Hear now what the LORD says: "Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.
Job 12:7, 8; Isaiah 1:2, 3; Luke 19:40; 2 Peter 2:16.) The mountains hays stability; not so the favoured nation. They have survived many generations of God's ungrateful beneficiaries, and have been witnesses of the blessings those thankless ones have received. The cliffs of Horeb have echoed back the precepts and promises of Jehovah, and the gentler tones of his "still small voice," but his people have remained deaf to his appeals. Hence -
I. A PROTEST. Before Jehovah passes judgment he permits himself to be regarded as the defendant if his people can venture to bring any charge against him. He knows that nothing but unrighteous treatment on his part could justify them in departing from him. Hence the appeal in Jeremiah 2:5, and the similar remonstrances of Christ in John 8:46 and John 10:32. Nothing but intolerable grievances can justify a national revolt or a desertion of the paternal home. Had God "wearied" Israel by unreasonable treatment? The whole history of the nation refutes the suggested libel. Or can we make any such charges against God? What can they be?
2. A harsh and trying temper? The very opposite is the spirit of the Father of mercies" (Psalm 145:8, 9).
3. Unreasonable exactions of service? No; he can make the appeal, "I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense" (Isaiah 43:23). His "yoke is easy;" "His commandments are not grievous."
4. Negligence in his training of us? Far from it; he can declare, "What could have been done more?" etc. (Isaiah 5:1-4). Forbearance, loving kindness, and thoughtful consideration have marked God's conduct throughout. The case against God utterly breaks down. Instead of desiring to remonstrate, or even "reason with God," u at one time Job did, every reasonable soul, hearing God's words and catching some vision of his glory, must acknowledge, as that patriarch did, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (cf. Job 13:3; Job 42:5, 6). The way is cleared. O God, thou art justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou art judged. And now God's messenger may take up his parable, like Samuel (1 Samuel 12:7), and God himself may make the appeal in vers. 4, 5.
II. A RETROSPECT. Jehovah selects specimens of his gracious dealings with them from their early history. He reminds them of:
1. A grand redemption. (Ver. 4.) We, too, as a nation can speak of great deliverances from political and ecclesiastical bondage. See T.H. Gill's hymn -
"Lift thy song among the nations, 2. Illustrious leaders. Moses, their inspired lawgiver and the friend of God (Numbers 12:8); Aaron, their high priest and intercessor; Miriam, a singer, poet, prophetess. What memories of "the loving kindnesses of the Lord" these names would recall - the Paschal night, the morning of final deliverance and song of triumph by the Red Sea, the manna, the plague stayed, etc.! We, too, can look back on our illustrious leaders in English history. And in common with the whole of Christendom, "all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas" - the apostles, the martyrs, the preachers, the poets of the past - "all are yours" by right, if not by actual enjoyment. 3. Foes frustrated. (Ver. 5.) "Remember now" - a word of tender appeal, as though God would say, "Oh, do remember." Balak was a representative foe, striving against Israel, first by policy (Numbers 22.), then by villainy (Numbers 25.), and finally by violence (Numbers 31.). Again the parallel may be traced in national and individual history. 4. Curses turned into blessings. (Deuteronomy 23:5.) So has it been with many of the trials of the past. "Remember from Shittim unto Gilgal" (cf. Numbers 25:1 and Joshua 4:19). What a contrast! Sins forgiven; reproach "rolled away" (Joshua 5:9); chastisements blessed; the long looked for land of promise entered. All these blessings show us "the righteous acts of the Lord." They remind us of the successive acts of God's righteous grace. They make sin against him shamefully ungrateful as well as grossly unjust. Oh, that the goodness of God may lead to repentance! that he may overcome our evil by his good! that "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" may constrain us to live henceforth, not to ourselves, but to him! - E.S.P.
2. Illustrious leaders. Moses, their inspired lawgiver and the friend of God (Numbers 12:8); Aaron, their high priest and intercessor; Miriam, a singer, poet, prophetess. What memories of "the loving kindnesses of the Lord" these names would recall - the Paschal night, the morning of final deliverance and song of triumph by the Red Sea, the manna, the plague stayed, etc.! We, too, can look back on our illustrious leaders in English history. And in common with the whole of Christendom, "all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas" - the apostles, the martyrs, the preachers, the poets of the past - "all are yours" by right, if not by actual enjoyment.
3. Foes frustrated. (Ver. 5.) "Remember now" - a word of tender appeal, as though God would say, "Oh, do remember." Balak was a representative foe, striving against Israel, first by policy (Numbers 22.), then by villainy (Numbers 25.), and finally by violence (Numbers 31.). Again the parallel may be traced in national and individual history.
4. Curses turned into blessings. (Deuteronomy 23:5.) So has it been with many of the trials of the past. "Remember from Shittim unto Gilgal" (cf. Numbers 25:1 and Joshua 4:19). What a contrast! Sins forgiven; reproach "rolled away" (Joshua 5:9); chastisements blessed; the long looked for land of promise entered. All these blessings show us "the righteous acts of the Lord." They remind us of the successive acts of God's righteous grace. They make sin against him shamefully ungrateful as well as grossly unjust. Oh, that the goodness of God may lead to repentance! that he may overcome our evil by his good! that "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" may constrain us to live henceforth, not to ourselves, but to him! - E.S.P.
Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice
I. HEAR WHAT COMPLAINTS MAN HAS TO BRING AGAINST GOD, AND WHAT, GOD HAS TO ANSWER. That a creature should complain of his Creator should seem a paradox. We are apt to complain of God on three accounts: His law seems too severe, His temporal favours too small, and His judgments too rigorous.
1. Are not the laws of God just in themselves. What is the design of those laws? Is it not to make you as happy as possible? Are not those laws infinitely proper to make you happy in this world? And doth not God exemplify these laws Himself? What does God require of you, but to endeavour to please Him?
2. Complaints against God as the governor of the world. Man complains of providence; the economy of it is too narrow and confined, the temporal benefits bestowed are too few and partial. This complaint, we allow, has some colour. But from the mouth of a Christian it cannot come without extreme ignorance and ingratitude. If the morality of Jesus Christ he examined it will be found almost incompatible with worldly prosperity. Temporal prosperity is often hostile to our happiness. Had God given us a life full of charms we should have taken little thought about another.
3. Complaints against the rigour of His judgments. If we consider God as a Judge, what a number of reasons may be assigned to prove the equity of all the evils that He hath brought upon us. But if God be considered as a Father, all these chastisements, even the most rigorous of them, are perfectly consistent with His character. It was His love that engaged Him to employ such severe means for your benefit.
II. HEAR WHAT COMPLAINTS GOD HAS TO BRING AGAINST MAN. Every one is acquainted with the irregularities of the Jews. They corrupted both natural and revealed religion. And their crimes were aggravated by the innumerable blessings which God bestowed on them. Apply to ourselves —
1. When God distinguishes a people by signal favours, the people ought to distinguish themselves by gratitude to Him. When were ever any people so favoured as we are?
2. When men are under the hand of an angry God they are called to mourning and contrition. We are under the correcting hand of God. What are the signs of our right feeling and mood?
3. To attend public worship is not to obtain the end of the ministry. Not to become wise by attending it is to increase our miseries by aggravating our sins.
4. Slander is a dangerous vice. It is tolerated in society only because every one has an invincible inclination to commit it.
5. If the dangers that threaten us, and the blows that providence strikes, ought to affect us all, they ought those most of all who are most exposed to them.
6. If gaming be innocent in any circumstances, they are uncommon and rare. Such is the controversy of God with you. It is your part to reply. What have you to say in your own behalf?
(J. B. Smith, D. D.)
Homilist.I. Here is a call on man to GIVE AUDIENCE TO ALMIGHTY GOD. "Hear ye now what the Lord saith."
1. Natural. What is more natural than for a child to hang on the lips and attend to the words of his parent? How much more natural for the finite intelligence to open its ears to the words of the Infinite!
2. Binding. The great command of God to all is, "Hearken diligently to Me; hear, and your souls shall live."
3. Indispensable. It is only as men hear, interpret, digest, appropriate, incarnate God's Word that they can rise to a true, noble, and happy life.
II. Here is a SUMMONS TO INANIMATE NATURE TO HEAR THE CONTROVERSY BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. "Arise, contend thou before the mountains." The appeal to inanimate nature —
1. Indicates the earnestness of the prophet. Every minister should be earnest. "Passion is reason" here.
2. Suggests the stupidity of the people. Perhaps the prophet meant to compare them to the dead hills and mountains. As hard in heart as the rocks.
3. Hints the universality of his theme. His doctrine was no secret; it was as open and free as nature.
III. A CHALLENGE TO MAN TO FIND FAULT WITH DIVINE DEALINGS. This implies —
1. That they could bring nothing against Him.
2. It declares that He had done everything for them.
Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy
1. The objects of nature in their different ways speak of Him, and show in singular fashion how He is ever present at the events of mankind.
2. The objects of nature indirectly speak of religion and of heaven to the thoughtful mind. They embody and call out from us each elementary principle of religion. Majesty and sublimity are suggested by the mountain; repose by the evening sky; joy and gladness by that of the morning, etc.
3. The objects of nature become the home of association. This power of association that connects us to the scenes of daily life is essentially religious; it appeals to all the higher and holier parts of our nature when severed from their earthly dross.
4. There is another way in which this appeal to nature becomes a very practical matter. Nature is monotonous; so is God. We find it where we left it. The scene of nature which witnessed our early devotion becomes in after years our accuser and condemnation.
5. And nature suggests the Divine cause, the intelligent mind, the adaptation of the physical world to the wants of His creatures. But while this observation of nature so elevates the mind to God, it has its faults and infirmities, which are its own. Without the Word of God the works of God may mislead us. There is a further infirmity; the tendency there is in the objects of nature to cast melancholy and despondency over the mind. There are two elements of our nature which produce conscious happiness — hope and practical energy. To make hope effective, there must be a certain amount of connection between our practical energy and itself. The essence and health of our being rests in overcoming difficulties. Where we find no opportunity of doing this we become conscious of feelings without their natural vent, and the result is melancholy and ennui. But when we come to gaze upon the sublime forms of nature, none of our practical energies being of necessity called out towards them, we turn away with impressions of disappointment and sadness: the objects are too much for us, because we are not necessarily practically concerned upon them. It is singular that few people are more negligent of the call to Divine worship, are more blunted in their appreciation of Christianity, than the farming and agricultural classes. Manufacturing populations are much more actively intelligent.
O My people, what have I done irate thee?
1. Is there nowhere a cry to provoke the Lord to ask, What have I done unto you? What should the heart reply? It concerns us to consider. When we fall short in putting to account the whole store of God's mercies we are sure to charge the deficiency upon God's stinginess, and not upon our own unfaithfulness; for self-justification is always the immediate consequence of self-inflicted loss. It is the very extent of God's mercies which makes men murmurers and complainers; for by so much the more they have failed to take due advantage of them. What would one reasonably expect from those highly favoured of God? But what is the real state of things? Discontent, disobedience, unthankfulness, unwatchfulness, murmurings, rebellion, open violation of God's statutes, public profanation of His ordinances, common and declared neglect and contempt of His sacraments and means of grace, are the prevailing features of the picture. What a question to be put by a merciful God and a redeeming Saviour, to any one of us — "What have I done unto Thee?" Do we incur the rebuke?
2. The question goes further yet, — "Wherein have I wearied thee?" How cutting a question to the people that profess His name!
(R. W. Evans, B. D.)
II. GOD'S AFFECTING COMPLAINT OF HIS ANCIENT PEOPLE. They were wearied of the Lord and His pleasant service. And as they sowed, they reaped. They reaped misery and destruction. But is this confined to them? How often even the true saints of God seem weary of their God! How soon we are weary of His services; of His rod; aye, even of God Himself,
II. GOD'S MOST TENDER EXPOSTULATION. Such an expostulation from a grieved fellow creature would be wonderful, but consider the dignity of Him who speaketh. Let unwearied kindness, unbroken faithfulness, tender love, most unmerited and most sovereign grace all speak. Oh, that this view of the Divine character were laid on all our hearts and consciences! Oh, that our souls might be stirred up deeply to repent of past unwearinesses, to take them to the Fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, and there receiving fresh springs of life and love, consecrate ourselves unweariedly to His glory.
(J. H. Evans, M. A.)
I. A DIRECT PROOF OF THE GOODNESS OF GOD, AND OF HIS TENDER CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF HIS CREATURES. This appears from —
1. The unwearied patience which He exercises towards transgressors.
2. The sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. The various means which God employs for reclaiming men from their ways of folly and vice. He is not only the gracious Author of the plan of redemption, but He has likewise set before us the most powerful motives to persuade us to embrace His proffered favour, and to comply with His designs of mercy.
4. The fact that He has selected some of the most notorious offenders in the different ages of the world to be monuments of the riches of His grace.
II. OBJECTIONS URGED AGAINST THE MILDNESS AND EQUITY OF THE DIVINE ADMINISTRATION.
1. Is it the holiness and perfection of His law that is complained of? This complaint is both foolish and ungrateful. The law of God requires nothing but what tends to make us happy, nor doth it forbid anything which would not be productive of our misery.
2. Is it the threatening with which the law is enforced that is complained of? But shall God be reckoned an enemy to your happiness because He useth the most effectual means to promote it? There is a friendly design in all God's threatenings.
3. Perhaps the objection is to the final execution of the threatenings. But would the threatenings be of any use at all if the sinner knew that they would never be executed?
4. Do you blame God for the temptations you meet with in the world, and those circumstances of danger with which you are surrounded? But temptations have no compulsive efficacy; all they can do is solicit and entice.
5. Do you object that you cannot reclaim or convert yourselves? But you can use the means appointed. He who does not employ these faithfully, complains very unreasonably if the grace is withheld which is only promised with the use of the means. The truth of the matter is, that the sinner has no right to complain of God; he destroys himself by his own wilful and obstinate folly, and then he accuses God, as if He were the cause of his misery. Consider that to be your own destroyers is to counteract the very strongest principle of your natures, the principle of self-preservation.
(H. Blair, D. D.)
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