Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD has spoken, I have nourished and brought up children…
(with ver. 3): — I look upon this text as a fragment of Divine autobiography, and as such possessing the greatest significance to us.
I. It presents to us in a striking manner THE SOCIAL SIDE OF GOD'S CHARACTER. It is well for us to remember that all that is tender and lovable in our social experience, so far as it is pure and noble, is obtained from God. The revelation which we have of God presents Him to us, not as isolated from all His creatures, but as finding His highest joy in perfect communion with exalted spirits whom He has created. I love to think that man exists because of this exalted social instinct in God. Further, when God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone," methinks I hear but the echo of a Divine, of a God. felt feeling. Among the mysteries of Christ's passion we find an element of suffering which, as God and man, He felt — "Ye shall leave Me alone"; "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!" Our God is to us an object of supremest interest because He holds with us the most sacred relationship.
II. Our text represents GOD ON THE DOMESTIC SIDE OF HIS CHARACTER. It is the parental rather than the paternal that we see here. The word father does not express all that God is to us. The illustrations of this Book are not exhausted with those that refer to His fatherhood: "Can a woman forget her sucking child," etc. (Isaiah 49:15). All that is tender in motherhood, as well as all that is strong in fatherhood, is to be found in Him. It is as a parent that He speaks here: "I have nourished" — or "given nutriment." In other words, "Out of My rich resources of blessing have I provided for their need; I have nourished and brought up children." Here we have God's grief revealed in the light which can only come through such tender and loving channels as parental patience and wounded love.
III. Our text reveals GOD'S CHARACTER IN ITS REPROVING ASPECT. The folly is emphasised by the comparison with two creatures, by no means noted for their intelligence. Yet both are domesticated creatures, and feel the ties of ownership. What is it that domesticates a creature? The creature that recognises man as his master, by that very act becomes domesticated. The higher type of knowledge possessed by the domesticated animal is a direct recognition of its master. The finest creatures possess that. There is a lower grade of knowledge, but yet one which stamps the creature as domesticated. That is an acknowledgment, not of the master directly, but a recognition of the provision which the master has made for its need. "The ox knoweth his owner." The ass does not do that; but the ass knoweth "his master's crib." The ass knows the stall where it is fed, and it goes and is fed there. By that act it indirectly acknowledges the sovereignty of its owner, because it recognises his protection.
IV. The text presents to us THE TENDER AND PATHETIC SIDE OF GOD'S CHARACTER. This is God's version of human sin. His rebukes are full of pathos. With the great mantle of charity that covers over a multitude of sins, and with the Divine pity that puts the best construction upon human rebellion, He puts all down to ignorance and folly. Observe further, that although they have rebelled against Him, He does not withdraw the name He gave them, Israel — "Israel doth not know: My people doth not consider." He does not repudiate them. The last thing that love can do is that. There is something exceedingly pathetic in God here making an appeal to creation relative to His relationship with man. What if it gave a relief to the heart of God to exclaim to His own creation that groaned with Him over human sin, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!" Am I imagining? Do we not find a Divine as well as human feeling in Christ's going to the wilderness or the mountain top in the hours of His greatest need? There, amid God's creation, He found His Father very near. Here the fact that the child does not know his Heavenly Father is represented as the burden of God's grief. But in this case the ignorance was wilful This was the burden on the heart of Christ in His prayer (John 17). There everything is made to depend upon men knowing God as their Father. That is just why we preach. We seek to make it impossible for you to pass through God's world, and receive from His hands blessings great and boundless, and yet not know Him. We seek to make it impossible for you to look at the Cross and listen to the story of an infinite sacrifice, and yet forget that "God so loved the world," etc.
Parallel VersesKJV: Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.