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But ye . . . shall shoot forth your branches.
The Divine benison
When does God give short measure? When did He give otherwise than pressed down, heaped up, running over? This is the consolation of heaven; this is the measure of the Divine benison.
1. That blessing is to be physical: “Ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit.” God is not ashamed to have His name connected with the daily loaf and with the daily goblet of water. When we go to the harvest field we should think we ace going to church; when we go to the well of springing water we should think we are going to a fountain rising in heaven. Your harvests are God’s; your fields are the green ways leading up to His sanctuary.
2. Not only physical, but social: “I will multiply men upon you . . . and the wastes shall be builded.” God would have all the earth inhabited. He would build men into organisations and brotherhoods; He would establish fraternities of souls. The Lord is never ashamed to associate Himself with social economy, social purity, social progress.
3. Not only physical and social, but municipal: “And the cities shaft be inhabited.” Cities have not a good history; cities had a bad founder. The foundations of cities were laid by a murderer. But it hath pleased God to accept many human doings, and to purify them and ennoble them and turn them to purposes sanctified and most beneficial. The Lord never set king over anybody with His own real consent. He gave the people the desire of their hearts, and plagued them every day since they got the answer. So He accepts the city, and He will do what He can with the municipalities, to inhabit them, and direct them, and purify them.
4. The Lord never concludes simply within the letter. At, the last the invariably says something that opens up a distant and ever-receding because ever-enlarging horizon. He says in this instance, “I will do better unto you than at your beginnings.” He is able, let us say again with rising thankfulness, to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. The Church constantly exclaims, Thou hast kept the good wine until now! We never can get in advance of God. When we have reaped our most abundant harvest He says, This is only an earnest of the harvest you shall one day possess; I will do more for you and better unto you than at your beginnings.
5. Then let us grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us he no longer thoughtless; let us no longer limit the Holy One of Israel, saying, The Lord hath made an end of His revelation, the Lord hath no more grace to give, no more love to show; He has given us the Cross. Paul says, If He has freely given us the Cross,--it is not an end, it is a beginning,--with the Cross He will also freely give us all things. The Lord cannot be exhausted. His providence is ascending, expanding, deepening. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Whereas the Lord was there.
As Palestine was preserved from the enmity of Mount Seir by the presence of Jehovah, so the Church, and each separate member of it, is constantly kept by the power of a present God, despite the rage of adversaries.
I. A despised people constantly triumphant because “the Lord was there.” The people of God have always been, in every age, a hated and despised people. This may be seen if you will notice a few facts.
1. The adversaries of God’s Israel have often thought in their hearts that they would utterly destroy them. One of the Roman emperors set up a monument, “In the memory of a destroyed superstition called Christianity.” But was our holy religion destroyed? Could the dragon prevail against the remnant which kept the commandment of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ? Behold the multitudes who this day bow the knees at the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord being there, immortality, nay, eternity was in the Church. God is eternal, He is in the Church, and His Church is immortal too.
2. The enemies of the Church have frequently shown their scorn of her by the ridicule which they have cast upon her attacks. But as the cake of barley bread fell upon the tent of Midian and smote it that it lay along, even so the Church is more than conqueror. Sydney Smith said, when Carey talked of evangelising India, that a consecrated cobbler was going out to preach the Gospel to educated and enlightened Hindoos, but the consecrated cobbler took his post and digged in India a well of which thousands shall yet drink. That man of God has placed the battering-ram of the Gospel in such a position that ere long the hoary bastions of idolatry will tremble, and the world shall see that the weakness of God is stronger than man.
3. The world’s estimation of the Church has frequently been seen in the way in which it will mock at all her teachings. The wise men of this world have always something far superior to anything that the Bible can reveal. Ah! we can well endure their boastings, for the doctrines of grace are the loftiest of all philosophy and the most intellectual of all teachings--because Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is in them; and where God is, there is perfect wisdom; where God is, there is incomprehensible knowledge.
4. Do they not, also, very frequently cast in our teeth our trials? Nebuchadnezzar can cast in but three, he cannot, however, cast out the fourth; where the Church shall be, Christ shall walk the coals with His people, and they shall come out of their trials triumphant, for God is there. Where God is, there is everlasting love; where God abideth, there is immutable affection; and therefore let this be our comfort, God is with thee, Israel, passing through the fire.
5. The world shows its disesteem of us by the way in which it often treats the Christian. It sees him poor and naked and miserable, and therefore pushes him about as though he were a beggar and not one of the blood royal. Little do they know that, however poor the Christian may be, the Lord is there. The very honour and dignity and majesty of Deity itself guards every follower of the Saviour, however much he may be despised among men.
II. The man opposed and yet a conqueror.
1. The early convictions of a newborn soul are always the subject of Satanic attack. Satan hopes that with the laugh, the jeer, the jest and merriment he will destroy utterly all convictions of sin; little does he dream that “the Lord is there,” and where God sends the arrow home, no devil can ever draw it out.
2. Then, as the fend has tried to destroy conviction, he will next shoot his arrows against our faith. Poor, feeble follower of Jesus, he will worry thee. But the faith which God gives to us overcometh the world--yea, and overcometh the old dragon too.
3. Have not you always found that not only your faith but all your good works are the subjects of Satan’s attacks? I never yet had a virtue or possessed a grace but what it was sure to be the target for hellish bullets; whether it was hope bright and sparkling, or love warm and fervent, or patience all enduring, or real flaming like coals of fire, the old enemy of everything that is good has tried if he could destroy or mar it. And why is it that anything virtuous or lovely survives in you? There can be no reason given to this, but “God is then.”
4. Note how sedulously Satan aims against the perseverance of God’s people. They will never hold on their way, saith he. You and I have thought we never should. And yet you have not fallen from grace yet, not yet have you disgraced your character, not yet gone back to your old lusts. How is this? Why, God was in you, and if He had not been there, then indeed had you been a prey unto your adversaries. A Christian is something like an express train. On some of our railroads, you know, there are express trains which do not stop to take water, the water lies in a trench in the middle between the rails, and as the train runs it sucks up its own supply of cold water, and so continues its course without a pause. Our God in grace has forestalled our needs, He prepares supplies for His own people, so that without their stopping to seek the streams of creature confidence, sometimes without the use of means, He is pleased to speed them on their pathway towards heaven, fed by a Divine arrangement of grace. Oh, it is blessed to think that if God be there, everything a Christian can want for his final persevering, for his eternal life, is ready at hand.
5. I have no doubt, beloved, we shall find that when we come to die, our dying confidence will be the object of the enmity of all the powers of hell. Perhaps like John Knox you may have your blackest day at the last, but oh! thanks be unto God that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have no fear for our dying confidence, for “God is there,” even there where the billows are the most tempestuous and the water is most chill; we shall feel the bottom and know that it is good, our feet shall stand upon the rock of ages even in our dying moments.
III. A desolate soul not destroyed, because God is there. “My purpose is,” says Satan, “that be shall dwell forever with me, in misery extreme. I have laid hold upon him,” says he, “and he hath made a league with hell. He is mine, he is mine forever.” But stop, stop, the Lord was there before the devil. Does the devil purpose? Ah, but God’s purpose is older than the devil’s purpose. Does the sinner make a covenant? Ay, but then, God’s covenant was made before that sinner was born, and what is the devil’s purpose compared with God’s purpose? You see, God is there before him--“Whereas the Lord was there.” “Ah, but,” said Satan, “he is mine, I will have him, I will go and take possession, he is mine”; and so he is about to enter the vineyard, and take possession of the vines of sour grapes, when lo! someone meets him on the threshold, and says, “What dost thou here?” “I am come to take possession,” saith he. “Take possession!” saith Christ; “I have a claim upon this vineyard, I bought it and paid for it with drops of blood; what dost thou here? Thou sayest, ‘I will possess this land,’ whereas the Lord was there”: and He shows the fiend the print of the nails, and points to His wounded side, and says, “Whatever thy claim may be, Mine is a higher claim; I bought, I paid for, I have the acceptance from the Divine hand, and this vessel of mercy was Mine, Mine long before thou couldst have any claim upon it.”
IV. The same, dear friends, is true with regard to the entire world. The world cannot be destroyed, because “Jehovah is there.” This world once shone, like its sister stars, bright and fair, but a sad shadow of eclipse was thrown upon it--it became swathed in the mists of sin and though the glory of the Lord hath risen upon it, yet still much of the gloom and the thick darkness continues. Shall that darkness cover all the nation? Shall the light become dim forever? No, no; “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Shall its groans and travails end in nothing? No, no; the day cometh when “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 35". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13