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O Lord, Thou art my God.
--This chapter looks as pleasantly upon the Church as the former looked dreadfully upon the world. (M. Henry.)
Calm after storm
We can only understand the highest, sweetest meaning of this chapter in proportion as we enter into the spirit of the chapter which precedes it. That chapter is full of clouds, and darkness, and judgment. The very terribleness of God is a reason for putting trust in Him. Probably this view of the Divine attributes has not always been sufficiently vivid to our spiritual consciousness. We have thought of God, and have become afraid; whereas when we hear Him thundering, and see Him scattering His arrows of lightning round about Him, and behold Him pouring contempt upon the mighty who have defied Him, we should say, See! God is love. What does He strike? No little child, no patient woman, no broken heart, no face that is steeped in tears of contrition. On what does His fist fall?--on arrogance, on haughtiness, on self-conceit, on self-completeness. He turns the proud away with an answer of scorn to their prayer of patronage. God is only terrible to evil. That is the reason why His terribleness should be an encouragement and an allurement to souls that know their sin and plead for pardon at the Cross. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Song of assurance
I. THE AFFINITY THAT IS CLAIMED. “O Jehovah, Thou art my God.” This affinity was predetermined by God the Father; it is exhibited in the most conspicuous manner in the person of God the Son; it is revealed, beyond the possibility of doubt, to the heart of God’s elect by God the Holy Ghost
II. THE WONDERS ACKNOWLEDGED. “Thou hast done wonderful things.” will only select three out of myriads: His vicarious work, the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom, and the deliverance of precious souls individually by con version to God.
III. THE ETERNAL FIRST CAUSE AVOWED. “Thy counsels of old.” (J. Irons.)
The faithfulness of God
That Divine perfection which the prophet celebrates is a fountain of consolation to everyone that “thirsts after righteousness.”
I. ENUMERATE SEVERAL PAST INSTANCES OF THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD.
1. Connected with the history of the deluge.
2. His conduct towards the people of Israel.
3. His promise to the father of the faithful, that “in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed,”--a promise afterwards repeatedly confirmed by prophets.
4. In the fulness of time, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, etc. Galatians 4:4-48.4.5). Having thus produced an instance of the faithfulness of God from each of the several kingdoms of nature, providence, and grace, I proceed to--
II. DEDUCE SUCH INFERENCES AS THE SUBJECT APPEARS TO SUGGEST.
1. We should cherish gratitude.
2. It is the privilege of devout Christians to maintain unshaken confidence in God--with reference both to the Church of Christ and the circumstances of individual believers.
(1) Of the perpetuity and future prosperity of the Church we are not permitted to doubt.
(2) Since the Lord is faithful, let the Christian who is in a state of poverty, re member that his Saviour hath said, “Take no thought saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed . . . Your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things,” etc.
(3) Since God is faithful, let those who feel the strength of indwelling sin in their hearts, remember that it is promised, “sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
(4) To fearful Christians the subject is also calculated to administer great relief. It should inspire a cheerful and affectionate confidence.
(5) In short, this illustrious attribute presents an asylum, whatever storms you are called upon in the path of duty to endure.
3. The subject should awaken salutary fear. For the faithfulness of God to His word and purpose is an attribute no less to be dreaded by the impenitent than valued by believers. (T. Sims, M. A.)
Thou art my God, who hast invited me to sacred intercourse with Thee: who hast inclined me to surrender myself and all my concerns into Thy hands, and to choose Thee for my God. Thou art my Father, who hast nourished and brought me up among Thy children. Thou art my Friend, who hast loaded me with a rich profusion of favours. Thou art the Portion that I have chosen, in the possession of which I shall enjoy the most permanent felicity. Thou art my God, and therefore my happiness shall be complete. I humbly claim from Thy all-sufficiency the supply of all my wants; from Thy wisdom, direction and conduct; from Thy power, assistance and protection; from Thy love, refreshment and consolation; from Thy mercy, forgiveness and blessing; from Thy faithfulness, stability and support; and from Thy patience, forbearance and long suffering. I cheerfully resign myself and all my interests to Thy direction and disposal; and, with dutiful affection, I consecrate all my powers and faculties to Thy honour, whose I am, and whom I serve, that they may be employed in promoting Thy glory. (R. Macculloch.)
Exalting the Lord
To exalt the Lord our God is--
1. To proclaim the glorious honour of His majesty.
2. To extol the exceeding riches of His grace.
3. To magnify His transcendent excellences.
4. To celebrate, with affectionate gratitude, His wonderful loving kindness. (R. Macculloch.)
For Thou hast been a strength to the poor
“Poor” and “needy”
Among the names applied to God’s people there are three which were destined to play an enormous part in the history of religion.
In the English version these appear as two: “poor and needy”; but in the original they are three. In Isaiah 25:4 : “Thou has been astronghold to the poor and a stronghold to the needy,” “poor” renders a Hebrew word, “dal,” literally, “wavering, tottering, infirm,” then “slender” or “lean,” then “poor” in fortune and estate; “needy” literally renders the Hebrew “‘ebhyon,” Latin “egenus.” In Isaiah 26:6 : “The foot of thepoor and the steps of the needy,” “needy” renders “dal,” while poor renders “‘ani,” a passive form--“forced, afflicted, oppressed,” then “wretched,” whether under persecution, poverty, loneliness, or exile, and so “tamed, mild, meek.” These three words, in their root ideas of “infirmity,” “need,” and positive “affliction,” cover among them every aspect of physical poverty and distress. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Poverty in the East
In the East poverty scarcely ever means physical disadvantage alone; in its train there follow higher disabilities. A poor Eastern cannot be certain of fair play in the courts of the land. He is very often a wronged man, with a fire of righteous anger burning in his breast. Again, and more important, misfortune is to the quick, religious instinct of the Oriental a sign of God’s estrangement. With us misfortune is so often only the cruelty, sometimes real, sometimes imagined, of the rich; the unemployed vents his wrath at the capitalist, the tramp shakes his fist after the carriage on the highway. In the East they do not forget to curse the rich, but they remember as well to humble themselves beneath the hand of God. With an unfortunate Oriental the conviction is supreme, God is angry with me; I have lost His favour. His soul eagerly longs for God. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Israel’s poverty of heart
These were four aspects of Israel’s poverty of heart, a hunger for pardon, a hunger for justice, a hunger for home, and a hunger for God. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
A refuge from the storm
A refuge from the storm
The conditions of our earth, and its varied phenomena, are employed by the sacred writers to represent many circumstances of human life. Troubles, especially when heavy and expressive of Divine displeasure, are represented in Holy Scripture as storms.
I. THIS IS A WORLD WHERE STORMS OFTEN GATHER AND TEMPESTS ON THIS PLANET ARE NEVER OUT OF PLACE. The storm has its mission as well as the calm. Among men, adversity of all kinds is a powerful agent in accomplishing necessary spiritual operations.
II. THIS IS A TIME OF STORMS AND TEMPESTS HERE ARE NOT OUT OF SEASON. The days of man upon earth are as the winter of his life. Death is the seed time, and immortality is the spring and summer and harvest. When the spring and summer have come, snow and hail are out of season; but during the winter of our being, hail and snow and rain are in season.
III. EVERY STORM IS RAISED AND GUIDED UNDER THE EYE AND HAND OF GOD. The stormy wind does not surprise Him. He determined that it should blow at such a moment, from such a quarter, with such a force, and with particular effects. Neither does it master Him. The stormy wind simply accomplishes His word.
IV. THE OBJECT OF EVERY STORM IS GOOD, ALTHOUGH THE PRESENT EXPERIENCE OF IT IS NOT JOYOUS, BUT GRIEVOUS. Hence the need of a refuge to the man of God. Have you marked how frequently God is spoken of as “a refuge”?
V. A PLACE TO BE A REFUGE MUST BE OUT OF THE STORM, OR, IF IN THE MIDST OF IT, MUST BE STRONGER THAN THE STORM. But how is it that we children of men come to take refuge in God? The Gospel reaches us with its wooing voice. In the mediation of Jesus, in His sympathy, love, and power we find refuge. And we come to make all the covenants and promises of God distinct refuges. There is a harbour or haven at every point of danger. Do you come to poverty? There are promises to the poor. Are you a widow? There are promises to the widow. And all the hopes which these covenants awaken become in turn so many refuges. In this world, quietness of mind and heart is a thing utterly impossible to a man who does not rest in his God. If you feel the need of a refuge, you may in that sorrow which another professes to despise find the very refuge which you seek in your God. And why? Say that your sensitiveness springs from weakness. Well, God has sympathy with your weakness. (S. Martin.)
A feast of fat things
The Gospel feast
1. Spiritual blessings are here, as in other places, set forth under the emblem of feast (Proverbs 9:2-20.9.5; Luke 14:16-42.14.24; Matthew 22:4). In Christ, and in His Gospel, provision is made for our refreshment in various respects.
(1) Truth is afforded for the understanding.
(2) Beauty (the amiable perfections of God and Christ), goodness, love, hope, joy.
(3) Provision is also made for the sustenance of the Divine life in the soul John 6:32-43.6.33; John 6:47-43.6.57).
(4) In the Gospel there is not barely provision, but “a feast”; abundant provision. A rich variety of truths, and clear and satisfactory discoveries concerning them. Abundant mercy, to remove the most aggravated guilt, and to give assurance of pardon, reconciliation, and peace. Abundant grace, to purify from all defilement, and enrich with holiness and comfort. There is most agreeable, rich, and delightful provision. But, for whom? For those who have their spiritual taste rectified, and have spiritual discernment 1 Corinthians 2:14). “A feast of fat things.” Bishop Lowth reads, “of delicacies”; “of fat things full of marrow,” or, “of delicacies exquisitely rich.” The truths of the Gospel are enlarging, ennobling, and consoling to the mind; the grace of it enriching, invigorating, and comforting to the spirit; its doctrines, precepts, promises, exhortations, sweet and precious. Cheering, exhilarating provision. “Wines on the lees”; or, old wines (Lowth). The truths of the Gospel give the fullest satisfaction and comfort to believers. “Well refined.” Refined from every impure and carnal mixture.
2. But where is the feast made? “In this mountain” This is said in allusion to Judaea, a mountainous country, and especially to Jerusalem and Mount Zion, whore this provision was first made. There Christ died and rose again, the Spirit was first poured out, the Gospel first preached, and the Christian Church first formed. But the Christian Church itself is often figuratively described under the terms, Jerusalem and Mount Zion Hebrews 12:22).
3. Do we further inquire, for whom this feast is made, and on what terms such may partake of it! It is made “for all people,” on the terms of repentance and faith.
4. To this feast we are invited. But we neither know by nature our want of these blessings, nor the worth of them, nor the way of attaining them. To remedy this evil we have--
II. A GRACIOUS PROMISE. “He will destroy the face,” etc. The “face of the covering” is put by a hypallage, for the “covering of the face.” The expression has a reference to the veil that was upon the face of Moses, or to that of the tabernacle and temple, both emblematical of the obscurity of that dispensation. But much darker was the dispensation the heathen were under. The veil of unbelief is also intended (Romans 11:32); and that of prejudice. These veils are removed by the plain and powerful preaching of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 3:12-47.3.13). By the circulation of the Scriptures. By the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ephesians 1:17-49.1.19). By the “heart turning to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:16), and faith in Jesus (John 12:46). Here we have a manifest prophecy of the illumination and conversion of both Jews and Gentiles, and of the universal spread of religion.
III. THE EFFECT PRODUCED (verse 8). The Messiah, who is the “light of the world,” is the “light of life.”
1. “He will swallow up death in victory.”
(1) Spiritual death, introduced by the sin of Adam, is swallowed up in victory Hence, “he that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
(2) Temporal death.
2. “The Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.” He will remove sufferings and sorrows, and the causes of them forever (Revelation 21:4).
3. “And the rebuke of His people,” etc. This implies, that the people of God have been, and will be more or less, under reproach, in all ages, till the glorious period here spoken of arrive.
IV. THE JOY AND TRIUMPH OF GOD’S PEOPLE (verse 9). Their enemies now reproach them, “Where is your God?” But what will then be the reply of the Lord’s people? “Lo, this is our God”; we have trusted, hoped, waited for Him, and now He hath saved us. Henceforth we shall have the everlasting fruition of His glorious presence. The presence of God shall remain with the Church (verse 10). (J. Benson, D. D.)
A feast of fatness
This prophecy spans the Gospel dispensation. First, it presents to us the Gospel dispensation in its present state of grace. The prophet says “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things.” By “this mountain” the prophet intends Mount Zion; and from the literal Mount Zion it was that the Word of the Lord went forth, being preached in the first instance by the forerunner of Christ, and then by the incarnate Son of God Himself. And all the blessings which have flowed to the Church and to the world have come to us from Jerusalem--that Jerusalem which is the type of the Christian Church And you will observe that this Gospel dispensation, with its blessings and its privileges, is spoken of under the familiar imago of a feast. This imagery is eminently calculated to present to us an idea of the fulness of the grace of the Gospel. It is not as if God was offering provision to starving men just enough, as we should say in common parlance, to keep body and soul together. It is not a scanty provision: it is not a provision simply of bread and water. Now, in order to see what is meant let us apply this, in the first place, to the Gospel dispensation in its bearing upon sinners to whom the invitation is first addressed. You mark, in the first verse, that it is a feast of fat things. It is a feast of wine in the very best condition--wine which is old, settled upon its lees, and which by reason of its age has now attained its very best and choicest flavour. Now, let us observe how aptly this illustrates the provision of the Gospel in its aspect to those to whom the message and the invitation are still addressed. When we, for instance, as ministers, are called upon to deliver this invitation under any circumstances, we feel that we are entirely unhampered by any limitation as to persons, or by any limitation as to the question of sufficiency and adaptation to those who are invited. It is not, I mean, a scanty hospitality which God has provided. It is not such that he who has to deliver the invitation in this church, or anywhere else in the midst of the streets of London, has to consider, “Well, the Gospel is only intended for a certain class of sinners; the Gospel is only intended for certain kind of sins; and before I deliver this invitation I have to decide whether this is a case which it will suit,--whether this is a case which is included in the provision that is made,--whether I may not be deceiving and disappointing this man.” No such thing. It is a feast; it is a feast of fat things; and it is a feast of the very choicest wines. What does all this mean when we strip off the imagery,--when we look at this not as a beautiful piece of prophetic poetry, but in its reality, in its actual bearing upon men to whom the Gospel is addressed? It means to say that there is abundant rich provision for every sinner. It means to say that God in His love has provided for the case of every man. It means that the blessings of salvation which we have to offer in Jesus Christ are not scanty blessings,--that they are not such blessings as leave us any doubt as to whether they will meet the case of this particular man, but that the salvation which is in Christ is a feast, and a feast of fat things. And then, again, take the aspect of this Gospel towards those who have already received the invitation, and who are, so to say, sitting down at the feast table. Every believing man who is in Christ is as a man sitting down at a perpetual feast. Everyday is, in this sense, a feast day to him. Every day is a day upon which he is to be feeding upon Christ, and to be nourishing his soul with the rich and costly blessings of salvation. Better to have the feeblest faith than to be an unbeliever. But is this the condition in which God would have His believing people to be? I say, no such thing. God intends that you should receive, and receive without doubting, and receive without reserve, when you come to Christ, the fulness and the freeness of His grace. He intends that you should believe Him when He says “Thy sins are forgiven.” He does not expect of you that you should be content with saying “Ah, at some time or other God will forgive my sins: there is hope that my sins will be forgiven.” He intends to make you feel, and desires to have you realise from day to day, that it is not simply bread and water, but that it is wine and milk. There is this unbroken continuity between what we call “grace” and what we very properly call “glory.” You observe how this appears clearly in the end of the passage, because the prophet flows from one thing into the other as naturally as possible. What I want you particularly to mark, as one of the chief things I would impress upon you, is how, beginning with this Word of the Lord in Jerusalem--beginning with the taking away of the yell from off the faces of all people--beginning with the invitation to repent and believe and receive the remission of sins through our Lord Jesus Christ--the prophet goes on to what we find ultimately to be at the very end of the dispensation; how naturally, as if there was no break, as if it was just one flow of grace until, if I may so express it, the river of grace is lost in the vast expanse of the ocean of glory. There seems to be no chasm. Indeed, wherever there is in any young man or in any old man, in any woman or in any child, a work of grace--real, saving grace--that is the beginning, and glory with all its details and all its blessedness, all its companionships and all its occupations, will be nothing more than the full efflorescence and the full development and the full consummation of that work of grace which is begun. Well now, you see, these are blended together in the text; and the apostle says that God will in that day fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah, and that He will “swallow up death in victory.” He will not do it before. Death is not swallowed up in victory, even when the triumphant Christian dies. But the apostle says, interpreting the words of the prophet, “Then shall be brought to pass the saying which is written”; that is, when the voice of the archangel shall be heard, and the trumpet shall sound, and when the graves shall give up their dead, and when they that have gone down to the grave in a natural body, in dishonour, in corruption, in feebleness, shall be raised in power and in incorruption and in glory,--“then shall be brought to past the saying which is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” And this is to be followed by the fulfilment of the declaration of the prophet, interpreted by the figure of the Apocalypse. God is then to wipe away all tears. Tears, as we know, on earth, have many sources. There are the tears of penitence: we shall have to shed them no longer. There are the tears of anguish on account of temporal sorrow and bereavement and bodily suffering: we shall have to shed them no more.
There are the tears of anxiety amid all the pressing cares of life. There are the tears of despondency and disappointment. We shall have to shed them no more. There is another source of tears while we are yet in the body. You and I have often shed tears from another cause--tears of joy. And why do we shed tears of joy? Because the joy is sometimes so sudden, it is so deep, it is so great, it so thoroughly overmasters us and transports us, that the feeble body cannot bear it; and the result is that tears course down our cheeks, and, as we say not infrequently, we “weep for joy.” There will be no weeping for joy after the resurrection. Because, though we shall have the joy, we shall be capacitated to bear it: we shall have the joy, even the joy of our Lord, but our whole nature will be strong enough to enjoy that joy, and so there will be no more tears. (J. C. Miller, D. D.)
“In this mountain”
A poet’s imagination and a prophet’s clear vision of the goal to which God will lead humanity are both at their highest in this great song of the future, whose winged words make music even in a translation. No doubt it starts from the comparatively small fact of the restoration of the exiled nation to its own land. But it soars far beyond that. It sees, all mankind associated with them in sharing its blessings. It is the vision of God’s ideal for humanity. That makes it the more remarkable that the prophet, with this wide outlook, should insist with such emphasis on the fact that it has a local centre. That phrase “in this mountain” is three times repeated in the hymn; two of the instances have lying side by side with them the expressions “all people” and “all nations,” as if to bring together the local origin and the universal extent of the blessings promised. The sweet waters that are to pour through the world well up from a spring opened “in this mountain.” The beams that are to lighten every land stream out from a light blazing there. The world’s hopes for that golden age which poets have sung, and towards which earnest social reformers have worked, and of which this prophet was sure, rest on a definite fact, done in a definite place, at a definite time. Isaiah knew the place, but what was to be done, or when it was to be he knew not. You and I ought to be wiser. History has taught us that Jesus Christ fulfils the visioned good that inspired the prophet’s brilliant words. We might say, with allowable licence, that “this mountain,” in which the Lord does the good things that this song magnifies, is not so much Zion as Calvary. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The source of the world's hope
I. WHERE DOES THE WORLD’S FOOD COME FROM? Physiologists can tell, by studying the dentition and the digestive apparatus of an animal, what it is meant to live upon, whether vegetables or flesh, or a mingled diet of both. And you can tell by studying yourself, what, or whom, you are meant to live upon. Look at these hearts of yours with their yearnings, their clamant needs. Will any human love satisfy the heart hunger of the poorest of us? No! Look at these tumultuous wills of ours that fancy they want to be independent, and really want an absolute master whom it is blessedness to obey. The very make of our being, our heart, will, mind, desires, passions, longings, all with one voice proclaim that the only food for a man is God. Jesus Christ brings the food that we need. “In this mountain is prepared a feast . . . for all nations.” Notice, that although it does not appear on the surface, and to English readers, this world’s festival, in which every want is met, and every appetite satisfied, is a feast on a sacrifice. Would that the earnest men, who are trying to cure the world’s evils and still the world’s wants, and are leaving Jesus Christ and His religion out of their programme, would ask themselves whether there is not something deeper in the hunger of humanity than their ovens can ever bake bread for.
II. WHERE DOES THE UNVEILING THAT GIVES LIGHT TO THE WORLD COME FROM? My text emphatically repeats, “in this mountain.” The pathetic picture that is implied here, of a dark pall that lies over the whole world, suggests the idea of mourning, but still more emphatically that of obscuration and gloom. The veil prevents vision and shuts out light, and that is the picture of humanity as it presents itself before this prophet--a world of men entangled in the folds of a dark pall that lay over their heads, and swathed them round about, and prevented them from seeing; shut them up in darkness and entangled their feet, so that they stumbled in the gloom. It is a pathetic picture, but it does not go beyond the realities of the case. There is a universal fact of human experience which answers to the figure, and that is sin. That is the black thing whose ebon folds hamper us, and darken us, and shut out the visions of God and blessedness, and all the glorious blue above us. The weak point of all these schemes and methods to which I have referred for helping humanity out of the slough, and making men happier, is that they underestimate the fact of sin. There is only one thing that deals radically with the fact of human transgression; and that is the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, and its result, the inspiration of the Spirit of life that was in Jesus Christ, breathed into us from the throne itself.
III. WHERE DOES THE LIFE THAT DESTROYS DEATH COME FROM? “He will swallow up death in victory.” Or, as probably the word more correctly means, “He will swallow up death forever.” None of the other panaceas for the world’s evils even attempt to deal with that “shadow feared of man” that sits at the end of all our paths. Jesus Christ has dealt with it. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Needy man and his moral provision
I. HUMANITY IS MORALLY FAMISHING--CHRISTIANITY HAS PROVISIONS. “A feast of fat things,” etc. The feverish restlessness and the earnest racing after something not yet attained, show the hungry and thirsty state of the soul. Christianity has the provisions, which are--
1. Adequate: “for all people.”
2. Varied: “wines and fat things full of marrow.”
3. Pleasant: “wines on the lees well refined.”
II. HUMANITY IS MORALLY BENIGHTED--CHRISTIANITY HAS ILLUMINATION. “He will destroy in this mountain,” etc. Men are enwrapped in moral gloom; they have their, “understanding . . . darkened” Ephesians 4:18). “The veil is upon their hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:15). Physical darkness is bad enough, intellectual darkness is worse, moral darkness is the worst of all. It is a blindness to the greatest Being, the greatest obligations, and the greatest interests. Christianity has moral light. Christ is “the light of the world.” Indeed, Christianity gives the three conditions of moral vision:--the visual faculty; opens the eyes of conscience; the medium, which is truth; and the object, which is God, etc.
III. HUMANITY IS MORALLY DEAD--CHRISTIANITY HAS LIFE. “He will swallow up death in victory.” Men are “dead in trespasses and sins” The valley of dry bones is a picture of moral humanity. Insensibility, utter subjection to external forces, and offensiveness, are some of the characteristics of death. Christianity has life. Its truths with a trumpet’s blast call men up from their moral graves. Its spirit is quickening. “You hath He quickened,” etc.
IV. HUMANITY IS MORALLY UNHAPPY--CHRISTIANITY HAS BLESSEDNESS. There are tears on “all faces.” Go to the heathen world, and there is nothing but moral wretchedness. The whole moral creation groaneth: conflicting passions, remorseful reflections, foreboding apprehensions, make the world miserable. Christianity provides blessedness.
V. HUMANITY IS MORALLY REPROACHED--CHRISTIANITY HAS HONOUR. “And the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth.” Man morally rebukes himself; he is rebuked by his fellow man; he is rebuked by his Maker. He is under “condemnation.” And the rebuke is just. Christianity removes this. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” It exalts man to the highest honour. (Homilist.)
Veils removed and souls feasted
I. THE PLACE SPECIFIED. “In this mountain.” Mountains are often spoken of in the Scriptures, and wonderful things were done on some of them. The ark rested on a mountain; Abraham offered up his son Isaac on a mountain, etc. The Church may be compared to a mountain--
1. Because of its conspicuousness.
2. Because of its exposure to storms.
3. Because of its stability.
4. Because it is beautiful and beneficial. Mountains break the monotony of the landscape, are good for shelter, and rich with valuable substances. The Church is a thing of moral beauty, and should be rich in faith, love, and zeal.
II. THE BUSINESS TO BE DONE IN THIS MOUNTAIN. Face coverings and veils have to be destroyed. People have to be prepared for a feast: and with veiled faces and muffled mouths they can neither see nor eat. The coverings which sin has thrown over all people are--
1. Ignorance. Sin made Adam so ignorant that he tried to hide himself from the presence of an omnipresent and omniscient God by creeping among the trees in the Garden of Eden. And his children are also as ignorant of God.
2. Shame and slavish fear. This drives men from God as it did their first father.
3. Unbelief; causing men to reject Christ, and to stagger at God’s promises. From thousands of minds such coverings, thick and strong though they be, have been torn and destroyed.
III. THE FEAST THAT IS TO FOLLOW. The Church is not a place of amusement merely, or a lecture room, but the soul’s feasting place, where all the dainties of Heaven can be had. At a feast there is generally found--
2. Plenty. God’s stores can never be exhausted.
3. Good company is expected. At this feast you have God’s nobility on earth, princes and princesses, kings and priests, and you are favoured with the presence of the King of kings Himself. Nowhere out of Heaven can the company be more select.
4. Here all is gratis. (“V” in Homilist.)
Tire marriage feast between Christ and His Church
These words are prophetical, and cannot have a perfect performance all at once, but they shall be performed gradually. I will show why Christ, with His benefits, prerogatives, graces, and comforts, is compared to a feast.
I. In regard of THE CHOICE OF THE THINGS. In a feast all things are of the best; so are the things we have in Christ. They are the best of everything. Pardon for sin is a pardon of pardon. The title we have for Heaven, through Him, is a sure title. The joy we have by Him is the joy of all joys. The liberty and freedom from sin, which He purchased for us by His death, is perfect freedom. The riches of grace we have by Him are the only lasting and durable riches.
II. There is VARIETY. In Christ there is variety answerable to all our wants. Are we foolish? He is wisdom. Have we guilt in our consciences 7 He is righteousness, and this righteousness is imputed unto us, etc.
III. There is FULL SUFFICIENCY. There is abundance of grace, and excellency and sufficiency in Christ.
IV. A feast is for COMPANY. This is a marriage feast, at which we are contracted to Christ. Of all feasts, marriage feasts are most sumptuous.
V. For a feast ye have THE CHOICEST GARMENTS, as at the marriage of the Lamb, “white and flue linen” (Revelation 19:8).
VI. This was SIGNIFIED IN OLD TIME BY THE JEWS.
1. In the Feast of the Passover.
2. Manna was a type of Christ.
3. The hard rock in the wilderness, when it was struck with the rod of Moses, presently water gushed out in abundance, which preserved life to the Israelites; so Christ, the rock of our salvation, when His precious side was gored with the bloody lance upon the Cross, the blood gushed out, and in such a manner and such abundance, that by the shedding thereof our souls are preserved alive.
4. All the former feasts in times past were but types of this.
5. In the sacrament you have a feast, a feast of varieties, not only bread, but wine--to shew the variety and fulness of comfort in Christ.
VII. Because there can be no feast where the greatest enemy is in force, HE SWALLOWS UP DEATH IN VICTORY. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
The Gospel feast
In the single circumstance that the feast foretold by the prophet was to be a feast “to all people,” there is an obvious reference to the Gospel dispensation; for feasts among the Jews were more or less exclusive, and in no instance, not even on occasions of the most intense interest and joy, were they made accessible to the Gentiles by open and indiscriminate invitation. Besides, in the subsequent context, there is a prediction respecting the conquest of death by believers, which is quoted by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:1-46.15.58), and is directly applied by him to that most blessed and triumphant result of the death of Christ. This quotation gives to the whole prediction a New Testament aspect.
I. WHO IS REPRESENTED AS MAKING THIS FEAST. “The Lord of hosts.” This is one of God’s names, which calls up the majesty of His nature. He dwells amidst the bright angels, controls the stormiest tide of battle, prescribes their courses to the great lights of the firmament; yet though thus almighty, independent, supreme, He makes a feast for guilty, polluted man. Nor is it a feast in the ordinary sense of the term. As the world is now constituted, He may be said to have spread, out such a feast in the riches of that universe which He has so skilfully contrived, and so munificently adorned. There is a feast in its aspects of beauty and grandeur--in its vastness and variety--in its perfection and magnificence--in its wondrous laws and minute provisions. Still more; there is a feast in the comforts, the privileges, and pleasures of civilised life--in the means of acquiring knowledge--in the protection of righteous laws--in the blessings of the domestic constitution--in the progress of nations--and in the triumphs or reason. But far different is the feast foretold in the text. It is a spiritual feast; a feast for the undeserving; a feast which required important arrangements to be made before it could be provided.
II. THE SCENE OF ENTERTAINMENT. “On this mountain.” “This mountain” means Zion or Jerusalem, which was the select scene of Divine manifestation and worship to the chosen people. Zion came to be identified with the Church of God; and in the Old Testament it is frequently employed as synonymous with it. It is emphatically styled “the mountain of the Lord’s house” Its great distinction consisted in this--it was the scene where the Divine presence was manifested in a visible glory, and where answers were vouchsafed to the prayers of the faithful. In one sense, the feast might be said to have been prepared at the period the prediction of the text was announced. As the believing Jews waited on the spiritual services of the temple, they partook of this feast. Truths of unspeakable importance occupied their attention; their minds were elevated, comforted and soothed by them; and, as they descended from the sacred hill, again to engage in the ordinary duties and cares of life, it must have been with refreshed and joyful hearts, with conscious satisfaction, and with a settled tranquillity. The full revelation of the Gospel, however, was more appropriately and emphatically the time of festivity. Now this full revelation might be said to have been made on Zion or in Jerusalem. It was in the temple of Zion that the infant Redeemer was first recognised by aged Simeon; there He was dedicated to the Lord by His mother, Mary. From time to time, He appeared within its gates, addressing the people; while, on one memorable occasion, He asserted His authority as its master by driving forth the dove merchants and the money changers, by whom it had been recklessly profaned. There, too, it is to be remembered, was the scene of His last suffering--there He shed the blood of atonement, and there He abolished death by dying. When He had left our world, it was in Jerusalem that His apostles first began to preach; it was “in an upper room” there that they met with one accord, and engaged in prayer, the Spirit came plentifully down, and by means of one sermon, three thousand converts were added to the Church. Jerusalem continued to be the scene of amazing triumphs. The city of the prophets was shaken to its centre; the feast of grace was spread out; the invitation was freely announced; multitudes from distant heathen lands heard the Gospel sound, and crowded to the scene of entertainment. There is a peculiarity respecting this feast which requires to be considered. It is not, like other feasts, restricted as to time or place; it is a feast for all times and for all places.
III. THE FEAST ITSELF. It is a feast of best things. We consider this figurative language as strikingly descriptive of the peculiar blessings the Gospel offers to guilty, ruined man. This provision grows by distribution; like the miraculous loaves in the Gospel, the fragments after every participation are more abundant than the original supply.
IV. THE GUESTS FOR WHOM THE FEAST IS MADE. “All people.” There is no distinction, and there is no limit. This feast presents a striking contrast with the feasts usually made by men. When men invite to a feast, they select a class--kindred, friends, or, perhaps more frequently, rich neighbours. But the feast foretold in the text, is to be a feast “for all people.” The vastness of its extent strikingly illustrates the power and the mercy of the Divine Entertainer. Conclusion:--There is one question of immense importance, Have you accepted the invitation to come to this feast! (A. Bennie, M. A.)
Good cheer for Christmas
God, in the verse before us, has been pleased to describe the provisions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Other interpretations are all flat and stale, and utterly unworthy of such expressions as those before us. When we behold the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed, offered up upon the chosen mountain, we then discover a fulness of meaning in these gracious words of sacred hospitality. Our Lord Himself was very fond of describing His Gospel under the self-same image as that which is here employed.
I. THE FEAST. It is described as consisting of viands of the best, nay, of the best of the best. They are fat things, but they are also fat things full of marrow. Wines are provided of the most delicious and invigorating kind, wines on the lees, which retain their aroma, their strength, and their flavour; but these are most ancient and rare, having been so long kept that they have become well refined; by long standing they have purified, clarified themselves, and brought themselves to me highest degree of brightness and excellence.
1. Let us survey the blessings of the Gospel, and observe that they are fat things, and fat things full of marrow:
(1) Complete justification.
(3) Every child of God is me object of eternal love, without beginning and without end.
(4) Union to Christ.
(5) Resurrection and everlasting life.
2. Changing the run of the thought, and yet really keeping to the same subject, let me now bring before you the goblets of wine. These we shall consider as symbolising the joys of the Gospel.
(1) One of the dearest joys of the Christian life is a sense of perfect peace with God.
(2) A sense of security.
(3) Communion with God.
(4) The pleasures of hope, a hope most sure and steadfast, most bright and glorious.
(5) These joys of the believer are ancient in their origin. Old wines are intended by “wines well refined”; they have stood long on the lees, have drawn out all the virtue from them, and have been cleared of all the coarser material.
(6) The fulness of their excellence, because the wine on the lees holds its flavour, and retains its aroma; and there is a fulness and richness about the blessings of Divine grace which endear them to our hearts.
(7) Their refined nature. Gospel joys are elevating.
(8) How absolutely peerless are the provisions of grace.
II. THE BANQUETING HALL. “In this mountain.” There is a reference here to three things--the same symbol bearing three interpretations.
1. Literally, the mountain upon which Jerusalem is built. The reference is here to the hill of the Lord upon which Jerusalem stood; the great transaction which was fulfilled at Jerusalem upon Calvary hath made to all nations a great feast.
2. Frequently Jerusalem is used as the symbol of the Church of God, and it is within the pale of the Church that the great feast of the Lord is made unto all nations. The mountain sometimes means the Church of God exalted to its latter day glory.
III. THE HOST of the feast. In the Gospel banquet there is not a single dish brought by man. I know some would like to bring a little with them to the banquet, something at least by way of trimming and adornment, so that they might have a share of the honour; but it must not be, the Lord of hosts makes the feast, and He will not even permit the guests to bring their own wedding garments--they must stop at the door and put on the robe which the Lord has provided, for salvation is all grace from first to last. The Lord provides sovereignly as “Lord of hosts,” and all-sufficiently as Jehovah. It needed the all-sufficiency of God to provide a feast for hungry sinners. If God spread the feast it is not to be despised If He provide the feast, let Him have the glory of it.
IV. THE GUESTS.
“For all people.” This includes not merely the chosen people, the Jews, whose were the oracles, but it encompasses the poor uncircumcised Gentiles, who by Jesus are brought nigh. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A rich feast for hungry souls
The prophets of old prophesied of the grace of Christ which should come unto us (1 Peter 1:10); and of these none more than our evangelical prophet.
I. THE MAKER AND MASTER OF THE FEAST, the Lord Himself. It is a royal feast, with which the King of Zion entertains His own subjects. Particularly, it is the Lord Christ, the Son of God, who, pitying the famished condition of poor sinners, was at the expense of this costly feast for them; for the Maker of it is the same who swallows up death in victory (Isaiah 25:8). A warlike title is ascribed to Him, the “Lord of hosts” for there is a banner in Christ’s banqueting house; and this feast looks both backward and forward to a war.
II. THE GUESTS FOR WHOM THIS FEAST IS PROVIDED. It is made for “all people.” The invitation is given to all who come in its way, without distinction or exception of any sort of persons.
III. THE GUEST CHAMBER WHERE THIS FEAST IS HELD. “In this mountain,” namely, Mount Zion, that is, the Church.
IV. THE MATTER OF THE FEAST. A feast imports abundance and variety of good entertainment; and here nothing is wanting which is suitable for hungry souls. In this valley of the world lying in wickedness, there is nothing for the soul to feed on but carrion, nothing but what would be loathed, except by those who were never used to better: but in this mountain, there is a “feast of fat things,” things most relishing to those who taste them, most nourishing to those who feed on them; and these are “full of marrow,” most satisfying to the soul. In this valley of the world there is nothing but muddy waters, which can never quench the thirst of the soul, but must ruin it with the dregs ever cleaving to them; but here, on this mountain, are “wines on the lees well refined.” (T. Boston, D. D.)
The feast prepared by Jesus Christ
I. SHOW THE ABSOLUTE NEED THERE IS OF THIS PROVISION. A lost world, by Adam’s fall, the great prodigal, was reduced to a starving condition. The King of Heaven set down Adam, and his posterity in him, to a well-covered table in paradise, in this lower world, making a covenant of friendship with him, and with them in him. But man being drawn into rebellion against God, Adam and all his posterity were driven out of the guest chamber, the family was broken and scattered, having nothing left them.
1. In point of need, Adam left us with hungry hearts, like the prodigal Luke 15:16). Every one finds himself not self-sufficient, and therefore his soul cleaves to something without itself to satisfy it. He left us also with thirsty consciences, scorched and burnt up with heat.
2. In point of supply, he left us without any prospect, for all communication with Heaven was stopped. War was declared against the rebels, so that there could be no transportation of provisions from thence. Adam’s sons, abandoned of Heaven, fell a-begging at the world’s door, if so be they might find rest and satisfaction in the creature. The natural man is born weeping, lives seeking, and will die disappointed, if not brought to the feast of fat things.
II. EXPLAIN WHAT THE PROVISION IS WHICH CHRIST HAS PREPARED FOR THE SOULS OF SUCH A FAMISHED WORLD. This, in a word, is His precious self; the Maker of the feast is the matter of it.
III. CONSIDER WHAT SORT OF A FEAST IT IS.
1. It is a feast upon a sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7-46.5.8).
2. It is a covenant feast (Hebrews 13:20-58.13.21).
3. It is a marriage feast (Matthew 22:1-40.22.4). The Lord Christ is the Bridegroom, and the captive daughter of Zion the bride.
4. It is a feast which has a respect to war. The Lord of hosts made it. It looks backward to that terrible encounter which Christ had with the law, with death, with hell, and the grave, upon the account of His ransomed ones, and that glorious victory which He obtained over them, by which He wrought the deliverance of His people. It is provided for and presented to His people to animate and strengthen them for the spiritual warfare against the devil, the world, and the flesh; and none can truly partake of it, but those who are resolved on that battle, and are determined to pursue it, till they obtain the complete victory at death.
5. It is a weaning feast. There is a time prefixed in the decree of God, at which all who are His shall, by converting grace, be weaned from their natural food.
IV. CONFIRM THAT ALL PEOPLE WHO WILL COME, MAY COME, AND PARTAKE OF THIS FEAST.
1. Christ invites all without distinction, even the worst of sinners, to this spiritual feast.
2. For what end does Jesus send out His messengers with a commission to invite all to come, if they were not welcome? (Matthew 22:9).
3. He takes it heinously amiss when any refuse to come.
V. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The Gospel feast
In this sacred feast there is--
I. VAST ABUNDANCE. The unsearchable riches, and all the fulness, that it hath pleased the Father should dwell in Jesus Christ. Here the saints receive large measures of knowledge; such degrees of holiness as shall gradually carry them forward to be perfect as their Father in Heaven is perfect; and such plentiful consolations as shall fill them with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
II. RICH VARIETY. Pardon of sin, etc. The Holy Spirit to renew, sanctify, comfort, etc.; strength for the performance of duty, support under affliction, etc. Here is the milk of the Word for babes, strong meat for them whose senses are exercised to discern both good and evil, the water of life for such as are thirsty, the bread of life for those that are hungry, and the choicest fruits for them that are weak and languishing.
III. MOST EXCELLENT PROVISION. “Fat things, full of marrow,” etc.
IV. These are joined with GREAT FESTIVITY AND JOY among those who partake of the feast. (R. Macculloch.)
And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over an people
The removal of the covering
THE GOSPEL DESTROYS THE COVERING WHICH HIDES THE TRUE NATURE OF MAN. The covering of sin has ever concealed the nature, the nobility of nature, the capabilities of nature, and the possibilities of nature in mankind. The covering is thick and coarse. Ignorance, brutality, discord, war, barbaric customs, plunder, and gross immoralities are the threads of the textile. They are so closely woven that the very features of human nature are hidden. Take off the covering. You have seen the earth when winter has possessed its vales, its forests, its gardens, and its fields. The frost has ploughed the ground. The sleet has destroyed every vestige of verdure. Even the ivy leaf is covered with the snow. Spring will destroy that covering, and life will shoot up from the roots to the highest boughs. So the advent of Christ introduced revivifying influences, and the true nature of man is discovered in kind words and deeds of goodness. Our forefathers never thought that nature had concealed such precious ores in the hearts of the mountains. A few years ago even we had no conception that down deep in the bosom of the earth wells of oil waited to be drawn to the surface. The covering has been taken away since, and these valuables have seen the light. Jesus Christ sunk shafts through the outward crust of sin, and brought forth precious ores to be smelted in the furnace of His love, moulded in His example, and circulated through the ages.
II. THE GOSPEL DESTROYS THE COVERING WHICH HIDES THE TRUE NATURE OF GOD. Communion with the source of peace was broken by the first shadow of guilt. Man in the dark is seized with fear Of the God who made him. This fear grows into dislike, and dislike into indifference, and indifference into defiance. The fool desireth in his heart that there might be no God, and the dislike grows into a positive refusal of entertaining God in his thoughts. But sin has not succeeded to remove all traces of God item the human mind. The sinner cannot altogether close his eyes and ears to those manifestations and voices which force the idea of God upon him. Under the covert of sin conceptions of Him are entertained at variance with His nature, and in opposition to His dealings. Christ came to reveal the Father. The power of reconciliation is in that word.
III. THE GOSPEL DESTROYS THE COVERING WHICH HIDES THE TRUE AFFINITY BETWEEN MAN AND MAN. “Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.” The basis of the Church is union with the Father. We meet in Him befogs we meet in one another. National prejudice and society caste, family feuds and personal animosity will perish under the influence of the Cross; humanity will be raised into union with the Father, and “God will be all and in all.”
IV. THE GOSPEL WILL DESTROY THAT WHICH HIDES THE FUTURE. “He will swallow up death in victory.” It was a new declaration when One said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (T. Davies, M. A.)
He will swallow up death in victory
Death swallowed up in victory
THE TEXT SETS CHRIST BEFORE US IN THE ATTITUDE OF A CONQUEROR OVER DEATH. “He shall swallow up death in victory,” it is said, and again in Hosea, “O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction”; whilst still more strikingly in Timothy, we read, “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” But what is the kind of death of which the advent of Christ was to be the swallowing up? Not spiritual death, for how many are lying under its power now--many who have seen the day of Christ--but who yet have neither rejoiced in its light, nor yielded to its power! Neither does it ever attain to His covenant undertakings to swallow up death eternal. This too has its permitted victims, as well as the death spiritual, the one being, in fact, both the sequence and the penalty of the other. It is manifest, therefore, that the expression is to be limited to the death of the body--that death, which on account of the first transgression, was to pass upon all men, the penalty and the fruit of sin. Now this death is to be swallowed up--quenched, absorbed, as the original word implies--just as somethingwhich the sea might bury in its depths, or the fire decompose into its elemental forms.
II. BUT HOW IS THIS SWALLOWING UP OF DEATH BY CHRIST EFFECTED? To this we have a full answer returned by the apostle Paul. “The sting of death,” he says, “is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here it is first assumed that death has a sting, that there is a pungency of dread and horror arising from the contemplation of death, merely as a penalty, as something indissolubly linked with evil beyond itself, and a sense of the deserved frown of God. Hence, in order to show that Christ had made a conquest over death, we must show that He was victorious over the sting of death, and hath swallowed up sin in victory.
1. And this He did in His life. In this way did Christ obtain His victory over sin--obtained it too, not by the putting forth of the hidden powers of Godhead, not by any invoked succours which would be given at His bidding from the angelic world, but by means within the reach of the humblest of His followers to command. Thus, in the destroyed sting of death, was laid the foundation for its final abolition. Mortality was no longer the terrible thing to look upon it once was. Believers are bound up in the Saviour’s conquests. “Because I live, ye shall live also; because I have overcome, ye shall overcome also: sin shall have no dominion over you, because I withstood its power in the wilderness, because death and the sting of death have been swallowed up in victory.”
2. Again, Christ is said to swallow up death, because He has discharged the obligations of that law to which death owes all its authority. As death could have had no sting if it had not been for sin, so sin could have had no existence, if it had not been for the law. “The law is the strength of sin,” says the Word. Why? Because where no law is, there is no transgression. “The law entered that the offence might abound.” And this law never relaxes, never can relax. Holy, it can endure no blemish; just, it can tolerate no remission of penalties; good, it will not encourage disobedience in the many by misplaced compassions to the few; and they who are under this law must be eternally under it. Hope for us there is none, nor yet help, unless we can be redeemed from its curse, released from its thrall, discharged from its obligations by One who shall both magnify its claims and make it honourable; and Christ has done all this, and in doing it, He swallows up death, at least death as death, for the strength of this last enemy is now departed from him. The law which was Satan’s only title deed thereto, is nailed to the Cross. It is all Emmanuel’s land now--earth and paradise, seen and unseen, life and immortality. “He hath swallowed up death in victory.”
3. And then, once more, we must include the grave as part of the conquered things spoken of in the text. Like death it has its victory--an all but universal victory. Distinctions it knows not, age it regards not: it is the house appointed for all living. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that sleep in Jesus shall God bring with Him.” “O grave!” says the apostle, “where is thy victory!” Where, when thy keys are in the hands of the Saviour, when thy dust is a guarded deposit, when the bodies of the faithful committed unto thee are century by century throwing off their gross materialism, in order that in the regeneration of a glorified and spiritual body they may stand at the latter day upon the earth? For, that the prophet’s ken looked thus far, is evident from what he says a little further on in the next chapter, “Thy dead men,” Isaiah 26:19). Thus shall Christ swallow up death in victory; and it is added, the “Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.” The same forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into our world, brought therewith all our woe. If we had not known death, we had not known tears. The whole “body of sin will be destroyed”; the glorified spirit can neither falter nor fall again: all corrective discipline will be over: there will be neither lessons to learn, nor infirmities to subdue, nor murmurings to keep down, nor mistaken attachments to correct. No erring spirit will ever seek to escape from those holy mansions, neither can any graces languish which are fed from that eternal spring, but the whole company of the redeemed, sanctified throughout by the power of an Almighty Spirit, and made one with Christ through thee blood of the everlasting covenant, shall wait in devout ministrations on the King of saints in a service that shall know no weariness, and in a kingdom that shall know no end. “He shall swallow up death in victory, and wipe away all tears from off all faces.”
And now let us glance at one or two practical conclusions to be derived from our subject.
1. Thus, one effect of it should be to fortify us against the fear of death. This fear, I have said is an instinct with us--is incorporated as it were upon our lapsed and fallen nature; it is not necessarily connected with any anticipation of what is to follow, but springs from an apparently universal feeling that death is a punishment for sin; that originally man was not made to die, that some wrong has been done to the beneficent purposes of the Creator of which our dying is the bitter fruit. Then it is a part of Christ’s victory to have the rule not only over death, but over all that region of the invisible to which death leads.
2. Again, our subject should suggest to us the wisdom of instant submission to the Saviour’s authority. A two-fold end would seem to be contemplated in giving this absolute dominion over death, namely, that He should be omnipotent to conquer as well as mighty to save--a terror to His enemies as well as a protector to His friends, and one or other of these we all are. The whole world of responsible beings is divided into those who are under the sceptre, and those who are under the rod. But why should we make a foe of Him who hath assumed universal empire only that He might be our friend, only that nothing might be wanting to the completeness of His own work?
3. Is it needful that I should remind you that this blessed promise we have been considering, like all our Advent promises, belongs to believers, and to believers only! As there is a death which Christ has not swallowed up, so there are tears which the Lord God has not promised to wipe away, but which in righteous displeasure at His despised compassions, He will leave to flow on forever. (D. Moore, M. A.)
Victory in death
I. He who hath swallowed up death in victory is THE LORD GOD.
II. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PROMISE. But for God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus, every son and daughter of Adam must have drunk forever of the cup of wrath which is without mixture, as a just reward for their enmity to God.
III. THE PERSONS AND THEIR CHARACTERS or descriptions that shall say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us,” etc. (F. Silver.)
Light in darkness
I. THE TRUTH ASSERTED. “He will swallow up death in victory.” The redemption of Jesus Christ deals with both parts of man’s nature, his soul and his body. But the application of redemption to the body is as yet deferred. There is--
1. The removal of all sorrow. “The Lord God shall wipe away,” etc.
2. There shall be the removal of the rebuke of God’s people; by which I would understand death, which surely is the greatest reproach which God’s people now lie under.
II. THE HYMN OF TRIUMPH which is sung by the risen saints at the time referred to in our text. “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us,” etc. It is impossible for us fully to enter into the triumphant feeling contained in this verse, whilst we are ourselves in the valley of humiliation and woe. The language is the language of victory, and that we have not yet received. There are parts, however, in this hymn which we may already join in. The language of our text is the language of present realisation of expected triumph. “Lo, this is our God.” There is the manifestation of Jehovah. “We have waited for Him.” In times past “we have waited for Him.” In sorrow, in distress, in agony of spirit, “we have waited for Him.” When death has entered our family, and when bitter grief has entered our hearts, “we have waited for Him.” And the darkness, the mist, and the cloud have all cleared away. “We have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” The double truth, then, presented to us in our text is the assertion of coming victory and the assurance of the joy which shall be ours when that victory is achieved. (E. Bailey, M. A.)
Death swallowed up
How can those who are in the mountain banquet house be happy while death is ravaging down below? The Lord says in reference to that, that He “will swallow up death in victory.” We must not amend that expression--“swallow up.” There is a sound in it which is equal to an annotation. We hear a splash in the infinite Atlantic, and the thing that is sunk has gone forever. It was but a stone. Death is to be not mitigated, relieved, thrown into perspective which the mind can gaze upon without agony; it is to be swallowed up. Let it go! Death has no friends. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The graciousness of death
Yet in another aspect how gracious has death been in human history! What pain he has relieved; what injuries he has thrust into the silent tomb; what tumult and controversy he has ended. Men have found an altar at the tomb, a house of reconciliation in the graveyard, music for the heart in the toll and throb of the last knell. Even death must have his tribute. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Victory over death
There are four degrees of this victory.
I. THE FIRST WAS OBTAINED BY CHRIST IN HIS OWN PERSON, in single combat with death and hell. Christ taking upon Himself our sins, death assaults Him with all his strength and terror, and appears, at first, to get the better. It kills Him and lays Him in the grave. But as Samson arose by night, and carried away the “gates of Gaza, bars and all,” so Christ, though shut up in the grave, and a great stone rolled upon it, arose in the night, and carried away the gates and bars of death and the grave, and bare them to the top of Mount Zion, to be His footstool in heaven.
II. The second degree of this victory is THE ALTERING OF ITS NATURE TO ALL GOD’S PEOPLE. Before, it was a passage into prison; now, it is a passage out of prison. It was the way to darkness, misery, despair, and torment; now, it is the way to light, peace, triumph, and immortal joy. Before, it was loss, as he who died lost all his possessions; now, it is gain.
III. The third degree is THE ALTERING OF OUR JUDGMENTS, AFFECTIONS, AND APPREHENSIONS CONCERNING DEATH, which is often strikingly seen in the dying experience of believers.
IV. The last is in THE GENERAL RESURRECTION. “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written.” (The Evangelist.)
I. THE HOLY AND HONOURABLE VICTOR. “He,” the King of glory; “He,” the Lord Christ; “He,” the Father’s co-equal and co-eternal Son; “He,” who is called in the 6 th verse, “the Lord of hosts”; “He,” who, though He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God, made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross,” that He might obtain the victory over death specified in the text.
1. The victories of His life and death in His own person.
(1) His single-handed combat with the tempter.
(2) We find Him attacked by the devil’s sharpshooters--the Sadducees, the scribes, and the Pharisees.
(3) Our glorious Victor now enters the very territory of “the king of terrors,” that He may vanquish him in his own dominions.
(4) Let us advance from this point, just to mark His victorious proceedings in the invincible operations of His grace; for, you must know, when He comes down on earth to carry on the triumphs of His redemption, He finds all the persons for whom He shed His precious blood, “dead in trespasses and sins”; and “He will swallow up” that “death in victory.”
(5) This glorious Victor will carry on a civil war in the hearts of His people.
II. THE INTERESTS SECURED BY THESE VICTORIES.
1. The interests of the tribes of Israel, and we may just write upon these interests one sweet passage of Scripture: “So all Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.”
2. Moreover, the official character of Christ is herein honoured, and that is an interest peculiarly His own.
3. While the honour of Christ is to be maintained by His victory, and emblazoned before all worlds, the relationship existing between Him and His Church is dear to His heart.
III. THE SACRED, THE SWEET PEACE, EVERLASTINGLY SETTLED BY THE VICTORIES OF OUR GLORIOUS VICTOR. Sovereigns generally profess that the object of their fighting is to settle peace upon honourable terms, so that it shall not be easily disturbed; and they do not care for proclaiming peace until it has been settled upon such terms that it is not likely again to be easily broken. Now, our glorious Conqueror has settled peace for His whole Church; nay, He Himself has become her peace. (J. Irons.)
The progressive march of death a Conqueror
In nature God is constantly “swallowing up death in victory.” In spring He opens a million graves and floods the world with life. Indeed everywhere He makes death the minister of life. Death generates, nurtures, and develops life. But the text points us to His victory over the mortality of man, and let us trace the march of the triumphant Conqueror in this direction.
I. WE SEE HIS FIRST CONQUEST IN THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST. The strongest victim death ever had was Christ. The Jewish Sanhedrim cooperated with the Roman power and did all they could to keep his Victim in the grave. But the Conqueror of death appeared, invaded the territory of mortality, broke open the prison doors, snapped the fetters, and led the prisoner out into a new and triumphant life.
II. WE SEE HIS NEXT CONQUEST IN DESTROYING IN HUMANITY THE FEAR CF DEATH. The essence, the sting, the power of death, are not in the mere article of dissolution of soul and body, but in the thoughts and feelings of men regarding the event. To overcome, therefore, in the human mind all terrible thoughts and apprehensive feelings concerning death, is the most effective way to triumph over it.
III. WE SEE HIS CROWNING CONQUEST IN THE GENERAL RESURRECTION.
1. There is nothing incredible in the general resurrection.
2. There are circumstances that render the event exceedingly probable.
3. The declarations of God render it absolutely certain. (Homilist.)
I. THE ENEMY is so formidable that he is justly termed “the king of terrors.” The conquerors of the earth have themselves been conquered by this universal destroyer. Though he is nature’s destruction, and consequently nature’s aversion, nature knows no method of resisting his violence. You cannot avoid the approaches of this enemy; but you may prevent them from issuing in your destruction.
II. THE CONQUEROR OF DEATH. The dignity of His person, and the greatness of His power capacitate Him for this conquest. The Prince of life, who had life in Himself; who had power to lay down His life, and power to take it up again; He, and He alone, could conquer death.
III. THE WONDERS OF THIS CONQUEST. That our Lord might fairly and in the open field encounter the king of terrors, He came into the first Adam’s world, where this formidable foe had carried his conquests far and near, and where none was found able to withstand him. He came into it an infant of days. This gave death and hell a strange, though but seeming, advantage over Him. They flattered themselves that they should be able to destroy Him, while a helpless infant. They attempted it. They murdered all the other infants in Bethlehem, from two years old and under. The Child Jesus alone, who came to fight with death, and triumph over hell and the grave, escaped their hands. Death and hell, though foiled in their first onset, do not despair. He appeared “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Hence, they flattered themselves that, though they had not destroyed Him, when an infant, by the sword of Herod, they might destroy Him, when become a man, by enticing Him into sin, which gives to death its destroying power. The prince of this world tempts Him to despair, to presumption, to self-murder, to worship the devil. But, though he set upon Him with all his power and policy, he could find no corruption in Him, to kindle by his temptation. Had He appeared, which He one day will do, as the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person, death and hell would have fled from Him. But He came to this world, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” The powers of darkness hoped that the toils, the anguish and perplexity which He endured, would sink and discourage Him, or would lead Him to leave His work unfinished. Here again they are disappointed. What occasioned the most exquisite anguish, did not occasion one irregular desire, or one repining thought. By a few years’ obedience, performed in such trying circumstances, He brought in an everlasting righteousness, and accomplished what all the angels of heaven could not have done in millions of ages. God made Him sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Prince of life is laid in a grave. There His enemies hope to detain Him. But the joy of the wicked was short. He, who, by dying, had fully paid our debts, in being raised from the dead receives a public and ample discharge. Such was the wonderful victory obtained by Jesus. For believers is this victory obtained.
IV. THE COMPLETENESS OF CHRIST’S CONQUEST OVER DEATH.
1. The great things which He accomplished on earth.
(1) There was not one criminal action, one sinful word, one irregular thought or desire, of which His people were guilty, which He did not expiate.
(2) Jesus hath not left one precept, one jot or tittle of the law unfulfilled. The law is friendly to the believer, for the believer’s best Friend and Head has done it infinite honour.
(3) Christ hath redeemed His people from every part of the curse.
(4) The devil hath the power of death; and there is not one devil who was not overcome and led in triumph by Christ on the Cross, where the powers of darkness certainly thought to have triumphed over Him (Hebrews 2:14).
(5) Christ, by His righteousness, hath obtained the power to overrule death and the grave, with all that precedes, accompanies, or follows them, for the spiritual and everlasting good of His people, in a blessed subordination to His own glory.
2. The completeness of Christ’s conquest over death, as demonstrated by His exaltation and His glory. He was raised from the dead by His God and Father, as a just God and a Saviour. God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name above every name. The height of His exaltation speaks the greatness of His victory. Had it been otherwise, He would not have been invested with a full authority, and a sufficient power to raise from the dead, in glory, all the bodies of His saints, wheresoever they have died, or how long soever they have been buried in the grave; and to change their bodies also, who shall be found alive, at His second coming. The second coming of Christ will be the fullest demonstration that He hath completely conquered death. (J. Erskine, D. D.)
Victory over death
I. I propose to make SOME REMARKS ON THIS SINGULAR EXPRESSION,--“He will swallow up death in victory.” The very sound of the words conveys the idea of a terrible conflict. A poor expiring worm of the dust is the occasion and subject of the contest. But, while we awaken and humble ourselves by just views of the formidable nature of death, let us rise to confidence by observing how the expression of the text brings into this conflict the infinite zeal of Deity. The effect, in the experience of dying Christians, must be an abundant sensation of victory.
II. Let us inquire BY WHAT METHODS THE WISE AND MERCIFUL GOD RAISES HIS PEOPLE TO THE POSSESSION OF VICTORY OVER DEATH.
1. This is done by a clear and powerful revelation of the glory of God.
2. By a powerful application of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the conscience. Such has been the uniform experience of Christian martyrs, grappling with Satan, and with death in every terrific form (Rev 1 Corinthians 15:55-46.15.57).
3. The heavens are opened over every dying believer. Your God swallows up death in victory by showing you the fair fields, rivers, fruits, of His paradise in the heavens.
4. He discovers to you the vanity of all earthly objects, He impresses you with the unavoidable imperfection and misery of your sojourning condition. In that new birth, which brings the sinner near to God through Christ, the soul rises into a new world, and is no longer capable of grossly idolising earthly objects, as it once did. At the same time, the true enjoyment of lawful, created things commences.
5. In order to the final triumph, the Lord grants to His people a blessed finishing of their sanctified desires, respecting objects within time. This fulfilment of desires within time, relates either to particular points of inward, spiritual attainment, or to subjects of special concern respecting the cause and kingdom of Christ upon earth; and, in some cases, to blessings and deliverances, bestowed in reference to individuals with whom the Christian is peculiarly connected.
6. That this work of God may become perfect, the soul is raised up above the pains of the body.
7. The uncouth strangeness of the world of spirits is taken off, by faith’s piercing views of the invisible God; the Mediator reigning in human flesh; the character of redeemed spirits; and of spotless angelic beings, with whom the Christian, about to be unloosed from earth, feels a kindred alliance.
III. THE DIFFERENT PERIODS AND SITUATIONS IN WHICH VICTORY OVER DEATH IS ENJOYED BY THE SAINTS OF THE MOST HIGH.
1. This blessed victory is enjoyed, by a gradual anticipation, from the day of their effectual calling and conversion to God.
2. This anticipated enjoyment of victory tenderly and powerfully impressed on the Christian soul by sympathy with his dying friends and brethren.
3. At length the solemn, appointed period arrives. It is the happiness of the established Christian to know that no new, untried course is now to be sought for. He has only to go over his old exercises of faith, resignation, patience, and spiritual desire.
4. This victory over death is enjoyed by the soul during the period of its separation from the body.
5. We now advance to that scene of victory, which the tongues of men and of angels cannot describe (1 John 3:2). Application:--From this subject various duties open to view, which peculiarly bind those who are in any degree assured that they are in the way towards such victory (2 Peter 3:14). (J. Love, D. D.)
Victory over death
I. CONSIDER THE VICTORY BY WHICH DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP. The words refer to that encounter which the Redeemer had with the king of terrors, when He suffered in the room of sinners. Here, among other things, the following, in an especial manner, deserve our attention.
1. His exhausting the power of death by submitting to its stroke. When He died, it was under the pressure of Divine wrath; but that sacrifice was sufficient, and no more can be demanded. The stroke by which the Redeemer fell left no remaining strength in His enemy.
2. His manifesting, by His resurrection, that He was completely delivered from its dominion.
3. His enabling His people to overcome the fear of death.
4. His preserving His people safe in death, so that they are not hurt by its sting when their bodies must submit to its power.
5. His delivering His people completely from every remains of its power, by the resurrection of their bodies at the last day.
II. THE HAPPY CONSEQUENCE of this victory in the swallowing up of death. The phrase “swallowing up” is expressive of the most complete destruction.
1. Death is swallowed up in the victory of Christ, so as that it can never appear as an enemy to hurt Himself. The guilt with which He was charged as the surety of sinners gave death all its power over the Redeemer. By expiating that guilt, however, the power of death is taken away.
2. Death is swallowed up in the victory of Christ, inasmuch as it is by this victory deprived of all power to hurt any of His people. There is now no death of which the people of God have cause to be afraid.
(1) Death cannot separate believers from God.
(2) Death cannot deprive believers of the society of their brethren in Christ.
(3) Death cannot rob the children of God of their spiritual privileges.
(4) Death cannot prevent believers from the full enjoyment of that happiness and glory which Christ hath put chased and prepared for them in the heavenly state. (G. Campbell.)
Jesus victorious over death
I. THE COMBATANTS; the two mightiest that ever encountered. Upon the one hand is death, with his devouring mouth, a champion who never yet could find his match among the children of men, till the great “HE,” in the text, entered the lists against him, even Jesus Christ, who being man, was capable of feeling the force of death; but being the Lord of hosts also (Isaiah 25:6), could not but be conqueror at length.
II. THE ENCOUNTER OF THE COMBATANTS, implied in these words, “He will swallow up death in victory.” Though death could not then reach Him the deadly blow, it pursued Him, shot out its poisonous arrows against Him all along, till they came to a close engagement on the Cross, where it wrestled Him down even into the grave, the proper place of its dominion. So the Mediator got the first fall.
III. THE ISSUE OF THE BATTLE. Death, who in all other battles wins whatever party loses, loses the day here; the victory is on the side of the slain Mediator. The slain Saviour again revives, gets up upon death, stands conqueror over it, even in its own territories, breaks the bars of the grave, takes away the sting it fought with against Him, and puts it and all its forces to the rout; so that it can never show its face against Him any more Romans 6:9).
IV. THE MEDIATOR’S PURSUIT OF THE VICTORY, till it be complete for those that are His, as well as for Himself. The vanquished enemy has yet many strongholds in his hand, and he keeps many of the redeemed ones as prisoners, that they cannot stir; others of them though they can stir, yet can go nowhere, but they must drag the bands of death after them. But the Mediator will pursue the victory till He totally abolish it out of His kingdom, that there shall no more of it be seen there forever, as a thing that is swallowed up is seen no more at all. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Jesus victorious over death
I. THE BATTLE.
1. Under what character has the Lord of life fought this battle?
(1) As the Head and Representative of the elect world.
(2) As their Redeemer and Deliverer (Hosea 13:14). The prey could not be taken from the Mighty One, without both price and power.
(3) An a Captain or General at the head of His people (Hebrews 2:10).
2. The attack made upon Him by death.
(1) Death brings up its strength against Him, i.e., the law.
(2) Meanwhile he that has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14) advances against Him; Satan sets upon Him in the wilderness with most grievous temptations.
(3) The congregation of men dead in trespasses and sins stir up them selves against Him (Isaiah 53:3). Judas betrays Him, the Jews gape onHim like a lion, crying, Crucify Him; Pilate condemns Him; He is scourged, crowned with thorns, smitten on the crowned head; His body, racked till it was all out of joint, nailed to the Cross, hangs there mocked, and pierced with a spear.
(4) Death comes with its sting upon Him, and pierces Him to the heart, and casts Him down dead.
II. THE VICTORY CHRIST OBTAINED.
1. How it was obtained.
(1) By His death. This was the decisive stroke. “That through death He might destroy death, and him that had the power of death.” It was such a victory as Samson’s last victory over the Philistines, when he pulled down the house, and died himself with the Philistines in the fall of it; and therefore He cried upon the Cross, “It is finished.”
(2) By His resurrection.
2. What sort of victory it is Jesus hath obtained over death.
(1) A dear bought victory; it cost the glorious Conqueror His precious life.
(2) A complete victory in respect of Himself, though not yet in respect of His members (Romans 6:9).
(3) A glorious victory, saints and angels singing the triumphant song.
(4) An everlasting victory. Death’s power is irrecoverably broken.
III. THE PURSUIT.
1. Christ looses the bands of spiritual death.
2. He looses the band of legal death.
3. He destroys the body of death in the believer.
(1) It is crucified, and its destruction is ensured in the conversion of the soul to God (Romans 6:6; Galatians 5:24).
(2) It is weakened and mortified more and more, in the gradual advances of sanctification (Romans 8:13).
(3) At the death of the body, the body of death is utterly destroyed.
4. He dries up all the sorrows of death.
5. He brings all His people safe through the valley of the shadow of death.
6. Now, death has nothing of Christ’s but the bodies of the saints, not a foot of ground in His kingdom but the grave; and these He will also wrest out of his hand at the resurrection.
7. In consequence of the absolute victory over death, it shall be shut up, and confined for the ages of eternity to the lower regions (Revelation 20:14).
IV. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.
1. Be lively Christians, as those that are alive from the dead through Jesus Christ.
2. Join issue with the Conqueror in pursuing the victory in your own souls.
3. Join issue with the Conqueror in pursuing the victory in the world, especially in the places where ye live.
4. Believe this truth with application in all your endeavours after holiness.
5. Be weaned from the world, and long for the day when death shall be swallowed up in victory. (T. Boston, D. D.)
We shall have no more to do with death than we have with the cloak room at a governor’s or president’s levee. We stop at such cloak room, and leave in charge of a servant our overcoat, our overshoes, our outward apparel, that we may not be impeded in the brilliant round of the drawing room. Well, when we go out of this world we are going to a King’s banquet, and to a reception of monarchs, and at the door of the tomb we leave the cloak of flesh, and the wrappings with which we meet the storms of this world. At the close of an earthly reception, under the brush and broom of the porter, the coat or hat may be handed to us better than when we resigned it, and the cloak of humanity will finally be returned to us improved, and brightened, and purified, and glorified. (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)
The resurrection of the dead
The far-up cloud, higher than the hawk flies, higher than the eagle flies, what is it made of? Drops of water from the Hudson, other drops from the East River, other drops from a stagnant pool out on Newark flats--up yonder there, embodied in a cloud, and the sun kindles it. If God can make such a lustrous cloud out of water drops, many of them soiled and impure and fetched from miles away, can He not transport the fragments of a human body from the earth, and out of them build a radiant body? (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
The Messiah the Victor over death
What is very curious is that most of the Hebrew seers saw in their Messiah the Victor over death. And what makes it curious is that the Jews did not, as a rule, look forward to a life beyond the grave. The life eternal, the life which, as a mere incident in its career, can match itself against death and conquer it, was unknown to them; they were not conscious of it even when they possessed it. To only a few rare souls was this great truth, this great hope revealed, and that only in their rarest and most exalted moments. To obey the commandments of God, to render the service He demanded of them, and to enjoy His favour here and now was enough for them. Even the prophets themselves were mainly taken up either with this present life, with its urgent tasks and duties; or, if they travelled beyond it, it was the future life of the nation on earth on which they speculated, and on the discipline by which it was to be purified and broadened till it embraced the whole family of man. But when they looked forward to the advent of the Messiah, all the horizons of their thought were enlarged. Whatever might change and perish, He must remain, to be forever the Lord and Friend of men. (S. Cox, D. D.)
The Jewish prevision of immortality
And this prevision of immortality does not seem to have been a mere inspiration, a secret revealed to them by the Spirit of all wisdom and knowledge. Apparently, it was also the result of a logical process, an inference from moral facts with which they were familiar. For all the prophets held that the Messiah would come to redeem men--first the Jew, but also the Gentile--from their sins, to establish them in the service and to draw them into the family of God. But death is simply the wage and fruit of sin. To redeem from sin is, therefore, to abolish death, to pluck it up by the root, to cut it off at the fountainhead. This appears, so far as we can trace it, to have been the foundation of their hope in the Christ as the Conqueror of death. And hence, in proportion as they were sure that He would save men from their sins, they were the more fully persuaded that, in overcoming sin, He would also overcome and annihilate death. No one of the goodly fellowship has given a nobler utterance to this animating and sustaining hope than the prophet Isaiah in the words, “And He shall destroy in this mountain,” etc. (S. Cox, D. D.)
The veil and web of death destroyed by Christ
The prophet speaks of death as “a veil” which dims the perceptions of men, or even blinds their eyes to facts which it is essential to their welfare that they should know; and as “a web” in which their active powers are entangled and paralysed; and he declares that in the day on which God, instead of asking feasts and sacrifices of men, shall Himself provide a sacrifice and feast for the world, this blinding “veil, this fettering and thwarting net, shall be finally and utterly destroyed.” He shall destroy death forever. How true these figurative descriptions of death are to human experience, what a fine poetic insight and firm imaginative grasp they disclose--as of one with both eye and hand on the fact--is obvious at a glance, and becomes the more obvious the more we meditate upon them. Always the veil which darkens the eyes is also a web which entangles the feet, as we have only to watch the motions of any blind man to know. Failing sight and impaired activity go together of necessity; while blindness involves, at least, a partial paralysis of all the active powers. As to be without God is to be without hope, so to be without the hope of immortality is to suffer a mental eclipse which cannot fail to limit our scope and impair our moral energies. We have only to consider the moral conditions, the moral collapse of men and nations, from whom the future life has been hidden, or over whom it had no practical power, to learn how terribly, in the absence of this hope, the moral ideal is degraded and the moral energies enfeebled. I am far from denying that even men to whom this life is all have risen, by a marvellous and most admirable feat of wisdom and natural goodness, into the conviction that to be wise is better than to be rich, to be good better than to be wise, to live for others better than to live for one’s self. But not only are such men as these rare and heroic exceptions to the general strain, but even they themselves, admirable as their spirit may be, can know no settled cheerfulness, no abiding peace. Human life is and must be full of injustice, as well as misery, to those who do not believe in a hereafter in which all wrongs are to be righted, all sorrows turned into joy, all loss into gain. And when they bury their dead out of their sight, with what bitter and hopeless pangs must their hearts be torn! how horrible must be the darkness, unbroken and unrelieved, which settles down upon them! (S. Cox, D. D.)
Imperfect conceptions of Christ’s victory over death their effect on practical life
Nor even now that Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light, is there any misconception of this Divine achievement into which we fall that does not become a veil, dimming our eyes, and a web, entangling our feet.
1. Those, for instance, who while professing to entertain this great hope, practically put it away from them, and who therefore sacrifice the future to the present;--is not the veil still on their hearts, the web about their feet?
2. So, again, in a less but sufficiently obvious degree with those who so misconceive of life and death as to sacrifice the present to the future; who miss or forego all the sweet and wholesome uses of the world because they have not learned, what yet the Gospel plainly teaches, that wisely to use and enjoy this present world is the best of all preparations for the world to come.
3. And even those who, despite the Gospel teaching, will think of dissolution as death rather than as victory over death, or as separating and alienating them from the dear ones of whom they have lost sight, rather than as bringing their “lost ones” nearer to their true life and binding them to them by closer because by invisible and spiritual ties,--even these have their eyes still dimmed by the veil which Christ came to lift, and their feet still entangled in the net from Which He came to deliver their feet. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Has Christ destroyed death?
Death, as a mere phenomenon, was in the world before sin; and therefore, as a mere phenomenon, it may and does remain in the world after sin has been taken away. But are we, who have discourse of reason, even if we have not the more piercing insight of faith, such victims of the visible and the apparent that we cannot distinguish between substance and phenomena, between the mere act of dissolution, which seems to be the inevitable condition of higher spiritual development, and all that makes death really death to us? (S. Cox, D. D.)
Christ’s victory over death
Of this victory over all that is worthy to be called death Christ has given us two proofs on which our faith may lean; one in His transfiguration, and the other in His resurrection from the dead. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Victory over death and sorrow
“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces”--a passage of which the poet Burns said that he “could never read it without weeping.”
I. THE PROMISE OF SWALLOWING UP DEATH IN VICTORY. This promise, as well as that which follows it, may have a primary allusion to the resuscitation of the Jewish people after their captivity, but this is only an allusion, as in Hosea 13:14. What the ultimate meaning is we learn from the glowing words of St. Paul: “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption,” etc. It was a glorious promise when first given, but its full meaning was not known, nor will it be completely understood till it shall be actually fulfilled. Yet the revelations of the Gospel enable us to form an enlarged idea of what that fulfilment will be.
1. The death of our Lord Jesus Christ, as an expiation for sin and a homage to the claims of law, has removed, to His people, that which chiefly makes death terrible. That with man, the lord of the inferior creatures, the body should die just as they do, is sufficiently humbling. Yet, serious as this is, it is not the most solemn feature of the case. “After death the judgment,” and, to a godless soul, how terrible that audit! But to a believer sin is forgiven. “The strength of sin in the law.” But the law is satisfied, yea, magnified by the Redeemer’s expiatory work. Peace may now, therefore, take the place of that apprehension which before was the only alternative to senseless unconcern.
2. As the Saviour’s death not only obtains deliverance for believers from guilt and condemnation, but is the channel by which grace “reigns through righteousness unto eternal life,” death becomes to them the gateway of life and the passage to Heaven. Here God educates them by the discipline of life, and often of the chamber of sickness, for His kingdom and the receiving of the promise. Then He calls them home to the possession of it, and it is death which brings the summons.
3. Still the earthly house lies in ruins. Death seems as yet to triumph there. But even those ruins are to be built again.
II. THE WIPING AWAY THE TEARS OF SORROW. The two things are intimately related, and the second springs out of the first. Death is one of the prolific causes of sorrow. Whilst unreconciled to God, the thought of mortality, if a man thinks seriously of the great problems of his being at all, casts a dark shadow over his anticipations of the future. And even among Christians the separations which death occasions are a frequent cause of sadness. (E. T. Prust.)
Christ the Conqueror of death
Tennyson tells, in the “Idylls of the King,” of a knight who fought with death. And when he had overcome him and pierced through his ghastly trappings, “there issued the bright face of a blooming boy.” So Christ has conquered death for us, and, penetrating its terror, has brought, not death, but “life and immortality to light.” (Sunday School Chronicle.)
Fear of death removed
Whitfield, the prince of sacred orators, was preaching to a crowd concerning the love of God: its height, its breadth, its infinity. A poor, ignorant, neglected child heard him, and drank in all he said with open eyes and open heart. Some little time afterwards the poor girl was smitten with a deadly disease. A Christian visited her bed of straw.
“Child,” said he, “are you afraid to die?” “No,” she replied, “I am not afraid to die, I want to go to Mr. Whitfield’s God.” (P. Norton.)
D.L. Moody on death
Mr. Moody once said, “Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; gone out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body like unto His own glorious body.” Robert Hall’s death:--Mrs. Hall, observing a change on the countenance of her husband, became alarmed, and exclaimed. “This cannot be dying!” He replied, “It is death; it is death--death!” Mrs. Hall then asked him, “Are you comfortable in your mind?” He immediately answered, “Very comfortable--very comfortable!” And exclaimed, “Come, Lord Jesus, come--” He hesitated, as if incapable of bringing out the last word. One of his daughters anticipated him by saying “Quickly,” on which her departing father gave her a look expressive of the most complacent delight. (King’s Highway.)
The Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces
The lake of tears
It would be a sum for an arithmetician to tell the size of the lake that all the tears shed by humanity would have made.
I. Let us notice THE TEARS ON SOME FACES.
1. How many little children weep when they might have been made to rejoice! We often expect more from children than they have either wisdom or strength to perform. Many a child weeps himself to sleep when he might have sung had he been rightly treated.
2. There have been rivers of tears upon the faces of the wives of our country.
3. There are many tears shed by widows.
4. There are the tears of the bereaved.
5. Then there are the tears of that class of people that the world does not like to talk of--the “unfortunate.”
6. And then there are many who were once members of our Churches, who have wandered out of the way; and there has been no kind hand to fetch them back.
7. Remember the tears caused by the crushing weight of the mountain of poverty. Charity organisations are excellent systems, but it is unwise to overdo it. Because there are so many deceivers, it does not prove that there are not some who suffer. Let us be just to the poor.
8. There are many tears shed by women whose faces are very plain. They are passed by in favour of those who have better figures and prettier faces.
9. A large proportion also of those about us are crippled, and they often are neglected.
II. THE TEARS OF THE WORLD HAVE NOT BEEN SHED IN VAIN. The tears of slavery have brought about freedom; the tears of ignorance have been the cause of education being placed within the reach of every healthy child in our land; the tears caused by pestilence have compelled us to cleanse our towns and villages; and the tears shed under the scourge of oppression have given to us freedom of conscience. The tears of poverty have given to us the desire to alleviate it. The tears of pain and sickness have brought about our splendid medical system--the hospitals and dispensaries of our country. Tears often lead to joy. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy often cometh to us in the morning.
III. THE TEARS OF AFFLICTION AND TRIAL ARE NEEDFUL. If affliction had not been necessary, Christ would have borne it upon His own head. Afflictions are to us like sandpaper, to make us smooth and polished to take our place in the society of Heaven. Trials are to us in the testing of iron. A heavier weight is placed upon the iron in the workshop than it has to bear in its service outside; and so a heavy weight is placed upon you here.
IV. THE TENDER HAND. It is the hand of a Father, of a Lover, of a Saviour, of a Friend; it is the hand of the Lord God! (W. Birch.)
Man born to trouble
There is a fable that when Affliction was listening to the roar of the sea, she stretched out a willow branch and brought to the shore a beautiful body. As it lay upon the sand, Jupiter passed by, and, entranced with its beauty, he breathed into the body life and motion, and called it man. There was very soon a discussion as to whom this man should, belong. Affliction said, “I am the cause of his creation”; Earth answered, “I furnished the materials”; and Jupiter urged, “I gave him animation.” The gods assembled in solemn council, and it was decided that Affliction should possess the man whilst he lived; that Death should then receive his body, and Jupiter possess his spirit. This is the fable--pretty well-nigh true. (W. Birch.)
God’s power to wipe away tears
Of all the qualities we assign to the Author and Director of nature, by far the most enviable is to be able “to wipe away all tears from all eyes.” (Robert Burns.)
And it shall be said in that day, To, this is out God
Waiting for God in times of darkness
Isaiah is thinking, first of all, of Hezekiah’s victory over Sennacherib.
It was no ordinary day which saw the discomfiture of the Assyrian host before the walls of Jerusalem. We can scarcely understand the terror and dismay with which a religious Jew must have watched the growth of those mighty Oriental despotisms which, rising one after another in the great valley of the Euphrates and the Tigris, aspired to nothing less than the conquest of the known world. The victory of a conqueror like Sennacherib meant the extinction of national life and personal liberty in the conquered people; it meant often enough violent transportation from their homes, separation from their families, with all the degrading and penal accompaniments of complete subjugation. It meant this by the conquered pagan cities; for Jerusalem it meant this and more. The knowledge and self-worship of God maintained by institutions of Divine appointment, maintained only in that little corner of the wide world, were linked to the fortunes of the Jewish state, and in the victory of Sennacherib would be involved not merely political humiliation, but religious darkness. When, then, his armies advanced across the continent again and again, making of a city a heap, and of a fenced city a ruin, and at last appeared before Jerusalem, when the blast of the terrible ones was as a storm against the wall, there was natural dismay in every religious and patriotic soul. It seemed as though a veil or covering, like that which was spread over the holy things in the Jewish ritual, was being spread more and more completely over all nations at each step of the Assyrian monarch’s advance, and in those hours of darkness all true-hearted men in Jerusalem waited for God. He had delivered them from the Egyptian slavery. He had given them the realm of David and Solomon. He who had done so much for them would not desert them now. In His own way, at His own time, He would rebuke this insolent enemy of His truth and His people, and this passionate longing for His intervention quickened the eye and melted the heart of Jerusalem when at last it came. The destruction of Sennacherib’s host was one of those supreme moments in the history of a people which can never be lived over again by posterity. The sense of deliverance was proportionated to the agony which had preceded it. To Isaiah and his contemporaries it seemed as though a canopy of thick darkness was lifted from the face of the world, as though the recollections of slaughter and death were entirely swallowed up in the absorbing sense of deliverance, as though the tears of the city had been wiped away and the rebuke of God’s people was taken from earth, and therefore from the heart of Israel there burst forth a welcome proportionated to the anxious longing that had preceded it: “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him; He will save us.” (H. P. Liddon, D. D.)
God in history
The recognition of God’s presence in the great turning points of human history is in all ages natural to religious minds. God, of course, is here in quiet times, when all goes smoothly, as though it were regulated by unchangeable law. But His presence is brought before the imagination more vividly when all seems at stake, when the ordinary human resources of confidence and hope are clearly giving way, when nothing but a sudden, sharp turn in what looks like the predestined course of events can avert some fatal catastrophe. This is what was felt by our ancestors in the days of the Spanish Armada. This is what was felt in every religious mind throughout Europe when the power of the First Napoleon was broken, first at Leipsic, and then at Waterloo. (H. P. Liddon, D. D.)
A forecast of the last judgment
But beyond the immediate present Isaiah sees, it may be indistinctly, into a distant future. The judgment of Assyria, like that upon Egypt in a previous age, like that upon Babylon afterwards, foreshadowed some universal judgment, some judgment upon all the enemies of God. The visible Divine action upon a small scale was itself a revelation of the principles upon which the world is governed, and which one day will be seen to have governed it in the widest and most inclusive sense, and thus Isaiah’s prediction of the song which would be sung by Israel at the defeat of Sennacherib is a prediction of the song which will be sung by the redeemed when Christ our Lord comes to judgment. (H. P. Liddon, D. D.)
Christ our God
But between the days of Hezekiah and the final judgment, there is another event ever close to the thought of the prophet--the appearance of the great Deliverer in the midst of human history.“Lo, this is our God.” Christ is not for us Christians merely or chiefly the preacher or herald of a religion of which another being, distinct from Himself, is the object. The Gospel creed does not run thus, “There is no God but God, and Christ is His prophet.” The Author and Founder of Christianity, He is also at the same time its subject and its substance. We may say, with truth, that Christ is Christianity. (H. P. Liddon, D. D.)
Waiting for God
I. Contemplate THE GLORIOUS OBJECT we are here invited to behold. “Lo, this is our God.” The words express strong emotions of pleasure, admiration, and joy, arising from the merciful interpositions made in behalf of His people, whereby Jehovah manifested Himself present among them. Though God is invisible to our bodily eyes, we behold Him when we sensibly discern those visible effects which cannot be produced by any other than His omnipotent arm. There subsists between Him and us a reciprocal endearing relation, a mutual tender affection, a continued delightful intercourse, a most agreeable concord, and an intimate union of interest and design.
II. Consider THE BECOMING EXERCISE in which the Church was employed. “We have waited for Him.” The repetition of the words plainly intimates the great earnestness and persevering diligence with which the saints had waited upon the Lord their God. This duty includes--
1. Earnest desire.
2. Lively expectation.
3. Holy serenity of mind (Lamentations 3:26; Isaiah 30:15). This sacred tranquillity of soul represses those uneasy disquietudes and tumultuous thoughts, which disturb the mind, and unfit for the right performance of this or any other duty. It composes the soul attentively to observe every symptom of the Divine approach, every appearance from which may be deduced favourable consequences, and every opportunity that ought to be diligently improved. It gives a seasonable check to that precipitation and haste which springs from uneasiness at our present condition, and from hurtful anxiety about immediate deliverance.
III. Attend to THE ASSURED CONFIDENCE in God which the Church expressed in these words: “He will save us.” In every age they have viewed the Lord as their Saviour. Salvation from the hands of their enemies, which was doubtless primarily intended in the words before us, is employed as an image, to shadow out a salvation of an infinitely higher and more important nature.
IV. Examine THE CONSEQUENT RESOLUTION adopted by the Church. “We will be glad, and rejoice in His salvation.” In this salvation, which is admirably suited to our character and circumstances, we ought to be glad and rejoice. (R. Macculloch.)
Third Sunday in Advent
(1) In this lesson there is an interlacement of praise and prophecy.
(2) The words “we have waited for Him,” describe the posture of the Church at all times, but especially at this season. In the Old Testament, the Jews waited for the first coming of Christ. The light of the first prophecy became wider and brighter as the fulfilment drew nigh. The Church waits for the second coming.
I. WHAT DOES WAITING IMPLY?
1. Faith. Christians believe in the promise of His coming (1 Corinthians 1:7). Those who have reduced the Christian creed to its smallest dimensions have included in it the belief in Christ’s second coming as Judge.
2. Desire (2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:20; Philippians 3:20; Romans 8:19).
3. Patience (James 5:7).
II. WHY WAIT SO LONG?
1. The question was discussed in the Middle Ages. Why was the Incarnation so long delayed? Why was not the remedy at once applied to the disease? It is not for us to question the ways of God; but, although we accept them in the spirit of faith, yet, having done so, we should reverently exercise our reason, so far as we can, upon matters of faith.
2. One reason for this delay of the Incarnation is drawn from the condition of man. He had to be humiliated by a sense of his sinfulness in order that he might feel his need of a Deliverer. The remedy has not only to be vouchsafed, but to be accepted, and for this human pride must be broken down. We see the same providence in individual sinners as in a microcosm. God allows the prodigal to pursue his downward course until he is brought to his senses, and misery brings him to the turning point.
3. All delays in the approaches of God are for the sake of man that he might prepare to receive Him. The ministry of the Baptist is a visible setting forth of this need of preparation.
III. WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR? “Lo, this is our God,” etc.
1. That there is a primary reference to wonderful interventions of God on behalf of His people, whether in contemporary or subsequent deliverances, is admitted. Whatever may be the historic application, it cannot be more than a type of the full accomplishment of the prophecy in the Person of Christ. He alone “swallows up death in victory”; and “wipes away tears from off all faces.”
2. The text is fulfilled by the Incarnation. “This is our God.” It points to the mystery that our Lord is a Divine Person, and that therefore He can “save us.” This stirs the hymn of joy, “We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” This is no mere temporal deliverance, but freedom from the powers of darkness--the salvation of the soul, pardon for sin, gift of grace, hope of glory; these deep inward gifts awaken such chords of praise in the redeemed, that all joy and thanksgiving for earthly deliverances are but a faint prelude to their exultation. The great mystery, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”; the great truth “Unto you is born a Saviour”; the great experience, “Ye were sometime darkness, now are ye light in the Lord;”--by these is fulfilled the blessed promise, that the veil of darkness and the wail of sorrow through Christ shall be done away, and the voice of rejoicing and salvation be in the tabernacles of the righteous.
1. The text impresses on us the right use of Advent as a season of preparation for the coming of Christ.
2. This preparation to consist in repentance for sin, and faith in Christ.
3. The words of the text express the joy of an earnest Christmas Communion. “This is our God; we have waited for Him”; for “he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me” (John 6:57).
4. They express also a true belief in the Incarnation, that realisation of the Divine and human united forever in the One Person of the Son of God, which thrilled the soul of St. Thomas when he cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (The Thinker.)
Waiting for God
Interwoven with all human experiences there is the consciousness of a conflict, an oppression, a captivity. But men expect deliverance. If it were not so, effort would be paralysed, and history would end. This hope is not illusive; the God who has implanted in the hearts of all men an anticipation of deliverance is a God who will give deliverance. But deliverances do not come when men desire them, hope for them, expect them. Often there is long delay.
I. GOD KEEPS MEN WAITING.
I. Let us notice how true this is of the history of our race. The race is wrestling with a mighty sorrow. We look through the ages, and we see that every age has its burden of woe. We go among the diverse peoples of mankind, and we find that there is not a tribe which does not exhibit tokens of the strife. The eternal God has spoken, and His voice has told the world that the secret of the world’s sorrow and strife and pain is the world’s sin. And the honest conscience echoes back the truth of God but the same Voice which tells the world of sin, tells also of a Saviour. But how long man had to wait before his hope was realised! And, even now that Christ has come, His advent proves to be, not some grand final stroke of triumph, but only the beginning of another waiting that, perhaps, must be longer still.
2. How true is this principle with respect to the history of the Church. God is fashioning to Himself a new race out of the ruins of the old. But think how the Church has had to wait.
3. How true is this same principle of the history of the nations. Each nation reproduces, on a smaller scale, the history of the race; and each has its burden and evil, each has its hope. But the nations likewise wait for their deliverance from thrall and pain. How impressive an example of waiting is the history of the Jews! Our England, too, is only gradually emerging from what it has been to what it shall be. So of the various nationalities of Europe, of the swarming multitudes of Asia, of the tribes of dark Africa, and the rest--who would dare to think that the goal of their history is reached!
4. But this principle is still further true in regard to individual men. Men of science, like Galileo; men of enterprise, like Columbus; men of letters, like Milton--these, who have done the most permanent work for the world, have often not been duly recognised as benefactors till they were gone. Does not our own spiritual history illustrate the same truth! How long it is, sometimes, before we reach a settled peace, an unquestioning faith; how long before we gain an established strength of purity, and are made perfect in love!
II. WHY DOES GOD KEEP MEN WAITING?
1. It is in accord with God’s universal way of working, so far as we know. We could conceive of a universe in which everything should be immediate and final; but that is certainly not the method of our universe. The records of geology tell of the earth’s slow development; the researches of biology attest the gradual unfolding of life; the annals of history show civilisation, science, and culture only progressing by degrees. So when God, in His providential and spiritual dealings with men, keeps them waiting, this is only in harmony with His general method and plan of work.
2. We must remember the bearing, on this subject, of man’s own free will. Even when on God’s part all is ready, this sometimes interferes to cause long delay.
3. Great moral purposes are served by God’s law of waiting. It accomplishes a three-fold result: it is for the discipline of effort, of patience, of faith. Of course, we may fail to abide the test; but if we yield ourselves to it rightly, God’s principle of delay tends to the working out of one or more of these results.
III. THE WAITING DOES END SOME TIME. Otherwise, the problem would be insoluble, the instincts of man’s own nature would belie themselves, and the very government of God itself would be purposeless. And while, unless man’s own perverseness frustrates God’s designs, the waiting will end some time, it is suggested by these words of Isaiah that the deliverance, when it does come, will be a glad surprise. It is said that the poet Cowper, so much of whose life had been passed in bitter bondage, and who died at last in despair, wore on his face after death an expression of astonished joy. So it is true of the lesser deliverances of life, that God surprises His people at last with the swift removal of their fears, and with His more abundant benediction. And of the great deliverance which the day of God shall usher in at last, it is said, “As the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of Man” Matthew 24:27)--so sudden, so swift, so full! What a paean shall then be sung over a transfigured world! (T. F. Lockyer, B. A.)
Connection between the confidence and the character of the true Christian
I. NOTHING WILL INSPIRE US WITH JOY AND CONFIDENCE IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT BUT A REAL INTEREST IN JESUS CHRIST. I might go further, and say, that nothing but a good hope of an interest in Christ can give us real, abiding, exalted enjoyment in this life.
II. NONE WILL IN THAT DAY HAVE A REAL INTEREST IN JESUS CHRIST, AND CONSEQUENTLY WILL REJOICE IN HIS SALVATION, BUT THOSE WHO ARE NOW WAITING FOR HIS COMING. This expression of “waiting for Christ,” or other expressions of a like meaning, are frequently used in the New Testament, as descriptive of the character of Christians.
1. To “wait for Christ,” implies a firm belief of His second coming, and of the infinitely momentous consequences which will follow that event. The true Christian is one who “walks by faith, and not by sight.”
2. To “wait for Christ” implies constant endeavour to be prepared for that event.
3. It implies a “patient continuance in well-doing.” (E. Cooper.)
I. THE PERSON HERE CELEBRATED: who is made known to us in the prophet’s description of Him, by His actions and by His names. The greatest wonder in this subject is the dignity of the Person who should submit to redeem His Church.
II. THE EXPECTATION OF HIS COMING. However strange it may appear, it is certainly true, that a Saviour was expected both by Jews and heathens, however they might be mistaken with regard to some particular circumstances.
III. THE WORKS THE SAVIOUR WAS TO PERFORM AT HIS COMING. The particulars are recounted in the course of the chapter (Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 25:6-23.25.8).
IV. With this hope we are to COMFORT OURSELVES AND ONE ANOTHER. “We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” The day of His nativity was a blessed day: but what will that other day be! That will be our nativity; for then only we may be said to live, when the last enemy is conquered. When He shall appear again, He will appear as our life and we shall be clothed with His immortality. (W. Jones, M. A.)
The glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ
I. THIS MAY BE SAID OF THE INCARNATION OF GOD. Emmanuel, God with us, in one word conveys the same truth. Christ came not fortuitously; He came not in a passing current of compassion; but with full, unshaken continuity of purpose (Galatians 4:4-48.4.5).
II. IN THE ABIDING PRESENCE OF HIS SPIRIT can we most joyously exclaim, “Lo, this is our God.”
III. Another intermediate sense in which we may consider Christ as coming to us--intermediate between His offering Himself up, and the bestowal of the influences of His Spirit--is THE FREE OFFER OF HIS GRACE IN THE GOSPEL.
IV. IN HIS EXECUTION OF JUDGMENT IN TIME.
1. Truly of Jerusalem might it be said, that not one stone was left upon another; and now she is not Jerusalem; though called still the Holy City, where is her glory? Where are her children!
2. On antichrist, too, the first shoot of present judgment has arisen.
3. Christ also comes to judgment in time, by many of what appeared to be temporal accidents.
4. And in His afflictions and deprivations He often judges the abuse of a possession, or deficient appreciation of it, and often in mercy executes this temporal judgment, in order that its effects upon the awakened conscience may obviate, and cause to be avoided, that dreadful punishment which knows no reversion.
V. In one sense, Christ has still to come. HE HAS TO COME TO FINAL JUDGMENT. (I. Hutchin, M. A.)
I. Let us consider WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND BY WAITING FOR GOD.
1. Almost innumerable instances might be referred to wherein the Jewish nation did evidently wait for God to be their salvation.
2. The same may be observed with regard to mankind in general.
(1) The inseparable difficulties attending our situation as dependent creatures are sometimes of so severe and pressing a nature, attended with such intricate consequences, and even in the eye of human wisdom so plainly productive of fatal events, that reason will naturally show us the necessity of applying for relief from a power more unlimited than our own, and cannot, when properly improved, but teach us to make our appeal to that Supreme Being who disposeth all things according to the infallible counsel of His will.
(2) And if we attend to the satisfactory instructions of revelation, this will not only show us the necessity of such a dependence, but also make us sensible of its usefulness and advantage.
II. IN WHAT RESPECTS WE MAY BE SAID TO HAVE WAITED FOR GOD.
III. THE NATURE OF THAT SALVATION WHICH HE HAS WROUGHT FOR US, and the beneficial tendency of such a deliverance.
IV. SOME USEFUL REFLECTIONS.
1. It is Our duty to acknowledge those favourable interpositions of Omnipotence, by which either national calamities are removed or national distress prevented.
2. It would be highly base and ungrateful not to rejoice in His salvation which He has so seasonably enabled us to obtain.
3. Consider what abundant advantages may arise, if we do not foolishly neglect to improve it, from the blessing of peace. (R. P. Finch, M. A.)
Moab shall be trodden down under Him
God’s judgments manure
After the process of primary ploughing has been completed our fields are covered with some appropriate manure, that the earth may be enriched, and larger crops gathered into our barns.
In the world at large which is God’s husbandry, His judgments, which deface and destroy countries and nations, are clearly intended, in their remoter influence, to effect the subsequent fruitfulness of those very spots: and the products of righteousness, in larger abundance, have been gathered among those people where the full measure of Divine vengeance had been previously poured. “When His judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants will learn righteousness.” (W. Clayton.)
The ground manured
Our text will furnish us with an occasion to establish and illustrate the fast that Divine vengeance shall overwhelm the enemies of the Church; and from their disgraceful ruin shall result advantage to the cause, and glory to the perfections of Deity.
I. GOD HAS REVEALED HIS WRATH FROM HEAVEN AGAINST ALL UNGODLINESS AND UNRIGHTEOUSNESS OF MEN; and although slack in executing His threatenings, as some men count slackness, the expected day of the Lord’s vengeance will certainly and suddenly arrive.
1. However exalted among the great ones of the earth offenders have been, the just displeasure of God has been displayed, and vengeance has overwhelmed them.
2. As no person, however elevated, is exempt from the judicial control of the Most High; so no part of the world is found where this truth has not been proclaimed.
3. In every successive age have these truths received an awful confirmation.
II. THESE SIGNAL PROOFS OF GOD’S DISPLEASURE PROMOTE THE BEST INTERESTS OF ZION, and consequently redound to His glory.
1. A large accession to the Church on earth is stated to be the immediate consequence of the ruin of Moab (Isaiah 26:1-23.26.2). In a degree infinitely more astonishing shall the final destruction of Zion’s foes precede the period of her destined perfection on earth.
2. It is pleasant to see the strength and establishment of Zion resulting from the demolition of the schemes which were formed for her ruin.
3. The rich and abundant fruitfulness of the Church--the field which God blesseth--is advanced by these displays of His vindictive wrath
1. We are taught to whose culture we are exclusively indebted, if these fruits of righteousness are in our case the results of beholding God’s judgments. Manure spread on the ground will only render weeds, its natural product, of more luxuriant and disgusting growth; nor will the Divine judgments, but for the subsequent care and cultivation of the Great Husbandman, promote the salutary change which is desired.
2. Do not our minds, necessarily, when contemplating any species of suffering, revert to Him who was bruised or threshed for our sakes; who, bearing the indignation of the Lord because we have sinned against Him, was trodden down as mire in the streets by ungodly men, and finally suffered without the camp; and to those also who, being conformed to His death, were esteemed the off-scouring of all men, of whom the world was not worthy?
3. Estimate aright the invaluable privilege of being interested in the cultivating care of the great Husbandman. (W. Clayton.)
As the name “British” in our own revolutionary war became equivalent to “hostile,” without losing its specific sense, so might the prophets threaten Moab with God’s vengeance, without meaning to exclude from the denunciation other like-minded enemies. (J. A. Alexander, U. S. A.)
And He shall spread forth His hands in the midst of them
In Isaiah 25:11 a the figure is Moab, vainly struggling to save himself in the water of the dung pit; in 11 b “he” is, of course, Jehovah, who frustrates the efforts made by Moab.
(Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
Swimming to save
This text represents God as a strong swimmer, striking out to push down iniquity and save the souls of men.
I. OUR RACE IS IN A SINKING CONDITION. You sometimes hear people talking of what they consider the most beautiful words in our language. One man says it is “home,” another man says it is “mother,” another says it is “Jesus”; but I will tell you the bitterest word in all our language, the word saturated with the most trouble, the word that accounts for all the loathsomeness and the pang, and the outrage, and the harrowing; and that word is “Sin.” Give it a fair chance, and it will swamp you, body, mind, and soul forever.
II. THEN WHAT DO WE WANT? A SWIMMER, a strong, swift swimmer! In my text we have Him announced.
1. You have noticed that when a swimmer goes out to rescue anyone he puts off his heavy apparel. And when Christ stepped forth to save us He shook off the sandals of heaven, and His feet were free; He laid aside the robe of eternal royalty, and His arms were free; then He stepped down into the wave of our transgression, and it came up over His wounded feet, and it came above the spear stab in His side--ay, it dashed to the lacerated temple, the high-water mark of His anguish. Then, rising above the flood, “He stretched forth His hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim.”
2. If you have ever watched a swimmer, you notice that his whole body is brought into platy. The arms are flexed, the hands drive the water back, the knees are active, the head is tossed back to escape strangulation, the whole body is in propulsion. And when Christ sprang out into the deep to save us He threw His entire nature in it. We were so far out on the sea, and so deep down in the waves, and so far out from the shore, that nothing short of an entire God could save us.
3. If anyone is going to rescue the drowning, he must be independent, self-reliant, able to go alone. When Christ sprang out into the sea to deliver us, He had no life buoy. “Of the people there was none to help.” “All forsook Him and fled.” Oh, it was not a flotilla that sailed down and saved us. It was one Person, independent and alone.
4. When one is in peril, help must come very quickly, or it will be of no use. That is just the kind of relief the sinner wants. The case is urgent, imminent, instantaneous. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 25". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent