This is what the Lord GOD says: Because the enemy has said of you, 'Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession,'
I. THE LAND OF CANAAN IS HONORED BY A DIVINE COMMUNICATION. It is a reasonable conclusion that the main interest God felt in the mountains and hills of Palestine arose from their use as a home and storehouse for his people. Yet it is proper that we should regard God as finding a pleasure in the hills and valleys on account of their native beauty. They were the workmanship of his hand, and there is every reason why he should find pleasure in his creations. The long, past history of their internal structure was open to his eye, and the beauty of their clothing was to him a delight. But why should he dispatch to these unconscious mountains a prophetic messenger? Without doubt, this was intended as a rebuke to the people who had grievously disregarded his messages. It was as if he said indirectly to the nation, "It is vain to speak longer to your stony ears. I turn away in sorrow, and address my message to the unconscious earth. The very mountains will give me better audience than you have done. If I speak to the dew, it will obey. If I speak to the fragrant soil, it will yield its fruit. If I speak to the mountains, they will put on verdure and beauty. But, alas! if I speak to the intelligent sons of Jacob, they turn deaf ears and rebellious wills to my gracious voice! O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord!" By such methods of rebuke God endeavors to bring conviction home to the consciences of the people.
II. THE LAND OF CANAAN WAS AN IMPORTANT FACTOR IN ISRAEL'S PAST RENOWN. This land had been specially selected by God as the most fitting scene for the training of the Hebrew nation. It was the glory of all lands, the envy of surrounding nations. Compared with the territory north, or east, or south, it was splendidly fertile, while its mountains made it a secure fortress. The diversity of hill and vale gave it peculiar beauty and served to exhilarate the mind. The mountain-peaks drew heavenward men's thoughts. According to the known law, that the physical features of a country mould unconsciously the character of the inhabitants, Canaan had been a benefit to the Jewish tribes. The land was a contrast to the soft, fertile loam of Egypt. The relaxing climate of Lower Egypt, together with the wondrous facility of obtaining large crops, made the people indolent and effeminate - impatient of arduous exertion. In Palestine a totally different condition of things prevailed. For the most part the operations of husbandry were severe. The sides of the hills required to be built in terraces in order to retain the soil. But climate and soil were congenial for almost every kind of fruit. It was a territory in which it was scarcely possible for one to grow rich; it was a territory eminently suitable for the development of hardy and industrious peasants. Especially the land was singularly dependent upon the periodic rainfall. For, devoid of rain and dew, the olives dropped withered and unripe, the vines were blighted, the young corn was shriveled. Hence, in an eminent degree, the people hung in constant dependence on the good will of God. He held in his hand the helm of their prosperity.
III. THE LAND OF CANAAN HAD SHARED IN ISRAEL'S DISCOMFITURE AND SHAME. Frequent invasions on their borders had made their homes and crops insecure, and, without security for obtaining crops, men will not sow their fields. Frequent absence also, to serve on the battle-field, drew away the young men from quiet husbandry. Such losses in such a country soon became serious. A diminution in their produce left them unable and unwilling to pay tribute to their foreign conquerors, and this resulted in fresh invasion. Step by step the land went out of cultivation. The terraces on the hillsides were neglected. The people forget God, and God withdrew the light of his favor. The mountain-slopes, denuded of soil, soon became bald, bleached rocks. The high reputation for fertility which the land had enjoyed was gone. Its excellence and glory departed. Sharon was no longer a fold for flocks. Carmel laid aside her bridal garments of floral beauty. Jackals and foxes and hyenas infested the land. With the degradation of the elect people came the degradation of the elect land.
IV. THE LAND OF CANAAN WAS ABOUT TO SHARE IN ISRAEL'S NEW PROSPERITY.
1. In proportion to the infamy the land had endured was to be the fertility again to be enjoyed. The prosperity should not only rise to the former level; it should greatly surpass it. The infallible promise was made directly to every part and branch of the territory. God had a tender regard for every mountain and valley, for every river and plain; each should be enriched and gladdened by his favoring smile. The shame of the heathen should be outbalanced by corresponding reputation and honor. On condition of the faithfulness of the people this revival of prosperity should be enduring.
2. God speaks in language adapted to the age. By any other mode of speech God could not have been understood; and in such a case he may as well not have spoken. As men were stimulated to great exertions by a sentiment of national jealousy, so, in accommodation to imperfect men, God speaks of himself as stirred to activity by the fire of jealousy. Such jealousy was only another form of considerate love. It had no respect to himself. It was a jealous regard for the good of Israel, a jealous desire to fulfill his ancient promises.
3. These pledges of good were redeemed in the centuries which followed Israel's restoration. The land was reclaimed from the ravages of wild beasts. Cities and villages were rebuilt. Many parts of Canaan became fertile as a garden. Confessedly, we feel a disappointment that the revival of prosperity was not more complete, nor more abiding. But this was due alone to the folly and guilt of the people. In every promise of God there underlies a moral condition. For him to give unmingled blessing to evil-doers would be a fresh evil and an encouragement to sin. The actual fortunes of Canaan, in the later centuries, prove the faithfulness of God and the fickleness of the people. - 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
TopicsAha, Ancient, Enemy, Everlasting, Hater, Heights, Heritage, Ours, Places, Possession, Says, Spoken, Thus, Waste
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 36:1-7
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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