Our Plight: Who Will May Know It!
II Corinthians 5:1-11
September 3, 2023
The Observation of Suffering (Lamentations 1:12)
12 Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? and see if there be any sorrow like
unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted
me in the day of His fierce anger.
Prophetic certitude: when something is projected in the future
is spoken of as in the past.
Jeremiah’s lament over the city he had done his best to save.
Lamentation: weeping, wailing, crying, sobbing,moaning
Plight we are in:
21 With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the
flattering of her lips she forced him.
22 He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or
as a fool to the correction of the stocks;
23 Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare,
and knoweth not that it is for his life.
I. A SEEMINGLY UNREASONABLE COMPLAINT. “Is it nothing to
ye that pass by?” So speaks
of the weeping widow, with the tears on her cheeks and the beauty faded,
deprived of all her pleasant things, and left in solitude so far as her familiar
supports and consolations are concerned. She sits, as it were, by the
highway, and the crowd passes on, taking no notice. Why, indeed, should it
take notice? The spectacle of a conquered nation and a pillaged capital was
not a rare thing. The nations asked to sympathize had been through the
same experience themselves. We are all prompted to say, “Surely no
trouble has been like our trouble;” and yet, as our observation of human
affairs enlarges, we see how human nature, in every individual instance, is
made to know its extraordinary capacity for suffering. Nevertheless, the
piteous appeal here is not a baseless one. The trouble of the children of
were peculiar in constitution, privileges, and history. If only there had been
eyes to see it, there was something very significant to demand attention.
But the thing to be seen did not lie on the surface, nor was it to be
discovered save by faculties specially illuminated. The downfall and the
subsequent history, belong to the things that are to be spiritually discerned.
Therefore this complaint., while superficially it may be called unreasonable,
is yet reasonable enough, if we only consider the position and mission of
Israel, and the work which, even in her degradation, she has done for the
II. THE NEED THERE IS TO MARK JEHOVAH’S SURE
VISITATIONS ON THE DISOBEDIENT. This is the critical element in
appeal that a widow like
as the greatest illustration of the certainty with which Jehovah punishes
those who rebel against Him.” We must, of course, beware of the
conclusion that suffering always means punishment; but where we can see
that it is punishment we must mark it as such, so that we ourselves may be
admonished and may also more effectually admonish others. Here was a
nation that in obedience might have rested confidently and happily in
Jehovah’s promise. The power behind that promise was more than all the
armies of the great empires round about. But when the power was
withdrawn it meant not merely suffering; the withdrawing had in it the
nature of a judicial, solemn sentence from JEHOVAH HIMSELF!
16 The Lord called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit,
with the noise of a great tumult He hath kindled fire upon it, and the brances
of it are broken.
17 For the Lord of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against
thee, for the evil of the house of
done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.
The First Last
Many, indeed, are the instances in which those who were placed first in
opportunity have been found last in attainment. Privilege, favor, education,
help of all kinds, have been at their disposal, and yet the results which had
been designed for them, and which so surely should have been theirs, they
have missed (compare Matthew 11:20-24)
20 Then began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty
works were done, because they repented not:
unto thee, Chorazin! woe
mighty works, which were done in you, had been
22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for
the day of judgment, than for you.
brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been
done in thee, had been done in
until this day.
24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of
Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much is required.
1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were
dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with
hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our
house which is from heaven:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for
that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might
be swallowed up of life.
5 Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who
also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at
home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the
body, and to be present with the Lord.
9 Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be
accepted of Him.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that
every one may receive the things done in his body, according to
that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we
are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in
your consciences. (II Corinthians 5:1-11)
“Woe unto thee Chorazin!...
And in ordinary life, as well as in the records of the Bible, may we learn how
frequently, not the strong and mighty, but “the lame take the prey.” (Isaiah 33:23)
The first are last and the last first. Now, of such sad and shameful failures these verses
supply a notable instance. Under the imagery of a green olive tree, fair and of goodly
fruit, the prophet pictures the condition and prospects of the people of God when He
first planted them. No similitude could more strikingly convey to the mind of the
the prophet portrays a far different scene — that same tree, but black and charred,
its trunk riven, its fruit and foliage all gone, and its branches broken down; for
the thunderbolt and the scathing lightning, the wild tempest and the fierce
wind, have all done their deadly work upon it, and now it stands a mere
blackened stump, instead of the beauteous and fruitful tree it once was.
From that height
of favor to that depth of disaster were
I. THEY WERE FIRST. The imagery employed by the prophet tells in
1. In the favor of God. The olive was a favorite tree, held in highest esteem
by the people of the lands where it grew; hence it is used here and
elsewhere as an emblem of those whom God favors and has pleasure in
(compare “I am like a green olive tree in the house of my God,” Psalm 52:8).
The Bible seems to love the tree. It is the first named of any known tree
(Genesis 8:11), and is the subject of the first parable (Judges 9:8).
It is everywhere spoken of as
precious; hence, when
are thus named, we regard it as a name of endearment, telling how precious
they were in God’s sight. This is borne out by direct statements and by the
recorded deeds of God, which show the esteem in which He held them.
2. In beauty. No doubt the beauty of the olive tree exists partly in the eyes
of the beholder, who looks upon it with affection for all the service it
renders him. But to others also there is unquestionable beauty in the olive
which, with its “noble groves, covered with foliage the whole year round,
spreading like a silver sea along the base of the hills and climbing their
ascending terraces, speaks loudly of peace and plenty, food and gladness”
(see Ruskin,’ Stones of Venice,’ vol. 3. pp. 175-177). And without doubt it
was beautiful in the eyes of those to whom the prophet wrote. But there is
a moral beauty as well as that which is material, and of which the material
is a fit symbol. And, compared with the disorder, the violence, the foulness,
the wickedness of all kinds, in which the rest of the world
was as a garden of the Lord — a green olive tree, “fair” and comely to
look upon. In them that which was lovely and of good report, that which
had virtue and praise, were found as nowhere else. Love to God and love
to man, justice, truth, and piety were held in esteem amongst them as
amongst none others.
3. In usefulness. The olive tree was not merely fair, but “of goodly fruit.”
From that fruit came one of the commonest and most essential articles of
the Eastern’s food. Its oil was employed in connection with almost
everything that they ate. Its berries gave flavor to the peasant’s bread. The
evening lamp was kindled with the oil pressed from it. And that same oil
was used to anoint their priests and kings, for the lamp in the holy place,
and to mingle with many of their sacrifices. To “anoint the head with oil”
was deemed most delightful and refreshing (Psalm 23). Wounds were
dressed with it (Luke 10:34), and the sick were anointed with it
(Mark 6:13; James 5:4). The wood of the tree was employed in the
sacred furniture of the temple, and there seemed to be no part of the tree
which did not in some way render service to man. Now, such was the
purpose of God in regard to His people, that in them “should all the nations
of the earth be blest.” They were to be the channel of blessing to all people.
Through them God’s “saving health” should be known “amongst all
nations.” (Psalm 67:2)
4. And in permanence. Their blessedness was to abide. The “greenness” of
the tree spoken of here refers to its perpetuity and strength. The olive is
known to live to a great age. It is not improbable (see Kitto) that some of
the olive trees now on the
Lord. The tax paid on them is that which was assigned to such trees when
first the Turks became masters of
taxed far more heavily. But of the great age to which the olive tree attains
there can be no doubt. It brings forth fruit in old age, and its leaf doth not
wither (Psalm 1). It was, therefore, a fit emblem of permanent prosperity
and strength. Such was the Divine intent in regard to His people. Their
blessedness was to abide. (Let us think out loud. What do you think that
the will of God was for Adam and Eve? CY - 2023)
8 Hear, O
my people, and I will testify unto thee: O
wilt hearken unto me;
9There shall no strange God be in thee; neither shalt thou worship
any strange God.
10 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of
11 But my
people would not hearken to my voice; and
none of me.
12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in
their own counsels.
13 Oh that
my people had hearkened unto me, and
in my ways!
14 I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand
against their adversaries.
15 The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto
him: but their time should have endured for ever.
16 He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and
with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.
unto me, O Jacob and
first, I also am the last.
13 Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right
hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand
14All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath
declared these things? The LORD hath loved him: he will do his
15 I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him,
and he shall make his way prosperous.
16 Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret
from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now
the Lord GOD, and His Spirit, hath sent me.
17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of
the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth
thee by the way that thou shouldest go.
18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy
peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the
19 Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels
like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor
destroyed from before me.
Thus in all these and yet other ways were they first. But:
II. THEY BECAME LAST. See the terrible similitude employed — the
charred and shattered tree. But not more terrible than true. (Contrast what has
The smoldering ruins, the devastated city, the desolate land, which a few years
afterwards the prophet looked upon, showed how true his word had been. They
had become last indeed. Exalted to heaven, they had been thrust down to hell.
(Compare Matthew 11:20-24) None can avoid inquiring:
III. THE CAUSE OF ALL THIS. It is declared to be threefold.
1. The evil of the people themselves. (v. 17.) Their persistence in
idolatry in spite of all remonstrance, warning, and every inducement which
should have withdrawn them from their sin. “Do not the abominable thing
which I hate” had in every variety of manner been said to them by God, but
in vain. He hated it because it was the root of so many other sins, and the
destroyer of all the good He had purposed both for and through them.
In seeking the usual reference of the above, I expected to be led to a
Bible verse but instead this showed up!
May 13, 2009
For over 200 years, from 1690-1900, a primary reading textbook entitled
The New England
Primer was used in every
used to teach
But, this book would be comparable to first grade level curriculum. The first lessons
contain the alphabet, then come the learning syllables and words. About a quarter
of the way through the book the children were taught to memorize a different phrase
attached to each letter of the alphabet. Here are some of the examples:
· A is for “A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish son is the
heaviness of his mother.
· B is for “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure
and trouble therewith.”
· C is for “Come unto Christ all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and
He will give you rest.
· D is for “Do not the abominable thing, which I hate saith the Lord.”
E is for “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the
Above I mentioned that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ
and receive for the things we have done. There will be some pleasant things
in the Judgment - “Well done good and faithful servant. Thou hast been
faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou
into the joy of thy Lord. (Matthew 25:23)
It goes on and
on like this. This was the primary reading textbook in
for over 200 years. Notice one of the lessons contained in the textbook: “Who is the first man?
Who is the first woman? Who is the first murderer? (quite a contrast to the curriculum of
but this is what produced
Who is the first martyr? Who is the first translated? Who is the oldest man? Who built the ark?
Who is the most faithful man? Who is the meekest man? Who is the most patient?” Etc… T
his sounds like a Sunday school lesson!
No, it was the
primary reading textbook in
would get into the back of the book it contained questions such as (remember this is
1st grade level): “What is the fifth commandment? What is the forbidden in the fifth
commandment? What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment? What is the
sixth commandment? What is required in the sixth commandment? What is forbidden
in the sixth
commandment?” Now that was the foundation for
over 200 years!
This is the type of education that John Quincy Adams received. He served
as President, 18 years in the House of Representatives, Secretary of State, and many more
positions. At the age of 14, he received a congressional diplomatic appointment overseas
to the court of Catherine the Great in Russia Can you imagine sending a 14-year-old overseas
foundation they received. John Quincy Adams said, “The highest glory of the American
Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil
government with the principles of Christianity. ” Today we hear that it is supposed
to be separated and that our founding fathers wanted it that way! John Jay, first
Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, one of the men most responsible
Constitution said, “
rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation
to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” How long has it been since we heard
anyone on the Supreme Court say, “now make sure you elect Christians as your leaders”?
In the earlier history textbooks students were taught that George Washington’s farewell
address was the most significant political speech ever given to the nation. Why not?
He is the “Father of the nation. ” He spent 45 years of his life in public service: everything
from Commander in Chief, through two terms as president. He was president of the
convention that gave us the Constitution. He was the one who called for the
1st Amendment Bill of Rights. In his farewell speech he was saying, “This is what
Yet, that farewell speech has not been seen in textbooks for nearly 40 years. Why not,
does George Washington have nothing to say anymore? No, the problem is what he says
in the last half of his speech; he goes into great detail about something: “Of all the habits
and dispositions which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable
supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert
these great pillars! ” We don’t hear these kind of statements anymore. But, these are the men
us the greatest form of government on earth.
ideas for a government that could last so long when other nations can’t last?
felt that if they could look back at some of the writings of the founding fathers and
see whom they quoted, they would know the answer. They collected 15,000 writings
of the founding fathers. From that they boiled it down to 3,154 writings that they felt had
impact on the founding of
three most quoted men were Blackstone, Montesquie, and John Locke. Now that is a
tribute to these three men, but what they found and did not expect to find was that four
times more than Montesquie twelve times more than Blackstone, and sixteen times more
than John Locke the founding fathers quoted from the Bible! 34% of all quotes of the
founding fathers came out of the Bible. Another 60% came from men that used the Bible
to draw up their conclusions. 94% of quotes used by our founding fathers were based on
Bible Scripture. 34% came directly from the Bible, and 60% were from men that used the
Bible to draw up their conclusions! Blackstone ‘s Commentaries on the Law was the book
that a person couldn’t go to law school without knowing. Charles Finney, who during his
time was like Billy Graham of our day, had gone to law school to become a lawyer before
ever aspiring to be a preacher. In the process of studying Blackstone’s writings on the law
in which Blackstone gave Bible verses that supported the reason for each law, Finney
became a Christian. He became a Christian by studying the law! The idea of three
branches of government with separation of powers didn’t copy any other government.
This idea came from Isaiah 33:22 “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver,
he Lord is our king; he will save us. ” The idea for “separation of powers” came from
Jeremiah 17. The idea of “tax exemption for churches” came from Ezra 7:24 “Also we
certify you, that, touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinums,
or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom,
upon them.” It is amazing how many times Congressmen would come to the floor of the
House or Senate with Bible in hand saying, “look what I found in the Bible! ” Others would
then say, “If it is in the Bible, that is what we want. ” They would vote on it and make it law.
The Bible book quoted more often than any other was Deuteronomy. This lets us know that
they were students of the Bible, because not many people today are that familiar with
Deuteronomy. Let us pray that God will bring
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2. Their evil returning upon themselves. v. 17, “The evil.., which they
have done against themselves.” This is ever the way of sin “But he that
sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love
death.” (Proverbs 8:36). It wrongs our entire nature. What a man sows he
(a) The reason is debased,
(b) the conscience trampled on,
(c) the power of will prostrated,
(d) the soul imprisoned,
(e) the affections perverted,
(f) the imagination defiled,
(g) the body often diseased,
(h) character ruined,
(i) substance wasted, and
(j) all the true springs of happiness poisoned or stopped.
He has sown to the flesh, and of the flesh he has reaped corruption.
Yes, sin is ever done against ourselves.
3. The woe which comes from the provoked anger of God. Besides these
natural results of sin — the reaping which is according to the sowing, and
which are terrible enough in themselves — there come the punitive
inflictions of the wrath of God. History as well as the Bible is full of proofs
of this on a large scale, and so are the experiences of individual
transgressors, though in more limited form. And wherever sin, the primary
cause, is found, there sooner or later will come these other causes which
together work so dread a doom.
· CONCLUSION. What effect should the contemplation of facts like these
— and they are written and wrought for our learning (I Corinthians 10:11)
— have upon us? Should they not cause us to reject at once and forever all
those suggestions which Satan is ever plying us with —
Ø that sin will not be punished, and
Ø the transgressor may, after all, go free?
In view of facts like these, how can that be believed? And should they not
lead us to offer as our daily prayer the petition, “Give us a heart to love
and dread thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments”?
And not only to dread and deprecate the wrath which sin provokes,
but to desire and seek after that preoccupation of the
heart with the love of God which will bar out sin.
“Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with thyself my spirit fill
Apostasy an Anomalous (abnormal and aberrant) and Incalculable Thing
4 Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; Shall
they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?
5 Why then
is this people of
backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.
6 I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented
him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned
to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.
7 Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the
turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their
coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.
I. THE ANALOGIES OR COMMON SENSE AND INSTINCT ARE
FALSIFIED. (vs. 4-6.) If a man fall, he will rise again to his feet; if he
has made a mistake or gone in a wrong direction, and discovers it, he will
turn again, unless he be absolutely bereft of his senses. One might expect
similar behavior in spiritual matters. But in the wickedness and defection of
are taught by instinct when to return. The season of their coming again is
almost as calculable as that of their going. But the departure of the sinner is
incomprehensible, and his return cannot with certainty be expected. Nay,
the likelihood is he will continue in his sin, and pursue his own destruction
to the hitter end. In this, as in many other instances, the career of the sinner
can only be explained on the score of infatuation. His moral sense is
perverted or destroyed. In place of that quick response which conscience
ought to make to the voice of duty, there comes over his spirit an
insensibility to moral considerations, and A GROWING IGNORANCE
of things Divine gradually deepening into OUTER DARKNESS.
II. IT IS UNMOVED BY THE CONSIDERATIONS THAT OUGHT
TO AFFECT IT. (v. 5.) The growing misery and unhappiness which it
occasions are not strong enough to check the tendency to sin, if indeed
their connection with it is clearly perceived or acknowledged. The cravings
of the spiritual nature have to give place to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of
the eye, and the pride of life.” By-and-by they are stilled, not by being
satisfied, but by being stifled; and a curious heedlessness, which is deaf to
all the voices of prophetic warning and entreaty, increasingly characterizes
it. Under such circumstances it is difficult to discover any common point of
contact or argument that shall be valid to both parties. When reason is left
behind, it is not to higher, but to lower, susceptibilities that appeal has to
III. THE CONCERN, THE CLAIMS, AND THE GRACIOUS
PROVISION OF GOD ARE AS NOTHING. (v. 6.) The saint in the
times of his calamity calls upon God to incline His ear. In the fearful
condition and moral insensibility of His people to their wickedness and
danger God is represented as of Himself inclining H is ear and listening
attentively for the lightest sigh of repentance. He calls, but no notice is
taken. The means of salvation He has provided are neglected, or abused.
The form of godliness is cultivated when the spirit has fled and the
exercises of religion are the chief foes to its reality. What can be the
conclusion to all this? THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DEAD! There is
neither power nor inclination to seek for better things. Nothing but
supernatural grace and long-suffering love can avail to save them.
Poet Natasha Trethewey served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of
The Way Home (v. 6)
The text suggests much concerning this way from the far country of sin to
the home of our Father and God. The Lord is here lamenting that none of
the people of
I. THE STAGES OF THE WAY.
1. Realization of the ruin wrought by our sin. The soul is represented as
contemplating this ruin, and asking, “What have I done?” This is the first
2. Repentance. Each one is to repent of “his wickedness.” We are not to
lose ourselves in a general confession of sin, as too many do, but to think
of our own sin apart from that of other people, and to think of what is
especially our sin. Thus personal and particular, our repentance is the more
likely to be genuine and godly.
3. Confession. “These that have sinned, these and these only speak aright
when they speak of repenting, and it is sad when they who have so much
work for repentance do not say a word of repenting.” But confession is this
“speaking aright” which God desires to hear from us. Now, this confession
is so acceptable to God because it glorifies His holiness and His love. His
holiness; for the sinner has come to see sin as God sees it, and hence to
hate and abhor it. He is of one mind with God about it as he never was
before. And his love; for confession casts itself in faith upon a love that is
deeper than its sin. Deep as is God’s abhorrence of sin, the sinner in
confession appeals to and lays hold on a love that is deeper still. Hence,
when the sinner makes his sincere confession before God, he is at once
right out of “the far country,” and home in the heart of God. The robe, the
ring, the shoes, are put upon him; the feast is prepared, and the merrymaking,
the joy in the presence of the angels of God, at once begins. (see Luke 15)
II. THE ATTENTIVE OBSERVER OF THOSE WHO TRAVEL BY
THIS WAY. It is God who is represented as bending down his ear,
hearkening to what is said, listening for any words of confession, and ready
to hear them if spoken. The text is the language of gracious expectation
and desire on the part of God. It calls to mind the father’s waiting for the
prodigal’s return. How often had he looked with longing, loving gaze
down the road along which his returning son must come, if ever indeed he
would come! He had looked so often that a speck in the far distance
would at once be discerned by him. Hence, “when a great way off,” the
father saw him. And so here God is represented as thus waiting for his
guilty people’s return. And how much there is to confirm our faith in this
Divine solicitude for the sinner’s salvation! Look at the very constitution of
our nature. That, as Bishop Butler has shown, is evidently on the side of
virtue, that is, of obedience to God, and against the disobedient. “Who will
harm you, if ye be doers of that which is good? “ — thus the apostle
appeals to the universally recognized fact, that the constitution of man’s
nature is such as to favor the good. And, on the other hand, the declaration
that “the way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15), is based on another like
fact of universal experience. Such is one evidence of “the care” with which, as
George Herbert sings, “Lord, with what care thou hast begirt us round?
Then the revelation of His truth is yet further in evidence. That truth, as
ministered to us by the written Word or by the lips of prophets, apostles,
pastors, teachers — it matters not — is a perpetual proof of the Divine
solicitude for our eternal good. And His providence, making it to be well
with the righteous and ill with the unrighteous. Well and ill with each
respectively in mind, body, and estate. And His Spirit. That Spirit speaking
to us in conscience and in the powerful pleadings of His grace in our hearts,
of which we are all so often conscious. And, last of all, God has shown us
this loving care of His for us in his Son. He has shown Himself in a manner
adapted to touch and move all hearts, and to draw all men unto Him. Now,
all this mass of evidence is in keeping with that solicitude which this verse
and so many other portions of God’s Word reveal as felt by Him towards
sinful men. (SOLICIT - ask for, crave, beg, request) And if it be asked
“What moves this solicitude?” the character of God furnishes the answer.
The holiness of God. “Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will He
teach sinners in the way.” (Psalm 25:8) And we are bidden“Give thanks at
the remembrance of his holiness.” (ibid. ch. 30:4) It is the nature of
holiness to be distressed at all that contradicts it and is unlike itself. It rests
not until it has assimilated all around it to itself. Here, then, is one reason
of God’s perpetual appeals to sinful men.
· His wisdom also. It is the characteristic of God’s wisdom to adjust
means to ends. How wonderfully and beautifully this is seen in all
departments of nature! But for the fulfilling of the high purposes
of His grace, what instrument can He find more fit than the regenerated,
redeemed soul? Even now and here we see this. A soul aglow with love
and faith towards God, what will not that soul do for God? Hence to the
principalities and powers in heaven shall be made known by the one
Church — the company of the redeemed shall evidence it —
THE MANIFOLD WISDOM OF GOD!
· His love also. If the beholding of scenes of distress touch our hearts
and make us eager to render help, can we imagine that He who made
us is less willing than ourselves to show pity and render help?
Our Lord’s argument is, “If ye, evil though ye be, know how”
— and we do know how — “to give good gifts to your children, how
much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those that
ask Him? (Matthew 7:11) Humanity, as it has been well said, is the
heavenly Father’s sick child. Will not the Father’s love, therefore,
be all the more called forth to that child?
· And His compassion also. For this life is the critical period of that
child’s malady. It is the time when the great question of its life or death
is being determined. Terrible forces are against it, and the struggle is
now at its most momentous hour. This fact would cause the Father’s love
to go forth, as it has gone and is going forth, in active compassion, in open
manifestation of its solicitude.
Such are some of the considerations which lead to our Father’s attentive
observance of all those who travel by this homeward way.
III. THE END OF THE WAY. They who come there will find:
· restoration to the Father’s love,
· the implantation of a new nature,
· the complete pardon of the past,
· power to live as God’s dear child for the future, and ultimately
· the everlasting dwelling in the very presence and home of God.
IV. BROOKS BY THE WAY. It is said, “He shall drink of the brook by
the way, therefore shall he lift up the head.” We may apply these words to
the travelers in the way we are speaking of; for they need, in the weary and
often most difficult journey, the refreshments WHICH GOD ALONE CAN
SUPPLY! Such aids are given in the promises of God, the fellowship of God, the
communion of fellow-travelers on the way, and in the service and worship
V. THE SOLITARINESS OF THE WAY. It is but “here and there a
traveler” that is found. The way is not thronged. This verse is God’s lament
that scarce any are found willing to go along this road; for it is not the way
of worldly advantage. They who “are given to covetousness” (v. 10) will
never choose this way. They have persuaded themselves that they are as
well off and better where they are. They are deceived, and, what is worse,
are willing to be deceived: “They hold fast deceit, and so refuse to return.”
(v. 5) We should have thought that surely it would be otherwise.
1. Reason bids them return (v. 4). If a man have fallen, he will not lie
content on the earth, but will arise. If in an ordinary journey he have missed
his way, he will at once retrace his steps. Reason rules in such cases, but
2. Conscience bids them return. They could not but know that their sin had
done them sore harm; but none of them asked, “What have I done?”
however loudly conscience might summon them to such repentance.
3. God’s Word bade then return (v. 8), but lo! certainly in vain He made
4. Providences bade them. The events that had taken place were all
admonitions of God; but though the birds of the air marked and obeyed the
providence of God, sinful man “knew not the judgment of the Lord” (v. 7).
(And like the people of Noah’s day, at the time of the Flood “....were eating
and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah
entered into the ark, And knew not until the Flood came, and took them all
away...” (Matthew 24:38-39 - I hope this doesn’t sound like a fairy tale to
you - Christ doesn’t do fairy tales. CY - 2023) Hence the way is solitary.
· CONCLUSION. But the question for us is, “Are we in this way?” Let us
bless God if we are, and press on therein. Let us note how short the day is
in which we can travel, how its few fleeting hours are lessening, lest when
we would start on the way we have to exclaim (Jeremiah 6:4), “Woe
unto us I for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are
Ecclesiastes 12 man goeth to his long home
Oh how I want to go home
Backsliding in Its Worst Forms (vs. 4-11)
All departures from God are evil, but some are only temporary, and are
quickly followed by repentance, return, and restoration. There are others,
however, of a far more serious kind, and we have in these verses a great
deal told us concerning them. We are told of some of:
I. THEIR CHARACTERISTICS.
1. So contrary to men’s wonted ways. For when men find that they have
brought evil on themselves, they will at once seek to undo such evil (v..4).
If a man fall, he win not lie still in the mire or in the road, but will get
up again as speedily as may be. If he have mistaken his path and got on a
wrong track, wilt he not, as soon as he discovers his mistake, quickly
retrace his steps that he may get into the right way? That is how men act in
the common affairs of life. But, though
they had fallen, yet they showed no desire to rise, and though they could
not but know they were altogether out of the right way, they showed no
willingness to return.
2. Resists the strivings of God’s Spirit and all his drawings of them to
Himself. V. 7 implies such God-implanted instincts in men’s souls, but
declares that, unlike the ever-obedient birds, man resists and refuses the
call of God.
3. Becomes shameless. (vs. 6,12.) This feature we have had noticed
before (compare ch.6:15); it arrested the prophet’s attention as being
4. Determined and defiant. (v. 6.)
5. Is at last perpetual. (v. 5.) They have gone into an evil way, and they
abide in that way, no power of Divine grace being able to draw them
therefrom. So terrible is this worst form of backsliding, it is perpetual.
“......they hold fast deceit.”
Let each wanderer from God ask himself the question, “What have I done?”
3. The time for such inquiry is lessening day by day.
4. “It is a fearful thing” for an unforgiven man “to fall into the
hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 12:29)
Peace, Peace; When There is No Peace (8:8-12)
The present condition of the country, why these scandals, miseries, and
I. DIVINE ILLUMINATION ALONE CAN GIVE TRUE
UNDERSTANDING OF GOD’S WORD. The priests and scribes, because
of familiarity with holy things, claimed to be wise. They were satisfied with
the spiritual state of
anticipated what took place. The Holy Spirit alone bestows Divine insight
II. THE DESPISERS OF DIVINE TRUTH, AND THOSE WHO
FALSELY PRETEND TO ITS CUSTODY, WILL BE PUT TO SHAME.
“Refuges of lies” will be swept away. The judgment, when it comes, will
find them wholly unprepared and helpless. “Take heed that the light that is
in thee be not darkness.” “Blind leaders of the blind,” the sorrowing comes
to them in vain for comfort, or is deceived to his own hurt; at last the
victim of a misplaced confidence, to find himself “of all men most
The Inveterate (ingrained;
deep-seated) Disobedience of
All along, from v.
21, this is the theme, viz. the disobedience of
Now, to give full force to a charge of disobedience there must be the
means of furnishing ample proofs that directions have first been given —
plain, earnest, and authoritative. And this is just what we find here. God
refers His people back over the long years in which, by divers agencies, He
had laid before them his righteous and beneficent will.
What he commended was for His glory; for His glory because for His people’s
good; for His people’s good because for His glory. The present state and
prospects of the people are very humiliating, but assuredly no part of their
humiliation can be laid to the charge of their God. The cloudy and the fiery
pillar was but a symbol of most distinct guidance for the whole heart. The
people were not suffered to wander for lack of expostulation and warning.
When a lad turns out badly, criticizing speech is often directed against the
parents, as if somehow they must be at fault. They may be at fault indeed,
but there is no must in the matter. Hasty criticism at such a time, from the
very injustice of it, adds a cruel intensity to the pain and disappointment
already existing. But hasty criticism cannot be silenced by merely
deprecating it, and parents at such moments would do well to remember
that they stand in relations to their disobedient children not unlike those in
which, as is represented here, Jehovah stood towards
most loving and watchful and patient of parents never did for his children
NEAR SO MUCH AS JEHOVAH DID FOR
of their wonderful career, in which God had moved so sublimely among them.
There were the ten commandments, formulated so distinctly, and set in
such a grand historical frame. There were all the rites and ceremonies filled
with instructing power to those who would seek to understand them. And
there was also, accumulating generation after generation, the great mass of
prophetic truth. Man is what he is, not for want of light, but for want of
disposition to use and obey the light when it appears. There is an
indisposition to attend to truth and to fidelity in all duty, until at last the
very feeling of what faithfulness and righteousness are vanishes from the
breast. But still the excuse is attempted, and persisted in with shameless
impudence, that the word which professes to come from God must have in
it something defective, something that effectually prevents it from being
received. But it is only from the unrenewed mind that talk of this kind
comes. Those who have had their eyes opened to the truth of God soon
begin to discern that in that truth there is no lack of guidance, or
inspiration, or comfort, or any good thing which can uplift and satisfy the
heart. And we may be sure that God, who has given this immense and
fruitful body of truth, has brought it nearer to the individual conscience
than the individual in his perversity will always acknowledge. Men are
indulged too much in the complaint that nobody has spoken to them about
their souls. A miserable egotism often lies at the bottom of such
complaining. If they know by any means whatever — and it matters not
how slight the hint may be-that there is something written for the
obedience of all mankind and for their consequent advantage, then these
complainers are bound to attend to it. Men are not so foolish in the quest
of worldly gains. Then they will go upon the slightest hint, and follow it up
discreetly and warily. Why, then, should they be so foolish in the matter of
spiritual gain? Because “truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.”