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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Isaiah 17

Verses 1-14

Through the Material to the Spiritual

Isaiah 17:2

It will not appear to be so. Appearance, indeed, will be on the other side. But we are to judge by the harvest, by the end, and not by the appearances. Sometimes it would seem as if the devil reigned. He has everything his own way; he imagines evil, and brings his device to pass; and we say, 'Why should we trouble about God, and of what good is it to pray? He does not trouble us, He does not answer, He does not care for us.' But the Lord has never concealed from us the great fact that He judges everything by the end; He ripens evil, as well as good. God can only get at some people through the material; they have wasted the spiritual. He can make no impression upon them along the spiritual line; they have lost all their sensitiveness, they are past feeling, their conscience is seared as with a hot iron, and the withdrawal of His spiritual mercies would have no effect upon them.

I. God must come to us. He will come to us through the way of pain or loss or sorrow; He will take a long time to come, but He will come. It takes years to make some men think; it takes years to bring down the high looks of the haughty and to bring to nothing the devices that are multiplied against the Lord; but they will all come down. Do not judge by a moment of sunshine; the law has been made clear, it cannot alter: 'It shall be well with the righteous, and it shall be ill with the wicked'. The Lord causes the harvest to bud and to bring forth all manner of sweet miracles, and then at the last He looks at it in rebuke and withers it from the face of the earth, withers it whilst we are gathering it; we thrust in our sickle, and hew down sheaves of darkness and of poison.

II. Observe the reasonableness of this. Who is it that is offended? Who is it that is forgotten? The Giver, the Father, the Servant of all. What can happen but death? We cannot be living within a scheme of things which we did not set up, and we cannot adapt that scheme to our ways and our wishes without coming upon the Maker, the Contriver of it all. We are born into a scheme of things; we are not sent into the world to reconstruct it; great laws were here before we were; we found them out, discovered them, burnt our fingers in going too near them, and therefore we cannot ignore these laws without coming upon penalty, suffering, rebuke. Being sent into a scheme of things, our wisdom is in finding out how it begins, proceeds, how it develops, how it grows, and our great business in life is to lie alongside of these forces, and not to oppose them, but to obey them, and thus discover and glorify the will of God.

III. On the ground of mere reason, I hold that the Christian argument is a sound argument. It answers more questions than any other scheme of life; it lulls more anxieties, it brings more consolations, it goes further than any scheme of things can go into the great unseen and grand immeasurable. I ask you, therefore, to ground yourselves upon God's will, and take of life as it comes, with all simplicity of love and completeness of obedience and all-believing faith. If you would have peace, you can have it in that way; you can have it in no other way. The law is equal, it is equal on both sides, it cannot be trifled with; if it is severe on the one side, it is gentle on the other. The same holds good with regard to the law of mercy and peace, that everywhere that great law is operating in favour of those who are in sympathy with it, and who long to carry out all its meaning and enjoy all its rewards.

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vi. p. 157.

References. XVI. 1. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. pp. 35, 46. XVII. 10, 11. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, p. 76.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 17". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/isaiah-17.html. 1910.