By Henry Law
A repetition of a dreadful scene is again presented. Again the whole world is seen as lying in the wicked one. But the year of the redeemed again appears. May such sight of evil deeply appall us, while we joy in forethought of deliverance!
1. "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is no one who does good."
The heart is the true mirror of the man. Its language speaks the real character. If we could hear the secret whispers of a graceless heart, the sound would be uniformly evil. The godless cherish the delusion that there is no being greater than themselves. Their conceit ignores divine supremacy, and scorns to yield to a superior yoke. Such men exist in fearful numbers. The faithful Word declares it, and truly adds that they are fools. They may pride themselves in imagined wisdom, but their real place is in the depths of ignorance. Their light is darkness--their boasted knowledge is extremest folly.
It follows that atheism in heart, is wickedness in life. The spring being impure, what can flow from it but defilement? The tree is rotten at the core; the branches cannot be sound. Their works--the emblems of their hearts--can only be abomination. They only pollute the earth--hateful to God, injurious to man.
Are there no exceptions? Not one by nature. There is no good but what the Holy Spirit implants. Where He is absent only evil dwells, and He has no abode in unregenerate men.
2. "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any who understood, who sought God."
We are now directed to Jehovah on His heavenly throne. His piercing eye surveys the universe. He reads the secret of every heart; no thought escapes His omniscient view. What is the purpose of His all-pervading search? It is to ascertain whether all thoughts are turned to Him--whether His knowledge is the prime pursuit--whether prayer seeks the revelation of His will--whether His mind is explored in the pages of His Word--whether His works are studied as picturing His character. Thus to seek God is truest wisdom. Let no man boast of understanding whose mind does not delight in this work. God looks down in search of this. Let us now hear His verdict.
3. "Every one of them has gone back; they have altogether become filthy; there is no one who does good, no, not one."
Observe the case before the flood. We have the counterpart at present. Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually. Men wandered from all paths of righteousness and truth. Their feet were set in error's broad decline. Their garments were sin-soiled; their words were only filth. Uncleanness in its foulest phase was their one element. Let us pause for one moment to bless God that the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse from all these stains, and make us whiter than the whitest snow.
4. "Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up My people as they eat bread; they have not called upon God."
Jehovah sees this universal evil, and He speaks. His 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.
Next, evil breaks out in persecution. But who are the persecuted? "My people," says the Lord. We hear the tender voice, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" The issue of such conduct is the restraint of prayer. "They do not call upon the Lord." Thus we have in connected links four marks of unregenerate men--ignorance, iniquity, persecution, prayerlessness.
5. "There they were in great fear, where no fear was, for God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you; you have put them to shame, because God has despised them."
But to the wicked there is no calm peace. Great are their fears. Clear tokens show that God is mighty in His people's midst, and that His presence is their sure defense. They may well fear whose weapons are directed against God. The godly make the Lord their refuge. He is the high tower to which they always fly. Beneath the shelter of His wings they find protection. Let persecutors sneer and ridicule such trust; but happy experience shows that none seek God in vain.
6. "Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God brings back the captivity of His people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad."
This darkness issues in a glorious dawn. Israel's long night shall cease. She shall arise and shine. Her light shall come. Her tedious years of cruel bondage shall reach a blessed close. Her sons shall return from distant lands. Her many promises shall have exact fulfillment. From Jerusalem the blessed tidings of salvation shall resound. "If the casting away has been the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving 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 are coming. Hasten the joy, O Lord, in Your own time!