Commentary on the Whole Bible
“And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man”
This comes in here as a token of God’s displeasure at those who married strange wives; He threatens to withdraw from them his Spirit, whom they had grieved by such marriages, contrary to their convictions: fleshly lusts are often punished with spiritual judgments, the sorest of all judgments. Or as another occasion of the great wickedness of the old world; the Spirit of the Lord, being provoked by their resistance of His motions, ceased to strive with them, and then all religion was soon lost among them. This He warns them of before, that they might not further vex his Holy Spirit, but by their prayers might stay Him with them. Observe in this verse,
I. God’s resolution not always to strive with man by his Spirit. The Spirit then strove by Noah’s preaching (1 Pt. 3:19–20) and by inward checks, but it was in vain with the most of men; therefore, says God, He shall not always strive.
Note, 1. The blessed Spirit strives with sinners, by the convictions and admonitions of conscience, to turn them from sin to God. If the Spirit be resisted, quenched, and striven against, though He strive long, He will not strive always, Hos. 4:17. Those are ripening apace for ruin whom the Spirit of grace has left off striving with.
II. The reason of this resolution: For that he also is flesh, that is, incurably corrupt, and carnal, and sensual, so that it is labor lost to strive with him. Can the Ethiopian change his skin? He also, that is, All, one as well as another, they have all sunk into the mire of flesh.
Note, 1. It is the corrupt nature, and the inclination of the soul towards the flesh, that oppose the Spirit’s strivings and render them ineffectual. When a sinner has long adhered to that interest, and sided with the flesh against the Spirit, the Spirit justly withdraws his agency, and strives no more. None lose the Spirit’s strivings but those that have first forfeited them.
“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!”
“3. God’s approbation of their request…
(2) He wishes they were but sincere in it: O that there were such a heart in them! v. 29.
[1.] Such a heart as they should have, a heart to fear God, and keep his commandments for ever. Note, The God of heaven is truly and earnestly desirous of the welfare and salvation of poor sinners. He has given abundant proof that he is so: he gives us time and space to repent, by his mercies invites us to repentance, and waits to be gracious; He has sent his Son to redeem us, published a general offer of pardon and life, promised his Spirit to those that pray for him, and has said and sworn that he has no pleasure in the ruin of sinners.
[2.] Such a heart as they now had, or one would think they had. Note, It would be well with many if there were always such a heart in them as there seems to be sometimes, when they are under conviction of sin, or the rebukes of Providence, or when they come to look death in the face: How gracious will they be when these pangs come upon them! O that there were always such a heart in them!”
on Ezra 1:5-11
The call and offer of the gospel are like Cyrus’s proclamation. Deliverance is preached to the captives, Luke 4:18. Those that are bound under the unrighteous dominion of sin, and bound over to the righteous judgment of God, may be made free by Jesus Christ. Whoever will, by repentance and faith, return to God, his duty to God, his happiness in God, Jesus Christ has opened the way for him, and let him go up out of the slavery of sin into the glorious liberty of the children of God. The offer is general to all. Christ makes it, in pursuance of the grant which the Father has made him of all power both in heaven and in earth (a much greater dominion than that given to Cyrus, v. 2) and of the charge given Him to build God a house, to set him up a church in the world, a kingdom among men. Many that hear this joyful sound choose to sit still in Babylon, are in love with their sins and will not venture upon the difficulties of a holy life; but some there are that break through the discouragements, and resolve to build the house of God, to make heaven of their religion, whatever it cost them, and they are those whose spirit God has raised above the world and the flesh and whom he has made willing in the day of his power, Ps. 110:3. Thus will the heavenly Canaan be replenished, though many perish in Babylon; and the gospel-offer will not be made in vain.
” My heart shall cry out for Moab… for by the mounting up of Luhith with weeping shall they go it up; for in the way of Horonaim they shall raise up a cry of destruction.”
That the outcry for these calamities should propagate grief to all the adjacent parts, Isaiah 15:5. 1. The prophet himself has very sensible impressions made upon his spirit by the prediction of it: “My heart shall cry out for Moab though they are enemies to Israel, they are our fellow-creatures, of the same rank with us, and therefore it should grieve us to see them in such distress, the rather because we know not how soon it may be our own turn to drink of the same cup of trembling.” Note, It becomes God’s ministers to be of a tender spirit, not to desire the woeful day, but to be like their master, who wept over Jerusalem even when he gave her up to ruin, like their God, ‘who desires not the death of sinners’.
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
Here, I. We are all invited to come and take the benefit of that provision which the grace of God has made for poor souls in the new covenant, of that which is the heritage of the servants of the Lord (ch. 54:17), and not only their heritage hereafter, but their cup now, v. 1. Observe, 1. Who are invited: Ho, every one. Not the Jews only, to whom first the word of salvation was sent, but the Gentiles, the poor and the maimed, the halt and the blind, are called to this marriage supper, whoever can be picked up out of the highways and the hedges [Lk. 14:23]. It intimates that in Christ there is enough for all and enough for each, that ministers are to make a general offer of life and salvation to all, that in gospel times the invitation should be more largely made than it had been and should be sent to the Gentiles, and that the gospel covenant excludes none that do not exclude themselves. The invitation is published with an Oyez [in Hebrew] – Ho [in English], take notice of it. He that has ears to hear let him hear.
“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”
(3) What encouragement a repenting returning sinner has to hope for pardon and life according to this promise. He is conscious to himself that his obedience for the future can never be a valuable compensation for his former disobedience; but he has this to support himself with, that God’s nature, property, and delight, is to have mercy and to forgive, for he has said (v. 23): “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? No, by no means; you never had any cause given you to think so.” It is true God has determined to punish sinners; his justice calls for their punishment, and, pursuant to that, impenitent sinners will lie for ever under his wrath and curse; that is the will of his decree, his consequent will, but it is not his antecedent will, the will of his delight. Though the righteousness of his government requires that sinners die, yet the goodness of his nature objects against it. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? It is spoken here comparatively; he has not pleasure in the ruin of sinners, for he would rather they should turn from their ways and live; he is better pleased when his mercy is glorified in their salvation than when his justice is glorified in their damnation.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
II. The commission which he gave them to set up his kingdom among men by the preaching of his gospel, the glad tidings of reconciliation to God through a Mediator. Now observe, 1. To whom they were to preach the gospel. Hitherto they had been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and were forbidden to go into the way of the Gentiles, or into any city of the Samaritans; but now their commission is enlarged, and they are authorized to go into all the world, into all parts of the world, the habitable world, and to preach the gospel of Christ to every creature, to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews; to every human creature that is capable of receiving it. “Inform them concerning Christ, the history of his life, and death, and resurrection; instruct them in the meaning and intention of these, and of the advantages which the children of men have, or may have, hereby; and invite them, without exception, to come and share in them. This is gospel. Let this be preached in all places, to all persons.” These eleven men could not themselves preach it to all the world, much less to every creature in it; but they and the other disciples, seventy in number, with those who should afterward to be added to them, must disperse themselves several ways, and, wherever they went, carry the gospel along with them. They must send others to those places whither they could not go themselves, and, in short, make it the business of their lives to send those glad tidings up and down the world with all possible fidelity and care, not as an amusement or entertainment, but as a solemn message from God to men, and an appointed means of making men happy. “Tell as many as you can, and bid them tell others; it is a message of universal concern, and therefore, ought to have a universal welcome, because it gives a universal welcome.”
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
(3) Herein God has commended his love to the world: God so loved the world, so really, so richly. Now his creatures shall see that he loves them, and wishes them well. He so loved the world of fallen man as he did not love that of fallen angels; see Rom. v. 8; 1 John iv. 10. Behold, and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! That the holy God should love such a wicked world with a love of good will, when he could not look upon it with any complacency. This was a time of love indeed, Ezek. 16:6,8. The Jews vainly conceited that the Messiah should be sent only in love to their nation, and to advance them upon the ruins of their neighbours; but Christ tells them that He came in love to the whole world, Gentiles as well as Jews, 1 John ii. 2. Though many of the world of mankind perish, yet God’s giving his only-begotten Son was an instance of his love to the whole world, because through him there is a general offer of life and salvation made to all. It is love to the revolted rebellious province to issue out a proclamation of pardon and indemnity to all that will come in, plead it upon their knees, and return to their allegiance. So far God loved the apostate lapsed world that he sent his Son with this fair proposal, that whosoever believes in him, one or other, shall not perish. Salvation has been of the Jews, but now Christ is known as salvation to the ends of the earth, a common salvation.
“But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye [the Jews that persecuted Jesus, and sought to slay Him, v.16, who do not have His Word or the love of God abiding in them, do not believe, and will not come to Christ, v.38,40,42] might be saved.”
“…why then did Christ here urge the testimony of John? Why, these things I say, that you may be saved. This he aimed at in all this discourse, to save not his own life, but the souls of others; he produced John’s testimony because, being one of themselves, it was to be hoped that they would hearken to it. Note, First, Christ desires and designs the salvation even of his enemies and persecutors. Secondly, The word of Christ is the ordinary means of salvation. Thirdly, Christ in his word considers our infirmities and condescends to our capacities, consulting not so much what it befits so great a prince to say as what we can bear, and what will be most likely to do us good.”
“Unto you [the Jewish nation] first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”
“After his resurrection, he was to be preached indeed to all nations, but they must begin at Jerusalem, Luke 24:47. And, when they went to other nations, they first preached to the Jews they found therein. They were the first-born, and, as such, had the privilege of the first offer. So far were they from being excluded for their putting Christ to death, that, when he is risen, He is first sent to them, and they are primarily intended to have benefit by His death.
[3.] On what errand He was sent: “He is sent to you first, to bless you; this is his primary errand, not to condemn you, as you deserve, but to justify you, if you will accept of the justification offered you, in the way wherein it is offered; but he that sends him first to bless you, if you refuse and reject that blessing, will send him to curse you with a curse,” Mal. 4:6.”
“…ye do always resist the Holy Ghost…”
…if they [the Jewish ecclesiastical assembly] will not admit the testimony of the gospel to them, it shall become a testimony against them.
I. They, like their fathers, were stubborn and willful, and would not be wrought upon by the various methods God took to reclaim and reform them; they were like their fathers, inflexible both to the word of God and to his providences.
II. They, like their fathers, were not only not influenced by the methods God took to reform them, but they were enraged and incensed against them: You do always resist the Holy Ghost.
1. They resisted the Holy Ghost speaking to them by the prophets, whom they opposed and contradicted, hated and ridiculed; this seems especially meant here, by the following explication, Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? In persecuting and silencing those that spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost they resisted the Holy Ghost. Their fathers resisted the Holy Ghost in the prophets that God raised up to them, and so did they in Christ’s apostles and ministers, who spoke by the same Spirit, and had greater measures of his gifts than the prophets of the Old Testament had, and yet were more resisted.
2. They resisted the Holy Ghost striving with them by their own consciences, and would not comply with the convictions and dictates of them. God’s Spirit strove with them as with the old world, but in vain; they resisted Him, took part with their corruptions against their convictions, and rebelled against the light. There is that in our sinful hearts that always resists the Holy Ghost, a flesh that lusts against the Spirit, and wars against his motions; but in the hearts of God’s elect, when the fullness of time comes, this resistance is overcome and overpowered, and after a struggle the throne of Christ is set up in the soul, and every thought that had exalted itself against it is brought into captivity to it, 2 Cor. 10:4; 2 Cor. 10:5. That grace therefore which effects this change might more fitly be called victorious grace than irresistible.
III. They, like their fathers, persecuted and slew those whom God sent unto them to call them to duty, and make them offers of mercy.
1. Their fathers had been the cruel and constant persecutors of the Old-Testament prophets (v. 51): Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? More or less, one time or other, they had a blow at them all. With regard even to those that lived in the best reigns, when the princes did not persecute them, there was a malignant party in the nation that mocked at them and abused them, and most of them were at last, either by color of law or popular fury, put to death; and that which aggravated the sin of persecuting the prophets was, that the business of the prophets they were so spiteful at was to show before of the coming of the just One, to give notice of God’s kind intentions towards that people, to send the Messiah among them in the fullness of time…
IV. They, like their fathers, put contempt upon divine revelation, and would not be guided and governed by it; and this was the aggravation of their sin, that God had given, as to their fathers His law, so to them his gospel, in vain [2 Cor. 6:1, “receive not the grace of God in vain.”].
2. They received the gospel now, by the disposition, not of angels, but of the Holy Ghost,—not with the sound of a trumpet, but, which was more strange, in the gift of tongues, and yet they did not embrace it. They would not yield to the plainest demonstrations, any more than their fathers before them did, for they were resolved not to comply with God either in his law or in his gospel…
These quotes were compiled by R. Andrew Myers, Travis Fentiman and Tony Byrne