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God pleading for His People
He felt for their isolation, their lack of Divine worship and holy fellowship. Jews were carried off into other countries; their freedom, their national life, their communion with the God of Israel, seemed gone; yet their God has not forgotten them. He will turn their captivity and bring them home with joy. Remem. ber, O Lord, those many who are enslaved to Satan, who have lost the glorious liberty of the children of God.' Do Thou search them out and give them true freedom. Theirs is the worst captivity, for they are willing slaves to the Prince of Darkness.
2. I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. 3. And they have cast lots for my people ; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink. God takes outrage and wrong as done to Himself. He says, “Why
persecutest thou Me?' He says, “I was an hungered and ye gave Me no meat.' It is He who is wronged in the helpless and oppressed. His people have been despoiled, enslaved, thought of no account. In Church history, I read of many persecutions, many times of heresy, when believing souls were wronged by cruelty and falsehood. Divine Truth has had a rough time amidst the world's evil passions. But these slave-dealers who got rid of boy or girl captives for a night's debauch or a day's revel figure to me those false guides who are set high in God's Church, but sacrifice the people to their own covetousness. They allow Satan to carry off the lambs of God's flock. All they care for is their own ease and enjoyment. They say no word on behalf of souls.
4. Yea, and what have ye to do with me, 0 Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine ? will ye render me a recompence ? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head ; 5. Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things: 6. The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border, These heathen neighbours grew rich on the plunder of Judah ; nay,
on the spoils of God's own Temple. They trafficked in souls of men as well as in booty. They had harassed God when He harmed them not. I wonder how much of the wealth which is stored up in the world has been wrung from the oppressed, bought by tears, mixed 54
up with wrong. If its origin were known, it would be seen to need cleansing, need to be employed in sacrifices to the Most High. It was made by the toil of bond-slaves.
7. Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head: 8. And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off : for the Lord hath spoken it. This retribution, that those who sold others into slavery should
themselves be captured and sold far away from their homes,—this cup of humiliation now to be drained by the insulter,-must not be understood of literal chains and exile. No, God's people under His new law learn that Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.' They 'heap coals of fire' on their enemy's head by patience and loving-kindness towards him. The Son of Man came not to destroy, but to save. His Spirit overcomes by patience. Blessed be that captivity to His holy law of love which binds us with good influences and withholds us from sin !
9. Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near ; let them come up: 10. Beat your plowshares into swords, and, your pruninghooks into spears : let the weak say, I am strong. 11. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about : thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord. 12. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. It is God Who foresees, nay, Who orders this unholy war. The powers
of the world whose passions awake it are but the executors of His sovereign will. This call links together all nations, all conditions, to destroy God's truth and oppress His saints. Yet it is but to destroy themselves. Their armies are all too weak to meet His unseen hosts. I notice that not only Joel, but Ezekiel (chapters xxxviii. and xxxix.) and the Apocalyptic seer (Revelation xix. 19), view the conflict between evil and good as a mighty battlefield where innumerable armies are mustered, and where the hosts of evil are overthrown and slain. In this conflict, I see summed up all the efforts of Satan : against the Catholic Faith, to uproot it; against the love and purity of believers, to lead them astray; against their peace and trust, to substitute despair. And I see that God gets
A mighty Voice
the victory. His enemies, however mighty and numerous, are defeated, and that finally. “So let all Thine enemies perish, O Lord,' but let me be among Thy steadfast friends.
13. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe : come, get ye down ; for the press is full, the fats overflow ; for their wickedness is great. 14. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision : for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. 15. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. This harvest is the end of the world. This winepress tells of the last wrath of God. This darkness over heaven and earth is the apostasy, the affliction, the fear that will accompany the conclusion of this world's history. No doubt the Prophet has in his mind some earlier and temporary crisis; but yet his words, the more I look into them, tell me of an eternal decision. I know, with absolute certainty, that God and my own soul will remain, after all that fills sight and sense has vanished. I shall be in His Presence and await His sentence.
16. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem ; and the heavens and the earth shall shake : but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. This terror mingled with confidence is what the Lord Himself
speaks of (S. Luke xxi. 25, 28): 'Signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars,' 'distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring,''men's hearts failing them for fear'; and, in the midst of all, the invitation, ‘Look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.' This mighty Voice which accompanies the dissolution of all earth's glory will not affright those who have made God their Friend. They have heard that Voice as a rushing mighty wind' when it told of the Holy Spirit's coming. It has deadened for them earth's many fascinating calls ; therefore, amidst the crash of all things they recognise that same Voice, and are at peace.
17. So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. 18. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a
fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim. Shall we look to find upon earth this Jerusalem, where God dwells
with unveiled Face, where holiness and peace are perfect, where no invader's foot treads ? In this blessed City all is fruitful and fair. It has unending summer, yet unfading freshness. No, it is not anywhere upon earth. Yet the foundations of the Holy City are being laid now, and the River of Life has begun to flow. This life-giving, cleansing water proceeds from Christ's Sacred Humanity, and turns the dry, dull world into a home of peace, the threshold of everlasting bliss.
19. Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. 20. But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. 21. For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the Lord dwelleth in Zion. "The world passeth away and the lust thereof; but he that doeth
the will of God abideth for ever.' This world's glory and this world's violence are figured by Egypt and Edom. They were very mighty, but their end came; whereas God's Holy City lasts on for ever. It is not the earthly Sion that remains—o no! nor is this cleansing to be wrought by any ceremonial expiations. God has provided a better purification, which will leave nothing defiled, but will wash away all stains. In whatever manner these golden prophetic dreams may have come true in the happier days of the ancient covenant, or more fully in the first bright days of the Christian Church, yet I am sure that devout souls always longed for somewhat better still. The glimpses that they got of "God and truth and purity, during their earthly pilgrimage, but whetted their desire for somewhat further. In this hope they passed away, with their eyes fixed on the better land. "Shall í suppose they were deceived ?
MHE words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa,
1 which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. It was God who raised up Amos to be a Prophet, illumined his mind, sent him to announce His judgments. He was but a shepherd, no member of a college of Prophets, not brought up to the Prophetic calling. Such is the freedom of God's choice, and of His gifts. (He chooses for saints those whom He wills, and finds them where He pleases. From Tekoah, which is a city in the south of Judah, Amos was sent into the Northern Kingdom, then very powerful and prosperous, to declare its approaching fall. Two years after Amos began to speak of God's judgments came the great and long-remembered earthquake (Zechariah xiv. 4). That seemed to him a symbol of the instability of all earth's glories. )
2. And he said, The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem ; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither. (God dwells in Zion, utters His mighty Voice from thence. His
(message is one of awe. It foretells the withering of earthly splendour.) So, in the Church, which is our Zion, are God's warnings still laid up, read, commented on. Christians are taught there that the judge is at hand, and that all the loftiest names and fairest shows among men are but for a moment. Earth has green pastures, lofty hills, but death and judgment are near. 7 Look out, dear friends, for a safer Home.
3. Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing