Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God.
Ethiopia is a woman who, after the manner of the poets, represents the whole race of the Ethiopians, just as Britannia, in our songs, represents all the Britons. By Ethiopia the Jews usually meant the country next to Egypt, Ethiopia proper, the cradle of the African race. Even to this day the Africans bury their dead with their faces towards the north-east, their first home. Fix now your pitying eye upon Ethiopia. She is —
I. HELPLESS. Hands outstretched are signals of distress, which the weak always use. The other year hundreds were burnt or suffocated in a church at Santiago, and all the dead were found standing with hands outstretched. The veil has just been lifted from the Dark Continent, and lo! there stands before us a woman with the slave-stick around her neck. And like a child in fear, like a weakling imploring help, her hands are heavenwards. Let Livingstone and other African travellers tell the horrors of the slave trade. Africa is dark indeed, and as such is full of the habitations of cruelty. It has been for two thousand years the slave-hunting ground of the world. And white men have had a great share in it. Bleeding Ethiopia, helpless before the cruelty of man, feels equally helpless in presence of the unseen. Through fear they are all their lifetime subject to bondage. To their fear of wild beasts and wilder men is added their great fear of evil spirits. For the Africans are religious in their own poor way; but their whole religion is a weary effort to ward off the spirits of the departed, who, as they think, are full of vengeance, and able to haunt and destroy them. They believe the air to be filled with millions of spirits, all cruel and bent on mischief. Hence they give themselves up to devil-worship. Then their idols are fearful to look upon, and their religion is only a religion of fear. How touching to read of their longings, their lonely helplessness, "their dread of the strange land beyond the dark mountains." The boldest hunter when dying will cry for his mother, though she has been dead for many years. He knows no one else who would be minded to help him in the dark valley. One who knew them well says, "There is nothing more heartrending than their death-wails. When they turn their eyes to the future world, they have a view cheerless enough of their own utter helplessness and hopelessness." Their thoughts often wander through the future. "Do people die with you?" two young cannibals asked Livingstone. "Have you no charm against death?" He spoke to them of the Great Father who hears the cry of His children: and they thought this to be natural. But —
II. ETHIOPIA IS SEEKING HELP. The salt mines in Austria lately illustrated this subject to me. The abundance of salt God has stored there is beyond belief. The miners dig a narrow drain into the rock and let in fresh water. The water sucks the salt out of the rock, which then falls in, and soon the whole rock is melted down. Commerce and exploration are digging their channels through the rocky barriers of heathendom, and letting in civilized ideas, which are quietly penetrating and melting down every heathen system, and creating a vacancy which we should fill with the blessed Gospel. We talk of an open door among the heathen; in many places it is all door together. Even heathens are advertising for a better religion than their own. Hardly one educated young Indian has now any heart-faith in Hinduism. Mrs. Brassey advises all who wish to see Japan to go at once, else they will never see it, ms European customs are spreading everywhere.
III. ETHIOPIA IS HOPEFUL. Our text prophesies that she shall soon stretch out her hands unto God, soon after the Gospel is brought to her, in the morning of the day of her opportunity. No spiritual sluggard, she shall early and eagerly make her hands run unto God, as the word means. Her hands, turned from idols, shall be opened to receive God's gifts, or, as some believe, shall be filled with offerings of homage and service. "When he came here there were no Christians; when he went away there were no heathen" — these words describe the life-work of a missionary who was only twenty-four years on the island of Ancityum. Some say our text means that Ethiopia's hands will be filled with splendid offerings of gratitude to God. We may expect this. Robert Moffat, famishing and wearied, was once ordered not to enter a heathen village. Under shadow of night a woman brought him a bundle of wood, a bowl of milk, and a leg of mutton, kindled a fire and cooked the meat in silence. As he pressed her to tell the reason of her kindness, the tears stole down her sable cheek as she said, "I love Him whose servant you are, and surely it is my duty to give you a cup of cold water in His name. My heart is full, and therefore I cannot speak the joy I feel to see you in this out-of-the-way place." All was explained by a New Testament which she drew from her bosom, and showed to the delighted missionary. Let your heart go out to Ethiopia, and let your helping hands meet her outstretched hands. Cherish a generous grief over Ethiopia's woes, and believe that God calls you to help the weak He has taught you to pity. Have a full faith in the promise, apparently never so near fulfilment as now, " Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God."
(James Wells, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.