Now the Angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I had promised to your fathers, and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you,
I. A PLACE OF SOLEMN RECOLLECTION AND RE-STATEMENT. Shiloh, the place of Israel's worship and sacrifice, is also the place of Israel's repentance. A name, Bochim, is given to it. "They named the place from their tears." So the house of God becomes the monument and memorial of our deepest religious experiences. No new revelation is here made. The simple facts of the Divine deliverance of the people, their perfidy and faithlessness, are recited; in contrast with which God's steadfastness is mentioned. The foundation article of the covenant is rehearsed, and the question asked, "Why have ye done this?" And then the connection of their punishment with their sin is set forth.
II. A PLACE OF INQUIRY, REMONSTRANCE, AND SORROWFUL APPEAL. The tone of this address is sympathetic and yet severe. The question, "Why have ye done this?" suggests to the people how foolish and profitless their conduct has been. How fitting would such a question be to many sinners of to-day. We too have broken plain precepts and sinned against the light of truth. What reason has there been in the conduct of God, in the nature of the duties neglected, or in the advantages we supposed we should secure? An appeal to conscience like this is of infinitely more value than a speculative disquisition. He is a true angel who bears such a message.
III. A PLACE OF REPENTANCE. Israel is invited to change its mind. God is solicitous for its repentance. He has sent "an angel" to produce this result. The tears that flow so freely are precious in his sight, and may avail, if followed up, to recover his favour and to reinstate them in their lost possessions. How great a privilege was this; not that it was a place of tears only, but that it might become a place of repentance, a turning-point in Israel's history. This Esau found not, though he sought it carefully with tears. Let it therefore be seized as a blissful augury that God wills not the death of a sinner, but that all men may turn to him and live. Such experiences are not to be artificially produced. A faithful recalling of God's real dealings with us in the past ought to make tears flow from the most hardened of sinners. But let the next step be taken, and beyond the tears, even beyond the ostentatious sacrifice, let reformation commence at once with his help and blessing. Then shall we have reason to recall our tears with gratitude when we discover that our repentance is not to he repented of. - M.
An angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim.I. The ASSEMBLY convened: "All the children of Israel."
II. The MESSENGER employed. This "angel of the Lord " is said to "come up from Gilgal to Bochim." Gilgal was the scene of interesting transactions between the Lord and the Israelites. The Lord, therefore, in the riches of His mercy, again visits this people; and at Boehim revives the impressions which had been felt and the resolutions which had been formed at Gilgal.
III. The ADDRESS delivered.
1. A statement of what the Lord had done for this people: "I made you to go up out of Egypt," that land of slavery, that scene of degradation and toil, "and have brought you unto the land which I aware unto your fathers." This was the completion of His work. It was a proof of the exceeding greatness of His power, and also of His faithfulness; for Canaan was the inheritance which He had engaged to give.
2. Next they are told what the Lord had promised to them: "I said, I will never break My covenant with you." Here was additional favour, and a solemn engagement of fidelity. It had been well if their fidelity had resembled His; then would their peace have been as a river and their prosperity permanent as a rock!
3. They are also reminded of what the Lord required of them: "Ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land." Nothing could be more reasonable. One would naturally have expected their prompt and persevering compliance.
4. But it is affecting to learn what the Lord received from them — the manner in which He was requited for all His favours: "Ye have not obeyed My voice." The charge is express and pointed. They had leagued with the Canaanites, spared their altars, connived at their idolatry; and all this in direct opposition to the command of Jehovah: "Why have ye done this?" Their sin may be accounted for, but it can never be justified. Indolence may partly account for it: to oppose evil required vigilance and exertion. Covetousness, perhaps, had its influence; they might join with the Canaanites in hope of sordid gain. Love of idolatry, a secret inclination to the practices of heathen nations, might induce them to spare their altars and to palliate their sin. But unbelief was the grand cause, and lay at the root of all their disobedience.
5. Lastly is recorded what the Lord threatened against them: "Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out," etc. Here was righteous retribution; they were punished by weapons of their own making; nor can we wonder at this mark of the Divine displeasure.
IV. The EFFECT produced (vers. 4, 5). From this remarkable fact let us apply a question to ourselves: what influence has the Word preached among us? In other words, where are your tears, and where are your prayers? Thank God, neither the one nor the other are altogether restrained. But why are they not more frequent? It is owing to the hardness of the human heart, and is an affecting proof of the deep degeneracy of man. Terrors do not move; mercies do not melt; the most attractive truths are often heard without emotion or concern; and when some appearance of penitence does exist, how transient its continuance, and how unfruitful its influence!
I. THERE IS A TERRIBLE PHYSICAL AND MORAL CONFUSION PALPABLE ON THE VERY SURFACE OF MAN'S LIFE, which appears darker and deadlier the more you penetrate the depths; while the profound instinct of his being, made in the image of the one God, demands order and unity. All the heathen hecatombs, all the theodicies of philosophy, are attempts to explain the mystery. They are at least man's protests against, his struggle to be free from, the desperate confusions of his physical and moral life.
II. THERE IS IN MAN A NATIVE TENDENCY TO MISTAKE THE KIND OF HELP WHICH HE IS TO EXPECT FROM GOD. From the Old and from the New Testament we hear alike the cry of man's natural heart, "The rest is near." There is the undying hope in the heart of humanity that God will give rest. Lamech thought that Noah would give it, Abraham that Isaac would give it, the Jews saw it in Canaan, David in Solomon, Ezra in the restoration, the early Christians in the Church. Suffering is to be destroyed, so runs the human dream, by the destruction of sin. The devil is to be slain, and all things that now tempt man to transgression shall woo him sweetly to virtue and joy.
III. GOD'S REST, THE TRUE CANAAN FOR WHICH WE ALL ARE PINING, MUST SPRING FROM WITHIN, AND BE DEPENDENT ON THE VIGOUR OF THE INWARD LIFE.
IV. IN THIS SCENE OF DISCIPLINE, WHERE MAN EXISTS OF NECESSITY AS AN IMPERFECT MORAL BEING, HE MUST HAVE THRONGS OF TEMPTERS AROUND HIM. He gives them strength by his want of firmness, by his system of foolish and timid compromise. But you have God's covenant as a rock to stand on, God's promise as a star to cheer, God's strength to nerve the spirit and to harden it to endurance, and God's sword, sharp and gleaming, to cut out before you the path to victory.
V. THE BITTER TRUTH, DISCOVERED AT BOCHIM, IS THE DEEP, SAD UNDERTONE OF THE MUSIC OF HISTORY. Perhaps those who are most alive to its higher interests and aims find it saddest. But for them this sadness becomes holy; it is part of the sorrow of Christ, which is the germ of everlasting joy. It is not in anger, in its deepest purpose, but in love, that this weeping is ordained to us. Life is richer, nobler, if sadder, under such conditions, as we shall understand at last when we stand white-robed before the throne.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
I. THE SIN. Let me speak to the young Christian, the recent convert. What now have you more urgent on hand than to make good your position and reap the full fruit of the deliverance wrought out for you? What better opportunity for carrying out fully the sternest injunctions of your Lord regarding them? How does He bid you treat these enemies? "Mortify your members that are on the earth." "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Or take another instance. Such a season as I am speaking of is the very season for remodelling your whole plan of life — its pursuits, its habits, its companionship. You come out, O believer, from the secret place of your God, where He has been speaking peace to you — you come out into the world a new man; and now, when all is fresh, and before you have committed yourself, now is the very time for arranging methodically your general course of conduct and all its details. How are you to meet with your former associates? On what terms and with what degree of intimacy? When and how are you to join yourselves to the company commonly called godly, cast in your lot with them, and avow your self partakers of their toils, their trials, and their joys? What, moreover, are to be your rules for the exercise of private devotion and the cultivation of personal piety? What the system of your studious preparation for heaven? You may take your ground, unfurl your standard, and announce your watchword so unequivocally that few ever after will think of trying to shake or to disconcert you. But alas! too generally, as to all these matters, you have no definite plan of life at all. Hence vacillation, fitfulness, inconsistency, excess, and deficiency by turns. The opportunity of setting up a high standard and a high aim is lost; and soon, amid the snares of worldly conformity and the awkwardness of the false shame that will not let you retrace your steps, you deeply sigh for the day of your visitation, when you might have started from a higher platform and run a higher race than you can now hope ever to realise.
II. THE INEXCUSABLENESS OF THE SIN. Hear the remonstrance which God addresses to Israel (ver. 1), and consider His threefold appeal. Look back to the past, and call to mind from what a state the Lord has rescued you, at what a price, by what a work of power. Look around on your present circumstances; see how the Lord has performed all that He sware to your fathers; the land is yours; and it is a goodly land. And if, in looking forward to the future, you have any misgivings, has He not said, "I will never break My covenant with you"? "What can you ask more? Are these considerations not sufficient to bind you to the whole work and warfare of the high calling of God, and to make cowardice and compromise exceeding sinful?
III. THE DANGEROUS AND DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES OF THE SIN. Hear the awful sentence of God (ver 3), and then see how the children of Israel ilft up their voice and weep (ver. 4). Well is the place named Bochim: it is indeed a melting scene. The golden opportunity is lost: their error is not to be retrieved; its bitter fruits are to be reaped from henceforth many days. A sad sight truly; but sadder, if possible, is the spectacle of a Christian professor suffering, in after-years, from the insufficiency of his works and the first foundation of his Christianity; from his having allowed some evil thing in his bosom, some Achan in his camp; from his having stopped short when he should have gone on unto perfection.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
(R. Winterbotham, M. A.)I. HOW HOPEFUL. One could not desire anything better apparently than this.
1. They were all attentive hearers. There was not one that looked about him, or that forgot the pointed words that were spoken. It is a great thing to win people's attention.
2. They were very feeling people.
3. They were all sorrowful hearers. Alas! that such drops did not precede a shower of grace, but passed away as the morning cloud.
4. Aye, and they all became professing hearers; for as soon as ever that service was over they held another, and "they sacrificed unto Jehovah." Now let me turn to the other side and show you that there was nothing permanently good in Bochim's sudden water-floods.
II. Their weeping was VERY DISAPPOINTING.
1. I half suspect that their tears and lamentations were produced as much by the preacher's person as by anything else. It was the Angel of the Lord, and who would not be moved at His presence? It may be a great blessing to you to hear a very useful preacher, but if you depend upon him in the least it will be mischievous to you. Seek that your repentance may be repentance which is wrought by the Spirit of God in your heart and conscience. Sham religion is an injury rather than a benefit.
2. Again, I am afraid that the repentance of these people had a great deal to do with their natural softness. They were tender and excitable because there was little grit in their nature; their manliness was of a degenerate type. They feared to go to battle for God; they dreaded the noise and the slaughter. They were, moreover, easily moved by their fellow-men, and took shape from those who lived near them. One grain of faith is better than a gallon of tears. A drop of genuine repentance is more precious than a torrent of weeping.
3. There is another thing about the weeping of these people, and that is, that it was caused a great deal by threatenings of punishment. Every murderer repents at the gallows, they say; that is, he repents of being hanged, but he does not repent of having killed others. We ought clearly to discern between the natural terrors that come of vivid descriptions of the wrath to come and that real spiritual touch of God the Holy Ghost which breaks and melts the heart and then casts it into another mould. These people were deceived as to the depth and sincerity of their own feelings. Doubtless they reckoned themselves choice penitents when they were only cowardly tremblers, labouring under impressions which were as useless as they were transient. Their feeling was but as a meteor's blaze, shedding strong but momentary day.
4. Next, these people had not repented, for they did not bring their children up rightly. The next generation, it is said, knew not the Lord, neither the mighty works of the Lord. If parents make known the things of God to their children it cannot be said that the children do not know the works of God. If parents teach with affectionate earnestness, their children learn at least the letter of the truth. Woe unto you, with all your tears, if you have no regard for your household, and no care to bring up your children in the fear of God.
5. I know that these people did not repent aright, because they went from bad to worse. They went from weeping before God to worshipping Baal. The more tender you are, if afterwards you harden yourselves, so much the greater will be your guilt; and if you humble yourselves before God in mere appearance, so much the more terrible will be your doom if that humbleness departs and you go back to the sin from which you professed to turn.
6. I know that these people were not penitents, because God did not take away the chastisement. The punishment which He threatened He brought upon them: He gave them over to the spoilers and sold them to their enemies. But where there is a hearty repentance of sin, God will never lay punishment on a man. He will forgive him and receive him to His bosom and restore him.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. The Canaanites in this history represent the enemies of the Church of God, and also the inward besetting sins of individual members of that Church. Need we name pride, and lust, and covetousness, and self-conceit, and envy, and worldliness, and impatience, and fretfulness, and revengefulness — a band of brothers, tall sons of Anak, diverse in feature, yet all showing the ancestry and lineaments of the serpent? Need we mention others of the same kindred — jealousy, and sloth, and worldliness, and levity, and procrastination, and presumption, and unbelief?
2. It follows, then, that the believer's warfare is not completed when he has been made a partaker of peace through believing in Christ; for "we are made partakers of Christ" only "if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." "Put off," says the Scripture, "the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts." Mighty task! — for this "old man" is not easily ousted from his ancient habitation. He fights hard for possession; and we must "give diligence," even after we have obtained our "calling and election," to "make it sure."
3. We are reminded that many of the spiritual Israel stop short of a full salvation, for it is to be remembered that these men had partially obeyed. They had begun well.
4. The history illustrates the causes of the weakness of the Church and people of God.(1) One of these causes was indolence. "They neglected to destroy the nations, not because of want of inclination, but because they were deficient in strength in consequence of their guilt; not from feelings of compassion, but from want of holy zeal and from slothfulness," The athlete cannot retain his strength without daily exercise; the vocalist cannot retain his power and command of voice without incessant practise; and the child of God cannot go on to perfection without a daily spiritual gymnastic, "exercising himself with a view to godliness," as an athlete with a view to the games. Faith and love, correcting the indolence of our nature, will make this holy toil delightful.(2) Another cause of spiritual weakness is a secret love of sin. In our own day there are degraded Englishmen who have settled among the savages of New Hebrides or Fiji on purpose to be free from all moral restraint, and who outdo the worst of the heathen in every kind of abomination. In religious families there are sons and daughters who, although outwardly restrained by the circumstances of their position, cherish a bitter hatred of religion and a secret love for a dissipated life. And even in the hearts of the faithful what strange occasional lingerings towards evil! What treacherous trifling with things fordidden!(3) Another cause of spiritual weakness is unbelief, if indeed this one cause does not sum up and exhaust the whole subject. Unbelief is vitally connected with that alienation of heart and affections from God in which the deepest ruin of man consists. And is it for this cause, O ye Israel of God, that ye are so slow to believe even in the possibility of being sanctified wholly, and of being preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord? Is this the reason why ye so stoutly contend that although the inbred foe, the spiritual Canaanite, may be humbled and put to tribute, it is impossible he should be utterly destroyed on this side the grave? When the heart pants after the living God, is it pleasant to think that, in this life at least, He will never take full and complete possession, but that some damnable lust will always be there to dispute with Him for the supremacy?
(L. H. Wiseman, M. A.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. I have first to remark that many Christian people have reason for a good deal of mourning. What have you been doing these ten, twenty, thirty, forty years? Did not God lead you out of Egypt? Did He not part for you the Red Sea of trouble, and has He not rained manna all around about your camp? Did He not divide the Jordan of death for your loved ones, until they went through dry-shod, not wetting even the soles of their feet? Has He not put clusters of blessings upon your table, and fed you with the finest of the wheat? And yet, we must confess, we have, like the Israelites, made a league with the world. Three-fourths of our Christian life has been wasted. Oh, weep for our derelictions! weep for our wanderings! weep for our lost opportunities that will never return! There is great reason for sadness on the part of some parents when they look over their families. You know that there must be a mighty change in your household before you can all live together in eternity. Can you placidly contemplate an eternal separation from any of your loved ones? Things are looking that way. Their opportunities of salvation less and less; your opportunities of plying them with religious motives less and less. The prospect that God's invitation will continue to them, less and less. The day of their mercy almost gone, yet they have not put up one earnest prayer, or repented of one sin, and not given one hopeful sign, and death coming to snap the conjugal bond, and break up the fraternal and the filial tie. An aged woman came to me. I said, "Are you seeking the salvation of your soul?" She said, "No, I have sought and found. I came in to ask your prayers for my sons. They are on the wrong road." O Lord Jesus, are we to be parted from any we have loved? Will some of us be saved and some of us be lost? Which one will it be missing, missing, missing, for eternity? I say farther: there are impenitent souls who ought to be sad from the fact that there are sins they have committed that cannot be corrected either in this world or the world to come. Suppose a man at fifty years of age becomes a Christian, but he has been all his life on the other side. He is a father. He comes to Christ now; but can he arrest the fact that for twenty or thirty years over his children he was wielding a wrong influence, and they have started in the wrong direction? And if you come to God in the latter part of your life, when you have given your children an impulse in the wrong direction, those ten, or fifteen, or twenty years of example in the wrong direction will be mightier than the few words you can utter now in the right direction. So it is with the influence you have had anywhere in community. If you have all these years given countenance to those who are neglecting religion, can you correct that? Your common sense says "No." Here is an engineer on a locomotive. He is taking a long train of cars loaded with passengers. He comes on and sees a red flag. He says, "What do I care for the red flag?" He pushes on the train, and comes to another red flag. He says, "I don't care for the red flag." After a while he sees that the bridge is down; but he is by a marsh, and he leaps and is not damaged. Does that stop the train? No! It goes on crash! crash! crash! That is the history of some men who have been converted. I congratulate them, but I cannot hide the fact that they started a train of influences in the wrong direction; and though, in the afternoon of their life, they may leap off the train, the train goes on, So, also, there is occasion for sadness in the peril that surrounds every unforgiven soul. And so you may go on placidly, smoothly, gaily for a while in your sin, but the hurricane will swoop upon your souls. Without God, without hope! Oh, what an orphanage, what an exile, what a desolation! Moan! moan! for thy lost estate. Have you not had a chance for heaven? "Ah," you say, "that is the worst of it. That is what makes me weep." Was your father bad? Was your mother wicked? "No," you say. "Say nothing against my mother. If there was ever a good woman, she was one; and I remember how, in her old days, and when bent with years, and in her plain frock she knelt down and prayed for my soul, and with her apron wiped away the tears. Oh, I have trampled on her broken heart. I am a wretch undone. Who will pray for me? I am so sick of sin. I am so weary of the world! "No wonder you weep, for the greatest condemnation of the last day will be for those who had pious parents and who resisted their admonition. But what is a sadder thought is, that some of these people not only stay out of the kingdom of God themselves, but they will not let their children come in. "You never invited me to Christ. You stood in my way. You gave a wrong example. Father, mother, you ruined my soul!"
2. But I remember that there are tears of joy as well as tears of sorrow, and how the foundations of the deep would break up if one hundred or one thousand souls would march up and take the kingdom of heaven! But there are some who have not come. They will not come. They will not repent.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(De Witt S. Clark.)I. Observe, first, THAT THE REPROVER OF THE PEOPLE IS TERMED "AN ANGEL." "An angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal." But the first utterance carries us to the thought of One higher than angel or archangel. The speaker describes Himself as the deliverer of Israel out of Egypt, and He finishes with the denunciation, "Ye have not obeyed My voice." The burden of His prophecy is worthy of the Divine speaker, for it is the simple enunciation of the fundamental truth of all religion — man in covenant with God, and bound to comply with the terms of that covenant.
II. Consider THE RESULT OF THE PROPHESYING. The general result was but transitory. The people wept and sacrificed unto the Lord. But no amendment ensued. The whole effect was a momentary outburst of feeling and a hasty sacrifice. Most true picture of the reception of the Word of God in after-time. It is sensational or emotional religion against which Bochim is our warning. There are two principal elements of this fruitless sorrow.
1. The first is want of depth of soul.
2. The second is the "after revolt of the human mind against the supernatural." Godly sorrow issues in a repentance not to be repented of, in that thorough turning of the life to God's service from which, in the hottest fire of temptation, there is never a turning back to the way of evil again.
(L. A. Banks.)
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