And that which comes into your mind shall not be at all, that you say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries…
The Jewish people had grown tired of Jehovah's service. Whatever its advantages and its righteousness, it was irksome, tedious, and severe. Other nations had not the same restrictions and the same punish. merits. "Look," they said, "at the people who serve idols, they have no law to fetter their inclinations and limit their pleasures, while on every side we are hedged in and forbidden and punished heavily if we transgress. Let us give up Jehovah's service and be as other nations are, do as they do, and find the same freedom and enjoyment." All this is very natural, and is constantly recurring. Many feel as the Jews felt. Religion's ways have become tiresome to them. They compare their lives with the lives of men of the world, and they seem to suffer from the comparison. We meet with the same thing in the realm of intellectual experience. Men give up religion, they tell us, to escape from the mental anxieties that have troubled them; to escape from the strife of sects, the clamour and conflict of opinions. The vanity of such a spirit and of such conduct is the subject of the text. "It shall not be at all." Utter disappointment is almost inevitable. Why?
I. BECAUSE THE THOUGHT OF THEIR MINDS IS OPPOSED TO THE PRINCIPLES OF THEIR NATURE AND THE FACTS OF THEIR HISTORY. The Jewish people spoke in denial and forgetfulness of their own condition. They assumed what was impossible, namely, that they could dismiss and annihilate all the past, and bow down before gods of wood and stone, and enter upon a course of unregulated enjoyment, with a satisfaction equal to theirs who had never known Jehovah and His holy law. It could not be. There is no river of forgetfulness in which men can bathe. We may think as they did, but "it shall not be at all," for —
1. We have an enlightened conscience, and that will prevent it. What others call pleasure would be to us sin — sin against God.
2. We have the memory of better things, and that will prevent it. The heathen knew nothing better than his heathenism. The Jew could look back, was often compelled to look back, upon much that made his fallen position hateful. We turn from religion, but bitter memories remain to us.
3. We bring to it the knowledge of Divine truth, and that will prevent it. Truth once imparted and received cannot be wholly lost. It will live, and often present itself to trouble the soul. This applies specially to those who turn to superstitious courses. There is something significant in the expression "to serve wood and stone." It seems to intimate that to the Jew, with his knowledge, the gods of heathenism could never be anything better. A man who loses his sight by disease or accident can never equal in cheerfulness and in free unembarrassed movement a man who was born blind. No more can those who have known religious truth and religious experiences be equal with those who have never risen above the world, and whose lives throughout have been shadowed by error and falsehood.
II. BECAUSE IT IS SUBJECT TO THE COUNTERACTING OPERATIONS OF THE GREAT GOD. There are two ways in which God defeats the thought of their minds.
1. By His correcting providences. The afflictions, losses, bereavements, sorrows of life.
2. By His pursuing love. By His Spirit making memory a living picture of the better past.Learn —
1. The weakness and littleness of fallen human nature. Men who have tested the heavenly manna can yet turn from it to the coarsest food.
2. The safeguards against such a spirit. Ponder the truth here asserted. Patient, earnest work; the cultivation of a cheerful, joyous frame; the glorious future.
3. The folly and evil of such conduct. And if it has been yours, come back to Christ at once.
Parallel VersesKJV: And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.