So He brought me to the inner court of the house of the LORD, and there at the entrance to the temple of the LORD, between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they were bowing to the east in worship of the sun.
I. THE SUN WORSHIP ITSELF. Of this it is enough to say that it is creature worship, and is therefore dishonouring to the Creator who kindled the sun in the firmament, and who is himself the eternal, uncreated Light.
II. THE SUN WORSHIPPERS.
1. They included the priesthood; for the five and twenty here mentioned were doubtless the heads of the twenty-four courses, with the high priest presiding over them.
2. Their attitude was indicative of profanity and defection; they are depicted as turning their backs towards the temple of Jehovah that they might face the sun as he rose in the east.
III. THE EFFECTS OF SUN WORSHIP.
1. This superstition estranged the minds of those who practised it from the God who is Light, and in whom is no darkness at all; it rendered them indifferent to the Divine Law, and inattentive to the Divine service and worship.
2. It was the means of filling the land with abominations and violence, and this was especially the case when conjoined with the worship of the Phoenician sun god.
3. It thus became one of the many occasions for the arousing of the anger of God, and led to the retributions and chastenings which speedily came upon the ungrateful, unspiritual, and apostate people. - T.
Turn thee yet again and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.I. WHAT IS UNDERSTOOD BY THE HEINOUSNESS OF SIN.
1. That it is offensive to God, displeasing to Him, and grieving to His Spirit (Jeremiah 44:4). It is an abominable thing before the Lord; hence it is called filthiness, uncleanness, vomit, etc., all which provoke loathing; so Revelation 3:16. It is contrary to His nature and will, and gives Him displeasure and offence; and, if it were possible it would disturb His repose, as smoke doth to the eyes (Isaiah 65:5).
2. It is greatly offensive to God (Habakkuk 1:13). There is no sin that God is indifferent about, none that He can pass without a mark of His indignation on it (Exodus 34:7).(1) All sin is heinous in the sight of God, namely, greatly offensive (Habakkuk 1:13).(2) There are degrees of heinousness. Though the sin which the blinded soul accounts but a mote is a mountain in the eyes of God and of an enlightened conscience, yet all are not alike for all that; but as some mountains, so some sins are greater than others.
II. IN WHAT RESPECTS SOME SINS ARE MORE HEINOUS THAN OTHERS.
1. Some sins are in themselves, and in their own nature, more heinous than others. Murder (Genesis 4:10); oppression (Habakkuk 2:1l); blasphemy and contempt, of God (Exodus 5:2); idolatry (Ezekiel 8); unbelief, rejecting of Christ, and disobeying the Gospel (Matthew 22; John 3:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:8). But of all sins the most heinous is the sin against the Holy Ghost (Matthew 12:31).
2. Some sins are more heinous than others by their aggravations; and the greater and more numerous the aggravating circumstances be that attend any sin, it is the more heinous.(1) From the persons offending: the more notable they are, the more heinous are their sins; as the greater the fire is, the more mischief will it do, if it go out of its place; the greater the tree is, the more mischief will it do by its fall.(2) From the parties offended. Let men consider whom their sins strike against, if they would see how heinous they are. For as a thrust in a leg or arm is not so much grievous as one at the heart, so is it in this case. Sins immediately against God, His Son, and His Spirit are more heinous than such sins against man, any man whatsoever (1 Samuel 2:25). Sins against superiors in the church, state, and family are more heinous than the same sins are if done against persons of their own rank and condition. Sins against those whom we are under special engagements and obligations to are more heinous than such sins against others we have no such concern in. Sins against the saints and people of God are more heinous than against others, because of their relation to God, as being those in all the world dearest to Him (Matthew 18:6). Sins against the common good of all, or of many; for the wider the effects of one sin go, it is still the worse (Joshua 22:20).(3) From the quality of the offence. A sin may be vested with such qualities as will make it much more heinous than when divested of them. These evil qualities are many; I will reduce them to two heads. Intrinsic qualities. Thus sins against the letter of the law are more heinous than others; mother sins, which are big and bring forth many others, besides simple ones; sins consummated by action, as well as while merely in the heart (James 1:15); sins that are scandalous, as well as others not so; sins the injury in which to men admits of no reparation, more than that of others in which it does. Extrinsic qualities; which again are of two sorts.(i) Being done against means whereby one might be withheld from sin (Matthew 11:21, 22).(ii) Being done against bonds one has taken on him against the sin, when men sin against purposes and resolutions of amendment, against their covenants and engagements to the Lord, whereby they are bound to stand off from such courses (Ezekiel 17:19).(4) From the manner of committing it. Who can imagine but sin done deliberately and wilfully and presumptuously is more heinous than sin committed through inadvertency and weakness?(5) From the time of it, as in the case of Gehazi (2 Kings 5:26). Thus sins committed on the Lord's day, immediately before or after Divine worship, are more heinous than at other times. And so is sinning just after reproofs, warnings, engagements; or in a time when the anger of the Lord is going out against the land, family, or person, as Ahaz in his distress.(6) From the place of it. Thus in a place where the Gospel is preached, sin is more heinous than elsewhere (Isaiah 26:10). Sins done in public before others are more heinous than those in secret; for in the former many may be defiled. Inferences —
1. Never think light of sin, nor slightly of Christ, and your need of Him, since all sin is heinous in God's sight, and exposes the sinner to His just vengeance.
2. There will be degrees of torment in hell, though the least degree will be dreadful (Matthew 11:21).
(T. Boston, D. D.)
I. TO THE WORLD.
1. The abominations that are visible to all are exceeding great.
2. But the more we know of the world, the more wicked will it appear.
II. THE CHURCH.
1. The outward court worshippers are, for the most part, exceedingly corrupt.
2. Would to God we could except from this censure the worshippers of the inner court.
III. THE HEART.
1. This, the Prophet tells us, is superlatively deceitful.
2. It is also, as the same Prophet informs us, unsearchably wicked.Behold here, then —
(1) (2) (3) (C. Simeon, M. A.)
(2) (3) (C. Simeon, M. A.)
(3) (C. Simeon, M. A.)
(C. Simeon, M. A.)
They worshipped the sun toward the eastI. STRANGE AVERSION.
1. To what they were averse. "The temple of the Lord." This does not mean the material building. These men were too material for that. They would never cease to glory in its architectural splendour, and there was little fear of their ceasing to regard the gold and silver by which it was enriched and with which it was adorned. They were, as myriads are today, well content to lay claim to and enjoy the material gifts of God, while they utterly disregarded the more spiritual of His mercies. In the temple God dwelt, for there was in the mysterious Shekinah light which brooded over the Ark, the symbol of His invisible, yet awful presence-to Him they were averse. They would fain have vetoed or expelled Him from His own house, for they desired not His presence. This is strange aversion. Why should they turn their backs upon God? They owed their all to Him. He beheld their fathers once as a company of oppressed slaves, crying day and night unto Him for deliverance, and with a high hand and with an outstretched arm He did deliver them. They possessed promises which were to make their future still more illustrious. Yet upon Him who had been such a Father and Friend they turned their backs. And of the law of God they might justly have been proud. It was an expression of the Infinite mind, and well worthy of its origin. This law Christ came not to abrogate, but to expound, enforce, and fulfil. And the Ark. Surely there was nothing in this to which they could reasonably be averse. It enshrined many precious memories. What shall we say of the myriads who in England today repeat these sins? The guilt of such is even worse than that of these "five and twenty men." What wrong has God done them that they are thus averse to Him and to His house? What base ingratitude on the part of men to daily enjoy the precious legacy of privileges the Gospel has won, and yet turn their backs upon this their best friend.
2. By whom was this aversion expressed? Evidently by those who were considered to be the very pick and flower of the nation.(1) These men were in the line of a godly ancestry. Not only were they children of faithful Abraham, but of the tribe of Levi. These men had received careful training, special instruction, and were in possession of a choice legacy of privileges. That upon which they turned their backs had been most dear to and most revered by their parents. This made their sin all the greater. Yet this is just the position of many who today turn their backs upon God.(2) These men were among the most intelligent in Israel. From early life they had been educated and trained with a view of preparing them for the sacred functions they would afterwards be called upon to fulfil. Alas, it is much the same today. Many of the most educated, intelligent, and affluent in our land are utterly averse to Divine things.(3) The position of these men aggravated their sin. They were "between the porch and the altar," and were thus surrounded by every inducement to reverence Jehovah in their worship, and to lead lives conspicuous for purity. Their modern imitators have also similar environments. The claims of God, the blessings of the Gospel are brought right home to them. The word is nigh them, even in their mouths and in their hearts.
3. Can we account for this aversion?(1) On the part of many the secret is in a reluctance to think. These twenty-five men turned their backs upon the temple of the Lord. In like manner men turn away from the claims of religion, upon the reason, upon the soul, and upon the life. They will not solemnly investigate the subject, preferring darkness to light.(2) Others are reason proud. In their own estimation they are so wise, so scientific, so learned, that they think themselves independent of a revelation from God. Yet how often, even in their own scientific sphere, do such men mistake fancy for fact, and substance for shadow.(3) The secret and substantial cause of this repugnance on the part of many to Divine things lies also in the condition into which sin has brought human nature. The Gospel gives a humiliating estimate of man's condition, as being radically corrupt; and its doctrine of redemption from that condition by the merit and sufferings of Christ, also the moral purity of heart and life upon which it insists, if we are ever to know a higher station, these truths are repugnant to the sinful nature of man, and hence he despises them.
II. STUPID FASCINATION. "They worshipped the sun toward the east." The sun is an object of surpassing glory. It is the most sublime material emblem of God. "The Lord God is a sun" — as He, the sun, is an object of resistless splendour; it is the source of life, of order, of beauty, of fruitfulness, the bright-eyed monarch of the world, the great wonder worker, seer of all the skies. But it is material and must perish. Adoration of the material and neglect of the spiritual is far too common a practice in our day; but to follow a multitude in evil-doing does not make our sin any the less great. Science and philosophy are all very good when kept in their place. But what will it avail men if they are able to define nature's laws, if they know not nature's God? What avail if they are familiar with all rocks, yet have never known Him who is "as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land"? The laws of nature are "like so many windows in the dark opaque walls of this world, through which we can have a transient glance at God and eternity...But over these windows infidelity draws down the blinds and shuts God out." In Athens of old the human intellect obtained its most subtle skill, attuned itself to the most perfect music of human expression, and with what result? Did philosophy, art, or science lift the Athenians nearer God? Nay, "the whole city was given up to idolatry." Men deified their own works, and corrupted themselves by their worship. The city became like the cesspool of the world, and has tainted the morals of successive centuries. Are nature and art destitute of moral power, then? No; yet they did not make the Athenians holy, gave them no victory over themselves, brought them no nearer to God. No objects which address themselves merely to the intellect or fancy of man can do this. Man's first wants are deeper than these can touch; he has a spirit, a soul, and only as he comes in contact with God's Spirit can he rise; no lever but the Gospel can effectually lift up humanity. Let us first give our hearts to God, and then by Nature, as well as by Scripture, He will give us much instruction concerning Himself. He will "speak to us in every primrose and daisy, and whisper to us in every breath of morning air." Demosthenes may have his inferior orations; Shakespeare his inferior histories, comedies, or tragedies; and Milton may fail in his Paradise Regained to equal his Paradise Lost; but God can have no inferior productions: Nature is as perfect as Scripture. Yet God in Christ is alone to be the object of our soul's worship, and the great Sacrifice of Calvary the ground of our soul's hope.
To provoke Me to anger1. The greatness or littleness of sin is to be measured, not by man's, but God's account of it. "Is it a light thing to the house of Judah?" They think it so, but it is otherwise. The interrogation sets out the greatness of it. Is it so? no, it is not light, but grievous.
2. To sin where God manifests His presence, and vouchsafes the means of grace and choice mercies, is a great aggravation of sin, and grievous provocation of Divine majesty.
3. Violence is a spreading sin.
4. Injustice is abomination unto God, and the more it spreads, the greater abomination it is.
5. State oppression and church corruption go together. If there be violence in a land, there will be corruptions, pollutions, abominations in the sanctuary.
6. Men's intentions to please God oft prove provocations of God. They intended not to provoke God, but returned in their apprehensions to worship God in the temple, and to please Him; not their purpose, but the event was the provocation. So in verse 6, their abominations drave God far from the sanctuary. They did not purpose and intend to drive God away, but that was the event and issue of their actions, with which they thought they pleased God.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.).
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