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A PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL REVIVAL
Isaiah 64:1-2. Oh that Thou wouldst rend the heavens, that Thou wouldst come down, &c.
It is not into the mouth of every Israelite that the prophet puts this prayer: only the true-hearted, believing remnant could offer it. Selfish grovelling souls can, perhaps, ask certain blessings from God,—health when they are sick, bread when they are hungry, deliverance when they are in danger; but that God Himself should come down is a thing which they can neither desire nor endure. They can be satisfied with what is beneath the heavens, while the desires of the godly aspire to what is above the heavens. How is it with us? May the Holy Spirit elevate our desires, and teach us that our true blessedness lies in the answer to this great petition. Whether for ourselves, the Church, or the world at large, it expresses the most urgent need.
I. THE BLESSING WHICH IT CRAVES. A repetition of God’s former acts in their behalf (Isaiah 63:8-14); some manifest Divine intervention. It had long seemed as if He had withdrawn His presence, and they pray that these darkened heavens that hung over them like a pall, might be rent for a disclosure of His majesty and saving power. Is not this also our need? To the Spirit’s gracious influences we must ascribe those times of refreshing, which come in answer to fervent prayer (Acts 1:8 and others).
II. THE PLEAS BY WHICH THE PRAYER IS SUPPORTED.
1. Former mercies (Isaiah 63:15).
2. A close and endearing relation is pleaded (Isaiah 63:16).
3. The disobedience and unbelief of the great mass of the nation (Isaiah 63:17).
4. The rapacity of their adversaries (Isaiah 63:18-19).
III. THE EFFECTS WHICH ITS ANSWER INVOLVES. “The mountains” of difficulty and opposition shall be levelled into smoothness; every anti-Christian power shall be weakened and destroyed. We are often hindered and thwarted in our work for God by huge mountain masses that rear their giant forms right in front of us, and seem insurmountable, rendered all the greater by the unbelieving fears and faint-heartedness of fellow—workers. But let God come down, and they are removed (Zechariah 4:7). This Divine interposition is also compared to the twofold action of fire in its destructive and beneficent effects (Isaiah 64:2, Revised Version). In spring we see fires blazing in fields and gardens, burning up the worthless prunings and brushwood, that the operations of husbandry may go forward. So, when God comes down, all that is evil, all that opposes the progress of the truth within us and around us is consumed (Luke 12:49; Malachi 3:2-3).—William Guthrie, M.A.
Isaiah 64:1. THE POWER THAT REMOVES DIFFICULTIES. This is a cry for help and deliverance coming from the Church in the midst of conscious difficulties. Those difficulties produced by a general abandonment of God (Isaiah 63:10; Isaiah 64:5-7). The remedy is found only in calling upon God, and obtaining a display of His wondrous power. The text implies—
I. That there are great difficulties encompassing the people of God.
Here compared to “mountains,” because of their formidable attitude and strength.
1. Difficulties arising from the active opposition of the Church’s enemies, organised and instigated by the great enemy of mankind.
2. Difficulties arising from the magnitude of the work committed to the Church. How vast all the interests at stake and the responsibility involved. Low, weak, and incapable the human instruments: how disastrous is failure!
3. Difficulties arising from ourselves. Our mistakes, unwatchfulness, unfaithfulness, follies, create our own worst entanglements.
4. Difficulties arising from a common source—sin. This severs our connection with Divine power, and forfeits the Divine approval (Isaiah 64:7). All is gone—hope, help, happiness—when God is absent!
II. That difficulties vanish when God puts forth His power.
1. God puts forth His power in bestowing imposing revelations of Himself. Here referred to as “rending the heavens;” “coming down.”
2. In defeating the Church’s enemies. “The mountains flow down at His presence.”
III. The Power of God removes difficulties when His people cry unto Him.
1. This is a cry of penitence. It involves a confession of unfaithfulness, of sin, of baffled endeavours, of helplessness.
2. This is a cry of faith.
(1) Faith in God’s power to remove difficulties, or we should never pray.
(2) Faith in God’s willingness, or we should not persevere in prayer. Earnest, believing, importunate prayer opens the heavens, brings God near, and conquers every mountain of difficulty.—G. Barlow.
Isaiah 64:1-3. I. Some of the obstacles to the prosperity and happiness of the Church. II. The power of God to remove them. Signally. Unexpectedly. Effectually. III. The encouragement He has given us to believe He will remove them. IV. The necessity of soliciting His help and interposition.—J. Lyth, D.D.
Isaiah 64:4-8. I. The transcendent excellency of the Divine purpose respecting His people. II. The principles on which this purpose proceeds. Righteousness. Justice. Mercy. III. The utter want of merit in us. We have sinned. Our very righteousness is polluted. Our nature is frail—because of iniquity. IV. The humble determination to submit ourselves now to the will of God.
Isaiah 64:4. I. The characters described. They wait for God—in faith, hope, obedience. II. The blessedness prepared for them. Surpasses all human experience and expectation. Is only known to God.—J. Lyth, D.D.
GOD’S SPECIAL REGARD FOR HIS PEOPLE
Isaiah 64:5. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, &c.
The most weighty and important of all inquiries must be those which relate to our acceptance with God, and to that description of character which He will approve, &c. The text is a comprehensive description of the character of the people of God.
I. The attributes of character by which the servants of God are known.
1. By their patient waiting for God (Isaiah 64:4). None but those who wait love; none but those who love wait.
2. By their love of righteousness.
3. By their devout remembrance of God. They remember God in the ways of His providence and grace.
4. By their fixed adherence to their principles in times of discouragement and declension.
II. The special favour with which God regards them. However they fail in securing the sympathy of men, they are assured of the effectual and sustaining sympathy of God. He meets them—
1. In the gracious promises of His Word—assuring them of protection, of guidance, of support.
2. In the ordinances of His appointment. The ministry of the Word, the secret exercises of devotion, &c.
3. In the events of His providence.
4. In the season of departure from earth to heaven.
1. If such be the privileges of the righteous how anxious should we be to be enrolled among their number.
2. If such be the greatness and glory of God how formidable must it be to stand in enmity against Him. All resistance is vain. Be wise! Lay down the weapons of your warfare at the cross of your Redeemer.—Samuel Thodey.
I. The people whom God regards. II. The grace which God displays.—S. Thodey.
Isaiah 64:6. And we all do fade as a leaf.
Men have ever been ready to associate the seasons of the year with the periods of human life: to compare our youth with the spring time, &c. We all know we are rapidly passing away, &c. Everything tells us that we are under a law of change and uncertainty, and decay and death; and my object will be to justify and account for this state of things, and to see what reliefs and supports the Gospel gives. Consider—
I. THE ORIGIN OF THIS STATE OF THINGS in the history of our fallen humanity. This was not the primitive condition of the race, but was superinduced and brought about by the entrance of sin. Man was not originally designed to perish like a leaf, &c.
II. THE DESIGN OF IT. For wise reasons God has placed us in a world of change, and under a law of uncertainty. Partly as a scene of discipline and spiritual education, and partly as a preventative against the outbreak of much depravity, which would be sure to arise from a state of changeless prosperity, in our sinful natures. We could not be trusted with unbroken happiness; and it would not be safe for us to be without the benefits which the changes of life produce. The law is universal: “We all,” &c. Who has not lost a friend, &c.
III. THE MERCY OF THE APPOINTMENT. It is well that we do fade as a leaf, that we are often subject to gradual changes, as preparatory to the last great one. We might have been cut down like a tree, suddenly, without preparation, &c. The leaf as gradually fades, as it was gradually matured. God bears with much longsuffering. We ought to bless God for time and space for repentance, &c.
IV. THE IMMEDIATE CLAIMS OF GOD AND TRUTH upon you before the leaf fades from the tree.
1. Think much of the shortness and brevity of life.
2. Seek grace that you may know the day of your visitation, before life, like a withered leaf, drops from the tree, or is shaken down by the storm. “That life is long that answers life’s great end.” It is impossible if salvation be lost to repair by a second opportunity the loss of the first.—Samuel Thodey.
I. Though “we all do fade as a leaf,” we do not perish as a leaf. II. We are not forgotten as a leaf. III. The Gospel cheers us in this fading condition. IV. The ripening of the soul may be going on in the midst of the fading.—Studies for the Pulpit, p. 107.
I. Man is unclean.
1. His nature is unclean. In its source, flow, fruits.
2. His righteousness is as filthy rags, mixed, defective, insufficient. II. Man is frail (see p. 420). Like a leaf he fades. By a natural law. Gradually, &c. III. Man is perishing. Like a leaf he decays. Rapid decay. Short lived existence. Certain fall. Dissolution.
Our iniquities, &c. I. Have torn us from God, as the leaf from the parent tree. II. Have destroyed our moral strength and beauty. III. Have overcome all our power of resistance. IV. Have plunged us into ruin and misery. V. Will if unchecked by the grace of God sweep us into eternal ruin.—J. Lyth, D.D.
THE ABSENCE OF IMPORTUNATE PRAYER DEPLORED
Isaiah 64:7. There is none that … stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee.
THE SUBJECT OF COMPLAINT AND LAMENTATION. Not the neglect of ordinances, or the lack of profession, &c., but the lack of importunate prayer. How wonderful the permission and privilege here implied! The meaning is obvious. Similar expressions occur (Isaiah 27:5; Isaiah 56:6). These are representations of one act—the act of believing with the heart unto righteousness. But this is not mainly intended, but that of those who had taken hold of the covenant for salvation none was stirring up himself to take hold of God by importunate, wrestling, prevailing prayer. It is not every kind of prayer that can be thus designated. There is a holy violence about such supplication. In prayer we take hold of God—
1. By pleading His perfections. These constitute the encouragement of prayer. Thus Jacob, &c. God does nothing contrary to His perfections, but He is pleased to permit His people to plead these, and wait for their illustration.
2. By pleading His relations to His Church. What parent can hear unmoved the cry of his own offspring, &c. (Isaiah 63:15-19). Such pleadings affect our own mind, and put us into a right frame to receive answers.
3. By pleading the promises of His Word.
4. By remembering His former interpositions.
5. By absolute submission to His will.
II. THE FACTS IMPLIED IN THE EXISTENCE OF THE APATHY MOURNED.
1. That few if any were striving after eminent piety.
2. That in taking hold of God we are to use appropriate means.
3. That the work is individual and personal.
4. That extraordinary methods were to be adopted—
(1) Obtain solemn impressions of Divine realities.
(2) Secure extraordinary times for prayer.
(3) Exercise holy watching, &c.
III. THE EVILS TO BE DEPRECATED IN CONNECTION WITH THE NEGLECT OF THIS DUTY.
1. In the dishonour done to God.
2. In the advantage withheld from the Church. 3. In the benefit we ourselves lose.
4. In our neglected obligation to benefit the world.—George Smith, D.D.
I. The nature of prayer described. II. The neglect of prayer deplored. III. The encouragement of prayer suggested.—S. Thodey. (See also G. Brooks’ Outlines, p. 229–231.)
Isaiah 64:8. God’s people are distinguished—I. By their childlike confidence. II. Their implicit submission to His will. III. Their grateful acknowledgment of their dependence.
Isaiah 64:9. I. The evil deprecated—God’s anger. Merited. Acknowledged. II. The terms in which it is deprecated. Imply the justice of God’s procedure. Beseech a limitation of its severity. III. The plea by which it is deprecated. Humble. Confident. Founded in God’s covenant relation to His people.
Isaiah 64:10-11. Sin—I. Turns a scene of beauty into desolation. II. Profanes what is most sacred. III. Embitters what is most sacred in the associations of memory. IV. Destroys all that is most pleasant.—J. Lyth, D.D.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 64". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28