Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD has spoken, I have nourished and brought up children…
The prophets are God's storm signals. This was a crisis in Israel's history. Mercy and judgment had alike failed. The mass of the people had become more hardened. Judgment alone had now become the only real mercy. The prophet was sent to make a last appeal; to warn of judgment.
I. THE CHARGE. They have proved unnatural children. Have disowned their Father. Have failed to meet the claims due from them. Have frustrated the purpose of their national existence. Have, as a nation, wholly abandoned themselves to sin. In spite of exceptional privileges, they have lowered themselves beneath the level of the brutes. Nature witnesses against them, and puts them to shame.
II. THE DEFACE. The prophet imagines them to point to their temple services, — so regular, elaborate, costly, — in proof that their natural relations to their Father have been maintained. But this common self-delusion is disallowed, exposed, repelled. Not ritual, not laborious costly worship is required, but sincerity of heart, integrity of purpose, rightness of mind. Acceptable religious observance must be the spontaneous expression of an inward religious life.
III. THE OFFER OF MERCY. But the day of grace is not even yet past. One last attempt is yet made to arouse the sleeping spiritual sensibilities of the nation by the offer of pardon. Reconciliation is possible only upon amendment.
IV. THE THREAT OF JUDGMENT. Fire alone can now effect the change desired. God cannot be evaded. He is as truly merciful in threatening as in offering pardon. The nation shall be purged, yet not destroyed. Evil shall be consumed. But thereto who, like gold, can stand the fire and come out purified shall be the nucleus of an ideal society, and remodel the national life. All social amendment has its roots in complete purification of individual hearts. The prophet's dream was never realised. Yet it was not therefore wasted. It was an ideal, an inspiration to the good in after ages. It will one day be realised through the Gospel.
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.