Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, said the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven…
Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord, etc. This is a call of Jehovah to the Jews in Babylonian captivity to return to their own land. Cyrus had made a way for them, and publicly proclaimed their deliverance. There are expressions in these verses, as indeed in almost every verse of the book, the exact meaning of which cannot be settled: it is idle to attempt to interpret their precise significance. For example, what is meant by "I have spread you abroad as the four winds of heaven"? Some say that it means that the proclamation was to he made to every part of the land. Some, that it refers to the extent of their dispersion, that they had been scattered by the four winds of heaven. But what matters it? Again, what is meant by "After the glory hath be sent me unto the nations which spoiled you"? Some suppose the prophet to be the person who here speaks of himself as being sent. Others, the angel mentioned in ver.
4. Some read the words, "after the glory," "to win glory." And again, what is meant by "Behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants"? The expression, perhaps, is indicative of a threatening attitude of Jehovah when about to inflict punishment upon his enemies, Dr. Wardlaw says of vers. 8, 9, "That the simplest and most natural interpretation is that which makes them refer to the fulfilment of the promise in ver. 5, 'I will be the Glory in the midst of her.'" When this has been fulfilled - when Jehovah's house has been built, and he has returned and taken possession of it, and become anew the glory of his people and his city - then, says the speaker, "He hath sent me unto the nations which spoiled you," words of which, in this connection, the most appropriate interpretation seems to be that Jehovah hath given him a commission against those nations. These words may be fairly taken to illustrate the moral exile of humanity. As the Jews in Babylon were exiled from their own land, souls are away front God in the "far country" of depravity. The point suggested is the reluctance of the exile to return. This reluctance is here seen -
I. IN THE EARNESTNESS OF THE DIVINE APPEAL. "Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord." Though Providence, through the interposition of Cyrus, had removed all physical obstacles to their return, still they had such lingering attachments to the land of their captivity that they seemed loth to break away. Hence the appeal of the Almighty to "flee from the land of the north." Is not this an illustration of the moral state of simmers? Though their way to return back to God has been made clear by Christ, yet return they will not. Hence how earnest and persevering the Divine call! What is the voice to humanity of the Almighty Word, the voice sounding through nature, through all history, and especially through Christ? Does it not amount to this, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord," etc.? "Return is the word. Flee from the land of the north." It is the land of corruption, the land of tyranny.
II. IN THE POTENCY OF THE DIVINE REASONS. Several things are suggested by God as reasons why they should attend to his call and "relearn."
1. The greatness of their separation. "I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven." You ought to be one people, united as loving brethren - united in spirit and aim, in a common worship and a common purpose of life; but you are divided far apart. You are not in one part of the country, but at every point of the compass - east, west, north, south. Do not be separated any more. Gather together into one fold. Is not this a good reason why sinners should return to God? So long as they are away from him they are divided amongst themselves. They are not only apart from each other, they are not only without sympathy with each other, but in antipathy. What a motive this to "return"!
2. The tender interest of God in them. "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye." Some regard this as meaning, "He that injures you injures himself;" as if the words meant, "He that toucheth you toucheth the pupil of his own eye." There is a great truth in this. He that injures another injures himself thereby. This is a law manifestly just and eternally irrevocable. You cannot wrong another without wronging yourself. But although this is a truth, the words, I think, convey something more than this; they convey the idea of God's gender interest in his people. It is a charming figure. The eye is one of the most intricate and delicate structures in the human frame; and the pupil of the eye - the opening by which the light of heaven enters for the purposes of vision - the most sensitive, as well as important, part of that structure. Nothing can more finely convey the idea of the exquisitely tender care of Jehovah for the objects of his love. Such interest the Bible teaches with frequency and fervour. Hence we read, "In all their affliction, he is afflicted." We read, "As a father pitieth his children," etc. We read, "Can a woman forget her sucking child?" We read, "He is touched with a feeling of our infirmities," etc. What an argument is this for man's moral return! If the Almighty Father is so tender towards us, ought we not to hurry home to his presence! The father of the prodigal son represents the universal Father of mankind. "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him," etc.
3. The opposition of the Almighty to their enemies. "For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them." This can be the language of no other than Jehovah, and yet is the language of one who speaks of "Jehovah" as having "sent him. There does not appear to be any reasonable explanation of this but our considering the speaker as the Divine Angel of the covenant. This is a strong reason why they should return." They need not be afraid, therefore, of their enemies. God is against them. Is not this a good reason why sinners should return to him? They need not dread their enemies, whether they be men or devils. God says, "I will shake mine hand upon them."
CONCLUSION. Why should sinners be so reluctant to return to God? What made the Jews so reluctant "to flee from the north" - to break away from Babylon and return to their own land? Was it indolence? Did they so love ease as to dread exertion? Was it love of the world? Had they established prosperous businesses, and amassed such property as to tie them to the spot? Was it old association? Had they formed acquaintances in which they were interested, associates whose services promoted their private advantage, and whose fellowship yielded pleasure to their social natures? Perhaps each of these acted - indolence, love of the world, old associations. And do not all these act now to prevent sinners from coming out of moral Babylon (see Revelation 18:4) ? - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD.