He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loves to oppress.…
I. THE HIDING OF SIN. Ephraim is in truth most unrighteous, but he contrives to sin in such a way that he appears innocent. And do we not attempt by many subtilties to hide the real qualities of our actions, to shelter ourselves from their just penalties?
1. Men sin deeply, and yet keep within the civil law. National and international law were scrupulously observed by Ephraim. Men still flatter themselves that they keep the law of the land. A man may do that and still be an infinite scoundrel. He may be guilty of gross dishonesty. He may keep the civil law with very little sense of generosity. We may be guilty of deep cruelty to our fellows, and the law of the magistrate takes no cognisance of our actions. Often the very worst escape, whilst those far less guilty are denounced and punished.
2. Men sin deeply, and yet keep within public opinion. A public opinion exists which is more strict and pervasive than the civil law. This public opinion we are bound to respect, we do respect it, and some of us are abundantly satisfied if we succeed in meeting its exactions. But how much personal, commercial, political immorality is yet untouched by public opinion! A man may be a rascal, and yet a gentleman. With a plausible tongue, a polished style, with fine phrases and fine manners, a man may be guilty of fraud, cruelty, uncleanness, and yet remain throughout popular in society! Rotten at the core, he is painted on the rind, and the world sees the skin and not the soul. Some of the handsomest butterflies have the strangest tastes — they turn aside from the most glorious flowers to sip filthiest messes.
3. We sin deeply, and yet maintain the sense of personal dignity. Ephraim hid the fact of his guiltiness by looking at his successfulness. Men still forget their sinfulness in their prosperity. A man may be a conqueror, and yet his glory be his shame; he may attain honour, and his scarlet robe be the fitting sign of his scarlet sins; he may grow rich, and every coin in his coffers witness against him. "His honour rooted in dishonour stood." Proud, selfish, dishonest, sensual men flatter themselves in their own eyes until their iniquity is found to be hateful.
4. Men sin deeply, and yet keep within ecclesiastical discipline. Ephraim would do no iniquity that were sin from an ecclesiastical point of view. Yet all the while he was guilty of falsehood, robbery, injustice, uncleanness; he called himself Israel, but God called him a Canaanite. A man may be a terrible sinner, and yet observe all the ceremonial law.
II. MARK THE INEVITABLE EXPOSURE AND PUNISHMENT OF SIN. Cleverly disguised as sin may be, it will surely suffer detection. God knows nothing about appearances; He knows us as we think in our heart. And what stands revealed is bound to meet with just retribution. "Then in all life let us —
1. Aim at the highest; and —
2. Test ourselves by the highest; let us judge ourselves in the sight of God, and by the absolute standard.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.