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God spake by the Prophets
life was divinely ordered and guided. That dear and holy place became to him a House of God; and he found new graces whenever he revisited it.) What though the later Vision of God by the Brook Jabbok brought a hard struggle, a sense of faintness, an agony of body and soul in the darkness, yet(Jacob never quite lost his trust Jin ever-present Mercy. In his old age (Gen. xlvi. 3), the God of his childhood visited him again with blessings and promises. (Jacob's God is our God, the Unchangeable and True, the Ever-merciful.)
6. Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually. So Micah says (vi. 8): What doth the Lord require of thee, but to
do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?' Since I serve such a God as this, One who can be sought, be found, be a living Friend and Guide, let my life be led according to His rules. What better life could there be than what this verse indicates-doing justice, loving mercy, waiting on God in steadfast prayer, outward acts all in harmony with inmost yearnings? One such verse as this clears up much that is obscure in the old Testament. Yes, I see now what it means, what its real lesson is.
7. He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand : he loveth to oppress.
8. And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin. How much oppression there has been, and is, in the world ! O for
brave hearts and persuasive voices to declare the cause of the poor who find it hard to get a hearing! Earth's great ones consider right and wrong to be much the same, provided they themselves succeed in their undertakings. They adore God or the golden calf, according as it may advantage them. They consider nothing is to blame in their own conduct: no one dares to tell them their real state.) Show me, Lord, where I stand. Help me to hear the cry of the oppressed. Let me realise that the unseen Judge is near.)
9. And I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast. 10. I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets. Again Israel shall go back to wilderness life, shall dwell in tents as
at the Feast of Tabernacles. Yet not now for devotion, or recrea
tion, but in the hard earnest of a homeless wandering. God had sent them Prophets to warn, given them Festivals to commemorate mercies, approached them by many gracious comparisons and images, suited Himself to their weakness.) At sundry times and in divers manners' came His word. There is much that God taught Israel besides what is written down in the Old Testament.] True, and there are innumerable lessons that He has given me beside what Scripture or Prayer Book or Catechism contain. Why have
so little heeded the admonitions of God's providential care?)
II. Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal ; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields. (Those who served gods of nothing came themselves to nothing;
those who carried on idol-worship in the town of heaps' (Gilgal) saw their idol altar come to be heaps of ruin, Insensibly, we become like what we worship.) That God, to Whom our secret moments and inmost aspirations are vowed, moulds us after His likeness. Be it mine to worship the Eternal and Holy God with a pure heart, and so cling to His Eternity. Be it mine to follow the steps of God manifest in the Flesh, and so acquire, but a spark of that tenderness and holiness which shone in Him.
12. And Jacob fed into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep. 13. And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved. Jacob kept the promise he had made at Bethel, that the Lord should
be his God. `Amidst deceptions, strife, disappointments, he never forgot the inheritance of promise which belonged to him in the far future. His shepherd life was hard and toilsome, as he says (Gen. xxxi. 40), 'in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from mine eyes '—nor did he receive Canaan for a possession in his lifetime.
No, he ( sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange land, and died in Egypt.
His descendants had greater privileges, greater opportunities than he, the Holy Land for their portion. And yet, how they threw away their privileges and forgot what he had cherished ! Jacob serves to us as a pattern; we are, like him, “strangers and pilgrims'; we have, like him, sorrows and cares besetting old age ; but we must keep alive, as he did, a sense of Divine mercy, a firm conviction that what God has promised, He will perform.
14. Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him. (Provocation, violence, shame, such was the result of Israel's policy.
They provoked their best Friend to leave them, entangled them. selves in guilt inexpiable, got contempt instead of honour.) O that I appreciated the hope of our calling,''the riches of the glory of our inheritance among the saints' (Ephes. i. 18), and so, made up my mind to live worthily of such a hope, such privileges ! What is Israel's ingratitude compared to mine?
HEN Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in
Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died. Ephraim once had leadership. Manifold blessings came on him, as Jacob had foretold (Gen. xlix. 22-26). Joshua came of that tribe, and carried it to high honour ; but when Ephraim forsook the true God and adopted the false worship of the Canaanites, he sank into the same degradation as they. The nation's spiritual progress was wrapt up in their following God's Prophets and keeping His holy law. This Divine calling they threw aside, and sank lower and lower till ruin came. O Lord, I see that this history was written for my admonition. I have had put before me a high ideal, noble examples, a sacred call. response to all this has been utterly faithless.
2. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen : they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves. This is what King Jeroboam said in his self-will (1 Kings xii. 28)
when he had erected the golden calves at Bethel : `Behold thy gods, Israel.' That is, do homage to the idea of strength embodied in the sacred ox, which is honoured alike in Egypt and in Nineveh. Why not in Israel too?' To leave the Lord and worship our own invention, our own creation, the embodiment of our own skill or fancy, is common enough. That heart which once adored uncreated excellence is caught by promises of gain or attractions of earthly love.) Idol hymns please it instead of Psalms.
God known in the Wilderness [Hos. XIII.
3. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney. The cloud has vanished, the dew is dried up, the chaff blown away,
the smoke wreath dispersed into thin air. So with the nation's hope. A little while ago and Israel's outlook seemed permanent and promising, but now its name and work are at a final end. This, you might say, is the law of human life: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. (Men, their_works, their plans, have all this brand of passingness. ) Nay, faith planted, love proved, sinners rescued, patience perfected, these are tokens of immortality, lasting foundations planted on the sands of time.' To these no winter season comes; they 'blossom in the dust.
4. Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no God but me: for there is no saviour beside
5. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. Here is a Friend tried and proved. We know and love Him, because
He first knew and loved us. He knows our nature, our lonely hours, our seasons of temptation. He is nearer to us than any other friend can be.) We have found Him a Helper when we needed Him most. O gracious Lord, Thou, by Thy Incarnation, knowest our human life and its cares. Do Thou keep me during what remains of my journey. If it be through a Tand of drought, Thou canst refresh me; if I go down into the under-world, Thou art there also.]
6. According to their pasture, so were they filled ; they were filled, and their heart was exalted ; therefore have they forgotten me. 7. Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them : 8. I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them. Forgetting the true and good Shepherd, abusing His mercies,
despising His correction, I turned Him into a beast of prey; He became my accuser, my judge. I misused, and so turned to my harm, the blessings of mind and soul and sense which He lavished
The recompence of graces thrown away and comforts selfishly enjoyed was the uprooting of faith and hope. Alas ! of how many souls this is the sad experience! When the journey began they were as sheep guided by a good Shepherd, supplied VER. 12.]
Our Help is in God
from a green pasture. Later on, all these blessings turned into beasts of prey, laying wait for their recklessness.) The Lord keep me under His gracious Wings, protect me from myself, lest I be destroyed by my own folly, as others have been.
9. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine
ourselves comes our downfall, of God comes our help. It is true, I acknowledge it plainly, that all the evil into which I fell is my own fault, my own choice. God has, no doubt, sent me pains, losses, woes, temptations, and these are evil in a sense, but yet not real evil. They cannot rob me of my peace, unless I choose the wrong. ). Let me bless God in dark days as in bright ones. Let me truthfully ascribe all glory to Him, and to myself confusion of face. Let me understand that all my welfare lies in clinging close to Him. Let me, by hearty repentance, turn evil into good
10. I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes ? 11. I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him
wrath. Israel became impatient of God's gracious governance, and said
(1 Sam. viii. 20), 'Nay, but we will have a king over us
12. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid. The case is closed, but there the indictment remains. The visible
sin is done and over, but its result is there. The debt is still to pay, the expiation still to offer. Iniquity is bound up when we have not confessed it; sin is hid from men's eyes, but remains, until repented of and forgiven.) Let us from God's Justice fly to His Mercy ; open our wounds that they may be healed, declare our debt that it may be cancelled. God's Mercy has boundless power to efface, cleanse, restore.
"Who trust in Him, their guilt is gone.'