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Many of the changes that time brings are on the surface of life. There is a certain stability at the heart of things. The great laws of life change not. The selfsame sunlight that put an end to Jacob's conflict with the angel gilds our joys and guides our toils Today. So is it with these human hearts of ours. So is it with the great common sentiments and necessities. Motives that swayed men's lives when the world was young can be traced in modern life. Life changes its costume more easily than it changes its character. When we say that history repeats itself, we do not mean that there are occasional coincidences; we mean rather that the best and the worst in human life have a tendency to perpetuate themselves, and that through all the ages the human heart beats to the same tune, cherishes some of the same nobilities and the same follies, and shows itself capable of much that is fine and much that is contemptible.
So we may go back through very many centuries and find in a bit of ancient history that which is repeating itself in the life of Today. The national question among the Jews of Hezekiah's day was, How can we shake off the Assyrian yoke? And the popular solution of the problem was, Enter into an alliance with Egypt. True, Egypt was a land of many idols, but it was also a land of many horses and chariots, and full coffers. And there have always been those in the world who, when they have wanted chariots, have not been over particular where they borrowed them. There have always been those who would fraternize with an idolater provided he was a rich idolater. Egypt was powerful with that kind of power that the world and the devil can fully appreciate. There is a might that calls to the world in the clang of iron and the thunder of horsemen and the clink of gold, and many there be that trust in it. There is a might that lifts not up its voice in the clamour of the world, but that pleads its rights and its power in the silences of thought, in the quiet inner place where conscience dwells, in the depths of all true feeling, and on the lonely heights of the ideal and would to God that you and I had more faith in it.
I. The choice between these two is ever before us. Since the days of Hezekiah, kingdoms have risen to greatness and sunk into oblivion. The great centres of power and industry, of learning and dominion, have shifted steadily westward. Places that once pulsated with industrial activity and political influence have now little more than an archaeological significance. But the heart of the West Today is as the heart of the East in many a dim yesterday, and the thing against which the Jewish Prophet protested is the thing against which some one must protest still even trust in the shadow of Egypt. Recall for a moment the stately and spiritual interest of a song that Israel sang in the days of a purer and more reverent national life: 'He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust Surely He shall deliver thee.' Then the shadow of Egypt fell on the people. They transferred their allegiance, not deliberately, but none the less really, from the unseen to the seen. The great changes of life, and especially those for the worse, are often undeliberate.
II. The difference between the nation and the individual is mainly a quantitative one. If the national confidence is in the shadow of Egypt, it is because the individual confidence is there. The shadow of an earthly ideal, an unspiritual interpretation of life, a material estimate of success, has fallen on our separate souls. No wonder that men miss the divinity of history, and leave God out of their widest reckonings and their corporate counsels, when they fail to find them in their toil for bread, and, reversing the word of Scripture, say, 'We walk by sight and not by faith'.
III. The first debt that we owe to our country must be paid to our God. The highest service that any man can render to the Fatherland is the service of faith. To dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty; to lay up treasure in heaven; to be reverent and prayerful and unselfish; to lean on God amid the simple toils and necessities and pains of one's daily life; to manifest the heroism that passes unrecognized among men because it is heroism, and, therefore, clothed in humility; to be less worldly than you are often tempted to be; to believe in the deathless divinity of conscience, duty, and love this is the higher patriotism, into whose hands at last the honour and the peace of any people must be placed for safe keeping.
P. Ainsworth, The Pilgrim Church, p. 227.
References. XXX. 7. E. A. Draper, The Gift of Strength, p. 46. W. Baxendale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 278. J. Vaughan, Sermons Preached in Christ Church, Brighton (7th Series), p. 23. XXX. 10. J. H. Jellett, The Elder Son, p. 164.
The Secret of Strength
Hezekiah was double-minded; he had faith in God, yet he was not free from confidence in the arm of flesh. The Prophet was inspired to dissuade him from relying upon an earthly helper, and to assure him that in returning and in rest he should be saved. Apply this message to our own day.
I. The Need for this Counsel. This is manifest when we consider
a. The dangers with which Christians are often threatened from without. Adverse circumstances, sore temptations, fierce assaults of the foe, are likely to disturb and to dismay.
b. The weakness of which we are conscious within. Where shall we look for help and deliverance? Who are we that we should withstand such force, and baffle such craft?
II. In Time of Danger and Alarm it is not Easy to Maintain a Quiet Heart. The advice is especially hard to follow in days of religious excitement or unsettlement, in days of social restlessness and of political change. In fact, this counsel is most difficult to accept just when it is most urgently needed.
III. The Nature and Bearing of this Counsel. The exhortation is to
a. Quietness. A quiet mind is acknowledged to be a great blessing; it is only to be enjoyed by those who live in, and who breathe a serene atmosphere of devotion and fellowship with God.
b. Confidence. This must be placed in Him who deserves and requires it. Faith in an overruling Providence; faith in a gracious and almighty Saviour; this is the posture of the soul which is here commended.
IV. The Blessings which Follow.
a. Strength. This is a paradox, but it is a truth. Not the noisy, blustering, restless nature, is strong; but the nature which waits calmly and patiently on God.
b. Safety. Whatever be the ill that overhangs the soul, whoever be the foe that assails it, there is one Deliverer, and He is Divine; there is one security, and that is quiet faith in Him.
References. XXX. 15. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2985. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah, p. 155. J. T. Bramston, Sermons to Boys, p. 8. R. T. Davidson, In Quietness and Confidence, Sermon, 1885. H. M. Hilton, Church Times, vol. xl. 1898, p. 91.
We have here two companion pictures.
I. The Lord waiting to bless. In the word 'wait' there lies, first, the idea of longing and yearning. All true love is a longing to make the beloved happy. Second, along with this longing to bless there is something that regulates the flow of the Divine love, 'Therefore doth the Lord wait'. A man must be prepared for the gift, and then, and not till then, will God bestow it Third, there is often a wise and loving delay that a man may feel his dependence upon God. Instances Martha and Mary, and death of Lazarus: 'Lord, if thou hadst been here'. Peter in prison, and at last moment, when hope is almost dead, deliverance comes. The Syrophenician woman The Lord waiteth that He might be gracious.
II. The men waiting to be blessed. Our attitude has to have in it the same elements that God's has First, earnest desire; second, patient dependence.
A. Maclaren, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. II. p. 126.
References. XXX. 18. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1766. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah, p. 159. A. Murray, Waiting on God, p. 97. T. Barker, Plain Sermons, p. 161. XXX. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No. 1419. XXX. 19-21. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part i. p. 46. XXX. 20. Morgan Dix, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, p. 245. XXX. 21. T. Yates, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 404. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1672. J. Keble, Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 382. XXX. 26. J. K. Popham, Sermons, pp. 263, 272. XXX. 29. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 274. XXX. 32. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. ii. p. 93. XXXI. 5. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah, p. 161. XXXI. 6. J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 225. XXXI. 9. Ibid. p. 168. XXXII. 1. J. Vickery, Ideals of Life, p. 3. W. J. Woods, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 60. A. G. Blenkin, ibid. vol. liv. 1898, p. 298. XXXII. 1, 2. W. C. E. Newbolt, ibid. vol. xlv. 1894, p. 8. XXXII. 2. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1243; vol. xlix. No. 2856; vol. liii. No. 3031. A. Mursell, Hush and Hurry, p. 80. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 38. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah, p. 176; see also Sermons Preached in Manchester (3rd Series), p. 135. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 241. R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 212. J. H. Jowett, ibid. vol. lv. 1899, p. 83. T. L. Cuyler, ibid. vol. lviii. 1900, p. 14. Jonathan Edwards, Works, vol. ii. p. 929. J. Boston, ibid. vol. ix. p. 220. E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. v. p. 98. Simeon, Works, vol. viii. p. 45. Blunt, Posthumous Sermons, vol. i. p. 23. C. Bradley, Practical Sermons, vol. i. p. 45. J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints' Days, p. 286. XXXII. 3. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. p. 104. XXXII. 8. W. S. Rainsford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891, p. 60. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. pp. 111, 122. XXXII. 13. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 222. XXXII. 14, 15. G. Matheson, Voices of the Spirit, p. 64. XXXII. 17. J. Fraser, Parochial and Other Sermons, p. 321. J. H. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 380.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 30". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
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