The word that Isaiah the son of Amos saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem
Heading to a small collection
2-4), the contents of which are--, Isaiah 2:1-4) All nations shall yet acknowledge the God of Israel. Isaiah 2:5-22; Isaiah 3:1-26; Isaiah 4:1) Through great judgments shall both Israel and thenations be brought to the knowledge of Jehovah Isaiah 4:2-6) When these judgments are overpast, all Zion’s citizens shall be holy. (A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
A general view of the chapter
The Isaiah 2:2-4, it should be premised, recur with slight variations in the fourth chapter of Micah, and are supposed by many to have been borrowed by both writers from some older source. The prophet appears before an assembly of the people, perhaps on a Sabbath, and recites this passage, depicting in beautiful and effective imagery the spiritual preeminence to be accorded in the future to the religion of Zion He would dwell upon the subject further; but scarcely has he begun to speak when the disheartening spectacle meets his eye of a crowd of soothsayers, of gold and silver ornaments and finery, of horses and idols; his tone immediately changes, and he bursts into a diatribe against the foreign and idolatrous fashions, the devotion to wealth and glitter, which he sees about him, and which extorts from him in the end the terrible wish, “Therefore forgive them not” (verses 5-9). And then, in one of his stateliest periods, Isaiah declares the judgment about to fall upon all that is “tall and lofty,” upon Uzziah’s towers and fortified walls, upon the great merchant ships at Elath, upon every object of human satisfaction and pride, when wealth and rank will be impotent to save, when idols will be cast despairingly aside, and when all classes alike will be glad to find a hiding place, as in the old days of Midianite invasion or Philistine oppression ( 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6), in the clefts and caves of the rocks. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
Isaiah’s citizenship in Jerusalem
Isaiah’s citizenship in Jerusalem colours all his prophecy. More than Athens to Demosthenes, Rome to Juvenal, Florence to Dante, is Jerusalem to Isaiah. She is his immediate and ultimate regard, the centre and return of all his thoughts, the hinge of the history of his time, the one thing worth preserving amidst its disasters, the summit of those brilliant hopes with which he fills the future. He has traced for us the main features of her position and some of the lines of her construction, many of the great figures of her streets, the fashions of her women, the arrival of embassies, the effect of rumours. He has painted her aspect in triumph, in siege, in famine, and in earthquake; war filling her valleys with chariots, and again nature rolling tides of fruitfulness up to her gates; her moods of worship and panic and profligacy--till we see them all as clearly as the shadow following the sunshine and the breeze across the cornfields of our own summers. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Judah and Jerusalem
There is little about Judah in these chapters: the country forms but a fringe to the capital. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
The Word of the Lord “seen”
Though the spirit of man has neither eyes nor ears, yet when enabled to perceive the supersensuous, it is altogether eye. (F. Delitzsch.)
And it shall come to pass in the last days
Isaiah’s description of the last days
The description of “the last days”--which in the Hebrew begins, “And it hath come to pass . . . the mountainof Jehovah’s house shall be established,” etc.
is an instance of the use of the perfect tense to express the certain future. Its explanation seems to be that the structure of such a passage as that before us is imaginative, not logical--a picture, not a statement. The speaker completely projects himself into “the last days”; he is there, he finds them come; he looks about him to see what is actually going on, and sees that the mountain of Jehovah’s house is about to be--still in process of being--established at the head of the mountains; he looks again, and the nations have already arrived at the place prepared for them, yet so freshly that they are still calling one another on; and as they come up they find that the King they seek is already there, and has effected some of His judgments and decisions before they arrive for their, turn. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
An epitome of Isaiah’s vision
(verses 2-4):--Isaiah, “rapt into future times,” sees the throne of the Lord of Israel established in sovereignty over all the nations of the earth, and they becoming willing subjects to Him, and friendly citizens to each other. The nations attain to true liberty, for they come to submit themselves to the righteous laws and institutions, and to the wise and gracious word and direction of that King whose service is perfect freedom; and to true brotherhood, for they leave their old enmities and conflicts, and make the same Lord their Judge and Umpire and Reconciler. And all this, not by some newly invented device of the nations, some new result of their own civilisation, but by the carrying out of the old original purpose and plan of God, that His chosen people of the Jews should be the ministers of these good things, and that in them should all nations of the earth be blessed,--that “out of Zion should go forth the law, and the Word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.” This is the vocation of the Hebrew people. This, says the prophet, is the key to all our duties as a nation, this is the master light to guide us to right action. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
The supremacy of Mount Zion
Transport yourselves for a moment to the foot of Mount Zion. As you stand there, you observe that it is but a very little hill. Bashan is far loftier, and Carmel and Sharon outvie it. As for Lebanon, Zion is but a little hillock compared with it. If you think for a moment of the Alps, or of the loftier Andes, or of the yet mightier Himalayas, this Mount Zion seems to be a very little hill, a mere molehill, insignificant, despicable, and obscure. Stand there for a moment, until the Spirit of God touches your eye, and you shall see this hill begin to grow. Up it mounts, with the temple on its summit, till it outreaches Tabor. Onward it grows, till Carmel, with its perpetual green, is left behind, and Salmon, with its everlasting snow sinks before it. Onward still it grows, till the snowy peaks of Lebanon are eclipsed. Still onward mounts the hill, drawing with its mighty roots other mountains and hills into its fabric; and onward it rises, till piercing the clouds it reaches above the Alps; and onwards still, till the Himalayas seem to be sucked into its bowels, and the greatest mountains of the earth appear to be but as the roots that strike out from the side of the eternal hill; and there it rises till you can scarcely see the top, as infinitely above all the higher mountains of the world as they are above the valleys Have you caught the idea, and do you see there afar off upon the lofty top, not everlasting snows, but a pure crystal table land, crowned with a gorgeous city, the metropolis of God, the royal palace of Jesus the King? The sun is eclipsed by the light which shines from the top of this mountain; the moon ceases from her brightness, for there is now no night: but this one hill, lifted up on high, illuminates the atmosphere, and the nations of them that are saved are walking in the light thereof. The hill of Zion hath now outsoared all others, and all the mountains and hills of the earth are become as nothing before her. This is the magnificent picture of the text. I do not know that in all the compass of poetry there is an idea so massive and stupendous as this--a mountain heaving, expanding, swelling, growing, till all the high hills become absorbed, and that which was but a little rising ground before, becomes a hill the top whereof teacheth to the seventh heavens. Now we have here a picture of what the Church is to be. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A vision of the latter day glories
Of old, the Church was like Mount Zion, a very little hill. What saw the nations of the earth when they looked upon it? A humble Man with twelve disciples. But that little hill grew, and some thousands were baptized in the name of Christ; it grew again and became mighty. But still, compared with the colossal systems of idolatry, she is but small. The Hindoo and the Chinese turn to our religion, and say, “It is an infant of yesterday; ours is the religion of ages.” The Easterns compare Christianity to some miasma that creeps along the fenny lowlands, but their systems they imagine to be like me Alps, outsoaring the heavens in height. Ah, but we reply to this, “Your mountain crumbles and your hill dissolves, but our hill of Zion has been growing, and strange to say, it has life within its bowels, and grow on it shall, grow on it must, till all the systems of idolatry shall become less than nothing before it.” Such is the destiny of our Church, she is to be an all-conquering Church, rising above every competitor. The Church will be like a high mountain, for she will be--
1. Preeminently conspicuous.
2. Awful and venerable in her grandeur.
3. The day is coming when the Church of God shall have absolute supremacy.
The Church of Christ now has to fight for her existence; but the day shall come when she shall be so mighty that there shall be nought left to compote with her. How is this to be done? There are three things which will ensure the growth of the Church.
1. The individual exertion of every Christian.
2. We may expect more.
The fact is, that the Church, though a mountain, is a volcano--not one that spouts fire, but that hath fire within her; and this inward fire of living truth, and living grace, expands her side, and lifts her crest, and upwards she must tower, for truth is mighty, and it must prevail--grace is mighty, and must conquer--Christ is mighty, and He must be King of kings. Thus there is something more than the individual exertions of the Church; there is a something within her that must make her grow, till she overtops the highest mountains.
3. But the great hope of the Church is the second advent of Christ. When He shall come, then shall the mountain of the Lord’s house be exalted above the hills. We must fight on day by day and hour by hour; and when we think the battle is almost decided against us, He shall come, the Prince of the kings of the earth. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
“All nations shall flow unto it”
Observe the figure. It does not say they shall come to it, but they shall flow unto it.
1. It implies, first, their number. Now it is but the pouring out of water from the bucket; then it shall be as the rolling of the cataract from the hillside.
2. Their spontaneity. They are to come willingly to Christ; not to be driven, not to be pumped up, not to be forced to it, but to be brought up by the Word of the Lord, to pay Him willing homage. Just as the river naturally flows downhill by no other force than that which is its nature, so shall the grace of God be so mightily given to the sons of men, that no acts of parliament, no state churches, no armies will be used to make a forced conversion.
3. But yet again, this represents the power of the work of conversion. They “shall flow to it.” Imagine an idiot endeavouring to stop the river Thames. The secularist may rise up and say, “Oh, why be converted to this fanatical religion? Look to the things of time.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The mountain of the Lord’s house
The text calls our attention--
I. TO A PERIOD OF TIME WHEN THE EVENTS OF WHICH IT SPEAKS ARE TO OCCUR. “The last days.” The phrase means, generally, the age of the Messiah; and is thus understood by both Jewish and Christian commentators. The apostle has put this meaning beyond all doubt. “God, who spake in times past unto the fathers, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.”
1. The expression intimates, that the dispensations which the prophets of the Old Testament lived, were but preparatory to one of complete perfection. To the future all these ancient holy men were ever looking. The patriarchal was succeeded by the Mosaic age. Prophet came after prophet; but all were looking forward. All things around them, and before them, were typical shadowy.
2. The emphasis which the of last days, intimates, also, the views they had of the complete efficiency of that religious system which the Messiah was to introduce. On that age all their hopes of the recovery of a world they saw sinking around them rested; and in the contemplation of this efficient plan of redeeming love, they mitigated their sorrows. They felt that the world needed a more efficient system, and they saw it descend with Messiah from heaven.
3. The days of the Messiah were regarded by the ancient Church as “the last days,” because in them all the great purposes of God were to be developed and completed.
II. TO THE STATE OF THE GENERAL CHURCH OF GOD IN THE LAST DAYS. “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” Some have considered this as a prediction of the actual rebuilding of the temple, and the restoration of the political and church-state of the Jews, in the close of the latter days of the times of the Messiah. Such an interpretation, if allowed, would not at all interfere with that in which all agree, that, whatever else the prediction may signify, it sets forth, under figures taken from the Levitical institutions, the future state of the general Church of Christ. For the principle which leads to such an interpretation, we have no less authority than that of the apostle Paul, who uniformly considers the temple, its priests, and its ritual, as types of heavenly things; and in one well-known passage, makes use of them to characterise the true Church of Christ. “But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city” of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. The mountain of the Lord’s house is no longer covered with ruins, but established in the top of the hills. We learn from it--
1. That the Church shall be restored to evangelical order and beauty: it shall be as Mount Zion.
2. In this state the Church shall be distinguished by its zeal. “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” So it was in the best estate of the Jewish Church. The Gospel is to be preached in all nations; and till you send forth the law they will not say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.” We thus see the connection between the best state of the Church and this holy zeal. All history proves it.
III. TO CERTAIN SPECIAL OPERATIONS OF GOD BY WHICH THE EFFORTS OF HIS RESTORED CHURCH TO BLESS AND SAVE THE WORLD SHALL BE RENDERED EFFECTUAL. Without God, not all the efforts of the Church, even in her best state, can be effectual.
1. He shall judge among the nations. The word “judge” is not always used in its purely judicial sense, but in that of government,--the exercise of regal power both in mercy and judgment; and in this sense we here take it. He shall so order the affairs of the world, that opportunities shall be afforded to His Church to exert herself for its benefit. And thus is He judging among the nations in our own day.
2. It is a part of the regal office to show mercy; and thus, too, shall He “judge among the nations.” This He shall do by taking off those judicial desertions which, as a punishment for unfaithfulness, He has inflicted. “He shall judge among the nations.” He shall do this judicially, yet not for destruction, but correction. Then are two sorts of judgments; judgments of wrath, and judgments of mercy. When grace is given with judgments, then do they become corrective and salutary.
3. It is, therefore, added, “and shall rebuke many people”; or, according to Lowth’s translation, “work conviction among them.” And may we not hope that this is approaching? Even while waiting for the glorious period described and promised in the preceding prophecy, the Church is called to “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5).
1. Walk by this light of truth yourselves.
2. Set the glory of these splendid scenes before you, and let them encourage you to increasing exertions for the spread of truth, holiness, and love throughout the earth. (Richard Watson.)
The glorious exaltation and enlargement of Church
I. THE GLORY AND EXALTATION. “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established,” etc.
II. THE ENLARGEMENT. “All nations shall flow unto it.”
III. THE PROSPERITY of the Church begins to be described in Isaiah 2:4. (J. Mede, B. D.)
The Church’s visibility and glory
I. TIMES WHEN THE CHURCH IS VISIBLE BUT NOT GLORIOUS.
II. TIMES WHEN IT IS NEITHER VISIBLE NOR GLORIOUS.
III. TIMES WHEN IT IS TO BE BOTH VISIBLE AND GLORIOUS. (J. Mede, B. D.)
The mountain of the Lord’s house
I. THE PERIOD REFERRED TO. The reference is not to the Gospel era as a whole, but to an advanced period of it, even the time of the great millennial prosperity. The golden age of the Greeks and Romans was the past, but our golden age is yet to come.
II. THE CHEERING TRUTH DECLARED. “The mountain,” etc. Often has Zion languished, but she is to become a praise in the whole earth. In this striking figure two things are embraced--
1. Elevated position.
2. Permanent duration.
III. THE GENERAL INTEREST AWAKENED. We have here--
1. The invitation given. “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.”
2. The considerations by which it is enforced. “And He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” It is the seat of Divine instruction on the one hand, and the centre of holy influence on the other.
IV. THE HAPPY RESULTS DECLARED (verse 4). This is--
1. A consummation most devoutly to be desired.
2. Absolutely certain in its realisation. “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.”
3. The means whereby it win be accomplished. By God judging or ruling among the nations, and rebuking or working conviction among them. (Anon.)
The future glory and amplitude of the Church
1. The Gospel dispensation was designed to supersede that which was given by the hand of Moses; it was to be exalted above this hill.
2. The Gospel also was destined to triumph over all those corrupt systems of religion which have ever been received among men.
3. The assertion before us is also understood as a prophecy relative to the fulness of the Church when the Jews shall be called in. This important event is foretold by the sacred writers. (S. Ramsey, M. A.)
Isaiah’s wideness of view
Consider what that prediction meant in Isaiah’s time. He lived within well-defined boundaries and limitations: the Jew was not a great man in the sense of including within his personal aspirations all classes, conditions, and estates of men; left to himself he could allow the Gentiles to die by thousands daily without shedding a tear upon their fallen bodies; he lived amongst his own people; it was enough for him that the Jews were happy, for the Gentiles were but dogs. Here is a new view of human nature, great enlargement of spiritual boundaries. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The Church of the future--Goethe and Isaiah
It is quite the fashion in these days for those who do not believe in the Christian religion to bestow on it their patronage. The Bible is full of delusion and falsehood, but they regard it, on the whole, as a book that deserves notice; parts of it are almost as good as the Rig-Veda. The Church has been the handmaid of bigotry and superstition, yet they find in the history of the Church some passages that are inspiring. Jesus of Nazareth was a teacher in whose doctrine they find many things to set right; yet, so rich were His contributions to ethical science that they feel themselves justified in bestowing on Him a qualified approval. This fashion of patronising Christianity may have been set by Goethe. Into that temple of the future which he describes in his Tale, the little hut of the fisherman, by which he symbolises Christianity, was graciously admitted. “This little hut had, indeed, been wonderfully transfigured. By virtue of the Lamp locked up in it [the light of reason] the hut had been converted from the inside to the outside into solid silver. Ere long, too, its form changed; for the noble metal shook aside the accidental shape of planks, posts and beams, and stretched itself out into a noble case of beaten, ornamented workmanship. Thus a fair little temple stood erected in the middle of the large one; or, if you will, an altar worthy of the temple.” This is Goethe’s view of the Church of the future. He has been magnanimous enough to provide a niche for it in the perfected temple of the Great Hereafter; it is to serve as a pretty decoration of that grand structure, as a dainty bit of bric-a-brac. About twenty five centuries before Goethe’s day another poet, dwelling somewhere in the fastnesses of Syria, had visions of the future in form and colour quite unlike this of the German philosopher. In Isaiah’s sight of the latter day, the Church of God is not merely a feature--it furnishes the outline, it fills the whole field of vision. It is not merely a trait of the picture--it is the picture. Instead of putting the Church into a niche in the templeof the future, to be kept there as a kind of heirloom--a well-preserved antique curiosity--Isaiah insists that the Church in the temple, and that all stores and forces of good are to be gathered into it, to celebrate its empire and to decorate its triumph. The mountain of the Lord’s house, the typical Zion on which the spiritual Church is builded, is to be exalted above all other eminences. Toward that all eyes shall turn; toward that all paths shall lead; toward that shall journey with joy all pilgrim feet. For the heralds of its progress, for the missionaries of its glad tidings it shall have many nations; it shall give to all the world the ruling law and the informing word. This is Isaiah’s view of the Church of the future. When twenty-five centuries more shall have passed it will be easier to tell whether the Hebrew or the German was the better seer. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)
The Church of the future
Isaiah shows us the Church of the future only in outline; the great fact which he gives us is that in the last days the spiritual Jerusalem shall gather into itself all the kingdoms of the world and all the glory of them. It may be possible for us in some indistinct way to fill in this outline; to imagine, if we cannot prophesy, what the scope and character of the future Church shall be.
I. WILL IT HAVE A CREED? A creed is only a statement, more or less elaborate, of the facts and principles of religion accepted by those who adhere to it. Religion is not wholly an affair of the emotions; it involves the apprehension of truth. In the future, as in the past, this truth must be stated, in order to be apprehended. A man’s creed is what he believes; and there must be creeds as long as there are believers. It is probable, however, that the creeds may be considerably modified as the years pass. Certainly they have been undergoing modifications, continually, through the centuries gone by. It must be remembered, however, that the changes through which theological science has been passing have been changes of spirit rather than of substance, of form more than of fact. The essential truth remains. The great changes in theology are moral changes. Theology is constantly becoming less materialistic and more ethical. This progress will continue through the future. The creed of the future will contain, I have no doubt, the same essential truth that is found in the creeds of the present; but there may be considerable difference in the phrasing of it, and in the point of view from which it is approached.
1. Men will believe in the future in an infinite personal God, the Creator, the Ruler, the Father of men. The abstract, impersonal Force to which Agnosticism leads us has no relation to that which is deepest in man, and can have none. Christ bade us love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul. Can any man ever be perfectly happy until he has found some Being whom he can love in this way? Must not the Being who is worthy to be loved in this way be both perfect and infinite? And is it possible for a man to love with heart and mind and soul, any being, however vast or powerful, that has neither heart nor mind nor soul?
2. Concerning the mode of the Divine existence, men will learn in the future to speak more modestly than they have spoken in the past. It will become more and more evident that it is not possible to put the infinite into terms of the finite. There is the doctrine of the Trinity; there is truth in it, or under it; but can anyone put that truth into propositions that shall be definite and not contradictory?
3. II one may judge the future by the past there is no reason to fear that the person of Jesus Christ will be less commanding in the Church of the future than it is in the Church of the present.
4. The fact of sin will not be denied by the Church of the future. Doubtless organisation and circumstance will be taken into the account in estimating human conduct; but the power of the human will to control the natural tendencies, to release itself from entangling circumstances, and to lay hold on the Divine grace by which it may overcome sin, will also be clearly understood. The supremacy of the moral nature will be vindicated.
5. Punishment, as conceived and represented by the Church of the future, will not be an arbitrary infliction of suffering, but the natural and inevitable consequence of disobedience to law. It will be discovered that the moral law is incorporated into the natural order, and that its sanctions are found in that order; while, in the work of redemption, God interposes by His personal and supernatural grace to save men from the consequences of their own disobedience and folly. Law is natural; grace is supernatural Transgressors will be made to see, what they now so dimly apprehend, that no effect can be more closely joined to its cause than penalty to sin.
6. Whatever the creed of the future may be, however, it will not be put to the kind of use which the creed of the present is made to serve. It will not be laid down as the doctrinal plank over which everybody must walk who comes into the communion of the Church. The Church, like every other organism, has an organic idea, and that is simple loyalty to Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. There will be but one door into that Church--Christ will be the door.
II. WHAT WILL BE THE POLITY OF THE FUTURE CHURCH? It is likely that, of the various sorts of ecclesiastical machinery, each of the several religious bodies will freely choose that which it likes best. Doubtless the Church will have some form of government: it will not be a holy mob; lawlessness will not be regarded as the supreme good, in Church or in State. In whatever ecclesiastical mould the Church of the future may be cast, there will be no mean sectarianism in existence then. The various families of Christians will dwell as happily together as well-bred families now do in society. Though there be diversities of form in the future, there will be real and thorough intercommunion and cooperation among Christians of all names, and nothing will be permitted to hold apart those who follow the same Leader and travel the same road.
III. WHAT KIND OF WORK WILL BE DONE BY THE CHURCH OF THE FUTURE? It will have many ways of working that the Church of the present has not dreamed of. “The field is the world,” Christ has told us; and in that better day the Church will have learned to occupy the field.
1. Paul said that as a preacher of the Gospel he magnified his office. There is no office more honourable. But it must not be inferred that there is no other Way of preaching the Gospel except the formal utterance of religious truth, in the presence of a congregation. The truth will be disseminated, in that time, in many other ways. For though the living voice is the best instrument for the proclamation of the truth, so far as it will reach, it cannot reach very far. The art of printing has been given to the world since that day; and by that invention the whole business of instructing and influencing men has been revolutionised. The Church has already appropriated this agency; and it is doubtless true that it will be employed in the future more effectively than in the past. Neither will the range of teaching be so narrow as it has sometimes been in the past. To apply the ethical rule of the New Testament to the conduct of individuals, and to the relations of men in society, will be the constant obligation of the pulpit. Out of Zion must go forth the law by which parents, children, neighbours, citizens, workmen, masters, teachers, pupils, benefactors, beneficiaries, shall guide their behaviour. Science, long the nightmare of the theologians, will no more trouble their dreams; it will be understood that there can be no conflict between truths; that physical science has its facts and laws, and spiritual science its facts and laws; that these are diverse but not contradictory, and that the one is just as positive and knowable as the other. The unfriendliness now existing between the scientists and the theologians will exist no longer, because both parties will have learned wisdom.
2. But the work of teaching will not be the only work to which the Church of the future will address itself. Large and wise enterprises for the welfare of men will be set on foot; many of the instrumentalities now in use will continue to be employed, under modified forms, and many new ones will be devised. It will be understood that the law of the Church is simply this, “Let us do good to all men as we have opportunity.” (Washington Gladden, D. D.)
The magnet which draws the nations
The Church is established on the top of the mountain, and all nations are flowing unto it. Yes, flowing up hill! Yes, up the mountain side! When I was a boy I said, “That is false rhetoric, a mistake--flowing to the top of the mountain; it cannot be.” I went to the workshop of a friend, and I saw in the dust a parcel of steel filings. And he had a magnet, and, as he drew it near to the steel filings, they were attracted to it and kissed the magnet. Then I said, Give me a magnet large enough, place it on the mountain top, and it will draw all the nations unto it. That magnet is the Lord Jesus Christ, for He said, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me.” (Bp. M. Simpson, D. D.)
Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord
For “people” read “peoples.
” So ver.
4. (A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
Desire for spiritual instruction
What I intend is to make use of the words as they express a sincere desire in many people of being better informed in the mind and will of God, by some particular revelation from Himself than they could be by the mere natural light of their own minds, reflecting only upon the general works of creation and providence.
I. EVERY RATIONAL MAN, WHO BELIEVES A GOD AND A PROVIDENCE GOVERNING THE WORLD, IS UNDER A NATURAL OBLIGATION TO INQUIRE WHETHER GOD HAS MADE ANY PARTICULAR REVELATION OF HIS WILL TO MEN, WHICH THEY ARE ANY WAY CONCERNED TO TAKE NOTICE OF.
II. WHOEVER SERIOUSLY MAKES THIS INQUIRY, WILL FIND IT REASONABLE TO CONCLUDE THAT SOME REVELATION MAY JUSTLY BE EXPECTED FROM GOD, CONSIDERING THE GENERAL STATE OF MANKIND.
1. In the nature of things, there is no impossibility that God should make a particular revelation of His will to men. That God should communicate His will to men in a particular manner, implies nothing contradictory, either to the nature of man or God. For if we believe that God is the Maker of mankind, and that from Him they received their reason and understanding, then it is unreasonable to suppose that the mind of man is incapable of receiving any impression of revelation or instruction from the Supreme mind, only because that Supreme mind is of an invisible nature. And it is yet much more unreasonable to suppose any incapacity in the Divine Being, of making such discovery of His will to the mind of man, as His wisdom sees fit; for this would, in effect, be to deny the perfection of His nature, and to make him a Being not acting freely but by necessity, without liberty or choice and this in the end comes to the same thing as denying His Being altogether.
2. Considering our natural notions of the goodness of God, there is no reason to think it incredible that He should at some time or other make such discovery of His will.
3. Considering the general condition of mankind, such revelation is by no means unnecessary.
III. IF THIS BE SO, THEN IT IS EVERY MAN’S DUTY TO USE ALL THE PROPER MEANS HE CAN TO FIND OUT WHAT IS TRUE REVELATION AND WHAT IS ONLY PRETENDED. (R. Boyle.)
“Let us go up”
Those that are entering into covenant and communion with God themselves should bring as many as they can along with them. (M. Henry.)
He will teach us of His ways
The ways of God
By the ways of God may be meant--
1. His purposes and counsels, so far as are proper and necessary for His servants to be acquainted with, in order to promote their happiness and salvation.
2. His providential dispensations, so far as is consistent with their duty and interest to know them. That they may understand the loving kindness of the Lord.
3. The ministration of His Spirit and the way of salvation, by which the manifold wisdom of Jehovah is admirably displayed. These are, with great propriety, called the ways of God, as He points them out to us in His Word, and as they are intended to conduct to the enjoyment of Him in the land of everlasting upright ness. (R. Macculloch.)
And we will walk in His paths
Walking in God’s paths
The resolution before us--
1. Plainly implies a free choice of the precepts of the Gospel, in preference to all other ways, and in opposition to every kind of compulsion whatever.
2. It includes a fixed purpose of heart, a firm determination, to cleave unto the Lord, notwithstanding every difficulty and discouragement that may lie in the way.
3. And as walking is an uniform, progressive motion, it comprehends a constant, persevering progress in the good ways of the Lord, wherein they are instructed. (R. Macculloch.)
And He shall Judge among the nations . . . neither shall they learn war any more
Christ’s kingdom upon earth
When it is said that He should “judge among the nations,” we must observe that the term is continually used in the Old Testament of the rule of a chief magistrate. Under the theocracy those who ruled the nation, as we read in 2:1-23, and in many other places, were termed “judges.” Of one of these it is said--“The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel, and he judged Israel, and went out to war,”--acted as their supreme ruler. And the same language is employed continually of those who ruled in Israel, under God their King. The prediction is very nearly parallel to one in the seventy-second Psalm respecting the Messiah: “He shall judge”--or rule--“the people with righteousness, and the poor with judgment.”Accordingly, in our text it is declared that the Messiah should be a Ruler “among the nations.” This rule was to take place, according to the language of prophecy, when the Redeemer came into this world. Hence when our Lord was upon earth, He Himself proclaimed that “the kingdom of heaven was at hand.” He directed His disciples to preach the same truth. And we know that a time is to come, when “the kingdoms of the world are to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.” When our Saviour was upon earth He allowed the expression used by Nathaniel--“Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel.” When He came in triumph into Jerusalem, and the people shouted out--“Hosannah! I blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,” our Lord did not repress the exultation. All believers, then, have already become subjects of His Kingdom, and He is stated in Scripture to be their King. He has a dominion, indeed, far more extensive than that of the Church; He has “all power given Him in heaven and earth.” But the passage before us does not refer to this universal dominion, which He exercises in providence, but it speaks of the dominion of grace, His dominion limited to His Church--because it is a dominion that was to result from the promulgation of His Word out of Zion, and a dominion to be co-extensive with the exaltation of His Church of Zion. “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations.”
2. It was added, as a contemporaneous act of His sovereignty, “He shall rebuke many people.” By that word “rebuke” is evidently meant, He shall reprove them for their sinfulness.
3. The effect of the Saviour’s reign is further described; it is to be universal peace. “They shall beat,” etc. (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
Anomalies in the history of Christendom
An obvious reflection which occurs to us, when reading this prediction--or at least which is likely to occur to anyone not well acquainted wire Scripture--is, that the effect of the Gospel, going forth from Zion and from Jerusalem, seemed from the very first to be quite the opposite of this prediction. How can it be said that the effect of the Gospel has been to introduce a universal peace, when it seems man fest from history that it has introduced universal disturbance and confusion? Our Lord Himself, when on earth, by His ministry and life, only led to a universal conspiracy against Him; and when He ascended to His glory, and His disciples began to preach in His name, it was the signal for general confusion. As that Gospel advanced, it was the signal for more savage opposition, till every part of the Roman empire was stained with the blood of Christ’s followers, till everywhere there was a universal warfare among menu between those who were the advocates of the old system, and those who proclaimed the new. At length, when the empire was conquered, it was only to be the occasion of still wider and more sanguinary disturbances. Many as had perished through popular fury, or by legal interference, during the three first centuries, multitudes more perished, as the indirect consequence of the Gospel in after ages. When the Roman empire was shivered by the shock of barbarian invaders, and the feudal kingdoms of Europe rose in its place, in each of those kingdoms the castle of the noble frowned defiance upon the castle of every good and great man; the wars between neighbouring nations became interminable; and when at last the monarchies were consolidated, and the great modern monarchies rose out of that confusion, it was only to see in every page of history an interminable war fare between Christian nations. So that, for instance, in our own frontiers, the Border warfare between Scotland and England was almost interminable; and yet these were Christian nations; and the Christian nations of France and England were termed hereditary foes, and there was not a monarch of Europe that did not join in some sanguinary strife, to please a minister, or to gratify his own ambition, or for some vain pretence, as corrupt as it was often false. But this has not been the only way in which this prediction appears to have been perpetually frustrated--for there have actually been sanguinary wars that have arisen from no other cause than religion. The wars of Bohemia and the Low Countries, and the civil wars of France and many other countries which long raged in the hearts of nations, for no other cause than a difference in Christian doctrine, seem to be a contradiction of the prophecy in our text, beyond all apology. And even when the disturbances of nations have not risen to actual warfare, how lamentable have been the cruelties exercised over a profession belief in Christianity! See the dukes of Savoy soaking the valleys of Piedmont with the blood of their best subjects; see the rage of the Roman Catholic persecutors exhibiting itself in the massacre of St. Bartholomew; view the remorseless Dragonades in the south of France; see the many enormities which were perpetrated in our own country during the reigns of Henry the Seventh and Eighth, and Charles the First and Second. Carry your views to the northern parts of this island, and there see Claverhouse and his companions reeking with the blood of the guiltless Covenanters; cross the Channel, and see the Roman Catholics of Ireland massacring thousands of Protestants because they were Protestants, and the equally bloody return secured to them by the iron-hearted and relentless soldiers of Oliver Cromwell. So that everywhere massacre and misery have followed the introduction of the Gospel. Is this the fulfilment of the promise--“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”?
1. Let us first notice, that the Gospel is not responsible for the acts of its enemies,--and in all the cases I have named its friends might still be like sheep in the midst of wolves. They might “be wise as serpents, harmless as doves,” and yet all this slaughter might take place under the name of religion. They have been the enemies of the Gospel, and not its friends, who have thus manifested such savage cruelty and unprincipled cupidity towards their fellow men.
2. And let us notice, in the next place, that the prediction in our text was manifestly not to be fulfilled immediately; it was to take place “in the last days”--and those “last days” have not yet transpired. (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
War during the Christian centuries, though peace predicted
It may be said, that however guiltless the Gospel may have been of these sanguinary results, yet they are facts of history. The prediction was, universal peace to follow from the Gospel, and the experience has been universal war. Does not this seem to contradict the prediction? Nothing is more conclusive than the answer which may be given to this objection.
1. The Gospel was declared to be of a pacific tendency. It forbids all the causes of war in the world--pride, passion, cupidity, etc. It bids all who become the subjects of Christ’s dominion to be mild and meek and patient as their Master was.
2. There must be the same pacific tendency among nations that are in any degree Christianised.
3. This tendency has not been and could not be wholly counteracted. It is true there have been these shameful wars; but it is no less true that under even the partial influence of the Gospel wars have in our day assumed a humanity which they never before manifested.
4. The influence of each individual Christian and the tendency of Christian institutions combine to secure the fulfilment of these prospects. And if so, may we not reasonably exult in this blessed doctrine of Christ? And if we look back with shame and pain on the history of the nations that call themselves Christian, let us seek our selves to manifest a better spirit and be men of peace. (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
God the Arbitrator
Here is a prediction of arbitration in case of war. “He . . . shall rebuke many people.” Read the word “rebuke”--He shall arbitrate amongst many people; He shall hear their cause; He shall redress their grievances; He shall determine their controversies, and men shall accept His award as final. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Learning war no more
Not learning war is something more than not continuing to practise it (Calvin), and signifies their ceasing to know how to practise it. (J. A. Alexander.)
I. THE MISERIES AND CRIMES OF WAR.
II. THE SOURCES OF WAR. Many will imagine that the first place ought to be given to malignity and hatred. But justice to human nature requires that we ascribe to national animosities a more limited operation than is usually assigned to them in the production of war.
1. One of the great springs of war is the strong and general propensity of human nature towards the love of excitement, of emotion, of strong interest.
2. Another powerful principle of our nature, which is a spring of war, is the passion for superiority, for triumph, for power.
3. Another powerful spring of war is the admiration of the brilliant qualities displayed in war.
4. Another cause of war is false patriotism.
5. Another spring of war, the impression (and false views of war)we receive in early life. These principal causes of war are of a moral nature. They may be resolved into wrong views of human glory, and into excesses of passions and desires, which, by right direction, would promote the best interests of humanity. From these causes we learn that this savage custom is to be repressed by moral means, by salutary influences on the sentiments and principles of mankind.
III. THE REMEDIES OF WAR. Without taking an extreme position, we ought to assail war, by assailing the principles and passions which gave it birth, and by improving and exalting the moral sentiments of mankind.
1. Important service may be rendered to the cause of peace by communicating and enforcing just and elevated sentiments in relation to the true honour of rulers.
2. To these instructions should be added just sentiments as to the glory of nations.
3. Another most important method of promoting the cause of peace is to turn men’s admiration from military courage to qualities of real nobleness and dignity.
4. Let Christian ministers exhibit, with greater clearness, the pacific and benevolent spirit of Christianity. (W. E. Channing, D. D.)
Private war abolished
There was a time, not very long ago, when private war was even more universal than public or international war is today. City against city! Baron against baron! Even private persons were entitled to settle their differences by judicial combat if they preferred. Right of trial by combat still survives in some European countries in the form of duelling. But with that solitary exception, private war has now been entirely abolished throughout the civilised world. How has this immense improvement been achieved? The fact to be specially remembered is that the barons of the Middle Ages submitted very reluctantly and slowly to the substitution of judicial arbitration for private war. Kings had not the power to compel, and the barons continually defied the kings. Gradually a more enlightened and moral public opinion grew up in favour of the rational and Christian method of settling disputes. At last the supremacy of law and of courts of justice became established. Private war is now impossible, so absolute is the triumph of Christianity in the internal affairs of the nation. Now, a precisely similar slow and intermittent change is evolving better order in international life. Barbarous and heathen governments still defy the dictates of reason and of conscience as the cities and barons of the Middle Ages did. But slowly and intermittently their ferocity is being overcome. Arbitration has already been substituted for war in a large number of important cases which, in any previous period of human history, would inevitably have deluged the world with blood. (H. P. Hughes, M. A.)
I. THE TERRIBLE EVILS OF WAR. There are many evils we have to endure in this life that we cannot avoid. They are unforeseen, indirect, irresistible. Disease, domestic sorrows, adversity, and other evils befall men; but none can equal war.
II. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SETTLE NATIONAL DISPUTES BY WAR. No argument is necessary to prove that physical force can never settle the right or wrong of any question. The most powerful battalions are not always on the side of the just cause. And when a war is over, who accepts it as a final settlement of the question in dispute? Often a bloody war is followed by conferences and treaties, and after a vast expenditure of treasure and life, after the entrance of sorrow into many homes, the measures which should have been resorted to at first are the measures which decide the question How often one side accepts peace simply because, for the present, it can no longer prosecute war. The only true method of settling quarrels is by reason, the furnishing of explanations, the granting of concessions, the manifestation of a desire and purpose to agree. Two nations may thus settle their misunderstandings without calling in a third party, or they may call in others to arbitrate between them and agree to abide by their decision. A high court of arbitration is in full agreement with enlightened reason and Christian teaching; it seems in the highest degree practicable, and it would prove, in its operations and results, one of the greatest blessings to the nations of the earth.
III. ONE OF THE MOST PRESSING DUTIES OF CHRISTIAN MEN IS TO EMPLOY ALL POSSIBLE MEANS FOR THE EXTINCTION OF WAR. We should steadfastly set ourselves against the maintenance of large standing armies. We should leaven public opinion with the principles of peace by the press, in social intercourse, and by using our power as citizens in seeking to purge our Legislature as much as possible from warlike influences. There is no cause in which woman’s influence may be more appropriately exercised or can have greater weight. Preachers of the Gospel should preach peace. (W. Walters.)
Let me attempt to do away a delusion which exists on the subject of prophecy. Its fulfillments are all certain, say many, and we have therefore nothing to do but to wait for them in passive and indolent expectation. Now, it is very true, that the Divinity will do His work in His own way, but if He choose to tell us that that way is not without the instrumentality of men, might not this sitting down into the mere attitude of spectators turn out to be a most perverse and disobedient conclusion! The prophecy of a peace as universal as the spread of the human race, and as enduring as the moon in the firmament, will meet its accomplishment; but it will be brought about by the activity of men--by the philanthropy of intelligent Christians.
I. THE EVILS OF WAR. The mere existence of this prophecy is a sentence of condemnation upon war. So soon as Christianity shall gain a full ascendency in the world, war is to disappear. We have heard that there is something noble in the art of war; that there is something generous in the ardour of that fine chivalric spirit which kindles in the hour of alarm, and rushes with delight among the thickest scenes of danger and of enterprise; that expunge war, and you expunge some of the brightest names in the catalogue of human virtue, and demolish that theatre on which have been displayed some of the sublimest energies of the human character. One might almost be reconciled to the whole train of its calamities and its horrors, did he not believe his Bible, and learn that in the days of perfect righteousness, there will be no war;--that so soon as the character of man has had the last finish of Christian principle thrown over it, all the instruments of war will be thrown aside, and all its lessons forgotten. But apart altogether from this testimony to the evil of war, let us take a direct look at it, and see whether we can find its character engraven on the aspect it bears to the eye of an attentive observer. Were the man who stands before you in the full energy of health, to be in another moment laid by some deadly aim a lifeless corpse at your feet, there is not one of you who would not prove how strong are the relentings of nature at a spectacle so hideous as death. But generally the death of violence is not instantaneous, and there is often a sad and dreary interval between its final consummation, and the infliction of the blow which causes it. A soldier may be a Christian, and from the bloody field on which his body is laid, his soul may wing its way to the shores of a peaceful eternity. But when I think that the Christians form but a little flock, and that an army is not a propitious soil for the growth of Christian principle; when I follow them to the field of battle, and further think, that on both sides of an exasperated contest the gentleness of Christianity can have no place in almost any bosom, but that nearly every heart is lighted up with fury, and breathes a vindictive purpose against a brother of the species, I cannot but reckon it among the most fearful of the calamities of war, that while the work of death is thickening along its ranks, so many disembodied spirits should pass into the presence of Him who sitteth upon the throne, in such a posture, and with such a preparation.
II. Let me direct your attention to THOSE OBSTACLES WHICH STAND IN THE WAY OF THE EXTINCTION OF WAR, and which threaten to retard, for a time, the accomplishment of this prophecy.
1. The first great obstacle is the way in which the heart of man is carried off from its barbarities and its horrors, by the splendour of its deceitful accompaniments. There is a feeling of the sublime in contemplating the shock of armies, just as there is in contemplating the devouring energy of a tempest; and this so elevates and engrosses the whole man, that his eye is blind to the tears of bereaved parents, and his ear is deaf to the piteous moan of the dying, and the shriek of their desolated families. There is a gracefulness in the picture of a youthful warrior burning for distinction on the field, and lured by this generous aspiration to the deepest of the animated throng, where, in the fell work of death, the opposing sons of valour struggle for a remembrance and a name; and this side of the picture is so much the exclusive object of our regard, as to disguise from our view the mangled carcasses of the fallen, and the writhing agonies of the hundred and the hundreds more who have been laid on the cold ground, where they are left to languish and die. On every side of me I see causes at work which go to spread a most delusive colouring over war, and to remove its shocking barbarities to the background of our contemplations altogether. I see it in the history which tells me of the superb appearance of the troops and the brilliancy of their successive charges. I see it in the poetry which lends the magic of its numbers to the narrative of blood, and transports its many admirers, as by its images and figures and its nodding plumes of chivalry it throws its treacherous embellishments over a scene of legalised slaughter.
2. But another obstacle to the extinction of war is the sentiment that the rules and promises of the Gospel which apply to a single individual, do not apply to a nation of individuals. If forbearance be the virtue of an individual, forbearance is also the virtue of a nation. If it be the glory of a man to defer his anger, and to pass over a transgression, that nation mistakes its glory which is so feelingly alive to the slightest insult, and musters up its threats and its armaments upon the faintest shadow of a provocation. If it be the magnanimity of an injured man to abstain from vengeance, and if by so doing, he heap coals of fire upon the head of his enemy, then that is the magnanimous nation, which, recoiling from violence and from blood, will do no more than send its Christian embassy, and prefer its mild and impressive remonstrance; and that is the disgraced nation which will refuse the impressiveness of the moral appeal that has been made to it.
III. IT IS ONLY BY THE EXTENSION OF CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLE AMONG THE PEOPLE OF THE EARTH THAT THE ATROCITIES OF WAR WILL AT LENGTH BE SWEPT AWAY FROM IT. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
The world’s deliverance from war
Ever since the fall, our world has exhibited much of degradation and misery; and it is lamentably true, that a vast amount of its wretchedness has been produced by the active agency of its own inhabitants. Man has hated and oppressed his fellow man But how delightful is it to think that we have been assured by the word of Divine inspiration, that it is the design of the great Creator of all things, to reclaim our earth from its state of degradation and wickedness and misery, and to make it again the scene of holiness and harmony and happiness!
I. THE NATURE OF THE EVIL TO BE REMOVED. This evil is represented to consist in the lifting up of the sword, and in the learning of the art of war.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE CHANGE TO BE PRODUCED. “They shall beat,” etc. The period is to arrive, in the history of our world, in which the operation of those unholy passions by which so much destruction and misery has been produced, shall be subdued; and in which the principle of love to God and to men shall be delightfully predominant within the human bosom.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE HAPPY TRANSITION IS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED. Swords are to be beaten “into” ploughshares, and spears to pruning hooks, and war is no more to be learned, when many people shall go and say, “Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, for He will teach us of His ways.” Hence, it appears that the change is to be produced by the agency of the Gospel. There may be other instrumentalities era subordinate nature brought into operation, such as the commercial intercourse of nations with each other, and the knowledge which they may acquire of their mutual interests and dependencies; but the religion of Jesus is to be the principal cause of the termination of hostilities in our world, and the introduction of the reign of universal peace and felicity. The Gospel of Christ informs us of the source whence all our enmities and contentions proceed, even from the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of our hearts. The Gospel of Christ first of all reconciles man to his God, and then works within him the dispositions which lead him to be reconciled to his fellow man, and to “love him with a pure heart fervently.” The Gospel of Christ inculcates those principles of peace and goodwill, the recognition of which composes differences, softens down resentments, inspires with forgiving and kindly feelings, and prompts, to deeds of beneficence. It is the testimony of experience, moreover, that nothing but the Gospel of Christ has ever opposed the system of war, and diminished in any degree the amount of the evil which it occasions. The ancient philosophy dignified with the name of virtues the unholy passions from which it arose, and the poets of the olden times made it the theme of their highest admiration, and of their sweetest praise. The classical heathenism of Greece and of Rome had its god and goddess of war, and represented its deities as mingling in the fray and delighting in the carnage of the battlefield. But Jesus appeared in our world as the Prince of Peace; and one of the most delightful precepts of His meek and gentle faith is, “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God.” What was it but the spirit of Christianity which put an end to the cruel gladiator ships of the amphitheatre of Rome? What was it but the spirit of Christianity which subdued the fierceness of the Huns, the Goths, and the Vandals of former times, and made so many of them the soldiers of the Cross and the followers of the Captain of our salvation? (W. M’Kerrow.)
The cessation of war an effect of the prevalence of Christianity
Notwithstanding any accompanying references, we cannot hesitate to take this for a prediction of times yet to come. Evidently, it has never yet been fulfilled.
1. It is as conjoined with very nearly the beginning of our race, that we have to look upon this direful phenomenon. But how strange, for a creature, come fresh, living, and pure, from the beneficent Creator’s hands! The least that we can think of that original state of man is, that there must have been in his soul the principle of all kind affections,--a state of feeling that would have been struck with horror at the thought of inflicting suffering. And, from the creature thus originally constituted, all the race was to descend. Can such a nature ever rage with malignity and revenge, and riot in suffering and destruction? Yet, in this original family, in the very first degree of the descent, war and slaughter began. While we think of the deadly conflicts of those early ages, the idea may occur to us of the peculiar atrocity of destroying a life which might, in the course of nature, have lasted so long. Living beings cloven down or mortally pierced or poisoned or burnt that might have lived seven or eight centuries, for improvement, for serving God, for usefulness, for whatever happiness there might have been in this world or preparation for another!
2. The world began anew in the person and family of a selected patriarch, whom alone “the Lord had seen righteous in that Generation.” Now, then, for a better race,--if the human nature were intrinsically good, or corrigible by the most awful dispensations. But all in vain! The flood could not cleanse the nature of man; nor the awful memory and memorials of it repress the coming forth of selfishness, pride, ambition, anger, and revenge.
3. The sacred history, after Just recounting some successions of names in the different branches of the new race, limits its narrative to the origin and progress of what became the Jewish people--Abraham and his posterity. Their history, however, in proceeding downward, involves much of that of the surrounding nations. And some of the profane histories go far back into the period subsequent to the deluge. And what is so conspicuous over all the view, as wars and devastations? There is one portion of this tragical exhibition which we are to take out of the account of ordinary war, namely, the war of extirpation against the Canaanites. But, setting this portion of the history aside, think of the long course of sanguinary conflicts within the boundary of the selected nation itself, between Israel and Judah. Besides the slaughters, of battle and massacre, within each separately, of these two divisions of that people, add, all their wars with Syria and Egypt, with the Babylonian, Grecian, and Roman powers, closed finally, in that most awful catastrophe, the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.
4. Then glance a moment over the wider view of the whole ancient world; as far abroad and as high up in time as history has made it visible. The human race is exhibited, in some regions, in the form of numerous small states. But their smallness of size and strength was not the measure of their passions. What we are certain to read of them is, that they attacked and fought one another with the ferocity of wild beasts. By some ambitious “conquering hero” a great number of these were subdued and moulded together into a great kingdom, on one large space of the earth, and the same on another. And then with a tremendous clash, these empires came into conflict.
5. But now if we could take one grand compass of view over the earth, and down through time from that period to this! What a vision of destruction! And to complete the account--as if the whole solid earth were not wide enough--the sea has been coloured with blood, and received into its dark gulf myriads of slain, as if it could not destroy enough by its tempests and wrecks! Reflections--
I. SOME OF THE LEADING FEATURES OF WAR, AS RECORDED IN GOD’S WORD.
1. The cause of war (James 4:1-2). From this passage, we see that just as in domestic broils, just as in strifes between sects and parties, so in strifes between nation and nation--they all proceed from the lusts of men, and from that carnal mind which is enmity against God.
2. We learn from God’s Word that war is a tremendous evil. What horror filled the soul of the prophet Jeremiah, when he heard the rumour of war--“My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketha noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war” (Jeremiah 4:19). See again Jeremiah 47:2-3, how the prophet describes the distress and anguish of the Philistines at the approach of an invading army--an anguish so great and so terrible, as to lead them even to forget the common ties of humanity. See again Deuteronomy 28:50-51, how Moses speaks of the devastating force of an invading army; and Joel 2:2, where the prophet describes the day of the Lord as compared to an invading army.
3. God’s Word shows us that war is one of God’s scourges, by which He punishes guilty nations for their wickedness. In Ezekiel 14:21, the sword |s distinctly spoken of as one of God’s four sore judgments.
4. God’s Word shows us that it is He alone who can bring war to an end. Psalms 46:9.) In every war God has a special design of His own to fulfil--a purpose into which the eye of mortality can never pierce--but untilthat purpose is executed the war can never end. (Jeremiah 47:6-7.)
5. God’s Word shows that war is to be the immediate precursor of the terrors of the latter days. (Joel 3:9, etc.; Matthew 24:6.)
6. God’s Word declares that there is a time approaching when wars will forever cease.
II. PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. What is our present duty
2. The necessity of being prepared for the things that are coming upon the earth.
3. The awfulness of being overtaken unprepared. You will be speechless. (A. W.Snape, M. A.)
The means by which this prophecy is to be fulfilled
I. A PROPER ESTIMATE OF THE MISERIES OF WAR must prepare the way for universal peace.
II. THE DISSEMINATION OF THE WORD OF GOD. Nothing but the Word of God can effect the cure of this moral distemper--nothing but the Spirit of God can subdue the native principles of the heart--nothing but the salvation of the Gospel can remove the evil we deplore. There is no other remedy can reach the core of the malady.
III. THE PRAYERS OF CHRISTIANS must accompany the other means used for the establishment of peace. (J. Gray, M. A.)
War to cease
I. HUMAN INDUSTRY IS A FEATURE IN THE BRIGHT PICTURE OF FUTURE HAPPINESS. The inhabitants of the earth throughout the millennium, when the globe is to be covered with its first beauty, are not to subsist without some measure of labour. They are to use the ploughshare and the pruning hook; and this use is sufficient to show that the ground will not then yield its fruits, except in return for the toil of the husbandman. It seems to indicate how accurately the world will be put back into its condition before defiled by sin--that a necessity for toiling should be alleged or implied; though all that is painful or exhausting in labour must be supposed to have ceased. We are greatly struck by the carefulness displayed throughout the Bible, to put honour on industry, and to represent labour as in the largest sense an appointment of God. The too common sup position is, that labour was a curse which disobedience provoked, whereas labour was appointed unto man while yet in the full enjoyment of the favour of his God. We are so constituted, that labour is indispensable to our happiness, to the strengthening of our faculties, and to the preservation of a wholesome tone in our spirits. We know not whether the going to the armouries, and ransacking them for the materials of the implements of agriculture, may not mark such increase in the number of the inhabitants of the world, as would require continued effort on the part of the husbandman to keep pace with the growing demand, so that ploughshares and pruning hooks are not furnished fast enough, and swords and spears must be made to do their office. But we now proceed to consider what seems given as the reason for this conversion of the instruments of war into the implements of husbandry.
II. THERE WILL CERTAINLY BE NO FURTHER USE FOR THE ARMS OF WAR--“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” It is Isaiah’s assertion, that the cessation of war is to result from the general diffusion of Christian principles. And there is no difficulty in tracing the necessary connection between the sovereignty of Christ and the extinction of war; for the tendency of the religion of Jesus is to bind the whole world in brotherhood.
III. WAR SHALL NOT ONLY CEASE AS AN EMPLOYMENT, BUT ALSO AS A SCIENCE--“Neither shall they learn war any more.” They shall not only enjoy the liberty of peace--for peace may be, and too commonly is a season in which war is studied, and preparations are made for future battles; they shall be so secure of peace being permanent, that the arts of attack and defence will fall into oblivion, and the whole array of military tactics pass from the world like the science of the necromancer, or any other exploded and reprobated study. We find no hint in Scripture, but altogether the reverse, that the profession of a soldier cannot harmonise with godliness. The angel sent to the Roman centurion bore no message as to the unlawfulness of his calling. But these admissions are quite in harmony with what we have stated as to the condemnation of war, which is wound up in the sentence that war is a science. That men should not merely have been roused by sudden passion into the doing violence to one another, but that they should actually have studied how best to effect the butchery of thousands, having their schools and establishments in which numbers may be trained in the art of destruction--this, of itself, presents such a picture of human depravity as would serve for the painter who might desire to exhibit it in the darkest possible colours. There is a great difference between a prophecy which should assert the termination of war as an employment, and another which affirms its termination as a science; since the former might only show the existence of a restraining power, whereas the latter indicates such a forgetfulness or renunciation of everything military as requires the supposing the human race universally changed, and all the elements of discord eradicated from every bosom. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The King of England strongly urged William Penn (the founder of Pennsylvania), out of the king’s great respect for his father, Admiral Penn, as he was going out with many followers amongst known savages, to take out with him sufficient troops which should be placed at his service. It was averred that William Penn and his followers would speedily be placed in the war kettle of the untutored Indians, if he did not go out well armed to protect himself and his large colony. In the spirit of his Master, the Prince of Peace, he declined to take any soldiers; he went open handed and unarmed to the red men! When the Council of State was held, the red men believed in William Penn’s professions of amity, and they always thereafter lived in peace! When the Indians disagreed amongst their several tribes they frequently took their differences to be settled “justly” by William Penn, or their “Father Onas,” as they became accustomed to call him. (James Withers.)
War sometimes justifiable
A war undertaken in self-defence is natural and right, and under the rights of self-defence must be included the protection of our countrymen in distant lands and of our interests in the future as well as in the present. It must be carried on with a serious mind, with a consistent purpose, and not without the hope of benefiting other nations as well as ourselves; it can only be justified by the event whether it leaves the world better off than it found it. There are many evils for which war provides the only remedy, and we cannot say that centuries of oppression are better than a struggle for independence. The religion of Christ gives no sanction or encouragement to war. The conscience of mankind acknowledges that while wars continue there is something not altogether right in the world; and yet under given circumstances it may be the duty of a nation to strike the blow; the greatest safety may be the willingness to meet the greatest danger. (Prof. B. Jowett, D. D.)
The evils of war--loss of life
What a fearful loss of human life it entails! It is computed that Alexander and Caesar caused, each of them, the death of two millions of the human race. Bonaparte’s campaign in Russia carried death to five hundred thousand human beings, and in the vast majority of that number death was accompanied by the most awful sufferings. At Borodino in one day eighty thousand were sacrificed amid the most horrid cruelties. The next day it was found that a surface of about nine squares miles was covered with the killed and wounded; the latter lying one upon another, destitute of assistance, weltering in their blood, uttering fearful groans, and beseeching any who passed by to put an end to their excruciating torments. During the burning of Moscow, twelve thousand wounded were in the hospitals; and almost all perished in the flames. No tongue or pen can describe the horrors of the retreat. “Multitudes of these desolate fugitives,” says Sir R.K. Porter, in his Narrative of the Campaign in Russia, “lost their speech, others were seined with frenzy, and many were so maddened by the extremes of pain and hunger that they tore the dead bodies of their comrades into pieces, and feasted on the remains.” The last Russian war cost this country a hundred thousand human lives. Hundreds of thousands fell victims during the Franco-German war. In one sortie from Metz four hundred wives were made widows, and upwards of a thousand children fatherless, out of a single Prussian regiment in the course of an hour. What barbarities are practised! What disastrous results follow! What desolation to fertile and flourishing districts of country! What a blight shed on commerce! What an increase of taxation! What corruption to public morals! It is impossible to exaggerate, in conception or statement, the evils of war. (W. Waiters.)
The enormous cost of war
When Napoleon’s army marched up towards Moscow, they burned every house for one hundred and fifty miles. Our Revolutionary war cost the English Government six hundred and eighty millions of dollars. The wars growing out of the French Revolution cost England three thousand millions of dollars. Christendom--or, as I might mispronounce it in order to make the fact more appalling, Christendom--has paid in twenty-two years fifteen thousand million dollars for battle. Those were the twenty-two years, I think, ending in 1820 or thereabout. Edmund Burke estimated that the nations of thin world had expended thirty-five thousand million dollars in war; but he did his ciphering before our great American and European wars were plunged. He never dreamed that in this land, in the latter part of this century, in four years, we should expend in battle three thousand million dollars. (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)
Enormous sacrifice of human life through war
In one battle, under Julius Caesar, four hundred thousand fell. Under Xerxes, in one campaign, five millions were Slain. Under Jengispham, at Herat, one million six hundred thousand were slain. At Nishar, one million seven hundred and forty-seven thousand were slain. At the siege of Ostend, one hundred and twenty thousand. At Acre three hundred thousand. At the siege of Troy, one million eight hundred and sixteen thousand fell. The Tartar and African wars cost one hundred and eighty million lives. The wars against the Turks and the Saracens cost one hundred and eighty million lives. Added to all these, the million who fell in our own conflict. Then take the fact that thirty-five times the present population of the earth have fallen in battle. (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)
The greatest peace
The greatest peace can only be secured by the entire extinction, as speedily as possible, of the false Gospels of Materialism and Force. Empires built on Force have never persisted. Military kingdoms must pass away. No nation was ever more military than Rome; it was armed from head to foot; it was a great fighting empire, and though it lasted long it had to go. The seven Oriental empires that preceded Rome were military; they, too, have disappeared. Permanence of empire depends on peace, social justice, liberty, and brotherhood. (J. Clifford, D. D.)
Christian achier and war
There is no reason why a Christian soldier should not as vehemently denounce war as a medical man attacks disease, as a minister does sin. Success would mean in either ease an end of their work, but that in either case were a consummation devoutly to be wished. The sooner the profession of arms becomes unnecessary and impossible, the better for everybody. (H. P. Hughes, M. A.)
O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord
SYMPATHETIC FELLOW FEELING. All who are anxious for their own welfare, desire the welfare of others.
II. MUTUAL PROGRESS. Two together are stronger than two apart. “Let us” A weak brother at our side will not only get help but will afford us assistance.
III. APPRECIATIVE KNOWLEDGE. “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.” The light is the place for safety. Light is life, darkness is death.
IV. UNFAILING PROVISION. “The light of the Lord.” God is the only source of light, but He is an all-efficient source. He never can fail. God is light. (Homilist.)
An invitation to repentance
I. THIS IS ISAIAH’S INVITATION TO HIS COUNTRYMEN TO REPENT. To feel the full force of his appeal we must notice the connection of the text with its context.
1. The prophet commences by quoting (Isaiah 2:2-4) what is probably an ancient prediction, quoted also by Micah (Micah 4:1-3). The people would doubt less look eagerly for the fulfilment of this prophecy, so agreeable to their national hopes. But no sign of its accomplishment was to be seen. They were indeed enjoying in the reign of Uzziah a season of secular prosperity, but they were far from being “established in the top of the mountains”; they were surrounded by watchful foes, and certainly there were no signs of the long foretold reign of peace.
2. The light of worldly prosperity had not brought them the fulfilment of the prophecy of peace. Isaiah then bids them “walk in the light of the Lord”; for, as he goes on to show, God had forsaken His people on account of those sins which their prosperity had engendered. Therefore it was that this prophecy was not fulfilled to them. Their very prosperity kept them back from greater prosperity (verses 6-9).
3. But this state of things could not continue. If they refuse to walk in the light of the Lord, He will not only withdraw the promised blessings, but will humble them by taking away the prosperity they already enjoyed (verses 10-21).
II. THE SITUATION OF THE CHURCH OF GOD THUS DESCRIBED BY ISAIAH REMAINS ALMOST UNCHANGED TO THE PRESENT DAY.
1. We still look for the time when “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains,” and the promised “peace on earth” shall be realised; but we see no sign of its immediate approach. The Church still continues beset with foes, unable to stem the rising tide of rationalism and unbelief; and certainly these are no signs of the long-foretold reign of peace.
2. If we inquire why this is so, the answer is the same as it was in the days of Isaiah. We do not, with a single eye, walk in the light of the Lord. We enjoy a large measure of worldly prosperity. Science and secular knowledge and useful arts make rapid progress, and in their light we walk, too often forgetting that it is but a reflected radiance, borrowed from the one source of all true light. If the Church makes some impression upon the world, the world also makes great inroads upon the Church.
3. But this state of things cannot last forever. Isaiah of old spake of the day of the Lord, which would surely overtake His people if they continued to follow their own inventions and to neglect God. A yet greater and more terrible day of the Lord is at hand. In that day all the pride of our modern civilisation, its wisdom and knowledge, will aid us no more than the idols of silver and gold, unless withal we are found walking in the light of the Lord. (A. K. Cherril, M. A.)
Walking in the light of the Lord
To “walk in the light of the Lord” implies--
I. THAT WE AVAIL OURSELVES OF HIS REVELATION OF TRUTH.
II. THAT WE ORDER THE COURSE OF OUR LIVES ACCORDING TO HIS EXAMPLE AND THE GUIDANCE OF HIS WORD AND SPIRIT (Jeremiah 10:23).
III. PROGRESS. It supposes that we leave behind our former darkness and sin, our slothfulness and error, and march every day some distance on our road to eternal life.
IV. LIGHT INSPIRES CHEERFULNESS AND JOY and if we “walk in the light of the Lord,” we must have the only true happiness and peace. The truth of the Gospel is enough to cause constant exultation. (Homilist.)
Walking in the light of the Lord
I. THE IMPORT OF THE WORDS, “the light of the Lord.” There appears here to be an allusion to that striking token of special guardianship which was vouchsafed to the Israelites in the Shechinah as it appeared to the Church in the wilderness; which, while it was the recognised token of special favour from God, indicated also their course of movement. The expression “to walk in the light of the Lord,” we regard--
1. As indicative of a cordial reception of His truth. Light is the general emblem of knowledge; and there are many striking points of analogy between religious knowledge and light. The phrase is applicable to the whole body of Divine revelation, which may be viewed as the light of God, that breaks forth, as it were, from His countenance: His countenance, which is the emblem of His immaculate purity, as well as His infinite intelligence. He is said “to dwell in the light which no man can approach unto.” And this is also significant of the glory of revealed truth--it is the very light in which the perfections of God stand manifested; the light that develops to us His secret counsels, His plans of government, especially His plan of saving mercy; the light, in allusion to which the prophet elsewhere speaks when he says, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come,” etc.
2. To “walk in the light of the Lord,” seems to imply the full reception of all the blessings which the light revealed. And there is this idea suggested in this view of the phrase, “the light of the Lord,” that there is an inseparable connection between the truth of God and the favour of God. Whilst the truth creates piety, the piety of the Church is to react on the Church and preserve it from decline.
3. To “walk in the light of the Lord” implies the zealous prosecution of all those duties which the light unfolds.
4. To “walk in the light of the Lord” is to walk in the calm contemplation of the final fulfilment of prophecy.
II. THE MOTIVES OR PRINCIPLES WHICH ENFORCE THIS EXHORTATION.
1. There is moral obligation, for what is moral obligation but submission to the will of God--and to Him who is the Sovereign, we being the subjects? Therefore it is incumbent on us to submit to, and to recognise His will, to love His law, to mark His rule, and to feel all the force of the sanctions appended to that rule. This may be very appropriately illustrated by the very phrase itself: it is “the light of the Lord”--the light of Jehovah, sovereign light; the light dispensed by Him for special purposes and the natural light does not more clearly indicate its office than the moral light indicates the special intentions of the God of heaven. This light is given for a special purpose; it is directing light; and saving light; it regulates the degree of personal as well as collective responsibility.
2. Then there is also obligation specially induced by conviction of privilege. Privilege exists wherever light exists. There was nothing in the Jewish Church which bore any comparison to the gift of religious truth to that nation. Any nation that has the light of the Lord and the ability to use it, is signally privileged, and attains the very altitude of human glory. All this is not given us for vain glory; it is conferred that we might preach Christ and bring the world under His government.
3. The blessings attendant on walking in the light of the Lord. There is personal salvation, for instance, diffused to the very greatest possible extent. Then, if you look at the subject simply in reference to Churches, there is a very powerful motive; for, to “walk in the light of the Lord” is the sole condition for retaining the light. (G. Steward.)
Walk in the light
From looking into the future Isaiah comes back to his work of trying to amend the present. He neither wastes time in singing funereal dirges over Israel’s decay, nor spends his life in useless reveries about the future. He saw the sad present, and wept; he saw the bright future, and rejoiced; and then set to work with heart and tongue to arouse the nation, crying, “O house of Jacob,” etc. So let us all act.
I. THE SECRET CAUSE OF THIS PEOPLE’S GUILT--moral and spiritual gloom. By implication, at least, we learn from this text that moral darkness is the fruitful mother of every species of iniquity. One master stroke of Paul’s pen gives the secret of the sins of Rome in his day--“their foolish heart was darkened. The way of the wicked,” says Solomon, “is as darkness.”
I. Let us dwell upon the natural darkness of men--
2. This darkness is wilfully and wickedly incurred. If the “house of Jacob” were ignorant of the character of God, this was their own fault, for God had revealed Himself in manifold and marvellous ways. And if they had sufficient light who dwelt in the dim dawn of revelation, what shall be said of us who have the accumulated light of intervening centuries?
II. We have THE ONE REMEDY DECLARED. “Walk in the light of the Lord.” Like all Divine remedies it is striking in its simplicity.
1. Get into the light. Con version is the passing of the soul “out of darkness into His marvellous light.” What is this light?
2. Make progress in the light. “Walk in the light.” Both the Old Testament and the New speak of the daily life of the godly man as a walk, suggesting that it is to be a progressive life.
3. Associate with the children of light. “Let us walk in the light of the Lord,” says Isaiah. He will not walk in the light alone, but will seek the company of those like minded with himself. He will use his influence to induce others to walk in the light with him. (W. Williams.)
The gentle strength of light
I have seen the sun with a little ray of distant light challenge all the powers of darkness, and without violence and noise, climbing up the hill, hath made night so retire that its memory was lost in the joys and sprightliness of the morning. If physical light hath such gentle strength, how much more hath spiritual. (Bp. Taylor.)
Walking in the light ensures ever-increasing revelation
That is the only preparation for further revelation. Walking in the light, we shall receive increase of illumination; thankful for the morning dawn, we shall see the noontide splendour; faithful in a little, we shall be entrusted with much; honest children of the twilight, we shall yet see things in their largest and grandest reality. If we do the will, we shall know the doctrine. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Nations prosper as they walk in the light of the Lord
There is inscribed upon the pedestal of the statue of Samuel Morley, late M.P. for Bristol, this sentence, quoted from a speech of his, that tallies with the experience of every country, ancient or modern: “I believe that the power of England is to be reckoned, not by her wealth or armies, but the purity and virtue of the great mass of her population.” (F. Sessions.)
Religious Ideas alone have power to transform a nation’s tendencies and actions. The religious idea is the very breath of humanity,--its life, soul, conscience, and manifestation. (Mazzini.)
The light cure
Lately we have discovered a new method by which a terrible disease can be cured. It is called the light method, and the cure is wrought by concentrating upon the scarred and diseased form a powerful and peculiar light. The effect of the light is so great that in time the disease is arrested and the skin becomes healthy and natural. (Sunday School Chronicle.)
Best things seen in God’s light
Dr. Charles Berry said, in the last pastoral letter he wrote, “There are some things--the best things--that can only be seen when the lights of life are turned low, and the light of God is left to shine alone.”
The limitations of earthly light
Clear and brilliant light often brings out exquisite colours, as happens among the Alps and also in the north frigid zone, where the humble little plants called lichens and mosses are in many cases dyed of the most brilliant hues, purple and gold predominating. Warmth, in like manner, will stimulate vegetable growth in the most astonishing manner, but it is growth not necessarily accompanied by the secretion of valuable substances, such as give quality and real importance to the plant. In English hot houses, for example, we have plenty of spice trees, those generous plants that yield cinnamon and cassia, the nutmeg and the clove; but although healthy and blossoming freely, they never mature their aromatic secretions. Though they have artificial heat equal to that of their native islands, which burn beneath the sun of the Indian Ocean, we cannot supply them with similar and proportionate solar light. Our cloudy skies shut us in from the full and direct radiance of the sunshine, and wanting this, heat alone will not avail. (Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
Therefore Thou hast forsaken Thy people
God never forsaken without good reason
“Therefore Thou hast forsaken Thy people.
” The term is logical God never forsakes His people in any whimsical way: He is not a man, or a son of man, that He should treat His creatures arbitrarily, moodily, renew full of sunshine in relation to them, and now covered with great clouds, without giving any reason for the change. It is a most noticeable feature in Biblical revelation that when God forsakes men He gives the reason for abandoning them. The reason is always moral. God never leaves man because he is little, or weak, or self-distrustful, or friendless, or homeless, or broken hearted; when God forsakes man it is because man has first forsaken Him, broken His laws, defied His sword, challenged His judgment, forsaken with ungrateful abandonment the altar at which the life has received its richest blessing. So, never let us neglect the word “therefore” in reading concerning Divine judgments. God will never forsake the life that trusts Him. (J. Parker, D. D.)
A forsaken people
Read: “for Thou hast cast off . . . they strike hands” (make alliances) “with the children of strangers.” (A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
God claims the sole sovereignty of the life
When we are forsaken it is because we have forsaken God. Is God to be the companion of idols? Is the Lord to be invited into darkened rooms, that He may be one of the deities of the universe, and take His place in order of seniority or of nominal superiority? Is He to be invited to compete with the fancies of the human brain for the sovereignty of human mind and the arbitrament of human destiny? Herein He is a jealous God. “The Lord alone shaft be exalted in that day.” If we make gods we must be content with the manufactures which we produce; but we never can persuade the eternal God to sit down with our wooden deities, and hold counsel with the inventions and fictions of a diseased imagination. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” “If Baal be God, serve him; if the Lord, serve Him.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
God had forsaken them as their Father and Friend
God had forsaken them as their Father and Friend, but He comes to call them to account as their Judge. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
A sad sequence: money leading to idolatry
Observe how the sequence runs: money in abundance: money will buy horses, and horses stand for power: horses will need chariots, and chariots mean dash, speed, ostentation--money, horses, chariots, can men end there? They cannot; and given money, horses, chariots, without a corresponding sanctification, without the inworking of that spirit of self-control which expresses the action of the Holy Ghost, and you compel men to go farther and to Fall their land with idols. The sequence cannot be broken Men may have money, horses, chariots, and the true God; but when men have money, horses, chariots, and no god that is true, they will make gods for themselves, for they must eke out their ostentation by some sort of nominal piety. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Men will build churches; men must have religious rites and ceremonies; and what can suit the worldly man better than an idol that takes no notice of him, a wooden deity that never troubles him with its disciplinary obligations. (J. Parker, D. D.)
An honoured yet God-forsaken people
I. The house of Jacob is here honoured with the character of THE PEOPLE OF GOD. They were His in a special manner, in consequence of His choosing them for His peculiar people; redeeming them with a strong hand and stretched out arm; and entering into covenant with them, so that they became His property, were called by His name, and professedly devoted to His service.
II. Notwithstanding this intimate connection, GOD HAD FORSAKEN THEM. He took off the restraining influence of His providence, whereby He prevented their enemies from executing their destruction; He removed the hedge of His kind protection, by which they enjoyed the most agreeable safety. He withheld from them His gracious direction, which had attended them In all their fortunes. The Most High hid counsel from them, so that they groped at noon day. He withdrew from them His Divine favour, which had long compassed them as a shield; He denied them His gracious presence and Holy Spirit, which was the beauty and glory of their assemblies, having In reserve for them the most awful temporal calamities. (R. Macculloch.)
Their land also is full of silver and gold
An up-to-date inventory
There is something startlingly modern about this chapter; if you sit down to analyse it, you feel that there is something startlingly up-to-date about the Inventory.
What did this proud people make their boast about?
1. The abundance of their treasure; their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures.
2. Their shipping and their active commerce all the ships of Tarshish.
3. Their military equipment; “their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots.”
4. Their natural defences; “all the high mountains, all the hills that are lifted up.”
5. Their artificial defences; “every high tower, every fenced wall.”
6. The wealth of their timber; “all the cedars of Lebanon, all the oaks of Bashan.”
7. They boasted even of the treasures of their art; “all pleasant pictures.” (J. H.Jowett, M. A.)
Gold may shut out the vision of God
An old proverb runs, “The sixpence in the man’s eye prevented him from seeing the sovereign at the end of his nose.” And some men allow the passion money to become so all-absorbing that the coin fills all their vision and shuts out God and His heaven. (W. C. Bonner.)
Their land also is full of idols
The philosophic theory of polytheism is “one centre, many emanations.
” Iamblicus and Porphyry defend it on this line against the monotheism of early Christianity. Hermes Trismegistus, according to St. Augustine, says the Egyptians regarded images as being merely the bodies of the gods. In India there may be seen any day of the week the ceremony of praying a spirit of Vishnu or of Shiva Into a statue, or into a symbolic stone, by the Brahmin priest. The priestly theory is one of “consubstantiation,” like the Lutheran theory of the Eucharist, the difference being between the spiritual indwelling in material bread and material wine In the one case, and material wood and stone in the other. The gods, thus made visible to the common people, are endowed, by the popular consent, with human passions and human prejudices. Each represents one or more of these human propensities. Some are emblems of the reproductive powers of nature--fertilizers of the flocks and fields. Their worship, pure at the first possibly, became beyond all telling, licentious and abominable. (F. Sessions.)
The mean man
The mean man
“Mean” there does not mean selfish or stingy, but the man between two extremes, the mean, average, ordinary man.
The mean man and the great man are both bowing--what are they bowing to? Something beneath them; they have lost the sense of their dignity, and they have forgotten that they are kings, and now they are bowing down to things that they ought to control. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
Enter into the rock and hide thee in the dust
The sinner’s ignominy before the manifestation of God’s glory
No other course is now left open for them but to follow the sarcastic command of the prophet: “Creep into the rock, and bury thyself in the dust, before the dread look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty!” The nation that was supposed to be a glorious one shall and must creep away and hide itself ignominiously, when the glory of God which it had rejected, but which alone is true glory, is judicially manifested.
It must conceal itself in holes of the rocks as if from a host of foes ( 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6; 1 Samuel 14:11), and bury themselves with their faces in the sand, as from the deadly simoom of the desert, that they may but avoid the necessity of enduring this intolerable sight. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The lofty looks of man shall be humbled . . . the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day
Man humbled and Christ exalted
The day may be very properly applied to any of those days when the Lord abases the pride of guilty man, or when He makes His presence felt by the power of His Spirit upon the heart; for it is then the lofty looks of man are humbled; it is then the haughtiness of man is bowed down, and the Lord is exalted in the heart.
What other than this is God’s object in the Gospel? It is definitely that self may be humbled, and Christ exalted.
I. Let us look at some points on which MEN ARE APT TO BE LIFTED UP and to bolster themselves up in their pride and self-sufficiency.
1. They hold that they have natural ability to understand the Word of God. What saith the Scripture upon this point? (1 Corinthians 2:11, etc.) How many take up the Word of God to read it just as they would any other book, forgetting its character--forgetting its object! They read it merely to know, not in order to be. Whereas the value of the Book is, that it is to tell upon man’s character. It is to make him altogether a new creature in Christ Jesus.
2. Another point of deep importance is the opinion which men have with respect to their power to save themselves. It is not that they think that they can actually blot out their sins, or that they can perfectly keep God’s law; but they, in imagination, strike a kind of balance between their good and bad deeds. They think that there is something good in what they do, and that what they fail in Christ will make up; and the consequence is, there is no real humiliation before God while this idea lasts.
3. The foolish thoughts men have of the character of God, as if He were such an one as themselves. You will often hear men speak of what they conceive the justice of God to be, without attending in the smallest degree to the declarations which He makes of Himself in His Holy Word. They speak as though they thought the difference between themselves and God, who is holy, is one of degree merely, and not of nature. They put on one side altogether the fact that God is a Spirit, and that they themselves are carnal, and they speak as if morality would fit a man for heaven, utterly ignoring the words of the Lord, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Men, indeed, form their own opinions; but remember the way in which God speaks of it: “Thou thoughtest that I was such an one as thyself; but I will reprove thee.”
II. Now, all these mistaken views are so many sources of pride in men; but when the Holy Spirit comes into the heart in power, they ARE BOWED DOWN AND HUMBLED BEFORE GOD. One of the effects produced by the Holy Spirit, when He comes upon a man’s heart, is to make him consider his ways. He looks to himself and sees nothing but sin; that there is not one single ground of hope; and when the Holy Spirit has graciously brought him to this point, then He shows him the salvation of Christ. And then in this exaltation of the Lord Jesus comes the true abasement of the man himself. Lessons--
1. The object of all God’s dispensations is to humble us, and to bring us down to the feet of Christ.
2. The nature of true faith. It is humility; it is dependence; it is coming down from all self-confidence; it is resting upon another, and that Christ alone. (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)
1. By entertaining elevating apprehensions of His infinite majesty, and exercising suitable affections towards Him--fearing Him who pours contempt upon princes, trusting in Him in whom is everlasting strength, and loving Him in whose favour there is life.
2. By celebrating the praises of His Divine excellencies with gratitude and joy.
3. By such conduct as may give the most sensible and lively representation of God--beginning, carrying on, and ending all their businesses in Him; making His love the principle, His law the rule, and His glory the end of all their actions. (R. Macculloch.)
Life is a long lesson in humility. (J. M. Barrie.)
The day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon everyone that is proud and lofty
Scepticism discomfited by Christ’s advent
Among THE CAUSES OF THE SPIRIT OF RELIGIOUS SCEPTICISM there are--
1. An early habit of spiritual negligence.
2. A state of exaggerated and credulous belief.
II. Consider THE INSEPARABLE CONSEQUENCES OF SUCH A STATE, whatever be the peculiar causes out of which it springs.
1. He who is in suspense about the truth of the Gospel cannot pray. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is.” He who feels that he has sinned, and that God is holy, knows that he needs a mediator; and he that would trust in a mediator must believe that He is.
2. He cannot resist sin. He who is in suspense about the truth of Christ’s Gospel is as weak as he who denies it, yea, weaker. For the other knows that he is thrown upon the resources of his own unaided strength, and he summons them all together for his support. But the man who doubts is a divided man. He has cast off his other armour; and this, the armour of God, he cannot take, for he has not proved it.
III. THINK WHAT THE ADVENT WILL BE TO SUCH A MIND. The day of the Lord of hosts will be “upon” it, and will bring it low. We inquired whether there was a day coming; and behold, it is come. While we inquired and reasoned and speculated, He of whom we doubted was carrying on His judgment upon us. (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
The day of the Lord
The flood, the destruction of Sodom, the invasion of Judaea in the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah, the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar or by Titus, were held by the Jewish prophets and preachers--as the like national crises in ancient and in modern history have ever been held by Christian philosophers and historians--to be “days of the Lord,” in which He has come to judge the earth; and partial anticipations of the last judgment of the world. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
The day of the Lord and the majestic beauty of nature
(Isaiah 2:13-14):--Has this language a merely figurative meaning?. . .In order to understand the prophet we must bear in mind what sacred Scripture assumes throughout, that all nature is joined with man to form one common history; that man and the whole world of nature are inseparably connected as centre and circumference; that this circumference likewise is under the influence of the sin which proceeds from man, as well as under the wrath and the grace which proceed from God to man; that the judgments of God, as proved by the history of nations, bring a share of suffering to the subject creation, and that this participation of the lower creation in the corruption and the glory of man will come into special prominence at the close of this world’s history, as it did at the beginning; and lastly, the world in its present form, in order to become an object of the unmixed good pleasure of God, stands as much in need of a regeneration ( παλλιγγενεσία) as the corporeal part of man himself. In accordance with this fundamental view of the Scriptures, therefore, we cannot wonder that, when the judgment of God goes forth upon Israel, it extends to the land of Israel, and, along with the false glory of the nation, overthrows everything glorious in surrounding nature which has been forced to minister to the national pride and love of display, and to which the national sin adhered in many ways. What the prophet predicts was already actually beginning to be fulfilled in the military inroads of the Assyrians. The cedar forest of Lebanon was being unsparingly shorn; the hills and vales of the country were trodden down and laid waste, and, during the period of the world’s history, beginning with Tiglath-Pileser, the holy land was being reduced to a shadow of its former predicted beauty. (F. Delitzsch.)
The Lord of hosts
All the creatures in the universe are the hosts or armies of Jehovah; angels, who excel in strength; the sun, the moon, and the stars; the thunder and the lightning; the wind, the hail, and the rain; the storm and the tempest; the most insignificant insects, such as the flies and the caterpillars; yea, the sand of the sea and the dust of the earth. (R. Macculloch.)
The day of the Lord upon the proud and lofty
Is it personal strength, vigour, and firmness of constitution with which he is elated? Though he be among the sons of the mighty, strong as the children of Anak, the weakness of God is stronger than men; before the Almighty, he is only as a grasshopper, and is easily crushed as the moth. Is it courage and fortitude which hath rendered him valiant, and made his heart as the heart of a lion? He who saith to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, can quickly deprive him of his courage, and render him timorous and faint-hearted, so as to tremble at the shaking of a leaf. Is it riches which are reckoned a strong tower, a defence, and the sinews of strength! The day of the Lord shall blow upon them, and they shall pass away as the flower of the field, or an eagle flying toward heaven. Is it honour and renown that hath lift him up to the pinnacle of earthly glory? God, who overthroweth the mighty, shall bring down all that dignity, on account of which he highly valued himself, and reduce him to the most humiliating condition. History, sacred and profane, confirms the truth of this prediction. (R. Macculloch.)
Zedekiah, King of Judah, deprived of his royal dignity, of his sons, who were slain before his eyes, and then of his eyesight, was bound in fetters of brass, and carried to Babylon.. Bajazet, the Emperor of Turkey, was bound with fetters of gold, by the victorious Tamerlane, and carried along with him in his march through Asia, in an iron cage, as an object of ridicule. Henry V, Emperor of Germany, was reduced to such poverty, that he went to the great church which he himself had built at Spires, begging the place of a chorister, to keep him from starving. (R. Macculloch.)
Ships of Tarshish
Ships of Tarshish are deep sea ships. Possibly Tartessus, west of the straits of Gibraltar. (A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
The proper use of art
Sir Joshua Reynolds wisely, stated the canon for artists when, referring to the choice of subjects, he said.
“No subject can be proper that is not generally interesting. It ought to be either some eminent instance of heroic action or heroic suffering. There must be something, either in the action or in the object, in which men are universally concerned, and which publicly strikes upon the public sympathy.” They who are not content to copy what is ignoble, or reproduce what is insignificant--who use art to expound and apply the teaching of God in nature and revelation--who design to address the heart, and so elevate the imaginations and judgments of men, are benefactors of their race--ministers at the altar of truth and righteousness. The work of such artists can be regarded as eminently sacred. (J. H. Hitchens, D. D.)
The far-reaching influence of art
The preacher’s voice must be occasionally silenced by weariness, and ultimately hushed by death; but the artist’s pictures continue to tell their own tale, and enforce their own lessons to all spectators, night and day, so long as they may be preserved. The author’s book, upon the loftiest possible theme, can be read only by those who are familiar with the language in which it is written, and among the would-be readers will be some who, being unaccustomed to the laws of thought, will lay the book aside as uninteresting; but pictures are biographies, histories, homilies, poems which, without words, can be studied at a glance. (J. H. Hitchens, D. D.)
Pictures are by some relegated to the realm of the trivial, accidental, sentimental, or worldly, but the text shows that God scrutinises pictures, and whether they are good or bad, whether used for right or wrong purposes, is a matter of Divine observation and judgment. (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)
The prostitution of art
That the artist’s pencil and the engraver’s knife have sometimes been made subservient to the kingdom of evil is frankly admitted. After the ashes and sconce were removed from Herculaneum and Pompeii the walls of those cities discovered to the explorers a degradation in art which cannot be exaggerated. Satan and all his imps have always wanted the fingering of the easel; they would rather have possession of that than the art of printing, for types are not so potent and quick for evil as pictures. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Bad pictures should be avoided
Pliny the elder lost his life by going near enough to see the eruption of Vesuvius, and the further you can stand off from the burning crater of sin, the better. Never till the books of the Last Day are opened shall we know what has been the dire harvest of evil pictorials and unbecoming art galleries. Despoil a man’s imagination and he becomes a moral carcase. The show windows of English and American cities in which have sometimes hung long lines of brazen actors and actresses in style insulting to all propriety, have made a broad path to death for multitudes of people. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
The value of Bible pictures
I refer to your memory and mine when I ask if your knowledge of the Holy Scriptures has not been mightily augmented by the woodcuts or engravings in the old family Bible, which father and mother read out of, and laid on the table in the old homestead when you were boys and girls. The Bible scenes which we all carry in our minds were not gotten from the Bible typology, but from the Bible pictures. To prove the truth of it in my own case, the other day I took up the old family Bible which I inherited. Sure enough, what I have carried in my mind of Jacob’s ladder was exactly the Bible engraving of Jacob’s ladder; and so with Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza; Elisha restoring the Shunamite son; the massacre of the innocents; Christ blessing little children; the Crucifixion, and the Last Judgment. My idea of all these is that of the old Bible engravings which I scanned before I could read a word. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Gustave Dore’s pictures
In 1833 forth from Strasburg, Germany, there came a child that was to eclipse in speed and boldness and grandeur anything and everything that the world had seen since the first colour appeared on the sky at the creation, Paul Gustave Dore. At eleven years of age he published marvellous lithographs of his own. Saying nothing of what he did for Milton’s Paradise Lost, emblazoning it on the attention of the world, he takes up the Book of books, the monarch of literature, the Bible, and in his pictures “The Creation of Light,” “The Trial of Abraham’s Faith,” “The Burial of Sarah,” “Joseph Sold by his Brethren,” “The Brazen Serpent,” “Boaz and Ruth,” “David and Goliath,” “The Transfiguration,” “The Marriage in Cana,” “Babylon Fallen,”--two hundred and five Scriptural scenes in all,--and that with a boldness and grasp and almost supernatural afflatus that make the heart throb, and the brain reel, and the tears start, and the cheeks blanch, and the entire nature quake with the tremendous things of God and eternity and the dead. I actually staggered down the steps of the London Art Gallery under the power of Dore’s “Christ Leaving the Praetorium.” Profess you to be a Christian man or woman, and see no Divine mission in art, and acknowledge you no obligation either in thanks to God or man? (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
And the idols He shall utterly abolish
The cessation of idolatry
In heathen systems of religion, God and nature are not kept distinct.
His personality, also, is confounded. The fears and hopes of idolaters are projected into deities. Two things are necessary to destroy idolatry in this its grossest form.
I. THE PREVALENCE OF THE WORD OF GOD.
1. Within its pages God and nature are carefully distinguished and separated.
2. Here His personality is clearly presented.
3. Here commands against idolatry are fully and solemnly promulgated.
4. Here the true God is set forth in all the glorious attributes that constitute His character, allegiance is commanded, service demanded, and every soul held to a strict accountability.
II. THE PREVALENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN CIVILISATION.
1. The Bible is indispensable. Heathen science is insufficient to deliver men from idolatry, as witness Rome and Greece.
2. Mere science is in danger of becoming materialistic or agnostic.
3. Science needs to be vitalised by the Bible, the moral law, and conscience.
1. Science is the handmaid of the Bible.
2. There can be no contradiction between the work of God and the Word of God.
3. It is the duty of every Christian to assist in the circulation of the Bible, to the end that every idol on the face of the earth may be speedily destroyed. (Homiletic Review.)
The evils of idolatry and the means of its abolition
The progress of Christianity in the world has already been so great and wonderful as to carry evidence of its Divine original, and of its promised final triumph over every false religion.
I. THE EVIL TO BE ABOLISHED. Idolatry. It has been commonly and very properly distinguished as of two kinds, literal and spiritual. Spiritual idolatry is an evil which, by the apostasy of our nature, attaches to all mankind, whether inhabiting Christian or pagan regions, except those individuals whose hearts have experienced a renovation by the Spirit of God. It is to literal idolatry that the prophet refers in the text--this the connection shows, where mention is made of those idols of silver and gold which the converted idolaters would cast away. The progress of Christianity was, from the first, marked by the cessation of idol worship. There are two principal points of view in which we may regard the evil nature and effects of idolatry--its aspect toward God and its aspect toward man. In the former aspect, it appears as a crime; in the latter as a calamity: thus contemplated, it appears as an evil destructive equally to the Divine glory and to human happiness. Man naturally tends to this evil; and one generation after another gradually accumulated the follies of superstition, till it reached the monstrous extreme of gross idolatry.
1. The Word of God everywhere reprobates idolatry as an abominable thing which the soul of God abhors. To provide against it was the principal object in the political and municipal department of the Mosaic law. It is expressly prohibited by the first and second commandments of the moral law. The golden calf was intended as a representative of the God of Israel; and the calves set up by Jeroboam were the same: yet the worship of the golden calf occasioned the slaughter, by the Divine command, of three thousand persons; and the executioners of Divine vengeance were extolled for having forgotten the feelings of nature toward their nearest kindred: every man was commanded to slay his brother or his son, and so to consecrate himself to the Lord. Where the honour of God was so deeply concerned, men were to lose sight of common humanity. When the Israelites were tempted by the artifices of Balaam to commit idolatry at Baal Peer, twenty-four thousand were slain at once; the memory of Phinehas was immortalised on account of the holy zeal he displayed in the destruction of certain conspicuous offenders; and the Moabites were devoted to extermination, because, in this respect, they had proved a snare to Israel. Idolatry is, with respect to the government of God, what treason or rebellion is with respect to civil government. It is the setting up of an idol in the place of the supreme Power; an affront offered to that Majesty, in which all order and authority is combined and concentred, and which is the fountain of all social blessings. Idolatry is an evil which taints every apparent virtue; because it destroys the soul of duty, which is conformity to the Divine command.
2. But we turn to contemplate idolatry on another side; in its aspect toward man, its influence on society. The apostle Paul informs us (Romans 1:19-25) that God hath shown to men what may be known concerning Himself; that His invisible Being, His eternal power and Godhead, may be clearly seen and understood by the works of creation; so that those are without excuse who have changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image in the likeness of corruptible man, of birds and beasts and reptiles. They are without excuse; their conduct admits of no apology. The origin of all the atrocities they committed is to be found in aversion to God; dislike of the spirituality and purity of His character; a desire, like Cain, to retire from the presence of their Maker; a wish to forget a Being whose character they knew to be utterly uncongenial with their own. This disposition originally led men to substitute idols for God. Those idols would, of course, be conceived of a character unlike that of God.
II. We must now advert to a brighter scene, presented by the prophet, when he assures us that JESUS CHRIST (of whom he is speaking) WILL UTTERLY ABOLISH IDOLATRY, and sweep it from the face of the earth with the “besom of destruction” In sending the Gospel to the heathen, you offer, as it were, the holy incense, like Moses, when he interposed between God and the perishing Israelites: you stand, like him, between the dead and the living,--the dead and the living for eternity!--and you stay the plague! No sooner did Christianity appear, than its formidable power, as the opponent of idolatry, was felt and manifested. Preaching, an instrument so unpromising in the view of carnal reason, has been the chief instrument employed in producing these moral revolutions. (Robt. Hall.)
The downfall of idolatry
I wish to invite your attention to some of the reasons which induce me to believe that the heathen kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.
I. Consider, in the first place, THE LIGHT IN WHICH IDOLATRY IS REGARDED BY GOD. I am sometimes asked, “Why do you unsettle the religious convictions of a highly civilised people like the Chinese? Is not the Supreme Governor of the universe pleased with the homage of His rational creatures when proceeding from sincere devotion, whether according to the one mode or the other, of the various religions which He has permitted to be published?” Lord Macartney, the first ambassador to China, in writing to the Chinese emperor, gave this as a reason why the English never attempted to dispute or disturb the worship of others. But in whatever light idolatry is regarded by man, we know that it is a thing on which God cannot look with indifference. When we see idolatry associated with immorality and inhumanity, our instincts are naturally shocked, but where such is not the case, even the missionary finds it difficult to think and feel rightly in regard to it. The spiritual idolatry within us has so distorted our intellectual vision and perverted our spiritual taste that it requires an effort to see the literal idolatry in all its hideous deformity and feel towards it as we ought. The whole of heathendom is under the dominion of the prince of this world, and he and his angels are the powers worshipped by the heathen, however little they themselves may be aware of the fact. The whole fabric of heathenism has been reared under the inspiration of the spirit of darkness, and it is he that sits as God in that vast temple, calling himself God, and receiving oblations, sacrifice, and adoration from his deluded votaries. God sees in idolatry not weakness only, but also sin, positive sin, in its nature God-opposing and soul-destroying. It is an attempt to rob Him of that glory, which is peculiarly His own, and to confer it on the creature. But if this is the light in which God regards idolatry, we may rationally infer that the abomination will not be permitted to pollute the world forever.
II. My faith in THE FINAL TRIUMPH OF TRUTH in the progress of the race tends to produce this conviction in my mind. At the commencement of the Christian era the Sun of Righteousness began to scatter the thick darkness with His beams. For some time it rose higher and higher, and thousands were rejoicing in the Divine light which promised speedily to fill the whole earth with life and gladness. But these hopes were no sooner raised than dashed to the ground. Two dark clouds rose between the nations and the sun, which, lowering and spreading, enveloped them in more than Egyptian darkness. These were the Papacy and Mohammedanism. It is estimated that more than eight hundred millions, or about two-thirds of the human family, are idolaters today. But matters shall not remain in this state forever. The light is greater than the darkness; the truth of heaven is mightier than the falsehood of hell, and God is infinitely stronger than the devil. There may be occasionally something like a retrograde movement; the retrogression is only in appearance. The onward course of the race has been compared to that of a ship making way against the breeze; it consists of a series of movements, each of which seems to bear her away from the true direction, yet, in fact, brings her nearer and nearer to the destined haven. But if the race is progressing, and is ultimately to realise the object of its existence, idolatry must pass away. You cannot conceive of such a thing as the progress of the race along with the existence of idolatry. (Griffith John.)
The gods and goddesses of mythology
Homer, the first who appears to have composed a regular picture of idolatry, paints his Jupiter, or supreme deity, as deficient in every Divine attribute; in omnipotence, in justice, and even in domestic peace. He paints Juno as the victim of eternal jealousy; and with good reason for her jealousy, when the earth was peopled, according to Homey, with the illegitimate progeny of Jupiter, to whom almost every hero traced his pedigree. Mars was the personification of rage and violence; Mercury, the patron of artifice and them. How far such a mythology influenced the character of its votaries, it is perhaps impossible for us to know: nothing could be more curious than to look into the mind of a heathen. But it is certain that the mind must have been exceedingly corrupted by the influence of such a creed: and probably each individual idolater would be influenced by the deity whose character happened to be most accommodated to his own peculiar passions. Achilles would emulate Mars in ferocity and deeds of blood; Ulysses would be like Mercury in craft and stratagem; While the ambitious mind of Alexander or Julius Caesar would aspire to act a Jupiter on earth. What a state of society must that be, in which no vice, no crime could be perpetrated that was not sanctioned by the very objects of religious worship! What a religion that which exerted an antagonist force against conscience itself!--a religion which silenced or perverted the dictates of the moral sense, the thoughts that should either accuse or excuse us within! The temples of Venus, we are informed, wore crowded by a thousand prostitutes, as servants and representatives of that licentious goddess; the very places of their worship were the scenes of their vices, and seemed as if they were designed to consecrate the worst part of their conduct! (Robt. Hall.)
Destroying an idol
Two young men owned and supported a Hindu temple in a village named Rammakal Cooke. Both, becoming Christians, determined after much prayer to destroy the idol which had previously been worshipped in the temple. When they went to carry out their intention, a vast concourse assembled to hinder them. One of them brought out the idol, and lifting it up, asked if anyone would maintain its cause. The bold words awed the crowd, and then was heard the voice of a woman, saying, “Victory, victory to Jesus Christ.” Others took up the cry. The idol was broken, the temple destroyed. (J. Vaughan.)
J.G. Paton’s success among idol worshippers
After the sinking of the well by Paten on Aniwa, and the discovery of water in answer to prayer, the chief, Namakei, in a striking address, declared for Jehovah. That very afternoon he and several others brought their idols to the mission house. Intense excitement followed. For weeks, company after company came, and, with tears, sobs, or shouts, laid down their cherished idols in heaps, again and again repeating, “Jehovah!” (Sunday School Chronicle.)
And they shall go into the holes of the rocks
No escape from the judgments of God
They shall vainly seek to escape, as unarmed peasants or women fly into the nearest cave or hole when they hear the hoofs of some plundering tribe of Edom or Ishmael from the desert; but the judgment of Jehovah shall reach them, as the earthquake (then, as now, not uncommon in Judaea) would bring down the reck on him who sought refuge in it.
(Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
For fear of the Lord
The fear of the Lord
1. It is some alleviation of a man’s misfortune, if he knows the worst of it. For the apprehension of evil is sometimes worse than the evil itself. But this rule holds good only in temporal evils.
2. In the present state of things, men can harden their hearts against all the threatenings and terrors of the Lord: and have so accustomed themselves to dispute and disbelieve everything which is supernatural, that the concerns of another world make but faint impressions upon them.
3. The great foundation, therefore, on which the substance of our religion is built, is the belief of that day when God shall call men to an account for all the works which they have done in this life, and shall deal with them according to the promises and threatenings of His own word.
4. The way not to be afraid of the wrath of God then, is to stand in awe of it now.
5. He hath declared that He hath an extraordinary indignation at proud men, i.e., such as have no regard for His laws, and that He will one day effectually humble them.
6. When we fear God as a merciful and gracious Father, we live easy in His family, and rejoice in His presence; but a guilty fear causes us to fly from
Him like our first parent, dreading Him as justly provoked to be angry with us, and ready to execute His threatened judgments upon us.
7. “The fear of the Lord,” says Solomon, “is the beginning of wisdom”; and I will venture to add, that it is the end of it too: for a man can never be denominated wise without this fear; whenever he lays it aside, he certainly plays the fool.
8. There is no man who, by daily reading and hearing of God’s Word, keeps the rule of his life in his eye, but must see that he has manifold reasons to be humbled for not acting up to it.
9. And as horrible fear, so shall shame and confusion of face be the portion of all those who will not now be restrained by a virtuous modesty from offending against God.
10. Let us, then, wisely make choice of these restraints in due season, and keep up their influence so strong in our minds, that no sinful temptation, even in the closest retirement and most secret corner, may ever be able to prevail against them. (W. Reading, M. A.)
In that day a man shall cut his idols of silver
The return to God: idols cast away
The most beautiful sight on God’s earth is a man turning home again to God.
What will happen when he comes back? “They shall fling their idols to the bats and to the moles.” Blind as a mole, blind as a bat, and the idols have to go to them. The man discovers that the thing by which he has been led is itself a blind thing, and he flings it to blind things, to the moles and the bats. He sees that the thing is blind: which means that he has recovered his own sight, and therefore Malachi says, “They shall return and discern.” When they come back they shall see--see what things are, and what things are not, and no longer shall they be seduced. Their lands shall still be full of silver and gold. I have no wish for my country to be poor. But, when we have said that, we shall be able to alter the other phrase. No longer shall we say, “The land is full of silver and gold, the land is full of idols”; but this shall be the refrain, “The land is full of silver and gold, the glory of the Lord filleth the land as the waters cover the sea” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
Cease ye from man.
The Septuagint omits this verse. (R. V. margin.)
Man’s insignificance and God’s supremacy
Two things are indispensable to undisturbed tranquillity of mind, namely, humble and distrustful views of ourselves, and supreme and unfaltering reliance on God. So long as a man depends on his own wisdom, power, and goodness, he must be disquieted and unhappy. We can attain to substantial quiet only when we feel that our dependence is on a Being omnipotent, independent, and supreme, as well as abundant in truth and love (Isaiah 26:3). To produce in us this two-fold feeling is the constant aim of Holy Scripture. The grand scheme of redemption is founded on the principle here laid down. Man is sinful, ignorant, impotent to good, and of himself inclined only to evil, and that continually. God, in His infinite mercy, wisdom, and power, hath provided the only means by which he can be restored to holiness, to the favour of his God, and to life everlasting. But while there is in all religiously instructed people a readiness to concede to Christ the merit of salvation, there is too much disposition to rely upon ourselves and our own arrangements for success in temporal and physical things, and to claim the merit of it if we do succeed. There are various things that have a tendency to produce within us a feeling of self-dependence, and lead to the ignoring of the Divine power and efficiency. There is in us too often an idolatry of human agency and natural or artificial instrumentalities, and too often these occupy in our souls the place of God. In the order of nature causes produce their legitimate effects, so that if we can secure certain antecedents we feel confident of corresponding results. To use all wisdom and discretion in the use of means is a plain duty. But the difficulty with us is, that in our reliance on secondary agencies we too often leave God out of the account. We forget that He is above all means, that He can work without them, or He can frustrate all our means and all our best-concerted plans. There is nothing that men are more disposed to confide in than superiority of intellect. Yet God has given us reasons sufficient to abate our idolatry of human talent. For--
1. The largest capacity of man is really very small. Knowledge with all men is very limited, even in those that know the most.
2. Men of great capacity and uncommon attainments seldom, perhaps never, bear to be examined very closely. If one excel in one thing he is deficient in another. Sir Isaac Newton, great as he was in science and philosophy, failed in the common affairs of life. Laplace, whose extensive range of thought took in the whole mechanism of the planetary universe, did not at all justify the high opinion formed of him by Napoleon, when he, at the emperor’s invitation, undertook the business of the statesman.
3. Men of the largest pretensions to mind have been and are still guilty of the puerile, the absurd, the degrading crime of idolatry. E.g., Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, modern Hindoos.
4. The comparatively few specimens of unsullied, religious character.
5. We see in the record which God has given of His dealings with our race, a series of illustrations of man’s inefficiency and God’s supremacy. He has seldom used the means to accomplish an end that man would have selected or supposed. Egypt saved from perishing by a seven years’ famine by a young, falsely accused slave, wrongfully cast into prison. Naaman. Deliverance of Israel from the Midianites ( 7:1-25). Destruction of Spanish Armada, Waterloo, etc., Lessons--
Ceasing from man
I. CEASE YE FROM EXPECTING TOO GREAT PERFECTION IN MAN. Many are sadly mistaken on this point. They have higher ideas of the excellency of human nature than the Word of God warrants. It is sad that our experience of life should chill its generous sympathies, and that the heart should become cold and selfish as our knowledge of mankind increases. We ought so to live that the more we become acquainted with human wickedness, the more our compassionate feelings should be enlarged; and that person has a Christian spirit whose experience of man’s depravity and love for man have increased in the same ratio.
II. THE RULE OF OUR TEXT WILL APPLY ALSO TO CHRISTIANS. Cease from expecting perfection in them.
1. The Bible teaches us to regard a Christian as different from others only as the man recovering from disease differs from one who is still under its full power, not as one in perfect health and strength.
2. As Christians we may learn to cease from expecting too much from our fellow Christians.
3. We should cease, too, from making any fellow Christian our model, or measuring our faith by his faithfulness.
4. And let us cease from expecting too much from Christian friendship. Christ was forsaken by the twelve, and at St. Paul’s first answer before the Roman emperor, no man stood with him, but all forsook him.
III. CEASE YE FROM THE FEAR OF MAN is another appropriate application of the text.
1. The Word of God warns us against this. Who can say that he pursues just that path which conscience approves without being drawn aside by the fear of man? And how strong is the antidote to such a fear which the text presents! His breath is in his nostrils!
2. We should be careful, however, that our ceasing from man be not attended with evil feelings towards him. If a poor man is fearless in the presence of the rich because he scorns them, that is wrong. If we go forward in the path of duty, undeterred by the opinion of the world, because we are self-opinionated, and care nothing for any conclusions except our own, that is wrong.
IV. CEASE YE FROM MAN AS A SOURCE OF HAPPINESS. We build our enjoyments on relatives and friends. We gather around us those who are worthy of our love; our hearts begin to knit with theirs, and we say, This is comfort, here is happiness. But one touch of death crumbles all to the dust, and leaves us to mourn over our disappointed expectations. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)
God man’s only dependence
Our text speaks in a two-fold manner: there is in it warning pointedly expressed; also instruction indirectly conveyed--
I. REGARDING THE CONDITION OF MAN.
II. REGARDING MAN’S DELIVERANCE AND SALVATION.
III. REGARDING THE CONVERSION OF EVERY SAVED SINNER. Man cannot save you, whatever he may pretend to do.
IV. REGARDING THE CHARACTER OF THE GOSPEL. Such is man that he will hold the truth with the head, and think he can be saved whilst his heart is in the world.
V. REGARDING THE MAINTENANCE AND PROMULGATION OF DIVINE TRUTH
IN THE EARTH. How frequently the necessity of this warning is seen in missionary enterprises! “Oh,” say some, “you have got the right missionaries now; their heads are full of learning; they have very strong bodies, able to stand any climate; there is plenty of money in the missionary exchequer”; and away they go. Ah, “let not the rich man glory in his riches; let not the strong man glory in his strength; let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, saith the Lord God Almighty.” And then, there is not only work to do abroad, but at home too. If you speak to some men about the infidelity and superstition at home, they will say, the government should do so and so, and make such and such an act of parliament. Do you think that men can be converted by acts of parliament? Oh! “cease ye from man.” The text does not mean--
1. That any unconverted person is to say, I will wait till God thinks proper to convert me.
2. That there is no necessity for men to preach the Gospel. Preaching is necessary, because God has ordained it.
3. That it is wrong for rulers or governments to give their legitimate aid to
God’s truth. Finally, we are taught the great duty of prayer to God. (Hugh Allen, M. A.)
Ceasing from man
I. WHAT THE EXHORTATION DOES NOT IMPLY.
1. That God wills our seclusion from the society of man.
2. That we are not to give any confidence to man.
3. That we are to withdraw from the appointed means of grace as being superior to them, or standing in no need of them.
II. WHAT THE EXHORTATION DOES IMPLY.
1. That we should cease from all that vain admiration of the external appearance in the character and condition of men in which we are so prone to indulge.
2. That we should not indulge the desire of applause from man.
3. That we should not envy man--his popularity, prosperity, etc.
4. That we should cease from all such confidence in man as would supersede confidence in God.
5. That we should cease from the fear of man.
6. That we should cease from all expectations of perfection in the character of men, even of those who profess religion.
7. That we should cease from all inordinate attachment to creatures.
III. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH THIS EXHORTATION IS ENFORCED. Cease from man--
1. Because he is a depraved creature, subject to violent and dangerous passions.
2. Because he is a deceitful creature, often deceiving himself as well as others.
3. Because he is a fickle and changeable creature.
4. Because he is a weak and helpless creature.
5. Because he is a dying creature. (E. Parsons.)
Man, “soul and soil”
Man is made up, as the old writers used to say, of soul and soil. Alas, the soil terribly soils his soul! “My soul cleaveth to the dust” might be the confession of every man in one sense or another. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Man, whose breath is in his nostrils
One consequence of the prevailing materialism of our corrupt nature is our craving for something tangible, audible, visible, as the object of our confidence. Man is, by nature, an idolater. The people of Isaiah’s day were like the rest of their race: they showed their unspiritualness and their inability to walk in the light of the Lord by making their own wealth their chief confidence (verse 7). Nations also, like the Israelitish people, are apt to idolise power; even power in the form of brute force. We read: “Their land also is full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots.” These people, in the heat of their idolatry, set up many idols. Idolatry is common even here. May we not easily make idols of ourselves? There is nothing more absurd in the history of human nature than the fact that man is apt to trust in man. The sin is none the less accursed because of its commonness.
I. Our first inquiry is, WHAT IS MAN? This question is asked many times in Scripture, end it has been frequently answered with a copiousness of instruction.
1. What is man? He is assuredly a very feeble creature. He must be weak, for “his breath is in his nostrils.” We measure the strength of a chain by its weakest link. See, then, how weak man is, for he is weakness itself in a vital point.
2. Man, moreover, is a frail creature. It seems as though his life in his breath stood at the gates, ready to be gone, since it is in his nostrils.
3. Man is also a dying creature. Contemplate the dead! What think you now of your idol?
4. The text also reminds us that man is a very fickle creature. His breath is in his “nostrils.” As his breath is affected by his health, so is he changed. Today he loves, and tomorrow he hates; he promises fair, but he forgets his words.
5. If you read the chapter through, you will also find that man is a trembling creature, cowardly creature, a creature, indeed, who, if he were not cowardly, yet has abundant reason to fear. (Read from verse 19.) “They shall go into the holes of the rocks,” etc. Think of the days of Divine wrath, and especially of the last dread day of Judgment, and of the dismay which will then seize upon many of the proud and great. Are you going to make these your confidants?
II. WHAT IS TO BE OUR RELATION TO MAN, or what does the text mean when it says, “Cease ye from man”? It implies, that we very probably have too much to do with this poor creature man already. We may even require to reverse our present conduct, break up unions, cancel alliances, and alter the whole tenor of our conduct.
1. “Cease ye from man” means, first, cease to idolise him in your love. It is very common to idolise children. A mother who had lost her babe fretted and rebelled about it. She happened to be in a meeting of the Society of
Friends, and there was nothing spoken that morning except this word by one female Friend who was moved, I doubt not, by the Spirit of God to say, “Verily, I perceive that children are idols.” She did not know the condition of that mourner’s mind, but it was the right word, and she to whom God applied it knew how true it was. She submitted her rebellious will, and at once was comforted. Cease ye from these little men and women; for their breath is in their nostrils, and indeed it is but feebly there in childhood. A proper and right love of children should be cultivated; but to carry this beyond its due measure is to grieve the Spirit of God. You can idolise a minister, you can idolise a poet, you can idolise a patron; but in so doing you break the first and greatest of the commandments, and you anger the Most High.
2. “Cease ye from man “: cease to idolise him in your trust.
3. Cease to idolise any man by giving him undue honour. “Honour all men.” A measure of courtesy and respect is to be paid to every person, and peculiarly to those whose offices demand it; therefore is it written, “Honour the king.” Some also, by their character, deserve much respect from their fellow men; but there is a limit to this, or we shall become sycophants and slaves, and, what is worse, idolaters. It grieves one to see how certain persons dare not even think, much less speak, till they have asked how other people think. The bulk of people are like a flock of sheep; there is a gap, and if one sheep goes through, all will follow. God’s people should scorn such grovelling. If the Son shall make you free, you will be free indeed.
4. Equally does the text bid us cease from the fear of man.
5. Once more, cease from being worried about men. We ought to do all we can for our fellow men to set them right and keep them right, both by teaching and by example; but certain folks think that everything must go according to their wishes, and if we cannot see eye to eye with them, they worry themselves and us. Let us not be unduly cast down if we cannot set everybody right. The body politic, common society, and especially the Church, may cause us great anxiety; but still the Lord reigneth, and we are not to let ourselves die of grief. He only requires of us what He enables us to do.
6. “But they say.” What do they say? Let them say. It will not hurt you if you can only gird up the loins of your mind, and cease from man. “Oh, but they have accused me of this and that.” Is it true? “No, sir, it is not true, and that is why it grieves me.” If it were true it ought to trouble you; but if it is not true let it alone. Nine times out of ten if a boy makes a blot in his copy book and borrows a knife to take it out, he makes the mess ten times worse; and as in your case there is no blot after all, you need not make one by attempting to remove what is not there. All the dirt that falls upon a good man will brush off when it is dry: but let him wait till it is dry, and not dirty his hands with wet mud. Let us think more of God and less of man. Come, let the Lord our God fill the whole horizon of our thoughts. Let our love go forth to Him; let us delight ourselves in Him. Let us trust in Him that liveth forever, in Him whose promise never faileth. Cease ye from man because you have come to know the best of men, who is more than man, even the Lord Jesus Christ, and He has so fully become the beloved of your souls, that none can compare with Him. Rest also in the great Father as to your providential cares: why rest in men when He careth for you? Rest in the Holy Spirit as to your spiritual needs; why need to depend on man? Yea, throw yourself entirely upon the God all-sufficient, El Shaddai, as Scripture calls Him.
III. WHY ARE WE TO CEASE FROM MAN? The answer is, because he is nothing to be accounted of. Every man must cease from himself first, and then from all men, as his hope and his trust, because neither ourselves nor others are worthy of such confidence. “Wherein is he to be accounted of?” Compared with God man is less than nothing and vanity. Reckon him so, and act upon the reckoning. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God, the Verity of verities
Care nothing for the vanity of vanities, but trust in the Verity of verities. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
“His breath is in his nostrils,” puffed out every moment, soon gone for good and all. Man is a dying creature, and may die quickly; our nostrils, in which our breath is, are of the outward parts of the body; what is there is like one standing at the door ready to depart. Nay, the doors of the nostrils are always open; the breath in them may slip away, ere we are aware, in a moment; wherein then is man to be accounted of? Alas, no reckoning is to be made of him; for he is not what he seems to be,--what he pretends to be, what we fancy him to be.(M. Henry.)
Insignificance of men
A Sultan, amusing himself with walking, observed a dervish sitting with human skull in his lap, and appearing to be in a profound reverie. His attitude and manner surprised the Sultan, who demanded the cause of his being so deeply engaged in reflection “Sire,” said the dervish, “this skull was presented to me this morning, and I have from that moment been endeavouring, in vain, to discover whether it is the skull of a powerful monarch like your Majesty, or of a poor dervish like myself.” (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)
Folly of man
It was once remarked to Lord Chesterfield that man is the only creature endowed with the power of laughter. “True,” said the peer; “and you may add, perhaps, that he is the only creature that deserves to be laughed at.” (Timba.)
Outline of chapter
The first part opens with a general prediction of the loss of what they trusted in, beginning with the necessary means of subsistence (Isaiah 3:1). We have then an enumeration of the public men who were about to be removed, including civil, military, and religious functionaries, with the practitioners of certain arts (Isaiah 3:2-3). As the effect of this removal, the government falls into incompetent hands (Isaiah 3:4). This is followed by insubordination and confusion (Isaiah 3:5). At length, no one is willing to accept public office, the people are wretched, and the commonwealth a ruin (Isaiah 3:6-7). This ruin is declared to be the consequence of sin, and the people represented as their own destroyers (Isaiah 3:8-9). God’s judgments, it is true, are not indiscriminate. The innocent shall not perish with the guilty, but the guilty must suffer (Isaiah 3:10-11). Incompetent and faithless rulers must especially be punished, who instead of being the guardians are the spoilers of the vineyard, instead of protectors the oppressors of the poor (Isaiah 3:12-15). As a principal cause of these prevailing evils, the prophet now denounces female luxury, and threatens it with condign punishment, privation, and disgrace (Isaiah 3:16-17). This general denunciation is then amplified at great length, in a detailed enumeration of the ornaments which were about to be taken from them and succeeded by the badges of captivity and mourning (Isaiah 3:18-24). The agency to be employed in this retribution is a disastrous war, by which the men are to be swept off, and the country left desolate (Isaiah 3:25-26). The extent of this calamity is represented by a lively exhibition of the disproportion between the male survivors and the other sex, suggesting at the time the forlorn condition of the widows of the slain (Isaiah 4:1). (J. A. Alexander.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter