Verses 1-8 Those who begin well, but do not persevere, will justly be upbraided with their hopeful and promising beginnings. Those who desert religion, commonly oppose it more than those who never knew it. For this they could have no excuse. God's spiritual Israel must own their obligations to him for safe conduct through the wilderness of this world, so dangerous to the soul. Alas, that many, who once appeared devoted to the Lord, so live that their professions aggravate their crimes! Let us be careful that we do not lose in zeal and fervency, as we gain knowledge.
Verses 9-13 Before God punishes sinners, he pleads with them, to bring them to repentance. He pleads with us, what we should plead with ourselves. Be afraid to think of the wrath and curse which will be the portion of those who throw themselves out of God's grace and favour. Grace in Christ is compared to water from a fountain, it being cooling and refreshing, cleansing and making fruitful: to living water, because it quickens dead sinners, revives drooping saints, supports and maintains spiritual life, and issues in eternal life, and is ever-flowing. To forsake this Fountain is the first evil; this is done when the people of God neglect his word and ordinances. They hewed them out broken cisterns, that could hold no water. Such are the world, and the things in it; such are the inventions of men when followed and depended on. Let us, with purpose of heart, cleave to the Lord only; whither else shall we go? How prone are we to forego the consolations of the Holy Spirit, for the worthless joys of the enthusiast and hypocrite!
Verses 14-19 Is Israel a servant? No, they are the seed of Abraham. We may apply this spiritually: Is the soul of man a slave? No, it is not; but has sold its own liberty, and enslaved itself to divers lusts and passions. The Assyrian princes, like lions, prevailed against Israel. People from Egypt destroyed their glory and strength. They brought these calamities on themselves by departing from the Lord. The use and application of this is, Repent of thy sin, that thy correction may not be thy ruin. What has a Christian to do in the ways of forbidden pleasure or vain sinful mirth, or with the pursuits of covetousness and ambition?
Verses 20-28 Notwithstanding all their advantages, Israel had become like the wild vine that bears poisonous fruit. Men are often as much under the power of their unbridled desires and their sinful lusts, as the brute beasts. But the Lord here warns them not to weary themselves in pursuits which could only bring distress and misery. As we must not despair of the mercy of God, but believe that to be sufficient for the pardon of our sins, so neither must we despair of the grace of God, but believe that it is able to subdue our corruptions, though ever so strong.
Verses 29-37 The nation had not been wrought upon by the judgements of God, but sought to justify themselves. The world is, to those who make it their home and their portion, a wilderness and a land of darkness; but those who dwell in God, have the lines fallen to them in pleasant places. Here is the language of presumptuous sinners. The Jews had long thrown off serious thoughts of God. How many days of our lives pass without suitable remembrance of him! The Lord was displeased with their confidences, and would not prosper them therein. Men employ all their ingenuity, but cannot find happiness in the way of sin, or excuse for it. They may shift from one sin to another, but none ever hardened himself against God, or turned from him, and prospered.