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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Isaiah 11

Verse 2

Isaiah 11:2

This is Isaiah's description of the Spirit of Whitsuntide, the royal Spirit which was to descend, and did descend without measure, on the ideal and perfect King, even on Jesus Christ our Lord, the only-begotten Son of God.

I. That Spirit is the Spirit of God, and therefore the Spirit of Christ. He is the Spirit of love. For God is love, and He is the Spirit of God. But the text describes Him as the Spirit of wisdom. Experience will show us that the Spirit of love is the same as the Spirit of wisdom; that if any man wishes to be truly wise and prudent, his best way I may say his only way is to be loving and charitable.

II. The text describes the Spirit as the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, i.e. as the knowledge of human nature, the understanding of men and their ways. If we do not understand our fellow-creatures, we shall never love them. But it is equally true that if we do not love them, we shall never understand them. Want of charity, want of sympathy, want of good-feeling and fellow-feeling,- -what does it, what can it, breed but endless mistakes and ignorances, both of men's characters and men's circumstances?

III. This royal Spirit is described as the Spirit of counsel and might, that is, the Spirit of prudence and practical power; the Spirit which sees how to deal with human beings, and has the practical power of making them obey. Now that power, again, can only be got by loving human beings. There is nothing so blind as hardness, nothing so weak as violence.

IV. This Spirit is also "the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." They, indeed, both begin in love and end in love. (1) If you wish for knowledge, you must begin by loving knowledge for its own sake. And if this be true of things earthly and temporal, how much more of things heavenly and eternal? We must begin by loving them with a sort of child's love, without understanding them; by that simple instinct and longing after what is good and beautiful and true, which is indeed the inspiration of the Spirit of God. (2) The spirit of the fear of the Lord must be the spirit of love, not only to God, but to our fellow-creatures.

C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 25.

Reference: Isaiah 11:3 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 225.

Verse 4

Isaiah 11:4

As it may in many ways be shown that the Church of Christ, though one Church with the Jewish, differs from it as being a kingdom, so now let me dwell on this point: that though a kingdom like empires of the earth, it differs from them in being a Church, i.e. a kingdom of truth and righteousness. That Scripture speaks of the kingdom of Christ as not an earthly kingdom, not supported by strength of arm or force of mind, or any other faculty or gift of the natural man, is plain. But consider some objections to which the circumstances of its actual history and condition give rise.

I. It may be said that the event has not fulfilled the prophecies; that the kingdom has indeed been large and powerful, but it has not ruled according to justice and truth; that at times it has had very wicked men among its rulers, and that great corruptions, religious and moral, have been found in it; and that, as has sometimes been said, worse crimes have been perpetrated under colour of religion than in any other way. But this may be granted in the argument; yet the Scripture account of the Church remains uncompromised. It is a kingdom of righteousness, because it is a kingdom founded, based, in righteousness.

II. In the Gospel, Christ's followers are represented as poor, despised, weak, and helpless, such preeminently were the Apostles. But in the Prophets, especially in Isaiah, the kingdom is represented as rich and flourishing and honoured, and powerful and happy. If the Church of Christ were to seek power, wealth, and honour, this were to fall from grace; but it is not less true that she will have them, though she seeks them not or rather, if she seeks them not. Such is the law of Christ's kingdom, such the paradox which is seen in its history. It belongs to the poor in spirit; it belongs to the persecuted; it is possessed by the meek; it is sustained by the patient. It conquers by suffering; it advances by retiring; it is made wise through foolishness.

III. Temporal power and wealth, though not essential to the Church, are almost necessary attendants on it. They cannot be long absent from it; it is but a matter of time, as we speak, when they will be added.

J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 237.

Verse 6

Isaiah 11:6

It is plain, from the words of the text, that Isaiah was one of those prophets and righteous men who desired to see and hear the things which Christ's disciples saw and heard. But it may be said that he desired to see the kingdom of Christ, because he thought that it would bring with it a greater and happier change in the state of the world than it has done; because he looked forward to it as to a time when the wolf should dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid that is, when there should be nothing but peace and comfort everywhere. What, then, are we to think of such passages as those in my text? The question deserves to be answered, because unless we understand it we must read very great portions of the books of the prophets with no benefit; and it may be useful also in order to find out whether there be not more reality of happiness in the Gospel than we are commonly inclined to give it credit for.

I. The Gospel makes a man industrious, sober, and careful of his time; which no one, I suppose, would deny to be three great benefits. It is the great excellence of the Gospel, that it furnishes us with the strongest of all helps to overcome temptation, the fear of God and the hope of reward, at first; and afterwards, as the Spirit of Christ changes us more and. more into Christ's image, it really makes us lose our relish for what is bad; so that, at last, there is much less temptation to overcome.

II. The Gospel makes us care as much as we ought, and no more, for the things of this life; for worldly cares or sorrows, or prospects of gain or loss, of honour or disgrace. He who went through life as a Christian, learning to look at the world from the beginning with a Christian's eye, would find himself strong in the strength of Christ to bear whatever was laid upon him, and would say with the Apostle, in perfect sincerity, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 47.

References: Isaiah 11:6 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 188; J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 9.

Verse 9

Isaiah 11:9

I. Most exactly have the figures which the Holy Spirit condescended to apply to Himself been fulfilled in the course of the dispensation; nay, even to this day. His operation has been calm, equable, gradual, far-spreading, overtaking, intimate, irresistible. What is so awfully silent, so mighty, so inevitable, so encompassing as a flood of water? Such was the power of the Spirit in the beginning, when He vouchsafed to descend as an invisible wind, as an outpoured flood. Thus He changed the whole face of the world. The ark of God moved upon the face of the waters.

II. And what the power of the Spirit has been in the world at large, that it is also in every human heart to which it comes. (1) Any spirit which professes to come to us alone, and not to others, which makes no- claim of having moved the body of the Church at all times and places, is not of God, but a private spirit of error. (2) Vehemence, tumult, confusion, are no attributes of that benignant flood with which God has replenished the earth. That flood of grace is sedate, majestic, gentle in its operation. (3) The Divine Baptism, wherewith God visits us, penetrates through our whole soul and body. It leaves no part of us uncleansed, unsanctified. It claims the whole man for God. Any spirit which is content with what is short of this, which does not lead us to utter self-surrender and devotion, is not from God.

III. The heart of every Christian ought to represent in miniature the Catholic Church, since one Spirit makes both the whole Church and every member of it to be His temple. As He makes the Church one, which, left to itself, would separate into many parts, so He makes the soul one, in spite of its various affections and faculties, and its contradictory aims.

J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 126.

References: Isaiah 11:9 . J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 226; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 145.

Verse 10

Isaiah 11:10

I. "There shall be a root of Jesse," i.e. a thrifty scion shall spring forth from that old decayed family. The prophet does not represent our Saviour as a stately and luxuriant tree, but as a sucker from an unpromising and apparently dead root.

II. The prophet goes on to portray His glorious office: "He shall stand for an ensign of the people." It was customary, in olden time, during the continuance of a war, for the prince or commander to set up an ensign on a lofty tower or mountain top, and to summon the people to rally round it. So, also, was the Lord Jesus to be lifted up on the Cross, that He might draw all men unto Him, and through the faithful preaching of the Gospel to gather together into one great army the true children of God who are dispersed abroad. He stands as an ensign of the people, not merely to attract the eyes of all, and to fix them on Himself, but to warn them of the silent but sure approach of deadly foes, and to indicate the spot where weapons offensive and defensive may be obtained.

III. To this glorious ensign the prophet declares that "the Gentiles shall seek." When St. Paul quotes the verse (Romans 15:12 ) he varies the language by a single word. "In His name shall the Gentiles trust." There is no inconsistency between this seeking and trusting. The one is the cause, the other the effect; or rather each, in turn, is both cause and effect. When we trust in Christ we seek Him; and when we seek Him we are sure to find how worthy He is of our confidence.

J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 11.

References: Isaiah 11:10 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 274.Isaiah 11:12 , Isaiah 11:13 . H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 254.Isaiah 12:1 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 928. Isaiah 12:1-3 . R. M. McCheyne, Additional Remains, p. 217.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 11". "Sermon Bible Commentary".