V. 1, he lays out his charge against them. The thief and troops of robbers. Here he tells us that his people are controlled by all kinds of wickedness, both secret (thief) and open (troop of robbers) sins.
Though their sins call for God's righteous judgment upon the people, his desire was to heal his people. He would have healed his people but the iniquity, wickedness, falsehood, theft, all prevented the healing.
V. 2, he says, "Why don't they understand that I know what goes on in secret."
The context of the passage tells us that they kept up the outward show of the Christian religion, so they could give the proper religious impression. They knew all the proper words and actions to give a Christian appearance. They went to all the proper church services, carrying their Bibles for all to see, maybe even the KJV. They had a problem, however, with connecting knowing with doing.
And they consider not in their hearts that God sees the truth of the matter, and will reward them openly for what is done in secret. They might even think that God does not care what goes on in private, refusing to acknowledge that God brings to pass the fruit of their thoughts. (Ecc. 10:20, Jer. 6:19, Ezek. 8:3-12, Hos. 4:6, 6:6, Mt. 6:4ff., 10:26, Lk. 12:2, 3.)
The Lord knows the secrets of the heart. He knows what goes on in the bedroom, in private when no one else is watching. The public worship is not what impresses him. It is the private worship which gains his mercy and grace.
He desired to show mercy, but he remembered their private motives, actions and gods; these prevented his mercy, and they reaped as they sowed. (Gal. 6.)
V. 3, the king is glad when he hears of evil in his people, for he is evil. Civil authority finds pleasure in wickedness: right is no longer good; good is called bad, and bad is called good; good is punished and evil is protected, even rewarded; God is no longer glorified and exalted as God; rather than civil authority being a terror to evil, as required by God, it is a terror to good works.
Evil is exalted because the people enjoy evil. The law breaker is protected and the good man ignored. Professing love for the people, those in authority rejoice in iniquity rather than being grieved over it. (Isa. 10:1, 5:20, Rom. 1:21, 31, 32, 13:3.Could be that they "flatter the wicked king, Jeroboam, above God." Geneva.)
V. 4, He continues: They are all... "All" does not refer to the king and princes, but to the whole nation. (Keil.)
Immoral, adulterous relationships are common place as the people burn out of control with lust. The general population is a captive to the fallen lusts of the flesh. Rather than attempting to control the wickedness, those in authority are glad because it permits them to be wicked.
An oven heated... The fiery passions of the nation burn like a baker's oven. Lust and lewdness burn out of control everywhere. There is no place one can look without being confronted with lust and lewdness: "entertainment," advertisement, recreation, &c., are all based in lust and lewdness. Why? Because they are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker...
The Lord's controversy here is not with the heathens; it is with his own people. His own people no longer see anything wrong with lewdness, with taking off their clothes in public, with exposing their bodies and arousing sensual desires in others.
The lust is burning as a fire and the civil authority, rather than doing what it can to put out the fire, join with with those who have the fire.
Ungodliness and wickedness of all kinds burn in the hearts of the people. They keep up their outward show of piety, but their hearts burn with lusts of all kinds. They proudly carry their Bibles to church so everyone can see it, yet their hearts burn.
Vv. 5-7. "Both king and princes are addicted to debauchery (ver. 5)." (Keil.) These "rulers" are to be the supreme guardians of the law; the offices of civil authority which they represent were established by God to control wickedness. But rather than controlling wickedness, they were consumed by it. (Pr. 6:27, 8:14ff., Ecc. 10:17, Rom. 13.)
Unable to remain under control, the burning will bursts forth, and consumes everyone, even the judges. The very ones who are ordained by God to keep the corruption under control are controlled by it. The ones ordained by God --- kings, princes, judges, religious leaders --- to keep the burning under control are, instead, devoured by the fire.
Rather than trying to put out the fire, the "leaders" try to keep it hidden and behind closed doors. But God knows what lies behind their actions of "public piety."
They are all hot as an oven and rather than society working to put out this devastating fire, it throws more fuel upon it.
There is none among them that calleth unto me. Everyone is caught in the fire. The prophet warns them, but no one listens nor believes him.
They all say, "I keep up my formal worship, so God doesn't care how I act or dress on my own time." (6:6.)
It can be compared to the work place --- at work, you belong body and soul to the company, and you are expected to be totally loyal to the cause. After work, the company does not care what you do. However, we as Christians are to be 'at work' at all times.
V. 7, a final comment on this section:
By their doing God has deprived them of all good rulers. (Geneva)
Ver. 7. They are all hot as an oven, &c.] Eager upon their idolatry, or burning in their unclean desires after other men's wives; or rather raging and furious, hot with anger and wrath against their rulers and governors, breathing out slaughter and death unto them:
and have devoured their judges; that stood in the way of their lusts, reproved them for them, and restrained them from them; or were on the side of the king they conspired against, and were determined to depose and slay:
all their kings have fallen; either into sin, the sin of idolatry particularly, as all from Jeroboam the first did, down to Hoshea the last; or they fell into calamities, or by the sword of one another, as did most of them; so Zachariah by Shallum, Shallum by Menahem, Pekahiah by Pekah, and Pekah by Hoshea; see 2Ki 15:1-38. So the Targum,
"all their kings are slain:"
[there is] none among them that calleth unto me; either among the kings, when their lives were in danger from conspirators; or none among the people, when their land was in distress, either by civil wars among themselves, or by a foreign enemy; such was their stupidity, and to such a height was irreligion come to among them! (Gill, Online Bible.)
We cannot come this close without hitting the Internet. The most profitable sites on the web are the pornography sites. To these sites, men and women burning with lust can browse in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Yet at the proper times, they will be at the right place at the right time, Bible in hand, going to hear a "preacher" who will not disturb their comfort in sin.
(Personal Note: we have lost families over my preaching against Prozak, and other drugs, substituted for one's personal walk with the Lord in his word and prayer; over my stand for the KJV, &c. The general "Christian" consensus is having enough religion to sooth the conscience while remaining comfortable in the heart's desires.)
2) Eager for the "freedom" to pursue their unclean desires after other men's wives or other women's husbands, they devoured their judges who stood in their way--that is, they acquired leaders who would not restrain their evil desires. One of the key doctrines of Scripture is that God gives leaders after the hearts of the people. (Jer. 5:31, 6:13, 19, &c.) One of the more interesting passages along this line is,
1 Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. 2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. (Isa. 24:1, 2.)
The Lord tells us that the problem is at the bottom, not the top. Leaders are corrupt because the people are corrupt; masters are corrupt because servants are corrupt; sellers are corrupt because buyers are corrupt; bankers are corrupt because borrowers are corrupt. Furthermore,
And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. (Hosea 4:9.)
The Lord raises up corrupt "leaders" in judgment for corruption in the people. (See also, Ecc. 12:14, Isa. 3:10, 9:14ff, Jer. 5:31, 8:10ff., Pr. 5:22, &c.) There are two terrible things that can happen to individuals or to a social order:
A) the Lord would simply let sin take its natural course -- that is, turn the people over to leaders who are controlled by the same fallen lusts as are the people.
B) the Lord would fail to raise up godly people to pray:
As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. (Dan. 9:13. See Lev. 26.)
3) We see in this chapter that God's delight is not in judgment and vengeance against sin. His desire is to heal and to show mercy.:
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. (Micah 7:18.)
The people were sick to the death in sin. But the illness was not so bad that God could not heal them.
Jeremiah 8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? Jeremiah 46:11 Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.
People can look everywhere for healing, but until they look to the Lord, there is no healing. People who perish in their sins can blame no one but themselves, for the Lord offers healing: I would have healed them. The people bared the door against the Lord.
Through the power of the gospel, we can have "like priest, like people":
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. (Heb. 2:14-18.)
4) Our delight should be in "healing," not in judgment and vengeance. We should not delight or be glad when we see the results of one's sins come to pass.
What do we delight in? Mercy or judgment and vengeance? God delighteth in mercy not in judgment and vengeance. His delight is when people turn from sin and to him, so he can "shower" his mercy upon them. Sad to say, many times we delight in being antagonistic, anything but merciful. We rejoice when we see judgment or vengeance come upon others, saying, "they are getting what they deserve."
In other words, folks can claim to be a Christian with a genuine love for God with their every breath, but if their attitude toward sin in general, morality in particular, is not God's attitude, then they are clearly enemies of God. The farther society turns from God, the more common will be immorality of all kinds, regardless of the Christian words.
Debauchery of all kinds in authority will not be changed until there is a genuine Christian conversion in attitude among the people. How many destroyed families am I personally familiar with because co-workers (even in close "religious" relationships) have burned with lust one for another?
Thus, I would be extremely, and pleasantly, surprised if Clinton had to leave office over his wickedness. At this point in history and from my experience in working with people, Clinton simply reflects the lust that burns in the heart of the average person. It is the Lord who will leave him where he is as a reproach upon a nation burning with lust.