Do not fear, O worm Jacob, O few men of Israel. I will help you, declares the LORD. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
I. HUMILITY THE CONDITION OF STRENGTH. Jacob is a worm, Israel a "petty folk." This was, we know, a clear historic fact. It was not by armies or by navies, by numerous fortresses and serried ranks, and an impregnable land, that she was strong. She was "diminutive Israel," as the LXX. render. At this moment she might well be thought of as a poor, trembling, defenceless woman. In that one simple oracle, "I will help thee, saith Jehovah," realized, lay her might; and all possible might was there. It is not in human nature to depend where it can stand alone. It is when we feel "what worthless worms are we," that the contrast of God's almightiness comes upon us, and the sense that we may connect ourselves with it. Thrown upon our own resources, and finding them at an end, we "catch at God's skirts, and pray." Then it is no longer we, but our enemies, who fear. We cannot have too low an opinion of ourselves, nor too high an opinion of God. He is here described as the Goel, the Defender of the right, the Avenger of the wrongs of his people. He is the redeeming God (Isaiah 47:3, 4; Jeremiah 50:33, 34). The verbal root means to ransom by the payment of a price, and to deliver from danger, distress, captivity.
II. WEAKNESS MADE STRONG. This petty nation shall become a power against which nothing can stand. Israel becomes as a threshing-roller, sharp, new, and double-edged, which shall crush the mountains, and make the hills as chaff; he shall winnow the nations, and they shall be scattered. With the two-edged sword in their hand, they will execute vengeance on the heathen, and punishments on the people, binding their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron (Psalm 149.). Perhaps the allusion is to the Maccabean period, and to the glorious wars of the Jews under the priests Simon and Hyrcanus, against the kings of Syria. The oracle which begins by touching the chord of humility ends with the note of boasting: "Thou shalt exult in Jehovah, and in Israel's Holy One shalt make thy boast" Thus the spirit of the true Israel is the spirit of true religion, the spirit of Christ exemplified in St. Paul: "I will glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." - J.
I. JACOB WAS A WORM IN OTHER PEOPLE'S EYES. Is there not many a "worm" still under the same experience? I may be speaking to a clerk who gets laughed at by his fellow-clerks, with their master's permission, because he is a Christian. I may be speaking to some one who is despised and scoffed at, and called a Sabbatarian, because he keeps the Sabbath day. Take comfort! He who is now thy Redeemer was treated as a worm. "I am a worm, and no man," sang the Messianic psalmist.
Fear not, thou worm Jacob.
I. The first qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God's work well, is a SENSE OF OUR OWN WEAKNESS. When God's warrior marches forth to battle with plumed helmet, and with mail about his loins, strong in his own majesty — when he says, "I know that I shall conquer, my own right arm and my mighty sword shall get unto me the victory," defeat is not far distant. God will not go forth with that man who goeth forth in his own strength. The text addresses us as worms. Now, the mere rationalist, the man who boasts of the dignity of human nature, will never subscribe his name to such a title as this. Not so, however, he who is wise and understandeth; he knows that he is a worm, and he knows it in this way —
1. By contemplation. Those who think, must think their pride down-if God is with them in their thinking. Lift up now your eyes, behold the heavens, the work of God's fingers; and if ye be men of sense and your souls are attuned to the high music of the spheres, ye will say, "What is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou visitest him?"
2. Again, if you want to know your own nothingness, consider what you are in suffering.
3. Try some great labour for Christ.
II. THERE SHOULD BE TRUST IN THE PROMISED STRENGTH. There is no saying what man can do when God is with him. Put God into a man's arm, and he may have only the jawbone of an ass to fight with, but he will lay the Philistines in heaps: put God into a man's hand, and he may have a giant to deal with, and nothing but a sling and a stone, but he will lodge the stone in the giant's brow before long; put God into a man's eye, and he will flash defiance on kings and princes; put God into a man's lip, and he will speak right honestly, though his death should be the wages of his speech.
III. WE MUST LABOUR TO GET RID, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, OF FEAR. The prophet says, "Fear not"; thou art a worm, but do not fear; God will help thee; why shouldest thou fear?
1. Get rid of fear, because fear is painful.
2. Fear is weakening.
3. Fear dishonours God.
4. Doubt not the Lord, oh, Christian, for in so doing thou dost lower thyself. The more thou believest, the greater thou art; but the more thou doubtest, the less thou becomest.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
II. JACOB WAS ALSO A WORM IN HIS OWN EYES, which is far more to the purpose. Look at the Jews drawing together into some little sanctuary on a Sabbath morning or evening, amid the scoffs of the Babylonians. Look at the aged patriarch when the doors are shut, opening the roll of the prophet Isaiah, and reading, "Fear not, thou worm Jacob." "Ay, worms indeed:" the hearers would reply from the bottom of their hearts; "worms indeed!" We may writhe under men's contempt; but there is no writhing like the writhing under a sense of personal sin. There is no nerve like the nerve that passes through the conscience. Job was perhaps the noblest man of his day; and yet we find him saying, "I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister." None of you are so low as that! Our Lord called Himself a worm because He was treated as a worm; but Job uses the word in a very different sense; for Job knew he was a sinner, and it is almost an insult to a worm for a sinner to call himself by the name. The Septuagint has left out this word in the text. How that came about passes my comprehension. Were these proud translators of Alexandria too good for the Bible? Were they too high and holy to put in what Isaiah wrote? Coleridge says, "God's Word is God's Word to me, because it finds me." Has it found us? Have we seen the sin and the misery of our own heart? Can we look back on that action we did yesterday, and say, "It was the action of a worm, and not of a man"?
III. JACOB WAS A WORM IN GOD'S EYES. "God," says Calvin, "here seems to speak disrespectfully of His people"; but if you are to speak t? worms, you must speak in their language. Fine names would never suit Jacob in this case, and the Jacob-minded soul finds comfort in such words, knowing that they were used in love. "Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will help thee." "Thee" is an individualising, singularising word. The Lord places His finger upon the humble man's heart, and says, "I will help thee. I, the Highest, will seek out the lowest, and let others, who think themselves better, help themselves." "The Holy One of Israel" — blessed name! name He will never lay aside! — is the Portion, the Helper, the Friend of "worm Jacob." Oh "worm Jacob," it doth not yet appear what thou shalt be; but when He shall appear whose thou art, "thou shalt be like Him, for thou shalt see Him as He is.
(A. Whyte, D. D.)
Homilist.I. THE CHARACTER OF GOD'S PEOPLE.
1. The language employed refers to the Jews as the descendants of Jacob, afterwards called Israel.
2. The epithet which designates their character. "Worm." This word describes a person — mean, weak, vile, and despised (Job 25:5, 6). This epithet implies —(1) Meanness. This meanness is frequently felt by Christians when they think of the grandeur and glory of God, as seen in His works and recorded in His Word (Psalm 8:3, 4). When they think of their sins and imperfections (1 Corinthians 15:9). When they think of their duties, trials, their ignorance, and their tendency to the grave.(2) Pollution. A worm is regarded as unclean. Its element is putrescence. Man is now degraded from his original dignity. Every Christian feels his tendency to pollution.(3) Danger. A worm is frequently exposed to danger. Every foot is ready to crush it. The body of man is liable to casualties. And the precious soul of man is surrounded by danger.(4) Weakness. A worm is not able to make resistance. What resistance can a sinner make to God?
II. GOD'S PEOPLE ARE SUBJECT TO FEAR. "Fear not, worm Jacob." The Israelites in Babylon were sadly depressed in mind, fearing that God would be gracious no more. The people of God are subject to fear.
1. Their character, as represented by meanness, pollution, danger, and weakness, causes them to fear.
2. The multitude of their enemies causes fear
3. They fear Divine chastisements. These are needful, but "grievous" (Hebrews 12:11).
4. They sometimes fear the tests and trials of the future.
5. They fear death.
III. THE EXHORTATION AND PROMISE. "Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will help thee." "Fear not!" Look from earthly resources to the mighty God of Jacob. Fear not thy foes. "He that is for thee is more than all that are against thee." I will help thee, for —
1. I have chosen thee.
2. I have redeemed thee.
3. I have adopted thee.
4. I have the ability as well as the will. By all means.
5. I will help thee with the ministration of My angels, by the events of providence.
6. I will guide thee in all perplexities.
7. I will not only help, but will glorify thee. Thou art a worm here. I will change thy vile body when the dead shall be raised, even as the chrysalis becomes a beautiful being after its temporary sleep,
(A. Whyte, D. D.)Deuteronomy 28:39). It was the destroyer of Jonah's gourd (Jonah 4:7). It is said to be the coccus, a genus which includes the cochineal insect. Naturalists describe the coccus as living upon trees and plants, and as being very small. When collected in districts where these insects are cultivated for the dye which they yield, there are found to be about 70,000 of them in a pound. Two kinds of insect are designated "worm" in Isaiah 14:11. "The worm (mite of corruption) is spread under thee, and worms (cocci) cover thee." This is also the case in Job 25:6. In the passage before us, then, the descendants of Jacob are compared with a creature that is despicable, because it is insignificant and noxious (Psalm 22:6). Orelli, explaining that "worm Jacob" denotes here smallness, weakness, and helplessness, seems to have presented to his mind some such insignificant creature as the coccus; but the commentators generally have thought rather of the familiar earthworm, which they regard as a symbol of debasement and affliction, after the manner of Glo'ster in King Lear, when he says of the supposed idiot beggar —
"I' the last night's storm I such a fellow saw,
Which made me think a man a worm."God's people, says Henry, "are as 'worms' in humble thoughts of themselves, and in their enemies' haughty thoughts of them: worms, but not vipers, or of the serpent's seed." Other writers use the expressions "despicable and trampled upon" (Lowth); "weak and despised," and "trodden under foot" (Wordsworth); creature of the dust, prostrate and helpless" (Kay); "abject, weak, and wretched of thyself" (Diodati). We must turn to Micah 7:17 for a passage in which reference is expressly made to the earthworm. The comments supplied by show that expositors have not always been content to regard the epithet "worm Jacob" merely as a suggestion of lowliness and meanness. In the opinion of the more ancient among them it signifies, historically and typically, the Jews afflicted by the Assyrians, but antitypically the apostles and early Christians, turn ob paucitatem, turn ob contemptum et humilitatem. Allusion was made to Luke 12:32 and 1 Corinthians 4:9; while Ezekiel 28:11, 12 was referred to as a parallel passage. is quoted as saying, Sicut vermis terram penetrat, ita sermo Apostolicus penetravit Gentium civitates, et ingressus est corda prius durissima. On Luke 12:32 Bengel comments, Grex est non numerissimus, si ad mundum comparetur; and by applying the thought thus expressed to the phrase under discussion we get a slight, but useful, addition to the suggestions made elsewhere.
I. It was added FOR AMPLIFICATION. There are some preachers from whom you will never learn anything; not because they do not say much which is instructive, but because they just mention the instructive thought once, and immediately pass on to another thought, never expanding the second thought, but immediately passing on, almost without connection, to a third. Other preachers, on the other hand, follow a better method. Having given one idea, they endeavour to amplify it, so that their hearers, if they are not able to receive the idea in the abstract, at least are able to lay hold upon some of its points, when they come to the amplification of it. Now God, the great Author of the Book, the great Preacher of the truth by His prophets, when He would preach it, and when He would write it, so amplifies a fact, so extends a truth, and enlarges upon a doctrine. "I will help thee," saith Jehovah-That means Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. "All! but," said God, "My people will forget that, unless I amplify the thought, so I will even break it up; I will remind them of My Trinity. They understand My Unity; I will bid them recollect that there are Three in One, though these Three be One"; and He adds, "Thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." Jehovah — Redeemer — Holy One of Israel — three persons, all included, indeed, in the word Jehovah, but very likely to be forgotten unless they had been distinctly enumerated. Suffer your thoughts to enlarge upon the fact, that the promise contained in this verse, "Fear not, I will help thee," is a promise from Three Divine Persons.
II. It is a SWEETENING OF THE PROMISE. All the promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus; but when a promise mentions the name of the Redeemer, it imparts a peculiar blessedness to it. It is something like, if I may represent it by such a figure, the beautiful effect of certain decorations of stained glass. There are some persons whose eyes are so weak that the light seems to be injurious to them, especially the red rays of the sun, and a glass has been invented, which rejects the rays that are injurious, and allows only those to pass which are softened and modified to the weakness of the eye. It seems as if the Lord Jesus were some such a glass as this. The grace of God the Trinity, shining through the man Christ Jesus, becomes a mellow, soft light, so that mortal eye can bear it.
III. I think this is put in by way of CONFIRMATION. Read the promise, recollecting that it says, "Thy Redeemer"; and then, as you read it through, you will see how the word "Redeemer" seems to confirm it all. Now begin. "I will help thee": lay, a stress on that word. If you read it so, there is one blow at your unbelief. "I will help thee," saith the Redeemer. There is the Master's handwriting; it is His own autograph, it is written by Himself; behold the bloody signature! It is stamped with His Cross. And now let us read the promise again, and lay the stress on the "will." Oh, the "wills" and the "shalls": they are the sweetest words in the Bible. When God says "I will," there is something in it. And now we lay stress on another word: "I will help thee." That is very little for Me to do, to help thee. Consider what I have done already. What! not help thee? Why, I bought thee with My blood. And now, just take the last word, "I will help thee."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)— The word "Redeemer" would suggest to a Hebrew reader the idea of a near kinsman (Leviticus 25:24, 25), and of deliverance from bondage by the payment of a ransom. Its highest application occurs here and in Job 19:25. The reference to the Son of God, although it might not be perceptible of old, is now rendered necessary by the knowledge that this act, even under the old dispensation, is always referred to the same person of the Trinity.
(J. A. Alexander.)
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