DAYS OF DELIVERANCE
Isa . In that day shall this song be sung, &c.
There are days in the history of God's people when they specially need His interposing power. This is their prayer (Psa ). This their glad confession (Psa 90:17). At such seasons of direct deliverance the natural expression of the heart is one of gladness. If the poetic faculty be strong within them, as in the case of the king of Israel, they sing in lyric splendour, as in Psalms 18.
1. That historic period referred to by the prophet Isaiah in this chapter was such a day. They had been marvellously protected from the invading Assyrian. His host had been smitten as by the blast of the Lord. When from the city walls they saw the thin relics of that grand army hasten away, then would this song of salvation be echoed through the city. When under the imperial protection of Cyrus the exiles returned to their own land, that was another day of deliverance. They rebuilt the temple and renewed the temple service. Then they sang in their own land, the land of Judah, the songs of Zion.
2. But the first great event in their history, the birthday of their nation, their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, was specially memorable as "that day." And in every subsequent national deliverance, from the times of the Judges, all through the splendid leadership of David and the heroic days of the Maccabean brothers, that first deliverance seemed to be renewed, and the old song from the Red Sea shore was again chanted (Exo ).
3. In the infant days of the Primitive Church, meeting then in the upper room in Jerusalem, when its two leaders, Peter and John, were seized and confronted with "their rulers, and elders, and scribes," and sternly threatened "not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus." That was a day of deliverance. Then was seen how gloriously transformed were these two Galilean fishermen under the inspiration of the Kingdom of Christ, how sublimely fit they were to lead the forlorn hope of the Church through the breach of Judaism and heathenism on to the conquest of the world. See Act ; Act 4:23-24. How deeply and rapturously impressed was that little church with the conviction that the power of Him who had made heaven and earth was then resting on their own chiefs, and making them bold to speak "His name." They shook the very walls of the room with the volume of their song: "We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks."
4. Another day of deliverance came to the early Church, when the cry of the primitive martyrs was heard (Rev ). That "little season" soon passed, and their cry was answered; rest came to the martyred Church. No more holy men were thrown to the lions, no more delicate women thrust into caldrons of boiling pitch; the sword slept in its scabbard, and crucifixions were ended. Then the churches had rest, and this hymn was joyously sung. Since those early centuries, God's Church has passed through many a fiery furnace, and has come out all the purer and all the stronger. And many a song of deliverance has floated up to heaven.
5. This season of gladness has been realised by God's people individually.
(1.) When a consciousness of the forgiveness of sins has come. When in the temple of the soul this voice has been heard: "Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace."
(2.) When the child of God has been delivered from some dark calamity, so threatening that no human help could deliver.
(3.) But the grandest deliverance is the final one. The best wine is kept for the last cup. When the death-river is crossed, and the crystal gates respond to the command, "Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in." Then, when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, when standing within that city where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest, will the redeemed of the Lord shout this song as never before: "We have a strong city, salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks."—William Parkes.
Isa . Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, &c.
The delightfulness and the value of peace to the nation, the Church, the family, the individual (P. D. 2664). Consider—
I. THE PROMISE.
1. It is universal in its range. It is made to any and every man who will trust in God.
2. It is sure. Men fail for various reasons to keep their promises, but every Divine promise is certain to be fulfilled (H. E. I. 4052, 4053).
3. The peace which is pledged and secured to all who will fulfil the condition of the text is perfect—so perfect that it can only be described by a repetition of the word, "peace, peace." God never gives in driblets. His gifts are like Himself, perfect for their fulness, for their suitability, for their enduring qualities. God can keep His people in perfect peace when the devil accuses, when the world allures or threatens, when sickness tries, when adversity oppresses, even when the heart is sore tried, and when grim death would affright (H. E. I. 1253, 1893, 1894, 1911-1926; P. D. 2669, 2673).
II. THE CHARACTER DESCRIBED. "Whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusted in Thee." Trust unites. The mind will not be stayed upon God unless there be perfect confidence in His wisdom, power, and love. Trust and love go together. Love begets confidence, and confidence strengthens love. The whole nature must be stayed on God, and on God only. There must be no division in the heart's affections: we cannot serve God and Mammon and be kept in perfect peace. There must be trust before there can be peace; God Himself cannot give perfect peace to the untrustful.
III. THE EXHORTATION. "Trust ye in the Lord for ever." We trust in the Lord when, encouraged by His promises, we hold fast to Him. It is nothing deeper, nothing more difficult than that. Its very simplicity is its difficulty. As the limpet binds itself to the rock, and is not disturbed by the dashing billows, so let the soul by an ardent affection bind itself to the Rock of Ages. The word "ever" gives a wonderful expansiveness to our text. It points at once to God's eternity and man's immortality. He is a being capable of being trusted for ever, and for ever we shall be capable of trusting Him. Our trust is to be unlimited and unintermitted; it is to be exercised at all times, under all circumstances, through all ages.
IV. THE STABLE FOUNDATION OF THE BELIEVER'S CONFIDENCE. "For in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." The peace must be perfect that rests upon, and rises out of, such a solid foundation. The mountains are "everlasting" only in figure, but the foundation on which we rest is everlasting in fact (Psa ).—W. Burrows, B.A.
The world needs the message contained in our text. Most faces that we see are careworn. They are so because behind them there are anxious hearts distressed by fears of various kinds—by fears concerning the body, by fears concerning the soul. The vast majority of men are destitute of true peace; for while in the world there are many ways—of pleasure, of sin, of disappointment, of misery, of death—there is no way of peace. The multitudes who throng past us are miserable because the way of peace they have not known.
I. LOOK AT THE PERSON WHO IS KEPT IN PEACE. He is a person whose mind is stayed on God. A man's self, sin, pleasure, false religion, vain hopes, are every one of them troubled waves in an ocean of disquietude, and no soul can stay itself upon them, though many souls have sought to do so. Who, lying down in the very midst of the sea, can find there repose? As he lieth down upon the waves, they yield beneath him—the billows roll over him; he is sinking in the mighty deep. So with the sinner lying down in the midst of the sea and of the storm of this world apart from God. But he who lieth down upon God is as a man upon a rock, or as one in a mighty fortress; he is at peace—secure in fact and in feeling. But it is only as God is revealed to us in Christ that we may rest upon Him. Apart from Christ, He is to sinners "a consuming fire." Only through Christ may we find the blessedness we so much need, but through Christ we may find it.
II. LOOK AT THE POWER WHICH KEEPS THE BELIEVER IN PEACE. It is not the power of his own faith (H. E. I. 1970, 1975). It is not the power of his own effort, struggling to obtain confidence. It is the power of God: "Thou wilt keep him," &c. The sinner obtains peace by yielding himself to God (Rom ). The believer has peace while he leaves himself in God's hands, quietly submissive, cheerfully willing that God should lead him and do with him whatever is pleasing in His sight (P. D. 2966-2968, 2970-2972). Then all God's attributes—His omniscience, His omnipotence, His faithfulness, His tender mercy—minister to his peace (P. D. 3379).
III. LOOK AT THE PEACE IN WHICH SUCH A PERSON IS KEPT. It is "perfect peace." Peace in spite of all that conscience may say, of the temptations that assail us, of the troubles of life, of the certainty and mystery of death. With the peace of pardon, all this peace flows into the soul, increasing more and more. It is the peace of Christ, the same peace which filled and sustained Him (Joh ). You remember that we are shown Him with His head on a pillow, His eyes closed, His mind in unconscious repose, asleep in the midst of the wild storm at night upon the Lake of Galilee, when the waves beat upon the trembling vessel, and the wind strove to raise the waves still higher, and engulph them all. He slept, secure and peaceful, amid the storm. So does the soul of the believer that stayeth itself upon God. Upon what lay that peaceful head of Jesus but upon the unseen arm and heart of God? Men said of Christ mockingly, "He trusted in God." He did trust in God, as the most exalted believer, and far more than the most exalted believer; and in that simplicity of faith He was kept in peace, sleeping amidst the storm. So is it with the believer. O believer! is it so with you?—Henry Grattan Guinness: Sermon in The Christian World, 1860.
Here is the secret of life—peace, perfect peace—and the sure way of attaining it. Consider—
I. THE CHARACTER CONTEMPLATED. "Whose mind is stayed on Thee." His mind is fixed with such intensity that it cannot be diverted from the object on which it is set. This object is not himself (Pro ), nor his riches (Pro 23:5), nor his fellow-men (Ch. Isa 2:22; Jer 17:4-5), but GOD, in whom he trusts unhesitatingly, exclusively, universally. He accepts all that the Scriptures reveal concerning God, and makes these revelations the foundation of his confidence and his prayers.
II. THE PROMISED BLESSING. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace." See also Jer . The idea suggested is that of habitual and continued blessedness. The elements of peace are begun in the soul, and they are brought to maturity in the whole course of the future life. The peace given is like a river (chap. Isa 66:12), both for abundance and permanence. That is, while, and only while, the mind is stayed upon God (chap. Isa 48:18). Then he is kept in peace, for God is its finisher as well as its author; and it is "perfect peace," because it is peace of all kinds, in its highest degree, at all times, under all circumstances.
III. THE REASON FOR THE BESTOWMENT OF THE BLESSING. "Because he trusteth in Thee." Faith honours God (Rom ), and therefore those who exercise it are honoured by Him (1Sa 2:30; H. E. I. 4057, 4058).
IV. THE DUTY ENJOINED. "Trust ye," &c. While we are listening to expositions of this text, this duty seems to be easy; but in actual life our faith is tried and often fails, because we lose sight of the promises and perfections of God. Here there come to us disappointments, difficulties, temptations to distrust But it is our duty to struggle with them all; and if we do so, it will be our blessedness to overcome them all (chap. Isa ). "Trust ye in the Lord; trust ye in the Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."—James Morgan, D.D.: The Home Pulpit, pp. 512-516.
There is sometimes a world of meaning in a single word: Country, home, peace! How it sometimes tells of booming cannon hushed into silence, of glittering swords sent back into their sheaths, of hundreds of homes relieved from distressing anxieties and fears, of thousands of lives respited at least for a time! How it sometimes tells of surging passions hushed into a calm, of vengeful purposes superseded, of the fires of enmity quenched, of despair giving place to hope and joy! Peace has its histories, many and pleasant; its triumphs, various and substantial; its heralds, divine, angelic, human. Ministers have messages of peace to deliver to their congregations, and in our text we have one of them.
I. THE CONDITION EXPRESSED IN THE TEXT. "Whose mind is stayed on Thee." It is a mind resting on God as the God of grace reconciling sinners to Himself through the mediation of Christ, dispensing pardon, sanctity, salvation—a mind resting, after reconciliation, on His truthfulness, wisdom, almightiness, holiness—a mind resting on His rule and government over all the forces of Nature and all the events of daily life, both national and individual.
II. THE CONFIDENCE EXPRESSED IN THE TEXT. "Thou wilt keep," &c. Thou wilt do it; not merely delegate and intrust this to any agency whatever. Thou wilt do it; there is no uncertainty or peradventure about it. "In perfect peace:" peace of all kinds, and in a superlative degree; peace flowing from reconciliation; peace in the midst of unexplained mysteries; peace in the midst of adverse providences; peace amid the uncertainties of the future.—John Corbin.
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD AND HIS PEOPLE
Isa . The way of the just, &c.
Isaiah foretold the captivity of Judah in Babylon, also its termination. This chapter is a song ready for the occasion. It relates the story, and it unfolds the principles that underlie the events.
Our text is thoroughly practical. It reminds us,—
I. That righteousness is the personal characteristic of God and of His redeemed people.
1. God is righteous. "Thou most upright." He is perfectly righteous. It is essential to the Divine nature; the contrary cannot be supposed; as heat is natural to fire. God Himself, His laws, His providential government, even His redeeming mercy, are all characterised by perfect rectitude. So prominent is this idea that we are taught to exercise simple faith in God, and assume that we are imperfectly informed if we are unable to reconcile anything in our experience with His perfect righteousness.
2. His people also are righteous—here called "the just." It is suggestive when God's people are thus called by a name similar to His own. They share in the same righteousness, although in different degrees. More is intended than that they are in a justified state. That is implied. They are justified by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But the text refers to the righteousness which assimilates them to the Divine nature. The grace of God produces a new nature. Saul of Tarsus became a new man on his conversion. A savage adopts the habits and forms the tastes of civilised Christian life. It is a new nature. 1Jn : "Ye are of God." As children partake the nature of their parents, His nature is in them, though not yet perfected. Their sympathies are with Him. In so far as they are unrighteous, they are inconsistent with their true selves. The life of God in the regenerated soul is a principle ever tending toward the perfect righteousness of the Divine nature from which it came.
II. When righteousness characterises a person, it will dictate his conduct.
1. The conduct of the righteous man. "The way of the just is uprightness;" his course of life. He is erect in his moral manhood, as contrasted with one who is bent and crooked. Men's ideas of uprightness are apt to become partial and one sided. Some seem to imagine that all demands of righteousness are met by the acceptance of Christ and the experience of spiritual feeling, while they overlook the demands of human relationships. Others confine their view to men. They imagine all demands are met, when they are fair and honourable in their dealings with men, while God is left out of consideration. The Divine idea of righteousness is not thus partial. It takes in the whole of our moral relations, our relations both to God and man. And the good man strives to bring his whole life into conformity to it. [Work this out in detail: "The way of the just is uprightness"
(1), in regard to God;
(2), in regard to man].
2. The conduct of the righteous God. "Thou most upright dost weigh the path of the just." At first sight like confusion of metaphor. It means to ponder it. The heathen symbol of Divine righteousness is that of justice holding the scales (Dan ). The conduct of the righteous is weighed. God observes it; His honour is concerned in it. He will eventually pronounce upon it (2Co 5:10).
1. Are you among the just? Have you experienced a change of heart?
2. Are you pursuing the path of the just? This applies to your actual dealing with God and with man. Consider how far imperfection may be consistent with reality. Do not try how far you may go safely. There comes a point at which a man must be condemned, at which he must condemn himself. At that point he will either repent or harden himself. Let us cultivate the highest measures of practical uprightness.—J. Rawlinson.
THE JUST MAN'S SECURITY
Isa . Thou most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.
We can scarcely find anywhere a more touching description of the God of our salvation than that furnished by Job (Isa ). God has always given His people songs in the night, and in the night-time of affliction He has furnished them with songs of consolation and confidence. Our text is a part of one of those songs. The Chaldean power threatened God's people. They were instructed to cherish a firm faith in God. Not a breath of despair was to reach the camp of the enemy; rather they were taught a scornful defiance of that proud king who had defied the armies of the living God (Isa 37:22).
"In that day shall this song be sung." The connection may teach us that it is wisdom to treasure up a source of consolation against the day of adversity. It is in spring that we are to prepare for winter; in the morning of life to prepare for old age. The oil must be ready for the midnight hour. No good soldier will run for his armour "when the enemy comes in like a flood."
The text suggests the Christian's reasons for security and repose under the various events of life. These are—
I. The perfect wisdom and rectitude which marks God's universal government. "Thou most upright, dost weigh," &c. This world is not a neglected province of the Divine Dominions. That impression of the Divine supremacy which inspires the songs of seraphs quickens the joy of frail humanity. While thrones, principalities, and powers exclaim as with the voice of many waters, "Alleluia, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth," the inhabitants of the earth roll back the response, "The Lord reigneth: let the earth rejoice."
The Christian knows no such Deity as Chance or Fate. This is God's world, nor has He left it like an ocean weed to float at random on the dark and shoreless ocean of uncertainty. What was worthy His creation must be worth His control. God's method of government partakes of His own perfections, and is therefore infinitely wise and good. We rejoice that God ruleth over all, and keeps the dominion of the world in His own hands. The remotest consequences of things are all seen by Him; whatever evil occurs He permits; whatever good arises He originates; whatever series of causes come to a final issue, the train was laid by His wisdom, conducted by His power, controlled by His goodness. This topic, therefore, furnishes a ground of security and repose to the Christian. Amidst the shakings of the nations and the storms of life, it is delightful to know that the sceptre of universal power is in the hand of Infinite Love. He reigneth, be the earth ever so unquiet.
II. The minute attention which God pays to the individual interests of His people. This comes out whichever interpretation you put upon the word here translated "weigh." It may mean, to weigh as in scales or a balance (Psa ); but it may also mean, and does usually, to make straight, or smooth, or level (Psa 78:50, &c.) (Barnes). "He ‘weighs' or ‘ponders' (s. w. a. in Pro 4:26; Pro 5:21) the path, with a view to keeping it straight and level" (Kay).
1. The idea of "weighing" implies careful impression. The balance is held with a careful hand, and a keen eye is on both the scales. This is a source of comfort to the just, and to them alone.
2. The same minute, condescending observance is implied in the other interpretation. God will make a plain, level way for His people to walk in. All obstacles to their progress shall be removed. They never have any need to turn aside from the well-constructed road of God's commandments into "crooked ways" of man's devising (Psa ). They shall reach their destination in the better world. Samuel Thodey.
THE WAY OF GOD'S JUDGMENTS
Isa . Yea, in the way of Thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for Thee.
I. Observe what God's judgments are. They are simply the expression of His thoughts. His final judgment is the declaration of His thoughts of a man's character; His judgments here are also His declaration of what He thinks of our conduct and ways. One special thing for which psalmists and prophets adore Him is that men can see that His judgments are true and righteous (Psa ; Psa 119:75, &c.) Their tendency and aim is to teach men what righteousness is (Isa 26:9).
II. The way of God's judgments is the way of His laws. The calamities which men call "judgments" are generally the results of infraction by them of the laws by which He governs the universe.
The civil war in America was a judgment of God because it was a natural result of their toleration and defence of slavery; the war, with all its terrors, was a heavy penalty, and was clearly connected with their sin. So the cattle-plague in England was doubtless a natural result of some violation, through carelessness or greed, of God's laws concerning the breeding and tending of cattle, and was thus one of God's judgments.
III. The way of God's judgments prescribes our way of prayer and expectation. We are to pray and expect, not that, while we continue as we were, God will remove the judgment; but that He will help us to understand it, and that He will dispose us to abandon the conduct that has brought it upon us. In thus waiting upon God—with penitence for our transgression, with prayer for light, and with sincere resolve to amend—we may expect God to bless us; but this we may expect only while we wait upon Him thus.—Alexander Mackennal, B.S: Sermon on the Cattle-plague.
Those who wait for God in the way of His judgments are,
1. Those who in prosperous and peaceful times endeavour to serve Him.
2. Those who desire to learn from them the lessons they were designed to teach. 3. Those who honour God by submission and trust in the trying hour.
4. These, even in the midst of judgment, may confidently expect the favour of God. A purpose of benevolence runs through even the stern and "strange work" of justice; and God, even when He chastises, will not utterly smite down the trusting heart.—William, Manning.
TRUST AMID TRIALS
Isa . Yea, in the way of Thy judgments … will I seek Thee early.
In this verse the prophet expresses the confiding trust of God's people amid times of judgment. It is as though they had said, "When the pathway assigned for Thy people was rough with judgments,—sore inflictions of national calamity,—even then, Lord, did we wait still on Thee in patient, trustful hope, and our desire was toward the remembrance of Thy name." Note the view this passage affords of the character and experience of God's people.
I. They wait upon Him. Wait in the most unpromising circumstances.
"Yea, in the way of Thy judgments have we waited for Thee." When all is dark and threatening; when the promised mercy is long delayed and all seems settling into gloom and desolation; when the dungeon has no lamp and the night no star, even then does the Church wait for God (chap. Isa ). It is a genuine mark of grace to trust a withdrawing God and never forego confidence in Him, but look for Him as in the darkest night the shivering sentinel looks for the morning star; as the husbandman amid the severest winter believes in the returning spring. Such was the faith of Habakkuk (Hab 3:17-19). So, like Aaron's rod, the Christian's hope will bloom in the midst of barrenness. "Yea, in the way of Thy judgments have I waited for Thee."
II. Their desires centre in Him. "The desire of our soul is to the remembrance of Thy name." God's name is a compendious expression for the fulness of His perfections. God's people are concerned for the honour of God's name whatever becomes of their own. Religion consists much in holy desire. "Thy servants who desire to fear Thy name." They desire to live in the fear of God, in His love and in His service. Desire is love on the wing; delight is love at rest. David combines both (Psa ). Making God our heart's delight, He will not fail to give us our heart's desire. This desire, if genuine, will never be satisfied without God. As well offer lumps of gold or strains of music to one dying of thirst, as offer the world's best gifts to that soul which truly thirsts for God and His righteousness (Psa 73:25).
1. Where genuine, this desire is the fruit of implanted grace. It is an evidence of a renewed nature. The beating of the pulse proves life. That which aspires to God has come from heaven. If the iron, contrary to its nature, moves upward, it is a sign that some magnetic force attracts it; and if the soul aspires to God, that is a sign that the grace of God has visited that soul.
2. Genuine desires after God are influential. Real desires govern our conduct (Pro ). It is useless to pretend that we thirst for grace, if by devout prayer and holy resolve we do not let down the bucket into the well.
III. They seek Him diligently night and day. "With my soul have I desired Thee in the night, yea, with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early." Our Lord gives it as the distinctive mark of God's elect that they cry night and day to Him. This habit of prayer prompting to duty, tests the sincerity of our desires, &c.—Samuel Thodey.
NIGHT LONGINGS FOR GOD
Isa . With my soul have I desired Thee in the night.
Night appears to be a time peculiarly favourable to devotion. Its solemn stillness helps to free the mind from that perpetual din which the cares of the world will bring around it; and the stars looking down from heaven upon us shine as if they would attract us up to God. But I leave that thought altogether; I shall speak,—
I. TO CONFIRMED CHRISTIANS.
1. The Christian man has not always a bright shining sun; he has seasons of darkness and night. The light is sometimes eclipsed. At certain periods clouds and darkness cover the sun. The best of God's saints have their nights. Sometimes it is a night over the whole Church at once. Sometimes the darkness over the soul arises from temporal distresses, sometimes from spiritual discouragements.
2. A Christian man's religion will keep its colour in the night. Men will follow Christ when every one cries Hosanna! Demas and Mr. Hold-the-world, and a great many others, are very pious people in easy times. They will always go with Christ by daylight, and will keep Him company so long as fashion gives religion the doubtful benefit of its patronage; but they will not go with Him in the night. But the best test of a Christian is the night. If he only remained steadfast by daylight, when every coward is bold, where would he be? There would be no beauty in his courage, no glory in his bravery. There is full many a Christian whose piety did not burn much when he was in prosperity; but it will be known in adversity. Grind the diamond a little, and you shall see it glisten.
3. All that the Christian wants in the night is his God. I cannot understand how it is, unless it is to be accounted for by the corruption of our spirit, that when everything goes well with us we are setting our affection first on one object and then on another; and that desire which is as insatiable as death and as deep as hell never rests satisfied. But if you place a Christian in trouble, you will find that he does not want gold then, nor carnal honour; he wants his God.
4. There are times when all the saint can do is to desire. The more evidences a man has of his piety the better. Many witnesses will carry our case better at the bar than a few. But there are seasons when a Christian cannot get any. He will have lost assurance. But there is one witness that very seldom is gagged, even in the night, and that is, "I have desired Thee—I have desired Thee in the night."
II. TO NEWLY AWAKENED SOULS. I will now endeavour to answer three questions.
1. How am I to know that my desires are proofs of a work of grace in my soul?
(1.) By their constancy. Many a man when he hears a stirring sermon has a strong desire to be saved, but he goes home and forgets it. A certain measure of constancy is essential to its real value as evidence of a Divine work.
(2.) By their efficacy. If they lead you into real "works meet for repentance," then they come from God. Seeking will not do; there must be striving. Not good intentions only, but practical desires that lead you to give up your sins.
(3.) By their urgency. You want to be saved some of you, but it must be this day next week. But when the Holy Ghost speaks, He says "To-day." Now or never.
2. If I have desired God, why have I not obtained my desire before now?
(1.) You have hardly a right to ask the question. Perhaps God has not granted your desire because He designs to show you more of your wickedness, more of the blackness of sin, that your longings may be quickened, that He may display more fully the riches of His grace at the last.
(2.) Perhaps it has come already. Some of you are pardoned and do not know it. Do not expect miracles and visions.
(3.) Will God grant my desire at last? Verily. His refusal would dishonour His word. You would be the first that ever perished desiring, praying, trusting in Jesus.—C. H. Spurgeon, New Park Street Pulpit, 1855, p. 237.
THE NECESSITY AND PROFITABLENESS OF CHASTISEMENT
Isa . When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
I. It is a lamentable proof of the depravity of our nature, that in general, apart from God's judgments, the wicked will not learn righteousness.
1. The history of the world shows that men will not give heed to the lessons they ought to learn from the beauty of creation, the established laws of nature, and the ordinary blessings of Providence (Rom ). Extraordinary blessings excite only transient emotions of praise and thanksgiving; and too often serve only as occasions for showing greater alienation of heart from God, and for filling up the measure of iniquity (H. E. I., 3997-4014).
2. All this may be abundantly illustrated from the history of our own country. With us times of national prosperity have been times of national profanity.
3. On every hand we find individual proofs of the same sad fact.
II. When such special interferences of Providence take place as in Scripture language are called "judgments," the inhabitants of the earth sometimes learn righteousness. In this respect, signal chastisements are ordinarily more effective than the most bountiful displays of kindness and compassion.
1. Scripture abounds with statements of the need and profitableness of chastisement (Psa ; Psa 119:71; 2Ch 33:12, &c.) It is intimated that afflictions form an essential part of the discipline of the righteous (Psa 37:19; Rev 3:19, &c.) Some cross is needful, as long as we live, to keep us in our right place, dependent on our Maker; and hence those who have few outward afflictions to teach them the necessary lessons of humility, generally experience a large allotment of inward trials on that very account; and sometimes both the outward and the inward afflictions are combined for this purpose (2Co 12:7; 2Co 12:10).
2. Even without the Bible, the fact asserted in our text was so universal and prominent, that it by no means escaped the wiser part of the heathen moralists. A Greek historian has observed, "that fortune never bestows liberally an unmixed happiness on mankind. With all her gifts, there is conjoined some disastrous circumstance, in order to chastise men into a reverence for the gods, whom, in a continual course of prosperity, they are apt to neglect and forget."
1. Few things are more perilous than long-continued prosperity.—Ordinarily its effects on the religious opinions and moral habits of nations and individuals are most lamentable (Deu ; Deu 31:29). Let those, then, who are prosperous be especially on their guard (Deu 8:10-11).
2. For "judgments" we should be thankful. They are not displays of vindictiveness, but gracious and compassionate dispensations, intended to warn, that God may not be compelled to destroy.
3. To the lessons of God's "judgments" we should give heed. Prominent among them is this, that "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."—Isaac Milner, D.D.: Sermons, vol. i. pp. 1-54.
I. CONSIDER THE AUTHOR OF THOSE JUDGMENTS AND CALAMITIES WITH WHICH WE ARE VISITED THE ENDS FOR WHICH THEY ARE SENT AND THEIR FITNESS TO INSTRUCT US IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.—
1. Judgments come from God. His providence rules over all, and all second causes, animate and inanimate, are directed and overruled by Him. This is the decision of reason, and the declaration of revelation (Amo ; Isa 45:6-7). Imitate, then, the ancient believers who, whatever were the inferior causes of their affliction, without justifying the instruments, and leaving to God the punishment of the unrighteous, ever looked up to Him who ruleth over all (Gen 45:5; Gen 45:7; Job 1:21; H. E. I., 139).
2. But why does God visit us with judgments? Not that He delights in the miseries of His creatures (Lam ); but that they may be humbled, convinced of their iniquity, and taught righteousness. We often compel Him thus to deal with us. We permit His favours to hide the hand that confers them; and, like Jonah, when the ocean of life is smooth, and the gales of prosperity pleasantly blow, we flee from Him, and slumber in our sin. In the greatness of His compassion, He employs the rough means necessary to arouse us (Psa 78:34-35).
3. There is a fitness in judgments to cause men to awake to righteousness.
(1.) They deeply affect us, and lead us to repentance, because they are rarer than mercies. Our attention is most arrested by that which is novel. We gaze more earnestly on the sun, when for a few moments it is in eclipse, than we have done for months while it was steadily pursuing its course through the heavens. We are more roused by a storm for a day, than by serene weeks. It is thus with mercies and judgments.
(2.) They powerfully address that passion which has most influence on the greater part of mankind—the passion of fear. They present God in such a character, that even the most stout-hearted sinners tremble to oppose Him.
(3.) Because they teach on that most compendious and efficacious mode—by example. On beholding them we feel that the threatenings of God are not a dead letter which need fill us with no dismay. Yet they have not invariably this effect. There are some who can resist judgments as well as mercies (2Ch ; Isa 22:12-13).
II. WHY THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD DO NOT ALWAYS TEACH MEN RIGHTEOUSNESS. Judgments that light upon others are frequently rendered useless.
1. By disbelief of His declarations.
2. By false views of His character (H. E. I. 2180-2184, 2282).
3. By unscriptural views of our own state and condition.
4. By a base inattention to the operations of Providence.
5. By a stupid insensibility to our danger. We tranquilly behold the lightning flashing at a distance, and suppose that it will not hurt us, as though we were of a different nature from those who are consumed by it (Zep ).
6. Because, instead of being humbled and led to think of our sins, we vent our grief only in vain regrets and useless lamentations. We forget who is the Author of these judgments, and so, instead of humbly saying with Job, "Shew me wherefore Thou contendest with me," we waste our strength in profitless complaints of men and things.—Henry Hollock, D.D.: Sermons, pp. 505-512.
THE USE AND ABUSE OF THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD
Isa . For when Thy judgments, &c.
III. God's design in sending judgments upon the earth is often frustrated by the fact that some sinners are so obdurate that neither judgments nor mercies will move them (Isa ). The "favour" here spoken of is a temporal favour, a deliverance from physical misery, a suspension of the judgments which were falling upon the wicked. Such favours, instead of calling forth gratitude, are frequently turned into reasons for sinning (Ecc 8:11; Exo 8:15). To harden ourselves against the "judgments" of God is a great sin, but to harden ourselves against His "favours" is a still greater sin. Those who commit it leave the Almighty no alternative but to utterly destroy them.—Daniel de Superville: Sermons, pp. 332-361.
NATIONAL PEACE THE GIFT OF GOD
(A Thanksgiving Sermon.)
Isa . Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou hast wrought all our work in us.
The joyfulness of the occasion. Peace a greater blessing than mere victory; for he that celebrates victory celebrates an event which has been produced by an incalculable measure of human suffering. Let us consider—
I. What there is in the restoration of peace, generally considered, to excite our gratitude.
1. The effusion of human blood is stayed, and all the suffering inseparable from war.
2. The injurious effects of war on human character afford another reason for thanksgiving on the return of peace. War renders men callous to human misery. The sacredness of human life is forgotten. Wars lead to intestine dissensions, and embitter and perpetuate national animosities.
II. What there is in the particular circumstances of this country to warrant us in considering the blessing as of special and particular value.
1. The triumph of which this peace is the result is the triumph of a righteous cause. Peace is often the result of the superiority acquired by the aggressor. The cause of right does not always at once prevail. Unoffending natives are conquered, or obliged to submissions contrary to their rights and interests, and then peace follows; peace dictated, not argued. There is peace, but not the spirit of peace.
2. We have preserved our national honour. Our victory has not been purchased by any alliance of which we have cause to be ashamed.
3. Peace does not find us, as it finds many nations, with our houses desolated and our cities destroyed by fire.
4. It was seasonable. We had put forth our utmost strength. Had we not succeeded at the moment we should have fallen to rise no more as a nation of the first order.
5. It may be considered an indication of the Divine approbation. On this subject we would not be presumptuous, but it may at least be affirmed that the happy change in our affairs, which has ultimately led to peace, followed, and, in some instances, immediately followed, certain acts of national reformation (e.g., the emancipation of the slaves) and acknowledgment of God which, from the condescending assurance of His Word, we know must have been acceptable to Him.
6. It will increase our means of promoting the kingdom of Christ in the world, and thus establish our national prosperity by continuing to us the blessing of God.
III. The reasons of our thankful acknowledgment of God on this occasion. He is the giver of the blessing of peace. Text. This is a most important principle, and if our hearts be not firmly grounded in it, our thanksgiving is a mockery; for why do we thank Him if we ascribe the work to second causes? He that excludes God from the world of providence might as well exclude Him from the world of nature. He who can attribute the events which are daily taking place in society, and especially such events as are connected with the celebration of this day, to mere human agency, is not less an Atheist than the man who ascribes the birth and being of the fair system of the universe to chance or the dance of atoms.
CONCLUSION.—The proper expression of our thankfulness for this great blessing will be to do our utmost in the diffusion of the Gospel, that the final reign of the Prince of Peace may commence, and "quietness and assurance for ever" become the lot of man.—Richard Watson: Works, vol. ii. pp. 20-40.
HOLINESS ACCOMPLISHED, PEACE ORDAINED
Isa . Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.
Rather, "for us." The Church acknowledges that all her deliverances and successes have been accomplished for her; and on what God has done for her in the past, she rightly bases her expectation as to what God will do for her in the future. He who was able to deliver His people from their bondage in Babylon, would secure peace for them when He had restored them to their own land. But, then, of all the works that God accomplishes for His people, some of the most important are precisely those which He accomplishes in them. So we may profitably meditate on our text as it stands.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S CONDITION.
1. A divine work has been accomplished for him. "Thou," &c. Throughout, the New Testament teaches us that the Christian is a man, not who has delivered himself, but who has been delivered; not a hero who broke the chains by which he was bound, but a poor slave of sin who was set free and uplifted to true manhood (Php ; Eph 2:10); everything is ascribed to the Spirit—the life, the good works, the comforts of the Christian (Joh 3:5; Gal 5:16; Gal 5:22; Act 9:31).
2. As the operation is divine, so is it internal in its effects. We should never overlook what God has done for us in His kind and tender providence (Psa ). But the greatest of all God's works for us is redemption by the blood of the cross. This was accomplished long ago (Joh 19:30). Nothing can now be added to it, but you are mistaken if you suppose that His work for you is to supersede His work in you. If your sins are not subdued as well as pardoned, you will never be able to serve and enjoy God. Unless you have a meetness for heaven, as well as a title to it, you will never be at home there. The salvation that is promised and accomplished is internal (Joh 4:14; Eze 11:19-20; Psa 51:10).
3. The operation is manifold in its influence. "All our works." How much needs to be done in man! Conscience is to be awakened, purified, pacified; the understanding is to be enlightened; the judgment is to be informed; the will is to be subdued; the affections to be spiritualised; the world is to be dethroned in the heart, and holy principles implanted there. There needs the continuing act of a performing God from the hour of the first conviction of sin to the resurrection of the body unto eternal life (Php ).
4. His divine work is acknowledged. "Thou hast wrought," &c. Much remains to be done in us, but much has been accomplished in every believer, and it should be acknowledged. Humility well becomes us, but gratitude becomes us equally (Psa ).
II. HIS FUTURE EXPECTATION.
"Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us."
1. There is an appointment or ordination. To ordain is an act of authority and power. You may wish and promise a thing, but the monarch ordains, and what he ordains is supported by all the resources of the realm, and will be accomplished. Much more shall God's counsel stand and His pleasure be done.
III. THE DEPENDENCE OF THE EXPECTATION ON THE CONDITION.
"Thou wilt … for Thou hast." The expectations of God's people are based—
1. On the experience of God's people in all generations (Psa ).
H. E. I. 2363-2377, 2791.
MAN'S HOLINESS, GOD'S WORKMANSHIP
Isa . Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.
It is not all men who could speak these words to God; the wicked and the worldly-minded could not use such language without blasphemy. It is the godly, and they only, who can dare to use the language of our text, and even they must do so with a certain limitation. Nothing that is evil in any of God's people is in any way His work. It is only their good works of which it can be truly said, "God wrought them;" and of these it may be said, God wrought not some only, but all of them.
I. THE DOCTRINE WHICH OUR TEXT CONTAINS. Man is by nature a creature so depraved that he is "unto every good work reprobate." God looks into his heart, and seeing evil motives even in his best performances, pronounces "all his righteousnesses ‘filthy rags.'" Where things are not done to please God, He is displeased. No matter what show the unregenerate make before their fellow-sinners, God turns away His face from them, and counts them even "dead in trespasses and sins," whilst men, perhaps, are holding them in admiration (Article xiii.; Luk ; Rom 8:7-8). When, therefore, a man does begin to please God, it is because God hath "wrought him for this self-same thing" by the mighty working of His power (Eph 2:4-5; Php 2:13). In these passages, the earliest beginning of any good work in us is ascribed wholly to the Lord (Article x.) The Holy Spirit is the author of all good in man from first to last. "From Him all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed." Repentance is His Work. "Godly sorrow" is no natural emotion (Act 5:31; Act 11:18; 2Ti 2:25). So also is faith (1Co 12:3). So, again, is all holiness of heart and life (Eph 2:10; Pro 16:1; Gal 5:22-23). All excellences in man are "fruits of the Spirit." Such is the doctrine of our text. Consider,—
II. THE FEELINGS WHICH GOD'S PEOPLE OUGHT TO ENTERTAIN WHEN THEY REFLECT UPON IT. Is it true that God hath wrought all our works in us? What a ground there is here, then,—1, for humility. Surely "boasting is excluded." Pride is an absurdity (1Co ; 1Co 15:10.) 2, for thankfulness. Solomon was full of wonder and amazement that God should condescend to come and dwell within his costly temple. Should not the Lord's people be still more gratefully amazed that He should make a temple of their hearts! 3, for encouragement (Php 1:6). Let the believer look at the very construction of our text, let him read it in connection with the words which go before, and he will see what a comfortable argument is drawn from it: "Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us, for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us." The presence of His grace within our bosoms is a token of the favour which He means to show us. He who put oil into our lamp and set it burning, and then said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven," will never omit to feed the celestial flame.—A. Roberts, M.A.: Plain Sermons, Second Series, vol. i. 21-30.
SPIRITUAL USURPERS RENOUNCED
Isa . O Lord our God, other lords beside Thee have had dominion over us, &c.
We have in this language—
I. A PENITENTIAL CONFESSION. "Other lords," &c. Exegetically the point to be determined is whether the "other lords" who "have ruled over us," are the king and people of Babylon or idol gods; the former with coercion, the latter with their own wicked consent? Perhaps both ideas are included and a sad sequence implied. They had wandered of their own wicked will into the service of pagan gods, and now against their will were forced to serve pagan kings. Paganism had led to vice; vice had destroyed all true manliness. Heroism in Jewish history had lived only so long as fidelity to Jehovah had lasted. Piety having decayed, heroism was dead; they could not stand before their invaders. Paganism had enslaved them. This they now feel, and hate Paganism, and shun it more thoroughly than ever before.
II. A HOLY RESOLVE, involving,
1. A recognition of Divine claims. It is right that we should consecrate our services to Thee. By Thee created and sustained, it is robbery to carry our services elsewhere. Thou art our Father, and to honour others instead of Thee is unfilial ingratitude. Our King Thou art, and not to serve Thee is sedition.
2. A consciousness of dependence on Divine help. "But by Thee only," &c., i.e., "Only by Thy Divine help can we hope to be faithful to Thee." Here is a renunciation, not only of heathenism, but also of all self-sufficiency. By sad experience they have learnt that without God they can do nothing.
III. A SHOUT OF VICTORY (Isa ).The struggle against sin may be severe and long. Bad habits are not easily overcome. But divine help gives victory to human endeavours. He who uttered the almost despairing cry, "O wretched man that I am," &c., can now give the victorious shout, "I thank God through our Lord Jesus Christ." There are those who once served mammon, and bowed to ambition; who followed the Moloch of revenge and hate; slaves to drunkenness and nameless vices, who now through Divine grace can say of these bad habits, "They are dead … Thou hast visited and destroyed them," &c.—W. Parkes.
Man is a responsible being. To say he is responsible to himself is to say nothing more than that he claims to act according to his own inclination. Responsibility has regard to another. Lordship from without is exercised over every human soul. Good and evil—God and Satan—contend for the dominion. Evil usurps the dominion until an inward revolution occurs. Thus the Jewish people had cast off the authority of Jehovah, and placed themselves under the dominion of other Gods. The captivity in Babylon converted them from this folly. They then determined that thenceforward they would only "make mention of," celebrate and honour, give the dominion to the Lord their God. Here is a penitential confession and a good resolution.
I. A PENITENTIAL CONFESSION. "Other lords beside Thee have had dominion over us." The dominion of evil in human souls is:
1. Multiform. It assumes many shapes. The gods the Jewish people served were numerous as the nations under whose influence they fell. So the form of evil most congenial to a man's own nature is sure to assail him (H. E. I. 4679-4683). Not only so; while each has probably his special besetment, each has also multitudinous besetments (H. E. I. 4550, 4551). The penitent sees that his sins pass all power of numeration or recollection; they have become lords and masters (Rom ; H. E. I. 4482-4484).
2. Wrongful. "Other lords beside Thee." The language implies that God ought to have had the dominion. Then it must be wrong to give it to others. He is the rightful sovereign on every ground. Nor can he divide His throne with any rival. As it is impossible to serve two masters whose interests are opposed to each other, or to adhere to two claimants of the same crown, so is it to make mention of the name of God and at the same time to submit to the dominion of other lords. But we have attempted this. "Will a man rob God?" Yes. Men who would not wrong each other will defraud God daily without compunction and without shame. To allow the dominion of other lords is a wrong done to God.
3. Voluntary. It has been entirely with our own consent. Those who make this confession mean that they have been blamable for the wrongful dominion of other lords. Freedom is essential to responsibility. We have consented to sin—loved it. Nor does it avail to say we are unable to break from its power. If unable, what has brought our moral nature into such a state of imbecility? Are not its chains wound round our nature by our own consent? Is not the wretched victim of intemperance responsible for his inability to resist the cup, when that inability is the result of the voluntary indulgence of years? The fetters of the sinner have been forged by himself. The criminality reaches farther back than the present sin; to the sins freely chosen long ago, which have led up to the present power of sin over the will. If the will is in bondage to sin, it was, in the first instance, voluntarily surrendered. Now the penitent sinner sees all this. He comes with lowly submission and penitential confession.
II. A GOOD RESOLUTION. "By Thee only will we make mention of Thy name." The confession of the ransomed Jews meant more than empty words. They had seen their error; they intended a complete change, a radical reformation. Idolatry was for ever renounced.
This is a type of the conversion of a sinner. The confession means not only that he seeks forgiveness, but also—1, Intends reformation—abandonment of all sin, no reservation of any sin, the course of life completely altered. 2, Supposes regeneration. Man can only see the outward change; but what does it represent? Awakening to the danger, sight of the evil of sin. The disposition is different; the heart is changed. Hence the will determines the other way. 3, Proceeds from God. There is a work of the Holy Spirit in conversion. We need His help to fulfil the resolution. "By Thee only."
Have you experienced this change? It is a personal one. Whether you have or not, He is the Lord—your Lord; therefore right that He demands your service. O yield His claim!—J. Rawlinson.
PRAYER IN TROUBLE
Isa . "Lord, in trouble," &c.
Every man knows what trouble is; what it is to lie under the chastening hand of God. In the day of trouble, we feel our dependence on external help. Some in adversity seek friends whom they neglect in prosperity. Happy is he who, when trouble comes, finds himself surrounded by true friends. Acquire the art of keeping your friends. But there are troubles to which human sympathy and help are inadequate. Times when men's thoughts drift towards God. Trouble reminds us of the unseen, the spiritual, the eternal. It quickens the spiritual sense by casting the fierce light of eternity on the things of time. Men visit God in trouble by pouring out to Him their prayers.
I. Some pray in trouble, who are prayerless at other times. Multitudes live entirely without prayer. Taught by mothers in infancy. For a considerable part of ripening youth they maintained the habit. But began to neglect, were afraid of ridicule, or fell into sinful indulgence; it would appal them to think how long it is since they poured out one prayer to God. Surprising that with God so near, so many should habitually turn away and never seek His face. But some heavy trouble comes. They pause, recollect themselves, remember the long years of misspent time, pray, promise, and vow (H. E. I., 69).
Does this always continue when the trouble has departed? Is not this often the history? The cloud breaks, the sun bursts out again, the man forgets that the sun was ever hid. Ship in storm. Cries, prayers, vows. Ship is saved. Prayers cease; revelry is resumed. How often on the bed of sickness are prayers and promises uttered which are forgotten with returning health. Pharaoh alarmed by the successive plagues. Besought Moses to pray. Hardened his heart again. The children of Israel repeatedly fell into idolatry. Visited with judgments. Cried to the Lord. When punishment was withdrawn returned to the sin. Conviction is not conversion; awakening not repentance. If the heart remains unchanged, a man will only pray as long as he is alarmed (H. E. I., 3877-3879.)
II. Some begin to pray in trouble, and continue to pray afterwards. Many have had to thank God for trouble. Borne along the stream of prosperity towards destruction. Some obstruction. It was unwelcome. It compelled examination. It revealed the yawning falls a little way beyond. Just in time to return. Every human soul requires one such grand interruption of its career. Grace of God employs various means for its effectuation. Trouble is one (Hos ). The soul's deep sin, danger, need, has been revealed. The cry has gone up to heaven. It was the cry of true repentance and humble faith in the Crucified One. Comes from the trouble a new man—a praying man (Manasseh, 2Ch 33:10-13. The prodigal son, Luk 15:14-21).
III. Some pray habitually, but especially in trouble. Prayer is the special characteristic of a Christian. It is his "vital breath." He cannot fail to establish stated seasons of prayer, both public and private. He endeavours to maintain the spirit of prayer. By its aid the blood of the spiritual life is kept in circulation. An important sense in which he prays "without ceasing" (H. E. I., 3866-3879; P. D., 2839). And every remarkable event is made the occasion of special prayer. Certainly trouble is one of these. Do you not go to God in your sorrows, as a child goes to his father or his mother? Bishop Reynolds says: "A godly heart is like those flowers which shut when the sun sets, and open again when the sun returns and shines upon them. Hannah prayed silently so long as she was in bitterness of spirit; but as soon as God answered her prayer and filled her heart with joy, presently her mouth was enlarged into a song of thanksgiving." In trouble you pray,
1. for deliverance, in submission to the Divine will.
2. More especially for a sanctified use of trouble; complete submission, faith, purification (Php ).—J. Rawlinson.
Isa . Thy dead men shall live.
II. This expression involves a contrast. The resurrection of national life of God's people stands in contrast with the denial of resurrection to the wicked rulers of Babylon (Isa ). That Chaldean nation went down to its political grave with no hope, no possibility of being raised to national life again. On the contrary, God's people, from being in a state of national death in Babylon, were eventually called into national life.
III. This declaration suggests a truth which nations ought to learn. No nation that seeks God and His righteousness can be permanently kept down. "Righteousness exalteth a nation;" exalteth it from depression into power. It may be brought low, but if the elements of rectitude lie within it, if public justice be a part of its political creed, and respect for the rights of others its unvarying practice, then, though apparently buried in the grave of defeat and degradation, its resurrection shall come. God rules not only amid the armies of heaven, but amongst the inhabitants of the earth, and to every nation maintaining justice, mercy, and truth, though brought ever so low, the voice of history proclaims, "Thy dead men shall live!" The bodies of English martyrs in the Tudor period perished. Under the Stuart dynasty the bones of those English patriots who defied "crowned and mitred tyranny" were dug up and dishonoured. That part of them corruptible and worthless died, but the better part of them has experienced a resurrection. Their principles live to-day. "Thy dead men shall live."—Henry Cowles, D.D.
GOD'S INVITATION TO SHELTER
(For a Time of National Distress.)
Isa . Come, my people, &c.
The history of humanity as a whole, and of nations and communities as a part, is like that of individual man, diversified and varying, made up of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow. There is a "but" in every condition, a crook in every lot. The people of God, however, have alleviations which the world knows not of. They have promises of present comfort and help, hopes of future recompense, and they are invited to make God their Refuge now. This was very much the case with the captive Jews in Babylon. Wars and commotions would rage as a tempest around Babylon, and bring its overthrow. But while the storm raged, the people of God were to be calm and tranquil; were to enter into their places of retirement, and avoid the commotions of war. This passage is a word in season to God's people now.
I. THE PERSONS INVITED. "My people." This was addressed to the Jews, who stood in a peculiar relation to God. It has now a wider range. It may include—
1. Those who are His by profession. This includes a large portion of the people of this land. Many of these, however, are out of Christ, and they are specially invited to repair to Him as their complete and only refuge from the storms of conscience and the righteous displeasure of a Holy God.
2. Those who are His by personal consecration. Not only received into the visible Church by an outward profession, but have become living members of that mystical body of which Christ is the Head. In times of danger and distress, when the judgments of God are in the earth, they are invited to repair to Christ. He is a complete refuge from every storm.
II. THE DUTY ENJOINED.
1. The form of the injunction. No terrible threatening, but mild and compassionate invitation. Though our Redeemer and Master has a right to command, yet He more frequently employs the language of invitation.
2. The place of retreat. We may think of many sacred localities to which we may repair in the time of national or individual sorrow. There is the open sanctuary. This to many is a place of refuge and comfort. There is the home. Families may meet and together commune with God. There is the private closet. There we may humble ourselves, mourn our own faults and those of others, and seek God's favour. But after we have thought of all these places we must go much further, into a more mysterious and safer sanctuary. These are only the way to the City of Refuge; only the plank by which we may ascend to the Ark; only the door-way into the Temple. Ours must be the language of the Apostle (Joh ).
3. The purpose of retirement. For defence. Israel must remain within the blood-sprinkled doors while the destroying angel wields his sword outside. Rahab and her family abide within their dwelling while Jericho is destroyed. Amid the tokens of danger and the coming storm, we are to hide ourselves in the perfections of God, in the merits of Christ. We must enter into the ark, and like Noah expect the Lord to shut us in. When the Hebrews had sprinkled the blood of the Paschal lamb, the command was, "None of you shall go out of his house till the morning." The manslayer could not go within the City of Refuge. Here in Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is safety from every danger, a complete Refuge in every time of need.
CONCLUSION.—The whole of this year has been marked more or less by personal, relative, or national calamity. It opened in storm, and a fine ship, the London, perished. Pestilence among the cattle followed. War broke out and mercantile prosperity waned. Now a painful visitation is among us. God is now calling you to Himself.—George Smith, D.D., August 9, 1866.
CHAMBERS OF SAFETY
Isa . Enter into thy chambers, &c.
The religion of Christ, as a religion of consolation, is eminently suited to the condition of men in a sinful, suffering, and dying world. The same Saviour who died to save, lives to bless, saying, "Lo, I am with you always," &c. The same Holy Spirit sanctifies and comforts. This Scripture suggests, that in the worst of storms God's people have a secure hiding-place.
I. A CONSOLATORY TRUTH IMPLIED. God's people have chambers of security and defence in time of danger. Every perfection of the divine character, every office of Christ, every divine promise is a chamber of defence (Pro ).
II. A WELCOME DUTY ENJOINED. "Enter," &c.
1. Who gives this invitation? The Lord Jehovah, with whom is Everlasting Strength.
2. To whom this invitation is given, "My people." Not Babylon, not Egypt, but "my people."
3. What it is to which He calls them. To enter their closets, hold communion with Him, trust themselves to His keeping.
III. THE REASONS FOR THIS RETREAT.
1. Because the calamity anticipated is very great. God comes out of His place to judge the nations, &c.
2. The season of danger is short. "For a little moment." Self-sacrifice and self-restraint for Christ's sake will not last long.
3. Because the blessings promised are very valuable. Present purity and peace, future glory, &c.—Samuel Thodey.
Isa . Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee.
An exhortation to religious retirement. Man was intended for society, but also for contemplation. When devoted to pious purposes, retirement is highly useful to man and most acceptable to God (H. E. I., 3466-3525). It is commended to us both by precept and example (Gen ; Mat 14:23, &c.) But the retreat which the Scriptures commend is temporary, not total; not that of a monk to his cell, in which he passes his days in barren and unprofitable speculation, but that of men living in the world, who go out of it for a time in order that they may return to it better fitted for the duties which God has assigned them there. That you may be stimulated to this duty, consider its advantages.
I. Religious retirement takes off the impression which the neighbourhood of evil example has a tendency to make upon the mind. We need often to escape from it in order that we may see its true character, and renew our strength to resist it.
II. Religious retirement is favourable for fixing pious purposes in the mind, and strengthening our habits of virtue. Dazzled no longer by the false glitter of the world, we open our eyes to the beauties of the better country; stunned no more with the noise of folly, we can listen in silence to the still small voice. At leisure we can reflect by what temptations we were formerly foiled, that we may guard against them in time to come; for seeing the evil day, we can prepare ourselves for its conflicts.
III. In religious retirement we attain to self-knowledge. Here wisdom begins. We can never ascend to the knowledge of Him whom to know is life eternal, without knowing ourselves; and we can never know ourselves without retiring from the world, without stripping off whatever is artificial about us, without throwing off the veil which we wear before men, and devoting our sacred hours to serious consideration.
IV. Retirement and meditation will open up a source of new and better entertainment than you meet with in the world (Psa ).—John Logan: Sermons, vol. ii. pp. 156-164.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 26". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany