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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Isaiah 2

Verse 2

Isaiah 2:2

When Christ came and took possession of His own house, it could not be but that some great changes would take place in its economy and its condition. And such there were. It was exalted and established above all earthly power, and became a refuge and home for all ages. It remained what it had been before, a Church, in its inward and characteristic structure the same; but it became what it had never been before, or only in a partial measure in the time of David and some other princes, and that in type of what was to come,—it became an imperial Church. It was the head of an empire.

I. When our Lord was ascending, He said, "All power is given unto Me in heaven, and in earth." We believe in His power in heaven; but, strange to say, it is usual with us to grudge Him His power upon earth. He is the invisible King of a visible kingdom; for it does not at all follow, because a monarch is withdrawn from view, that therefore His kingdom must cease to be a fact in the face of day also.

II. Who are spoken of as the rulers in the kingdom, Christ's viceroys? The twelve Apostles, and first of all Peter. Their authority was equal to that of Him who appointed them. "He that receiveth you," He saith, "receiveth Me." Nay, it would seem as if their authority were even greater than that which it pleased our Lord to possess in the days of His flesh; for whereas He breathed on them, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," He had formerly said, "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven Him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven Him."

III. The only question that can here arise is this: whether this imperial power was vested only in the twelve Apostles, or in others besides and after them? I answer: (1) We must conclude that the power was vested in others also, from the size of the empire; for a few persons, though inspired, cannot be supposed to have been equal to the care of all the churches. (2) Again, it is expressly said, that the Church is to last to the end of time, and the gates of hell are to fail in their warfare against it. But the Apostles were soon cut off; therefore the Church's power was vested in others besides the Apostles. (3) The promise was neither made nor fulfilled exactly to the twelve Apostles; one of them fell, and another took his place. (4) No honours which were accorded to the Apostles were accorded to them for their own sake, or were, strictly speaking, vested in them; they were theirs only as being instruments of Him who, being "immortal, invisible," governs His kingdom in every age in His own way; the one Master, the one Lord, the one Teacher, the one Priest, alone glorified in all His saints, while they live and when they die. Whatever honours then and powers the Apostles possessed needed not to die with them, for they never had really belonged to them.

J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 26.

References: Isaiah 2:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 249. Isaiah 2:3.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xi., p. 272.

Verse 4

Isaiah 2:4

We are asked how, with such passages written in sunbeams in the Book which we hold to be divine, we can regard with any complacency the acts and character of a warrior.

I. The old prophet, it is often said, was anticipating the Gospel or Christian age of the world, and was pointing out what ought to be its condition always, what some day will be actually its condition. I do not object to this statement, except for being too vague. The words, "He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people," cannot be diluted into the phrase, "The pure and benign doctrines of the Gospel or of Christianity shall be diffused over the world." They speak not of Christianity, but of Christ; not of a doctrine, but of a King. The language which describes Him here does not suggest, first of all, an image of tranquillity and peace. "He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people;" thus is He represented to us who, we believe, took upon Him the form of a servant, and was meek and lowly of heart. If, then, we make Christ our standard, we must honour any man who acknowledged right, who, we are confident, was a just man. It has been said that this sense of right and order is emphatically the quality of a soldier; and the consequence from it seems to be that the discipline and the character which is moulded by it deserve not our reprobation, but our admiration and imitation, because we are Christian men.

II. It is the next clause of the text, however, which is most frequently in people's mouths. "Observe," it is said, "how strong the words are. It is not that swords shall be thrown aside for plough-shares, or spears for pruning-hooks; the first are to be changed into the last, there being no use for them in their original shape." Then it would seem to follow that the material of which the peaceful instruments are made is the very same of which the warlike instruments were made—not the first of iron, and the other of some feeble and more flexible substance. Till, then, all the energies of war are faithfully represented in the acts and services of peace, the prophecy is not fulfilled.

III. But it is written further, "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation," etc. Observe that when the prophet says, "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation," he clearly assumes that there shall be distinct nations in the most perfect condition of society which can be conceived of. The distinctness of his own nation had been the assurance to him that God had chosen him and his fathers, that He Himself was in the midst of them. He longed for a time when each nation should have the same stable ground for its existence, when each should feel that the God of the whole earth was its God. Therefore let us be sure that if we would ever see a real family of nations, such as the prophets believed would one day emerge out of the chaos they saw around them—a family of nations which shall own God as their Father, and Christ as their Elder Brother—this must come from each nation maintaining its own integrity and unity.

F. D. Maurice, Sermons on the Sabbath Day, p. 78.

References: Isaiah 2:4.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2188; B. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 177. Isaiah 2:5.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 280; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 340; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 263; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 216; H. P. Liddon, Old Testament Outlines, p. 167.

Verse 11

Isaiah 2:11

I. In the day of judgment will be fulfilled, once and for ever, all the sayings and prophecies of our Lord and His Apostles concerning the exaltation of the lowly and the humiliation of the high and lofty ones. Recollect what are the things which we naturally most admire in this world, and see if they will not one and all come to an end in that day. (1) "All cedars of Lebanon which are high and lifted up," that is, the great and high-born persons, to whom God has given a place in the world above others. (2) "The high mountains and the hills that are lifted up." All this show of visible glories will have an end; and so will the kingdoms and empires, the companies and cities of men, to which in Scripture these mountains are compared. (3) In the next sentence the prophet passes from the creations of God to those of men: from the trees and mountains to "high towers and fenced walls," to the "ships of Tarshish and to pleasant pictures," i.e., to all those works and contrivances which we most admire when they belong to others, and on which, being our own, we are most tempted to rely. All these things the prophet speaks of, to warn us that the day of the Lord of hosts is fast coming upon them; that day which will put an end to them all.

II. Consider how the poor and lowly will be exalted in that day, if they be poor and lowly in heart. The great pattern and example of God's favour to the poor, towards which all eyes and hearts will be drawn, will be the appearance of the lowly Son of Mary, of Him who had not where to lay His Head, the rejected, the mocked, the scourged and crucified One, upon His throne of glory, judging the world. We shall see "all things put under Him" who was a "very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people." And together with Him we shall see His saints crowned and glorious. There will be a great multitude of poor persons, such as Lazarus in the parable, who lived and died unknown among men, slighted, perhaps ill-used, by those who were most bound to help them; but because they had faith and patience and obedience, Christ will own them in that day as His own members, His own poor.

J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year: Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 279.

Verse 12

Isaiah 2:12

Party spirit discomfited by Christ's advent.

I. In every age in which religion has not been utterly disregarded, perhaps even when it has been practically set aside by the great majority of men, there is usually some one strong tendency at work, which either divides into two great portions the minds of the more serious and reflecting, or at least colours and designates a deeper and more essential division. No one will deny that in our own time, and especially in the Universities, a division of this kind into the main directions and tendencies of religious opinions does manifestly exist. The serious and earnest are met by a strong temptation to throw themselves into one or other of these schools or parties in religion, which appear to be alone deeply engaged in the conflicts of the faith on earth.

II. Consider what must be the consequence of the habit of early partisanship. (1) Be assured that no one set of opinions, no one body of teachers, is or can be in possession of the whole truth. He who so allies himself with one party, in the warfare of religious opinion, as to make its cause, as a party, his own, is quite sure, whichever be his side, to be fighting in the end against some portion of God's truth, and in behalf of some portion, whether less or greater, of that error which the enemy, while men slept, has sown amongst it. (2) Christian candour and Christian charity can scarcely co-exist, even for a time, with a spirit of decided partisanship.

III. Let the text recall our thoughts to a coming day, when the spirit of religious partisanship, like every other offspring of human pride, shall be subjected to the searching light of the day of the Lord of hosts. That day shall be upon everything that is lofty and lifted up, and shall bring it low. And is not this the character of every human party, of every human system, whether in things divine or earthly? Think what the day of the Lord will be to him who has disputed about religion without its entering into his soul; who has done battle for what he called the truth, instead of opening the windows of his own heart to let it fully in; who has argued about God's grace, and the means and channels of its effectual working, instead of being himself, in will and life and character, transformed by its renewing.

C. J. Vaughan, Nine Sermons in the Chapel of Harrow School, p. 25.

Scepticism discomfited by Christ's advent.

I. Among the causes of the spirit of religious scepticism, there is (1) an early habit of spiritual negligence; (2) a state of exaggerated and credulous belief.

II. Consider the inseparable consequences of such a state, whatever be the peculiar causes out of which it springs. (1) He who is in suspense about the truth of the Gospel cannot pray. He that cometh to God must believe that He is. He who feels that he has sinned and that God is holy knows that he needs a mediator and he that would trust in a mediator must believe that He is. (2) He cannot resist sin. He who is in suspense about the truth of Christ's Gospel is as weak as he who denies it—as weak, yea, weaker. For the other knows that he is thrown upon the resources of his own unaided strength, and he summons them all together for his support. He can take the shield of pride, and the helmet of self-confidence, and the sword of reason; and with these, within their own narrow limits, he can go forth and conquer. But the man who doubts—who would be a Christian, or thinks he would, but cannot satisfy his intellect of the certainty of word of Christ—he is a divided man. He has cast off his other armour; and this, the armour of God, he cannot take, for he has not proved it.

III. Think what the advent will be to such a mind. The day of the Lord of hosts will be "upon" it, and will bring it low. We fools inquired whether there was a day coming; and behold, it is come. While we inquired and reasoned and speculated, He of whom we doubted was carrying on His judgment upon us. He who was to come demanded fruit. He is come seeking fruit, and He finds nothing, but leaves only.

C. J. Vaughan, Nine Sermons, p. 47.

References: Isaiah 2:12.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages from the Prophets, vol. i., p. 1. Isaiah 2:16.—J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 365. Isaiah 2:17.—W. J. Knox-Little, Ibid., vol. xxi., p. 406. Isaiah 2:18.—G. John, Ibid., vol. xxii., p. 129. Isaiah 2:20.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2230. Isaiah 2:22.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages from the Prophets, p. 9. Isaiah 3:10, Isaiah 3:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 729; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 180; E. Mason, A Pastor's Legacy, p. 206. Isaiah 3:11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 17. Isaiah 4:1.—C. A. Fowler, Parochial Sermons, p. 1. Isaiah 4:2.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xi., p. 273.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 2". "Sermon Bible Commentary".