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And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse
A prophecy concerning Messiah the Prince
HIS RISE OUT OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID (Isaiah 11:1).
II. HIS QUALIFICATIONS FOR HIS GREAT UNDERTAKING (Isaiah 11:2-3).
III. THE JUSTICE AND EQUITY OF HIS GOVERNMENT (Isaiah 11:3-5).
IV. THE PEACEABLENESS OF HIS KINGDOM (Isaiah 11:6-9).
V. THE ACCESSION OF THE GENTILES TO IT (Isaiah 11:10).
VI. And with them THE REMNANT OF THE JEWS that should be united with them in the Messiah’s kingdom (Isaiah 11:11-16). (M. Henry.)
The picture of the future
The picture of the future which fills the eleventh chapter is one of the most extensive that Isaiah has drawn. Three prospects are unfolded in it.
I. A PROSPECT OF MIND (verses 2-5). The geography of a royal mind in its stretches of character, knowledge, and achievement.
II. A PROSPECT OF NATURE (verses 6-9). A vision of the restitution of nature--Paradise regained.
III. A PROSPECT OF HISTORY (verses 9-16). The geography of Israel’s redemption. To this third prospect chapter 12. forms a fitting conclusion, a hymn of praise in the mouth of returning exiles. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Three great ideals
1. The perfect indwelling of our humanity by the Spirit of God.
2. The peace and communion of all nature, covered with the knowledge of God.
3. The traversing of all history by the Divine purposes of redemption. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Assyria and Israel: a contrast
We should connect the opening of the eleventh chapter with the close of the tenth in order to feel the full force of the contrast. There we read: “And He shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty One.” Then comes the prophecy that “there shall come forth a rod,” etc. The cedar of Lebanon was the symbol of Assyrian power. It was a poor symbol. Looked at botanically, it very vividly represented the passing pomp of a pagan empire. It is of the pine genus, and sends out no suckers, and when it is cut down it is gone. The oak is the symbol of Israel’s power, and though it be cut down it grows again--“there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots”--out of the very lowest stump that is left in the ground. (J. Parker, D. D.)
What is the symbol of our power? Is ours an influence that can be cut down and never revive? or are we so rooted in the Eternal that though persecution may impoverish us, and we may suffer great deprivation and depletion of every kind, yet we shall come up again in eternal youthfulness? (J. Parker, D. D.)
Prophecy: a very good transition
It is a very good transition in prophecy (whether it be so in rhetoric or no) and a very common one, to pass from the prediction of the temporal deliverances of the Church to that of the great salvation, which, in the fulness of time, should be wrought out by Jesus Christ, of which the others were types and figures. (M. Henry.)
The word translated “Branch” is in the Hebrew Netser. The word is said to be derived from a root which means “bright” or “verdant.” And this agrees with the character of the valley in which the town of Netzer or Natsoreth (Nazareth) stands. “The bushes and aromatic shrubs, and especially the brilliant wild flowers, take away from the bleakness of the landscape.” It is from this title, then, Netser or the Branch, that St. Matthew quotes when he says, “He shall be called a Nazarene” Matthew 2:23). (Expository Times.)
The rod out of the stem of Jesse
Let us go back to the humblest point, the very starting line, and learn that this Son of God was not the son of a king only, but the son of a king’s lowly father. Christianity is the religion of the common people. The Gospel appeals to all men, rich and poor, in every zone and clime, and is most to those who need it most. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Christ the fruitful Branch
“A shoot out of its roots brings fruit.” The sprout shooting out below the soil becomes a tree, and this tree gets a crown with fruits; and thus a state of exaltation and completion follows the state of humiliation. (F. Delitzsch.)
The qualifications of Christ for His mediatorial office
I. The first verse of the text foretells THE BIRTH AND FAMILY OF THE MESSIAH. The Messiah was to be born of the house of David, the son of Jesse. But why is Jesse mentioned here, rather than David, his more illustrious son? Partly to point out the birthplace of the Messiah. Jesse appears always to have lived at Bethlehem, and was known as the Bethlehemite; whereas, David resided the greater part of his life at Hebron and Jerusalem. Jesse was in a more humble rank of life than Jesse’s son; and so Jesus, though superior to David, as a royal king, being David’s Lord, as well as David’s son, yet, in the actual circumstances of His life, was nearer to the humble rank of Jesse than the royal state of David. It was also out of the stem of Jesse that the rod was to come forth--from a stem where there was nothing but stem and root remaining; not out of a noble tree, with its wide-spreading branches. “And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” It is intimated here, and elsewhere more clearly foretold, that the Branch should spring from the family of Jesse, when it was in lowly circumstances, at a time when the house of David should be much reduced, and that slender expectations should be formed of it at first, but that in process of time it should grow into a beautiful and glorious Branch. How exactly all this describes the birth and lineage of Jesus Christ. Yet was ever branch so glorious in its increase? What noble fruits have hung on that Branch l What Churches have clustered around it!
II. HIS FULL QUALIFICATIONS FOR HIS OFFICE, as described in this prediction (Isaiah 11:2). “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him.” On Him was poured the unction of the Holy One in all its fulness. But, remember, the Spirit of the Lord rested on Him in His office of Mediator. Now, this is a public office, an office which Jesus sustains for the benefit of His people; and therefore the Spirit of the Lord rests upon Him for His people.
1. “The spirit of wisdom.” He had wisdom in full measure. He must have had a perfect comprehension of God in His nature, qualities, attributes, works, and Ways; He must have had a thorough understanding of the only method by which wretched man could be saved; He must have known what was in the mind of man, for He answered the Pharisees and Sadducees, and knew the difficulties and doubts of His disciples, even before they gave them utterance in words. How wise were all His provisions for His Church! How wise to win souls was Jesus Christ! And remember He has wisdom for you.
2. “The spirit of understanding.” This is enlarged on in the following verse. The Saviour had a quickness in understanding what might be for the glory or dishonour of His heavenly Father. No tinsel could hide from Him the foul deformity of sin; no hypocrisy could yell from Him the pride and corruption of the Pharisee. When Satan came with his temptations, and baited his snare with all the kingdoms of the world in all their glory, Christ instantly understood the deceit, and, “Get thee hence, Satan,” was His indignant language.
3. “The spirit of counsel.” “This,” says our prophet, “is the name whereby He shall be called, Wonderful Counsellor.” Christ is able to give the wisest counsel in the kindest manner. He has advice suited to every case. He counsels the sinner. He says to the Church in a Laodicean state, “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” He counsels the Christian warrior how to maintain the fight against sin with persevering faith.
4. “The spirit of might.” He is a Lamb in meekness; He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah in strength. His work required a very undaunted spirit, and He never quaked with fear, nor trembled with alarm. And He has the spirit of might for you also.
5. “The spirit of knowledge.” In Christ dwells all knowledge--the knowledge of Jehovah, His heavenly Father, of His holy will, His righteous claims, the blessedness of knowing God as Father. And this same knowledge of His Father He is able to impart to you.
6. “And of the fear of the Lord.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and it is also one of the highest attainments of wisdom, and one of the best effects of the Holy Spirit on the heart. (J. Hambleton, M. A.)
The kingdom of Christ
We may well study this picture of the Messiah’s reign on earth, drawn by a Divine hand and painted with unfading colours, because through it we see, as we cannot otherwise, what we are daily praying for. History does not fully interpret prophecy for us. If we knew just the changes in the nations before the fulness of the times comes, if we could be assured where and when and how Jesus would reign in an earthly way among men, still we should not have what the vision of Isaiah furnishes us. He saw nothing of this. And what did he see? First of all a mighty forest, whose tall trees sent their roots down deep into the earth, and whose branches east wide shadows. These were the proud nations that were oppressing Israel, and seemed strong enough to stand forever. But they were to lose their glory. Among them there was a stump, sending up from its decay and humiliation a small, tender, but vigorous shoot. This was the ancient but fallen house of David; and the green shoot coming up was only in fulfilment of the old covenant that there should always be one to sit on David’s throne. As we look, through the seer’s vision, we see the young tree dissolve into the form of a Man, a Man on whom the Holy Spirit rests with seven-fold gifts of wisdom and knowledge and counsel and might and understanding in the fear of the Lord. This Man is full of righteousness, and His robes are girdled with righteousness as He sits and judges among the people. And again, as we gaze, we see that the Man dissolves into a mountain--the mountain of the Lord which shall be established in the top of the mountains in the last days. This mountain is full of peace and security. Once more, as if to express in a sentence the whole thought and hope of the prophet, we see the whole earth filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Interpreting this vision there are two truths that may well be dwelt upon.
I. THE CHIEF FACT ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST IS CHRIST HIMSELF, WHO MAKES HIS KINGDOM BY DWELLING IN THE HEARTS OF MEN.
II. HIS REIGN IS LIKE THE REIGN OF THE LITTLE CHILD IN THE MIDST OF THE ANIMALS THAT NATURALLY HATE AND DEVOUR ONE ANOTHER. It is a reign of childlikeness and innocence, the power of weakness and purity over brute force. (E. N. Packard.)
The kingdom of Christ in the world is only the presence of Christ in the world
The kingdom of Christ in the world is only the presence of Christ in the world, repeating His acts of mercy and love, uttering His eternal truths, scorching hypocrisy and error with the breath of His mouth, changing unruly wills ever into docile ones, cleansing and making glad everything everywhere. There is no reign of Christ of which we can form any idea but this. When men are holy, through His indwelling among them, that is Christ’s reign. Let us forget the scenic and dramatic elements in millennial glories and simply think of the kingdom as being the presence of the King. Here we see the difference between His reign and that of any earthly monarch who can transmit his power to his son and he to his posterity, and so, with precedent and law and tradition, there may be some approach to security and peace Frederick the Great dies, but his empire goes on and holds him in memory. But Christ has no successors, and there is no royal family save that which is made from all who are named after His name. Christ must be as truly among men at one age as another, and where He is not a living and controlling presence there is nothing but a name. What we call Christianity--the sum total of the influences that emanate from Christ and touch the complex life of man--has no inherent vitality of its own. It cannot abide upon traditions of One who founded it ages ago. Christ’s perpetual presence alone makes Christianity possible. The same is true of the Church. (E. N. Packard.)
I. THE PERSON.
II. THE CHARACTER.
III. THE KINGDOM of Messiah. (D. Brown, D. D.)
The stem from the rod of Jesse
That this refers to the Lord Jesus is undoubted.
I. HIS DESCENT. Three ideas seem to be involved.
1. Meanness or obscurity.
2. Progression. How decayed soever the tree might appear, yet a Branch was to shoot and grow up out of its roots. For a time, the growth was far from being rapid, but at length it appeared as a Plant of everlasting renown, a Secret and mysterious operation. The metaphor is taken from vegetation, that process of the wonder-working God which none can explain, yet the existence of which none can dispute.
II. HIS PERSONAL AND OFFICIAL ENDOWMENTS.
1. Their nature (Isaiah 11:2). They were--
(1) Diversified in their character.
(2) Unlimited in their range. The Spirit was imparted to Him without measure.
(3) Continuous in their possession. “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him.”
2. The purposes for which them endowments were conferred.
(1) That He might discriminate the characters of men. “And shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord,” etc.
(2) To defend the cause of the oppressed. “But with righteousness shall He judge the poor,” etc.
(3) To punish the workers of iniquity. “And He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth,” etc.
III. THE BLESSED STATE OF THINGS WHICH WILL BE REALISED UNDER HIS ADMINISTRATION. We dare not lose eight of the truth, that He is mighty to destroy; but how encouraging is it to remember, that He who speaks and acts in righteousness is also mighty to save. And the concluding portion of this prophecy shows in how signal a manner His saving power will be exerted.
1. The condition described. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,” etc. We have here two leading ideas.
(1) Peace and harmony.
2. In order thereto the most marvellous transformations will be effected.
3. The means of this transformation will be the universal diffusion of Divine knowledge (Isaiah 11:9).
1. Let us pray that the Redeemer’s kingdom may come.
2. To us, personally, the great thing is to possess the knowledge of the Lord ourselves. (Anon.)
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him
The Spirit of the Lord
חריס is the Divine Spirit as the bearer of the whole fulness Divine powers.
Then follow in three pairs the six spirits comprehended by הרוה, the first pair of which relate to the intellectual life, the second to the practical life, and the third to the direct relationship to God. (F. Delitzsch.)
The Spirit of God
The Spirit of God is absolutely the heart of all; it corresponds to the shaft of the seven-flamed candlestick, and the three pairs to the arms that stretched out from it. (F. Delitzsch.)
The great Preacher
Here it is distinctly prophesied that our Saviour, when He should come into the world, would be peculiarly endowed by the Holy Spirit, with wisdom, discernment, and might in speech, such as should make Him a remarkable preacher.
I. WHAT A CONSUMMATE MASTER JESUS WAS OF REAL ELOQUENCE. Of course I do not refer to the petty arts and studied rules of the professional orator and actor. He needed none of these to aid Him; He was infinitely above them all. His whole demeanour was perfectly simple and natural, though earnest, discriminating, and impressive, as the pure love and complete appreciation of truth could make one. Aside from earnestness and naturalness, His great power of eloquence consisted--
1. In the clearness and completeness of His views.
2. In His perfect command, through language, of all the powers and passions of the human soul
II. HOW PLAINLY AND FORCIBLY OUR SAVIOUR PREACHED THE GREAT DOCTRINES OR FUNDAMENTAL FACTS OF THE GOSPEL SYSTEM.
III. THE PECULIAR MANNER AND AMAZING POWER OF THE SAVIOUR’S PREACHING. (E. P. Marvin.)
The Spirit of Whitsuntide
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. Let us consider what that Spirit is.
1. He is the Spirit of love. God is love; and He is the Spirit of God.
2. He is the Spirit of wisdom. Now, is the spirit of wisdom the same as the spirit of love?
(1) Sound theology, which is the highest reason, tells us that it must be so. To suppose that God’s wisdom and God’s love, or that God’s justice and God’s love, are different from each other, or limit each other, or oppose each other, or are anything but one and the same eternally, is to divide God’s substance; to deny that God is one.
(2) But more; 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 only way is to be loving and charitable. The experience of the apostles proves it. They had the most enormous practical success that men ever had. They, twelve poor men, set out to convert mankind by loving them: and they succeeded. Remember, moreover, that the text speaks of this Spirit of the Lord being given to One who was to be a King, a Ruler, a Guide, and a Judge of men; who was to exercise influence over men for their good. This prophecy was fulfilled first in the King of kings, our Lord Jesus Christ: but it was fulfilled also in His apostles, who were, in their own way and measure, kings of men, exercising a vast influence over them. And how? By the royal Spirit of love. Our own experience will be the same as the apostles’ experience. 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.
3. Next, this royal Spirit is described as the “spirit of counsel and might,” i.e., 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. My experience is this: that whensoever in my past life I have been angry and scornful, I have said or done an unwise thing, I have more or less injured my own cause; weakened my own influence on my fellow men; repelled them instead of attracting them.
4. And next: this Spirit is “the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.” They both begin and end in love.
(1) If you wish for knowledge, you must begin by loving knowledge for its own sake. And the more knowledge you gain, the more you will long to know. And if this be true of things earthly and temporary, how much more of things heavenly and eternal? We must begin by loving whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, honest, and of good report. We must begin by loving them with a sort of child’s love, without understanding them. But as we go on, as St. Paul bids us, to meditate on them; and “if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, to think on such things,” and feed our minds daily with purifying, elevating, sobering, humanising, enlightening thoughts: then we shall get to love goodness with “a reasonable and manly love,” to see the beauty of holiness; the strength of self-sacrifice; the glory of justice; the divineness of love; and in a word--to love God for His own sake, and to give Him thanks for His great glory, which is: that He is a good God.
(2) This Spirit is also the “spirit of the fear of the Lord.” That, too, must be a spirit of love not only to God, but to our fellow creatures. For if we but consider that God the Father loves all; that His mercy is over all His works; and that He hateth nothing that He has made: then, how dare we hate anything that He has made, as long as we have any rational fear of Him, awe and respect for Him, true faith in His infinite majesty and power? If we but consider that God the Son actually came down on earth to die, and to die, too, on the Cross, for all mankind: then, how dare we hate a human being for whom He died! (C. Kingsley, M. A.)
Gifts of the Spirit from Christ to His Church
It was as Head of His Church that the Spirit was shed forth upon Him, and from Him descends upon His members. If we would, then, know what are the graces we are to expect of this kind, we must inquire what our Lord received.
I. THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT UPON CHRIST, FITTING HIM FOR HIS MEDIATORIAL OFFICE. Three several branches of grace seem intended: wisdom, might, intelligent devotion to God’s Word.
II. HOW THE GRACES OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE FLOW FROM CHRIST TO HIS PEOPLE.
1. They first descended on the apostles when, assembled at Jerusalem, they waited for the promise of the Father.
2. These gifts were not confined to the apostles. Multitudes, through their preaching, were turned from the idolatry of the Gentiles or the superstition of the Jews to serve the living God; and on them, too, the Spirit was bestowed.
3. Neither are these rich streams exhausted. The Saviour still bestows with liberal hand the spiritual influences we need. (J. Ayre, M. A.)
The Spirit of the Lord has always been in human history
It accounts for all heroisms, noble darings, self-sacrifices, for all labours meant, not for the blessedness of the labourer himself, but for the gratification and progress of other ages. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Spiritual endowments for earthly rulers
Modern expositors have often restricted this gracious description of royal enrichment to the ideal King of Israel, the coming Messiah. This application is, no doubt, its ultimate designation, but there is more than sufficient evidence to warrant the discrimination of mediaeval teachers, who boldly selected this heroic passage concerning the seven Spirits of God as a perfect epitome of the gifts that might be rightly claimed for those, and by those, who are Divinely called to wear an earthly crown, and to rule in temporal affairs. Dean Plumptre has suggested that these verses may well represent the programme which Isaiah himself set before his pupil, Hezekiah, on his accession to the throne, which his weak predecessor had suffered to degenerate into a vantage ground for abuse of justice and laxity of morals such as had deteriorated the faith and moral fibre of his people. And, as Dr. George Adam Smith points out, in the theology, art, and worship of the Middle Ages, this text was constantly and consistently associated with the assumption of royal responsibilities, and with the judicial administration of magistrates. It was known as “the mirror for magistrates,” and was commonly employed at the coronation of kings and the fencing of tribunals of justice. “What Isaiah wrote for Hezekiah of Judah became the official prayer, song or ensample of the earliest Christian kings in Europe. It is evidently the model of that royal hymn--not by Charlemagne, as is usually supposed, but by his grandson, Charles the Bald--the Veni Creator Spiritus.” So deeply did this sense of the need and privilege of the gifts of the Spirit for the ruling class pervade the life of the times that Henry III’s order of knighthood, “Du Saint Esprit,” was restricted to political men, and particularly to magistrates. (F. Platt, B. D.)
We may, there fore, claim abundant precedent in using the text to correct two perilous tendencies in the national and religious thought of our own day--one brought about by a mistake made by men of the world in the affairs of State, and the other the result of a misapprehension by men of God in the affairs of the Spirit.
1. The first tendency, which is to depreciate the operation of the Spirit of God in civic life and duty, may be illustrated by a simple fact. In the Speech from the throne, at the opening of Queen Victoria’s last Parliament, the customary reference at the close to the blessing of Almighty God upon the labours of her faithful Commons was omitted. It was afterwards explained by a responsible Minister of the Crown that the omission was accidental, but the omission marks nevertheless a tendency. The recognition of the Divine in political life has become formal. Its symbols linger, but it is assumed that thoughtful men smile at them and lay the burthen of their survival upon the substantial emoluments of office, or upon the popular love of the spectacular symbols of dignity. In depreciating the “Divine right” of kings, have we diminished the assurance, “By Me kings reign and princes decree justice”? Do the splendours of a coronation impress us more than its solemnities! Does the sense of widening empire attract us more than a growing sensitiveness to the supremacy of spiritual obligation! Are we more responsive in national movements to the solicitations of sensual excitement than to the inward suggestions of the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord! It was in the midst of social and political conditions strangely analogous to our own that Isaiah set forth his inspired conception of the spiritual qualifications of true kingship amongst men.
2. Between the tendency to depreciate the place of the Divine in national life, and the further tendency in religious thought to limit the sphere of the activities of the Spirit of God unduly to what are termed spiritual as opposed to temporal affairs, there is an inner correspondence that is very significant. There is a mode, popular amongst the religious, of speaking of the work of the Spirit of God as “supernatural,” and as thus excluding processes known as natural or rational, that is distinctly perilous. This distinction implies that we may feel and know the presence of the Spirit of God at the Keswick Convention, but fails to expect His influence in the Convention at Bloemfontein. It asserts His inspiration in Holy Scripture, but has no sure place for His control or suggestion in the leading articles of the “secular” press. His gifts may be possessed by the “spiritually minded,” but the man immersed in political affairs thinks and toils in quite another sphere. His presence is invoked at the councils of the Church, but at the councils of industry it is regarded as a negligible quality. In the problems of the soul His guidance as the Spirit of truth may be consciously expected, but in the problems of science men must follow the light of nature. It was against a similar conception in his time that Isaiah’s declaration of the Spirit’s seven-fold gifts was announced. Israel had made the fatal distinction between secular and sacred that is at the root of so much of our own disregard of God. We do not wonder that with national emergencies and necessities such as these pressing upon him, Isaiah reveals the source and strength of political sagacity and regal authority as dwelling with these august prerogatives of the Spirit of the Lord that are prevailingly intellectual, “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” They display a marvellous coordination of the intellectual and practical life with the sense of the direct relation of the life to God. They cannot be too closely studied and applied as the Divine provision for the governing and political mind, and the scientific temper of our own day. “‘Wisdom’ is the power of discerning the nature of things through the appearance; ‘understanding’ the power of discerning the difference of things in their appearance; ‘counsel’ is the gift of forming right conclusions, and might’ the ability to carry them through with energy. ‘The knowledge of the Lord’ is knowledge founded on the fellowship of love; and ‘the fear of the Lord’ is fear absorbed in reverence.” These are the hidden springs of the genius for statesmanship. The Spirit is the true historic glory of royalty, and the secret of citizenship in all abiding developments of popular liberties and imperial expansion; and to accept any statute of limitations in the opulence of His energies in national life is as fatal to permanence as to progress. (F. Platt, B. D.)
The Spirit of God in patriotism and judicial administration
True patriotism is an inspiring variation of the work of the Spirit of God. Judicial administration is a part of religious life and faith. “The Lord of hosts is for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.” (F. Platt, B. D.)
The hallowing of the secular life
Whilst we are heedful of the richer revelation of the grace of the Holy Spirit disclosed in the New Testament, the Old Testament interpretation of His gifts is of essential importance. This may be summed up generally as the hallowing of the secular life, the fertilising contact of the Spirit of God with matter and mind in their organisation in nature and in human society. Joseph as an administrator is recognised as His product--“a man in whom the Spirit of God is.” It was the equipment of Moses’ colleagues in the judicature, “God took of the Spirit which was upon him and gave it unto them.” Of Bezaleel and his weavers and craftsmen the record runs, “I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom and understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship to devise cunning work.” Samson’s might was the Spirit of the Lord, and “the Spirit of the Lord clothed itself with Gideon” for the prowess of his great military enterprise. The story of the coronation of Saul, Israel’s earliest king, is the progressive history of the movements and endowments of the Spirit of God. And time would fail to tell of David and the long line of kings whom the same Spirit anointed and established in government. (F. Platt, B. D.)
Christ is full of light
Going into a village at night, with the lights gleaming on each side of the street, in some houses they will be in the basement and nowhere else, and in others in the attic and nowhere else, and in others in some middle chamber; but in no house will every window gleam from top to bottom. So it is with men’s faculties. Most of them are in darkness. One shines here, and another there; but there is no man whose soul is luminous throughout. But Christ presented a perfect character. Every room in His soul was filled with light. He is light. (H. W. Beecher.)
And shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord
“Of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord”
“Of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord” a word which relates to the power of smell or scent; He is to have that keen sense which the hound has when the game is not far away, and yet is deeply hidden; He is to know wisdom and right and truth as the thirsty hart smells the water brooks; or, by another etymology, He is to draw His breath in the fear of the Lord; i.., the fear of the Lord is to be His native breath. Religion is to be no burden to Him, no superimposition which He must carry, whether He will or no; His religion is His breath, He will pray because He breathes, He will speak because He breathes; it is part of Himself, of His very nature; it belongs to a great system of voluntariness, which constantly and continually gives itself out for the benefit of those who are within the range of its influence. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Christ’s penetrating insight
This prediction was fully verified in our Lord Jesus Christ, who was of such quick discernment and acute understanding in the dispositions of the human heart, that He could infallibly determine with respect to men’s characters, of which some memorable instances are recorded in the New Testament. Such was His penetrating sagacity that, at first sight, He could easily discover a true Israelite in whom was the fear of the Lord, from those that were wicked, hypocritical or formal, and destitute of this internal qualification (John 1:47-48). He showed that He was perfectly acquainted with the character of the woman who was a sinner. According to this prophecy the Messiah, in admitting persons into His kingdom, was not to have respect to their external advantages, their descent or their riches, their reputation and condition in the world, or their exterior appearances of feigned piety; but to judge of them simply by their fear and reverence of the Lord, which forms the beauty of the inward man, and is inseparably connected with every other Divine grace and the exercises of dutiful obedience to God. (R. Macculloch.)
Christ and the fear of Jehovah
“Fear of Jehovah is fragrance to Him.” It is not meant that He has as regards Himself pleasure in fear of God, but that fear of God when He perceives it in men is fragrance to Him Genesis 8:21); for the fear of God is a sacrifice of adoration, continually ascending to God. (F. Delitzsch.)
Religion quickens the intelligence
1. Those are most truly and valuably intelligent that are so “in the fear of the Lord,” in the business of religion; for that is both the foundation and topstone of wisdom.
2. By this it will appear that we have the Spirit of God if we have spiritual senses exercised, and are “of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.” Those have Divine illumination that know their duty and know how to go about it.
3. Therefore Jesus Christ had the Spirit without measure, that He might perfectly understand His undertaking. (M. Henry.)
The fear of the Lord
The fear of the Lord may here denote the devout affection of reverence, which arises in the mind by means of the contemplation of the grandeur and dominion, the power and righteousness, with the other Divine excellences of Jehovah. It adores His greatness; it venerates His purity; it respects His omniscience; it does homage to His goodness; it stands in awe of His power; it honours His justice, and is solicitous to avoid His displeasure. It is such a profound reverence for God as is accompanied with love, and a becoming concern to yield an exact obedience to all His commands; it resembles the affection which a dutiful son discovers towards his esteemed parent, and faithful subjects entertain for a good prince. (R. Maccolloch.)
Effects of the fear of the Lord
When this principle reigns in the heart it produces the most powerful effects, and hath an extensive happy influence over all the purposes, affections, desires, and actions. It dispels the fear of man that bringeth a snare, and renders superior to all the threatenings and terrors of the world; it restrains from sin, and closely adheres to God and His ways; it renders cautious and circumspect, and proves the watchful guardian of the heart; it presides in every act of worship, and excites to the performance of every duty that may please the Lord. (R. Maccolloch.)
The relation of the fear of the Lord to other graces
This filial fear and reverence of Jehovah is the fruit of the Spirit; the offspring of faith, whereby it is cherished; the concomitant of love, which preserves it from degenerating into slavish dread; the companion of hope, which it keeps from falling into presumption, whilst hope preserves fear from sinking into despair; it qualifies joy and keeps it from levity, whilst joy shows that fear is genuine, and of the right kind. (R. Maccolloch.)
And He shall not Judge after the sight of His eyes
Christ’s impartial judgment
Impartial judgment and equitable reproof are foretold to be administered by Him. In the exercise of His penetrating judgment He was impartially to pronounce upon the characters of those who were to be admitted to participate in the privileges of His people, to determine according to the perfect rules of equity the differences that might arise among them respecting their conduct and interests, to defend them from the injuries to which they might be exposed, and to avenge the wrongs which they sustained. (R. Maccolloch.)
But with righteousness shall He judge the poor
The righteousness of Christ’s kingdom
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.., 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 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 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, 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. (J. H.Newman, D. D.)
And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins and faithfulness the girdle of His reins
The right girdle
We have the Saviour here represented in His RIGHTEOUSNESS. The Saviour was abstractedly, in and of and from Himself, righteous. But the righteousness here means the actual accomplishment of His mission. He saith of Himself. “Ought not Christ to suffer these things?” But He was not only righteous in His work, He was righteous on all sides. “Righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins”; go all round Him. That cannot be said of us except by faith. By faith we put on the girdle of righteousness. But personally we are compassed with infirmity. Not so the Saviour. He was tempted or tried, but never showed a weak part anywhere. Not only was He righteous, He was also strong.
II. We have the Saviour here represented in His FAITHFULNESS. By the “reins,” as Cruden well observes, the vital affections of the soul are meant. Did Christ’s vital affections ever give way? No! How faithful He was in love! (James Wells.)
Girdles of various kinds, made of valuable materials, were anciently worn by persons of high rank, which distinguished them from those of inferior station, by whom girdles of some sort were likewise worn. The girdles which the priests put on were made of gold, of blue, of purple, scarlet, and fine-twined linen. The military girdle was sometimes of considerable excellence and value, as is plainly intimated in what Joab said to the young man who informed him he had seen Absalom hanging in a tree (2 Samuel 18:11). (R. Macculloch.)
Righteousness and faithfulness
Righteousness and faithfulness, agreeably blended together, compose the girdle of the Messiah. These two amiable qualities cannot be separated, and serve mutually to illustrate each other; faithfulness is necessary to fulfil the promises of God, and righteousness is no less requisite to discern the characters of those to whom they ought to be fulfilled, in what measure, and in what time they should be accomplished. (R. Macculloch.)
1. As a girdle surrounds a man’s whole body, and is seen to advantage whithersoever he turn himself, so, in like manner, these two Divine excellences should every way appear most conspicuous in the Messiah’s administration of the affairs of His kingdom.
2. As the girdles which were anciently worn, served to fasten the loose and flowing garments that were then used and to strengthen the loins of those who were girt with them, so these glorious perfections complete the character of the King of Israel and give vigour to the honourable and successful exercise of regal authority.
3. As girdles served in ancient times for ornaments to the illustrious persons who put them on, so righteousness and faithfulness were eminently to adorn the personal conduct and public character of the Prince of Peace, the King of kings, and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11). (R. Macculloch.)
The trilogy of the prophetic figures of the Messiah
The trilogy of the prophetic figures of the Messiah as about to be born, as born, and as ruling--is now complete. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb
A portrait of humanity
THE MORAL VARIETIES OF THE RACE. Men are here represented by irrational creatures, differing immensely in their organisations, their habits, and their tempers--the “wolf,” the “lamb,” etc. The physical differences between men are great. The mental differences are also great. But the moral varieties are, perhaps, greater still. There are men everywhere about us as ferocious as the “lion,” as savage as the “bear,” as snarling as the “wolf,” as cunning as the “leopard,” as venomous as the “serpent,” as harmless as the “kid,” the “lamb,” or the “little child.”
II. THE GOSPEL REFORMATION OF THE RACE. These creatures are here represented as having passed through a wonderful change in their instincts and habits, and this change is ascribed to the advent and reign of Messiah. It is not a change in their physical constitution. The wolf, the leopard, the bear, the lion, and the serpent retain their constitutions intact, though they dwell with the kid, the lamb, and the little child. The change is in their temper--in their ruling instincts. Such is the change that the Gospel works in man. The change is simply in the temper--the heart. It does two things.
1. It extracts social antipathies.
2. It implants social sympathies. This is the only reformation that will meet the case.
III. THE SOCIAL HARMONY OF THE RACE. These creatures, once antagonistic, are here eating together, lying down together, playing together. All are wedded in spirit. Christianity is essentially pacific in its spirit, its teachings, its tendencies and results. (Homilist.)
The fruits of Christ’s kingdom
1. In every soul which shall come to heaven there must be a change.
2. The change is not of the substantial parts of the body, but of the corrupt qualities of the mind, or soul.
3. The change is made upon the Church of God in this world.
4. The change cometh from the grace of God, and floweth to us by Jesus Christ our Lord.
5. The means by which the change is wrought, namely, by the know ledge of the law, etc.
6. The marks of the change. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
The touchstone of regeneration
It is an eminent mark of regeneration to have the violence and fierceness of our cruel nature taken away. The signs of regeneration contained in our text are--
I. HARMLESSNESS. This, though it runs along the body of the text and is last mentioned, may be named first, for it is implied in all. How can a man say he is renewed unless in some sort he be like unto God in mercifulness? It is a prime quality in the wicked to do mischief; it is a property of God’s child to be harmless. There are two signs of this sign.
1. If we would not do evil, though we might do it unseen of any creature: as when a little child shall lay his hand on the cockatrice’s den, the serpent might sting, and yet, unseen of any, pull in the head again.
2. Though we have provocation, we will abstain from doing evil. The little child plays on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child lays his hand upon the cockatrice’s den. Is not here provocation? “Bless them that curse you,” etc.
II. SOCIABLENESS. With whom is it that this society holdeth? Not of wild beasts with wild beasts; but there is implied here not only a simple society, as among wild beasts, but a sociableness, as it were, among those of another generation. Naturally all of us have been lions, bears, and wolves, and unsociable haters of goodness in others. This sociableness with those former servants of God, who have been called thus, is a very sure mark of this change in us (1 John 3:14).
1. No man can love a saint, as a saint, but a saint. A true trial of sociableness is when men will joy to sort themselves with those with whom formerly they have been most unsociable, and whose company they have most loathed.
2. A second sign of this sign is, to love every brother, yea, though it were to lay down our life for a brother.
III. CONSTANCY. How is this implied! By dwelling and lying together. You shall have many companions go with a man for fashion’s sake to the church, and yet leave going ere it be long. You shall have some men sick, and then like a serpent frozen in winter, which casts his skin, you shall have them cast their skin a little; that is, send for s preacher, make confession of their sins, saying, “Oh! if God will spare me, I will become a new man.” But when he is well, within a month after, you will find him not with the lamb, but with the bears and the wolves.
IV. INWARDNESS. Their little ones--dear unto them, and of whom they are so jealous and tender--shall lie down together (Acts 4:32).
V. TRACTABLENESS. A little child shall lead them and rule them. It is a true sign of grace when we become easy to be ruled, and brought in compass (Job 31:13).
VI. SIMPLICITY. “The lion shall eat straw like the ox.” Cain was bloody, and fed upon blood; therefore, as it is (John 4:32) when a man is come thus far, that he hath meat which one seeth not. Uses--
1. For consolation. Look which religion makes a man most mild, and tames his fierce nature--there is the Church. If we be fierce and savage, let us not deceive ourselves; we are not come to the mountain of which it is said, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain.”
2. For exhortation. There is yet a little of the lion and the bear remaining in every one of us--our tree yet bears, on one side of it, crabs. See what minds we must have if we look for a habitation in God’s holy mountain. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
The splendour and amplitude of Christ’s kingdom
I. THE MEANING OF THIS PROPHECY. What is meant by the wolf, the leopard, and the rest of the creatures here mentioned? Christ shall come to make the world so happy, that princes and people, the mighty and the meaner sort; the violent, and they that have no power, or no will to resist; the soldier, and the peaceable countryman; the waspish people, and they that are of a sweet disposition, shall all be brought under the same discipline, and submit to the same laws; not to hurt or molest one another, but to promote the common good of the whole body to which they belong.
II. THE TRUTH OF IT; or, that it was exactly fulfilled in our Lord and Saviour.
1. It was the apparent design of our Saviour’s coming to make such a happy accord among men.
2. The nature of His religion is such as is apt to produce this effect which He designed. This will be evident to everyone’s satisfaction who will seriously weigh these three things.
(1) The principles of His religion, together with the ways and means whereby these principles were established in men’s minds. He taught them that there is but one God, the disbelief of which had set the world at such enmities one with another as they confessed was among the deities. He revealed Him as His and their Father, full of kindness and goodwill to all His children; which St. Paul thought a bond so strong and a motive so efficacious that it concludes the great heap of arguments whereby he persuades Christians to unity of the spirit and peace (Ephesians 4:6). They are taught to worship this one God, by one Mediator alone. He sent His apostles to baptize all nations into one simple faith (Ephesians 4:5). The world was to be governed and judged by one common law, and that not the law of Moses, but the plain rules of righteousness, sobriety and godliness. (Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 2:19). All, both Jews and Gentiles, were indifferently endued with one and the same Spirit.
(2) The precepts of His religion. Exact justice (Matthew 7:12). Mercy. Meekness and patience. To bless our enemies and do them good, which hath a strange power in it to charm and conquer even the most fierce and barbarous natures. He would have us contented with such things as we have: which evidently destroys that envy, emulation, and ambition, from whence no small stirs and confusions arise in the world. In questions about matters of liberty, He charges those that are satisfied, not to despise such as are not; and those that are not satisfied, not to judge those that are Romans 14:3). In all manner of differences which are apt to arise among us, He would have “the peace of God rule in our hearts,” so that having this umpire there, we should rest in the determination of what will make most for peace. He instructs likewise our behaviour in our several relations, teaching husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, pastors and people, to demean themselves so to their mutual satisfaction, as to take away the cause of all discord, not only in families and parishes, but in the larger societies of Church and State. The root and foundation of all these our Lord hath laid in much humility and charity.
(3) The obligations He laid upon men to receive these principles and observe these precepts. His doctrine excels that of the best philosophers, who taught many excellent lessons, but could not enforce them with such an assured hope of immortal life or fear of eternal death as our Saviour and His apostles have done.
3. This effect was actually produced in those that heartily embraced His religion (Acts 4:32; 2 Corinthians 8:3-4). It is to be hoped that the time is coming when Christianity will end, as it began, in abundance of truth and peace, by a right understanding of the will of God and a hearty submission thereto. Let every soul of us do his part that the place where he lives may be in peace--princes and governors, ministers of the Gospel, etc. (S. Patrick, D. D.)
A picture of what the world is to be
It is not a photograph. The poet never photographs, he pictures. And this poet is no exception. He does not wish us to believe that wolves and lambs will one day be friends, and that what Burns calls “Nature’s social union” is to be realised by the transfiguration of a lion into a domestic pet or into a beast of the stall. He is not photographing, but picturing a scene which never was and never shall be, in order to represent a splendid spiritual and social reality which must be--the reign amongst men of perfect union and peace on earth. You can see how true this is when you turn over to another picture by this same prophet artist intended to illustrate the same theme. There the wilderness is to be glad, the desert is to blossom as the rose and rejoice, the lame man is to leap as the hart, the highway usually infested by lions and beasts of prey is to be safe as a strong tower, for the obvious reason “no lion shall be there.” Plainly the prophet is not photographing, but picturing. (R. J. Kyd.)
“Nature’s social union”: a picture of heaven upon earth
I. We have A PICTURE OF THE INNER SPIRITUAL UNION AND PEACE WHICH GOD IS CREATING IN EVERY MAN’S BOSOM. In man all animalism sums itself up in subtlest composition; but there is a Divine element also in his bosom represented by a little child, an elemental force which is placed there to reign over fierce passions and carnal lusts, a force which is destined to be master. Paul gives us insight into this subject. He recognises in man’s composite nature the wolf and the lamb, the lion and the child. The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. The word “flesh” is Paul’s term for that nature in us which loves self and self only, a nature which is characteristic of the whole animal world. The term “spirit” is a term for that Divine nature in us which loves and cares for others and takes little or no thought of self. As things are, these two natures are at variance more or less in us all. But there should be no war in our bosom. Peace is the ideal state. Love of self and love of others should not clash, but cooperate as they do in the maternal breast. Self-love must not hurt the spirit, the conscience, the finer and higher feelings of charity. This harmony pictured by Isaiah and ethically set forth by Paul is the heaven which has begun to be in our bosom, but only begun. The Child-heart must reign. He who has begun the good work in us will carry it on until the day of Christ.
II. We have A PICTURE OF MAN’S SOCIAL UNION. His social union is the result of inner spiritual union. When a man is constantly quarrelling with himself, his conscience taunting his cupidity and selfishness, and the child in him leading him to toil and self-sacrifice whilst the animal in him demands ease and pleasure, this picture of union and brotherhood is not possible of realisation. The first thing to be done if we would realise it is to get each man’s bosom put right. The wolves of society, the serpents, the land sharks, the men who devour widows’ houses, the foxes or Herods who are ever looking after Number One, the hypocrite with the slimy lie on his lip whilst the crocodile tear is in his eye, will all be changed into men of honour and kindness, men of purity and righteousness. Social quarrels will end. The labour and capital problem will be solved, and capital and labour will dwell together, like Isaiah’s wolf and lamb, in peace. The poor and the weak will not be driven to the wall. Even the innocent child will be safe in the dark. The policeman’s footstep will cease to be heard in the land, and the soldier will beat his sword into a ploughshare. Blessed outlook!
III. THIS PICTURE IS TO BE REALISED BY THE CHRIST THAT WAS AND IS TO BE. From the power Christ has shown in transfiguring men and raising the tone of society to what it is, we are persuaded that He will succeed in accomplishing His Herculean labour of turning earth into heaven. Surely He must be Divine who proposes to undertake such a work! Let us look at the Divine Man who is able to accomplish what seems to us to be impossible. He has a child-heart in Him. “He is,” says Isaiah, “a Rod out of the stem of Jesse. On Him rests the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding.” The Good Shepherd’s music which brings about the peace of God in our bosom is at first a summons to war. It is a call to the child in us to awake and lead into a glorious captivity the lower animal nature which ever lusts to be first. It is a call to the higher in us to hold in check the lower and bring it by confidence and obedience into union and cooperation. We are summoned to accept the blessed task of being peacemakers in our own breasts, and peacemaking there must begin by a proclamation of war. Strange work for a child! Impossible work! do you affirm? God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” It is God’s way by “things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.” (R. J. Kyd.)
The wild beasts
We, who live in countries from which wild beasts have been exterminated, cannot understand the insecurity and terror that they cause in regions where they abound. A modern seer of the times of regeneration would leave the wild animals out of his vision. They do not impress any more the human conscience or imagination. But they once did so most terribly. The hostility between man and the beasts not only formed once upon a time the chief material obstacle in the progress of the race, but remains still to the religious thinker the most pathetic portion of that groaning and travailing of all creation which is so heavy a burden on his heart. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Not exterminated, but tamed
Isaiah would not have the wild beasts exterminated, but tamed. There our Western and modern imagination may fail to follow him, especially when he includes reptiles in the regeneration, and prophesies of adders and lizards as the playthings of children. But surely there is no genial man, who has watched the various forms of life that sport in the Southern sunshine, who will not sympathise with the prophet in his joyous vision. Upon a warm spring day in Palestine, to sit upon the grass, beside some old dyke or ruin with its face to the South, is indeed to obtain a rapturous view of the wealth of life with which the bountiful God has blessed and made merry man’s dwelling place. How the lizards come and go among the grey stones and flash like jewels in the dust! And the timid snake rippling quickly past through the grass, and the leisurely tortoise, with its shiny back, and the chameleon, shivering into new colour as he passes from twig to stone, and stone to straw,--all the air the while alive with the music of the cricket and the bee! You feel that the ideal is not to destroy these pretty things as vermin. What a loss of colour the lizards alone would imply! But, as Isaiah declares,--whom we may imagine walking with his children up the steep vineyard paths, to watch the creatures come and go upon the dry dykes on either hand,--the ideal is to bring them into sympathy with ourselves, make pets of them and playthings for children, who indeed stretch out their hands in joy to the pretty toys. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
The mystery of the brute creation
What are these animals? Who made them? Who can explain them? Who knows their future? This is a gracious mystery at all events, and may be accepted as a fact--that when man is right with God, the animals will be right with man; when man is right with God, the earth will be right with man, and will feel as if she could not do enough for him in growing him all the bread he wants, and then giving him more than he needs. “Let the people praise Thee, O God; let all the people praise Thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
The redemption of nature
It is one of those errors, which distort both the poetry and truth of the Bible, to suppose that by the bears, lions, and reptiles which the prophet now sees tamed in the time of the regeneration, he intends the violent human characters which he so often attacks. When Isaiah here talks of the beasts, he means the beasts. The passage is not allegorical, but direct, and forms a parallel to the well-known passage in the eighth of Romans. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
The legend of St. Blaise
The legend of St. Blaise is of Greek origin. He was bishop over the Christian Church at Sebaste in Cappadocia, and governed his flock for many years with great vigilance, till the persecution under Diocletian, A.D. 289, obliged him to fly; and he took refuge in a mountain cave at some distance from the city. This mountain was the haunt of wild beasts (bears, lions, and tigers); but these animals were so completely subdued by the gentleness and piety of the good old man, that, far from doing him any harm, they came every morning to ask his blessing. If they found him kneeling at his devotions, they waited duteously till he had finished, and, having received the accustomed benediction, they retired. Now, in the city of Sebaste, and in the whole province, so many Christians were put to death, that there began to be a scarcity of wild beasts for the amphitheatres. And Agricolaus, the governor, sent his hunters into the mountains to collect as many lions, tigers, and bears as possible; and it happened that these hunters, arriving one day before the mouth of the cave in which St. Blaise had taken refuge, found him seated in front of it, and surrounded by a variety of animals of different species. The lion and the lamb, the hind and the leopard, seemed to have put off their nature, and were standing amicably together, as though there had been everlasting peace between them; and some he blessed with holy words, knowing that God careth for all things that He has made; and to others that were sick or wounded he ministered gently; and others he reprehended because of their rapacity and gluttony. And, when the hunters beheld this, they were like men in a dream: they stood astonished, thinking they had found some enchanter. And they seized him, and carried him before the governor; and, as they went, the good bishop returned thanks to God, and rejoiced greatly, that, at length, he had been found worthy to die for the cause of Christ. (Mrs. Jameson.)
Man to blame for the wildness of the beasts
We may take on scientific authority a few facts as hints from nature, that after all man is to blame for the wildness of the beasts, and that through his sanctification they may be restored to sympathy with himself. Charles Darwin says: “It deserves notice that at an extremely ancient period when man first entered any country the animals living there would have felt no instinctive or inherited fear of him, and would consequently have been tamed far more easily than at present.” And he gives some very instructive facts in proof of this with regard to dogs, antelopes, manatees, and hawks. “Quadrupeds and birds which have seldom been disturbed by man dread him no more than do our English birds the cows or horses grazing in the fields.” Darwin’s details are peculiarly pathetic in their revelation of the brutes’ utter trustfulness in man before they get to know him. Persons who have had to do with individual animals of a species that has never been thoroughly tamed, are aware that the difficulty of training them lies in convincing them of our sincerity and good heartedness, and that when this is got over they will learn almost any trick or habit. The well-known lines of Burns to the field mouse gather up the cause of all this, in a fashion very similar to the Bible’s. (Prof. O. A. Smith, D. D.)
Man’s relation to the lower animals
The practical “uses” of such a passage of Scripture as this are plain. Some of them are the awful responsibility of man’s position as the keystone of creation, the material effects of sin, and especially the religiousness of our relation to the lower animals. (Prof. O. A. Smith, D. D.)
A little child shall lead them
The child to the front
The Bible, when it speaks as it does in these verses, always means something better than it says. Many things come to children much worse than being destroyed by a lion, or eaten by a wolf, or poisoned by a serpent’s fang, only, I am sorry to believe, neither children nor grown up people think them worse things, nor anything like so dreadful. Perhaps that is the most doleful evil of all. Had I not faith in God’s great wisdom, love, and justice, I should feel that for tens of millions of children in this world it would be infinitely better that they were never born; and that, being born, the next preferable event would be that they should die as soon after birth as possible, even though it were a hungry wolf that should slay them. They come into places more terrible than a wild beast’s lair or a cockatrice’s den. They come into places full of ignorance and iniquity, where they have no opportunity of growing up good, or even of knowing what good is. Now, this text says that in the good time coming all this shall be changed. The day is coming in our country when the child, because of his weakness and his wants, shall be the most cherished and cared for person either in the home, the Church, or the State.
I. From these words, then, we get the idea THAT AS THE WORLD GETS ON, AND MEN GROW WISER, TRUER, AND HOLIER, CHILDREN RISE IN THEIR REGARD. The care for children becomes exalted; it ceases to be a merely natural affection, and is intensified and purified into a moral and spiritual passion. The Bible teaches us that love of children is a note of moral culture, and all history shows that in the measure the claims of the little ones are lightly regarded the moral tone is low. There may be strength and courage for war, there may be art and philosophy, there may be an abundance of physical and intellectual display, but the higher morals--those that are the very graces of the soul, those which perfect men and go to the root of the world’s sins and sorrows--are exceedingly scarce.
II. These words teach us THAT CHILDREN ARE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THAT WHICH IS HIGHEST AND MOST DIVINE--that they can share the best and highest with the best and highest men. The philosophy of the highest good may be far beyond the reach of their reason, but the blessing of it may be realised by them and enjoyed. The sunshine is as warm and delightful to them without any theory of light and heat as with one.
III. Another word we have to speak is, THAT THEY WHO ARE WORKING FOR THE CHILDREN ARE ON THE LINES OF THE WORLD’S PROGRESS. The world follows the children--they are always in front. (W. Hubbard.)
Ministry of children
God’s ministers are varied. Children teach many lessons.
1. They purify--by their innocence, teachableness, and purity.
2. They elevate--appealing to our highest and best instincts.
3. They stir. They move us to better living, and stimulate our best qualities.
4. They instruct--e.g., Samuel and Eli.
5. They console--helping to take our minds off trouble.
6. They reconcile. A mother is cheerful for the sake of the children. A father is strengthened by his home life.
7. They gladden. Children are the poetry, flowers, and sunshine of life.
8. They soften and make tender,--for their helplessness appeals to us; the touch of a tiny hand thrills us with pity.
9. They lead Godward.
10. They are a powerful ministry for good.. (Seed for Busy Sowers.)
Led by a child
1. We have no right to sink an interval of many centuries between the verses of this brief prophecy, and to say that while one part of it was fulfilled at the Advent, the other will only be fulfilled in the still distant Millennium. We are rather bound to say: “If the Lord Jesus was the Branch that shot forth from Jesse’s root, and the Spirit of the Lord did really come upon Him that He might rule and reprove the people, then, from that moment, the wolf began to dwell with the lamb, the leopard to lie down with the kid, the lion with the calf; and the little Child went before them, leading them to the holy mountain in which they neither hurt nor destroy.” We need fix no date to these words. They are not for an age, but for all time, and for eternity too. They describe the universal reign of Christ. They tell us what the spirit, what the distinguishing characteristics, of that reign always have been and always will be.
2. The beast tamer is distinguished by a quick eye, a prompt punishing hand, a courage and self-possession that never falter; and how should we look for these features and qualities in a child? But may not a child have other qualities quite as potent, and even more potent? Is brute force the only force by which even brutes are ruled? Surely not. Baby lies on the rug with dog and eat. He is not so strong or lithe or quick as they are, or even as you are. Yet he takes liberties with them which you cannot take,--and remember, the cat is of one blood with the leopard, and the dog with the wolf. Nor are even wild beasts insensible to his claim and charm. Else what mean all those stories of helpless and abandoned children suckled, fed, guarded by wolves and bears and lions; or of children chosen by caged wild beasts, the more savage for their captivity, to be their playmates and companions? Many of these stories are quite true, and show what power a little child may have, a power beyond that of man.
3. But when the prophet tells us that in the kingdom of Christ, a little child leads the wolf and the leopard and the lion, as well as the lamb and the kid and the calf, he cannot simply mean that an innocent babe may have more power over the brutes than a grown man. He also meant, no doubt, that in proportion as Christ reigns on the earth the primal order will be restored; that men, reconciled to God and to each other, will also be at peace with all the forces of nature, will rule over them, and bend to their service even those of them which are the most fierce, lawless, hostile, and untameable, and thus regain all, and more than all, that Adam lost.
4. Has not the prediction been verified again and again, and that even on the lower levels of our life! Here, salt, is a bad man,--brutal, fierce, ungoverned and ungovernable. God sends him a little child. And the rough man and the abandoned woman, as they lean over it, are touched, softened, purified. God leads almost all men by their children, leads them to the “holy mountain,” i.e., to higher levels of life where they breathe a purer air and gain a wider outlook. He sends the “little child,” and forthwith even the hard and selfish grow tender and unselfish, at least in some of their aims. They will follow him even to the house and worship of God--for many a man repairs to the house of God for his children’s sake who would not come for his own,--and find themselves in “the holy mountain” or ever they are aware.
5. So that when God sent the Holy Child Jesus to lead men into the kingdom of heaven, He took no new untried way with us, but a way long tried and approved. But, for us, the Lord Jesus is not the Holy Child only at Christmas, or only because He was once a babe in Mary’s arms. When He grew to be a man, He Himself took a child in His arms, and taught His disciples that to enter His kingdom they must become as little children, and that whosoever most fully possessed himself of the childlike spirit would be greatest in that kingdom. But to enter His kingdom is to begin to grow like Christ; and to become great in it is to grow as like Him as we can. To grow childlike is, therefore, to grow Christlike. But how can that be unless Christ Himself is like a little child?
6. “A little child shall lead them.” But does he not lead them already? When the little ones come to them, who is it for whom they think, and work, and plan? Who is it that determines the amount of their toil, and even the kind of amusements in which they indulge, and often determines also the very aims and methods of their lives?
7. “A little child shall lead them.” These words refer to the future as well as to the past and the present. There is a promise in them even for us who are in the kingdom of the Holy Child. And the promise is that as the kingdom of God comes we shall be more and more animated by the child spirit which was and is the Spirit of Christ Himself. (S. Cox, D. D.)
What is the child spirit?
But what is this blessing, and why is it so great? Consider how fearless a child is, so that it can play and take liberties with many a fierce creature whose talons or teeth keep you at a respectful distance. Consider how innocent a child is as compared with you, and what you would give to be equally clear of stinging memories and impure desires. Consider how friendly a little child is, responding with smiles and caresses to every genuine and tender advance. Consider how cheerful it is, with how little it is pleased; how unworldly, making no distinction between beggar and prince, loving its poor nurse better than the fine lady in all her bravery. Consider how free from care a child is, because it trusts in a wisdom, an ability, a goodness beyond its own retaking no thought for what it shall eat or drink or wherewithal it shall be clothed. Consider, too, how lordly a child is. Hardly anything strikes one in little children so much as their calm assumption that all the world was made for them, and that all the men and women in it have nothing else, or nothing else so important, to do as to wait on their will and minister to their whims. (S. Cox, D. D.)
I. The text suggests some thoughts about the GENTLENESS AND HUMILITY OF HIM WHO CAME TO US AS A CHILD. Never was a child born into this world in humbler fashion than the Child who came to redeem it. Fit prelude to that strange, solemn, sorrowful, yet infinitely beautiful life! Surely, If humility depends at all on outward circumstances, this “little Child” was humble indeed. But the inward spirit was in perfect keeping with the outward circumstances. The little Child was never lost in the Man.
II. WAS THIS PROPHECY NOT FULFILLED IN MANY WAYS BY THE CHILD OF BETHLEHEM? He led the herald angels from their highest ministrations in the realms of glory down to the plains of Bethlehem. He led the star that travelled ever westwards until it “came and stood over where the young Child was.” He led the sages who came with their typical offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. He led the aged prophet, who, in the temple of Jerusalem, caught up the young Child from His mother’s arms, and burst into that glad Dismission Hymn which has become incorporated with the liturgies of the Christian Church. Think what marvellous leading is here!
III. DOES NOT THE PROPHECY STILL RECEIVE DAILY FULFILMENT in the history and experience of the world? What is it that brings and binds men to Christ? Is it the Divinity of His person, the glory of His miracles, the thunder of His power, the attraction of heaven, the terrors of hell? Ask a missionary who has laboured for many years among the heathen what has been the element in the Gospel which has drawn men away from their idols to Christ. He will tell you that it was not the Divine power, but the human tenderness that won their hearts. Stern warriors become gentle in His presence. This is He for whom the world has been waiting, and before whom it will bow.
IV. Perhaps YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE will help you to understand the prophet’s words. Think of your own personal relation to Christ. What was it that first drew you to Him, and now keeps you in His track? It was the gentleness and beauty of His character--the “little Child” that is forever enshrined in the person of Christ. Or look around you, and see the marvellous power of child leading in the familiar experience of life.
V. It may be that the words will touch for some of us THE SPRING THAT UNLOCKS SECRET AND VERY SACRED MEMORIES. We said, with the stricken parent of old, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” But are we very sure of this? Are the mysteries of life and death so clear to us, that we’ dare not think of child ministers and child leadings continued in spite of death?
VI. “A little child shall lead them.” The words may have yet ANOTHER FULFILMENT, IN “THE LAND THAT IS VERY FAR OFF.” “Of such is the kingdom of heaven,” the Saviour said, as He took the children in His arms. Perhaps when our children sing, “Little children shall he there,” they touch a truth which their elders are too slow to believe. It may be among the child ministries of heaven to give the first greetings to those who received them in the helplessness of their earthly infancy; and many a weeper may begin to gather “the far-off interest of tears,” when “a little child shall lead them” through the forum of the elders to the throne of the King. (J. C. Cameron.)
The power of the children
I. I am going to show you THE POWER OF THE CHILDREN. Again and again great changes have been brought about, history has been made, gown up people have worked and have suffered because of this strange power of the children. If children have power they can use it.
II. THE GOOD THINGS CHILDREN CAN DO. (E. Medley, B. A.)
The child not to rule but to lead
I don’t think it is good for children to rule, but I do think it very good for children to lead. (E. Medley, B. A.)
A little child may disarm anger
A missionary on the great River Congo had pushed up on a little steamer into a part where no white man had ever been before. The anchor was let down, and the steamer brought to. Food was needed for the men, and firewood for the engines. The natives came crowding down to the bank to look at this wonderful boat; they were armed with arrows, and big, ugly spears. The missionary tried to talk to them, and made signs of peace. But nothing that he could do seemed to touch them; it was plain that they were partly angry, partly suspicious, and partly afraid, and when savages are in that state they are very dangerous. What was to be done? A happy thought flashed across the missionary. He had his wife and a dear little baby on board; he got the baby, took it up in his arms, and showed it to the people. Now the baby was a really sensible baby, it seemed to understand the situation, and instead of crying, or pretending to be shy, it laughed and crowed as merrily as could be, and when the poor savages saw the baby they felt themselves safe; they understood in a moment that no harm was meant, and so they laid down their arms, and became quite friendly. Even in Africa we can say--a little child shall lead them. (E. Medley, B. A.)
A mother led to Christ by her child
Some years ago, a good woman came to a minister, wanting to join the Church, and confess herself a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. She was asked how it was that she had come to think of Him, for she had lived a rough, bad life. “Oh,” said she, “it was in this way: I didn’t care for good things, I had to slave all day long, I was too busy and too hard hearted and too miserable to care for such things at all. But my little girl, she goes to the Sunday school, and when she comes home she just singe some of the hymns she has learnt--not to me, for I never asked her, but to herself. But I couldn’t help hearing, and one of them went to my heart; do what I would, I couldn’t forget it, until I began to ask myself whether It too, could not sing--
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
Come unto Me and rest.
I did hear Him, and though I am very dark still, I do love Him.” A little child shall lead them; so it is. (E. Medley, B. A.)
Little Lord Fauntleroy
Some of you may have read a very beautiful children’s story called Little Lord Fauntleroy. The pith of it is just this: A noble, open hearted boy is thrown into the company of his grandfather, a proud, hard hearted, selfish, old nobleman, who knows as well as those about him do, what a mean, cynical old tyrant he has been. The earl is thoroughly miserable, only he is too proud to own it. But the lad, who has been brought up in pure and holy ways, insists on thinking well of the old man, attributing to him all sorts of good deeds. In the honest simplicity of his little heart he believes his grandfather to be a very fine man, and says that when he grows up he means to be like him. The trustful love of the boy touches his grandfather’s stony heart just as opening spring sunshine touches the winter ice, and it begins to melt; without knowing it the little fellow leads the old man in good ways, and he is won. As to the boy, he is still the merry-hearted fellow he was, not in the least priggish, or goody goody, or conceited, but he has done a work that shall never die. (E. Medley, B. A.)
A child’s voice settling a great question
Many years since the see of Milan was vacant, and the position was eagerly sought by two parties who disputed the election with strong and bitter feelings. The prefect of the town, who was a celebrated young lawyer, was called in to quell disorder and settle the dispute. In very earnest and affectionate strains he addressed the excited assembly. But, during one of the momentary pauses in his speech, a child’s voice was heard exclaiming, “Let Ambrose be our bishop!” That tender utterance was accepted like a Divine instruction; the youthful lawyer was forthwith chosen to the occupancy of the episcopal chair, and became a useful servant of the Church. Thus a little child led the assembled electors and secured the ministry of St. Ambrose; St. Ambrose became the means of the conversion of St. Augustine, and St. Augustine by his writings still speaks to Christendom. (J. H. Hitchens, D. D.)
The children leading
A man commonly lives, if possible, nearer to the school to which he sends his children than to his own place of business. It is the children who commonly fix the hour at which he shall dine and often even what he shall have for his dinner, their health and convenience being consulted before his own. He often goes shabby that they may be well clothed, and sometimes hungry that they may be well fed. His very home is furnished with an eye to them; and the new carpets or the costly furniture which he would like to have are postponed till the children are grown up, or the good piano which his wife would like till the children have got through their practising. Where shall the summer holiday be spent? is a question in which the children have the casting vote. How many a man, too, long after he has laid by enough for himself and his wife, and craves retirement and rest, goes labouring on, either that he may provide for children who cannot provide for themselves, or that he may leave them a little more money when he dies! And when the children grow up into young men and women, is it not they who lead the world as once they led their several households. The ruling and shaping spirit of the world changes with every generation. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Age and youth.
Are we, then, to discrown age, experience, authority, and enthrone youth, inexperience, and insolence? Are we to listen to whatever our children may say, and let them lead us where they will! By no means. That would be as injurious to them as to us. But we are to realise the fact that God is educating the race; guiding every generation, and conducting it to a point beyond that of the generation which preceded it. This reverence for youth as the new element, the progressive and advancing element, of the world, is, I believe, peculiar to Christianity, and even in some measure to the Christianity of the present day. (S. Cox, D. D.)
I heard the other day in the north of England of a large school where the older scholars came together and asked the superintendents that there should be no prizes and no Christmas trees and no ordinary gifts, but that the money should be given to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Fund. No one had put them up to it. What was the result? All round that district everybody rose up at once to a sense of their responsibility, and the gifts received there exceeded the gifts from other places. (Canon Wilberforce, D. D.)
A beautiful epitaph
In a certain grave yard a white stone that marks the grave of a little girl bears these words: “A child of whom her playmates said, ‘It was easier to be good when she was with us.’” Is not that a beautiful epitaph, little ones?
One instance wherein the prophet’s words were fulfilled in spirit, if not in letter, is reported in an American exchange; “‘My darling.’ These tender words were painted in large letters on the dashboard of a big truck in the street. The thoroughfare was jammed with vehicles and drivers were filling the air with profanity. But the driver of this particular truck sat silent and motionless. No word of his offended the ears of the patient: plodding beast over which he held the reins. During the din of curses a curious man stepped forward and inquired: ‘You seem to take things very easy in this blockade.’ ‘Yes, mister; I’m used to ‘em,’ was the laconic reply. ‘Besides,’ he added, ‘it don’t help a bit to swear.’ ‘I notice that you have a name for your truck.’ ‘Yes,’ and the stoical man’s face brightened and assumed an expression born of a tender heart ‘“My darling” was my dear little daughter. She’s dead now. Just before she died--but you don’t care to hear any part of this -’ ‘Indeed, I do,’ interrupted the listener. ‘Well, you see it was this way: Nellie, my darling, took sick, and we couldn’t save her; but just before she died she put her thin little arms around my neck and whispered in my ear; “Papa, your Nellie is going to die; please promise me that you will be kind to good old Dexter, and don’t swear at him. Will you do that for me?” Well, sir, I used to be pretty tough and rough, and I could curse with the best of ‘em, but,’ and the man’s voice trembled, ‘I loved my Nellie, and--and I promised her that I would do what she asked.’ ‘Yes, sir; I’ve kept my word. That’s going on three years now, but I haven’t cussed once since. That’s why I’ve named my truck “My darling”; it always reminds me of my Nellie and her sweet blue eves.’ Just then the blockade was raised, and ‘My darling’ rumbled on.” (Christian Age.)
The effect of a child’s prayer
In a Southern hospital a little girl was to undergo a dangerous operation. She was placed upon the table, and the surgeon was about to give her ether when he said, “Before we can make you well, we must put you to sleep.” She spoke up sweetly and said, “Oh, if you are going to put me to sleep, I must say my prayers first.” So she got on her knees, and said the child’s prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Afterward the surgeon said that he prayed that night for the first time in thirty years. (Christian Endeavour Times.)
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain
The golden age
Poets have sung of a golden age, saints have prayed for one, the Bible distinctly teaches that one will come.
This passage gives us the characteristics of this “good time coming.”
I. THE WHOLE EARTH SHALL BE THE SPIRITUAL REALISATION OF WHAT MOUNT ZION WAS BUT THE SYMBOL. What were the great ideas that Mount Zion of old symbolised They were especially two--
1. Man’s meeting place with God.
2. Entire consecration to worship. It was for worship and worship only. These ideas will be fully realised in the last days. The whole earth will be man’s meeting place with God, the Shechinah will gleam everywhere, light up every social circle, radiate from every institution, etc. Every spot, too, will be sacred to worship. Man will worship in everything, handicraft, commerce, politics, literature.
II. THE WHOLE EARTH SHALL BE FREED FROM INJUSTICE AND VIOLENCE. “They shall not hurt nor destroy.”
1. They shall not hurt. They shall not hurt by any unkind word, or any ungenerous deed, by any species of mean conduct. Exquisite delicacy of conduct shall distinguish all. Every man shall deal with his fellow with the loving tenderness of a brother.
2. They shall not destroy. They shall not destroy the property, the reputation, or the life. There shall be no wars.
III. THE WHOLE EARTH SHALL BE FLOODED WITH CHRISTIANITY. “As the waters cover the sea.” Full as the waters roll through the channels of the Mediterranean, will Christianity roll through every district of human life. But whilst this universal diffusion of Christianity is a characteristic of the golden age, the text suggests that it is the instrumental cause. We infer--
1. That Christianity is essentially pacific.
2. That every philanthropist should use Christianity as his grand instrument. There is no other panacea for the world’s woes. (Homilist.)
Messiah’s peaceful reign
I. THE PACIFIC SPIRIT THAT SHALL BE IN THE WORLD IN MESSIAH’S REIGN.
II. THE CAUSE OF ITS UNIVERSAL PREVALENCE. The knowledge with which the world will be filled. (J. Summerfield, M. A.)
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
The great Gospel and millennial kingdoms of Christ our Lord
1. The declaration of the word before us has never yet been fulfilled.
2. God is now about speedily to fulfil it.
I. We shall open the whole chapter which contains our text, in order to explain WHAT THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST IS of which it speaks, and we shall bring before you the great events with which the introduction of that kingdom of our Redeemer shall be attended.
1. The chapter commences with a glorious description of the Person and the office of the blessed Redeemer of men.
2. Proceed we now to open unto you the Gospel kingdom of Christ, which is contained in the following portion of the chapter. The design of the figure (Isaiah 11:6-9) is to show that in the great day when Christ shall execute His office in a more full and wide extent over the earth there shall be a marvellous concord and union and love among all the children of men by their being brought to worship the one Redeemer, through the one Gospel of His grace and through the sameness of His blessed Spirit.
3. With reference to the expression in our text--“For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea”--we have here set before us both the extent of the knowledge of the Lord, which shall characterise this kingdom of our Lord, and the depth of that knowledge also; for both are represented by this similitude of the ocean. We are to believe, therefore, that the knowledge of God which shall then prevail, shall as far surpass, in extent and in depth, the knowledge of every preceding Church state, as the waters of the ocean exceed, in width and profundity, the common lakes in the midst of kingdoms.
4. One great event that shall immediately precede this glorious issue of things shall be the conversion of God’s ancient people, the Jews; their gathering from out of all the nations of the earth into the land of their fathers; and, as I believe, their becoming the preachers of the Gospel of Christ to all those nations of the earth, which shall now be converted unto Him. This glorious event is immediately appended, in this chapter, to the description of the Gospel kingdom of the Redeemer (Isaiah 11:11, etc.).
5. Another mighty reality which shall accompany the introduction of the coming kingdom of our Lord and Saviour is the destruction of the anti-Christian church (the papacy).
6. The destruction of antichrist.
II. We shall present to your view THE MEANS WHICH YOU MAY THE MOST SAFELY ADOPT FOR INSTRUMENTALLY PROMOTING THE KINGDOM OF OUR ADORABLE REDEEMER amidst the kingdoms of the world. (H. Cole.)
I. THE NATURE OF THE MILLENNIUM. It is generally believed, by judicious divines--
1. That the millennial blessedness shall consist of an extraordinary degree of spiritual knowledge.
2. That holiness shall prevail to an unexampled extent.
3. That the millennial period will be distinguished by happiness and peace altogether unexampled in any previous period of the history of the Church of Christ.
II. SOME PASSAGES WHICH SEEM PLAINLY TO INDICATE THAT SUCH A PERIOD SHALL ARRIVE (Psalms 72:1-20; Isaiah 55:1-13; Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15; Revelation 14:6).
III. EXHIBIT THE TRIUMPHS OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST DURING THE DAYS OF MILLENNIAL BLESSEDNESS. (A. Fletcher, D. D.)
The moral certainty of the earth being filled with the knowledge of the Lord
This prophecy was partially fulfilled when the Christian dispensation was instituted, and “the Gospel of the kingdom” produced the most wonderful effects on the hearts and lives of multitudes who had been the most determined enemies of the Cross. But the expression looks forward to a far more illustrious day, when the prediction will have its complete accomplishment, and the whole family of man will be blessed with the” knowledge of the Lord.”
I. THE IMPORT OF THE PHRASE, “THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD.”
1. It implies an acquaintance with the character of the true God.
2. An acquaintance with the plan of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. An acquaintance with God’s will.
II. THE MORAL CERTAINTY THAT THE EARTH SHALL BE FILLED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD. Reason renders it probable, but revelation declares its certainty.
1. I argue this from a consideration of the nature of the Christian religion. Christianity is a religion of benevolence. It has nothing exclusive in its character. It is designed for man, considered as such, and is adapted to every latitude under heaven. It presents us with a worship which is simple, a faith which is easily understood, ordinances few in number, sacrifices that are unbloody, doctrines and precepts which lead to God, promises which are joy and peace, and hopes which centre in the throne of God! It is reasonable to conclude that God, who is good to all, will not limit blessings of such magnitude and so universally necessary for human happiness, to anyone particular nation or age, but that He will, in His own way and at His own time, extend the benefits of Christianity to the whole family of man.
2. The covenant relation between God and His beloved Son furnishes another guarantee that the prediction will be fulfilled.
3. We ground our hopes on the character of the Saviour as Mediator.
4. Think also of the prophetic record.
III. OUR DUTY AT THE PRESENT TIME IN CONNECTION WITH THE EXTENDING OF THIS KNOWLEDGE. The work is very great. How is it to be accomplished? By the agency of miracles? No. May we expect the Saviour to visit our earth and organise a system for the conversion of the heathen? He has done so already. He has made it our duty to use the means He has appointed. (John Hill, M. A.)
“As the waters cover the sea”
The expression is remarkable for its force. In looking over the face of the ocean, there are no differences to be perceived: one part is not fuller than another; one part is not covered, and another left dry; but all is one unbroken stream, filling and covering the whole. So shall it be with the Word of God among men. It shall not be known to some, and hidden from others. It shall not be fully declared in one place, and only partially set forth in another. This is not the whole purpose of the Almighty. But rather, whatever knowledge it pleases Him to give at all, shall be given equally, and without distinction. (H. A.Sullivan, M. A.)
A picture of the moral condition of the world without the knowledge of God
If the waters of the ocean were suddenly drained, and the channels of the great deep laid bare, rugged, unseemly spectacle would meet the eye. The elements of sublimity and beauty might then be seen, but strangely disfigured, and blended in rude chaotic masses: profound valleys and dark ravines, the pathways of the monsters of the deep; gloomy caverns, never visited by the light of day; towering mountains, abrupt headlands, and precipitous rocks, the cause of many disasters to the adventurous seaman, would form an uncouth, repulsive scene. All these are hidden now by a veil which the Almighty has thrown over them; He has covered them with a fluid, bright, transparent, elastic, filling all the depths, smoothing all the asperities, reducing mountains and valleys to one level, and spreading from the equator to the poles, ever in motion, ever obedient to His will, whether He bids its mountain billows utter His praise in awful tones, or its unruffled surface reflect His glories to the tranquil heavens bending over it. Like the dark, rude bed of ocean, emptied of its waters, has been the moral aspect of our world in all ages and countries since the fall. If we look abroad over the nations today, what disorder, misery, and ruin meet the eye and pain the heart! But the text speaks of a blessed change to be realised ere long: of a coming day, when the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (W. J. Armstrong, D. D.)
The far-spreading grace of the Holy Spirit
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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, D. D.)
The knowledge of the Lord
“As the waters cover the sea.” How do they cover it?
1. Completely. There are no gaps or interspaces. The sailor is glad to get out into the open sea. Near the land he is watchful, but when his pathless track lies far from the shore he is more at ease.
2. They cover it, too, abundantly. There is nothing scanty about the sea The average depth, geographers tells us, is about thirteen times the average height of land above sea level.
3. They also cover it helpfully. The waters seem to sever country from country, but, really, they are the best means of bringing far separate lands into communication with each other. What a grand picture, then, is here suggested with regard to the knowledge of God! It will cover the earth completely. All shall know Him from the least to the greatest. It will be an abundant knowledge. As it is, the earth is full of the glory of the Lord.
Everywhere, God. The cataract utters forth God. “Every common bush afire with God,” but too often we only “sit round it and pick blackberries.” It is one thing for God to be everywhere, it is another thing for God to be recognised everywhere. It will also be a helpful knowledge. It will not lead us to make less of this world’s duties, but more. As the waters that seem to separate, yet connect all the more closely, remote lands, so the more truly men know God, the better will they know each other, and the grander will seem the duties of the common day. One great blessing resulting from that knowledge is specially mentioned in the chapter--“They shall not hurt nor destroy.” It is something one can hardly imagine, that beautiful time when nature shall no more be “red in tooth and claw.” It may be but a poetical description of the peace and harmony of the Messiah’s kingdom. But there is one part, at least, will be literally true. However it be with regard to the attitude of beasts to men, or to each other, man’s attitude to the beasts will be one of thoughtfulness, gentleness, and mercy. It is said that a man’s dog should be the better for his Christianity, and so it will. “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.” And, of course, still more will it be true that man’s attitude to his fellow man will be what it ought to be. One of the saddest thoughts in connection with this earth of ours, as it is, is the frightful callousness and unconcern with regard to human life where God, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is not known. Think of a country like Dahomey, where the most prized ornaments are human heads stuck on poles along the highways. The Church of Christ may be far from perfect in our own day, but, at least, it stands for much that is beautiful and helpful among men, and it labours and prays for the fulfilment of its hope that righteousness and peace shall at last e universal. One comprehends that the Church--even the visible building of stone and lime--stands for some measure of realised blessing among men, by even such a simple story as that of the shipwrecked mariners, in doubt as to what sort of coast they had been cast upon,--whether the inhabitants were cannibals, or with some humanity in them,--and whose fears were quite relieved when one of their number, who had climbed a neighbouring hill, came rushing back, shouting, “It’s all right. We are safe. I saw a church spire in the distance.” The most practical and visible result of the universal knowledge of the Lord will be that men’s relationship to each other will be of the happiest and most helpful kind. (J. S. Maver, M. A.)
Things must be seen through the right medium
“Seeing is believing.” But no man sees. Nearly every man is befooled by his own eyes. We see nothing as it really is. We are the gulls and the dupes of appearances. Said a friend to me, whilst we lived in the Alps, “Can you see any living things on the side of that mountain?” Whereupon I answered, “There is no living thing there.” It was a reckless speech. I was then the victim of incomplete sight. I was deluded, as all men are deluded, by the naked eye. Said my, friend, “Look through this telescope.” And I looked, and, behold! the chamois and the shepherds--the beautiful little creatures feeding on abundance of grass on the slopes of the hill. I should have looked through the telescope before I gave my judgment. Things are not all given in revelation to the naked eye. We must look through the right medium if we would see things with any approach to reality. Is this world going to be converted to Christ? “Never!” Why say you, never? “Because there are more drunkards than pure men; there are more brothels than altars; there are more dishonest gamblers on the Exchange than there are honest men.” Now look through this telescope--the Divine promises, the Divine oaths, the repeated and emphatic assurances. Look! What seest thou now, O man? “I see multitudes turning unto the Lord, Ethiopia stretching out her hands unto God to receive the vessel that shall carry the news of the eternal kingdom to all places on the face of the earth.” That is how we view things. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
A sure word of prophecy
On Sabbath, 15 th May 1836, we saw the sun seized, on the very apex of his glory, as if by a black hand, and so darkened that only a thin round ring of light remained visible, and the chill of twilight came prematurely on. That mass of darkness within seemed the world lying in wickedness, and that thin round ring of light, the present progress of the Gospel in it. But not more certain were we then, that that thin round ring of light was yet to become the broad and blazing sun, than are we now, that through a Divine interposal, but not otherwise, shall the “knowledge of the glory of the Lord cover the earth as the waters the sea.” (G. Gilfillan.)
There shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people
Messiah, the root of Jesse
If, through the infallible guidance of the Divinely inspired apostles and evangelists, we can find the Messiah spoken of in many passages of the Old Testament, in which we should not otherwise have found Him; in many others He is so evidently intended and set forth, that, even without that guidance, no intelligent person, possessed of any degree of spiritual discernment, can fail of discovering Him Psalms 2:7-8; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 35:4-6; Isaiah 50:6; Psalms 22:16-18; Psalms 69:21; Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:2; Isaiah 35:3; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 6:12-13).
This paragraph is so manifestly meant of Christ, and of His kingdom, that it is perfectly incapable of any other application.
I. THE PERSON AND ONE OF THE PRINCIPAL OFFICES OF THE MESSIAH,--“A ROOT OF JESSE”; “AN ENSIGN OF THE PEOPLE.”
1. In the preceding verses, He is set forth in His human nature, as the “Rod” which should “come forth out of the stem of Jesse,” “the Branch which should grow out of his roots” (Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8); but here, in His Divine nature, in which alone He could be the “root of Jesse”; the creating “word” (Colossians 1:16). The word here rendered “root,” is properly so translated, and never means branch, or rod. This is the case likewise in Revelation 5:5. In Revelation 22:16, we find both natures mentioned and distinguished; and also in Romans 1:3,
4:2. His office. “He shall stand for an ensign of the people.” Where theymay take oath and swear allegiance to the great King and bind themselves by covenant to be His loyal subjects. Where they may enlist, and engage to be His faithful soldiers to their life’s end. But how is He an ensign, a banner, or standard, visibly displayed? By manifestation of His real character, and showing Himself to be the very Messiah that should come. By unfurling and unfolding the truth in His doctrine. By exerting and displaying His power in miracles. By manifesting His love in all His actions and sufferings. As lifted up upon the Cross (John 12:32). As exalted to the Father’s right hand (Acts 2:33). As preached and declared to every creature, to every nation under heaven, for the obedience of faith. As coming in the clouds of heaven, gathering His elect, gathering “all nations and tongues,” to see His glory.
II. THE APPLICATION THAT IS TO BE MADE TO HIM BY THE GENTILES. “To Him shall the Gentiles (Hebrews, ‘the nations’) seek.” He Himself came to seek and save the lost, and He is often found of those that before sought Him not. Those, however, that are first found of Him do themselves also seek Him.
1. But for what purposes? As an infallible Teacher, for truth and grace. As a Mediator, for pardon, etc. As an all-sufficient Saviour, expecting deliverance from the power and pollution of sin, from the flesh, the world, and the devil. As their rightful Sovereign, to give law to them, to rule, protect, and exalt them. As the Captain of their salvation, to go before them and conquer for them, to enable them to conquer, and to crown them as victorious.
2. But how do they seek Him? By desire, earnest, constant, increasing, restless (Isaiah 55:1; John 7:37; Revelation 22:17). By prayer Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13; 1 Corinthians 1:2). By faith and trust (Isaiah 28:16; Romans 10:11; Romans 15:12).
III. THE EFFECTS THAT SHALL FOLLOW. “His rest shall be glorious.” As a Teacher, the “light of the world,” and as made of God to His people “wisdom,” He gives rest to the understanding from the uncertainties of error, by the clear and satisfactory knowledge of the truth, and faith therein, or “the full assurance of understanding.” As a Priest, and as made of God to us “righteousness,” He gives rest to the conscience. As a Saviour from sin, and as made of God unto us “sanctification,” He gives rest to the will, affections, and passions, humbling our pride, subduing our rebellious dispositions (Matthew 11:29). As a King, by delivering, defending, governing, ordering, disposing, and making all things work for good, and setting up His kingdom in our hearts, He gives us rest from cares, fears, and anxieties. As the Captain of our salvation, He gives the rest consequent on victory over our enemies, in deliverance from all tormenting fear of them, even the fear of death, and enabling us, while on earth, to live in peace, love, and harmony, with one another. He gives rest to the earth during the millennium (Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 32:15-19; Micah 4:1-4; Zechariah 14:6-9). (J. Benson, D. D.)
The root of Jesse
I. THE SURROUNDINGS WITH WHICH THE REDEEMER WOULD BE CONNECTED. He was to be “a root of Jesse.” Elsewhere in his prophecy Isaiah speaks of Him as “a root out of a dry ground.” The dry ground in which this root yielded the Plant of renown was the barren soil of a corrupt age, a worn out civilisation, a depraved humanity. His descent from Jesse associated Him vitally with a notable family of the Jews. But centuries had passed since the descendants of Jesse had made themselves conspicuous. The energy of that vigorous family had expended itself in the luxury and the frivolity of many kings. Joseph of Nazareth, the village carpenter, and Mary his espoused wife, were the living representatives of an illustrious ancestry; and they were so poor and so humble that Bethlehem, their native city, had no welcome for them when they went thither to be enrolled. The Child Jesus shared their lot. He could not have frequented the schools, for His townsmen were astonished at His wisdom when He began to teach. He evidently had the Old Testament Scriptures in His hands, and He had the swat influence of His mother, and the wise counsels of Joseph, and He had the synagogue. That was His environment--so far as His environment was helpful. He could draw no inspiration from the ordinary Jewish life of Nazareth, and still less from the Greek or Roman life of Galilee. His Jewish lineage is unquestioned, and yet there is nothing Jewish about Him. He is larger than the nation, larger even than the race. None of the important laws of heredity can explain Him.
II. THE ATTITUDE WHICH THE REDEEMER WOULD ASSUME. He was to “stand for an ensign of the people.” Ideas are symbolised by standards. A national flag represents a national idea. Isaiah declared that Jesus would “stand for an ensign of the people”--not of the Jews merely, but of the Gentiles also; and Jesus made a similar declaration concerning Himself. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,” etc. He anticipated universal supremacy. This is surely a very remarkable expectation to be cherished intelligently by an ordinary Jew of that period of history. Racial lines were then sharply drawn. Yet Jesus--a Jew, and a Jew in a small provincial town, rose to an appreciation of the essential oneness of humanity, and presented Himself, with His idea, as the ensign of the people, so that Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, was able to write to the Gentiles of Ephesus: “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” This expectation was not cherished by one who was marching at the head of an invincible army, but by a very humble young man in the quiet village of Nazareth. He had never been abroad. He had enjoyed but little contact with the world. Yet He made this claim of universal authority. The sobriety of His claim will appear, and the wisdom of His purpose will be evident, if attention is directed to the characteristics of His idea, and if the trend of human progress is regarded. The idea of Jesus, the idea illustrated by His character and life, the idea around which Christendom is crystallising, is clearly expressed in the words, “not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” This idea, the service of self-sacrifice, is one which is capable of transforming life. Now that idea is beginning to assert its power.
III. THE INFLUENCE WHICH THE REDEEMER WOULD EXERT. “His rest shall be glorious.” This is the promise of peace which Jesus Himself repeated. Very simple are the terms, and yet men draw back from their simplicity. They want the rest, but they do not want to kneel at the feet of Christ. This work--so glorious--is not an experiment. It has approved itself. In Christ, all men may find rest. (H. M. Booth, D. D.)
I. MUSTERS HIS FORCES FOR THE BATTLE. Under the Old Testament dispensation, Jehovah revealed Himself as the Lord of hosts--as a man of war; and God manifest in the flesh was the Captain of salvation, and set up His standard for men to rally around, that they might overcome sin without and sin within. As soldiers of the Cross, we are to muster around our great Ensign, for discipline, drill, and for battle. The royal proclamation has gone forth; war has been declared against the powers of darkness; the trumpet of the Gospel has sounded, calling upon “all the world” and “every creature”; to it the Gentiles have come, and the Church militant is going forth in this holy war.
The holy war
Our Lord as an Ensign--
II. MARCHES WITH HIS FORCES TO THE BATTLE. He goes in front as Leader and Commander, to guide, stimulate, and cheer. The strength of His arm and the light of His eye are to act as inspiration to His troops.
1. He goes before in His example. He fought with Satan, and He overcame the world. He conquered its frowns and smiles, and always went His way. “He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
2. He goes before us in precept. He has given us commandments how we shall march and how we shall fight; and He is ever present to give power to His Word by the illumination and demonstration of His Holy Spirit. The early Christians were heroic and successful in battle, for they realised the presence of the great Ensign with them.
III. MINGLES WITH HIS FORCES IN THE BATTLE. “His rest shall be glorious.” It shall not be a doubtful or drawn battle; it shall end in complete victory. The Saviour, when He finished the great atonement, ascended up on high, and “sat down” in peace and power,--He entered into glorious rest. (F. W. Brown.)
Jesus the Ensign
I. THE WORK OF CHRIST.
1. Jesus may be called an ensign because He is a gathering or rallying point for men. There always have been persons who have stood forth prominently from their fellows, in travel, in science, in ethics, in art, in song. These have founded particular schools of thought or philosophy, and men have claimed them as leaders, ranged themselves round their standards, and been proud to be called by their names. Such individuals have been “ensigns of the people,” gathering or rallying points for their own followers. Just so is Jesus preeminently “an ensign for the people.”
2. An “ensign,” is a banner to fight under. The watchword of the true believer in Jesus is, “Jehovah nissi!” There are different regiments enrolled in the Lord’s sacramental host, and therefore are they spoken of as “an army with banners”; but every sectional flag droops and dips in the dust as it is borne before the “Captain of our salvation.”
3. An “ensign” is a guide to travellers. And such is Christ to the travellers from earth to heaven.
II. THE REST OF CHRIST. “His rest shall be glorious.”
1. Because it will be the rest which follows victory.
2. The rest of abiding peace. In 1815, when the British Parliament were voting honours and emoluments to Wellington, and considering “the measures necessary towards forming a peace establishment,” suddenly all their plans were interrupted and their peace projects dissipated by the intelligence that Napoleon had escaped from Elba. Nothing like this will occur during the rest of Christ; His enemies once subdued will be subdued forever.
3. Because it will be the rest which follows successful attempts at salvation. Like the rest of the life boat crew, when the mariners have been all brought from the tempest tossed and torn and tottering wreck; like the rest of the firemen when they have rescued the last inmate who was ready to perish from the burning building. His rest shall be glorious, for “He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.”
4. Because it shall be the rest of social enjoyment, unmarred by pain or sickness, by separation or death.
5. The rest of joyous activity.
6. A rest of unending duration. (J. W. Cole.)
Christ the Ensign for His people
I. THE PERSON OF CHRIST.
II. THE EMBLEM BY WHICH HE IS REPRESENTED.
III. PRACTICAL APPLICATION.
1. The need we have of the Holy Spirit’s work. Christ may be faithfully and constantly preached, but it is by the Holy Spirit convincing us of our need, and giving us a living faith, that we range ourselves under His banner.
2. We must expect a conflict.
3. Christ will come to take His saints to Himself, to claim that glory which He has purchased by having died for them. (E. Auriol, M. A.)
His rest shall be glorious
The Christian’s glorious rest
I. CONSIDER WHEREIN THIS REST CONSISTS.
1. In that great obedience which Christ has rendered unto God, in the human nature, for man. There is a rest of conscience to those who are in Christ.
2. Another ground of this rest of the spirit is in the victory that Christ has obtained over all His enemies. Death, sin, Satan, the world. The enemies of the believer are vanquished through Christ Jesus.
II. IN WHAT SENSE IT MAY BE CALLED GLORIOUS.
1. It is glorious to God the Father; whose wisdom and love it manifests. It is glorious to God the Son; who obtained it for His whole spiritual Church by His incarnation and toil and agony. It is glorious to God the Spirit; who foretold it, who described it, who reveals it, and seals them for it. It is glorious, because all God’s attributes are honoured in it. His justice is satisfied: His mercy also is infinitely displayed.
2. The rest is glorious and honourable to all those who are brought into it. For they are washed from their sins wholly, through the blood of the Lamb, and stand as candidates for heaven in those blessed garments, which grace has purchased for them and called them to wear. They cease from the impious intention of asking heaven for their own obedience, from a deep and heart-felt conviction of God’s infinite holiness and their own unworthiness. They place the crown of honour on the head, where God would have it placed--even on that head that wore the crown of thorns.
3. There remains a more glorious rest hereafter. (T. Snow, M. A.)
The Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people
The restoration of the Jews to their own land, and conversion to the faith of Christ
THE PAST AND PRESENT STATE AND CHARACTER OF THE JEWS. The past history of the Jews has been very remarkable, more so than that of any other nation. They have been remarkable in their origin; in the miraculous events which befell them; in their separation; in their preservation; and in their punishment.
II. WHAT IS TO BECOME OF THESE MEN FOR THE FUTURE?
1. Every part of their history is wonderful. This would lead us to expect that their future history should be remarkable also. We generally find this to be the rule of Providence. The restoration and Christianisation of the Jews would be thus remarkable, and of a piece with His other dispensations towards them. It would not be so wonderful that they should continue to be punished as they are at present; but that they should be restored and converted, in spite of so many obstacles in the way of both, how singular!--that they should be honoured in those respects in which they have beenmost dishonoured, how remarkable and how worthy of the other wonderful events of the Jewish history!
2. We have to remember, and it strengthens the foregoing consideration, that the Jews are capable, by the events supposed, of adding much to the illustration of God’s glory. In accomplishing these events there would be a mighty manifestation of power and wisdom, forbearance and compassion, not to speak of truth. The very length of time that the Jews have lain under the curse of God, and the severity of their punishment, and the mystery which overhangs their condition and prospects, would render their deliverance, and consequently the manifestation of Divine glory, more illustrious when it came.
3. With God the past is a pledge of the future; and how large is the honour and goodness of which He has made the Jews partakers in former times!
4. The actual circumstances of the Jews, at present, betoken a propitious change. There are circumstances in their feelings and condition which intimate that, at least, their temporal state shall be improved. The Jews themselves expect that one day they shall be restored; and this expectation is not the vague idea of a few individuals, got up as a refuge from present pain--it is the prevailing idea of the Jewish nation in every age, and it is persevered in, in spite of the hardest experience which should damp and destroy it. So strong is the impression, that many Jews, when dying, make provision that their bodies, and those of their friends, shall be buried in the land of their fathers; and some repair thither in the decline of life, that they may lay their bones within the borders of Canaan, in the full expectation that one day that land is to be inhabited by, and to form the sepulchre of, their children.
5. The Jews are visibly separated from all other nations. This was predicted of them, and it has been strikingly realised. Now, what is the object and use of this remarkable separation? Possibly to make the punishment fall more heavily upon the sin of the Jews; but this will not explain the whole. It will not explain the continued distinction, now that the punishment is becoming less severe. There seems to be no way of explaining it, but by believing that some great and wonderful event awaits them in the future; and what can that be but their restoration and conversion? It cannot be their amalgamation with other nations, for this would not be very wonderful. It would not be worthy of so singular and protracted a separation; and besides, were this what was contemplated, we would expect that there should be some approach to amalgamation now.
6. In their pursuits and mode of life the Jews are eminently a movable people. They count no country their home. It is their business to travel from country to country. They are not tied down to fixed pursuits, such as those of agriculture, which cannot be readily parted with. Even in Poland, where they are most numerous and stationary, they are chiefly engaged in trade and commerce, and cannot be prevailed upon to engage in anything else. As a whole, they are most remarkable as dealers and exchangers in money--their property is convertible in the easiest manner. They are, so to speak, upon the wing--they could change their abode at a moment’s warning.
7. And if, from the Jews themselves, we turn co the land of their fathers, we find it in a condition above all others most apt and likely to change masters. It is very partially inhabited--inhabited, where there are a people, only by the wandering Arab, almost as migratory as the Jew. The government is fast hastening to dissolution. It is the interest, humanly speaking, of no great or powerful nation to hinder the establishment of the Jews in Palestine. It is rather for their advantage to promote it. The Jews are sufficiently able to purchase the land with money, were this the stipulation.
8. We must now betake ourselves to the Scriptures, and see what they declare upon the subject. (J. G. Lorimer.)
Restoration of the Jews--obstacles to be overcome
All obstacles, even the most formidable, to the restoration of God’s people, shall be overcome or taken away by His almighty power. This idea is naturally expressed by the dividing of the Red Sea and Euphrates, because Egypt and Assyria are the two great powers from which Israel had suffered and was yet to be delivered. (J. A. Alexander.)
The envy also of Ephraim shall depart
Judah and Ephraim
Jacob, in his prophetic statement of the fortunes of his sons, disregards the right of primogeniture, and gives the preeminence to Judah and Joseph, and in the family of the latter to the younger son Ephraim.
Hence, from the time of the exodus, these two were regarded as the leading tribes of Israel. Judah was much more numerous than Ephraim, took precedence during the journey in the wilderness, and received the largest portion in the promises land. But Joshua was an Ephraimite; and Shiloh, where the tabernacle long stood, was probably within the limits of the same tribe. The ambitious jealousy of the Ephraimites towards other tribes appears in their conduct to Gideon and Jephthah. Their special jealousy of Judah showed itself in their temporary refusal to submit to David after the death of Saul, in their adherence to Absalom against his father, and in the readiness with which they joined in the revolt of Jeroboam, who was himself of the tribe of Ephraim. This schism was, therefore, not a sudden or fortuitous occurrence, but the natural result of causes which had long been working. The mutual relation of the two kingdoms is expressed in the recorded fact that “there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, and between Asa and Baasha all their days.” Exceptions to the general rule, as in the case of Ahab and Jehoshaphat, were rare, and a departure from the principles and ordinary feelings of the parties. The ten tribes, which assumed the name of Israel after the division, and perhaps before it, regarded the smaller and less warlike state with a contempt which is well expressed by Jehoash in his parable of the cedar and the thistle, unless the feeling there displayed be rather personal than national. On the other hand, Judah justly regarded Israel as guilty not only of political revolt, but of religious apostasy, and the jealousy of Ephraim towards Judah would, of course, be increased by the fact that Jehovah had “forsaken the tabernacle of Shiloh,” that He “refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion which He loved.” (J. A. Alexander.)
The Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea.
The Egyptian sea and the river
The “tongue,” i.e., the bay (cf. Joshua 15:2)
of the Red Sea (the Gulf of Suez) will be “banned,” i.e., rendered harmless to those who would cross it, by being dried up; “the river” (the Euphrates), swift and too deep to be forded as it is, will be split into seven separate channels, which separately may be forded without danger. (Prof. Driver, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18