For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD…
In man's sufferings they must own they are subject to the reasonable rule of him who is eternal Reason.
I. ANTAGONISM TO THE DIVINE RULE. In word and deed.
1. In current talk, writing, speechifying, it is difficult to detect where the falsehood lies. It consists in the suppression of certain important sides of truth, and in putting forward interested, partial views of things. The literature of a people cannot be sound, if it be sunk in greed of gold and luxury as Judah had been. The hollowness consists in the reference of everything to a low standard of value. Not until a great preacher, prophet, or writer - a Savonarola, a Latimer, a Carlyle - arises to shed the splendor of eternal truth upon our ways, do we discover how false and mean they have been.
2. We find we have "provoked the eyes of God's majesty" by our way of life. What hard-heartedness and brazen defiance of humanity and morality is brought to light from time to time, when some reformer directs attention to an abuse! Men cynically "make fortunes" out of the flesh and blood of their fellow-creatures. Have not in our time the cries of factory children, and over-toiled seamstresses, and drowning sailors, and "gutter children" gone up into the cars of the Lord of hosts? Isaiah is modern as well as ancient, for the Word he delivers is eternal.
II. THE NEMESIS OF EVIL, THE RECOMPENSE OF GOOD.
1. Wickedness is suicidal. "Woe to their soul, for to themselves they did evil!" Here lights the deepest curse, here rankles at last the arrow; in the soul! Dante sees in hell (c. 12.), in three circles, those who have wronged their neighbor, their God, and themselves. But every species of wrong works out its woe in self.
"Man can do violence
To himself and his own blessings; and for this
He in the second round must aye deplore
With unavailing penitence his crime.
Whoe'er deprives himself of life and light,
In reckless banishment his talent wastes,
And sorrows there where he should dwell in joy." Men may afford the loss of property, of a limb, of health; but not of love, not of the soul. The denial of love, or the waste of it, means the loss of the soul.
2. Goodness is self-rewarding. Often is the good man compared to a tree, bringing forth fruit by a law of nature, according to its kind and in its season. There is strict and beautiful sequence in life and character. No curse, no blessing, "causeless comes." The bitter fruit we bring forth comes from interference with the Divine nature God has given us. It is said that wanton Arabs sometimes
"Foil a dwarf palm
Of bearing its own proper wine and oil,
By grafting into it the stranger-vine,
Which sucks its heart out, sly and serpentine,
Till forth one vine-palm fastens to the root,
And red drops moisten the insipid fruit."
(R. Browning, 'Sordello.' p. 131.) Such is sin and sin's result on the being; a parody and mockery of that sound and true life so beautifully presented under the image of a tree in the first psalm.
III. MISRULE. There has been weakness and effeminacy in high places. And this is often more mischievous than strong and open violence. A vast growth of vicious and interested passions springs up in the neighborhood of a weak court. It is the opportunity for many bad men to exert their ambition. A powerful will generally works some good at the head of affairs, even though its wielder be not a good man. But feebleness is always baneful in public life. Everything is uncertain when the purpose is vacillating, and no settled principle exists. The feeble ruler will be swayed by every gust of caprice, by every personal influence that attacks his ear, every passion that enslaves his heart. Several of our kings - John, Richard II., the Charleses - have been examples of this. The country may be compared to a beautiful vineyard which the rulers have been appointed to keep (Isaiah 5:1-7). They have trampled it down and despoiled it, and have "ground the sufferers' faces." The image is taken from the mill, where a substance is worn down until nothing is left. The contemporary prophet Micah uses still stronger language (Micah 3:2, 3). The rulers flay the people, and cutting them in pieces, cast them, as it were, into a caldron. Unhappily this picture has its counterpart today in many Eastern lands. The women of the harem practically rule and devour the people in their greed. Personally, the description may be applied. God has entrusted to each of us a garden or vineyard to keep. Diligence and faithfulness will have their reward. For sloth, neglect, waste, and abuse, God will enter into judgment with us. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory.