Listen, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the LORD has spoken: "I have raised children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me.
I. THE SIN OF THE UNFILIAL SON. Dwell upon its characteristic features. We estimate the motive and spirit of the wrongs rather than the precise nature of the acts. Show the aggravations of such sin. Every persuasion of dependence, love, and duty must be pushed aside ere unfilial sin can become possible.
II. ITS POSSIBLE EXCUSE IN AN UNWORTHY FATHER. This is the only excuse that can be urged, and this does not count for much. The natural relation sustains the demand for obedience, and nothing can conflict with parental law save the supreme law of God. If even parents command what is contrary to God's revealed will, we must obey the Father in heaven rather than the father on earth. Illustrate how this conflict of the human and Divine law was the burden of the Greek dramas. Short of this, obedience must be fully rendered, even when fatherly requirements cannot be approved.
III. THE ABSENCE OF ALL SUCH EXCUSE WHEN THE FATHER IS GOD. His will is right, is love. Apprehend what he is. Apprehend what he has been to our forefathers and to us. Realize the "goodness" of him in whom our breath is, and whose are all our ways, and then the unspeakable iniquity must be to grieve him, disobey him, and revolt from him. - R.T.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken.
Sermons by the Monday Club.I. THE PRIVILEGES OF THE NATION. It was no mean prerogative to become the chosen people of God, but for what was that choice made? Not because of perfect characters surely; but rather to declare among the nations the messages of God; not a nation holy in character, but with a holy errand. When the ten tribes revolted, leaving only a remnant, that remnant must do the errand appointed. Thus did God speak of them as "My people," "My children." Our privileges cannot save us, and even our blessings may become a curse. God cannot give to us personally what we will not receive.
II. THE NATIONAL CORRUPTION. What the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is in the New Testament, that is the first chapter of Isaiah's prophecy in the Old. Deeper degradation than that of Israel it would be hard to find. In Isaiah's time, gold and silver idols glittered on every street of Jerusalem. By royal authority, worship was given to the sun and moon. At the opening of each new season, snow-white horses, stalled in the rooms at the temple entrance, were driven forth harnessed to golden chariots to meet the sun at its rising. Incense ascended to heathen gods from altars built upon the streets. Vice had its impure rites in the temple itself. The valley of Hinnom echoed the dying screams of children offered as sacrifices in the terrible flames of the hideous Moloch. Words fail in depicting the deep corruption. There is the sting of sin in the plain statement of the awful history, "They have forsaken the Lord," etc.
III. THE RELATION OF RITUAL TO MORALITY. The more pronounced the ceremonial, the more tenaciously will men cling to it. Thus, in Isaiah's day, they who had swung their incense to the sun and moon; who had worshipped Baal upon the high places and in the groves; who had cast their children into the burning arms of Moloch, turned immediately from these heathenish practices to worship in the temple. Of burnt offerings and sacrifices there was no end. The purest spiritual worship, like that of Enoch and Abraham and Melchizedek, did not need it; it was given when a nation of slaves, degraded by Egyptian bondage, could appreciate nothing higher, and it was taken away when the true, light was come. There was neither perfection nor spirituality in such a ritual; yet in such a system God tried to elevate the nation to spiritual truths they could not yet apprehend. The ritual could not make morality.
IV. ANY WORSHIP TO PLEASE GOD MUST BE REASONABLE. The Divine appeal claims the undivided attention of the profoundest thoughts; "Come, now, and let us reason together."
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)
I. We are led to consider, that STATE AND NATION ARE INVOLVED TOGETHER. The country is "desolate," the cities are "burned with fire, and the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city." We remember indeed that the saints have survived in "the dens and caves of the earth." But these victories of truth and righteousness — God's power to overrule wickedness — by no means contradict Isaiah's vision. If it is true that the Founder of the Church can maintain its strength notwithstanding civil turmoil and decay, let us also consider how God magnifies the Church through days of peace and virtue. Jesus Himself waited until the nations were still And what may be the possibilities for His kingdom of the continued growth and happiness of our own country, it is entrancing to contemplate. The treasuries of love, how full they may be! The pastors and teachers for every dark land, — what hosts there may be prepared!
II. Aroused to the consideration of such a problem, we readily appreciate the prophet's reference to THE RESPONSIBILITY OF RULERS (ver. 10). Our own happy visions of the future may all be over clouded if there be but one Ahab in authority. The exhortation, therefore, addresses those who as citizens are to be charged with the duty of placing men in power.
III. We find the prophet distinctly TRACING THE NATIONAL CALAMITIES TO THE NATION'S WICKEDNESS (Vers. 4-8).
IV. THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE TO HIS COUNTRYMEN IS PARTICULARLY DIRECTED AGAINST THEIR IMPIETY. They have forms of religion enough, indeed. But out of the people's worship the heart and life have departed. Only the husks remain. Perhaps it will be seen in the end that the Pharisee is not only as bad, but as bad a citizen too, as the glutton and the winebibber. The Pharisaic poison works with a more stealthy force and makes its attacks upon more vital parts. We are to look not only for a sinful nation's natural decay, but besides for those mighty interpositions of Providence in flood and famine, in pestilence and war, directly for its punishment and overthrow.
V. THE VALUE OF A "REMNANT." God has been saving remnants from the beginning — Noah, Abraham, Moses, Nehemiah — and the little companies of which such souls are the centre and the life in every age. God's plans are not spoiled by man's madness. If many rebel against Him, He saves the few and multiplies their power. The leaven leavens the whole lump again.
VI. Most impressive, therefore, is THE TENDER AND EMPHATIC PROCLAMATION OF MERCY AND PARDON in this chapter.
(Hanford A. Edson, D. D.)
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE (vers. 2-6).
III. THE FRUITS OF THIS CHARACTER (vers. 7-9).
IV. FALSE EFFORTS TO OBTAIN RELIEF (vers. 10-15). Murderers may be found at church, making their attendance a cloak for their iniquity or an atonement for their crime. God cannot become a party to such horrible trading.
V. THE TRUE WAY OF DELIVERANCE (vers. 16-18). God not only describes the disease, but provides the remedy. The fountain is provided; sinners must wash in it — must confess, forsake, get the right spirit, and do right.
(J. Sanderson, D. D.)
I. A HIGH CHARGE exhibited in God's name against the Jewish Church and nation.
1. For their ingratitude (vers. 2, 3).
2. For their incorrigibleness (ver. 5).
3. For the universal corruption and degeneracy of the people (vers. 4, 6, 21, 22).
4. For their rulers' perverting of justice (ver. 23).
II. A SAD COMPLAINT OF THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD which they had brought upon themselves by their sins, and by which they were brought almost to utter ruin (rots. 7-9).
III. A JUST REJECTION OF THOSE SHOWS AND SHADOWS OF RELIGION which they kept up among them, notwithstanding this general defection and apostasy (vers. 10-15).
IV. AN EARNEST CALL TO REPENTANCE AND REFORMATION, setting before them life and death (vers. 16-20).
V. A THREATENING OF RUIN TO THOSE THAT WOULD NOT BE REFORMED (vers. 24, 28-31).
VI. A PROMISE OF A HAPPY REFORMATION AT LAST, and a return to their primitive purity and prosperity (vers. 25-27). And all this is to be applied by us, not only to the communities we are members of, in their public interests, but to the state of our own souls.
( M. Henry.)
I. THE CHARGE. They have proved unnatural children. Have disowned their Father. Have failed to meet the claims due from them. Have frustrated the purpose of their national existence. Have, as a nation, wholly abandoned themselves to sin. In spite of exceptional privileges, they have lowered themselves beneath the level of the brutes. Nature witnesses against them, and puts them to shame.
II. THE DEFACE. The prophet imagines them to point to their temple services, — so regular, elaborate, costly, — in proof that their natural relations to their Father have been maintained. But this common self-delusion is disallowed, exposed, repelled. Not ritual, not laborious costly worship is required, but sincerity of heart, integrity of purpose, rightness of mind. Acceptable religious observance must be the spontaneous expression of an inward religious life.
III. THE OFFER OF MERCY. But the day of grace is not even yet past. One last attempt is yet made to arouse the sleeping spiritual sensibilities of the nation by the offer of pardon. Reconciliation is possible only upon amendment.
IV. THE THREAT OF JUDGMENT. Fire alone can now effect the change desired. God cannot be evaded. He is as truly merciful in threatening as in offering pardon. The nation shall be purged, yet not destroyed. Evil shall be consumed. But thereto who, like gold, can stand the fire and come out purified shall be the nucleus of an ideal society, and remodel the national life. All social amendment has its roots in complete purification of individual hearts. The prophet's dream was never realised. Yet it was not therefore wasted. It was an ideal, an inspiration to the good in after ages. It will one day be realised through the Gospel.
I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.Exodus 4:22, etc.); all the members of the nation are His children (Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:20); He is the Father of Israel, whom He has begotten (Deuteronomy 32:6, 18). The existence of Israel as a nation, like that of other nations, is effected, indeed, by means of natural reproduction, not by spiritual regeneration; but the primary ground of Israel's origin is the supernaturally efficacious word of grace addressed to Abraham (Genesis 17:15, etc.); and a series of wonderful dealings in grace has brought the growth and development of Israel to that point which it had attained at the Exodus from Egypt. It is in this sense that Jehovah has begotten Israel.
I. THE GRACIOUS AND FILIAL RELATION OF ISRAEL TO JEHOVAH.
II. ISRAEL'S BASE APOSTASY FROM JEHOVAH.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. It presents to us in a striking manner THE SOCIAL SIDE OF GOD'S CHARACTER. It is well for us to remember that all that is tender and lovable in our social experience, so far as it is pure and noble, is obtained from God. The revelation which we have of God presents Him to us, not as isolated from all His creatures, but as finding His highest joy in perfect communion with exalted spirits whom He has created. I love to think that man exists because of this exalted social instinct in God. Further, when God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone," methinks I hear but the echo of a Divine, of a God. felt feeling. Among the mysteries of Christ's passion we find an element of suffering which, as God and man, He felt — "Ye shall leave Me alone"; "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!" Our God is to us an object of supremest interest because He holds with us the most sacred relationship.
II. Our text represents GOD ON THE DOMESTIC SIDE OF HIS CHARACTER. It is the parental rather than the paternal that we see here. The word father does not express all that God is to us. The illustrations of this Book are not exhausted with those that refer to His fatherhood: "Can a woman forget her sucking child," etc. (Isaiah 49:15). All that is tender in motherhood, as well as all that is strong in fatherhood, is to be found in Him. It is as a parent that He speaks here: "I have nourished" — or "given nutriment." In other words, "Out of My rich resources of blessing have I provided for their need; I have nourished and brought up children." Here we have God's grief revealed in the light which can only come through such tender and loving channels as parental patience and wounded love.
III. Our text reveals GOD'S CHARACTER IN ITS REPROVING ASPECT. The folly is emphasised by the comparison with two creatures, by no means noted for their intelligence. Yet both are domesticated creatures, and feel the ties of ownership. What is it that domesticates a creature? The creature that recognises man as his master, by that very act becomes domesticated. The higher type of knowledge possessed by the domesticated animal is a direct recognition of its master. The finest creatures possess that. There is a lower grade of knowledge, but yet one which stamps the creature as domesticated. That is an acknowledgment, not of the master directly, but a recognition of the provision which the master has made for its need. "The ox knoweth his owner." The ass does not do that; but the ass knoweth "his master's crib." The ass knows the stall where it is fed, and it goes and is fed there. By that act it indirectly acknowledges the sovereignty of its owner, because it recognises his protection.
IV. The text presents to us THE TENDER AND PATHETIC SIDE OF GOD'S CHARACTER. This is God's version of human sin. His rebukes are full of pathos. With the great mantle of charity that covers over a multitude of sins, and with the Divine pity that puts the best construction upon human rebellion, He puts all down to ignorance and folly. Observe further, that although they have rebelled against Him, He does not withdraw the name He gave them, Israel — "Israel doth not know: My people doth not consider." He does not repudiate them. The last thing that love can do is that. There is something exceedingly pathetic in God here making an appeal to creation relative to His relationship with man. What if it gave a relief to the heart of God to exclaim to His own creation that groaned with Him over human sin, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!" Am I imagining? Do we not find a Divine as well as human feeling in Christ's going to the wilderness or the mountain top in the hours of His greatest need? There, amid God's creation, He found His Father very near. Here the fact that the child does not know his Heavenly Father is represented as the burden of God's grief. But in this case the ignorance was wilful This was the burden on the heart of Christ in His prayer (John 17). There everything is made to depend upon men knowing God as their Father. That is just why we preach. We seek to make it impossible for you to pass through God's world, and receive from His hands blessings great and boundless, and yet not know Him. We seek to make it impossible for you to look at the Cross and listen to the story of an infinite sacrifice, and yet forget that "God so loved the world," etc.
I. THE PATERNAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD. This is seen in —
1. The object of its precepts. The entire and simple aim of all and every one of His commands, and the motives by which He urges them, appear to be an advancement in knowledge, holiness, and felicity, that we may be fitted for His own presence and intimate communion; for the exalted dignities and interminable bliss of the realms where His honour dwelleth.
2. The length of His forbearance. Who but a father, surpassing all below that have honoured this endearing name, could have borne so long and so meekly, with the thankless, the wayward, the audacious, the provoking! Who but a father, such as Heaven alone can furnish, would return good for evil, and blessing for cursing, hundreds and thou. sands of years, and then, when any finite experimenter had utterly despaired, resolve to vanquish his enemies, not by terror, wasting and woe, but by the omnipotence of grace and mercy! Who but a GOD, and a paternal GOD, would have closed such a strange and melancholy history as that of Israel, by sending "His Son into the world, not to condemn the world," etc.
3. The nature of His tenderness. The philanthropist commiserates the distresses of his fellow creatures, and magnanimously resolves to meliorate them. But he is not animated by that lively, that overpowering, self-sacrificing tenderness which prompts the exertions of a father in behalf of his suffering child. No; that tenderness shrinks from no expenditure, falters before no obstacles. And such was the tenderness of God, for it is not said that He so pitied, but that "He so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son," etc.
II. IF SIN BE THE RESISTANCE OF THE COMMANDS AND CLAIMS, THE MOTIVES AND EXPOSTULATIONS, THE GRACE AND MERCY OF ONE WHO HAS GIVEN US SUCH ILLUSTRIOUS PROOFS OF HIS PATERNAL REGARD AND GOODNESS — CAN IT BE OTHER THAN REBELLION? Can it be other than rebellion of a most aggravated character? The consideration should silence every whisper of pretension to meritorious virtue, and stir up the sentiments of profound contrition. It should take every symptom of stubbornness away, and make us self-accusing, lowly, and brokenhearted.
(T. W. Coit.)
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