(Continued from November 1st issue)
III. Israel, Incorrigible, Nearly Destroyed in Judgment. “Your country, a desert! your cities, burnings! a fire! your land — in your presence (but beyond your power), strangers devour it, yes, a desert, as an overthrowing by strangers,” (v. 7). This was accomplished partly in the captivity and fully in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Jesus prophesied of this in the words, “Your house is left unto you desolate” (Mt. 23:38). “And left is the daughter of Zion as a hut in a vineyard, as a hovel in a field of cucumbers, as a city blockaded,” (v. 8). There is such desolation that not a human being is to be seen anywhere. It is as we have read in Josephus’ account of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. under the Roman military officer, Titus. The people lie hidden, completely out of sight; the attackers, laying siege, do not venture into the no-man’s-land around the city for fear of snipers and ambushments. This no-man’s-land is denuded, like malpais, bad-lands, lava beds, devastated, both by the besieged themselves, executing burnt-earth policy to leave nothing the enemy can use, and by the enemy who cut down all the trees around Jerusalem and suburbs to leave nothing for the citizenry to use. Jeremiah also foretold of the same desolation of Jerusalem. “Make mention of the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers (besiegers) come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. As keepers of a field are they against her round about, because she hath been rebellious against Me, saith the Lord,” (Jer. 4:16-17).
IV. Israel Comforted in the Hope of a Remnant.“Unless Jehovah Tsebaoth left to us one escaped (a survivor; a minority of true believers in the midst of the unbelieving), almost we had become as Sodom (with only four human beings escaping), and become like to Gomorrah (which was totally and justly annihilated),” (v. 9). Here God is revealed under the name Jehovah Tsebaoth. This is probably an abbreviation, since Jehovah is never in the construct state. The Hebrew never has Jehovah of (anything). It is probably an abbreviation of the longest form, “the Lord (Adonai) Jehovah the God of (construct state) hosts,” (Amos 3:13).Tsebaoth simply means hosts, but especially in reference to warfare. Jehovah is Lord of warrior hosts, as when Goliath, who represented “the host of the Philistines” was opposed by David “in the name of Jehovah of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel,” (I Sam. 17:45-46). Besides the martial idea, it is also the name of the Lord in the manifestation of His omnipotence. Psalm 24 reveals “the Lord mighty in battle” as “the Lord of hosts, He is the King of Glory” (w. 8, 10), the former clause reaching climax and higher thought in the latter. The name is never found in the Pentateuch, nor in Ezekiel, nor Daniel, nor directly in Joshua or Judges. It occurs 12 times in the Psalms, 80 times in Jeremiah, 14 times in the two chapters of Haggai, and 24 or 25 times in Malachi. Jehovah is above all hosts. This includes, (a) the heavenly hosts (Gen. 2:1; Neh. 9:6; Isa. 40:26). “The true explanation of the name must be derived from the phrase, ‘the host of heaven,’ tsebha’ hashamayim, ” (Oehler). Hence the name is one of the most exalting names of God, just asAdonai signifies the highest exaltation of and also complete, absolute subjection to the Lord; (b) the angelic hosts (Gen. 32:1-2; Isa. 6:1-5; I K. 22:19; Ps. 103:20-21; Luke 2:13); (c)saints (Josh 5:15), and (d) sinners (Jud. 4:2; II Samuel 10:16; II kings 5:1). The sovereign Lord of hosts marshals all these hosts to fulfill His eternal purposes and to help His people in need. (See Jud. 5:20; I Samuel 11:8-11; II Kings 6:16-17; Isa. 10:16; 14:24,27; Acts 4:27-28). This is the distinctive name of God for Israel’s help and comfort in time of his division and failure. (See I Kings 18:15;19:14; Isa. 1:9; 8:11-14; 9:13-19; 10:24-27;31:4-5; Hag. 2:4 — no wonder the church takes comfort in the assurance that “the Lord of hosts is with us”, Ps. 46:7,11; — Mal. 3:16-17; Jas. 5:4). Finally, according toIsa. 37:16, Lord of hosts means God of the kosmos, Lord of the universe!
“Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant!” Here is predestination, with its two parts, election and reprobation. The Lord will utterly devastate the land and destroy the city, yet out of the general ruin of the whole nation a remnant shall be saved, (Ro. 9:27). As Jeremiah expressed it and in measure gets its just deserts, the church, however small, is always preserved in the world. It shall not, in any time, utterly perish. According to chapter 11, the tree of the nation will be cut down to nothing but a stump. In fact, only a seed shall remain (Rom. 9:29), out of which a shoot will grow to a Branch. In God’s eye, all things are ordained with a view to that Seed (Gal. 3:16), that Branch (Zech. 6:12), and the whole organism He represents. The chaff, which in quantity often seems greater than the wheat, is ordained for the preservation of the wheat, the preferred and chosen. The Lord Jesus himself took comfort in the sovereign eternal purpose of God when He prayed, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and intellectual, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Then in the same vein He comforted His disciples, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
There is always, even in the worst times, an elect remnant, preserved in mercy and kept from abominable iniquity, from destroying judgments, as Noah and his family in the flood, as Lot in the destruction of Sodom. This was done “unto us,” or forus, a clear reference to the elect church, as in 9:6, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,” and as in Romans 8, “the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us, ” “if God be for us, who against us?” God “delivered Him up for us all“, i.e., according to the next verse, “God’s elect.” Christ “also maketh intercession for us.” This truth is expressed in the words “all things for the elect’s sakes,” (II Tim. 2:10).