Ezekiel 20:18
In the wilderness I said to their children: "Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers or keep their ordinances or defile yourselves with their idols.
Sermons
Unacceptable PrayerJ.D. Davies Ezekiel 20:1-32
God, and Israel in the WildernessW. Jones Ezekiel 20:10-26
The Memory of the Wilderness of the WanderingsJ.R. Thomson Ezekiel 20:18-26
At this point the transition is made from the generation who received the Law at Sinai to the generation which followed, and to whom another probation was afforded.

I. THE DIVINE LAW WAS REPUBLISHED.

II. THE REBELLION AND IDOLATRY OF THE PEOPLE WERE RENEWED.

III. THE MOST FLAGRANT FORMS OF IDOLATROUS PRACTICE WERE ADDED TO WHAT HAD PRECEDED, In ver. 26 mention is made of the causing the firstborn to pass through the fire in the service of Moloch.

IV. ADDITIONAL AND SEVERER THREATS WERE UTTERED. In ver. 23 threats of scattering and dispersion among the heathen were added to the more general denunciations.

V. STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS WERE TURNED TO THE CONDEMNATION OF THE REBELLIOUS.

VI. SPARING MERCY WAS AGAIN EXERCISED TO PRESERVE THE NATION FROM DESTRUCTION.

APPLICATION. The lesson is very impressively taught in this passage that repentance and amendment by no means follow as a matter of course upon either punishment or forbearance. The discipline through which Israel passed partook of both characters; yet it left the people, as a people, still disposed to rebellion against God, and to contempt of his Law. It is the spirit in which God's dealings with us are received which determines whether or not they shall issue in our highest good. - T.







I gave them My Sabbaths.
Let two remarks be premised. We enforce not the duties of the Jewish but of the Christian Sabbath. Everything in the Christian Sabbath is tender and considerate on the one hand, everything is spiritual and elevated on the other; and is, in both views, adapted to the real state and exigencies of our nature, under the last and most perfect dispensation of religion. But then the determination of what is really spiritual, of what is really for the welfare of man, of what ale the real duties and employments of the day, must be taken from the Scriptures themselves, and not from the opinions, much less from the inclinations and fashions, of a corrupt world.

I. Keep ever in view THE GREAT END OF THE INSTITUTION — which is to be a visible sign of the covenant between God and us, and a principal means of that sanctification which it is one object of that covenant to produce. What an exalted end and design of the institution! Sanctification is the work of God's Holy Spirit by His secret but effectual influences upon the heart, separating man from the love and service of sin, and turning him to God and holiness. And how important is the thought, that the design of the Almighty in sanctifying and hallowing a day of Sabbath was that man, His moral and accountable creature, might be sanctified and dedicated by means of it — that the external consecration of the season ends in the internal consecration of the heart of man to his Creator and Redeemer! We awake to the true importance of the institution when we feel our fallen and sinful state, when we receive the covenant of grace as proposed in the Gospel, when we seek to be sanctified, body, soul, and spirit, to be the Lord's. A Divine life infused into the soul of man — a perception of the nature and excellency of spiritual things — a view of the glory and majesty of the great Redeemer — a reliance upon His death and resurrection — a dependence upon the influence of His Holy Spirit — these bring the Sabbath and the human heart together.

II. THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE DUTIES OF IT.

1. The public exercise; of God's worship, and the fellowship of Christians with each other in common acts of prayer and praise, are the leading business of this holy season.

2. The care of our families must not, however, be neglected, whilst we first discharge our public duties.

3. The private and personal duties must prepare for and succeed the public and domestic.

4. The duties of the Christian Sabbath extend to our dependents — to "the stranger within our gates" — to all over whom we have any natural influence — and even to the irrational creatures who subserve our comfort, and whose repose is commanded both for their own sakes and to render more completely practical the duty of religious rest enjoined upon man, their lord.

III. In order to keep holy the Lord's day, we must carry THE TRUE SPIRIT OF THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION INTO THESE DUTIES. We must not celebrate a Jewish but a Christian festival. We must imbibe that spirit of rest and delight in God, that sense of refreshment and repose, in His more immediate service, which the liberty of the Gospel breathes, and without some degree of which we can never discharge these duties aright. Can any picture be more inviting than that of a family, a neighbourhood, a parish, honouring the day of God with cheerful and grateful hearts — meditating on that sanctification which is the great design of the day of rest — filling up its hours with the various and important exercises of public and private devotion — and imbuing every act of duty with the Christian temper, with the filial spirit — the spirit not "of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption, crying, Abba, Father"?

IV. Especially glorify God for THOSE MIGHTY BLESSINGS WHICH ARE APPOINTED TO BE COMMEMORATED ON THE LORD'S DAY — Creation, Redemption, Heaven.

(D. Wilson, M. A.)

I. ITS BEARING ON THE HEALTH AND THE ENJOYMENT OF THE COMMUNITY. Man was not made, even in Paradise, to be idle; and if even there wholesome toil contributed to keep his happiness from stagnating and corrupting, how much more is toil a merciful provision for man in his fallen lot! There is perhaps as much mercy in the institution that "six days we shall labour and do all that we have to do," as in the institution that on the seventh day we shall "do no manner of work." But whilst labour in moderation is thus beneficial for man, incessant toil would infallibly tend at once to break the spirit, to degrade the mind, to ruin the health, and to curtail the life. It would at the same time have a fearful and melancholy influence on social enjoyment, on the domestic circle, on the mutual endearments and reciprocal kindly sentiments that constitute so much of the stream of earthly happiness. How gracious, therefore, and how merciful, in its bearing merely on the physical strength and health, and upon the general individual and social and domestic enjoyment of the mass of the people, is that provision of a gracious Father, who, in giving us all our time for our daily labour, yet reserved a seventh to be kept holy to Himself, in which we should rest from every toil, and the master and the servant, and the sovereign and the subject, and the brute beast of the field that serves man, should all together, unyoked and disburdened from labour and from care, exult and rejoice in the freedom and the liberty with which God hath blessed them!

II. ITS BEARING UPON THE KINDLY FEELINGS AND THE MUTUAL CHARITIES OF THE NATION IN WHICH IT IS OBSERVED. How much depends upon the internal magnetic attraction and influence of kindliness and benevolence and mutual good will! If you could take out from the community all that tends to soften mutual asperity and knit heart to heart, all that tends to make the poor man feel a sense of honest independence accompanied with unfeigned humility, and the rich man to feel that his external condition is as nothing in comparison with the moral distinction that differences one intelligent being from another — who can tell what would be the frightful result? But how beautifully does the Sabbath day prove the medium of the circulation of kindly and tender feelings! Much as the day is broken, and often as it is spent in savage and in sensual scenes, yet nevertheless it does wonderfully tend, with its balmy hebdomadal influence, to calm ruffled spirits, to allay feverish anxieties, and to soften petulant and foolish tempers.

III. ITS BEARING UPON THE MORALITY AND THE RELIGION OF THE PEOPLE. Take away that one purchase, on which rests all the spiritual and moral machinery in the land — let that be gone, and the whole moral and religious machinery in the land falls rapidly to pieces, because it has no fixed ground, no standing point on which to be placed. It cannot go on; it must suffer disturbance, disorganisation, and rapid destruction. Let there be no national Sabbath; where were our Sabbath ceremonies? Let there be no national Sabbath; in vain almost would our houses of prayer be thrown open, and the bell that used to sweetly tell the day of rest was come send out its notes, drowned amid the din and the uproar of the never-checked deluge of worldly anxiety, tumult, conflict and struggle, gathering fresh force and fury because the only barrier that at all checked their onward progress was withdrawn, and rushing headlong on without an obstacle to impede their current.

IV. ITS BEARING ON THE FAVOUR OF GOD TOWARDS A PEOPLE. I look upon the Sabbath, in its national observance, as the most direct and plain and palpable index of a nation's relationship towards God. It is (if we may so speak) the standard of heaven waving from the battlements of our national Zion, and telling that this great people recognise God, and in testimony and tribute of their loyalty they pay Him that which is His own, and give Him the seventh of their time, secured to Him by whom their sovereign reigns and on whom all their blessings depend. And as the observance of the Sabbath by the nation is an outward and visible sign of their fealty and fidelity to God, so is it an outward and visible sign of God's gracious faithfulness and love towards them. While that broad seal, therefore, remains intact and unbroken, how confidently may the people rest upon God!

V. THE GROWING DIFFICULTIES OF MAINTAINING THE OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH DAY AND AT THE SAME TIME THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF MAINTAINING IT IN OUR LAND.

1. We find in the spread of infidel sentiment and spirit in the land, a fearful source of difficulty to the maintenance of the due observance of the Sabbath day.

2. The latitudinarian and unhallowed speculation indulged in by many who bear the name of Christian, and sanctioned and smiled at by others, who ought to raise the voice of holy and wholesome reprobation.

3. The increasing excitements and the increasing facilities for the violation of the holy day.

4. The lamentable spiritual destitution of masses of our people, and the consequent spiritual ignorance, utter demoralisation, and absolute barbarism which exist throughout wildernesses of human beings in this baptized and nominally Christian country.

VI. THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF MAINTAINING THE OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH DAY IN OUR LAND.

(H. Stowell, M. A.)

I. THE SABBATH IS OF UNIVERSAL AND PERPETUAL OBLIGATION.

II. IT HAS ITS OWN PECULIAR EMPLOYMENTS: "Hallow My Sabbaths." They are to be days of rest from labour, and refreshment for the soul. Let them be sacred days; devote them to the praise and cause and glory of God.

III. THERE WAS A MOST BLESSED DESIGN IN ITS INSTITUTION: "Hallow My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign," etc.

1. They were to be a sign between God and His people — a sign more frequently brought before them than the bow in the clouds. That told they should not be destroyed; but this tells of eternal life — is a type and symbol of the Sabbath of rest in His everlasting kingdom.

2. Another design mentioned is the edification and instruction of His people, "that ye may know that I am the Lord."

(G. Phillips, M. A.)

I. HOW PROPERLY THE SABBATH IS A SIGN OF THE TRUE GOD.

II. THE INSTITUTION OF IT IS OF THE GREATEST USE AND ADVANTAGE TO MAN, CONSIDERED UNDER WHAT RESPECT AND CIRCUMSTANCES SOEVER.

III. WHAT IS MEANT BY "HALLOWING THE SABBATH," or in what manner we are to observe it, so as to answer the end of its institution, so as to reap the advantages which were proposed by it.

1. To hallow the Sabbath is to set it apart to God's honour and service; and, of course, implies that we should abstain from all the ordinary employments of life, from all such things as would be apt to debase our minds, and hinder them from fixing upon heavenly objects.

2. We should, this day above all, make Him the constant subject of our thoughts and our desires, of our prayers and of our praises. We should meditate upon His nature and His attributes, His Word and His works; and particularly upon those two grand instances of the Divine power and goodness which the institution itself, more especially, directs us to commemorate — the creation of the world, and the redemption of mankind.

IV. TO NEGLECT PAYING GOD SO EASY A TRIBUTE AS ONE DAY OUT OF SEVEN MUST AT LEAST IMPLY A FORGETFULNESS OF OUR OBLIGATIONS; as that must, necessarily, imply ingratitude. Shall we grudge the seventh day to His use, when He hath, so freely, allowed us the other six for our own? Shall we refuse so small a part of our time to Him, who had so just a right to the whole?

(D. Lloyd.)

Those who have served a battery upon the battlefield tell us that, at intervals, they are forced to pause, that the guns may cool, and that the smoke may lift to furnish accurate aim; yes, and because ammunition is exhausted. No Christian can fight the battle of the week without the quiet Sabbath to cool off his guns. He needs repose of soul. He wants heavenly breezes to lift the earth-lowering shadows. He must replenish his store from the secret place of prayer and meditation.

(E. J. Haynes.)

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