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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ ezekiel-24.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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Set on a pot.
The boiling cauldron: the doings and doom of a wicked city
I. The sins of any city are an offence to God.
1. Seen by Him. The whole city in its greed for gain, its intemperance, its hollowness, its lust.
2. Seen by Him with anger. He is a Moral Governor, and has the moral nature that breaks into the sunlight of a smile on goodness, and gathers into the thunder cloud of a frown upon wickedness.
II. The sins of any city will ensure its doom.
1. History illustrates this. The cities of the plain, the dynasties of the old world.
2. Prophecy predicts this.
3. The law of causation involves this. The disease of sin naturally works the death of destruction.
III. The sins of any city concern every individual inhabitant.
1. They bring sorrow on all.
2. They give a mission to all. Hence learn--
(1) Seek to evangelise the entire city to save it.
(2) Seek to convert individuals, that at least they may be saved. (Urijah R. Thomas.)
The boiling cauldron
1. Those who profess a true religion and possess a bad character defile their creed by their character. The youth who belongs to an honourable family and lives a vicious life brings the very name of his family into ill-repute. The man who calls himself a Christian, and lives an un-Christlike life, defiles the name he bears.
2. The possession of a correct creed will not preserve a nation or an individual from moral degeneration unless it has its outcome in a life in accordance with it. The child who has a Bible given to it by his father may treasure the book carefully and boast of his possession. But the mere holding of the book will not save him from going down in the scale of morality. To do this he must translate the law of God into life, and thus create a new thing in the earth--a holy character which is all his own, and which he would not inherit from his parent.
3. There are higher claims than those springing from human relationships. The man who descends into the depths of a coal mine to rescue another who is perishing, while his wife stands at the pit’s mouth, beseeching him not to venture his life, recognises this law. So does the citizen soldier who leaves his home and family to fight for the oppressed, and the doctor who from choice follows the army on campaign to relieve the sufferings of the wounded. (A London Minister.)
Thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness.
Obstinacy in sin
1. Obstinacy in sin provokes God to the destruction of sinners. “Her scum shall be in the fire.” Jerusalem shall be burnt, and why? “In thy filthiness is lewdness”; thou art obstinate, hardened in thy wickedness. All sin offends, some sins provoke to judgments, obstinacy provokes to destruction (Jeremiah 44:15).
2. In Scripture language, that is said to be done which God or men endeavour to do, though it be not done. “I have purged thee.” God using means, and endeavouring, by His prophets, mercies, threats, and judgments, to purge Jerusalem from her sin, is called purging, though Jerusalem were not purged.
3. A people may have the means, and not improve the same for their good.
4. People may so slip the time of repenting, and turning to God, as that it may be too late for them to go about the same; they may sin away the time of mercy. Time present is the acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2).
5. Those who have had means, and not profited thereby, God will deal most severely with--there is no mercy, but altogether judgment for them. The fig tree in the vineyard had stood there three years, and was not better at last than at first; the influences of heaven, and fatness of the earth, had done it no good; and behold the severity of the owner: “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” (Luke 13:7). (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.
Sin the worst sorrow
I. Other sorrows may have no evil, but even good in them; this is essentially and eternally evil. In a bereavement, in a national calamity, as also in bodily sufferings and many social griefs, it is manifest there may be no moral wrong. There may, indeed, be the highest moral good. But sin is, in its essence, in its indulgence, in its outcome, utterly evil, an object of nothing else than commiseration, loathing, and hatred.
II. Other sorrows are remediable; this leads to destruction.
III. Other sorrows may come direct from God; this is ever in direct antagonism to Him.
IV. Other sorrows have to do with men in their relation to others; this with his own inner being and his relation to God. Conclusion--
1. Rightly weigh your own sorrows.
2. Rightly deal with the world’s sorrows. Pity their poverty, heal their sickness, but most of all grieve for and contend with their sin.
3. Rightly value the Saviour’s mission. (Urijah R. Thomas.)
Unwept bereavement: or, a great soul in a great sorrow
Individual characteristics are as marked and distinctive in the new life of the soul as they are in the old life of sin. While the graft draws its sap from the parent stock, it yields its own kind of fruit. Thus in the Christian life--it is the same spirit working variously in and through the mental trend, temperament, and educational attainments of the agent. Ezekiel is manifestly the spiritual dramatist of the prophetic order. He speaks in action, and voices by signs the stern purposes of his God. He is a seer in symbols, The touching incidents recorded in the chapter before us is marked by dramatic representation of Divine truth. First the “pot,” from which parable he utters the terrible “Woe to the bloody city.” Here, in his suppressed and even crushed grief over his deceased wife, “the desire of his eyes” taken away from him “with a stroke,” is the picture in miniature of the unwept desolation of Jerusalem. In the painful experience of the prophet we have a great soul under a great trial.
I. The woman--the wife. “At eve my wife died.” To the pure and noble and thoughtful, no sorrow can be greater. Where the wife is what God intended she should be, the helpmeet of man, the loss here stated is without a parallel. “At eve my wife died”: not my crops were blasted, or my cattle killed or taken away, but my wife, the best part of myself, the light of life’s darkest hour; the one that buoys up the man when all others throw on heavier burdens to press him down. My wife! What dreadful significance! What fulness of meaning! Many a man has been lifted to the highest places, and has been transported into fullest conditions, by the wisdom, piety, and thoughtfulness of a good wife. Young men sinking into debt, danger, and degradation have lifted up their heads above every flood when they have taken the float of a good wife--thus proving that “scanty fare for one will often make a royal feast for two.” There are thousands in the Church today, or in heaven, who would certainly have made shipwreck of faith but for the firmer trust and steadier piety of a devoted wife--when the strong man has been weakened by the hard struggle of life, the weak woman, strong by devotion and radiant hope, has held him up in her heaven-derived might, till the man has regained his strength. The prophet is here called to pass through a most painful experience, and the terms used are touching. His wife is spoken of as the “desire of his eyes,” and the “taking away” is to be done with a stroke. Not a gradual fading away of the life and love, with all the touching farewells and hopes of future meeting which characterise a death bed, but by one fell stroke the desire of the eye, the joy of the heart, the flower of the garden, the sun of the home, the star of earth’s hope, shall be taken from him. The Lord frequently brings judgment near the heart, that He may plant His mercy in the heart. He kills for the purpose of making alive. The desire of the heart is often taken, that the heart may desire a Diviner portion. Note the time. At “eve,” not in the morning ere work began, nor at night when the weaknesses of old age had rendered life a burden and death a release. But at “eve,” after the toil but before the rest. Work accomplished, but not enjoyed. How like this now. Many a good wife who has toiled and struggled and denied her own needy appetite for the sake of husband and family, has lived just long enough to drag the household to the top of the hill; and when an easy plain way appeared in view, and a season of rest gilded the sky, she has fallen dead--not with the weight of years, so much as with the burden of hard work and heavy care.
II. The man--the husband. The sublime self-possession, the equanimity of the prophet, the forgetfulness of a loss so great and a sorrow so deep, seem altogether beyond the range of common men, and can only be viewed in the light of a purpose as mysterious as it is beneficent. The Lord apprised him of his loss, but forbade the assumption of those signs of grief which characterise the obsequies of oriental countries. “Forbear to cry.” Revised Version renders it--“Sigh, but not loud.” The margin reads--“Be silent.” Grief in the heart cannot be wholly quenched; it would be against nature to expect such a thing; but those extravagant signs of it were what the Lord corn, rounds the prophet against. This wonderful state of soul under an affliction so bitter may seem to some both unnatural and sinful. It win be a sufficient reply, perhaps, to say that exceptional circumstances defy ordinary modes of interpretation. We act wisely as we suspend judgment upon individual actions in the abstract, and consider them in the fight of surrounding circumstances and Divine purposes. We are now in the presence of a great soul whose vast proportions defy all the narrow measurements of popular conventionalism, and is a standing reproof to those mere appearances of grief and simulations of sorrow, and those extravagant habiliments of mourning, which are too often deeper than the grief they are supposed to represent. The full beauty and the whole worth of the Ezekiel conduct expresses itself in one word, “Obedience.” To blame the prophet for what he did is to blame the Almighty who commanded it. It was at the bidding of the great God that he bare with such magnanimity so tremendous a loss. “He that ruleth his own spirit is better than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32). The man who can hold in check, and keep in obedience to the high behests of heaven, all the powers, passions, and tender susceptibilities of the soul, has reached an altitude far beyond the level of common mortals. Look at this grand old prophet whose wild eye flings off the tear, and decks itself with the full blaze of the day of God. There he stands in the attitude of strength, dressed for action, and not muffled for lamentation. If, then, you can attribute the prophet’s spirit and conduct to weakness or inhumanity, it must be because we view the same things from different standpoints. I confess that, personally, I am awed into littleness in presence of a soul so great. To my mind, the whole thing is explained, and, the mystery cleared up, in the doctrine of a future life. Deny this, and death is an unmitigated sorrow and an irretrievable loss, without a ray to relieve the darkness or a prospect to cheer the soul. (M. Brokenshire.)
Ezekiel’s wife not merely symbolic
Reuss is hardly right in regarding Ezekiel’s wife and her death as fictions: the language used implies that she was a real person, and that her death occurred as stated, though, as usual, the prophet employed the incident for didactic purposes, and some of the details may be creations of idealism; for it is characteristic of him that real events float before his eve in a moral atmosphere which magnifies them and gives them an outline which is ideal only. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
Loneliness through bereavement relieved by service
John Bright sat mourning in his sitting room; life was cold and drear to him, the body of his young wife lay dead in the room above. Richard Cobden, clear-sighted, enthusiastic, and withal practical, came to his friend, and said: “You have your sorrow; there are more sorrows in the world than yours; your opportunity has come; people are hungering in this England of ours. Come with me, and we will never rest until the Corn Laws are repealed.” I am not making a political application of that utterance, but we do know that England was wretched and hungry, and that the lot of the poor was sadder than it is even today. That lion-hearted pair went out and fought in the midst of obloquy, misunderstanding, contempt, and persecution, until victory crowned their efforts, and in 1846 the tribune of the people and his friend rejoiced over their victory. (R. J. Campbell, M. A.)
The prophet’s discipline of sorrow
Sorrow is here set before us not as personal chastisement, but as part of the prophet’s training for his work. Duty is often incompatible with the indulgence of personal sorrow. Business arrangements, public obligations, engagements that must be fulfilled, often summon men from the house of death; sorrow must give way to necessity.
1. The prophet’s insight necessitates a discipline of peculiar sorrow. In some states of the body men’s sensitiveness is acute even to suffering. They see too much, their hearing and sense of smell are too keen. In other states of the body the perception is too intense; the feeling of time and space and weight is enlarged till minutes prolong themselves, and vast abysses open out, and there is a sense of overwhelming pressure. Poets, philosophers, who see in all around them the moving of an eternal life, are not, light-hearted men. To the prophet, who sees not only life everywhere, but God; who recognises not order only, but moral purpose; who sees the infinite holiness and the unerring judgment: there is oppressiveness even in his joy. But he must see the largeness of God’s designs and the certainty of His operation before he can proclaim them; the word of the Lord is to him a burden before it is a word. The prophet sees, moreover, not only God, but man; he has insight into the human heart, its self-will and wickedness.
2. The prophet’s relation to men involves a peculiar discipline of sorrow. He utters his message, and it is disregarded. He is treated as a vain dreamer, a raver; then as an actor, whose skill brings together affecting images which may relieve the tedium of an idle hour. There is no distress so great as to have earnestness thus trifled with; to feel for men an apprehension which they will not share. Moreover, it exposes the prophet to severe strokes from God. God will arouse men; if the prophet’s words cannot make them thoughtful, He seeks to touch them by the prophet’s sufferings. The common saying that a man’s life is more efficacious than his teaching, is of wide application.
3. His discipline of sorrow fits the prophet for speaking to men in another way: God had a remnant in Israel, a remnant who should be won. If you are to comfort mourners, you must have seen affliction; you must know the smart of the wounds you seek to heal You desire to strengthen the faith of the doubting; one way of doing this is to fight your own doubts and gather strength. You would appeal to the tempted; you must know what temptation means, must vanquish the lying spirit, the worldly spirit, the spirit of unrighteousness; in manic a battle, hard “pressed and sorely won, must come the skill you seek. (A. Mackennal, D. D.)
The departure of friends
I. The departure of dear friends by death is under the direction of the great God. Death is not the result of accident, necessity, or any chemical or mechanical force, but of the will of God. This doctrine teaches three practical lessons.
1. The grand aim of life should be to please God.
2. The grand aim in bereavement should be to acquiesce in the will of God.
3. Our grand impression at every deathbed should be that the Lord is at hand.
II. The departure of dear friends by death is the source of great sorrow. Sorrow for the dead indicates--
1. Something good in human nature. It always springs out of love, and love is Divine.
2. Something wrong in human nature. “As by one man sin entered into the world,” etc. Man loves because he is human; man’s love turns into agony because he is sinful.
3. Something wanted for human nature.
(1) An assurance of a happy future life.
(2) A hope of a happy future reunion. Whence comes this assurance? Not from human speculation, philosophy, or religion, but from the Gospel.
III. The departure of dear friends by death should not interfere with moral duty.
1. Because indulgence in sorrow confers no benefit on others; the fulfilment of duty does.
2. Because indulgence in sorrow injures self, and the fulfilment of duty does good to self.
3. Because indulgence in sorrow does not suspend the claims of duty. (Homilist.)
Death of a wife
The union of two hearts in wedded love is close, beautiful, and strong. But the tie, however strong, sooner or later is broken by a stroke, and death parts whom God had joined together.
I. The primary cause of death is God. The secondary causes may be any of the thousand ills that flesh is heir to, but God says, “I take away the desire of thine eyes with a stroke.” “The Lord is at hand” in every death scene.
II. The death of a wife is the cause of great sorrow. This world is called a “vale of tears,” and rightly so; and if there is one place where tears flow faster than any other, it is where a loving wife and precious mother lies cold in death. Where there is most love there is keenest sorrow.
III. The death of a wife should not interfere with the husband’s duty. Though we may feel our hearts breaking, though all sunshine seems shut out, and the world can never be the same to us again, yet the full discharge of life’s duties should be the most pressing thought. A sorrow that unmans us is evil. Duty-doing is grief-assuaging and God-honouring. (Homiletic Review.)
The desire of the eyes taken away
I. What is the desire of thine eyes?
1. Some loved object of human relationship whom with “the body you worship.”
2. Some dazzling dream of ambition that with the mind you grasp at; or,
3. Some ideal condition of spirituality that with the soul you aspire after.
II. Why is the desire of thine eyes thus taken away at a stroke by a wise and just God?
1. To wean you from setting your affections too much upon perishable, disappointing earthly objects.
2. To develop in you the passive virtues of patience, fortitude, etc., which men are so prone to sacrifice to the active virtues, such as courage, etc., which they are compelled to display in the battle of life.
3. To make you look to eternal love, to eternal grandeur, and to eternal happiness to be realised hereafter in the presence of God, as alone calculated to satisfy the aspirations of your own immortal spirits.
III. In what spirit should you bear the loss when thus the desire of the eyes is taken away?
1. Not in a spirit of passionate anger against the Creator for taking away what was His own to give or take away.
2. Not in a spirit of repining, tearful melancholy, weeping fruitlessly for “the things that might have been.”
3. Not in a spirit of sullen and voiceless despair, sorrowing “as one without hope.”
4. Not in a spirit of affected stoical indifference, gnawed as to the inward heart by the bitterest disappointment, and careful only to hide from the eyes of men all outward signs of sorrow or chagrin.
5. But in a spirit of gentle resignation to, and of full trust in, the providence of God, exclaiming with the patriarch of old, “The Lord,” etc. (R. Young, M. A.)
The stroke of death
I. The force of the words.
1. The conjugal relation is a very tender and sensible one. It is natural, it is right, it is commendable in a gracious husband to consider and regard his wife as the “desire of his eyes”; as the most valuable of earthly objects.
2. The stroke of death will assuredly part them. Whatever situation we are placed in, however prosperous our circumstances, however successful our pursuits, however harmonious and agreeable our tempers and dispositions, however weighty and numerous our cares, however advantageous our mutual counsels and assistances, and however reluctant we may be to a separation, the stroke will come, and will break in pieces this tenderest of all connections known on earth.
3. Such a stroke is peculiarly painful and calamitous to the surviving husband. It closes forever those dear eyes which have always been observant of what might contribute to his welfare; it gives a fatal dash to those capacities which have been united and exerted in a manner and to a degree scarcely possible in any other, to alleviate her partner’s distresses, and advance his joys, as if those joys and distresses of her husband had been her own; it disconcerts their most pleasing schemes, though formed with the most perfect harmony of which mortals are capable, and though pursued with the most glowing ardour. It ought to silence all our murmurings, and excite a holy, humble resignation, to hear our merciful God and Father say, “The stroke is from Me.” “Is it not lawful for Him to do what He will with His own?” What He does, and why He does it, we are frequently ignorant now; but, so far as it will contribute to our happiness, or be necessary to justify His proceedings, “we shall know hereafter.” It will probably constitute one part of the happiness of saints in heaven to review and admire the dispensations of a wise and gracious God towards them while upon earth.
II. A few observations on the stroke of death, as it respects mankind in general and believers in particular.
1. Respecting mankind in general.
(1) The stroke of death separates the soul and body from each other, and lays the latter in the dust.
(2) This stroke is the consequence of sin.
(3) It is a stroke that makes no distinctions among men. Grandeur, power, and dignity have, in this case, no respect paid them.
(4) The stroke of death removes those on whom it falls from all the pleasures gad enjoyments of time.
(5) By this stroke we are deprived of all opportunities to prepare for heaven.
(6) The stroke of death is a certain stroke, that calls us to the judgment seat of Christ; in consequence of which our eternal state is irrevocably determined.
(7) The time of this stroke is very uncertain. God only knows when it will fall on me, or on any of you. It is sometimes very sudden; and it may be so to any of us. Happy, happy the man who is always prepared for it.
2. Let us consider this stroke as it respects the true believer in particular.
(1) The stroke of death translates them from a world of darkness, ignorance, and confusion, to a world of light.
(2) By the stroke of death the saints are removed from a world of perplexing controversy and contention, to a world of harmony and peace.
(3) This world is continually a state of temptations and defilements; but the true believer is, at death, delivered from it and translated to a state of purity and holiness.
(4) The stroke of death delivers the saints from a state of fear and anxiety, and removes them to a world where these shall be known no more.
(5) In the present state the children of God are frequently beheld with scorn and contempt by vain, unthinking men of the world, as their Saviour also was in the days of His flesh, and as His most eminent followers and servants have been in all ages. But the stroke of death takes them away from the scorn and derision of men, and they are translated to a world where they shall be advanced to real honour and dignity.
(6) This is a state of toil and labour, But when the stroke comes of which we are now speaking, the saints shall be called to eternal rest.
(7) While the saints are “at home in the body, they are absent from the Lord”; and consequently deprived of much felicity which is reserved for them; for “in His presence is fulness of joy,” etc. And when they are delivered from this corrupt and degenerate world, this joy and these pleasures shall be theirs.
III. What practical instructions are deducible?
1. Hence we learn what is the one thing needful, and the folly and danger of neglecting it. Nothing will answer every purpose in life, death, and eternity but the knowledge and enjoyment of Jesus Christ, and salvation by Him.
2. Let me assist your inquiries respecting the way to enjoy this great blessing, and so to be prepared for the stroke of death.
3. From this view of death I call you to praise a merciful God, who has given His dear Son to deliver us from the fear of it, and recommend the blessed Jesus to you all, as your only, all-sufficient support and deliverer in your last trying moments.
4. The pitiable state of those who are practically preferring anything else to an immediate preparation for death.
5. Let all true believers, from hence, lift up an eye of faith, and take a pleasing view of that blessed world where the stroke of death shall be known no more.
6. Be diligent in improving the present moments for God. Employ all the members of your bodies, exert all the capacities of your mind, and all the superfluities of your earthly possessions, to support and advance your Redeemer’s interest. Adorn it by a holy conversation; and recommend it to others by every prudent method.”
7. Act as in continual expectation of death.
8. Is anything of equal consequence with dying safe? (D. Taylor.)
The stroke of death under the direction of God
I. Social connections are desirable enjoyments.
1. They are various; being derived from different sources.
(1) Consanguinity, or oneness of blood (Acts 7:26).
(2) Affinity, or matrimonial alliance; such are the most endearing and indissoluble connections of Life (Matthew 19:5).
(3) Friendship, or union of hearts, formed by mutual benevolence (1 Samuel 18:1).
(4) Piety, or an affectionate concern to promote each other’s salvation (Philippians 2:20).
2. They are justly desirable. They are so, because our present state is a state of--
(1) Ignorance, and society is favourable to the attainment of useful knowledge (Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 15:22).
(2) Weakness and danger, and society affords help--in bearing burdens--performing duties--and resisting enemies (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
(3) Affliction, and society is productive of mutual comfort (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Psalms 133:1-3 :l).
(4) Probation, and society promotes our eternal interests. This it does by rendering us capable of extensive usefulness (Galatians 6:10); by preserving us from apostasy (Hebrews 3:12-13), and by exciting us to holy diligence (Hebrews 10:25). Hence we should recollect our obligations to God for relative comforts. Our subject also teaches us the wisdom of employing our social influence for pious purposes.
II. These enjoyments are subject to the stroke of death.
1. The stroke of death should be expected by us all. However useful to society, beloved by mankind, dear to God--all must die (2 Samuel 14:14; Ecclesiastes 3:21; Hebrews 9:27).
2. We should seriously prepare for the stroke of death; because death is awfully important in its effects.
3. Our preparation for this stroke should be habitual. We should immediately seek this preparation, and very carefully retain it, because the time when this stroke will be laid on us is to us unknown (Matthew 24:44).
4. The saint’s recovery from this stroke should be anticipated, by faith in God’s promises (Hosea 13:14; Philippians 3:21), and hope of renewed communion with saints in heavenly glory (1 Thessalonians 5:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 1:18). This reminds us--
III. The stroke of death is under the direction of God.
1. The death of our pious friends is only a removal; it is not annihilation--they still live with God (1 Thessalonians 5:10), and to Him (Luke 20:38). They are taken away from toil, sorrow, and danger (Revelation 7:16), to complete rest, happiness, and security (Revelation 14:13).
2. They are taken away by God; by God heir proprietor, who had a right to dispose of them (Matthew 20:15); by God their rewarder, who has taken them to crown them (2 Timothy 4:7-8); by God our benefactor, who kindly indulged us with their society (1 Timothy 6:7) Hence His hand in their removal should be piously acknowledged, both with resignation and gratitude (Job 1:21). (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
I. Our near relatives, when they are what they ought to be, are deservedly the desire of our eyes. The ties of nature are strong and tender. Those who are related by blood are led by instinct to love one another fervently. But of all relations the conjugal is the nearest, and is the foundation of the strongest affection and delight. Where that relation is properly formed, and the parties unite on proper principles, the bond is the firmest, and the reciprocal affection the strongest; insomuch that it is mentioned as the emblem of the relation between Christ and His Church.
II. A dissolution must take place, and we are to expect even the nearest and dearest friends soon to be taken from us. All the mutual offices of love and friendship must cease. All the pleasures and benefits arising from their society must be suspended. No longer can we take sweet counsel together, and go to the house of God in company; no longer unite in our prayers and praises at the family altar.
III. The stroke which separates between friends and kindred is sometimes sudden and unexpected. Not a few even in early life, and to all appearance in the full possession of health and vigour, are in a moment struck by the arrows of death, though they themselves and their friends had presumed that they had years to come. It would be our wisdom and happiness often to think of this, not only to quicken us in preparing for our own dissolution, but to prepare us for the loss of our friends and kindred, and engage us to improve the opportunities we have for our mutual benefit while they are continued; and to prevent that immoderate attachment to them which would be the source of excessive grief and surprise on their sudden removal.
IV. It is God who takes them away. “Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke.” In which words the Lord calls his attent on not only to the event, but to Himself as the agent. And He is equally the agent in the events which befall us and our friends, whatever be the instruments or second causes. That it is God who takes away our comforts as well as gives them is what none can doubt who have any just acquaintance with His holy word and believe what it teaches. We are there told, in general, that all things are of God, that a sparrow does not fall to the ground, and much less any human being, without our heavenly Father. “Behold,” says Job, “He takes away, and none can hinder Him.” Such a stroke ought to be felt, and it may be lamented as a heavy affliction. But when you consider the hand from whence it comes, you will see reason not only to submit, but to adore; and duty to Him requires that you should.
V. Guard against immoderate grief. Were it not for the hope of the Gospel--the hope of a blessed immortality beyond the grave--death would indeed be a most formidable object. When our friends leave the world, if we believed that there was an utter end of them, and they sunk into an eternal sleep, the thought of parting with them would be terrible. But if, when our dear friends die, we are fully persuaded that they live to God--if, when they are taken from us, we are well assured that they are gone to be with Christ, which is far better--we can have no just cause to mourn on their account; and if we have a Gospel foundation of hope that we are following them to glory, and shall ere long meet them there, whatever reason we have to mourn our own present loss, our sorrows ought to be mingled with joy.
1. Let us bless God for those dear friends and relatives who are deservedly the desire of our eyes.
2. Let us remember how precarious the continuance of them is, as well as of all earthly enjoyments, and be prepared for the loss of them.
3. Nor let us forget that this change is as likely to be effected by our removal as by that of our friends.
4. Under all the afflictions of this mortal life, and especially amidst our sorrows for our departed friends, let us bless God for the comforts of the Gospel; and let us never cast them from us, but by faith make application of them to ourselves. (S. Palmer.)
Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so?
An ancient question modernised
Just as Ezekiel, at his Lord’s command, did many strange things entirely with a view to other people, we must remember that many things that we do have some relation to others. As long as we are here we can never so isolate ourselves as to become absolutely independent of our surroundings; and it is often well, when we note the behaviour of other people, to say to somebody, if not to them, as the people did to Ezekiel, “Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us?”
I. This should be your question to the Lord Jesus. Very reverently, though, let us approach our Divine Master, and looking at Him in His wondrous passion, let us earnestly ask Him, “Wilt Thou not tell us what these things are to us, that Thou doest so?” His answer is, “Sin is an exceedingly bitter thing; and to remove it costs Me the agony of My soul.” But do you see through the trees the lanterns twinkling? Men are coming, evil men, with rough voices, with torches, and lanterns, and staves, to take the blessed pleading One. Dear Master, while the traitor’s kiss is still wet upon Thee, and Thou art being led away bound to Caiaphas, tell me, I pray Thee, what meanest Thou by all this? What has this to do with us? He answers, “I go willingly; I must be bound, for sin has bound you; sin has bound your hands, sin has hampered and crippled you, and made you prisoners. You are the bond slaves of Satan, and I must be bound to set you free.” But now they have taken Him before His judges. He stands before Annas, and Caiaphas, and Pilate. Blessed Sufferer, like a lamb in the midst of wolves, tell us, if Thou wilt speak a word, why this silence? And He whispers into the hearts of His beloved, “I was silent, for there was nothing to say; willing to be your Advocate, what could I say? You had sinned, though I had not. I might have pleaded for Myself; but I stood there for you, in your room, and place, and stead; and what could I say, what excuse, what apology, what extenuation could I urge?” But now they are scourging Him, they are crowning Him with thorns, they are mocking Him, blindfolding Him, and then smiting Him with the palms of their hands. What scorn, what shame they poured on Him: Blessed One, blessed One, wilt Thou not tell us what these things are to us? But now, you see, they take Him out through the streets of Jerusalem; along the Via Dolorosa He pursues His weary walk, blood drops falling on the pavement, Himself staggering beneath the load of the Cross. Tell me, Jesus, why goest Thou out there, to the place of public execution, the Old Bailey, the Tyburn of Jerusalem? And He answers, “I suffer without the gate because God will not tolerate sin in His city. Sin is an unclean thing; and I, though not Myself unclean, yet standing in the stead of the unclean, must die outside the city gates.” And He answers, “That I may draw all men unto Me. Earth refuses Me, and heaven denies Me shelter. I hang here, the Just for the unjust, that I may bring men to God.” They take Him down from the Cross, for He is dead; but before they take Him down they pierce His heart, and even after death that heart for us its tribute pours. But they have buried Him, and He lies in His cell alone through the long, dark night of death; but the third morning sees Him rise. Or ever the sun is up, the Sun of Righteousness has arisen, with healing in His wings. Jesus has quitted the tomb, and I invite all sinners to say to the risen Redeemer, “Wilt Thou not fell us what these things are to us, that Thou doest so?” This is what I understand that His Resurrection means to us, He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. He not only rises from the dead; but He ascends to His Father. Ask Him what He means by that, and He will tell you that He has led captivity captive, and “received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also.”
II. This may be your question to the church. We are coming here, to keep Christ’s death in remembrance. Every first day of the week, if you can, come to the table as a part of your Sabbath worship. This service is intended to be a memorial of Christ’s death. The best memorial of any event is to associate with it the observance of some rite, or some ceremony frequently repeated; this will cause it to be a perpetual memorial. Now, as long as half a dozen Christians meet together for the breaking of bread, Christ’s death can never be forgotten. We are not, however, coming to the table merely to look at the bread and the wine. We are coming there to eat and to drink, to show our personal benefit by Jesus Christ’s death. We wish all who see us to know that we enjoy the result of Christ’s death. We have a life that feeds upon His sacrifice; we have a hope that makes Christ to be its very meat and drink. But we not only come to the table to eat and to drink, but there is this point about the communion, that we come together to declare our unity in Jesus Christ. If I went home, and broke bread, and drank of the juice of the vine by myself alone, it would not be the observance of the Lord’s Supper. It is a united participation. It is a festival. It is a token and display of brotherhood. Once more, when this communion is over, if we live, we shall meet again next Lord’s day, and when that is over, if we are spared, we shall meet again the following Lord’s day. We meet continually, to show our belief in Jesus Christ’s coming again. Perhaps you still inquire, “Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so?” Well, they are this to you, that, whether you remember Jesus Christ’s coming or not, He is coming; He is coming quickly. Let Him come when He may, His coming will be full of love and joy to all who have trusted Him.
III. This is our question to you, “Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so?” First, there are some of you who are here who do not often go to a place of worship; I know you. By seldom coming to the Lord’s house you teach us your utter indifference. Your carelessness seems to say to me, “God is nobody, put Him in a corner. Get on in business; mind the main chance. Gospel? Salvation? Oh, they are trifles, not worth anybody’s consideration!” There are others of you who are not indifferent; you come to the services, and you are attentive listeners; but just observe what you are going to do. The Lord’s table is spread, Christ is to be remembered, fellowship is to be had with Him, and you are going home! I hear another say, “I am not going home; I shall remain at the ordinance as a spectator.” I always like to see you look on. You are getting into a place of happy danger. Get where the shots fly, and one of them may make a target of you. Oh, that it might be so! But tonight you are going to be only a spectator. Will you tell me what that means--only a spectator? In Paris, during the siege, when it was straitly shut up, there were meals given at certain times in appointed places; but what would you have thought if you had been there, and had been allowed to come to the window and see the feeding, and yourself remain only a spectator? Do not be merely spectators; but if you mean to be so, then I say this to you, there will be no spectators in heaven. They will all partake of the feast above, or they will not be there. And, I grieve to add, there will be no spectators in hell. You will have to participate in the award of vengeance, or else in the gift of mercy. Therefore have done with being spectators. (C. H. Spurgeon.)