But did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers? They repented and said, 'Just as the LORD of Hosts purposed to do to us according to our ways and deeds, so He has done to us.'"
II. THE PURSUIT. The sinner followed. He feels that God knows all, and that the day of reckoning will come. Memory, conscience, Law, Scripture, prophecy of judgment. The officer of justice is on the sinner's track. Any moment he may feel his hand on his shoulder, and hear the awful words, "You are my prisoner."
III. THE OVERTAKING. Certain, for good or for evil. In the day of conviction, of true penitence, or of righteous retribution - amidst the songs of rejoicing angels or the weeping and wailing of lost souls. What has been our experience? God's Word "takes hold," as truth of the intellect, as righteousness of the conscience, as love of the heart. Mark Augustine in the garden at Milan (Romans 13:13, 14); Luther painfully climbing the church steps at Rome (Romans 1:17). Study Bunyan's 'Grace Abounding.' So of all the redeemed. Happy are we when we recognize that God's Word comes, not as a foe, but as a friend; not to compel by force, but to constrain by love; not to drag us with fear and trembling before the Judge, but to draw us gently to the cross and the Saviour. - F.
But My words
I. THE MORTAL HEARERS AND SPEAKERS OF THE ABIDING WORD. A familiar theme. Look at it from the special angle, to bring into connection the eternal Word, and the transient vehicles and hearers of it. All the past hearers and speakers of the Word had that Word verified in their lives. Not one of them who, for the brief period of their earthly lives, came in contact with that Divine message, but realised, more or less consciously, the solemn truth of its promises and threatenings. Wherever they are now, their earthly relation to that Word is a determining factor in their condition. "Wherefore we should give the more earnest heed to the things that we have heard."
II. THE ABIDING WORD WHICH THESE HEARERS AND SPEAKERS HAVE HAD TO DO WITH. Just as reason requires some unalterable substratum below all the fleeting phenomena of the changeful creation, — a God who is the rock basis of all, — the staple to which all the links hang — so here we are driven back and back, by the very fact of the transiency of the transient, to grasp for a refuge and a stay, the permanency of the permanent. It is blessed for us when the lesson that the fleeting of all that can flee away, reads to us, is that, beneath it all, there is the Unchanging. Zechariah meant by the "Word of God" simply the prophetic utterances about the destiny and the punishment of the nation. We ought to mean by "the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever," not merely the written embodiment of it in this book, or that primarily, but the personal Word, the Incarnate Word, the everlasting Son of the Father. It is His perpetual existence rather than the continuous power of the truth which is the declaration of Himself, that is mighty for our strength and consolation when we think of the transient generations. Christ lives. Therefore we can front change and decay in all around calmly and triumphantly. Since we have this abiding Word, let us not dread changes, however startling and revolutionary. Jesus Christ does not change. There is a human element in the Church's conception of Jesus Christ, and still more in their working out of the principles of the Gospel in institutions and forms, which partakes of the transiency of the men from whom they come.
III. THE PRESENT GENERATION AND ITS RELATION TO THE ABIDING WORD. Zechariah did not hesitate to put himself in line with the mighty forms of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea. He, too, was a prophet. Some simple exhortations.
1. See to it that you accept that Word. Open not only your minds but your hearts to it. Hold it fast. In this time of unrest make sure of your grasp of the eternal central core of Christianity, Jesus Christ Himself, the Divine-human Saviour of the world. Accept Him, hold Him fast, trust to His guidance in present day questions.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)I. THE PASSING AWAY OF HEARERS AND SPEAKERS ALIKE. All ingenious exposition of the words of text suggests that they are a brief dialogue, a kind of duel between the prophet and his hearers, in which the first question is his sword thrust at them, and the second is their return to him. In it they parry and return the prophet's thrust. I prefer to regard the questions as continuous; the remonstrance of the prophet based upon the fact that hearers and speakers alike drift away into the unseen land, and are no more heard of. It is a very familiar and commonplace thought. Try to individualise the thought that is here. Reflect how surely, steadily, stealthily, constantly hearers and speakers of the immortal Word are drifting, drifting into the dark. Did you ever stand in some old cathedral, or ruined church, where for centuries the Word of God had been preached? And did there never come over you, with a strange rush of feeling, the thought, "Where are all the men and women that bowed their knees here, beneath the vanished roof of this place?"
II. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE FLEETING HEARERS AND SPEAKERS AND THE ABIDING WORD. There is nothing so transient as the words that are spoken by Christian teachers. Even where the Word takes root in men's hearts, how swiftly the speaker of it passes and is forgotten. No workers so soon have their work covered with oblivion as preachers. In another way, too, the prophets fade and perish; inasmuch as new circumstances arise about which they know nothing; new phases of thought which antiquate their teachings; new difficulties in which their words have no counsel; new conflicts in which they can strike no blow. Yet, in all this mingled and fleeting human utterance, does there not lie an immortal and imperishable centre, even the Word of the living God? Much ingenuity is expended nowadays in trying to discriminate between the permanent and transient in Christian teaching. The enduring Word is that story of Christ's incarnation, death for our sins, resurrection and ascension, which by the Gospel is preached unto you. Therefore we have to look beyond the dearest of human teachers, and those to whom we owe most. "They truly were not suffered to continue by reason of death," but this Man (Christ) continueth ever our Friend, our Prophet, Priest, and King.
III. THE WITNESS OF PAST GENERATIONS TO THE IMMORTAL WORD. They that heard and he that spake have passed into the silent land; but they passed not thither until they had found, in some measure, that both the warnings and the promises that had been uttered were God's truth, and not man's dreams. God's Word has leaden feet, but steady, and slow, and certain, it overtakes the wrong-doer. Do you take care. The generations that are gone found that the Word of the Lord was true; and if you reject His Word, you too may, before you die, find out, what you will certainly find out when you are dead, that He speaks no vain things.
IV. THE PRACTICAL EFFECTS OF THESE SOLEMN THOUGHTS. I want to urge upon my brethren in the ministry that they should, in all their utterances, try to realise that they are prophets, dying, with a message to dying men. There is a great deal of modern preaching clever, eloquent, cultured, ingenious, which seems to have utterly forgotten that it has got a message of forgiveness and of cleansing by the blood of Christ to proclaim to men. And how these thoughts should influence hearers! How you would listen if you knew that this was your last sermon!
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. The mutable nature of man, passive in the hands of God, and thoroughly dependent on God. It is the height of folly for man to oppose God, who has all power to punish sin. All men must die. The Word they bring is eternal as God is eternal, but they themselves must perish. Zechariah would say, "If such be the destiny of man, it is yours. Soon you must fade and fall. Turn ye from your fruitless and evil ways, and think not that ye can resist God."
2. The warning is enforced by considerations drawn from the unchangeable nature of the Divine Word. The prophets had died, but the certainty and stability of their prophecies had been vindicated by an express fulfilment. For the Word of God is eternal and unchangeable. Are you then profiting by it as you ought?
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