1. Why Government Office is Refused. “For Jerusalem is failed and Judah fallen, because their tongue and their deeds (are) against Jehovah, to embitter (insult) the eyes of His glory,” (v. 8, Heb.). “For, ” expressing “the reason why the conscripted man refuses to accept the reins of public office” (E.J. Young). For the ruin (v. 3) of any nation, generally, it has only itself to thank, and that because of its profane and blasphemous offending of the holiness and glory of God. There is no exception with the nation whose God is the Lord. For Jerusalem and Judah failed and fell, to be destroyed by their own iniquities. They insulted the Lord’s glorious eyes in that He had to look upon works of darkness. The world mocks God, sticks its tongue out at Him, and the more the lash of His severity it feels, the more it breaks out in insolent fury against Him. But God is not mocked, and His destruction of these ungodly people is righteous.
The ungodly break God’s law, and they do so to purposely insult Him. Strangely, this is also true of the blasphemers who claim they do not believe there is any god. Then why do they willfully intend to offend Him? Why do they go out of their way to show contempt for His authority? Why do federal, state and local authorities threaten the people, disrupt quiet communities and make every insane effort to destroy the family unit? Why, in this way, do they continue to beg God to destroy this nation with terrible judgments? Why do capital and country labor in the very fire to earn the unenviable, the horrible epitaph, “For the wrath of God is come upon them to the uttermost” (I Thes. 2:16)?
2. What Brought on the Calamity. “The cut of their faces testifies against them, and like Sodom they tell their sin; they do not hide (it). Woe to their soul! for they have rewarded to themselves evil” (v. 9, Heb.). Our nation makes no secret of its depravity, blatantly boasting its corruption and vileness by ways of the news and communications media, and by its constant mad carouse. The cut of their faces (the expression on the face) is stamped with shameless lewdness. Appearance testifies against them. Their looks show what they are: open hardened fornicators, adulterers and drunkard; (I Cor. 6:9): Their eyes speak plainly, are full of adultery, which cannot cease from sin (II Pet. 2:14). As Matthew Henry says, “they had a whore’s forehead (Jer. 3:3) and could not blush (Jer. 6:15)” Like the Sodomites in the days of Lot, they brazenly tell their sin. They do not hide it, but bring it right out in the open. It appears on the front cover of Time magazine. The sin of Sodom represents utter abomination. Today it is a sin not only frequent and widespread, but tolerated by the general public, and has become so commonly accepted that it is everywhere praised and defended. More and more it is being pushed by TV. Hardly a maude covers the macerated mash.
This evil generation, bemused by so called “sensitivity training” (in the public schools, in the hospitals, in some churches, and, increasingly, on police forces) and blinded by lust, rushes heedlessly into feminism, effeminacy and everything base. So, in the end of it all, the wicked world system rewards itself with evil.
3. What Classes of Men are Involved. “Say ye (of the) righteous that (for them it is) good. For they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe to the wicked! (for him it is) evil! For the reward of his hands shall be made to him” vv. 10, 11, Heb.). Two classes of people divide the whole globe, the righteous and the wicked. These two have always been in conflict as they are absolutely antithetical to one another. For this reason there is always the battle of the two seeds, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent on-going. The flood destroyed the world of the ungodly, while Noah, safe in the ark, represented the righteous. The death angel ruined the nation of Egypt, while Israel was safe under the cover of the blood of the Passover. Here you have that sharp, distinct line between sin and grace, a line ineradicable. The flood came as a judgment because the sons of God and the daughters of men had blended the two sides of that line, to form a wicked alliance between the church and the world. That line is intended to maintain the distinction between the precious and the vile to the end of the world. There is no borderland between righteous and wicked to so form a third neutral class. The difference is as clear and plain as that which divides death and life. It is impossible to be between death and life, where one would be not in either state. There are no “in betweenites,” who are between sin and grace, not in sin, yet not out of it, not in grace yet not out of it. So one is either righteous or wicked. Writer and reader belong to the one class or to the other. As for the righteous, it shall be well with them. If any are not righteous, they are wicked, even though they may not think so, and it shall be ill with them.
The well-being of the righteous is a solid, undeniable fact. It is always well with the righteous. “Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him” in prosperity, for in itself prosperity comes with many perilous temptations. It shall be well with him in persecution, an evil hard and sometimes almost impossible to bear. It is not merely well with the righteous at special times, but at any and all times, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, from the dawn of day to the dark of night. It is always well with the righteous, and never otherwise than well with him.
So, it shall be well with the righteous in the future. Sometimes he dreads the future, but without reason. It shall be well with him when the evil days draw nigh. It shall be well with him in the impending struggle. It shall be well, literally, good for the righteous, nothing but good, the text speaking of an absolute, unqualified good. The righteous may suffer in tumults, turmoils, conflicts, wars and when kingdom and capital have fallen. Armageddon shall occur when the Euphrates is dried up. The very elements shall melt with a fervent heat, but to the Christian it does not matter what shall happen in the catastrophic end of all things, for God has said it shall be well with the righteous.
When we say it is well with the righteous, we say it not as an educated guess, but we say it on divine authority. It may be nice or wonderful to have a physician tell us we are well. For some people it seems encouraging when a psychiatrist tells them all is well with them. We may arrive at our own conclusions, and think we are pretty safe to adjudge that all is well with us. But we need, and have, more than the fallible judgments of men. We have it on the authority of divine omniscience that with the righteous all is well. When God says all is well, let the devil, all his minions and the whole world say it is ill, we know whom to believe and whom we have believed. True faith remains unshaken, even should all creatures contradict the Creator. We don’t always see that it is always well with the righteous. Sometimes it looks very evil for him. But the authority of God and His Word is better than sight. It is not sight nor feeling, but divine authority which assures us it is at all times well with the righteous. It may not always be so with our bodies, but it is so with our souls, so that we may always sing, “It is well, it is wellwith my soul!”
There is only one other class of men, identified in “Woe to the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.” It is ill with the wicked, always evil for him. No time is specified in the text. For the wicked it is ill for time and eternity, ill in fat years and in lean years, ill in prosperity (which for him is like the last meal of the condemned criminal), ill in adversity (which, on him, is like the first drops of the eternal fall-out of divine wrath). It is ill with the wicked on divine authority. When God says it is not good, but evil, which is always the portion of the wicked, then it must be woefully bad for him. Then it shall be ill with him in the future. With him it shall get worse and worse until the very worst shall occur, and he shall be cast out into the outer darkness. It is ill with the wicked in his entire human nature. His whole head is sick, heart faint, and from sole of foot to crown of head, it is ill with him. In health, his soul is ill. When his feet dance, his soul is condemned. When he sings his lewd, profane songs, he but more vibrates the sword of judgment hanging over his head. Man’s word is like milk-weed on the breeze. God’s word is like an avalanche. It is ill with the wicked in life, in death, and after death the judgment, and after judgment condemnation, and after condemnation the never-ending hell-fire and eternal torment.
It must be ill with the wicked, for “the Lord hath made all things for himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” It must be evil for him, for he was in disobedience appointed to stumble over the Word (I Pet. 2:8). The wicked are out of joint with the world, out of step with God, and in opposition to the whole current of creation, which is ever moving toward God (Rom 11:36). It is ill with him because it can never be well with stubble before the fires of judgment, nor with the wax which boasts itself against the heat, nor with the gnat that fights the giant. It is ill with him because his life, work and joys hang by a thread, and when that thread is cut, as it must be, what will it be with him but as ill as can be? It is ill with the wicked because when his temporal end comes his eternity begins. His story may be told in two chapters, one of tinsel glitter, the other dark with never ending Stygian night.