I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws…
I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love. These words refer, in the first instance, to ancient Israel, and remind us how kindly and tender had been the Lord's dealings with them. In applying the text to ourselves, we shall consider it under two aspects. We have here -
I. A REPRESENTATION OF GOD'S WAY OF DEALING WITH MEN. The supreme power over the world of mankind is not the relentless power of natural law. The forces of nature dominate the physical universe; but man is a moral being, and is conscious of moral freedom. The force which draws his mind is reason - "cords of a man ;" and the power which influences his heart is tenderness - "bands of love." God uses these forces:
1. In his common providence. His love for his creatures is analogous to parental affection: it is as human, and more tender than that of a mother for her child. His mercy is long-suffering and indestructible. It leads him "daily to load us with benefits." And even the cords of affliction with which he sometimes binds us are "bands of love ' cast around us to draw us to himself.
2. In the plan of redemption. "The Word was made flesh" in order to draw men by cords of human sympathy. What blessing the Incarnation has brought to the reason of man! In looking upon the Lord Jesus Christ we see truth in the concrete. He is himself "the Truth," "the Word of Life."
"Though truths in manhood darkly join
Deep-seated in our mystic frame,
We yield all blessing to the Name
Of him that made them current coin;
"For Wisdom dealt with mortal powers,
Where truth in closest words shall fail,
When truth embodied in a tale
Shall enter in at lowly doors.
"And so the Word had breath, and wrought
With human hands the creed of creeds
In loveliness of perfect deeds,
More strong than all poetic thought."
(Tennyson.) What blessing, also, the Incarnation has brought to the heart of man! The Lord Jesus is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. He was the "Son of Mary," and he "shed the human tear." So he is qualified, as our merciful and sympathizing High Priest, to enter into all our feelings, and thereby to bind us to himself and to God.
3. In the invitations of the gospel. The Lord, in these, appeals to us as rational and moral beings. The invitation, e.g., "Come now, and let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18), suggests that the most rational of all the actions of the human mind is to accept of Christ as the Savior; and that a life of faith in him is the only reasonable and manly and truly successful life. The gospel voices, moreover, are "bands of love." The prodigal son, so soon as he returned to reason, was led by the remembrance of his father's love to return home (Luke 15:17, 183. And, similarly, the love of God is the loadstar which leads poor sinners to himself.
4. In the appointed means of grace. Take:
(1) The Word of God. The Bible is a Divine Book, but it is also intensely human. The sacred writers display everywhere a profound knowledge of human nature. The spirit of the Book is humane and tender; it draws" with bands of love." In the universities of Scotland, the Professor of Latin is usually called "Professor of Humanity," from the supposed beneficial effects of the study of Roman literature; but surely the supreme humanizing influence in letters is the Word of God.
(2) The sacraments. As "signs," baptism and the Lord's Supper are "cords of a man." They appeal to the physical senses as well as to mind and heart. They are like pictures or illustrative diagrams of the great truths of redemption. The sacraments are also "seals;" and, as such, "bands of love." Each of them is, as it were, a keepsake, or love-token, given by the Redeemer to his Church. Once more, take
(3) Prayer. Prayer is the converse with God of his human children. It has for its key-note the child's cry, "Our Father." It is the voice of childlike trust in the humanity, the tenderness, the father-pity of our Maker and Redeemer.
5. As the motive-powers to holiness of life. Our text expresses the master consideration which impels the believer to a career of Christian consecration. The Apostle Paul urges the same in Romans 12:1: "Your reasonable service," i.e. "cords of a man;" "by the mercies of God," i.e. "bands of love." The meaning is that in a life of devotion to God all the rational faculties find their chief end, and that to such a life "the love of Christ constraineth us."
II. A LESSON OF CONDUCT FOR OURSELVES. The words before us reveal the secret of influence. They point out the magnet with which we are to attract our fellow-men in all the relations of life. God Almighty draws with the loadstone of love; and in this we are to be "imitators of God, as dear children" (Ephesians 5:1). Here is a lesson to:
1. Parents. The family bond is love. We must throw "cords of a man" around our children, if we would train them to live to the Redeemer. Our training must be humane, and in harmony with the moral nature of its subjects. A father ought, as soon as possible, to enlist his child's reason on the side of obedience. When our children do well, let us praise them without stint. When they do wrong, and we must show displeasure, let us welcome the earliest tokens of penitence, and be very ready to forgive. Next to Divine grace itself, the bands of paternal love are the strongest that can attract the child-heart.
2. Teachers. Humaneness of spirit is the mainspring of an educator's influence. The most effectual stimulus to learn is not that which is supplied by the rod, but that which is given by the "cords of a man." The secret of Dr. Arnold's influence at Rugby was his intense human sympathy, added to the regal supremacy of his spiritual character. In sabbath school work, especially, we must use these "cords" and "bands;" we must come to our classes "in love, and in the spirit of meekness."
3. Pastors. The preacher is to be himself a man, every inch of him. His influence in the community ought to be a masculine influence, he is to be "a preacher of righteousness." And he must take care to use "bands of love." His lifework is to "win" souls; and there is no way of winning without love (1 Corinthians 13:1). Like the high priest, the pastor ought to be one "who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring" (Hebrews 5:2). No Christian teacher has ever been more successful than the Apostle Paul; and Paul drew "with cords of a man" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), and "with bands of love" (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8).
4. Employers. This relationship, alike in business and domestic life, should be characterized by kindness. Masters ought to "forbear threatening" (Ephesians 6:9), and extend sympathy and confidence to their workmen. The responsibilities of an employer do not end with the punctual payment of wages. He is not to think of his workmen merely as "hands," i.e. as machines by using which he hopes to make money; but rather as his own flesh and blood, in whose welfare he ought to take a warm interest. And so, also, in the sphere of domestic service. Mistresses ought to treat their servants as part of the family, and see to their comfort as they see to their own. Happiness will enter our households through the door which has written over it these words: "I drew them with bands of love."
5. Neighbors, in their mutual intercourse. We who profess to be Christ's people ought to show the grace that dwells in us by striving to be eminent in courtesy and gentleness. We ought to be so even to the ungodly and profane, and to those who treat us as enemies "A soft answer turneth away wrath." And if love is the fire that will melt an enemy, is it not also the tie which binds believers together into a goodly fellowship? A strong and healthy Church is one the members of which "increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men' (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
CONCLUSION. To draw with these "cords" and "bands" is always, at least, self-rewarding. It is true that love will sometimes fail with its object. Jehovah himself failed with Ephraim during long centuries. Similarly, some whom we attempt to draw may say persistently, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." In such circumstances we ought to remember that duty is ours, and that results are with God. "Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my Strength" (Isaiah 49:5). - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.