They will be like mighty men in battle, trampling the enemy in the mire of the streets. They will fight because the LORD is with them, and they will put the horsemen to shame.
I. CONFLICT RESULTING IN VICTORY.
II. VICTORY RESULTING IN UNION. This does not always happen. There have been wars that have bred more wars, and victories that have left strong hates and bitter memories prolonged for generations. Besides, union may be based on defeat in the interest of the conqueror and not of the conquered; more formal than real, more a thing of covenants and legal fictions than the free choice of the people. But here it is real and true. The middle wall of partition has been taken away. Enmity has given place to love. Jealousy and strife, to brotherhood and peace.
III. UNION RESULTING IN HAPPINESS. There have been examples of union with various results. The union of England and Scotland has been productive of the highest good to both countries. The union with Ireland has not been so happy. We see a beautiful example of prosperity under just covenants and laws in the United States of America. Here the highest and best results are foreshadowed.
1. Increase of strength.
2. General freedom.
3. Abounding prosperity. - F.
Because the Lord is with them
1. The Lord is with His Church relatively. It is only a third part, and perhaps a small third. We might divide our own land into one-third of open enemies, one-third of false professors, and one-third of real Christians. The third part only are really spiritual characters, having the blessing of vital godliness. These shall remain; they shall be "left." God is with them relatively, that is, He is with them in covenant union eternally.
2. The Lord is with His Church experimentally. God has always been with His Church, as a body, and with the individual members.
3. The Lord is with His Church perpetually. It is His promise, "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."Consider how this fact that Jehovah is with His people, explains some mysteries. "Because the Lord is with them."
1. Then they shall fight victoriously and successfully. This explains why their enemies cannot destroy them.
2. For this same reason the truth of God must triumph. Note the distinct character of the Church and their destiny, as set forth in this text. Life Divine is a pledge of life eternal. Ii God be with you, your religion is a thing of life. God's yea and amen are stamped upon His people.
Homilist.I. VICTORY. This victory was —
1. Complete. The enemies were trodden down as "mire in the streets."
2. Divine. "Because the Lord is with them."
3. Reinvigorating. "I will strengthen the house of Judah." They would be strengthened by their victory, not only in wealth and security, but in courage.
4. Extensive. "And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord." "The prophet had," says Hengstenberg, "occupied himself first of an with Judah, the centre of the people of God." In verse 6 he proceeds to speak of Judah and Ephraim together. In this verse, and those which follow, he fixes his attention peculiarly upon Ephraim, which looked in the prophet's day like a withered branch that had been severed from the vine. He first promises that descendants of the citizens of the former kingdom of the ten tribes will also take part in the glorious conflict, and then announces the return of the ten tribes from their exile, which was to be the condition of their participating in the battle. Now, all these facts connected with this victory apply to that victory the grandest of all, — the victory of all true souls over error and wrong.
II. UNIFICATION. "I will hiss for them, and gather them," etc. Observe —
1. The ease with which the regathering win be effected. "I will hiss [or whistle] for them." The word is understood as referring to a particular whistle used by the shepherd for calling his scattered flock together, or by those who have the care of bees, to bring them into the hive. "As sheep flock together at the well-known call of the shepherd, as bees follow in swarms the shrill note of the beemaster, so should the Lord, by His own means, gather His scattered people from their dispersions, how widely soever distant, and bring them to Himself and to their heritage." With what ease God does His work; a mere look, a breath, a word!
2. The regions to which the regathering will extend. "And I will sow them among the people," — or, as it should be rendered, "though I have scattered them among the nations," — "and they shall remember Me in far countries [distant regions]; they shall live with their children, and turn again." They had been scattered, not only through Egypt and Assyria. It does not say that all Jews shall return, but a great multitude is implied.
3. The scene at which the regathering will take place. "I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt," etc.
4. The national catastrophes which the regathering will involve. "And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up." There is evidently an allusion here to their first deliverance from Egypt; and it means that something similar to that event will occur in the course of their regathering (see Exodus 24:4-14). "And the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away." The idea probably is, that as "the haughty boastings of Sennacherib, and the sceptred power of Pharaoh proved alike feeble and unavailing against the might of Jehovah in former days, so should all the combined opposition of the most inveterate enemies prove in days to come. Before Him, — when He had a purpose to fulfil, or promise to His people to accomplish, — all pride should be abased, all power baffled, all counsel turned to foolishness." Now there is a unification, of which this is but a faint emblem — the unification of the good of all ages. "They shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and shall sit down with Isaac and with Jacob." What a blessed union is this!
III. BLESSEDNESS. Here is the highest strength. "And I will strengthen them in the Lord,"
1. Whether this refers to their national strength, their security in their own country, or moral strength, — strength of faith in Him, — or all, one thing is clear, that to be strengthened in the Lord is the highest strength we can get. The greatest blessing of life is strength: physical strength, to do with ease and to endure with patience. Intellectual strength, strength to master with ease all the great problems of life, and to reach a theory of being in which the understanding can repose free from all disturbing doubt. These strengths are blessings; but moral strength, — strength to resist the wrong, to pursue the right, to serve Almighty God with acceptance, and to bless the race with beneficent influences, — this indeed is the perfection of our blessedness. "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might," says Paul. "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength."
2. Here is the highest exercise. "They shall walk up and down in His name, saith the Lord."(1) All living men must walk the road that is "up and down." Human life is made up of "ups" and "downs"; the road is not smooth and level, but rugged and hilly, sometimes up and sometimes down: up today and down tomorrow.(2) This road can only be walked happily by walking it in the "name" of the Lord. A practical recognition of His presence and of His claims to our supreme reverence and worship.
I. THE PERSONS TO WHOM WE ARE DIRECTING OUR EFFORTS. In the text we have an address to the two grand divisions of the nation, — Judah, and Joseph or Israel; and a blessing common to both is secured by virtue of the covenant relation in which God stands to them mutually. "I am the Lord their God," If we can find traces of Judah, and none of Joseph, probably the latter are in reserve, and sooner or later will come into the enjoyment of the promised mercy. It is objected, that the words of the text were fulfilled upon the restoration of the Jews after the captivity in Babylon. But the prophecy of Zechariah was delivered to the remnant which had returned. If Zechariah foretells fuller blessings than any which had been enjoyed up to the period of the restoration from Babylon, when were they enjoyed? If the two divisions or families of Israel returned after the Babylonish captivity, the distinction between Judah and Ephraim was at an end; and the conditions of the national covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so far as the land, the city, and the possession of the inheritance was concerned, must have been accomplished. But the facts of the case do not correspond with any of the leading provisions of the covenant.
1. Instead of an increase, there was a decrease of population.
2. The extent of territory inhabited by Jews after the captivity was even more limited than that which had been apportioned to the tribes by Joshua, and much less than that which was promised to Abraham.
4. If the return from Babylon was a restoration, and only one restoration is spoken of by the prophets, then how can we explain the full declaration in our text, "They shall be as though I had not cast them off"? Where are the myriads of Israelites who in their hiding place have been in existence, and have been multiplying, for all we know, since the days of Shahnaneser until now? The little remnant sojourning in these western portions of the world can only be regarded as emigrants from a vast and populous nation, whose locality is as yet unknown and unvisited by us.
II. THE GROUNDS FOR SUPPOSING THAT ANY SUCCESS WILL ATTEND OUR EFFORTS. We may assume that the nation of Israel has not lost its place in the Divine purpose. However secretly and obscurely to us, the Jews occupy as important and influential a position in reference to other nations of the world as in the days of old. The fortunes of Israel have ever been bound up with the destinies of nations; and we have no reason to suppose that this universal rule of the Divine administration has been or will be departed from. The Jews have been and are the index to prophecy. We authenticate chronology and balance historical accuracy by reference to this wonderful people. If, under the Old Testament dispensation, the kingdoms of the Gentiles performed their appointed course around the visible centre of Israel, we must also believe that under the New Testament, which is a supplement of the Old, the empires of the world are now revolving round the same centre, although obscured and unseen.
III. THE PRIVILEGE OF PARTICIPATING IN THESE EFFORTS.
1. It is a privilege to have the grace of faith and prayer continually exercised. Effort for the good of Israel is a work of faith from first to last. No temporal or international advantage can enter into the consideration of it; no worldly or selfish motive can be charged upon those who engage in it. The friend of Israel walks by faith, not by sight. What encouragement is now presented in the results of work for the Jews! But mercy to Israel is mercy to the world. God has declared His will concerning "the precious sons of Zion." It is a privilege to know that the truth of God's Word is tested by His faithfulness to Israel. What is promised to individuals is promised to the nation. If the promises (such as Isaiah 24., 25., 26.; Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:54; Matthew 23:39, etc.) belong not to the nation, they belong not unto us. It would be a strange inconsistency for us as Gentiles to employ these passages as a ground of our hope of a resurrection, and withhold them from the Jewish nation, who read them literally as a promise to their fathers (Acts 23:6; Acts 24:21; Acts 26:6, 7). Do we look for the return of Christ? Then let us reconcile the contemporaneous existence of the earthly and heavenly Jerusalem. Jesus, the light of the Gentiles, is the glory of His people Israel. Gentile fulness and Israel's glory will flow in together. Like the sudden burst of two fountains they will join their living streams, and fill to overflowing the long-prepared channels, and flood the universe with blessing, and the "knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea."
(W. R. Fremantle, M. A.)
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