The prophet here draws a fine contrast between the idol-gods, and the Lord God of Israel; and thence takes occasion to invite the people to the love of God, and confidence in him.
Bel and Nebo were the names of two of the gods of Babylon. Probably from thence, one of the kings of Babylon took the name of Belshazzar, and another that of Nebuchadnezzar. But perhaps the former is a contraction of the word Baal, the well-known name generally given to an idol; and hence the Lord declared that he would take that name out of the mouth of his people. And, as if to endear himself still more, the Lord said he would be called not Baali, which signifies lord; but lshi, which means husband. And was not this an allusion to gospel times, when the Lord of life and glory would take our nature, and become the husband of his people? Hosea 2:16-17.
The Lord having, in the preceding verses, shown the wretchedness of idols, utterly unable to help themselves, and consequently incapable of helping others; in these blessed words, calls upon his people to behold him; and most blessedly sets forth the tokens and evidences of his Godhead, in grace and love, from the womb to the grave. Reader! do not hastily pass away from the meditation of what this sweet scripture teacheth, as it concerns yourself, and the Lord's! dealings towards you, both in a way of nature and of grace. Did not the Lord carry you from the womb, yea, did he not form you there, and make all your members to be written before your creation? And when coming forth from the belly, was it not he that preserved you alive, and sustained the life he had formed; yea, and hath preserved it to the present hour? Think in how many providences, through how many dispensations, and how many dangers, he hath brought you? And, if you are able to trace the wonderful subject in grace; as well as in nature, think who it was that formed thee in the new creation in Christ Jesus, and now maintains and keeps alive, and will keep alive, the incorruptible seed, unto ripeness in glory, by Christ Jesus! Oh! who that knows the whole, in nature and grace, but will be ready to ascribe all to Him, to whom alone the glory is due; and thankfully make Jesus, what he is, the Alpha and Omega of all; in creation and redemption And oh! how sure it is, that the same Lord who has carried from the womb, both of nature and of grace, will carry on to old age and hoary hairs; and when heart, and strength, and powers, all fail, he will be the strength of his people's heart, and their portion forever! Psalms 73:26.
Amidst all the folly of idolatry, there is one feature, in which the worshippers become a reproach to us: I mean, in that they spared no expense in their religious rites. This scripture saith they lavished gold out of the bag; and yet how many have I known, who not only profess the pure gospel of Jesus, but really and truly possess the power of it, who through the remains of indwelling corruption, cannot help being sparing in their bounties to their poor brethren! It is strange that it should be so: but the fact is undeniable. Lord! keep the heart of him that writes, and him that reads, from a covetous spirit! Oh for grace to delight in refreshing the bowels of the saints with the nether and the upper springs of Jesus's bounty; while Jesus gives us both liberally to enjoy. Reader! had not the Lord's word said so, could it ever have been supposed possible, that man's fall would have so far blinded his reason, as that he should first make an image, and then fall down to worship the image of his own making? Was there ever a folly so great and glaring? Precious Jesus! to what a state was our nature universally sunk, when thy mercy prompted thee to come, and seek and save that which was lost!
See, my soul, how Jehovah pleads with his people, and what sweet and condescending appeals he makes to their understanding, when enlightened by his grace! And do not overlook this precious account, which the Lord gives of himself, in the bosom of this scripture. His counsel must stand. Blessed be God for this! Embrace this solemn truth, in an especial manner, as it concerns the gospel of Jesus. Here, the Lord hath by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, given to the heirs of promise strong consolation. He will do all his pleasure: yea, he hath not only commissioned a man, like a bird of prey, and called him Cyrus by name, to execute his purposes in the deliverance of his people from Babylon, but he hath called the Lord Jesus Christ for all the purposes of salvation, in delivering his people from hell, death, and the grave; and will deliver them with an everlasting salvation, world without end. Isaiah 45:13; Hebrews 6:17-18.
I beg the Reader to ponder over these verses, and keep them in remembrance. Here is God's call to the unhumbled in Zion, the unawakened, unregenerate of his people, if I mistake not: and this is the first class the Lord speaks to in this sermon. In the successive chapters, he speaks to several other characters, among his people, on the same subject. But this is to the stout-hearted: to these he proposed Jesus and his salvation. And observe, that Jesus and his salvation is for Jehovah's glory, agreeably to all our Lord taught; John 17:12. If the Reader wishes to trace the beautiful connection of Jehovah's preaching on this as addressed to the several characters of his Church, before he comes to the passages themselves, he may find the subject carried on in a progressive manner, by consulting the scriptures in the way I have marked them. In these verses, the appeal is to the stout-hearted, the unconvinced, unawakened. In Isaiah 48:12, it is to the called. In Isaiah 51:1, it is to the followers after Jesus. In Isaiah 51:5, it is to those who believe in the Lord, but who, through the weakness of their faith, are fluctuating, and too apt to forget that Jehovah's salvation is forever, and his righteousness that which shall not be abolished. And in Isaiah 51:7, the appeal is to those who truly know, and as truly live up to their privileges, in having Christ formed in their heart the hope of glory. According to my view, I conceive that there is a beautiful gradation here pointed out in the divine life: and the Reader that is taught of God, will, I humbly believe, find much blessedness in the connection, and discover suitable directions, as here given by the Lord, for every state.
READER! I find it good to see the Lord's hand, in every word of the Lord's scripture. While in this chapter we trace the gracious purposes of God to his people, in setting forth the folly and weakness, as well as the wickedness of idolatry, we discover also his grace, and mercy, and love. Oh! how condescending is the Lord, in thus appealing, for the testimonies of his own truth and faithfulness, to the plainest evidences around them.
While this short, but interesting chapter, makes a general appeal to the Church at large, how blessedly doth it more immediately address the ancient believer! Methinks I would have our aged fathers in the Church very frequently peruse this precious portion, by way of forming one of their songs in the house of their pilgrimage: and as they read the gracious promises of a gracious God in Christ, compare what the Lord saith with their own experiences; until, like Joshua's appeal to Israel, they can, and do say, Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord their God hath here spoken concerning them; but all are come to pass as it is this day.
My venerable father! (if peradventure these lines should fall under The eye of one of God's ancient believers) think, I beseech you, what a rich volume of promises is here brought into one view, for you; and how sure, if you know God's Christ, the whole is yea and amen in Jesus. He that first called you from the womb of his grace, hath borne you to the present hour; and amidst all your growing infirmities, Jesus is your Jesus still. Friends may forsake you; your dearest and nearest relations you may be a burden to; yea, you may be a burden to yourself; but hear what Jesus saith, Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoary hairs will I carry you. The same that Jesus was when he called you, the same is he now to you, and for you; and the same will he be forever. Oh! the preciousness, amidst all the changes in us, and by us, to live upon an unchangeable God in Christ! May the Lord give grace and faith in lively exercise to every believer, to give God the credit of God, and to gather up the feet in the bed of death, as good old Jacob did when dying, that he may cry out, with him, I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 46". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany