This is an oracle concerning the animals of the Negev: Through a land of hardship and distress, of lioness and lion, of viper and flying serpent, they carry their wealth on the backs of donkeys and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people of no profit to them.
Relying upon human aid, involving a distrust of the Divine promises, was a crying sin of the ancient Church, not at one time only, but throughout her history. It is quite as truly the crying sin of the modern Church, and of the Christian individual. In every time of pressure and need we first fly to some form of human help. It is either the expression of "first simplicity," or else of "cultured sanctity," to act on the words, "Our help is in the Lord our God."
I. THE DELUSIONS ON WHICH OUR TRUSTING OTHERS REST. Some of these take shape, and we can recognize them. Others lie down in men's souls, doing their mischievous work, but never getting put into propositions, which can be fairly dealt with. They are such as the following:
1. God is far away, and his help is not anything really practical.
2. God does not heed; he is so largely concerned in the great affairs of the universe that it is only an imagination that he can take interest in an individual life.
3. God is so long about his work; and impatient man cannot bear waiting - if he is in any trouble, he wants it dealt with at once. Compare the King of Israel, in the famine-time, saying pettishly to Elisha, "What should I wait for the Lord any longer?"
4. God makes such hard terms. He always wants repentance and submission, and letting our own hands hang down; he crushes human energy and enterprise. The very statement of these cherished delusions of men suggests their correctives. Surely to all who cherish them the great Father is an unknown God.
II. THE FORMS WHICH OUR TRUSTING OTHERS MAY TAKE. The Jewish nation leaned on the help of another nation in her extremity. We, in our individual life and experience, are in danger of some form of sacerdotalism; we pin our faith to some sect-leader, some scientific teacher, some admired statesman, some popular preacher, some assertive priest. Thousands of people find individual responsibility in religion too heavy a burden for them to bear, and do not grasp the truth that God is with them in the bearing, and that it is their dignity to stand under the yoke only with God. Sacerdotalism is just the "man-trust" which prophets denounce. In public life and association the tendency is to lean on, and worship material strength. We seek the help of riches for the carrying out of all our religions schemes. We fly to men rather than to God.
III. HISTORY AND EXPERIENCE ALIKE PROVE THE PRACTICAL FOLLY, AS WELL AS THE INGRATITUDE AND REBELLIOUSNESS, OF THUS FORSAKING GOD. Our trusts prove, like Egypt, only shebheth, inactive, do-nothings (see ver. 7). Egypt promised much, but failed utterly in the day of trial. - R.T.
I. The first doctrine that we have is — that THERE IS A HELL.
For Tophet is ordained of old.
(Buchanan Blake, B. D.)
(Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
1. Justice requires it. If a man sins, doth not justice require that he should be punished?
2. But more than this, doth not Divine benevolence require it? Would it be benevolent in any man to propose to take away our police, to pull down our gaols, to abolish our penal settlements, and to stop forever all imprisonment and punishments for sin? It might appear to be liberal and charitable, but the fate of the rest of the community would be so direful that verily we might say, "Build up the gaols once more! Let it be seen that sin cannot go unpunished here, and that the ruler beareth not the sword in vain!"
3. We ask, If there were no hell for the wicked, where are they to be put to? The answer is, "Why, let them all go to Heaven." But have you never heard me expose the absurdity of the idea of a wicked man being carried to Heaven as he is?
4. O sinner! why need I argue that "Tophet is ordained of old"? Is there not something within thyself which tells thee that there is such a place?
5. How is it that so many people in the world are always laughing at the idea of hell? I will tell you. The worse men are, the less they like hell. Scorning is sweet to the mouth, but it is bitter afterwards.
II. THE SIZE OF THIS PLACE. It is "deep and large." We do delight in the thought that Heaven is great and large; that there will be more saved than there will be lost. But this is a sad thought to us — that hell is "deep and large." Persons say that "if the heathen lives up to his light and knowledge, will he not be saved by the blood of Christ?" The heathen does not live up to his light and knowledge, and, therefore, it is an assumption that is not correct. Tophet is deep and large. There is room for you great sinners, room for you rich sinners, room for you proud, stiff-necked sinners, room for the whole mass of sinners, for though you should join in hand, yet shall not the wicked go unpunished.
III. THE FUEL OF IT. "The pile thereof is fire and much wood." The wicked are their own woodmen; they find their own fuel for their own flame.
IV. THE FLAME OF IT. "The breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it." What kind of breath will that be?
1. It will be His condemning breath. God on high will breathe out sentences of condemnation against the wicked perpetually.
2. His reproving breath. For He will be always saying, "Son, remember, remember such s time you heard a sermon; such a time you sinned; such a time your conscience smote you; such a time in your life you attended Sabbath school; such a time you cursed Me to My face; such a time you blasphemed My day; such a time you spoke ill of My servants; such a time you did this; such a time you did that."
3. The eternal life of God Himself shall kindle the flame breath of God shall keep the flame burning.
( C. H. Spurgeon.).
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