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The rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded.
Sin in blossom
I. Beauty may be associated with evil. Well would it be for men to remember they may be thus connected in fact as well as figure. For there may be beauty of countenance and form that covers and quickens the corrupt, for “in all Israel there were none to be so much praised as Absalom for beauty.” And is not the genius of poetry often the brilliance of the fires of passion: and eloquence the engine of error, and art the bribe of superstition? Do not magnificent mansions and picturesque acres often stand chiefly as the symbols of the careful selfishness, the cold self-containedness of their owners? Yes, other evils than pride seem to have the blossoms that make the world exclaim beautiful, splendid, great! Such is the love of display, that there is many a man who “for the spangles wears the funeral pall.”
II. Success is no test of moral right or wrong. Pride blossoms, so does envy, so does selfishness, so sometimes does every bough on the upas tree of sin. Lowliness often seems sterile, so does love, so does prayer, so, indeed, often in the winter of our soul seems every branch on the tree of life. The Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, and had success. Judas betrayed Jesus, and had success. What then? We dare not test our life work and the work of others by the standard of success or failure.
III. The forces of retribution are ever at work. Just as the circulation of the sap through all the vessels of the tree, the influences of sunlight and air, and all the forces working out the mystery of growth are gradually and silently (though probably not silently, if our ears were keener) preparing for the hour of bud and blossom, all actions are ever setting at work retributive results. These results gradually, and sometimes silently, but ever surely, are tending to the crises that are days of judgment, and to the great crisis that “is the day of judgment.” (U. R. Thomas.)
For the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, which shall not return.
Jewish nationality dissolved forever
Now the Jews recovered from all their former captivities; but from this one they never can recover. Where is their tribal register now? My object, therefore, will be to set before you a fourfold contrast between the covenant that is passed away and the covenant that shall not pass away.
1. The first contrast I notice is the passing away of the Jewish land, and the sure continuation of a better land in its place. In the second verse of this same chapter where our text is it saith, “An end, the end”;--that is a remarkable form of speech--“An end, the end,”--the ultimate end, as it means, the final end--“is come upon the four corners of the land.” Let us then see what we have to put in the place thereof, after just observing that that land was to pass away by violence, by war, famine, and pestilence, and everything that was awful. Now we go to the 60th of Isaiah, and we get something to put in the place thereof. There is a land of which it is written, “Violence shall no more be heard in thee,” etc. And what land is this? Why, the land spoken of in the 1st chapter of the First Epistle of Peter,--“an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” Here, then, by Jesus Christ, we have a land into which no violence can come. No sin can defile the Saviour, and no sin can defile the people as they stand in Christ, and no sin can defile that heavenly land into which He hath entered. There is therefore no violence. “Violence shall no more be heard in thee.” Jesus is not crucified there, but glorified; the people are not persecuted and hated there, but universally loved. The people have no pain, no sorrow, no sigh, no tear there. And this blessedness, in place of the old land, is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And now mark,--“Thou shalt call thy walls salvation”; that is, “salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks”; so that God will take care of you as a citizen by salvation; He is round about you by the perfect work of Jesus Christ. Can you think of a position so lovely as this?
2. The second contrast I give is that in verse 11--“Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness; none of them shall remain,” etc. Here is a positive declaration. Now go to the Saviour’s day, and see how literally this is fulfilled. Was not the government of the Pharisees, as described in the 23rd of Matthew, a sceptre or rod of wickedness? They must be taken away, and taken away forever. Now let us look at the contrast to this. Let us come to the new covenant, and hear what is said there. In the new covenant the Lord speaketh thus:--“For as the new heavens”--meaning the Christian economy of eternal salvation “and the new earth”--meaning in substance the same thing--“which I will make”--and which were made when Christ was on the earth, for when Christ was on the earth He made, as it were, a new earth; that is, He established a new life, a new inheritance, a new kingdom, a new heaven, old things passed away, all things become new;--“As the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.” All now is spiritual. “The time is come when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”
3. The third contrast I notice is, I think, a very strong one. “The seller shall not return to that which is sold.” Now, this seems a simple declaration, but it means a great deal more than may at first sight appear. Under the Old Testament dispensation when a man waxed poor, he sold his inheritance, but he sold it only up to the day of jubilee. Then, when the jubilee came, that man without money, without price, by virtue of the order of things that God had established, returned to his inheritance. Now, this chapter says “The seller,” alluding to that same circumstance, “shall not return to that which is sold.” The meaning of it, therefore, is,--there shall never be another jubilee, and there has not been from that day to this, and there never will be down to the end of time. Where shall I now find the true jubilee? Why, in Christ. He has paid the mighty debt we owed; He has set the prisoners free; He brings His brethren into the inheritance.
4. Is there from the first chapter of Matthew to the last of Revelation a single hint about the restoration of the old Jerusalem? The Saviour says, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” Does He say it shall some day be restored? Does He say, “Your house is left unto you desolate till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”? No, He says no such thing. He says, “Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” If I should get an invitation to preach in some Jewish synagogue, where they wanted to hear the Gospel, what would that be but their saying, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”? that is, in the name of Jesus Christ. And if God were to open their eyes, and they should see Jesus, what would they say then? Ah, they would say, let the shadow go; let us have the substance. Let the ceremonial go; let us have the vital, the living, the eternal. They would turn their backs upon the temporal, and look at those things which are eternal. (James Wells.)
Make a chain.
The chain of influences
At school and in college, in announcing the mechanical powers, we glorified the lever, the pulley, the inclined plane, the screw, the axle and the wheel, but my text calls us to study the philosophy of the chain. These links of metal, one with another, attracted the old Bible authors, and we hear the chain rattle, and see its coil all the way through from Genesis to Revelation, flashing as an adornment, or restraining as in captivity, or holding in conjunction as in case of machinery. What I wish to impress upon you is the strength, in right and wrong directions, of consecutive forces, the superior power of a chain of influences above one influence, the great advantage of a congeries of links above one link. “Make a chain!” That which contains the greatest importance, that which encloses the most tremendous opportunities, that which of earthly things is most watched by other worlds, that which has beating against its two sides all the eternities, is the cradle. The grave is nothing in importance compared with it, for that is only a gully that we step across in a second, but the cradle has within it a new eternity, just born and never to cease. Now, what shall be done with this new life recently launched? Let it be constant instruction, constant prayer, constant application of good influences, a long line of consecutive impressions, reaching from his first year to his fifth, and from his fifth year to his tenth, and from his tenth year to his twentieth. “Make a chain!” Spasmodic education, paroxysmal discipline, occasional fidelity, amount to nothing. You can as easily hold an anchor by one link as hold a child to the right by isolated and intermittent faithfulness. The example must connect with the instruction. The conversation must combine with the actions. There is such a thing as impressing children so powerfully with good, that sixty years will have no more power to efface it than sixty minutes. What a rough time that young man has in doing wrong, carefully nurtured as he was! His father and mother have been dead for years, or over in Scotland, or England, or Ireland; but they have stood in the doorway of every dram shop that he entered, and under the chandelier of every house of dissipation, saying, “My son, this is no place for you. Have you forgotten the old folks? By the God to whom we consecrated you, by the cradle in which we rocked you, by the grass-worn graves in the old country churchyard, by the heaven where we hope yet to meet you, Go home!” And some Sunday you will be surprised to find that young man suddenly asking for the prayers of the church. Oh, the almighty pull of the long chain of early gracious influences! But all people between thirty and forty years of age, yes, between forty and fifty--aye, between fifty and sixty years--and all septuagenarians as well, need a surrounding conjunction of good influences. In all the great prisons are men and women who went wrong in mid-life and old age. We need around us a cordon of good influences. We forget to apply the well-known rule that a chain is no stronger than at its weakest link. If the chain be made up of a thousand links, and nine hundred and ninety-nine are strong, but one is weak, the chain will be in danger of breaking at that one weak link. We may be strong in a thousand excellences, and yet have one weakness which endangers us. That is the reason that we sometimes see men distinguished for a whole round of virtues collapse and go down. The weak link in the otherwise stout chain gave way under the pressure. A musician cannot afford to dwell among discords, nor can a writer afford to peruse books of inferior style, nor an architect walk out among disproportioned structures. And no man or woman was ever so good as to be able to afford to choose evil associations. Therefore, I said, have it a rule of your life to go among those better than yourselves. Cannot find them? Then, what a pink of perfection you must be! When was your character completed? What a misfortune for the saintly and angelic ones of heaven that they are not enjoying the improving influence of your society! Ah, if you cannot find those better than yourself, it is because you are ignorant of yourself. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.
Destruction instead of peace
I remember hearing Dr. James Spurgeon, in the course of a sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, say that on one occasion when he was returning from New York, and the vessel had not been long out at sea, he noticed a number of small birds in the rigging of the vessel. “Ah, poor things,” said the captain, “they will be dead by tomorrow; they think they are going landward, while they are going out into the sea.” And the captain was right, for on the morrow their little stiffened bodies were scattered about the deck. And just so is it with impenitent men who, in their false security, pursue what they fondly dream to be a safe way, but it is the way of certain ruin. “Destruction cometh, and they shall seek peace, and there shall he none.” (Charles Deal.)
Mischief shall come upon mischief.
A succession of evils
1. When a people is under Divine displeasure there is a succession of evils for them, mischief after mischief; they may not expect a few, but many.
2. God proceeds by degrees and steps to severity of judgments. God pours not out all His wrath at once. First, some drops of a vial, then some little streams, after that the strength.
3. Wicked men in great straits will sue to them for help whom before they hated. They could seek for a vision from the prophet now they were in extremities, and they run from prophet to prophet to get some counsel and comfort.
4. They that will not hear God’s servants when they are at ease, shall not have help from them in time of their distress.
5. It is a dreadful evil when God takes away the signs of His presence.
6. Truths are not confined to any sort of men, not to prophets, priests, or ministers, in these or any days; the prophets should be without vision, the law should perish from the priests, and counsel from the elders.
7. God gives vision, law, counsel, and takes them away at His pleasure; He creates light and darkness. They shall seek vision of the prophets, and there shall be none.
8. Those who will not do what they know, shall not know what to do. (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19