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in the former chapter, where the kingdom of Judah, and the city which God had chosen out of all that were in the earth, to put his name there, are devoted to destruction. The same conquering power, that of the Chaldeans, was to be employed as the sword of the Lord, in slaying his own people, and in laying low the nations round about them. Gaza and Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron, the Cherethites and the land of the Philistines, all must be laid waste. Their coasts must be desolate, and must so remain, until the remnant of the house of Judah should be restored and take them to itself. Moab and Ammon must share the like lot; first to be reduced to the lowest pitch of desolation, and afterwards to be for a spoil to the residue of the Lord's people. The Ethiopians are next sentenced. And then Nineveh, so long the capital of Assyria, the city whence so many an armed host had set forth to assault the Lord's people, is doomed to exchange its height of glory for the depth of shame, its crowds for solitude, and instead of being the abode of luxury and gaiety must become the haunt of beasts and birds of prey. So terrible would the Lord prove Himself to all these idol serving nations, that He speaks of famishing their idol gods, for lack of worshippers to supply victims for their altars. And that day of tribulation was so significant of another, which God would afterwards bring upon the earth, ere the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, that in speaking of the former He refers also to the latter, saying, “ And men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen."
It is thought by many, that even now the world is on the eve of such a general desolation as is here described, as well as of this general conversion to the truth. So much the more shall we all do well to give heed to the exhortations, which are here proclaimed alike to Jews and Gentiles. The former, addressed as a “nation not desired,” being then at enmity with God through wicked works, are exhorted to gather themselves together, before the day of the fierce anger of the Lord, evidently that they might unite in contrition and repentance, in prayer and solemn deprecation of his wrath ; if so be they might obtain forgiveness. To the latter, the Gentiles, we may apply these words, " Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.” Here were tidings of safety, or at least of hope, to some in all parts of the earth, when so many nations were about to be destroyed. It was true then, as the apostle declared long afterwards, that “in every nation he that feareth” God, “and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Acts 10. 35. And so it will be found true at the end of the world. If therefore we are looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, let us do as we are liere exhorted; let us seek the Lord, both by other means, and especially by seeking his righteousness, and behaving ourselves meekly in his sight; that we may escape the wrath to come.
Promises of good things to come after tribulation. 1 Woe to her that is filthy and shall bring mine offering. polluted, to the oppressing city! 11 In that day shalt thon not
2 She obeyed not the voice; be ashamed for all thy doings, she received not correction; she wherein thou hast transgressed trusted not in the LORD; she against me: for then I will take drew not near to her God. away out of the midst of thee
3 Her princes within her are them that rejoice in thy pride, roaring lions ; her judges are and thou shalt no more be haughty evening wolves ; they gnaw not because of my holy mountain. the bones till the morrow. 12 I will also leave in the
4 Her prophets are light and midst of thee an afflicted and treacherous persons: her priests poor people, and they shall trust have polluted the sanctuary, they in the name of the LORD. have done violence to the law. 13 The remnant of Israel shall
5 Thejust Lorvis in the midst not do iniquity, nor speak lies; thereof; he will not do iniquity: neither shall a deceitful tongue every morning doth he bring his be found in their mouth: for they judgment to light, he faileth not; shall feed and lie down, and none but the unjust knoweth no shame. shall make them afraid.
6 I have cut off the nations : 14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; their towers are desolate; I made shout, O Israel; be glad and their streets waste, that none rejoice with all the heart, O passeth by: their cities are de- daughter of Jerusalem. stroyed, so that there is no man, 15 The Lord hath taken away that there is none inhabitant. thy judgments, he hath cast out
7 I said, Surely thou wilt fear thine enemy: the king of Israel, me, thou wilt receive instruc- even the LORD, is in the midst tion; so their dwelling should of thee: thou shalt not see evil not be cut off, howsoever I pu- any more. nished them: but they rose early, 16 In that day it shall be said to and corrupted all their doings. Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to
8 Therefore wait ye upon me, Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. saith the LORD, until the day 17 The LORD thy God in the that I rise up to the prey: for midst of thee is mighty; he will my determination is to gather save, he will rejoice over thee the nations, that I may assem- with joy; he will rest in his love, ble the kingdoms, to pour upon he will joy over thee with singing. them mine indignation, even all 18 I will gather them that are my fierce anger: for all the sorrowful for the solemn assemearth shall be devoured with the bly, who are of thee, to whom fire of my jealousy.
the reproach of it was a burden. 9 For then will I turn to the 19 Behold, at that time I will people a pure language, that undo all that afflict thee: and they may all call upon the name I will save her that halteth, and of the Lord, to serve him with gather her that was driven out;
and I will get them praise and 10 From beyond the rivers of fame in every land where they Ethiopia my suppliants, even have been put to shame. the daughter of my dispersed, 20 At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that all people of the earth, when I I gather you: for I will make turn back your captivity before you a name and a praise among your eyes, saith the Lord.
LECTURE 1437. God's love for his redeemed; their joy and glory. If some reference to the times of the Gospel is discernible in the previous prophecy of Zephaniah, much more may we understand these gracious promises, and singularly affectionate expressions, on the part of God towards his people, as referring beyond all question to the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. There is indeed woe proclaimed to the city polluted with the filth of sin. To the faithless, and disobedient, to the incorrigible, and alienated from God, to oppressive princes, and grasping magistrates, to false prophets, and apostate priests, to such the justice of the Lord must be proved by their signal destruction. They who were not ashamed to transgress before the light of day, must be convinced by other means that He both sees their wicked works, and knows how to punish them. They who would not take warning by the desolation of those around them, must be laid low themselves. But after much tribulation denounced against evil doers, the voice of mercy is heard speaking to God's people, dispersed though they be, describing them as suppliants and worshippers, who have learnt to speak a pure language, “ that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.” Then shall they be spared the shame of their misdeeds, their sins being blotted out; the proud having been severed from amongst them, and pride even in their religious privileges no longer lurking in their hearts. They shall be such as mourn for sin, and are poor in spirit, and are full of faith that works by love, abhorring that which is evil, incapable of falsehood or deceitfulness; and they shall enjoy plenty, peace, and sense of safety, through Him who is the Shepherd of their souls. Who can they be but Christians that are thus described ? What Israelites, but such as believe in Christ, and have salvation through Him, can be those who are here exhorted to rejoice in the doing away of their judgments, and in the casting out of their enemy, and in the presence and communion of their King, and in the assurance that they need not fear, and in the exhortation to obey with zeal? Over whom, if not the repentant and believing, that is to say, contrite Christians, does the Lord rejoice as here described, and rest in love, and joy with singing ? These are they for whom praise is sung in heaven unto Him that sitteth on the throne; and for whose salvation glory is ascribed unto the Lamb for ever. See Rev. 7. 10. Soon may God complete their number, and fulfil their joy! Soon may He gather them that thus mourn on earth, them that are reproached for his name's sake here, and form of all, both Jew and Gentile, one holy heavenly church; triumphant over all its enemies, glorified by his gracious favour, and a glory to his holy name!
The Jews on being reproved proceed with the temple. i In the second year of Darius upon it. Why? saith the LORD the king, in the sixth month, in of hosts. Because of mine house the first day of the month, came that is waste, and ye run every the word of the Lord by Haggai man unto his own house. the prophet unto Zerubbabel 10 Therefore the heaven over the son of Shealtiel, governor of you is stayed from dew, and the Judah, and to Joshua the son of earth is stayed from her fruit. Josedech, the high priest, saying, 11 And I called for a drought
2 Thus speaketh the Lord of upon the land, and upon the hosts, saying, This people say, mountains, and upon the corn, The time is not come, the time and upon the new wine, and upthat the Lord's house should be on the oil, and upon that which built.
the ground bringeth forth, and 3 Then came the word of the upon men, and upon cattle, and Lord by Haggai the prophet, upon all the labour of the bands. saying,
12 Then Zerubbabel the son 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son dwell in your cieled houses, and of Josedech, the high priest, with this house lie waste ?
all the remnant of the people, 5 Now therefore thus saith the obeyed the voice of the LORD Lord of hosts; Consider your their God, and the words of Hag. ways.
gai the prophet, as the LORD 6 Ye have sown much, and their God had sent him, and the bring in little ; ye eat, but ye people did fear before the LORD. have not enough; ye drink, but 13 Then spake Haggai the ye are not filled with drink; ye Lord's messenger in the Lord's clothe you, but there is none message unto the people, saying, warm; and he that earneth wages I am with you, saith the LORD. earneth wages to put it into a 14 And the LORD stirred up bag with holes.
the spirit of Zerubbabel the son 7 Thus saith the LORD of of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, hosts; Consider your ways. and the spirit of Joshua the son
8 Go up to the mountain, and of Josedech, the high priest, and bring wood, and build the house; the spirit of all the remnant of and I will take pleasure in it, the people; and they came and and I will be glorified, saith the did work in the house of the LORD.
LORD of hosts, their God, 9 Ye looked for much, and, 15 In the four and twentieth lo, it came to little; and when day of the sixth month, in the ye brought it home, I did blow second year of Darius the king.
LECTURE 1438. We gain by doing God's work rather than our own. Haggai is the first in order of those prophets, whom God vouchsafed to send to the Jews, after their return from the Babylonish
captivity. See Ezra 5. 1. The great work of rebuilding the temple, commenced upon the strength of the decree of Cyrus, had been carried no further than the putting in foundations, and setting up the altar, when the adversaries of the Jews prevailed upon the succeeding kings of Persia to put a stop to the undertaking. See Ezra 4. 5, 24. Meanwhile the Jewish people and their rulers appear to have been easily reconciled to the suspension of their holy work. And when afterwards they might have gone on with it, they were content to have rebuilt and adorned their own dwellings ; letting the house of God lie waste, on the pretence that the time for building it had not arrived. How plainly did such conduct prove, that their heart was not in the work ! 'How easily do men frame excuses for the neglect of duties in which they take no pleasure ! How readily do they allow obstacles to binder them in the works of the Lord, which they would take great pains to overcome, if it were their own comfort or convenience, their own gain or glory, that could not be otherwise advanced !
“ Consider your ways," is the message which the prophet is commissioned to deliver to the people of the Lord, when thus neglectful of his work. On reflexion they would find, that they had lost instead of gained by seeking their own advantage in preference to God's glory. He had withheld his blessing from their diligence, and they had been disappointed in the produce of their toil. He had sent them ungenial seasons, and unfruitful crops. And He charged them, as they valued his favour for the future, to get together the requisite materials, and to complete the building of his temple, unto the glory of his holy name. “ Consider your ways,” is the message which God sends to us, if in any thing we are acting like his people of old; forwarding or at least trying to forward our own work, whilst we neglect his. Surely we shall find it most for our interest, present and eternal, to seek “first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” Matt. 6. 33. Surely if we reflect, and calculate, and sum up all we have ever saved or gained, by withholding what was due unto the Lord, we shall be ready to own, that it is of no value, compared with that which we have lost. Let us then listen, with Zerubbabel, and Joshua, and with all the remnant of the people, to the word of the Lord spoken by the prophet. Let us listen, and obey his voice. Let us be free to contribute money, or time, or labour, according to the nature of the case, towards any work, which may help to edify our brethren, or to glorify God. So may we expect his blessing both on our labour, and on our substance. So may we expect his blessing on our souls. So may we hope, that He will fulfil in us his word of approbation, sent on this occasion to the Jews : “I am with you, saith the Lord.”