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At this Chapter, the Prophet begins a sermon, and a most blessed one it is, which continues to the very close of his prophecy. It is all pure gospel from beginning to end. The Holy Ghost commands the Prophet to comfort his Church with proclamations of the Redeemer's coming, and the blessed events of his reign.
Reader! do not fail to remark the Lord's gracious commands for comforting his people; he doubles it. Not that we are to suppose there was any reluctancy on the part of Isaiah to perform this blessed service; but certain it is, that the most forward of God's servants, in becoming sons of consolation, are not half so earnest in this employment as the Lord is. And do not to remark yet further, that, let the world say what they please, there is a people whom the Lord owns, and whom he will have comforted; yea, and he will be himself their comfort. And must it not be a blessed service, to be the ministers and instruments, in the Lord's hand, to this, the Lord's employment? And will not the Reader be anxious to remark how, and with what comfortable words, the Lord commands his people to be comforted? Let him pause over what is here said, and read the words again. Jerusalem, the guilty city, the bloody city, yea, the city of slaughter, where the butchery of all the prophets took place, and where the Lord of the prophets should, in after-ages, die upon the cross; this place, this people, shall have her sins pardoned! And, agreeably to this, immediately upon the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus, when he gave his final commission to his disciples, to go forth with the offer of salvation to all the world; Jesus commanded them to begin at Jerusalem, Luke 24:47 . One should have thought, (speaking after the manner of men) that Jerusalem would have been excepted in the general grant; and that there, if anywhere, the Lord would have said, Go not. But, the Lord's thoughts are not our thoughts, neither his ways our ways. One thought more on this most blessed passage: what doth the Lord mean by Jerusalem having received double for all her sins? Surely it means, what is literally true, that in the person of her Lord, the atonement he made for sin was of such infinite value, that it not only compensated for all the evil done by sin, but, over and above, left such a redundancy of merit, as might be well called double, and such as will never be accounted for in the blessings of pardon, peace, and glory, and happiness to all eternity. Reader! I beseech you , often, yea, very often, turn to this sweet scripture, and think of Jesus!
All the Prophets, with one voice, proclaimed the coming Saviour; but John the Baptist was eminently pointed out as the immediate herald and harbinger of our Lord; Matthew 3:1-3 ; Malachi 3:1 . If the passage be read, as undoubtedly it should be read, spiritually, the humbling principles of grace, in preparing for the cordial reception of the Saviour, will fully explain the lowering of mountains, and making straight the crooked. And how is the glory of Christ revealed, in accomplishing those things in the hearts of his people? Precious Jesus! let every thought be brought low, that thou, and thou alone, mayest be exalted! 2 Corinthians 10:5 .
In these verses of the Prophet's sermon, he draws a striking contrast between the fading, dying purposes of man, and the incorruptible and never-ending counsels of God! And the Apostle Peter makes a beautiful comment upon it, 1 Peter 1:23-25 .
This is a most beautiful address to Zion, the gospel church of Jesus, and to Jerusalem the beloved city. Some have thought that it had an allusion to the proclamation made by Cyrus, for the people in Babylon to return from their captivity; but certainly the grand and leading object was, to tell poor captive sinners in Zion, of their recovery from sin and Satan, by the Lord Jesus. For here are the well known character-offices of Christ. Will enemies oppose them? the Lord's strong arm shall cast them down. Are Jesus's sheep weak and tender? His compassion will be suited for them. The lamb unable to walk, he will carry in his bosom, John 10:11 . I must not forget to observe that some have read the passage of Behold the Lord God will come with strong hand; Behold the Adonai shall come against the strong one; meaning the devil; and his arm shall rule for him; they have rendered, shall rule over him. And if the words be accepted in this sense, as well as the other, they are not only most blessed, but agreeable to all the divine truths. Our Lord himself beautifully illustrates the doctrine, under the figure of a strong man being overcome, by a stronger. Luke 11:15-22 ; Isaiah 49:24-26 ; John 12:31 ; Colossians 2:15 ; Hebrews 2:14 ; 1 John 3:3 . Reader! do not fail to remark the blessed views this short but sweet passage gives of the Lord Jesus. He is described as destroying all his and his Church's enemies, as a King; while feeding, nourishing, and protecting his people; with all the tenderness of a Shepherd.
Some have thought that the person of God the Father is here spoken of, because the Church is taught to look up to Him with peculiar reverence of character, as the Creator. But, as the church is never taught to look up to God the Father, in this glorious distinction of character, to the exclusion of the other persons of the Godhead, but always in conjunction with them, I see no reason to break the connection of the chapter, by supposing that what went before, and which is evidently spoken of the person of Christ, as Mediator, is not continued through this passage also. In all the acts of creation, as well as of redemption, the word of God tells us, that every manifestation of Jehovah is in and through the person, offices, and character of our Lord Jesus Christ: Hebrews 1:1-2 . And if we read this sublime description in the person of the Lord Jesus, as the glorious Head of his Church and people; and while we read it (and which seems to have been the design for which it is given) recollect our interest in him; oh! how blessed doth every word then come home to the soul, to comfort, to encourage, and to give confidence to every redeemed sinner. Reader! read again and again these verses. Recollect what was said before of Jesus's tenderness as a Shepherd, and here see how great he is, who was there said to be so gracious. Blend both views in one; then say, how safe, how eternally safe and secure, must that redeemed soul be, however poor, however little and insignificant in himself, who is truly one with Him, whose power takes up the isles as a very little thing; whose wisdom measures the waters, and meeteth out the heavens; and to whom the nations are but as the drop of the bucket? Reader! have you an interest in this omnipotent Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? Make this the subject of inquiry, as one of the most blessed improvements of this scripture; and then you will enter into a full apprehension of what the Prophet saith: how impossible is it to find any to whom to liken Jesus, and how impossible it is to enrich him by any services of his creatures, before whom Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor all the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering. And how truly blessed is it, moreover, to contemplate this sovereignty of our Lord Jesus, in the new creation of the soul, while reading such sublime instances of the old creation in nature?
Who but must feel humbled to the very dust of the earth, while reading, in these verses, the sad state to which man is reduced by the fall? We see man so prone to idolatry, that if the poor creature be so poor, that he cannot have a golden image to fall down to, he will be content with a wooden one, nay, any dunghill-god, rather than the true God. Reader, be not offended with the remark, for, depend upon it, it is founded in truth: Every son and daughter of Adam is equally disposed, by nature, to the same folly: it is grace makes all the difference. For even those whose pride would seem to revolt at the idea, owe their preservation from idolatry to the teaching they have received from the very scriptures of God; which yet, through the pride of reason, they believe but in part. See, in proof, a just but melancholy portrait of human nature, drawn by an apostle, Romans 1:18 , to the end.
As the Prophet's commission opened, so the chapter is closed, in giving a special comfort to the Lord's people. It is impossible to conceive in the whole compass of language, anything more gracious, more affectionate, or kind, than what is here said, in the Lord's love, to Israel. Every glorious perfection of Jehovah, and all his covenant relations, seem here to be brought forward, to give confidence to his people, in the security of his promises. It would be to injure the blessed passage, to attempt any comment upon it. Every word is so plain, so sweet, and so gracious, that he who is taught of God, cannot possibly mistake the meaning; and the soul that is under the influences of the Holy Ghost, must receive the comfort of it. And how very tender is the Lord's manner of expostulating with his people, on the unreasonableness of their timidity! why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel? Reader! may the Lord give you and me grace to enjoy the full blessedness of what is here said. Thousands, who are gone to glory, have been, while on earth, refreshed by it; and thousands there are still to be supported by the same, during their pilgrimage state below. Oh! for the Lord, who gives the scripture, to give to you and to me, by his Holy Spirit, the enjoyment of the Lord in his scripture, and then shall we rest in the supports of a God all-sufficient and all-gracious in Christ, to rise above all the changeable circumstances of creatures in us, and about us, until we come to lie down in the everlasting arms of our Lord, in the kingdom which is above.
MY soul! hear what thy Lord saith in this blessed chapter, and behold how he hath both commanded his people to be comforted, and provided every means for their comfort. Precious Lord Jesus! in thee and thy great salvation, I do indeed see a most blessed and suitable provision for pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; yea, Lord, in thy full and finished redemption, I do behold how Jehovah hath received more than an equivalent, yea double for all the sins of thy people. And shall not my soul rejoice and be comforted in the consolation? Shall not my very heart leap for joy, and my poor tongue, that was dumb by nature, be ready to sing plainly? Yea, Lord, I will sing, and not be afraid, for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song, and thou art become my salvation. I will call upon all within me, and all without me, to join in the joyful service. I will say, with the Prophet, Sing, O ye heavens, for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
But chiefly shall my note of praise be directed to thee, O Lord. While I enjoy the gift, I will bless the Giver; and in the moment when I feel the blessedness of salvation, I will feel yet more the blessedness that Jesus himself is my salvation. Oh! thou gracious Shepherd of thy people! here I behold thee, in all the tenderness of that office; and how truly delightful is it to my soul, that while I read of thee as revealing thyself under such graciousness of characters, I know thee in the full realization of everyone of them in my heart, as the great Shepherd of my soul. Never suffer me to lose sight of thy love, O Lord, nor of the power and wisdom which thou possessest, and by which all the necessities of my soul must be answered. No, Lord, suffer me not to suppose, even for a moment only, that my way is hidden from the Lord, or my judgment, passed over from my God. I know, Lord, that thou seest me, and knowest me, with every minute circumstance belonging to me; yea, Lord, it is thou who orderest, and appointest, and regulatest, and will finally bless all. Help me then to wait always upon thee, that, like the eagle, I may renew my strength. For, sure I am, my Lord never faints himself, nor is he weary of helping his poor ones. And, while I am waiting upon Jesus, and looking after him, Jesus, I know, hath been before hand with me, and is looking after me. Precious Lord! comfort me with thyself, and I shall be strong indeed, and never weary: I shall walk and not faint!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 40". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany