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THE ASTONISHING INCREASE OF THE CHURCH
Isaiah 54:1-3. Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear, &c.
Vast accessions to the Church are here predicted. Consider—
I. The comparative sterility of the Jewish Church.
The union between God and His people is often compared to that between husband and wife (ch. 5; Isaiah 62:5; Revelation 21:2-9; Revelation 22:17). The Church is here represented without inherent strength, apparently forsaken by God her head and husband, and therefore destitute of spiritual children (Galatians 4:22). Comparatively few real believers—children of God and the Church—had been raised up within the narrow limits of the nation. And when the Messiah came, formalism, scepticism, and open impiety had become almost universal, which caused the small remnant of the faithful to mourn for Zion. But better times would be introduced by the advent of Christ, and the accomplishment of His redemptive work. St. Paul contrasts the universal Church of the New Testament, with the Church of the Old Testament legal dispensation, quoting this very passage (Galatians 4:27; Ephesians 3:5-8).
II. The surprising increase of the Christian Church.
1. Increase surpassing all experience, hope, faith. The Jews, with comparatively few exceptions, “despised and rejected” the Saviour, and were cast off, but numerous children were born into the Church. The Gentile converts were adopted into her family, and those nations which had been wholly destitute of Church privileges—“strangers to the covenants of promise”—produced a far larger increase of true believers than the nation of Israel, which had been married to the Lord by their national covenant and distinguished advantages. Pentecost and the Acts of the Apostles—the first missionary record of the Church. How wonderful are these records of evangelistic triumph. Modern Christian missions not a failure, as some have the audacity to say. Their success far exceeds the most sanguine expectations of their founders. There are more conversions in heathen countries in the present day, in proportion to the number of preachers, than there are at home. “What hath God wrought!”
2. The full accomplishment of this prediction is yet future. The Church is as yet upon the threshold of missionary triumphs, and with but few exceptions is still doing preliminary work. All that has been done is only like a few stepping-stones towards the citadel that remains to be taken. But the accomplishment of the prediction is certain, because it is the revealed purpose of God. All difficulties shall be surmounted (Galatians 3:29, and others). The Gospel shall spread with surprising rapidity—“shall break forth,” as the breaking forth of waters, “on the right and on the left”—on every side, and into every land, until the now destitute world is replenished with the adopted and rejoicing children of God (Isaiah 54:3; Isaiah 49:19-20).
3. With such a prospect, necessary preparations must be made (Isaiah 54:2; Isaiah 49:19-20, &c.). The boundaries of the Church must be greatly enlarged to accommodate the vast accessions, nor need she fear making too large preparations (Isaiah 54:3; Zechariah 8:20-23; Malachi 1:9-11) 
 This text has an interesting history as the subject of Carey’s memorable sermon, the preaching of which, at Nottingham, in June 1792, may be affirmed, without extravagance, to have marked an epoch in the history of modern missions. After observing that the Church was, in these words, compared to some poor, desolate widow who lived alone in a small tent, that she who thus lived in a manner forlorn and childless, was told to expect such an increase in her family as would require a much larger dwelling, and this because her Maker was her husband whose name was not only the Lord of Hosts and the Holy one of Israel, but the God of the whole earth, he proceeded to bring out the spirit of the passage in two memorable exhortations—1. Expect great things from God. 2. Attempt great things for God. In private conference with his brethren immediately afterwards, Carey formally laid himself on the missionary altar, saying to Pearce and Fuller in those immortal words, ‘I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the ropes;’ and so was formed the Baptist Missionary Society, and a mightier impulse given to missionary zeal all over the world.—W. Guthrie, M.A.
III. The exultant joy at the astonishing increase. Common to Isaiah to interpose a song of praise on the announcement of any great and glorious truth (Isaiah 12:5-6; Isaiah 42:10-11; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13). The Church is here called on to break out into loud and glad exclamations at the remarkable accession.
1. The joy of individual believers. Nothing so adapted to gladden the heart as the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom. For every subject of saving grace is not only blessed in himself, but he is made a blessing to others, and thus God’s glory and the world’s happiness are promoted.
2. The joy of the family. Nothing conduces so much to make our homes and households glad as the salvation of the family circle. It heals their strifes, soothes their sorrows, &c.
3. The joy of the collective Church. Nothing so adapted to make a people happy (Acts 8:8; Acts 15:3). The object of Christ’s mission, and the Church’s labours and prayers, are realised, &c.
1. The gradual development of God’s purposes may well rebuke our impatience as to missionary success. We are most imperfect judges of what constitutes success.
2. Our own position and duty. Be incited to activity in the Redeemer’s cause—seek in order to save the lost, &c. Let your gifts cease to be patronage, and become sacrifice, &c.
3. Are you children of God, born from above, &c? Accept Christ as your Saviour, and yield yourselves to His blessed service, &c. (Psalms 77:1-2).—A. Tucker.
THE AGGRESSIVE POWER OF CHRISTIANITY
Isaiah 54:2-3. Enlarge the place of thy tent, &c.
It is pre-eminently by aggressive movements that the Church is to prosper—to maintain her spiritual life and cause religion to flourish at home, and extend its triumphs abroad. The truth of this doctrine is suggested by—
I. THE FIRST IMPULSES OF THE RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLE, THE SPIRIT OF LOVE IN EVERY CHRISTIAN’S BOSOM. This is strikingly exhibited in young converts. It is illustrated with great beauty in the conduct of Christ’s earliest disciples. True religion is the spirit of Christ. Its language is, “something must be done,” &c. It conceives plans, it demands efforts, for the world’s conversion. Every real Christian that lives in the spirit of religion may consult his own consciousness on this subject. In his most favoured hours and nearest approaches to God, he will find his impulses to religious effort strongest.
II. THE FACT THAT TRUTH IS THE GRAND INSTRUMENT WHICH GOD EMPLOYS TO OVERTHROW THE KINGDOM OF SATAN, AND ADVANCE AND ESTABLISH THE KINGDOM OF HIS SON. The Word of God must not only be translated into all the languages of the earth, but it must be carried to every man’s door; nay, its great truths must be pressed home upon every man’s conscience. What a mighty work here opens for Christians of every name!
III. THE VERY ATTITUDE OF A FALLEN WORLD TOWARD GOD. It is one of hostility to His character and opposition to His truth (John 3:19-20). The world will not come to the Church and crave instruction at her lips. As her Saviour sought her, so He requires her to seek sinners. She must make external and aggressive movements—must not study so much her own comfort as her enlargement. And this general rule of duty for the Church as a body applies to each member of the Church individually. So Christ teaches.
IV. THE WHOLE CURRENT OF SCRIPTURE PRECEPT AND REPRESENTATION. The Bible never instructs the Church that she is to conquer the world by her passive virtues, nor by any means which aim chiefly at conservation rather than aggression (Matthew 28:18-19, and others).
V. THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE GOSPEL. When has any signal advance been made in the work of human salvation, except by a movement similar to that described in the text? Christ’s great redeeming enterprise—what was it but one of aggression? His was a missionary career: “He went about doing good.” The Mosaic institution was peculiar. It was conservative rather than aggressive. Still, it was true then as now, that religion made no decided progress, even in Israel, except as the servants of the Lord made specific movements for this purpose. If this aspect of things strikes us in the Old Testament dispensation, how much more in that of the New? Mark how faithfully the first preachers of the Gospel carried out their Divine commission. Turn to a still later page in the history of the Church. How was it at the Reformation? When Whitfield and Wesley appeared? Just in proportion as any Church, in the spirit of Christ, attempts spiritual aggression, in the same proportion its interests are smiled upon and prospered.
1. We see why the Church is organised. Pre-eminently, with a view to united and powerful external action.
2. The grand object of all preaching. The conversion of sinners.
3. This subject throws light upon the providences of God towards the Church. Now, as in former days, He allows heresies, persecutions, schisms, and various forms of affliction, from time to time, to invade the Church, thereby quickening our love for Christ and for souls.—J. H. Linsley, D.D.: The Preacher’s Treasury, part iii., p. 55, &c.
CHEER FOR THE CHURCH
Isaiah 54:4-5. Fear not … for thy Maker is thine husband, &c.
I. THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO BE DERIVED FROM THE POWER AND GRACE OF THE GREAT HEAD OF THE CHURCH.
Here is the happy union of opposite attributes—the union of Majesty and Mercy, of the utmost grandeur and the utmost tenderness, &c. Here are certain relations specified, “thy Maker,” &c., and the infinite resources specified by which those relations are sustained: “The Lord of Hosts,” &c.
1. Thy Maker—therefore trust Him. God’s power as a Creator is adequate to all the exigencies in which His people can be placed (Isaiah 51:12-13; Isaiah 40:27-29; Job 10:9; Job 35:10).
2. Thy husband—therefore trust Him. A title which combines all the charities of all other relationships (Ephesians 5:25-27). A relation that cannot be broken—all others may (Isaiah 1:1; Hosea 2:17; Hosea 2:20).
3. Thy Redeemer—therefore trust Him (Job 19:25; Galatians 4:4-5). Christ became a member of the human family, and stood forth as our near kinsman, our Goêl, to whom the right of inheritance belonged. He did not refuse the office. Whom God redeems He exalts, and restores to all the privileges and immunities of which sin had deprived us. God’s salvation is every way infinite; the extinction of an infinite evil, the bestowment of an infinite good, &c.
4. The Holy One of Israel—therefore trust Him. Every provision is made under the Gospel to uphold the obligations of the law, and to guard the legislative administration of the Blessed and only Potentate. The redeemed family is under most binding obligations to obedience, love, &c.
5. The Lord of Hosts, the God of the whole earth—therefore trust Him. Infinite greatness is here combined with infinite goodness; the supremacy of dominion with the divinity of kindness, &c.
II. THE PRACTICAL INFLUENCE OF THESE CONSIDERATIONS.
1. As a dissuasive from fear. If the frequency of this exhortation supposes there is much to fear in the estimation of nature, it also supposes that there is more than enough to raise us above fear in the estimation of Grace. Comfort to every real Christian is richly furnished from the mighty power of God. Goodness is sufficient to make a promise, but Power is necessary to perform a promise. In God there is no limit to His willingness, &c. Trust this power in the performance of duty, in the resistance of temptations, in the endurance of trial, &c.
2. As a persuasive to hope.
3. As an incentive to exertion.
4. As a plea to be constantly urged in prayer.—Samuel Thodey.
GOD THE HUSBAND OF THE CHURCH
Isaiah 54:5. Thy Maker is thine husband.
In exhibiting His wonderful grace to man, God stoops and assumes the most endearing relationship to him. How surprising that the Monarch of the skies should condescend to represent Himself the “husband” of His people. Yet He did so to wayward, rebellious Israel, and He does so to all who constitute His Church or people now. Each believer may consider the text as addressed to him.
I. THE UNION SPECIFIED. When rightly formed it is—
1. Grounded in love, which is immeasurable—surpassing all created understanding.
2. Most intimate and endearing. There is a community of interests, and the connexion is one of the most close that can be formed. The apostle refers to this in several passages.
3. Most abiding. Believers yield themselves to be His for ever. God engages to be their present salvation, and everlasting portion and reward.
4. Entirely mutual. Personal interest is lost, and the mutual interests of both is the professed end of this union. The husband careth for the things of his wife, and the wife for the things of her husband. Thus God manifests His sympathy, love, and care, for His Church. And the Church professes in all things to show forth the glory of God. She engages to hallow His name, to revere His laws, to maintain His ordinances, and to show forth everywhere His praises, by devout and fervent thanksgiving to His name.
II. THE FORMATION OF THIS UNION.
1. It originated in God’s amazing love. He purposed man’s restoration to Himself. He determined to raise him to dignity and bliss, and this through the conjugal union with Himself.
2. It was rendered possible by the work of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19).
3. To this union God invites sinners in His blessed Gospel (Matthew 22:1-13). The great end of the Gospel is to bring men to a state of gracious and saving union with God.
4. This union is consummated on the day when the believer yields himself to God.
III. THE ADVANTAGES OF THIS UNION TO BELIEVERS.
1. It is their exaltation. This is rank and elevation above that of angels. Dignity which human language cannot express.
2. It is their unspeakable riches. The blessed God, in all His attributes and glories, is their portion, and present and eternal reward. “All are yours,” &c. “Heirs of God.”
3. It is their present blessedness. Brings comfort, peace, &c.
4. It will be their everlasting salvation. The very essence of that glory and happiness which the redeemed will enjoy for ever. This will annihilate all sources of evil.
1. From this union various duties and obligations arise. Love, reverence, subjection, obedience, fidelity, confidence, and dependence. Zeal for His glory; jealousy for His honour; activity in His service; and entire devotedness to His cause.
2. Urge upon sinners immediate self-dedication to God. Every possible reason and motive should induce them so to do. This is the basis of all good.—J. Burns, LL.D.: Sketches on Types, &c., pp. 122–126.
Both Testaments abound with striking metaphors, which exemplify the dear and intimate union which subsists between Christ and those who compose His Church. He calls them friends, children, brethren, &c. But no metaphor shows the tender and peculiar regard which Christ has to His Church, equal to this. How gracious the condescension, how endearing the appellation!
I. THE GLORIOUS DIGNITY OF THE BRIDEGROOM. He is—
1. Thy Maker.
2. The Lord of Hosts. And who are these “hosts?” (Psalms 148:0)
3. Thy Redeemer. He assumed flesh in order that He might be your near kinsman, that in that nature He might have a right to redeem you. But how did He redeem? “He gave Himself.”
4. The Holy One of Israel.
5. The God of the whole earth.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS UNION.
1. It is a union which springs entirely from grace. What else can it be on His part? What can charm Him, to unite Himself to thee?
2. It is a union accomplished by Almighty power. One would suppose that it were enough for the Lord of all to present Himself to the heart, for that heart immediately to open. Yet, strange to say, the moment these propositions are made, the human heart is barred against all enjoyments of the kind: it will not receive this heavenly lover. But in some favoured happy day He passes by, and the time is a time of love: He speaks, and the heart opens.
3. It is a spiritual union (Ephesians 5:32; 1 Corinthians 6:17).
4. A very blessed union. Think of—
(1.) The Dignity of those who are united to Him. Their name; their inheritance; their prospects. To be united with Christ for ever, in holiness, &c.
(2.) Their present privileges, communion, support, protection, &c.
III. THE TERMS OF THE UNION.
1. A total divorce from all other lords. If you are wedded to sin, or to the world, or to the law, until you are divorced there is no union with Christ. Are you ready to break your allegiance to the world and sin? If so, then, on these terms you may come to Christ.
2. The mutual consent of both parties. Christ is willing. His invitations, His appeals, His voluntary death on your behalf are proofs. Sinner, are you willing?
CONCLUSION.—Congratulate such as are already united to Him. What a blessed people are you!—J. Sherman: The Pulpit, vol. i. pp. 465–474.
GODS DESIGNATION OF HIMSELF
Isaiah 54:5. The Holy One of Israel thy Redeemer (R. V.).
This subject requires to be approached with the utmost reverence, and with a deep consciousness of the imperfection of our powers.
I. THE HOLINESS OF GOD. The Bible is full of declarations of His holiness.
1. The nature of Divine holiness.
(1.) It is underived.
(2.) It is absolutely perfect. He is incapable of impurity (Habakkuk 1:13). If we could conceive of God in any other character than this, we should revolt at the very idea of His existence and character, and our minds would be in perpetual anxiety and apprehension respecting His dealings toward us. But He always does right, and is always opposed to wrong. He is perfectly just and true—these are the two great branches of this attribute (Deuteronomy 32:4).
(3.) It is the glory of His nature (Exodus 15:11; 2 Chronicles 20:21; 2 Kings 19:22; Isaiah 4:4; Ephesians 4:18). He represents Himself more frequently in this character than in any other.
(4.) It is the basis of His blessedness.
2. The demonstration of the Divine holiness. It appears—
(1.) In creating man holy (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Colossians 3:10).
(2.) In the law by which He governs humanity (Romans 7:12).
(3.) In the infliction of punishment upon man when he sinned.
(4.) In the restoration of man (2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 7:26). The economy of grace is devised that polluted man may be restored to holiness. The cross of Christ is the highest possible expression of God’s love of holiness. Our justification is not by the imperfect works of creatures, but by an exact and infinite righteousness (Romans 3:25-26). See p. 295.
What a foundation for the trust and confidence of His people! How great is the sin of unbelief and pride. How earnestly we should long to be ever growing in likeness to Him, for His holiness is the reason and the standard of ours (1 Peter 1:16). How terrible is God’s infinite holiness to the ungodly!” “Who can stand before this Holy Lord God?”
II. THE UNITY OF GOD. Contrary to the many gods of the heathen. Polytheism has been far more common than Atheism. How deplorable is the blindness of the heathen, who, instead of the one true God, worship innumerable deities. Some of the heathens had better notions—Epictetus, Plato, &c.
1. The nature of the Divine unity.
(1.) It is simple or uncompounded. He has no parts—His perfect nature admits of no composition.
(2.) It is singular and unshared unity. He is not one of a genus or kind. He admits of no rival—no partner of His peculiar nature: it is an absolutely exclusive unity.
2. The scriptural proof of the Divine unity.
3. The corroborative evidence of the Divine unity.
(1.) The self-existence of God. Two prime and original causes of all things are unimaginable. “If there is not one only God, there is no God.”
(2.) The infinite perfections of God. An absolutely perfect being must be one, &c.
(3.) The supreme dominion of God: there can only be one supreme governor of the world.
(4.) The analogy of nature. Everywhere signs of a monarchy. The unity of design observable in all the works of God.
The practical application of this subject is found in Deuteronomy 6:5, compared with Mark 12:29-30.
III. THE GRACIOUS RELATION WHICH THIS GLORIOUS BEING SUSTAINS TOWARD HIS PEOPLE. “Thy redeemer”—vindicator or deliverer.
1. The need of redemption. The Babylonians had taken Israel into captivity, and oppressed them, &c. Man is enslaved by sin, led captive by the devil; his spiritual enemies are numerous, and subtle, and powerful; and he is unable to overcome them, &c. He needs an emancipator—a redeemer.
2. The nature of redemption. May be considered both negatively and positively—what we are redeemed from, and what we are redeemed to. The spiritual Israel are redeemed, from the love and practice of sin, to the love and practice of holiness; from death to life; from the service of Satan to the service of God; from misery to bliss; from hell to heaven, &c.
3. The author of redemption. The doctrine of redemption is often underestimated and undervalued, from an inadequate conception of the majesty of its author. In the heart of God our redemption took its rise. Effected by the sacrifice of THE SON OF GOD (see p. 438). Redemption was made possible for all Israel, but it was open to any to reject the privileges it involved. So Christ has died for all, yet the benefits of His death will be secured only to those who believe.
No other way of deliverance from the deadly evils in which sin has involved you (H. E. I. 443).—A. Tucker.
LITTLE WRATH AND EVERLASTING KINDNESS
Isaiah 54:7-10. For a small moment have I forsaken thee, &c.
This precious passage is the property of all true believers in Christ (Isaiah 54:17). The people of God are often very severely afflicted. At such times there is powerful comfort for them in the fact that whatever the Lord may do unto them, He cannot be wroth with them, nor rebuke them, in the weightiest sense of those words. There may be much that is bitter in their cup, but since Jesus has made atonement on their behalf, there cannot be in it even a single drop of judicial punishment of sin, because Christ has borne all that justice could inflict. The Lord may be angry with us as a father is angry with his child, but never as a judge is angry with a criminal. God’s little wrath may light upon His beloved, but there is a great wrath which burns as a consuming fire; and this cannot fall upon them, for He has sworn that He will not be wroth with them nor rebuke them. Consider—
I. WHAT THE LORD CALLS HIS “LITTLE WRATH.”.
1. Our view of it, and God’s view of it may differ very greatly. To a child of God in a right state even the most modified form of the Divine anger is very painful. This may lead us to over-estimate—
(1.) Its severity, and, unless we are on our guard, we may fall into despair.
(2.) Its duration. The time during which God withdraws Himself from His people is very short: “For a moment,” He says; yea, He puts it less than that, “For a small moment!”
2. After the little wrath comes abundant mercies. Not merely “mercy,” nor “mercies,” but “great mercies.” God’s dealings never seem so merciful to us as after a time of trial. With great mercies will the Lord come to us, silence our fears, and help us to gather up our scattered hopes and confidences. These great favours are not to be sent to us by angels or external providences, but He Himself will bring them.
3. The wrath is in itself little. God’s wrath against His own people, as compared with that which burns against the ungodly, is little, and it can never get beyond that point. It is the wrath of a husband against his wife (Isaiah 54:5); not the wrath of a king against rebellious subjects, not that of an enemy against his foe, but the tender jealousy, the affectionate grief of a loving husband when his wife has treated him ill. It is the wrath of a Redeemer against those He has redeemed (ver, 8). It is, moreover, the anger of One who pities us (Isaiah 54:10). “Saith the Lord, that hath mercy upon thee,” is in the Hebrew, “Saith the Lord thy Pitier.” It is the wrath of one who is tender and compassionate, and pities while He smites.
4. The expression of His little anger is after all not so severe. “I hid my face.” Why? It is because the sight of it would be pleasant to us. It is a face of love; for if it were a face of anger, He would not need to hide it from His erring child.
5. This little wrath is perfectly consistent with everlasting love (Isaiah 54:8.) The Lord’s own people are as dear to Him in the furnace of affliction as on the mount of communion. You have no right to infer from the greatness of your grief that God is ceasing to love you, or that He loves you less.
II. THE GREAT WRATH OF GOD AND OUR SECURITY AGAINST IT.
This is given in Isaiah 54:8. As the waters of Noah shall no more go over the earth, so if you believe in Christ, the Lord will never be wroth with you, nor rebuke you, so as to destroy you.
1. The oath of God is our security.
2. Guaranteed by a covenant (Isaiah 54:10; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 37:26). Christ has fulfilled His side of the covenant by bearing all the penalty for His people’s sin, and fulfilling all righteousness, and now that covenant stands fast to be assuredly executed on the Father’s side.
3. What blessed illustrations of our security are added in Isaiah 54:10.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1306.
THE DEPARTING MOUNTAINS AND THE EVERLASTING LOVE
Isaiah 54:10. For the mountains shall depart, &c.
There is something of music in the very sound of these words. The stately march of the grand English translation lends itself with wonderful beauty to the melody of Isaiah’s words. But the thought that lies below them, sweeping as it does through the whole creation, and parting all things into the transient and eternal, the mortal and immortal, is still greater than the music of the words—these are removed—this abides. And the thing in God which abides is all gentle tenderness, that strange love mightier than all the powers of Deity beside, permanent with the permanence of His changeless heart.… And grander than all that, we have the revelation of the inmost nature and character of God in its bearing upon men: “Saith the Lord that hath mercy on you,”
I. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE APPARENTLY ENDURING WHICH PASSES, AND THAT WHICH TRULY ABIDES.
1. The mountains shall depart.… And so we begin to think that humanity is small and life insignificant, and sometimes we feel as if we were ruined and there was nothing left to us, and so my text comes and says, “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my loving-kindness shall not depart from thee,” &c.
2. The other side of that great truth. There rises high above all that is mortal, which although it counts its existence by millenniums, is but for an instant, and there appears to the eye of faith the Great Spirit who moves all the material universe Himself unmoved, and lives undiminished by creation, and undiminished if creation were swept out of existence. Let that which may pass, pass; let that which can perish, perish; let the mountains crumble and the hills melt away; beyond the smoke and conflagration, and rising high above destruction and chaos stands the calm throne of God, with a living heart upon it, with a council of peace and purpose of mercy for you and for me, the creatures of a day, but that shall live when the days shall cease to be. And so look how wonderfully there come out in these words phases of that Divine revelation to us, which are meant to strengthen us in the contemplation of that that changes. “My kindness!” The tender-heartedness of an infinite love, the abounding favour of the Father of my spirit, &c. What a revelation of God! If only our hearts could open to the right acquaintance of that thought, sorrow and care and anxiety, and every other form of trouble, would fade away and we should be at rest. The infinite, undying, imperishable love of God is mine.
3. And then there is the other side to the same thought. The consequent outcoming of the imperishable and immovable loving-kindness is what my text calls “the covenant of my peace”—that is to say, we are to think of this great, tender, changeless, love of God, which underlies all things and towers above all things, as being placed, so to speak, under the guarantee of a solemn obligation. God’s covenant is the great thought of Scripture which we far too little apprehend in the depth and power of its meaning; and this covenant with you and me, poor creatures, is this, “I promise that My love shall never leave thee.” Have you entered into this covenant of peace with God? Then you may be sure that that covenant will stand for evermore, though the mountains depart and the hills be removed.
II. A FEW PRACTICAL LESSONS WE MAY GATHER FROM THESE GREAT CONTRASTS HERE, BETWEEN THE PERISHABLE MORTAL AND THE IMMORTAL DIVINE LOVE.
1. To warn you and me from setting our hearts upon these perishable things.
What folly it is, looked at from the last point of view, for a man to risk his peace and the strength of the joy of his life upon things that crumble and change, when all the while there is lying before him open for his entrance, and wooing him to come into the eternal home of his spirit, this covenant!
2. To stay the soul in seasons which come to everybody sometimes, when we are made painfully conscious of the transientness of this present. Whatever comes thou canst not be desolate if thou hast God’s loving-kindness.
3. To give to us hopes of years as immortal as itself. We are immortal as the tenderness that encloses us. God’s endless love must have undying creatures on whom to pour itself out. The hope that is built upon the eternal love of God in Christ is the true guarantee to me of immortal existence, and this all turns on the one thing. Come into the covenant—the covenant of peace. Take the covenant God offers you, close with the offer, and then life and death, principalities and powers, things to come, height and depth, and every other creature shall be impotent to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.—A. Maclaren, D.D.: The Freeman, April 29, 1881.
I. THE TEXT ASSUMES THE MUTABLE AND EVANESCENT NATURE OF ALL EARTHLY THINGS.
1. The Lord fixes not on things most evanescent, but on those which are obviously the most enduring.
2. Even these stupendous works shall be shaken and removed. The discoveries of modern science. The Bible assumes it.
3. May be regarded as a type of the evanescence of all earthly things. Of human nature itself. “All flesh is grass,” &c. Of our earthly possessions, &c.
II. THE TEXT ASSERTS THE DURABLE AND IMMUTABLE NATURE OF HEAVENLY AND INVISIBLE THINGS.
These are put strikingly in contrast with the objects of time and sense (Hebrews 12:28, and others).
1. The benefits comprehended in the engagement. The favour of Jehovah—the love which He bears to His redeemed people. This love is traced up to eternity, and gave birth to the covenant of peace.
2. The nature of the affirmation. His covenant shall not be broken, His favour not removed. We are tempted to fear the reverse. He sometimes appears to withdraw His favour. His covenant is established on immutable principles. His regard for His people is unchangeable.
III. THE MOST AMPLE AND CONSOLING ASSURANCE IS AFFORDED OF THE CERTAINTY OF THIS FACT.
No higher kind of evidence could be afforded or even desired than that contained in the text.
1. We have the assurance of the word of Jehovah: “Saith the Lord.”
2. We have an appeal to the exercise of former mercy.
3. We have an assurance of a personal kind, and therefore most encouraging.
The personal pronoun, more than once employed, may well encourage our hearts. When the mind is oppressed with a consciousness of guilt; in times of affliction; in the hour of death; in anticipation of the judgment.
Such, then, are the glorious privileges of true believers. Are you one of them? Have you obtained mercy, &c.? “Incline your ear,” &c.—George Smith, D.D.
I. THE PERPETUITY AND UNCHANGE ABLENESS OF GOD’S REGARD TO HIS CHURCH, WHATEVER BE THE REVOLUTIONS AND VICISSITUDES WHICH OBTAIN IN THE WORLD.
1. That God should be unchangeable in His own nature is a necessary property of His infinite perfection.
2. Of equal importance is the doctrine of the Divine unchangeableness to the general interests of religion.… Hence the incalculable importance of those Scriptures which speak of God’s incapacity of change, and hence the value of the assurance of the text, as establishing our confidence in the Divine character, and furnishing a basis of certainty for our present and future hopes. Whatever else perishes the Church shall live, &c. You may take the text figuratively—or comparatively—or in its most direct and literal sense. What is true respecting the Church as a whole is true of every individual of which it is composed. The promise of the text is sure to all the seed. Many things may depart, and hope and life itself may depart, but God’s loving-kindness shall never depart.
II. THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD TO THE PROMISES RECORDED IN HIS WORD. The covenant of grace. The promises are made to Christ, and in the application of it they are made to us in Him. Confirmed by an oath (Hebrews 6:17-18). Think of God’s condescension in giving such a pledge. Come and rest your all upon this great foundation. By faith in Christ you become a party to this covenant, and have a claim to all its stupendous blessings, &c.
1. Appropriate the character in order to share the consolation.
2. Expect faith and hope to be put to the test.
3. Walk worthy of your high expectations.—Samuel Thodey.
All earthly things are uncertain. But we have here something unchangeable. God speaks of Himself as having entered into a covenant respecting man; and He pledges Himself that it shall not be changed. Contemplate—
I. ITS NATURE.
In what sense can the Divine Being be properly said to enter into covenant with man? Certainly not in the sense in which equal parties bind themselves to do certain things on given conditions. Man has no claim on God, nor right to bind Him to anything. If God enters into covenant with sinful man it is an act of grace. He binds Himself. And man’s interest is to accept the conditions imposed upon him. Accordingly, in the Scriptures, the term covenant is variously used to express the Divine purposes, promises, laws, dispensations, institutions, relations to man, established through the operation of God’s grace. Thus the covenant may be viewed—
1. In relation to God. Then, it is an infinite purpose and plan of the Godhead that sinners should be saved in a certain way.
2. In relation to the Mediator. Then it is the inscrutable arrangement that He should have a people saved out of the world as the result of His redeeming death.
3. In relation to man. Then, it is God’s gracious promise, His purpose revealed and made known, that He will bestow the blessing on the persons described. It is, therefore, God’s gracious purpose, plan, and promise to save sinners through the Gospel of Christ
II. ITS PROVISIONS.
In covenanting to bestow salvation He meant all that leads to it—
1. The sending the Redeemer.
2. The gift of the Holy Spirit.
3. The communication of spiritual blessings. The sinner is justified, and sanctified, and will be glorified.
III. ITS STABILITY.
It is assured to us—
1. By the pledged word of God. Better than the word of a king, which has often been falsified. Better than the word of a father, which he may be unable to perform. Better than man’s word of honour, which is not always respected.
2. By the past acts of God.
(1.) He prepared for it by prophecies, types, historic events.
(2.) He ratified it. Each form of it by blood (Genesis 15:0; Exodus 24:6-8; Hebrews 9:15-26).
(3.) He sealed it. By His Spirit, which is the “earnest” in our hearts.
3. By the revealed nature of God. Consider the love, the faithfulness, the immutability of the Divine nature.
CONCLUSION.—Have you an interest in this covenant? Will you accept its blessings? You are free to do so. You are freely invited. Those who are willing can have no greater encouragement as to the certainty of obtaining anything than the certainty of salvation.—J. Rawlinson.
THE CHURCH, Isaiah 54:11-12.
I. The distressed condition of the Church. Without. Within. II. The promised glory of the Church. Completed. Adorned. Perfected with grace. III. The perpetuation of the Church. Her children instructed—blessed with abundant peace. IV. The inviolable security of the Church. Established. Protected from oppression, fear, terror.—Dr. Lyth.
THE AFFLICTED AND BEAUTIFIED CHURCH
Isaiah 54:11-12. O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, &c.
These verses, which doubtless had a reference to the future glory of Israel, are in a spiritual sense true of God’s people in all time. In them God sees His people as they often are, and as they will be when His purposes concerning them shall have been accomplished. We find in them—
I. GOD’S PEOPLE DESCRIBED. “O thou afflicted.” How often this has been true of the Church; of the individual believer (Psalms 34:19). “Tossed with tempest.” How often have heresies and dissensions shaken the Church to its foundations! “And not comforted:” all ordinary sources of comfort having proved vain; the true source of comfort not having been sought. How often it is our own fault that we are comfortless! Herein we are apprised—
1. Of God’s knowledge. How important is this, that God knows our sins and our sorrows! (John 10:14).
2. God’s sympathy. The tone is sympathetic; the speaker is touched with a feeling of our infirmities.
3. God’s affection. This is not a taunt, nor a complaint, nor a rebuke. Love speaks here: true love, deep love, Divine love. Mere friendship leaves us when our dark days come; but love calls us by our name in the darkness as in the light.
II. GOD’S PROMISE DECLARED. We may leave all fanciful speculation and content ourselves with seeing here the contrast between the present and future condition,
(1) of Israel;
(2) of the Church.
This is a picture of a beautiful city; its pavements fair, its foundations firm, its windows—or rather its battlements—all radiant, its gates like a burning coal, its borders—its whole circuit—full of glory. We may note—
1. That God promises what is needful. Stones, foundations, battlements; no city is complete without these. It is that which we most need that God offers to bestow upon us.
2. God promises that which is valuable. Zion is to be rebuilt, not merely with “stones,” but with “precious stones.” God acts like Himself in blessing His people. He gives the best of the best.
3. What God promises He undertakes to carry out (Joshua 21:45; Joshua 23:14; 1 Kings 8:56). “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Who will “taste and see that the Lord is gracious?”—Walter J. Mayers.
I. A desolate condition described. Apply it—
1. To the history of the Church at large. Like a vessel in a storm, but always saved from shipwreck.
2. To the experience of individual Christians. It may be with—
1. Outward calamities.
2. Mental griefs.
3. Fore-boding fears. But God beholds with a complacent eye. He is no indifferent observer. All the relations He sustains breathe consolation (Isaiah 54:5). Make sure of the friendship of Him who is the pilot of the vessel, and then commit your interests to His guidance; otherwise when storms come you will have no anchor, and when death comes no hope.
II. The gracious promise given. Not only taken off the tossing wave, but promised a city rising from ruins. A promise of the final restoration of the Church, begun on earth, perfected in heaven.
1. The skill of the architect. God claims the work as His own (Ephesians 1:19).
2. The strength of the foundation. Combining beauty and durability.
3. The beauty of the super-structure. What beauty like the beauty of holiness.
4. The happiness and security of the worshippers.—Samuel Thodey.
Isaiah 54:13. All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.
Teaching and learning are the universal and everlasting occupations of all mankind. It is well to learn of wise men; it is better still to learn of the all-wise God. A precious promise is this given to Israel, and through Israel to mankind.
I. THE SCHOOL. What, where, is God’s school? The largest and truest answer is—
1. The world, which to those who apprehend it aright, is not altogether a workshop or a play-ground, but a school, in which the highest lessons are taught and may be acquired.
2. The Church, which is a higher form of the school, where the teaching is, as it were, more advanced.
II. THE SCHOLARS. All who will learn may learn.
It is the education of mankind which is proceeding in this school; and there are those who do not know it, who little think it, who are the pupils of the giver of light and wisdom.
III. THE TEACHER. Upon this, in-deed, all depends. The Lord under-takes to be our teacher. This office He fulfils by His servants inspired to convey His mind and will, but, above all, by His Son, the Great Teacher, “the Light of the world.”
IV. THE LESSONS. They are mainly—
1. God’s truth concerning His own character and relationship to men.
2. God’s will, which is the same as our duty, the summons addressed to our faith and obedience.
V. THE DISCIPLINE. Knowledge alone is no blessing. In all education the moral result, the influence upon character is of supreme concern. God’s discipline is unspeakably precious. Just it is; and yet, gentle too.
VI. THE PURPOSE EFFECTED BY DIVINE TEACHING AND TRAINING.
1. Knowledge. When of the right sort a priceless boon.
2. Character. The ultimate result of the highest teaching.
3. Usefulness. God teaches us, that, through us, He may teach our fellowmen.
4. Eternal life. Life is eternal learning, and heaven is the approach of the soul to Him from whose fulness it drinks in unfailing and everlasting supplies.
Application. There is needed, in-order to learn, a lowly and teachable disposition. The cry of the heart should be, “Teach me Thy way, O God!”—Homiletical Library, vol. ii., p. 76.
I. The relation which believers sustain to the Church—thy children. II. The advantages they enjoy in the Church. 1. Divine instruction.
2. Great peace: “the peace of God”—profound, strengthening, satisfying, enduring, &c.
Isaiah 54:14. I. The foundation of the Church—righteousness. II. The security of it. III. The comfort of it. Oppression, and terror, and fear excluded. IV. The permanency of it.
Isaiah 54:15. I. The last combination of the Church’s enemies. II. Its unauthorised character. III. Utter abortiveness. IV. The blessed assurance.
Isaiah 54:16-17. I. All agencies and forces are the creation of God. II. He licenses, employs, controls them as He pleases. III. Hence no weapon or power can prosper against the Church which He has redeemed.—J. Lyth, D.D.
THE CHRISTIAN’S HERITAGE
Isaiah 54:17. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, &c.
I. THE CHRISTIAN’S EXPERIENCE.
1. Weapons are formed against him. No Christian need expect aught else. As Israel’s experience in the wilderness, so the Christian’s in the world. The devil will try to hinder his progress, &c The world, too, in various ways—by its cares, snares, &c. The law in his members also will war against the law of his mind. He must fight his way, “fight the good fight of faith,” fight under the banner “Jehovah-Nissi,” fight, “putting on the whole armour of God.”
2. Tongues rise against him. From the days of Cain it has been so, and will be so to the end. Christians need not think it strange if they are mocked, maligned, misrepresented, all manner of evil said against them. So they treated the Lord, and so they will treat His disciples (John 15:9). But while this shall be, more or less, the experience of every Christian, learn, over against it—
II. THE CHRISTIAN’S SECURITY.
1. No weapon shall prosper. His enemies may be mighty, &c; but more mighty, wise, watchful, indefatigable and loving is his protector. He is perfectly safe. This does not mean, however, that he is not to use expedients—to watch and pray, to resist and strive.
2. Every tongue he shall condemn. (I.) He shall do it himself by welldoing (1 Peter 2:15).
(2.) God shall do it for him.
(3.) It shall be done sufficiently on earth (Psalms 37:6).
(4.) Perfectly in eternity (Job 19:25).
3. Let Christians see to it that they so live that men speaking evil of them shall do it “falsely,” and God shall fully vindicate them.
But now the question comes, Who has this security? and in answer see—
III. THE CHRISTIAN’S CHARACTER. “The servants of the Lord.” Only real Christians, to whom this security is given, i.e., those whose faith is a real root within and bears corresponding fruit without. Many arrogate such promises as this who have no right to them. They only who keep the precepts reap the promises. We must be servants if we would be safe. It is he who serves that the Lord preserves; none other (Matthew 7:21).
This secunty is further described as—
IV. THE CHRISTIAN’S HERITAGE. This description may teach us—
1. That while he is a servant, he is also a son—son and heir. Each believer may say with John (1 John 3:1-2).
2. That his security is a thing not of merit, but of inheritance. It is a legacy secured to him by the death of Christ (Luke 12:32).
3. We may be sure that a heritage from God is a certain possession (James 1:17).
V. THE CHRISTIAN’S TITLE.
1. The Christian’s justification is of God (Philippians 3:9).
2. His sanctification is of God (Philippians 2:13).
3. Boasting is excluded. “What hast thou that thou hast not received?”
4. His security is perfect. If God justify, who can condemn? (Romans 8:34.) And if God sanctify, He will perfect that which concerneth us. This clause thus explains as well as ratifies the promise, and, further, it tells us how we may secure this promise for ourselves. Righteousness we have not by nature; we cannot attain it of ourselves; but we may receive it from God. Let us seek it by faith in Christ, and He will be “the Lord our righteousness,” and then this glorious heritage is ours. What a different one from that of the wicked (Job 20:1-29).—David Jamison, B.A.: The Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv. p. 538.
Isaiah 54:17. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper
Old castles contain many relics of the past, and on the walls hang many weapons of ancient date. To such a place the Church may be likened. A divine and secure citadel, it contains not a few victorious trophies—signs of its enemies’ defeat.
I. Some of the weapons that have been used against the Church collectively.
1. The first that we notice is very old. It was employed against Noah, Job, David, all who have been called to do great things for God. What is its name? Infidelity. But it has not prospered. Humanity refuses to be infidel. Sinners abound, not sceptics. Atheism, like physical deformity, is the exception, not the rule. The soul must have something to live upon. Again and again the foes of Christianity have become its converts in their very attempts to destroy it: Athenagoras, Gilbert West, Lord Lyttelton.
2. Behold another of these hostile implements. Its edge is keen; it gleams with cruel hate; there are crimson stains on it. Its name? Persecution. It has inflicted frightful, gaping wounds; it has taken many an innocent life; history is full of records of its merciless deeds. But it is a weak weapon, nevertheless. It has purified the Church oftentimes, by driving away the hypocrites and leaving the true believers; it has increased the Church by scattering abroad its preachers, who in new fields have made fresh converts; but it has not destroyed the Church. It has not prospered.
II. But the promise is true of the individual believer as well as of the Church. How hopeful, how happy, ought every believer to be! The soul of the good man is invulnerable.
1. The weapon of SLANDER shall not prosper. At one time or another all God’s servants are attacked by it. But in the end none of them is any the worse for it. God will take care of the reputations of His people. Are you slandered? Do as David did (Psalms 119:6). So you may smile at your calumniators. The hour of your vindication is at hand (Psalms 37:5-6).
2. The weapon of DOUBT shall not prosper. Like other men, the believer is assailed by doubts; but they do but cause him, as they did John the Baptist (Matthew 11:2-3), to apply to Christ for their solution; and by Him he is settled and grounded in the truth, to which he clings the more firmly because he remembers how nearly he lost it.
3. The weapon of DEATH shall not prosper. He who trusts in God’s mercy through the substitution of Jesus Christ need not be alarmed at this weapon. You probably recollect handsome, brave Sir Walter Raleigh’s remark when he put his finger on the edge of the horrible axe which was speedily to end his life: “It is a sharp medicine, but it is a cure for all ills.”—T. R. Stevenson: Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii. pp. 244.
The meaning of this is that the Church of God cannot be destroyed.
I. GOD’S CHURCH HAS ALWAYS ENCOUNTERED OPPOSITION.
It has been persecuted. Its Divine origin has been and is disputed. There have always been enemies that have sought its destruction, &c.
That the Head of the Church should expose His truth to attack at all, is strange at first sight. But,
1. Opposition tests the sincerity of discipleship.
2. Keeps alive the evidence for the truth, which otherwise might drop out of recollection.
II. GOD’S CHURCH HAS SURVIVED OPPOSITION.
Thus this word has been hitherto fulfilled. 
 The language here is derived probably from courts of justice, and the idea is, that truth and victory, in every strife of words, would be on the side of the Church. To those who have watched the progress of discussions thus far on the subject of the true religion, it is needless to say that this has been triumphantly fulfilled. Argument, sophism, ridicule, have all been tried to overthrow the truth of the Christian religion. Appeals have been made to astronomy, geology, antiquities, history, and indeed to almost every department of science, and with the same want of success. Poetry has lent the charm of its numbers; the grave historian has interwoven with the thread of his narrative covert attacks and sly insinuations against the Bible; the earth has been explored to prove that “He who made the world and revealed its age to Moses was mistaken in its age;” and the records of Oriental nations, tracing their history up cycles of ages beyond the Scripture account of the creation of the world, have been appealed to; but thus far, in all these contests, ultimate victory has declared in favour of the Bible. And no matter from what quarter the attack has come, and no matter how much learning and talent have been evinced by the adversaries of the Bible; God has raised up some Watson, or Lardner, or Chalmers, or Buckland, or Cuvier, or Wiseman, to meet these charges, and to turn the scales in favour of the cause of truth.—Albert Barnes, D.D., Commentary, in loco.
1. Through persecution it has been preserved.
2. Notwithstanding enfeebling influences it has been preserved. It has often been exposed to bad air. For malism and superstition. Yet it has more adherents to-day than ever, and is growing.
3. Notwithstanding the attitude of scepticism and unbelief. Changes its front at different periods. Sometimes the literary history of the Bible is attacked; sometimes the reality of its facts; sometimes its miracles; some times its supposed incompatibility with scientific doctrines. Hitherto, however, it has always stood its ground, and emerges from every conflict stronger than before.
All this proves—
1. That the Gospel, which is the life of the Church, is commended by the strongest evidence.
2. That the Gospel is perpetuated by supernatural influences. Gibbon elaborated five secondary causes of the rapid and extensive propagation of the Gospel in the first centuries. They are true as far as they go. But he slurs over in a sentence a cause still greater, namely, the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a continuous miracle. Conversion is always the work of God. Every fresh convert is a fresh evidence of the truth.
3. That God’s Church and cause shall be maintained until its mission is accomplished. Notwithstanding all difficulty, all opposition, all new forms of unbelief, it shall fulfil this prophecy in the future as it has in the past.—J. Rawlinson.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 54". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25