Hear this, O elders; and give ear, all who dwell in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?
I. TRADITION ALONE IS AN INSUFFICIENT BASIS FOE RELIGION. It is well known that oral tradition is liable to corruption. Inaccuracy creeps in, and the truth is distorted, by the weakness of memory, the liveliness of imagination, the power of prejudice. Hence the importance of a "book-revelation," which has been often but unjustly reviled. The Scriptures are a standard by which correctness of belief may be tested, by which ignorance may be instructed, and errors avoided. There were traditions in the apostolic age which originated in misunderstanding, and which were corrected by the evangelists.
II. TRADITION HAS, HOWEVER, A VALUABLE PLACE IN RELIGION.
1. Memories of Divine goodness and interposition are thus preserved. The Passover may be adduced as an example. The children of a Hebrew family asked, when partaking of the Paschal meal, "What mean ye by this feast?" and an opportunity was thus given for the father to relate the story of Israel's emancipation from the bondage of Egypt.
2. Instances of Divine displeasure and wrath following upon human sin were thus handed down. Joel alluded especially in this passage to such purposes as these: Calamities came upon the land; the people were sorely chastened; and the prophet enjoins upon the old to communicate, to their posterity - to their children's children - the awful events by which Jehovah signalized his indignation with national unfaithfulness and disobedience.
3. Piety was thus promoted. One generation would learn from another what are the Divine laws, what the principles and methods of the Divine government. In this manner the fear of the Lord, and confidence in his faithfulness, would evidently be promoted and perpetuated. - T.
O Lord, to Thee will I cry.
1. Because God forgetteth not the complaints of the poor; 1.e. of those that pray unto Him. Otherwise He remembereth no more the poor man's envy than the rich man's quarrel. Therefore let this stir us up to make our complaint in prayer.
2. When men do only complain of this or that want without prayer they tempt God; therefore if we will obtain anything at the Lord's hand for our good, let us ask by prayer.
3. Let us learn to ask of God without murmuring or grudging at our own estate, or the Lord's hand; for the Lord will complain as fast on us as we complained to Him.
4. Another use is this, — that if complainers without praying be odious in the Lord's sight, although the cause be indifferent, then much more are those that never pray but for unlawful and filthy things, that they may bestow them on their lusts, as the apostle saith.
I. THAT THIS PRAYER WAS WISELY DIRECTED TO THE ONLY GIVER OF THE TRUE REMEDY
. "O Lord, to Thee will I cry."
1. It was wisely directed. He sought unto God in this time of peril. He did not pray unto any idols, but unto the true God, the Maker of the heaven and the earth. Jehovah had sent the calamity, and He only could remove it. Sorrow should send us to God.
2. It was earnestly presented. The prophet cried unto the Lord with all the energy of his being. His was no languid petition. Sorrow should make men earnest in devotion.
3. It was widely representative. The prophet did not merely pray on his own behalf; he remembered the universal woe around him, and caught up the pain-cry of nature and of the brute, and expressed it in his own prayer. He prayed as the groaning herds could not. A good man is the priest of the universe, especially in the hour of calamity.
II. THAT THIS PRAYER WAS PROMPTED BY A SAD APPRE HENSION OF THE CALAMITY IT SOUGHT TO REMOVE. "For the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field." The prophet recognised the severity of the calamity which had come upon the nation. And it is essential to prayer that we should have a clear apprehension of the sorrow to be relieved, of the sin to be removed, and of the want to be supplied; prayer should always include a good knowledge of the conditions and circumstances under which it is presented and which it hopes to ameliorate.
III. THAT IN THIS PRAYER WAS UNITED THE INARTICULATE PLEADINGS OF SUFFERING BRUTES. "The beasts of the field cry also unto Thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up," etc. We are not to suppose that the cry of the brutes was one with the cry of the prophet; one was the outcome of pious intelligence, the other was the outcome of blind instinct (Psalm 147:9; Job 30:41). Lessons —
1. That a sorrowful soul should pray to God for aid.
2. That the soul must feel its need before it can expect relief.
3. That man should consider the pain of the inferior creatures, and never render himself liable to their rebuke.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Homilist.It is a question whether the fire and flame are to be taken literally as burning the grass, or whether they are used figuratively. Probably the reference is to the burning heat in drought which consumes the meadows, scorches the trees, and dries up the water-brooks. The effect of national calamity on Joel was to excite him to prayer, to compel him to lay the case before the Lord. Having called the attention of all classes of the community to the terrible judgments, he turns his soul in a devout supplication to Almighty God.
I. THIS WAS RIGHT. Prayer is right.
1. God requires it.
2. Christ engaged in it. He is our example.
II. THIS WAS WISE. Who else could remove the calamity and restore the ruin? None. When all earthly resources fail, where else can we go but to Him who originates all that is good, and controls all that is evil? True prayer is always wise, because —
1. It seeks the highest good.
2. By the best means.
III. THIS WAS NATURAL. "The beasts of the field also cry unto Thee." "What better," says an old author, "are they than beasts, who never cry to God but for corn and wine, and complain of nothing but the wants of sense?" Conclusion. It is well when our trials lead us in prayer to God. The greatest calamities are termed the greatest blessings when they act thus. Hail the tempests, if they drive our bark into the quiet haven of prayer!
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