The vision of the fruit basket that the prophet saw meant that a period was approaching when the people’s time of probation would be over; and the result of that would be a great destruction of life, accompanied with gloomy silence on the part of the miserable survivors. But the picture of the fruit basket that is here employed, and the words which explain it, have a general application to all periods of the history of God’s people. How well does this picture represent the workings of His Providence! Every day – especially every Lord’s Day – the souls of men and women and children in the Christian Church are ripening, either for heaven or for hell. Whoever desires to bring forth fruit unto eternal life may obtain the grace to do so freely and sufficiently, by seeking it in the name of Christ. But if this grace is not sought for – how sad it is to think that any who have joined in the songs of the Church on earth shall hereafter be doomed to weep and howl in hell! “If sinners do not make an end of sin,” says Matthew Henry, “God will make an end of them. Mourning will follow sinful mirth – yea, and sacred mirth too, if it be not sincere.”
Contempt and abuse of God’s ordinances is shown, in verses 4-6, to be closely connected with doing wrong to the poor. He who forgets his duty to his Maker is sure to be lacking in his duty toward those who bear his Maker’s image! There can be no worse sign for the poor of our country than to see the spirit of Sabbath-desecration going on. But how can we account for this connection between the violation of the Sabbath and fraudulent oppression of the poor? A desire to make money and become rich is evidently the motive for the former, and it is plain to see that this is the same cause which produces the latter wickedness also. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” He who strengthens this propensity by robbing God of His due will also make it a powerful instrument for injuring his neighbor. He resists the grace of God, and he strengthens his own sin at the same time; he loses the opportunity of becoming the inheritor of a heavenly portion by the same course which rivets him more closely to the things of this world. And thus it happens that while he injures both God and man, and while he is ready to give less and take more than he ought, he is bringing on his own soul a double evil – namely, a deprivation of blessing in the means of grace, and an increase of those passions which pierce his soul with many sorrows. “Take heed, and beware of covetousness.”
From the 7th verse to the end of the 10th, the topic insisted upon is that of the universality of Divine knowledge, and the universality of Divine judgments. Man, in his hurry to become rich, often does many things unrighteously – which he forgets in the bustle and excitement that goes along with the acquisition of the possession of riches. But all things are always open to the eyes of our God. No lapse of time, nor change of scene, nor combination of circumstances, nor crowding together of different pursuits can veil – even for one moment – the acts of ungodliness and wrong which men have done. Iniquity is never forgotten until it is forgiven. And in these verses, we see the fearful expectation of judgment that is the portion of those who persevere in a course of unrepented sin. Nevertheless, strong consolation is given to those who flee for refuge to the hope that is set before us in Jesus Christ!
But now the prophet’s words concerning the crowning judgment remain to be considered. A famine of the Word of God is threatened. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord!” (verse 11) “In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst” (verse 13). Even the best worldly advantages, without the knowledge of God and His favor, shall fail to satisfy the real hunger and thirst of the soul. These worldly benefits may promise us full satisfaction; but they shall utterly fail us in the time of our deepest need, and leave us in a state of famine.
In a blessed land like our own, where the Word of God is freely circulated, we have directions for all the duties of life. The precepts of the Gospel are so full, and its principles are so clear, that we never need to be at a loss concerning what to do. And where there is a faithful ministry of the preaching of the Gospel, the public mind may be kept clearly instructed in the will of God. In the truths of Scripture, there is food for immortal souls; and with the Lord’s blessing, these truths will preserve spiritual health and sustain spiritual energy. What are some of the truths of which we are speaking? Such truths as these: God rules and governs all things. He will judge the world in righteousness. Man is the creature of His hands and the object of His redeeming love. And all things are working together to secure the ultimate triumph of holiness and the final defeat of sin.
Let us thank the Lord that we have the Scriptures available to us freely in our native tongue! May we not forget the sufferings which the Reformers endured in order to vindicate the rights of men, women, and children everywhere to enjoy the privilege of reading the Word of God! To say that the Holy Scriptures ought not to be translated into the language of any particular people is just as evil as if a prohibition were issued that grain should not be made into flour for the use of man in making his daily bread!
Lord, we thank You for the long line of courageous men, women, and children who have put their lives in their hands throughout the ages, so that we might enjoy the privilege of reading Your Scriptures! Amen.
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painting by Cornelis de Heem, circa 1654 | Wikimedia Commons