Foreigners, the most ruthless of the nations, cut it down and left it. Its branches have fallen on the mountains and in every valley; its boughs lay broken in all the earth's ravines. And all the peoples of the earth left its shade and abandoned it.
I. THE OFFENSE. This lay, not in the greatness and the might of the nation, which were appointed by Divine providence, but in the misuse of the position attained. The language used by Ezekiel concerning Assyria is very instructive as to Assyria's sin: "His heart is lifted up in his height." It is not the gifts bestowed in which the offence is to be sought, but it is in the erroneous view taken by the possessor, and in his abuse of those gifts. When we read of the heart being lifted up, we are led to understand that the nation took credit to itself for its position and acquirements, and for the influence thus enjoyed. In fact, as our Lord has expressly taught us, the heart is the seat and the source of all sin. Especially apparent is this in the case of the gifts of national exaltation, wealth, and military power; when the hearts of king and of people are filled with pride, self-confidence, and self-glorification.
II. THE CHASTISEMENT. The tree was smitten and felled by the hand of the stranger. A foreign foe, a rival nation, was employed to humble the pride of Assyria. The mighty one of the nations (by which we are to understand the King of the Babylonians) dealt with Assyria's pretensions to supremacy, and confounded them. "Strangers, the terrible of the nations, have cut him off." No greater calamity could have befallen the proud and boastful nation; no more unexpected disaster!
III. THE RUIN. The figurative language used to describe this, though succinct, is conclusive and appalling: "Upon the mountains and in all the valleys his branches are fallen, and his boughs are broken by all the water-courses of the land," etc. The description affirms of the conquered Assyria:
1. Humiliation; for the lofty is laid low.
2. Desertion: "All the people of the earth have gone down from his shadow, and have left him." Those who praised and flattered Assyria in prosperity, in the time of adversity forsake and flout her.
3. The ruined nation becomes the prey of other peoples, who seek to profit by its fall. - 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
TopicsAlien, Arms, Boughs, Branches, Broken, Cast, Channels, Cut, Cutting, Fall, Fallen, Feared, Fell, Foreign, Foreigners, Lands, Lay, Leave, Lie, Mountains, Nations, Peoples, Ravines, Rivers, Shade, Shadow, Shoots, Strange, Strangers, Streams, Terrible, Thin, Tyrants, Valleys, Watercourses, Waterways
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 31:3-14
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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