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The Lord . . . Shall punish leviathan
The Church has formidable enemies
The Church has many enemies, but commonly someone that is more formidable than the rest.
So Sennacherib was in his day, and Nebuchadnezzar in his, and Antiochus in his. So Pharaoh had been formerly; and he is called “leviathan,” and the “dragon” (Psalms 74:14; Isaiah 51:9; Ezekiel 29:3). And the New Testament Church has had its leviathans; we read of a “great red dragon, ready to devour it” (Revelation 12:3). Those malignant, persecuting powers are here compared to the leviathan in bulk and strength, and the mighty bustle they make in the world; to dragons, for their rage and fury; to serpents, piercing serpents, penetrating in their counsels, quick in their motions, that if they once get in their head, will soon wind in their whole body; “crossing like a bar,” so the margin, standing in the way of all their neighbours and obstructing them; to crooked serpents, subtle sad insinuating, but perverse and mischievous. (M. Henry.)
A vineyard of red wine
The Church a vineyard of red wine
The Church of God is here compared to a vineyard.
The vine is a tender plant, needing continual care; and if the vineyard is not well fenced and guarded, the enemies of the vine are sure to get in and destroy it. The Church is called “a vineyard of red wine,” because the red grape happened to be the best kind grown in Palestine; and, in like manner, God’s Church is to Him the best of the best, the excellent of the earth, in whom is all His delight. But what is true of the whole Church is also true of every member; the same God who keeps the vineyard also protects every vine, nay, not only so, but His care extends to every little branch, to every-spreading leaf, and to every clinging tendril of that vine which He undertakes to keep night and day. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The vineyard of red wine
In what day? The day of threatening and punishment of the wicked. The Church needs encouragement amid danger and darkness. And God gives it when required.
I. WHAT SHE IS. A vineyard of red wine. A common figure of the Church. It is to intimate--
1. That members are separate from the world and enclosed around.
2. That they are cultivated and eared for. They differ from the world as flowers from weeds, a garden from a wilderness.
3. That they are owned. Believers are God’s people, His chosen inheritance, His private property.
4. That they are profitable. A vineyard yields fruit, and so adds to the advantage of its owner. It is a vineyard of “red wine.” A vineyard from which is extracted the richest juice. Everything of God’s doing is not only perfect, but superior. Everything with which He supplies His people is the best. “Their peace passeth understanding.” Their joy is “full of glory.”
II. WHAT SHE IS TO POSSESS. “I, the Lord, do keep it,” etc. Here is--
1. Guardianship. The Keeper gives His whole attention to Its protection. How wise a guardian is God! “Lest any hurt it.” His whole army of angels act as a guard with their flaming swords.
2. Provisions. “I will water it.” The act of watering means all the necessary provision required for the nourishment of the vines and the production of fruit. The Holy Spirit is likened to the water of life, which Christ has promised to give freely to all who ask Him. There are also His ordinances and sacraments.
3. Vigilance. “Keep it constantly”--night and day. The great God slumbers not nor sleeps. His eye is ever on His people. No foe can elude His guardianship. (Homilist.)
The Church as God’s vineyard
What a contrast between the vineyard here spoken of and that whose history was given in the fifth chapter of this prophet. That was a favoured vineyard. Everything was done for it to promote its fruitfulness; but what sort of fruit did it produce? “God looked that it should bring forth grapes: and it brought forth wild grapes.” What happened then? His indignation fell upon it. By that unfruitful vineyard was represented the Jewish people. But now turn and behold the other vineyard
- that which is brought before us by my text. This vineyard is the real,spiritual Church of the Redeemer.
I. THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN OF THIS VINEYARD. The spiritual Church of Jesus is “a vineyard of red wine.”
1. By this “red wine” may be intended, perhaps in part, the faith of Christ’s elect people. “Red wine” was in great esteem amongst ancient Jews, as appears in Proverbs 23:31.
2. The Lord may call His Church “a vineyard of red wine,” in reference to the love she bears to Him.
3. Christ’s Church is a “vineyard of red wine,” because she “abounds in all the fruits of righteousness.”
II. THE PRIVILEGE WHICH IT IS REPRESENTED AS ENJOYING. The vineyards of the Jews were carefully kept and cultivated. The vines in the country of the Jews appear to have needed constant watering. The Lord’s spiritual vineyard needs perpetual watering from above. These natural vineyards in which the Jewish land abounded required, however, something more than cultivation. A chief part of the duty of the “keepers of the vineyard” was to protect the vines from depredation. And is the spiritual vineyard less exposed? (A. Roberts, M. A.)
God’s care for His vineyard a subject for song
To them who are ready to conclude that God hath forgotten to be gracious these words may prove a source of encouragement. They--
I. REPRESENT THE PEOPLE OF GOD AS A VINEYARD. As God values His vineyard for the same reasons that men value their vineyards (because of its fruit), it behoves us to inquire what sort of fruit it is which makes His vineyard valuable to Him. All the asperities of disposition and all the want of spiritual excellence, which we may suppose are designed by wild grapes, must give place to “whatsoever things are true; whatsoever things are honest; whatsoever things are just; whatsoever things are pure; whatsoever things are lovely, and whatsoever things are of good report.” “Love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,” must adorn and beautify your character.
II. DESCRIBE GOD’S CARE FOR HIS VINEYARD. The care of God for His vineyard is manifested in two ways: by His unceasing attention to the culture and growth of these heavenly fruits, and by His unremitting vigilance in preserving it. The soil is not congenial with a plant of heavenly origin. For the heart of man is hard and unfruitful. The clime of this world is cold and variable: the atmosphere tainted with sin; and every wind of passion blights and withers the vine. If the sun of persecution and trouble smites it too often it is scorched. He, therefore, who has planted it for His own glory, and who is always glorified when it brings forth much fruit, watches over it, tends it with solicitude. There is not one moment when you who love and serve God cease to be the objects of His care, and of His renovating influence.
III. A SUBJECT FOR SONG. This song implies, that the people of God have the knowledge and enjoyment of His care and protection. It is not the will of God that you who have repented, and are doing works meet for repentance; who have believed in Christ, and have a faith which worketh by love, should continue in doubt and uncertainty respecting your state. As the song should be appropriate to the occasion and suitable to the subject, the song which we are to sing is--
1. A song of adoring admiration.
2. Of joyful gratitude.
3. Of holy confidence.
4. Of deep humility.
You are called upon to be humble because you have nothing that you have not received, but also because, after having received so much, and after being laid under obligations so many and so distinguishing, you make returns so inadequate and so unsuitable. (M. Jackson.)
I, the Lord, do keep it
The Lord the Keeper of His people
There is nothing to which we are naturally more prone, nothing more dangerous, nothing so difficult to eradicate as self-confidence.
And yet there is nothing so delightful as to feel that we have not anything in ourselves in which we can be confident. For the moment we have arrived at that experience we are prepared to turn to Him without whom we can do nothing.”
I. IN WHAT SENSE THE LORD IS THE KEEPER OF HIS PEOPLE.
1. In one sense the Lord is the keeper of all; for “in Him all live, and move, and have their being.” And the Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 4:10) speaks of Him as “the Saviour, or preserver, of all men, specially of those that believe.”
2. He speaks of keeping them as a city from an enemy.
3. He speaks again of keeping them as a vineyard from foxes. In Song of Solomon 2:15 we read, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” Those things which may appear gentle and innocent have a tendency to undermine the work of indwelling grace.
4. Again, the Lord speaks of keeping His people as the apple of His eye.
5. I might speak again of the fires of persecution, through which His people are called to pass. For here again the Lord is the Keeper of His people.
6. He not only defends and preserves His people, but He keeps them refreshed in seasons of drought by continual and plentiful supplies of mercy and grace. So in the text He says, “I will water it every moment?”
II. WHEN IS IT THAT HE KEEPS THEM? “By day and by night.” He watches over them continually, in the bright day of prosperity and in the dark night of adversity.
III. HOW IS IT THAT THE LORD KEEPS HIS PEOPLE?
1. By His angels (Hebrews 1:14).
2. By His ministers; by their warning voice in public; or by that advice and reproof, and instruction which they give in private.
3. By His providential dispensations.
4. By His own omnipotent arm. His people are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”
IV. WHAT WARRANT WE HAVE AS HIS PEOPLE TO EXPECT THAT THE LORD WILL BE OUR KEEPER.
1. The first plain proof of this is, that as His people we are not our own, but given to Christ.
2. Coupled with this, we may consider the faithfulness of Jesus (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
3. Connect with this, the consideration of the love of Jesus for His people.
4. Indeed, we have as believers the warrant of the Triune Jehovah for believing that the Lord will be our keeper. Bear in mind that, until the time when knowledge shall be increased, and faith and hope end in sight and enjoyment, we shall never be aware of the full extent of our obligations to
Him as the Keeper of His people. Yet, while we thankfully lay hold of the comfort which this truth is calculated to give, let us remember that our own responsibility is not overthrown. On the contrary, it is increased. For though encouraged to trust in the Lord as our keeper, there is no excuse for neglect of duty on account of our own weakness; but rather encouragement to say with the apostle, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me.” (M. Villiers M. A.)
God’s care of His vineyard
God takes care--
I. Of the SAFETY of this vineyard. “I, the Lord, do keep it.”
II. Of the FRUITFULNESS of this vineyard. “I will water it every moment,” and yet it shall not be over watered. (M. Henry.)
The keeper of the vineyard
I. THE CONTINUAL KEEPING which the Lord promises to His vineyard.
1. Do I need keeping?
2. Can I not keep myself?
3. Do I enjoy this keeping?
II. THE LORD’S CONTINUAL WATERING.
1. Do I need watering within as well as keeping without? Yes, for there is not a single grace I have that can live an hour without being divinely watered. Besides, the soil in which I am planted is very dry. Then, the atmosphere that is round about us does not naturally yield us any water. The means of grace, which are like clouds hovering over our heads, are often nothing but clouds. The beauty of the text seems to me to lie in the last two words: “I will water it every moment.”
2. Have we all realised, as a matter of experience, that the Lord does water us every moment? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Kept and watered
God is both a wall and a well to His people. (C. H.Spurgeon)
God’s vine needs keeping
1. There is the arch enemy; how he longs to lay the axe at the roots of God’s vines!
2. There is a wild boar of the woods, that would fain tear us up by the roots; I mean, that wild boar of unbelief that is constantly prowling around us. How does it seek with its sharp tusks to bark our vines and fig trees!
3. Then, the vine is often subject to injury from various kinds of insects. We have the fly of pride.
4. Then, the vine is subject to the attacks of the little foxes that Solomon speaks of,--I mean, false doctrine and sceptical teaching.
5. Besides, when we have a few grapes that are beginning to ripen there are the birds that come and try to pick the fruit,--those dark-winged thoughts of worldliness and selfishness which come to us all. (C. H. Spurgeon)
God the Keeper of His vineyard
A vineyard will engross the whole of a man’s time--perhaps the time of many men. The nourishing of the soil, the pruning of the branches, the syringing of the leaves, the thinning of the grapes, the support of the heavy clusters--all demand constant and assiduous care. There is a tendency in all cultivated things to go back to their original type. However it may be made to agree with the modern ideas of development and evolution, it is nevertheless a fact that the fairest results of human skill are not in themselves permanent; but tend ever backward to the rudest and simplest forms of their species--the apple tree to the crab, the vine of Sorek to the wild vine of the hills. Therefore the keeper of the vineyard is ever engaged in fighting every tendency towards deterioration with unwavering patience. With similar care, but with much more tenderness, God is ever watching over us. With eager eyes He marks the slightest sign of deterioration--a hardening conscience; a deadening spirituality; a waning love. Any symptom of this sort fills Him with--if I may use the words--keen anxiety; and His gentle but skilful hand is at once at work to arrest the evil, restore the soul, and force it onward to new accessions of that Divine life which is our only true bliss and rest. Let us not carry the responsibility of our nurture. It is too much for us. Better far is it to devolve the care of our keeping on our faithful Creator. (F. B.Meyer, B. A.)
God the great Preserver
It is not with God as it is with carpenters and shipwrights, who make houses for other men to dwell in, vessels for others to sail in, and therefore after they are made look after them no more; God, who made all things for Himself, looks after the preservation of all. (John Arrowsmith, D. D.)
God’s solicitude for His people
The tear water, constantly flowing over our eyes, removes the grit and dust that alight on them, impairing our power of vision. The eager mother shields her children from any polluting words or influences that might approach them from child companion or school fellow. The physician is eagerly solicitous that no germ of disease should enter an open wound, and lays his instruments in carbolic that they may carry no spore on their keen edge. And may we not count even more certainly on Him who says, “I, the Lord, do keep it,” etc. (Christian Endeavour.)
I will water it every moment
A refreshing promise
In warm climates irrigation is essential to fertility; hence travellers see on all sides pools and watercourses, wheels and cisterns, and channels for the water to flow in.
I. There is a great NECESSITY for the watering promised in the text.
1. This we might conclude from the promise itself, since there is not one superfluous word of promise in the whole Scriptures, but it becomes more evident when we reflect that all creature life is dependent upon the perpetual outgoing of Divine power.
2. Moreover, the truth is specially certain as touching the believer, for a multitude of agencies are at work to dry up the moisture of his soul.
3. Neither have we any other source of supply but the living God. “All my springs are in Thee.”
4. Our need of Divine watering is clearly seen when we consider what drought, and barrenness, and death would come upon us if His hand were withdrawn. Without watering every moment the most faithful among us would be cast forth, and be only fit for the fire; every prophet would become a Balaam, every apostle a Judas, every disciple a Demas.
II. THE MANNER in which the Lord promises to water His people--“I will water it every moment.”
1. Our first thought is excited by the perpetual act--“every moment.” Mercy knows no pause. Grace has no canonical hours, or rather all hours are alike canonical: yea, and all moments too.
2. The Lord’s watering is a renewed act. He does not water us once in great abundance, and then leave us to live upon what He has already poured out.
3. A personal act. “I will water it.”
III. THE CERTAINTY that the Lord will water every plant that His own right hand hath planted. Here a vast number of arguments suggest themselves, but we wilt content ourselves with the one ground of confidence which is found in the Lord Himself and His previous deeds of love. Our souls need supplies so great as to drain rivers of grace, but the all-sufficient God is able to meet the largest demands of the innumerable company of His people, and He will meet them to His own honour and glory forever. Here, then, we see His truth, His power, and His all-sufficiency pledged to provide for His chosen, and we may be sure that the guarantee will stand. If we needed further confirmation we might well remember that the Lord has already watered His vineyard in a far more costly manner than it win ever need again. The Lord Jesus has watered it with a sweat of blood, and can it be supposed that He will leave it now? Hitherto the sacred promise has been fully kept, for we have been graciously preserved in spiritual life. Droughty times have befallen us, and yet our soul has not been suffered to famish; why, then, should we question the goodness of the Lord as to years to come! One thing is never to be forgotten--we are the Lord’s. Therefore, if He do not water us, He will Himself be the loser. An owner of vine lands, if he should suffer them to be parched with the drought, would derive nothing from his estate; the vineyard would be dried up, but he himself would receive no clusters. With reverence be it spoken, our Lord Himself will never see of the travail of His soul in untended vines, nor in hearts unsanctified, nor in men whose graces droop and die for want of Divine refreshings. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Fury is not in Me.
--Of all the senses put upon this difficult verse there are only two which can be looked upon as natural or probable. The first may be paraphrased as follows:--It is not because I am cruel or revengeful that I thus afflict My people, but because she is a vineyard overrun with thorns or briars, on account of which I must pass through her and consume her (i.e., burn them out of her)
. The other is this: I am no longer angry with My people; oh, that their enemies (as thorns and briars) would array themselves against Me, that I might rush upon them and consume them. (J. A. Alexander.)
Liberty and discipline
I. A BLESSED ABSENCE IN THE NATURE OF GOD. “Fury is not in Me.” Fury seems to be uncontrolled and uncontrollable anger. A vessel in a storm, with its rudder gone or its screw broken, is passive in the power of winds and waves. A lion, who for hours has been disappointed of his prey, is passive under the dominion of his hunger. In both cases no influence, internal or external, is able to resist the onward course. And when a man is so in the hand of anger that no consideration from within or intercession from without can mollify him, when he is passive in its power, he is in a state of fury. But no such estate is possible to our God. His anger is always under control, and we have plentiful evidence that, in the height of His displeasure, He is accessible to intercession on behalf of His creatures. Nevertheless--
II. THIS BLESSED ABSENCE IN THE NATURE OF GOD IS COMPATIBLE WITH CONTENTION WITH THE UNREPENTING. “Who would set the briars and thorns against Me in battle?” etc. Imagine a father and son at variance, the father being in the right and the son in the wrong, There are two ways of reconciliation: either the son must comply with the conditions of the father, or the father must lower his standard to the level of the son. But what a wrong would the father do to himself, his family, and society if he were to adopt this course. He ought not, will not. If the son resolves to fight it out, reconciliation is impossible. This is the relative position of God and the ungodly man. God declares His conditions, “Let the wicked forsake his way,” etc. Consider what is involved in the conditions of the ungodly. Nothing less than the inversion of the whole moral law. God says, “I am Jehovah, I change not.” It is a blessed impossibility. But the unrepentant man ought, can, must! If not, the fire of goodness must be set against the briars of wickedness, a contest as hopeless, and of which the issue is as certain, as that of the devouring flame with briars and thorns.
III. THE ABSENCE OF FURY IN GOD LEADS HIM TO PREFER PARDON TO PUNISHMENT, AND TO PROVIDE MEANS FOR THE FORMER. “Let him take hold of My strength,” etc. Men, churches, and nations are lovers of peace in proportion as they are righteous (Psalms 72:3). The preference of God for peace depends upon the very attribute of which the ungodly would rob Him--namely, His righteousness. What is God’s strength? How take hold of it? When a man falls overboard at sea, the appointed means of rescue is the life belt which is thrown to him. Seizing that, he takes hold of the strength of the vessel to save him. When the man slayer, fleeing from the avenger of blood, entered the city of refuge, he took hold of God’s appointed means of shelter. God’s strength is His pardoning prerogative, exercised to us through Christ, the “arm,” or “strength,” of the Lord. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)
Fury not in God
I. FURY IS NOT IN GOD. But how can this be? Is not fury one manifestation of His essential attributes--do we not repeatedly read of His fury--of Jerusalem being full of the fury of the Lord--of God casting the fury of His wrath upon the world--of Him rendering His anger upon His enemies with fury--of Him accomplishing his fury upon Zion--of Him causing His fury to rest on the bloody and devoted city? We are not, therefore, to think that fury is banished altogether from God’s administration. There are times and occasions when this fury is discharged upon the objects of it; and there must be other times and occasions when there is no fury in Him. Now, what is the occasion upon which He disclaims all fury in our text? He is inviting men to reconciliation; and He is assuring them that if they will only take hold of His strength they shall make peace with Him. Fury will be discharged on those who reject the invitation. But we cannot say that there is any exercise of fury in God at the time of giving the invitation. There is the most visible and direct contrary. This very process was all gone through at and before the destruction of Jerusalem. It rejected the warnings and invitations of the Saviour, and at length experienced His fury. But there was no fury at the time of His giving the invitations. The tone of our Saviour’s voice when He uttered, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” was not the tone of a vindictive and irritated fury. There was compassion in it--a warning and pleading earnestness that they would mind the things which belong to their peace. Let us make the application to ourselves.
II. GOD IS NOT WANTING TO GLORIFY HIMSELF BY THE DEATH OF SINNERS. When God says, “Who would set the thorns and the briars against Me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together,” He speaks of the ease wherewith He could accomplish His wrath upon His enemies. They would perish before Him like the moth. Why set up, then, a contest so unequal as this? God is saying in the text that this is not what He is wanting. In the language of the next verse, He would rather that this enemy of His, not yet at peace with Him, and who may therefore be likened to a briar or a thorn, should take hold of His strength, that He may make peace with Him--and as the fruit of his so doing, He shall make peace with Him. Now tell me if this do not open up a most wonderful and a most inviting view of God? It is the real attitude in which He puts Himself forth to us in the gospel of His Son. What remains for you to do? God is willing to save you: are you willing to be saved?
III. THE INVITATION. “Or let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me.” “Or” here is the same with “rather.” Rather than that what is spoken of in the fourth verse should fall upon you. We have not far to seek for what is meant by this strength, for Isaiah himself speaks (Isaiah 33:6) of the strength of salvation.
1. We read of a mighty strength that had to be put forth in the work of a sinner’s justification. Just in proportion to the weight and magnitude of the obstacle was the greatness of that strength which the Saviour put forth in the mighty work of moving it away. A way of redemption has been found out in the unsearchable riches of Divine wisdom, and Christ is called the wisdom of God. But the same Christ is also called the power of God.
2. But there is also a strength put forth in the work of man’s regeneration.
3. When you apply to a friend for some service, some relief from distress or difficulty, you may be said to lay hold of him; and when you place firm reliance both on his ability and willingness to do the service, you may well say that your hold is upon your friend--an expression which becomes all the more appropriate should he promise to do the needful good office, in which case your hold is not upon his power only, but upon his faithfulness. And it is even so with the promises of God in Christ Jesus--you have both a power and a promise to take hold of. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
Let him take hold of My strength
Taking hold of the Divine strength
THE INVITATION. “Let him take hold of My strength.” This becomes an imperative duty--a duty universal in its application.
II. THE REASON of this invitation--“that he may make peace with Me.”
1. Observe how very unselfish it is, if we may so call it with reverence, on the part of God. It is not that He Himself may be benefited, but that the sinner might.
2. Consider, too, the cogency of this reason, resting as it does in that which all men most need, and most of us long for--“peace.”
3. Regard also the sublimity of this reason--peace with “God.”
III. THE POSITIVE ASSURANCE, or the certainty of the promise. “And he shall make peace with Me.” Nothing shall prevent it. Comply with the conditions, and then all is certain. Even the greatest enemies to God among men are permitted to make peace with Him. (W. Horwood.)
Man, seizing the strength of Omnipotence
Some substitute the word “protection” for “strength” here, and suppose the words refer to the horns of the altar which fugitives often laid hold of as an asylum. But the refuge of safety for any moral intelligence is nothing without God’s strength. For an insignificant creature like man to lay hold upon the strength of Omnipotence seems at first not only an absurd, but a blasphemous thought, and yet the thought is not without support in the Word of God. What meaneth the expression, “Let Me alone, Moses,” etc.?
I. It is POSSIBLE for man to lay hold on the strength of Omnipotence. In what does the real strength of a moral intelligence consist? Not in material bulk or muscle, if he has them; but in the leading disposition of his heart. This is the soul of strength, the sap in the oak, the steam in the engine, the vis in the muscle. He that can take hold of this in a man takes hold of his strength. Vanity is the leading disposition in some men; and if you would take hold of their strength you must flatter them. By adulation you will grasp them body and soul. Greed is the leading disposition in others. Avarice controls them, works their thoughts, and concentrates their energies. Minister to this greed and you will take hold of their strength, you will have them in your hands. Philanthropy is, thank God, the leading disposition of others. Present to them the claims of down-trodden slaves, of broken-hearted widows and starving orphans, and you will take hold of their strength. Now, the leading disposition of God, if I may so say, is benevolence. He not only loves, but is love. He, therefore, who appeals to His compassion takes hold of His strength. See how Omnipotence halted as Abraham prayed. See how in Christ it stood still on the road when two blind beggars said, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy upon me.” Thus let the poor sinner go stricken in penitence and appeal in all his misery to the Great Father, and he will take hold of His strength.
II. It is NECESSARY for man to lay hold on the strength of Omnipotence. The only hope of sinful, dying man is to appeal to God’s compassion. “If My people which are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin.” “Ye shall seek Me and find Me when ye search for Me with all your heart.” Elijah prayed, and God unsealed the heavens for him. Stephen prayed, and the Father drew the curtains of the invisible world and revealed to him the Son of God in all His glory. (Homilist.)
Seizing the strength of the Almighty
How can a man take hold on the strength of God? The following facts may give meaning to the phrase.
I. The pleading of the PROMISE OF ONE WHO IS FAITHFUL will take hold of his strength. If a man of incorruptible truthfulness were to make me a promise, and I pleaded the fulfilment of that promise, should I not, in a very emphatic sense, “take hold of his strength” in pleading it before him? I should seize not his mere limbs or any particular faculty, but himself, his inflexible sense of truthfulness.
II. The pleading of a RIGHT CLAIM TO ONE WHO IS RIGHTEOUS will take hold of his strength. If you have a righteous claim upon a righteous man you lay hold of him by urging it. You do not want law with such a man to enforce your obligation. He yields it by the necessity of his nature. There are claims which all moral beings who are commanded to love God with their hearts, souls, and strength have upon Him.
III. The pleading of MISERY TO ONE THAT IS LOVING will take hold of his strength. Thus the cry of a babe will take hold of the strength of a father, though he be the commander of armies, or the monarch of mighty peoples. By suffering and sorrow you can take hold of the most noble men on earth, and the most noble are the most loving. (Homilist.)
Strength taken hold of
Coriolanus was a mighty man. He is thus described by Shakespeare: “The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes. When he walks he moves like an engine, and the ground shrinks before his treading. He is able to pierce a corset with his eye, talks like a knell, and his hum is a battery. He sits in his state as a thing made for Alexander. What he bids be done is finished with his bidding. He wants nothing of a god but eternity, and a heaven to throne in.” And yet his mother and wife, by appealing to the love in his nature, took hold of his strength; and hence we hear him exclaim, “Ladies, you deserve to have a temple built you. All the swords in Italy and her confederate arms could not have made this peace.” (Homilist.)
He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root
The future prosperity of the Church the effects of Divine influence
IN RESPECT OF NUMBER. Under the ancient dispensation, the spiritual Israel were comparatively few. But at the commencement of the Christian dispensation the wall of partition was broken down, and the boundaries of the Church were greatly enlarged.
II. IN RESPECT OF SPIRITUAL VIGOUR. Others remain in a state of spiritual death. But concerning them “that come of Jacob,” it is here asserted that they shall take root.
III. IN RESPECT OF BEAUTY. Christ Himself, “the branch of the Lord, is beautiful and glorious” (Isaiah 4:2); and believers in Christ are made comely through His comeliness put upon them (Ezekiel 16:14).
IV. IN RESPECT OF FRUITFULNESS. Believers are denominated in Scripture, “trees of righteousness,” to intimate that they should “bring forth fruit unto God.” They abound “in every good word and work.”
V. IN RESPECT OF JOY. It is when the dews of heaven “drop upon the pastures of the wilderness” that it is said, “the little hills rejoice on every side.” The abundant joy of New Testament times, especially of the times referred to in the passage before us, is often spoken of in Scripture.
VI. IN RESPECT OF STABILITY. It is here promised that the Lord “shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root” The vicissitudes which take place in human affairs teach us the vanity of the world, and the perishing nature of all that seems most durable in this region of shadows. The Church of God, however, has been like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved.
VII. IN RESPECT OF EXTENT. (R. Jack.)
He stayeth His rough wind in the day of the east wind
The rough wind stayed
Here we are taught two things: that God permits calamities to come upon man, but that He restrains them in moderation for some wise and merciful design.
It would by no means be difficult to trace out historic parallels illustrative of this truth, both in the history of nations and the annals of the Church. But the words of the text seem capable of a closer application to ourselves and the various calamities which so often overtake us. In Judea the east wind was extremely violent and destructive; allusions to which are not unfrequent in the sacred writings Job 27:21; Jeremiah 18:17). How many a one has struggled through years of difficulty, buoyed up with the warm hope of gaining some desired object; and just as his hopes are brightening, and the bow is expanding with promises of realisation, the east wind comes and shrouds the whole in darkness. The met wind has blighted your hopes and your joys, but the rough wind has been restrained.
1. Your trials, though great, have not been inflicted with intolerable severity; they have been dealt out to you with moderation for some wise and gracious design.
2. The moderation of our trials will appear, if we compare them with what is endured by others. What are our utmost trials in these highly favoured days compared with those of the early saints? What are our trials compared with those endured by “the noble army of martyrs”? And what are our trials compared with many of our brethren in the present day, who endure suffering and privation, and even death, in their intense love for souls, seeking to advance the Redeemer’s kingdom?
3. The moderation of our trials will further appear if we contrast them with what we have deserved. (W. J. Brock, B. A.)
God determines very exactly the measure of our tribulation, ever mingling mercy with judgment, and permitting trial no further than our moral perfecting requires. He sometimes sifts by a violent wind; but He only sifts, He does not mar and destroy.
I. LIFE AT LARGE furnishes us with an illustration of the text. Through human sin the whole world has been filled with disorder and suffering. Wherever we look--whether in nature or the race--we witness scenes of confusion and misery. God did not threaten us in vain; the power of His displeasure has been bitterly felt throughout the whole creation. Yet are we sure that judgment has not come upon us to the uttermost. The world is dark enough to justify a very sad philosophy, and yet the regulations restrictive of evil, the restorative forces, the system of compensations, the wide spaces for positive pleasure which we find in nature and human life, show the world to be far from a condition of unmixed and hopeless evil. The fact is, the central truth of revelation, the redemption of the world by the Son of God, tells at every point.
II. GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL DEALINGS WITH HIS CHILDREN illustrate abundantly the same law of mercy. It is essential to the unlearning of our errors, and the perfecting of our spirit in holiness, that we should be familiar with tribulation; but it is deeply interesting to observe the various methods by which God reduces the whirlwind to a winnowing breeze.
1. Sometimes this is effected by educating us against the day of adversity. Most likely we are totally unaware of the process; it is only when we have passed through the ordeal that the discipline of years stands revealed. Then we perceive why our mind has been specially directed to given truths; why we have been led in prayer to seek special gifts and graces; why we have formed certain friendships and associations.
2. On other occasions the force of disaster is broken by the graduation of trial Is not this exemplified in the instance of Job? Successive messengers bring to the patriarch their sad tidings, but the crowning woe comes last. The same order has been observed in the sufferings of the Primitive Church. “So when they had further threatened them, they let them go” Acts 4:21). “And laid their hands on the Apostles, and put them in the common prison” (Acts 5:18). “When they had called the apostles and beaten them” (Acts 5:40). “And they stoned Stephen” (Acts 7:59). Menaces prepared them for captivity; fetters inured them for the scourge; the scourge ascertained their royalty, and left them strong enough to claim the martyr’s diadem.
3. Again, tribulation is often relieved by counterbalancing advantages. Be sure, where there is a “but” against us there are, as in the case of Naaman, several grand “buts” for us, and it will be most to our good to ponder these. In nature we constantly see this compensatory action--see the rod of God, like that of Aaron, breaking into flowers. Losing eyesight, our other faculties forthwith acquire preternatural acuteness.
4. In that law of sympathy which prevails throughout society we see once again the sword of judgment crossed by mercy’s sceptre. The sick and suffering are objects of special sympathy and succour. Macaulay writes of John Bunyan: “He had several small children, and among them a daughter who was blind, and whom he loved with peculiar tenderness. He could not, he said, bear even to let the wind blow on her.”
III. IN GOD’S SPIRITUAL KINGDOM AND GOVERNMENT we find our last illustration of the inspiring truth we seek to inculcate. In the kingdom of grace are special equivalents for life’s losses, special inspirations for the passage of flood and flame. In dark periods we acquire a special interest in the Word of God. Times of adversity bring out multitudes of precious promises, as night brings out the stars. And not only so, but in the bitter conflicts of life we gain a fuller, clearer vision of truth in general, and realise its peculiar preciousness. This fuller, richer apprehension of the mind and purpose of God imbues us with new, strange qualities, and the fire forgets its power to burn. In dark periods we also receive special measures of the grace of God. We must ever gratefully acknowledge the mercy which ameliorates the world about us and makes its conditions gentler; but we must hold firmly the truth that the rough wind is stayed in the day of His east wind, chiefly through the sanctification and exaltation of the human mind in Christ Jesus. Here we often err. We plead for the rectification and amelioration of circumstances; that our path may be smoother, our load lighter, our sky brighter, We are anxious for better health, improved trade, the restoration of friends, the reduction of life’s cares, griefs and losses. We want life tempering by making our environment less exhaustive; by adjusting the world more nearly to our weakness. But this is not God’s most approved method. He does not modify the universe about us so much as He raises the mind within us; giving us relief and victory in knowledge, power, faith, hope, love, and the joy which is inseparable from a soul so richly dowered, “In the day when I cried thou answeredst me and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.” Lessons--
(1) We gain an affecting view of the love of God.
(2) We see in this a reason for submission and gratitude.
(3) We see the justification of confidence and quietness.
(4) Let us go forth again with renewed courage and hope.
It is generally allowed that Dante has pictured Inferno more ably than Paradiso; and the critics explain this on the ground that the poet’s gloomy genius made him more skilful in depicting a dark theme than a cheerful one. The measure of Dante’s genius is rare; the kind very common indeed. Most of us are clever at painting black pictures. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Troubles as storms
Troubles are compared in Holy Scripture to storms. As storms are not constant, not the normal state of the atmosphere, so troubles, except in some cases, are but occasional. As storms disturb the ordinary course of the elements, so troubles interfere with our usual mode of life, with our duties, with our joys, with all our habits. As storms are useful in the hand of the Great Ruler, so troubles fulfil the good purpose of the Divine will. As storms are not pleasant while they last, but promote discomfort, and awaken fear and apprehension, so troubles are not for the present joyous, but grievous. As storms are often destructive in their influence, so troubles break up and break down things that we would not have touched--precious things, hoarded things, cherished things, things upon which the eye and the heart rest, things which the hand grasps firmly, things in which we rest, and on account of which we rejoice. (S. Martin.)
Sorrows as winds
I. SORROWS ARE STRONG FORCES. They act as winds; they are forces before which we bend and bow.
II. SORROWS HAVE THEIR APPOINTED TIME. “In the day of the east wind.” There are certain winds that blow at particular seasons. Just so sorrows have their appointed times in a man’s life. There is a time to mourn. Blessed be God, in the life of Heaven’s children, sorrows have their day, their morning, their noon, and their night. They are here, and the day of their real dance may be long, but every hour of that day tells of the day’s approaching end when the trouble will be no more. Now, it occasionally happens that people in trouble say, “This affliction could not have come upon me at a worse time.” But that is never true, unless by any wilfulness you bring your own sorrows upon yourselves. If the trouble came at a time when you would not feel it at all, why, the trouble would be useless to you, and you would have to be placed in those circumstances again and again.
III. SORROWS ARE GOD’S SERVANTS. “He stayeth His rough wind in the clay of the east wind,” just because the winds are His. He holdeth them in His fist so long as He pleases to hold them--and then sendeth them forth from the hollow of His hand when He pleases to send them forth, and calleth them back into His own hand when He pleases to recall them. Just so is it with troubles. (S. Martin.)
The adaptation of trial to the state of the afflicted
I. ADAPTED BY WHOM. “He stayeth His rough wind,” etc. Adapted by the Almighty Father. If God could not adapt a rough wind to a feeble nature, He would not be almighty. The very omnipotence of God involves power to do the tender and the gentle.
II. ADAPTED TO WHAT.
1. The strength of the sufferer. There is no man who thoroughly knows his own strength--certainly not until it has been developed by circumstances. There are people who overrate it; and they will say to you that they can bear such and such a thing easily, and they look upon others, and they wonder that they should be bowed down by events of a certain class. They are placed in circumstances corresponding to those of their fellow men, and they find that their strength is absolute weakness. Other persons say, “Oh! I could never bear such a trial.” The former cannot do what he thinks he can do; the latter can do what he thinks he cannot do. Now God makes no such mistakes. He knows just what we are. “He knows our frame: He remembers that we are but dust.”
2. He moderates it, moreover, according to the work which has to be accomplished. Sometimes trouble is chastening. Then trouble is intended to do a preparatory work. Or there is something that a man has to do either down here or yonder--some work for which he is not educated--and God sends a trouble to educate the man. Now God moderates affliction according to the work to be accomplished. If there be a fault to be corrected, then the trouble must have great force in it--it must be rough in its character; whereas, if it be irately educational--just simply to bring out some dormant faculty--then it need not be rough in its character, but it requires to be longer continued.
3. Adapted to the time during which this work should be finished.
4. Adapted to the power and resources, moreover, of fellow sufferers--because in most cases others suffer with us; and you do not suppose that God does not look at the entire family when He sends sorrow unto that family.
III. HOW DOES GOD DO THIS? Sometimes by removing one trouble before another comes. By lightening the affliction itself, or by so strengthening the heart of the sufferer, that the affliction is relatively lighter, or by pouring through the soul of the troubled one rich and abundant consolation.
IV. FOR WHAT PURPOSE DOES GOD DO THIS? He does it for present peace and joy. Moreover, for your enduring benefit, and in manifestation of Himself to you as a tender Father, “He stayeth His rough wind in the day of the east wind.” Now this is the testimony of God concerning Himself; but it is also the testimony of God’s children concerning Him. Isaiah could say this from his own experience and observation; and he addressed the words of our text to those who could acknowledge them to be true. Now, tell this to one another. God intends you to comfort each other, as well as to instruct and edify one another. Then we say to others of you, be not afraid of the rough wind. Those of you who have not felt it will feel it. (S. Martin.)
A grand symbolic picture of the world
The critics find fault with Rubens’ picture of the Crucifixion--they say he has painted Golgotha like a garden where, you can scarcely see the skulls for the flowers. This may, perhaps, be a defective picture of Golgotha, but it is a grand symbolic picture of our world; the things of sadness, pain, and death being half-hidden by the flowers which mercy has caused everywhere to grow. (W. L.Watkinson.)
God’s thoughtfulness in imposing burdens
Let a ponderous weight drop suddenly on a machine, and the jerk brings it down with a crash; graduate the strain, and no harm is done. How easily the delicate mechanism of the moral man might be broken down! but whilst the engineer is imperfectly versed in “the theory of strains,” and often sadly miscalculates the “breaking point” of materials entering into his constructions, He who made us knows perfectly the strength and frailty of each, and with a faultless delicacy lays upon us the burdens of life. (W. L.Watkinson.)
Life’s roses and life’s thorns
In countless ways God makes His suffering people to know that if the roses of life bear thorns, the thorns of life also bear roses. (W. L. Watkinson.)
God’s angels--judgment and mercy
The Jewish tradition relates that after the Fall the two angels of God--judgment and mercy--were sent forth together to do their office upon the sinning but redeemed race, and together they act to this day. Where one afflicts, the other heals. Where one makes a rent, the other plants a flower. Where one carves a wrinkle, the other kindles a smile. Where one scowls a storm, the other spreads a rainbow. Where one poises the glittering sword, the other covers our naked head with succouring wing. It is ever thus. His tender mercies are over all that His hands have made, and although we have brought upon ourselves awful sorrows, yet He so administers the world that by countless devices He softens our lot and saves us from despair. (W. L. Watkinson.)
More affliction, more grace
Miss Havergal writes her mother: “More pain, dearest mother? May it be more support, more grace, more tenderness from the God of all comfort, more and more? May we not expect the ‘mores’ always to be in tender proportion to each other?” (W. L.Watkinson.)
The compensatory element in life
Plants of great splendour have usually little fragrance, and plants of much fragrance usually little colour; birds of brilliant plumage have no music, and musical birds little glory of feather; strong animals ordinarily lack speed, swift animals strength. Now that would be a very disordered state of things in which the brilliant plant ever grieved over its defect of sweetness, and the sweet flower its lack of colour; in which the bird of paradise should lament its vocalism, and the nightingale sigh over its plumes; in which the camel should fret its slowness, and the gazelle deplore its frailty. And yet this error is common to man. We look on the side of our limitations and bereavements, quite overlooking or undervaluing the particulars in which we are rich or strong. (W. L.Watkinson.)
By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged
God’s end in sending calamities and afflictions on His people
Motives to enforce this duty of complying with the Lord’s end, in afflicting and bringing calamities upon us.
1. Otherwise our calamities are like to continue.
2. This may increase the affliction upon you, add more weight, and put more sting into it.
3. This may multiply your afflictions, and make them come in upon you as waves and billows in a storm.
4. This may bring more grievous evils upon you than any you have yet met with.
5. The Lord may give you over and refuse to correct any more.
6. He may leave you to spiritual judgments. Outward afflictions are His rods, but these are His swords; and when upon incorrigibleness under those, He takes up these, His wrath is raised to the height.
7. This is the way to be rejected of the Lord; for those that are not His to be rejected wholly, for those that are His to be in part rejected Jeremiah 7:28-29).
8. This provokes the Lord to bring destruction. (D. Clarkson.)
If you would subdue your iniquity and mortify your sin--
1. Get mortifying apprehensions of it.
2. Get mortifying resolutions. Get your hearts resolved against sin; to prosecute it to the death; to engage all the strength you have, and can procure, in such a prosecution of it; resolve not to spare it; not to forbear it in the least; not to tolerate it, nor suffer it to have any quiet abode in any part of heart or life; not to enter into a parley or treaty with it; not to yield to any cessation, much less to make any peace with it, no more than the Israelites with those whom the Lord had devoted to destruction.
3. Get mortifying affections--affections which carry the heart from sin, or set it against it.
4. Get mortifying graces, three especially, love to God, faith in Him, and fear of Him.
5. Use mortifying means, those which the Lord has appointed for this end. (D. Clarkson.)
It is a people of no understanding
A dreadful denunciation of judgment
THE JUDGMENT DENOUNCER.
1. Great desolation as to their outward state (Isaiah 27:10, and former part of Isaiah 27:11).
2. Utter destruction, final ruin. “He that made them will not have mercy on them.” It is the highest severity, where no Saviour is to be found, where “judgment” is executed “without mercy.” And this is amplified by the consideration--
(1) Partly of the inflicter of the judgment. “He that made them,” They were not to fall into the hands merely of men like themselves, their fellow creatures; but “into the hands of the living God.”
(2) Partly of kindness formerly received from Him. “He that made them; He that formed them”; that is, He that created them, gave them their being, or He that not only made them as His creatures, but formed them to be His servants, formed them into a State and into a Church, and so had given them their being, not only a natural one, but a civil and ecclesiastical one:
He that had formerly done so much for them, vouchsafed them such choice mercies, yet now would renounce all kindness to them.
II. THE CAUSE OF THE JUDGMENT TO BE INFLICTED. “It is a people of no understanding,” a sottish, ignorant people, such as take no notice of anything, know not God, observe not His works, understand not their duty. Other sins, no doubt, they were chargeable with; but the Lord takes notice especially of their ignorance, and it is for that they are here threatened. Hence we take notice, that,--
1. Ignorance of God, His truths or ways, is no security against His judgments (Jeremiah 10:25).
2. The knowledge of the will and ways of God is necessary for them that expect to find favour with God. They that desire God would save them, must labour to know Him. (E. Veal, B. D.)
I. WHAT IS THAT KNOWLEDGE WE ARE TO SEEK AFTER.
II. DIRECTIONS FOR ATTAINING IT. (E. Veal, B. D.)
Spiritual knowledge necessary
1. Supposing it were certainly defined, how much knowledge, and the knowledge of what truths, were sufficient to salvation; yet no man, that is in a capacity of getting more knowledge, ought to acquiesce in just so much.
2. Men should in their seeking knowledge first study those truths which are most confessedly necessary to salvation before those which are apparently less necessary.
3. Men should labour after such a knowledge of the truth, as that they may be able to give “a reason of the hope that is in them.”
4. Men should especially give themselves to the study, and labour after the knowledge of the present truths (2 Peter 1:12), i.e., those which are the special truths of the times, and ages, and places in which men live.
5. Men should labour for such knowledge as may defend them from the errors of the times and places in which they live.
6. Men should seek especially for such knowledge, and study such truths, as have the greatest influence upon practice.
7. Every man should labour to get as much spiritual knowledge as he can, by the means of the knowledge he hath gotten, and as he can get without the neglect of other necessary duties. (E. Veal, B. D.)
Man’s forfeiture of the love of his Creator
I. THE RELATION OF A CREATOR STRONGLY ENGAGES GOD TO PUT FORTH ACTS OF LOVE AND FAVOUR TOWARDS HIS CREATURE. This is clear from the strength of the antithesis in these words, “He that made them will not save them”: where, for the advantage of the expression, it is redoubled, “He that formed them will show them no favour.” As if He should have, it may seem strange to you that your Creator, which very name speaks nothing but bowels of love and tenderness, should utterly confound and destroy you. Yet thus it must be; though the relation make it strange, yet your sins will make it true. The strength of this obligement appears in these two considerations.
1. It is natural; and natural obligements, as well as natural operations, are always the strongest.
2. God put this obligement upon Himself; therefore it must needs be a great and a strong one: and this is clear, because the relation of a Creator is, in order of nature, antecedent to the being of the creature; which not existing, could not oblige God to create it, or assume this relation. There are three engaging things that are implied in the creature’s relation to God, that oblige Him to manifest Himself in a way of goodness to it.
(1) The extract or signal of the creature’s being, which is from God Himself. It is the nature of every artificer to tender and esteem his own work: and if God should not love His creature, it would reflect some disparagement upon His workmanship, that He should make anything which He could not own. God is not a heathen god, a Saturn, to devour His children. Now the creature’s denying its being from God, includes in it two other endearing considerations. It puts a certain likeness between God and the creature. Whatsoever comes from God, by way of creation, is good; and so, by reason of the native agreement that is, between that and the will of God, there naturally does result an act of love: for where there is nothing but goodness on the creature’s part, there can be nothing but love on God’s.
(2) The dependence of its being upon God.
(3) The end of the creature’s being is God’s glory. Now God, that loves His own glory must needs also respect the instrument that advances it.
II. SIN DISENGAGES AND TAKES OFF GOD FROM ALL THOSE ACTS OF FAVOUR THAT THE RELATION OF A CREATOR ENGAGED HIM TO.
1. It turns that which, in itself, is an obligation of mercy, to be an aggravation of the offence. True it is, to make a creature, to give It being upon a rational ground, is an argument of love. But for a creature to sin against Him from whom it had its whole being; and that a puny creature, the first born of nothing, a piece of creeping clay, one whom, as God created, so He might uncreate with a breath; for such a one to fly in his Creator’s face, this gives a deeper dye to sin.
2. Sin disengages God from showing love to the creature, by taking away that similitude that is between God and him, which was one cause of that love. The creature, indeed, still retains that resemblance of God that consists in being; but the greatest resemblance that consists in moral perfections, this is totally lost and defaced.
3. Sin discharges God from snowing love to the creature, by taking off the creature from his dependence upon God. It cannot dissolve his natural dependence (Acts 17:28). But our moral dependence, which is a filial reliance upon God, this it destroys. For in sin the creature quits his hold of God, and seeks to shift for himself and to find his happiness within the circle of his own endeavours.
4. Sin disengages the love of God to the creature, because it renders the creature useless, as to the end for which it was designed. The soul, by reason of sin, is unable to act spiritually; for sin has disordered the soul, and turned the force and edge of all Its operations against God: so that now it can bring no glory to God by doing, but only by suffering, and being made miserable.
1. First use is to obviate and take off that usual and common argument that is frequently in the mouths of the ignorant, and in the hearts of the most knowing; that certainly God would never make them to destroy them; and therefore since He has made them, they roundly conclude that He will not destroy them. God formed thee: true; but since thou hast sinned agent so dear a relation, this very thing is an argument that He should destroy thee; God has imprinted His image upon thee, but sin has defaced it. Thou art God’s possession, a creature designed for His use: true; but sin has made thee totally useless. Now the reasons whence men frame these kind of objections may be these two.
(1) A self-love and a proneness to conceive some extraordinary perfection in themselves, which may compound for their misdemeanours.
(2) Our readiness to think that God is not so exceeding jealous of His honour, but He may easily put up the breach of it without the rum of His creature. Nay, we are even apt to doubt whether or no our sins make any breach upon it at all.
2. Second use: This may serve to inform us of the curse, provoking nature of sin. Certainly there is something in it more than ordinary, that should make the great and merciful God take a poor creature, and shake it almost into nothing, to rid His hands of it, to disown and let it fall out of His protection into endless unspeakable woe and misery.
3. Third use: This may inform us under what notion we are to make our addresses to God; not as Creator, for so He is noways suitable to our necessities. He is offended and provoked, and we stand as outlaws and rebels to our Maker. What shall poor sinners do? whither shall they repair? Why there is yet hope: God’s wisdom has reconciled His justice to His mercy, and consequently us to Himself. And now He represents Himself under a more desirable relation, as a reconciled God. And although, under the former relation, He drives us from Him; yet, under this, He tenderly invites us to Him. (R. South, D. D.)
A class of sinners excluded from mercy
I. THE CHARACTERS HERE MENTIONED are described as persons of no understanding. But what is here meant by understanding! No one can suppose that the persons here censured and threatened were idiots or madmen. Had this been their character, they would have been incapable of sin, and consequently undeserving of punishment. The word “understanding” is obviously used in this passage, as in very many others, to signify spiritual understanding, or a knowledge of religious truth. But some may ask, if all men are naturally without spiritual understanding, and if, as the text asserts, God will not have mercy on such as sustain this character, will it not follow that He can have mercy on none? Though all men are naturally without spiritual under standing, this declaration does not refer to all. It refers to those only who, like the Jews, have long enjoyed, but have abused or neglected means of grace and opportunities of acquiring religious knowledge.
II. THE TERRIBLENESS OF THIS THREATENING. There is something terrible in its very sound. But its meaning is much more terrible. It includes everything, dreadful, everything which man has reason to deprecate. This threatening implies--
1. That God will either deny them the common blessings of His providence, or grant them those blessings in anger, and send a curse with them.
2. That God will either deprive sinners of their religious privileges, means, and opportunities, or withhold His blessing and thus render them useless. Thus He dealt with the Jews. He still sent them messengers and instructions and warnings, but did not send a blessing with them.
3. That God will withhold from such characters the awakening, enlightening, and sanctifying influences of His Spirit.
4. That at the judgment day God will condemn such characters to depart accursed into everlasting fire. There is no medium between mercy and condemnation.
III. IT IS PERFECTLY JUST.
1. Because the persons against whom this threatening is denounced never ask for mercy, never seek the favour of God.
2. These persons have long rejected and abused the offered mercy and grace of God.
3. This threatening is just because the characters to whom it refers must be guilty of many other aggravated offences. They must have been destitute of the fear of God; for to fear Him is the beginning of wisdom. They must have refused to renounce their sins; for to depart from evil is understanding. They must have loved darkness rather than light; for they rejected the latter and chose the former; and the reason was, their deeds were evil. They must have followed and imitated sinners; for this all do who are void of understanding. They must have disobeyed God’s commands; for all who obey them have a good understanding. (E. Payson, D. D.)
Ye shall be gathered one by one
The one-by-one principle
This principle is developed--
IN THE DEALINGS OF PROVIDENCE.
II. IN THE PROVISIONS OF THE GOSPEL.
III. IN THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW OF GOD. (F. Greeves.)
Gathered one by one
1. There is a country whose mysterious shores are visited each year by thousands from every continent of earth, and not one of them ever returns to detail its marvels. It is called in Scripture “a land of darkness, and the shadow of death.” It is a great republic, though it has a despot for its ruler; and it is the only one in which the dream of human equality can be fully realised. There “the rich and the poor meet together,” and are on a perfect level; there the cheek of beauty, the form of grace, and the withered limbs of age, are alike the banquet of the heedless worm; “there the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice, of the oppressor; the small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master. There, side by side, in peaceful slumber, lie “kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and the judges of the earth: both young men and maidens; old men, and children.” Mysterious land! And oh! how densely peopled! But does it not throw a fearful solemnity over this thought, when we consider that to it we shall be gathered one by one? We live together; we act together; but we must die alone. Shall not this consideration lead you to remember your individuality now, and one by one to prepare for that hour by working out your salvation with fear and trembling?
2. Solemn, however, as is this gathering of the grave, it derives, fresh importance from the fact, that we need not fear, and we must not hope that it will be the last gathering. “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and we shall be raised incorruptible.” What a gathering that shall be! They shall come, the dead of all generations--from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to David, from David to the Saviour, from the Saviour to us, from ourselves to the judgment; all shall come; the sea shall give up the dead that are in it, and the earth the dead that are in it, and death and hell the dead that are in them; and the whole posterity of Adam, young and old, rich and poor, countless as the sands on the seashore, or the stars of
Heaven--all, without exception, shall be gathered there. But let us not forget the principle before us. Each individual of that mighty gathering will retain his own personal identity.
3. This, however, is but the opening scene of a yet more tremendous tragedy. It is but the lurid dawning of “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” There shall be yet another gathering, the most momentous gathering of our race, and the last. Each one of us shall give account of himself to God.
4. Learn thus that you have an individuality. Each one of you has powers, duties, talents, responsibilities, which you cannot share with any other being in the universe of God. You may commit sin in a crowd; but when you are judged for it you must stand alone.
5. Will ye be gathered now, gathered to the Saviour’s arms, “gathered one by one”? (F. Greeves.)
Gathered in death one by one
We often ask why should we die alone? It is not for us to give an answer for God. The Judge of all the earth will do right. Our entrance into the world is one by one; it is not unnatural that our departure should be the same. Each one’s conversion, marriage, all the great events of life, are passed through, not in the mass, but each by himself, one by one.
I. The individuality of God’s dealings with men in their highest and most solemn experiences is AN HONOUR AND A FAVOUR. Each is thus made His special care. The most precious fruit is gathered by hand.
II. THE SHOCK OF BEREAVEMENT IS THUS LESSENED; a sparing mercy to those who are left to mourn.
III. WARNINGS OF THE INEVITABLE HOUR ARE THUS MULTIPLIED, that survivors may prepare. (Homiletic Review.)
“Gathered one by one,”
“Gathered one by one,” i.e., ye shall carefully gathered together, and brought safe into your own land. The words are taken from olives or apples or the like fruits, which are gathered one by one, and so laid up in some place appointed; which olives or apples or other fruit so gathered last better than they which are beaten off or shaken down from the tree. He seems to oppose this gathering one by one, to that “beating off” mentioned in this verse. (W. Day, M. A.)
The great trumpet shall be blown
The Gospel trumpet
THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL IS HERE COMPARED TO THE BLOWING OF A TRUMPET.
1. This figurative expression may allude to the trumpet which sounded upon Mount Sinai, at the solemn promulgation of the law. And though the ministers of Christ must not blend the law and the Gospel together, yet they are not Gospel ministers who do not preach the law, both as a ministration of wrath and as a rule of duty.
2. The words may allude to the trump of jubilee, which was sounded throughout the land of Israel at the end of every forty-nine years, proclaiming redemption and liberty to all prisoners and slaves, and causing the following to be a year of national festivity and joy (Leviticus 25:8-13). This interesting period having been prefigurative of our redemption by Christ, of our deliverance from the curse of the law and the dominion of sin, and of our introduction to the glorious liberty of the children of God, it is with great propriety that the proclamation of the Gospel is compared to the trump of jubilee.
3. Trumpets were also used on other occasions, which may bear some allusion to the proclamation of the Gospel. The Jews had an annual solemnity, which by way of distinction was called the feast of trumpets, and which introduced the new year (Leviticus 23:24). And these demonstrations of joy, like the rest of that typical dispensation, were only the shadow of good things to come; all had a reference to the promulgation of the Gospel.
4. Whatever be the immediate allusion in the text it is evident that the principal design of a trumpet is to sound an alarm; and such is the direct object of the Gospel ministry.
5. The preaching of the Gospel is compared to a “great trumpet.” Great things were contained in God’s law, but still greater things are made known by the Gospel.
6. The great trumpet which was sounded by the first heralds of salvation, continues still to proclaim the same good tidings.
II. THE EFFECT WHICH WAS TO FOLLOW UPON THE SOUNDING OF THE GOSPEL TRUMPET. “They shall come which were ready to perish.” Men as sinners are in a perishing condition. But those only who see and feel their perishing condition actually “come.”
1. This “coming” implies repentance towards God.
2. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; for with this, all true repentance is invariably connected.
3. All that come unto God by a Mediator, will also come to Zion with their faces thitherward, openly professing their attachment to Christ, and devoting themselves to His service. The text, indeed, seems to be a prophecy of the union that should take place between Jews and Gentiles, under the Gospel dispensation, when they should be formed into one body, and equally participate in the blessings of salvation. The trumpet of the Gospel is still sounding in our ears, proclaiming the great jubilee, the day of salvation, and inviting us to seek the Lord in this welcome and accepted time. Have we embraced the invitation, and answered to the call? (B. Beddome, M. A.)
The Gospel trumpet
I. We make TWO EXPLANATORY REMARKS.
1. The prediction primarily refers to the proclamation of Cyrus for the deliverance of the Jews from captivity.
2. This prophecy has an ulterior reference to the times of the Messiah, and the inbringing of the Jews in the latter days.
II. We consider THE GREATNESS AND GRANDEUR OF THE GOSPEL here represented by a great trumpet. Trumpets were of very common use among God’s ancient people. They directed their journeys, animated them on the march, reused them to arms against the invader, and sounded the dreadful onset to battle, proclaimed the tidings of victory, and summoned the people to divide the spoil. The chief use of the instrument is to give strength to the human voice, that warnings or invitations might be more extensively heard. No kind of wind instrument was in more general use, and therefore no symbol could have been selected with which they were more familiarly acquainted. Their solemn assemblies were convened by its sound; and surely the greatness and the grandeur of the Gospel is hereby strikingly and significantly symbolised.
1. The greatness of the Gospel will appear from the dignity and moral grandeur of its Author.
2. From the gracious tidings it proclaims.
3. From the objects it hath already accomplished and is destined to achieve.
III. We notice that THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL IS THE GREAT ORDINANCE OF GOD FOR THE SALVATION OF MEN. “The great trumpet shall be blown.” Its sound shall be long and loud, that the proclamation of “the glad tidings of great joy” shall be universal. Conclusion--
1. Let Christians appreciate their advantages and highly prize the Gospel Psalms 89:15).
2. Let Gospel despisers fear, and flee for refuge to the hope set before them in the Gospel (Hebrews 2:2).
3. Let all rejoice in the glorious results already secured and yet to be achieved by the preaching of the Gospel. (W. M Queen.)
The blast of the Gospel trumpet
I. THE PERIOD to which this promise or prophecy refers. That day. In the prophetical parts of Scripture, this phrase is often to be understood of New Testament times.
II. THE GREAT MEANS that God promises to employ in New Testament days for accomplishing His design among the Gentiles. “The great trumpet shall be blown.”
1. The Gospel intimates to all that hear it, the offering of a great sacrifice.
2. The Gospel contains an indication of a joyful and solemn feast.
3. The Gospel is the appointed means of gathering a solemn assembly. As me silver trumpets were used for gathering the assemblies in Israel, so the Gospel is employed, according to Christ’s appointment, for gathering a Church to Himself.
4. The Gospel is the great means of directing the march of the armies of the spiritual Israel, through the wilderness of this world. When the priests sounded an alarm with the trumpets, the tribes of Israel were to decamp, and set forward in their journeys, in that order which God had appointed.
5. The Gospel is the great means of calling forth the armies of the living God to that spiritual warfare in which they are engaged under Christ,--of directing their motion in the day of battle,--and of animating them to continue the combat, amidst all the dangers and terrors with which they often find themselves surrounded. The silver trumpets were also to be used to blow an alarm when Israel was called to go to war against any enemy that should oppress them in their land.
6. The Gospel proclaims an universal jubilee to all that hear it.
III. THE PERSONS UPON WHOM THE SOUND OF THIS GREAT TRUMPET SHALL TAKE EFFECT are described by two circumstances.
1. They are persons ready to perish. The original worn is still more emphatical--there shall come “the perishing in the land of Assyrian” All mankind are, by nature, in a perishing condition. Situated in desert land, which affords no provision but empty husks, we faint for spiritual thirst and hunger, and are ready to perish for want. Led captive by a cruel enemy, we are ready to perish by the weight of our chains. Enslaved by a tyrannical master, and employed in the vilest drudgery, we are ready to perish through fatigue and weariness. Sunk into a fearful pit, and struggling, without a possibility of extricating ourselves, in the miry clay, we must quickly perish without supernatural help. Above all, being condemned to death by a just sentence of the Court of Heaven, we are every moment in danger of perishing by the hand of justice.
2. They are outcasts. There seems to be here an allusion to the situation of the Hebrew children in Egypt, who, by Pharaoh’s inhuman decree, were all to be cast out into the river.
IV. THE PLACES FROM WHICH THESE PERSONS WERE TO BE GATHERED, by the sound of the great trumpet, are also two. “The land of Assyria” and “the land of Egypt.” These two countries are mentioned as examples: and what is here said of them has been verified, and will again be verified in all other countries resembling them. Perishing sinners have been gathered from every quarter.
V. THE END TO BE GAINED by the blast of this trumpet among them. This also is set before us in two particulars.
1. They shall come.
(1) They shall come to Christ by faith.
(2) They shall, come to the holy mount at Jerusalem. Jerusalem was of old the place of God’s solemn worship. Every person who feels the efficacy of the Gospel becomes a genuine citizen of the New Jerusalem. And from that time forth he takes pleasure in attending upon God’s ordinances; accounting a day in His courts better than a thousand.
(3) They come to God Himself who dwells in the holy mount.
2. As they come, they worship. This imports--
(1) Their cordial renunciation of all idolatry and false worship.
(2) Their careful and diligent observance of all those ordinances by which God has required Himself to be worshipped.
(3) Their carefulness to perform every act of worship in the manner that the Word of God has prescribed. (J. Young.)
The blowing of the great trumpet
I. THE BLOWING OF THE GREAT TRUMPET.
II. THE CHARACTERS IN WHOSE EARS AND HEARTS THIS GREAT TRUMPET IS TO BE BLOWN.
III. THE EFFECT WHICH THE BLOWING OF THE GREAT TRUMPET PRODUCES UPON THEM. (J. C. Philpot.)
The great trumpet
I. SEE HOW A COMPARISON OF SCRIPTURE WITH SCRIPTURE WILL ENABLE US TO UNDERSTAND THE WORD “TRUMPET.”
II. THE BLOWING OF THE TRUMPET.
III. THE RESULTS OF THAT BLOWING. (J. H. Crowder, M. A.)
The Gospel trumpet
I. THE GRANDEUR OF THE GOSPEL.
“The great trumpet.” It is elsewhere called a great light--a great salvation There is a grandeur in the glorious Gospel of God which soars far beyond all finite excellency and conception.
1. The period of its introduction is called “the fulness of time.”
2. The Gospel regards immediately the soul and eternity--the only two things in the world which are absolutely great.
3. The Gospel abounds with exceeding great and precious promises; it unfolds blessings that are incomprehensible in their nature and excellency.
4. Everything, compared with the Gospel, is trifling and mean.
II. THE DISPENSATION OF THE GOSPEL. The great trumpet is to be “blown.”
1. Who is to blow this trumpet? Men, and not angels. There is a difference here between the administration of the law and the dispensation of the Gospel.
2. How is this trumpet to be blown? Common sense says, in such a way as to answer the design of its being blown. There must be no ambiguity in our preaching. It should be blown courageously.
III. WHAT IS THE CONDITION OF THOSE TO WHOM THE GOSPEL IS ADDRESSED? “Outcasts, and ready to perish.” This is the figure; and what is the fact? “Remember that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise; having no hope, and without God in the world.” You are not heathen; but turn to Scripture, and you will find that you are all by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
IV. Its ATTRACTION must be noticed. “They shall come.” Whatever knowledge the heathen had, they were utterly unable to carry it into effect, both for want of evidence and want of authority. None of them could speak in the name of that God who calleth the things that are not as though they were. Hence, we find Plato complaining that he was unable, by all his instructions, to bring over the inhabitants of a single village. Now, go to Thessalonica, to Corinth, to Colosse, to Ephesus; survey the character of the inhabitants before they received the Gospel: it is largely described by the apostle; we cannot suppose that the devil himself could make or wish them worse. Yet the apostle stands forth, and says, “Such were some of you; ye were sometimes far off; ye were dead in trespasses and sins”; but, “you hath He quickened. Our Gospel came unto you, not in word only, but in power also; the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” Accordingly, the Gospel is expressed evermore by images which indicate its efficacy. It is called a two-edged sword--leaven, which commences its operations in the centre, and extends them to the circumference until the whole is leavened--seed, which, though it looks dead, yet fills the earth with its fruit, thirty, sixty, a hundred fold. This success God Himself has ensured, or we could not reckon upon it. The Gospel never leaves people as it finds them: it enlightens their understandings; it prevails on their wills; it purifies their affections; it makes them new creatures. How can we honour the Gospel so much as by showing what it can do? The trumpet is blown; but it is heard--it is answered--they “come.”
1. How do they come? With weeping and with supplication; they come eagerly, hastening, running, flying like doves to their windows when they behold the approaching storm.
2. From whence do they come? From the dark dens of ignorance--from the lurking holes of hypocrisy--from the false refuges of pharisaism--from the service of sin--from the bondage of Satan.
3. To whom do they come! Christ is the only resource. What is faith, what is religion, but the soul in motion to Him, and negotiating all its affairs with Him!
V. THE EFFECT OF ITS INFLUENCE. “They shall come and worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” We ever find this dedication of themselves to God, in connection with the spread and influence of the Gospel. “All the ends of the world shall hear, and shall turn unto God; all nations whom Thou hast made, shall come unto Thee and worship Thee; from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, in every place men shall offer incense and a pure offering.” The “holy mount” means the Church of God. And in this mount all who partake of Gospel grace, worship. They do so habitually, in the shop--in the warehouse--in the field; for “where’er they seek Him, He is found.” They do so in private. All these worship God in their families too. In His sanctuary also. CONCLUSION--
1. This Scripture has been fulfilled. Myriads in Heaven have exemplified its truth, the numbers that rejoice in it in our day are wonderful; but soon there shall he vaster accessions still. A nation shall be born in a day. Have you heard the sound of this trumpet? Have you obeyed?
2. If the sound of this peaceful trumpet is despised, I must remind you that another great trumpet will be blown. Ere long shall be heard the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God.
3. But, here are some who are alive to the text. You have heard the sound of this trumpet; you have come. What are you doing? Surely, you are giving thanks unto Him who has called you out of darkness into light; who has made you meet for the inheritance of the saints. Surely, you are endeavouring to bring others into the same condition. (W. Jay.)
The silver trumpet
As when the front and back doors of a barn are open, a gust of wind scatters the dust and chaff, so the Jews had been swept every whither--some wandering in Assyria, and some exiled in Egypt; but their coming back, as by the call of a trumpet, is here predicted. The passage is strongly descriptive of the exiled and perishing condition of sinful men, and of their return at the trumpet call of the Gospel.
1. Need I stop to prove that out of God we are in exile? Who here is at home in his sins? Does he not wander about looking for a home? You have been expatriated. You are in worse than Siberian exile. The chains are harder. The mine is darker. The climate is colder. The gloom is ghastlier. “Lost in the land of Assyria! “If a man has missed his way, the more he walks the more he is lost. He starts off and goes ten miles in the wrong direction. Nor can you find your way out of this spiritual confusion. Lost, and without food. Lost, and without water. Ingenious little children sometimes tell you how, with a few letters, they can spell a very large word. With three letters I can spell “bereavement.” With three letters I can spell “disappointment.” With three letters I can spell “suffering.” With three letters I can spell “death.” With three letters I can spell “perdition.” S-i-n, Sin. That is the cause of all our trouble now. That is the cause of our trouble for the future.
2. But upon this dark background of the text a light falls. Amidst the harsh discords there sound the sweet and thrilling notes of a great trumpet. A trumpet, God made, yet needing no giants to use it, but suited to faint lips and trembling hand and feeble lungs; so that sick Edward Payson, leaning against the pulpit, might hold it, and Frederick Robertson, worn out with ulcers and spinal complaints, might breathe through it. This Gospel trumpet is great in its power. On a still night you may hear the call of a brazen trumpet two or three miles; but this is so mighty that it is not only heard from heaven to earth, but it is to arrest the attention of all nations.
(1) This trumpet is great in its sweetness. In some musical instruments there is noise and crash and power, but no fineness of sound. Others can not only thunder, but weep and whisper and woo. Like that is the Gospel trumpet. In all tenderness and sweetness and sympathy it excels.
(2) The Gospel trumpet is a trumpet of alarm.
(3) It is one of recruit. War is declared. Who is on the Lord’s side? There is no neutral ground.
(4) The Gospel trumpet is one of assault. “Let the wicked forsake His way,” etc.
(5) This Gospel trumpet is also one of retreat. It is the part of good generalship sometimes to blow the trumpet of retreat. There is no need of your trying to face certain temptation; you are foolhardy to try it. Your only safety is in flight.
(6) This Gospel trumpet is one of victory.
(7) One of reveille. We, who are the soldiers of Christ, cannot always be marching and fighting. The evening will come; the shadows will gather; and we must go to the white tents of the grave. There we shall sleep soundly. But the night will pass along, and the first thing we shall hear will be the trumpet call sounding the reveille of the resurrection; and we will come up and fall into a long line of light, the sword of Christian conflict gleaming in the unsetting sun. The roll shall be called, and we shall answer to our names; and then we will go to the morning repast of heaven. (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)
Blowing of the great trumpet
We shall look at the text as applying to heathens as well as Jews, even to all who are ignorant of and are rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. With regard to these there are three things to be looked at--
I. THEIR URGENT NEED. They are described as “ready to perish.” The word is literally “lost.” The idea is that of a lost sheep. Or of a lost child who has left his home and wandered into the fields, or into the woods, and been overtaken by night and darkness. There is no one to care for him, no one to guide him, no one to shelter him. He is left to himself. A hundred things may happen that may be death to him. Without knowing it, he may be on the point of falling over a precipice or into a river. Now, a child or a man who has gone astray from God is ready to perish too. Still more is it true of everyone who is not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true, alas! of many even in this highly favoured land of ours. It is true of the Jews. And what shall I say of the heathen.
II. THE HELP WANTED. What is to be done to meet this terrible state of things? If it were a dying man--a perishing child--we should ask, Is there anything that will save the dying one--any medicine or food--anything we can give--anything we can do? And that should be our question about the perishing millions all over the world.
1. The sounding of the trumpet may be regarded as typical of the preaching of the Gospel, by which both the outcasts of Israel and the “ready to die” of all nations are to be saved.
2. But there must be someone to sound the trumpet. It cannot sound of itself. It must be “blown.” And who are to do this, but those who have heard it and complied with its call themselves, and who, with hearts full of love and thankfulness, can sing, “Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound”? It is as much our duty to blow the trumpet as to hear it.
3. How, then, are we to blow the trumpet? None of us are too young or feeble to sound the trumpet ourselves. In our own way we can tell the story of redeeming love.
(1) The best that any of you can give is yourselves. He gives by far the largest contribution who gives himself.
(2) But where you cannot give yourselves you can do something by giving your money.
III. THE SUCCESS PROMISED. “They which were ready to perish shall come.” The return from the Jewish captivity was wonderful in its own way; but more and better is in store, for “all Israel shall be saved.” Already many Jews and Jewesses have been converted to Christ. And as regards the heathen world, the history of the progress of the Gospel in recent times reads almost like a chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. And yet it must be owned that anything like a complete fulfilment of the promise is still a thing of the future. What is to be done? The great trumpet must be sounded as it never has been. (J. H. Wilson, D. D.)
The urgency of missions
Are not missions to Jews and heathens and Mohammedans hopeless? They don’t want them; they won’t have them. But does it not only make the case the stronger if they do not know their need and their danger, and do not ask for help? Perhaps, in some cases, they refuse help when it is offered. And what of that? As I pass along the banks of a stream, I see something in a pool. On going nearer, I see it is the body of a boy. There is no cry for help, there is no outstretched hand. He is past all that. Am I, on that account, not to give help! Is not the call all the louder and more urgent? (J. H. Wilson, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 27". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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