Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations…
I. CONSIDER THE PERSONS HERE MENTIONED. They are described as being "at ease in Zion." The temple was called Zion. The name was gradually extended to the worshippers, so that it came to embrace all who profess to know and worship God. To be in Zion means to be in a land where the true God is known and worshipped, where religious privileges, similar to those of the Jews, are enjoyed. Taking the word in a more limited sense, to be in Zion is to be among those who statedly meet for the purpose of religious worship. Or it may include only those who have made a public profession of religion. The ease here intended is ease not of body, but of mind; ease relating not to our temporal but to our religious or spiritual concerns. Persons are at ease when they feel neither sorrow nor alarm on account of their sins; when they are seldom troubled by the admonitions of conscience; when they arc not engaged in working out their salvation with fear and trembling, but feel quiet and secure. This unconcern respecting themselves is usually accompanied by at least equal unconcern respecting the salvation of others. Such persons are described as "not grieved for the affliction of Joseph"; that is, for the evils and calamities that afflict the Church. This body may be divided into several classes, corresponding with the various causes to which their ease is ascribed.
1. Those who deny that any punishment will be inflicted on sinners. This includes infidels of every description; those who deny God's government of the world; those who contemn God; and the scoffers. In this class must also be placed those who believe that all men will be saved. False prophets who cry "peace, peace," when there is no peace.
2. Those who allow that sinners will be punished, but who deny, or do not appear to believe, that they are sinners. They find, or fancy that they find none better than themselves, few so good, and very many worse. Hence they conclude that they arc in no danger, that they have nothing to fear, and of course feel easy and secure. Such persons are without the law. They know nothing of its spirituality, strictness, and extent. They have never tried themselves by this rule. They are like a man buried in sleep, totally unconscious of their true character and situation, insensible of their sins, and of the danger to which their sins expose them.
3. Those who acknowledge that they are sinners, and that sinners will be punished; and yet they are at ease, for they contrive in various ways to persuade themselves that though other sinners will be punished, they shall themselves escape. Such persons, though habitually, are not always at ease. They have times of anxiety and alarm. It is their way by promises and resolutions to put off the evil day. They trust to a future convenient season. There is perhaps no class of sinners whose situation is more dangerous. This class also includes all who entertain a false and groundless persuasion that they have already become pious, obtained the" pardon of their sins, and secured the favour of God. The reasons why persons feel such a persuasion are various.
II. THE WOE WHICH IS DENOUNCED AGAINST THEM IN OUR TEXT. The doom is expressed in general terms; in terms which may include curses and threatenings of every kind. Why are such characters thought worthy of a punishment so severe?
1. Because the ease which they feel proves that they belong to the number of the wicked. All who are habitually at ease in Zion know nothing of true religion. They are either careless sinners or self-deluded hypocrites.
2. They are not only sinners, but sinners of no common stamp, sinners whose guilt and sinfulness are peculiarly aggravated, and whose punishment will therefore be peculiarly severe. He who is at ease in Zion must be deaf to God's voice, blind to God's glories, insensible to every spiritual object; he sins against light and against love.
3. There is little reason to hope that they will ever repent. On what grounds can we hope for the salvation of those who are at ease? If they cannot be roused, if their false peace cannot be disturbed, they must inevitably perish; and to rouse them, humanly speaking, seems impossible.
(E. Payson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!