In the eleventh year, on the first day of the third month, the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
I. THE MAGNITUDE OF THE ASSYRIAN KINGDOM. The noble cedar of lofty stature and spreading boughs is a striking figure of the great world-empire of which colossal vastness is considered the most characteristic feature.
II. ITS PROSPERITY. The vigor and vitality of the proud cedar of Lebanon are artistically set forth by the poet-prophet. "The waters nourished him, the deep made him to grow; her rivers ran round about her plantation," etc. So the great state throve, all circumstances concurring to enhance its prosperity, all allies and tributaries furnishing material for its growth.
III. ITS STRENGTH. The exalted stature, the multiplied boughs, the long branches, are signs of the cedar's strength; the storms may beat upon its head, but it withstands the fiercest blast, and endures whilst generation after generation admire its grandeur, and come and go. The Assyrian empire seemed of unassailable power; the sovereigns arrogated to, themselves, an unquestionable authority; men thought of Nineveh - "that great city as of a city which could never be moved."
IV. ITS BEAUTY. Fair was the cedar in his greatness, in the length of his branches, nor was any tree in the garden of God like unto him in his beauty. Evidently to the mind of the prophet there was beauty in Assyria such as no choice similitude could exaggerate. This may not be so obvious to us as the assertion of Assyria's strength; but so it seemed to the mind of the world of old.
V. ITS INFLUENCE. This seems to be the idea conveyed by the sixth verse: "All the fowls of the heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations." A power so commanding, a position so authoritative, secured the homage of lesser states, which looked up to Nineveh for protection, and were ever ready, by flattery or by service, to minister to her greatness.
VI. ITS PRE-EMINENCE. The stature of the cedar of Lebanon was exalted above all the trees of the field. Even so, during its palmy days, Nineveh was the leader, the chief of the nations. It was long before that supremacy was questioned and disputed. Yet the day came, and Assyria fell.
(1) A great nation enjoying prosperity and wielding influence is especially bound to remember whence its power is derived; and
(2) to cultivate the conviction and sense of responsibility for the use made of gifts and influence entrusted to it. From God all comes, and to God the account must be rendered. - T.
As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead.Zechariah 7:12): — A great and good man who served and suffered for Christ in North Africa seventeen centuries ago won for himself a noble name by which he is still known, Origen the Adamantine. There isn't a boy nor, in her own quiet way, a girl who does not feel some glow of heart or flush of face at the magic of this name, "the Unsubduable," "the Invincible." But he was not the first who bore the name. It was given long before by God Himself to His captive prophet in Babylon, whose forehead, as he faced the people, whose hearts were cold and hard as stones, might well be firm as adamant, since, in his very name, Ezekiel, he carried the great power of God. Now, what is adamant? Look at a lady's finger ring, and find among the precious stones set in its golden circle one that is quite clear and lustrous, and that throws off from every facet whatever rays of light are falling upon it. We call this sparkling gem, as you know, a diamond. But that is just another form of the word adamant, which we owe to the old Greeks, who naturally called the precious stone which could not be broken, adamas or "the unsubduable."
1. The diamond now flashing on your mother's finger was not always the hardest of stones. It was once a bit of soft, vegetable matter. For the diamond is not really different from the coal which makes our winter fires, and which, long, long ages ago, was a thick, steaming forest. Hence it is quite true that "the sunbeams are driving our railway trains." And the exiles in Babylon, who had grown so adamantine in evil that the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God made no more impression on their hearts than your penknife on the angles of a diamond, were once boys and girls playing in the streets of Jerusalem, singing the songs of Zion, and dreaming their day dreams of ministering to the Lord like Samuel, or fighting with Goliaths like David, or leading the dance of triumph like Miriam. This terrible process of heart petrifying, or turning to stone, comes about by the action of the wise and good, though solemn and awful, law of habit. "The oftener, the easier." How woeful to reach at last the state when, as regards all that is highest and best, one is "past feeling," as though the conscience had been burned with a hot iron, or the heart made as hard as an adamant stone! From which may the good Lord deliver us!
2. We may find a promise of better things even in Zechariah's awful image of disobedience. The exquisite diamonds, or carbon crystals, are combustible, and, if subjected to a sufficient degree of heat, will pass off in carbonic acid gas. Fine ladies need not be so proud of their diamonds, since they may all be dissipated by fire; and poorer folks need not so greatly covet their possession, since they are breathing out diamond essence with every exhalation! And if we were so foolishly greedy as to want our diamond breaths back again, they would poison us. However this may be, it is certain that hearts as hard as an adamant stone are every day being softened, melted, transformed, by the fire of God's holy love, which saves the sinner by consuming his sins.
3. But "the broken heart," though it may seem strange to say so, is the stoutest and bravest of hearts. The true hero has always a tender conscience. He who fears God has no other fear. If Christ is your Master, and you are learning in His school, you may well appropriate the sturdy words over the gate of Marischal College, Aberdeen: "They say: what say they? let them say." God has His diamonds as well as the devil. Against the whole "House of Disobedience" stood up the son of Buzi, the prophet of the exile, in the strength of God. If the people were hard as flint in their own evil ways, he was firm as the adamant, which is harder than flint in the service of God. They did well to call Origen, the Adamantine, the Invincible, for when, at the age of sixteen, his father was thrown into prison for his confession of Christ, he wanted to go and suffer with him; and when it was shown him that this was not his duty, he wrote to his father not to falter in his faith for their sakes, for he would undertake the support of his mother and his six younger brothers. And nobly did he fulfil his promise, selling his books, working early and late as a teacher in Alexandria, and inspiring his pupils with such devotion that they called his college "a school for martyrs."
(A. N. Mackray, M. A.)
(Footsteps of Truth.)
PlacesAssyria, Babylon, Egypt, Lebanon, Tigris-Euphrates Region
TopicsEleventh, Month, Pass, Saying, Third
Outline1. A relation unto Pharaoh
3. of the glory of Assyria
10. and the fall thereof for pride
18. The like destruction of Egypt
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEzekiel 31:1
To a modern taste, Ezekiel does not appeal anything like so powerfully as Isaiah or Jeremiah. He has neither the majesty of the one nor the tenderness and passion of the other. There is much in him that is fantastic, and much that is ritualistic. His imaginations border sometimes on the grotesque and sometimes on the mechanical. Yet he is a historical figure of the first importance; it was very largely from him that Judaism received the ecclesiastical impulse by which for centuries it was powerfully …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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