O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.
I. DIVINE EMOTION. They are charged with sacred feeling, The heart of Jesus Christ was evidently filled with a profound and tender regret as he contemplated the guilt and the doom of the sacred city. Strong emotion breathes in every word of this pathetic and powerful lament, And manifesting to us the Divine Father as Jesus did, we gather therefrom that our God is not one who is unaffected by what he witnesses in his universe, by what he sees in his human children. The infinite Spirit is one in whom is not only that which answers to our intelligence, but that also which answers to our emotion; and this, of course, in a manner answering to his Divinity. He rejoices in our return to his side and his service; he is gladdened by our spiritual growth, by our obedience and activity; he is pleased with our silence and submissiveness when we do not understand his way but bow to his holy will; and he is pained by our spiritual distance from him, is grieved by our slackness and our lukewarmness and our withdrawal, is saddened by our sin. He looks with a deep, Divine regret on a Church or on a child of his that is rejecting his grace as Jerusalem did, and over whom, as over it, there impends a lamentable doom.
II. DIVINE PERSISTENCY. "How often would I have gathered," etc.! The Saviour desired and endeavoured to gather the children of Jerusalem under his gracious guardianship, not once, nor twice, nor thrice; his effort was a frequent act of mercy; it was repeated and prolonged. God "bears long" with us, forbearing to strike though the stroke be due and overdue; he is "slow to anger and of great mercy." But he does more than that, and is more than that; he continues to seek us that he may save us. He follows us, in his Divine patience, through childhood, through youth, through early manhood, through the days of prime, or unto declining years, with his teaching and his influence. He speaks to us by his Word, by his ministry, by his providence, by his Spirit. He seeks to win us, to warn us, to alarm us, to humble, and thus to save us. At how many times and in how many ways does our Saviour seek us! How often does he endeavour to gather us under the shadow of his love!
III. HUMAN FREEDOM. "How often would I!" "Ye would not!" It is quite vain for us to attempt to reconcile God's omnipotence with our freedom, his right and power over us with our power to act according to our own will. The subject is beyond our comprehension, and it is true wisdom to leave it alone, as an inaccessible mountain peak which we cannot climb; there is danger, if not death, in the attempt. But the facts are before us, visible as the mountain itself. God has power over us, and exercises that power benignantly and patiently. But he does not interfere with our freedom; that, indeed, would be to unman us, to put us down from the level of children into that of irresponsible creaturedom. He leaves us free; and we are free to oppose his sovereign will, to resist his Divine grace, to be deaf to his pleading voice, to shake off his arresting hand. He "would" that we should be reclaimed, be raised, be enlarged, be ennobled; and too often we "will not." A solemn, awful thing it is to share a human heritage, to live a human life, to incur human responsibility.
IV. HUMAN OBDURACY. Jerusalem "often" refused to be drawn to its Redeemer. Not only can we and do we resist the grace of God; we can continue to do so; and we do continue. We can spend our life in a long contest with redeeming love; we can repel the overtures of mercy and go on rejecting our Father's offer of eternal life through all the years and periods of a long life of privilege. Men do this, and to them the words of Jesus are applicable in all their force; over them, also, his lament has to be uttered.
1. It is well for those to whom it may apply to awake and to return before he says to them, "Your house is left unto you desolate."
2. It is better, for it is safer for us all to heed his inviting voice and place ourselves under the wings of his blessed friendship long before such words as those of our text are anywise applicable to us. - C.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.I. WORDS LIKE THESE, SPOKEN AT SUCH A MOMENT, LET US SEE, AS FAR AS WORDS CAN DO, INTO THE INNERMOST OF JESUS' HEART. They are a wonderful expression of His deep-seated desire to save from ruin the worst of men, to save the unwilling, to save to the very last.
1. If ever excess of guilt could have alienated the Saviour and steeled Him against mercy, it must have been Jerusalem's. Her privileges had been surpassing.
2. But if sinners' sins cannot destroy Christ's willingness to save them, neither can their unwillingness to be saved. You thrust the outstretched arms away: they are stretched cut still. You say, "I will not": He still says, "I will." He would that you would; prays you to turn; waits for your turning; grieves that you will not; but watches to welcome with joy the first poor timid tokens of your heart's relenting. Thus He maintains His Divine supremacy of love; offering to the spiritual universe the stupendous contrast of a willing God and an unwilling sinner.
3. Refusal, then, does not overbear this extraordinary desire of God to save us. Neither can delay out-weary it. On the contrary, time only tests to the utmost the sincerity of the Divine mercy. The perseverance of the Saviour is the measure of His love.
II. In the next place, THIS LANGUAGE OF THE DEPARTING SAVIOUR TELLS US HOW HE BLESSES THOSE WHO WILL BE GATHERED. Strong love like His is gentle as it is strong. Only let the mighty Lover, who made you, gather you to Himself, and you will see how He will cradle you like a mother. I read it in these words, that, when He gathers men, He gathers them to His heart. They are a cry of love. Love seeks to have the loved one near, and is ever reaching forth and calling out to draw unto itself for the joy of having what it loves. Let me say it reverently: it is the deep desire of God in our Lord Jesus Christ to bring the most impure and evil of us all into as close a relation to Himself as can be. Let us remember, the place of nearness is the place of safety. To be under the shadow of wings meant in Hebrew ears to be where mercy reigned through blood-shedding, and a gracious covenanted God guarded His faithful people. It means the same thing here. For shelter from the doom, which, for their national sins, had already sent its forewarning signs over the political horizon, Jesus called His fellow-citizens to Himself. For shelter against impending judgment overhanging every sinful soul, He calls us to repentance and to faith. It is not safety alone that by this image the Lord offers us in His tenderness. Have you not seen how, when it is night and the sky over all has spread out wings of darkness to gather all things to rest; and in the soft still gloom the airs are hushed and the birds are dumb and the beasts make no stir, but all things sleep, down to the very flowers which shut their little cups and hang their leaves in dewy rest; have you not seen how then the brood is gathered by the hen to sleep upon her breast, and be curtained over with her wings? Who does not know how they pillow there upon the down, cherished by her body's warmth, till morning light? It is not I, it is the Lord, who says that it is so with His saved people. The soul that comes to Him finds in Him rest as well as shelter. Rest for the laden conscience in His blood; rest for the weary will in His powerful spirit; rest for the sad heart in being loved by His love and cherished in an infinite Divine comfort.
III. So far I have spoken of what He would have done had the Jerusalemites gathered at His call; WHAT HE WILL DO IF WE GATHER TO HIM. Fain would I linger here; but my text forces me to a contrast from which my soul shrinks. Its words give deeper insight still into the Redeemer's heart. Underneath the joy of salvation it touches a fount of tears. It is, in truth, his last wail of sorrow over men who would not be saved. Remember, these are funeral words. Israel's day is done; Israel's hope is dead; Israel's doom is sealed. All the toil is ended; and no huff. Farewell to merecy, for her God deserts her temple. Farewell! It is just? I know it is, most just. They have deserved it? Yes, with a thousandfold deserving. So have we all, and not one of us can blame the righteousness which condemns. But, men and brethren, love weeps when justice smites. The Lamb sorrows in His wrath. And it only makes justice the more awful when you see that it has so much of pity in it and so little of poor personal triumph or ungenerous readiness, that the Judge yearns and wails over the soul He dooms.
(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
"From Allah's self cometh this wondrous love;
Yea, and I swear by Him who sent me here,
He is more tender than a nursing dove,
More pitiful to men than she to these."
To appreciate the feeling of Jesus Christ for Jerusalem, we must remember how complete was His knowledge of its sin. Let it not be thought strange that the will of the people of Jerusalem should be allowed to resist and defeat the mercy of the Son of God. The whole history of the nation was one of often-repeated resistance to the will of Jehovah, and rejection of His grace. The Lord desired to save, but never would force salvation on any nation or any creature. Indeed, a forced salvation would be futile, and mercy received against one's will could do no good. The illustration used by our Lord implied that danger was at hand. Observe a hen in the open field, happy with her chickens running about her, picking and chirping in the sunshine. Suddenly a hawk appears in the air, or some mischievous animal comes slyly over the ground. On the instant the hen calls her brood to her, covers them with her wings, and is ready for their defence. Timid enough at other times, she is brave for her chickens, and will die rather than let one of them be lost. So the Lord Jesus, perceiving the danger which hovered over Jerusalem long before the Jews were aware of it, was willing to cover and save them. So also is it in every age and every nation. He who is the Saviour of the world sees the approaching perdition of ungodly men, and is willing to deliver them. Those who come to Him He will in no wise cast out. What a simple way of salvation! And how sure and perfect the defence! When lambs are startled, they run to the ewes; the kids to the she-goats. Among the fiercest animals, the young run to their mothers for protection, and these will guard their offspring at whatever peril to themselves. But no quadruped, wild or tame, can cover her young so completely as a bird can do with her folding wings. Therefore is this last the apt illustration of the -sufficiency of Christ to save. Those who trust in Him are completely covered by His righteousness and strength. On this wise has Divine salvation always been revealed. The Psalms frequently refer to the favour and protection of Jehovah as the shadow of outstretched wings (Psalm 17:8; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 91:4). Our Redeemer's lament over Jerusalem shows what His heart is toward all mankind. It is a grief to Him to have His offer of salvation slighted, a joy to have it embraced. Bow unhappy the mother-bird while any of her brood continue astray and heedless of her call! What manner of persons Christians ought to be! What joy of faith, what restfulness of love should be under the covert of His wings! What nearness, too, to one another, and what obligation to brotherly kindness! The brood are packed very closely under the hen.
(D. Fraser, D. D.)I. Now, first, observe THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD TO ISRAEL WHICH THIS VERSE BRINGS OUT BEFORE OUR VIEW.
1. We observe God's sovereignty manifested in the choice of Israel. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem." Why, we ask, should Jerusalem be singled out from all other nations of the earth? Why should the people of Israel receive God's special teaching, and be made examples of His peculiar mercies? The Bible tells us that God dealt with Israel as He did not deal with any other nation on the face of the earth — that He gave them special instruction, that He communicated unto them special advantages, that their advantages were many every way, that is, in every point of view, but chiefly, because not to the Assyrians, not to the Egyptians, not to any other remarkable nation of antiquity, but to the Jews were committed the oracles of God. We can only account for this by God's sovereignty.
2. We notice also the manifestation of God's grace in the messages which He sent to this highly favoured people — "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee." God's prophets, God's messengers, those who were specially inspired or taught by His Holy Spirit, who alone can give understanding of the counsels of God, were sent to Israel. Why? Can we trace anything in their history which made them in a special manner deserving of such a favour as this? Nothing of the kind. Their whole history is a history of God's lovingkindness and man's ingratitude.
3. Observe, again, the mercy of God's character manifested in His dealings towards them. It was not one prophet, but many, that God sent; not one messenger, but various messengers — and one after another the messengers and prophets were ill-treated.
4. I notice, further, God's love — the love of God's character in His dealings with them. For what was His revealed purpose towards the children of Israel when He sent to them the prophets, and gave them instruction as to His will? It was to gather their children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings! — to gather them together, to be unto them protection and safety.
5. Further, God's unchangeableness was manifested in His dealings with Israel. Observe the language of the Saviour, "How often would I have gathered thy children!" It was not one or two manifestations of God's grace which Israel had received, but many. Every repetition of His mercy is a proof of His unchangeableness.
6. And yet there is a solemn view of this subject, for the verse immediately following the text speaks of God's justice in His dealing with Israel. "Behold your house is left unto you desolate."
7. And then observe, further, God's faithfulness in the final issue of His dealings with Israel. "For I say unto you, ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." There are representatives of Israel after the flesh who shall occupy that favoured position. They shall receive the Saviour whom their forefathers rejected. And thus is it that God has, as it were, concentrated the rays of light which manifest His own character, in order that they may fall upon this single point — His willingness to save the sinful, the unworthy, the lost, and the undone.
II. But now, to pass from this, what is the special instruction which we ourselves, to whom the oracles of God are come, may derive from what we have read and examined, concerning our Lord's willingness with reference to guilty Israel? We may learn, Christian brethren, WHAT WE HAVE TO DO WITH THE PURPOSES, WITH THE MESSAGES, AND WITH THE SALVATION OF GOD.
1. Learn what we have to do with the purposes of God. Observe, it was God's sovereign purpose, with which His creatures could not interfere, to choose Jerusalem — to choose, that is, the nation of Israel, as a nation honoured and privileged above all other nations. We may be sure of His willingness to save, because even His sovereignty is revealed so as to set forth in prominence this willingness.
2. What have we to do, then, with the messages of God? "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
3. What, then, have we to do with God's salvation, but to regard it as set forth to us in connection with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Observe, He speaks in the text as One who is able to save. He claims the attributes of Deity when He says, "How often would I have gathered thy children together!" The Man Christ Jesus, in the midst of His humiliation, speaks with the authority of God. But not only is He able to save, but willing.
(W. Cadman, M. A.)
(W. W. Wells.)
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