For before the harvest, when the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, He will cut off the shoots with a pruning knife, and remove and discard the branches.
work, putting in his implements, and proving himself to be a Deliverer and a Judge. God's working here referred to is doubtless the sudden, unexpected, and complete overthrow of the Assyrian army under Sennacherib, which came at the time when it would prove absolutely overwhelming, and perfectly effective as a deliverance. Matthew Henry states the case in this way: "When the Assyrian army promises itself a plentiful harvest in the taking of Jerusalem and the plundering of that rich city, when the bud of that project is perfect, before the harvest is gathered in, while the sour grape of their enmity to Hezekiah and his people is ripening in the flower, and the design is just ready to be put into execution, God shall destroy that army as easily as the husbandman cuts off the vine with pruning-hooks, or because the grape is sour and good for nothing, and will not be cured, takes away and cuts down the branches. This seems to point at the overthrow of the Assyrian army by a destroying angel, when the dead bodies of the soldiers were scattered like the branches and sprigs of a wild vine, which the husbandman has cut to pieces."
I. GOD'S WORKING IS WELL-TIMED. This is the point made specially prominent here. What was needed, for the due impression of Judah and the surrounding nations, was some startling deliverance; something that should be at once complete, and yet should be manifestly beyond man's accomplishing. Such a working must be exactly timed. When the success of Assyria seemed assured, when its prey seemed within its grasp, and when men's hearts were failing them for fear, - just then the wild hot Simoom blast swept over the army, and as in a moment there were heaps of dead men, and few escaped to tell the awful story. For the timeliness of God's judgment-workings find illustration in the Flood, the destruction of Sodom, the extirpation of the Canaanites, the captivities, and the final siege of Jerusalem.
II. GOD'S WORKING IS FULL OF ENERGY. Ever setting before us the example of thoroughness in the doing of whatever work has to be done. This is in great part the reason why, in making Israel his executioner, God required Israel to treat everything belonging to the Canaanites as accursed, and doomed to destruction. It was, for the first ages, a Divine lesson in thoroughness, energy, and promptitude. God never works with a slack hand, and his servants must not.
III. GOD'S WORKING IS ALWAYS EFFECTIVE TO ITS END. And that, not because it is almighty working, so much as because it is all-wise working. Power is quite a secondary thing to adaptation. A thing fitted to its end will accomplish it, and it will be accomplished better through the fitness than by any displays of power. The end here designed was an adequate impression of the sole and sovereign rights of Jehovah, and a loud call to the nations to put their trust in him. The overthrow of a mighty army, in the fullness of its pride, by purely natural - which are purely Divine - forces, was exactly adapted to secure this end. Illustrate by the moral impression produced by great and destructive earthquakes. When the end of God's working is the persuasion of his fatherly love, then we find his means marvelously adapted and effective. "He gave his Son, his only begotten Son." And herein we say is love, "not that we loved God, but that lie loved us, and sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins." Be it work of judgment or work of mercy, of this we may be quite sure - God accomplishes that which he pleases, and his work prospers in that to which he sends it. - R.T.
For so the Lord said unto me, I will take My rest.
I. How often has the sincere Christian mourned in bitterness of spirit, BECAUSE NO IMMEDIATE ANSWER SEEMED GIVEN TO HIS PRAYERS. In such circumstances, the assurance that providence is only taking its rest and considering, is in the highest degree consolatory. It is not in judgment, but in tender mercy, that God apparently suspends His answer to His people's prayers. Thus does He exercise their faith, and the trial of it is more precious than gold. Thus does He convince them of their needs, and the conviction leads them to greater self-abandonment. Thus does He call forth in them the feeling of Christian sympathy for those who are similarly tried, and this is better for them than heart's desire. Thus does He give unto them those experiences which, it is not improbable, may contribute to their felicity in heaven itself.
II. A second example of providence taking its rest, is to be seen in THE COMPARATIVELY SLOW AND LIMITED PROGRESS WHICH THE BLESSED GOSPEL OF CHRIST HAS YET MADE IN THE WORLD. The march of His administration is not the less sublime, because it is occasionally invisible.
III. Providence takes its rest WHEN SENTENCE AGAINST THE EVIL WORKS OF MEN IS NOT EXECUTED SPEEDILY. When the mystery of God is finished, His ways will appear at once marvellous and right. This "rest of providence" is beautifully illustrated by similitudes taken from nature — "a clear heat upon herbs, and a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest." You have observed, on a fine summer day, the sunshine resting calmly on the cornfield, or the dew covering the plants at eventide. All is peaceful and serene. It seems as if the winds had forgotten to blow, or the thunder to utter its voice. Thus calmly and silently does the Almighty "rest in His dwelling place," till the time comes for interposition. The patience of God is a demonstration of His power, and His slowness to wrath a testimony to His infinite wisdom. The metaphor in ver. 5 is to be regarded as a continuation of the preceding one, and may be understood as intimating the utter disappointment of those plans which wicked men form against God, and which He so forbearingly allows them to mature. "Afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, He shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches." The meaning is, that at the very moment when the likelihood is, humanly speaking, greatest, that their projects shall be successful, He will awake to overturn them. Conclusion —
1. The passage under consideration, while it ought to alarm the enemies, may well enough bring comfort to the people of God. Let them look up for their redemption draweth nigh.
2. On the other hand, let not the impenitent flatter themselves into security because their Lord delayeth His coming.
(J. L. Adamson.)
(A. B. Davidson.)
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)I. THE DWELLING PLACE OF GOD AND HIS REPOSE. Let me ask where the queen rests in her love: You must pass and press beyond the regalia, beyond the throne-room, beyond the council, beyond the levee, there in the family, amidst her children, in a charmed family circle, — there she rests in love. And has not God such a circle, such a dwelling place, and home? "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him." God has revealed to us this great thing, that He, too, lives in the sympathies and affections of His intelligent creatures. God's Church is His dwelling place. God descends to dwell in us, as we ascend to dwell in Him. I have been struck with a thought like this, when I have been on some quiet village hill, or in the deeps of some country forest, when, beneath me, or away from me, all the villagers were in the booths of some fair. I saw it, perhaps, at my feet, or heard the sounds dying away on my ear. So it is, as we rise to rest in God. At our feet the uproar the vice — the vanity — of the Babel booths — the dissoluteness and the song, — but with us deep peace, and quiet, and the rest of heart and soul, and the prospect of the glory and the vistas beyond; it is even so, as the world lies beneath us, and above us spreads the calm — when the soul possesses God, and God sinks into the soul — what does the soul look out upon: what does the soul look down upon? what does the soul look in upon: the soul one with God.
II. "I WILL CONSIDER." "So the Lord said unto me, I will take My rest." Exceedingly sublime are all those magnificent passages in which the calm of the Divine mind is contrasted with the passion and the agitation of human affairs. This is the connection of the preceding verses (chap. 17:12, 13). It is amidst that turbulence of the oceans of the population that God says, "I will take My rest, and consider."
III. THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF DIVINE CONSIDERATION, the loving and beautiful result.
(E. Paxton Hood.)Amos 3:15); but they that are at home with God have both in Him.
( M. Henry.)
When the bud is perfect.
I. BEAUTY. Among the many kinds of beauty nature gives us, three are very noticeable —
1. Beauty of form.
2. Beauty of colour.
3. Beauty of scent. And to these man has added —
4. Beauty of association.
1. Food. In the economy of nature flowers are useful as food for insect and bird and man. Groundsel for the birds of the air! The honeysuckle really belongs to, and is the early home of, a green moth, brown round the edges, with transparent wings. It also belongs to a caterpillar, which afterwards becomes a brown and white and dull blue butterfly. And so list after list might be given of flowers upon which the insect world feeds, and by which it is nourished. Again, it is from flowers that the bees collect the honey! Thus the flowers may be said literally to feed man.
3. Fruit. Flowering is a stage on the way to fruit. What Christian graces will you have to show when the time of the ingathering comes:
III. DESIGN. Nature works on a plan. Who made the plan, the design? There cannot be a plan without someone to plan; nor a design without a designer. The Christian looks from nature to nature's God.
(C. H. Grundy, M. A.).
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