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Isaiah 34:1-15 - Homilies By W. Clarkson

The Divine indignation.

The strong, pictorial language of the prophet brings into bold relief some truths respecting God's indignation of which it is needful to be occasionally reminded. We learn—

I. THAT IT IS A CONSTANT FACTOR IN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD . "Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people; let the earth hear, and all that is therein … for the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations ," etc. ( Isaiah 34:1 , Isaiah 34:2 ). It is seldom, perhaps never, the duty of the Christian minister to employ such terms as those used in this prophecy ( Isaiah 34:3 , Isaiah 34:5 , Isaiah 34:6 ). But it is his duty to make it clear that benevolence and its kindred attributes do not constitute the character of God; that, though it is a truth of inestimable price that "God is love," it is also true that "our God is a consuming Fire;" that though it is a fact that "justice and judgment are his strange work," it is also a fact that God does pour out his indignation "upon all nations;" that "the hand of the Lord is against them that do evil," that he will render "indignation and wrath.; upon every soul of man that doeth evil." Religious doctrine, like all other truth, must be seen in its true proportions, or it will be misconceived. To represent God's indignation against sin as the chief element in his character is essentially false; to represent his love as absorbing or eclipsing his hatred of sin and his intention to punish the guilty is also, if not equally, false. The same lips which opened to invite every weary wanderer to return to him and find rest in his happy service declared that many of the children of privilege should be shut out of the kingdom of heaven. To the Thrice-Holy One sin is now "that abominable thing which his soul hateth," and against it he will always express, both in word and deed, his righteous indignation.

II. THAT IT IS SOMETIMES POSITIVELY OVERWHELMING IN ITS EFFECTS . "He hath utterly destroyed them" ( Isaiah 34:2 ); "Their slain shall be east out … the mountains shall be melted with their blood" ( Isaiah 34:3 ); "All the host of heaven shall be dissolved," etc. ( Isaiah 34:4 ); "The sword of the Lord is filled with blood, the Lord hath a great slaughter in the land" ( Isaiah 34:6 ). God is sometimes "terrible in his doings toward the children of men." The flood swept away the race; the fires of heaven consumed-the cities of the plain; the avenging armies destroyed the population of the guilty land. And now the corrupt nation pays for its apostasy and its crimes the penalty of defeat and humiliation; the degenerate Church also suffers feebleness, decline, perhaps positive extinction; and the debased, hardened man finds himself bereft of every good, pursued and overtaken by gathering evils, having nothing to hope and everything to fear. God is "slow to wrath," he gives opportunities for repentance, he welcomes and restores the penitent; but on the impenitent and unreturning sinner he lays his hand of retribution, and alas for those who find from their own experience that "the way of transgressors is hard!"

III. THAT IT IS OFTEN EXCITED BY OFFENCES COMMITTED AGAINST HIS PEOPLE . "The day of the Lord's vengeance" is "the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion " (see Numbers 20:20 ; 2 Chronicles 21:8-10 ; 2 Chronicles 25:12 ; Psalms 137:7 ; Obadiah 1:10-16 ). Our Divine Lord has told us that to cause one of his little ones to stumble is a heinous offence in his sight; that, inasmuch as we do not our duty to one of the least of his brethren, we withhold what is clue to himself. The persecution of the people of God has taken many forms beside that of slaughter or imprisonment; they who resort to it must reckon on a very serious measure of Divine disapproval.

IV. THAT IT SHOWS ITSELF IN ITS SADDEST FORM IN A COMPLETE DEGENERACY . "From generation to generation it shall lie waste" ( Isaiah 34:10 and Isaiah 34:11-15 ). It is a sad descent, a melancholy instance of degeneracy, when the thickly peopled city is abandoned by mankind, is untrodden by the human foot, and becomes the haunt of the wild beast, of the obscene bird, and of the "night-monster." The last and worst penalty which God's indignation inflicts on the children of men is utter spiritual degeneracy—the mind losing its intellectual faculties, and becoming imbecile through vice and folly; the wilt broken down and become helpless, bent and swayed with every breeze; the heart hardened so that all feeling of pity and affection has departed; the soul foregoing and forgetting its higher aspirations and sunk into the condition in which it craves nothing better than worldly increase or animal indulgence. Sad as is the loss of position or estate when the powerful prince becomes a menial or the wealthy merchant becomes a beggar, immeasurably sadder in the sight of Heaven is that spiritual degeneracy in which, as the inevitable wages of sin, a human spirit loses all its nobility of character and becomes an outcast in creation, mere driftwood on the ocean, the sport of the devouring waves.—C.

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