Hear the word of the LORD, you that tremble at his word; Your brothers that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said…
I. THE ORACLE OF JEHOVAH. "The heavens are my throne." What majestic poetry in that word! How sacred, then, the heaven! How profane, if once we rightly think of the force of what we say, to use the adjuration, "By heaven"! So Jesus teaches (Matthew 5:34; Matthew 23:22). It is natural to "look up" when we think of God; and then to "look down" on the "things of earth," which is but his footstool. "What manner of house would ye build for me?" The Infinite cannot be defined; God may not be localized. All forms may represent him; none can adequately set him forth. "His abode is not known; no shrine is found with painted figures; there is no building that can contain him" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 4. p. 109). Herodotus says that the Persians impute folly to those who raise statues and temples and altars to the gods, "because they do not think the gods to be of human nature, as do the Greeks" (1:131; cf. Acts 17:24). But why should God despise the beautiful temple? Is anything more beautiful or true than the work of art? To disparage art we have to give way to dark superstition. Everything that proceeds from the mind God has made, he must delight in - it is his work. But, above all, he delights in the humble, throbbing, trembling human soul. "The most acceptable temple is a pious mind." The allusions which follow are to some of the darkest features of heathen worship - the animal sacrifice, and the animal worship - a form of religion hardly intelligible to ourselves, but once widely diffused in ancient times, and prevailing still in some parts of the world. According to the religion of Jehovah, man is made in the image of God, and in the logos or reason of man must be found the true reflection of him. To worship an animal must be to lower the intelligent and spiritual tone of religion. And some consciousness of this we must believe to have been dimly present in such worshippers' minds.
II. THE DENUNCIATION OF JEHOVAH. False worship is rooted in the depraved will. They have "chosen their own ways;" they "have pleasure in their abominations." For religion is either stagnant or progressive. The soul rests in sloth upon custom, upon the clear and apprehensible object, or it strives and strains after the higher and yet higher and invisible good - not to be found in the creature, but only in the Creator. God will exercise retribution upon such idolaters, sending on them calamity and terror. "The man who places all his confidence, hope, and comfort in his estate, his friend, or greatness, so that upon the failure of any of these his heart sinks, and he utterly desponds as to all enjoyment or apprehension of any good or felicity to be. enjoyed by man, does as really deify his estate, his friend, or his greatness, as if in direct terms he should say to each of them, 'Thou art my god,' and should rear an altar or temple to them, and worship before them in the humblest adoration. Nay, it is much more; since God looks upon himself as treated more like a deity by being loved, confided in, and depended upon, than if a man should throng his temple with a whole hetacomb, sacrifice thousands of rams, and pour ten thousand rivers of oil upon his altars" (South).
III. WORDS TO THE FAITHFUL. "Men who tremble at his Word." It is another way of describing those of humble and contrite heart. They are hated by their brethren; they have suffered in the cause of true religion. They are exposed to taunts - Where is their God? Let Jehovah show himself glorious! Nevertheless, his fiat has gone forth, "They shall be ashamed." Shame and pain are the inseparable effects of sin; the "wages assigned to it by the laws of Heaven:" the rightful inheritance of the sinner. Nor is there anything which the nature of man does so abhor as these. They are destructive of all our enjoyments. They touch both soul and body - shame being the torment of the one, and pain of the other. "The mind of man can have no taste or relish of any pleasure in the world while it is oppressed and overwhelmed by shame. Nothing does so intolerably affect the soul as infamy; it drinks up and consumes the quickness, gaiety, and activity of the spirit; it dejects the countenance made by God to look upwards; so that this noble creature, the masterpiece of the creation, dares not much as lift up either his head or his thoughts, but it is a vexation to him even to look upon others, and yet a greater to be looked upon by them" (South). - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.
WEB: Hear the word of Yahweh, you who tremble at his word: "Your brothers who hate you, who cast you out for my name's sake, have said, 'Let Yahweh be glorified, that we may see your joy;' but it is those who shall be disappointed.