I will give you rains in their season, and the land will yield its produce, and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.
receive. There is so much of contrast as well as comparison between the blessings of the old and the new dispensations, that we must divide our subject into two parts.
I. THE INCENTIVES WHICH GOD HELD OUT TO HIS ANCIENT PEOPLE. These were importantly spiritual, but prominently temporal. If they did but "walk in his statutes, and keep his commandments, and do them" (verse 3), they might reckon on
(1) fertility in the field (verses 4, 5, 10);
(2) sense of security from without and disturbance from within (safety and peace, verses 5, 6);
(3) victory in war (verses 7, 8);
(4) national growth (verse 9);
(5) God's presence with them (verses 11, 12);
(6) his pleasure in them (verse 11); and
(7) his guarantee of their liberty and self-respect (verse 13).
II. THE PROMISES WHICH HE HAS MADE TO US. These are partly temporal, but principally spiritual. They include:
1. Sufficiency of worldly substance. God does not now say, "Serve me, and you shall be strong, wealthy, long-lived," but he does say, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God,... and all these things" (food, clothing, etc.) "shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). "Godliness has promise of the life that now is" (1 Timothy 4:8). Those who are his children in Christ Jesus may reckon upon all needful support from his bountiful hand.
2. Consciousness of spiritual integrity. As God made his people to be delivered from the yoke and to "go upright" (verse 13), so he makes those who have returned to him, and who have escaped from the yoke of sin, to "walk in uprightness of heart." Instead of shrinking in fear, bowing down with a depressing sense of wrong-doing, we have a happy consciousness of integrity of soul. We say with the psalmist, "As for me," etc. (Psalm 41:12).
3. Sense of reconciliation with God. God promises peace and a sense of safety (verses 5, 6) to those who seek his favour in Christ Jesus. Being justified by faith in him, we have peace with God; and we know that, whatever may be our circumstances, we are secure behind the shield of his almighty love.
4. Victory in the battle of life. If it be not wholly true that "our life is but a battle and a march," yet it is true that there is so much of spiritual struggle in it, from its beginning to its close, that we all understand only too well what is meant by "the battle of life." There are many foes with which to wrestle (Ephesians 6:12), and we need the invigorating power which only the Spirit of the Strong One can impart. If we are his, he will help us in the strife. "Our enemies will fall before us" (verse 7; see 2 Corinthians 2:14 and Romans 8:37).
5. His presence with us and his pleasure in us. "God will set his tabernacle among us;" he "will walk among us" (verses 11, 12). He will be "with us always," and his sustaining presence will uphold us in the darkest hour, in the most trying scene. "His soul will not abhor us" (verse 11); he will take Divine pleasure in us; we shall be his children, his guests, his friends, his heirs.
6. An everlasting heritage in him. He will be our God (verse 12). The sacred page does not speak of any duration; but that which is adumbrated in the Old Testament is revealed in the New. Jesus Christ has brought life and immortality out into the light, and we know that "him that overcometh will the Son of man make a pillar in the temple of his God, and he shall go no more out," etc. (Revelation 3:12), and that "to him that overcometh will he grant to sit with him on his throne," etc. (Revelation 3:21). The present and the future, the best of the one and the whole of the other, are the heritage of those who "know the will of God and do it." Surely it is the choice of the wise to "make haste and delay not to keep his commandments." - C.
If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them.I. WHEREIN A NATION'S RELIGIOUS LIFE CONSISTS. The recognised presence of God in the midst of the people (vers. 11, 12) may be realised —
1. In sanctuaries consecrated to Divine worship throughout the land, and in assembled congregations gathering to adore Him (ver. 2).
2. In sacred literature diffusing religious knowledge among the people.
3. In benevolent and elevating institutions diffusing Christianity in its practical forms.
4. In educational agencies for the training of children early in moral and religious truth.
5. In homes and family life sweetened by the influence of piety.
6. In a legislature ruled by the fear of God and observant of Scripture precepts.
7. In wealth, gathered righteously, being expended for evangelical and Christian ends.
8. In the happy relationship of all social classes, based upon goodwill and respect.
9. In the stores of harvest and gains of commerce being acknowledged as God's providential gifts and generous benefactions (vers. 4, 5). All such public recognitions of the authority and the claims of religion, emphasise and declare that within this nation's life God dwells — known, revered, and served.
II. ADVANTAGES WHICH RESULT TO A NATION FROM RELIGION.
1. Religion impels to industry, intelligence, self-respect, and social improvement; and these will affect every branch of labour and enterprise, resulting in material prosperity (vers. 4, 5).
2. Religion leads to avoidance of agitation and conflict, checks greed, ambition, and vainglory, and thus promotes a wise content among the people, and peaceful relationships with surrounding nations (ver. 6).
3. Religion fosters sobriety, energy, and courage, and these qualities will assert themselves on the fields of war when sad occasion arises, and will ensure the overthrow of tyranny and the defeat of invasion (ver. 8).
4. Religion nurtures the wise oversight of homes and families, the preservation of domestic purity, the development of healthful and intelligent children, and these will work out in a strong and increasing population (ver. 9).
5. Religion corrects the intrigues of self-destructive commerce, and teaches honesty, forethought, and justice in business arrangements; thus checking waste, extravagance, and insolence, and these issue in the enjoyment of plenty (ver. 10).
6. Religion enjoins Sabbath observance and sanctuary services (ver. 2) which nourish holiness in thought and life, sweeten character, purify the springs of action, incite to righteous and noble deeds, to social goodwill, to mutual regard, to sacred ministries, to reverence for Scripture, to recognition of the claims of the unseen world, and thus bring down upon all people the blessings of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (vers. 11, 12).
III. WITHIN A RELIGIOUS NATION GOD PLEDGES HIMSELF TO DWELL. And where He makes His tabernacle (ver. 11) there —
1. Happiness will be realised, the joy of the Lord will be known, "His lovingkindness, which is more than life," will be enjoyed.
2. Security will be assured. "None make you afraid" (ver. 6), for He will be as a "defence to His people."
3. Sanctity will flourish. Intercourse with God (ver. 12) will elevate, refine, and grace a people's character and life.
(W. H. Jellie.)
(J. Cumming, D. D.)
(Andrew Thomson, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Ye shall make you no idols.I. WHAT THE PRONENESS OF HUMAN NATURE TO IDOLATRY SUGGESTS. It shows both the dignity and depravity of man; that —
1. He is endowed with religious instincts. Capable of worship, of exercising faith, hope, love, reverence, fear, &c.
2. He is conscious of amenability to some supreme power. Seeks to propitiate, secure favour, and aid.
3. He is apprehensive of a future state of existence. Ideas vague, indefinite, absurd, yet the outcome of inward presentiment, &c.
4. He is unable by light of nature to discover God. His knowledge is so faded, light so dim. How low the soul must have fallen to substitute "nothings" for the Eternal One! Heathenism has never of itself emerged into the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, as seen in the voice that has spoken from heaven, and has been recorded by holy men moved by the Holy Ghost.
II. WHAT INDULGENCE IN IDOLATRY ENTAILS.
1. Degradation. Worship of heathen deities demoralising. In their temples, at their services, the rites observed are grovelling, and, in some instances, demoniacal.
2. Superstition. Devotees are duped by priests, enslaved by torturing ritualism, subject and victims of absurd delusions.
3. Misery. Fear the ruling passion, not love. Nothing ennobling, inspiring, quickening, comforting. Idol worship mocks the longings of the human soul, cannot appease its hunger, satisfy its thirst.
III. How IDOLATRY MAY BE ABOLISHED. Darkness can only be dispersed by the letting in of light. The folly of idolatry must be shown, its helplessness, misery, sin by the spread of the written revelation of heaven, the preaching of the glorious gospel.
(F. W. Brown.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Then I will give you rain.
1. Were the atmosphere everywhere at all times at a uniform temperature, we should never have rain, or hail, or snow; the water absorbed by it in evaporation from the sea and the earth's surface would descend in an imperceptible vapour, or cease to be absorbed by the air when it was once fully saturated.
2. The absorbing power of the atmosphere, and consequently its capability to retain humidity, is proportionably greater in warm than in cold air.
3. The air near the surface of the earth is warmer than it is in the region of the clouds. The higher we ascend from the earth the colder do we find the atmosphere. Hence the perpetual snow on very high mountains in the hottest climate. Now, when from continued evaporation the air is highly saturated with vapour, though, if it be invisible and the sky cloudless, if its temperature be suddenly reduced by cold currents descending from above, or rushing from a higher to a lower latitude, its capacity to retain moisture is diminished, clouds are formed, and the result is rain. Air condenses as it cools, and like a sponge filled with water and compressed, pours out the water which its diminished capacity cannot hold. How singular, yet how simple, the philosophy of rain! Who but Omniscience could have devised such an admirable arrangement for watering the earth?
(Dr. Ure.)Neomenia dabit pluvias ("The new moon will bring us rain"); yet saith he, "Though all of us desired to see some showers, yet I wished such hopes might fail, and was glad that no rain fell, donec precibus ecclesia data esset, &c., until it came as a return upon the Church's prayers, not upon the influence of the moon, but upon the provident mercy of the Creator." Such was the religious care of that good saint then, and the like were to be wished for now, that men would be exhorted not to be so much taken as they are with the vanity of astrological predictions, to read the stars less and the Scriptures more, to eye God in His providence, not the moon so much in its influence, still looking up unto Him as the primus motor, and upon all other creatures whatsoever as subordinate.
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