What will you do on the day of reckoning when devastation comes from afar? To whom will you flee for help? Where will you leave your wealth?
goel, or avenger, belongs to the primitive conditions of society. When there was no settled government, no police, and no magistracy, each individual had to guard his life, liberty, and property as best he could. The first and simplest form that mutual protection took was "the family," and the principle was established that the nearest of kin to an injured or murdered person should avenge the injury or death. As this led to feuds among families and tribes lasting for generations, and as it was a kind of rough justice which often became injustice, Moses set the old custom under limitations, appointing proper courts for the settlement of disputes, and protecting the manslayer from the avenger until due examination could be made into the circumstances of his crime. In fully civilized society a regular system of law and magistracy is organized; the individual commits his right of personal avengement to the recognized authorities It is, therefore, of supreme importance to the welfare of any nation that justice should be free to all, should be perfectly fair, and should be a practical avenger of the poor, the distressed, and the wronged. The nature which Isaiah sets before us in this passage reveals a most perilous condition of society. "All the formalities of justice were observed punctiliously. The decision of the unjust Judge was duly given and recorded, but the outcome of it all was that the poor, the Widow, and the fatherless got no redress." "No people had statutes and judgments so righteous as they had, and yet corrupt judges found ways 'to turn aside the needy from judgment,' to hinder them from coming at their right and recovering what was their due, because they were needy and poor, and such as they could get nothing by nor expect any bribes from." "There is no surer sign of the misery of a people than is found in the corrupt administration of justice." And it may be added that a country is on the borders of revolution, or of calamity, when righteousness has forsaken its judgment-seats, and there are no avengers of social wrongs.
I. THE STATE OF SOCIETY IN WHICH THE POOR FIND NO HELP IN MAN. Two cases are suggested.
1. Failure to obtain just judgment.
2. The painful condition of widows.
Where there is wealth and luxury there is sure to be poverty in marked and terrible features close beside it, as may be illustrated from the great and rich European cities of our day. Wealth has a tendency to go in the direction of classes; it drains away from some classes, and so alienates and embitters them, especially as the result of self indulgence is to harden a man's heart against his neighbor. The condition of widows in the East is an extremely painful one, because they have no rights in their husband's property, no social status, and are the prey of designing and wicked men. The retired life they lead unfits them for contending on behalf of their own rights, or those of their children. The picture of a national life in which the wronged have no judge, the poor no helpers, and the widows no friends, is an exceedingly painful one. Self-seeking, luxury, and class prejudice must have catch the heart out of such a kingdom.
II. IN SUCH A STATE OF SOCIETY THE POOR HAVE HELP IN GOD. This may be illustrated along the following lines. God will help them by:
1. The working of his judgment-laws. In Greece despised helots multiply, and become at last a destructive force, for a time breaking up society. Slaves learn at last to combine, and take their own avengements on their persecutors. Down-trodden races heave awhile, like slumbering earthquakes, and presently burst forth in revolutions that are, in reality, Divine judgments.
2. By the orderings of Divine providence, which bring the nation into such a condition that reformation of its wrongs becomes immediately necessary to secure its continued existence.
3. By the raising up of human helpers. Men who plead the cause of the poor, and make their voice and their condition to be heard even in the high places of a land. At once thought turns to such men as Wilberforce, the friend of the slave, and Howard, the friend of the prisoner.
4. By special Divine consolations. The poor have their ameliorations, and even their superior advantages; and not the least of them is this - they have little prejudice hindering the reception of Divine truth. To "the poor the gospel is preached," and in every age it is found true that "the common people heard Christ," and hear of Christ, "gladly." - R.T.
And what will ye do in the day of visitation?
1. Sometimes His visitation is intended to afford deliverance and consolation to the oppressed, by extricating them from servitude and misery, and introducing them into a happy and comfortable condition. In this sense the Lord is said to have visited His people Israel, when He delivered them from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 4:31); and to have visited and redeemed His people when He bestowed upon them the greatest mercy (Luke 1:68).
2. Sometimes it is designed to manifest His tender care and constant inspection of His people, over whom He exerciseth the most vigilant attention, that He may effectually promote their best interests (Psalm 89:32). Such times are indeed days of visitation, wherein God sensibly draws near with the proofs of His kindness and favour, which He most undeservedly confers; and in which He appears with His rod of correction, that He may administer necessary chastisements, and restore those who had forsaken His laws from their wanderings.
3. At other times, God visits those who have not profited by the many warnings they have received, nor repented of the sins they have committed, notwithstanding the repeated corrections that He hath administered, to execute upon them desolating judgments and terrible vengeance (Jeremiah 5:9). In this last sense, I suppose, the day of visitation is here meant.
Essex Remembrancer.So far from God having abandoned the world, He is continually calling it to account. Not only has He fixed in His eternal mind a period of final visitation, but days of visitation are repeatedly coming. And who knows how many may come to us?
I. THE SOLEMN PERIOD SPOKEN OF. God is said to "visit" men when He comes to them, or reveals Himself, either in mercy or judgment. Christ Himself calls the days of His ministry among the Jews the day of their visitation — their Gospel day of mercy. But the term, as used in our text, is to be understood in the contrary sense, to denote a period of judgment. There are several periods which are days of Divine visitation.
1. The day of trouble.
2. The day of affliction.
3. The day of death.
4. The day of judgment.
II. THE SOUL-AWAKENING APPEAL MADE. 'What will ye do? To whom will ye flee for help?" This language implies that something has need to be done — that help will be required. Self-sufficient as we may wish to think ourselves when all is bright, whenever either of the days of Divine visitation comes, we shall find that "help" will be needed in order to stand the trial well. If so, what will you do?
1. What in the day of trouble? Many are then overwhelmed thereby; in these circumstances many die in despair, fade away in melancholy, or lay violent hands on themselves. When every draught of life's cup is the very gall of bitterness, where will ye go for sweetness?
2. Should afflictive visitations come on, what then will ye do? You may flee to the physician, but he can do no more than the God means may permit him.
3. And then, when the day of dissolution, that awful day of "visitation" comes, what will ye do? Will you send for your minister to pray for you? But what avail his prayers, if your do not pray for yourself?
4. And when the last great day — that day of all days — comes, oh, what then shall we do? And where shall we flee for help? Now, bring all this to a point.(1) Settle it in your minds that days of visitation will come.(2) How necessary, now in the time of our merciful visitation of Gospel offers and encouragements, to make the Almighty God our friend by faith in Christ.(3) If we do not, must we not expect to be abandoned and left to everlasting ruin, without help or hope?
I. Let us notice TWO OR THREE PARTICULARS CONTAINED IN THE TEXT, before we pursue the principal inquiry.
1. The persons originally addressed were the children of Israel, a rebellious people; but the words are applicable to sinners of every description.
2. For the people of Israel "a day of visitation" was appointed, and the same may be said of us. There are days Of visitation to individuals as well as to whole nations.
II. PURSUE THE PRINCIPAL INQUIRY: "What will ye do?" etc.
1. Will you plead and expostulate with God? At a throne of grace the sinner may indeed plead with God, but what arguments will avail at the tribunal of His justice?
2. Will you attempt to resist Him!
3. Will you fly from Him! Whither?
4. Will you harden yourselves against Him; and seeing you cannot escape punishment, endeavour to support yourselves under it as well as you can; saying, with impenitent Israel, "Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it"? (Jeremiah 10:19). "Who can stand before His indignation?" (Joel 2:11; Nahum 1:2-6).
5. Will you cast yourselves at His feet, and adopt the humble and submissive language of David: "If He say, I have no delight in thee, here am I; let Him do to me as seemeth good in His sight"? This certainly would be highly proper, before the decree is gone forth, and such humiliation would be accepted; but it cannot be done afterwards, or if done, it would not avail Propose then to yourselves another question: What shall I do before this day of visitation come, that I may avoid the tremendous consequences?
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
II. IT IS OF THE GREATEST IMPORTANCE TO BE PREPARED FOR THIS DAY.
1. Because your happiness, when the day of visitation comes, will depend upon it.
2. It will be positive misery to be unprepared.
3. You have an invaluable treasure in peril.
4. If you come to judgment unprepared it will be too late forever.
III. GOD IN HIS MERCY PRESSES THIS SOLEMN QUESTION UPON OUR SERIOUS AND DEVOUT CONSIDERATION.
1. It appears clear that God does sincerely desire the happiness of all men.
2. His thus pressing this solemn thought upon men's consideration shows that they are unwilling to obey God.
3. Man's want of happiness is entirely with himself and not with God.
(N. M. Harry.)
Where will ye leave your glory?
I. Where will ye LEAVE your glory? It is, then, after all, not really united to the man. He expends the ardour of his soul to combine it with his being — to make it his very substance — but it is extraneous still! He may have to go where it will not accompany him.
II. And WHERE will they leave their glory? Where, that it can in any sense continue to be theirs — theirs, for any beneficial or gratifying effect to them? What will it be to them how it falls to other mortals? Nothing is more mournful than parting with what is passionately loved, under a perfect certainty of possessing it no more.
III. As the concluding part of these meditations, let us briefly APPLY THEM TO SEVERAL OF THE FORMS OF THIS WORLD'S GLORY. There is presented a Christian, a heavenly, an eternal glory. When the lovers of glory are invited to this, and scorn it, and reject it, what is it that they take?
1. The most common form of the idolised thing is — what may be called the material splendour of life; that which immediately strikes the senses. But they must leave their glory.
2. It is, in part, a different and additional form of the world's glory, when we mention elevated rank in society. All know how vehemently coveted and envied is this glory, — how elated, for the most part, the possessors of it feel. But the thought of leaving it! With what a grim and ghostly aspect this thought must appear, when it will sometimes intrude!
3. The possession of power is perhaps the idol supreme; to have at control, and in complete subjection, the action and the condition of numbers of mankind; to see the crowd, whether in heart obsequious or rebellious, practically awed, submissive, obedient. But it is not that voice that is long to command!
4. We might have named martial glory, — the object of the most ardent aspiration, and of the most pernicious idolatry. There is often an utter delusion in this expectation.
5. In the last place might be named intellectual glory, — that of knowledge, talent, and great mental performance. If, in that passion for renown, you have exerted great powers of mind to do fatal mischief — to overwhelm truth — to corrupt the morals — to explode religion — to degrade the glory of the Redeemer — what then? If you can, in that world, have any vital sympathy with your fame, your influence remaining in this, the consequence would but be a quick continual succession of direful shocks, conveyed to your living spirit from what your works are doing here. Contrast with all them forms of folly, the predominant aim of a Christian — which is "glory" still; but a glory which he will not have to leave; a glory accumulating for him in the world to which he is going.
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