So I poured out My wrath upon them because of the blood they had shed on the land, and because they had defiled it with their idols.
I. ISRAEL'S ARRAIGNMENT.
1. The gravamen of the accusation is idolatry. Than idolatry, no greater affront can be put upon God, no greater evil can be wrought. God was deposed from his rightful throne, and senseless matter elevated into his place. The perfect will of God was set aside for the vain fancies of wicked men. The devil was preferred to Jehovah.
2. Idolatry was a system of active vice. It did not represent merely a change of belief; it was the enthronement and deification of vice. Public sanction was given to lust and unchastity. The marriage-tie was dissolved. The temple of God was desecrated with animal lust. The barbarous rites of idolatrous worship served to crush every tender feeling and to make men fiends. Wrong soon lost its hideous features in the eyes of men. They became inhuman, cruel, quarrelsome, murderous. Human life lost its sanctity, and the land was stained with blond.
3. Idolatry's fruits were most offensive to God. In order to convey to men an approximate idea of this offensiveness, God was compelled to borrow an illustration from the most loathsome thing familiar to men. As if he had said, "Picture to yourselves the thing most repulsive to your senses; this thing will feebly convey the idea of disgust I feel towards this monstrous crime." A common dung-hill is fragrance itself compared with the moral foulness of idolatry; and dead to every virtuous instinct must be the man who can endure it.
II. ISRAEL'S ARRAIGNMENT LED TO SEVEREST PENALTY.
1. A discharge of God's anger. "I poured out my fury upon them." The long-gathering storm of just indignation burst upon them as torrents from a broken reservoir. This is God's own account of his conduct, and he speaks, as usual, after the manner of a man. The violent anger of a man under a strong sense of injury has its correspondence in God, save that in God it is filled with the element of righteousness, and is in exact proportion to the sinner's deserts.
2. It embraced the dissolution of the covenant. The covenant made with Abraham and renewed with the Israelites was founded on a moral condition. That condition had been broken and abandoned by the nation; hence God publicly testified that he was no longer bound. The land of Canaan ceased to be held by Divine covenant; and, as the result of the broken compact, the Assyrians took possession. Pledges and contracts between God and man, wantonly violated, are surely followed by gravest disaster. This should teach all men the reality and the value of righteousness.
3. The penalty, though severe, was strictly equitable. "According to their doings I judged them." The fullest equity in God's dealings is guaranteed
(1) by the qualities of his nature and
(2) by the well-being of all the moral intelligences of his kingdom.
Every act of loving obedience shall be rewarded. Every deed of rebellion shall be punished according to the most equitable scale. And in this category is registered every secret design, as well as every overt deed.
III. THIS MANIFESTATION OF JUSTICE OVERSHADOWED THE BENIGNANT NATURE OF GOD. "They profaned my holy Name." It is a great responsibility to bear the Name of God - a great responsibility to belong to his kingdom. We carry his reputation in our hands. Mankind will judge him by what they see in us. If they discover in us selfishness, avarice, lust, they will conclude that our God is not over-righteous. If we, for our sins, are chastised, men will shrink from serving such a Master. Such was the case in the olden time among all the peoples that dwelt in the vicinity of Palestine. They said contemptuously, "This Jehovah, who conquered Canaan for his people, was, not able to retain it for them! Or else, he is a God easily offended! He chooses a nation for his favor one day, and casts it off on the morrow! Or else, his justice is so severe that we prefer to keep aloof from him!" Such were the judgments of men. But this was the result of ignorance. This was derogatory to God. This prejudiced the public mind against just conceptions of God. Now, it had been God's high design to unveil gradually to mankind all the fullness of his nature - his strong affection, the riches of his mercy, his self-sacrificing grace. Did men but know him thoroughly, one great hindrance to confidence and obedience would be removed. Most surely he deserves our allegiance; he is infinitely worthy of our trust. Therefore God had pity upon his Name; for his Name is the sum-total of his goodness. Men were suffering, because they did not know God - were misled by erroneous views of his character. Hence God resolved to adopt another plan - to make a grand experiment. He will make a new covenant with the people, and will write his laws on the tablet of their hearts. He will yet conquer their rebellions with his abounding grace.
IV. THE GRAND EXPERIMENT OF KINDNESS; viz. a gracious renewal of human nature.
1. The first step is cleansing. "From all your idols will I cleanse you." A disposition of repentance was already apparent. Many were beginning to ask how deliverance could be obtained; and, before they asked, the remedy is announced. God will undertake to purge out the virus of disease, and if he undertakes it, the change will be effectual. He will go to the root of the matter. The love of idols shall be rooted out of the heart; and, the root being killed, all the fruits will disappear. The instrument to be employed is the Truth - the revelation of Divine mercy. This is the "clean water" mentioned. To the same effect David declared, "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." And Jesus the Christ affirmed, "Now ye are clean, through the word which I have spoken unto you."
2. The next step is heart-renovation. "A new heart also will I give you." By the mystic power or' his grace God produces gradually a complete change in the moral principles of every penitent man. New light enters the mind. Sin is seen in its loathsomeness. A gracious influence from heaven softens the dispositions of the heart. Feeling becomes tender. The tastes cluster round nobler objects. God is seen to be supremely good, and new affections begin to entwine round him. Old habits of evil are dissevered. New inclinations and aspirations are engendered. Step by step the man rises out of his dead self into a new life. "Old things pass away, and all things" within him "become new."
3. A further step is the indwelling of God's Spirit in the wan. This is an anticipation of the new dispensation, more fully developed at Pentecost; this is the highest, noblest gift God can impart. In a word, this is spiritual evolution. On Adam God breathed, and he "became a living soul." But this is a new departure. The Spirit of God finds an entrance into the human soul, and works therein a new creation. All the dispositions of God are gradually reproduced. The man learns to think as God thinks, to feel as God feels, to love as God loves, to act as God acts. Then God's will is done, and God's image is reflected in the man as a face is reflected in a mirror.
4. A further step is national restoration. The man who truly loves God learns to love his fellow-man; and this bond of mutual love was the very thing wanted to weld the Hebrews into a nation. A people can safely be trusted with national prosperity only when they are loyal to God. The whole land of Palestine was a kind of enlarged temple, and only a consecrated people are fitted for a consecrated place. The old covenant, in its essential principles was to be restored. God would give himself to the people; they would give themselves up to him.
5. Material prosperity. "I will call for the corn, and will increase it." Soul-prosperity is the foundation; temporal fortune is the superstructure. "All things are ours if we are Christ's" "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." In Palestine 'the state of the harvest-field was a mirror in which men saw the smile or the frown of God. To obedient Jews, land-fertility was secured by an inviolable pledge of Jehovah. The windows of heaven were opened; the vines were embellished with splendid clusters; the very mountains seemed to send out rills of oil from the olive-groves.
V. THE FINAL AIM OF THIS STUPENDOUS CHANGE; Viz. to reveal God's Name. In other words, to make known to the world his wealth of goodness. That the purpose and aim of Jehovah in this grand experiment might be made clear, it is stated both positively and negatively. "Not for your sakes do I this,' saith God, "but for my holy Name's sake." A full and accurate knowledge of God is hope and inspiration to men. If only the state of feeling in a man's heart be right, then in proportion as God is known, he will be admired, trusted, loved, served. If the soil of the heart be broken up and pulverized, the knowledge of God, like living seed, will grow and flourish and bear a rich harvest of fruit. "They that know thy Name will put their trust in thee." This heart-knowledge of God brings eternal life. Misunderstanding of God brings fear, bondage, misery, hell. The glory of God and the good of men are twin-purposes - two sides of the same coin. God's will is man's salvation. As we know God experimentally, we aspire to be like God, we yearn to do his will, heaven is begun within. - D.
Wherefore I poured My fury upon them.I. GOD IS SLOW TO PUNISH. He does punish; He shall punish; with reverent be it spoken, He must punish. Yet no hand of clock goes so slowly as His hand of vengeance. He does pour out His fury; but His indignation is the volcano that groans loud and long before it discharges the elements of destruction, and pours its fiery lavas on the vineyards at its feet. Where, when God's anger has burned hottest, was it ever known that judgment trod on the heels of sin? A period always intervenes; room is given for remonstrance on His part, and for repentance upon ours. The stroke of judgment is like the lightning flash, irresistible, fatal; it kills, — kills in the twinkling of an eye. But the clouds from which it leaps are slow to gather; they thicken by degrees: and he must be intensely engaged with the pleasures, or engrossed in the business of the world, whom the flash and peal surprise. The mustering clouds, the deepening gloom, the still and sultry air, the awful silence, the big pattering raindrops, these reveal his danger to the traveller; and warn him away from river, road, or hill to the nearest shelter. And, heeded or unheeded, many are the warnings you get from God. As these prove, He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Let us do the same justice to our Father in heaven that we would render to an earthly parent. Would it be doing a father justice to look at him only when the rod is raised in his hand, and, though the trembling lip and weeping eyes and choked utterance of his culprit boy, and a fond mother's intercession, all plead with him to spare, he refuses, firmly refuses? In this, how stern he looks! But before you can know that father, or judge his heart aright, you should know how often ere this the offence had been forgiven; you should have heard with what tender affection he had warned that child; above all, you should have stood at his closet door, and listened when he pleaded with God on behalf of an erring son. Justice to him also requires that you should have seen with what slow and lingering steps he went for the rod, the trembling of his trend, and how, with tears streaming from his eyes, he raised them to heaven and sought strength to inflict a punishment which, could it serve the purpose, he would a hundred times rather bear than inflict.
II. HOW HE PUNISHED HIS ANCIENT PEOPLE. These were the children of Abraham, beloved for the father's sake, the honoured custodiers of Divine truth; God's chosen people, through whose line and lineage His Son was to appear. How solemn, then, and how appropriate, the question, If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? Look at Judah sitting amid the ruins of Jerusalem, her temple without a worshipper, her silent streets choked with the dead: look at that bound, weeping, bleeding remnant of a nation toiling on its way to Babylon: look at these peeled and riven boughs; may I not warn you with the Apostle, If God spaced not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. If we speak thus, it is for your good. We arm ourselves with these thunders only, in the words of Paul, "to persuade you by the terrors of the Lord." We have no faith in terror dissociated from tenderness. And as we trust more to drawing than to driving men to Jesus, we entreat you to observe that He who is the good is also a most tender Shepherd. Among the hills of our native land I have met a shepherd far from the flock and folds, driving home a lost sheep, one which had "gone astray," a creature panting for breath, amazed, alarmed, foot-sore; and when the rocks around rang loud to the baying of the dogs, I have seen them — whenever it offered to turn from the path, with open mouth dash fiercely at its sides, and so hound it home. How differently Jesus brings back His lost ones! The lost sheep sought and found, He lifts it up tenderly, lays it on His shoulder, and, retracing His steps, returns homeward with joy, and invites His neighbours to rejoice with Him. Catching grace from His lips, and kindness from His looks, I desire to address you as becomes the servant of such a gentle, lowly, loving Master. Yet, shall I conceal God's verity, and ruin men's souls to spare their feelings? If any are living without God and Christ and hope and prayer, I implore them to look here: turn to this dreadful pit. With what fire it burns! How it resounds with moaning wail and woeful groans 1 Now, while we stand together on its margin, or rather draw back with horror, ponder, I pray you, the solemn question, Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? It is alleged by travellers that the ostrich, when hard pressed by the hunters, will thrust its head into a bush, and, without further attempt either at flight or resistance, quietly submit to the stroke of death. Men say that, having thus succeeded in shutting the pursuers out of its own sight, the bird is stupid enough to fancy that it has shut itself out of theirs, and that the danger which it has ceased to see has ceased to exist. We doubt that. This poor bird, which has thrust its head into the bush, and stands quietly to receive the shot, has been hunted to death. For hours the cry of staunch pursuers has rung in its startled ear; for hours their feet have been on its weary track; it has exhausted strength, and breath, and craft, and cunning, to escape; and even yet, give it time to breathe, grant it but another chance, and it is away with the wind; with wings outspread and rapid feet it spurns the burning sand. It is because escape is hopeless and death is certain that it has buried its head in that bush, and closed its eyes to a fate which it cannot avert. To man belongs the folly of closing his eyes to a fate which he can avert. He thrusts his head into the bush while escape is possible; and, because he can put death and judgment and eternity out of mind, lives as if time had no bed of death, and eternity no bar of judgment. Be wise. Be men. Look your danger in the face. Flee to Jesus now. Escape from the wrath to come. To come? In a sense wrath has already come. The fire has caught, it has seized your garments; delay, and you are wrapt in flames. Oh! haste away, and throw yourselves into the fountain which has power to quench these fires, and cleanse you from all your sins.
( T. Guthrie, D. D.)
I. THE TRUTH OF GOD REQUIRES THE PUNISHMENT OF SIN. Some have fancied that they honour God most when, sinking all other attributes in mercy — indiscriminating mercy — they represent Him as embracing the whole world in His arms, and receiving to His bosom with equal affection the sinners that hate and the saints that love Him. They cannot claim originality for this idea. Its authorship belongs to the "father of lies." Satan said so before them. It is the identical doctrine that damned this world. The serpent said to the woman, Ye shall not surely die. Are your hopes of salvation resting on such a baseless fancy? If so, you cannot have considered in what aspect this theory presents that God for whose honour you profess such tender regard. We almost shrink from explaining it. You save the creature, but save him at a price more costly than was paid for sinners upon the Cross of Calvary. Your scheme exalts man; but far more than man is exalted, God is degraded. By it no man is lost; but there is a greater Joss. The truth of God is lost; and in that loss His crown is spoiled of its topmost jewel, His kingdom totters, and the throne of the universe is shaken to its deepest foundations. It is as manifest as daylight that God's truth and your scheme cannot stand together. "Liar" stands against either God or you; and, in the words of the Apostle, you make God a liar. Nor is that all; my faith has lost the very rock on which it stood, as I flattered myself, steadfast and unmovable. For however awful the threatenings in His word may be, if God is not true to them, what security have I that He will prove true to its gracious promises?
II. THE LOVE OF GOD REQUIRES THAT SIN SHOULD BE PUNISHED. Let me at once prove and illustrate the point by a piece of plain analogy. This city, its neighbourhood, nay, the whole land, is shaken by the news of some most cruel, bloody, monstrous crime. Fear seizes the public mind; pale horror sits on all men's faces; doors are double barred; and justice lets loose the hounds of law on the track of the criminal. At length, to the relief and satisfaction of all honest citizens, he is caught. He is tried, condemned, laid in irons, and waits but the sentence to be signed. To save or slay, to hang or pardon, is now the question with him whose prerogative it is to do either. And the law is left to take its course. Now, by what motive is the sovereign impelled to shut up his bowels of mercy, and sign the warrant for execution? Is it want of pity? No; the fatal pen is taken with reluctance; it trembles in his hand; and tears of compassion for this guilty wretch drop upon the page. It is not so much abhorrence of the guilty, as love of the innocent, and regard for their lives, peace, purity, and honour, that dooms the man to death. If he were pardoned, and his crime allowed to go unpunished, neither man's life nor woman's virtue were safe. Unless this felon dies, the peace of a thousand happy families lies open to foul attack. Love for those who have the highest claim on a sovereign's protection requires that justice be satisfied, and the guilty die. There are scenes of domestic suffering which present another, no less convincing, and more touching analogy. It has happened that, from love and regard to the interests of his other children, to save them from a brother's contamination, a kind parent has felt constrained to pronounce sentence on his son, and banish him from his house. How sad to think that he may be lost! The dread of that goes like a knife to the heart; yet, bitter truth! painful conclusion! it is better that one child be lost than a whole family be lost. These lambs claim protection from the wolf; he must be driven forth from the fold. Love herself, while she weeps, demands this sacrifice; and, just because it is most lacerating, most excruciating, to a parent's heart, it is in such a case the highest and holiest exercise of parental love to bar the door against a child. There have been parents so weak and foolish as to peril the morals, the fortunes, the souls of all their other children, rather than punish one; and in consequence of this I have seen sin, like a plague, infect every member of the family, and vice ferment and spread till it had leavened the whole lump. Divine love, however, is no blind Divinity: and God, being as wise as He is tender, sinners may rest assured, that out of mere pity to them He will neither sacrifice the interest nor peril the happiness of His people. Bleeding, dying, redeeming Love shall bolt the gates of heaven with her own hand, and from its happy, holy precincts exclude all that could hurt or defile.
III. UNLESS SIN IS TO BE AWFULLY PUNISHED, THE LANGUAGE OF SCRIPTURE APPEARS EXTRAVAGANT. The sufferings and misery which await the impenitent and unbelieving have been painted by God in most appalling colours. They are such that, for our salvation, His Son descended from the heavens and expired upon a Cross. They are such that, when Paul thought of the lost, he wept like a woman. They are such that, though a dauntless man, who shook his chain in the face of kings, whose spirit no sufferings could subdue, and whose heart no dangers could appall, who stood as unmoved amid a thousand perils as ever sea rock amid the roaring billows, he could not contemplate the fate of the wicked without the deepest emotion. What horror did David feel at the sight and fate of sinners! With his face turned up to heaven, you see a blind man approach the edge of an awful precipice; every step brings him nearer, nearer still, to the brink, Now he reaches it; he stands on the grassy edge. Oh, for an arm to reach him, a voice to warn him, a blow to send him staggering back upon the ground. He has lifted his foot; it is projected beyond the brink; another moment, a breath of wind, the least change of balance, and he is whirling twenty fathoms down. You stop your ears; shut your eyes; turn away your head; horror takes hold of you. Such were David's feelings when he contemplated the fate of the wicked. The wrath of God is the key to the Psalmist's sorrow, to an Apostle's tears, to the bloody mysteries of the Cross. That was the necessity which drew the Saviour down. God certainly is not willing that you should perish; and by these terrors He would persuade you to accept salvation. Meditate on these words: pray over them — Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. Still, it is not terror which is the power, the mighty power of God. The Gospel, like most medicines for the body, is of a compound nature; but whatever else enters into its composition, its curative property is love. God, indeed, tells us of hell, but it is to persuade us to fly to heaven; and, as a skilful painter fills the background of his picture with his darker colours, God introduces the smoke of torment and the black thunder clouds of Sinai to give brighter prominence to the Cross, to Jesus, and His love to the chief of sinners. His voice of terror is like the scream of the mother bird when the hawk is in the sky. She alarms her brood that they may run and hide beneath her feathers; and as I believe that God had left that mother dumb unless He had given her wings to cover them, I am sure that He, who is very "pitiful," and has no pleasure in the meanest creature's pain, had never turned our eyes on the horrible gulf unless for the voice that cries, Deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom.
( T. Guthrie, D. D.)
PlacesEdom, Jerusalem, Mount Seir, Tigris-Euphrates Region
TopicsBlood, Death, Defiled, Fury, Idols, Images, Loose, Polluted, Pour, Poured, Shed, Unclean, Violently, Wherefore, Wherewith, Wrath
Outline1. The land of Israel is comforted, by destruction of the heathen, who spitefully used it
8. and by the blessings of God promised unto it
16. Israel was rejected for their sin
21. and shall be restored without their desert
25. The blessings of Christ's kingdom
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEzekiel 36:16-23
LibraryJanuary 2. "I Will Cause You to Walk in My Statutes" (Eze. xxxvi. 27).
"I will cause you to walk in My statutes" (Eze. xxxvi. 27). The highest spiritual condition is one where life is spontaneous and flows without effort, like the deep floods of Ezekiel's river, where the struggles of the swimmer ceased, and he was borne by the current's resistless force. So God leads us into spiritual conditions and habits which become the spontaneous impulses of our being, and we live and move in the fulness of the divine life. But these spiritual habits are not the outcome of some …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
May 30. "I Will Put My Spirit Within You" (Ez. xxxvi. 27).
August 25. "And I Will Put My Spirit Within You, and Cause You to Walk in My Statutes, and Ye Shall Keep My Judgments and do Them" (Ezek. xxxvi. 27).
The Holy Nation
A New Heart.
Prayer --The Forerunner of Mercy
The Covenant Promise of the Spirit
The New Heart
What Self Deserves
The Stony Heart Removed
Let Your Hearts be Much Set on Revivals of Religion. ...
God Has Everything to do with Prayer
How those are to be Admonished with whom Everything Succeeds According to their Wish, and those with whom Nothing Does.
Jesus Angry with Hard Hearts
The Everlasting Covenant of the Spirit
Touching Jacob, However, that which He did at his Mother's Bidding...
Pastor in Parish (I. ).
Be Ye Therefore Perfect, Even as Your Father which is in Heaven is Perfect. Matthew 5:48.
The Person Sanctified.
Evidences Internal and Experimental.
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