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THE CONVERSION OF THE GENTILES
Isaiah 65:1. I am sought of them that asked not for Me, &c.
It was God’s design from the beginning to call the Gentile nation into His Church, and, in due time, to admit them to all the blessings and privileges of the Gospel. The Jews, indeed, were His peculiar people; but this distinction in their favour was made only for a particular purpose, and for a limited season. They were chosen especially for this end, that they might preserve in the world the knowledge of the true God, and then prepare the way for the coming of the promised Redeemer, who, when He should come, was to be “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” &c. It is to this great event that our text refers, as we are taught by St. Paul, who cites it as an expressive prophecy of the conversion of the Gentiles (Romans 10:20). The passage sets before us—
I. The wretched state of the Gentiles before their conversion to Christianity. Many of the Gentile nations were neither savages, nor sunk in want and ignorance, nor destitute of the necessaries, conveniences, or even elegant comforts of life. In all these respects they came very little, if at all, behind ourselves; they were rich and powerful, and produced many eminent men, whose talents and exploits have commanded the admiration of mankind. Yet they were wretched; they knew not God. “Darkness covered the earth,” &c. They made no inquiry after Him, &c. Surrounded by the wonderful works of God, they yet asked not who was the maker of them. They bowed down to idols, &c. (Romans 1:21-32).
II. The surprising and glorious change which was then wrought in them. They sought and found God. Their idols they cast away. Their vices they abandoned. A moral transformation took place in them, even more wonderful than those physical ones, which the prophet depicts (Isaiah 35:1-7; Isaiah 55:13).
III. The simple but powerful means by which this great work was accomplished. The Lord, by His Word, revealed His grace and glory to them, &c.
1. We are deeply concerned in these facts, and ought to regard them with feelings of most lively gratitude. Such was once the state of this country, such, at this moment, would have been our state if God had not sent His light and truth among us.
2. The condition of the heathen nations is as lamentable today as it was of old. The character of the most degraded of them admits of as complete and glorious a transformation. We have witnessed these moral miracles in our own day. The means by which this glorious transformation may be effected has been intrusted to us (2 Corinthians 5:18; Matthew 28:19-20). Shall we be unfaithful to so great a trust? Gratitude to God, and compassion for our fellow-men, should make us diligent in its discharge.—E. Cooper.
God justifies His dispensation towards the Jews because of their manifold apostacies from Him, and then shows that He had conferred His favour upon the Gentiles, who had made no application to Him.
I. Why we must behold Him.
1. Because our whole interests are bound up in His favour. Consider who it is that asks you to behold Him as a God reconciled in Christ. Think of the contrast between the parties. He calls a world of rebels to His footstool, &c.
2. Because He delights to raise up trophies of His grace when and where we might least expect it (see former outline).
3. Because, though He is sometimes found of those who seek Him not, He is always found of those who seek Him.
II. Where shall we behold Him? Everywhere; the kingdom of nature; the volume of His Word; the economy of providence; the terrors of Sinai, but specially in the cross of Calvary.
III. When, &c. Now. Always.—S. Thodey. (See p. 233–240.)
Isaiah 65:2-7. The rejection of Israel. I. Preceded by special privileges. II. Occasioned by sin. Ingratitude. Idolatry. Hypocrisy. III. Clearly predicted. As a warning. IV. Judicially sealed.—Dr. Lyth.
Isaiah 65:2. The conduct of Israel excites our astonishment, but it finds its parallel among ourselves. Observe—I. God’s conduct toward men.
1. Gracious. Rebels against His laws, &c., having every element of iniquity (Isaiah 65:2-4).
2. Earnest. Outstretched hands—attitude of entreaty—willing to receive to favour.
3. Forbearing—without intermission. Day of life often protracted. II. Man’s conduct toward God.
4. Criminal. Such a rejection of mercy must secure punishment (Proverbs 1:24; Psalms 107:11).—A. Tucker.
REPUDIATING THE SOCIETY OF OTHERS
Isaiah 65:5. Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me, &c.
There are few things in which it becomes us to be more careful than in our judgment of others, and in action founded on that judgment. Some relations in which we stand to men involve judgment of them. We are not forbidden to judge (Matthew 7:1-5). Our text accuses those to whom it applies, of asserting their own moral superiority, and repudiating the society of others on that account. But we must discriminate.
I. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH IT IS JUSTIFIABLE.
We are not called upon to consider all men morally equal to ourselves, nor to associate with them as if they were. We are forbidden so to do (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). It may be perfectly true that you are holier than some who may be considered; and that fact may be involved in your very profession of Christianity. The fact of conversion involves moral superiority to the unconverted, &c. And if this wide distinction exists between saints and sinners, why should it not be professed? We need a visible organisation as a point around which the saints may gather. Such an organisation the Saviour’s wisdom and grace has provided in the fellowship of the Church. Those who join that fellowship emphatically declare their separation from the world. Not only so. In the multiform relations of individual life, and in relation to many practices and principles which obtain in the world, Christians must be prepared practically to say, “Stand by thyself,” &c. But
II. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH IT IS UNJUSTIFIABLE.
It is possible to say this in an improper and irreligious spirit. It may be said—
1. By the self-deceived. It may be quite contrary to the fact. The Jewish people said it. But they are solemnly charged in the verses before the text with practising some of the vilest abominations of heathenism (Isaiah 65:2; Isaiah 65:4). Nor is theirs a solitary case.
2. By the self-righteous. They are under a delusion as to the nature of holiness, &c. Nor has the self-righteous spirit been cast out of the world.
3. By the uncharitable. They are ever quick to discern the failings of others, while their eyes are closed to their own, &c. The Church of Christ should free itself from this uncharitableness and censoriousness.
Let us place ourselves habitually in the pure light of God’s holiness. Then we shall be so humbled by the consciousness of our own sinfulness as to be very tender and pitiful towards the imperfections of our brethren. And in any case, let us see that we possess and cultivate the holiness which is assumed by those who assert their own superiority.—J. Rawlinson.
I. A picture of self-righteous pride. Despises others. Glorifies self. Pretends to peculiar sanctity. II. Its offensiveness in the sight of God. It offends His purity. Arouses His indignation.
Isaiah 65:6-7. Man’s iniquities are—I. Multiplied. By personal acts. From generation to generation. II. Recorded. In God’s book—minutely, accurately. III. Will certainly be recompensed. Justly. By measure into every man’s bosom.—J. Lyth, D.D.
DESTROY IT NOT
Isaiah 65:8. Thus saith the Lord, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it, &c.
“Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God.” Let it not, however, be supposed that God delights to destroy men’s lives, or is capricious in the bestowment of rewards and punishments. The goodness and severity of God are not contradictions in the Divine nature, but the two halves of His perfect character (Exodus 34:6-7). The burden of our text is MERCY. HOW many applications may we make of the words, “Destroy it not!” Let us view the passage in reference to—
I. GOD’S ANCIENT PEOPLE THE JEWS. The Jews at different parts of their history have resembled clusters of grapes, bruised, trodden down, and unfit for use. Yet God says to His Church, “Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it.” Do you speak of the aversion and obstinacy of Israel? Let me ask, Wherein is the heart of a Jew worse than the heart of a Gentile? Is he self-righteous, and were not you, &c.?
II. CITIES AND NATIONS GENERALLY. Let our eye gaze on this great metropolis. But shall we yield to despondence? Never, whilst there are so many righteous men and intercessors. England has a blessing, yea, is not only blessed, but is a blessing, a blessing to the nations of the earth. And may we not believe that there are many nations God will not destroy because a blessing is in them?
III. THE STATE OF CHRISTIAN CHURCHES. A review of the history of the Church will lead many persons to say it is the history of declension and revival. But alas! has there been no period which may be called the dark ages? Yet, even in these times of apostacy, God has had a people, and among them men and women of eminent piety, who had not defiled their garments. The text should deter us from yielding to despondency and inactivity.
IV. T. PENITENT BACKSLIDERS. The tree decays and falls, but still there may be life in the root, and new shoots may be sent up. So was it with David and Peter, who not only sighed and wept, but brought forth fruits meet for repentance, and whose latter end testified to the grace of God that was in them. I urge backsliders not to despair.
V. YOUNG INQUIRERS. The fruits of righteousness at first may be immature. Many young professors are discouraged by harsh reproof, and questioning as to sincerity; because one or two grapes in the cluster are imperfect some would throw away the whole cluster. Let me give you a word of warning as well as encouragement. Though Christ will not destroy the bruised reed, nor the tender grapes, yet many destroyers are around you. Your dangers may not be open persecution, nor some of the supposed formidable temptations, but a number of small, trivial, almost imperceptible snares,—little sins, falsely so-called. These are the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes. Be not afraid, none so gentle and loving as the great Vine-dresser, when even He comes with His pruning-knife.
VI. THOSE WHO ARE CALLED MOST UNPROMISING CHARACTERS. Have we never heard of a man of sterling piety, talent, liberality, and influence in the Church of God, who was once the most unruly and ill-disposed boy in the Sabbath-school, but who, owing to a kind and persevering teacher, received convictions and instructions that never were forgotten? Talk not of unpromising characters as hopeless. Did not John Newton seem unpromising when a captain on board a slave ship, &c. Some of the so-called unpromising characters are more hopeful than many who are “not far from the kingdom of God.” How infinitely valuable must be the soul of man! If you would not destroy a vine or cluster of grapes, how much less the soul. Will you, by indifference or unbelief, destroy your soul? The soul though fallen has a blessing in it. What encouragement is offered us. God is kinder than man, &c.—J. G. Pearsall: The Christian World, Dec. 2, 1864.
Isaiah 65:11-16. I. Apostate Israel and their curse. II. The true Israel and their blessing.
Isaiah 65:11-12. Apostacy. I. Forsakes God. II. Forgets His ordinances. III. Bestows its devotion and energies upon false objects. IV. Meets with its merited doom (vol. i. p. 67).
Isaiah 65:12. I. The gracious call of God. II. The impenitence of many. III. The inevitable result. (See p. 366.)—Dr. Lyth.
INCENTIVES TO RELIGIOUS DECISION
Isaiah 65:13-15. Behold My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry, &c.
The principles of God’s conduct are the same in all ages, &c. No temptation is more common than that which arises from the impression that a life of religion is necessarily a life of gloom, &c. I urge upon the undecided some reasons for religious decision.
I. From the superior advantages of the religious life, beyond all the boasted distinctions or professions of worldly and ungodly men.
1. They have a better Master and portion. God loves to speak of them as His servants. He claims them as His own, and they rejoice in their allegiance to Him (Isaiah 65:8-15). How greatly God honours His servants! Let Christians rejoice in the Master they serve. Let the impenitent contrast the master they serve, &c. Your master is bad; his service is worse; his wages are worst of all. Abandon Satan’s service. Become servants of Christ—here and now.
2. They have better resources and supplies. They have meat to eat which the world knows not of, and they drink of springs of refreshment which never fail, &c. What has the worldling to put over against the peace which passeth understanding, &c.?
3. They have better enjoyments (Isaiah 65:14). Religion has its conflicts, &c. But we maintain that the Christian has a large over-balance of joy.
4. They have better prospects. Even now a portion with the people of God is better than the best portion of the wicked, &c. But look at their hereafter.
II. From the peculiar sources of dissatisfaction and wretchedness to which you are exposed.
You have conscious condemnation, ever growing in evidence, &c.—Samuel Thodey.
Isaiah 65:14. THE JOY OF GOD’S SERVANTS (see vol. i. pp. 234, 320, 321).
There is a striking difference between those who keep and those who forsake God’s commands. The one is the object of His favour, the other of His displeasure. Those who serve God have abundant and constant occasion of rejoicing, whereas those who forsake Him exclude themselves from all true joy (Isaiah 65:13-15). Consider—
I. THE GROUNDS AND REASONS OF THEIR JOY.
God’s servants have the joy of—
1. Salvation (Psalms 51:12). Includes acceptance, adoption, cleansing, &c. (Romans 5:11). What a joy is this!
2. Claiming God as their portion (Lamentations 3:24, and others). Excites joy even in adversity. The stream may be cut off, but nothing can deprive them of the fountain.
3. God’s abiding presence.
4. Faith. Trusting God’s care, &c. Brings peace and heart-rest.
5. A well founded hope of heaven (Romans 5:2). This animates and sustains amid life’s sorrows. In the experience of such blessings God’s servants have good reason to sing for joy of hearts. And if there is so much joy in the way to heaven, what transports shall they have when they come to Zion with songs, &c. (Isaiah 51:11).
II. THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS OF THEIR JOY.
1. Pure and spiritual (Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22). A holy feeling, excited by spiritual objects, apprehended by faith. Suited to the noble faculties and sublime hopes of their heaven-born souls. Leaves no bitter sediment.
2. Satisfying. Such we seek. Only God’s servants realise. God has so made us that no worldly joy can satisfy us.
3. Strengthening. For—
(1) Duty. Gives vigour to all the powers of the soul. Not so carnal joys.
(2) Suffering (Romans 5:3, and others).
(3) Christian work. Feeds zeal like oil to the wick of a lamp.
(4) Spiritual conflict.
4. Enduring (Philippians 4:4). Does not depend upon uncertain worldly good (Habakkuk 3:17-19). Lives through all the vicissitudes of this mortal life (John 15:11; John 16:22).
1. Have you religion enough to make you really happy?
2. Have you to lament that it is much deadened and interrupted. Earnestly seek its increase and fulness (John 15:11; John 17:13). This joy beautifies, adorns, and renders attractive the Christian character. You are bound to be joyful as a means of honouring your Divine master, and being useful to your fellow-men.—Alfred Tucker.
Isaiah 65:16. The happy change. I. Trouble forgotten, as a thing past. Excluded. II. Blessing secured, on earth. In God, therefore real. In the God of truth, therefore permanent. By direct appeal to God, as the sole object of prayer.
Isaiah 65:17-18. I. The regenerated world. Glorious prospect! The feelings it should inspire. II. The power by which it will be effected. III. The blessed results.
Isaiah 65:19. God’s joy in His people. I. Its occasion. II. Expression. Favour. Fellowship. Blessing. III. The happy consequence—the alleviation of human sorrow.—J. Lyth, D.D.
Isaiah 65:20. “The sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.” I. The shortness of human life. A man a hundred years old is a wonder. Contrast the age of man with that of the works of nature, art, &c. II. The long-suffering of God. Though He sees all the sins of the sinner, and hates, and is able to punish them, He delays His stroke for a hundred years. His power over Himself. III. The malignity of sin. There is no self-restoring power in the soul as in the body. There are no spontaneous cures of spiritual diseases. The power of habit. Worse and worse. IV. The inexhaustibleness of the curse. It is not exhausted by a century, nor by a millennium, nor by the cycles of eternity. V. The claims of religion upon the old. Depict the dangers of hoary-headed sinners. There is still a method of escape. Accept the Saviour immediately.—G. Brooks: Outlines of Sermons, p. 341.
THE WORK AND ENJOYMENT OF GOD’S PEOPLE
Isaiah 65:22. Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
Connection of the text—
I. THE CHARACTER AND RELATION OF BELIEVERS. They are God’s people by creation, purchase, consecration, and in virtue of the purpose of God.
II. THE WORK IN WHICH THEY ARE ENGAGED.
1. The law of labour pervades the universe.
2. The law applies to religion; God’s people have work to do,—the work of repentance, faith, glorifying God, &c.
3. The law is universally applicable, the man of one talent as well as the one of ten—each and all.
III. THE ENJOYMENT THEY HAPPILY SHARE. There is enjoyment—
1. In doing the work.
2. In the Divine presence and aid.
3. Resulting from the work.
V. THE PERPETUITY OF THEIR JOY.
1. Individuals long enjoy the fruit of piety.
2. The Church will long enjoy and live and labour for posterity.
3. The redeemed in eternity will enjoy the fruit of time.—Geo. Smith, D.D.
Isaiah 65:24. Before they call I will answer.
Divine generosity outruns human petitions. The promise here so graciously given is illustrated practically by many instances recorded in Scripture. And many devout Christians can attest a similar readiness.
I. The condition of speedy blessing. From the language of the text it is plain that the promise is limited to those who—
1. Are conscious of need; and
2. Recognise that such need can be supplied only from a Divine source.
II. The character, &c. The language used is very simple and very human. We are assured that when the petition and its spirit are acceptable, God will—
1. Hear. This is something more than a statement of the Divine Omniscience. He will hear as a king hears the suit of a favourite or the petition of a suppliant, i.e., with an attentive and favourable disposition.
2. Answer. This means not by words merely, but by acts. The assurance is given that God’s providence will supply a want, or His grace remit a sin, or His Spirit impart needed strength or guidance.
III. The explanation, &c. If a human benefactor were in question, there would be something paradoxical in this promise. But this disappears when it is remembered who He is who makes this wonderful promise.
1. The perfect acquaintance which the Divine Benefactor has with the wants of the suppliant.
2. The spontaneous and abounding benevolence of the Divine heart hastens to anticipate the wants, to outrun the requests of those who have petitions to present and blessings to implore.—The Homiletical Library, vol. ii. pp. 157, 158.
I. Man needs to call upon and speak to God. II. Man is encouraged to call upon and speak unto God.—Lay Preacher.
1. The characters described. II. Their happiness. A blessing upon their toil. Upon their children.
Isaiah 65:25. I. Some types of human nature. II. Their harmonious combination. Altered feelings, tastes, habits—all harmonised. III. The power by which this change is to be effected. IV. The happy issue. Peace, love, righteouness. V. The signal contrast. In the serpent and his seed.—J. Lyth, D.D.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 65". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34