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FORBEARANCE OF GOD BROUGHT TO A CLOSE
2 Chronicles 36:15-16. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.
IN speaking of the divine perfections, it is common to represent them all as infinite, because they do not admit of any increase: but perhaps it would be more correct to speak of them as limited, because they all so limit each other as to produce one harmonious agency in all their operations; every perfection being exercised so far, and so far only, as is consistent with the glory of the whole Deity. Justice, for instance, never exerts itself to the disparagement of mercy; nor does mercy ever triumph over the rights of justice: so neither does patience interpose for the arresting of judgment, any longer than consists with the claims of holiness: as soon as ever its protracted influence would reflect dishonour on God as the Moral Governor of the universe, it recedes, and leaves the sword of vengeance to execute its heavenly commission. The truth of this statement fully appears from the words before us; from which we are naturally led to notice,
God’s patience exercised—
It was exercised to a most astonishing degree towards his people of old—
[The Scripture frequently speaks of God, not only as sending messengers to his people, but as “rising early” and sending them. This intimates, that as soon as ever they went astray, he commissioned his servants to reclaim them; yea, many hundred years before the final execution of his judgments upon them, he forewarned them how he would proceed, and cautioned them against driving him to such extremities [Note: Lev 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68.] — — — When these warnings were disregarded, he sent them prophets, to bring these things to their remembrance, and to plead with them in his name. Sometimes he raised up prophets for particular occasions; at other times he continued them for many rears in their office, in order by any means to turn the people from their sins. Full of “compassion towards his people,” and averse to forsake the land which he had given them for a “dwelling-place,” he bore with, all their frowardness and perverseness; “many a time turning away his anger,” when he might justly have broken forth against them, and made them monuments of his everlasting indignation [Note: Psalms 78:38; Psalms 106:13-48.].
But how did they requite his tender mercies? “They mocked his messengers (we are told), and despised his words, and misused his prophets.” Even against Moses himself did their resentment frequently burn, insomuch that on one occasion they were ready to stone him [Note: Exodus 17:4.]. Their prophets in every successive age were treated with all manner of indignities, menaced, imprisoned, martyred, according as the wrath of their rulers was permitted to prevail. “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?” said St. Stephen [Note: Acts 7:52.]; and our blessed Lord, to comfort his disciples under the trials which they would meet with, reminded them, that “so had the prophets been persecuted, who were before them [Note: Matthew 5:12.].”]
In like manner is it exercised in reference to us—
[God is yet sending his ambassadors to us, not merely to reprove and warn, or to encourage us with a hope of temporal rewards, as he did to the Jews, but to offer us redemption through the blood of his dear Son, and to beseech us to accept of reconciliation with him [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.] — — — And such is his “compassion towards us,” that he cannot endure the thought of giving us up, as long as a hope remains of converting us to himself [Note: Ezekiel 33:11.Jeremiah 13:27; Jeremiah 13:27. Hosea 11:8.] — — —
And what return do we make to God? Do we not act precisely as the Jews before us did? There is no faithful messenger that addresses us in Jehovah’s name, but we call him an enthusiast: however temperate and kind, and reasonable his exhortations may be [Note: See particularly the temperate message sent by Hezekiah 2 Chronicles 30:6-10.], we mock and deride him as “a babbler [Note: Acts 17:18. Ezekiel 20:40.],” “a deceiver [Note: John 7:12.],” and “a fellow that ought not to be tolerated [Note: Acts 22:22; Acts 24:5.].” Our blessed Lord himself; who “spake as never man spake,” was accounted a madman and a demoniac [Note: John 10:20.]; and every faithful servant of God, from his day even to the present hour, has been made an object, though not of equal, yet certainly of similar, reproach. One would suppose that men, with the sacred volume in their hands, seeing how the prophets and Apostles were all treated, would avoid treading in the steps of former persecutors: but the enmity of the human heart against God is the same as ever; and the messages of God are therefore treated with the same contempt as ever. If there be any difference as to the mode in which that enmity betrays itself, it is owing to the excellence of our laws, and not to any superiority in us above the Jews. Our dispositions are the same as theirs, and our abuse of God’s tender mercies is the same.]
In the sequel of our text we see,
God’s patience exhausted—
He was at last constrained to execute upon them his threatened vengeance—
[After bearing with their frowardness many hundred years, his wrath against them was kindled, and he gave them up into the hands of their enemies [Note: ver. 17–21.]. Every effort for their preservation had been tried in vain, and “no remedy now remained:” the people therefore were sent into captivity; and both their city and temple were destroyed.]
Thus also will he do with respect to us—
[If we go on incessantly “grieving the Holy Spirit,” we shall at last “quench” his sacred motions [Note: Ephesians 4:30. 1Th 5:19]. There is a time beyond which God will bear with us no longer [Note: Matthew 23:37-38.]. There is a day of grace wherein he will be found [Note: Luke 19:41-44.]; an accepted time in which salvation may be secured by us [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:2.Isaiah 55:6; Isaiah 55:6.]. But there is a time when he will say, “Let them alone [Note: Hosea 4:17.];” “Let their eyes be blinded and their hearts be hardened [Note: Acts 28:25-27.]:” “I am weary with repenting [Note: Jeremiah 15:6.]:” and now, “though they cry I will not hear, though they make many prayers I will not regard them [Note: Proverbs 1:24-31.].”
Doubtless if a person were truly penitent, he would be heard and accepted at the last hour: but it is God alone who can give repentance: and, if we continue obstinately to resist his calls, he will cease to strive with us [Note: Genesis 6:3.], and will give us over to final impenitence [Note: Psalms 81:11-12.]. This he has done in unnumbered instances; and this he warns us to expect at his hands: “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy [Note: Proverbs 29:1.].”]
[God speaks to men by his word and ministers at this day, as truly as ever he did either by Prophets or Apostles: and our word, as far as it is agreeable to the Scriptures of Truth, is to be “received, not as the word of man, but of God [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:13.]:” and, if any man “despiseth it, he despiseth not man, but God [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:8.].” Happy would it be if this matter were duly considered: for certainly there are many, of a proud and contemptuous spirit, who instead of “trembling at the word,” as they ought [Note: Isaiah 66:2.], and “humbling themselves before the ministers” of Jehovah [Note: ver. 12.], make light of all they hear [Note: Matthew 22:5.], and turn it to derision [Note: Jeremiah 20:7-8.]. But to such God says, “Be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong [Note: Isaiah 28:22.].” There is great danger lest they “be holden with the cords of their own sins [Note: Proverbs 5:22.],” and be given up to their own delusions [Note: Isaiah 66:4. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.].
On the other hand, let not any imagine that an attachment to faithful ministers, or a love to the ordinances as dispensed by them, will necessarily prove us to be in a state of acceptance with God: for Ezekiel’s hearers were delighted with his discourses, whilst yet they were by no means conformed to the precepts delivered by him [Note: Ezekiel 33:31-32.]. Inquire then whether you be really obedient to the Gospel, receiving Christ as the gift of God to your souls, relying on him as your only hope, rejoicing in him as your all-sufficient Saviour, and devoting yourselves to him in all holy obedience. The tree must be judged of by its fruits alone. If your fruits be not yet such as might be wished, apply the “remedy:” go to Christ for the remission of your sins, and seek from him the gift of his Holy Spirit: then shall the Gospel have its due effect, and be “the power of God to the salvation of your souls.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 36". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany