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If there were no fault in their severity, it needed no excuse: and if there were a fault, it will admit of no excuse: yet, as if they meant to shift off the sin, they expostulate with God, 'O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass this day!' God gave them no command of this rigour; yea he twice crost them in the execution; and now, in that which they entreated of God with tears, they challenge Him. It is a dangerous injustice to lay the burden of our sins upon Him, which tempteth no man, nor can be tempted with evil; while we so remove one sin, we double it.
The Missing One
This inquiry represents the spirit of the whole Bible.
I. Look at this text as a sentiment, a discipline, as an encouragement. Is not this the human aspect of the solicitude of God's heart? In this respect as well as in others is man made after the image and likeness of God. There is what may be called a distinct unity of emotion call it pity, solicitude, compassion, or by any other equal term running through the whole Bible. From the first God loved man with atoning and redeeming love. Marvellous and instructive as is the development of the Bible history, in all the infinite tumult God looks after the sinner, the wanderer, with longing love.
II. But, from another point of view, how different the text. This high feeling has also a disciplinary aspect, and therefore there is a whole field of complete and ardent loyalty. When Deborah sang her triumphant song she disclosed the sterner aspect of this case. She mentioned the absentees by name, and consigned them to the withering immortalities of oblivion. 'Reuben remained among the sheepfolds' when he ought to have answered the call of the trumpet. Why was he lacking in that day? He was pre-occupied; he sent promises, but he remained at home among the flocks.
III. Some are no longer in the battle, yet today are not lacking in the sense of the text. They are not here they are here. Even the mighty David waxed faint. He was but seventy when he died.
Speaking, in Time and Tide, of the ancient religious use of dance and song, as in this passage, where the feast of the vintage is marked by thanksgiving, Ruskin contrasts it with a Swiss scene of vulgar riot which he once witnessed in the autumn of 1863, when the Zurich peasantry abandoned themselves to 'two ceremonies only. During the day, the servants of the farms, where the grapes had been gathered, collected in knots about the vineyards, and slowly fired horse-pistols, from morning to evening. At night they got drunk, and staggered up and down the hill paths, uttering, at short intervals, yells and shrieks, differing only from the howling of wild animals by a certain intended and insolent discordance, only attainable by the malignity of debased human creatures.... Note this, respecting what I have told you, that in the very centre of Europe, in a country which is visited for their chief pleasure by the most refined and thoughtful persons among Christian nations a country made by God's hand the most beautiful in the temperate regions of the earth, and inhabited by a race once capable of the sternest patriotism and simplest purity of life, your modern religion, in the very stronghold of it, has reduced the song and dance of ancient virginal thanksgiving to the howlings and staggerings of men betraying, in intoxication, a nature sunk more than halfway towards the beasts.'
'From a combination of causes,' says Mr. Froude in his Annals of an English Abbey, 'we are now passing into a sea where our charts fail us, and the stars have ceased to shine. The tongue of the prudent speaks stammeringly. The fool clamours that he is as wise as the sage, and the sage shrinks from saying that it is not so. Authority is mute. One man, we are told, is as good as another: each by Divine charter may think as he pleases, and carve his actions after his own liking. Institutions crumble; creeds resolve themselves into words; forms of government disintegrate, and there is no longer any word of command.... Civilized mankind are broken into two hundred million units, each thinking and doing what is good in his own eyes.
'Experience of the past forbids the belief that anarchy will continue for ever.'
Reference. XXI. 26. H. Hensley Henson, Light and Heaven, p. 87.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Judges 21". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19