Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will earnestly seek me, but will not find me.
I. THAT GOD MAKES MANY APPEALS TO THE HUMAN SOUL. He calls, and we refuse; he stretches out his hands, and no man regards (ver. 24). He multiplies his counsel and his reproof (vers. 25 and 30). Thus his statement is sustained by his dealings with us; he gives us the repeated and manifold admonitions of our own conscience, of the house, of the sanctuary, of friendship, of his Word, of his Spirit, etc.
II. THAT HUMAN PERVERSITY GOES AS FAR AS THE DIVINE PATIENCE. Man "refuses," "regards not" (turns away his eyes, closes his ears), "sets at nought," "will not have," "hates," does not choose (deliberately rejects), all the counsel of God. Perhaps the course of human perversity may be thus traced: first temporizing, with the idea of submitting; then postponing, without any such intention; then disregarding, hearing without heeding; then positively disliking and getting away from; then actually hating, cherishing a feeling of rebellious aversion, ending in mockery and scorn. So far may human perversity go. God's wonderful patience in seeking to win is extended far, but not further than human opposition and resistance. To every "Come" from Heaven there is an answer, "I will not," in the human spirit.
III. THAT GOD FINALLY ABANDONS SIN TO ITS DOOM. We must, of course, understand the language of vers. 26, 27 as highly figurative. No proverb is to be pressed to its fullest possible meaning. The author always assumes that it will be applied with intelligence and discrimination. This is the language of hyperbole. No one could for a moment believe that the eternal Father of our spirits would, literally and actually, laugh and mock at our calamity and alarm. The significance of the passage is that, after a certain point of perverse refusal has been past, God no longer pleads and strives with his wayward children. He interposes no further between a man and the consequences of his folly. He "leaves him alone" (Hosea 4:17). He "gives him up" (Acts 7:42; Romans 1:26). He permits sin to do its own sad work in the soul, and to produce its own natural results in the life; he removes his restraining hand, and suffers them "to eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices" (ver. 31). This is the end of impenitence. We see it only too often illustrated before our eyes. Men act as if they might defy their Maker, as if they might draw indefinitely on the patience of their Divine Saviour, as if they might reckon on the unlimited striving of the Holy Spirit. They are wrong; they make a fatal mistake; they commit the one unpardonable sin! They try to go beyond the Divine ultimatum. God's marvellous patience reaches far, but it has its bounds. When these are passed his voice is still, his hand is taken down, his interposing influence is withdrawn. Sin must bear its penalty. But this awful passage closes with a word of hope. Let us turn to a brighter aspect, and see -
IV. THAT SO LONG AS MAN HONESTLY DESIRES GOD'S SERVICE, HE MAY FIND PEACE AND REST. (Ver. 33.) If at any time it is in our heart to obey the voice of the All-wise, to lend an attentive ear to the Divine counsel, we may reckon on his grace and favour. Happy the heart that heeds the voice of Wisdom! Others may be rocked and tossed on the heaving billows of care and anxiety, of alarm and dread; but he, "dwelling in the secret place of the Most High," hiding in the Rock of his salvation, shall "dwell safely, and be quiet from fear of evil." God will hide him in his pavilion; he will "rest in the Lord." - C.
Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer.
I. GOD IN MERCY VISITS A REBELLIOUS GENERATION.
1. The call. It is in the earthquake and in the storm. Day unto day proclaims it, and night unto night. There is no speech or language where it is not heard. The call has come with distinct articulation from the lips of prophets and apostles. It sounds with authority in a human conscience.
2. The hands stretched out. There is a way, and the way is open unto the Father. There is no obstruction, there is no forbidding, there is no upbraiding. Sinners are welcomed with open arms.
3. The counsel. Specially addressed to those who procrastinate.
4. Reproof. If they will not be enticed by the promise of heaven, He will threaten them with the fear of hell. Everlasting love needs a strong, hard instrument wherewith to work out her blessed purposes on an unpliant race. Judgment looming in reserve, serving meantime by its blackness to make the invitation more winning.
II. A REBELLIOUS GENERATION NEGLECTS OR RESISTS THE GRACIOUS VISITATION OF GOD. Men have ears and stop them.
III. THEY SHALL EAT THE FRUIT OF THEIR OWN WAYS, AND BE FILLED WITH THEIR OWN DEVICES. Judgment will be an exact answer to disobedience, as fruit answers to seed, or an echo to the sound.
(William Arnot, D. D.)
1. The law of retaliation.
2. The time of God's attributes. Both mercy and justice have their season in this life; and when mercy hath acted her part, then cometh justice upon the stage, and acteth her part.
3. It is God's use to do so in other things, even upon the contempt of temporal blessings, and therefore much more in matters of grace and salvation. Illustrated in the cases of the Israelites, Ishmael, King Saul, Esau. If God so severely punish contempt of temporal blessings, how will He punish contempt of proffers of grace and salvation? He will come with martial law against all those that contemn the gospel (John 3:18). God doth commonly give men a day, but no man or angel doth know how long this day lasteth. God gave the angels a day, Cain a day, Nineveh a day, the antediluvian world a day. All we know is that this day is for us now. Now is the day of Christ upon you. What is the meaning of all those Scriptures which show how God doth deliver up men unto the spirit of giddiness, and unto the spirit of slumber? And what means the "hardening of men's hearts," and "searing of men's consciences," but only to show that the day of grace may end unto a particular man, ten, twenty, nay, forty years before his death. If thou refuse this day, thou refusest all; for what knowest thou but this very day may be thy day? The reason is —
1. Because God's patience is in His own breast, and who can tell how long it will last?
2. Because God's patience gives no mark or inkling of it before it ends.
3. Because God reckons up every hour.
4. It is a wonder that the day of grace is not ended already, and that thou art not now in hell. When Christ first comes to the soul, He witnesseth grace and mercy to thee if thou wilt repent and amend; yea, He witnesseth forgiveness of sins, redemption, and salvation, if thou wilt believe; but if not, He will be a swift witness against thee.
(William Fenner, B.D.)
I. LOOK AT THE MILDEST FORMS OF TRANSGRESSION — THOSE OF INDOLENCE AND SELF-INDULGENCE. How quietly men spend their lives doing nothing! But when they pass the meridian of life, and begin to go down the farther slope, they find that nobody cares for them. They are in everybody's way. The probabilities are that one who has spent the first part of his life in indolence and self-indulgence will spend the last part of his life in the same way.
II. LOOK AT THE SAME THING AS IT TAKES PLACE IN REGARD TO A MAN'S REPUTATION. Every man is a character-builder. Every man is building himself up by his purposes, his deeds; and these form his character, and it is his character that stands by him. His reputation is simply the shadow that it casts. What a man is, is his character; and what men think him to be is his reputation. Men sometimes think they are building character when they are only getting reputation. Few are aware of this distinction, and so it comes to pass that many men go steadily downward. They begin to violate the truth. They equivocate. They walk on the perilous edge of insincerity. And, notwithstanding this, they do not perceive any change in themselves. But any man who lacks simplicity very soon gets to be suspected by other people. Men are dishonest in the same way. They are tricky. Such a man goes on from day to day, and at last it is whispered of him, "That man is not honest," and presently all the world knows it except himself.
III. LOOK AT THE SAME THING IN RESPECT TO THE SINS WHICH A MAN COMMITS AGAINST HIS OWN SELF. Of all wastefulness there is none like that which men commit upon their own persons. There are many ways in which men drain off the vitality of their whole brain and nervous system. Excessive virtuous industry will do it. Passionate self-indulgence will do it. Excessive addiction to stimulating drinks will do it. While there may be exceptional cases, the law for all such is destruction. The laws of nature have only a limit of mercy, but they have a limit of mercy. A man may be overtaken and yet may recover himself. There is a limited amount of atonement in nature. But there must be no presuming on it. The laws of nature are made for the obedient. Society is established for the obedient. It has very limited resources for reforming men. You are safe if you do not go down into vice. Let alone mischief before it be meddled with. Keep clear of all evil. Obedience is safe. Obedience to God in nature; in your own body; in the laws of society; obedience to God everywhere — that is absolutely safe, and nothing else is safe. Sin, however sweet and smooth and safe it may seem, is not safe. It is safe to be right; it is dangerous to be wrong.
(H. W. Beecher.)
They shall not find Me
(Thomas Arnold, D. D.)I. THERE IS A TIME WHEN WICKED MEN WILL BE OVERTAKEN WITH THOSE MISERIES THAT NO WARNING WOULD SERVE THEM TO PREVENT BY REPENTANCE AND REFORMATION.
II. THEY WILL BE ONE DAY SENSIBLE OF THEIR OWN FOLLY, AND CRY UNTO GOD FOR MERCY AND DELIVERANCE.
III. BUT GOD WILL NOT THEN REGARD THEIR REPENTANCE, NOR BE MOVED BY THEIR PRAYERS. For understanding —
1. Lay down three things.(1) All sorts of calamities are meant by the wise man, which are either the natural effects of sin or other punishments of sin inflicted by the Divine justice, and that either in this world or in the world to come.(2) This proposition is not to be understood as if all wicked men were at last reduced to extreme misery in this life. All that need be said is this, either that they do often suffer those punishments in this life which their wicked doings naturally produce, or that the justice of God doth other ways overtake them in punishments that show the finger of God and a more immediate hand of providence.(3) If any go on in these practices upon which nature itself and God's curse besides have seemed to sentence miseries in this life, if some of them should happen to escape here, and live out their days without any great misfortune befalling them at last, yet there is a day coming when they shall not escape. One day they will smart for it. Under proposition II., understand that it is not to be understood universally as if every man reduced to extreme misery would infallibly apply himself to God for mercy, for we know there have been examples to the contrary, e.g., Ahab. This seeking God's favour does frequently happen, but even they who do so are unhappy in their late repentance, especially those that have had the most warnings and convictions, but would not be reclaimed. Under proposition III., show that this is the most awakening consideration of all, and hath the greatest force to make an effectual impression of the two former upon our minds. But this point requires careful interpretation, and a precise distinction between the miseries that an obstinate course of sin produces in this life and those punishments it will bring in another life.
1. How useless the prayers and repentance of wicked men will be as to the recovery of their happiness in this life! They are usually unprofitable as to those advantages which they have lost by their obstinate and, till now, incurable folly; such as health, plenty, and good name. And they will not procure them that comfort from the principles of religion which relieves good men under their adversities.
2. How unprofitable their importunity in seeking the mercy of God will be as to their escape in the day of judgment! For them who repent not till their turn comes in the other world, it will turn to no account for them; they must hear the irreversible sentence, and suffer the unavoidable effect of it for ever. And all this implies no want of goodness in God.
(W. Clagett, D.D.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
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