Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars.…
The prophecy, of which these words are a part, had its fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews by the Romans. The text would become applicable at a time of great national calamity. By the cedar tree the chief men of a country are represented, those who occupy the more prominent positions, and are, conspicuous by station and influence. When the cedar tree falls, when the princes of a land are brought down by disaster and death, men of inferior rank. who, in comparison with these princes, are but as the fir tree compared with the cedar, may well tremble and fear, as knowing that their own day of trial must be rapidly approaching. These words, then, are universally applicable whenever calamity falls on those better or more exalted than ourselves, and such calamity may serve as a warning, teaching us to expect our own share of trouble. "Howl, fir tree" —tremble, and be afraid, ye sinful and careless ones, who, though planted in the garden of the Lord, bring not forth the fruits of righteousness. "The cedar is fallen," — shall, then, the fir tree escape? "If judgment first begin at the house of God, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of Christ?" Take the text as setting forth the sufferings of the righteous as an evidence or token of the far greater which, in due time, must be the portion of the wicked. If the wicked were to ponder God's dealings with the righteous, if the fir tree would observe what was done to the cedar, it could hardly be that future and everlasting punishment would be denied by any, or by any be practically disregarded. Let our blessed Saviour Himself be the first cedar tree on which we gaze. "Smitten of God and afflicted." "A Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief." His sufferings only then assume their most striking character when they are seen as demonstrations of the evil of sin. The atonement alone shows me what sin is in God's sight. The Captain of our salvation was "made perfect through sufferings," but the same discipline has been employed, from the first, in regard of all those whom God has conducted to glory. Under all dispensations affliction is an instrument of purification. The nearer we approach the times of the Gospel, the intenser becomes the discipline of suffering; as though God has designed to prepare men for an increase in tribulation, with an increase of privilege. The fact is undisputed, that, through much tribulation, men enter the kingdom of heaven. No fact should be more startling to those who are living without God, and perhaps secretly hoping for impunity at the last. They cannot deny that the cedar has been bent and blighted by the hurricane, whilst, comparatively, sunshine and calm have been around the fir. And from this they are bound to conclude the great fact of a judgment to come. Suppose it to be for purposes of discipline that God employs suffering — what does this prove but that human nature is thoroughly corrupt, requiring to be purged so as by fire, ere it can be fitted for happiness? And if there must be this fiery purification, what is the inference which ungodly men should draw, if not that they will be given up hereafter to the unquenchable flame, given up to it when that flame can neither annihilate their being, nor eradicate their corruption? It is probable enough that the wicked may be disposed to congratulate themselves on their superior prosperity, and to look with pity, if not with contempt, on the righteous, as the God whom they serve seems to reward them with nothing but trouble. But this can only be through want of consideration. It may certainly be inferred from these words, when applied in the modes indicated, that the present afflictions of the righteous shall be vastly exceeded by the future of the wicked. The "cedar is fallen," and the fir tree is called upon to "howl," as though it were about to be rent and shivered, as by the tempest and the thunder. The sufferings of the righteous might save the wicked from future torments, and that which prepares a good man for heaven might snatch a bad one from hell.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.