Jonah 2:8

1. Vanities. Vanities are vain things - things that deceive. Such are idols. All things are idols that men trust out of God. Jonah had his idol - it was his false love for his country. How many idols! - ambition, pride, strength, wealth, influence, self, self-will. And men observe them as gods. But they are all "lying." They deceive. Their promises fail. One only is "faithful who has promised" us happiness.

2. The consequence of observing these lying vanities. Men who observe them "forsake their own mercy." How much they leave! Mercy! It is to all; but not to all alike. "Their own." In turning to any idol, men forsake God, "whose property is always to have mercy." - G.T.C.

They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
Here we learn the value to attach to all superstitions, to all those opinions of men, when they attempt to set up religion according to their own will; for Jonah calls them lying or fallacious vanities. There is, then, but one true religion, the religion which God has taught us in His Word. Men in vain weary themselves when they follow their own inventions, — for the more strenuously they run, the farther they recede from the right way, as has well observed. But Jonah here adopts a higher principle, — that God alone possesses in Himself all fulness of blessings; whosoever, then, truly and sincerely seeks God, will find in Him whatever can be wished for salvation. God is not to be sought but by obedience and faith; whosoever, then, dare to give themselves loose reins, so as to follow this or that without the warrant of God's Word, recede from God, and at the same time deprive themselves of all good things. The superstitious do indeed think that they gain much when they toil in their own inventions; but we see what the Holy Spirit declares by the mouth of Jonah. The Lord says by Jeremiah, "They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and cisterns have they digged for themselves." (Jeremiah 2:13). There the Lord complains of His chosen people, who had gone astray after wicked superstitions. Hence when men wander beyond the Word of God, they in a manner renounce God, or say adieu to Him, and thus they deprive themselves of all good things; for without God there is no salvation, and no help to be found.

( John Calvin.)

I. THE FOOLISH PRACTICE OF OBSERVING LYING VANITIES. Lying vanities may comprehend all kinds of sin whereby men are deceived and led away from the paths of truth and righteousness into error and iniquity. The Hebrew words express the deceitful nature of the vanities here intended. That which is rendered vanity signifies falsehood, rashness, or deceit. That translated lying denotes light, trivial, or airy.

1. Those who follow the delusive practice of sin. Sinful objects and pursuits are all unprofitable and vain, and can never do us any real good. Those who worship and serve strange gods, or pretend to serve the living God in any other way than He hath appointed, follow after lying vanities. By sinful practices you may increase in riches, but your profit will not countervail your loss. By sinning against God you can have no real, lasting advantage.

2. Those who greedily pursue the deceitful enjoyments of this world. The most valued worldly enjoyments cannot so much as alleviate personal distress; how, then, shall they deliver out of spiritual trouble? Need not vilify the things of this world. We speak of present enjoyments, separate from the love and favour of God, when the heart is supremely fixed upon them, and chiefly solicitous to acquire and preserve them. To those who choose them for their portion they prove lying vanities.

3. Those who entertain vain hopes of salvation upon insufficient grounds. We need not speak in disparagement of good works; but they must not be the foundation of our hope. They are the blessed fruits of redemption and renovation,

4. Those who leave the paths of righteousness to walk in their own devices. There are various ways by which men come under this description. Sometimes laying aside a sense of the Divine presence and authority, men impose upon themselves by the most foolish pretexts. Sometimes men desert from their duty on account of the difficulties with which the discharge of it may be attended. Some neglect their duty through wrong apprehensions of Divine dispensations.

II. THE PERNICIOUS TENDENCY OF SUCH CONDUCT. They "forsake their own mercy." The words suppose that the tender mercy of Jehovah is communicated to sinners of mankind in various ways, suited to relieve their necessities; and that to this abundant mercy which they obtain from God they may acquire such a covenant right and title, through the Lord Jesus Christ, by closely adhering to God and their duty, as that it may be considered as their own privilege and portion. What mercy, what spiritual benefit or comfort, can a man enjoy in sinning against God, whereby he dishonours his Maker, wounds his own conscience, and destroys his own soul? Nothing is to be acquired by sinful practices that is worth the having. Application. Every one should be deeply humbled in the sight of God, on account of our having followed lying vanities and forsaken our own mercy. A little serious reflection may furnish each of us with many instances of this sort, with which we justly stand chargeable. How many erroneous doctrines and false principles are propagated and supported among us! How many deceitful, ensnaring practices are indulged and followed among us!

(W. M'Culloch.)

It is not enough to show that Christ's claims are not opposed to our interests, and that therefore we do not sacrifice our true well-being when we submit ourselves to Him; we must further show that Christ definitely proposes to advance our present as well as our future interests, and that these cannot be otherwise safely assured; and hence that we sacrifice our personal interests, and sin against our true well-being when we turn our backs on Him. The prophet only expresses what we may all, if we will, see for our selves. Even in this world the suffering and misery that men bring upon them selves by their own conduct far exceeds all that they would otherwise be called upon to endure. How much of all our sufferings springs directly or indirectly from sin! And all this we might escape if only we yielded ourselves to God instead of flying away from Him. And such suffering is the cruellest of all, because we have to reproach ourselves for it, and because of the painful memories it leaves behind. And we must not dwell only upon the actual miseries that we entail upon ourselves, but also upon the comfort and consolation which we deny our selves amidst the trials which are the common lot of all. "Our own mercy." Think of what that means. No petition is more common on human lips than the cry for mercy. We feel that we need mercy. Surely man is not only nature's greatest work; but also nature's greatest victim, unless there be mercy within our reach, mercy from some Grander Power than nature, who can feel for us. And the great Father is rich in mercy. He brings within our reach such a provision of mercy as He sees to be perfectly adapted to our complex needs, and represents it to us in the Gospel of His Son. It is this provision that men turn their backs upon when they turn their backs on Christ. Verily, it is true, "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy." How comes it to pass that men are so blind to their own interests? Why do men forsake their own mercies? A certain class of persons is here dealt with those who "observe lying vanities." Satan wins influence over men, and maintains and extends it, by falsehood. And falsehood is a power. The process of blinding is carried on by the great deceiver in such a manner as to induce a false and misleading estimate of the relative value of things, and even of their relations to our happiness and well-being. The objects which Satan exhibits to man's imagination through a distorted and deceptive medium are described here as "lying vanities." The phrase suggests specious falsehood, and pretentious inanity. Illustrate by the desert mirage. Who has not at one time or another been bewildered and misled by the vast mirage of life? When we yield ourselves to the great deceiver we become his helpless dupes. "Observe" signifies diligent watching, — the giving up of our mind and attention to a specific object. Compare the sentence, "Who mind earthly things." All earthly things, viewed apart from their connection with things eternal, are in themselves vanities, — they leave the heart still unsatisfied. When we attempt to find our portion in these things of this world they become not only vanities, but lying vanities, — promising to do what they never can do, and ever leading their votaries, as on a fool's errand, in quest of that which they are foredoomed never to discover. When once ,man has surrendered his sense to the solicitations of the flesh, you can almost predict with certainty how he will act under certain circumstances. We have but little freedom left when once we have begun to observe — to give our minds to — lying vanities. Our freedom consists rather in our power to decide whether of the two classes of objects we will observe, whether we will yield our hearts to the Spirit of truth, who reveals to us the things that are above — the things of God; or whether we will yield our hearts to the spirit .of lies, who spreads out before us earthly things, and endeavours to invest them in our eyes with fictitious qualities and characteristics.

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

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