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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Isaiah 40

Verses 1-2

DISCOURSE: 920
THE SCOPE AND TENDENCY OF THE GOSPEL

Isaiah 40:1-2. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

THE ministerial office is fitly compared to that of a steward, who divides to every one his proper portion [Note: 2 Timothy 2:15.Luke 12:42; Luke 12:42.]. The execution of it calls for much wisdom and discretion, because there must be a diversity both in the matter and manner of our addresses corresponding with the different states of the people to whom we minister. To some we must of necessity proclaim the terrors of God’s law, however painful such a discharge of our duty may be: but the great scope of our ministry is rather to comfort the Lord’s people, and to “guide their feet into the way of peace.” The commission here given to the servants of Jehovah, is very remarkable, being thrice repeated in one single verse. In this view of it I am led particularly to shew,

I.

How earnestly God desires the comfort and happiness of his people—

There are a people, chosen by the Father, redeemed by Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit, who are eminently the Lord’s people [Note: Deuteronomy 7:6. 1 Peter 2:9.]. And that God is peculiarly solicitous to promote their comfort, appears,

1.

From the commission which he gave to his beloved Son—

[He sent his Son into the world to execute his eternal counsels. And our Lord himself, in his first public address to the people, declared, that the comfort of mourners was a principal object of his mission [Note: Isaiah 41:1-3.Luke 4:17-19; Luke 4:17-19.].]

2.

From the end for which he sends his Spirit into the hearts of men—

[God sends his Spirit to testify of Christ [Note: John 15:26.], to witness our adoption into his family [Note: Romans 8:15.], and to seal us unto the day of redemption [Note: Ephesians 1:13-14.]. In performing these offices he comforts our souls. And he is, on that very account, distinguished by the name of “the Comforter [Note: John 16:7.].”]

3.

From the titles which the Father himself assumes—

[He calls himself “The God of consolation [Note: Romans 15:5.],” and “the Comforter of all them that are “cast down [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:6.].” He compares his concern to that of a Father pitying his child [Note: Psalms 103:13.], and to a mother comforting with tenderest assiduities her afflicted infant [Note: Isaiah 66:13.]. Yea, he assures us that his regards far exceed those of the most affectionate parent in the universe [Note: Isaiah 49:15.].]

4.

From the solemn charge he gives to ministers—

[He sends his servants “to turn men from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Acts 26:18.].” And he especially charges them to “strengthen the weak hands, to confirm the feeble Knees, and to say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; your God will come and save you [Note: Isaiah 35:3-4.].” Thrice is that injunction repeated in the text: and in the execution of this duty we are justly called, “The helpers of your joy [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:24.].”]

5.

From the dispensations both of his providence and grace—

[When he suffered his beloved Son to be tempted in all things like unto us, it was with a view to comfort us under our temptations [Note: Hebrews 2:18.]. And when he comforted St. Paul under his multiplied afflictions, he still consulted the comfort of his Church and people [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.]: yea, however he diversified his dispensations, he had invariably the same gracious object in view [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:6.].]

As a further proof of his regard for our comfort, we may point out to you,

II.

What abundant provision he has made for it in his word—

The message which we are commanded to deliver to his people, contains in it the richest sources of consolation—

1.

To God’s ancient people—

[To them primarily was this proclamation made. And it was verified in part, when they were delivered from the Babylonish captivity and restored to the enjoyment of their former privileges in Jerusalem. But it was yet further fulfilled, when, by the sending of their Messiah, they were delivered from the yoke of the Mosaic law, which imposed a burthen which none of them were able to sustain. That, to those who received him as their Messiah, was a season of exceeding great joy; for they were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s clear Son, and from a state of insupportable bondage “into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
It will not however be fully accomplished, till they shall, in their national capacity, return from their present dispersion, and be re-united, Israel with Judah, in their own land. Then will their warfare be as much accomplished as it can be in this life: then will the tokens of God’s displeasure be removed from them; and a state of prosperity be vouchsafed to them that shall far exceed all the sufferings they have ever endured, and all the privileges they have ever enjoyed. At no time have they ever been punished beyond their deserts; (their severest trials have been far less than their iniquities deserved:) but in that day shall their blessings infinitely exceed all that they can now either contemplate or conceive — — —]

2.

To his believing people, in every age—

[It is the true Christian alone who can form any just idea of the import of my text. “His warfare is accomplished!” so far at least, as that he is in a state of victory over the world, and the flesh and the devil. He can say, “Thanks be to God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” “His sins too are blotted out as a morning cloud,” and “put away from him as far as the east is from the west.” God has mercifully “forgiven him all trespasses;” and he stands before God “without spot or blemish.” As for the blessings vouchsafed to him, no words can possibly express them: his “peace passeth all understanding;” and his “joy is unspeakable and full of glory.” “He has even now entered into rest [Note: Hebrews 4:3.],” according to that promise given him by our Lord, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden; and I will give you rest” — — —]

See, then, Brethren,
1.

What a wonderful difference exists between those who embrace, and those who disregard the Gospel—

[Can that be said of carnal and worldly men, which is here spoken of the Lord’s people? Are their chains broken? their sins forgiven? their comforts greater than any judgments that await them? No: they are yet in bondage to sin and Satan; their sins are all “sealed up in a bag” against the day of judgment; and the wrath of God is shortly coming upon them to the uttermost. Then it will appear how great a “difference there is between those who serve the Lord, and those who serve him not [Note: Malachi 3:18.].” Let not this distinction then be made a subject of profane ridicule, but a motive to seek the Lord, that we may be numbered with his people, and be made partakers of his benefits.]

2.

What inconceivable blessedness awaits the Lord’s people in a better world!

[Even in this life, as we have seen, their blessedness is exceeding great. But what will it be when once they shall lay down this mortal body, and enter into the joy of their Lord? Now conflicts remain even to their latest hour; and whatever victories they may gain, they must still remain girt for the combat. And, though “God has forgiven them all their trespasses,” so that he will never frown upon them in the eternal world, they still have occasion daily to implore mercy at his hands on account of their short-comings and defects. But in the day that they shall be taken into the immediate presence of their God, O! who can tell us what they shall “receive at his hands?” — — — Dear Brethren, do not think lightly of that joy; but be willing to sacrifice every thing for the attainment of it. Think in what estimation it is held by all who have entered into the eternal world. What would tempt those in heaven to part with it? or what would not they who are now in hell, give to be made partakers of it? Be assured, that it will be fully commensurate with all your labours, though they had been a thousand times greater than they have; and that one single hour of it will richly recompense all that it is possible for any finite creature either to do or suffer in the Saviour’s cause — — —]


Verses 6-8

DISCOURSE: 921
THE IMMUTABILITY OF THE GOSPEL

Isaiah 40:6-8. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it; surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

GOD doeth according to his own will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. When his time was come for the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, in vain did Pharaoh labour to retain them. Thus the prophet was inspired to declare the redemption of the Jews from Babylon, and the still greater redemption of the world from sin and Satan, in despite of all endeavours which might be used to thwart the divine purpose. This seems to be the immediate scope of the words before us. But they may also be taken as a general declaration respecting the instability of every thing human, and the immutability of God’s word.

I.

The instability of every thing human—

The comparison of man to grass is very frequent in the Scriptures; and it affords a just description of,

1.

Our temporal comforts—

[The grass in the early spring adorns and beautifies the face of nature; but, when parched by a burning sun or an eastern blast, it soon withers and decays: in the same manner the beauty and strength of youth are soon turned to weakness and deformity: the affluence and honour of the rich are quickly changed to degradation and want: and all our goodly fabrics of case and happiness are soon demolished. St. James illustrates this truth by the very comparison in the text [Note: James 1:9-11.]: and as Job experienced it in the days of old, so in every age may numerous instances be found of such vicissitudes.]

2.

Our spiritual comforts—

[God is pleased to give rich consolation to his people: and, while they enjoy it, their faces are made, as it were, to shine, as the face of Moses did, when he descended from the holy mount. But these comforts are often of short continuance. When Peter thought of building tabernacles to protract his happiness, a cloud immediately overshadowed him, and he was called down to renew his conflicts with the world [Note: Mark 9:5; Mark 9:7; Mark 9:14.]. When David fancied his mountain so strong that he should never be moved, God hid his face from him and he was troubled [Note: Psalms 30:7.]. Thus it is also with all the people of God; whose manifold changes in this respect may well be compared with the diversified scenes of nature under the influence of kindly showers, or malignant winds [Note: Psalms 102:2-4.].]

3.

Our very life itself—

[In the midst of health we promise ourselves years to come: but, when God withdraws our breath, we instantly return to our native dust. Some look more gay and possess more “goodliness” than others; but they are only as the “flower of the field,” which cannot survive the grass, and not unfrequently falls before it. In this view the inspired writers describe our state [Note: Job 14:1-2.Psalms 90:3-6; Psalms 90:3-6. Psalms 103:15-16.]; and both observation and experience attest the truth of their representations: we must all confess, in the language of the text, “Surely, the people is grass.”]

But while every thing human is thus frail and transient, we have a firm foundation whereon to stand, namely,

II.

The immutability of God’s blessed word—

The “word of God” here spoken of, may be understood as relating to Christ, who is often called by this name, and whose immutability is mentioned by the Psalmist in this very view [Note: Psalms 102:11-12; Psalms 102:26-27.]. But St. Peter informs us that the prophet spake of the Gospel-salvation [Note: 1 Peter 1:24-25.]. Now

This “word” contains the most important and comfortable truths—
[There is no want, which it is not able to supply, no disorder, for which it does not prescribe a remedy. It proclaims health to the sick, sight to the blind, liberty to the captives, and life to the dead. So extensive are its invitations and promises, that there is not a human being excluded from its provisions, nor is there any limit to the blessings which it will impart. It assures us, that sins of a crimson die may become white as snow; that the most heavy-laden soul may obtain rest; and that none, who come to Jesus, shall on any account be cast out [Note: Isaiah 1:18. Matthew 11:28. John 6:37.].]

Nor is it a small excellence in these truths, that they are as immutable as God himself—
[How vain were the attempts of men and devils to stop the progress of the Gospel, and to make void the declarations of God respecting it! Equally vain shall be every endeavour to invalidate the promises which he has made to the believing penitent. Has he said, that “all manner of sin shall be forgiven; that he will cleanse us from all our filthiness and from all our idols; and that, where he has begun the good work, he will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ?” We may rest assured that he will fulfil his word: for “he is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man that he should repent.” But it may be said, “Though God changeth not, yet we change, and therefore may forfeit our interest in the promises.” True; if God should leave us, we not only may, but most undoubtedly shall, both fall and perish. But God has said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee; so that we may adopt the confident declaration of St. Paul, “I know in whom I have believed, that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him.” We must be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Then, though difficulties may arise, and appear for a while wholly insurmountable, they shall surely be overcome; “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and we shall see the salvation of God.”]

We may learn from hence,
1.

The folly of seeking our rest in earthly things—

[The injunction given to the prophet to “cry,” and to proclaim aloud that “all flesh is grass,” and the frequent repetition of this comparison, are strong intimations of the extreme vanity of every thing here below. And who amongst us has not found that the enjoyments he fondly anticipated, have either eluded his grasp, or deceived his expectation? Whatever then be our comforts in life, let us not set our hearts upon them, but “so use the world as not abusing it, knowing that the fashion thereof passeth away.”]

2.

The wisdom of embracing the Gospel-salvation—

[They who trust in the word of God are sure of never being disappointed. However high their expectations are raised, they shall never be ashamed. The stronger their faith, the more abiding will be their comfort. Besides, their enjoyments, instead of cloying, will become more and more delightful; and, instead of bringing with them many inseparable ills, will produce nothing but good to their souls. But that which most of all must endear the Gospel to them is, that their happiness will then be consummated, when they, whose comforts were of an earthly nature, will want even a drop of water to cool their tongue. Let the word of God then be precious to our souls. Let Christ, as revealed in it, be the object of our faith, and hope, and love. Let us embrace the promises, assured that they shall all be fulfilled; and let us tremble at the threatening, knowing that they shall all be executed. Thus shall we be proof against the temptations of the world, and shall possess an eternity of glory, when the lovers of this present world will lie down in everlasting burnings.]


Verse 9

DISCOURSE: 922
THE MESSIAH’S ADVENT

Isaiah 40:9. Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God.

THE Gospel with all its sublime mysteries is regarded by the generality with coldness and indifference; whereas the most indistinct prospects of it were sufficient to fill the patriarchs and prophets with holy rapture. It was a view of its Divine Author which drew forth from the prophet this animated exhortation. He saw Jesus as it were already incarnate, and called upon the daughters of Zion and Jerusalem to proclaim and celebrate his advent [Note: It should be read as in the margin, “O daughter, that bringest good tidings to Zion,” &c. It was customary for women to celebrate the praises of God in public on remarkable occasions. See Exodus 15:20-21, and 1 Samuel 18:6-7.]. That, which he proposed to them as the subject of their song, is the one great subject also of our ministrations. To call your attention unto Jesus, to set him forth as crucified before your eyes, and, with an exalted voice, to cry, Behold your God! this is our commission. But before we proceed to execute it, we shall,

I.

Shew what is implied in this commission—

We cannot fail to observe, what the prophet so strongly intimates,

1.

That Christ is God—

[This is a fundamental article of our fuith. The Godhead of Christ is that which stamps a value on his sufferings, and renders the whole of his undertaking so meritorious and efficient. It would be to little purpose to say with Pilate, “Behold the man,” if we could not also add with the prophet, “Behold your God.” But we are not left to doubt of this important truth: it is clearly established in almost every page of the sacred volume: we need go no further than to the writings of Isaiah; and we shall find it expressly asserted, that the person who was to be “a Child born, and a Son given to us,” was the mighty god. [Note: Isaiah 9:6.] He was therefore to be called Emmanuel, because he was God with us [Note: Isaiah 7:14. with Matthew 1:23.]. In the very chapter before us, his forerunner, John the Baptist, was commissioned to cry, Prepare ye the way of the Lord (Jehovah) make straight in the desert an high-way for our God. [Note: ver. 3.] But we need not multiply words on this subject, since the voice of inspiration universally proclaims him to have been, “God manifest in the flesh,” “God over all, blessed for ever [Note: 1 Timothy 3:16. Romans 9:5.].”

2.

That the knowledge of Christ is of universal importance—

[It was through all “the cities of Judah,” and with her “voice lifted up with strength,” that the daughter of Zion was to celebrate the Messiah’s advent. And whence the need of such zeal and labour, but on account of the universal importance of those glad tidings? Indeed there is no other thing which men so much need to be acquainted with as the work and offices of Christ. No attainments can save them, if they be ignorant of Christ; nor can any past sins condemn them, if they be truly acquainted with this divine Saviour. “This,” as our Lord himself tells us, “is life eternal, to know God as the only true God, and Jesus Christ [Note: John 17:3.],” as our Mediator and Advocate with the Father. So excellent is this knowledge, that St. Paul “counted all things but loss and dung in comparison of it [Note: Philippians 3:8.].” It is the one mean of obtaining reconciliation with God, peace of conscience, and deliverance from the power of sin [Note: 1 John 1:7.]. O that all were aware how deeply they are interested in receiving these glad tidings! We should proclaim them with infinitely greater pleasure, if we had not so much reason to complain, that “they are counted as a strange thing [Note: Hosea 8:12.].”]

Taking for granted these fundamental and indisputable truths, we shall,

II.

Endeavour to execute the commission—

The text does not limit us to any particular point of view in which we are to behold our God; we shall therefore direct your attention to him,

1.

As descending from heaven—

[Lo! he comes from his bright abodes: but in what form does he appear? Does he descend in solemn pomp, attended with myriads of the heavenly host? Does he visit the palaces of the great, and assume our nature in its most dignified appearance? No: He is born of an obscure virgin, and has no better place for his reception than a stable. Go, look into his mean abode; see him wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and lying in a manger; look, I say, and behold your God! What marvellous condescension! how does it almost exceed belief, yet, incredible as it appears, we must again say, Behold your God!]

2.

As sojourning on earth—

[Surely, no sooner could his incarnation be known, than all the world, like the eastern Magi, must flock to worship him [Note: Matthew 2:11.]. So one might reasonably hope; but what is that “weeping and lamentation” that we hear? The young child’s life is sought. The children from two years old and under are massacred through the whole district, that no possibility may be left for his escape: and He is saved only by the special interposition of his heavenly Father [Note: Matthew 2:16-20.]. See his parents fleeing with him by night to a distant, a heathen, land, not daring to return to their native country till the death of their blood-thirsty persecutor! But this was only the beginning of sorrows. View him afterwards when he assumed his proper office as the Prophet of his church: no sooner did he open his commission, than the short-lived applause afforded him was turned into the most cruel indignation; and if he had not by an exertion of his own almighty power effected his escape, his very first sermon had proved his last [Note: Luke 4:28-30.]. But to pass over to the period of his death. Whom is it that we see prostrate on the ground, and bathed in a bloody sweat? Who is it that those cruel soldiers are mocking, buffeting, scourging? Who is it that is nailed to yonder cross, and that we see expiring under such an accumulated weight of shame and misery? To all this we answer, Behold your god!]

3.

As exalted to glory—

[Hitherto we have witnessed nothing but his humiliation; but the shame of his cross was quickly rolled away. In vain were the stone, the seal, the watch: he burst the bands of death, and rose triumphant. Henceforth we are to view him ascending amidst myriads of exulting angels, sitting on the throne of his glory, dispensing blessings to the church below, and receiving the adorations of his church above. Sinner, lift up thine eyes to heaven, and behold thy once crucified, but now exalted, Redeemer! Now he shines forth in all his glory, and says to thee, even to thee, “Behold me, behold me [Note: Isaiah 65:1.]!” O that every eye might see him, and that all, who have pierced him by their sins, might mourn and be in bitterness, as one that mourneth for his first-born son [Note: Zechariah 12:10.]! Soon indeed all shall see him: the time is shortly coming, when he will descend from heaven again, not however to stand, as before, like a criminal at man’s tribunal, but to execute judgment on the assembled universe; and then happy shall they be who have behold him here with suitable affection; they shall behold his face with inexpressible delight; and be the spectators of his glory, and the partners of his throne, to all eternity.]

Address—
1.

The careless—

[Know you what the sins, which you commit so lightly, have occasioned? Go to Calvary and behold your God; and then judge whether sin be so light and venial a matter as you are ready to imagine! The Jews and Romans were the immediate actors in that bloody tragedy; but your sins, and the sins of an ungodly world, were the real occasion of all that your God endured; and, while you continue in your sins, you “crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Ah! did David cast away the water, for which the lives of three men had been endangered, and will not you cast away the sins which have actually shed the blood of God [Note: 2 Samuel 23:16-17. with Acts 20:28.]? Let this thought induce you to put away the polluted cup from your lips; and and let “the love of Christ constrain you to live unto him who died for you and rose again.”]

2.

The heavy-laden—

[To you especially the Saviour cries, “Look unto me, and be ye saved! “Come unto me, and find rest unto your souls!” Consider well, who it is that thus invites you; it is your Saviour, and your God; there can be no want of efficacy in his blood, or of power in his arm: he is a strong rock, a sure foundation, an all-sufficient help. Trust then in him; and, as a sight of the brazen serpent healed the dying Israelites, so shall a view of your divine Saviour prove an effectual remedy for all your wants. You shall soon, like Thomas, exclaim with holy rapture, “My Lord and my God!” or, in the language long since dictated to you by the spirit of prophecy, “Lo, this is Our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him: we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation [Note: Isaiah 25:9.]!”]


Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 923
CHRIST’S CARE FOR HIS SHEEP

Isaiah 40:11. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom; and shall gently lead those that are with young.

THE holy Psalmist, speaking of Jehovah’s care of him, says, “The Lord is my Shepherd:” and then, from the union of the Godhead with the pastoral office, he infers, “Therefore I shall not want [Note: Psalms 23:1.].” The same incomprehensible union is mentioned by the prophet in the passage before us. The heralds that proclaimed the advent of the Messiah were commanded to draw the attention of men to them in these words, “Behold your God!” The person thus announced, is further described in the words preceding our text; “Behold! the Lord God will come:” and then it is added, “he shall feed his flock like a shepherd.” Now when it is considered how prone the Israelites were to idolatry, it cannot be conceived that the prophet should speak of the Messiah in such exalted terms, if they did not properly belong to him. But the prophets generally, and Isaiah in particular, are very full and explicit in declaring, that Jehovah was to become incarnate, and by the sacrifice of himself to redeem and save a ruined world. It is not however of his person that we now propose to speak, but of his office; that being the particular point to which my text refers: yet it would be improper to pass over such a strong testimony to the divinity of our blessed Lord, because, in the judgment of all, but more especially of Jews, it must have the effect of silencing every doubt upon that important subject. And it adds no little interest to the description here given of him, when we know, that He who so condescends to minister as a Shepherd to the least and meanest of his flock, is the Most High God: according as it is written, “To us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and his name shall be called, The Mighty God [Note: Isaiah 9:6.].”

The words which form the ground-work of our discourse, will lead me to set before you,

I.

A general view of our Lord as a Shepherd—

The character of a shepherd is frequently assigned to our blessed Lord, in the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament [Note: Ezekiel 37:24.Zechariah 13:7; Zechariah 13:7. Hebrews 13:20. 1 Peter 5:4.]: and every duty pertaining to that office is executed by him:—

1.

He gathers them to his fold—

[They are “wandering upon the dark mountains, in a cloudy and dark day [Note: Ezekiel 34:6.];” “every one going in his own way [Note: Isaiah 53:6.],” and “after the imaginations of his own heart [Note: Jeremiah 23:17.]” — — — The paths of all, though differing from each other according as the age, the inclinations, and the diversified temptations of the different individuals may lead them — — — all agree in this, that they are far distant from the ways of God’s commandments [Note: Romans 3:11-12.]. But “he searches for them, and seeks them out:” he follows them by the preaching of his word, by the dispensations of his providence, by the mighty working of his Spirit; and, having found them, “he apprehends them” by his pastoral crook [Note: Philippians 3:12.], and “makes them willing” to return with him [Note: Psalms 110:3.], and “carries them home upon his shoulders rejoicing [Note: Luke 15:5-6.]”— — —]

2.

He provides for their wants—

[O! how sweet are the pastures into which he leads them [Note: Ezekiel 34:14.]! Who can express the delight which a converted soul experiences in feeding upon the promises, “the exceeding great and precious promises” of his God? — — — In comparison of the food provided for the sheep of Christ, all else is but as “husks on which the swine subsist [Note: Luke 15:16. Isaiah 55:2.].” This is set forth in Scripture under the image of a luxurious feast [Note: Isaiah 24:6.]: and verily it is “a feast of fat things” to all the saints; a feast, of which even the angels themselves might account it a privilege to partake [Note: Psalms 78:25.] — — —]

3.

He affords them his effectual protection—

[Weak as they are, and beset with many enemies, they are preserved in perfect safety [Note: 1 Peter 1:5.] — — — He who laid down his life for them, will suffer “none to pluck them out of his hand [Note: John 10:11; John 10:28.]” — — — “They lie down beside the still waters [Note: Psalms 23:2.],” which are a just emblem of the tranquillity of their own souls — — — “They are kept in perfect peace, because they trust in him [Note: Isaiah 26:3.].”]

4.

He administers to them according to their diversified necessities—

[Amongst them there will be some who are sick, or diseased, or injured by some misfortune: but he knows all their particular cases, and imparts to them the relief which they severally need; “bringing buck those which have been driven away, binding up that which has been broken, and strengthening that which is sick [Note: Ezekiel 34:16.]”— — — and never intermitting his care of them, till he has brought them to his fold above [Note: Psalms 23:5-6.]— — —]

But our text requires us to take,

II.

A more particular view of him as ministering to the weak and needy—

Let us notice then in a more especial manner,

1.

His tenderness to the weak—

[The lambs which have been but recently brought forth, may be supposed incapable of proceeding with the flock to any distant pasture. But these “he will gather with his arms, and carry in his bosom.” “He will not despise the day of small things [Note: Zechariah 4:10.].” There is not one in all his flock so weak, but he will pay the most minute attention to its necessities. He who gave so particular a charge to Peter to “feed his lambs,” and required this of him as a necessary proof of his love [Note: John 21:15.], will not himself neglect his lambs; but rather will augment his tender assiduities in proportion as the weakness of the lamb calls for more peculiar care: he will even take it up, and “carry it in his bosom.” In what an endearing view does this place the character of our blessed Lord! — — — How sweetly encouraging is this consideration to those who feel their weakness, and are ready to despond because of it! — — — Let us remember, that when his disciples would have kept persons from troubling him with their little children, he reproved them, and said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven [Note: Mark 10:14.].” Whether therefore you be children in respect of your natural or spiritual birth, fail not to come to him, assured, that he will bear with your infirmities, and “perfect his own strength in your weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]” — — —]

2.

His compassion to the afflicted—

[He will have respect to the state of his flock, even as Jacob had, who “would not overdrive them one day, lest they should all die [Note: Genesis 33:13-14.].” So our blessed Lord “will gently lead that which is with young.” There are amongst his people many who are weary and heavy-laden with a sense of sin, and bowed down greatly by reason of the difficulties of their way. But to the former he sends a special invitation, with an assured promise of rest [Note: Matthew 11:28.]: and to the latter he authorizes us to declare, that “he will raise them up [Note: Psalms 146:8.].” In truth, he is pre-eminently distinguished by this, that “he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; but will bring forth judgment unto victory [Note: Matthew 12:20.]. Consider what is implied in these metaphors: a bruised reed is, according to human appearance, incapable of ever sending forth a melodious sound; and smoking flax has, as it were, but a hidden spark of fire, whilst it is sending forth whole clouds of corruption: yet will Christ fan the expiring spark to a flame, and attune the reed to send forth the most heavenly strains. Let none then despond, however destitute they may be of any thing to encourage them from within; but let them “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might [Note: Ephesians 6:10.]” — — —]

Let me now add a few words,
1.

In commendation of this good Shepherd—

[Whence is it that all do not put themselves under his care? Is there any want of love, or tenderness, or power in him? God frequently, by his prophets, called on his rebellious people to testify against him, and to say, whether there had been any want of kindness or care in him: “O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me [Note: Micah 6:3.Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 2:31.].” “What could I have done more for my people than I have done [Note: Isaiah 5:4.]?” So do I now, in the name of this good Shepherd, call upon you all this day, to bear, if you can, your testimony against him. Whom did he ever neglect or despise? Whom that sought him did he ever refuse to receive? Whom that trusted in him, did he ever omit to supply according to his necessities? — — — If then no complaint ever was, or could be made against him from the world, let every heart appreciate his excellency, and every soul commit itself to its care — — — [Note: If this were a subject for an Ordination or Visitation Sermon, the Clergy should be urged to follow the example of this good Shepherd.]]

2.

For the augmentation and encouragement of his flock—

[You who have to this hour been going astray, and walking in the way of your own hearts, reflect upon your guilt and danger, and “return now without delay to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls [Note: 1 Peter 2:25.]” — — — As employed by him, I come now to search you out, and to bring you home to his fold [Note: Ephesians 4:11.Mark 16:15; Mark 16:15.Jeremiah 23:4; Jeremiah 23:4.] — — — O think, how delightful it will be to “hear his voice calling every one of you by name [Note: John 10:3.],” and “going in and out with you” as long as you shall remain in this dreary wilderness [Note: John 10:9.], and then performing the same office for you in the realms of bliss [Note: Revelation 7:17.]; “O listen not to the voice of strangers” — — — but, follow him — — — that you may be one fold under one Shepherd for ever and ever [Note: John 10:5; John 10:9; John 10:16.].]


Verses 27-31

DISCOURSE: 924
THE DESPONDING ENCOURAGED

Isaiah 40:27-31. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

THE human mind is prone to extremes. Before a man comes to the knowledge of himself, he is filled with presumption, and accounts himself as safe as if there were no judgments denounced against him: but, when he begins to feel his guilt and helplessness, he is ready to run into the opposite extreme of despondency, and to account his state as irremediable, as if there were not a promise in the Bible suited to his condition. Such were the feelings of the Jews before their captivity in Babylon, and under the pressure of the troubles which they experienced in their bondage. The prophet, by anticipation, views them us already in Babylon, and reproves the desponding apprehensions which there depressed their souls.
The words I have read, will afford me a fit occasion to set before you,

I.

The discouragements which the Lord’s people suffer—

It is really no uncommon thing for even pious souls to utter the complaint mentioned in my text. They do this on a variety of occasions:

1.

Under a sense of unpardoned guilt—

[Sin, which in an unenlightened state appears so small an evil, to an awakened soul appears “exceeding sinful,” insomuch that he is ready to imagine it can never be forgiven. Hear David under these distressing apprehensions: “O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure! for thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh, because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones, because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as an heavy burthen, they are too heavy for me [Note: Psalms 38:1-4.].” Even good men will, at times, adopt the language of Cain: “Mine iniquity is greater than can be forgiven [Note: Genesis 4:13. See the marginal version.].” Nor is this to be wondered at: for when we view sin with all its aggravations, and especially as committed against the love of Christ and the strivings of his good Spirit, it does assume a character most odious, and justly deserving of God’s heaviest indignation.]

2.

Under the assaults of indwelling corruption—

[These continue long after a man is turned to the Lord. They have indeed received a check; but often, like water obstructed by a dam, they rise and swell the more for the opposition that is made to them. St. Paul’s experience in this respect has kept thousands from utter despondency. How bitterly he complains of “the law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin that was in his members!’” From hence, like a man bound with chains to a lothesome carcase, from which he cannot get loose, he cries, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death [Note: Romans 7:23-24.]?” He indeed saw that deliverance was laid up for him in and through Christ. But many are driven almost to despair: their conflicts with sin and Satan are so frequent and so violent, and sometimes, in appearance at least, so ineffectual, that they are ready to imagine that God has given them up, and that it is in vain for them to contend any more. In this state they are strongly tempted to say, “There is no hope: I have loved strangers; and after them will I go [Note: Jeremiah 2:25.].”]

3.

Under the pressure of long-continued afflictions—

[These will oppress and overwhelm the strongest man, if he be not succoured from above with strength according to his day. Under these, David frequently complains, as if God had left him and forsaken him: “Lord, why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted: thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off [Note: Psalms 88:14-16.].” The patient Job [Note: Job 3:1; Job 27:2.], the pious Jeremiah [Note: Jeremiah 20:1-18.], the intrepid Elijah, all fainted through their troubles: the two former cursed the day of their birth; and the latter, scarcely less excusable, prayed impatiently to God to “take away his life,” in order to liberate him from his troubles [Note: 1 Kings 19:4.]. Even the Saviour himself, in his afflictions, adopted the language of the Psalmist, “My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring [Note: Psalms 22:1.]?” And no doubt the hands of the strongest will hang down, and the heart of the stoutest faint, if God strengthen them not to drink the cup which men and devils concur to put into their hands.]

But it would not be thus with them, if they used aright,

II.

The antidote provided for them in the Scriptures—

In the Scriptures, Jehovah is represented as ordering and overruling all things; and as being a God,

1.

Of almighty power—

[There is nothing in the whole universe which did not derive its existence from his all-creating hand; nor is any thing left to its own operations without his sovereign control. Be it either good or evil, it subsists only through his permission; as God himself has told us: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I the Lord do all these things [Note: Isaiah 45:7.].” Even the murderers of our blessed Lord, though perfectly free agents in all that they did, “effected only what the hand und counsel of Jehovah himself had determined before to be done [Note: Acts 4:28.].” Be it so then: our guilt lies heavy on our souls; our corruptions work with almost irresistible force; our troubles of divers kinds threaten utterly to destroy us: but is there no power able to deliver? Cannot He who created all things by a word, and spake them into existence, accomplish for us whatever our necessities require? “Is his ear heavy, that he cannot hear; or his arm shortened, that he cannot save [Note: Isaiah 59:1.]?” Were we left to the uncontrolled power of our spiritual enemies, we might well despair: but whilst God is seated on his throne, we need never fear but that he will interpose for our relief, if only we cast our care on him. “If we cast our burthen upon him, he will sustain us.”]

2.

Of unerring wisdom—

[Because God does not exert his Almighty power for us at the first moment that we implore his aid, we suppose “that our way is hid from him, and our judgment is passed over from him,” or, in other words, that he has utterly cast us off. But we forget that he has gracious designs to accomplish; and that he accomplishes them in ways of which we have no conception, and which appear calculated only to defeat his ends. We measure his wisdom by the scanty line of our own reason; forgetting that “his ways are in the great deep,” and “past finding out” by any finite intelligence: that “there is no searching of his understanding.” Now let this be considered: let the afflicted saint contemplate Jehovah as ordering and overruling every thing for the good of his people and for the glory of his own name; let him say, ‘I have cried long, and not been heard: but perhaps the purposes of Jehovah are not yet ripe for accomplishment: there is more of humiliation to be produced in my soul; more of a preparation of mind for discerning; of his mighty hand; more depression to be caused in order to a more glorious exaltation.’ Let him recollect the ways in which Joseph’s dreams were realized; and bear in mind, that the same God sitteth at the helm, and directs the vessel amidst all the storms, “the very storms and winds all fulfilling his sovereign will and pleasure.” This were abundantly sufficient to compose the mind under the most afflictive circumstances that can be imagined: for where there is unerring wisdom to direct, and Almighty power to execute, no difficulty can exist, which shall not be overruled for good [Note: Romans 8:28.].]

But let the text declare,

III.

The happy state of those who duly improve this antidote—

To wait on God in prayer is necessary, in order to the obtaining of help from him—
[He has said that “he will be inquired of, in order that he may do for us the things that he has promised [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.].” This is indispensable in every view: for without it there would be no acknowledgment of him on our part, nor any readiness to give him glory, when he had interposed for our relief. Nor is it only in a way of importunity that we are to wait upon him, but in a way of humble dependence also, and of meek submission to his will. We must leave every thing to his all-wise disposal; “tarrying his leisure,” and “waiting his time, however long the vision may be delayed [Note: Habakkuk 2:3.].” “He that believeth must not make haste [Note: Isaiah 28:16.].”]

To all who comply with this requisite, the most effectual relief is secured—
[It is God’s delight to succour his people in the time of need: “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” This, I say, is his habit and delight: and one great end of his delaying the communication! of his aid is, to make men more sensible of their dependence on him, and more thankful for his gracious interpositions. Till he vouchsafe his answers to prayer, all human efforts are vain; “even the youths will faint and be weary; and the young men, how strong soever they imagine themselves to be, will utterly fall:” but “they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.” Like the eagle, when moulting, they may be greatly reduced; but in due season, like him, with his renovated plumage, they shall soar on high, above all the trials and temptations with which they have been oppressed. Their course may be yet long and difficult; the opposition which they may have to encounter may be exceeding violent; but, through the Divine aid, “they shall run and not be weary; they shall march onward [Note: Bishop Lowth’s translation.], and not faint.”]

Address—
1.

In a way of tender expostulation—

[Such a state of mind as God’s people of old indulged, is approved by many, as characteristic of humility. But it is a mark of pride rather, and of unbelief; and it is calculated only to excite God’s heavy displeasure. This appears from the manner in which it is here reproved. In fact, it argues a forgetfulness of all our principles as men acknowledging a Supreme Being. Have we not known, that there is a God who ordereth all things both in heaven and in earth? Have we not heard, that “without him not so much as a sparrow falleth to the ground?” How then can we imagine that he is inattentive to his suffering or conflicting people, or that he is at a loss for means whereby to effect their deliverance? Have we not heard that “he has given us his only dear Son to die for us? What, then, will he withhold from those who seek him?” Still further; Have we not heard that “he has made with us an everlasting covenant, a covenant ordered in all things and sure?” And is not a supply of all our wants there provided for? Be ashamed, then, my Brethren, that, with such principles, you can give way to any disquietude. You have only to “commit yourselves, and all your concerns, into his hands; and be sure that he will bring to pass” whatever shall eventually advance your best interests.]

2.

In a way of affectionate encouragement—

[See to what all your fears are really owing. The pious Asaph was harassed with them, like you: but, on reflection, he said, “This is mine infirmity [Note: Psalms 77:7-10.]” — — — Be assured, that not all the powers of earth or hell can prevail against you, if only, in the exercise of faith and patience, you wait on God. Take courage, then, and call yourselves to an account, as David did, for such unworthy fears and such unhallowed depression: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God [Note: Psalms 42:5; Psalms 42:11; Psalms 43:5.].” If you need some specific promise for your support, take that which God has given to such as are in your very state: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness [Note: Isaiah 41:10.].” Rest on this, and you shall soon add your testimony to that of David: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and ordered my goings: and he hath put a new song into my mouth, even praise and thanksgiving to my God [Note: Psalms 40:1-3.].”]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 40". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/isaiah-40.html. 1832.