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sense of God's patience and mercy, and great goodness. Without giving up His claim over Israel-rather upon the very ground that He would not give it up—the Lord transferred the seat of power in government upon earth from Israel to the Gentiles.
Government had from the days of Noah, when God put the sword into Noah's hand, been an ordinance of the Lord for blessing upon earth--His means of keeping evil in check. This same ordinance was acted upon afterwards, though differently applied, in nations. While God was present as King, ruling in Israel, the nation was of course all-mighty, and the power all-wisely used for His own glory. But He could refuse, as He did, to keep Israel at the top of all nations, the only invincible people that ever really existed ; and could plunge them under the stream of their own transgressions, by making a deposit of power for supremacy upon earth in the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. In such case, the beast's heart would show itself in the use made of the power, as Divine Wisdom had shown itself in the use of the
power while leading Israel out of Egypt and into Canaan. In raising up Nebuchadnezzar, and giving Jerusalem into his hand, God did show that His tenure of Israel was separable from their possession of the land, or having the privileges of supreme power and access to a temple where He dwelt. The seat of power was in a dynasty or series of dynasties raised up from among the nations; but thus also separated from the mass of nations into a place of responsibility peculiar to itself, and not resting upon
all nations. Israel was still the Lord's nation; but the king that could reign righteously was not come, and the seat of governmental power among the nations was not in Jerusalem. The Lord gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, with part of the vessels of the house of God, which were brought away from Jerusalem into the land of Shinar, and brought into the treasure-house of the god of the king of Babylon. The temple was thus spoiled; for Israel had dealt as treacherously with the Lord as the God of Israel, as they had with Him as their Ruler. After this, and after the restoration (to which
we will refer presently) of both return to the land and renewal of worship, and also of dwelling in Jerusalem, we find the Lord opening to His servant Ezekiel the horrid evil of the Jews in Jerusalem, and the judgment of the Lord consequent thereupon.
Ezekiel viii. shows us what the council-hall of wickedness was in the holy city of Jerusalem. The Lord shows to His servant Ezekiel the temple, as the high court of wickedness. The Lord's word is, that to provoke Him to go far away from His sanctuary, they wrought abominations — idolatry--figure-worship -- the seventy men of the ancients offered incense in thick clouds, every man in the chambers of his imagery, saying, “ The Lord seeth us not; He hath forsaken the earth”--the women wept for Tammuz-and, between the porch and the altar, five-and-twenty men worshipped the sun—and the house of Judah, having filled the land with violence, returned to provoke the Lord to jealousy, and even put the branch to the nose.
The Lord was not owned in the temple of His grace, though there. He announces then to the prophet, that He will deal in fury with the people, and that His eye should not spare, neither would He have pity; yea, He would not hear them should they cry to Him with a loud voice.
Such was the crisis where we find the ninth chapter of Ezekiel's prophecy. In the midst of judgment the Lord remembers mercy. His prophet who had sought to walk with Him and to serve, is admitted to the privilege of knowing what the Lord is about to do, and used of the Lord as the means for recording before man the wonderfulness of the ways of the Lord in His dealings with men.
“He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar. And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side ; and the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
“And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite : let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain : go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.
And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem ? Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness : for they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not. And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head. And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me."
Surely it is better to fall into the hands of the Lord for judgment than into the hands of man. He is merci. ful—wills not the death of the sinner-and, as the Judge of the whole earth, wills not that the righteous should be as the wicked. In this case the judgment, holy and just, yet little when compared with the sin, was about to be poured out: they that should execute it stood ready to do so, but grace stayed the blow till inquisition had been made for those who, in the scene, had separated themselves from the evil—such must be marked for preservation. In what was their separation marked? They sighed and cried for all the abominations that were wrought around them. The distinctive mark was not “who have not done likewise,” or “who have protested or done their utmost against such sins,” but “ that sigh and that cry, for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof."
It is remarkable, in one who is in the midst of evil, as an expression of similarity of spirit with the Lord, when decreeing judgment, and saying, “I will not pity nor spare."
" Therefore will I also deal in fury:
thee in on every
mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them."
The Spirit of an insulted despised God about to take judgment in wrath will, as in any one who has the mind of the Lord in the midst of the doomed scene, oft sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done around them. The blessed Lord wept over Jerusalem. when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace ! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep
side.” Ten righteous persons in the city would have saved the city where Lot dwelt. When it was destroyed, the Lord remembered Abraham, and saved Lot and his two daughters; while a tremendous judgment upon his wife marked the value of implicit obedience upon an escaping people. In this chap. ix., while the Lord said he would have no pity, and charged those that executed the sentence (ver. 5, 6), “ Let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: .. and begin at my sanctuary." They that had the mark upon them, as to be spared, were those that sighed and that cried. The prophet's zeal and love for that which on earth bears the name of the Lord, led the prophet, on receiving the revelation, to a kindred expression. “ And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem ?”
If that which bears upon it the Lord's name in our day, is looked upon by any as in any sense the Lord's house, or responsible for His glory, have such hearts to sigh and to cry for the worldliness, and carnality, and idolatry found in it-have they hearts as loving it to fall on the face and intercede for it that the mouldering and crumbling which is going on in it may be stayed. Sure