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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Isaiah 63

Verses 1-19

Isaiah 63:1

How is this free salvation to be appropriated so that it shall have a practical influence on our hearts and lives? How are we to lay hold of it individually?

I. Grasp the Meaning of Your Baptism. God Almighty applied this free salvation to each of us at our baptism.

God chose you: He elected you into Jesus Christ at your baptism. He gave you His Holy Word, and He gave you the Holy Spirit to dwell in your heart and to reveal to you clearly what is taught in that Bible about your Saviour.

II. Submit Your Will to God. As soon as you understand your position, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Act on what is revealed. Having learnt that God has given you a Saviour, and that this Lord Jesus Christ has broken down every barrier, and that, having been baptized into Him, your debt has been paid by Him, go on to the next step. In the dark, with but very imperfect knowledge as yet, and with no eye upon you, it may be, but His, make up your mind, though without feeling any improvement in yourself, without love, without any power to pray make up your mind to trust Him, as a child in the dark trusts its mother.

III. Seek to be Filled with the Peace and Joy of Believing. Having first trusted Him, instead of waiting to trust Him till you have found peace, try to obtain, in God's way, the peace which passeth understanding. Seek for it as God has taught us to seek; not, at this stage, by hard struggling self-examination, although that is most useful afterwards; but by simply looking up to the Brazen Serpent. Read about Jesus. Try to realize His presence. Speak to Him, if only by a few short words such as 'Lord help me! Open mine eyes! If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.'

IV. Seek, if Need Be, the Help of God's Ministers. If you are not able alone to realize your acceptance in Christ, use the other help that God has provided for you. Go to one of His ministers. He has ordained them for this very work to lead you to Christ.

Whether by the help of others or alone, this step must be taken. Until we know something of the peace of God which passeth all understanding, true progress is impossible. Till we have realized the forgiveness of sins, the very earnestness which might have raised us into the rank of saints will only drive us into the depths of a morbid superstition, or of a hopeless despair.

Forgiveness is the beginning, and not the end, of the Christian life. We are set free at once from the burden of guilt, in order that we may run in the way of God's commandments with a heart at liberty; that we may live in Him and for Him; that, being nourished by the Body and Blood of our Lord, we may grow in grace, and bring forth fruit unto holiness, to the praise of the glory of His grace who hath made us accepted in the Beloved.

G. H. Wilkinson, The Invisible Glory, p. 70.

References. LXIII. 1. S. R. Driver, Sermons on Subjects Connected with the Old Testament, p. 178. J. B. Lightfoot, Cambridge Sermons, p. 19. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah XLIX.-LXVI. p. 217. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 111; vol. xxx. No. 1947. LXIII. 1-4. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. p. 266. LXIII. 2, 3. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah XLIX.-LXVI. p. 221. LXIII. 3. Cosmo Gordon Lang, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. 1899, p. 244. C. Vince, The Unchanging Saviour, p. 137. F. D. Huntington, Christian Believing and Living, p. 202. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2567. LXIII. 7. Ibid. vol. xix. No. 1126.

The Sympathy of God (Passiontide)

Isaiah 63:9

I. There are two great afflictions in which our Saviour may be said to have been afflicted. There is, in the first place, the affliction of sin. It is a wondrous and overwhelming truth that God in the person of Christ chose to learn by a personal experience the power of evil. And so ever more and more He, the sinless One, bears the sins of men upon His own heart, feels them even as if they were His own, until at last they seem even to obscure the Father's Face.... What else is the meaning of that cry, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'... What does it mean except that, in that darkest hour, the Son of God had so completely identified Himself with His sinful brethren that 'in all their affliction He was afflicted '.

And it is this which gives Him His power Today; the fact that He stooped to learn by a personal experience all the strength of evil, that He descended to enter into the common human struggle, and in issuing victorious to be the leader against the forces of evil everywhere. He can save because He has conquered. And in our own private and personal struggles against evil, is it not the sense of Christ's victory and Christ's sympathy which is our chief encouragement in what might seem a hopeless battle?

II. The other great affliction of which I am thinking is the affliction of suffering. Do we not feel the suffering of the world to be one of our great difficulties in the way of believing in the goodness of God the undeserved suffering of the world?

The mystery of pain may be insoluble, but at least it is illuminated by the truth which Passiontide proclaims, that by pain was the world redeemed; that He Who was 'in the form of God,' Himself entered into the bitterness of our human experiences made them all His own and became 'obedient to death, even the death of the cross'.

H. R. Gamble, The Ten Virgins, p. 115.

The Passion of God

Isaiah 63:9

I. Hebrew piety has taught us two truths regarding God which are not always united in human thought, but which are necessary to the perfect idea, and the first is not His sympathy but His spirituality. With travail of soul the saints of the Old Testament extricated the Being of God from the phenomena of nature and safeguarded His personality from the abstractions of philosophy. God who made the clouds His chariot and rode upon the wings of the wind was the creator of the ends of the earth, and He Who was the source of righteousness and power dwelt with the contrite and humble heart.

Surely it was enough for one school of religious thinkers to bequeath this heritage to the world! But it was an even greater achievement when the prophets of Israel infused that pure spirituality with a most intimate sympathy and convinced many generations that the Holy One of Israel is the most gracious Deity who has ever entered into the heart of man. There is no emotion of the human heart they did not assign to God, no tender relation of life they did not use to illustrate His love.

Is not the Incarnation of Christ the convincing climax of the Divine sympathy? Jesus born of the Virgin Mary and crucified upon the Cross of Calvary is God with us, baptized into the very depths of human suffering. When Jesus came and lived among us the heart of God was laid bare, and every one can see in the Gospel that patient wistful love which inhabits the secret place of the universe. The cross is not only in the heart of human life, it is also in the heart of God. He is the chief of all sufferers, because He is the chief of all lovers.

II. One does not forget, while insisting on the fellow-suffering of God, that there is a certain danger in analogies between the human and Divine, and one lays to heart the warnings against Anthropomorphism. But we must not allow ourselves to be beaten by big words, and we can surely distinguish between what is real and unreal. Has it not been the religious expert the saints, the mystics, and the prophets who have most loved to dwell upon this likeness between God and man? When we make a sacrifice for those whom we love and stand upon the height of our heart, may we not be sure that our love is the outcome of the passion of God, and that if we deal kindly by our flesh and blood He will be ten times more kind to us all?

III. With this glimpse into the heart of God we gather riches for our creed because we learn the idea of a lovable God. It is possible to think correctly about God, but not kindly. Master thinkers miss their footing when they speculate on the Being of God, but the simplest can hide himself in God's protecting love, who is perfect father and mother, perfect husband and friend.

With this glimpse into the Divine heart we also gather riches for the struggle of life, because we have a sympathetic God. It is hard enough in any case to pray unto one whom we cannot see, and it is beyond our power if we imagine Him untouched by this world's agony, which breaks beneath His feet as spray upon the base of a cliff.

J. Watson

(Ian Maclaren), The Inspiration of Our Faith, p. 85. Illustration.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,

And thy Maker is not by;

Thinkest thou canst weep a tear

And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy

That our grief He may destroy,

Till our grief is fled and gone

He doth sit by us and moan.

William Blake.

References. LXI1I. 9. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah XLIX.-LXVI. p. 226. J. Baines, Twenty Sermons, p. 15. C. Kingsley, Sermons on National Subjects, p. 59. T. B. Dover, Some Quiet Lenten Thoughts, p. 23. E. A. Draper, The Gift of Strength, p. 37. R. W. Church, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 84. LXIII. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2179. LXIII. 11-14. Ibid. vol. xxxviii. No. 2258. LXIII. 12-14. Ibid. vol. xxxvii. No. 2229. LXIII. 13. T. G. Rooke, The Church in the Wilderness, p. 158. LXIII. 14. G. Matheson, Voices of the Spirit, p. 76.

Jehovah Our Redeemer

Isaiah 63:16

If we wish to learn the full content of these terms 'Redeemer,' 'redemption,' as descriptive of Christ's salvation, we must go back to their earliest use in the Old Testament revelation. For Isaiah, we must not forget, was a Jew, and his prophecy in the first instance was delivered to Jews. And when he used this word 'Redeemer,' and told the Jews that 'Goel' or 'Redeemer 'was Jehovah's name from of old, the ideas which both he and his hearers would attach to the word would be the ideas which were attached to it in its common use in their law.

I. The law concerning the redeemer thus involved these particulars as belonging to his office.

(1) The redeemer must be near of kin. (2) The duties of the kinsman-redeemer were three. If any of his brethren had through poverty been dispossessed of his inheritance, the redeemer was to buy it back with a price, and reinstate his poor brother therein. If, worse yet, any of his poor brethren had through stress of poverty sold himself into slavery, the kinsman-redeemer was to buy him out of his slavery by giving a price to the master, and set him free again. If, finally, any of his brethren should be maliciously slain, it was his duty to 'redeem his brother's blood,' as the phrase was; to redeem his brother's blood by slaying the murderer.

II. And now, in the light of this history, we come back to the text, '"Our Redeemer" from everlasting is Thy Name!'

The word plainly contains a prediction of the Incarnation. For to Hebrew thought there was no such thing known as that a redeemer should be other than a kinsman. They also teach the voluntariness, and thus the grace of the great salvation. For while the avenging of blood was a command laid on the next of kin, it was not so with the redemption of persons or possessions. The word is not 'he shall,' but 'he may'.

Further, the text shows what is included in Christ's work as Redeemer.

We are reminded, then, that Christ's work as Redeemer involves first of all the redemption of our persons. That the sinner is, by reason of his sin, fallen into bondage is one of the most familiar thoughts of Scripture. The Scripture represents this bondage as fourfold. There is a bondage to the law. There is also a bondage to sin, in which we have been bound. We are in bondage to the power of sin, and from this Christ came to set us free. We have also been redeemed by Christ from the bondage to death in which we were aforetime. But there is also a bondage to Satan, and from this bondage also Christ's work as our Kinsman-Redeemer has freed us.

III. He was also to redeem his brother's inheritance, and reinstate him in it.

This word Redeemer, illumined by that old Mosaic law, manifestly bears in its bosom the promise of resurrection from the dead. For the Levitical goel did not buy back the lost estate of his impoverished brother that he might himself enter into it and enjoy it. No: he bought it back for that poor brother. So it follows from this text that those whom Jehovah Jesus redeems must be reinstated in the inheritance from which they have been cast out.

IV. The redeemer was, in virtue of his office, the avenger of blood. Christ, then, not although Redeemer, but because He is Redeemer, must be the Avenger of blood. It is, therefore, just because Christ is Redeemer that He will yet destroy as it is written that He shall destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil, and cast him into the lake of fire.

S. H. Kellogg, The Past a Prophecy of the Future, p. 116.


Isaiah 63:16

This grand challenge of Isaiah represents the final appeal of the spirit of man baffled, confounded, heartbroken with the 'riddle of this painful earth'. It is the standpoint of the optimist, who, in spite of the difficulties and horrors and failures in a world wet with tears, persists in enthroning a good God behind all phenomena, an infinite and responsible Love Spirit behind all visible things, and challenging Him in the words: 'Doubtless Thou art our Father, though the pessimist be ignorant of us, and the facts of life seem against us'.

I. Practically, there are only three possible conceptions of God's relation to that which we, in our limited comprehension, call evil. The first is that evil exists independently of God's will; that He was, as it were, taken by surprise and His will thwarted. To believe this, however you may deck your thought in Christian phrases, is to be a dualist. If God, and God alone, has not existed from all eternity, He does not exist at all. The reflections of the really thoughtful will not entertain the conception for a moment.

Secondly, that moral evil and its consequences are self-engendered. That God is one, and irresistibly omnipotent, and therefore could have prevented evil if He would, but did not. This is worse than Atheism, inasmuch as it is Bad-Godism, and that, practically, is devil worship. It predicates that God is the sole supreme power, and yet not good; that man at his best is better, far better, than God. And so this conception, though it may be enshrined in tradition, is a reductio ad absurdum . There remains the third conception. That God is the Infinite, Eternal, Universal Spirit; the one self-existing substance expressing Himself in all visible things; perfectly conscious everywhere; with an individuality higher than what we mean by personality. That whatever is, is not in spite of, but because of, a 'determinate counsel and foreknowledge'.

II. Now, consider, is not this the conclusion to which St. Paul had arrived?

1. He lays emphasis on the magnitude and universality of the mystery of evil. 'The whole creation,' he says, 'groaneth and travaileth together in pain'. There is no minimizing or ignoring of facts.

2. He absolutely fearlessly attributes it to its one only possible elemental source. 'The creation,' he says, 'was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who subjected it.' That is the supreme ruler, God.

3. He positively and dogmatically affirms that evil is only temporary; only a passing incident of the present; only a means to an end. 'The creation,' he says, 'shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption '.

He deliberately estimates the sum total of the agony as establishing a direct claim upon the justice of the Creator for abundant compensation, who, he declares, will liquidate the debt, with accumulated interest, when the purpose of the infliction is fulfilled. He does not explain, but he declares that the future shall redeem the present. 'I reckon,' he says, 'that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed.'

III. There is, however, one profounder thought than this. St. Paul has taught us that one Life is immanent in the universe, and that this one Life realizes itself specially in man. He said, at Athens, 'in Him we live, and move, and have our being'. Therefore, in us He lives, and moves, and has His being. This is not Pantheism. St. Paul does not teach that God has no being apart from the universe. He never says or implies that the universe is God. He does imply that all visible things are an expression of God, a clothing of God, a mode of God's thinking; and that humanity is the highest expression, the highest mode of God's thinking; and that Jesus is the climax, the epitome of this expression, this mode of God's thinking. Thus he teaches the inseverability of God and man. Now the conclusion from this underlying principle is almost confusing in its grandeur. If God is not external to His universe, but the central evolving life in all, then there is not a pang in this suffering universe that does not pierce the heart of God before it reaches man, and God is suffering in and with His world. The Divine self-sacrifice is creation, not Calvary alone.

Basil Wilberforce, Feeling After Him, p. 159.

References. LXIII. 16. B. Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 321. D. Macrae, ibid. vol. lii. 1897, p. 363. Lyman Abbott, ibid. vol. liv. 1898, p. 68. C. Stanford, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 240. LXIV. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2258; vol. xl. No. 2391. LXIV. 1. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. i. p. 139.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 63". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.