A NEW SONG FOR NEW HEARTS
Isa . And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, &c.
This prophecy is said by some to relate to the invasion by Sennacherib, and the marvellous deliverance therefrom. If so, it is an instance of sanctified affliction, and a lesson to us that whenever we smart under the rod we may look forward to the time when it shall be withdrawn; it is also an admonition to us, that when we escape from trial we should take care to celebrate the event with grateful praise. It is thought by others that the text mainly relates to the latter days, and I think it would be impossible to read the eleventh chapter without feeling such a reference is clear. Both these interpretations are true and instructive; but we shall find out the very soul of the passage, if we consider it as an illustration of what occurs to every one of God's people when he is brought out of darkness into God's marvellous light, when he is delivered from the spirit of bondage beneath Divine wrath, and led by the Spirit of adoption into the liberty wherewith Christ makes him free. In regarding the text from this point of view, we shall first observe the prelude of this delightful song, and then listen to the song itself.
I. THE PRELUDE OF THIS CHARMING SONG—"In that day thou shalt say." Here we have the tuning of the harps, the notes of the music follow after in the succeeding sentences. Note,
1. There is a time for the joyous song here recorded, "In that day"—the day of the manifestation of the Divine power.
2. One word indicates the singer. "Thou shalt say." One by one we receive eternal life and peace. Religion is an individual matter. The word "thou" is spoken to those brought down into the last degree of despair. Thou broken-hearted sinner, ready to destroy thyself because of the anguish of conscience, in the day of God's abounding mercy, thou shalt rejoice!
3. The Teacher of the song. "In that day thou shalt say." Who but the Lord can thus command man's heart and speech?
4. The tone of the song. "Thou shalt say." The song is to be an open one, vocally uttered, heard of men. It is not to be a silent feeling, a kind of soft music whose sweetness is spent within the spirit; but in that day thou shalt testify and bear witness what the Lord has done for thee (H. E. I., 3903-3921).
II. THE SONG ITSELF.—
1. All of it is concerning the Lord; it is all addressed to Him. "O Lord, I will praise Thee: though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away." When a soul is escaped from the bondage of sin, it resembles the apostles on Mount Tabor—it sees no man but Jesus only.
2. It includes repentant memories. The Hebrew would run something like this, "O Lord, I will praise Thee; Thou wast angry with me." We do this day praise God because He made us feel His anger. "What, is a sense of anger a cause for praise?" No, not if it stood alone, but because it has driven us to Christ. The song in its deep bass includes plaintive recollections of sin pressing heavily on the spirit.
3. It contains blessed certainties. "Thine anger is turned away." "Can a man know that? Can he be quite sure he is forgiven?" He can be as sure of pardon as he is of his existence, as infallibly certain as he is of a mathematical proposition. The Scriptures teach that to the sinner who trusts in Jesus there is no condemnation, and every one may know whether he is trusting in Jesus or not (H. E. I., 309, 310, 324-334, 986-989).
4. It includes holy resolutions. "I will praise Thee"—in secret, in public. For this purpose I will unite with Thy people. I will not be content unless all that I am and all that I have shall praise Thee.
5. It is a song which is peculiar in its characteristics, and appropriate only to the people of God. It is a song of strong faith, and yet of humility. Its spirit is a precious incense made up of many costly ingredients. Humility confesses, "Thou wast angry with me;" gratitude sings, "Thine anger is turned away;" patience cries, "Thou comfortest me," and holy joy springs up, and saith, "I will praise Thee." Faith, hope, love—all have their notes here, from the bass of humility up to the highest alto of glorious communion.
By way of practical results from this subject, let me speak,
1. A word of consolation to those who are under God's anger. God never shut up a soul in the prison of conviction, but sooner or later He released the captive. The worst thing in the world is to go unchastised; to be allowed to sin and eat honey with it, this is the precursor of damnation; but to sin, and to have the wormwood of repentance with it, this is the prelude of being saved. If the Lord has embittered thy sin, He has designs of love towards thee; His anger shall yet be turned away.
2. A word of admonition. Some of you have been forgiven, but are you praising God as you should? (H. E. I., 3903-3911).—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (vol. xvi. pp. 241-250).
The preceding chapter relates to the reign of the Messiah; the end of it especially to the ingathering of the Jews—a period which will be the spiritual jubilee to the tribes of Israel, and the beginning of the millennium to the world itself. That is the day in which Israel shall say, "O Lord, I will praise thee," &c. This passage may be applied also to every spiritual child of Abraham. Consider—
I. The previous state referred to. "Thou wast angry with me." Anger in God is not, as it often is in us, a blind, furious passion; but a holy disapprobation of wrong, and a righteous determination to punish it (H. E. I., 2288-2294).
1. Man's character and conduct, while in his natural state are such as justly to expose him to the Divine anger. What does God survey in the sinner? Ignorance, unbelief, envy, malevolence, impurity, &c. In his conduct, likewise, how much there is that must necessarily be displeasing to God!—ingratitude, disobedience, selfishness, abuse of long-suffering, the rejection of Christ.
2. No intelligent being need be in any doubt as to whether he is, or is not, an object of the Divine anger. The teaching of Scripture is clear (Psa ; Psa 34:16, &c.) This is ratified by the workings of conscience. Let any one do good secretly, and contrast his state of mind with the feelings arising after the commission of secret evil.
3. The Divine anger is of all things to be deprecated. Remember what its effects have been upon impenitent sinners. Think of the old world; of Pharaoh and the Egyptians; of Sodom, &c. View them written in indelible and awful characters in the history of the Israelites. Nothing can resist it, alleviate it, or deliver from it.
II. The delightful change experienced.
1. The Divine displeasure is removed. "Anger turned away." The cloud blotted out; no longer under condemnation, &c. This necessarily supposes a change in the creature. His enmity and opposition to God have ceased; he has seen the evil of sin; confessed and forsaken it; and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. A state of unbelief exposes us to the Divine wrath; a state of faith brings upon us His favour. God abhors the high and proud spirit; but He looks in pity on the lowly and contrite.
2. The Divine favour is enjoyed. "Thou comfortest me." We cannot stand in a neutral state with respect to God. The instant His anger is removed, His favour is enjoyed. Guilt, remorse, the burden of sin, are gone; and in their stead there is a sweet assurance of acceptance with God. This comfort is real, not visionary; suitable, abiding, and inexpressibly precious; it is associated with all good, both in this life and that which is to come; it is the precursor of everlasting felicity.
III. The grateful return presented. "I will praise Thee." Acceptable praise,
1. Includes the offering of a thankful heart. It must arise from within; it must be the expression of the affections of the soul. Heart gratitude is alone real, and that which God will receive.
2. It must be free and spontaneous. "I will." Not I ought, or should, but "I will."
3. It must be constant (Eph ; 1Th 5:18; Psa 34:1).
APPLICATION.—Let the text be
1. The test of our state. Can we use it? Is it so with us? Is God our reconciled friend?
2. The test of our spirit and conduct. Do we love and bless God? Is it our delight to do so?
3. Let it be attractive to the convicted, mourning sinner. There is a way to Divine peace, and to real and heavenly comfort. Christ is that way. Come now to God through Him.—Jabez Burns, D.D.: Pulpit Cyclopœdia (iii. 221-224).
In this verse we have a representation—
I. Of the natural condition of sinful men. An object of Divine anger.
1. The nature of the emotion described;
2. The cause of this anger;
3. How much it is to be feared. Unlike the anger of man it is changeless, and behind it is boundless wisdom and irresistible power.
II. Of the change effected in the state of believers by Divine grace. They are blessed,
1. By the removal of the Divine displeasure, effected by the work accomplished for them by the Son of God, and in them by the Holy Spirit.
2. In the enjoyment of Divine consolation.
III. Of the adoring thankfulness which the change demands and calls forth.
1. The individual character of the declaration: "Thou shalt say."
2. The vocal proclamation: Thou "shalt say." True gratitude is never silent (Psa, &c.)
3. The delightful burden of the song.—George Smith, D.D.
In this verse we have three pictures. I. God angry with the sinner. II. God reconciled to the sinner. III. God comforting the sinner.—H. F. Walker.
ISAIAH'S VISION OF THE KING AND OF HIS KINGDOM
CHAPTERS 11 AND 12
This is one of the visions that Isaiah saw (chap. Isa, Isa 2:1, &c.). He was a dreamer of dreams. With a keen perception, not surpassed, of the men and things actually surrounding him, much of his life was passed in an ideal and future world. There he found comfort and strength to endure the sorrows that otherwise would have crushed him. At the outset of his ministry, when the great king who had done so much to restore the prosperity of the nation was about to be removed, there was vouchsafed to him a vision of the King immortal, eternal, invisible, throned in the temple, and surrounded by the exalted intelligences who do His will (chap. Isa 6:1-4); and now, at the close of the wicked and disastrous reign of Ahaz, when his hopes concerning his race would naturally have failed, there was granted him a vision of a King of righteousness and peace, who on earth would rule over a kingdom such as the world had never seen. His soul had been stirred and appalled by a vision of disaster and woe. He saw the king of Assyria, then the terror of the earth, utterly broken, his vast armies hewn down as forests fall before the axes of the woodmen (chap. Isa 10:33-34); a vision of blood and terror which may well have filled him with trembling. But just as sometimes the sweetest day break follows a night of storm, this vision of terror fades away, and he sees—
I. A KING (chap. Isa ).
2. Royally endowed; a King by truest "right divine," because possessed of royal qualities of heart and mind (chap. Isa ). Of the thousands who have sat on thrones, how few have possessed them! How many have ruled over the miserable wretches subject to their sway merely by the craft of the serpent or the cruelty of the tiger! Of those who have been popular, how many have owed their popularity to mere physical prowess and politic good-nature (Richard I., Charles II.)! How few have endeavoured to approach the Biblical conception of what a ruler ought to be (Deu 17:14-20; 2Sa 23:3; Psa 72:4; Pro 20:28)! In the marvellous superiority of that conception to anything that has prevailed among men, have we not another proof that the sacred writers were indeed inspired by the Spirit of God?
3. Ruling in righteousness; using His marvellous endowments for the welfare of those subjected to His authority (chap. Isa ); not judging of things or men by their mere appearance, nor by common report; caring for the poor, befriending the shrinking and helpless, fearless in His dispensation of justice; His very words being swords that smote and overthrew the arrogant oppressor; made strong by the very righteousness which merely politic men would have feared to display in view of the might of iniquity in this disordered world; a Hero of the truest and divinest kind, in actual life setting forth the ideal to which the noblest knights in the purest days of chivalry strove to conform. Such was the King whom the prophet "saw" in an age when "ruler" was merely another word for tyrant and oppressor. Surely the vision so fair and wondrous was given him from above!
When the axe is laid to the imperial power of the world, it falls without hope (chap. Isa ). But in Israel spring is returning (chap. Isa 11:1). The world-power resembles the cedar-forest of Lebanon; the house of David, on the other hand, because of its apostasy, is like the stump of a felled tree, like a root without stem, branches, or crown. The world-kingdom, at the height of its power, presents the most striking contrast to Israel and the house of David in the uttermost depth announced in chapter 6, fin., mutilated and reduced to the lowliness of its Bethlehemitish origin. But whereas the Lebanon of the imperial power is thrown down, to remain prostrate, the house of David renews its youth.… Out of the stump of Jesse—i.e., out of the remnant of the chosen royal family, which has sunk down to the insignificance of the house from which it sprang—there comes forth a twig (choter), which promises to supply the place of the trunk and crown; and down below, in the roots covered with earth, and only rising a little above it, there shows itself a nçtzer, i.e., a fresh, green shoot. In the historical account of the fulfilment, even the ring of the words of the prophecy is noticed: the nçtzer, at first so humble and insignificant, was a poor despised Nazarene (Mat 2:23).—Delitzsch.
II. He saw also THE KINGDOM.
1. A kingdom of righteousness (chap. Isa ). The kingdom necessarily resembles the king. Appalling is the influence of a court upon a nation. Correspondingly great is the responsibility of those who sit in high places.
2. A kingdom of peace. Set forth by the most beautiful symbolism (chap. Isa ; Isa 11:13).
3. A kingdom of prosperity. Those included in it are no longer miserable exiles and bond slaves; rather they rule over those by whom they were spoiled and oppressed (chap. Isa ). This is the true interpretation of a symbol that is in itself harsh and repulsive. The coarseness of the symbol is due to the coarseness of the minds it was first intended to touch. 4. A kingdom of gladness and joy. There pervades it the gladness of exiles who have been restored to their own land (chap. Isa 11:15-16); the true and religious joy of men who recognise that the deliverances which inspire their songs have been wrought for them by God (chap. Isa 12:1-5); the joy of men who are absolutely assured of continual safety (chap. Isa 12:2; Isa 12:6).
Was all this merely a bright vision?
1. It has been already fulfilled in part.
2. In our own day it is being fulfilled more completely than ever before.
1. Recognise and rejoice in the fact that we are living under the rule of this righteous King. This is at least the dawning of the "day" which Isaiah saw (Mat ).
2. Exult in view of the certain future of our race. The kingdom of God shall come generation after generation with mightier power (H. E. I., 3421-3423).
3. Labour as well as pray that future may be hastened.
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD
Isa . The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him.
This is declared concerning the Messiah. Short as this declaration is, some of the profoundest of all truths are involved in it. It is implied that God is a person, that from Him there goes forth an influence by which the character of other persons is affected, and that all that qualified Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah came from God. Let us think of these things. Do not be deterred from doing so by the idea that they are transcendental, far away from our daily life. They need not be so; we shall be very blameworthy if we make them so.
I. God is a person. There are those who would have us put away this faith. In their view, God is merely the great controlling Force behind all other forces, the life of the universe, diffused through it, manifesting itself in innumerable forms. As it is the same life in the tree that manifests itself in root, trunk, branch, spray, twig, leaf, blossom, fruit, so all things that exist are not the creations of a personal will, but the manifestations of an impersonal and all-pervading life; all forces, convertible the one into the other, are but varying forms of the one underlying force. Every individual life is but a wave that seems for a moment to be separated from the one universal ocean of life; it leaps up from it, falls back into it, is absorbed by it. True, these waves are often strangely diverse—Nero and St. Paul, John Howard and Napoleon, the Virgin Mary and Lucrezia Borgia; but in that great Unity of which they are all manifestations, there is an all-comprehensive reconciliation, though it may elude our grasp. For Pantheism, many would have us put away the doctrine of a personal God. But this exchange, if it could be forced upon us by some logical necessity (which it is not), would not be a gain, but a tremendous loss. For,
1. There would be a tremendous loss to the heart. A force may be feared, but not loved. To gravitation we owe much, but no one ever professed to love it. A force cannot be loved, because it does not love. Strike out of our life all that comes to us from the confidence that God loves us, and from the responsive love that springs up in our hearts towards Him, and how much is lost! Then there is no longer any assurance amid the mysteries of life, nor consolation in its sorrows. In a word, we are orphaned: we can no longer say, "Our Father, who art in heaven." There is no longer a Father, knowing us, loving us, causing all things to work together for our good; there is only a Force, to which it is useless to appeal, against which it is impossible to contend.
2. We should also lose one of the greatest of all helps to a noble life. Not to dwell on the fact that to speak of virtue or vice would then be absurd,—then we should no longer sin, we should merely make mistakes,—consider how much the world owes to the aspiration to be like God which has stirred so many noble souls. Through them the average morality of the world has been marvellously raised; but this would have been impossible but for the stimulus these inspiring souls found in the character of God. That is the first fact of which this text reminds us, that God is a person from whom a spirit—an influence—can go forth affecting the character of other persons.
II. From God such an influence does go forth. The possibility is a glorious fact. That from God a "spirit" should go forth, and that it should do so invisibly, is in accordance with all that we know of the universe which God has made, and which is in some sort a revelation of Him.
1. Nothing in the universe is unrelated. From orb to orb influences go forth by which they are mutually affected.
2. The mightiest influences are invisible. In all this, the material is a counterfact and revelation of the spiritual. It would be altogether abnormal, if from God there did not go forth an influence operating upon and affecting other persons. It is invisible, but its effects are recognisable. One of them is the activity of conscience, rightly understood. Another is the moral growth and refinement which those in whom it is most conspicuous, most invariably and distinctly attribute to influences exerted upon them by God. Even Socrates did so. This also is a doctrine full of hope and comfort. If we need moral transformation, there streams from God an influence capable of effecting it: to that influence let us submit ourselves, and the transformation shall come to pass; the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon us, and we shall become like Him.
III. To the influence exerted upon Him by the Spirit of the Lord, Jesus of Nazareth owed all that qualified Him to be the Messiah (Isa ). That which was born of the Virgin Mary was a true human child. A sinless child, yet sinless not as the result of the sinlessness of the mother (as Rome teaches), but of the influence of the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Him from the beginning of His earthly life. His was a real humanity—our humanity sanctified. All that was pure, noble, Godlike in Him was "born not of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." How full of comfort and hope is this truth also! To us also is offered the same Spirit. Nothing can be more express than the declarations that we may have it if we will, and that, if we have it, the ultimate result will be that we shall be found partakers of the holiness of God. Let us not be unwisely cast down by the frailty and pollution of our nature; if the Spirit of the Lord rest upon us, the purity and the strength of God will become ours, and at length the Father will say of each of us, as He did of Jesus of Nazareth, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE
Isa . And He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears.
A glorious difference between our Lord and ourselves. "He knew what was in man," and needed not the evidence of external signs, which often mislead us. He could deal with the motives of the heart (H. E. I., 3332, 4147). Not by human sight, but by Divine insight, He judged the conduct and character of men.
1. Our judgment is enfeebled by ignorance. We do not see and hear all, and from our imperfect knowledge of facts we draw wrong and often disastrous conclusions (H. E. I., 2997-3005). But our Lord could go behind the visible works, and detect what often deceived men—e.g., His treatment of pharisaism.
2. Our judgment is enfeebled by prejudice. This is often the result of ignorance. Seeing only certain sides of men, we dislike them, and frame our judgments accordingly—e.g., Nathanael (Joh ). With no better reason than Nathanael had, we regard many a man as an enemy, or otherwise place him in a false light. But our Lord dealt with none in this way. Seeing men as they really were, no preconceived opinions led Him to unworthy conclusions.
3. Partiality enfeebles and perverts our judgment. Judging by sight and hearing, we approve of one man more than another, because he has certain artful or pleasing methods for winning our favour; flattery, offers of gain, &c. (P. D., 1275, 1281, 1283). But our Lord could not be won in this way (Mar ; Joh 6:15). He was infinitely compassionate, tender, forgiving, but no feeble partiality interfered to prevent most righteous judgment.
4. Our judgment is often perverted by passion. In the pursuit of some unlawful and all-absorbing aim, we become too disturbed to weigh calmly even the evidences we can see and hear. We look at everything in the light of our false affection, and are thereby rendered absolutely incapable of beholding others in their true light, especially if they stand in our way and oppose our progress (P. D., 2060). But the one absorbing and unremittent purpose of Jesus of Nazareth was to do the will of His Heavenly Father, and to finish the work He had given Him to do. Hence He dwelt always on a pure altitude, in whose clear atmosphere He saw men and things as they are.
5. Our natural depravity is also a serious hindrance to our right judging. Our very organs of knowledge, our affections, our conscience, have been perverted. Let a man be ever so disposed to take correct views of men and things, there will be some flaw in his vision, some defect in his hearing. Hence there are times when we cannot accept as final the judgment of the best and holiest of men. But Christ had no secret evil to lead Him wrong.
In view of all this, how fitting it is that Christ should be our judge! How well, too, He is qualified to be the merciful High Priest whom we need (Heb ). He who tenderly sympathises with us is He who perfectly knows us (H. E. I., 956; P. D., 462).—William Manning.
THE UNIVERSAL DIFFUSION AND REDEMPTIVE POWER OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
Isa . They shall not hurt nor destroy, &c.
We have here a picture of the golden age. I. The whole earth shall be as Mount Zion. II. Shall be freed from injustice and violence. III. Shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.
1. Wherein this knowledge consists.
2. To what extent it shall prevail—universal, deep.
3. By what means it is to be diffused.—J. Lyth. D.D.: Homiletical Treasury (p. 18).
"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord." It seems clear that in these words the prophet intended to be understood as speaking of the whole earth. He would scarcely, in the same sentence, have used the expressions in question—the holy mountain in the first clause, and the earth in the other—if by these expressions he had not meant the same thing, namely, the whole globe of the earth, when the dwellers thereon should come to be true worshippers, like those who first worshipped at Mount Zion, and who were a type of the greater assembly of worshippers, the holy and universal Church, which in the fulness of time would be established.
I. The prophet grounds the hope of that reformed and purified state of the moral world, described in the beautiful words of the text, upon the increase of religious knowledge which he saw to be coming. "They shall not hurt … for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord." II. These words may be taken as descriptive of the legitimate effect of Christian knowledge. The general scope, aim, and tendency of gospel principles is such as would produce the change described, were it not counteracted by the tendency within us to what is wrong. III. They are more than this: they are prophetic of the actual results of Christian knowledge. The gospel will render war impossible. True, so-called "Christian" nations have not yet ceased to wage war with one another, nor so-called "Christian" men to rob and circumvent and ruin each other. Nevertheless, this prophecy shall yet be fulfilled. We see it in the process of fulfilment. The condition of the moral world has been meliorated by Christianity. Wars have not ceased, but their conduct has been mitigated. In their private dealings with each other, men have become more just and trustworthy. Already there are millions of men who would shrink from doing harm of any kind to their fellow-men. Compare Christendom with heathendom, and you will see what mighty changes the gospel has already wrought. The practice even of Christian men falls short of their knowledge. Nevertheless, the practice and the morals of men are, generally speaking, the best where their knowledge is the most. The prophet's words are justified by fact, and men forbear one another most, and hurt and destroy least, where knowledge is the greatest. It is a fact that life and property are more safe and secure in the Christian portion of the earth, than in any other portions. And the knowledge of the Lord grows year by year; partly through the labours of missionaries in many places; still more by the rapid growth of the nations that are Christian. The violent and lawless races of the earth are dwindling away. The only races that are increasing are those that fear God, and are willing to respect the rights, the properties, and the lives of their neighbours. Through the medium of this natural increase of peace-loving races, and through the conversion of many among the benighted nations, this prophecy is receiving a gradual, but very appreciable, fulfilment. The world is advancing, with ever-accelerating speed, towards knowledge and peace, and this declaration shall yet be literally fulfilled (H. E. I., 979, 1161-1168; P. D., 2465, 2466).
1. We are permitted to rejoice in the hope of a period when justice and benevolence shall prevail in the world.
2. We are required to contribute towards the realisation of this hope. This we are to do
(1) by the purification of our own hearts; by the conquest of every passion and desire that would make us hurtful to our neighbours.
(2) By prayer (Mat ).
(3) By helping to diffuse that "knowledge of the Lord" which is the great peace-maker in the earth.—A. Gibson, M.A.: Sermons on Various Subjects; Second Series (pp. 246-265).
In this and the preceding verses we have a beautiful picture of a state of human society entirely different from anything that has been witnessed since the Fall. The prophet beholds changes in human character so great that he feels he can only symbolise them by transformations in the members of the animal kingdom of the most astonishing kind. Isa are symbolical, and are intended to excite within us the liveliest anticipations of the glorious effects that would follow the universal proclamation and acceptation of the gospel. Thus we are led to speak of the nature, the diffusion, and the effect of the knowledge of the Lord.
I. ITS EXALTED NATURE. By "the knowledge of the Lord" may be meant that of which He is the revealer (2Ch ), or that of which He is the theme (2Pe 2:20). God can only be revealed by Himself; and He has given us a threefold revelation of Himself—in nature, in providence, and in Holy Scripture. In the latter we have the record of the fullest revelation which He has vouchsafed, that given us in His Son. God is never truly known by man until He is known in Christ. "The knowledge of the Lord" and "the gospel" are terms of the same meaning.
1. Of prophetic certainty. Nothing could be more plain than the prophetic declarations concerning this matter. But if any man asks when the promise will be fulfilled, only one answer can be given him (Act ).
2. Involving Divine agency. Utterly false is the notion that, after creating the universe, God withdrew from it, and left it to go on by its own momentum (Joh ); and utterly false is the notion that, after giving the gospel to the world, God has left it to make its own way therein. By Divine agency men are raised up to proclaim it (Eph 4:11). While they are so engaged Christ Himself is with them (Mat 28:20); and while they preach, the Holy Spirit strives in the hearts of men to prepare and dispose them to receive the glad tidings (1Th 1:5). When, therefore, we look at the glorious promise of our text, we must not forget that God Himself is working for its accomplishment. This will save us from unbelief and despair concerning it.
3. Involving human instrumentality. Not that this is absolutely necessary. Without human husbandry God could have caused the earth to bring forth food for man and beast, and without human instrumentality He could have saved the world. But it has pleased Him to commit to us the Word of reconciliation. The consequent duty of preaching it must be taken in connection with, and regarded as the condition of, the promise; just as the promise that there shall be a harvest till the end of the world is conditioned by man's sowing the seed in the appointed season. The promise must not be used as an excuse for indolence, but as a stimulus to industry.
"As the waters cover the sea." The idea of universality could scarcely have been better expressed than by this magnificent simile. You have looked forth on the illimitable expanse of waters with wonder and awe. Your imagination has followed the depths far beyond the lowest tide-line to the unfathomed valleys and caverns that form the ocean bed; and you have endeavoured to take fully into your mind the thought that the lowest depths and the most distant shores were filled and covered by the all-diffusive and all-searching element.—Rawlinson.
III. ITS BLESSED EFFECT. The gospel is a harmonising power. It has a transforming efficacy equal to any that would be needed to bring about a literal fulfilment of Isa . Where-ever it comes in its saving power, it new creates human hearts, and thus dries up the causes of hatred and discord at their fountain. For it is a principle, 1, of righteousness, and, 2, of love. Hence it brings peace. For all discord is due to injustice that is prompted by selfishness (Jas 4:1). Where righteousness and love combine and rule, there must be peace and security; for the very desire to injure is taken away. The universal prevalence of the gospel necessarily means universal peace (H. E. I., 1126, 1127, 1129).
1. This suggests the answer to the questions, Why Christian nations make war against each other, and why even in Christian churches there are fierce contentions? The answer is, either that those nations or churches are Christian only in name, or that they have only very partially attained to "the knowledge of the Lord." They are only in the infant-class in Christ's great school; as they learn of Him, their rivalries and hatreds will pass away.
2. The gospel being so blessed in its effects, it is plain that it is the duty of all good men to extend the knowledge of it.—John Rawlinson.
A remarkable declaration this, especially if the Hebrew prophets were, as some learned sceptics tell us, men of narrow mind, worshipping a merely local god, and hating all men not descended from Jacob. By the noble simile employed by Isaiah two ideas are suggested—
1. Universality. Mankind is the area to be covered.
2. Ease. All the creeks, bays, channels, and broad highways of the vast ocean are filled in their appointed time. The mighty tide rises, sweeps onward, and the work is done. There was one great flood-tide of gospel-truth in the days of the apostles, and there is a greater still to come. Meanwhile, many difficulties attend the efforts of God's people to extend the knowledge of His truth; but, in the world's fulness, great ease will characterise the progress and triumphs of the gospel (Psa ; Heb 8:11). This declaration suggests two great subjects:—
I. THE HOPE OF THE WORLD. Shut the Bible, and our outlook on the world and its future is dark and sad. Open it, and let its light shine into our minds, and with the light will come encouragement and hope.
1. If it is true that "the earth … the sea," then God takes an interest in the affairs of the world, and takes an interest in them now. This mighty world is not left to drift into an unknown and perilous future without a steersman to guide it.
2. If God makes such abundant provision for the instruction of men in the knowledge of Himself, then He will be accessible to them when, by that knowledge, they are led to approach Him; and He is accessible to us.
3. Himself opening for men a way of access to Him, we may be sure that when they avail themselves of it He will deal with them in the way of mercy and love; and so He will deal with us. Who can doubt this who looks on the face of Christ, through whom God has given us the truest knowledge of Himself (2Co )?
4. He means to be known to the world, and therefore His gracious offers extend to all, to us.
II. THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH. In view of this declaration,
1. Take enlarged views of your work. Think how much remains to be done. Even if you could suppose that your family, your street, your town, your country were filled with the blessed tide of the knowledge of the Lord, yet think of the earth, and all its myriad claims resting upon the servants of God.
2. Spare no efforts in promoting the cause of Christian missions. In advancing these, you are working in harmony with the great purposes of God, and for an object which is dear to Him—that object for which He has already given His Son! Will you withhold from it the money with which He has entrusted you, and for which you will have to give account at the last day?
3. There are many present difficulties in the prosecution of mission-work, but meanwhile take comfort from the large purposes of God. "Have faith in God." His plans are vast, but His glorious promises are great as His counsels, and His resources as glorious as His promises. The process of filling the earth with "the knowledge of the Lord" may seem to us to be tedious, the obstacles may be many, the time may be long; if the work were left to us, it would be hopeless; but GOD will hasten it all in His time.—William Manning.
It is here declared that there is yet to dawn upon the world an era of perfect light, and that that shall be also and therefore an era of perfect love. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, FOR the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord."
It is a mystery, but it is a fact, that knowledge is not necessarily a blessing. The devils believe—and therefore know—yet remain devils still (Jas ). Many men of unholy life have been men of eminent knowledge (Rom 1:21). But this is a moral monstrosity, a result of the unnatural condition into which we have been brought by sin; just as in certain forms of disease food becomes poison. Knowledge is one of those forces which naturally tend to elevate and sanctify (H. E. I., 3106); to know God truly is eternal life (Joh 17:3); and the declaration is, that knowledge shall be world-wide, and that by it the world shall be morally revolutionised. Remembrance of two facts will give intelligence and strength to our faith in these glorious predictions.
1. As man's knowledge of God has grown, the human race has risen. Except in those abnormal cases already referred to, it may be declared that men cannot learn to know God and remain as they were—e.g., wherever the knowledge of the unity of God is restored to man, idolatry becomes impossible; as soon as the knowledge of the spirituality of God really enters the mind, formalism in worship becomes an impossibility. So every truth concerning God, as soon as it is really known, becomes a correcting and converting force. The tendency of this knowledge, as of light, is to quicken and beautify. The way to grow in grace is to grow in the knowledge of Christ (2Pe ).
In this subject there is,
1. A complete justification of all missionary enterprises. They are not visionary schemes foredoomed to failure; they are intensely practical, and shall be triumphantly successful. The time may be far off, but it is advancing, when every man shall know God ( δ). The effect of that knowledge will be the destruction of the desire to destroy or injure.
2. An argument for patience. In view of the wrongs that prevail upon the earth, many noble souls find it difficult to exercise it. Of finer taste, of clearer vision, of truer sympathy with God than is common amongst men, the wickedness that triumphs in the world fills them with continual agony. It drives them almost into atheism. They ask, "Can God see these things, and not use His power to bring them to an end? If there were a God, would He not instantly smite the oppressors with destruction?" Let them be patient. God does see; God does feel; God is hastening on the better day by the only means by which it can really be brought in. Another deluge would not cleanse the world from crime; if but eight souls were spared, sin would once more begin to prevail. The era of purity and peace can be ushered in only by the revelation of God to man, and thus it is advancing towards us; thus it is already begun; between Christian and heathen lands there is a real contrast; and ere long there shall be as great a contrast between Christian lands uplifted by a fuller knowledge of God and these lands as they now are. The millennium is not merely a prophetic dream, it shall be a glorious fact. Patience! (H. E. I., 1134, 1135, 1166-1168, 3421-3423; P. D., 2465, 2466).
3. An argument for hopeful Christian effort. We must not merely dream of the millennium, we must labour to hasten its dawn. Work is needful: Sunday-school work, &c. Every one who prays, "Thy kingdom come," thereby, unless he means to mock God, pledges Himself to work to hasten its coming, and thus to be a "fellow-labourer with God." There is need for individual effort, and for united effort. Such effort should always be hopeful. We are not attempting what is impossible; we are working in the line of God's promises, and with God! Remembering that the sense of our own weakness will not unduly depress us. It does not require a giant's strength to row with the tide; and a mightier force than that of ocean is bearing us on to a victory that shall fill earth with blessing and heaven with gladness.
THE ENSIGN OF THE NATIONS
Isa . And in that day there shall be, &c.
I. In the two parts of this verse we have a twofold metaphorical representation of the Redeemer: one expressed, one implied.
1. An ensign of the people
= banner or standard, such as is set up as a rallying-point around which,
(1) the subjects of a king assemble to do him homage; and
(2) the soldiers of an army gather to receive the commands and exhortations of their general.
2. This second use of a standard leads to the second metaphorical representation of the Redeemer, that of a victorious general: "His rest shall be glorious." We are thus directed to the final result of the uplifting of Christ as an ensign: the great campaign brought to a successful conclusion, the Victor in it rests gloriously, surrounded by the soldiers whom He has led on to triumph, and the people to whom He has given liberty and peace.
II. Consider how these predictions have been fulfilled.
1. By the preaching of the gospel Christ has been lifted up, and as the result men of all nations have sought unto Him, and will seek Him more and more.
2. Having done and suffered all that was necessary ultimately to secure the final victory, He has taken His place at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and rests there gloriously; the glory of His rest arising from the number of the subjects who do Him homage, and of the soldiers who delight to fight His battles, from the triumphs which He has already enabled them to achieve, and from the prosperity and peace of all His people.
We shall make a great mistake if we end by thus admiringly noting how this ancient prophecy has been, and is being, fulfilled in the history of the world. We are among the Gentiles of whom our text speaks: have we sought unto the glorious Person of whom it speaks? You desire to do so. Do so, then,
1. For right purposes; not merely that you may be delivered from suffering, but that you may be delivered from sin; not merely that you may ultimately gain admission to heaven, but that you may here and now render to Him the homage and the service to which He is entitled.
2. In a right spirit; not vainly dreaming that you have, or can win, any claim upon His regard, but recognising that you can appeal only to His mercy, and that without it you are lost; and making this appeal penitently and believingly. So coming to Him, He will be found of you. He will cause you to share in His rest, by causing you to share in His triumphs; inspired and upheld by Him, you shall trample under foot the world, the flesh, the devil, and the fear of death. Your whole being will be at rest; your understanding no longer harassed by perplexing doubts; your conscience stilled and gladdened by a righteous peace; your affections centred at last around Him who alone is worthy of their supreme love; and this threefold rest, so sweet and blessed now, shall be perfected and perpetuated in heaven.—George Smith, D.D.
The prophet here foresees that the Saviour's mission and work will so exalt Him in the eyes of the nations, that they will turn to Him as the one object and desire of their souls. (Compare Joh .) The prediction declares that Christ would be a banner to attract men, that He would be the object of universal search, and that men in finding Him would attain to true rest and glory.
I. THE BANNER.
1. A banner is naturally "lifted up;" only thus can its purpose be accomplished (chap. Isa ; Isa 18:3). Apt image this of Christ. Not merely in His death on Calvary. That exaltation was followed by His being lifted higher still by the preaching of the gospel, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Joh 16:14), by the devout lives of all His true followers.
2. A banner has usually some emblem or device representative of some great cause, or expressive of some great truth. (Give instances.) So when "Christ and Him crucified" are uplifted clearly in the view of men, they see God's hatred of sin, His love of man, and His provision for man's future happiness and glory.
II. THE OBJECT OF UNIVERSAL SEARCH. "To it shall the Gentiles seek." Search for Christ characterises all races of men (Hag ) and all periods of time (Luk 10:24). The search is often prosecuted in ignorance. Men know not for what and for whom their souls yearn; but it is Christ of whom unconsciously they are in quest; and it is towards Him, that by the else insatiable desires of their spiritual nature, they are being led.
III. THE FINDING OF TRUE REST. "His rest shall be glorious."
1. The rest we find in Christ is connected with a vital change effected in the heart and life. He does not simply do something for us; He also does a work within us. Every intelligent seeker knows that there can be no rest until the evil that is lodged within us is resisted and cast out (H. E. I., 1324). It is as we enter into the spirit of Christ and share His life, that we enter into rest (Mat ).
2. Our new relations to God, entered into by faith in Christ Jesus, makes our rest very glorious. God is then known to us by the most precious and endearing names; He is our rock, our shield, &c. Each of these names represents to us some tender aspects of His love, some sweet ministry of His grace.
Are you in search of the highest peace, joy, holiness, rest? Here you may end your quest (1Co ; P. D., 481).—William Manning.
THE RECONCILER OF MEN
Isa . And in that day there shall be, &c.
Several eminent commentators are of opinion that this prophecy will not be fulfilled until the Jews are restored as a nation to their own land. Others believe that the prophet used (it may be unconsciously) transient geographical phrases as symbols of eternal truths. Without entering upon this controversy, which can be settled only by the actual unfolding and accomplishment of God's plans as to the history of this world, let us think of the fundamental fact of the vision, that in it "the Root of David" was revealed to the prophet as the reconciler of men. His appearing in the world would be the setting up of a standard unto which all men, Gentiles (Isa ) and Jews (Isa 11:11-12), would seek; and before the influence then exerted upon them by Him rivalries and enmities, even though they were as inveterate and malignant as those of Judah and Ephraim (Isa 11:13), would disappear. No obstacles, even though they should be as immense as the geographical ones which are specified, would hinder their coming together and forming one united and triumphant people under His benignant sway. This is only saying what the prophet has said already (chap. Isa 2:4; Isa 9:7), that the kingdom of Christ would be a kingdom of peace. Consider—
II. How sadly imperfect the fulfilment of this prediction still is! The era of universal peace has not yet dawned. The world is still cursed by wars and rumours of wars. Millions of men are maintained in constant readiness for war. There are bitter contentions among the sections of the Christian Church, these tribes of the modern Israel. Class is divided from class. So-called Christian families are saddened by bitter feuds.
III. The blessedness of the era that shall yet dawn upon this world. The Christian often dreams of it; his dreams are sweet as those which hungry men have of banquets, and shipwrecked sailors drifting helplessly on rafts in the wide ocean have of their native village and of meeting with their loved ones there; and in their waking hours they, too, are apt to be saddened by the fear that their dreams too are as utterly incapable of realisation. But it is not so. They shall all be realised, for the authority of Christ shall yet be universal, real, absolute; and all the listening angels shall not be able to detect one sound of discord rising from the round world, for the whole world shall be full of the peace of Christ (P. D., 2465, 2466, 2676).
IV. Our duty in regard to this prediction. We are not merely to dream dreams of the blessedness of the era that shall yet be ushered in. We are to do something to hasten its dawning.
1. We are to pray for it with yearning hearts.
2. We are to do our utmost, in every possible way, to extend the knowledge of the gospel throughout the world. The gospel, not commerce, is the true civiliser and uniter of nations: commerce will prosper on the gospel triumphs. True, many converts are only nominally Christians, but in many cases that is the first step towards their becoming real Christians, i.e., men who will pray and labour for universal peace.
3. Minor and contributory duties.
(1.) The diffusion of knowledge that will tend to bring home to the understandings and hearts of men the hurtfulness of war, and of preparation for war.
(2.) The discouragement and overthrow of those statesmen, to whichever party they may belong, whose policy tends to foster national animosities.
(3.) The discouragement of all pursuits and things that tend to familiarise men with war and keep alive in them a passion for it, e.g., the volunteer movement; pictures, poems, and newspapers that glorify successful soldiers, as if in them the noblest ideal of manhood were realised.
(4.) Careful education of our children in Christ-like sentiments concerning foreign nations and war. By constant heedfulness of these duties, we shall do something to hasten the dawning of the era of universal peace and blessedness, and we shall not have lived in vain.
WELLS OF SALVATION
Isa . Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
1. Water revives. How the traveller dying from thirst begins to revive the instant water touches his lips; so the salvation of the gospel imparts new life to the soul; an invigoration, moreover, that shall not pass away (Joh ).
2. Water cleanses. So does the salvation of the gospel (Rev ; Heb 9:14; Eze 36:25; Zec 13:1).
3. Water fertilises. The water of salvation enriches and fertilises the spiritual soil, so that the blossoms of hope in the early spring-time of piety, and the matured fruits of holiness in the autumn of life, adorn the garden of the Lord (Isa ; Jer 31:12; Psa 1:3; Num 24:9). III. Of THE JOY.
1. This can only be experienced by such as draw water out of the wells of salvation. Necessarily it is a matter of experience. There are many things that must be felt to be known, and this is one of them.
2. This joy may be expected in the very act of drawing the water of salvation. If you were to overtake a traveller in a sandy desert dying from thirst, he would begin to enjoy the very moment he became conscious of the touch of the precious fluid. So with the Christian (Rom ). And as he may and ought to be constantly drawing from the wells of salvation, his life should always be a happy life (H. E. I., 3037-3051; P. D., 2085).
'Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!
All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody sun at noon
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the moon.
Day after day, day after day
We stuck, nor breath, nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
—Coleridge: "Ancient Mariner."
Our text may be regarded—
1. As giving full permission to do that of which it speaks. However unworthy we may be, we may come to the wells of salvation, and draw as much as we need (Rev ; H. E. I., 2331, 2361, 2362, 4086).
2. Nay, as a command. When a sovereign prepares a banquet, and issues his invitations, those invitations have the force of commands. God has graciously provided salvation for your souls in Christ: will you turn away, and despise His love?—John Rawlinson.
Salvation—let us not think of it meanly. It has past, present, future aspects. Too often we content ourselves with the past view of it, and that in a selfish way. Twenty or thirty years ago, we "believed" and were "saved," i.e., got out of harm's way. What is God's grace doing for us? Is it making us purer, nobler? And what are our aspirations and prospects? Are we imitators of the great Apostle (Php ).
1. Because the wells of salvation are free to all, and easily accessible by all. Were it not so, we might fear that we or our friends were excluded therefrom. But God's salvation, like all His best gifts—air, light, water—is free to all alike (H. E. I., 942, 943, 2331, 2361, 2362). And it is easily accessible; no harder terms are imposed upon us than it is possible and right for us to comply with. (All this is summed up in chap. Isa .)
2. Because "the wells of salvation" are inexhaustible. Picture the fainting and despairing condition of a traveller who, in a time of scorching heat, comes to a well, and finds it empty. No such fate awaits the true seeker after God. Other sources of help will deceive and fail us (Jer ).
3. Because of the deep satisfaction which is derived therefrom (Joh ; H. E. I., 968-971, 1658, 1659, 2738-2837, 4627-4630, 4970).
The last day of the feast, known as "the Hosanna Rabba" and the "Great Day," found Him, as each day before, doubtless, had done, in the Temple arcades. He had gone thither early, to meet the crowds assembled for morning prayer. It was a day of special rejoicing. A great procession of pilgrims marched seven times round the city, with their lulats[branches of palm woven round with willow and myrtle], music, and loud-voiced choirs preceding, and the air was rent with shouts of Hosanna, in commemoration of the taking of Jericho, the first city in the Holy Land that fell into the hands of their fathers. Other multitudes streamed to the brooks of Shiloah, after the priests and Levites, bearing the golden vessels, with which to draw some of the water. As many as could get near the stream drank of it, amidst loud chanting of the words of Isaiah—"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,""With joy shall we draw water from the wells of salvation,"—rising in jubilant chants on every side. The water drawn by the priests was meanwhile borne up to the Temple, amid the boundless excitement of a vast throng. Such a crowd was, apparently, passing at this moment.
Rising, as the throng went by, His Spirit was moved at such honest enthusiasm, yet saddened at the moral decay which mistook a mere ceremony for religion. It was burning autumn weather, when the sun had for months shone in a cloudless sky, and the early rains were longed for as the monsoons in India after the summer heat. Water at all times is a magic word in a sultry climate like Palestine, but at this moment it had a double power. Standing, therefore, to give His words more solemnity, His voice now sounded far and near over the throng, with soft clearness, which arrested all—
"If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink, for I will give him the living waters of God's heavenly grace, of which the water you have now drawn from Shiloah is only, as your Rabbis tell you, a type. He that believes in Me drinks into his soul of My fulness, as from a fountain, the riches of divine grace and truth. Nor do they bring life to him alone who thus drinks. They become in his own heart, as the whole burden of Scripture tells, a living spring, which shall flow from his lips and life in holy words and deeds, quickening the thirsty around him."—Geikie.
Come to the Well-spring of life. It is open to you all. Whosoever will may come. Jesus stands ready to satisfy your deepest longings.—William Manning.
This chapter should be read in connection with the preceding, which determines its application to the times of Messiah. The peaceful state of the Church in Hezekiah's time is made the emblem of the peaceful era of the Gospel; as the Israelites who had been carried away in various invasions thus returned to their own country, so the nations should be gathered to the standard of Christ (Isa ).
I. The sources of consolation which God has opened up to the Church in the revelation of His Son. In a dry and thirsty land like this—in a world where there are so many sorrows arising from sin, and so many difficulties in our way to heaven—we need sources of supply, fountains of consolation. And in the Word of God we have them; "wells of salvation," not running streams, not brooks, full in spring and dry in summer, but wells!
1. Christ is the great fountain (Joh ). When He was lifted up upon the cross, the fountain of grace that is in Him was opened, and healing streams shall never cease to flow from it, till the last weary pilgrim has reached the abodes of blessedness. Do we thirst for the pardon of sin? (Mat 12:31). For the favour and friendship of God? (Mat 5:6). For solid and spiritual happiness? (Isa 55:1; Rev 22:17).
2. The religion of Christ is a system of consolation and joy; it is the only one that deserves the name; all others work as with unmeaning ceremonies or unfounded expectations. All the parts of Christ's religion, properly understood and personally enjoyed, promote solid comfort and true joy. Its doctrine (Rom ). Its promises (Psa 97:11). Its precepts (Psa 119:54). Its prospects (Rom 5:2; H. E. I., 4161-4163).
3. God is "the God of comfort." Christ is "the consolation of Israel." The Holy Spirit is "the Comforter." How ample are the sources of comfort and joy mentioned in this chapter!
(1.) The removal of a sense of divine displeasure (Isa ).
(2.) Hope of interest in God's special favour as our covenant God (Isa ).
1. He must learn to set a higher value upon spiritual blessings. It is the order of divine procedure to awaken a high sense of the value of His gifts before He communicates them. Many seem indifferent whether they enjoy the higher blessings of religion or no. The saints in former times were more earnest (Psa ).
2. He must cultivate those graces of religion which are immediately connected with its enjoyments: humility of mind, a teachable spirit, a more spiritual order of affections (Psa ; Psa 25:14; Col 3:2; Php 4:5-7).
3. Especially he must cultivate a prayerful spirit and expectant dependence upon divine illumination. Prayer is the key that opens the treasury of heaven (Psa ; Psa 119:18). Neglect of the Spirit's influences is a frequent cause of degeneracy and distress.
4. He must avoid whatever would hinder the life and power of religion; the secret love of sin, undue attachment to the world, prevalence of unholy tempers. It is a matter of perfect impossibility that the comforts of religion can be enjoyed where sin and inconsistency prevail. Is there no sin indulged, no self-dependence, no conformity to the world, no neglect of private duties? (Jer ). Heaven is the realm of perfect happiness, because it is the realm of perfect holiness.
5. He must diligently use all the appointed means of grace.
III. Particular seasons when the prophetic promise is fulfilled. Private meditation, public ordinances, trouble, death, entrance into heaven.—Samuel Thodey.
I. These wells of salvation have been opened for the supply of human needs; not for God's benefit, but for ours. What wells are to travellers through a desert, these are to us in our pilgrimage to Zion. II. Men should come to these wells for the purpose of having their needs supplied; not from habit, not that we may set a good example, &c., but that we ourselves may be refreshed and strengthened. III. No frequency in coming to these wells can be in any sense meritorious. Expose the mistake of the Pharisee and the Ritualist. The oftener we avail ourselves of them, the more we increase, not our claims upon God, but our obligation to Him; and the more should increase, not our pride and self-righteousness, but our thankfulness to God for His goodness in providing them. IV. The wells are nothing: the water in them is everything. A dry well, however deep it may be, or whatever historic associations may cluster around it, is worthless; and so are all religious ordinances apart from the Spirit of God. We must ever remember that they are means of grace—channels through which the God of all grace will satisfy the soul's thirst of those who seek Him in sincerity and truth. V. Nevertheless we are not to stay away from the wells, nor despise them. That is a false spirituality that disparages divine ordinances. We are not to trust in the wells, yet neither are we to refuse to draw water out of them:—
(1.) Because GOD opened them, and to neglect them is to charge Him with foolishly providing what we do not need.
(2.) Because it pleases Him to give us water through them; and we are to accept the blessing in whatever way He chooses to impart it to us. Naaman (2Ki ); the blind man (Joh 9:6-7).
(3.) Because we need refreshment and reinvigoration day by day (Isa ; Psa 84:7; H. E. I., 555, 556, 3866-3876).
(4.) Because our Master in the days of His flesh used the means of grace; no true Christian will seek in this respect to be above his Lord. VI. God has opened WELLS of salvation; not one, but many; none needlessly. We must use them all. Their benefit lies in their conjunction. For the production of a harvest, the sun and the rain are both needed; the sun alone would make a desert, the rain alone a swamp. No bird can fly with one wing, &c. We must read as well as pray, &c.
1. Why God sometimes leaves the wells dry. His people sometimes come so to delight in the means of grace, that they forget they are only means, and then He withholds His blessing, that they may be taught that He alone can satisfy their souls (Psa ; Psa 62:5).
2. Why, when there is water in the wells, some are not quickened and refreshed.
(1.) Water revives the living, not the dead.
(2.) Some forget to bring their buckets. They have no real desires after God, no true faith in His power and willingness to bless them, and to each of them we may say, "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the wells are deep" (Joh ).
THE DUTY OF GLADNESS
Isa . Cry out and shout, &c.
Two things are here observable:—
2. The admonition given, "Cry out and shout." Consider—
Such are the encouragements that consoled the ancient city of God in the day of her trouble. Harassed, her garrisons stormed, her armies scattered, her very sanctuary threatened with violation. she was bade remember her Eternal King, and take comfort in the thought of that watchful Guardian who sooner or later would assuredly avenge her wrongs. Often was she taught the same lesson; and often, in despite of her own froward and unbelieving heart, was the prediction realised. The Lord still "loved the gates of Zion;" the streams of His holy "river still made glad the city of God;" and He was "known in her palace for a refuge." But a gloomier hour at length arrived; even Divine patience has its limits; and the last dread crime of Zion could only be expiated in her ruin. Blood had flowed beneath her hands, every drop of which was worth a universe, and she had invoked its curse upon her own head and the head of her children. And now, behold, in the fearful words of her own prophets, "the lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way,"—Jerusalem is ruined and Judah is fallen, because their tongues and their doings are against the Lord to provoke the eyes of His glory. "But what?—is this the city of which such glorious things are spoken—that the Highest Himself should establish her, that she should not be moved?" Where are His mighty promises of perpetuity? Where is that foundation which no power should ever shake—that Zion, in which the poor of His people were to trust?
Brethren, look around you, and you behold the evidences of its existence, and of the eternal faithfulness of Him who is pledged to its immortality. A greater than Zion inherits her name; a greater than Zion bore it in the far-reaching scope of the prophetic vision. That "city of the great King" was but a perishable emblem of a "city whose builder and maker is God." It is true she was honoured by His symbolic presence and sanctified by His sacred worship; it is true that for ages she alone, in a world of darkness, held the precious lamp of His truth; but what are these characters of honour to hers, whose every living stone is quickened by His indwelling energy, whose worship is no more in type and shadow, but in spirit and in substance; whose preaching and teaching, no longer shrouded in obscurity and limited to a corner of the earth, spreads over all lands, embraces the whole family of mankind, and makes even the course of that sun whose "going forth is from the end of the heaven and his circuit unto the ends of it, and from whose light nothing is hid," a faint image of the power with which she diffuses through all nations "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ"? (See also 2Co .)—Archer Butler.
I. THE TRUTH ON WHICH THE ADMONITION IS FOUNDED. "Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee." This includes—
1. His character, "the Holy One of Israel." The holiness of God has shone forth in all that He has done in heaven and on earth (Psa ); in heaven it is the theme of the songs of the most exalted intelligences (Isa 6:3); on earth it inspires bad men with dread and dislike (Isa 30:11), and good men with thankfulness and hope (Psa 30:4; Heb 12:10; H. E. I, 2275, 2843).
3. His residence. "In the midst of thee." But is not God everywhere? Yes, but not everywhere in the same character; not in heaven as in earth, &c. Wherever His presence is spoken of in a way of promise or privilege, it is to be distinguished from His attribute of omnipresence, for it has then in it something peculiarly beneficial and saving (Deu ; Psa 34:18). God's presence in the midst of His people is the guarantee of their safety and the source of their joy. Let them adore the condescension He shows in dwelling in their midst.
II. THE STIRRING EXHORTATION.
2. Religion, rational as well as animated. Why is the inhabitant of Zion to cry aloud and shout? "For great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee." This more than justified him, for from hence the Church can infer safety, assistance, consolation, honour. Thus God is with His people, and this is grace: soon they shall be with Him, and that is glory.—William Jay: Sunday Evening Sermons and Thursday Evening Lectures, pp. 297-305.
"On such a theme 'twere impious to be calm:
Passion is reason; transport, temper here."
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany