How shall I give you up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver you, Israel? how shall I make you as Admah? how shall I set you as Zeboim?…
The long-suffering of God, His patience toward sinners, His unwillingness to punish, His readiness to pardon, form conspicuous parts of the Divine character, as set forth to our view in the sacred writings. The text describes a strong and tender struggle in the mind of God between the opposite and contending claims of justice and mercy: and in the end represents the latter as prevailing, mercy rejoicing against judgment. We are not indeed to suppose that a struggle ever really takes place in the Divine Mind. He does but speak to us after the manner of men. Ephraim had done everything to provoke the Lord to anger. Forgetful of all that He had wrought for them, and of all which they owed to Him, they had left His service, renounced His worship, and had given themselves up to the most shameful idolatries. Mercies and judgments had been employed to reclaim them, but in vain. And now, what could be expected but that they should be dealt with according to their deserts? But no — such is the sovereignty of Divine mercy, that instead God says, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?" Attend —
1. To the debate which is represented between justice and mercy.
2. The determination of the debate. After a long struggle mercy prevails.
3. The ground and reason of this determination: "For I am God, and not man." He who is God, and not man, alone could overcome the difficulty.Draw some profitable reflections.
1. How exactly does the view here given of the Divine mercy and forbearance, in this particular instance, agree with the general representations of them in Scripture. Illustrate times before Flood. Israel in wilderness. The spiritual redemption of man.
2. How greatly do these views increase and aggravate the sinfulness of sin. Sin is rebellion against a just and rightful Sovereign. It is robbery committed against a good and a gracious Master. It is ingratitude to a most kind and bountiful Friend and Benefactor. Sin is despite done to the richest mercy and tenderest compassion. If God were not so very merciful, sin would not be so exceeding sinful. How great must be the guilt of those who disregard the mercy offered in the Gospel I
3. What great encouragement does the subject give to every humbled and penitent sinner! Such are apt to be full of doubts and fears. They cry for mercy, but cannot believe that they shall find it. Was God so unwilling to give up even penitent Ephraim? And will He be unwilling to receive and pardon penitent offenders? Surely He feels for you the tenderest pity. He will meet you with loving-kindness.
Parallel VersesKJV: How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.