Isaiah 17:10

We learn -

I. THAT GOD IS WRONGED AND GRIEVED BY OUR NEGLECT OF HIMSELF AS WELL AS BY OUR DISOBEDIENCE TO HIS LAWS. Men sometimes mistakenly suppose that their sin is limited by the number of their transgressions of God's positive enactments. They make a very serious mistake in so judging. Great guilt, indeed, is contracted by the breach of Divine commandment, by setting at defiance the "Thou shalt not" of sacred Scripture. But our obligation strikes deeper far, and, when we flail, our sin includes immeasurably more than this. God deserves, and he desires, and he even demands, that we, his human children, should render to him, himself, all that filial love and fellowship which is due from such beloved and enriched ones to such a gracious and bountiful Father. His charge against us is not merely that we have done numbers of things which he has prohibited; it is that we have lived on through days, weeks, months, years, through whole periods and stages of our life, and have forgotten him, the God of our salvation, have not been mindful of him, the Rock of our strength; it is that we have taken blessings and deliverances from his strong, redeeming hand, and have been content to spend our days in ungodliness, withholding the gratitude, the affection, the submission, the willing and joyous service which a relationship so near as is ours to him, and which benefits so great as are his to us, do emphatically demand. The simple and true answer to the question, "What have we failed to render to our redeeming and our beneficent God?" should cover us with shame and send us to our knees in penitence.

II. THAT AN UNGODLY LIFE IS NOT ONLY A PROLONGED INIQUITY, BUT IS ALSO A SUPREME MISTAKE. "Because thou hast forgotten... therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants... but the harvest shall be a heap," etc. The mistake of ungodliness is seen in that:

1. It leaves out and loses all the real nobility from human life - all that which raises man's nature above the brutes, and connects it with the angelic and Divine.

2. It includes only that which is absolutely insufficient and unsatisfactory. It supplies treasures which the thief can steal, joys which pall and perish, friendships which linger only for a few passing years. It has nothing which fills and satisfies the human soul, made, as that is made, for heavenly wisdom, for holy service, for the worship and the love of God. Its harvest is only a heap of husks, and not the granary of life-sustaining corn.

3. It makes no provision for the time of trial - for "the day of grief and of desperate sorrow," for the day of death, for the day of judgment. - C.

Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation.

1. What is this forgetfulness of God? It has been defined as "such a habitual inattention to His existence and character, as leads the individual under its influence to a mode of thinking, feeling, and acting, which would be consistent only on the supposition that there were no God, or that God is a very different Being from what the Scriptures represent Him to be."

2. It is a startling sin. Everything around us is designed and fitted to remind us of God. The Bible unfolds the moral character of God. Sharp dispensations of providence remind us of His existence. Preachers enforce His claims. Each returning Sabbath, with its closed shutters, the sound of the church going bell, and the voice of praise from the lips of the pious, says, Worship God. But many would rather think about anything, or nothing, than about God.

3. It is a fearfully prevalent sin.

4. It is an ungrateful sin (Isaiah 1:2, 3).

5. It is a highly punishable sin. Many people imagine that none are sinners but those who openly sin. But what of the moral man, who does his duty towards his fellow men, but who forgets God?


1. Dwarfed powers. Men cannot, if they wish, be totally inactive. If activity be not devoted to God, it will be devoted to the world, to "planting pleasant plants."

2. Secular knowledge is a pleasant plant.

3. Wealth is a pleasant plant.

4. Ambition is a pleasant plant.

5. Amusement is a pleasant plant.

6. Hence observe the ultimate result of this conduct. "The harvest shall be a heap," etc. Sooner or later men reap what they sow. Sin and suffering are bound together by an unbreakable chain. "The gods are just," says Shakespeare, "and of our pleasant vices make instruments to scourge us." (Galatians 6:7, 8.) Men break God's physical laws, and they suffer in their bodies and circumstances. They violate His moral laws, and personal debasement ensues. George Eliot says, "That is the bitterest of all — to wear the yoke of our own wrong-doing."

(H. Woodcock.)

I. FORGETFULNESS OF GOD IS AN EVIL WHICH TOO GENERALLY PREVAILS AMONG MEN. The text does not so much charge with positive wickedness (though it is implied) as forgetfulness of God, which supposes folly, because He is the God of salvation, and the Rock of strength. Consider these relations —

1. The God of thy salvation.

(1)He is infinitely able to save His creatures, whether the salvation required be temporal, spiritual, or eternal.

(2)He is always willing to save them. How inexcusable is maul How criminal to forget, to be unmindful of Him!

2. The Rock of thy strength. Here we may build, and the fabric will never be shaken. Here we may shelter, as in the cleft of a rock, and no evil shall prevail against us. For so helpless and weak a creature as man to have such a refuge, such a support, and to be unmindful of it, how great is his folly! But when may we be said to forget, and to be unmindful of God? When we live without thinking of Him — without praying to Him — without seeking His glory — without surrendering our souls, bodies, and all our cares into His hands.

II. THE ATTENTION THUS DRAWN FROM GOD AND HIS SERVICE IS TRANSFERRED TO WORLDLY AND SENSUAL PLEASURES. The soul of man in this case strives to supply its want of happiness from the world: "therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants." Infinitely varied are the objects of the attention or culture of men, but they all proceed from the above principle, or rather have the same end in view. Some seek their pleasure in learning, others in the arts, riches, honours, employments, amusements. But they are "strange slips," not natural, not designed to. answer the intended purpose. The sons of men are determined to prove what the world can do for them. "In the day THE CONSEQUENCES OF SUCH CONDUCT. "The harvest shall be a heap," etc.

(J. Walker, D. D.)

These occasional sun gleams may foretoken the thunderstorm. God can mock, God can lead the bullock to the knife by the way of a fat pasture. There is, therefore, a promise here, but the promise is limited. You shall have mushroom growths, you shall see wonderful things within the span of a single day; but what shall the harvest be? The meaning is, we may be infatuated by appearances, by immediate successes, by flowers and strange slips growing up within the compass of one little day.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Happily, this is only one aspect of the Divine government; we are entitled to reverse this text, and say, Because thou hast remembered the God of thy salvation, and hast been mindful of the Rock of thy strength, therefore shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses burst out with new wine. Thou hast not withheld from God the gladness and the service of thine heart, and He will not withhold from thee the music and the rapture and the abundance of harvest.. The way of the Lord is equal.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

They made for themselves all kinds of sensuous cults in conformity with their heathen inclination.

(F. Delitzsch.)

The foreign slip has shot up like a hothouse plant, i.e., the alliance has rapidly become a happy agreement, and has also already shot forth a blossom, which is the common plan directed against Judah.

(F. Delitzsch.)

The world is full of people who are engaged in planting their slips. Fortunes, luxurious homes, great reputations — such are some of the slips; but what disappointment succeeds — "desperate sorrow." The egg turns cue to be rottenness; the fair landscape a Sahara, from which the mirage is gone; the beautiful globe of changing colour, only a drop of dirty soap and water. We remember the story of Faust, who sold himself to Satan, but the day of bitter reaping came. We remember the cry of Byron over his wasted years; of Laurence Oliphant, the bright versatile son of Piccadilly, who in his varied career had tasted life in many of its brightest aspects; of Solomon, whose Ecclesiastes is one long record of slip planting. Nothing less than God, our Maker, can suffice the souls which He has made. Apart from Him life may at first promise well, but the end, inevitably, will be desperate sorrow.

(P. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The harvest shall be a heap.
A harvest field is a suggestive place.

I. TO EVERY LIFE THERE IS A HARVEST, EITHER OF JOY OR OF SORROW. Life on earth is introductory and probationary. It is but the seed time for eternity. All our actions, words, thoughts, have a bearing upon the future. God is our moral Governor, as well as our loving Father. We are, therefore, accountable to Him for the disposal of every moment of our existence. Belonging to a depraved and fallen race, we are necessarily sinners; but this has been provided for. To every life there is a harvest. When? Sometimes in this world. Both the righteous and the wicked reap on earth to a certain degree that which they have sown. But still it is most strictly true that the great and final harvest commences when life on earth terminates and life in eternity begins. This great fact invests life with unspeakable grandeur. Every day and hour we are preparing for the realities of eternity. This should moderate our expectations concerning the present life. That which is probationary is necessarily incomplete. We should, therefore, expect trials and disappointments.

II. THE HARVEST OF SORROW MAY, IN EVERY CASE, BE TRACED TO ONE GREAT CAUSE — forgetfulness of God. The ruin of the Ten Tribes is traced to this (vers. 10, 11). Jeremiah brings the same charge against them (Jeremiah 2:12, 13). Hosea also says (Hosea 8:14), "For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples." At first, it seems impossible that they could ever have done this. Had they not the history of the great and eventful past? Did they not know they were depending on Him for everything they enjoyed? Surely, those who had such a God should never have forgotten Him. The fact stated in the text is one of deep significance. It shows us the desperate wickedness of the human heart. The Israelites were so estranged from Jehovah that they acted as though He did not exist. It is so in every such case. Forgetfulness of God always leads to this terrible result. No one can be unmindful of Him with impunity. Forgetfulness of God produces in the heart such feelings and induces men to follow such a line of conduct, that their lives must be a failure. It is, however, worthy of notice, that these persons are as anxious to be happy during life, and at its end, as any of their fellows. They do not resign themselves to despair. On the contrary, they fancy that all is well. Their hearts beat high with hope. True, they have not the help and protection which the Lord's people enjoy, but they do all they can to supply its place. The people of Israel did all they could to make their position a strong one. They made an alliance with Syria, and thought, with her help, they would be able to overcome their foes. So men in the present day, who forget God, avail themselves of the dictates of worldly prudence. In the day they make their plant to grow, and in the evening they make their seed to flourish. Here we have an affecting description of the anxiety and feverish effort of the men that know not God. We may plant pleasant plants, we may set strange slips, but they will not compensate us for the absence of the plants of righteousness. He who forgets the God of his salvation, and is unmindful of the Rock of his strength, must be without His favour, and at last must reap a harvest of grief and desperate sorrow.

III. THE HARVEST OF SORROW INVOLVES THE SOUL IN UTTER AND IRREMEDIABLE RUIN. It is no slight matter — it is the loss of all things or the failure of every effort — the disappointment of every hope, the destruction of every joy, the development and perpetuation of every sorrow. The language of the prophet is very striking. The common idea of harvest is that of a joyous nature. But here we have an idea of the very opposite character. The harvest is a heap. There is no golden grain worthy of being housed in everlasting habitations. The soul sees with amazement that all her efforts have been fruitless, and cries, "Is this all; has my life on earth produced nothing more than this?" And the answer is, "Nothing more; and that which it has produced is only fit for the burning."

(H. B. Ingram.)

There is only one way of getting at some men. Once we could have appealed to their higher nature; once they were subject to the pleasure and the eloquence of reason; once they had a conscience tender, sensitive, responsive; now they are spiritually dead, no conscience, no reason, no unselfishness; the whole nature has gone down in volume and in quality into a terrible emaciation: what shall be done? Smite their harvest! then like beasts they will miss their food. God does not delight in this; it is the poorest violence, it is the feeblest department of His providence; but He knows that it is the only providence some men can understand.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

God got you back to the Church through inflammation, through fever, through paralysis, through pain, through loss, through desolation; you came back over the graveyard. No matter, said God; when He got you into His house again He said, This My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. It is in the reclamation, not in the punishment, that God takes pleasure.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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