Thus said the LORD; Again there shall be heard in this place, which you say shall be desolate without man and without beast…
We are called upon to realise the fullest meaning of desolation. Think of a forsaken city, think of being afraid of the sound of your own footfall! Even in that desolation there comes an overpowering sense of society, as if the air were full of sprites, ghostly presences. What s singular sense there is too of trespass, encroachment, of being where you have no right to be — as if you were intruding upon the sanctuary of the dead — as if you were cutting to the life some spiritual ministry, conducting itself mysteriously but not without some beneficent purpose. You have broken in upon those invisible ones who are watching their dead; you want to escape from the solitude — in one sense it is too sacred for you, wholly too solemn; you would seek the society of your kind, for other society is uncongenial, unknown, and is felt to be a criticism intolerable, a judgment overwhelming. let if you do not fasten your attention upon the possibilities of desolation, darkness, forsakenness, loneliness, how can you appreciate what is to follow? May we not then hasten to inquire what is to follow? Can God work miracles here? It is just here that He works His grandest miracles; it is when all light dies out that He comes forth in His glory; it is when we say, There is no more road, the rock shuts us out, our progress is stayed, — it is then that a path suddenly opens in rocky places, and footprints disclose themselves for the comfort and inspiration of the lone traveller. Notice how exactly God's miracles fit human circumstances. They overflow them, but they first fill all their cavities and all the opportunities which they create and present. Thus God displaces darkness by light; thus God does not drive away the silence with noise but with music: it is no battering of rude violence that brings back human intercourse into plains that have been swept with human desolation; it is a festival, a banquet, a wedding scene, and already the forsaken valley vibrates as if under the clash of wedding bells. What was the quality of the joy that was wrought? It was profoundly religious. The voices that were uplifted were to say, "Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for His mercy endureth for ever." There are times when men must praise the Lord. The heart leads the judgment; the uppermost feeling, elevated and sanctified, tells the whole man what to do, uses the understanding as one might use some inferior creature to help him in carrying out the purposes of life. What is this highest faculty, what is this mysterious power, that takes to itself understanding, imagination, conscience, will, and all elements of energy? It is religious emotion; not sentimentalised and frittered away into mere vapour, but high, intelligent, noble feeling, glowing, passionate enthusiasm, a consecration without break or flaw or self-questioning, a wholeness of consent and devotion to the supreme purpose of life. When this desolation is banished, when this wedding feast is held, by what picture is the safety of the people represented? By a very tender one. We had in England shepherds who long ago spoke of taking care of their flocks under the idiom of "telling their tale" — counting the flock one by one. There shall be no hurrying, crowding into the fold, but one shall follow another, and each shall be looked at in its singularity; there shall be nothing tumultuous, indiscriminate, promiscuous; every process of providence is conducted critically, individually, minutely: so there is no hope for a man getting into the fold without the Shepherd seeing him; every sheep of the flock has to pass under the hand of him that telleth his tale. Until we realise the personality of the Divine supervision we shall flounder in darkness and our prayers will be mere evaporations, bringing back no answer, no blessing, no pledge from heaven. This is the picture presented by the prophet. Not one tittle of this providential order has been changed; the whole mystery of human life is to be found within its few lines. Consider what desolation good men have been called upon to realise. Never let us shut our eyes to the suffering aspect of human life. On the contrary, let us dwell upon it with attentive solicitude, that we may wonder, and learn to pray and trust. Say nought to the mocker, for he is not worth heeding, but say to the poor suffering heart itself, Wait: joy cometh in the morning: it is very sore now; the wind is very high, the darkness is very dense; our best plant poor heart! is to sit down and simply wait for God: He will come we cannot tell when, in the early part of the night, or not until the crowing of the cock, but come He will; it hath pleased Him to keep the times and seasons wholly to Himself, without revelation to narrow human intellects; let us then wait, and there is a way of waiting that amounts to prayer: poor heart! we have no words, we could not pray in terms, because we should be mocked by the echo of our own voice, but there is a way of sitting still that by its heroic patience wins the battle. Consider what changes have been wrought in human experience. You thought you could never sing again when that last tremendous blow was dealt upon your life, yet you are singing more cheerfully now than you ever sung in any day of your history; you thought when you lost commercial position that you never really could look up again, for your heart was overpowered, and behold, whilst you were talking such folly, a light struck upon your path, and a voice called you to still more strenuous endeavour, and to-day you who saw nothing before you but the asylum of poverty are adding field to field and house to house. You have been raised again from the very dead, you have forgotten your desolation, and you are now sitting like guests invited by heaven's own King at heaven's great banqueting table. Hold on; the end will judge all things. Hope stead. lastly in God; prayer is sweetest in the darkness; when there seems to be no road over which to travel up to heaven, then it works its miracles, it finds a pathway in the night-cloud. What is the joy that is depicted in this text? It is religious joy. The joy created by religion is intelligent. It is not a bubble on the stream, it has reason behind it; it is strengthened and uplifted, supported and dignified, by logic, fact, reality. Religious joy is healthy. It is not spurious gladness, it is the natural expression of the highest emotions. Religious joy is permanent. It does not come for a moment, and vanish away as if it were afraid of life and afraid of living in this cold earth-clime; it abides with men. Let us know by way of application that there is only one real deliverance from desolateness. That is a Divine deliverance. Let us flee then to the living God; let us be forced to prayer.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast,
WEB: Thus says Yahweh: Yet again there shall be heard in this place, about which you say, It is waste, without man and without animal, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without animal,