because of Mount Zion, which lies desolate, patrolled by foxes.
I. THE PENETRATING EFFECT OF THE DIVINE CHASTISEMENTS. Jerusalem had been satisfied with outward things. Wherever it turned, there had been enough to satisfy its pride and its pleasure. And now Jehovah, by efficient agents, had taken these outward things away. The difference that had been made in Jerusalem was perceptible to any eye. But another difference could only be known when it was confessed, namely, the difference made in the hearts of the people when their outward circumstances were so completely changed. Proud, resolute men, full of joy in their selfish purposes, found the interest of life completely gone, It would have availed nothing if all these chastisements had ended in leaving the people real Stoics, able to say that it was all the same whether they kept their temporal possessions or lost them. God did not desolate Jerusalem for any delight that he took in this; it was to find a way to humble hearts that were unsubdued after every prophetic appeal. When men are delightedly occupied with the things of sense, then it is a great end gained if, through losses and changes, their hearts become faint and their eyes dim. For then they may accept the ministry of Christ to put into their hearts an energy which will tend for righteousness and direct their eyes to look on the world in the right way,
II. THE CAUSE HERE SPECIALLY MENTIONED. The hill of Zion has become a desolation; it has become again a mere height in the wilderness, such as doubtless it had been at some time before in the immemorial past. That Zion is here specified seems to point to the sorrow and despair caused by the overthrow of religious ordinances. The very fact that Jehovah had allowed the place devoted to him to become thus desolated made his displeasure with the people to become a much more vivid thing. It seemed as if he needed no more a habitation in their midst. - Y.
For this our heart is faint, for these things our eyes are dim.1. The best are exposed to sorrow. That the best are not out of the reach of misery, or that there is no outward calamity, but it may fall upon the godly as well as others (Ecclesiastes 9:1). Ahab's and Josiah's ends concur in their circumstances, and Saul and Jonathan, though different in their deportments yet in their deaths they were not divided (2 Samuel 1:23). No man knows either love or hatred by that, that is before them. The snow and hail of adversity lights upon the best gardens, as well as the barren wastes. The best of saints have the same nature with others (1 Corinthians 10:13). The most eminent Christians sometimes as well as others sin against their God. Here we are soldiers and must look for hot skirmishes, mariners and must not think to sail without tedious storms. Be not discouraged, O ye poor souls, though the world be a sea, a rough, a raging, and a dangerous sea unto yourselves, yea be not dejected and altogether cast down, though a heavy weight of grief by reason of sin and troubles, the effects of sin come to lie pressing upon your spirits; though your hearts be faint, let them not die.(1) That there is transcendent mercy, mercy far greater to be hoped for from our God, than any misery we can endure.(2) That there is a hand put down from heaven, when the saints are in danger, to keep up their heads from sinking.(3) That great sorrows do but accelerate, do but hasten Divine compassions. It is not God's opportunity, until your souls be in great extremity.(4) Though God multiply His strokes upon you, it is not because He hates, but rather because He loves you, His design is not to destroy you, but to reform you.(5) Light, shall spring out of your darkness, good shall come out of your evils, and joy out of the sorrow that is in your hearts (Romans 8:28). God hath ever had His fire in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem (Isaiah 31:9), and the choicest saints like the finest gold for trial must pass the flames.
2. Christians have bowels for others in afflictions. The Chaldee paraphrase will have these first words to relate to the ruins of Zion in the next verse, and therefore it renders them, for this house of the Sanctuary which is desolate our heart is faint, and indeed it shows us as the affections, so the Christian's deportment in the Church's troubles. Zion's sufferings, like darts, penetrate the souls of God's precious saints. And no marvel if they have been thus affected with the Church's miseries.(1) The downfall, the desolation of Zion is the wicked's triumph (Psalm 13:3, 4). Moab skipped for joy when Israel was distressed, she was to her a derision in the day of her affliction (Jeremiah 48:27).(2) When the Church suffers, God is dishonoured (Deuteronomy 9:28), and His honour hath ever been precious to gracious hearts (Exodus 32:32; Romans 9:3).(3) Zion's prosperity is not only joy, but hath always been a chief joy to a Christian's soul (Psalm 137:6).
3. We must not stand at a distance each from other in the day of sorrow.
4. Sad sufferings cause sad, yea, fainting spirits.
5. Extremity of sorrow brings dimness into our eyes. That dimness of sight is the effect of sorrow. This was the condition of Job, when his face was foul with weeping, and on his eyelids was the shadow of death (Job 16:16). When his eye was dim by reason of grief, and all his thoughts as a very shadow (Job 17:7). And in the like case you may see the kingly prophet, having his heart panting, his strength failing, and the light of his eyes departing from him (Psalm 38:9-11; Psalm 6:7).
Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolateI. A DISTRESSING EXPERIENCE. The spectacle which Mount Zion exhibited was necessarily fitted both to agitate and afflict pious and patriotic soul. God had visited His own holy habitation in anger. Because of the transgressions of His people, He had afflicted them; because of their forgetfulness of His mercies, He had forsaken them; because of their abuse of His ordinances, He had carried them away captive. If such a state of things occasioned to the prophet a feeling of the deepest distress, similar must be the experience of the Lord's people, when any portion of the Church is visited with tokens of the Divine displeasure. Sins, by us unrepented of — sins, forgotten it may be by us, but not forgotten by God — these, undoubtedly, as affording cause of humiliation, grief, and bitterness, are to be considered in connection with the removal of the light of the Divine countenance; and if we cast our eyes abroad on any portion of the visible Church, if we look either at its past history or present condition, where can we take our station, and say that difficulties, or trials, or threatenings of judgment are being made manifest, without being constrained to acknowledge that there are sins to be accounted for, and for which a fearful reckoning may be demanded?
II. A REVIVING SENTIMENT. The prophet, amidst the very tears that were shed by him over the fallen fortunes of Jerusalem, could fix his thoughts upon One who is ever the same; and his spirit was revived in consequence. And thus have God's people in all ages been sustained. The Lord, as it regards His own cause, may hide His face; but it will only be for a season. He may remove His candle from one corner of the earth; but it will be to plant it in another — He will not suffer it to be extinguished. As His own existence and purposes are eternal and unchangeable, so is that provision which He has made for His Church, and for a continued succession of believers, who shall know His name, and rejoice in His salvation.
III. A HOLY EXPOSTULATION. Animated with a holy zeal for the glory of God as associated with the prosperity of His Church, the prophet asks whether it could be that God would afford no sign of His returning favour, which might reanimate the hopes of His afflicted people, and keep them from fainting under the reproach of their enemies? It is more than prayer; it is expostulation. Yet the sentiments which he breathed were not those of unhallowed presumption; for he bowed with the deepest reverence before God when he addressed Him. It was that enlargement of soul, which they only know, who, in the strength of a living faith, have long walked with the Most High as their Father and their Friend. And similar, accordingly, at times has been the experience of the saints in after ages. Thus, for instance, it was with Luther in that most eventful of all passages in his history, when his enemies who had gathered around him on every side, thought they had swallowed him up; when the proudest of earth's potentates sat in judgment over him; when the papacy had written out the sentence which doomed him to death, and which doomed the Reformation to destruction along with him. In these distressing circumstances, when. to the eye of man, the cause of truth seemed on the eve of perishing, he was overheard in an agony of soul to exclaim, "O God, Almighty God everlasting! if I am to depend on any strength of this world, all is over; the knell is struck; sentence is gone forth. O God! O God! O Thou my God, help me against the wisdom of this world: the work is not mine, but Thine. I have no business here. I would gladly spend my days in happiness and peace. But the cause is Thine; and it is righteous and everlasting. O Lord, help me. O faithful and unchangeable God, I lean not upon man. My God, my God, dost Thou not hear: my God, art Thou no longer living? Nay, Thou canst not die: Thou dost but hide Thyself. My God, where art Thou? The cause is holy; it is Thine own. I win not let Thee go; no, nor yet for all eternity."
(T. Doig, M. A.)
The foxes walk upon it1. The Church's miseries make deep impressions in the hearts of saints. Time was when God chose this place, and desired it for His habitation (Psalm 132:13), when it was a principal object of His affection (Psalm 87:2); when the people from all quarters of Judea resorted to it for Divine instruction (Isaiah 2:3); when of all other places it was the most precious in the repute of the saints (Psalm 137:1). But now this mountain, this stately mountain is divested of all her glory, her ordinances are polluted, her inhabitants are driven into exile, her princes are carried away captive, and all her ornaments, all her jewels, all her riches, are the spoils of Babylon, now she is as a desert, she sits solitary, she hath none to visit her but the foxes that walk about her, she is laid waste like a wilderness, and even brought to utter destruction. So that by this we are taught — That Zion may become like Shilo, the choicest places notwithstanding their more than ordinary privileges may come to ruin (Jeremiah 7:12-14; Isaiah 74:10, 11; Lamentations 1:17, 18). But why must Zion become a desolation?(1) The Jews rested more upon the holiness of this place than upon their God whose name was called upon in this place (Jeremiah 7:4, etc.). It is the Lord, not created substances, not places, that must have the truth, the confidence of our souls. God is jealous of His glory, He cannot endure that His mercies should become our idols.(2) The people estranged this place, and burnt incense in it to other gods, and therefore, as they fall by the sword, so their city, this Zion, must be desolate (Jeremiah 19:4, 7-9). If you pollute your temple, God will destroy your temple.(3) The sins of the priests and prophets that belonged to this mountain were very grievous; witness their riot and excess (Isaiah 28:7), their base avarice (Isaiah 56:11), their wicked flatteries (Jeremiah 6:13, 14), their pernicious examples (Jeremiah 23:14), and their horrid neglect of their duties (Ezekiel 34:3, 4). These the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, have fetched wrath from heaven, caused God to accomplish His fury, and to kindle a fire in Zion (Lamentations 4:11, 13).(4) The people, the inhabitants were abusive to God's messengers (Jeremiah 11:21, 22; Amos 7:10-12, 16, 17; 2 Chronicles 36:16), and pitiless one towards another (Jeremiah 2:34; Jeremiah 15:5; Micah 3:2, 3). Her sins that were more obvious to every eye, were idolatry (Isaiah 10:11, 12), formality (Isaiah 29:13, 14), hypocrisy (Isaiah 58:2-4), infertility (Isaiah 5:2, 5, 6), obstinacy (Jeremiah 18:11, 12, 17), security (Amos 6:1).
2. The Assyrians like crafty foxes.(1) The fox is looked upon as that which exceeds in subtilty; shall I say, that faction and sedition come short of these, no, their counsels and their consultations are very crafty against God's precious ones (Psalm 83:3).(2) The fox is not only nimble and light of foot, but usually he shuns the common roads, choosing bushy and unbeaten places for his paths, that as himself may not be seen, so that with more safety he may take his prey. Man's locomotive faculty was bestowed upon him, not that fox-like he should run to mischief, but that he should be quick to walk in the way which is called holy.(3) These have the fox's ears, the fox's eyes, and the fox's teeth as well as his nimble feet, as they are capable of hearing the least sound, that echoes detraction, and speak reproach unto the saints, lies, not truth being the delight of their hearts (Psalm 62:4), so they look every way how to mischief you, how to get from you, how to get something to themselves, besides their teeth are as swords, they pierce where they enter (Proverbs 30:14).(4) Whatsoever you do to the fox he still retains his nature, men may chain him, but they can never tame him; so these pestiferous wretches which annoy the Church, they resolve against conviction, against reformation (Jeremiah 2:25), with Solomon's fool, you may bray them in a mortar, but yet they will not leave their folly (Proverbs 27:22).(5) Lastly, you know young cubs in time will prove both greedy and crafty foxes, if they be let alone; so it is with profane and schismatical persons, if they be not timely suppressed; the first will become atheists (Psalm 14:1-3), and the other heretics (1 Corinthians 11:18, 19). Here we see it adds much unto Zion's sorrows, when she lies open to the rapine of subtle and cruel foxes, and well may it. For men like foxes are bloody, deceitful, and devouring creatures. No part of God's worship can be advanced, where these have their dens in Zion. What is more destructive to shepherds' flocks than foxes?
PeopleAssyrians, Egyptians, Jeremiah
PlacesAssyria, Egypt, Mount Zion, Zion
TopicsDesolate, Foxes, Jackals, Lies, Mount, Mountain, Prowl, Prowling, Walk, Waste, Zion
Outline1. A complaint of Zion in prayer unto God.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesLamentations 5:16
LibraryWhether an Angel Needs Grace in Order to Turn to God?
Objection 1: It would seem that the angel had no need of grace in order to turn to God. For, we have no need of grace for what we can accomplish naturally. But the angel naturally turns to God: because he loves God naturally, as is clear from what has been said (Q, A). Therefore an angel did not need grace in order to turn to God. Objection 2: Further, seemingly we need help only for difficult tasks. Now it was not a difficult task for the angel to turn to God; because there was no obstacle …
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica
Man's Inability to Keep the Moral Law
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