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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Isaiah 30

Verses 1-3


Isaiah 30:1-3. Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of Me, &c.

The policy inculcated by the Divine Ruler on the Jewish nation was a policy of isolation. Now, this would be a self-destructive policy. But the circumstances of that nation were peculiar. It was not a missionary to the world, but it was a witness. When it formed alliances with surrounding nations, its witness became indistinct. It often dropped its testimony and adopted the idolatries against which its protest should have been uniform. This prophecy is against the alliance with Egypt. Assyria was about to invade that country. It was feared she would take Judea on the way. Now, the Lord was its defence; there was therefore no need to seek assistance from any other power whatsoever. It was a rebellious and unbelieving spirit that sought this alliance. The politicians sought a covering from the impending storm; but they did not seek it by divine counsel. They were adding another sin to the number against them. It would be shame and confusion at the end. Egypt would be unwilling or unable to help.
Human nature is ever the same. Here is a representation of the way in which sinners act, and of its consequences.

I. All sin proceeds from neglect and defiance of God’s counsel.

1. It is implied that God has counselled or may be consulted respecting human conduct. By the prophet He had declared against the alliance with Egypt. In the written word we have His will. It does not deal with our modern life and circumstances in detail. Impossible. But we have what is better; principles of action which we are to apply to circumstances. No one ever long in a moral difficulty, if he honestly apply these principles. Every act which is of the nature of evil is forbidden. Many sinful acts are forbidden by name. We have the example of the Son of God. We have the most inspiring motives: gratitude, love, hope, fear. A revolution of our nature in the direction of God’s holiness is demanded. The ministry of the word expounds and enforces these great principles. Men do not sin for want of counsel from God.
2. Our text charges men with acting on other counsel than the divine. The charge is twofold.
(1.) Neglect of the counsel they ought to have sought. Sincere desire to be right would apply to the Divine Word in relation to all the conduct of life. How many adopt and act upon the principle that it shall guide everything? Is not its authority discounted? When tempted to the questionable or sinful, but advantageous, how many, with steady clearness of moral vision, look straight at God’s counsel? As to the ministry of the Word, one part of the function of which is to keep men’s moral perceptions clear, how many absent themselves from it entirely!

(2.) Seeking the counsel they ought not to have sought. They sought counsel of their own inclinations. It was a foregone conclusion. They wished to go down into Egypt. If they consulted, it was, as often happens, with those inclined in the same way. Men are secretly conscious of alienation from God, which instinctively dislikes His recommendations. Man’s moral nature is unhinged; and he turns from God anywhither. The maxims of the world, the opinions of associates, considerations of worldly interest, conspire to the rejection of His counsel. Micaiah must be imprisoned if he prophesy evil, although it be true.

II. Sin is cumulative and growing.

“That they may add sin to sin.” Sin is rarely single (H.E.I., 4507–4509). A rope is twined from many threads. The Jewish people committed one sin by forsaking the counsel of God, another in trusting to the help of Egypt. Some substances have an affinity for each other. So have moral elements. Sins have a fearfully attractive and accumulative power. The youth wanders from the house of God. Conscience is stifled. Amusement is sought. Loose companions are cultivated. Restraint is gradually thrown off. Fraud is necessary. Fraud requires falsehood. One falsehood requires another. Sin is added to sin. Soon as a sin is committed it drops the seed of another, and so onward in terrible progression. Add grain of sand to grain until it becomes a mountain. Money is scraped together by care and labour, but sins rush to each other with mutual attraction. If you could have foreseen the growth of your own sins, surely you would have refrained. Count the sins of your life. They are added up in God’s book.

III. Every sin contains the germ of its own punishment.

“Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.” Sin makes promises which it fails to perform. You are disappointed. This is part of the punishment. Punishment is often appropriate, growing out of the sin. Sometimes this is palpable, as in the case of sensual lusts. Oftener subtle. Punishment accumulates, as sin does. There is a treasuring up of wrath (H. E. I., 4603–4614). Will you continue to accumulate it? or will you pause, cease? You must repent. Do not hug your chains. You must cry for mercy. You must yield. You must repair to the cross.—John Rawlinson.

Verse 7


Isaiah 30:7. Therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.

Jerusalem and Judah were threatened by Sennacherib with dangers and desolations. This people’s sin, for which they were reproved by Isaiah, was their trusting to the Egyptians; they were all in a hurry to obtain help from them, without seeking counsel of God and resting upon Him. Isaiah saw that the help of the Egyptians would be worthless to them, and therefore he counselled them to “sit still,” trusting in the power, providence, and promise of God, from whom too much cannot be expected.

I. Notice the prophet’s intermeddling in this important matter. He publishes God’s mind concerning it. It is the duty of ministers to meddle sometimes in public matters, whether in Church or State; they are to show Jacob their sins, and Israel their transgressions. This is a part of ministers’ work, to testify against sin in all. Christ was the light of the world; and they should be like their Master, testifying against all works of darkness. True, the world quarrels with the servants of God because they bear testimony against its sins; and on this account many ministers who have some light, put their light in prison: “They hold the truth in unrighteousness.” They do this by not bearing witness against public wrongs, and the sin and defection of statesmen. But it was a graceless expression of a graceless Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” “What am I concerned with the souls or the sins of others? What am I concerned with the public evils of the day I live in?” True religion begins at home, but it does not end there; it will come without doors with us (H. E. I. 1184–1186).

II. Observe the manner of the prophet’s address to this people. “Therefore have I cried concerning this.” It is the duty of ministers to be earnest and zealous in reproving sin and reclaiming sinners. They are to be both seers and criers; and when they see any danger, they should CRY, that the people may hear and flee out of harm’s way.

1. This is true in regard to public wrongs and national projects which are contrary to the will of God (P. D. 2855).
2. They need to cry about matters of eternity, that people may secure something that death may not be able to take from them—such as these: saving knowledge, saving faith, pardon of sin, evangelical love of God in Christ, faithful labours for the honour and glory of God.—Ralph Erskine, A. M.: Sermons, vol. ii. pp. 252, 253.

Verses 9-11


Isaiah 30:9-11. This is a rebellious people, &c.

Many wish to be deceived. They have made truth their enemy and shrink from the light, desiring present relief and peace, even at the expense of future happiness. Many a man does not like to be told the truth about his business or his health. The Jews did not like to be told the truth about their national prospects. The incessant reference of the prophets to the holiness of God was offensive to them, and they tried to silence their faithful monitors. Faithful ministers of Christ meet with the same reception from many of their hearers. These cannot bear to have their consciences roused, their fears alarmed, and their minds rendered uneasy.
I. THE TRUTHS WHICH ARE USUALLY OBNOXIOUS TO SUCH PERSONS. The spirituality and unbending strictness of the divine law, the deep depravity of human nature, the exceeding sinfulness of man’s conduct, the universal necessity of regeneration, the inefficacy of works for justification, the indispensable obligation to a separation from the world, the holiness of God, His irreconcilable hatred to all sin, and His irrevocable purpose to punish it, and the awfulness and interminableness of the doom of the impenitent. Such subjects call up the enmity of the carnal mind. They distress those who are wrongfully at ease in Zion, and they demand that the preacher shall leave them, and discourse on more pleasing themes.

1. Unbelief. Multitudes who admit in gross the authority of the Bible deny it in detail. Its unpalatable truths are rejected.

2. The refinements of modern society and taste. It is allowed that the curses of a violated law may be uttered in barns or churches for the poor, and may fall on the rude ears of the multitude, but the doctrine and style of preaching to the congregations of rank and fashion must be smooth and soft.

3. Wounded pride. Persons of outwardly blameless life hate the doctrine which disturbs their self-complacency, and revile the man who attempts to sink them in their own esteem.

4. Painful forebodings of future misery. Resolutely cleaving to their sins, they do not like to be reminded of the doom to which they are hastening.


1. It is foolish. Is it wise in the victim of vice to ask the physician to tell him that he is in good health, and is carrying on a harmless course of indulgence, &c., &c.? No concealment of the situation of the sinner can alter his condition in the sight of God or change the relation in which he stands to eternity.

2. It is sinful.

(1.) In its origin. It springs from a determination to go on in sin.
(2.) In its nature. It is a love of falsehood, a desire to confound the distinction between sin and holiness. Nor is this all; in aiming to suppress the voice of warning, he acts the part of that infatuated and cruel wretch who would bribe the sentinel to be silent when the foe is about to rush into the camp, or would seduce the watchman to be quiet when the fire had broken out at midnight and was raging through the city. The attempt to induce the preacher to utter “smooth things,” is an attempt to induce him to destroy himself and to contribute to the destruction of them that hear him.
(3.) In its consequences. Notwithstanding the most faithful warnings, they are hurried on by it to ruin. Like infatuated Balaams, they force a passage to destruction.
3. It is dangerous. It leads men to close their ears to what it concerns them especially to know. It is only by a faithful disclosure of their situation that they can escape, but they will not hear it.


1. To ministers.

(1.) The guilt of ministers who do not discharge the duties of their office with uncompromising fidelity is indescribable. They are mere pulpit agents of the devil, receiving the wages of the sanctuary while they do his work; keeping all still and quiet among his slaves, preventing all attempts to throw off his hateful yoke by flattering them with the idea that they are the servants of God.
(2.) The conversion of sinners should be the chief object of every minister of Christ. They constitute the majority of every congregation; they will soon be beyond the reach of salvation.
(3.) The conversion of the impenitent must be sought by suitable means. What may be called the alarming style of preaching is most adapted to convert the impenitent. Not gross and revolting descriptions of eternal torment; these are offensive and disgusting, and generally defeat their purpose, especially when done in a harsh, unfeeling manner. But a minister’s habitual preaching should be so discriminating as to leave no unconverted sinner at a loss with whom to class himself, whether with believers or with unbelievers; and it should not unfrequently contain those allusions to and descriptions of the wrath of God which, like the distant rumblings of the gathering and approaching storm, should drive men to the refuge provided by infinite mercy in the cross of Christ.
(4.) It is at our peril that we soften down the terrors of the Lord to please any man; we must not shun to declare the whole counsel of God; we must stand clear of the blood of the rich as well as of the poor. Did Paul regard the feelings of Felix?
2. To professing Christians.

(1.) Many would have the preacher confine himself to words of comfort, and object to everything searching and practical as legal. Upon their principles, all parts of God’s Word but the promises are unnecessary; they are useless to believers, for they are above them by privilege; useless to sinners, for they are below them in respect to obligation. What is this but a requesting that the Holy One of Israel may cease from before His people?
(2.) Inconsistent professors are likewise anxious that the preacher should confine himself to consolatory topics. Hypocrites! he gives you that which belongs to you. Consolation would be to you a deadly poison, a fatal opiate.
(3.) Sometimes even those who have only the ordinary imperfections of even the best men wish to hear less of the alarming parts of divine truth. But have you no concern for the salvation of others? Besides, who can tell but what you dislike may be necessary for keeping you awake?
(4.) Let those who cannot bear to hear the descriptions of future punishment think with themselves how they shall be able to endure it.—John Angell James, Sermons, ii. 181–214.

Verse 15


[1123] See also STRENGTH IN QUIETNESS, Isaiah 30:7.

Isaiah 30:15. In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.

The principle of our text is, that “strength,” safety, success, happiness, is the fruit of self-control and of reliance upon God.

I. It requires little observation to perceive that this is so in outward things (Ecclesiastes 2:11). Look out upon life, and see who, in the long run, are the most successful. Is it the stirring and excitable, those who are most conspicuous in its busy competitions? No: it is for the most part the tranquil and retiring; those who make no display, and have the least reliance upon their own powers. The surest gains and the most certain advancement usually attend those who go on quietly and steadily, without grasping at what is beyond their reach, or wasting their energies in unnecessary exertion. The godly who, when they cannot engage on fair terms in the rivalry of the world, keep aloof from it, preserving peace with men, and exercising faith in God, are provided for, and not unfrequently even raised to conspicuous prosperity. In “quietness and confidence” in God’s providential care “is their strength.”

II. Still more important is the application of this sacred principle to what goes on in the Christian’s soul. We can further the great work of our sanctification only by acting upon it. Excitement and self-dependence can do nothing. The work which has been begun by Divine mercy must be carried out by Divine agency. We are to take heed not to throw any obstacles in the way by our rashness or despondency. If under a feeling of the importance of the work we have to do, we set about doing it in any way of our own, we only invite disappointment, and peril the object we have in view. Only in a dutiful and patient waiting upon God can we obtain a blessing. Not all the will-worship which was ever contrived by human ingenuity can bring us nearer heaven.

III. These words should be our guide in every difficulty and emergency of the spiritual life. They bid us give place to no anxiety or alarm. Those who act upon them cannot be fanatics, nor will they despair. They will not seek what God sees fit to deny, nor even to attain to what is excellent by equivocal means. No real strength is to be got by ferment and agitation. We may not do evil that good may come; we may not distrust God’s power and willingness to help us; we may not seek help from Egypt.
IV. These words should be our guide in view of the changes and excitements of our times. Because of them many are filled with unreasonable fears. But are we to lose our patience and steadfastness because irreligious speculators and worldly religionists are in an uproar? No; let them follow their own course; let us act upon the principle of our text. Truth is safe; the Church is founded upon a rock; nothing can harm it, but our attempting to defend it with carnal weapons. Our weapons are the Word of God and prayer. In the use even of them, we must take heed what spirit we are of, that we use them not in a worldly or angry spirit. Let God do His own work. Let us not venture to step beyond ours. It is not our work to keep the world in order. With the eye of our faith fixed upon Him who with unerring wisdom and omnipotent might controls all the changes and developments of human affairs, let us quietly pursue the duties which He has assigned us, and we shall be safe, and strong, and blessed.—J. G. Dowling, M.A.: Sermons, pp. 55–75.

Verses 15-17


Isaiah 30:15-16. For thus saith the Lord God, &c.

The history of the Jews a striking proof of human depravity. That people at once the most favoured by God, and the most obstinate in rebellion against God. Ever hankering after some new idol, and falling into some new sin. Burden of the prophets was to reprove their pride and hardness. Isaiah no exception. In this chapter there is a solemn warning, the last remonstrance previous to Sennacherib and his army coming upon them.
First, the insufficiency of all human dependence. Chronic failing of the Jews was dependence on the arm of flesh. In national difficulties they went to Egypt for horses, or turned to Assyria for help, thinking that these would insure defence. But these devices always failed. God, from the first, placed His people in such circumstances that they could not fail to see that it was not human might which delivered them. Illustrate this by the Exodus, Gideon, David, and Goliath. In all this instruction for us, God is jealous of His honour. He brings to nought the works of the wise who ignore Him, and crowns with success the efforts of the weak and foolish who trust Him.

These words were especially addressed to the Ancient Church, and consequently their teaching is for God’s people now. We are too apt to be discouraged when earthly powers are arrayed against us, and to be elated when they are for us, in both cases placing our chief dependence on them. To do this is to lose sight of the true dignity and glory of the Church of God. The Church is the Spouse of Christ; she is gifted and dowried by Him; and does not depend for success upon the State, or any form of human help. The first preachers of Christianity were poor and unlearned men, owing all their success to the power of the Holy Ghost. We must rely upon the same force.

God teaches this lesson of dependence on Himself, not only to the Church as a whole, but to individual members. Hence He sends personal affliction, domestic trials; brings men into circumstances where human aid is of no avail. They can do nothing for themselves; nothing can be done for them. Trust in God is their only resource.
This leads to the second thought, the profit of patient waiting on the Lord. “Their strength is to sit still.” “In returning and rest shall ye be saved.” In returning from endeavours to obtain help from earthly sources. God suffers us to lean on the aid of man that we may realise its futility. Faith finds its best exercise in trial; it is also strengthened and confirmed by affliction. In such conditions, too, faith produces its richest and rarest fruit. Faith must evidence itself by works. Days of sorrow and chambers of sickness bear witness to the heroism of the believer. There are no heroes like those who suffer calmly and in secret. Many such will at the last be exalted higher than even martyrs and confessors.

The secret of patient waiting is trust in God’s promises. Our waiting must be on the Lord. Such waiting disciplines and chastens us. Evil tempers are subdued. Attachment to the world is destroyed. God’s Word becomes our daily bread; His presence as the breath of our life; and gradually the character is perfected, and made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.—Rev. S. Robins, M.A., Dale: Miscellaneous Sermons, p. 415.


Isaiah 30:15-17. For thus saith the Lord God, &c.

The subject treated is the proposition to seek help from Egypt against the Assyrians. Here is the divine remonstrance. It illustrates the Gospel, its treatment, and the retribution that will follow.
“In returning and rest shall ye be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” God was the defender of His people. Their strength was to trust in Him. It is so still. He is the only Saviour. A divine salvation is—

1. Needed. As much as when Sennacherib spread his hosts before Jerusalem; as much as when the children of Israel in the wilderness needed the manna, without which they must have perished, &c.; for man is sinful; and because sinful helpless.

2. Proclaimed (Isaiah 45:22; Acts 13:38-39). God pitied the world, and sent His Son. Jesus died. His death satisfied for sin. Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost. And willing. In the ministry of the gospel He invites every sinner to come to Him.

3. Conditioned. “Return—rest.” There must be a complete change from sin; from wrong confidence to simple faith. Many examples in the Old Testament show that believing reliance on God was a surer way to deliverance than the power of man. Apostolic preaching points to faith as the link of connection between the sinner and the Saviour. The salvation is by faith, that it may be free.


Isaiah 30:16. They had no faith. They looked to human helpers. It is the tendency of man. And thus the gospel is set aside.

1. By negligence. Because of prevailing unbelief spiritual blessings are undervalued. Sin is loved. There is little moral earnestness. Acceptance of the Gospel is postponed as if it were some disagreeable duty.

2. By contempt. The horses on which they said they would ride point to Egypt as their strength. It was contempt of God’s help. Thus their fathers had turned to the golden calf. Thus some turn to money, some to earthly pleasures, some to the Church, some to the priest for salvation. Anywhere rather than to the Saviour Himself.

3. By self-confidence. Ceremonies of religion are performed; prayers offered; obedience rendered; alms given with a view to propitiate the divine favour and obtain salvation as a debt. It rejects the truth of the Bible. It proceeds from ungodliness, pride, and unbelief.


Isaiah 30:17. All your confidence will break down. You will be utterly ruined. It will be as when a great power collapses. So shall it be with sinners (Psalms 52:0; Jeremiah 17:5-6). So with sinners who reject the Gospel. There will be—

1. Complete failure. You will be left in your original helplessness; at the mercy of the enemy; at the mercy of your sins.

2. Signal punishment. For the criminality is most aggravated. You have insulted God by flinging back His offered hand. Mark the means by which punishment will come. By the very things you have trusted. Mark the manner in which punishment will come. It will be utter ruin. Mark the end your punishment will serve. It will be a beacon to warn others against your fate. Instead of trusting in any other help, fly to Jesus. Believe in Him. He gives the weary rest. You shall be saved, now and for ever.—J. Rawlinson.

Verse 18


Isaiah 30:18. Blessed are all they that wait for Him.

I. What is meant by waiting upon the Lord? Not that sitting still and biding our time, like a man waiting for a coach. Not that we are to sit in quiet, idle supineness, expecting the Lord to come and fill our souls with joy and peace, as He used to fill the tabernacle with His glory. Yet, because they cannot convert their own souls, and sanctify their own hearts, thousands rashly conclude that they must quietly wait until the Lord work a miracle for them and save them. The Bible declares our helplessness in order that we may be stirred up to seek help from God (Ephesians 5:14; Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Peter 2:10). What do we mean when we engage a servant to wait upon us? Not that he is to compose himself to sleep until we signify that we want him; but that he should attend upon us, hold himself in readiness to do our bidding, make himself acquainted with our rules and conform to them, and with our wishes, and do his best to obey them with all readiness, cheerfulness, and faithfulness. So when the Lord bids us “wait for Him,” He means that we should diligently seek His face, inquire into His laws, keep His statutes, and walk in His ordinances, expecting to receive, in His own good time, the blessings which He has promised to those who “wait upon Him.”

II. How are we to wait for the Lord?

1. We must wait upon God with the heart; we must be in earnest. We have no respect for the attentions and fair speeches of our fellow-men when we have reason to believe them mere idle compliments: will God accept from us what we scorn to receive from one another? (Jeremiah 13:13).

2. We must wait entirely upon God, whether we are in search of peace, strength, or happiness (Psalms 72:15).

3. We must wait upon the Lord patiently and perseveringly. He is the rewarder of all them “that diligently seek Him;” but He has never pledged Himself either to the time when, or the mode in which, He will answer our prayers. He may put our sincerity to the test by keeping us waiting for some time; but we shall never wait in vain (Psalms 40:1). Remember how long Abraham had to wait for the fulfilment of the promise of a seed; but in the end, through faith and patience, he inherited the promise (Galatians 6:9).—E. Crow, M.A.: Plain Sermons, pp. 120–136.

Change and uncertainty mark all things here. The wisest plans often baffled, the fairest prospects blighted. But the truths and blessings of the Gospel are not subject to this law of uncertainty. God’s schemes are never frustrated; His promises never broken.

1. His people wait in the exercise of earnest and believing prayer. They seek Him in the means of His own appointment; by that sort of diligent seeking which is opposed to that of the slothful (Proverbs 13:4).

2. His people wait in holy expectation of blessings in providence and grace. It is the patient waiting for the performance of the promise in the exercise of faith. It implies a knowledge of God,—a confidence in Him,—a rest in His promises, as of a child in a father; a servant in a master (Psalms 123:1-2).

3. They wait for a clearing up of perplexities in the Divine Government. Oftentimes in their own history and in the history of others, God’s providence bears a mysterious and perplexing aspect. But the believing soul says, “All will come right at last. What we know not now we shall know hereafter” (H. E. I., 4043–4048).


1. The very exercise of prayer, faith, and patience is a culture of the soul. In such culture there lies “Blessedness.”

2. Theirs shall be the blessedness of satisfaction. Disappointment meets man in every walk of life, but those who trust in the Lord’s Justice, Wisdom, and Goodness shall never “be ashamed.”—Samuel Thodey.

I. God’s appearances on account of His people are sometimes delayed.

1. In answering prayer.
2. In relieving them in their afflictions.
3. In explaining Himself in regard to their afflictions.
4. In affording the joys of His salvation and the comfort of the Holy Ghost. II. Your duty in the meantime: it is to wait for Him calmly, patiently, expectantly. III. The blessedness that will attend the exercise of waiting for Him.—William Jay: Sunday Evening Sermons, pp. 319–324.

Verse 19


Isaiah 30:19. He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry.

I. There are persons before me for whom this gracious assurance is particularly suitable. It is most comforting—

1. To all afflicted people. You are depressed; things have gone amiss; you do not prosper in business, or you are sickening in body, or a dear one lies at home pining away. In your straits possibly you may be ready to try some wrong way of helping yourself out of your difficulties. Yield not to Satan. There is help in God for you now. The Lord is not now visiting you in wrath; there is kindness in His severity. By yielding yourself to God, and trusting Him in this your evil plight, you will obtain deliverance (Isaiah 30:15).

2. To those who are troubled on account of sin. In order to escape from sin and punishment, the very first thing with you is to come back to your God whom you have offended, since He alone can pardon you. There must be a turning of the face in repentance, and a looking of the eye by faith unto God in Christ Jesus, or you will die in your sins (H. E. I., 1479–1484). The natural tendency of your heart, even when under a sense of sin, will be to keep from the Lord. Alas! you will look at your sin again and again till you are ready to pine away in despair, but you will not look to Christ Jesus and be saved. Possibly you may conclude that there is no hope for you in better things, and that therefore you had better enjoy such pleasures as may be found in sin, and take your swing while you may. Do not believe this lie of Satan. There is hope; you are in the land of mercy still. You need do nothing to make the Lord propitious, He is love already; you need not undergo penance, nor pass through grievous anguish of spirit in order to render God more merciful, for His grace aboundeth. Therefore we say to you, Go to Him and test Him, for He will be gracious to the voice of your cry.

3. To backsliders filled with their own ways, who are alarmed and distressed at their grievous departures from God. You may well be grieved, for you have done much dishonour to the name of God amongst the ungodly; you have pierced His saints with many sorrows. If you were cast off for ever as a traitor and left to die as a son of perdition, what could be said but that you were reaping the fruit of your own ways? Yet the text rings in your ears at this time like a clear silver bell, and its one note is grace. “He will be very gracious unto thee” (Jeremiah 3:14; H. E. I., 424).

4. To all believers in Christ who are at all exercised in heart; and we are all in that condition at times. Even when by full assurance we can read our title clear to-day, we become anxious as to the morrow. If trials multiply, how will faith be able to stand? When the days of weakness arrive, what shall we do in our old age? Behind all stands the skeleton form of death. “What shall we do in the swellings of Jordan?” We recollect how we ran with the footmen in our former trials, and they wearied us, and we ask ourselves, “How shall we contend with horsemen?” When standing, as we shall, on the brink of eternity, will our religion then prove a reality, or will our hope dissolve like a dream? Such questions torment our souls. Let all such fears vanish. In child-like confidence come to God, and go no more from Him. Let this verse smile on you, and beckon you to your Father’s heart.

II. The assurance here given is very firmly based. It rests—

1. On the plain promise of God as given in the text, and in many similar declarations scattered all over the Scriptures.

2. On the gracious nature of God. It is His nature to be gracious. Judgment is His strange work, but He delighteth in mercy. Nothing pleases Him more than to pass by transgression, iniquity, and sin when we lie humble and penitent before Him.

3. On the prevalence of prayer. This we know, an experience of eight-and-twenty years has proved that God heareth prayer; therefore we say to you, Go to Him and test Him, for He will be gracious to the voice of your cry.

III. The well-confirmed assurance of the text should be practically accepted at once.

1. Let us renounce at once all earth-born confidences. What is your confidence? Your wealth? Your strong common-sense? Your stalwart frame? What are you relying on? Will it support you in death? Will it stand you in good stead in eternity? It will not if it be anything short of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us flee from all creature-confidence as from a filthy thing, for it is base to the last degree to be trusting in another creature and putting that creature into the place of its Creator.

2. Refuse despair.

3. Try now the power of prayer and child-like confidence in God.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxiv. pp. 337–348.

Verses 20-21


Isaiah 30:20-21. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, &c. [1129]

[1129] The Authorised Version, upon which these outlines are founded, is supported by Mr. Cheyne, who translates: “And though the Lord give you bread in short measure and water in scant quantity,” &c. But Delitzsch, Kay, and Birks render the first clause: “And the Lord will give you bread in your adversity and water in your affliction.” Mr. Birks adds: “These words form part of a promise, not its limitation. The affliction has been fully denounced before. Here they are assured that, although besieged, they will not be given over to famine. The path of duty will be made plain by God’s prophets, and speedy deliverance be given.”


“The Bread of Adversity” was a proverbial expression among the Jews (1 Kings 22:27; Psalms 80:5). The Lord gives: He who gave the cup of salvation gives the cup of affliction. He who gives the bread of life gives also the bread of adversity (Hebrews 12:6.) Recollect that the Lord who gives you the bread of adversity gave His own Son no better fare, no richer diet.


“Yet shall not thy teachers be removed,” &c. He will compensate temporal troubles by spiritual blessings. Numbers have found that as tribulation abounded, consolation abounded by Christ (1 Corinthians 1:5). Such consolations are threefold.

1. A free access to God’s throne. “He will be very gracious to thee at the voice of thy cry.” Prayer relieves distress.

2. A faithful administration of God’s word and ordinances. Religious instruction shall be continued, “thy teachers shall not be removed.”

3. A gracious direction of God’s providence.


1. Guard against whatever may endanger Christian privileges. Neglect of prayer; absence of love; seductions of the world.

3. Recollect what is needful to give this promise full effect—the influence of the Spirit. Pray for and expect a baptism of the Holy Ghost.

3. Commend to others the consolations you receive. Visit the sick; remember the widow and the fatherless. In comforting others, your own bread of adversity shall be made sweet.—Samuel Thodey.

Affliction may be continuous and severe. Bread and water are the prominent things in the sustenance of life. Day by day received. Few, if any, are entirely exempt from affliction. Periods of difficulty and privation, when weeks and months of consuming anxiety are experienced. Losses which seriously incommode and cripple their business. Troubles in the family, sometimes from the conduct of those most loved. Bereavements which rend the heart. Sickness, accident, consuming disease, and excruciating pain wear life slowly away.
The godly are not exempted. The infected atmosphere may poison the saint as well as the sinner. If a good man falls over a precipice he will be killed. “The same hurricane may equally swamp the vessel which is filled with pirates and that which is filled by a band of devoted missionaries.” If a Christian neglect his business, or conduct it on unsound principles, he must expect insolvency. He may conduct it with perfect commercial wisdom and care, and yet be overtaken by disasters from causes beyond his control.
But it does not happen by chance. There is no such thing as fate. We recognise the hand of the Lord. “Though the Lord give you the bread of affliction and the water of adversity.” In this truth is help for believers perplexed by the mystery of sorrow. It throws their thoughts on God. And they have such confidence in Him that it is a resting-place. We do not know, we never can know, the evils He prevents. When He permits or sends trouble we may rest assured that there is a sufficient reason (Lamentations 3:33).

What are the reasons? [1132] We may mistake their application, but they are such as these:

1. It is sometimes punitive. God has established a connection between sin and suffering. The former always works towards the latter. The chain of connection may be so subtle, and may extend so far back, that we cannot follow it. Yet such a chain there is. When affliction comes, it is useful to trace the chain, and ascertain, if we can, wherefore the Lord is contending with us.

2. It is sometimes corrective. He deals with us as men deal with their children (Hebrews 12:5-11). It is not that he may vent His anger, but recall them to their better selves. He means it as the refiner means the fire into which he casts the gold (Psalms 119:67).

3. It is sometimes auxiliary. The means to an end. The dark way into light. It is necessary to some advantage which could not be reached without it. Joseph’s slavery and imprisonment were the steps to his subsequent greatness. Jesus reached the crown by the cross. Perhaps you can illustrate from your own experience.

[1132] H. E. I., 56–115.

Meantime, here is

Their teachers had been removed. The prophets were persecuted (Isaiah 30:9-10). Jeremiah, Zedekiah, under Jezebel’s persecution. Obadiah had hid a hundred in caves. Persecution usually fastens on the teachers as most prominent. Thus Apostles. Thus the Nonconforming clergy in England. Thus the missionaries were driven from Madagascar. But the promise here is that they shall regain their liberty. And this will be not only a relief to themselves, but an antidote to the people’s calamities. It will secure:

1. Instruction. “Thy teachers.” Truth is the basis of everything in experience or practice. It is their business carefully to unfold and apply the truth [1135]

2. Consolation. Christian ordinances are consolatory. There are truths that bear on troubles. The views of the Divine character and of the course of Providence exhibited in the Gospel sustain and comfort.

3. Direction. There is danger of turning to right or left. So many allurements, from ignorance, misguidance, temptation. By the ministry you hear the voice which points out the way, invites steadfastness, warns against divergence.

[1135] The Christian Church requires a teaching ministry. Not only must the Gospel be proclaimed to the world, the Church must be trained into knowledge, experience, holiness, activity. Individual study of Scripture is largely useful. But regularly recurring religious services, of which careful instruction is a part, are universally necessary. Godly men must be released from secular business, trained, set apart to the study and ministry of the word. The living voice of the preacher helps guides, confirms, and gives greater practical influence to the private reading of Christians. Even under the old dispensation, large use was made of this method. There were schools of the prophets. A few were so eminent that they have left their words behind them. But there were many whose names have not survived their time. Jesus trained His disciples for their future work. After His Ascension, He gave various gifts to men for the work of the ministry. He continues them. While one could wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that He would put His Spirit upon them, so that they would work to the full extent of their ability for the world’s salvation, it remains true that the strength of the Church is in an able, well-instructed, godly, and earnest ministry.

Among the blessings here promised to the ancient Church is the restoration of its silenced teachers to their work after its period of discipline.—Rawlinson.

God provides guidance in the journey to the better land. Value the ministry of the word. Attend it. Follow its teaching.—J. Rawlinson.


Isaiah 30:21. And thou shalt hear a voice behind thee, &c.

This may be a promise to God’s people of the continuance of the services of the ministry, or of the additional blessings of spiritual suggestions to guide them in the path of duty.
I. It may be a continuation of the promise in the preceding verse: “Thy teachers shall not be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers, and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee.” The Word of God proclaimed by faithful ministers follows men. Sometimes, as they listen to it, they reject it, but it pursues them, and gives them no rest until they obey it. When they are bent on a wrong course, it haunts them until they are recalled to duty. Or it stimulates them to the performance of duties they are neglecting or performing sluggishly. Thus understood, we may see that in this promise God compares Himself as it were to a shepherd, who puts his sheep before him; or to a schoolmaster who will have his scholars in sight, that so he may the better keep them in order.

Thus understood, we see our duty. It is to give reverent heed to the Word of God as proclaimed to us by His ministers. Food, however choice, is no blessing to us unless it be eaten and digested; and the Word of God is no blessing to us, except there be an ear to hearken to it, a spiritual taste to relish it, and a heart to close and comply with it. Well is it with those who imitate Lydia (Acts 16:14). But neglect of God’s word shuts against us even the throne of grace (Proverbs 28:9). To those who disregard what they know to be the voice of God, there comes a time when they discover that the greatest of all calamities is to have their voice disregarded by Him (Proverbs 1:24-26).

II. But the promise may be that of an additional blessing, the inward motions and suggestions of the Holy Spirit. His voice may be called “a word behind us,” because—

1. Of its secresy (Job 4:12).

2. Because it follows us always, as constantly as our shadow. Parallels to this promise we find in 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27; John 14:26; John 16:13.

III. This voice His people hear when they are about to wander, or have wandered from the way of righteousness. From that way it is easy to de part; but God loves His people, and cannot abide to see them miscarry, and therefore He counsels them. “This is the way, walk ye in it,” is sometimes a word of correction and reformation, in case of error; sometimes a word of instruction and direction, in case of ignorance; sometimes a word of strengthening and confirmation, in case of unsettledness.

In all these respects God’s people hear the “word behind them,” sometimes giving them very gracious hints concerning the affairs of this present life, but more frequently concerning the spiritual life. Those who wait upon God shall not lack counsels concerning the manner in which they are to serve Him. He answers the prayers of His people (Psalms 25:4-5; Psalms 86:11; Psalms 143:8).

What a great comfort and encouragement we have here! If we really desire to serve God amid all the labyrinths and uncertainties of this present life, we shall be safe, for He will guide us.
IV. But how may we know whether the word behind us is the voice of God, and not merely one of our own fancies, or a suggestion of Satan’s? There are several touchstones by which every “word” may and should be tested.

1. The word within is to be compared with the word without. Every suggestion is to be examined by the rule of Scripture. God never speaks in the conscience contrary to what He speaks there, for He is unchangeable and cannot contradict Himself (Isaiah 8:20).

2. God’s “words” are orderly and regular; they keep men within the compass of their callings, and the place in which God has set them. They incite us not to forsake our duty, but to be faithful in it.
3. They are ordinarily mild, gentle, seasonable; they are not ordinarily raptures, but such as leave a man in a right apprehension of what he does, and capable of reflection upon it.
4. They are discernible also from their effects, and the ends to which they tend. All the hints and motions of God’s Spirit tend to make us better, and to carry us nearer to Himself in one way or another. Honestly using these tests, we shall learn promptly and surely to discern the voice of God’s Spirit when He says to us, “This is the way, walk ye in it.”

V. From all this two duties plainly arise.

1. Thankfulness. A faithful monitor is a very great advantage; it is so betwixt man and man, and we should bless God that He condescends to be this to us.

2. Obedience. To His infallible, loving counsel we should give prompt heed, especially as He not only points out the way, but is always ready to help us to walk in it; and the way in which He would have us go is the only one that leads to true happiness and lasting peace. Disobedience exposes us to manifold dangers, such as

(1.) God’s future silence; when His counsels are repeatedly rejected, He will cease to speak. What a terrible calamity (1 Samuel 28:5).

(2.) Those who hearken not to the voice of God in them are often given up to Satan, and their own corruptions bear sway within them (Psalms 81:11-12).—Thomas Horton, D.D.: 100 Select Sermons, pp. 298–304.

I. Our need of the guidance here promised. We are ignorant of the way to true happiness, and we have not always daylight. The path is narrow, and is sometimes very intricate. It lies through an enemy’s country. Many as wise as we have lost their way, and, after years of sorrow, have perished miserably. We need this guidance in youth, in manhood, in old age, even unto death (P. D. 952, 2388).

II. Some of the means by which God guides His people. The promise in our text suggests a traveller in doubt as to the course he should take, pausing perplexed at cross roads, and in danger of choosing a wrong one, when a friendly voice behind him is heard, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” God thus speaks to His people.

1. By His providences. Afflictions are often monitions and instructions (H. E. I., 66–70).

2. By His Word. It clearly marks the path to heaven.

3. By our conscience (H. E. I., 1291, 1304, 1308–1312).

4. By His Spirit; by whom conscience is quickened, our understanding cleared of delusions, our attention fixed on the happy career of the righteous, and the disastrous end of the wicked.

III. What is needed to enable us to profit by this promise.

1. A prayerful spirit (Isaiah 30:19).

2. A studious eye that will look for the waymarks, especially for the footprints of Jesus.
3. A listening ear.

4. An obedient habit of mind (1 Samuel 15:22; P. D., 1656). Disregard of the Guiding Voice will involve us in present disaster and misery, and in eternal woe. Heedfulness of it will ensure for us present safety and peace, and eternal blessedness.—Samuel Thodey.

Verses 25-26


Isaiah 30:25-26. And there shall be upon every high mountain, &c.

These are symbols of the blessings God will confer upon His people when He returns to them in mercy. These are vivid presentations of two characteristics of these blessings, their copiousness and their universality.

1. To express their COPIOUSNESS the prophet speaks not of streams merely, but of rivers; “rivers and streams of water;” and declares that they shall be poured forth, not merely as the light from the sun, but as if the light of seven days were concentrated in one [1138]

2. To express at once their copiousness and their UNIVERSALITY, He declares that the rivers and streams shall run on the hills and mountains, yea, upon every hill and mountain [1141] The idea of universality is involved also in the figure of sunlight [1144]

[1138] We can conceive of nothing more bright, pervading, and universal than the light of the sun. At its rising the whole face of nature is displayed, every object in brought out to view; the grandest or loveliest features of the scene are presented to us in all their extent and magnificence, while the most delicate tints of the smallest flower are seen in all their softest shades and richest hues. Still this glorious object in its full splendour, the sun itself is too dim, too dull, too feeble to represent the grace and love of our God; it must be multiplied sevenfold. And even then it but indistinctly shadows forth the unspeakable mercy of the everlasting God.—Packer.

[1141] “Rivers and streams of waters.” But where is their current? Upon every high mountain and upon every high hill. Now, there can be no rivers and streams on the summit of the mountain range, nor upon the high hill-top. Rivers and streams are fed from these lofty elevations; they take their rise amid these towering heights, but they do not find a channel there. Thus you see that to typify the effluence of the Holy Spirit, these flowing waters of the text are described as being in unusual localities, to intimate that the blessings will be in such abundance and profusion as to outrun expectation and surpass all experience. And this not in some highly favoured regions only, but the blessing shall be universal, even upon every high mountain and upon every high hill.—Packer.

[1144] This, like the air, cannot be excluded; it penetrates the gloomiest caverns, can enter even through a cranny. So there is no soul out of reach of the all-pervading Spirit. Those that are inaccessible to man can be reached, and enriched, and blessed by the mighty energy of the Holy Ghost.—Packer.

Have these promises been fulfilled? Yes.

1. When the Gospel was given to the world. Its messengers were sent forth into every land, and it is a small thing to say that the light it gave was sevenfold that which the most enlightened of the heathen had possessed.

2. In the experience of every believing soul. The Gospel reaches many who seem utterly beyond any saving influence; and when it does really reach a man, is received into his heart. It gives him a light of more than sevenfold brightness and value as compared with the best of the lights he before possessed—reason and conscience [1147]

3. It is fulfilled in our own day in the wide diffusion of the Gospel and the remarkable increase of religious knowledge. God’s Word is being carried into every land, and the children in our daily and Sabbath schools have a fuller acquaintance with Scripture than many men and women of the last generation. There is to be a yet more complete fulfilment of these promises in that glorious era of which we speak as the Millennium [1150]

[1147] When we attempt to compare the boasted light of natural reason with the light which the Spirit alone can impart, it is not simply that the former is as the light of the moon, and the latter as the light of the sun; but the one is as Egyptian darkness, and the other as the splendour of the meridian sun, without even one small fleecy cloud intervening. Jesus Christ is the light of life (2 Corinthians 4:6). All that we can know of God, of His attributes and perfections, of His plans and purposes, He has revealed unto us by His Son. To those who are in Christ all is light, and harmony, and peace; to those who are without Christ all is gloom, and confusion, and terror. By faith in Him we see that all God’s dealings wear an aspect of mercy, love, and wisdom. Corrections are inflicted for our profit; disappointments are sent to wean us from the unsatisfying, perishing things of time and sense. Surely, in this respect, the promise in the text is made good to the believer; he enjoys sevenfold light in his soul compared to that which he had in the days when he knew not the true God and Jesus Christ, whom He had sent.—Packer.

[1150] But these mercies will be preceded by the convulsions of the moral earthquake. The very terms in which the promise is couched convey the idea of trial and suffering. There is a breach which the Lord binds up, and there is the stroke of a wound to he healed, implying previous violence.—Packer.

It rests with ourselves to determine whether the fulfilment of these promises shall be to us a blessing [1153]John Packer: Warnings and Consolations. pp. 256–271.

[1153] What shall the universality and copiousness of the “rivers and streams of water” profit us, if we will not drink of them? In the natural world a man would be nothing benefited, though the light of the sun was augmented sevenfold, if he studiously closed and sealed every opening by which it entered his dwelling, or if he placed an impervious bandage tightly over his eyes whenever he went abroad (John 12:36).—Packer.

[See also Outlines, RIVERS OF WATER IN A DRY PLACE, Isaiah 32:2, and ENRICHING RIVERS, Isaiah 33:21.]

Verse 26


Isaiah 30:26. Moreover, the light of the moon, &c.

These words, doubtless, look forward to the restoration of Israel. But there are spiritual truths implied in them, which are of present and immediate application. We have here different kinds of light; different degrees of the same light; and also the seasons when such increase of light is vouchsafed.

I. THE LIGHT OF THE MOON. It is a real light, but it is reflected light. It does not come to us direct from the sun, but is thrown first upon the moon, and from her it comes to us. Hence its peculiarities. It is a dim light; it does not warm and quicken; it does not make things grow and vegetate. It is a waning light; sometimes it is full, but it soon begins to decline, and for a season it is wholly withdrawn. It is a light which never makes day; even at its fullest, it is still night; men occasionally walk and work in it, but usually they rest and sleep.
Why do I notice these things, which are obvious to all on a moment’s reflection? Because I believe there is important Divine truth hidden under them. All Nature is a prefiguring or shadowing forth of grace and truth (H. E. I. 5, 6).
We have been describing the religious knowledge of not a few. It is moonlight; it does not come to them direct from Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, the source of all true light; it is hearsay; they have learned it from their fellow-men. It is not experimental, and hence its deficiencies. It is a vague, dim knowledge; they see nothing clearly, neither sin nor salvation, neither Christ nor themselves, neither law nor gospel, neither grace nor glory. It is a cold, heartless knowledge; it does not warm, quicken, stir their affections, influence their wills. It is a waning knowledge; sometimes they seem full of it—after a stirring sermon, or when they are in the company of frank, lively Christians—but a short time passes and it is all gone, as if it had never been. It never makes them children of the day, it never arouses them from the sleep of sin and worldliness, nor sends them forth to work for God and for eternity.
Such is this moonlight knowledge. Still it would be something if it led those who have it to Christ, the true Light. The people of Sychar had the moonlight when the woman on whom the Sun had just arisen came and cast a portion of her light upon them. But they did not rest on this; they went out of the city and saw and heard for themselves, and so many believed and were saved. But this is what many fail to do in revival times. The Lord has visited His people, has refreshed and saved them; and others speak freely of the good they have received, sing gladly their new songs, and are for the time stirred and affected. But it is only moonlight; they have never come to Him who changes not; and so when the warmth and stir of the revival passes they fall back, and perhaps become worse than before. Not a few are still in the moonlight, and are satisfied with it. You hear about Christ, perhaps can talk about Him, but this is not salvation (H. E. 1. 3148).
II. THE LIGHT OF THE SUN. This comes immediately from the sun, and hence its excellence. It is a clear, bright light, and so things afar off and near at hand are distinctly seen. It is a warm light; there is heat in it; it thaws and chases away the winter; it makes spring and summer; it causes all things to grow and vegetate. It is an awakening light; it makes day, and men arise and go to their work, and wild creatures and evil-doers retire. It is a constant light. The sun never waxes or wanes; he is ever the same. True, there are wintry days, dark, dreary days, but still the sun is there, shining through the clouds, and shining them away, and soon breaking forth again in his glory. Is this the character of your religious knowledge? [Work out the details of the comparison.]
III. DIFFERENT DEGREES OF LIGHT. “The light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days.” Here there is only a change of degree. There is no new luminary; it is still the sun, but it is far more intense and continuous. We can conceive what would be the effect of this in the natural world. Things now invisible from their minuteness or indistinctly seen from their distance would then be clearly revealed, and fruits and flowers which cannot at present be reared in our climate would then be common and indigenous among us. There can be a sevenfold Divine light and Divine warmth. Christ has it to give. He will one day give it to all His people, and the weak shall be as David, and David as the angel of the Lord. Even now He grants it to those who seek Him with the whole heart. The patriarchs, prophets, apostles had it. Nor are these peculiar, exceptional cases. I believe there is more of it than we are aware of, and probably there would be more if we did not straighten and hinder the Lord by our want of desire and expectation.

IV. THE TIMES WHEN THIS BLESSING IS VOUCHSAFED. “In the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of His people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.” This evidently looks forward to the time when the long alienation between Israel and their God will be healed. But is He the God of the Jews only? Nay, of the Gentiles also. There are two opposite errors into which men fall on the reading of these promises. Some see only the Jew in them; others do not see the Jew in them at all. But there is room for both in those green pastures. Even now there are fulfilments of this promise in its truest, highest sense. Even now the light of the moon becomes as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun as that of seven days. It is so, for instance, often at conversion; it is a passing from darkness into marvellous light. It is often so when the backslider returns. Look at David in the 51st psalm, what light he has got! It is so often in times of sore affliction. Then the exceeding great and precious promises come out into view, as darkness shows us worlds of light we never saw by day (Psalms 94:12). It is so at death, when the soul leaves its cage and soars away into heavenly light and liberty. It will be so when the Lord comes on the resurrection morn. And once more, oh! the light there will be when the Lamb opens the books and makes every mystery plain! (H. E. I. 3127, 3128).—John Milne: Gatherings from a Ministry, pp. 114–122).

Verses 29-33


Isaiah 30:29-33. Ye shall have a song … and the Lord shall cause His glorious voice to be heard, &c.

The fulfilment of this prophecy is recorded in Isaiah 37:36. The Assyrian power, hitherto unopposed in its march of conquest, sustained a severe check when it assailed Jerusalem. The great deliverance is here foretold. Inside the walls there would be song and gladness; outside, swift destruction. “The holy solemnity” was probably the Passover which Hezekiah and his people observed; and the “song” in that case would be the Paschal Hymn, comprising Psalms 113-118. There is a tradition that Sennacherib’s army was destroyed on the night of the passover; and thus while the people were recalling their great national deliverance, a further and somewhat similar divine interposition was about to be made in their behalf. Mark how grandly, as if in response to the songs and gladness of the passover night, the voice of Jehovah comes in. It is impossible not to see the connection between the two voices. Songs of praise and gladness have still an echo in heaven, and call forth a divine response to quell the church’s foes. Look, then, at the two voices, the human and the divine, in relation to each other.

1. A voice of confidence on man’s part responded to by a voice of power on God’s part. It showed no small faith in Hezekiah and his people to observe the passover in the circumstances. How could the little kingdom of Judah oppose the mighty conqueror? How could Jerusalem stand out against the assailants encamped in such numbers around its walls? God was their defence. To Him in this emergency they raised their songs of confidence. Nothing could more appropriately express their faith than the passover hymn. That night reminded them of the rescue from Egypt, and would inspire them with confidence in God. They were on the eve of another great deliverance, and their song was well fitted to prepare them for it, containing such passages as these, Psalms 115:1-11; Psalms 118:6-13. Nor was their confidence disappointed. Without any human help, God overthrew their besiegers, but it was the song of faith that called forth the powerful voice of God. When faith appeals to God, the appeal is heard on high (Exodus 14:13; Psalms 46:10). Two prisoners once prayed and sang praises to God at midnight. Their testimony for Christ had been silenced, but from the dark dungeon the song of confidence rose to heaven. “And the Lord caused His glorious voice to be heard,” an earthquake shook the foundations of the prison, and God gave His two witnesses an opportunity of bringing the Gospel to bear upon hardened hearts. Do you wish to see the arm of the Lord revealed? then sing your song of faith. Does the Church in these days sit powerless, sad, and despairing through the gloomy night of unbelief and prevailing ungodliness? Let her know that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. In the darkest night of seeming failure she has her God-given song, and if only she can sing it in spite of all that is black and threatening in her prospects, “the Lord shall cause His glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of His arm” in rebuking scepticism and indifference, in softening hard hearts, and in making friends of foes.

2. A song of gladness and joy in God responded to by a voice of complacent affection. All the Jewish feasts were occasions of gladness, and the passover must have been so, when we consider the event it commemorated, the communion with God to which it invited, and the future salvation it foreshadowed. The paschal hymn resounds with notes of gladness, e.g., Psalms 118:14-15; Psalms 118:24. If our song of joy in God is hearty and sincere, we may expect a corresponding response. If we rejoice in God, He will rejoice over us (Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 31:4-5.)

3. A song of self-dedication answered by a voice of recognition. The song breathes the spirit of consecration to God’s service (Psalms 116:12-19). Do we thus consciously and spontaneously lay ourselves on the altar as living sacrifices? If we own God, God will own us. The destruction of Sennacherib’s hosts was a proof to all the world that God owned Israel as His peculiar people. You, too, will have the token of divine ownership. For your sake God will rebuke the devourer. In response to your song of dedication, “the Lord shall cause His glorious voice to be heard,” giving success to your efforts and enterprises, blessing you and making you a blessing.

4. A song of security calling forth a voice of preservation. Within the walls the people marched in procession “to the mountain of the Lord, to the rock of Israel.” That rock of ages was their defence. They felt secure in God’s faithful keeping (Psalms 115:17-18; Psalms 118:16-18). Have you entered into this element of the paschal song? You shall hear God’s protecting voice, and see the acts of His preserving care. However strong the foes that muster against you, they shall not prevail, for all the divine resources are engaged for your support (Colossians 3:3).

5. A song of thanksgiving for past mercies answered by a voice that commanded new mercies. This element was very prominent in the Passover observances, and it enters largely into the Lord’s Supper, called on this account the Eucharist. How can we remember Christ without thankfulness and praise? When He took the bread and the cup He “gave thanks,” and He and His disciples sang the paschal hymn. What strains of high thanksgiving it contains! It begins with praise (Psalms 113:1-2). It recalls the Exodus (Psalms 114:0) It rises to a grateful recognition of God’s goodness (Psalms 116:7-8; Psalms 116:17). When such a song rises from human lips, God will give fresh occasions for thankfulness.

Let the subject teach us the importance of sacred song. Prayer and preaching are divinely appointed means of grace and instruction, but we cannot dispense with song. God fights for His people, but it is with the accompaniment of tabrets and harps (Isaiah 30:32).—William Guthrie, M.A.

Verse 33


Isaiah 30:33. For Tophet is ordained of old, &c.

Some of us have often admired the expression, “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men;” implying that the law of persuasion should be the law of the Christian pulpit. Some would alarm men, some would bitterly rail, and others thunder at them; as though the human heart could never be prevailed upon to capitulate, but must always be taken by storm. Paul shows us the more excellent way. When he proclaims “the terrors of the Lord,” it is “to persuade men;” to persuade them to escape the ruin and to accept the remedy. Observe, he does not hide them, for the truth must be told, sin must be condemned, the wicked must be warned.

I. Let us examine the local allusion and literal meaning of this verse. “This allusion to Tophet is the earliest which appears in the Scriptures. Additional particulars appear in the history of Josiah’s reformation (2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31). The prophet Isaiah here represents Tophet as a place prepared for the burning of the Assyrian king. Made deep and large, with fire and wood in abundance, prepared for the king, and he being thrown into it, the breath of the Lord kindles it into fearful conflagration. This is, of course, a figurative description, Tophet being made the central point in the figure because it was a well-known place, a valley just outside the city, the valley of Hinnom, used for burning all the offal and filth of the city of Jerusalem.” Isaiah was commissioned to utter this prophecy of the overthrow and consuming of the Assyrian army, in order to inspirit Hezekiah and the people against the threatened invasion. “Tophet is ordained of old” as that fiery place which would consume the dead bodies of these unjust invaders. Hence the Chaldee paraphrase says, “It was called the valley of the carcases and of the ashes or of the dead bodies for this reason, because the dead bodies of the camp of the Assyrians fell there;” to which Josephus gives testimony when he relates that the place was called the Assyrian camp. What force these recollections would give to our Lord’s threatenings of hell to the Jews who saw the smoke of this valley always rising before their eyes (compare Isaiah 66:24 with Mark 9:43-48).

II. Note some of those solemn and awakening truths suggested by this verse.

1. The same record which provides for the security of the Church, provides for the final overthrow of its enemies. This was the time of Jacob’s extremity; he was saved, and his enemies consumed.

2. In the enjoyment of our highest privileges, we are surrounded by the most solemn terrors. Tophet lay not only near, but at the very foot of Mount Zion. From the heights of Zion might be seen the smoke, the fire, and the worm in the valley of Tophet! A dreadful thought this! Hell is set full in our view when worshipping in Zion (1 Peter 4:17-18). Bunyan says, “So I saw a man may go by profession to heaven’s gate and yet be cast away.” Our Lord (Luke 13:25).

3. While no combination of power can shield the wicked, the believer has always a source of safety and a song of joy.—Samuel Thodey.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 30". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.