Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations…
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! etc. "This chapter embraces the character and punishment of the whole Hebrew nation. The inhabitants of the two capitals are directly addressed in the language of denunciation, and charged to take warning from the fate of other nations (vers. 1, 2). Their carnal security, injustice, self-indulgence, sensuality, and total disregard of the Divine threatenings are next described (vers. 3-6). After which the prophet announces the Captivity and the calamitous circumstances connected with the siege of Samaria, by which it was to be preceded (vers. 7-11). He then exposes the absurdity of their conduct, and threatens them with the irruption of an enemy that should pervade the whole country (vers. 12-14)" (Henderson). The words of our text (ver. 1) denounce a state of mind which most men desiderate - "ease." Amidst the harassing cares, turmoils, and agitating events of life, men on all hands are crying out for ease. Like mariners that have long battled with tempests, they long for a calm sea in which to drop anchor and be at rest. But here there is a fearful "woe" denounced against ease. What is this ease?
I. IT IS THE EASE OF PRIDE. These great nations, Judah and Israel, the one having its seat in Zion and the other in Samaria, because of their imaginary superiority as the chief of the nations, settled down in carnal security. Those that dwelt in Zion, or Jerusalem, felt themselves safe because of its historic grandeur, its temple, the dwelling place of the Almighty, and its mountain fortifications. Those that dwelt in Samaria - the ten tribes - had the same false confidence in their safety. The mountains of Samaria, the seat both of the religion and government of a strong people, they relied upon, free from all apprehension of dangers. It was the ease of pride and overrated power.
II. IT IS THE EASE OF RUIN. "Pass ye unto Calneh [this was an ancient city built by Nimrod] and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great [one of the chief cities of Syria]: then go down to Gath of the Philistines [the great city in Philistia]." Remember these cities, be they better than these kingdoms? Are you who live at Zion and Samaria greater people than they were, more strong and invincible? Yet they are gone. Calneh gone, Hamath gone, Gath gone. All are in ruins, long, long ago. Why, then, should you feel yourselves safe and be at ease in Zion and Samaria? Their example condemns your false security and predicts your ruin. The ease here denounced is like the ease of stolid indifference or the ease of a torpid conscience, terribly general, fearfully criminal, and awfully dangerous. It must sooner or later be broken. The hurricanes of retribution must sooner or later lash the sleeping ocean into foaming fury. Souls are everywhere sleeping on the bosom of volcanoes. Oh for some voice from the heavens above or the earth beneath, to startle the men of this generation!
CONCLUSION. Learn from this subject:
1. That the mere feeling of security is no infallible proof of safety. Men are prone to deceive themselves. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Some men, like the drunkard whose vessel is going down, feel themselves safe because they are unconscious of the danger. Some men feel themselves safe because of the confidence they have in objects that are utterly unable to sustain them. The only feeling of security that warrants safety is that which springs from a conscious trust in God. Such as have this can say, "God is our Refuge and Strength," etc.
2. That great advantages may prove great curses. It was a great advantage for Judah to have Zion, and Israel to have Samaria - great in many respects, national and religious. But these advantages, because they were overrated, trusted in, put in the place of God himself, proved to them most disastrous. So it ever is. Our civilization, our literature, our Churches, our Bibles, have proved curses to millions, and will perhaps to millions more. The Pharisee in the temple is an illustration of this.
3. That retributions which have overtaken others should be a warning to us. The prophet calls upon these men of Judah and Israel to remember Calneh, Hamath, Garb. "All these things," says Paul, "happened unto them for ensamples." Learn to read our fate in history. Ungodly nations, where are Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome? Ungodly Churches, where axe the Churches of Asia Minor? - D.T.
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!