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Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Difficulties and snares
But, in such a case, difficulties do not arise only from the weakness of the remnant; they proceed, also, from elements with which the remnant are outwardly connected, and which, at the same time, are foreign to the relationship of God's people with Himself. In Israel's case, there was real weakness, because God — although faithful to His people according to their need — did not, in fact, come forward to establish them on the original footing. To do so would not have been morally suitable, either with respect to the position in which the people stood with God, or with regard to the power which He had established among the Gentiles apart from Israel, or with a view to the instruction of His own people in all ages as to the government of God. Relationship with God is never despised with impunity.
But besides this, in such a state of things the power of the world having gained so much ground already in the land of promise, even among the people to whom the promise belonged, difficulties arose from the fact that persons who, in consequence of the intervention of the civil powers, were within the borders of the promised land, desired to participate with the Jews in constructing the temple. They alleged, in support of their claim, that they called upon God as the Jews did, and had sacrificed unto Him since Esarhaddon had brought them into the land. This was not enmity. Why repel such a desire? The Spirit of God calls them the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin. The people of God — the assembly of God — ought to be conscious of their own peculiar privileges, and that they are the assembly of the Lord. The Lord loved Judah and Benjamin. From His grace towards this people flowed all the blessing of which they were the object; and the people were bound fully to recognise this grace. Not to recognise it was to despise it. Now this grace was the sovereign goodness of God. To admit strangers would have been insensibility to this grace as the only source of good; it would have been to lose it, and to say that they were not its objects according to the sovereign goodness of God, more than other persons of the world. But the faithfulness and intelligence of the chiefs among Israel delivered them from this snare. "We ourselves together," said they, "will build unto Jehovah the God of Israel." "Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God." In fact, it would have been to deny that He was their God, the God of Israel. This is especially the case of the assembly when called to remember her privileges after long forgetfulness and painful chastisement. If God allow it for the trial or the chastening of His people, it is possible that the work may be stopped through the practices and the malice of those who will praise the great and noble Asnapper to the powers of the earth; before whom they will appear in their true earthly character, just as they assumed the garb of piety when seeking to insinuate themselves among the remnant of Israel. The power that belonged to God's people, at the time of their former independence, will alarm one who, not trusting in God, dreads the effect upon his own authority of the energy which the Spirit of God produces in the people of God independently of this authority, however submissive the people may be. Israel was acting here according to Cyrus's own decree; but this is of no avail. That which depends on God is absolute; that which does not depend on Him is arbitrary; but the faithful have nothing to do with all this. God may see that trial and chastening are needful to them.
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