You welcome those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways. Surely You were angry, for we sinned. How can we be saved if we remain in our sins?
I. THE CONFESSION. "Woe are we, for we are unclean!" Like the leper, dwelling alone without the camp (Leviticus 13:44-46), so is the people; as he is cut off from the society of men, so they from the converse of God; or as something ceremonially polluted and defiled (Leviticus 5:2; Deuteronomy 14:19), or morally defiled (Job 14:4). The language carries a feeling of intense abhorrence. Under another figure, their penal offences have "carried them away like the wind," whither Jehovah is not; and they are as the leaves fallen and faded, from which all beauty has disappeared. In this degeneracy the very conscience and the religions instinct is dead, or in a state of lethargy. "How aptly is the state of a sinful world described! How indisposed to rouse itself to call upon God!" No man rises to God without an effort; and unless men make an effort for this, they fall into the stupidity of sin as certainly as a drowsy man sinks back into deep sleep. So nerveless are they, they cannot "stir themselves" to take hold on God. He, on the other hand, seems to have hidden his face from them, and to have given them over into the hand of their sins - if this be the true rendering. Their iniquities tyrannize over them; they pine in them, and moral life seems, under such conditions, hopeless.
II. THE PLEA OF THE CHURCH.
1. She reminds him of the fatherly relation. This includes creative energy and providential will. He has made them and moulded them, as clay is moulded by the potter. He, therefore, must restore them, and he alone; for they are wholly in his hand, and under his control. "The whole verse is an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God. It expresses the feeling which all have under the conviction of sin, when sensible that they are exposed to the Divine displeasure for their transgressions. Then they feel, if they are to be saved, it must be by the mere sovereignty of God; and they implore his interposition to 'mould and guide them at his will.' Only when sinners have this feeling do they hope for relief; and then they feel that if they are lost, it will be right; if saved, it will be because God moulds them as the potter does the clay."
2. She reminds him of other motives for his interference. His holy cities have become waste, the holy and splendid house of Jehovah reduced to ruins, with all its precious objects. The land and the temple were alike dedicated, consecrated to God, hallowed also by the memory of ancestral piety. And what attachment stronger than that to places of worship where our forefathers engaged in the service of God? "It would be difficult to find any passage in the Bible, or out of it, to equal this in pathos. Here was an exiled people, long suffering in a distant land, with the reflection that their homes were in ruins, their splendid temple long since fired and lying in ruins, the rank grass growing in their streets, their country overrun by beasts and with a rank vegetation. To that land they sighed to return; and here, with the deepest emotion, they plead with God on behalf of their desolate country. We should go to God with deep emotion when his Church is prostrate, and then is the time when we should use the most tender pleadings, and our heart should be melted within us." We are reminded also of the lesson of childlikeness in prayer. Why should we ever be ashamed of the child-heart and the child's utterance, "crying in the night, and with no language but a cry"? "Wilt thou hold thy peace?" If there is any meaning in the names "Father" and "child" in religion, then such language is natural, reverent, justifiable; and the energy of the soul from which it springs is prevailing with the All-powerful and the All-merciful. "Here is a model of affectionate and earnest entreaty for Divine interposition in the day of calamity. Thus may all God's people learn to approach him as a Father, and feel that they have the inestimable privilege, in times of trial, of making known their wants to the Most High. Thus pleading, he will hear us; thus presenting our cause, he will interpose to save us." - J.
Thou meetest him that rejoiceth.
Homilist.I. THE GODLY MAN'S CONDUCT.
1. He worketh righteousness. He does not confine himself to any department of action, it may be manual, commercial, literary, scientific, professional; but in all he "worketh righteousness." He is right in all; rectitude, and not expediency, is his law.
2. He is happy in his work. He "rejoiceth and worketh." A man that worketh righteousness is sure to be happy; his affections will be harmonious, his conscience will smile on him, his God will bless him. There is no happiness, "but in work; and there is no happiness in work that is not the work of Thy ways." God has His ways and His methods of action, and they are manifold. He remembers God in His ways in nature, in the government of man, in the dispensations of redeeming grace.
II. THE GODLY MAN'S COMPANION. "Thou (i.e. God) meetest him that rejoiceth." Such men have meetings with God.
1. Conscious meetings. All men meet with God, but they, are unconscious of it. The good man knows it; he can say, "God is in this place.
2. Loving meetings. He meets him as the father met the prodigal son on his return, overflowing with love and joy.
3. Preparatory meetings. He meets them to prepare them for a meeting with Him that shall be uninterupted, beatific, and eternal. Conclusion: What a noble life is the life of godliness! Godliness is "profitable unto all things, etc.
I. WE HAVE TO BEGIN WITH THE LAST CLAUSE OF OUR TEXT. "Thou meetest him... that remembers Thee in Thy ways." The first stage on the road which will bring any man into, and keep any man in, contact with God, and loving fellowship- with Him, is the contemplation of His character, as it is made known to us by His acts. God, like man, is known by His "fruits." You cannot get at a clear conception of God by speculation, or by thinking about Him or about what He is in Himself. Lay hold of the clue of His acts, and it leads you straight into His heart. But the act of acts, in which the whole Godhead concurs, in which all its depths and preciousness are concentrated, like wine in a golden cup, is the incarnation and life and death of Jesus Christ our Lord. But note that word "Remember," for it suggests the warning that such contemplation of the ways of the Lord will not be realized by us without effort. There are so many things within us to draw us away; the duties and joys and sorrows of life so insist upon having a place in our hearts and thoughts, that assuredly, unless by resolute effort, frequently repeated, we clear a space in this crowded and chattering marketplace of life, where we can stand and gaze on the white summits far beyond the bustling crowd, we shall never see them, though they are visible from every place. Unless you try to remember, you will certainly forget.
II. THE SECOND FLIGHT OF THIS GREAT STAIRCASE IS POINTED OUT IN THE FIRST CLAUSE OF MY TEXT, "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth." That meditative remembrance of the ways of God will be the parent of holy joy which will bring God near to our heart. Alas, it is too often the very opposite of true that men's joys are such as to bring God to them. The excitement and often the impure elements that mingle with what the world calls "joy" are such as to shut Him out from us. But there is a gladness which comes from the contemplation of Him as He is, and as He is known by His "ways" to be, which brings us very near to God, and God very near to us. I think that we have largely lost the very thought that gladness is a plain Christian duty, to be striven after in the appropriate manner which my text suggests, and certainly to be secured if we seek it in the right way.
III. THE THIRD STAGE IS WORKING RIGHTEOUSNESS BECAUSE OF SUCH JOY. "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth, and" — because he does — "worketh righteousness." Every master knows how much more work can be got out of a servant that works with a cheery heart than out of one that is driven reluctantly to his task. You remember our Lord's parable where He traces idleness to fear: "I knew thee that thou wast an austere man, gathering where thou didst not strew, and I was afraid, and I went and hid thy talent." No work was got out of that servant because "there was no joy in him. The opposite state of mind — diligence in righteous work, inspired by gladness which in its turn is inspired by the remembrance of God's ways — is the mark of a true servant of God. And the gladness which is wholesome and blessed, and is "joy in the Lord, will manifest itself by efflorescing into all holiness and all loftiness and largeness of obedience.
IV. WE HAVE THE LANDING-PLACE TO WHICH THE STAIR LEADS. God comes to such a man. He meets him indeed at all the stages, for there is a blessed communion with God that springs immediately from remembering Him in His ways, and a still more blessed one that springs from rejoicing in His felt friendship and Fatherhood, and a yet more blessed one that comes from practical righteousness. For if there is anything that breaks our communion with God, it is that there linger in our lives evils which make it impossible for God and us to come close together. Remember if there is the practice of evil there cannot be the sunshine of the presence of God. But remember, too, that the commonest, homeliest, smallest, most secular tasks may become the very highest steps of the staircase that brings us into His presence. Conclusion: There are two kinds of meeting God. "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness," and that is blessed, as when Christ met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. There is another kind of meeting with God. "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness," and that is blessed, as when Christ met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. There is another kind of meeting with God. "Who, making war, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Behold, Thou art wroth.Isaiah 57:17; Isaiah 63:17; Koran, 27:4).
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)Behold, Thou, Thou wast entered, and we stood as sinners; already we have long been in this state; and shall we be saved?"
(F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
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