Woe to the rebellious children, said the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit…
The prophet of Jehovah utters another "woe," he denounces another sin; for the people of the Lord, in the day of their difficulty, have looked, not to their Divine Redeemer, but to that arm of flesh in which they should not have trusted, and by which they will be abandoned. We see -
I. THEIR SIN. It is threefold.
1. Desertion of God. They take counsel, but not now of God, as in better days (Joshua 7:6; Judges 20:27; 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 30:8); they made alliance, but not with the Divine consent - not "of my Spirit" (ver. 1); they did not ask "at God's mouth" (ver. 2). Once they would not have dreamed of acting without encouragement from God; now they look elsewhere for sanction. This desertion of him who was their Lord, and who had so often proved himself their Deliverer, had its root in:
2. Distrust of God. They trusted in "the shadow of Egypt" (ver. 2), because they had come to distrust the "shadow of his wings" in whom David found his refuge until his calamity was overpast (Psalm 57:1). It was the loss of their faith in God which made them cast about for another power which should befriend and deliver them. And this deplorable distrust was due to:
3. The spirit of materialism. They preferred the visible nation to the invisible God; the fleshly "power" to the Divine Spirit; the material army of Egypt, whose forces they could count and whose weapons they could handle, to the unseen One whose angels were beyond the range of vision, and whose instruments were unfashioned by human hands. This is the sin of mankind. Desertion of God, departure from his side and from his service; desertion springing from distrust, and this distrust rooted in a wretched and pitiful materialism.
II. THEIR PUNISHMENT.
1. Fruitless expenditure. (Vers. 4-6.) They would take the trouble to secure princely ambassadors, and these would travel through inhospitable and perilous regions, laden with costly gifts, paying servile attention to the foreigner - and all for nothing; an immensity of trouble and no profit whatever.
2. Bitter disappointment. (Ver. 7.) The land from which they hoped so much would prove utterly useless; their expectations would end in nothing but chagrin;, their exasperation could only find expression in an opprobrious epithet, in a bitter epigram directed against Egypt.
3. Mortification. "The strength of Pharaoh shall be their shame," etc. (vers. 3, 5). The result of this attempted alliance would be political reproach; and the court and the nation would be ashamed of having taken a step that turned out so ill. These are the common penalties of sin: the waste of that which is precious - time, money, strength, reputation, energy, affection, etc.; disappointment - the soul finding out that that in which it trusted cannot do what it hoped, that it leaves it still empty, still athirst, still poor; shame - the position in which it is dishonored of men, and has keenly to reproach itself for folly into which it need not have fallen, for sin which it might easily have shunned.
III. THEIR ALTERNATIVE. God was with them; one of his truest and most faithful prophets was at hand, accessible at any hour. Why not trust in the Almighty? Why not take counsel of the All-wise? The alternative to sin is always at hand. The gates of obedience are unfastened; the oracles of God are open; the paths of piety are such as every foot may tread. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: