Wake up, you drunkards, and weep; wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it has been cut off from your mouth.
I. IT IMPLIES THE PREVALENCE OF SPIRITUAL SLUMBER. Such is the state of those who are immersed in the cares and the enjoyments of this earthly life, who are deaf to the thunder of the Law and to the promises of the gospel, who are blind to the visions of judgment or of grace that are passing before their closed eyes.
II. IT DENOUNCES SPIRITUAL SLUMBER AS SIN AND FOLLY. The body needs sleep and repose; but the soul should never be insensible and indifferent to Divine and eternal realities. Such a state is one of indifference to the presence and to the revelation of him who has the first claim upon the hearts he has framed. Slumber such as this is fast deepening into death.
III. IT CALLS FOR REPENTANCE AND NEWNESS OF LIFE. There is implied a power to respond to the Divine summons. And certainly the first thing for the sinner to do is to shake off sloth and indifference, to look about him, to listen to the voice that speaks from heaven, to catch the welcome accents of the gospel, which is the message of God to the souls of men. Blessed be God, this is the appeal: "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!" - T.
Awake, ye drunkards, and weep.
I. THAT THE DRUNKARD IS INSENSIBLE TO THE MOST IMPORTANT CONCERNS OF LIFE, "Awake." The prophet knew that it was the tendency of intoxicating drink to cast men into an unholy slumber, and to render them dangerously insensible to the most important things around them.
1. Intoxicating drink has a tendency to darken the intelligence of man.
2. Intoxicating drink has a tendency to deaden the moral susceptibilities of man. These drunkards of Judah were not merely mentally blind to the calamities which had come upon their country, but were morally incapable of estimating their due social effect.
3. Intoxicating drink has a tendency to destroy the conscience of man. These drunkards of Judah probably did not consider that they were working their own moral degradation, and that they were inviting the retribution of heaven. They imagined that they were enjoying the plenty they possessed, and that they were the happiest of men. The prosperity of fools shall slay them.
II. That the drunkard is exposed to the most abject misery. "And howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth."
1. He is liable to the misery of self-loathing. We can readily imagine that these drunkards of Judah would now and then awake from their sottish slumber, and that in the moment of bodily pain they would be seized with sad thoughts of their own degradation.
2. He is liable to the misery of social con. tempt. Drunkards are the object of social scorn, they are incapable of industrious work, they are injurious to the common good. They prostitute great abilities. They misuse golden opportunities. They place manhood on a level with the brute.
3. They are liable to the misery of unsatisfied appetite. The drunkards of Judah would howl because the new wine was cut off from their mouth. They had abused the gifts of providence, and now they are no longer allowed to enjoy them. Sin brings the wealthiest of sinners to want. Plenty at one time is no guarantee against penury at another. In the next life the appetite which sin has created will be for ever unsatisfied; then the wine will indeed be cut off from the mouth.
III. THAT THE DRUNKARD IS IN IMMEDIATE NEED OF THE MOST EARNEST MINISTRY WHICH CAN BE ADDRESSED TO HIM. We cannot but see in this verse that the prophet addressed the drunkards of Judah in earnest and faithful speech. He called them by their right name. He urged them to thoughtfulness and repentance. There is need that the pulpit of our age should take up his cry. Lessons —
1. That the drunkard is incapable of the qualities necessary for true citizenship.
2. That many national calamities are occasioned by the drunkard.
3. That the most effective ministries of the Church should be directed against this, terrible evil.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
(C. Robinson, LL. D.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number
I. THAT THE AGENCIES OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION ARE GREAT IN THEIR NUMBER, "For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number."
1. These agencies are numerous; The locusts did not come in a single flight, but in incredible and successive swarms, Heaven has an infinite resource of retributive messengers waiting its behest, It can soon darken our lives by a throng of hostile energies.
2. These agencies are strong. True, these locusts were in themselves weak and diminutive creatures, They were not like the proud monarch of the forest, and had not the majestic appearance or strength of the lion or the bear. They were insects. And so the most trivial agencies of the universe, when sent by God to punish sin, become mighty and resistless. Then the superior intelligence of man will avail nothing against them. Then the pride of the mighty will be brought to the dust.
3. These agencies are united, The locusts came upon the land of Judah as though they were animated by one national policy. The ants and conies are designated a people (Proverbs 30:25, 26), indicative of the wisdom by which they are Divinely taught to act. Hence the term nation gives no favour to the view that the locusts are symbolical era foreign invasion. And so the retributive agencies of heaven often come upon the wicked in terrible combination. The agencies of Eternal Justice are unconsciously in sympathy with each other, and advance in one vast army to execute the penalty of sin.
II. THAT THE AGENCIES OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION ARE WELL EQUIPPED FOR THEIR WORK. "Whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek-teeth of a great lion."
1. Their equipment is appropriate. The teeth of the locust are said to be "harder than stone." They appear to be created for a scourge; since to strength incredible for so small a creature, they add saw-like teeth admirably calculated to eat up all the herbs in the land. The providence of God in executing the penalty of sin generally employs those agencies whose natural constitution the best fit them for the end contemplated. Heaven knows the most appropriate instrumentalities by which to punish the sinner.
2. Their equipment is fierce. These locusts were armed as with the cheek-teeth of a great lion. Thus they would be able to bite off the top, branches, and boughs of trees. And truly there are times when the judgments of heaven come fiercely upon the wicked, and destroy all that is precious to them.
III. THAT THE AGENCIES OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION ARE DESOLATING IN THEIR EFFECT. "He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig-tree: he hath made it Clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white."
1. They desolate things of the greatest value. These locusts laid waste the noblest and most valuable fruit-trees of the land, which the Lord had given to His people for their inheritance. The messengers of Eternal Justice will not spare the vines and fig-trees of a sinful life. They strike at the root of all secular prosperity.
2. They desolate things to the utmost extent. These locusts attacked the herbage, fruit, leaves of trees, the young shoots, and their bark. Everything in the country was devoured and made clean bare. And so the agencies of Divine retribution sometimes spread their desolation over a vast area, over the entire history of a nation, throughout the entire circumstances of a family, or of an individual. They leave no token of former splendour.
3. They desolate things to the remotest period. The agencies of Divine retribution often achieve a destruction which is felt to the end of life.
IV. THAT THE AGENCIES OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION ARE PRODUCTIVE OF SAD CONTEMPLATION IN THE MIND OF THE TRULY PATRIOTIC. "For a nation is come up upon my land." The prophet here speaks in his character of representative of the people of God, and sees in the desolation of his country an occasion for sorrow. Hence the prophet, regarding the land as a Christian patriot, was pained by its desolation, and sought to remove the cause of the Divine anger. Piety makes men truly patriotic. Lessons —
1. That the retributive agencies of heaven are countless in number.
2. That the retributive agencies of heaven are effective in equipment.
3. That the retributive agencies of heaven spare not the most sacred possessions.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
And barked my fig-tree
I. WHEN MAY GOD BE SAID TO BARK OUR FIG-TREE?
1. When God renders that which has been useful to us useless, and that which has been pleasant, obnoxious; and that which has been helpful, injurious.
2. When God removes something from us which He has given to us, and which we have taken to our hearts as all-important, and as supremely precious.
3. By breaking up some work of ours in which we have found much pleasure; or by rooting up something which we have planted, it may be with tears, it may be with joy.
II. BY WHAT MEANS DOES GOD BARK OUR FIG-TREES? God uses various means. He may permit some devil, commission some angel, allow or employ a fellow-man to bark our tree. He may use some inanimate and unconscious agent. Or He may effect the destructive work by some influence upon our minds and hearts.
III. WITH WHAT INTENT IS THIS DONE? What is the end of the Lord? Does He do this wantonly, cruelly, ignorantly, or unwisely? Nay, His object is either correction or prevention.
IV. How should a man of god demean himself when God barks his fig-tree? Submit quietly. Reverently ask, Why has God done this? Learn to use all temporal things without abusing thorn.
(Samuel Martin.)I. Look at some of these barked fig-trees. High hopes are often changed into cruel disappointments. Bright prospects of coming happiness are turned, like fairy gold, into withered leaves. A young man's fig-tree is a healthy body and high spirits, and that tree is barked when affliction seizes him, and bodily weakness and mental depression make him as pale and helpless as a downright old man. A workman's fig-tree is regular work and a living wage; that tree is barked when work is scarce and wages low. The tradesman's fig-tree is a prosperous business; providence smiles upon him, friends multiply, and everything promises a golden harvest, when suddenly he meets with disappointment, his schemes are thwarted, the bank fails, and he is doomed to spend a helpless and penniless old age. A family's fig-tree is the father and husband; and it is barked when he is smitten down by death. The old man's fig-tree is a gladsome old age, which he hopes to spend with his wife and children "about him"; and that tree is barked when he suddenly dies before he has realised a thousandth part of his anticipated enjoyment. The invalid's fig-tree is some glimmering hope of returning health; and it is barked when the doctor tells him that his disease is incurable, and that he must die.
II. WHO BARKS OUR FIG-TREES? The prophet, looking up to God, said, "Thou hast barked my fig-tree." The affairs of men, and especially of good men, are under God's wise, omniscient, benevolent, and almighty control. Were there no particular, there could be no general providence, for it seems quite impossible to take care of the whole ii the separate and dependent parts be neglected. He holds the helm of the universe, and He will bring us into the desired haven.
III. WHY DOES GOD BARK OUR FIG-TREES?
1. Does He do it unkindly? No! He is too good to be unkind.
2. Does He do it unwisely? No! He is too wise to err.
3. God barks our fig-trees in mercy, and not in wrath. We are prone to think too much of those trees; to bestow too much thought and affection upon them, and to expect too much happiness from them.
4. Barked fig-trees destroy worldliness. Thomas Erskine used to say: "Education would cease if we and our circumstances fitted each other." If our position in this world were always one of unmixed comfort, I'm afraid we should never stretch our desires for a better. It is often said that the world satisfies no one; but, as a matter of fact, most men are so satisfied with it that they feel no concern for a better country, that is, a heavenly. Now, what is God to do with such people if their souls are not to be lost, but saved? They must be rendered dissatisfied with their earthly condition, and be made to welcome the hope of a happier state beyond the grave. And what is so likely to do this as some dispensation which snatches from them the objects of their inordinate affection?
5. Barked fig-trees help to mature Christian character. In the midst of our heaviest trials and deepest woes we can sing of mercy as well as of judgment.(1) Job's fig-tree was barked (James 5:11).(2) Jacob's fig-tree was barked. The loss of Joseph was regarded by his family as a great domestic calamity.(3) Paul's fig-tree was barked. He suffered imprisonment at Rome; some false brethren created division and strife in the Church.(4) Barked fig-trees help to develop latent qualities. It was when Paul Gerdhart was banished from his church and manse, for preaching unpalatable truth, that he wrote that inspiring hymn, "Give to the winds thy fears," etc.
IV. WHAT ARE THE LESSONS THAT THIS SUBJECT SUGGESTS?
1. Recognise the providence of God in all the events of life.
2. Moral goodness is the aim of all God's dispensations.
3. Trust God's providence.
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