The Precious Sons of Zion
William Nicholson, 1862
"How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! How the precious sons of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter's hands!" Lamentations 4:1-2
The pathetic Lamentations of Jeremiah refer to the captivity of the Jews — the consequence of their wickedness. Every true patriot must lament when his country is degraded and distressed. Jeremiah was a true patriot, and the beautifully pathetic language employed by him in this Book, strikingly indicates his character. In verse 1, he laments the awful change which the judgments of God had made in Jerusalem. The city that had been as gold, rich and splendid like fine gold, the perfection of beauty, and the perfection of the whole earth, had become dim, lost its luster and value, and become dross. The temple was laid waste and given into the hands of the enemy; its curiously wrought stones were thrown down; its golden vessels, etc., were pillaged.
The precious sons of Zion, the Jewish believers, previously comparable to fine gold, for their former holiness, splendor of talent, and consecrated usefulness — were trampled upon and abused, verse 2, esteemed as earthen pitchers, vessels of dishonor in comparison of what they once were — broken as earthen pitchers, cast away and despised as vessels of no value.
I. The Characters Mentioned."The precious sons of Zion."
Although the term then was descriptive of the ancient worshipers of God in the temple — yet now it is applicable to all believers who worship God in spirit and truth, John 4:21-24.
1. The precious sons of Zion have received Christ as their Savior. Jesus is the Way into the Church — into Heaven. "I am the door." For all the important purposes of salvation, Christ has been received and trusted in by the sons of Zion.
2. The precious sons of Zion have been regenerated. This is necessary to holy communion, Psalm 87:5, 6; they are born again — passed from death unto life, and they love the brethren.
3. The precious sons of Zion enjoy all the privileges of adopting love. They are "the children of God by faith." They have fellowship with Zion's King — with Zion's children. They are fellow-citizens with the saints. They are protected, defended, and preserved. They are savingly interested in all the ordinances, promises, immortal prospects, and all things are theirs.
4. The precious sons of Zion love it, and seek its prosperity. "If I forget you, O Jerusalem," etc. Hence they consecrate their talents, their time, their prayers, and ministrations, to make it glorious in the earth.
II. Their Comparative Excellence.They are precious — and comparable to fine gold.
1. They are precious in the estimation of the highest intelligences. In the estimation of God — of Christ, by whom they were redeemed by the shedding of his "precious blood," 1 Peter 1:18. Precious in the estimation of angels — and of all holy men, one of whom says, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God!" 1 Peter 2:9
2. They are comparable to fine gold:
(1.) On account of the refining process to which they have been subjected. Gold in the ore is not pure, but mixed with other materials. It has therefore to be separated and purified by fire to render it fine. Saints have been separated from sin and an evil world.
The Spirit has renewed them — the inflictions of God's hand in the furnace of affliction have refined them, Job 23:10; Zechariah 13:9; 1 Peter 1:7. Therefore they are now like fine gold.
(2.) For their purity. Gold in its refined state, is so freed from alloy or dross, that among the metals it is esteemed the purest. But gold in its best state, is not altogether free from impurity. Just so, saints are not perfect. But they are comparatively pure.
They are "complete" in Christ. Compare their present with their former state. Compare their character with that of the wicked. They are going on to perfection — they will enter Heaven, and there have neither "spot or wrinkle, or any blemish — but are holy and blameless!"
(3.) For their great value. Gold is one of the "precious metals," and forms the most valuable part of the world's currency. Fine gold, that which has been greatly refined, burnished, carved, etc., represents the value of the precious sons of Zion. In their own estimation, they are "Wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked!" Revelation 3:17. But their divine transformation, their union with Christ, their holy and active life, have given them an incalculable value.
What is a Christian? An adopted child in the holy family of God; stamped with the image of the Eternal; having the seal of Divinity affixed to his nature, being the temple of the Holy Spirit. He is destined to reign as a king, and to officiate as a high-priest in the temple of Heaven forever and ever.
What is a Christian? An embodiment of the love, and mercy, and wisdom of Jehovah — the depositary of the riches of precious grace, to whose benefit everything in Heaven and earth is subordinate. He is . . .
a jewel being prepared for insertion in the Savior's crown,
a stone being made ready for being built into the temple of eternity,
a joint-heir with the only-begotten Son of God,
destined for an eternal inheritance, compared with which all the treasures of earth are vanity.
Who is so valuable as he who in time possesses the rich blessings of grace — and through eternity shall wear the diadem of glory? Well may he despise the honors, the gilded baubles, which vain men covet, and which kings bestow.
His pleasures rise from unseen eternal realities!
He possesses a more dignified rank than earthly potentates can confer!
He has a more splendid nobility than any which kings can create!
He is a member of the family of God, and shall share with angels in the glorious dignities to be dispensed by the King of kings.
Who can calculate a Christian's value!
(4.) For their usefulness. By gold as the means of purchase, the value of an object is to be estimated. And as the circulation of gold promotes the comfort and good of mankind, so the sons of Zion by the holiness of their lives, by their fervent prayers, by their holy charities, laboring to do good — are a rich blessing to the world. Think of their influence in a family, in a neighborhood, in a town, in the Church, in the world. They are the lights of the world.
(5.) For their scarcity. Gold is not found in every country; it is not imbedded in every soil; it does not circulate in every country; it is possessed by few.
And "the sons of Zion are not to be found in every land; they are not abundant in Christian lands. Christ's flock is a little flock. Though the Savior is to have "the heathen for his inheritance," yet at present, his friends are greatly outnumbered by his foes. Look at heathen lands — so few Christians. In Christian lands, subtract the formal from the Israelites indeed — and it is still a little flock.
III. The Estimate Formed of the Sons of Zion:"How the precious sons of Zion, once worth their weight in gold — are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter's hands!"
The language refers to the desolation of the temple, its priests, and its worshipers. The priests having lost their spirituality, and sunk into shocking criminality — they no longer ministered in the holy place and carried its golden vessels. The mitre, the ephod, the breastplate, were taken from them. The holy fire on the altar was put out, sacrifices were offered no longer. And the priests, the precious sons of Zion, the worshipers of the temple, degraded by sinful idolatry — were now regarded with contempt, deemed as clay pots, broken and cast away. Well might the prophet say, "How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! How the precious sons of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter's hands!"
1. This contemptuous estimate is sometimes the fruit of sin. By sin men have fallen from the loftiest stations, and left the most dignified offices. The loftiest stars have been obscured. Some have revealed their true character; having been only shams, as proved by their subsequent wickedness. Some have fallen through temptation, and have been awfully degraded, etc. Comparable to fine gold before they fell, the finger of scorn points them out, and says, "How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! How the precious sons of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter's hands!"
2. This contemptuous estimate is sometimes the misrepresentation of carnal men. They see through a false medium. Satan has blinded their minds and perverted their tastes. They have no relish for God, and therefore it is no wonder that they should treat with contempt, those whom God infinitely loves, and over whom angels rejoice as "the excellent of the earth."
(1.) This has ever been the case. Mark the Apostles. 1 Corinthians 4:13:2 Corinthians 4:4, 7-11.
(2.) The opinion of the wicked, does not affect the estimate formed by God. It is the tendency of grace to enrich, beautify, etc. — and God knows and loves his own work.
(3.) The estimate formed by sinners is their disgrace, and will be their ruin. Despising God's people is an awful feature in man's character!