Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth below; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and its people will die like gnats. But My salvation will last forever, and My righteousness will never fail.
Psalm 102:26; Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3:10-13). We get one of our chief impressions of the value of a thing out of the length of time that it will last. Permanence is one of the principal notes of value. The insect that hums through the air of one summer's evening is. comparatively worthless; the elephant that lives through a hundred years is valuable The wayside weed that lives its brief months is worthless; the giant oak that outlives the storms of generations is valuable. And so our idea of extreme value, of absolutely priceless worth, is put into the figure of permanence - eternal, abiding, and continuing. The highest conceivable good is eternal life; the worst conceivable woe is eternal death. This note of value tests things earthly; they are short-lived, and comparatively worthless. It tests things spiritual; they are long-lived, good, cannot die, and they alone are truly worthy of the pursuit of those in whom God has breathed the breath of life.
1. The material heavens and material earth are the types of all material things. They are the "treasure on earth," which moth or rust are always corrupting, which thieves are constantly breaking through to steal. "Here we have no continuing city" (see the force of this in view of the ruins of great ancient cities which abound in the East). "The fashion of this world passeth away." The world is a moving panorama. The generations go by like the ships that sail to the West. "The place that knows us now must soon know us no more for ever." Everything on which the earthly stamp rests is in its very nature fading. There is no safe holding of what we only get, only become possessed of.
2. But "salvation" and "righteousness" are the types of spiritual things. They bear relation to the man himself, and not to his mere circumstances or surroundings. We can keep for ever only that which we are. Character is our "treasure in heaven, which neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and which no thieves can break through and steal." But the yet higher truth - the one concerning which we need to gain ever new impressions - is that we can only hope to hold on for ever that which we are through Divine grace; that which we are through the Divine redeemings and sanctifyings. God's "salvation shall be for ever; and his righteousness shall not be abolished," as the salvation is wrought in us, and the righteousness shines from us. - R.T.
I. We have to speak to you of CREATED THINGS — the heavens above and the earth beneath — as temporal either in themselves, or in regard to us who "must die in like manner." There may be much room for questioning whether there will be the actual annihilation of matter; whether even this earth is to be so destroyed that no vestige of it shall remain. We know that our bodies at least are not to be annihilated; but that having gone through certain processes, they are to be united to the soul, and remain in that re-union for ever. Without, however, supposing the actual annihilation of matter, we may speak of the universe as destined to be destroyed, seeing that the systems which are to succeed to the present will be wholly different, and wear all the traces of a new creation. Our text marks out a second way in which our connection with visible things — the heavens and the earth — may be brought to a close — "they that dwell therein shall die in like manner."
Lift up your eyes to the heavens.
(Prof. J. Skinner, D.D.)
II. A CONTRAST is drawn between God — His salvation and His righteousness — and the heavens and the earth. It seems the design of the passage to affix a general character to the objects of faith as distinguished from the objects of sense — the character of permanence and distinguished from that of decline.
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
II. THE STABILITY OF THOSE WHICH THE GOSPEL PROPOSES.
( M. Henry.)
I. GOD'S SALVATION IS INDEPENDENT OF, AND WILL OUTLIVE, EVERYTHING HUMAN. "When they that dwell therein shall die in like manner," i.e., like the old earth itself. "My salvation shall be for ever." Not only is the power of God unto salvation independent of its friends, but unconquerable by its foes.
II. THE GRASS WITHERETH, THE FLOWER FADETH; AND SO, TOO, WILL THE EARTH OUT OF WHICH THEY SPRING. It "shall wax old like a garment." To the same intent speaks science. Will religion wax old too? When the aged planet's voice is low and indistinct, will the truth of God also be less clear and defined? I trow not. The world, in its youth and beauty, was but a great symbol. The symbol is gone; the truth remains. The time may come when the resources of earth may be dried up; not so the resources of Heaven. There may be no sunshine to cheer the earth; there will be sunshine for the hearts of men; — no dew to refresh a thirsty earth; there will be life-giving dew for the soul of man.
III. OVER THE WHOLE EARTH BROODS THE MIGHTY LAW OF CHANGE. Everywhere there are births and dissolutions. Almost everything yields to its power. From the tiny flower, to the huge mountain; from the life of the insect that is born and dies in a day, to the life of men, of nations, of the whole world. The dominion of the changeable, however, is not confined to this world; it extends to all worlds. And why should it remain any longer when a grander universe has begun? The work of the old one is done. It came into being only to speak the great truths of God. It has done so; let it pass. Its bright suns, the centres of life and light, all spoke of one Eternal Sun from whom comes all life and all light. Let the changing, decaying systems of the old universe now disappear; their existence would be but a mockery beside the one everlasting system of righteousness. Let all that must pass away now pass. The watchword is, "For ever and ever," for ever one system, one will, one obedience, one atmosphere of love.
(D. Johnson, M.A.)
1. The Gospel is a law — not written upon tables of stone, but upon the fleshly tables of the heart by the Spirit of the living God; it is a law of faith, and love, and obedience; it is the law by which God Will henceforth govern men. As the prophet in another place says "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; He will save us." His law is in order to His rule; and His rule is in order to the salvation of men.
2. The word "judgment" is here used in the sense of a body or code of laws, such as form the basis of the constitution of a kingdom. It must point to the body of Gospel truth which God is about to reveal to the world. The doctrines, precepts, promises, which centre upon the person and work, which together are bound up in the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, these form the basis, the foundation which God will "make settled" for a light to the people.
3. "My righteousness is near." It is about, to be signally manifested, and in an unheard-of way, by the death of My only begotten Son. Therein am I about to be seen, just, and yet the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
4. "My salvation is gone forth," etc. The good news that men are to be saved by the free grace of God, is already published, and it shall awaken loving trust in Me wherever it is known. Then comes the climax upon this preface; the eternal endurance which is the destiny of this saving rule of the Almighty — "Lift up your eyes to the heavens," etc. Three things here present themselves for our consideration —
I. THE DESTINY OF THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH.
1. Let us think of their nature. They are an emanation from the mind of God.
2. The design of the creation.(1) This is its immediate design — to subserve the well-being of man.(2) But what is the ultimate design of the heavens and the earth? Like all else, to declare the glory of God. But upon this two remarks must be made — This declaration is by itself alone imperfect, as all material signs of truth must be. The printed page may tell us many truths, but there are truths which the printed page of itself can never tell. Creation cannot declare to us all that we ought to know of God. There are apparent contradictions in nature: there is the genial sun, the gentle dew, the balmy wind; but there is also the fiery volcano, the awful earthquake, the furious hurricane. Creation cannot reconcile its own phenomena; its testimony is imperfect without some higher and concurrent light. The testimony of creation is too often rendered void or perverted through human sinfulness. Either men do not see God at all in nature, or they view Him with vision all awry.(3) Carry your thoughts forward to the revealed destiny of the heavens and earth. They are to pass away utterly. "Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, etc.
II. THE DESTINY OF THE MORTAL RACE OF MAN. They that dwell therein shall die in like manner." Man and the world date from the same origin, and are formed of the same material.
1. Let us consider the nature of the mortal race of man. It is simply a part of the visible material creation.
2. Think again of the design of our mortal race. It is pre-eminently to declare the glory of God. "I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." But this glory that excelleth God is to derive not so much from our bodily nature, for this is but the kind of glory that all His other works render to Him, an unconscious glory; as from our spiritual nature, from renovated wills, from purified affections, from a redeemed and sanctified nature.
3. We shall gain further light upon the purpose of God with regard to our earthly race, if we glance at the analogy between the individual life and that of the whole race. Each man among us is the miniature, the epitome of the history of the world. He is the microcosm; you trace in yourself imperfections of bodily and mental powers; you are conscious of the seeds of death within you; all connected with your present condition speaks plainly the lesson that you are in dissolving, uncertain, precarious, transitory condition. It is fitly described in the emblems of Scripture, a tent, not a fixed habitation, a lodging, not a final rest. Now, I say you may trace a close analogy to all this in the history of the whole race. The world grows old; there are wrinkles on its brow.
4. Then remember that this is the predicted destiny of our mortal race. All living men and all their sensuous surroundings shall be utterly swept away.
III. THE DESTINY OF GOD'S SAVING RULE. — "My salvation," etc. By the saving rule of God we mean that rule which God has revealed in the Gospel, in conforming to which man enjoy salvation; the rule which demands repentance, implicit faith in the Mediator and obedience to the Holy Ghost. It is God s plan, or rule, or way of salvation, and it is founded upon the immutable attribute of His righteousness.
1. Look at its nature. The Gospel is the hill and perfect exhibition of the mind of God.
2. Look at its design. It is in order to the complete blessedness of our immortal spirits in earth and heaven — here and hereafter, and for ever and ever.
3. God s saving rule shall endure for ever and ever. Conclusion: The rule of God must either save and bless, and. eternally exalt you, or it must crush and destroy you.
(E. Johnson, B.A.)I. A CHANGING, PASSING WORLD. "Lift up your eyes," etc. God calls on us to interrupt for a short season our busy occupations, and to meditate on things seen and unseen, things temporal and things eternal.
1. The framework of creation is changing, — passing.
2. The riches, the comforts, the enjoyments of life are passing.
3. The cares, and anxieties, and sorrows of life are passing.
4. Life itself is passing.
II. AN UNCHANGING, ETERNAL SALVATION.
1. The blessing itself is salvation.
2. It has God for its author.
3. Eternity is its duration.
4. Sinners are the partakers of this blessing.Which has your heart — your hopes? The love of both cannot dwell in the same breast, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
(F. Storr, M.A.)
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