(For you know how we have dwelled in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which you passed by;…
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I. INEXCUSABLE UNBELIEF. (Vers. 16-18.) The man who, turning from Jehovah, went after the gods by the nations, was doubly inexcusable.
1. The true God had been revealed to him.
2. The worthlessness of heathen idols had been demonstrated. He had the light, and could compare it with the darkness of the nations around. If not himself, a witness of God's mighty works in Egypt and in the desert, he had heard of them from his forefathers, or could read of them in his Scriptures (ver. 20). The existence of the nation was a proof that such things had been done. Unbelief is not less inexcusable in us:
1. With the Bible in our hands.
2. With so large a body of evidences of Divine truth.
3. With centuries of experience of the regenerative influence of Christianity.
4. With a wide knowledge of heathen nations, discovering to us by contrast our own advantages. Unbelief may be:
It is enough that our practice be shaped on the hypothesis of the untruth of God's Word, to constitute us unbelievers (1 Timothy 5:8).
II. GROSS SELF-DECEIT. (Ver. 19.) The act of this wicked man is very remarkable. He blesses himself in his heart, and says, "I will have peace," at the very time that God's curses are being read out to him. Yet his case is not a solitary one. He does no more than men do every day in the teeth of the threatenings of the Bible. Satan whispers, "Ye shall not surely die" (Genesis 3:4); "Be it far from thee: this shall rot be unto thee" (Matthew 16:22); and Satan, not God, is believed. We may explain this self-deceit:
1. From want of consideration (cf. Isaiah 1:3). The wicked man does not really trouble himself about the curses. They are mere words to him. The mind makes no application, scarcely even asks the meaning, of what it hears. The oracle with which the wicked man consults is in his own heart (Psalm 36:1-5), and the "oracles of God get no attention.
2. From want of faith. God's Word, even if attended to, could not compel belief in a heart already possessed by an opposite set of beliefs, and determined not to part with them.
3. From self-will. Will enters into the question of our beliefs; so long as it can twist evidence, resist unwelcome conclusions, find evasions and pretexts, it will not accept what is contrary to its ordinary bent. While, if the worst comes to the worst, it can cut the knot by a simple I won't," and obstinately refuse to believe aught but what it likes. The account of the sinner's unbelief and self-deceit is therefore this:
1. He has not liked to retain God in his knowledge.
2. Unwelcome subjects have been banished from his mind.
3. Through unfamiliarity to his thoughts, the supersensual world has become less and less a reality to him.
4. He acquires the power of ignoring it, and ends by disbelief in it.
III. UNUTTERABLE FOLLY. (Vers. 20, 21.) Unbelief, unhappily for the sinner, cannot alter the actual state of the case. God's auger smokes against him, and will certainly destroy him. His sin, agreeable as it may appear at present, will yield at last gall and wormwood. Contending with the Almighty, he rushes on his ruin. The curses written in the Book will not fail to overtake him. It is easy for sinners to "laugh now" (Luke 6:25), but there awaits them a terrible undeceiving - a day when they shall "mourn and weep." - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;