This most interesting Chapter contains the outlines of the covenant of redemption, in the solemn transactions between God the Father and God the Son, concerning salvation. This subject is carried on without interruption from beginning to end.
We find here some glorious speaker, calling upon the nations of the isles to attend to him, and declaring both the authority upon which he spoke, and the subject of his discourse. And if we make application of it to the Lord Jesus Christ, as God-man Mediator, nothing can be more beautiful and interesting. He first demands attention; then speaks of the persons to whom his discourse was directed; and then of his authority, and the object of his call. And Jesus, and Jesus only, was and is all this; and of no other could it be said or spoken: God the Father is said to have given his dear Son to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people Israel; Luke 2:32. And from the womb of all eternity, was Jesus called, yea, in the volume of the book was it written of him. If the Reader will compare what the beloved Apostle John saith of the book of the divine decrees, which was in the hand of him that sat upon the throne, and which none was found worthy to open but the Lamb that had been slain; he will be led perhaps to the sense of the passage, and discover that the Bible itself is but the transcript, in the revealed part of it, of what was written therein; Revelation 5:1-10; Psalms 40:6-8. And when the hour approached for the open revelation or Jesus, the angel declared his name, as we read, Matthew 1:21. But we must not stop here. God the Father, who called Christ to the work, is said to have fitted him for it. So the covenant terms ran, Psalms 89:19-24. Perhaps the hiding of Christ might refer to what Paul speaks of the mystery of redemption, hid from ages and generations, Ephesians 3:4-10. The mouth of Jesus, like a sword, hath reference to the power and sovereignty with which he spake as never man spake. The word of Christ is said to be quick and powerful, Hebrews 4:12; John 5:25; Psalms 45:5. Lastly, God's owning him in the work, as well as calling him to the work, is most blessedly set forth in this passage: Christ, as Mediator and Surety, is Jehovah's servant, the Husband of his Church and people; and I hope the Reader will not overlook, what is as sweet a part as any, that Christ takes, in this passage, the name of his Church. It is an usual thing in life for the wife to take the name of her husband but Jesus, in his unequalled condescension, here takes the name of his wife, and is called Israel. Precious Lord Jesus! what humility was thine!
What a striking resemblance doth this bear to the preaching of our Lord, when upon earth! Who that reads in the Gospel of the contempt poured upon the person and office of Jesus, but must be struck with this description, John 1:11. And how blessed is it to behold the promised acceptance of Christ's person, however slighted by the rulers and Pharisees. Reader! never forget in whom all redemption is: and by whom all acceptation is given to the persons and offerings of his people.
I do not desire to strain any passage of scripture, beyond its plain meaning: but I would humbly ask the Reader, whether these words do not seem to convey as if the very heart of God the Father was going forth in love and delight upon the person of his dear Son, as the Mediator and Surety of his people. See those sweet scriptures, Psalms 2:8; John 10:7. And do not forget, whenever contemplating the glorious work of salvation, that Jehovah calls it HIS. Sweet and delightful thought!
W as there ever a more striking, and decisive passage than this, in confirmation of the greatness and glory of his person and character, to whom the words are addressed? Jehovah first gives him his own glorious and distinguishing name: the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One. And, Reader, do pray observe, how the Redeemer is called: his Holy One; that is Jehovah's Holy One; for Jesus, in his mediatorial character, is the Christ; that is, the sent, the anointed of God. I hope you know your Redeemer in this sense. Peter did, and found it most blessed, Matthew 16:13-17. And if we read the words, his Holy One, as Israel's Holy One, it is still blessed; if Christ our Redeemer be God's Christ; so is he his Church's also. Precious consideration! Jehovah next points to his wonderful humiliation; which, indeed, was such as was never before heard of: not only one man, for many despised him; but the nation at large abhorred him.
He was despised in his person, his offices, his perfections, his attributes, yea, in all things, as the most abject of men. See Matthew 27:43; John 9:29. His attributes were also contemned; though wisdom itself; yet said they, how knoweth this man letters, having never learned? John 7:15. His omniscience was reviled: Prophecy, say they, unto us, thou Christ, when they had blindfolded him, who is he that smote thee? Matthew 26:68. So again his kingly office: If he be the king of Israel, let him come down from the cross! And so also his priestly office: He saved others, say they, himself he cannot save! Matthew 27:39-44. Hear also what the Lamb of God saith of himself on this subject, Psalms 22:6-8. But what glory doth Jehovah promise shall follow? The presence of God the Father was assured to him, in the midst of all these taunts and reproaches! the issue of the travail of his soul was certain. And the Lord Jesus, as the whole of the covenant, hath accomplished the purposes, and is going on to the present hour to accomplish them, on the earth. See those scriptures, Zechariah 9:11; John 11:42; Isaiah 53:10-12.
How sweetly do these verses follow what was said before: Jehovah having guaranteed to the glorious Head of the church, everything needful for his personal safety and honour, here engageth to bless and take care of his people; and, as well through a life of grace, as in the kingdom of glory, their everlasting safety and happiness is secured. See Revelation 7:13, to the end.
This is a beautiful break in the Chapter, to call up even the inanimate parts of nature to celebrate, in sacred hymns, the glories of redemption: Heaven and earth shall sing of it, for both worlds take part in the triumphs of redeeming grace. Luke 2:13-14.
The distress of Zion only makes way for the display of divine love; and if the people of God, in their several exercises (be they what they may) could but be brought to consider the unceasing and everlasting care of the Lord over his people, they would like Paul, take pleasure in infirmities and reproaches for Christ's sake, knowing that when most weak in themselves, those are the very seasons for being strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Reader! I pray you take notice, what a very tender and interesting image the Lord here makes use of, to dry up the tears of Zion; and which, I beg the Reader to remember, is as much addressed to mourners in Zion now, as it was then when first delivered: Can a woman forget her sucking child? The figure is carried to the highest pitch of tenderness the imagination can conceive, in order to show the vast superiority of that love which God bears towards his Zion, his people. A woman, the tenderest part of human nature; and a mother also; yea, a nursing mother; and not to a child only, but to a sucking child, who is still hanging to her breasts, and depending upon her for everything; can such a person forget the infant, the son of her womb, which came forth from her own bowels, and is indeed part of herself: and the very fulness of her breasts requiring discharge still urging also to remembrance? Is it possible, saith the Lord, that she can forget either the child or herself? The Lord asketh the question, and answers it himself: Yea, they may forget! Yea her compassion may give way! Sickness, a fever, with loss of senses, death, or dying circumstances, may induce it; yea, some mothers, as hath been known, have destroyed the fruit of their womb, to hide their shame; and some, as the Prophet hath described in a time of famine, have sodden their own children for food, Lamentations 4:10. But, saith the Lord, though all natural feelings may be lost, the tender compassion of God for his Zion shall never give way! And how blessed are the promises that follow, to create faith in the hearts of his people? Set me, saith the Church, as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm. I have, saith the Lord, engraven thee upon the palms of my hands. And how was this fulfilled when the hands and feet of Jesus were bored and fastened to the cross! Surely there can be no remembrance like this; no memento for the believer to look at, as well as his Lord, to ensure an unceasing attention to his wants, and to give every blessing that cross purchased. See Song of Solomon 8:6; Zechariah 12:10. And how blessedly do all the promises follow these divine assurances, that the Lord's mercies upon Zion shall follow every wasting time with tenfold fulness, so as to surprise the people of God with the unexpectedness, as well as the greatness of salvation by Jesus. I beg the Reader not to lose sight, that in those unspeakable blessings, what is said, is spoken, first, to the person of our Lord, as the great Head of his Church; and then to his Zion, his redeemed in him; for such views abundantly heighten every blessing.
Reader! while God's mercies to the poor Gentile church are thus repeatedly brought to view, do not overlook the sweetness and fulness of them, as they respect yourself. Personal interest gives a relish to every mercy; in nothing more so, than our own interest in Jesus. And when we read these mercies, as promised to the Lord Jesus so many ages before his coming; and now feel and know them to be realized, so many generations after his return to glory; what an accumulation of evidence do they bring with them, to the truth as it is in Jesus! Oh thou precious Lord! both of Jew and Gentile! how fully hast thou confirmed thy promise, in thy one fold, under thyself the one true Shepherd! John 10:16; Ezekiel 34:23.
The greatness of the blessings promised in this Chapter, being so wonderful in themselves, and so much beyond all possible expectation to the people, who were to be made happy in the possession of them, might well excite surprise, and occasion doubts how, and by what means, they should be fulfilled. If the subject be considered spiritually, both Jew and Gentile were, by nature and by practice, the lawful captives to sin and Satan; how then shall they be liberated? Poor sinners can neither purchase their freedom by price, nor by power. The Lord can only solve the difficulty: Jesus is their Redeemer, and he will accomplish the liberation of his redeemed by both. See those sweet scriptures which show the way, and when you have duly pondered the blissful subject, recollect that the whole is for the glory of Jehovah, as the whole is accomplished by himself; Isaiah 45:13; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 5:9.
READER! I charge it upon you, as I desire to feel the full impression upon my own mind, that the subject, as well as the contents, of this most precious Chapter, be not dismissed, before all its blessed truths, under the divine teaching, be properly received and enjoyed in both our souls. The solemn transactions here recorded, of what passed, between our God and Father in Christ Jesus, and our most blessed Lord, concerning the recovery of our poor lost and fallen nature, are, in fact, the bottom and foundation of all grace and mercy, given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. All that we receive in pardon, in the regeneration of our nature, our adoption and high calling in Christ Jesus, our assurance of salvation in grace here, and glory to all eternity; all are the result of those covenant engagements, which this most blessed Chapter records, and which took place between the high contracting parties, before the fall of man, yea, before the foundation of the earth was laid. Pause then, and trace the wonderful subject through all its parts. Behold God the Father, in his love to our poor nature; who so loved us, as to give his only begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Behold God the Son, who so loved us, as to give himself for us. Behold God the Holy Ghost, as testifying the same, in bringing the Church acquainted with her mercies, and not only revealing the glad tidings of salvation, but inclining the hearts of the children to the belief of the truth of Jesus, and making them willing in the day of his power. Oh! what everlasting praise, love, and adoration, have we now to offer, and shall have eternally to present, to the holy, undivided, Three in One, Jehovah, for these unspeakable mercies of God in Christ!
Reader! let us seek grace to receive the blessed truths contained in this Chapter, to live up to the faith, and in the enjoyment of them, during our whole continuance upon earth, until we come to realize the full possession of them in everlasting glory. Precious Jesus! may we behold thee as the whole of the covenant. All the obligations of it have been wrought by thee; all its blessings are from thee; and all the concerns of it, and of thy people's happiness, are entrusted to thee. Help me then, O Lord, to look more to thee in every blessing, as the author and procurer of it! There is more of thee in the most common mercies, than thy people are conscious of: thy death hath secured our life, thy cross hath purchased our crown! To he be glory in the Church throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 49". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany