Social cruelty: 3. As working in various forms from generation to generation.
"But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger," etc. Here we have a sketch of the workings of this cruelty towards Judah when he was in great distress, suffering, and peril.
I. CRUELTY HAS VARIOUS FORMS OF WORKING . Look at the forms here.
1. The lack of sympathy when Judah was in distress. "Thou shouldest not have looked," etc. Greatly did Judah need Edom's sympathy at this time. "Strangers carried away captive their forces;" Babylon entered their country and their city and carried them away as captives. Foreigners entered into his gates and cast lots upon Jerusalem. The city, after a long siege, was broken up; and the great officers of the King of Babylon came and sat at the gates and cast lots on the spoils of Jerusalem. It was indeed a "day of calamity," as it is three times expressed in these verses. Terrible and never to be forgotten was that day when Babylon came with all its forces into Judaea, entered the city, and bore away as captives the inhabitants. Now, in their distress, how did Edom their brother act? They stood and looked carelessly on. Want of sympathy with suffering is a sin in the sight of God. Heaven denounces men, not only for the evil they actually perpetrate, but for the neglect of the good they ought to accomplish. These Edomites were like the priest and the Levite.
2 . Positive rejoicing when Judah was in distress. It is said, "they rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of destruction," they "spoke proudly in the day of distress." They seem to have gloated over their afflictions.
3 . Participation in the work of their enemies. They laid their hands on their substance, they cut off those that did escape, they delivered up those that did remain in the clay of their distress. Social cruelty ever has had, and still has, many forms of working. Cold indifference, malignant rejoicing, as well as positive inflictions. See the charge brought against the Edomites on this occasion ( Psalms 137:7 ; Ezekiel 25:12 ).
II. OMNISCIENCE OBSERVES IT IN ALL ITS FORMS . God's eye was on the Edomites, noted not only their positive acts, but the workings of their inner souls. Sin in all its operations is evermore under the eye of Omniscience. He knows the way each spirit takes. He searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all their thoughts. The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth their doings; they "are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." This fact, for an incontrovertible fact it is, should be practically realized. And if practically realized it will have a fourfold effect on the soul.
1 . It will stimulate to great spiritual activity. When the eye of an intelligence falls right on us, the glance stirs the soul What soul could sleep if it felt the eye of God ever resting on it?
2 . It will restrain from the commission of sin. Did we feel his eye ever on us, should we yield to temptation? "Thou God seest me" is a powerful preventive.
3 . It will excite the desire for pardon. God has seen all the errors and sins of the past, and they are great m number and enormity. Since he sees them, they must be either punished or absolved.
4 . It will brace the soul in the performance of duty. Moses "endured as seeing him who is invisible." He knows our trials and our difficulties. Therefore let us be magnanimous under trial and brave in danger. Of God all-seeing, "What can escape his eye, deceive his heart omniscient?"
III. A JUST AND TERRIBLE RETRIBUTION AWAITS IT IN ALL ITS FORMS . "The day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head," etc. Retribution is a settled law in the material universe. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." There is a rebound in every sin. No crime has ever been committed that does not come back with a terrible rebound on the soul of the author. "They shall drink, and they shall swallow down." To swallow up and to be swallowed up is the world's destiny.—D.T.
"For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head." We have above furnished outlines of three homilies on the first sixteen verses of this chapter. Social cruelty we considered as the grand subject of the whole. This was presented:
1. As a sin against the Creator. And this was proved by the constitution of the human soul; the common relation of the race to God; the common interest of Christ in the race; and the universal teaching of the Bible.
2 . As when perpetrated against a brother, specially offensive to God . And three reasons were mentioned for this—the obligation to love a brother is stronger; the chief human institution is outraged; and the tenderest human loves are wounded.
3 . As working in various forms from generation to generation. In this view it was shown that cruelty has various forms of working; that Omniscience observes it in all its workings; and that a terrible retribution awaits it in all its forms. Now social retribution is the subject before us, and this subject we have touched on already.
There are two great popular errors concerning the subject of retribution.
1 . That retribution is reserved entirely for the future state. That the future state will be a state of retribution—a state in which every man shall be rewarded according to his works—must be admitted by every thoughtful student of the Bible. But retribution is not only future; it is here; retribution is an eternal principle of the Divine government; it follows sin at all times and forever. The men and nations whose acts are registered in the Bible proclaim the grand truth, "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner" ( Proverbs 11:31 ). "Bishop Butler, in accordance with the same doctrine, lays it down as an axiom that this life is the allotted and appointed period of retributive justice. Having assumed this as an undoubted fact, he proceeds to infer therefrom the certainty of the future judgment. How many masters in Israel arrive at the same wholesome conclusion on quite opposite premisses—the entire absence of systematic retributive justice during this life! 'We find.' he says, 'that the true notion of the Author of our nature is that of a Master or Governor, prior to the consideration of his moral attributes. The fact of our case, which we find by experience, is that he actually exercises dominion or government over us at present, by rewarding and punishing us for our actions in as strict and proper a sense of these words, and even in the same sense, as children, servants, subjects, are rewarded and punished by those who govern them.'" Did not retributive justice strike our first parents and Cain at once? Did it not strike the antediluvian world, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.? Another popular error concerning retribution is:
2 . That it is a special infliction of God. We do not say that God may not break through the established order of things to inflict punishment, nor that he has not done so; for the Bible furnishes us with instances to the contrary. All we say is—this is not the general rule. Divine punishments are natural events. Divine justice works as naturally as Divine goodness. Sin and punishment are indissolubly linked as cause and effect. The text suggests two thoughts in relation to social retribution.
I. THAT IT IS OFTENTIMES A RETURN TO THE OFFENDER OF THE SAME KIND OF SUFFERING AS HE INFLICTED ON HIS VICTIM . "As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head." The bitter cup thou hast given to thine enemy shall come round to thee, and of its dregs thou shalt drink. This principle is stated by Christ. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." The Bible is full of examples of this principle. Isaac told a lie, affirming that his wife was his sister; and he is told a lie by his son Jacob, who declared himself to be Esau. Jacob had deceived his aged parent in relation to Esau; his sons deceive him with regard to Joseph. He had embittered the declining years of his aged sire; his children embittered his. Again, Joseph was sold by his brethren as a bond servant into Egypt; in Egypt his brethren are compelled to resign themselves as bond servants to him. All history is full of examples, and everywhere in modern society illustrative cases may be selected. The deceiver himself is deceived, the fraudulent is himself cheated, the hater is himself hated, the cruel is often ruthlessly treated. Thus "as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee."
"Hear the just law, the judgment of the skies;
He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies"
II. THAT IT OFTEN APPEARS TO COME AS A SPECIAL VISITATION OF ALMIGHTY GOD . "The day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen." All days are his days. But it is not until the guilty conscience is smitten with a sense of Sin that it sees him and feels that the day is full of God. Electricity pervades the universe, is ubiquitous; but men become conscious of it and talk of it only when it flashes in lightning and sounds in thunder. So with God's justice. It is everywhere; but when the guilty conscience feels its punitive touch it calls it the day of judgment. The righteous are now going into life eternal, every righteous deed is a step onward; the wicked are now going into everlasting punishment, with every sin they tramp downward.
CONCLUSION . Learn that no soul can sin with impunity; that every sin carries with it punishment. "The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices make whips to scourge us." It may be, indeed, through the deadness of your conscience and the superabundant mercies of this life, that you feel not the retributive lash as you will feel it at some future time; but retribution is working here.
"We still have judgment here that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor. This even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips."
Part I. THE DESTRUCTION OF EDOM, AND THE CAUSE THEREOF.
§ 3. The warning given in the first section (vers, 1-9) is supplemented by the announcement that in the day of the Lord, Edom and all the enemies of Israel shall be remembered, and shall suffer just retribution, meeting with the fate which they had inflicted on others.
The day of the Lord. This is not primarily the final day of judgment, but the time when "Jehovah reveals his majesty and omnipotence in a glorious manner, to overthrow all ungodly powers, and to complete his kingdom" (Keil). It is announced by Joel 1:15 ; Joel 2:1 , Joel 2:31 ; Zephaniah 1:14 ; but the notion of a judgment to fall on Gentile nations, and to issue in the establishment of the kingdom of God, was familiar long before. Balaam had seen it in dim vision ( Numbers 24:17-24 ); Hannah had anticipated the destruction that would accompany it ( 1 Samuel 2:9 , 1 Samuel 2:10 ); so had David ( 2 Samuel 23:5-7 ) in his last words; it is clearly predicted in the Psalms (see Psalms 2:1-12 and Psalms 110:1-7 .) (Knabenbauer). Is near. Because every such judgment upon individual nations is typical of the great day and preparative of it. As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee (comp. 1:7 ; Psalms 137:8 ; Jeremiah 50:15 ). This law of retribution was the ideal of heathen justice, according to the Rhadamanthian rule, "If a man should suffer what he hath done, then there would be strict justice" (Aristotle, 'Eth. Nic.' 5.5. 3). Thy reward ( Joel 3:7 [4:7, Hebrew]; better, that which thou hast performed —thy work or dealing, Upon thine own head. Like a stone cast towards heaven (comp. Psalms 7:16 ; Esther 9:25 ).
The lex talionis.
The principle of government or of retribution known as the lex talionis was known to the Hebrews as well as to other nations. "It was said by them of old time, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." Passages in Ezekiel contain threatenings of a retribution similar to that which in this passage is denounced upon Edom.
I. THE AUTHOR AND THE OCCASION OF THIS RETRIBUTION . "The day of the Lord" is an expression frequently occurring in the prophetic writings, and always denoting a season of retribution appointed by a righteous God. The day when iniquity is rampant, when injustice is perpetrated and is apparently unnoticed, is the day of man. But as surely as the universe is governed by a Being of rectitude, so surely shall the cause of equity and truth be vindicated; and the time of such vindication, come when it may, is the day of the Lord.
II. THE METHOD AND MEASURE OF RETRIBUTION . "As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee." Edom had deserted her friends; she should be deserted. Edom had spoiled her neighbours; she should be spoiled. And this doom was threatened, not upon Edom only, but upon "all the heathen," i.e. upon all who shared Edom's guilt. Whether this was to happen by the working out of what we call a natural law, or by a special interposition of Providence, we are not told, and this is immaterial. History records very many instances in which this principle has operated, in which this doom has been inflicted.
III. THE HIGHER DIVINE PRINCIPLE WHICH TEMPERS THIS OF RETRIBUTION . Our Lord Jesus has taught us that the lex talionis is not an adequate principle of human conduct. Much less can it be deemed the perfect and final law of the Divine government. Mercy triumphs over wrath. Where there is true repentance on man's part, there is ready forgiveness on God's part. If this were not so, the human race would long ago have perished; if this were not so, we should not now be rejoicing in the Saviour of our souls, the Saviour of mankind.
Recompense is sure.
"As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee." Herein we have an immensely important principle laid down. Sowing and reaping always correspond. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." All actions are seeds, many of which bear fruit in this world, and many in the next. "As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee." Edom had been merciless and cruel, and the prophet says, "Thy reward shall return upon thine own head." In like manner we find mystic Babylon denounced in Revelation 18:6 (I give the new version as more exact and expressive): "Render unto her even as she rendered, and double unto her the double according to her works: in the cup which she mingled, mingle unto her double." Here you see the principle in force rendering to Babylon as she rendered; doubling to her as she doubled; mingling for her as she mingled. We cannot overestimate the immense importance of this principle. In this life nations and individuals are constantly exemplifying the solemn truth which it involves. We should therefore all carefully remember that we are seed sowing, and sooner or later must come the harvest. (God told Edom, "Thy reward shall be upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually." So Edom drank the cup at the hands of Babylon; Babylon drank it at the hands of the Modes; the Modes and Persians drank it at the hands of the Macedonians; the Macedonians drank it at the hands of the Romans; the Romans, in their turn, drank it at the hands of the barbarians (Dr. Pusey). Thus as they had done, it was done to them. Their reward returned upon their own heed. In Ezekiel 35:15 we have a similar denunciation of Edom: "As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: and thou shaft be desolate, O Mount Seir, and all Idumea, even all of it." It is, you will notice, exactly the same kind of denuuciation. In Proverbs 26:27 God says, "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him." And in Psalms 9:15 we are told, "The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken." In Numbers we find Moab plotting to curse Israel, and the curse came upon himself. In Judges we read of Adoni-bezek taken in battle, and maimed in his hands and feet. Adoni-bezek acknowledged that he had himself maimed three score and ten petty princes. His words are not dissimilar to our text, "As I have done, so God hath requited me." He confessed that the law of Nemesis had reached him. The end of Haman will occur to us. Haman dug a pit, and fell therein himself. He set a stone rolling, and it returned upon him. He perished upon the gallows which he prepared for Mordecai. In Psalms 18:1-50 . David says, "With the froward thou wilt show thyself froward." He clearly means that Jehovah will be sternly opposed to the sinner's frowardness. A similar passage is in Leviticus 26:1-46 ; "If ye walk contrary unto me, then will I walk contrary unto you." The stubborn will gain nothing by their obstinacy. God will render to nations and individuals according to their ways. They shall be filled with the fruit of their own doings. The enemies of Daniel, were devoured by the lions which they intended for his destruction. The accusers of the three Hebrews were consumed by the fiery furnace which they kindled for them, The plotters of mischief were taken in their own wickedness and filled with their own ways. "As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee." In the case of Jezebel we have a terrible example of this kind. In the place where Jezebel caused the dogs to lick the blood of Naboth, the dogs licked her blood. Well said Eliphaz, "I have seen that they who plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. " The Jews, who were made to serve "strange" masters, were told that it was for serving "strange" gods. And our Lord himself has said, "With the same measure that ye mete it shall be measured to you again." Society has been likened to the echoing hills. It gives the speaker his words back again, doleful groan for groan, and joyous song for song. Thus "with the same measure that ye mete it shall be measured to you again." Jacob, who deceived his father, was in turn, and similarly, deceived by his sons. The Egyptians killed the Hebrew children; the God of the Hebrews slew the firstborn of Egypt. "As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee." The words, we know, were addressed to Esau, and we have had abundant proof of the truth of the principle which they involve. But let us briefly notice the converse. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." If the ungodly cannot sow hemlock, nightshade, and darnel, without reaping the same, so God's servants cannot sow seeds of kindness, seeds of truth, seeds of light, seeds of heavenly blessing, without reaping in duo season. The great harvest of well doing, like that of evil doing, is indeed hereafter, but it has its tokens and firstfruits even now. Lot us notice, for example, our adorable Redeemer's beatitude, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." We know that the merciful are those who upon gospel principles are sympathetic, helpful, loving, and kind. We know also that hereafter Christ will say to those on his right hand, "Come, ye blessed,… inherit the kingdom … I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me." Hereafter, it is clear, the merciful will obtain mercy. But at present the like principle is at work. "As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee" The kind and merciful now enjoy much blessedness; the unmerciful are now unblest. A man whose sympathies are all dried up lives in a region of wintry blight. He walks in no glorious sunshine and in no joyous liberty. He knows nothing of the bliss that comes from open-hearted sympathy. There is darkness within. Darkness covers the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God does not move on the lace of the waters. But the merciful man, the man who is kind and sympathizing, the man who is forgiving and for bearing, the man who has a kind excuse for others, the man who looks on the charitable side of a case, the man who thinketh no evil,—that man will reap here as well as here after. In his straits and afflictions he will find, as a general rule, the stream of kindness flow back again. The world will learn mercy by his mercy, and show some feeling for one whose wont was to sympathize with adversity. "The merciful man doeth good to his own soul" ( Proverbs 11:17 ). The widow of Sarepta and the woman of Shunem, for kindness to the Lord's prophets, received a prophet's reward. The alms of Cornelius brought good to his own soul. God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love. "As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee." Now this is one of the original principles of the creation of God. God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit, after his kind. " The vine yielded grapes; the fig tree, figs; the olive tree, olives. The principle was universal. So it is in the moral world. "What a man soweth, that shall he also reap." There is no altering the law naturally, morally, or spiritually. If a mother spoils a child, we know what the harvest will be. If a man takes to intemperate habits, we know what the harvest will be. And we all expect an idle, indolent man to come to disgrace and shame. Let no one be deceived. "God is not mocked … whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Often and often souls have been deceived. Eve was deceived, Jacob was deceived, Ahab was deceived, David was deceived; but as they sowed, they reaped. God was not mocked. And so with us. Our words, our actions, our habits, are seeds—seeds that will spring up. Oh, what will the harvest be ? In this life there is, as I have shown, no little reaping ever going on. Nations and individuals are constantly learning the meaning of God's words to Edom, "As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee." But the great harvest is at the end of the world. The Lord of the harvest is at hand. My text, which I have said, has a present fulfilment, especially amongst nations, will have its complete accomplishment with regard to individuals when Christ's judgment throne is set up. Then shall every man receive the things done in the body, Everyone shall receive—that it, carry away with him—the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. The bad—the sins—must each be as a scorpion sting throughout eternity. Every sinner will be his own hell. The memory of his sins will be perpetual torment. In days when men argue against a future hell, it may be asked—Who will argue that justice must extinguish the memory and take away the remorse of the sinner's wilful transgressions? The recollection of the unpardoned sins of a lifetime will in itself be terrible. Let us, in this day of grace, when Jesus of Nazareth passeth by, offering salvation and everlasting life, let us every one come to him without delay. Let us accept his forgiving mercy, that our sins may be blotted out. Let us yield to the guidance of his Holy Spirit. And let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may be able to stand in the judgment. Henceforth may this be our language—
"Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head"!
Social cruelty: 1. A sin against the Creator.
"For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever," etc. Social cruelty is the grand subject of these verses, and the cruelty is that which one brother perpetrates on another—Esau on Jacob. "Wrong or violence is all the more reprehensible when it is committed against a brother. The fraternal relation in which Edom stood towards Judah is still more sharply defined by the name Jacob, since Esau and Jacob were twin brothers. The consciousness that the Israelites were their brethren ought to have impelled the Edomites to render helpful support to the oppressed Judaeans. Instead of this, they not only revelled with scornful and malignant pleasure in the misfortune of the brother nation, but endeavoured to increase it still further by rendering active support to the enemy. This hostile behaviour of Edom arose from envy at the election of Israel, like the hatred of Esau toward Jacob ( Genesis 27:41 ), which was transmitted to his descendants and came out openly in the time of Moses in the unbrotherly refusal to allow the Israelites to pass in a peaceable manner through their land ( Numbers 20:1-29 .)" (Delitzsch). These verses present to us social cruelty in three different features—as a sin against the Creator; perpetrated against a brother, specially offensive to God; as working in various forms from generation to generation. We shall devote a brief homiletical sketch to each of these. This passage implies, first, that social cruelty is a sin against the Creator; and the truth of this will appear from four subjects of thought.
I. THE CONSTITUTION OF THE HUMAN SOUL . Social cruelty is opposed to the normal condition of the human spirit. He who will study his own spiritual constitution will not fall to observe three great facts in relation to this subject.
1 . The existence of social love. Social sympathy is one of the primary elements of our nature: its instinct is to render service to others and to seek their good will and fellowship. The malign is not inherent in man. Cruelty in him is not innate, as in the tiger and the bear. We are made to love and to be loved.
2 . The instinctive condemnation of cruel acts. Never in the history of a soul has it instinctively approved of acts of cruelty as perpetrated either by itself or others. Conscience thunders against all such deeds: on the benevolent, and on the benevolent only, it smiles.
3 . Innate craving for social approbation . The soul not only deprecates the ill will and loathing of society, but yearns deeply and always for its approbation. But this can only be attained by benevolent deeds. Now, inasmuch as the constitution of the soul is an expression of the Divine will, and that constitution is against cruelty, cruelty is an outrage on the Divine order.
II. THE COMMON RELATION OF ALL TO GOD . He is the Father of all men. No one of the human race is nearer to him than another. Each is his offspring and bears his image. And between all there is, therefore, the relationship of brotherhood. It cannot be the will of the great Father that his children should act as wild beasts, inflicting cruelty on each other, and thus harass his benevolent ears with the groans and shrieks of his offspring. What human father does not deprecate one of his children inflicting an injury on another, and does not ardently desire that each should work for the other? Are we more loving than he who made us? Does the brooklet contain more than the ocean?
III. THE COMMON INTEREST OF CHRIST IN THE RACE . Christ took on him the nature of man. He was the Son of man, not the Son of Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, bend or free, but the Son of man. The nature of all men was in him. He wore the nature of every man, he propounded doctrines forevery man, he enacted laws forevery man, he tasted death forevery man. He was not ashamed to call us brethren. He loved the world, and gave himself for it. How abhorrent, then, must it he to him and to his blessed Father for one man to inflict cruelty upon another!
IV. THE UNIVERSAL TEACHING OF THE BIBLE . The whole Decalogue, as reduced and enforced by Christ, consists in loving God with all our hearts, and our neighbour as ourselves. And everywhere in the New Testament are we exhorted to "be kindly affectioned one to another," to "recompense to no man evil for evil."
CONCLUSION . How obvious it is, then, that social cruelty in all its forms is a sin against the Creator! The man who injures his fellow creature is a rebel against the government of the universe.—D.T.