In this chapter, spiritual blessings are promised under figurative allusions to earthly plenty. Seasonable rain is a great mercy, which we may ask of God when there is most need of it. And the Lord here assures His people that He will make bright clouds and give showers of rain (verse 1). In a spiritual sense, this is an exhortation to seek the influences of the Holy Spirit, in faith and by prayer – through which, the blessings held forth in the promises are obtained and enjoyed. Then the prophet goes on to show the folly of praying to idols, as the forefathers of his people had so often done (verse 2). Nevertheless, the Lord visited the remnant of His flock in mercy, and He renewed their courage and strength for conflict and victory. Every person whom God raised up to serve the nation was like a cornerstone that supports the building, or like nails that join together the different timbers (verse 4); and those who are employed in His service must find their strength and success from Him alone, in order to overcome their enemies. To Christ alone, we must look for support and defense; and He will never say, “Seek ye me in vain.”
Verses 5-12 contain precious promises to the people of God. Although they had an immediate reference to the state of the Jews who were brought home from Babylonian exile, they do have an application to the Church of Christ in the days of the Gospel. The preaching of the good news of salvation is God’s call for souls to come and be gathered to the Lord Jesus (verse 8). Those whom the Savior has redeemed by His blood, He will also gather by His grace. Difficulties shall be gotten over easily and effectually, just as the Lord made the way clear for His people in their deliverance out of Egypt (verse 10). He Himself will be their strength and their song (verse 12); for whenever He gives them grace to overcome their spiritual enemies, then their hearts rejoice. Let us not pass over these promises too hastily; but rather, let us take time to observe their number, their greatness, and their value. And let us not forget to consider Who it is that undertakes the responsibility of assuredly fulfilling them all! None other than Jesus Himself will “hiss” for His people (verse 8); or, as the original word means, He will whistle for them – meaning the affectionate, familiar call of a friend. And why will He do this? Because He says, “I have redeemed them!” What a sweet thought! The redemption of Christ is a finished salvation; and therefore, His promises to His redeemed people are as good as completed!
Let us take a moment to study the thought of “the Lord’s sowings.” “I will hiss for them, and gather them,” says the Lord; “for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased. And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again” (verses 8-9). At the end of the seventy years’ captivity in Babylon, the people of God’s ancient choice were distributed throughout many different regions around the globe. Everywhere throughout the great Roman Empire, they fell into the ground like seeds that were destined to die. As far as their natural life was concerned, they seemed to be on the point of being obliterated among the nations of the world; but you might as well talk of the obliteration of the seed which the farmer casts into the autumn furrows! They built their synagogues, and thrived in their own separate districts in great cities; they disseminated new conceptions of God, high ethical standards, and a fresh religious speech that was destined to be a rich yield and harvest of resources to the early preachers of Christ’s Gospel. And it was the same way with the first believers in the early Church! By the rough hands of persecutors, the rich wheat of Pentecost was scattered abroad like seed throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. And there was a bounteous crop of churches and converts, which multiplied the original number of the Church a hundredfold!
How many other similar pictures have been drawn throughout the entire history of the Church, which show us the effect of God’s sowings! In the persecutions of Nero, Decius, and Diocletian, the precious seed of the Gospel was sown deep in the dark graves of agony and death; and the emperors at last gave up the work of slaughter because martyrdoms only served to root Christianity more deeply than ever in the empire. The blood of the martyrs, in a very real way, did indeed become the seed of the Church. There was also a rich spiritual harvest in the peaceful Waldensian Valleys, as well as in the midst of the Hussites, and also among the Lollards; and the seeds of this harvest were sown by the Master in the dungeons of the Inquisition. There was the harvest of the Reformation in Germany, of the Huguenots in France, and of the Puritans in England. Such has also been the case in more recent times. The martyrs of many heathen nations have yielded many hundreds of Christian churches.
In all probability, many of the children of God who are reading these lines know what sowing means. You feel that you have fallen into the ground to die. But God does not sow you there to abide hidden forever; but rather, so that you may bring forth much fruit! The Lord does not forget your work and love which you have shown toward His name and His people, even though your ministries may be hidden from the admiration of the great world.
Lord Jesus, we pray that You would continue to bring forth a great and glorious harvest from the seeds of the Gospel that You are causing to be sown even in our own day! Amen.
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