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Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty
“The earth,” not the “land” (R.. marg.) of Judah or Palestine. “The prophecy leaps far beyond all particular or national conditions.” (J. Skinner, D. D.)
The sources and consequences of anarchy
I. THE FATAL CONSEQUENCES OF ANARCHY. Of these we may be convinced, by viewing the greatness of the blessings which anarchy destroys. Happy the prince, happy the people, when lawful government is well established, wisely administered, duly honoured, and cheerfully obeyed! The persons, characters, and properties of the innocent are protected; good order is preserved; and the duties of every different situation, employment, and rank are faithfully discharged. The political body is healthy and safe. Distinguished genius and penetration, improved in wisdom by careful attention and long experience, are as eyes to the community: while the hands of the mechanic and labourer supply its necessities. These blessings are interrupted when the power of such a government is suspended; and, when it is destroyed, they cease. Anarchy, by levelling all ranks, transgresses a great law of nature, and of the God of nature; and stops a chief source of social happiness. Where abilities, dispositions, situations, and enjoyments differ, power and influence cannot be equal. A land, where there is no order, is a land of darkness and of the shadow of death. A community, which hath no eyes and guides, must wander and perish in the paths of destruction and misery.
II. THE SOURCES OF ANARCHY, in rulers, or subjects, transgressing the laws, and neglecting the maxims, which reason or revelation prescribes, for securing the happiness and peace of society.
1. Anarchy is occasioned by violating the laws which prescribe patriotism, public spirit, love of liberty, and regard to the rights of mankind.
2. Neglect of the maxims of wisdom, taught by reason or Scripture, is sometimes the immediate, and sometimes the remote, source of anarchy.
3. Anarchy is occasioned, and the power of preventing or removing it diminished, by rulers and subjects transgressing the precepts of industry and frugality.
4. Anarchy is occasioned by neglect of the laws of reason and revelation, which prescribe peaceableness and union. Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation.
5. Anarchy is occasioned by transgressing the great laws of religion. Religion produces the most perfect union: for it inspires, with the same general principle of action, supreme regard to the glory of God, unfeigned affection to our neighbour, and a willingness to sacrifice, whatever in its own nature opposes, or, through peculiar circumstances, becomes incompatible with these. (J. Erskine, D. D.)
I. THE NATURE OF THE CALAMITY WHICH SHOULD COME UPON THE LAND--the emptiness or desolation of the earth. This is one of the rods which God holds over the heads of people, to make them stand in fear of Hun Leviticus 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:38).
II. THE AUTHOR OR EFFICIENT CAUSE OF SUCH DESOLATION is God. It does not happen by say blind chance.
III. THE MEANS OR SECOND CAUSES whereby God makes a land waste. Pestilence, sword, fire, unseasonable weather, noxious creatures, etc.
IV. THE MERITORIOUS CAUSE (verse 5). (W. Reading, M. A.)
And it shall be, as with the people, go with the priest
The mutual assimilation of minister and people
The minister makes the people and the people make the minister.
I. THE MINISTER’S INFLUENCE.
1. As a preacher and teacher--upon the conceptions of truth and duty, the understanding of the Word of God, and the practical conduct of the people.
2. As a man, in his own example and life.
3. As a pastor, in his pastoral intercourse with his flock.
4. As a public leader of reforms, etc.
II. THE PEOPLE’S INFLUENCE.
1. In getting him audience. Giving him their own ears and attention and gathering in others.
2. In making him eloquent. Gladstone says, “Eloquence is pouring back on an audience in a shower what is first received from the audience in vapour.”
3. In making him spiritual. They can encourage him to spiritual growth and culture; to earnest and edifying preaching. They can pray for him and help him to feel that they want and wish only spiritual food.
4. In making him a power for good. Aristotle says, “Truth is what a thing is in itself, in its relations and in the medium through which it is viewed.” Goethe says, “Before we complain of the writing as obscure we must first examine if all be clear within.” In the twilight a very plain manuscript is illegible. So the attitude of a hearer largely limits the power of a preacher; the cooperation of a Church member may indefinitely increase the effectiveness of a pastor’s work. (Homiletic Review.)
Preachers affected by their congregations
A few years ago, after a minister had been preaching in a Wesleyan chapel not far from my house, one of the older officials of the circuit began to talk to him of the glories of a past generation, and said with some fervour, “Ah, sir, there were great preachers in those days.” “Yes,” was the reply of the minister, “and there were great hearers in those days.” The answer was a wise and just one. If preachers form and discipline their congregations, it is equally true that congregations form and discipline their preachers. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
As with the buyer, so with the seller
Buying and selling
Buying and selling are of very ancient date. The earliest instance we read of occurs in the history of Abraham. The purchase made was a burying place; and is connected with the death of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Various nations and states have distinguished themselves at different times by their trade and commerce. In ancient times we may enumerate Arabia, Egypt, and especially Tyre--the crowning city where “merchants were princes--where traffickers were the honourable of the earth.” In more moderntimes we may mention Greece, Rome, Venice, the Hanse, Spain, Portugal, and above all Great Britain. Well might Napoleon Buonaparte call us a nation of shopkeepers. (R. W. Overbury.)
The relative duties of buyers and sellers
I. POINT OUT SOME OF THE EVILS BY WHICH THE RELATION BETWEEN BUYER AND SELLER IS VIOLATED. This relation is violated by every violation of those two important principles that lie at the foundation of all society--justice and truth. Justice consists in giving everyone his due; and truth or veracity in keeping our engagements, and avoiding lying and dissimulation. These principles and the relative duties arising out of them are violated--
1. By the practice of any and every kind of fraud in the transaction of business.
2. By the contracting of debts without any reasonable prospect of being able to pay them.
(1) But what is an individual to do who in the course of regular business finds himself, through the fluctuation to which every branch of trade is liable, insolvent at the end of the year? If he be a man of an honourable character and standing in trade, he will not want friends who are willing to lend him a sufficient sum to extricate him from his present difficulties, and to enable him to make a fresh trial under the blessing of God to succeed in that line of business which he has hitherto followed. But if, after having renewed the attempt, Divine providence does not see fit to succeed his endeavours, then from a false shame of appearing what he is in worldly circumstances before his fellow men, to keep on in business till he involve many others in ruin is most unjustifiable.
(2) Further, if an individual who has failed in another’s debt, should at any future time possess the means of paying his debts, we hold it that justice requires that he should so pay them.
3. Another way in which the relation between buyers and sellers is violated is, by making ourselves responsible for the debts of others, when we are not in possession of sufficient capital to warrant it.
4. By the very prevalent practice of underselling. Where does the injury fall? First, upon the poor operatives, who labour day and night by the sweat of their brow, to furnish conveniences and luxuries for the higher ranks of society, whilst their labour is remunerated at a price that hardly keeps them and their families from starving. The other party upon whom the injury falls is other tradesmen in the same line, who, shrinking from the use of such unscrupulous and oppressive means of realising large profits, lose either a part or the whole of their custom.
II. SHOW THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT.
1. In a secular view. The permanent prosperity of our trade, and consequently the temporal welfare of society depend upon the principles which pervade our business transactions. Every deviation from right principles inflicts injury somewhere, and in proportion to the extent of that deviation contributes to augment the sum of national distress. Nations, as such, are punished in this life--individuals hereafter. An invisible Being, too little recognised in the marts of trade, presides over our national affairs, and distributes or withholds national blessings in proportion as the principles of eternal truth and justice are practically acknowledged.
2. In a religious view. It has been well said, that “a Christian is the highest style of man.”
(1) A man who cares not by what means he obtains money, provided he succeeds in making a fortune, cannot be a Christian. The character and doom of such are too plainly written in Scripture to be mistaken for a single moment.
(2) We do not, perhaps, sufficiently reflect that the predominance of the love of gain is equally incompatible with true piety; although a feeling of justice and benevolence, joined with self-respect, may lead us to abhor and reject all that is dishonourable in business.
(3) Nor must we omit to observe, that whilst the habitual predominance of a worldly spirit is incompatible with personal piety, the too great prevalence of it is highly injurious. It either lifts a man up with vanity and pride, or it depresses him with anxiety and care; both of which unfit him for the service of God. In proportion as the spirit of the world prevails over the people of God, it stints their piety and usefulness, and counteracts the end for which they are constituted “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people,”--“that ye should show forth the praises of Him, who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” (R. W. Overbury.)
The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof
The earth polluted by sin
The inhabitants of the earth pollute it by their sins: the children of Israel defiled God’s land by filling His inheritance with the carcasses of their abominable things, with their idolatries, with their wicked inventions and corrupt ways.
“They have transgressed the laws” of nature, of conscience, and of nations--the ceremonial, judicial, and moral laws, delivered to them by Jehovah Himself. These laws, stamped by the sacred authority of the one great Lawgiver, which they ought to have religiously observed, they presumptuously transgressed, omitting to do what He required and committing what He had forbidden. (R. Macculloch.)
The earth cursed for man’s sake
The Bible gives no support to the theory that matter itself is evil. God created all things; “and God saw everything that He had made; and, behold, it was very good.” When, therefore, we read in the Bible that the earth is cursed, we read that it is cursed for man’s sake; when we read of its desolation, it is as the effect of man’s crime. (G. A. Smith, D. D.)
The everlasting covenant
The covenant is that with Noah, and the law that against bloodshed (Genesis 9:5-6). (A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
Wherefore glorify ye the Lord in the fires
Glorifying the Lord in the fires
The suffering child of God will glorify Him in the fires--
BY ACKNOWLEDGING HIS POWER. The same Almighty One who fed Elijah, in the terrible days of dearth, and who delivered Daniel from the power of the lions, still watches over and provides for His people.
II. BY RECOGNISING HIS WISDOM. He knows (as no short-sighted mortal can) when it is safe for us to enjoy prosperity, and when it is needful for our soul’s health to endure disappointment and trouble.
III. BY A FRANK ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF HIS GOODNESS. If Our Heavenly Father had ceased to feel an interest in our welfare, He would not have employed the means to do us good. (J. N. Norton.)
I. WHO ARE EXPECTED TO GLORIFY THE LORD.
1. “to glorify” is exemplified in 1 Chronicles 29:10-18. Then the wicked cannot do that (Job 20:5).
2. But the Church triumphant does (Revelation 7:11-12).
3. And the Church militant ought to have this one aim. Let us take as an example, St. Paul (Philippians 3:10-14).
The Lord glorified by His suffering people
II. WHAT THE FIRES ARE IN WHICH WE GLORIFY GOD.
1. Determined self-humiliation, etc.; duties unpleasant, but religious.
2. Personal troubles are often perplexing. Faith is given, not to annihilate these, but to endure them.
3. Others’ trials.
4. Our bodily afflictions.
5. Amongst the hottest “fires” are fiery darts. Paul was thus tried.
6. Enmity against our beloved Church. Foes within and without.
7. Fear of death.
III. BUT ONE IS EVER PRESENT IN THE FIRES.
1. In them once, alone.
2. Leads others safely through.
IV. THE FIRES ARE BURNING BY GOD’S PERMISSION. Like powerful remedies of surgeon or physician.
1. To manifest His chosen.
2. To purify.
3. To strengthen. Opposition invigorates. (W. W. Tyler.)
How to honour God in trouble
“Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” What an extensive admonition is this! And yet even this does not include the whole of God’s claim upon us. We are required to honour Him, not only in all we do, but in all we suffer.
I. THE STATE HERE SUPPOSED. “In the fires.” Stripped of metaphor, the passage supposes a state of suffering. In this state we may be found--
1. As men. “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”
2. As Christians. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”
II. THE DUTY HERE ENJOINED. “Glorify ye the Lord in the fires.” The glory of God is essential or declarative. We cannot add to the former. But, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” All His works praise Him. How? By the impressions and displays of His perfections; by showing us what He is, and what He deserves. Thus, Christians are appointed to “show forth the praises”--virtues--excellences--“of Him who hath called them,” etc.; which is done by their language and their lives. Hence, we glorify God in our afflictions when we verbally and practically acknowledge--
1. His agency.
2. His rectitude. He is “righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works.”
3. His wisdom.
4. His goodness.
5. His power.
III. THE REASONS.
1. Because you have the finest opportunity. The scene naturally awakens attention. Nothing is so impressive as the graces of a
Christian in trouble.
2. The obligations you are under to the blessed God.
3. Hope should influence you. “Verily there is a reward for the righteous.” (W. Jay.)
Glorifying God in affliction
“There never was such affliction as mine,” said a poor sufferer, restlessly tossing on a sick bed, in a city hospital. “I don’t think there ever was such a racking pain.” “Once,” was faintly uttered from the next bed. The first speaker paused for a moment, and then began, in a still more impatient tone: “Nobody knows what I pass through; nobody ever suffered more pain.” “One,” was again whispered from the adjoining bed. “I take it you mean yourself, poor soul! but--Oh! not myself--not myself,” exclaimed the other, her pale face flushing as if some wrong had been offered, not to herself but to another. There was a short pause, and then the sweet, gentle voice uttered the sacred words, “When they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon Him, and took the reed, and smote Him on the head. And when they came unto a place called Golgotha, they gave Him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall. And they crucified Him. And, about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The voice ceased, and the nurse handed a cup of barley water, flavoured with a grateful acid, to the lips of both sufferers. “Thank you, nurse,” said the last speaker. “They gave Him gall to eat, and vinegar to drink.” “She is talking about Jesus,” said the other sick woman, “but talking about His sufferings can’t mend mine.” “But it lightens hers,” said the nurse. “I wonder how?” Hush!” said the nurse. The gentle voice began: “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” Verily, even in the midst of affliction and suffering God’s true children will learn to glorify Him. (J. N. Norton.)
Galileo’s recognition of God in his blindness
How touching that saying of blind Galileo, “It has pleased God that it shall be so, and it must please me too.” (J. N. Norton.)
The term “fires” is a local designation meaning the east, as the land of sunrise, or of dawning light, and so standing in opposition to the west, which is represented in the next clause as “the isles of the sea.” The deliverance is one that calls for a chorus of praise from one end of the earth to the other. (T. W. Chambers, D. D.)
Fear and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee
Fear, and the pit, and the snare
The expressions here used seem to have formed a proverbial saying, as appears from their being repeated by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48:43-44).
They allude to the different methods of taking wild beasts that were anciently in use. The fear, or terror, was a line strung with feathers of different colours, which was so constructed as to flutter in the air and to make a terrifying noise, that frightened the beasts into the pit, or the snare, that was prepared for them. The pit was digged deep in the ground, and covered over with boughs or turf, in order to deceive them, that they might fall into it unawares. The snare was composed of nets, enclosing a large space of ground that the wild beasts were known to haunt, which was drawn gradually narrower, until they were at last entangled and shut up. Our prophet, addressing himself to the inhabitants of the earth, declares, that calamities corresponding to each of these ways of destroying wild beasts, were to seize upon them, and that they should be so ordered, that those who escaped one sort would be arrested by another. (R. Macculloch.)
The foundations of the earth do shake
The religious improvement of earthquakes
(preached in 1756):--The works of Creation and Providence were undoubtedly intended for the notice and contemplation of mankind, especially when God “comes out of His place,” that is, departs from the usual and stated course of His providence to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquities; then it becomes us to observe the operation of His hands with fear and reverence.
To this the Psalmist repeatedly calls us: “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations He hath made in the earth.” “Come, and see the works of God; He is terrible in His doing toward the children of men.” This world is a state of discipline for another; therefore chastisements of various kinds and degrees are to be enumerated among the ordinary works of Providence--pain, sickness, losses, bereavements, disappointments. But when these are found too weak and ineffectual for their reformation; or when, from their being so frequent and common, men begin to think them things of course, and not to acknowledge the Divine hand in them; then the universal Ruler uses such signal and extraordinary executioners of His vengeance, as cannot but rouse a slumbering world, and render it sensible of His agency. These extraordinary ministers of His vengeance are generally these four: the Famine, Sword, Pestilence, and Earthquakes.
I. Let the majestic and terrible phenomenon of earthquakes put you in mind of THE MAJESTY AND POWER OF GOD AND THE DREADFULNESS OF HIS DISPLEASURE.
II. This desolating judgment may justly lead you to reflect upon THE SINFULNESS OF OUR WORLD.
III. This melancholy event may carry your minds gratefully to reflect upon THE PECULIAR KINDNESS OF HEAVEN towards our country, in that it was not involved in the same destruction.
IV. That which I would particularly suggest to your thoughts from the devastations of the late earthquake, is THE LAST UNIVERSAL DESTRUCTION OF OUR WORLD AT THE FINAL JUDGMENT. Of this, an earthquake is both a confirmation to human reason, and a lively representation (S. Davies, M. A.)
“Removed like a cottage”
(Isaiah 24:20):--“Swayeth to and fro like a hammock.” Such is the more literal rendering. The hammock (the same word as in Isaiah 1:8) is still used throughout the East by the night-watchers of vineyards. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29