And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
This striking utterance was given forth by Ezekiel when Israel, scattered in every country, had begun to forget their nationality. They judged it prudent to disguise their distinctive character, and become like the heathen. Now, God, who chose His people of old, would not have it so, and He interposed with this striking passage. It is a dreadful thing to profess to belong to the people of God: it is a matter of great privilege if it is true, but if it is a lie it is an awful thing, involving sevenfold judgment. God will cause His professing people to be distinguished from other men, and they that come in among them who are not truly of them shall be so dealt with that both the ears of him that heareth thereof shall tingle. Special severities will overtake apostate professors.
I. The MEANING OF BRINGING MEN INTO THE BOND OF THE COVENANT.
1. If we take the passage as referring to the work of grace, it signifies that they shall know under what covenant they stand. Oh, the blessedness of being under such a sure covenant! This is what is aimed at, that God may bring His own from under the law, and place them under the covenant of grace. Though as yet they care nothing about it, He will bring them to know and realise that they are standing in the covenant of grace, with Christ as their Covenant-Head.
2. They shall be led to see how this covenant binds them to God. O mighty grace, thou dost hold us with the cords of a man from which we never desire to escape. We are the Lord's people, and He is our God. He holds us, and we hold to Him.
3. To come under the bond of the covenant means also to come under the discipline of the covenant; for they that are in gracious covenant with God will find that He dealeth with them as with sons, and, inasmuch as He loves them, they shall know the truth of that word — "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten."
4. This coming under the bond of the covenant means surely that they yield to its restraint. Can grace ever be a fetter? Oh yes, it is the most blessed of all fetters, for it holds us fast, and yet never violates our liberty. It binds the very heart in willing captivity. This is the bond of the covenant.
5. It means also the security of the covenant. "I will bring thee under the bond of the covenant," must mean, I will bind thee to the Lord Jesus, thy Surety and Bondsman, and He shall secure thee forever.
II. THE EXPERIENCE OF SOME IN COMING UNDER THE BOND OF THE COVENANT. These Israelites had gone very far into sin, as Jar as ever they could go: they had been false to their promises, wicked in their lives, and rebellious in heart against their God. With many of this character the Lord deals with a singular severity of love. He strikes them with a sword, for so only can their sins be slain. Of those processes of grace we will speak now.
1. First, He will cause them to come out from their present company. You shall find in your old sins such death and corruption that you shall turn from them as a man turns, from a rotting carcase.
2. Note next, that God said He would bring them into distress and loneliness — "And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people." This is, indeed, a terrible wilderness; for you walk in the midst of crowds and yet you are perfectly alone; you mingle with the great congregation, and yet feel that none can enter into your secret, Where now your mirth and giddiness? Where now your comrades in iniquity? The Lord can soon make the gay worldling into the desponding solitary.
3. What does He say next? — "And there will I plead with you face to face." When the Lord becomes so realised to the guilty conscience that there seems to be nothing anywhere except God and that poor sinner face to face with one another, then there is a time of fear and trembling indeed.
4. The Lord further declares He will plead with them as He pleaded with their fathers in the wilderness. How did He do that? Why, very terribly indeed. Is God pleading with you in that fashion? Does He bring judgment after judgment upon you? Do His threatenings follow each other like peals of thunder? Has He burned up all your comfort? Has He scorched and withered all your confidence? Are you brought unto the dust of death?
5. What more does God do? Well, it is said, "And I will cause you to pass under the rod." I have frequently seen sheep when the shepherd has required to count them: he makes them pass through a half-opened gate, and there he numbers them. They would all come rushing through, but the shepherd blocks the way, and as they come out one by one, he touches them with his staff, and so counts them. The Lord makes His chosen to pass through a narrow place, even a strait gate, where only one can come at a time, and there and then He counts them, and causes them to give an account of themselves individually. Then mark this: as the shepherd by counting his own sheep declares and exercises his right of possession, so the Lord, when He wakens up our minds to feel our personality, causes us to recognise that we are not our own, but are bought with a price. Moreover, we come under the rod of rulership; for a rod in the old time was the usual sceptre of kings. It means, also, the rod of chastisement. "Happy is the man whom God correcteth."
III. THE ULTIMATE DESIGN OF ALL THIS.
1. The first design is to bind them to God. All the better crop comes in afterlife from having a deep ploughing before the seed is sown.
2. The next design of God is that He may entirely separate His people from the world. When God makes His servants bitterly to know the evil fruit of sin, then they no longer hunger for that forbidden fruit.
3. Furthermore, the Lord chastens His people, that thus He may bring them into their own land of promise, into the rest of His love.
4. The great end of all is that we may know the Lord. When a man has smarted because of his sin, and has been made to feel the burning coals of anguish in his own spirit; when the Lord has set him up as a target, and shot at him with arrows which drink up his life; and when afterwards he has been saved, and the splendour of infinite love has shone upon him, then he knows Jehovah. When God has brought the contrite man into the place of security, comfort, joy, and delight in Christ Jesus, then he knows the Lord.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: