Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and…
I. THE REPENTANCE DEMANDED OF US IN SCRIPTURE differs widely from a mere transient regret at having done wrong, and a passing resolve, that we will abstain for the future from certain grosser misdoings. The repentance which conducts to salvation is a thorough change of the whole man, commencing with new views of the nature of sin, and of its character as committed against a God of unbounded loving kindness, and gradually overspreading the life and conversation, till all around recognise that fresh creation which undeniably attests Divine interference.
1. Take the sense which a true penitent has of the nature of sin, and the confession, as well by action as by word, which that sense will dictate. There is nothing which more strikingly distinguishes man in his natural state from man in his renewed state, than the difference in the estimates which the two form of sin. The wonder with the natural man is, why sin should be everlastingly punished; the wonder with the renewed man is, how a thing so heinous can ever find pardon. Then if from the present we pass to the future, and observe the alleged consequences of transgression extending themselves like lines of fire through all the spreadings of man's after existence, why, more than ever the stranger to repentance will be sensible of that recoil and jar of feeling which indicates suspicion that God is not just in thus taking vengeance. But how different is it with the renewed — that is, with the penitent man! God appears righteous in taking vengeance; this is the discovery, this the unhesitating conviction of the individual in whose mind are the workings of genuine repentance. But if it be true, according to these showings, that to exhort a man to repent is to exhort him to pass from the condition in which his notions of sin obscure all God's dealings, to one in which they illustrate and vindicate those dealings — from the entertainment of the suspicion that the Creator may do wrong, to entertaining the assurance that the Creator does right in exacting everlasting penalties; if this be true, then surely repentance, as including a right sense of sin, may be identified with glorifying God.
2. Consider the confession, as well by action as by word, which a true penitent will make of his sin, and see whether such confession will not give glory to God. "My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto Him." Making confession, you observe, is associated, or rather identified, with the giving God glory. When Achan owned that he had taken of the accursed thing, he publicly proclaimed that God had shown Himself omniscient as having brought to light what no eye but his own had observed. The acknowledgment, moreover, was proof to the nation, that God had not smitten without cause, and that His threatenings always take effect; thus witnessing, so that the whole congregation would understand the testimony, to the justice, authority, and holiness of Jehovah. For he who, moved by the workings of a righteous contrition, falls before his Maker, and confesses himself a sinner, owns to the having forsaken the fountain of living waters, and hewn out to himself cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. When he uses the tongue which is emphatically described as the best member which we have, in testifying to the evil of departure from God, in asserting the truth of what God hath uttered in regard of man's fallen estate, and the necessity that we return unto holiness if we would attain unto happiness, this confession of sin carries with it an announcement to all who here try the Word by the test of experience, as it would hereafter to the breathless onlookers as the strange work of judgment goes forward, that there is an ascertained righteousness in God's dealings with unrenewed men as with traitors to that government which extends wheresoever there is moral accountableness. In acknowledging myself a sinner, I acknowledge myself a rebel against the Almighty, and thus out of my own mouth the eternal justice would be vindicated if there were pronounced upon me that sentence of banishment which is yet to be heard by an impenitent multitude; and certainly if that confession of sin which is a fruit or element of repentance can in any degree cause God to be justified when He speaks, and clear when He judges, there can be no debate that in this very degree it brings honour to God; in other words, it explains what is done in the text, where, summoning men to repent, the prophet summons them to give glory to God. And oh! there is a confession which is far stronger, and more productive of glory than that of the lip, even that of the life. Repentance, whatever its internal workings, amounts in its outward demonstration, which is known and read of all men, to a complete change of conduct.
II. THE PROPHET LAYS DOWN A LIMITATION AS TO TIME. "Before." There is a whole volume of intelligence, and that, too, startling and touching intelligence, in this one word. It is as much as to say, You cannot avoid giving it at one time or another; you must give it after if you refuse to give it before. Give it, therefore, while it may be accepted as an offering, and defer it not until it be exacted as a penalty. And certainly it is a truth which but little reasoning would suffice to establish, that glory will finally be won to God from every section of the universe, and from every member of that intelligent family with which its spreadings are peopled. The power of refusing to give God glory will expire with death, when the day of probation has been followed by the day of condemnation; and beyond all doubt, in the punishment of the reprobate as in the happiness of the righteous, there shall be a perpetual harvest of honour unto God. Hell, as well as heaven, must be the scene for the display of the Divine attributes; and wherever these attributes have place of development, there undoubtedly the Almighty is glorified. And therefore, I do not say of the dying sinner, going hence in his ungodliness, that he has outlived all opportunity of giving glory to God; we rather say of him that he has just reached the necessity of giving glory to God. A moment more — oh! even in that moment he might grasp the Cross; but let that moment be another and the last of dishonour done to God, and infinity is before him, paved with the burning tribute which has here been withheld, so that to die in rebellion is only to transfer to eternity arrears which eternity cannot exhaust. We leave the combination in its inexplicable awfulness: we have no language for a state where the fire is unquenchable, and yet the darkness is impenetrable. We thank God we may yet all give glory before our feet stumble, and before the day closes. We are not yet on the dark mountains; it may be, we are approaching them. The old must be approaching them — the young may be approaching them; but if we seem to behold them on the horizon — the gloomy, frowning masses — still the Sun of Righteousness hath not yet gone down on our firmament; still there needs nothing but the looking in faith unto Jesus, "delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification," and the beams of that Sun shall edge, as with a line of gold, the dark and dreaded rampart, or rather throw a transparency into the stern barrier, so that it shall seem to us to melt into the garden of hope, the land where the river of life is ever flowing, and the tree of life is ever waving.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.
WEB: Give glory to Yahweh your God, before he causes darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and, while you look for light, he turns it into the shadow of death, and makes it gross darkness.