I, even I, will bring a sword upon you.
Taking chapters 6 and 7 as revealing the character of God, in how awful a light is the Divine Being made to appear! How infinite, for example, are His resources of judgment and penalty! He attributes to Himself the exercise of every possible action of vengeance and humiliation: "I will bring a sword"; "I will destroy your high places"; "I will cast down your slain men"; "I will lay the dead carcasses"; "I will scatter your bones"; "I will break the whorish heart"; "He that is afar off shall die of the pestilence"; "He that is near shall fall by the sword; the man who remained was to die by famine; and thus, and thus, in every way, God said, "I will accomplish My fury." He said He would stretch out His hand upon the idol-cursed hills and mountains, and green tree and thick oak, and He would make the fair land desolate, yea, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblath. These are the judgments of the living God! Think of every disease that can afflict the human body; think of every force of nature that can strike human edifices and habitations; think of every trouble that can assail the sanity of the mind; think of every spectre and image that can come along the highway of the darkness and fill night and sleep with mortal fear; think of every appeal that can be addressed to the imagination; think of all possible terror, and loss, and shame, and ruin; multiply all these realities and possibilities by an unrestrained imagination, and even then we have hardly begun to touch the resources of God when He arises to shake terribly the earth and to inflict upon the nations the judgments which they have deserved and defied. Wonderful is the striking frankness of all these declarations on the part of the Most High God. There is mercy even in the terribleness of the revelation. An opportunity for repentance was created by the very awfulness of the method of revelation. Threatenings are meant to lead to promises. The thunderstorm is sent to avert us from a way that is wrong and to drive us to consideration on account of sin. God does not fulminate merely for the sake of showing His greatness; when He makes us afraid it is that He may bring us to final peace. Nothing is more evident than that underneath all these denunciations, and in explanation of them, there is a sublime moral reason. These judgments are not exhibitions of omnipotence; they are expressions of a moral emotion on the part of God. The people had departed from Him — they had done everything in their power to insult His majesty and to call into question His holiness and His justice; they had worshipped false gods; they had been faithful to forbidden altars; they had made a study of profanity and blasphemy; they had defied heaven in all their abominations; and not until the cup of their iniquity was full did the last beam of light vanish from the skies, and the whole heaven become darkened with thunderclouds. When judgment begins at the house of God, it burns with infinite indignation; there are no mitigating circumstances, there are no palliations whatsoever; the judgment is inflicted upon men who knew the right and yet pursued the wrong, who were intrusted with the custody of the truth, and yet threw it down and went with eagerness to the altar of falsehood that they might worship and obey a lie. How terrible, then, must be our judgment when God comes to visit us! What have we not known? With what treasures have we not been intrusted?
That your altars may be laid waste. 1.
Where idols and false worship are got into a church or state, they are not easily got out again. Their cities must be destroyed, that their altars and idols may be broken and cease.
2. See what it is that ruins cities; altars, idols, false worship, mixtures of man's inventions with the Lord's pure ordinances. These are great cannon, that batter cities; these are gunpowder, that blow them up; these bring the Lord of hosts to war against them.
3. Idolatry and false worship do so provoke God, that He will destroy cities, kingdoms, churches, but He will have them out.
4. Men love to have somewhat of their own in worship; they are not content with what the infinitely wise God commends unto them, but will be adding.
5. God is not pleased with anything in worship which is not His own; He must prescribe whet way and wherewith He will be worshipped.
6. Judgments cause idolaters to know the true God from the false.
Man says he wants sincerity and earnestness. What God asks is truth, the one religion which He has revealed.
I. FALSE RELIGION: there is such a thing; it may be earnest and zealous, yet false.
II. ITS USELESSNESS: it profits nobody, either here or hereafter; is not acceptable to God.
III. ITS HATEFULNESS: God abhors it; it is outward, untrue, against His revelation; dishonouring, self-exalting.
IV. ITS DOOM: its condemnation is —
6. Everlasting.Apply —
(1)See that your religion is true.
(2)Your worship real.
Ye shall know that I am the Lord.
The phrase "Ye shall know that I am Jehovah" may mean Ye shall know that I who now speak am truly Jehovah, the God of Israel. There is, of course, no doubt that Ezekiel conceived Jehovah as endowed with the plenitude of deity, or that in his view the name expressed all that we mean by the word God. Nevertheless, historically the name Jehovah is a proper name, denoting the God who is the God of Israel. Renan has ventured on the assertion that a deity with a proper name is necessarily a false God. The statement perhaps measures the difference between the God of revealed religion and the god who is an abstraction, an expression of the order of the universe, who exists only in the mind of the man who names him. The God of revelation is a living person with a character and will of His own capable of being known by man. It is the distinction of revelation that it dares to regard God as an individual with an inner life and nature of His own, independent of the conception men may form of Him. Applied to such a Being, a personal name may be as true and significant as the name which expresses the character and individuality of a man. Only thus can we understand the historical process by which the God who was first manifested as the deity of a particular nation preserves His personal identity with the God who in Christ is at last revealed as the God of the spirits of all flesh. The knowledge of Jehovah of which Ezekiel speaks is therefore at once a knowledge of the character of the God whom Israel professed to serve, and a knowledge of that which constitutes true and essential divinity.
They shall loathe themselves.
We never realise what sin is till its passion is over, and we have time quietly to remember. Oh, the terror of those hours of remembrance and remorse! Sitting in the captivity of its prison, or serving in the heavy bondage of its fetters, the soul has time to review the bitter path by which it has come to such a pass, and the way it has broken the hearts of those who loved and trusted. But the most terrible element in remorse will be the personal one: "Shall remember Me." One of our great writers depicts a heartless, thoughtless husband standing beside the newly covered-in grave of his wife, and saying, "Ah, Milly, Milly; dost thou hear me? I was not tender enough to thee; but it is too late to alter it now." The child who has given way to fits of ungovernable passion, which have broken up the home, and brought down grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, will loathe itself. Similarly, as we review our past life, and see how we must have grieved the tender Spirit of God, we fall at the feet of Jesus and cover them with tears and kisses.
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