But if you will not listen to me, and will not do all these commandments;…
I. A NATION'S PROGRESSIVE APOSTASY.
1. Passive indifference to Divine teachings and appeals: "Not hearken."
2. Non-compliance with Divine calls and claims: "Not do."
3. Contemptuous rejection of God's statutes: "Despise" (Malachi 3:14, 15).
4. Spiritual revolt from all sacred demands: "Your soul abhor My judgments" (John 3:20; Job 24:13). A fearful departure from God.
5. Violation of all covenant relationship: "Ye break My covenant."
II. AN APOSTATE NATION'S, CALAMITIES.
1. Sin brings disease and physical suffering in its train (ver. 16): "Terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes and. cause sorrow of heart." Impiety inevitably drifts into impurity.
2. Failure and penury follow quickly upon habits of indulgence and impurity: "Sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it" (ver. 16). Nothing succeeds in the hands of a dissipated and dissolute man, and he becomes a prey to his hated scorners and rivals.
3. A godless life invites the ravages of the enemy (ver. 17). God withdrew His protection, and adversaries swept down upon Israel. They who repudiate Divine government are "taken captive by the devil at his will," and serve their enemies. Sin is very cruel. It "slays" its victims; slaughters their virtue, peace, happiness, hopes; destroys precious souls.
4. Sin also fills the life of wrongdoers with terrors; they "flee when none pursueth." Even in nations there is "strong confidence" and "a sound mind" only when conscious of rectitude and the enjoyment of God's approval. It paralyses a people's heart to feel that Heaven is alienated and Divine favour lost. Armies, too, have gone with assurance into battles when convinced that God is with them — as Cromwell's "Ironsides" — while enemies have fled with panic, as did the Spanish Armada, when possessed with alarm that God was against them.
5. There are the yet darker calamities of abject overthrow and Divine desertion: "I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass" (ver. 19) — a picture of prostration and helplessness which finds verification in(1) Babylon's fall — now lying buried amid bleaching sands, emblem of rebuked pride;
(2) the desolation of Jerusalem — now a waste scene, and her children the "tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast";
(3) the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum — interred beneath volcanic ashes, a monument of sudden wrath on a voluptuous people. Such historic admonitions warn against national impiety, and call mankind to seriousness and prayer; for even in the solemn threatenings of God there lies an overt assurance of mercy, that "if a nation or individual will cease from apostasy and hearken unto Him" (ver. 18), He will turn aside the "seven times more" punishment for sins, and show the forgiveness in which He delights, and the salvation which the glorious gospel of His grace proclaims.
(W. H. Jellie.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;