Divine chastening is to be seen in feeble governments. How
miserable the condition when men even shun, instead of seeking
the place of rule; those least qualified then come to the head.
A woman's dress not beneath divine notice.
There ever comes a time when God intervenes in human affairs. History repeats itself, and in what occurs here in "Judah and Jerusalem" we may see divinely-given forecasts of what shall occur in that sphere of the present witness for God upon the earth, Christendom; for it has walked in the same steps. Filled with His mercies, yet "Judah and Jerusalem" forgot Him. They continued not in His goodness and are cut off, and thus He intervenes:
1: For lo, the Adohn, Jehovah Tzebaoth,So here He comes upon the scene under His names of warlike dignity, ADOHN, JEHOVAH TZEBAOTH, the despotic Lord of all, Jehovah of Hosts; and the first sign of that intervention is not desolation and captivity, but the taking away all that the body-politic has depended upon for support, likened here to those simplest necessities for the natural body, "bread and water." That these are not literally meant is evidenced by what follows, a list of those who are depended upon as the supports, "the stay and staff" of a nation; the valiant and wise, the skilful in work and word. But these are but men "whose breath is in their nostrils," and among them we get "the diviner" and "skilful mutterer." But whatever they are, they are taken away, and who takes their place? Children! But again, not literally that, but men who, as far as their qualifications for government go, are no better; as Solomon speaks of himself in lowly self-depreciation as a "little child" (1 Kings 3:7). The result of a government that does not command respect is the subversion of all natural order. The oppression, however, in this case, is not from autocratic tyranny above, but from democratic tyranny below: the child is above the elder; the base above the honorable.
Takes from Jerusalem the stay and the staff,*
All of the stay that she gets from the bread,
All of the stay she gets from the water.
2: The hero, the fighter, the judge, and the prophet,
3: Diviner and elder, and captain of fifty:
Him skilled in counsel, him skilled in work,
With him who is skilled in magical muttering.**
4: Then for their princes I will give children,
And childishly shall they rule o'er them.
5: Oppression shall govern the people,
Each oppressing the other:
The boy insulting the old man,
The base insulting the noble.
6: Till a man shall seize hold of his brother,
One of the house of his father;
"Thou hast a coat and must rule,
This ruin be under thy hand."
7: Aloud will he cry in that day,
Nay, I will not be a healer,
For not a loaf, nor a coat,
Is to be found in my house;
I will not rule over this people,
Nor are ye able to make me.
8: Ah, Salem is ruined, and Judah is fallen!
For their word and their work are aye 'gainst the Lord,
Defying the eyes of His glory.
9: The look of their face doth witness against them;
They expose their own sin as did Sodom,
No shame do they show in concealing.
Woe to their soul, for they make themselves suffer!
[*Lit., "Supporter and supportress," i.e., support of every kind.]
[**The word refers to the muttering of magical formulas.]
Is there no such tyranny today? Is there no oppression in those "unions" that were organized to resist it? Is the Soviet more merciful than the Czar? Nay, further, is not this the inevitable result, reasonably to be expected from such a condition? We enter not into earth's politics. We are submissive to the powers that be, whatever form they may take. We are quite willing to concede that the form of government under which we live may be the best under all the circumstances; but where the true Source of all authority is ignored, and the government derives its authority from the governed, where the votes of the mass confer the government, surely the governed are, in a sense, above the government, as he who confers authority must be above him who receives it. Only by the sincere (not merely formal) recognition of God from whom all authority legitimately proceeds, is true government maintained, and all is in order. Apart from this, the more conditions are levelled by the education of the mass the quicker are the steps toward that anarchy foretold here. It is the end to which democracy has been ever tending, and which it shall at last reach, when, with a mighty upheaval in the day of the fourth trumpet, all executors of authority in the world-empire, from the Emperor down, shall be overturned (Rev. 8:12). It illustrates the blessing of an enlightened, strong, and at the same time, beneficent government, and the miseries resulting from weakness and incapacity of rule.
The wretchedness in Judah and Jerusalem comes to such a pass that the highest office goes begging, till a comparatively respectable coat is considered qualification enough for installing its wearer over what they now own is a "ruin." He, on the other hand, is as anxious to avoid the once-coveted office as they to press it on him, and he cries out in great excitement, "No, no; I will not attempt to heal this distracted State, for, if you only knew, in my house too there is neither food nor clothing. You shall not, I protest, make me ruler over this people."
In verses 8 and 9 both in word and work they have been "against Jehovah, to defy the eyes of His glory"—a striking expression that brings before the mind all the infinite excellencies of God, focused, as it were, in His Eye: infinities of holiness, burning as a flame of fire (cf. Rev. 1:14); and His people have cared nothing how their words and works have appeared in those Eyes—they have defied them! Indeed, so lost are they, not only to all reverence, but even to self-respect, that they make no effort at concealment, but are like the Sodomites, who proclaimed shamelessly their shame. The maintenance of external decency is at least some evidence of a conscience not altogether seared, while the flaunting of impurity in public, say, in the theatre, in the novel, in the moving picture resorts, is a symptom of very deep degradation. Has not Christendom followed the Jew?
Nowhere today does this earth afford evidence of the righteous government of God—on the contrary, it is rather the wicked who get the good things, and the righteous the evil things in this life. That is the very reason for proclaiming a day in which all shall be made right; when, by an exact retribution, it shall be seen that men have worked out their own penalties, and are reaping only what they have sown. So,
10: Say to the righteous, Well shall it be for him;In verse 12, Jehovah, deeply moved with sorrow at the inevitable judgment impending, utters a cry of tender affection:
For they shall enjoy the fruit of their works.
11: Woe to the wicked, for it shall be ill for him,
Since his own hand doth work his reward.
12: My people! O My people! Their tyrants are but boys,Cannot we recognize that voice? Do we not know our Shepherd's voice? Is it not the same exactly that cried in the same tender tone over the same city as He foresaw its fast-coming desolation.
And women now are over them in the place of rule!*
My people! O My people! Thy leaders do mislead thee,
The path for thy feet they have blotted out.
[*With universal suffrage and women in the majority, the prophecy applies equally to Christendom. Tennyson speaks the same truth,"Tumble nature heel o'er head, and yelling with the yelling street,
Set the feet above the brain, and swear the brain is in the feet."]
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as even a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matt. 23:37).
It is thus the identity of Jehovah and Jesus is constantly proclaimed in the Scriptures, not only by isolated texts that the agents of the enemy may tamper with, but in the very warp and woof of those Scriptures, where none who profess to believe them can touch it.
May not that same Blessed One be equally sorrowing too, for Christendom on the verge of judgment? Both in the civil and ecclesiastical sphere all is failure: in the former there is weakness where there should be strength; in the latter, darkness where there should be light.
Thus ever, in every case of human trial, things always come to so hopeless a pass that Jehovah must "stand up," i.e., intervene and judge all the nations of the earth, and this ever begins at His own house.
13: Standeth up the Lord to plead,In this charge against elders and princes we again recognize the Voice of the same Speaker who said, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites," who "bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not touch them with one of their fingers." These are as "the deeds of the Nicolaitanes" that He ever "hates," wherever they are.
Yea, He stands to judge the nations.
14: With the elders of His people
Doth Jehovah go to judgment,
Bringing charge against the princes,
Ye have eaten up the vineyard,
Furnished house with spoils of poor.
15: What mean ye to crush My people—
Grind the faces of the poor?
Proclaimeth Adonai, Jehovah Tzebaoth!
In verses 16 to 24 Jehovah, Creator of all things visible, and invisible, turns to—woman's dress! Such points as these have been taken as so unworthy of a divine revelation as to refute the claim of the Bible to being the Word of God. The triviality is only in the shallow reasoning of miscalled Rationalism, and such criticism does not tell the limitation of God's mind, but the narrowness of the critic's. For His perfection must surely be marked equally on all His works; therefore there must be interest in and care of the least as of the greatest. Let the telescope reveal mighty worlds far beyond the range of the eye, and compared to which our earth is but as a grain of sand, each traveling its well-beaten path, without swerving a hair's breadth; then let the microscope reveal identically the same perfections in every part of the diatom, quite invisible as its whole body is to the unaided vision, and see if this does not equally proclaim the "power and Godhead" of Him who can imprint such perfections on such minute creatures. Then listen to these critics with their arbitrary line, above which they may perhaps own to a God of some kind, but below it—no: that would not be consistent with Deity! Is it not pitifully shallow? But the Author of the work is the Author of the Word, and it would be strange indeed if this did not show the same "mark of His unrivalled pencil." Thus it is a harmony, not a discord, that amid thought too high for the unaided human mind to grasp, He takes notice of a sparrow's fall (Luke 12:6), a school-boy finding a bird's nest (Deut. 22:6), or a woman's dress, when that woman is one of His people, or, as our New Testament speaks, one "professing godliness" (1 Tim. 2:9, 10). In that sphere of professed faith in His dear Son nothing is too high, nothing too low for His keenest interest. So, here, every detail whereby the women of Jerusalem sought to attract attention is noted, and,
16: Jehovah thus speaks:If the same keen note is taken by God in this day, what defiance must He see in the shameless fashions current everywhere. How great a change in the few years since Victorian days, when modesty was esteemed a feminine attraction, and to wear the garb of the man, a shame only adopted by the shameless. Well may Christian women who fear God, and desire above all, His approval, be very careful as to their dress, for which the Spirit of God gives them counsel by the pens of both apostles, Paul in his letter to Timothy (chapter 2), and Peter (chapter 3:3). The last word has still to be said to the fashions of our day, but verse 24 hints its character.
Because the daughters of Zion are haughty,
Walk with their neck outstretched in their pride,
Winking their eyes and mincingly walking,
Tinkling their ankle-bells aye as they walk,
17: The crown of the head of the daughters of Zion
Jehovah will smite with a scab,
By shameful exposure abase them.
18: In that day will the Lord take away
The adornment of anklets, of frontlets, of crescents,
19: The ear-rings, and chains for the arm,
20: The veils, and the diadems,
The stepping-links, and girdles,
The scent-boxes, and amulets,
21: The finger-rings, and nose-rings,
22: The festal robes, and tunics,
The mantles, and the wallets,
23: The mirrors, and the linens,
The turbans, and the flowing veils.
24: Instead of a scent there shall be a stench;
Instead of a sash, naught but a rope;
Instead of a braided curl, no hair at all;
Instead of a mantle, a smock made of sackcloth;
Instead of a beauty, the brand of a slave.
25: Thy mortal men by sword are slain,The gates of the cities once so thronged with the men who gathered there for counsel or for judgment are all abandoned now. Where are the men gone? Mortal though they be, it is not nature's mortality that has brought this condition. The sword has taken them away, and so we have a touching picture of poor Zion as a woman in heart-broken desolation sitting on the ground. It is surely striking that this is exactly the posture in which Judea is seen in the Roman medal struck to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Titus:
Thy men of might in battle.
26: And Zion's gates lament and mourn,
Whilst she in desolation sits
All humbled on the ground.
"A Roman warrior is standing in front of her, the inscription on the medal being Judea capta" (Delitzsch). So Jerusalem has remained captive through the centuries, the most unanswerable, if sorrowful, evidence of our Bible being in very truth the Word of God.