By Henry Law
Inhabitants of the world are represented as lying in wickedness. But the year of the redeemed is foreshadowed. May we tremble at this sight of sin, and rejoice in the prospect of deliverance!
1. "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is no one who does good."
The heart is the index of the man. Its language reveals the real character. If we could hear the secret whispers of the graceless heart, the sound would be but one. The godless think there is no being greater than themselves. Their conceit rejects divine supremacy. It scorns to yield to any yoke. Such men exist in fearful numbers. The faithful Word declares it, and moreover adds that they are fools. They pride themselves in higher wisdom; but their real place is maddest among the mad. Their light is utter darkness, their boasted wisdom is extremest folly. Atheism in heart is wickedness on the lip. The spring is impure; what can flow from it but poisonous waters! The tree is dead at core; the branches must be rotten. Their works, the offspring of their thoughts, are streams of abomination. They pollute the earth in which they are enacted. Hateful to God, they injure man. Are there not some bright exceptions? Not one by nature. There is no good but what the Spirit prompts. Where He is absent only evil dwells; and He is far from unregenerate men.
2. "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any who understand, and seek God."
We are directed to Jehovah on His heavenly throne. His piercing eye surveys the universe. It reads the secrets of every heart of every man. No thought escapes omniscient view. What is the concern of the all-pervading search? To ascertain whether all thoughts are turned to God--whether His knowledge is the prime pursuit--whether prayer asks for revelation of His will--whether His mind is sought in the clear pages of His Word--whether His works are studied as emblems of His character. Thus to seek God is proof of wisdom. Let no man boast of understanding whose mind rejects this wise employment. God looks for this. What is His verdict?
3. "They have all gone aside, they have altogether become filthy; there is no one who does good, no, not one."
We read how things were before the Flood. The heart of graceless man is still the same. Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. They wander far from paths of righteousness and truth; their feet are set in error's broad decline; their garments are sin-soiled. In God's sight their words are filth, and pollution in extreme defilement. Let us bless God that the blood of Jesus can cleanse from all such stains, and make us whiter than the whitest snow.
4. "Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up My people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord."
Jehovah sees this universal evil, and now He speaks. The voice is strong admonition. It traces sin to the true source--ignorance. If truth were sought and seen, and loved and followed, how different would be man's walk! Men work iniquity because their minds are blinded. Evil breaks forth in persecution; but who are the persecuted? "My people," says the Lord. We hear the tender voice, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" The issue is the absence of all prayer. They call not upon the Lord. Here four foul marks of unregenerate man are shown--ignorance, iniquity, persecution, prayerlessness.
5. "There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous."
But to the wicked there is no calm peace. Their minds are ill at ease. Clear tokens show that God is mighty in His people's midst. His presence is their sure defense. God must lose His throne before they can be subdued. Nebuchadnezzar saw this and was astonished. He looked into the flaming furnace and exclaimed, "Look, I see four men loose walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." Well may they fear whose weapons are thus directed against God.
6. "You have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge."
The godly make the Lord their refuge. He is the high tower to which they always fly. Beneath the shelter of His wings they seek protection. The persecutors sneer; they ridicule such trust. What! look for help to an unseen arm! Thus Jesus was reproached. But experience shows, in countless instances, that none seek God in vain.
7. "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord brings back the captivity of His people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad."
This frightful sight brings in a glorious dawn. Israel's long night shall cease. She shall arise and shine. Her light shall come; her tedious years of cruel thraldom shall reach a blessed close; her sons from distant lands shall return; her every promise shall have exact fulfillment. From Jerusalem the blessed tidings of salvation shall go forth. If the casting away of them has been the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead! Then indeed shall joy and gladness be the portion of Israel's sons. Then shall praise and thanksgiving ring throughout earth's length and breadth. Let us trust, and pray, and hope. Bright days shall come. Hasten it, O Lord, in Your own time!