You will break them an iron scepter; You will shatter them like pottery."
I. THE FALSE IS CHARACTERIZED BY SELF-SEEKING; THE TRUE BY SELF-SACRIFICE. The false begin and end with self. They act from and for "themselves" (ver. 2). The true have regard to others, and are always ready to subordinate and sacrifice themselves for the good of others. In the one case it is the many for the one, the people for the king; in the other, it is the one for the many, the king for the people.
II. THE FALSE RULE BY FORCE; THE TRUE BY RIGHTEOUSNESS. "Bands" and "cords" mark the restraints of law, but the false care for none of these things. Might, not right, is their rule. Whatever stands in the way must give place to their ambitions. On the other hand, the true are animated by the spirit of justice. Instead of grasping violently what does not belong to them, they accept their place and use their powers as from God. They hold that the "decree" must be righteous to be respected - that the law must be just and good to commend itself to reason, and to command the obedience of the heart. Power that a man gains for himself he will use for himself, but power that is held as a trust from God will be wisely and rightly employed.
III. THE FALSE IS MARKED BY CORRUPTION AND MISERY; THE TRUE IS PRODUCTIVE OF THE HIGHEST GOOD. Great are the perils of power. Well did the Preacher say, "Oppression [i.e. the power of oppressing] maketh a wise man mad" (Ecclesiastes 7:7). If this be so with the wise, how much worse will it be with the unwise! The Books of Chronicles and Kings in the Old Testament, and the history of heathen and Christian nations, are full of proofs as to the evils of power wrongly and wickedly used. Crimes, revolts, revolutions, wars upon wars, with manifold and terrible woes, mark the course of the Pharaohs and the Nebuchadnezzars, the Herods and Napoleons of this world. On the other hand, the rule of the true is conducive to the highest interests of men. Their aim is to do justly and to love mercy. Their motto is, "Death to evil, life to good." "The work of righteousness is peace" (Isaiah 32:17).
IV. THE FALSE ARE DOOMED TO FAILURE; THE TRUE TO VICTORY AND IMMORTAL HONOUR. The rule of the false inevitably leads to ruin. Sin is weakness. Evil can only breed evil. Where obedience is given from fear, and not from love, it cannot last. Where homage is rendered for reasons of prudence, and not from conviction, it cannot be depended upon. Where there is not desert on the one hand, there cannot be devotion on the other. Empire founded on the wrong is rotten through and through. But the true reign after another fashion. Their character commands respect. Their government, being founded in righteousness, secures confidence and support. Their rule, being exercised for the benign and holy ends of love, contributes to the general good. Two things follow.
1. God's ideal of kingship is found in Jesus Christ, and the nearer earthly kings resemble him, and the more perfectly they conform their lives and rule to his mind, the better for them and their subjects.
2. On the other hand, our first duty is to accept Christ as our King, and in love and loyalty to serve him. Thus we shall best fulfil our duty in all other relationships. The best Christian is the best subject. - W.F.
Break them with a rod of iron.
(David Caldwell, A. M.)
Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vesselIsaiah 60:12), "For the nation and kingdom that shall not serve Thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted." The Canaanites, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans would not serve God, and they have perished. Kingdoms which will not serve Christ must be destroyed to make way for those who will serve Him. The kingdom of Christ will, sooner or later, swallow up all other kingdoms. The power of Christ's kingdom, the power of His Word, is in a measure conferred upon His believing people. Christ has given to His believing people great power and influence in the earth. The Word of God is powerful; it is irresistible. If the Word of God be once deeply rooted in the hearts of a people it there abideth forever. God has wonderfully shielded England from danger ever since His Word became deeply rooted ill the land. God breaks the power of ungodly nations that He may break men's hearts of stone. He destroys the kingdoms of this world in order to establish and enlarge the kingdom of this dear Son. To change the heart is the work of God. He must go with the missionaries. But much depends on our faith — our faith in God's promises.
(R. Bickerdike, M. A.)
(E. R. Barrett, B. A.)
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