And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong…
These words are part of a prophecy which relates, as some think, to a very important period of the history of the Jews, when the Maccabees, at the head of handfuls of men, destroyed great armies of aliens, and were the happy instruments, in the hands of Divine Providence, of saving their church and nation from destruction, and of raising it to a degree of consideration and renown, equal to what they had enjoyed under the administration of some of those good kings that sprung from David. Concerning this glorious period the prophet Zechariah speaks, when the Lord says by his mouth, "I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion! against thy sons, O Greece! and made thee as the sword of a mighty man. The Lord of hosts shall defend them, and they shall devour and subdue with sling-stones, and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, and as the corners of the altar; and the Lord their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people; for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon His land." Others refer this prophecy to the Christian church, and to the courage displayed by the followers of Christ in holding fast his name, and spreading the favour of it all around, in defiance of those Roman tyrants who endeavoured to extirpate Christianity out of the world.
I. WHO THEY ARE THAT KNOW THEIR GOD. In the language of scripture, no wicked man knows the Lord.. "The sons of Eli," it is said, were "sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord." But the Lord is known by all the upright; for "the fear of the Lord. is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments." Those who know the Lord know something concerning the perfections of his nature. It is but a "little portion that they hear of him, and the thunder of his power who can understand? — But they know at least, that he is the Most High over all the earth, glorious in holiness, invariable in justice, irresistible in power. They know him to be excellent and amiable in all his perfections, and would abhor themselves if they felt a latent wish that he were anything else than he is. They who know their God know that, although there is but one God, yet there are three persons to whom the glory of deity equally belongs. This knowledge of God is attended with suitable dispositions of heart. All who know God to salvation, trust in him as their God. They rejoice in his kindness, and count it their glory and joy to call him their God. They that know their God keep his commandment. Disobedience to his voice they count the worst of all evils.
II. HOW THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD FITS MEN FOR DOING EXPLOITS, IS NOW TO BE CONSIDERED. The word exploits is a supplement of our translation. But the words plainly signify, that those who know their God "shall be strong," and do such things as could not be expected from persons not under the. influence of a religious principle. The exploits done by those that know their God must be undoubtedly consistent with justice. Heroical actions have been performed for the gratification of ambition, or other corrupt dispositions of the human heart. But those who know their God would not, for the world, do an unjust action, or to risk the loss of their souls, by disobeying God. The noble army of martyrs laid down their lives, not only for their heavenly Father, but for their brethren, when they sealed the truth with their blood. But how does the knowledge of our God prepare us for doing what we may be called to do, in the defence of our country, and of ourselves?
1. They that know their God, know his will, and are disposed to do it. And this is one article of the revealed will of God, that we should be ready, when we are called by providence, to defend our king and country, our liberties, and our religion. "Honour the king." "Be subject to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake." The difference between those who know their God and other men, is, that most other men will do some things that God requires, but they are not ready for every good work. Where their life, their interest, their credit, may suffer by obeying the will of God, they must be excused; but the lovers of God delight to show their obedience, where self-denial must be practised.
2. They that know their God are strengthened to do exploits, by their confidence in God as their God. "They that know his name will put their trust in him"; and "through him they will do valiantly." Our confidence in God is founded on the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ. "He is the way: no man cometh to the Father but by him." Now, when we believe in Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and life everlasting, what have we to fear? God. We may die, but we cannot be hurt. It is a consciousness of guilt that disqualifies us for dangerous duties.
3. The people that do know God, have learned patiently to do his will. None can hope to do exploits that is unqualified to bear those things that are unpleasant to the flesh. Hardness must be endured by every good soldier of Jesus Christ. "If we faint in the day of adversity, our strength is but small."
4. The people that do know their God, are prepared for extraordinary services, by the ordinary course of their service to God. When men are daily adding sin to sin by obstinate impenitence, they prepare thorns and briars to tear their consciences, when an evil day comes. How can such. men be unappalled, when they find themselves placed in a situation that exposes them to a premature death? All that know their God, have learned to keep up an intercourse with him by prayer; and in the time of distress and danger, they pray more earnestly. Great are the victories which prayer hath obtained.
5. That the people who do know their God are strong to do exploits, because God is their helper. The Lord is good unto all, but he loves all that walk in his ways. "He is their arm every morning, their salvation in the day of trouble." How were all the heroes of Israel, in ancient times, enabled to do those mighty works for which they are held in everlasting remembrance? The Lord was with them. They were strong in his strength.He protected them by the shield of his salvation. What shall we say at the conclusion of the whole matter?
1. Seek the knowledge of God. Let those who yet know not God seek the knowledge of his excellency, of his grace, of his will. Use the means of knowledge with which God hath furnished you in great plenty. Pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation.
2. If any of you say that you know God, consider by what course of actions you ought to verify their pretentions; for if you say that you know God, and keep not his commandments, you are liars. Great exploits were done by the heroes of God's people. You must cut off right hands and right feet, when they make you to offend. You must crucify the flesh, with the afflictions and lusts.
3. To animate us to such exploits as we may be called to perform, let us call to remembrance the exploits performed by believers in ancient times. Paul put us in mind of the many mighty works done through faith, that we may be ready, when we are called by divine providence, to follow their example. Are you called to practise virtue and holiness, admit the opposition to be expected from a crooked and perverse generation? Are you called to risk your lives in battle? Remember Abraham, who, with a little army, fought bravely and successfully against four victorious kings, to rescue his beloved nephew.
4. Those who are barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of God ought to consider their ways. Yon cannot go as missionaries to spread the light of the gospel amongst the heathen; but you may be fellow-helpers to them by your contributions and prayers. You are not called to the field of battle; but you may assist the defenders of your country by your cheerful payment of those taxes that are necessary for their support, and by your prayers to God that he may cover their heads in the day of battle. All that know the Lord love him. All that love him will desire to approve their love by those works that are pleasing in his sight. Exploits in the service of Satan indicate not only ignorance of God, but enmity against him. You must not imagine that the best means will give you the saving and sanctifying knowledge of God, without divine illumination. "There are some," says Paul, "that have not the knowledge of God; I speak this to your shame." There are some of the military order, as well as men of other descriptions that have not the knowledge of God. None know God who dare to profane his name by needless oaths and execrations.
Parallel VersesKJV: And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.