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112. The Lord's Appeal to his own People
Oh my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. Micah 6:3
This is a portion of Jehovah's pleading with his people.
He has called upon the mountains and the strong foundations of the earth to hear the suit between him and Israel.
Far be it from us to trifle when God has a controversy with us, for to him it is a matter of deep solemnity. In condescending grace he makes much of the affection of his people, and he will not lose it without effort.
We have before us
I. A PITEOUS EXCLAMATION. "O my people!"
Is it not remarkable that such language should be used by the Eternal God?
1 It is the voice of solemn earnestness.
2. It is the cry of sorrow. The interjection is wet with tears.
3. It is the appeal of love. Love injured, but living, pleading, striving, entreating.
4. It is the language of desire. Divine love yearns for the reconciliation of the rebel: it pines to have his loyal affection.
The Lord calls a revolted nation "my people" still Grace is stronger than sin. Eternal love is not founded upon our merits.
II. A PAINFUL FACT. "Wearied thee;"
Israel acted as if they were tired of their God.
1. They were weary of his name. Baal and Ashtaroth had become the fashion, and the living God was despised.
The parallel between ourselves and Israel lies upon the surface.
2. They were weary of his worship. The sacrifice, the priest, the holy place, prayer, praise, etc.; all these were despised.
3. They were weary of obedience to his laws, though they were right, and just, and meant for their good.
4. They were weary of his restraints: they desired liberty to ruin themselves by transgression.
In the following points, and many more, certain professors prove their weariness of God
This is a sorrow of sorrows to the great heart of love.
III. A PATIENT ENQUIRY. "What have I done unto thee?" etc.
Amazing love! God himself puts himself upon trial.
1. What single act of God could induce us to forsake his way? "What have I done unto thee?"
- They give up nearness of communion.
- They abandon preciseness of walking.
- They fail in fullness of consecration.
- They cool down from intensity of zeal.
- They lose the full assurance of faith, and other joys.
- And all this because they are in reality weary of their God
2. What continuous way of the Lord could have caused us weariness?
"Wherein have I wearied thee?"
3. What testimony of any kind can we bear against God? "Testify against me."
No answer is possible except the most unreserved confession that the Lord has done us no ill. The Lord is goodness itself, and unmingled kindness.
If wearied with our God, it is
- He has not wearied us with demands of offering.
- He has not burdened us with austerities.
- He has not tired us with monotonies.
- He has not denied us rest, but has even commanded it.
By all that God has already done for us, let us cling to him.
- Because of our foolish waywardness.
- Because of our fickle fancy.
- Because of our feeble love to himself and holiness.
- Or because we have misunderstood his commands.
By the superlative excellence of Jesus, let us be bound to him.
By the sacred power of the Holy Ghost, may we be kept loving to the end.
Now there is one thing to which we need to call the attention of backsliders; and that is that the Lord never forsook them; but that they forsook him! The Lord never left them; but they left him! And this, too, without a cause! He says, "What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me?" Is not God the same to-day as when you came to him first? Has God changed? Men are apt to think that God has changed; but the change is with them. Backslider, I would ask you,"What iniquity is there in God, that you have left him, and gone far from him?"
Love does not like to be forgotten. You mothers would break your hearts if
your children left you, and never wrote you a word, or sent any memento of their affection for you: and God pleads over backsliders as a parent over loved ones who have gone astray; and he tries to woo them back. He asks, "What have I done that you should have forsaken me?" The most tender and loving words to be found in the whole of the Bible are from Jehovah to those who have left him without a cause. O. L. Moody
Let those tempted to depart from the Lord remember the answer of Christian to Apollyon, when the latter sought to persuade him to turn back, and forsake his Lord: "O thou destroying Apollyon, to speak truth, I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country, better than thine; and, therefore, leave off to persuade me further: I am his servant, and I will follow him."
Polycarp, being required by an infidel judge to blaspheme Christ, made him this witty and devout answer: "Eighty-six years have I lived, neither did he once harm me in any one thing; why, then, should I blaspheme my God, which hath neither hindered me nor injured me?" We cannot charge our God with any wrong, our gracious Lord with any hardness, injury, or unkindness towards us; but must always, with Polycarp, acknowledge his exceeding bounty and unspeakable goodness. Richard Meredeth
"O my people, what have I done unto thee?" or, rather, what have I not done to do thee good? "O generation, see ye the word of the Lord," and not hear it only; was ever anything more evidencing and evincing than what I now allege? "Have I been a wilderness unto Israel, a land of darkness?" (Jer. 2:31). May I not well say unto you, as Themistocles did to his ungrateful countrymen, "What? are ye weary of receiving so many benefits from one man?" But say, What hurt have I ever done you? and wherein have I wearied you, or been troublesome to you? unless it be by daily loading you with lovingkindnesses (Ps. 68:19), and bearing with your provocations? Forgive me that injury (2 Cor. 12:13). Trapp
"O my people, "etc. If subjects quit their allegiance to their prince, they will pretend, as the ten tribes did when they revolted from Rehoboam, that his yoke is too heavy for them; but can you pretend any such thing? What have I done to you that is unjust or unkind? Wherein have I wearied you with the impositions of service, or the exaction of tribute? Have I made you to serve with an offering? (Isa. 43:23). Matthew Henry
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
113. The Stronghold
The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. Nahum 1:7
HERE we come upon an island in Nahum's stormy lake. All is calm in this verse, though the whole context is tossed with tempest.
The text is full of God, and brims over with his praise.
GOD HIMSELF "Jehovah is good."
1. Good in himself essentially and independently.
2. Good eternally and unchangeable.
3. Good in each person: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
4. Good in all his acts of grace.
5. Good in all former acts of providence.
6. Good in his present act, be it what it may.
7. Good for a stronghold: to be trusted in trouble.
8. Good to his own people, who find their goodness in him.
Let us praise him as good in the most emphatic and unlimited sense.
Whoever else may or may not be good, we know that the Lord is good. Yea, "there is none good but one, that is, God" (Matt. 19:17).
II. GOD TO US. "A strong hold in the day of trouble."
1. Under special circumstances our resort.
2. Securing our safety at all times: for a stronghold is always strong, even when there is no immediate war.
- The day of trouble, when trial is special and vehement.
- The day of trouble: temporary, but yet long enough to last through our life unless the Lord prevent.
- The day of trouble: when within, without, around, there seem to be only care, and fear, and want, and grief.
3. Maintaining our peace. Within the walls of a castle men walk at ease, for they are shut in from enemies.
4. Defying our foes, who dare not attack such a fortress.
5. Abiding for ever the same: always a sure refuge for the needy.
Let us run to him, as the poor people of the open country fly to the walled towns in the time of war.
III. GOD WITH US. "He knoweth them that trust in him."
The term "he knoweth them" includes
1. His intimate acquaintance with their persons, conditions, etc.
2. His tender care to supply all their necessities.
3. His divine approval of them. To others he says, "l know you not" (Luke 13:25).
4. His loving communion with them, which is the best proof that they are known to him, and are his beloved friends.
5. His open acknowledgment: he owns them now, and will confess them before assembled worlds (Rev. 3:5).
Let us believe in the goodness of the Lord even when we cannot discern it with the eye of sense.
Let us fly to his protection when storms of trouble fall.
Let us confide in his loving care when hunted by our enemies.
Let us take care that we rely upon him, in Christ Jesus, for salvation.
The only place of safety in this world is the one in which we are sure to meet God, and to be "under the shadow of his wing." The Bible sets forth, in grand metaphor, this idea, by speaking of a "fortress into which the righteous runneth, and is safe"; and of a strong tower;' and of the shadow of a great rock." When we were in the Yosemite Valley, lately, our driver told us of a series of terrific earthquakes, which visited the valley several years ago. The few inhabitants who dwelt there were thrown out of their beds in the night. Frail cottages were overturned. Loose rocks were hurled down from the precipices into the valley. These shocks were repeated for several days until the people were panic-stricken and ready to despair. "What did you do?" we inquired. The driver (pointing to the mighty and immovable rock, El Capitan, which rises for three thousand feet on the south side of the valley, and has a base of three solid miles) replied: "We determined to go and camp under old Capitan; for if that ever moved we knew the world would be coming to an end." Dr. Cuyler
Tamar may disguise herself, and walk in an unaccustomed path, so that Judah may not know her; Isaac, through the dimness of his sight, may bless Jacob, and pass over Esau; want of time may make Joseph forget, or be forgotten of, his brethren; Solomon may doubt to whom of right the child belongeth; and Christ may come to his own, and not be received: but the Lord knoweth them that are his, and his eye is always over them. Time, place, speech, or apparel cannot obscure or darken his eye or ear. He can discern Daniel in the den; and Job, though never so much changed, on the dung-hill. Let Jonah be lodged in the whale's belly, Peter be put into a close prison, or Lazarus be wrapped in rags, or Abel rolled in blood, yet can he call them by name, and send his angels to comfort them. Ignorance and forgetfulness may cause love and knowledge to be estranged in the creature, but the Lord is not incident to either, for his eye, as his essence, is everywhere; he knoweth all things. Spencer's "Things New and Old"
A safe stronghold our God is still,
A trusty shield and weapon;
He'll help us clear from all the ill
That hath us now o'ertaken.
The ancient Prince of hell
Hath risen with purpose fell;
Strong mail of craft and power
He weareth in this hour,
On earth is not his fellow.
With force of arms we nothing can,
Full soon were we down-trodden;
But for us fights the proper Man,
Whom God himself hath bidden.
Ask ye, "Who is this same?"
Christ Jesus is his name,
The Lord Zebaoth's Son,
He and no other one
Shall conquer in the battle.
Many talk of trusting God when indeed they know nothing of real faith. How are we to know who is, and who is not, a believer? This question is hard to answer in times of prosperity, but not in the day of trouble: then the true truster is calm and quiet in his God, and the mere pretender is at his wits' end. Our text seems to hint as much. Everybody can find a bird's nest in winter when the trees are bare, but the green leaves hide them; so are believers discovered by adversity. One thing, however, should*never be forgotten: whether we know believers or not, God knows them. He does not include one hypocrite in the number, nor exclude one sincere truster, even though he be of little faith. He knows infallibly, and universally. Does he know me, even me, as one of those who trust in him? The Lord knoweth them that are his, and they know him as their stronghold. Have I such knowledge?
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
114. Watching, Waiting, Writing
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. (2) And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon the tables, that he may run that read-eth it. (3) For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (4) Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:1-4
THE promise of God tarried, and the ungodly triumphed.
Here was the old problem of David in another form.
"Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously?" (Hab. 1:13) is but a repetition of "I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked" (Ps. 73:3).
This same problem occurs to ourselves, and this text may help us. Observe with understanding
I. THE SENSE IN WHICH THERE IS A DELAY IN THE PROMISE.
It is not every apparent delay which is real. Our time and God's time are not measured upon the same dial.
1. Each promise will bide its due season for fulfillment: "For the vision is yet for an appointed time."
The word of the Lord is as true to the time as to the thing.
To him its time of ripening is short: only to us is it long.
II. THE ATTITUDE OF A BELIEVER WHILE THE PROMISE DELAYS.
We should watch for the appearing of the Lord in fulfillment of his promise, and should be prepared to receive reproof as well as blessing.
The prophet took up
1. A determined and thoughtful attitude: "I will stand, and set me."
2. Each promise in the end will prove true: "At the end it shall speak, and not lie."
3. Each promise will repay our waiting: "Though it tarry, wait for it."
4. Each promise will really be punctual to its hour: "It will surely come, it will not tarry)"
2. An attentive attitude: "and will watch to see what he will say unto me." He is engrossed in this one pursuit: he only desires to be taught of the Lord.
3. A patient attitude: "I will set me upon the tower." It is as if he had been set as a sentinel, and would remain at his post.
4. A solitary position if need be. He speaks of himself alone.
5. A humble and submissive frame of mind: "what I shall answer when I am reproved."
In all respects the man of God is ready for his Lord.
The delay is evidently a blessing to him.
The blessing will be the greater when it comes.
III. THE WORK OF THE LORD'S SERVANT WHILE THE PROMISE DELAYS.
1. By faith set the vision. Realize the fulfillment of the divine word in your own soul. "Watch to see what he will say."
2. Declare it as certain: record it in black and white, as a fact not to be questioned. "Write the vision upon tables."
3. Declare it plainly, so that the runner may read it.
4. Declare it practically, so that he that readeth may run in consequence of it.
5. Declare it permanently: write down the matter for a record to be referred to: engrave it on tablets for perpetuity.
Sham faith prudently declines to mention her expectations.
It is deemed presumptuous, fanatical, and imprudent to be positive that God will keep his promise; and still more to say so.
The real believer thinks not so, but acts with the Lord's promises as he would deal with engagements made in business by honest men: he treats them as real, and would have others do the like.
IV. THE DIFFERENCE SEEN IN MEN WHEN THE DELAY OF THE PROMISE TESTS THEM.
l. The graceless man is too proud to wait on God as the Lord's servant will do. "His soul is not upright in him."
2. The just man believes the word of a holy God.
- He is himself dishonest, and so suspects his God.
- This prevents his finding comfort in the promise.
"My soul, wait thou only upon God" (Ps. 62:5).
What can he do who has no faith in his Maker? (Heb. 11:6)
From Our Tablets
- He waits serenely, in full assurance; and
- He lives in the highest sense by his faith.
It was a custom among the Romans for the public affairs of every year to be committed to writing by the pontifex maximus, or high priest, and published on a table. They were thus exposed to public view, so that the people might have an opportunity of being acquainted with them. It was also usual to hang up laws approved and recorded on tables of brass in their market-places, and in their temples, that they might be seen and read (Tacitus). In like manner, the Jewish prophets used to write, and expose their prophecies publicly on tables, either in their own houses, or in the temple, that every one that passed by might go in and read them. Burder
And though it linger till the night,
And round again till morn,
My heart shall ne'er mistrust thy might,
Nor count itself forlorn.
Do thus, O ye of Israel's seed.
' Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
Wait for your God's appearing!
Good old Spurstow says that some of the promises a like the almond tree
they blossom hastily in the very earliest spring; but," saith he, "there are others which resemble the mulberry tree they are very slow in putting forth their leaves:' Then what is a man to do, if he has a mulberry-tree promise, which is late in blossoming? Why, he is to wait till it does blossom; since it is not in his power to hasten it. If the vision tarry, exercise the precious grace called patience, and the appointed time shall surely bring you a rich reward. C. H. S.
God's promises are dated, but with a mysterious character; and, for want of skill in God's chronology, we are prone to think God forgets us; when, indeed, we forget ourselves in being so bold as to set God a time of our own, and in being angry that he comes not just then to us. Gurnall
If we were more humble, we should be more patient. A beggar, who is worn with hunger, will wait at the rich man's gate for many an hour with the hope of getting broken victuals; but my lord, who is in no need, will soon be gone if the door does not open to his knock. We have kept the Lord waiting long enough, and we need not wonder if he tries our faith and patience by apparent delays. In any case, let us settle this in our hearts, that he must and will fulfill his promises. Our text shows us a punctual God, a patient waiter, and a published confidence; but it finishes up with a proud unbeliever. Or, if you will, it is man uttering a brave resolve, and the Lord answering to his faith; reasons presented to patient faith, and rebukes to impatient pride.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon