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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Ezekiel 16

Verses 62-63

DISCOURSE: 1105
THE EFFECT OF GOD’S MERCY ON THE RENEWED SOUL

Ezekiel 16:62-63. I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shall know that I am the Lord: that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never of en thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.

WHOEVER attentively reads the writings of the prophets, will observe, that there is one image in particular which predominates, as it were, above all others, in representing and characterizing the departure of the soul from God; it is that of the violation of the nuptial vows. God has been pleased to speak of himself as the Husband of his Church: and hence, when his people have turned aside to idols, they are said to have “committed adultery with stocks and stones.” Sometimes that idea is prosecuted with a minuteness, which, though proper for the time and occasion on which it was written, would not be suitable for an audience differently circumstanced. The Prophet Ezekiel in particular, who seems to have been a man of a severer cast, and to have been intent only on communicating his sentiments as strongly and forcibly as he could, has given himself great latitude in this respect. He is not content with using here and there a metaphorical expression; he occupies a whole chapter in drawing, as it were, a parallel between a supposed adulteress, and the Jewish people. Certainly this gives great force to his reproofs; because the minds of all are open to conviction, when truth is stated to them in a way which commends itself to their feelings and judgment. We shall not however follow him any farther than will be necessary for the elucidation of our main subject.
We should not, in the general, take occasion from the single word “thee” to investigate largely the character and conduct of the persons addressed: but here our subject absolutely requires that we should do so; since the whole chapter is occupied in delineating it; and a full consideration of it is necessary, in order to the obtaining of a right understanding of our text. We propose then, from a view of our text as connected with the whole chapter, to set before you,

I.

The extent of man’s wickedness—

We will give, in the first place, a brief summary of the chapter—
[It is here supposed that a child, from the moment of its birth, is left exposed in an open field, without any one to pay the least attention to it; and that in that situation, where it must speedily have perished, it is noticed by Jehovah, who instantly administers to all its wants, and thus preserves its life. It is then supposed, that, after this child has been brought up by him to a mature age, she is espoused to him and becomes his wife. He, in the character of her husband, loads her with benefits, so as to make her the admiration and the envy of all who behold her. She however, instead of requiting him with that love, and honour, and fidelity that become her, abandons herself to open prostitution, and that too, not through the solicitations of others, but through the wilful depravity of her own heart; she herself being the tempter of all her paramours, and bestowing on them the gifts which her husband had conferred on her. By this licentious and infamous conduct she has compelled her husband to put her away, and to withdraw from her the means of exciting and compensating any more these iniquitous proceedings.]
Let us now mark how this image was applicable to Judah and Jerusalem—
[The Jews had been originally chosen in Abraham, their common father, when he himself was an idolater: and as soon as his posterity were multiplied in Egypt, they were reduced to such a state of destitution and misery, that they must have perished, if God himself had not miraculously interposed for them. But God had compassion on them, and brought them out with a high hand, and took them for his own peculiar people, and gave them an inheritance in the land of Canaan. There he elevated them to a high rank among the nations, insomuch that they were the envy and admiration of all who knew them; so great was their power, their opulence, their prosperity in every respect. But in time they turned from the worship of God to idols, and from confidence in God to a dependence on foreign alliances, which they sought and maintained at vast expense. “Thy renown,” says the prophet, (ver. 14, 15.) “went forth among the heathen for thy beauty; for it was perfect through my comeliness which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown.” All manner of corruptions at length overspread the land, and provoked God, who was jealous for his own honour, to give them up to the desolations and miseries which they had so justly merited.]
But to us also, as well as to them, all this may be applied—
[View us as men: how helpless were we in our early infancy! yet through the goodness of God, who has been a father to us, we have been placed in situations of ease and honour, far beyond what, if left to ourselves without his paternal care, we could ever have obtained. God, having formed us for himself, has given us many rich endowments, such as were necessary for the filling of the situation to which he has advanced us. But what use have we made of all his gifts? Have we improved them in obedience to his will, and for the promotion of his glory? Have not our various talents, of mental energy, of bodily strength, of worldly property, been employed solely for our own personal gratification, without any regard for Him to whom they properly belonged, and for whose honour they should have been employed? Verily there has not been any idol, however base, to whose service we have not devoted these things, rather than to the service of our God.

View us as Christians also, and the same wickedness may justly be laid to our charge. In our natural state we were altogether guilty and polluted, yea, helpless and hopeless. But the advantages which Almighty God has conferred upon us have been exceeding great: all the ordinances of his worship, all the offers of his grace, all the hopes of his glory, have been vouchsafed to us from time to time, in order to convince us of his love, and to stimulate us to an unreserved surrender of ourselves to him. But these things, instead of having been improved aright, have actually been made the means and occasions of our departure from him. We have rested in the ordinances, without any concern whether we enjoyed God in them or not: his offers of mercy have been brought to justify the idea, that we might sin against him with impunity: and the prospects of the eternal world have been considered as little affected by our present conduct. “This has been our way from our youth;” and it is equally prevalent in every class of the community.

Would an earthly husband be satisfied with such conduct in his wife? What wonder then is it if our heavenly Husband regard these our adulteries with grief and wrathful indignation?]
But if, on the one hand, these things shew the greatness of our depravity, they serve, on the other hand, most strikingly to illustrate,

II.

The exceeding riches of God’s grace—

Vile as the Jews had been, he promises in our text to restore them to his favour—
[That the same persons are addressed as have been described in all the preceding context, is evident from the two verses before our text. The two tribes of Judah and Benjamin having followed the Canaanites in their abominations, it is said, that “their father was an Amorite, and their mother a Hittite.” Their character is then compared with that of Samaria and of Sodom (who are called their sisters), and is said to have been worse than either [Note: ver, 45–48, 51, 52.]. Yet, says God, I will restore “Sodom and her daughters (i. e. the heathen world at large), and Samaria and her daughters (i. e. the ten tribes of Israel), to their former estate;” and then, “when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger, I will give them to thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant [Note: ver. 53, 55, 61, 62.]: and I will establish my covenant with thee.”

Here it is distinctly stated, that there shall be a restoration of the whole Jewish nation, together with a general conversion of the Gentiles: and that they shall be all united, not on the footing of the covenant made with the Jews on Mount Sinai, (“not by thy covenant,”) but on the footing of the new “covenant made with them in the days of their youth,” even with Abraham their father: this is the covenant which he would reestablish with them; and according to the tenour of it he would freely forgive all their past iniquities, and restore them to the everlasting enjoyment of his favour. By this wonderful exhibition of mercy to them, “they should know assuredly that He, even Jehovah, is the only true God;” yea moreover, that He is their God for ever and ever.

This was so very partially fulfilled at the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, that we cannot but look for a more complete fulfilment of it at a period yet future, but, we trust, not very remote.]
The promise however is, no doubt, to be extended to us also—
[However vile we may have been, God, if we seek him, will remember his holy covenant, and will accept us according to the tenour of it. In that covenant, provision is made for our every want. “It is ordered in all things and sure:” and it is therefore sure, because by it God gives all, and we receive all: God gives the new heart as well as pardon for past offences; and engages to make us his people, at the time that he gives himself to us as our God. Hear how plainly all this is declared in the Epistle to the Hebrews [Note: Hebrews 8:8-12.] — — — The very distinction is there made between the Jewish covenant that was made on Mount Sinai, and the covenant of grace which was made four hundred and thirty years before with Abraham: and the knowledge of the Lord will be universally diffused, not in theory only, but in the experience of every individual: “for,” says God, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” This then is the promise which we now make known to you; that however you may have alienated your affections from God in times past, if you will but now return to him, your former iniquities shall no more be remembered, but God will be your God for ever and ever. O hear the very invitations of God himself [Note: Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:12.] — — — and implore help from God to comply with them!]

But is not this a dangerous doctrine? Surely not, if we consider,

III.

The effect of this grace upon every soul of man—

It is thought by those who have never experienced this grace themselves, that it must of necessity puff up with pride and conceit all who receive it. But,
This is contrary to reason—
[If we maintain that man by nature is in the situation of this outcast child; that God, purely of his own mercy and grace, “looks upon us” in that situation, and “bids us live;” if, after all our innumerable transgressions, he invites us to repent of our iniquities, and to embrace his holy covenant; we should think that there is no possible scope for pride and self-conceit; since the very mercy which God exercises towards us is not founded in any actual, or foreseen, goodness in us, but wholly in the free and sovereign exercise of God’s holy will It is the man that arrogates some goodness to himself, and makes the superior worth of the individual to be the ground of God’s peculiar favour to him, this is the man that is proud, and that puts the very crown of Jehovah upon his own head. Even in heaven itself, if such a man were ever to reach that blessed place, he would be robbing God of his glory, and ascribing his salvation, in part at least, to his own superior goodness, which was the first moving cause of God’s mercy towards him.]

It is contrary to fact also—
[“Then shalt thou remember thy ways, and be ashamed:” yea, “I will establish with thee my covenant, that thou mayest (what? be lifted up with pride? No: that thou mayest) remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.” Here is the true state of every pardoned soul: the mercy of God towards him humbles him in the dust, and makes him to abhor himself in dust and ashes.

It would be thought by the generality, that the spirit of a loving, faithful and obedient wife would be proper for the spouse of Christ: and so it would if that spouse had never violated her nuptial vows. But we are all like this adulterous woman: and, as an adulteress, who had been precisely circumstanced like her in the chapter before us, would, after being restored to the favour of her husband, never forgive herself, however freely he may have forgiven her, so will a gracious soul when restored to the Divine favour: yea, the very favour of God, in proportion as it is exercised towards him, will only create in the soul a deeper self-abhorrence for ever having sinned against so gracious a God. An admiration of God’s goodness, and a lothing of its own vileness, will never cease to occupy the soul that has been thus restored.]
We call you then, in conclusion, to remember,

1.

Your covenant mercies—

[How unspeakable are these! The very vilest of the human race may become the spouse of Christ, and be invested with all the honours and privileges of that relation. Will any of you be indifferent towards your God and Saviour, and reject the overtures which he now sends you by me? O remember, that as man and wife are one flesh, so “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.” Let all of you seek to be partakers of this honour. It is by faith in Christ that you become one with him; and by the exercise of the same faith shall all the blessings of the everlasting covenant flow down into your souls — — —]

2.

Your covenant engagements—

[You all know what engagements a wife enters into, when she is taking upon her the vows of the marriage-covenant. She is thenceforward to live altogether for him with whom she has contracted this solemn bond. O let every Believer know what he has undertaken, and consider what is to be his constant aim. You must not be contented with some few services; you must be aspiring after such measures of love and purity, as may render you more lovely in the eyes of your blessed Lord, and may cause his very name to be glorified in you. In the world that is approaching, when the Lamb will publicly take home his Bride, you will be clothed in fine white linen, suited to the occasion. Be preparing those robes, whilst yet you are here; and by the richest unctions of Divine grace be daily becoming meet for the bridal chamber: and then shall the nuptials soon arrive; and you shall be for ever happy in the bosom of your God.]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/ezekiel-16.html. 1832.