Yet gleanings will remain, like an olive tree that has been beaten--two or three berries atop the tree, four or five on its fruitful branches," declares the LORD, the God of Israel.
Figuratively here is called to mind the fact that God's dealings are never wholly destructive; they never utterly desolate; there is always a mitigation, always a spared remnant. The figure used, of the few olive berries left for the gleaner, is a very striking one, if the customs of the olive-growing countries is understood. In Thomson's 'Land and the Book' there is a full description. "Early in autumn the berries begin to drop off of themselves, or are shaken off by the wind. They are allowed to remain under the trees for some time, guarded by the watchman of the town's very familiar Bible character. Presently public proclamations are made that the owners may gather the fruit. And in November comes the general and final summons. No olives are now safe unless the owner looks after them, for the watchmen are removed, and the orchards are alive with men, women, and children. It is a merry time, and the laugh and the song echo far and wide. Everywhere the people are in the trees,' shaking' them with all their might, to bring down the fruit. The effort is to make a clear sweep of all the crop; but in spite of shaking and beating, there is always a gleaning left - 'two or three berries in the top of the uttermost boughs, four or five in the outermost fruitful branches.' These are afterwards gleaned up by the very poor, who have no trees of their own." Matthew. Henry well expresses the thought to which this figure directs us: "Mercy is here reserved, in a parenthesis, in the midst of judgment, for a remnant that should escape the common ruin of the kingdom of the ten tribes. Though the Assyrians took all the care they could that none should slip out of their net, yet the meek of the earth were hidden in the day of the Lord's anger, and had their lives given them for a prey, and made comfortable to them by their retirement to the land of Judah, where they had the liberty of God's courts." God's remnants are illustrated in the Flood; fate of Sodom; Captivity; Elijah's time; and siege by the Romans of Jerusalem. Always there has been "a remnant according to the election of grace." This remnant has shown in every age that God's judgments are never -
I. VINDICTIVE. They are always, and for every one -
II. DISCIPLINARY. And they are so mitigated as -
III. NEVER TO CRUSH OUT HOPE FOR THE FUTURE. - R.T.
Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it.
The prophet is here predicting a season of national calamity. He represents the condition of the people under the figure of an autumnal scene. Armed hosts from the north have invaded the country like a sharp wind. The substance of its inhabitants has been carried away before their rapacity, "as when the harvest man gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm." With this difference, however, that it has been destroyed by the violence of strangers, instead of being garnered for the use of those who had tilled the soil; and the sickle is the sword. The population is thinned, like the trees in the waning part of the year. Only that the wrath of man, unlike the severity of nature, has no benevolent purpose in it. The comforts and blessings of life are shaken down as faded leaves. Only it is without any sign from experience, that they shall be replaced by a new spring. A desolated prospect rises before his sight. "Two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough; four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof." The Word of the Lord was a "burden" in those days, and he felt its weight upon his own heart as he held it over the heads of his people. He comforted himself at least with the thought that the visitation itself, if not his warning, would bring them to a more faithful mind (vers. 7, 8). There lies in the text, apart from its historical reference, this general truth, — that circumstances of decline and destitution are suited to wean the heart from its vanities. In the day of adversity men "consider." And when time and fortune have made the enjoyments of the world fewer, and thrown a longer shadow and a paler tint upon those that remain, the soul naturally remembers its truer and more enduring portions.
1. With some the change relates to their worldly goods and the general prosperity of their affairs.
2. A second class of diminutions concerns the bodily ease and health.
3. The third instance of diminutions to which our attention is called, is found in the encroachments of age.
4. One more instance of destitution is when companions and friends drop off like the foliage of summer, and we are more and more frequently bereft.
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