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‘Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk.’
I. The Ideal.—The wealth of a great people consists not so much in its material possessions, but in its children; and happy is the land whose sons can be described in these terms. The Naraite bound himself by a solemn vow, either for life or for a prescribed period, to abstain from the juice of the vine, from contact with death, and from all uncleanness. The unshorn locks and strength of a Samson, the beneficent ministry of a Samuel, the austere purity of James, the leader of the church at Jerusalem, give us three different view points of the Nazarite.
II. Our Lord.—There is always a fancination in the conception of one whose heart is pure as snow, and his life white as milk; and what was set forth in outward type in the Old Testament is presented as a possibility in the New. The Lord Jesus alone has perfectly realised the ideal.
III. Ourselves.—“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” “They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” The only clue to the attainment of this ideal is to give yourself wholly to God, to ask Him to form Christ in you by the Holy Spirit, and daily to meet temptation in His strength and purity. It may not be possible in such a world to be innocent, but you may be pure as flame and chaste as snow.
‘Calvin supposes that their red colour was a mark and evidence of God’s favour, as in the cases of the Hebrew children recorded in Daniel. “We know that the Nazarites abstained from wine and strong drink: hence abstinence might have lessened somewhat of their ruddiness. For he who is accustomed to drink wine, if he abstains for a time, is apt to grow pale; he will then lose almost all his colour, at least, he will not be so ruddy; nor will there appear in his face and in his members so much vigour as when he took his ordinary support. Jeremiah, in short, teaches us that the blessing of God was conspicuous in the Nazarites, for He wonderfully supported them while they were for a time abstinents.” This necessity of appealing to a possible miracle may itself create a doubt, if Nazarites are here referred to at all. That in such a corrupt state of society as existed, at that period of their history, among the Jews, there were many who assumed the vows of the Nazarite, is doubtful. There is no allusion to the existence even of Nazarites among the people at this time, in either the prophetical or historical books.’
A DISAPPOINTED HOPE
‘Of Whom we said, Under His shadow we shall live among the nations.’
Lamentations 4:20 (R.V.)
I. The people tell the sad tale of the pursuit of their foes.—Swifter than the eagles, they chased them on the mountains, and laid wait for them in the wilderness. Then they tell how their king fell into the hands of them who sought his life. He was dear to them as the breath of their nostrils; his person was sacred as the Anointed of the Lord; they had thought that even though they were carried into captivity they would find some alleviation to their hardships in dwelling under his protection; they said, ‘Under his shadow we shall live among the nations.’ But even he was taken in their pits.
II. What a likeness and a contrast to our Blessed Lord.—(1) There is likeness. He is as the breath of our life. As we inhale the air around us, so we expand our souls to drink in of His most blessed nature. We open our mouths and draw in our breath, His spirit for our spirit, His blood for our souls, His resurrection strength for our bodies. He is the Anointed of the Father, Who anoints us. Because He is the Christ (Anointed), we are Christians (anointed ones). His shadow is a most grateful and widespreading one, beneath which we may dwell in safety. (2) But how great the contrast. Though He was once taken in the pit of satanic malice and the shadow of death, yet now He liveth to be the shield and protector of His people wherever they are scattered among the nations. Let us, too, dwell under the shadow of our Lord. He can never fail us, but will ever spread His tabernacle over His beloved. We may say, therefore, ‘The Lord, He is our refuge and fortress, our God in whom We trust.’ Dwelling in Him, we find our home in every clime; missing Him, we are lonely indeed, though we may be dwelling in our home surrounded by our dearest.
(1) ‘This fourth elegy tells us of the agony of the siege. Gold and silver vessels of the sanctuary have lost their sanctity, and lie strewn, unheeded, in the streets, and the priests that bear them fare no better. If they were once comparable to fine gold, they were now esteemed as earthen vessels, common and brittle. The miseries of the children and of young girls reared in scarlet; the degradation of nobles who had taken such infinite pride in the beauty of their person ( Lamentations 4:7); the cruel hunger of mothers ( Lamentations 4:10); the retribution on prophet and priest ( Lamentations 4:13), pass in vivid succession before our gaze. We can never forget that it is thus that God punishes sin. He may bear with us through long years, but His mills at last grind to powder.’
(2) ‘The question arises, how could these titles ( Messiah, breath of the people’s nostrils, shadow) apply to the wicked king Zedekiah? They apply to him, not by reason of his personal character, but (1) by reason of his office, which ought to have been, and was expected by the Hebrews to be, what these titles import. (2) By reason of the Antitype, of whom David, with his posterity, in his kingly office was a type. But who is this Antitype? Our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David according to the flesh (2 Timothy 2; Romans 1), that Anointed One of the Lord (St. Luke 2:26), Whose breath is in His nostrils ( Isaiah 2:22), and Who is our shadow against the heat of God’s wrath ( Isaiah 25:4), and to Whom the Lord God gave the throne of His Father David (St. Luke 1:32-33). Magistrates are here admonished both of the authority and the functions of their office. They, too, can be called by that name of authority— the anointed of the Lord. And the functions of their office are, that they may be, by their counsel and efficient aid, the breath of the nostrils,—and such a shadow as that prefigured in the tree in Daniel 4:7-9 (10–12).’
(3) ‘Notice here the reciprocal duties of rulers and subjects. (1) The duties which subjects owe to their rulers. It is to be observed that the prophet in this text confers an honourable title on the ungodly king Zedekiah, that he calls him the Anointed of the Lord, and here a beautiful lesson is taught us, with what respect we should regard and speak of our superiors and rulers, and honour in them the office, which God has conferred upon them, even if in personal character they are wicked and ungodly. (2) The duties which rulers owe to their subjects. Let them remember that their “office, in the words of the prophet, should he, next to God and under God, a refuge, under whose shadow their poor subjects may live.” ’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Lamentations 4". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany