They do not cry out to Me from their hearts when they wail upon their beds. They slash themselves for grain and new wine, but turn away from Me.
I. IT IS A DEFERRED PRAYER. "On their beds." In health and strength the idols had been worshipped. Now death seemed near, the Name of Jehovah was on the trembling lip. Mercifully, delay is not of itself sufficient to make a cry to God useless. David lingered in sin till Nathan rebuked him. The prodigal dwelt in the far country till all was gone, etc. Still it is perilous to defer any known duty, most of all that of coming to God.
II. IT IS AN INSINCERE PRAYER. "They have not cried unto me with their heart." This fact would make any prayer useless. "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit, and in truth." Compare the prayers of the Pharisees' m the temple or the street with those of publicans and sinners (Matthew 6:7; Matthew 15, etc.).
III. IT IS A DESPERATE PRAYER, "They howled upon their beds." The agony of paint or the dread of meeting God, not the consciousness of sin, caused this. Repentance is not the dread of sin's punishment, but the turning from sin because of its sinfulness. Contrast the cry of the condemned criminal with the prayer of the dying Christian. Depict, for example, the death of Stephen, and the utterance of Paul about his departure (2 Timothy 6:6).
IV. IT IS UNAVAILING. The unreality of the prayer was seen in the subsequent conduct of those who offered it. This is described in the next clause. No sooner were they restored to health than "they assembled for corn and wine," i.e. went back to the old revelries and forgetfulness. How many have dealt thus with God I Brought back from the gates of death, the spared life is no more sober, devout, and holy than the past. Let us beware lest we harden ourselves through the deceitfulness of sin. If, of those restored, so small a proportion prove that the prayers and vows in illness were genuine and availing, how can we indulge much hope of those whose future is not in time but in eternity? In view of this solemn subject:
1. Urge Christians to speak faithfully to sinners in the day of health.
2. Urge sinners to come humbly to the Savior in the day of hope. - A.R.
They have not cried unto Me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds.
1. The grand motive which should influence the sinner in turning to God is love to the kind and gracious Father, who has so long borne with his waywardness, and a sincere desire to promote His glory.
2. A reliance on a death-bed repentance implies a doubt of the declarations of the Bible, that God expects us to walk before Him during the days of our earthly pilgrimage in holiness and righteousness. God commands us, most explicitly, to work while it is day, and reminds us of an hour when the Master of the house, having closed the door, all applications for admission, no matter how loud or importunate, will be in vain.
3. It is a prominent feature in the great plan of redemption that we should openly acknowledge our allegiance to God by becoming a member of His Church; and by a holy life and heavenly conversation "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour." If all should look to a death-bed repentance to fit them for heaven, what a prospect the world would present!
4. In these enlightened days, it would be difficult to find one within the limits of civilised life, who had not repeatedly heard of the offers of mercy, through the merits of a crucified Saviour. The world, however, has presented too many charms; business completely engrossed his thoughts; the care of providing for the mere earthly wants of a family engaged too much of his time to leave any for the concerns of his soul. If the thought arises, When shall I prepare for my final account? the devil stands ready to suggest that a few hours of prayer on a death-bed will be preparation enough. And the careless worldling listens most readily to the sly tempter's advice.
(John N. Norton.)
I. THE DEEP AND AWFUL IMPRESSIONS OFTEN PRODUCED ON THE MINDS OF SINNERS BY THE APPARENTLY NEAR APPROACH OF DEATH. "They howled upon their beds." The word "howled" imports the violence of all their emotions and cries and protestations; rage mingled with their terror.
1. At such a time the soul is awakened.
2. As the natural result of the awakening of the soul. it is filled with terror.
3. Now the soul of such an awakened sufferer is filled with tormenting regrets and self-upbraidings for past folly, neglect, and wicked ness.
4. Resolutions of repentance and reformation, if life should but be spared, are often most violently expressed; and no more perhaps is said than is at the moment meant. But such resolutions often betray the sufferer's ignorance of the treachery, corruption, and weakness of his own heart.
II. FREQUENTLY SUCH TERRORS ARE UNACCOMPANIED BY ANY CHANGE OF HEART, AND THE PROFESSIONS AND RESOLUTIONS MADE UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES ARE OFTEN HYPOCRITICAL. Afflictions are, indeed, the established means by which God awakens the careless, slumbering souls of men to an effectual saving sense of Divine things. The man who makes death-bed professions is often more deluded than those Whom he addresses.
III. FOUND ON THESE CONSIDERATIONS AN ARGUMENT TO ENFORCE SERIOUS ATTENTION TO THE SOLEMN AFFAIRS OF THE SOUL DURING THE PERIOD OF HEALTH AND EASE. Man is a being so constituted and circumstanced by his Maker that it becomes his duty and interest to carry forward his Views to the future, and to make a timely provision for it. Religion makes great use of this reasonable principle of our nature. Here is the greatest need, the highest exercise for a wise providence in preparing for futurity. We must die. Take that statement to include all that inseparably attends and follows death. With such a prospect before us can we with any wisdom, with any safety, defer to the last critical hour the great work of preparation for an event so awful and momentous?
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