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a Bible passage
Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the skies rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation may spring up,
and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also;
I the Lord have created it.
The Divine Dominion. (b. c. 708.)
5 I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. 7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. 8 Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it. 9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? 10 Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?
God here asserts his sole and sovereign dominion, as that which he designed to prove and manifest to the world in all the great things he did for Cyrus and by him. Observe,
I. How this doctrine is here laid down concerning the sovereignty of the great Jehovah, in two things:— 1. That he is God alone, and there is no God besides him. This is here inculcated as a fundamental truth, which, if it were firmly believed, would abolish idolatry out of the world. With what an awful, commanding, air of majesty and authority, bidding defiance, as it were, to all pretenders, does the great God here proclaim it to the world: I am the Lord, I the Lord, Jehovah, and there is none else, there is no God besides me, no other self-existent, self-sufficient, being, none infinite and eternal. And again (v. 6), There is none besides me; all that are set up in competition with me are counterfeits; they are all vanity and a lie, for I am the Lord, and there is none else. This is here said to Cyrus, not only to cure him of the sin of his ancestors, which was the worshipping of idols, but to prevent his falling into the sin of some of his predecessors in victory and universal monarchy, which was the setting up of themselves for gods and being idolized, to which some attribute much of the origin of idolatry. Let Cyrus, when he becomes thus rich and great, remember that still he is but a man, and there is no God but one. 2. That he is Lord of all, and there is nothing done without him (v. 7): I form the light, which is grateful and pleasing, and I create darkness, which is grievous and unpleasing. I make peace (put here for all good) and I create evil, not the evil of sin (God is not the author of that), but the evil of punishment. I the Lord order, and direct, and do all these things. Observe, (1.) The very different events that befal the children of men. Light and darkness are opposite to each other, and yet, in the course of providence, they are sometimes intermixed, like the morning and evening twilights, neither day nor night, Zech. xiv. 6. There is a mixture of joys and sorrows in the same cup, allays to each other. Sometimes they are counterchanged, as noonday light and midnight darkness. In the revolution of every day each takes its turn, and there are short transitions from the one to the other, witness Job's case. (2.) The self-same cause of both, and that is he that is the first Cause of all: I the Lord, the fountain of all being, am the fountain of all power. He who formed the natural light (Gen. i. 3) still forms the providential light. He who at first made peace among the jarring seeds and principles of nature makes peace in the affairs of men. He who allowed the natural darkness, which was a mere privation, creates the providential darkness; for concerning troubles and afflictions he gives positive orders. Note, The wise God has the ordering and disposing of all our comforts, and all our crosses, in this world.
II. How this doctrine is here proved and published. 1. It is proved by that which God did for Cyrus: "There is no God besides me, for (v. 5) I girded thee, though thou hast not known me. It was not thy own idol, which thou didst know and worship, that girded thee for this expedition, that gave thee authority and ability for it. No, it was I that girded thee, I whom thou didst not know, nor seek to." By this it appears that the God of Israel is the only true God, that he manages and makes what use he pleases even of those that are strangers to him and pay their homage to other gods. 2. It is published to all the world by the word of God, by his providence, and by the testimony of the suffering Jews in Babylon, that all may know from the east and from the west, sunrise and sun-set, that the Lord is God and there is none else. The wonderful deliverance of the Israel of God proclaimed to all the world that there is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, that rides on the heavens for their help.
III. How this doctrine is here improved and applied.
1. For the comfort of those that earnestly longed, and yet quietly waited, for the redemption of Israel (v. 8): Drop down, you heavens, from above. Some take this as the saints' prayer for the deliverance. I rather take it as God's precept concerning it; for he is said to command deliverances, Ps. xliv. 4. Now the precept is directed to heaven and earth, and all the hosts of both, as royal precepts commonly run—To all officers, civil and military. All the creatures shall be made in their places to contribute to the carrying on of this great work, when God will have it done. If men will not be aiding and assisting, God will produce it without them, as he does the dews of heaven and the grass of the earth, which tarry not for man, nor wait for the sons of men, Mic. v. 7. Observe, (1.) The method of this great deliverance that is to be wrought for Israel. Righteousness must first be wrought in them; they must be brought to repent of their sins, to renounce their idolatries, to return to God, and reform their lives, and then the salvation shall be wrought for them, and not till then. We must not expect salvation without righteousness, for they spring up together and together the Lord hath created them; what he has joined together, let not us therefore put asunder. See Ps. lxxxv. 9-11. Christ died to save us from our sins, not in our sins, and is made redemption to us by being made to us righteousness and sanctification. (2.) The means of this great deliverance. Rather than it shall fail, when the set time for it shall come, the heavens shall drop down righteousness, and the earth shall open to bring forth salvation, and both concur to the reformation, and so to the restoration, of God's Israel. It is from heaven, from above the skies, that righteousness drops down, for every grace and good gift is from above; nay, since the more plentiful effusion of the Spirit it is now poured down, and, if our hearts be open to receive it, the product will be the fruits of righteousness and the great salvation.
2. For reproof to those of the church's enemies that opposed this salvation, or those of her friends that despaired of it (v. 9): Woe unto him that strives with his Maker! God is the Maker of all things, and therefore our Maker, which is a reason why we should always submit to him and never contend with him. (1.) Let not the proud oppressors, in the elevation of their spirits, oppose God's designs concerning the deliverance of his people, nor think to detain them any longer when the time shall come for their release. Woe to the insulting Babylonians that set God at defiance, as Pharaoh did, and will not let his people go! (2.) Let not the poor oppressed, in the dejection of their spirits, murmur and quarrel with God for the prolonging of their captivity, as if he dealt unjustly or unkindly with them, or think to force their way out before God's time shall come. Note, Those will find themselves in a woeful condition that strive with their Maker; for none ever hardened his heart against God and prospered. Sinful man is indeed a quarrelsome creature; but let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth. Men are but earthen pots, nay, they are broken potsherds, and are made so very much by their mutual contentions. They are dashed in pieces one against another; and, if they are disposed to strive, let them strive with one another, let them meddle with their match; but let them not dare to contend with him that is infinitely above them, which is as senseless and absurd as, [1.] For the clay to find fault with the potter: Shall the clay say to him that forms it, "What makest thou? Why dost thou make me of this shape and not that?" Nay, it is as if the clay should be in such a heat and passion with the potter as to tell him that he has no hands, or that he works as awkwardly as if he had none. "Shall the clay pretend to be wiser than the potter and therefore to advise him, or mightier than the potter and therefore to control him?" He that gave us being, that gave us this being, may design concerning us, and dispose of us, as he pleases; and it is impudent presumption for us to prescribe to him. Shall we impeach God's wisdom, or question his power, who are ourselves so curiously, so wonderfully, made? Shall we say, He has no hands, whose hands made us and in whose hands we are? The doctrine of God's sovereignty has enough in it to silence all our discontents and objections against the methods of his providence and grace, Rom. ix. 20, 21. [2.] It is as unnatural as for the child to find fault with the parents, to say to the father, What begettest thou? or to the mother, "What hast thou brought forth? Why was I not begotten and born an angel, exempt from the infirmities of human nature and the calamities of human life?" Must not those who are children of men expect to share in the common lot and to fare as others fare? If God is our Father, where is the honour we owe to him by submitting to his will?