act as a flux (that being relied upon by the ancient smelters as quicksilver now is in these more instructed days). A fire was kindled, and then the bellows were used. to create an intense heat, the bellows being the prophet himself. He complains that he spoke with much pathos, much energy, much force of heart, that he exhausted himself, without being able to melt the people's hearts; so hard was the ore that the bellows were burned before the metal was melted - the prophet was exhausted before the people were impressed; he had worn out his lungs, his powers of utterance; he had exhausted his mind, his powers of thought; he had broken his heart, his powers of emotion; but he could not divide his people from their sins, and separate the precious from the vile" (C.H. Spurgeon). Now, from the text learn -
I. IT IS THE PURPOSE OF GOD SO TO MELT AND SUBDUE THE HEART OF MAN THAT HE MAY MOULD IT AFRESH, AND ACCORDING TO HIS OWN GRACIOUS WILL. NOW to this end there are needed:
1. A Divine fire which shall bear upon the heart of man. But the Holy Spirit is such a fire, which, if it be quenched, woe is unto us!
2. That that fire shall glow with fervent heat.
II. To SECURE THIS HE MAKES USE OF MANY AND VARIED APPLIANCES WHICH THE PROPHET HERE LIKENS TO "BELLOWS."
1. The prophets own ministry in the case of Judah and Jerusalem at that time.
2. The faithful ministry of his truth by his prophets now.
3. His Law, his Word, the varied means of grace.
4. His mercies, especially the mercy of God in Christ.
5. His chastisements and judgments. These more especially referred to here. Such are some of these appliances.
III. Now, IT IS POSSIBLE FOR ALL THESE TO BECOME UTTERLY INEFFECTUAL. This is what is here meant. God's messengers, Law, faeries, chastisements, - all in vain. And such things happen now. There are those whom naught can move. What is the cause? Not that the Divine heat did not bear upon the heart that was to be melted. Not that those appliances were left unused whereby the understanding, the conscience, the affections, and the win might be rendered more susceptible of the Divine influences. But the obduracy of the heart. The perversity and evil of that baffled all the earnest endeavors of God's grace in regard to that heart.
IV. NOW, WHEN "THE BELLOWS ARE BURNED," WHEN ALL MEANS HAVE BEEN TRIED AND FAILED TO WIN THE HEART FOR GOD, NO CONDITION CAN BE MORE AWFUL OR DEPLORABLE.
1. It is sad for God's ministers. Jeremiah, Paul, Christ, and thousands of his ministers since have prayed and wept over obdurate hearts.
2. But it is far more sad for these hard-hearted ones themselves.
(1) They are without excuse.
(2) There is no hope of their repentance.
(3) They are in danger of eternal sin.
1. Christ's ministers must expect that, so far as they can see, they will, at times, labor in vain in regard to the salvation of souls. The bellows will be burned, and the ore remain unmelted still.
2. They are to be sustained by the thought that God will deal with them, not according to the results of their work, but according to its fidelity.
3. Let the impenitent be warned. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.