Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 26Ecclesiastes 8:11; Isaiah 48:18; Matthew 5:44, 45; and 1 Timothy 4:8. There is in this chapter a distinct assertion of moral government exercised over Israel. If they obeyed God's Law, he would grant them great temporal blessing; if they disobeyed, he would send them sore chastisement; but if after disobedience they became penitent, he would remember their fathers and his covenant with them, and receive their penitent seed into favour again. The whole question, consequently, of the "method of the Divine government" is hereby raised. And here let us remark -
I. GOD'S JUDGMENTS, WHETHER REWARDS OR PUNISHMENTS, WERE EXECUTED WITH BECOMING LEISURE AND DELIBERATION. It is along the lines of natural law, as distinguished from miracle, that he proposes to execute his decisions. If the people prove obedient, then they are to have
(1) bountiful harvests;
(2) national triumph and consequent peace;
(3) riddance of the beasts of the field, so far as they would injure their crops;
(4) great increase of the population; and
(5) the enjoyment of religious ordinances.
On the other hand, if the people prove disobedient, they are to have
(4) devastation by wild beasts;
(5) famine in its most fearful forms; and
(6) a sabbatic desolation in the Lord's land.
Now, it is to the leisurely and deliberate element in the rewards and the punishments that we direct attention. If God chose to execute his sentences speedily, if obedience got its reward immediately, if disobedience got its punishment without one moment's delay, - then men would have no room for question, and no room for moral education and decision. Such a childish regulation would doubtless prevent a large amount of evil in the world, but it would keep men children always. It is a pitiable stage of education when the child insists on seeing its reward before it obeys, and requires the immediate "slap" to prevent disobedience. If men are to be trained morally, they must be asked to take upon credit God's promises and threatenings, and decide in the interval before he is pleased to act. This leaves room for a large amount of evil. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Men may say, because God does not show quickly his hand, that he may possibly not show it at all. Hence they sin and say, "The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it" (Psalm 94:7). The Lord's delay is interpreted as Divine indifference. This is one of the evils due to man's sinful heart exercising its freedom under a truly paternal government. Instead of God's goodness in the delay leading men to repentance, it is allowed to foster a hope that he will resign the reins of government altogether and sit indifferently by, while men do as they please. An instance of this tendency to misinterpretation is afforded by Professor Tyndall, in his 'Fragments of Science,' where he has the audacity to deduce from Matthew 5:45, "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust," as the doctrine of the Master himself, that "the distribution of natural phenomena is not affected by moral or religious causes;" whereas the context shows that the whole arrangement is prompted by love towards his enemies, that they may be induced to become his friends. Men get easily warped in their interpretations, and miss the point, or want to miss it. On the other hand, God's delay in making good his promises and threatenings affords an opportunity for humiliation and faith. When men believe he will be as good and as severe as he says, then they humble themselves under his mighty hand, and supplicate his forgiveness. When also, as his forgiven ones, they try to the best of their ability to obey him, then the delay of the promised blessing enables them to cultivate the "patience of hope," and thus to complete their character. If, therefore, there are drawbacks through man's sin on the one side, there are vast advantages to human character on the other attending this arrangement.
II. GOD'S JUDGMENTS, EVEN WHEN EXECUTED, HAVE NOT THE AIR OF FINALITY ABOUT THEM. Notwithstanding the special pleading of Warburton and his followers about the temporal character of the Divine judgments among the Jews, and their consequent ignorance about a future life, it is evident on the face of the judgments that they are not final. Little children perishing and eaten in the sieges (verse 29) could not be regarded surely as a final judgment. Children suffering for their parents' sins could not be regarded as a final judgment. In truth, God's judgments among the Jews, like his judgments still, were imperfect, and designedly so. "For observe," says the Hey. Charles Wolfe, "if we found every man in this life received just what he deserved, and every evil work always brought swift punishment along with it, what should we naturally conclude? There is no future punishment in store. I see nothing wanting; every man has already received the due reward of his works; everything is already complete, and, therefore, there is nothing to be done in the next world. Or if, on the other hand, there were no punishment visited upon sin at all in this world, we might be inclined to say, Tush, God hath forgotten; he never interferes amongst us; we have no proof of his hatred of sin, or of his determination to punish it; he is gone away far from us, and has left us to follow our own wills and imaginations. So that if sentences were either perfectly executed on earth, or not executed at all, we might have some reason for saying that there was a chance of none in a future world. But now it is imperfectly executed; just so much done as to say, 'You are watched; my eye is upon you; I neither slumber nor sleep; and my vengeance slumbereth not.' And yet, at the same time, there is so little done, that a man has to look into eternity for the accomplishment."
III. GOD'S PROMISE TO THE PENITENT IMPLIES THAT THEY ARE NOT PARDONED SIMPLY ON THE GROUND OF THEIR PENITENCE. The Lord contemplates the Jewish defection as practically certain. At the same time, he holds out the hope of the penitent people being restored to favour (verses 40-46). But it is surely significant that penitence is expressly shown not to be the ground of acceptance. Doubtless it is the condition; but were it the sole ground of acceptance, as it is confidently asserted to be, it is not easy to see why in such a case as that now before us God would speak about remembering their fathers, and throwing the radiance, so to speak, of their obedience round about their children (verses 42, 45). It is evident the penitents, even after they have been punished, cannot stand alone. And in truth, when the whole matter of acceptance is analyzed, it is seen to rest upon a covenant of sacrifice. The sacrifices of the covenant; as we have already seen, point unmistakably to a suffering Substitute, the glory of whose merits must encircle all accepted ones. In a word, we are led straight to Jesus, the Lamb of God, by whose blood we are redeemed and received into covenant relations. "Accepted in the Beloved," we are careful to "abstain from the very appearance of evil," and in the exercise of new obedience we find a triumphant power bestowed. When we hearken to his commandments our peace flows like a river, and our righteousness becomes resistless like the waves of the sea (Isaiah 48:18). We find that "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). - R.M.E.
I. THE QUALITIES OF THE RIGHTEOUS DESCRIBED. These are:
1. That they worship the true God.
(1) They make no idols. Graven images. Pillars to memorialize advantages supposed to be derived from false gods. Witness the votive offerings of the papists. They might not superstitiously worship such stones of memorial as Jacob set up to memorialize the blessings of Jehovah (see Genesis 28:18; and comp. 2 Kings 18:4). The images of stone or "stones of picture" (see margin) would probably be statues. Note: men make their idols.
(2) They respect Jehovah. He is the Maker of all things. He is himself uncreate. He is the Covenant Friend of the righteous.
2. That they worship him truly.
(1) By keeping his sabbaths. Memorials of his works of creation and redemption. Pledges of the rest of heaven.
(2) These are: weekly - monthly - yearly - septennial - in the jubilee.
(3) By reverencing his sanctuary. The place of his presence, of his altar, of the congregation of his people.
3. They serve him obediently.
(1) Walking in his statutes. This implies the study of his Word.
(2) To keep his commandments also implies prayer for Divine grace.
II. THEIR BLESSEDNESS ASSURED. They have the promise of:
(1) The elements were to be propitious to them. Seasonable rains. These are very important. They are here mentioned as representing all benign elemental influences - light, heat, electricity, - all which are essential.
(2) The result then is abundance (verse 5). Before they could have reaped and threshed out their corn, the vintage should be ready, and before they could have pressed out their wine, it would be time again to sow.
(3) This was to prefigure the abundance of grace which should mark the times of the gospel (see Amos 9:18).
(1) From the hostility of the elements. No plague should invade them.
(2) From the hostility of men. No warrior should invade them. No robber should trouble them.
(3) From the hostility of animals. Where population is reduced by wars and famines, beasts of prey prowl.
(4) How the faithfulness of God has been verified in the history of his people!
(1) God puts the dread of them into their enemies. They fly before them. Witness the flight of the Syrians in the days of Elisha (2 Kings 7.).
(2) He puts courage into their hearts. Witness the exploits of Gideon, of Samson, of Jonathan and his armour-bearer (1 Samuel 14:6, 12).
(1) This is a blessing of the covenant. It is a real strength to a nation. It is a real strength to a Church.
(2) But outside the covenant mere numbers may prove a formidable evil.
5. Divine favour.
(1) "I will have respect unto you." Contrast with this Hebrews 10:38.
(2) The token of the favour of God is his presence.
(a) His tabernacle was amongst them in the wilderness. What miracles of mercy were shown to them then!
(b) How glorious were the days of Solomon when the Shechinah entered the temple.
(c) His tabernacle was set among his people in the presence of Jesus (John 1:14). But they did not know the blessedness of their day
(e) The glory of the tabernacle will culminate in the new heavens and earth (see Revelation 21:3). All this blessedness was pledged in the emancipation from the bondage of Egypt (verse 13). More fully in the redemption of the gospel typified thereby. - J.A.M.
repetition or the fullness of this commandment. God made it quite clear to his people, and impressed the truth on their minds with strong emphasis, that they must not permit any visible image to come between themselves and him. He would sanction "no idol, nor graven image, nor pillar, nor figured stone" (marginal reading). Respecting idolatry we may do well to consider -
I. ITS NATURAL HISTORY. Men do not descend at once into the blind and blank idolatry with which we are familiar.
1. The first step downwards is when men take some object or construct some image which shall remind them of Deity, or stand for God, or be a sign and token of his presence, so that when they see that they shall think of him. This was the case with the "golden calf" which Aaron made. The people presented their offerings to it in connection with a "feast to the Lord" (Exodus 32:5). It is too great a mental labour to realize God's presence by pure thought and meditation; men crave a visible object which shall remind them of the Supreme.
2. The next step - deep into the thick darkness - is to identify the Deity with the object which is the chosen sign of his presence; and the constant, inevitable accompaniment of this act is to multiply the number of divinities; for, as the visible images are many, the gods become many also to the popular imagination. However antecedently unlikely it may seem to us that men would commit such great folly as this, universal history compels us to believe that they have done so. Beginning with the demand for "a sign," men have "bowed down unto" and worshipped the image, the pillar, the figured stone.
3. Then follows mental, moral, spiritual degradation. The worshippers of idols have attributed to their gods their own infirmities and sins, and then their worship has reacted on their own character, and they have sunk to the lowest depths of abjectness of mind, vileness of spirit, grossness of life.
II. ITS ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS. We must not identify idolatry with those more shameless forms of it which historians and travelers have made known to us. These are its last and worst developments. But the idolatrous element is found where there is
(1) a false association of God with an object with which he has nothing to do, as (in the case referred to) where the Israelites associated Jehovah in their thoughts with an image with which he had no connection whatever; or
(2) a false trust in an object with which God is more or less connected. That was an idolatrous act on the part of the Israelites when they made sure of victory because the ark of God was in the camp (1 Samuel 4:3-11). God had connected himself with the ark in an especial manner; but the Jews were trusting in it rather than in him, and they leant on a broken reed.
III. ITS APPEAL TO OURSELVES. Our danger is not from the grosser forms of idolatry, nor is it in the former of the two essential elements of it; it is in the latter of these. We are liable to trust idolatrously in that with which God is connected, but which has no virtue at all in itself. We are invited, and sometimes find ourselves tempted:
1. To imagine that a priest can bless us, independently of the truth which he teaches or the spiritual help which he renders us.
2. To suppose that we are nearer to God in sacred places, irrespective of the consideration whether we realize his presence and draw nigh to his Spirit.
3. To seek sanctity, or even salvation, in sacraments apart from the reverent thought and consecrated feeling which they should suggest or excite. This is an idolatrous delusion.
IV. THE PATH OF SAFETY. This is:
1. The avoidance of temptation. We must shun those Churches and services which would seduce us from spiritual purity.
2. The acceptance of the One Divine Mediator we have in Christ our Saviour. There is "one man we can adore without idolatry - the man Christ Jesus."
3. The use of our faculties for the worship of the Invisible. We can worship him who is a Spirit "in spirit and in truth." We can realize the presence of the infinite God; we can love him whom we have not seen (1 Peter 1:8); we can walk the whole path of life conscious of a Divine Companion whose hand we cannot grasp, but who "leads us all our journey through." By a living faith, "our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). - C.
I. PURITY OF WORSHIP. No idols or images.
1. Spirituality of religion.
2. Dependence of man on revelation. The deistic position of natural religion untenable.
3. The worship of God should be the free and grateful remembrance of past benefits received, therefore the leading elements of it should be faith and praise, not, as in heathenism and corrupt Christian systems such as the Roman Catholic, the slavish subjection of man to the fear of Divine wrath and the mediation of priests.
II. CONSECRATION BOTH OF DAY AND PLACE. Sabbath and sanctuary.
1. As necessary on account of the weakness of our nature. We cannot keep the mind above the world unless we are separated at times altogether from it.
2. The rallying point of fellowship. In the communion of saints there is special spiritual help.
3. As maintaining the holy order of human life, giving distinction and eminence to the highest things, predicting the future rest, revealing the dependence of the bodily life on the life of the soul, and of the happiness of earthly toil on the blessing of God.
4. The Christian sabbath as based on the resurrection of Christ has a new form of obligation and a larger sphere of holy suggestion. It is not so much commanded as vitally connected with the whole strength of Christian motive. - R.
receive. There is so much of contrast as well as comparison between the blessings of the old and the new dispensations, that we must divide our subject into two parts.
I. THE INCENTIVES WHICH GOD HELD OUT TO HIS ANCIENT PEOPLE. These were importantly spiritual, but prominently temporal. If they did but "walk in his statutes, and keep his commandments, and do them" (verse 3), they might reckon on
(1) fertility in the field (verses 4, 5, 10);
(2) sense of security from without and disturbance from within (safety and peace, verses 5, 6);
(3) victory in war (verses 7, 8);
(4) national growth (verse 9);
(5) God's presence with them (verses 11, 12);
(6) his pleasure in them (verse 11); and
(7) his guarantee of their liberty and self-respect (verse 13).
II. THE PROMISES WHICH HE HAS MADE TO US. These are partly temporal, but principally spiritual. They include:
1. Sufficiency of worldly substance. God does not now say, "Serve me, and you shall be strong, wealthy, long-lived," but he does say, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God,... and all these things" (food, clothing, etc.) "shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). "Godliness has promise of the life that now is" (1 Timothy 4:8). Those who are his children in Christ Jesus may reckon upon all needful support from his bountiful hand.
2. Consciousness of spiritual integrity. As God made his people to be delivered from the yoke and to "go upright" (verse 13), so he makes those who have returned to him, and who have escaped from the yoke of sin, to "walk in uprightness of heart." Instead of shrinking in fear, bowing down with a depressing sense of wrong-doing, we have a happy consciousness of integrity of soul. We say with the psalmist, "As for me," etc. (Psalm 41:12).
3. Sense of reconciliation with God. God promises peace and a sense of safety (verses 5, 6) to those who seek his favour in Christ Jesus. Being justified by faith in him, we have peace with God; and we know that, whatever may be our circumstances, we are secure behind the shield of his almighty love.
4. Victory in the battle of life. If it be not wholly true that "our life is but a battle and a march," yet it is true that there is so much of spiritual struggle in it, from its beginning to its close, that we all understand only too well what is meant by "the battle of life." There are many foes with which to wrestle (Ephesians 6:12), and we need the invigorating power which only the Spirit of the Strong One can impart. If we are his, he will help us in the strife. "Our enemies will fall before us" (verse 7; see 2 Corinthians 2:14 and Romans 8:37).
5. His presence with us and his pleasure in us. "God will set his tabernacle among us;" he "will walk among us" (verses 11, 12). He will be "with us always," and his sustaining presence will uphold us in the darkest hour, in the most trying scene. "His soul will not abhor us" (verse 11); he will take Divine pleasure in us; we shall be his children, his guests, his friends, his heirs.
6. An everlasting heritage in him. He will be our God (verse 12). The sacred page does not speak of any duration; but that which is adumbrated in the Old Testament is revealed in the New. Jesus Christ has brought life and immortality out into the light, and we know that "him that overcometh will the Son of man make a pillar in the temple of his God, and he shall go no more out," etc. (Revelation 3:12), and that "to him that overcometh will he grant to sit with him on his throne," etc. (Revelation 3:21). The present and the future, the best of the one and the whole of the other, are the heritage of those who "know the will of God and do it." Surely it is the choice of the wise to "make haste and delay not to keep his commandments." - C.
Amos 9:13) - evidently founded on this passage of the Law - refers to gospel times, and reminds us that the declarations of the text are capable of a spiritual application which invests them with deeper meaning and grander results.
I. THE PROPRIETY OF OBEDIENCE.
1. Man is unfit to guide his own way. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." He is a creature swayed by passion, short-sighted, fallible in judgment. Nor can the united wisdom of the multitude secure the framing of a code free from prejudice and error. We may consult the instructions of Scripture as our unfailing chart; we may listen to its precepts as the helmsman does to the commands of the captain, assured that from his loftier position he can better determine the course the vessel ought to take.
2. The Almighty possesses irresistible claims upon our obedience. He is our Creator and Governor, Father and Benefactor. He has bestowed upon us all our earthly and our spiritual benefits, and in particular spared not his only Son for our sakes. Supremely wise and holy, we cannot without manifest incongruity refuse to follow his counsel and rule of life. We are rebels if we neglect his injunctions. To pick and choose which we will conform to is to assume presumptuous functions.
3. The statutes are such as to commend themselves upon maturest reflection. Any precept plainly contrary to reason or morality no will has power to enforce. But the hexaplar verdict of the psalmist will be pronounced by all who study the laws of God, "The statutes of the Lord are right," etc. (Psalm 19:7-9). The teachings of Jesus Christ are a master-piece of skill, goodness, and purity. If universally adhered to, the world would become an Eden.
II. THE REWARD OF OBEDIENCE.
1. Blessings are promised to the obedient. Plenty. The ground shall be fertile, the fruit gathered in harvest shall more than suffice to carry the husbandman on to the next ingathering. The gospel does at any rate teach Christian stoicism, making a man contented with his lot, and he who has sufficient for his wants cannot complain. But in the spiritual region we may have a never-ceasing flow of gifts. For God is bountiful, and loves to grant richest graces unto his people. If only we are prepared to receive, the floodgates of his bounty will be opened. Peace. They shall dwell at home in safety, none causing terror. Strife amongst God's own people shall be unknown, the inestimable blessing of tranquility shall diffuse its sweetness over the land. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee." Calm of conscience is the peculiar privilege of the believer in Christ. Bodily suffering cannot destroy this peace. The testimony of a well-known minister on his death-bed recently was, "Within I have deep peace, though around is constant searching pain." Victory, if foes attempt to molest. The Christian life is a warfare, and this is quite consistent with the enjoyment of peace. It is an external sphere of conflict, the enemy is determined and active, "but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." The obedient soldiers are likeliest to come off conquerors when the general is skilled in strategy. And as Havelock's men, by their observance of moral rules, were ever prepared for duty, so are those who conform to the precepts of Christ certain of success in the struggle against sin. The association is much more intimate between obedience and spiritual triumph than that which is here promised in the Law.
2. These blessings are eminently desirable. It speaks a wise and gracious God to have made it so greatly men's interest to keep his laws. In any case we are bound to do what seems right, yet, if this conduct were not coincident with advantage, life would be a melancholy scene. Peace, plenty, and victory are just what the heart desiderates and men strive to attain. God will not offer what men contemn. lit is true that the degraded may at first fail to appreciate the joys of prosperity and tranquility, yet education is possible, and even brief reasoning must convince of the value of these inducements.
3. The list is comprehensive. There is material prosperity and moral good, and in the following verses religious satisfaction is promised - God dwelling in the midst of his people. Nothing that can add to man's real happiness is absent from the catalogue of pleasures to be participated in by the obedient.
III. GENERAL REFLECTIONS.
1. There is nothing wrong in allowing ourselves to be influenced by the promise of rewards. Man is compelled to anticipate; prudence is a virtue. All depends upon the character of the rewards. If they minister to base, ignoble lusts, then to be moved thereby is indicative of an evil state of mind. But if the blessings are legitimate and elevating, in accordance with principles implanted by our Maker, then the hope of obtaining them is a strong incitement to be cherished rather than checked. To impel men to a holy life by preaching the bliss and glory of heaven is surely allowable and to be commended.
2. The worth of these rewards will be enhanced by a consideration of the misery of their opposites - want, turmoil, and defeat. Such is the lot of those who follow their own devices, blindly hurrying to ruin. The prodigal imagined that he must see the world anti leave his father's home in order to be happy, but he soon discovered his dire mistake.
3. History proves God's faithfulness to his word. As long as the Israelites kept the Law, their condition was one of security, development, and honour. Every age has testified to the fulfillment of Divine declarations, forcing from the skeptical an acknowledgment of "a power that makes for righteousness." Seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all other things have been added. On the other hand, it has been found hard to kick against the pricks. What Carlyle terms the "eternities" war against the evil-doer. As predictions have been fulfilled in the past, so we are confident that all the promises of God shall ultimately be realized in the experience of his faithful servants. - S.R.A.
I. The true law of human life.
1. Religion the upholding support of individual, social, national well-being. Natural laws subservient to higher ends. Ascending scale in the universe, the physical the basis of the psychical, the psychical of the moral, the moral of the spiritual.
2. The covenant relationship of God and man the only true form in which the ideas of religion can be realized and maintained. Personality of God, freedom of man. Interchange of confidence. Living communion. Support of prayer, which should embrace all wants and possibilities.
3. Illustration of the connection between providence and religion in the history both of individuals and nations. Importance of insisting on the truths contained in this chapter as against secularism and fanaticism and mysticism. Religion is objective as well as subjective. Tremendous fact that, notwithstanding both the promises and threatenings, Israel failed to keep the Law. Illustration of human fall and dependence on Divine grace.
II. Divine government.
3. Revealed in connection with a system of truth and actual promises appealing to faith.
4. Embracing those who know not God, as well as his people. - R.
I. SETTING UP A TABERNACLE IMPLIES.
1. Settled residences in the midst of the people. This was more than an occasional appearance on the mountain-top or in the wilderness. A tent is, at least for a season, a fixed abode. The Almighty would never be far distant from his lieges as he had seemed to be in preceding years.
2. Friendly, familiar intercourse with the people. He condescended to their manner of life, inhabiting a home as they did, passing as it were from one to the other. This is expressed in verse 12, "I will walk among you." Naught of pollution was suffered for the reason given in Deuteronomy 23:14, "The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of the camp." A special revelation of God is intimated, that he would be known, not as omnipresent in space, but as peculiarly present, interchanging visits with his people.
3. The assurance of Divine blessing. Guidance, assistance, forgiveness, - all are herein included. God would be always near to be entreated. At the tabernacle sacrifices could be offered to purge away defilement. "The heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore" (Ezekiel 37:28), God's presence is superior to any of his works; if we have him, we have all good things guaranteed.
II. THE PEOPLE OF GOD MAY WELL WONDER THAT HE SHOULD DELIGHT IN THEM AND NOT VIEW THEM WITH ABHORRENCE. To abide with man would be impossible if disgust were continually uppermost in the mind of God.
1. Consider man's sinfulness. How repugnant to the pure and holy One of Israel is every thought of iniquity, much less its overt commission! How often must he be shocked at the sights and sounds that gratify sinful creatures? Peter, awakened to a sense of his unworthiness, cried out, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
2. Consider man's imperfections, his ignorance and frailty, his dullness of perception, his insensibility to refined and elevated tastes and emotions. If one nurtured in good society revolts at the idea of close communion with those inferior in the social scale, whoso manner of life and habits of thinking are so different, how great must be the disparity between heaven and earth! what a descent must God feel it to be to consort with creatures of such petty selfish alms and. uncultured ways! Only real pitying love, a desire to benefit and raise these miserable objects, a vision of what it was possible for them to become by such fellowship with the Most High, could have invested men with sufficient interest in the eyes of God to permit him to dwell amongst them. If the people strive to fulfill the behests of the Law, much of their degradation will vanish, and be succeeded by integrity and righteousness, which shall gradually beautify their character and customs. "My soul shall not abhor you," if you honour my precepts by strict fidelity.
III. THE PROMISE VERIFIED.
1. In the local habitation of God at Shiloh and Jerusalem. There God placed his Name and exhibited his power and favour.
2. In his personal manifestation in Christ Jesus. "In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." "The Word... dwelt among us." Then was answered the question, "Will God in very deed dwell with man upon the earth?" Christ sojourned like ourselves in a house of clay, mingling with men and women in their daily tasks, sat at the same table with publicans and sinners.
3. In the presence of God spiritually in the heart of the individual believer, in the Church of Christ as a whole, making it the temple of God, and in the various assemblies, small or great, of the saints. "Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them." The grandest fulfillment will be when the Lord God Almighty shall himself constitute the temple in which they shall offer their worship and service. "He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among (spread his tabernacle over) them." No more hungering nor thirsting, no death, sorrow, nor crying, when God shall thus absolutely completely draw near to his people. - S.R.A.
I. THE JUDGMENTS DENOUNCED AGAINST THEM IN THEIR LAND. For their rebellion:
1. They were to be visited with plagues.
(1) The plague of terror. This is the natural plague of a guilty conscience. The apprehension of formidable judgments.
(2) Of consumption. This term expresses all chronic diseases.
(3) Of burning ague. This describes those diseases which are more acute.
(4) All these plagues are to "consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart."
2. They were to suffer from invasion.
(1) The sword of the enemy was to consume them. How fearfully they suffered under the judges, under the kings, and afterwards!
(2) The exactions of the tyrant were to distress them. When the invaders mastered them, how grievously were they oppressed!
3. They were to encounter the anger of their God.
(1) The plague and the sword of the enemy could not otherwise have visited them.
(2) But in the source itself there is the most formidable terror. "I will set nay face against you."
4. Their obstinacy was to bring upon them aggravated evils.
(1) The land was to become unfruitful. For the heaven was to be like iron, which might reflect the glare of heat, but could distil no rain or dew.
(2) Wild beasts were to come among them. When the people become diminished by war and pestilence and famine, wild animals multiply and become formidable (see Numbers 21:6; 2 Kings 17:25; 2 Kings 2:24; Ezekiel 5:17).
(3) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Rather let us seek his mercy.
II. THOSE DENOUNCED AGAINST THEM IN THE LANDS OF THEIR CAPTIVITY.
1. They were to be scattered amongst the heathen (verse 33).
(1) Thus ten of the tribes were carried away by the Assyrians.
(2) The two remaining tribes were afterwards removed by the Babylonians.
(3) Some of these returned under Ezra and Nehemiah, and were ultimately carried away by the Romans.
2. The sword was to/follow them there.
(1) The sword of war.
(2) The sword of persecution. So they suffered from pagans, from papists, from Mohammedans.
3. They were to suffer astonishment (verses 36-39).
(1) Faintness of heart, suspicion of danger where it existed not, susceptibility to panic.
(2) Pining in terror.
(3) Perishing through the rapacity of their enemies.
4. Their sufferings were to be protracted.
(1) The land was to enjoy her sabbaths, Houbigant observes how literally this was fulfilled in the seventy years of the Babylonish Captivity. "From Saul to the Babylonish Captivity are numbered about four hundred and ninety years, during which period there were seventy sabbaths of years; for seven, multiplied by seventy, make four hundred and ninety. Now, the Babylonish Captivity lasted seventy years, and during that time the land of Israel rested. Therefore the land rested just as many years in the Babylonish Captivity as it should have rested sabbaths if the Jews had observed the law relative to the sabbaths of the land."
(2) The longer term of "seven times" thrice repeated (verses 21, 24, 28) is also notable. These are the "times of the Gentiles," during which Jerusalem is to be trodden down of them (Luke 21:24).
5. Meanwhile their land was to lie desolate (verses 31-35).
(1) Such has been its history, under the Romans, under the Saracens, under the Crusaders, under the Turks.
(2) Who but God could have foreseen all this? How unreasonable is unbelief! - J.A.M.
need Divine prescience to foretell this issue. Human disobedience is too constantly occurring a factor in human history to require that: it may always be safely assumed. We have now to deal with God's treatment of it; and we see -
I. THAT GOD PUNISHES IT WITH VARIOUS EVILS. (Verses 14-18.) God always says to us, "If ye will not do my commandments, I will set my face against you." To the Israelites he threatened specifically:
(1) bodily sickness;
(2) unprofitable labour;
(3) defeat in battle;
(4) subjection to a hated rule;
(5) ignominious terror and flight.
If we sin we must expect to suffer in mind, body, or estate. Guilt and misery are necessarily conjoined. Sin deserves to suffer: there needs no further explanation of suffering than that God's holy and righteous Law has been transgressed. Yet, while the Divine Lawgiver visits sin with retribution because it is right that it should receive this mark of his holy disapproval, it is also true -
II. THAT GOD'S PUNISHMENT IS MEANT TO BE REMEDIAL. "If ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me" (verse 18). Then it is clear that these providential visitations would be meant to lead to a better spirit, to a disposition to hearken and to obey. God, when he punishes, not only does an act of righteous retribution, which his position as Supreme Judge demands of him, but he also does that which he desires shall lead to penitence and restoration. He smites us in one member that he may heal us altogether. lie takes away a little that he may give very largely, lie sends passing pain that he may give enduring joy. God's retributions are his" corrections," his paternal chastisements, his strong but kind admonitions. By them he lays his hand upon us and says to us, in tones we cannot fail to understand, "Repent and return, and be restored." But we learn from these verses -
III. THAT MAN TOO OFTEN REFUSES TO HEED THE DIVINE CORRECTION. "If ye will not yet for all this hearken" (verse 18); "if ye will not hearken unto me" (verse 21); "if ye will not be reformed by me by these things" (verse 23). Often men do listen and learn and obey when God comes to them in sickness or in sorrow; but only too often they do not. They continue in or revert to their evil course, they fall again into crime, into vice, into unconcern, into indecision.
IV. THAT GOD LAYS A HEAVIER HAND ON PERSISTENT AND OBDURATE IMPENITENCE. He gave to his people fair and full warning of what they were to expect at his hand. They knew that obduracy on their part would entail gathering and growing evils, leading on and down to uttermost destruction. There would come the enmity of the elements, with consequent disaster in the field (verses 19, 20); desolation and bereavement (verse 22); pestilence and famine (verses 25, 26); revolting and unnatural cruelties wrought among themselves (verses 28, 29); exile and dispersion (verse 33); terror of soul (verses 36, 37); national destruction and impending extinction (verses 38, 39). These solemn and fearful threatenings are, no doubt, directed against Israel, the specially instructed people. As God "exalted that land unto heaven" in privilege and opportunity, so he "brought it down to hell" in condemnation and doom. But when we remember with what retribution God visited the sins of the antediluvian world, of the cities of the plain, the Canaanites, the great cities of Babylon and Nineveh, and when we recall the sufferings and humiliations he has brought down on lands and cities in more modern times, we may conclude that those nations which will not learn when God speaks to them in wrath and in "his high displeasure" may look forward to a time of gathering disaster and final ruin. God's retributive dealings with nations have their counterpart in his action toward individual lives. Men who sin and suffer, and who will not learn by the things they suffer, may take to heart the truth that God's manifested wrath will reach them here or will overtake them hereafter; they may well wish that it may arrive soon rather than late, for as time passes and as sin indurates and blinds the soul, there is the less likelihood that the sacred lesson will be learnt before death shuts the book of opportunity, and eternity opens that other book of judgment and award. - C.
I. Actually fulfilled in history of the Jews, especially at siege of Jerusalem, A.D. 70.
II. Illustrating the moral nature of man as connected with a moral government.
III. Taken in order of announcement after the promises, reminding us that God willeth not the death of a sinner. The brightness of the love on the background of righteousness. - R.
I. IN LARGE MEASURE, GOD'S TREATMENT OF US IS QUITE IRRESPECTIVE OF OUR CONDUCT TOWARD HIM. He has done much for us from the promptings of his own generous and beneficent nature. As the sun gives light because it is light, regardless of the objects on which it shines, so our God, who is a Sun (Psalm 84:11), is sending forth beams of truth, love, beauty, happiness, because in him is all fullness, and from that abundance there must flow blessing and bounty on every hand (see Psalm 103:10, 11; Matthew 5:45).
II. IN LARGE MEASURE, GOD'S TREATMENT OF US DEPENDS ON OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD HIM.
1. Right feeling on our part is reciprocated with kind feeling on his. If we love him, he will love us and come to us (John 14:23).
2. Rebellious conduct on our part brings down adverse action on his part. If we" will walk contrary to him, he will walk contrary to us, and punish us for our sins." The greater part of this chapter (verses 14-39) is a terrible admonition that, if we provoke God by our willful disobedience, we must expect to find his hand against us in all the paths of life, our growing iniquity meeting with his multiplying wrath and darkening retribution.
3. Repentant action on our part is met by returning favour on his (Jeremiah 3:22; Joel 2:12-14; Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 55:7). Let the prodigal son arise to return, and, "while yet a great way off," the heavenly Father will run to meet and to welcome him (Luke 15).
III. GOD'S GOODNESS TO US WILL SEEM TO US TO VARY ACCORDING TO THE RECTITUDE OF OUR SOULS TOWARD HIM. As men seem to us to be just or unjust, kind or unkind, according to the position we occupy toward them, so also does the Father of spirits. "All the paths of the Lord are" (and are seen to be) "mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies" (Psalm 25:10). But the ways of the Lord will seem "contrary" to the rebellious. With the merciful man God shows himself merciful; with the froward he shows himself froward (Psalm 18:26). The guilty will exclaim against the inequality of God's dealings (Ezekiel 33:17). He will seem unjust because they are unholy, because their spirit is false and wrong (Matthew 20:15). Those who fear God and love his Son their Saviour, join in the psalm of the Church on earth, "The Lord is righteous in all his ways,... his tender mercies are over all his works" (Psalm 145); they anticipate the strain of the Church in heaven, "Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints" (Revelation 15:3). - C.
I. THEY WILL CONFESS THEIR SIN.
1. Their personal iniquity.
(2) In particular they will confess their capital sin in rejecting Christ. This crime filled up the measure of their fathers.
2. The iniquity of their fathers.
(1) This was the same as their own. They will acknowledge themselves, not in pride, but in penitence, to be the children of their fathers.
(2) Instead of attempting to extenuate their sin because of the example of their fathers, they will repent for the sin of their fathers as well as for their own. This is in accordance with the principle of the visitation of the iniquities of the fathers upon the children.
3. The justice of God in their punishment.
(2) That he has therefore walked contrary to them. Afflictions do not spring out of the dust.
II. THEN GOD WILL REMEMBER HIS COVENANT. Therefore:
1. He will not destroy them utterly.
(1) His providence will be over them. What else could have preserved them now for nineteen centuries amidst untoward circumstances? They are, notwithstanding their sufferings, as numerous today as they were in the zenith of their prosperity in the days of Solomon.
(2) The remnant of them shall be saved.
(3) How tender is the compassion of God! (Hosea 11:8, 9).
2. He will reinstate them in their land.
(1) He will remember his land. For in the covenant they are promised the land "forever."
(2) Remembering the land also implies that it will recover its ancient fruitfulness (see promises, verses 4, 5, 10).
(3) In that condition it will be the appropriate type and pledge of the heavenly country (see Isaiah 62:4).
3. He will make them a blessing in the earth.
(1) They will grow into a multitude.
(2) They will rejoice in spiritual blessings.
(3) The miracles of the Exodus from Egypt will be repeated.
(4) The heathen will be startled into thoughtfulness (verse 45).
(5) The heathen will once more learn the way of salvation from the lips of Hebrews.
4. In all this they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
(1) This is distinctly stated (verse 42; comp. Romans 11:28).
(2) The patriarchs of the covenant are referred to in the order of ascent, viz. Jacob, Isaac, Abraham. Note: when the Jews in humility confess themselves the children of their more recent sinful fathers, God will acknowledge them as the children of their earlier faithful ancestors.
(3) It is an encouragement to faith that the memory of Divine mercy is far-reaching - everlasting. - J.A.M.
2 Corinthians 7:10). The right use of affliction is indicated in the text; there must be -
I. A SENSE OF ILL DESERT. The uncircumcised heart must be humbled (verse 41). God seeks by his chastisements to break our pride, our haughtiness of heart, our sinful self-complacency. Until this is done nothing is done. When the soul is at ease in its iniquity, it is in a very "far country," a long way from God, truth, salvation. When trouble touches and pierces our complacency, filling the soul with a sense of its rebelliousness, as soon as the heart says, "I have sinned," a large part of the work of the correcting hand is wrought. Then necessarily and readily follows -
II. THE LANGUAGE. OF CONFESSION. Directly the heart feels the lip speaks. Too often men use the language of penitence when the feeling is entirely absent. But he that searcheth the hearts makes due distinction between the words which are true and those which are false. There is nothing gained with God by adopting the language which we ought to be disposed to use, but which does not express our actual condition; everything unreal is offensive in his sight. But there is much gained by the simple, natural, heartfelt utterance of penitential feeling. "If they shall confess their iniquity," etc. (verses 40-42). "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10). The spirit thus taught of God through his servant, sorrow, has now -
III. THE SUBJECT WILL. It "accepts of the punishment of its iniquity" (verse 41). It says, "Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more: that which I see not teach thou me," etc. (Job 34:31, 32). It is "in subjection unto the Father of spirits" (Hebrews 12:9). It submits to his guidance and surrenders itself to his will. And then comes -
IV. DIVINE RESTORATION. God "remembers his covenant" (verses 42, 45). As he remembered the covenant he made with the ancestors of the children of Israel, and "did not abhor them" (verse 44), but withdrew his anger from them, so he remembers his promise with us, sealed with a Saviour's blood, to pardon our sins and to restore our souls to his Divine favour. Yet there are -
V. LINGERING CONSEQUENCES OF SIN. With penitent Israel, toward whom God was extending his mercy, "the land also was to be left of them, and was to enjoy her sabbaths, while she lay desolate without them" (verse 43). With us, when penitent and restored, when taken back into the family and kingdom of God, there are lingering consequences of sin which even Divine mercy does not, cannot remove - consequences in:
(1) miserable memories which will visit the mind;
(2) enfeebled faculty that must work in a lesser sphere with smaller influence;
(3) diminished reputation among men;
(4) abiding results in those who have been injured, and who are beyond the reach of our restoration, etc. While facing this solemn fact - a fact which makes sin seem to us the stern, sad, hurtful thing it is - we may nevertheless find a glad relief in recalling -
VI. THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE HOLY. There is a country where the penal consequences of sin will be so removed from sight and sense that to our consciousness they will exist no more. Sin and sorrow shall never cross the stream that "divides that heavenly land from ours;" they must always remain on this side of it. What will remain to us there is a remembrance that will enhance our joy - a recollection of sin that has been forgiven, and of sorrow that has been endured, both the one and the other magnifying the mercy of our crowned and exalted King. - C.
I. Confirm by history (see Judges and Kings). The restoration from Babylon. All consummated in Messiah.
II. The free grace of God is the foundation of hope; "I am the Lord their God;" "I will remember;" "for all that I will not cast them away" "of faith, that it might be by grace."
III. The forgiveness of God dependent on the fulfillment of declared conditions. "If they shall confess;" "if their uncircumcised heart be humbled."
1. Spirituality of religion maintained from the beginning.
2. The purpose and. end of all Divine chastisements to produce an acceptable state of heart.
3. The true penitence was the true circumcision, in other words, it was a renewal of the covenant, therefore included faith and acceptance of the Divine revelation and ordinances, Repentance and faith are one in the higher light of the gospel, for they are both "toward" the covenant in Christ Jesus. - R.