In our last number, our brother and sister, William and Mary White, present their request for our views on Judges 5:23.
“Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.”
These words occur in the song of Deborah and Barak, in which they praise God for the glorious victories which he had given them over Sisera the commander of the army of Jabin, King of Canaan. The circumstances of the case are thus stated; The children of Israel had sinned, and done evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, for a chastisement for their transgressions. Being unable to withstand the superior forces of Jabin, and his mighty army, his skillful General and his nine hundred chariots of iron, they after twenty years of severe suffering cried unto the Lord for help, and the Lord directed Deborah, who at that time judged Israel, and was also a prophetess, to call Barak, and with him ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulon, and with this comparatively small force to “go and draw toward Mount Tabor.” And the Lord promised that he would draw unto her, Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, to the river Kishon, with his chariots and his multitudes, and deliver them into her hand.
Of Meroz, which seems to have been a village near the brook Kishon, we have but very little account, but from the anathema pronounced in the text, it appears that the inhabitants of that place did not listen to the word of the Lord, as spoken by Deborah, and came not to the help of the Lord against the mighty. The arminians have frequently referred to this passage with an air of exultation to prove that the Lord God of Israel is sometimes in want of help, - that his purposes require for their execution the use of means, the help of man, and that when men fail to lend an helping hand to the Lord they deserve the bitter curses which are in this case denounced against Meroz and its inhabitants. This text has been relied on by the advocates of all the modern religious institutions for evangelizing the world. They would have us believe the Lord is endeavoring to convert the heathen and bring on the millennium; that he is wooing and beseeching sinners to consent to be saved on certain terms and conditions, and that the success of his gracious designs depends very much on the amount of aid afforded him by the sons of men. That those generous souls, who put forth their hands to help him secure the ark, will not be subject to the curse of Meroz. Help is, in their estimation, needed in the formation of benevolent societies such as Mission, Tract, Sabbath School, Temperance, Abolition, Penny and Mite Societies, - That with sufficient help of this kind the heathen may be converted to God, and the world speedily evangelized. That those who are engaged in these are really coming to the help of the Lord, and will be blessed for their seasonable help, and generous contributions, but those who stand aloof from them will share the anathema of Meroz and the inhabitants thereof. But does this text favor that idea? Let us carefully examine. In the case of Meroz, who was to be helped, God or Meroz? Were the inhabitants to be cursed for failing to help the Lord? Was the Lord, or Israel, in trouble requiring help? Did the Lord call on Israel to help him subdue the army of Jabin, or was it not the children of Israel who were oppressed by Jabin, and being unable to deliver themselves, after being sorely oppressed twenty years, called on the Lord to help them? Did the Lord come down from heaven to receive help from Deborah, Barak, or their ten thousand men? How absurd, not to say blasphemous, to talk of helping the Omnipotent God, who weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance who taketh up the islands as a very little thing. If it were possible for him to need any help, what could puny mortals do to assist him? Behold he sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers, that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in, that bringeth the princes to nothing and maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing and vanity. How much can these wonderful grasshoppers do to assist the Almighty God? What aid could these minute particles of less than nothing and vanity render to him who inhabiteth Eternity, whose name is Holy? How very natural it is for poor vain man to forget that he is but dust and ashes and fancy that he can do exploits.
The subject before us must be plain to the candid reader. It was the children of Israel who needed help, and cried to the Lord for help; and the Lord signified to Deborah that he would render them the help they desired, at a special time and place; and commanded Deborah to come with Barak and ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulon and receive the help of the Lord at or near Mount Tabor. They went to the place as the Lord commanded, and found The Help of Israel and the Savior thereof in the time of trouble was there, they received the help of the Lord, and were delivered from their enemies, and their oppressors were slain.
But Meroz, we suppose like our modern arminians, despised the help of the Lord, and still had confidence in their own ability to take care of themselves. At all events they came not to the help of the Lord. Why they came not, we are not informed; but it is natural to suppose they were all arminians, and could easier entertain the idea of helping the Lord than of being helped and saved by him.
As the inhabitants of Meroz despised the help of the Lord in the days of Deborah the prophetess, so the will worshipers of our day and all the workmongrel tribes of the earth in all ages, have vainly imagined themselves able to help themselves, and it is very apparent from their activity and zeal in multiplying what they call Benevolent Institutions for saving the heathen and converting the world, that they believe the Lord needs their help to sustain his cause and execute his work, much more than they feel themselves in want of help from him.
Indeed we have never known them to apply this text in any other way than to represent the Lord as suffering for the want of help, and bitterly cursing those who come not up to help him. We pity those deluded souls who are so infatuated as to imagine that the adorable God who sustains the Universe, who does his pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth can need to be himself sustained by any of the creatures that he has made.
January 15, 1864.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 447 – 450