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Woe to thee that spoilest
The most beautiful of Isaiah’s discourse [in which] the long conflict of Israel’s sin with Jehovah’s righteousness is left behind, and the dark colours of present and past distress serve only as a foil to the assured felicity that is ready to dawn on Jehovah’s land.
(W. Robertson Smith, D. D.)
The course of Assyria was that of a treacherous dealer--no confidence whatever could be reposed in this people. They were born to spoil, and the moment they ceased spoiling they would be spoiled in turn. (B. Blake, B. D.)
The less provocation we have from men to do an ill thing, the more provocation we give to God by it. (M. Henry.)
O Lord, be gracious unto us
An appropriate prayer
For those that were employed in military services for them. “Be Thou their arm every morning.” In our spiritual warfare our own hands are not sufficient for us, nor can we bring anything to pass unless God not only strengthen our arms (Genesis 49:24), but be Himself our arm. If God leave us to ourselves any morning we are undone; we must, therefore, every morning commit ourselves to Him, and go forth in His strength to do the work of the day in its day.
2. For the body of the people. “Be Thou our salvation,” &c.,--ours that sit still, and do not venture into the high places of the field. (M. Henry.)
Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times
The advantages of Sunday Schools
THE VALUABLY. INSTRUCTION IN THE ART OF READING WHICH THEY HAVE IMPARTED TO MANY WHO COULD NOT OTHERWISE HAVE ATTAINED IT.
II. THEY HAVE BEEN EMINENTLY USEFUL IN PROMOTING THE CIVILISATION OF THE INFERIOR ORDERS, AND IN PROVIDING A POWERFUL AND EFFECTUAL ANTIDOTE TO PAUPERISM AND MENDICITY.
III. THEY HAVE BEEN EXCEEDINGLY BENEFICIAL IN PRESERVING THE YOUNG FROM MANY CRIMES WHICH ARE DESTRUCTIVE OF THE PEACE AND ORDER OF SOCIETY.
IV. The higher and more important effects which have resulted from these schools, IN PROMOTING A SPIRIT OF PIETY AND VIRTUE AMONG THEIR YOUTHFUL PUPILS. (J. Brown, D. D.)
Christianity promotive of knowledge and of social well-being
The general principle is, that wisdom or practical religion and knowledge are the best elements of the stability of any people,--the best defence of any nation,--and that irrespective of the difference between a nation under the ordinary providence of God, and one enjoying a theocracy.
I. CHRISTIANITY PROMOTES WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE. That Christianity promotes wisdom and knowledge we might conclude from facts which lie on the face of it, even before ascertaining the connection between the cause and the effect. We may assume Jesus Christ to be the living type of His own system, and He is the very impersonation of wisdom and knowledge. Then, wisdom and knowledge may be regarded as synonymous with practical Christianity. They are at least essential to its existence. We shall take them separately, and ascertain--
1. How the Gospel of Christ promotes wisdom, or that practical religion of which the fear and love of God are the principles. The God whom the Bible reveals is the fit object of reverence and love. The mere manifestation of the Divine character, however, invested with every possible perfection, is not enough to rekindle the flame of piety in a fallen world. It is otherwise with holy beings. But in our case the revelation is made to a race of apostates, partially acquainted with God, but estranged from Him in heart and will. Christianity provides, in the great facts through which it conveys the knowledge of God, the means of reducing men to contrition and restoring them to love. The Gospel is adapted to convert the soul. Any scheme whereby you would regenerate must contain a provision of mercy. And thus far the Gospel is adapted to produce practical piety. But this is not enough. The Gospel reveals a most glorious expedient for the vindication of the law, for the manifestation of the Divine righteousness, and of the demerit of sin, while it offers a free and eternal pardon. It opens the door of hope to the guiltiest criminal, but by the mode of doing it, it impresses his mind with a sense of his sinfulness, it moves him to repentance, and inspires him with all the zeal to obey that can arise from his conscious obligation to Divine grace.
2. Christianity promotes knowledge. Christianity contains the only true system of Divine knowledge. But further, Christianity promotes general knowledge. It is itself a system of truth and not of error, a system of knowledge and not of ignorance, a system of intelligence and not a mere bodily ceremonial or a dark superstition. The very commission it has received from heaven is, “Go and teach all nations.” Revealing God, it makes known the highest truths; and promotes and facilitates inquiry into every other. From this conviction we deduce principles which seem to possess all the simplicity of axioms. There cannot be any real contrariety between the doctrines of Christianity and the truths of reason or the facts of science.
II. BY PROMOTING WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE, CHRISTIANITY ESTABLISHES A PEOPLE. In support of the proposition before us, we might reason a fortiori Christianity, by promoting wisdom and knowledge, purifies and elevates society,--how much more will it establish or give the elements of perpetuity to society. Take society in any of its lowest states, and you will find Christianity an adequate power to raise it. For example, it is an acknowledged fact, that the Gospel makes men unfit for a state of slavery. If Christianity thus elevates, how much more will it establish! But what are the means of the stability of a nation--what the elements of perpetuity? Religion, virtue, freedom, and good order. (J. Kennedy.)
National security and peace
I. TRUE PRACTICAL RELIGION PROHIBITS WHAT WOULD ENDANGER NATIONAL SECURITY AND PEACE.
II. WHILE RELIGION DISCOUNTENANCES WHAT WOULD BE PERNICIOUS IN PUBLIC LIFE, IT PROVIDES ALSO WHAT, IN OTHER RESPECTS, IS NECESSARY AND SALUTARY.
III. It is drawn from OBSERVATION AND EXPERIENCE. No argument is more valid or conclusive in confirmation of a fact. A single well-conducted experiment in philosophy may demonstrate the truth of a general principle; and, similarly, in morals and religion, the experience of a single nation, or the uniform experience of the ages, may attest the inutility or value of any particular theory or scheme. (T. S. Cartwright.)
Christian knowledge the source of other excellent knowledge
As Christianity introduced religious light, so did that light become the parent of every other kind of useful and excellent knowledge. When once the powers of the human mind are brought into acquaintance with evangelical truth, they acquire vigour, a strength and expansion in their exercise before unknown. And hence it is that the knowledge which the revealed truth of God communicates will be found in all ages to produce that discipline of mind which ministers so much to its strength, and places it in the most favourable circumstances for the discovery and acquisition of truth generally. So little opposition, in fact, is there between Christianity and true science, that all the most important discoveries of a scientific nature, all the knowledge whence nations derive power and refinement, have occurred in Christian nations, and Christian nations only. (R. Watson.)
The importance of religious knowledge
There appears no real connection between mere scientific knowledge and moral influence; the opinion that such a connection exists is false in its foundations and injurious in practice. No moral influence is exerted, except by the truths revealed to us in the Scriptures.
I. I AM TO MAKE AN APPEAL TO THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE, in support of the proposition that we have no right to expect any moral improvement from the influence of any kind of knowledge except that of Divine truth. It ought to be stated, that this sacred Book is altogether in favour of the cultivation of all useful knowledge, and its general circulation through society.
1. We turn to the Old Testament. We are there expressly required to view religion as wisdom. “Wisdom,” we are told, “is the principal thing”; and it is urged upon us that we “get wisdom,” yea, that “with all our getting, we get understanding” When the attainment of wisdom is thus inculcated and enjoined, we may well inquire, “What kind of wisdom is it to which so many moral effects are ascribed?” It is not to scientific wisdom, but to moral wisdom: to the knowledge of God and His will; to the knowledge of our own obligations and duties; to the knowledge which applies to man as an accountable creature, destined to a future judgment; to the knowledge of the way in which man, as a sinner, may find pardon, and peace, and holiness from God, whom he has offended. All this is included in the scriptural idea of wisdom; and it is to this only that moral results are ascribed.
2. We find the same sentiment in the New Testament. Jesus Christ never drops a word from which it might be gathered that mere knowledge, knowledge of any and every kind, is sufficient to exert a moral influence on the mind and character. On the contrary, there are passages in which He represents it as operating to the hindrance of salvation. So that solemn declaration in Matthew: “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” So in the writings of the Apostles. The Gospel, which gives moral knowledge, they declare to be” the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; while of the wisdom of the world, so long tried among the heathen, they only declare, that “the world by wisdom knew not God.” When St. Paul points to the injurious effects of “philosophy and vain deceit,” he tells us that he means that which is “after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of this world, and not after Christ.” Such philosophy could not be depended upon to conquer a single vice, or implant a single principle of virtue, and therefore he pronounces it to be but vain deceit, empty and powerless.
II. Let us now consider THE MANNER BY WHICH RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE OPERATES TO PRODUCE THESE MORAL RESULTS. That such results are produced will appear--
1. From the truths which it presents to the mind; God, &c.
2. The law of God presents a standard of duty, binding on the conscience; for there can be no authoritative standard of right and wrong except by revelation from God Himself, the supreme Lawgiver.
3. We have appealed to the Scriptures. Now, these assure us that, along with the truth of God, there goes an accompanying influence; the words that are spoken to you are “spirit and life.” This is because the illuminations of the Holy Ghost go along with them.
III. BY NO OTHER SPECIES OF KNOWLEDGE THAN THAT WHICH WE HAVE BEEN CONSIDERING CAN THIS MORAL INFLUENCE BE EXERTED.
1. Though many seem to take for granted that, if we circulate knowledge, we improve society, it is nevertheless true that there are many kinds of knowledge which do not contribute to the improvement of morals.
2. All experience is against the supposition I am combating.
3. But let us even suppose that morals are taught. What then? I am aware that there are often some moral instructions added to systems of education; some moral precepts in which all will agree are, perhaps, even selected from the Book of God; still, if this Book be true, even such teaching must fail. This Book has its doctrines and promises, as well as its moral precepts; and its morals are connected most intimately both with its doctrines and promises. Man must be taught not only what is right, but why it is right; and he must be shown that he is bound to do it. The term “duty” refers not merely to the action which is to be done, but to the obligation to do it. Take, then, the morality of the Bible away from that with which God has connected it, and you make it powerless. (R. Watson.)
The education of the poor
We seem to have here something like a prophetic sanction for the propagation of knowledge Isaiah, in speaking of the future prosperity of the Jewish empire, rests the stability of its fortunes, not upon wealth, nor extensive dominion, but directly upon knowledge.
1. The most common objection to the education of the lower orders of the community is, that the poor, proud of the distinction of learning, will not submit to the performance of those lower offices of life which are necessary to the well-being of a State. Our poorer brethren do not toil because they are ignorant; neither would they cease to toil because they were instructed; the fabric of human happiness God has placed upon much stronger foundations; they labour, because they cannot live without labour; this has ever been sufficient to stimulate, and to continue the energy of man, and will, and must ever stimulate it, and secure its continuance, while heaven and earth remain.
2. The next objection urged against the education of the poor is, that the most ignorant poor, in country villages, are the best; and that the poor of large towns, as they gain in intelligence, lose in character, and become corrupt as they become knowing; but the country poor, it should be remembered, are the fewest in number; they are not exposed to all those innumerable temptations which corrupt the populace of large towns; this, and not their ignorance, is the cause of their superior decency in morals and religion.
3. In considering the effects of educating the poor, we must not merely dwell upon the power, but upon the tendency which we have created to use that power aright; not merely ask if it is a good thing for the poor to read, but to read such books as are full of wise and useful advice. A mere instrument for acquiring knowledge may be used with equal success, either for a good or a bad purpose; but education never gives the instrument without teaching the proper method of using it, and without inspiring a strong desire to use it in that manner.
4. Education may easily be made to supply, hereafter, the most innocent source of amusement, and to lessen those vices which proceed from want of interesting occupation; it subdues ferocity, by raising up an admiration for something besides brutal strength, and brutal courage.
5. We must remember, in this question, that all experience is in our favour.
6. There are many methods in which a community is considerably benefited by the education of its poor; a human being who is educated is, for many purposes of commerce, a much more useful and convenient instrument; and the advantage to be derived from the universal diffusion of this power is not to be overlooked in a discussion of this nature.
7. I would ask those who place such confidence in the benefits of ignorance, how far they would choose to carry these benefits? for, if the safety of a State depends upon its ignorance, then, the more ignorance the more safety. (S. Smith, M. A.)
Education is the chief defence of nations. (Edmund Burke.)
The schoolmaster is abroad! I trust more to him, armed with his primer, than I do to the soldier in full military array, for the upholding and extending the liberties of his country. (Lord Brougham.)
Education contributes to the welfare of the State
The ravages of the Danes had totally extinguished any small sparks of learning, by the dispersion of the monks, and the burning their monasteries and libraries. To repair these misfortunes, Alfred (the Great), like Charlemagne, invited learned men from all quarters of Europe to reside in his dominions. He established schools, and enjoined every freeholder possessed of two ploughs to send his children there for instruction. He is said to have founded, or, at least, to have liberally endowed the illustrious seminary afterward known as the University of Oxford. (Tytler’s History.)
The fear of the Lord is his treasure
The fear of the Lord
There is a servile fear of God which wicked men possess, but that which distinguishes the believer is filial and reverential.
He fears, not because he has sinned, but that he may not sin; and dreads not so much the punishment of sin as the commission of it. He fears God as a friend, and not as an enemy; as a father, and not as a judge. The Scripture speaks of a natural and constitutional fear, arising from pusillanimity and want of courage, whereby persons are alarmed at the least appearance of danger, and sink under the slightest affliction. They fear where no fear is, and flee when no one pursueth. There is also a superstitious fear, which is forbidden as inconsistent with the fear of God. There is likewise a fear which tends to desperation, and sometimes ends in it; a fear which hath torment, and is attended with a spirit of bondage. In distinction from this, there is a fear arising from distrust, the fruit of unbelief, which good men too frequently betray in this imperfect state, but which the Scripture justly condemns. The fear of the Lord is a gracious principle wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit, and consists in a reverential regard for the Divine authority and glory.
I. Enquire WHEREIN THE FEAR OF THE LORD CONSISTS. God is the immediate object of it; and it consists in a mixture of admiration and love, arising from an apprehension of His incomparable excellences and infinite superiority, joined with a humble hope of interest in His favour and regard.
1. The greatness and majesty of God may well excite our fear, and fill us with the deepest reverence and awe.
2. His omnipresence and allseeing eye are a sufficient ground of fear to sinful and erring creatures.
3. The justice and holiness of God are adapted to excite our fear.
4. There is something awful even in the Divine goodness (Psalms 130:4).
II. THE ADVANTAGES ARISING FROM THIS HOLY PRINCIPLE. “The fear of the Lord is his treasure.”
1. It is in its own nature exceedingly precious, and all the things of this world are base and mean in comparison of it.
2. It answers the most valuable purposes.
3. Its advantages are permanent.
4. It is called a treasure in order to teach us the following things--
(1) The necessity of seeking after it that we may fully possess it.
(2) That we may be taught highly to value and esteem it.
(3) That we may be careful to cultivate and preserve it.
(4) We are hereby taught to impart this inestimable treasure to others, and to enrich the world with it, by endeavouring to inspire them also with the fear of God. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
The great value of the fear of the Lord
It keeps the conscience tender, and the mind spiritual, and is the enemy of arrogance and pride. Hence the apostle joins these two together: Be not high-minded, but fear (Romans 11:20). If we fear the Lord, we shall dread all formality and hypocrisy, and shall serve Him in sincerity and truth (Joshua 24:14). It will also inspire us with courage and fortitude, and enable us to say as Nehemiah did in the face of the greatest danger, Should such a man as I flee? All lesser fears are swallowed up of this great fear, the fear of God. A heart fully impressed with it can neither sink into stupidity, or indulge in any unbecoming levity; will neither be too much elated with prosperity, or depressed by adversity. The fear of the Lord will also guard us against evil compliances, and criminal indulgences. It stands as a sentinel over the soul, warns it of approaching dangers, and suppresses the first risings of corruption, before they break forth into actual sins. I will do you no hurt, says Joseph to his brethren, for I fear God. Though at the utmost distance from presumption, it produces a holy confidence in God (Psalms 147:11). The same Divine excellences which are incitements to fear are also attractives to love; so that these kindred graces are not only planted but flourish together, and the same promises are made to both. The Lord will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also preserveth all them that love Him. (Psalms 145:19-20). A servile fear contracts the mind; but an ingenuous fear of God enlarges the heart in His service. The one diverts us from the path of duty, the other disposes us to walk in it; the one is slothful and indolent, the other active and persevering. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in His commandments (Psalms 112:1-10. I). And when David himself prayed to be taught God’s ways, so as to walk in the truth, he added, Unite my heart to fear Thy name (Psalms 86:11). The fear of the Lord is indeed a universal good; it affords peace of conscience, support under affliction, and comfort in the view of death. The fear of the Lord tendeth to life, a long life, a comfortable life, and life everlasting. As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy towards them that fear Him; like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. Oh how great is His goodness, which He has laid up for them that fear Him; which He has wrought for them that trust in Him, before the sons of men (Psalms 31:19; Psalms 103:11-13). (B. Beddome, M. A.)
The ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly
The weeping ambassadors
Tell me not of the removal of statesmen, the falling of generals or admirals in warfare, the removal of princes or monarchs from palaces and thrones--all these may take place and leave, comparatively, no chasm in society, when contrasted with the removal of an ambassador for Jesus.
I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY AMBASSADORS OF PEACE? An ambassador of peace must come under a threefold description of character.
1. He is a minister sent of God.
2. He is instructed in the terms of peace.
3. He has to negotiate with sinners who are at war with God.
II. THE LAMENTATION PREDICTED CONCERNING THESE AMBASSADORS. They “shall weep bitterly.” Not the departed one, but the surviving ones.
1. Because of the impression which they have of the loss of their brother.
2. For sympathy with the Church.
III. THE LIMITATION OF THEIR SORROW. We are not to sorrow as those who are without hope.
1. The election of grace is sure.
2. The redemption of the Church by Christ Jesus is complete.
3. The succession of the ambassadors of peace remains unbroken. (J. Irons.)
Ministers weeping over non-success
The ambassadors of Hezekiah wept bitterly because their embassy was rejected, and because they were sent back by the haughty and imposing invader without accomplishing their object of peace. And very few form any ideas of the deep anxieties, the soul-travail, the spiritual concern, of God’s ambassadors when they see not, as the result of their embassy, the message they have delivered received by precious souls. (J. Irons.)
The sinners in Zion are afraid
“The sinners in Zion”
What a contradiction in terms! what a shock to the fancy! Zion! fair Zion, a dewdrop, a glittering star, a garden of beauty, a sweet flower, porcelain without a flaw, honey without wax--Zion! Then, “sinners in Zion”--sinners out of place; they spoil the situation; they are an evil blot in the fair landscape.
Sinners in the wilderness, sinners in polluted cities, sinners in hell--there you have a kind of music that has an accord and consonance of its own; but sinners in Zion! (J. Parker, D. D.)
The devouring fire
I. THE CHARACTERS REFERRED TO. “Sinners in Zion,” and “the hypocrites.” Those who are in Zion by a mere profession of religion. The self-righteous. Proud formalists.
II. THEIR PRESENT STATE. “Afraid,” &c. If temporal judgments, like those which God wrought upon the Assyrian army, had such an effect upon the sinners in Zion, what will be the terror of transgressors in prospect, of the everlasting judgments of God?
III. THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS. “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?” &c. (J. E. Starey.)
Security in testing times
It is certain that no man shall find his profession to be of use to him in testing times but he that is true in it, he that is thorough in it, he that is neither a sinner nor a hypocrite in the sense in which those words are here used. Safety in Zion belongs to those born in her by regeneration, reared in her by sanctification, enfranchised in her by faith in the Son of God, settled in her by fixed principles, confirmed in her by obedience to her laws, and bound to her by intense love of her King and her citizens. Such “shall dwell on high” secure from danger, and only such: the aliens and foreigners within her gates shall ere long be driven forth with shame. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The man that stole the livery of heaven to serve the devil in. (Robert Pollok.)
A large price was demanded for a picture as being the work of an old master. It was on a panel, and some one looking behind it saw that the panel was mahogany. The picture was at once seen to be a fraud, for mahogany was not known in Europe until long after the death of the artist who was said to have painted it. A man by craft and hypocrisy may make himself look beautiful to his fellowmen, and be honoured for saintliness of character, but God looks behind the goodly show and detects the imposture at a glance. Only what is real will bear His inspection. (Gates of Imagery.)
Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?--
How to dwell in the fire of God
(with 1 John 4:16 : “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God”):--These two passages, striking as is the contrast, refer to the same subject, and substantially preach the same truth. A hasty reader, who is more influenced by sound than by sense, is apt to suppose that the solemn expressions in my first text--“the devouring fire” and the “everlasting burnings”--mean hell. They mean God, as is quite obvious from the context. The man who is to “dwell in the devouring fire” is the good man; he that is able to abide the “everlasting burnings” is “the man that walks righteously and speaks uprightly,” that “despises the gain of oppression, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.” So that, plainly, here the fire is the destructive side of that Divine nature which, in its flashing brightness of holiness, cannot but burn up and consume evil. And the question of my text is in effect equivalent to this question: “Who among us can abide peacefully, joyfully, fed and brightened, not consumed and annihilated, by that flashing brightness and purity?” The prophet’s answer is the answer of common sense. Like draws to like. If the fire of God be the holiness of God in its lustrous brilliance, then a holy God must have holy companions. But that is not all. The fire of God is the fire of love as well as the fire of purity; a fire that blesses and quickens, as well as a fire that destroys and consumes. So the Apostle John comes with his answer, not contradicting the other one, but deepening it, expanding it, letting us see the foundations of it, and proclaiming that as a holy God must be surrounded by holy hearts, which will open themselves to the flame as flowers to the sunshine, so a loving God must be clustered about by loving hearts, who alone can enter into deep and true fellowship with Him. The two answers, then, are one at bottom; and when Isaiah asks, “Who shall dwell with the ever-lasting fire?”--the perpetual fire, burning and unconsumed, of that Divine righteousness--the deepest answer, which is no stern requirement but a merciful promise, is John’s answer, “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The fire of God
I. THE WORLD’S QUESTION. Frequently in the Old Testament the emblem of fire is employed to express the Divine nature. In many places, though by no means in all, the prominent idea in the emblem is that of the purity of the Divine nature, which flashes and flames as against all which is evil and sinful. So we read in one grand passage in this very book, “the Light of Israel shall become a fire.” And we read, too, in the description of the symbolical manifestation of the Divine nature which accompanied the giving of the law on Sinai, that “the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mountain,” and yet into that blaze and brightness the Law-giver went and moved in it. There is in the Divine nature a side of antagonism and opposition to evil, which fights against it, and flames against it, and labours to consume it. But then, on the other side, the fire is also the fire of perfect love that quickens and blesses. And these two are one. God’s wrath is a form of God’s love; God hates because He loves. Well, that being so, the question rises to every mind of ordinary thoughtfulness: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” A God fighting against evil; can you and I hope to hold familiar fellowship with Him? To “dwell with everlasting burnings” means two things--first, to hold familiar intercourse and communion with God. What sort of a man will do that? Can you? Is it likely that you should? The second of the things that it means is to face and bear the action of the fire, the judicial action, the judgment of the present and of the future.
II. THE PROPHET’S ANSWER. He says if a man is to hold fellowship with, or to face the judgment of the pure and righteous God, the plainest dictate of reason and common sense is that he himself must be pure and righteous to match. And the details into which his answer to the question runs out are all very homely, prosaic, pedestrian kind of virtues, nothing at all out of the way, nothing that people would call splendid or heroic. If you will turn to the Psalms 24:1-10. you will find there two other variations of the same questions, and the same answer, both of which were obviously in our prophet’s mind when he spoke. The requirements of the most moderate conscience are such as none of us is able to comply with. And what then? Am I to be shut up to despair? am I to say, then, nobody can dwell with that bright flame?
III. THE APOSTLE’S ANSWER. “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God.” Now, to begin with, let us distinctly understand that the New Testament answer, represented by John’s great words, entirely endorses Isaiah’s; and the difference between the two is not that the Old Testament, as represented by Psalmist and Prophet, said: “You must be righteous in order to dwell with God, and that the New Testament says: You need not be!” Not at all! John is just as vehement in saying that nothing but purity can bind a man in thoroughly friendly and familiar conjunction with God as David or Isaiah was. What, then, is the difference between them? It is this, for one thing. Isaiah tells us we must be righteous; John tells us how we may be. And now you have got to the very bottom of the matter. That is the first step of the ladder--faith: the second step is love, and the third is righteousness. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
If you will only remove from that word “anger” the mere human associations which cleave to it, of passion on the one hand, and of a wish to hurl its object on the other, then you cannot, I think, deny to the Divine nature the possession of that passionless and unmalignant wrath without striking a fatal blow at the perfect purity of God. A God that does not hate evil, that does not flame out against it, using all the energies of His being to destroy it, is a God to whose character there cleaves the fatal suspicion of indifference to good, of moral apathy. If I have not a God to trust in that hates evil because He loveth righteousness, then “the pillared firmament itself were rottenness, and earth’s base built on stubble”; nor were there any hope that this damnable thing that is killing and sucking the life-blood out of our spirits should ever be destroyed and cast aside. It is short-sighted wisdom, and it is cruel kindness, to tamper with the thought of the wrath of God, the “everlasting burnings” of that eternally pure nature wherewith it wages war against all sin! (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
God’s justice in human life
To Isaiah, life was so penetrated by the active justice of God, that he described it as bathed in fire, as blown through with fire. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
He that walketh righteously
The citizens of God’s kingdom
THE CHARACTER of the true citizens of God’s kingdom is expressed in general terms. “Walketh righteously”; “speaketh uprightly.”
II. The DETAILS are given in which the character is revealed. “Despiseth the gain,” &c. (Prof J. Skinner, D. D.)
The good man
I. THE GOOD MAN’S CHARACTER, which he preserves even in times of common iniquity.
II. THE GOOD MAN’S COMFORT, which he may preserve even in times of common calamity (Isaiah 33:16). (M. Henry.)
The rocky fortress and its inhabitant
We are going to look at the favoured people.
I. Let us NOTE THEIR CHARACTER. They are described in part in the words of our text, but I am obliged to go a little farther afield for one essential part of their character.
1. The true people of God who in the time of danger will be preserved are a people who display a humble, patient, present faith in God. They reveal their character in Isaiah 33:2, when they pray, “O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for Thee,” &c. They are a praying people, who make their appeal to God under a sense of need: they are not fatalists, neither are they self-sufficient. They beseech the Lord to bless them not according to their own merit, but according to His grace. They are not a people who think that God will be gracious necessarily, for they are found crying to Him in earnest prayer. They are a trustful people. Furthermore, they are a waiting people: “We have waited for Thee.” If the Lord does not seem to hear their prayer at once, they nevertheless expect that He will do so. They are a people who have a present faith, which they exercise every day, saying, “Be Thou their arm every morning!” Every step they are depending, every morning they are looking up to the hills whence cometh their help. The description in our actual text is the portrait of their outer life; but a living faith is the secret basis and foundation of it all.
2. This being understood, our text gives a description of these people, setting out their various features.
(1) It first describes their feet, or how they walk: “He that walketh righteously.” When a man believes, his faith affects every part of him; it operate-s upon-his actions, thoughts, wishes, and designs; and it affects both his private and public life. One of the first evidences of a true belief in God is that a man walks righteously. He tries to act rightly towards his God and towards his fellow-men. The rule of right is the rule for him; not policy, nor the hope of gain, nor the desire to please, much less the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.
(2) The next feature that is described is his tongue--“he speaketh uprightly.” A man whose words are arrogant and boastful, cruel and slanderous, unreliable and deceptive, unchaste and impure, is no child of God. The grace of God very speedily sweetens a man’s tongue. The doctor says, “Put out your tongue,” and he judges the symptoms of health or disease thereby; assuredly there is no better test of the inward character than the condition of the tongue. “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee” is a fair decision.
(3) The next feature is the heart--“he that despiseth the gain of oppressions.” Not only does he not oppress any man, nor wish to gain anything by extortion; but he thinks such gain as might be made in that fashion to be utterly contemptible--he despises it. It little matters what our outward life may be, or even what our speech may be, if our heart is not affected by our religion. If grace only lies skin deep in thee, it has only saved thy skin, but not thy soul. Until grace touches the mainspring, it has done nothing to purpose: the heart must despise evil, as well as the lips denounce it. Until the well-head is sweetened, the streams are foul. Not only must I do right, but love right; not only must I avoid wrong, but hate wrong.
(4) The portrait does not omit the hands--those prominent actors both for good and evil. In Isaiah’s day bribery was connected with every government office high and low; but the good man shaketh his hands from holding of bribes.” If money was slipped into his hand before he was aware of it, he shook it off with indignation.
(5) Now comes the ear--“that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood.” Men who delighted in war in olden time were apt to regale one another with their cruel deeds--whom they slew, and how they slew them. In Hezekiah’s times, I warrant, tales were told blood-red with horror that would have made our ears to tingle, and these were greedily listened to by those of a coarse spirit; but the good man in Jerusalem would not hear them. Now it is not the hearing of blood alone that you and I must avoid, but the hearing of anything that is tainted, prurient, sceptical, depraving. The Christian wisely shuts the gate, lets down the portcullis, and pulls up the drawbridge, so that no filthy communication may come in by Ear-gate. The same sacred prudence prevents our reading books which are corrupt, or false. The righteous man knows that an ill tale cannot injure him if he never hears it, and therefore he denies his curiosity that he may preserve his memory undefiled. He is deaf to news about which a good man would be dumb. He has the blood upon his ear, to signify that his Lord has bought him with a price in that member, as well as in every other; yea, his ear is bored to the doorpost of truth, that he may hear it, and it only, with full intent of heart.
(6) The picture is complete when the eyes are mentioned--“he shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.” He cannot help seeing it as he goes along his pilgrimage through life; but he seeks not such a sight, and as much as he can he avoids it. Shortly, the text means just this, that a true believer is a man who has himself well in hand, having mastery over his whole manhood. He has a bit in the mouth of all the steeds which draw the chariot of life, and he holds them under due control. The true Christian is a man who keeps himself clear of the common sins of the age, the popular vices which flourish uncondemned. The sins mentioned in the text were those current in Jerusalem. The child of God was out of the fashion.
II. We OBSERVE THEIR SECURITY.
1. As it is pictorially described. The times are those of war: the battle rages in the plain, but “he shall dwell on high”; aloft upon the craggy rocks shall be his citadel. In times of invasion men resorted to the highest mountains and rocks, that there they might be sheltered among the lofty fastnesses. While others flee, this man shall dwell at ease, in permanent peace; and that dwelling shall be on the heights, far beyond the reach of the invader. Is not this glorious? The bands of robbers ravage all around, but they cannot plunder him; he looks down upon them, and defies their power. A believer dwells on the heights, his life is hid with Christ in God, he cannot be reached by the darts of the adversary. “Yet,” saith one, “though he dwell on high, the enemy may reach him by scaling ladders, or by some other means of assault.” By no means shall they smite him, for he shall have a “place of defence.” “Yet,” crieth one, “these walls may be dashed down, or may fall into decay.” Not so, for “his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks.” Immutable strength shall gird him around both by day and by night for ever and ever. “Yet,” saith one, “the enemy may starve a man out of his citadel: rock cities have been captured at last because the inhabitants have been pinched with hunger. But this also is provided for--“His bread shall be given him. As the Lord’s chosen cannot be driven out, so they shall not be starved out; “Ah, well, saith one, but even if bread could be conveyed into the fortress, yet these elevated positions cannot be readily supplied with water, and by thirst they may be forced to yield.” The promise has thought of that also, for it is written, “his waters shall be sure.” It is a poetical description, but it is true in every jot and tittle, and so I ask you to accompany me while--
2. We consider this thing as it may be actually experienced. The man who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, and lives as a Christian should live, dwells on the heights. His mind is lifted up above the common cares, and worries, and vexations of life. You have also found that you have had a place of defence in time of trouble. Though often assailed you have never been really injured. The poetic utterance, “Thy bread shall be given thee,” is also literally true. You may frequently reach the end of your provision, but you can never exhaust your Provider. The meal may come by handfuls, and the oil may only drip out drop by drop, but what matters? “His bread shall be given him,” refers also to heavenly bread. As for the waters, the living waters of grace and of the Holy Spirit, these shall always flow: in summer and winter shall the still waters be found at your side; yea, they shall be within you, “a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.”
III. SEEK THEIR FELICITY.
1. Shall I need to say, “Do not try to obtain it by hypocrisy”? Since they are so happy whom God favours, do not think that by getting your name into their church-book you will necessarily be favoured too.
2. Do not hope to win the bliss of the righteous by self-righteousness. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Shutteth his eyes from seeing evil--
Shutting the eyes to evil
“And shutteth his eyes from seeing evil”--a wonderful expression in the original: so shutting his eyes as not even to wink, that is, not to open the lids for one transient moment that he may see where evil is, or know what evil is like, or what evil is doing, but shuts his eyes fast, and will not look at the devil’s image: he shall be calm in the storm. (J. Parker, D. D.)
1. It is not essential that a man should know all things; some knowledge is hurtful.
2. Thought moulds character: As a man thinketh, so is he.
3. The press should enlarge upon helpful knowledge, and give the least space to reports of depravity.
4. Hope, faith, visions of beauty and of virtue, are powerful educators. (Homiletic Review.)
He shall dwell on high
The life of surrender and trust
A LIFE OF EXALTATION. “Shall dwell on high.” Those who are kept safe, are kept rejoicing, and that constantly; it is not an intermittent experience. “He shall dwell.” The same thought is given in Psalms 91:1, and in John 15:11. It is always constant because it does not depend on circumstances, but on God. The surrendered man has learned to live in God, and in His presence is fulness of joy.
II. A LIFE OF SAFETY. “His place shall be the munition of rocks.” Because of the safety there is perfect peace.
III. A LIFE OF CONTINUAL SATISFACTION. “His bread shall be given him.” There is no leanness in the surrendered life; it is fed with the very Bread of Life. One of the greatest blessings of this life is the deeper communion, the greater reality of spiritual things, as the soul learns to feed on Christ. “His waters shall be sure.”
IV. A LIFE OF BEAUTY AND OF REFRESHMENT. Jeremiah speaks of the same life under the figure of a tree planted by the river, whose leaf is sways green. Continual freshness and perennial beauty. The “beauty of the Lord our God upon us,” and the “fruit of the Spirit” manifest.
V. A LIFE OF VISION. The unmistakable sign of the fulness of the Holy Ghost is the power to look into the glorified face of Jesus Christ (John 17:24).
VI. A LIFE OF UNLIMITED OUTLOOK. “Shall behold the land of far distances.” As we stand and look down the vistas of eternity we learn a little of what this life means. (G. H. C. Macgregor, M. A.)
Dwelling on high
In the ascent of a mountain, the objects which we leave beneath us become insignificant as we ascend, until the things we at first passed become as mere specks in the distance, and we get into prate, clear air, and see the extent of land around us, of which we had never dreamed. So in the spiritual life, as we “dwell on high” with the holy God, the things of earth are of less importance to us, even earthly friendships becoming insignificant as we “behold the King in His beauty,” and all around us is the “far-stretching land” of His full, unlimited salvation. (J. G.Govan.)
Rest in God
A man in some high hill-fortress looks down upon the open where the enemy’s ranks are crawling like insects across the grass, and he scarcely hears the noise of the tumult, and no arrow can reach his lofty hold. So up in God we may dwell at rest, whate’er betide. Strange that we should prefer to live down amongst the unwalled villages, which every spoiler can harry and burn, when we might climb, and by the might and the magic of trust in the Lord, bring round about ourselves a wall of fire which shall consume the poison out of the evil, even whilst it permits the sorrow to do its beneficent work upon us. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Sale in the rock
Two birds went out to build their nests. One found a tree by the river’s edge, and made her nest among its branches. The river murmured below, and the sunshine played among the leaves. But one night there was a storm, and the tree was torn out, and carried away in the floods--nest and nestlings and all. The other bird found a crag in a mountain, and built its home in a cleft of the rock. The storm swept over it, and the floods rushed through the valley, but the nest with its nestlings was safe in the rock. (Westminster Teacher.)
Hidden in the rock
In the Pitti Palace at Florence hangs a picture which represents a stormy sea, with wild waves and black clouds and fierce lightnings flashing across the sky, Wrecks float on the angry waters, and here and there a human face is seen. Out of the midst of the waves a rock rises, against which the waters dash in vain. It towers high above the crest of the waves. In a cleft of the rock are some tufts of grass and green herbage, with sweet flowers blooming, and amid these a dove is seen, sitting on her nest, quiet and undisturbed by the wild fury of the storm, or the mad dashing of the waves below her. The picture fitly represents the peace of the Christian amid the storms and trials of the world. He is hidden in the cleft of the Rock of Ages, and nestles securely in the bosom of God’s unchanging love. (J. R. Miller, D. D.)
The Christian should be joyful
I have been so long away from England that I do not know where our Queen is residing just now; but if I had the wings of a dove, and could mount into the upper air, I would soon find out. I should look for the Royal Standard. I should see it floating over Windsor or Osborne, and by this token I should espy the royal abode. Fling out the banner to the breeze when the King is within. Is the King at home with you, dear brother? Do not forget to display the standard of holy joy.
Hoist it, and keep it firing. The Prince of Peace is enthroned in our hearts! The Lord is exalted, for He dwelleth on high (Isaiah 33:5), and we dwell on high with Him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Thine eyes shall see the King in ms beauty
The King in His beauty
Jerusalem was surrounded by the army of Sennacherib.
The relief gained when Hezekiah paid over the three hundred talents of silver and the thirty talents of gold, emptying thereby the royal treasury and stripping the gold from the doors and pillars of the Temple, had not lasted long. Rabshakeh, the chief envoy of Assyria, had been sent with another army to demand the unconditional surrender of the city. A great change, however, had taken place in the spirit and faith of the people. No further mention was made of an alliance with Egypt. The prophet Isaiah, instead of being ridiculed and despised, was at once appealed to by the king, and his counsel followed. Hope and confidence in Jehovah had been restored, and this second attack of the treacherous Assyrian, instead of plunging the nation into despair, seemed rather to rouse them to defiance. It was God’s forgiveness which had wrought the change. The departure of the Assyrian, at a time when Jerusalem was absolutely in his power, was a manifest proof of God’s forgiving mercy and a striking confirmation of Isaiah’s words. So, though the enemy returned, the prophet’s encouraging and reassuring messages did not fall upon deaf ears. The chapter opens with a plain forecast of the speedy destruction that should overtake the treacherous spoiler of God’s people. Then follows a graphic picture of the disappointment of the ambassadors of peace, and the deserted and downtrodden state of the country districts that had resulted from Sennacherib’s breach of the covenant of peace. But from verse 10 to the end the sufficiency of the championship of Jehovah is unfolded, and the chapter closes with promises of victory and pardon, “the lame shall take the prey,” “the people shall be forgiven their iniquity.” Yes, the presence and leadership of Jehovah would change everything. The glorious Lord would be unto them a place of broad rivers and streams. But as we read these Scriptures, “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty”; “thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation,” we feel that their primary application by no means exhausts their full meaning. A greater than Hezekiah is here. The King in His beauty is for us the very Prince of Peace Himself. Once for our sakes He was covered with shame, mocked and buffeted and handcuffed. Now by faith we see Him crowned with glory and honour, and one day our eyes shall see Him as He is in His beauty. As yet the new Jerusalem is hemmed in by foes. Enemies far more treacherous and destructive than the Assyrians are seeking to enslave and despoil the people of God. But our eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle so peaceful and steadfast that not one of the stakes thereof shall be removed nor any of its cords broken. Yes, the story of the siege of Jerusalem is only a parable of the life of God in the soul of man. “God’s forgiveness is much more than a clean slate.” It brings His people into the joy and strength of a living union with Himself. It gave new national life to Judah. It gives new spiritual life to the pardoned sinner. Once the Divine forgiveness is realised the whole man is born again. But this does not make us free from temptation. The Assyrians will surely return and menace the city. But the Lord is our sure defence.
1. The beauty of the King passes all man’s understanding. There is the beauty of His personal character. It is unfolded to us in the Gospel story. There we see His goodness and truth. His purity is so strong and incandescent with the fire of love that it cannot be marred by the defilements of earth. His sympathy and compassion are so tender and real that the most needy and outcast are attracted to Him. Christ has no beauty in the eyes of the carnal and worldly. He pours contempt on the wisdom of the flesh, the wisdom of this world. Have ye eyes to see the beauty in Jesus? There is the beauty, too, of His perfect sacrifice. This was set forth in the Old Testament Scriptures in the passover lamb, in the brazen serpent, and in all the sacrifices connected with the old covenant. The Lamb without spot or blemish was slain that His atoning blood might cover our sins. The beauty and perfection of the personal character secures the beauty and perfection of the precious sacrifice. Is that blood-stained Cross the most beautiful sight in the world to you? Have you seen the love of God triumphing there over the sin of man, and the Son of God reconciling God and man by the sacrifice of Himself, and laying a righteous foundation for the exercise towards guilty sinners of God’s sovereign mercy and grace? But, again, there is the beauty of His perpetual intercession and His abiding presence in our hearts. Christ is no longer on the Cross--He is on the Throne, seated at the right hand of God. From that vantage ground of infinite power and resource He watches all that transpires here below. And He not only watches from a distance, He is with us to save and succour and defend. Have you seen the King in His beauty as He walks with us along life’s highway? Or are your eyes still holden?
2. To see the King in His beauty is the essence of all true religion. The world cannot understand the things of God. It cannot receive the Comforter because it seeth Him not. The veil of sense shuts out the glories of the unseen world. Have you seen the Son and believed on Him? Or is there still some veil or prejudice or disobedience upon your heart? Is personal religion still a mystery to you? Does conversion seem to you a strange and doubtful experience? Does the earnestness of some Christians seem altogether extravagant and fanatical? When you have truly seen the King you will find it impossible to exaggerate His beauty, and you will find it equally impossible to set a limit to your obedience. The King must have all. Loyalty cannot measure out its service. It delights in sacrifice. As the veil of sense is penetrated by the vision of faith the victory of life begins. This is the object of all the means of grace. They are to help us to see the King. All life becomes worth living when the humblest duty performed aright may be rewarded with a sight of Him whom you love. This gives new zest to worship. For this we pray and study our Bibles, for this we come to church and join in the Lord’s Supper, that we may see the King. This helps us to live a detached and separate life. (F. S. Webster, M. A.)
The heavenly King and the privileges of His subjects
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE KING.
1. The situation of a king is most respectable; he is the head of his people. God is Head of all things; King of kings, and Lord of lords.
2. Kings ought to be wise men, to rule in wisdom. God is all-wise, omniscient.
3. Kings ought to possess power, to be ready to oppose any foe of their people. God is Almighty.
4. Kings should he good men, kind and benevolent. God is good and kind; He feeds, clothes, &c., He is the Fountain of goodness.
5. Kings should be just men, to enforce the laws and punish offenders. God is just, and will not suffer His laws to be infringed, but will punish the guilty.
II. THE EXTENT OF HIS DOMINION.
1. Heaven is His throne; here He manifests His glorious presence; angels, &c., are His servants.
2. Earth is His foot-stool; things animate and inanimate are subject to His control.
3. Hell is His prison, where He confines His foes, and here He is enthroned in vengeance.
4. He has a kingdom among men; this is His universal Church, all who fear God, and work righteousness.
5. He has a kingdom in men; every true believer is a little kingdom in himself, the heart is His throne, and the passions and affections are the subjects.
6. He reigns that He may conquer all, save all.
III. THE PERSONS THIS DECLARATION MAY BE APPLIED TO. “THEY.”
1. Those who have an experimental knowledge of the King’s favour.
2. Such as feel a profound reverence towards Him.
3. Who love Him, from a sense of His love to them.
4. And obey Him from this principle of love.
IV. WHAT IS IMPLIED BY THE DECLARATION, “They shall see the King.”
1. Not with their bodily eye. God is a Spirit.
2. If we could see Him as a Spirit with our bodily eye, yet we could not as God. He is immensity.
3. They shall see Him by the eye of faith--in creation, providence and grace. (John Overton.)
The blessedness of heaven
These words may more immediately refer to the restoration of Hezekiah to his former splendour and dignity, by the destruction of Sennacherib’s army, which would establish peace in the land of Judea, and enable the exiles to return home, without fear or danger. But the Holy Spirit in this passage seems also to refer to the initial happiness of all true believers in this world, and their complete felicity in the world to come.
I. THE SOURCES OF HAPPINESS PROVIDED FOR TRUE BELIEVERS. These in general are two--
1. The King in His beauty. All that is to be seen of God with joy and satisfaction, is visible only in the Mediator.
2. The land that is very far off. In the present life our chief happiness arises from hope; hereafter it will consist in vision, and in full fruition. The heavenly glory is here compared to the land of promise, which abounded in population, and yet was so fruitful as to be well able to support all its inhabitants.
(1) It is a land that is very far off from the earth, and farther still from hell.
(2) The views which good people have of the Land of Promise are at present very distant and imperfect.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SAINTS SHALL ENJOY THE BLISS THAT IS PREPARED FOR THEM. “They shall see and behold it.”
1. This may either refer to the partial view which Christians have of future glory upon earth, or to the beatific vision of heaven. We see something of God in the works of creation and providence, and especially in the great work of human redemption. We have also seen the power and glory of God in the sanctuary, in the Word and ordinances, and have sometimes been filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. But these views, however refreshing, are not only transient, but very narrow and contracted, in comparison of what they will be hereafter. Then the powers of perception will be raised to the highest pitch, our contracted minds will be enlarged and rendered more retentive, and we shall be able to “gaze in thought on what all thought transcends.”
2. The sight which believers have of spiritual objects is essentially different from that of the unregenerate, either in this world or that which is to come.
3. There is an intuitive certainty in the knowledge which Christians have of invisible realities, and which is peculiar to themselves only.
4. A sight of the King in His beauty will be attended with a clearness and a comprehension far surpassing all that we have experienced in the present life.
5. The celestial vision will be ardent and intense.
6. Views of heaven will take place immediately after death, and more fully after the resurrection.
7. There will also be a possessive intuition, or such a sight as includes converse and enjoyment.
8. The vision will be perpetual and without end. There is an entrance into heaven, but no exit out of it. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Christ’s life a poem
There are human lives which are poems, as there are lives which are prose. They give pleasure, as poetry gives it by the expression of the beautiful. Such a life, at its very highest range, was the life of Christ. We seek its poetry to-day, and we weave our thoughts of it round that profound phrase of Milton’s, that poetry must be simple, sensuous, and passionate.
I. That which is SIMPLICITY in art is purity in a perfect character. The beauty of Christ’s purity was in this--
1. That those who saw it saw in it the glory of moral victory.
2. From this purity, so tried and so victorious, arose two other elements of moral beauty--perfect justice and perfect mercy.
II. The word “SENSUOUSNESS,” in Milton’s sense of it, was entirely noble in meaning. As the poet produces beautiful work out of the multitudinous world of images and things which he has received, so the exquisiteness of the parables and of the words of Christ, both in form and expression, was the direct result of the knowledge He had gained from the quality of sensibility.
III. The third element of great poetry is PASSION. We may transfer it directly to a character as an element of beauty. It is best defined as the power of intense feeling capable of perfect expression. It was intense feeling of the weakness and sin of man, and intense joy in His Father’s power to redeem, which produced the story of the “Prodigal Son,” where every word is on fire with tender passion. See how it comes home, even now, to men; see how its profound humanity has made it universal! “Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” How that goes home to the deepest want of the race; how deep the passion which generalised that want into a single sentence; how intense, yet how pathetic, the expression of it; how noble the temperance which stayed at the single sentence and felt that it was enough! (Stopford A. Brooke, D. D.)
The beautiful God
The blessed God who infinitely possesses every amiable excellency, and from whom proceeds all that is lovely in the universe, must Himself be adorned with the most exquisite beauty. In Him is concentred the sweetest assemblage of every Divine perfection. In Him, they all shine forth with the brightest lustre, without any superfluity or deficiency. He is consummately righteous, yet full of compassion; He is perfectly holy, yet rich in mercy; He is supreme in majesty, yet infinitely gracious; wisdom, power, and faithfulness, with every glorious attribute that can excite admiration and love, are united in the supreme Lord of heaven and earth. In the various important characters He sustains, He acts with the most endearing condescension and approved fidelity, assiduously performing every office and duty that love can dictate. (R. Macculloch.)
Is beauty ascribed to Jehovah?
“Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty.” Cheyne asserts that this king cannot be Jehovah, for beauty is never ascribed to Him. This is a shallow argument. Can an epithet never be given to God once, but must every epithet be repeated in order to be true? But if one sees Jehovah in Jesus there will be no trouble in finding beauty ascribed to the Messiah, and so to Jehovah Jesus is Jehovah, and we find in the Messiah every form of beauty ascribed to Him in the Canticles, which the Church has always cherished as the song of Christ’s love and loveliness to His redeemed people. Again in the forty-fifth Psalm we find the King Messiah described as “fairer than the children of men”; and there is no great difference between assigning beauty to holiness (Psalms 29:2; Psalms 96:9) and assigning beauty to the holy God. Moreover, in Zechariah 9:17 we find Jehovah thus referred to by the prophet, “How great is Hisgoodness, and how great is His beauty.” Here the identical word is used (yephi) that is found in our Isaiah text. In this last passage to refer the singular pronoun to God’s people when they are spoken of with plural pronouns and verbs in the whole context is hardly a fair way to prove the proposition that beauty is never ascribed to Jehovah, But even if beauty is never ascribed to Jehovah anywhere else, is that a substantial reason why it cannot be here so ascribed? (H. Crosby, D. D.)
The beautiful Christ
I cannot but regard it as a great misfortune that in all ages the art, the literature, and the worship of the Churches should not only have fallen so far short of the true ideal of our blessed Lord and Master, but should even have gone so far astray in their conceptions of Him. They have represented Him as a partial Christ, whereas He is the universal Christ; as an ecclesiastical Christ, whereas He is a spiritual Christ; as a Christ of gloom and anguish, whereas He is a Christ of love, and joy, and peace in believing; as a dead Christ, whereas He is the risen, the living, the ascended Saviour; as a distant Christ, a Christ who has gone far away into the dim realms of space, whereas He is a present Christ, with us now, with us always, with us individually, with us as a perpetual comforter, a very present help in trouble, with us even to the end of the world; as a Christ of wrath, and vengeance, and dreadfulness, whereas He is loving, tender, and of infinite compassion. (F. W. Farrar, D. D.)
The King in His beauty
The “King” is probably the Messiah “They shall behold a far-stretching land”--Messiah’s kingdom is from sea to sea. (Prof. A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
The Jews’ deliverance from the Assyrian invasion
When the Assyrians had invaded Judea with an immense army, and were about to attack Jerusalem, Rabshakeh was sent with a railing message to the king and his people. When Hezekiah heard of the blasphemies of the proud Assyrian, he rent his clothes and put on sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord, and sent the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth to consult with Isaiah the prophet. The people of Jerusalem, therefore, had seen their king in most mournful array, wearing the garments of sorrow, and the weeds of mourning; they were, however, cheered by the promise that there should be so complete a defeat to Sennacherib, that the king should again adorn himself with the robes of state, and appear with a smiling countenance in all the beauty of joy. Moreover, through the invasion of Sennacherib, the people had not been able to travel; they had been cooped up within the walls of Jerusalem like prisoners. No journeys had been made, either in the direction of Dan or Beersheba, even the nearest villages could not be reached; but the promise is given, that so completely should the country be rid of the enemy, that wayfarers should be able to see the whole of their territory, even that part of the land which was very far off; it should be safe for them to make the longest voyages; they should no longer be afraid of the oppressor, but should find the highways, which once lay waste, to be again open and safe for traffic. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ victorious: His people free
We have seen our well-beloved Monarch, in the days of His flesh, humiliated and sore vexed; for He was “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He whose brightness is as the morning, wore the sackcloth of sorrow as His daily dress; shame was His mantle, and reproach was His vesture. None more afflicted and sorrowful than He. Yet now, inasmuch as He has triumphed over all the powers of darkness upon the bloody tree, our faith beholds our King in His beauty, returning with dyed garments from Edom, robed in the splendour of victory. We also, His joyful subjects who were once shut up and could not come forth, are now possessed of boundless Gospel liberty. Now that we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour, we freely possess to its utmost bounds the covenant blessings which He has given to us; and we rejoice that if the land of happiness should sometimes seem to be very far off, it is nevertheless our own, and we shall stand in our lot in the end of the days. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The King in His beauty
I. WE HAIL THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AS OUR KING.
1. His right to royalty lies in His exalted nature as the Son of God.
2. Jesus has a right to reign because He is the Creator.
3. The Preserver of all men.
4. He governs by virtue of His Headship of the mediatorial kingdom.
5. He has the rights of Divine designation, for God has made Him King.
6. Certain princes have delighted to call themselves kings by the popular will, and certainly our Lord Jesus Christ is such in His Church. Now it behoves us, since we thus verbally acknowledge Him to be King, distinctly to understand what this involves.
(1) We look upon the Lord Jesus as being to us the fountain of all spiritual legislation. He is a King in His own right--no limited monarch--but an autocrat in the midst of His Church, and in the Church all laws proceed from Christ and Christ only.
(2) He alone gives authority to that legislation.
(3) He is the Captain in all our warfare.
II. WE DELIGHT TO KNOW THAT OUR KING POSSESSES SUPERLATIVE BEAUTY.
III. THERE ARE SEASONS WHEN WE SEE THE KING IN HIS BEAUTY.
1. We saw Him in that day when He pardoned all our sins.
2. Jesus Christ was in His beauty seen by us more fully, when, after being pardoned, we found how much He had done for us.
3. There are times when, in our contemplations, we see His beauty.
4. It is very probable that we shall have such a sight of our glorious King as we never had before, when we come to die.
IV. THE EXCEEDING GLORY OF THIS SIGHT.
V. THIS SIGHT OF CHRIST EMINENTLY AFFORDS LIBERTY TO THE SOUL. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Seeing the King in His beauty
These words plainly promise to every follower of Christ, if he shall persevere unto the end, that in the resurrection he shall see the Lord Jesus Christ in His beauty, and in the glory of His kingdom. What, then, is this beauty which shall be revealed to all who attain that world and the resurrection of the holy dead?
I. It would seem to be THE BEAUTY OF HIS HEAVENLY COURT. About Him and before Him are the companies of heaven, the hosts and hierarchies of the blessed, and the saintly multitude of God’s new creation. Armies of martyrs, companies of prophets, the majesty of patriarchs, the glory of apostles, each one in the full transfigured beauty of his own perfect spirit, and all revealing the warfare of faith, the triumph of the Church, the power of the Cross, the election of God,--these are the degrees and ascents leading upward to the throne of bliss.
II. But if such be the beauty of the King’s court, what is THE BEAUTY OF THE KING HIMSELF? We shall not be dangerously out of the way if we believe that He who is the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His person, did take unto Himself our manhood as His revealed presence for ever, in its most perfect image and likeness; that in Him two natures were united, and both were perfect, both were beautiful. There is a beauty we know Him to possess in fulness--the beauty of perfect love. In His face will be revealed all the love of His holy incarnation, of His life of sorrow, of His agony and passion, of His cross and death. The wounds of His hands and feet and of His pierced side are eternal seals and countersigns of the love which has redeemed us for Himself.
1. The King whose beauty is the bliss of heaven is ever drawing and preparing us for His presence by all the mysteries of His Church.
2. By a special and particular discipline, varied and measured for the necessities of every faithful soul, He is making us ready for the vision of His presence. (H. E. Manning, D. D.)
The beautiful King and the far-off land
I. THE SUPREME OBJECT OF VISION. “The King in His beauty.”
II. THE ULTIMATE POSSESSION. “The land that is very far off.” (F. Ferguson, D. D.)
The King in His beauty
It is astonishing how much comfort can be packed up in a few words. If one were asked to put into a single sentence the entire body of Scriptural prophecy, of Old and New Testament prophecy combined, he could not easily find a more complete condensation of the whole than in the text. There are two points of view from which we may look at the text.
I. THE OBJECTIVE ASPECT, or the vision as it is set before us; the moral and spiritual ideal yet to be realised.
1. The text is a prediction as to a glorious Person and a far-off land, both of them entirely beyond the calculations of men. “The King in His beauty” is Jesus Christ, The words are striking. It is not exactly the King in His majesty, or grandeur, or glory, or power, but “the King in His beauty.” We speak of the good and the beautiful and the true. And there is a singular accordance between those three super-excellent realities. We think of them in connection with the Persons in the Godhead. While it is true that all glory and power of the one aspect of the Divine Being belongs to the other, still we are permitted to make a distinction in our thoughts, and we think of the Father as that One in whom we see pre-eminently the good; and the Son as that One in whom we see specifically the beautiful; and the Spirit as that One in whom we see pre-eminently the true.
2. When we turn our thoughts to the beautiful alone, we are met by this conception--that the beautiful is but another word for the becoming. A beautiful action is an action which it becomes one to do. A beautiful character is one, all the elements of which are in sweet accordance; when part is adapted to part, as the colours of the rainbow blend together; when one line of the form gracefully runs into another; when one sound is the harmonious concomitant and perfect sequel of another--there you have beauty, the beauty as a spirit breathing through the whole and informing all its parts--such a whole that one part may become the other, and pass and repass into the other. The beauty is translucent, elastic, perfect. Now apply this conception to Jesus Christ, and you will see with what amazing propriety the beautiful in Him is the same as the becoming. Consider the harmony of the Divine Being as the eternal source of all the beauty we can ever know. Consider the essential beauty of our human nature as made in the image and after the likeness of God; consider, further, the absolutely harmonious combination and indissoluble union of those two natures in
Christ with the amazing self-sacrifice of the Son of God for our redemption, and the adaptation of His work to all the wants of our case, and you have such a conception of the becoming--of all that it becomes both God and man to do--as explains to us the emphasis and the propriety with which Christ is spoken of as “the King in His beauty.” No one can be beautiful apart from Him.
3. Society is at present a hideous discord, at least to a very large extent. We cannot say that it is beautiful. But it is not more certain that Jesus Christ is King; it is not more certain that He is the centre of heaven’s harmony, than it is certain that the far-off land will yet be brought nigh and made visible upon the earth; and that God’s will shall be done upon the earth, even as it is done in heaven.
II. THE SUBJECTIVE ASPECT, or what is implied in seeing the vision, in realising the ideal. The time is coming when every human being shall actually look upon Jesus Christ. But to look is not always to see all that can be seen. To see the King in His beauty implies a deeper seeing than that of merely looking upon Him. It implies a being made like Him. In order to see the kingdom of God, or to enter into it, we must actually be born again. We must ourselves (in other words) be a part of that which we truly see. We shall see Him at last because we shall have been made like Him. It is the pure in heart who see God This seeing of God is our heaven in its highest and most complete form; and it is by faith in Christ that we are brought to this perception. As faith grows and develops, as it passes into the life, it turns the abstract ideal into the concrete reality. On the other hand, the result is certain from the Divine side. It is secured by the fact that the King in His beauty is there. The heavenly Bridegroom is waiting for the perfection of His Bride. And as He waits He works, tie rules over all things for the accomplishment of the Divine purpose. Make, then, the goal of your life quite clear, and lay down all your lines of thought and action directly for that goal. Let us thank God that such is the Christianity of Jesus Christ. (F. Ferguson, D. D.)
Reverence, a belief in God’s presence
1. Though Moses was not permitted to enter the land of promise, he was vouchsafed a sight of it from a distance. We too, though as yet we are not admitted to heavenly glory, yet are given to see much, in preparation for seeing more. Christ dwells among us in His Church really though invisibly, and through its Ordinances fulfils towards us, in a true and sufficient sense, the promise of the text. We are even now permitted to “see the King in His beauty,” to “behold the land that is very far off.” The words of the Prophet relate to our present state as well as to the state of saints hereafter. Of the future glory it is said by St. John, “They shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads.” And of the present, Isaiah himself speaks in passages which may be taken in explanation of the text: “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together”; and again, “They shall see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God.”
2. Such a view is strange to most men; they do not realise the presence of Christ, nor admit the duty of realising it. Even those who are not without habits of seriousness, have almost or quite forgotten the duty. This is plain at once: for, unless they had, they would not be so very deficient in reverence as they are. There are two classes of men who are deficient in awe and fear, and, lamentable to say, taken together, they go far to make up the religious portion of the community. It is not wonderful that sinners should live without the fear of God; but what shall we say of an age or country in which even the more serious classes maintain, or at least act as if they maintained, that “the spirit of God’s holy fear” is no part of religion?
(1) Those who think that they never were greatly under God’s displeasure.
(2) Those who think that, though they once were, they are net at all now, for all sin has been forgiven them;--those on the one hand who consider that sin is no great evil in itself, those on the other who consider that it is no great evil in them, because their persons are accepted in Christ for their faith’s sake. (J. H. Newman, B. D.)
The land that is very far off
“The land that is very far off”
“A far-stretching land,” i.e., a land no longer “diminished” (to use Sennacherib’s own expression) by spoliation or hemmed in by foes. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
The distant land
As it is in the margin, “the land of far distances.” A land cleared of enemies as far as the eye can reach and the foot carry.
I. THIS WILL APPLY TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, WHICH THE REDEEMED SOUL SHALL POSSESS IN HEAVEN. Here we know but little of the great Father of our spirits. But in heaven we shall know God more fully. Know Him not in His essence, but in the glorified human nature of Christ; in His relation to ourselves and the universe.
II. THIS WILL APPLY TO THE VIEWS WHICH HEAVEN WILL GIVE US OF THE REDEEMING WORK OF CHRIST. At present there are many questions which the devout soul proposes in relation to this mighty work, but no response is given. What disclosures will heaven make on these points!
III. THIS WILL APPLY TO THE EXPLANATIONS WHICH HEAVEN WILL AFFORD OF THE SECRETS OF NATURE. Nature, like the fabled traveller, has given the casket to the highwayman, but kept the jewels. She has given us names, but kept the power.
IV. THIS WILL APPLY TO THE SOLUTION WHICH HEAVEN WILL GIVE OF THE MYSTERIES OF PROVIDENCE.
V. THIS WILL APPLY TO OUR EXPERIENCE OF DIVINE GOODNESS. Here the vessel is narrowed by its conditions. It cannot receive much, it cannot bear much. Here we sip of the river of God, there we shall drink of its fulness.
1. Learn the limitations of this life. We know in part. It doth not yet appear what we shall be.
2. The boundless wisdom and goodness of God. The best things are yet in store.
3. See here the encouragements to a life of faith (J. Hoyle.)
Glances at the future
Do you ask what are the waving outlines of this “land of far distances” that begins directly a man begins to live a Christly life, and that stretches away after death into the Infinite? I answer--
I. UNENDING EXISTENCE.
II. UNDECAYING ACTIVITY. Our work here is bounded by many things.
1. There is the finishing of the enterprise.
2. There is the failure of our powers.
3. There is the ceasing of inclination.
Sometimes fuel has not been added to fire of flickering motive; sometimes fellow-workers have been cold, unwelcome, or harshly discouraging; sometimes repeated failure and mocking disappointments have driven a man back from seeking his own higher education or the world’s welfare, and “desire ceases,” and there is an end of work. But in contrast with all this that is of the earth earthy, the true worker for himself and for others, yearns after and will inherit “a land of far distances.” There the work will never be completed, for a universe is the sphere of labour, eternity is the period, and the infinite the problem. Labour--the putting forth of power: sacrificial labour--the putting forth of power in the spirit of the Lamb, who is the central life of the heavenly world; this is the far-reaching hope of every Christly soul. And this without the decay of powers, for then will be fulfilled the promise of perpetual morning dew, immortal youth, a world without pain, and never needing a night. Nor will want of inclination bring these occupations to an end, for there is realised the full power of the quenchless inspiration of love to the Lamb who was slain. So, for our highest, noblest labours, there is a limitless hope.
III. UNFETTERED THOUGHT. For the inquirer this human life is not “a land of far distances.” Thinkers often weep in their sense of mental poverty. But we are to believe in the lifting of veil after veil as we go on through the ages, till the fair face of Truth shall be seen in Divinest beauty.
IV. UNBOUNDED AFFECTIONS. (U. R. Thomas, B. A.)
The King in His beauty
I. Our first concern is with THE HISTORICAL SETTING of this verse.
II. THE SPIRITUAL PARALLEL. To see the King,--Jesus, I mean,--is one of the best blessings of His people. There is a further promise, “Thine eyes shall behold the land that is very far off,” i.e., “a far-stretching tract of country.” We must abide by the metaphor; this stands, I think, for the great multitude of exceeding great and precious privileges which God has given us in Jesus Christ.
III. THE FINAL FULFILMENT OR THIS PROMISE. All the things God’s people know on earth are but feeble foretastes of the joys of heaven. (Thos. Spurgeon.)
It is recorded of the celebrated John Howe, that in his latter days he greatly desired to attain such a knowledge of Christ, and feel such a sense of His love, as might be a foretaste of the joys of heaven. After his death, a paper was found in his Bible recording how God had answered his prayer. One morning (and he noted the day) he awoke, with his eyes swimming with tears, overwhelmed with a sense of God’s goodness in shedding down His grace into the hearts of men. He never could forget the joy of these moments: they made him long still more ardently for that heaven which, from his youth, he had panted to behold. (Light in the Dwelling.)
Samuel Rutherford’s dying utterances
Some days before he died, he said: “I shall shine, I shall see Him as He is, I shall see Him reign, and all His fair company with Him; and I shall have my large share, my eyes shall see my Redeemer, these very eyes of mine, and no other for me; this may seem a wide word, but it is no fancy or delusion; it is true, it is true; let my Lord’s name be exalted, and if He will, let my name be grinded to pieces, that He may be all in all. If He should slay me ten thousand times ten thousand times, I’ll trust.” One of his friends, Mr. Robert Blair, who stood by, his bed, said to him: “What think ye now of Christ?” To this he replied: I shall live and adore Him; glory, glory, to my Creator, and to my Redeemer for ever; glory shines in Immanuel’s land.” In the afternoon of the same day he said: “Oh, that all my brethren in the public may know what a Master I have served, and what peace I have this day; I shall sleep in Christ, and when I awake I shall be satisfied with His likeness. This night shall close the door, and put my anchor within the veil, and I shall go away in a sleep by five of the clock in the morning.” Words which received their exact fulfilment. His soul was filled with rapture as he lay dying, and he cried, “Oh, for arms to embrace Him! Oh, for a well-tuned harp!” So he passed away, declaring as he went that in the love and presence of his Lord he had found heaven before he entered within the gates. (King’s Highway.)
“Not all over"
When a medical man visited a young woman who was on her death-bed, he uttered the common thought of the world when he said to her weeping mother as he grasped her hand, “It will soon be all over with your daughter.” She who was about to depart heard the announcement, and, raising herself on her arm, drew aside the curtain, and looking into the face of the doctor with that peculiar look that characterises those who are being loosened from the hither side of existence said, “All over, sir! all over--no, mother, believe him not. When I die, it will not be all over with your daughter, it will only be all beginning. For this present span of existence is not worthy of being compared with the life which shall thrill my whole being in the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and the Lamb.” (W. Adamson, D. D.)
Death a mean, of vision
One Sunday morning a friend--a deacon of my church--came to me and said, speaking of his father, a dear old minister and a blind man, “My father can see this morning.” “I congratulate you!” I exclaimed; “I am glad and surprised to hear it.” “Ah,” he replied, “you misunderstand me. My father is dead.” (R. J. Campbell, M. A.)
The beautiful God
“How beautiful it is to be with God!” Miss Willard whispered as she died.
Miss Havergal’s experience
A most interesting chapter in the biography describes her visit to Switzerland. On her return home she had typhoid fever, and was laid aside for a long time. This is how she talked of her experience during her illness: F. “Sometimes I could not quite see His face; yet there was His promise, ‘I will never leave thee.’ I knew He said it, and that He was there.” M. “Had you any fear at all to die?” F. “Oh no, not a shadow. It was on the first day of this illness I dictated to Constance, ‘Just as Thou wilt, O Master, call!’” M. “Then was it delightful to think you were going home, dear Fan?” F. “No, it was not the idea of going home, but that He was coming for me, and that I should see my King. I never thought of death as going through the dark valley or down to the river; it often seemed to me a going up to the golden gates and lying there in the brightness, just waiting for the gate to open for me.” She was brought back, in answer to many prayers, from the gates of the grave. (King’s Highway.)
The Delectable Mountain
Then they went on till they came to the Delectable Mountains, which belong to the Lord of the country towards which they were journeying. So they went up the mountains to behold the gardens and orchards, the vineyards and fountains of water. Now there were on the top of these mountains shepherds feeding their flocks. The pilgrims, therefore, went to them and asked: “Whose Delectable Mountains are these? and whose sheep be they that feed on them?” And the shepherds answered “These mountains are Emmanuel’s Land: and they are within sight of His city; the sheep are His. ‘He laid down His life for them.’” Then said the shepherds one to another, “Let us show the pilgrims the gates to the celestial city, if they have skill to look through our perspective-glass.” Then the pilgrims lovingly accepted the motion; so they led them to the top of a hill called Clear, and gave them the glass to look through. Then they tried to look; but the remembrance of the last things that the shepherds had showed them made their hands shake; by means of which impediment they could not look steadily through the glass: yet they thought they saw something like the gate, and also some of the glory of the place. (Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.)
Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities--
Among the images which crowd the concluding verses of this chapter, we may perhaps, without fancifulness, distinguish an under-current of thoughts suggested by the circumstances of the times at which this prophecy was delivered; the promised “quiet” seems to point to the existing commotion; the “tabernacle which shall not be taken down,” reminds us not only of the fast-founded Temple which had replaced the tabernacle, and become the fixed centre of their ‘solemnities,’ but also of the tents of Sennacherib s hosts, then, as now, made of black camels’ or goats’ hair, now blackening the valleys round Jerusalem, but soon to be swept away “like the thistle-down before the whirlwind”; the broad “rivers and streams” suggest the thought that though Hezekiah’s precautions would have secured the absolutely necessary supply of water for the beleaguered city, they felt the want of that abundance of it which is still more grateful in an Eastern climate than in our own; while the promise that “the inhabitants should no longer say, I am sick,” favours the conjecture that the illness of Hezekiah may have been one instance of the disease which usually attends on the confinement and discomforts of a city shut-up against an enemy in the field.
(Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
The privileges and stability of the Church
Jerusalem, after this period, was never long preserved from hostile invasions, therefore our attention is turned from it to that glorious city against which the gates of hell shall never prevail. Let us--
I. TAKE THOSE VIEWS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST WHICH OUR TEXT RECOMMENDS.
1. As a solemn city. “The city of our solemnities.” The Church of the Lord on earth is called “the holy people”; “the redeemed of the Lord”; “sought out, a city not forsaken.” It is “that great city, the holy Jerusalem.” It is “Mount Zion, the city of the living God.” It is “the holy city, which is the mother of us all.” The orders and laws necessary for the city of Zion are contained in these lively oracles, which may also be considered as the charter of the privileges of its happy and active citizens. Peace is within its walls, and prosperity within its palaces; and everything is conducted well, being managed by Him who is the God of order, and not of confusion. Its great King ever dwells in the midst of it, and its walls are continually before Him. The immunities, for which its inhabitants are distinguished, are numerous and inestimable; including deliverance from the bondage of corruption and sin, together with a full enjoyment of a right to the tree of life, and to all the blessings they can need. Its “walls are called salvation, and its gates praise”; its streets are all pleasant, and its towers may well strike the eye with admiration. It is well called “the city of our solemnities.”
This name may be applied to Jerusalem on account of the most solemn feasts that were there made; the solemn assemblies that were there held; and the solemn sacrifices which were there offered. Nor is the term at all inapplicable to the Church of God, which consists of serious believers, who enter into the most solemn engagements with Jehovah; who are employed in the most solemn exercises of mind that can possibly be imagined; and whose minds are peculiarly affected with the solemnities of death and judgment. Real religion is altogether a solemn thing.
2. As a quiet habitation. It is “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” God Himself is the householder, for He hath chosen Zion, and desired it for His habitation; and here, too, dwell all the faithful, There is something very consolatory in the idea, that all the worthies now in glory, that ever trusted in Christ, were all members of that Church which is one; and that all real believers are considered by Jehovah as forming a part of it. This dwelling-place of the just is remarkable for the security which is there enjoyed, and the peace which pervades the whole. It is “a quiet habitation”; here the Prince of Peace takes up His residence, and reigns: here “the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever”; and God’s people dwell here in a peaceable habitation.
3. An immovable tabernacle. “A tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.” The Church militant is but a tabernacle when contrasted with the inconceivable excellencies of the paradise of God. Divine glory is manifested to us, and known by us here, but in part; but there “we shall know even as we are known.” The Church of God may often change its place. This is shown us by the state of those cities in which once the cause of our Redeemer prospered, but where now His name is never heard. The Jerusalem Church, though it might verify the promise in the text, by experiencing a long space of peace, and season of rest from war, together with the restoration and continuance of their sacred privileges, has now lost all its excellence, and Ichabod (the glory is departed) may evidently be seen inscribed upon it. The true Church typified by it, shall never be taken down whilst the world itself remains.
II. ENFORCE THAT ATTENTION TO THE CHURCH OF GOD WHICH THE TEXT DEMANDS. “Look upon Zion.”
1. Look upon it, angels, with complacency and delight!
2. Look upon it, sinners, with astonishment and desire!
3. Look upon it, Christians, with wonder, love, and praise! (T. Spencer.)
God’s promises to His Church
To our Zion, to the Church of Christ, are promised explicitly such gifts as those of the text--unity, truth, success. Of which of them, it may be asked, can we make our boast?
I. THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH WAS TO BE ONE CHIEF NOTE OF ITS DIVINE ORIGIN. What is our state? Visible unity seems to be no more a mark of the Church of Christ. Of those whose faces are all turned one way, to the place where Jesus the crucified sits on the right hand of God, the east and west have been rent asunder, so that none can re-knit the torn garment of the Lord. And west and east are again divided, each within itself; and we, that are but a section of the Western Church, are torn and torn again. God’s promise cannot have been in vain. Man must have hindered it; God hath not forgotten it.
II. But if unity has been lost, TRUTH HAS BEEN PRESERVED TO US. And this is our consolation. If the Church be not the great ocean--vast, bright, fresh, a counterpart of the blue heaven above it--still she is like the hundred lakes that nestle among the sheltering hills; they know not each other, but every one of them reflects, and truly, the firmament above. So far as salvation by Christ is brought home to men by the teaching of the churches, so long there is an underlying bond of agreement which outward misunderstanding cannot cancel.
III. Humiliating to us are those PROMISES OF GREAT SUCCESS which are a part of our charter. The power of the truth we teach, the presence of the Holy Ghost, to turn the outward word into an inward life, seem to assure us of great success in gathering in souls to Christ. There is much love amongst us, even with our strife; there is a warm and growing zeal in works of good. Without the presence of the Spirit these things could not be. (Archbishop Thomson.)
Jerusalem imperilled yet secure
(Isaiah 33:20-23):--As the existence of Jerusalem was imperilled, the first promise of Isaiah was that Jerusalem should still exist--“Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation,” and so on; but, further, inasmuch as during the siege many unbelieving persons had found fault with the position of Jerusalem, because it was not surrounded by a river, the promise is given that she shall have a glorious position--“There the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams”; nay, more than this, as a climax of blessing, she is promised perpetual triumph over all her enemies, since in her streams “shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby”; or, if they come they shall prove a wreck--“Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Church of God
I. The first promise made to the Church of God in our text is one SECURING TO HER AN EVERLASTING EXISTENCE. The Church is not a temporary institution; it shall never be removed.
1. The Jerusalem of God shall exist as she is. What was she in those days? “The city of solemnities”; the place where prayer and praise were wont to be made. So is she to continue throughout all generations.
2. As a quiet habitation, which we would desire it to be.
(1) The Church of God is always a quiet habitation, even when her enemies surround her. Some of you may have seen in the Exhibition a Belgian picture representing the reading of the statute of the Duke of Alva in the Flemish towns, establishing the Inquisition. Godly merchants are listening in deep solemnity of sorrow; the young maiden weeps upon her sister’s bosom; the aged woman turns her streaming eyes to heaven. All this the painter could depict, but he could not paint the deep heaven-born peace which still possessed the souls of the threatened ones.
(2) But how quiet is she when her enemies are not allowed to prey upon her! “Then had the churches rest,” says the Holy Ghost in the Acts of the Apostles.
(3) We know what quiet means in our communion with one another.
3. Our text seems to indicate that there were some persons who doubted all this, and said, “Well, but you speak of this city as though it could stand an attack. It cannot; it is such a feeble place; it is like a tent; it can soon be stormed; a gust of wind can blow it over.” The Lord anticipates this difficulty, and shows that the feebleness of Jerusalem should be no reason why she should not still continue to exist. She is a tabernacle--a mere tent; but she is a tabernacle that shall not be taken down. The Church’s feebleness, because it drives her to God, is the Church’s strength.
4. To complete this part of the promise, the city, notwithstanding all her feebleness, is to be for ever complete.
(1) If I understand the last two sentences,--“Not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken,” we learn here that all the true members of the Church are safe. Some of them may be driven into the earth as the stakes are driven, with a heavy mallet; but the strokes of tribulation shall only give them a better hold, and minister stability to the whole structure.
(2) This also relates to the doctrines of the Gospel.
(3) The ordinances.
II. THE PRE-EMINENT POSITION (verse 21).
III. ETERNAL SAFETY (verses 22, 23). (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams
The glorious Lord, the only security and consolation to His people
THE LORD HIMSELF IS THE FOUNDATION OR CAUSE OF THE SAINTS’ SAFETY AND BLESSEDNESS. “For there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams.” This is a consideration which may well allay our fears, excite our hopes, and confirm our faith.
1. The Lord is here called “glorious.” He is glorious in His personal excellence, glorious in His essential attributes, glorious in His works of creation and providence. Above all, He is glorious to the believer’s view, in the marvellous work of redemption, where He displays the glorious perfections of His nature, His power, faithfulness, truth, holiness, mercy, love, and grace. His glory is manifested in the Church where His glorious Gospel is preached, where He grants His gracious and glorious presence, and where saints meet together to see and speak of His glory. “In His temple doth every one,” saith the Psalmist, “speak of His glory.” Yea, “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory.”
2. This glorious Lord will be unto His Church and people “a place of broad rivers and streams.” God promises to be that to His Jerusalem, which will be instead of, and vastly superior to a river, however broad its streams. This is expressive of the abundance of His grace, and the freeness of it for the supply of His Church, and for the purification, consolation, refreshment, and confirmation in the faith of all its members. The streams of this river are the everlasting love of God, Father, Son, and Spirit; the covenant of grace, its blessings and promises; the provision and mission of Christ as a Saviour, and the blessings which flow from these, called “streams” because they flow from the fountain of divine love, and because of the rapidity, force, and power of the grace of God in the application of these blessings in conversion, which carries all before it; and because of the abundance, continuance, and freeness of them, and the gratefulness and acceptableness of them to those who see the worth of them, and feel their interest in them.
II. THIS RIVER OF GOD ALSO SERVES FOR THEIR DEFENCE AND SECURITY AGAINST ALL ENEMIES. The glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, &c. It was the case with literal Jerusalem, that although it had no river for its pleasure, profit, and protection, yet it had this advantage from the circumstances, that no enemy could approach it in this way. And the Lord, though He be indeed instead of a broad river to His people for their supply and safety, yet He is such an one as will not admit any enemy, great or small, signified by the “galley with oars,” and the “gallant ship,” to come near to hurt them.
III. The text adds, as a further CONFIRMATION AND PROOF OF THE SECURITY AND TRIUMPH OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD, that “the Lord is our Judge.” All their wrongs will be righted and their injuries avenged.
IV. The text states, as a FURTHER ENCOURAGEMENT, that “the Lord is our Lawgiver.” He hath not only enacted wholesome laws for the government of His Church and people, in keeping of which there is great reward; but He writes them on their heart, and puts His Spirit within them to enable them to keep His commandments, and walk in His ways.
V. THE LORD IS ALSO OUR KING. He is King of Zion and King of saints. “The government shall be upon His shoulder.” He manages and directs all the concerns of His people. “His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, and His dominion endureth throughout all ages.”
VI. The text concludes with an EPITOME OF THE WHOLE in a few words, “He will save us.” Whom will He save? Those who receive Him as their Lawgiver and King. (J. Shore, M. A.)
The water-supply of Jerusalem
One great peculiarity of Jerusalem which distinguishes it from almost all other historical cities, is that it has no river. Babylon was on the Euphrates, Nineveh on the Tigris, Thebes on the Nile, Rome on the Tiber; but Jerusalem had nothing but a fountain or two, and a well or two, and a little trickle of an intermittent stream. The water-supply to-day is, and always has been, a great difficulty, and an insuperable barrier to the city’s ever having a great population. That deficiency throws a great deal of beautiful light on more than one passage in the Old Testament. Isaiah’s great vision is not, as I take it, of a future, but of what the Jerusalem of his day might be to the Israelite, if he would live by faith. The mighty Lord. “the glorious Lord,” shall Himself “be a place of broad rivers and streams.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The rivers of God
I. This remarkable promise suggests how IN GOD THERE IS THE SUPPLY OF ALL DEFICIENCIES. The city was perched on its barren, hot rock, with scarcely a drop of water, and its inhabitants must often have been tempted to wish that there had been running down the sun-bleached stones of the Kedron a flashing stream, such as laved the rock-cut temples and tombs of Thebes. Isaiah says, in effect, “You cannot see it, but if you will trust yourselves to God, there will be such a river.” In like manner every defect in our circumstances, everything lacking in our lives, everything which seems to hamper us in some aspects, and to sadden us in others, may be compensated and made up, if we will hold fast by God.
II. Take another Bide of the same thought. HERE IS A REVELATION OF GOD AND HIS SWEET PRESENCE AS OUR TRUE DEFENCE. The river that lay between some strong city and the advancing enemy was its strongest fortification when the bridge of boats was taken away. One of the ancient cities is described by one of the prophets as being held as within the coils of a serpent, by which he means the various bendings and twistings of the Euphrates which encompassed Babylon, and made it so hard to be conquered. The primitive city of Paris owed its safety, in the wild old times when it was founded, to being upon an island. Venice has lived through all the centuries because it is girded about by its lagoons. England is what it is largely because of the streak of silver sea. So, God’s city has a broad moat all round it. If we will only knit ourselves with God by simple trust and continual communion, it is the plainest prose fact that nothing will harm us, and no foe will ever get near enough to shoot his arrows against us. That is a truth for faith, and not for sense. Many a man, truly compassed about by God, has to go through fiery trials of sorrow and affliction. But no real evil befalls us, because, according to the old superstition that money bewitched was cleansed if it was handed across running water, our sorrows only reach us across the river that defends.
III. Take, again, another aspect of this same thought, which suggests to us GOD’S PRESENCE AS OUR TRUE REFRESHMENT AND SATISFACTION. The waterless city depended on cisterns, and they were often broken, and they were always more or less foul, and sometimes the water fell very low in them. The rivers in northern Tartary all lose themselves in the sand. Not one of them has volume or force enough to get to the sea. And the rivers from which we try to drink are sand-choked long before our thirst is slaked. So if we are wise, we shall take Isaiah’s hint, and go where the water flows abundantly, and flows for ever.
IV. THE MANIFOLD VARIETY IN THE RESULTS OF GOD’S PRESENCE. It shapes itself into many forms, according to our different needs. “The glorious Lord shall be a place of broad rivers.” Yes; but notice the next words--“and streams.” Now, the word which is there translated “streams” means the little channels, for irrigation and other purposes, by which the water of some great river is led off into the melon patches, and gardens, and plantations, and houses of the inhabitants. So we have not only the picture of the broad river in its unity, but also that of the thousand little rivulets in their multiplicity and in their direction to each man’s plot of ground. It is of no profit that we live on the river’s bank if we let its waters go rolling and flashing past our door, or our garden, or our lips. Unless you have a sluice, by which you can take them off into your own territory, and keep the shining blessing to be the source of fertility in your garden, and of coolness and refreshment to your thirst, your garden will be parched, and your lips will crack. We may, and must, make God our very own property; it is useless to say “our God,” “the God of Israel,” “the God of the Church,” the great Creator, the Universal Father, and so on, unless we say “my God and my Saviour”; “my refuge and my strength.” (A. Maclaren D. D.)
The glorious Lord
I. THE SALVATION OF THE GOSPEL. Its value is shown--
1. In the riches of the blessings that it confers. “There,” i.e., in the church, “shall the Lord be unto us a place,” &c.
(1) The first idea suggested to the mind of a Jew by the neighbourhood of a great river, would be that of unfailing plenty. By this the salvation of the Gospel is especially distinguished.
(2) The next idea suggested by “a place of broad rivers and streams” is that of beauty. Running water is everywhere a great addition to the beauty of the landscape. The richest herbage clothes the banks of every stream, &c. The highest qualities of man are brought out only by Christianity; and all that is good thrives best under its influence.
(3) After plenty and beauty, the chief idea is perpetuity. The river rolls on with the same calm and even current from age to age, and yields to the successive generations of mankind the same unfailing supply.
2. The salvation of the Gospel is remarkable for its freedom from attendant evils. All the blessings of the present life have some considerable drawback to their full enjoyment. The possession of wealth is apt to lead either to wastefulness and dissipation, or to avarice; power tempts to arbitrary and despotic conduct; and those who are gifted with genius are exposed to the assaults of malice and envy;--most worldly good things lead their possessor into danger, and all of them are attended by care. But it is not so with the salvation of the Gospel: “The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it”; or, as it is expressed in the text, it resembles “a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.”
(1) The good of the Gospel salvation is unmingled with evil, because it requires man to do nothing injurious to himself.
(2) The pleasures of the Gospel are attended and followed by no sting, while it extracts their bitterness from all ordinary griefs.
II. THE GLORY OF GOD AS MANIFESTED IN HIS BESTOWING SALVATION ON HIS PEOPLE. He is “glorious,” because He is unto us a place of broad rivers. &c. (W. Dickson.)
Broad rivers and streams
The meaning of this promise.
2. Abundance to the inhabitants. Places near broad rivers produce a great variety of plants. The children of Israel regretted that they had left the leeks, and garlic, and onions, and cucumbers, and melons of Egypt--plants that grew by the rivers. Besides, where there are rivers there is an abundance of fish of all kinds, and in the fat pastures, such as Goshen, which was well watered by the Nile, abundance of cattle are reared, while the abundant harvests which are there produced through the admirable irrigation make the lands blessed with broad rivers and streams the sunniest of climes. Well, now, our God is all this to His Church.
3. Broad rivers and streams in like manner point to commerce. In Holland especially the broad rivers and streams make that nation what it is; the harbours are so safe, the rivers so broad, and the canals so innumerable, that in every place commerce is easy, and the ends of the earth are linked to the nation by its broad rivers and streams. In that country we find curious importations hardly known to any other people, because they have gathered up the treasures of the far-off lands and there was a time when their broad rivers and streams enabled them to engross the mercantile power of the whole universe. Well, beloved, our glorious Lord--keep the adjective as well as the noun--is to be to us a place of commerce. Through God we have commerce with the past; the riches of Calvary, the riches of the covenant, the riches of eternity, all come to us down the broad stream of our gracious Lord. We have commerce, too, with the future. What galleys, laden to the water’s edge, come to us from the millennium! What visions we have of the days of heaven upon earth. Through our glorious Lord we have commerce with angels; commerce with the bright spirits washed in blood that sing before the throne; nay, better still, we have commerce with the Infinite One, with eternity, with self-existence, with immutability, with omnipotence, with omniscience; for our glorious Lord is to us a place of broad rivers and streams.
4. Broad rivers and streams are specially intended to set forth security. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The Church’s enemies
1. To the eye of faith the Church has no enemies at all. “Wherein shall go no galley with oars.” You ramble in your garden, perhaps, in the summer-time, and a spider has spun its stoutest web across your path; you walk along and you never think that there is anything to hinder you, and yet there are those spider’s strong webs, which would have caught a thousand flies, but they do not impede you. So is it with God’s glorious Church: there are barriers across her path, but they are only spider’s webs; on she walks; she has no adversaries, for she counts her adversaries to be nothing.
2. When we are compelled to see that the Church has adversaries, yet, according to the promise, those adversaries shall be put to confusion. They have launched the bark; the galley with oars is on the sea. The text does not say that no galley with oars shall ever be there, but “no galley with oars shall go there.” Now, in order to make it “go” they must fix the mast; they must gird the tacklings, or how shall they spread the sail, and how shall they proceed on their way? Ah! but they cannot (Isaiah 33:21).
3. And then faith not only sees the confusion of her adversaries, but she also believes they are so utterly destroyed that she may go out and spoil them.
4. What is to be the end of it all? Glory to a Triune God (Isaiah 33:22). (C. H.Spurgeon.)
For the Lord is our Judge . . . lawgiver . . . king
Salvation in harmony with Divine relations
The advent of sin into the world is one of the greatest mysteries of the universe.
It was the introduction of a mighty force for evil in direct antagonism to God, and to everything God ever made. Now that sin had found a footing in this world, it became a problem, perhaps the most perplexing and difficult ever known: How the Divine government should deal with sin to prevent its spread, to restrain its action, to subdue its power, and, if possible, to expel it from the throne it had usurped. Known to us are two methods in which the Divine government has dealt with sin. The first is that of stern, vigorous, prompt justice. This was the principle adopted in the case of the fallen angels. Sin in them became at once its own punishment. In the case of man God adopted another method of dealing with sin--a method of merciful and mediatorial intervention. By redemption He proposes to meet evil in its own temple, even in the heart of man, and there restrain, subdue, destroy, and abolish it. How can this be done? If done at all, it must be done in perfect harmony with the attributes and the character of God. He can do nothing contrary to His nature, or dishonouring to His law. If He saves, pardons, and acquits the guilty, it must be in perfect harmony with His law and government. Jehovah King, Jehovah Lawgiver, Jehovah Judge is our Jehovah Saviour. All the four offices blend and harmonise in one glorious Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I. JEHOVAH IS OUR KING, and although we are rebels against His kingly authority, yet He can save us. His right to govern us is based on His creatorship. He made us and not we ourselves. All our powers of body, mind, and spirit are gifts--His gifts. Not one of them is of our own production. He hath made all things for Himself, for His service, for His will. Had the race of man continued obedient to His will, we should have continued happy and safe under His benevolent and holy rule. But the reverse of this has taken place. We have rebelled. Had He doomed us to woes unrelieved and unending, every attribute of His nature, every law in the universe, every being in creation would have given the acquiescing Amen, just and true are all Thy ways. Yet, when retribution with unrestrained force was about to fall, when truth and justice demanded the execution of the dread sentence, the curse was rolled back, wrath suspended, punishment deferred, guilty man spared, and complete eternal deliverance provided and freely offered. How came this to pass? Not by a mere act of arbitrary sovereignty. There are things which God cannot do. He cannot do an injustice. He cannot deny His Word; He cannot deny Himself. He cannot come into the midst of a rebel world armed to the teeth against His majesty, and say, “I know that all men are traitors to My rule, rebels against My authority; all deserve to die, and without exception ought to die, for I have solemnly declared that death is the penalty of rebellion; but as sovereign Lord, I select some from amongst them who shall not die, who shall escape the penalty, who shall be treated as if they had never rebelled, and ultimately be crowned with glory and immortality, like all loyal beings in My dominions. I give no reason for thus acting. I claim the right to do it by an act of sovereign will.” We must all feel that this was impossible to God. This would be to abolish all distinction between virtue and vice, between obedience and rebellion; this would be to overthrow law and right, to enthrone lawlessness, and reward crime: God could never do this. Notwithstanding that He is our King, and that we are traitors who have dared to lift our hand to smite the Majesty on high, yet He saves us. Jehovah is our King, and He will save us. But how? If He saves us, it must be in perfect harmony with His Kingship. And so He does. The Son of God equipped with human nature steps into the breach, stands between the rebels and the Majesty they have offended. The naked sword in the hand of the angered King is about to fall and smite, but Jehovah’s Fellow bares His breast to receive the smiting. The strongest condemnation of sin which even God Himself could give was given when He sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned sin in the flesh.
II. SALVATION IN HARMONY WITH LAW. Jehovah is our Lawgiver, and He will save us. This clause teaches that God sustains towards us the relation of Lawgiver, but the difficulty in the way of saving us is in the fact that we sustain towards Him the relation of lawbreakers. There can be no question as to our guilt. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. If then we have all sinned, the law cannot justify, nay, the law condemns us.
The penalty of disobedience is death. The Lawgiver cannot by an act of mere sovereignty remit that penalty. He cannot ignore or override the law which He Himself has made. If this were done, the Maker of the law would become the breaker of the law. This can never be. Salvation in order to be satisfactory to the sinner himself must be bestowed in harmony with law, and must have the consent of the law. To secure for me abiding peace I must have the assurance that the law consents to my pardon, to blot out my sins from her book of remembrance, and to cancel the sentence of condemnation. I must be assured that the law will never lift up her voice to condemn me, nor stretch out her hand to smite me, nor throw open the sources of wrath to overwhelm me. Redemption through atonement meets this difficulty. Jehovah Lawgiver becomes Jehovah Saviour. But how? Within the ark were the tables of the law; over the law was the lid, the covering, called the propitiatory or mercy-seat; over that again the cherubim in bending thoughtful attitude; between the cherubim the Glory, the uncreated symbol of the Divine Presence seated in majesty on the mercy-seat. This then is the teaching of this profound symbolism. Mercy has built her throne on law; so that when the transgressor approaches God to plead for pardon, and when God graciously bestows it, the law is present, not to condemn, but to approve, not to object but to acquiesce in the pardon: that pardon proceeds from mercy and that mercy is founded on law. Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. Now that the law has vindicated her own majesty and purity by smiting our Substitute, the law can not only acquiesce, but also triumph in your pardon, and be more signally magnified by your salvation than by your condemnation, so that we can challenge you to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy, for Jehovah Lawgiver is also Jehovah the Saviour. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” Here Jesus Christ is spoken of as an advocate or pleader. What is He pleading for? Forgiveness. The sinner cannot deny or disprove the accusation. But the Divine Advocate is there and shows Himself as newly slain, saying, I have endured the curse for him, I have been wounded for his transgressions, the chastisement of his peace has been laid upon Me, and I claim for him forgiveness. The plea is admitted, the Advocate prevails, the sinner is free; in the presence of the sacrifice the law is magnified and announces the acquittal of the penitent believer: “Neither do I condemn thee, go in peace.”
III. SALVATION IN HARMONY WITH JUDGESHIP. Jehovah Judge is also Jehovah Saviour. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
But is not every man judged at the hour of death and his eternal destiny then irrevocably fixed? Yes. What need then of a general judgment? One important, if not the most important purpose is this--the general judgment will give the Judge of all the opportunity of vindicating Himself. He must be justified when He speaks; He must be cleared when He judges. Assembled worlds on that day must be satisfied that every decision is in perfect harmony with truth and righteousness For father and mother to enter heaven with even the shadow of a suspicion that the sentence pronounced upon their son was unjust or severe, would mar heaven to them for ever. For His own sake and for the sake of all His subjects throughout His vast dominions, God must silence every objection, dissipate every suspicion. How will the Judge clear Himself? Not by pleading sovereignty. We cannot conceive of Him saying to assembled worlds on that great day: “I am sovereign disposer of all events, of all beings, of all worlds. I do as I will with each and all without giving any reason. I have endowed you with reason but I intend to treat you as though you had none. You may be dissatisfied with your destiny, or with the destiny of some in whom you are lovingly concerned; you may suspect Me of having done you or your loved ones an injustice, but that will not concern Me. You may carry your suspicion with you to your doom, it may cleave to your spirit for ever; I will not attempt to remove it or to convince you that I am right.” This would be an unreasoning despotism, and one shudders at the thought of the righteous Judge dealing thus with His rational creatures. He will justify Himself when He speaks, and clear Himself when He judges. But how? When the dividing line is drawn between the righteous and the wicked, the one placed on the right, the other on the left of the judgment throne, the Judge will be able to say: “Notwithstanding that all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God, yet, in infinite compassion I made a provision for the removal of sin, for the deliverance of every man from its power, guilt, and pollution, and for his complete restoration to purity and bliss. These on My right availed themselves of that provision, fulfilled its conditions, sought with true repentance and faith the application of that redemption to their heart, and they stand here to-day without sin. Who will lay anything to their charge?” Turning then to the other side the Judge will be able to say: “All these on My left I have loved with an infinite compassion, I have died to redeem them, My salvation was as free to them as to the others, and would have been as effectual had they received it, but they spurned it. I shed My blood for them, but they trampled it under foot. I can do no more for them. They have chosen death and they must have it.” What then is the inference? If you perish it will be your own fault; the entire responsibility of your lost condition is with yourself, and will rest on you alone, and for ever. “God so loved the world,” &c., so that if you perish, it will not be because you are sinners, but rather because you spurn the remedy, and reject the only Redeemer. Sin and punishment are inseparable. You cannot divorce them. Where the one is, the other must be. If sin remain, you cannot escape punishment; for sin is its own punishment. The only method to avoid punishment is to abolish sin. God’s system of redemption provides for this. “For this purpose was the Son of God manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Nothing that God ever made is to be annihilated. Matter may change its form, its appearance, its relations, but science teaches us that not an atom will ever cease to be. God has, however, provided for the annihilation of sin in the believer through atonement. This is the mystery of redemption, it destroys that which destroys humanity. It saves the sinner by destroying his sin. (Richard Roberts.)
The restoration of judgment, God’s way of salvation to the Church
The broken and divided condition of the Christian Church is, to every right-thinking man, a subject of uneasy reflection.
1. It is in the nature of things impossible for a multitude of men to live together, or subsist as a community without the occurrence of differences, disputes, and questions of a greater or a less degree of importance.
2. The institution by which God meets and provides against this unavoidable circumstance in human life is that of the judge, the fullest general idea and true theological definition of which office is contained in these words, “If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood,” &c. (Deuteronomy 17:8-13).
3. The provision of a judge with absolute and conclusive authority, is God’s way of meeting that evil to which human society is exposed. He demands from men that they shall bring their controversies and have them determined by the person whom He appoints; and they are to yield to the award of the judge, through submission to God, by whose voice or in whose providence he has been appointed, and through faith that God is with the judge, and is at hand to give him wisdom and discernment Proverbs 29:4; Judges 2:18).
4. The taking away of judges is one of the last and severest punishments that God inflicts upon a people. When God gives men children to be their princes and babes to rule over them--so that the people are oppressed everyone by another and everyone by his neighbour, so that the child behaves himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable--it is in His anger that He does so (Amos 2:3).
5. Again, when God recovered His people, or spake of doing so, the restoration of the judge is one of the main acts or promises (Isaiah 1:26).
6. To set judgment in the earth is declared to be one of the offices of Christ: and His kingdom is characterised as that in which “a King shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment”; when the people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation and in sure dwellings and in quiet resting-places. But of peace and quiet security and well-being without the office of the judge, there is no mention in all scripture, either prophetical or historical.
7. This method and ordinance of God for the preservation of peace and righteousness among men is continually alluded to in the language of the New Testament; alluded to and recognised, and therefore shown to be perpetual. Our blessed Lord always refers to the judge as the ordained ultimate decider in all human quarrels and contentions; and although He would have His disciples to be reconciled everyone to his adversary before an appeal to the judge shall have become unavoidable, yet He clearly points out the absoluteness and peremptoriness of the ordinance, as one which God will ordinarily guide, and one which He will not suffer any man with impunity to despise.
8. The duty of those whose matter is brought before the judge is to do according to the sentence of the judge, not declining from it to the right nor to the left. This, of course, is on the supposition that the judge spoken of is the ultimate one, from whom there can be no appeal. So the general peace of society, and the comfort and quietness of the individual himself are ensured.
9. Moreover, it is through the judge that law becomes a living thing, capable of continual enlargement, and of application to the varying conditions of human society; which is itself a living thing, its character always in progress, with new interests springing up, and liable to new difficulties and complications.
10. The Church of Christ is the widest and most comprehensive society of men that can exist. How much more than all other societies of men must the Church be liable to causes of division!
11. And shall God’s ordinance for peace not be found in the spiritual corporation? And if there be in the Church such an ordinance of ultimate appeal, and peremptory decision, shall not the same implicit submission be required which God commanded that men should render under the law--a submission more intelligent than under the Jewish dispensation, and therefore more voluntary, yet not less absolute--and shall not the penalty be as severe as it then was for the despiser and the presumptuous?
12. There has been no Catholic judgment in the Church since the removal of the apostles; and we are conscious of the condition to which we have been reduced by the want of judgment. Questions, doubts, disputes, discontents, hatreds, divisions, rebellions have accumulated.
13. And when God’s people fall into such depths as these, how does He act towards them? “He repenteth Himself for His servants, when He seeth that their power is gone” (Deuteronomy 32:36). Such as God was to Israel the same is He for ever, the same shall He show Himself unto His Church. And unto Israel He hath said, “I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellers as at the beginning, afterward thou shalt be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isaiah 1:26). Those judges and counsellors, shall not they be peacemakers for the long-vexed Church--by whom the winds and the sea shall be rebuked and there shall be agreat calm? (W. Dow, M. A.)
Our best safety
I. ACCEPTANCE OF GOD’S DECISION IN THE AFFAIRS OF LIFE. “The Lord is our Judge.” These words do not refer to the final judgment, but to the verdict of the Judge in this life.
1. This decision is made known in reference to nations, as in this chapter. God judged between Israel and the Assyrians by destroying the Assyrian host. He showed that the Jews were His people, and He was their God.
2. The same may be said of Churches, as is shown by the history of the seven Churches of Asia.
3. So likewise of individuals, though the Divine decision in this case is not always so manifest.
II. ACCEPTANCE OF GOD’S WILL AS THE RULE OF LIFE. “The Lord is our Lawgiver.” We are liable to take our own passions, inclinations, and desires as the rule of life. Sometimes the maxims of society and the examples of others. But the only safe rule is the will of God.
1. It is benevolent in its intentions--it aims at our happiness here and hereafter.
2. It is safe in its action--always the same. Human wisdom changes.
3. It is elevating in its effects, ennobles, enriches, exalts.
4. It is eternal. We must ever live under the rule of this Lawgiver. If we accept it as the rule of life here, it will be the delight of heaven to live under the same hereafter.
III. ACCEPTANCE OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY. “The Lord is our King.” He is a worthy King.
1. A King who is infinite in power, and wisdom, and love.
2. A King who ever thinks of, and provides for, the welfare of His subjects.
3. A King whose dominion extends to all things; to every element and every creature; to all men and spirits, good and bad; to all regions--earth, heaven, and hell.
4. A King whose kingdom shall have no end. No revolution will ever disturb the security of His throne, and that because the sceptre of His kingdom is a right sceptre. Let us earnestly and devoutly say, “Thy kingdom come.”
IV. ASSURANCE OF SAFETY. “He will save us.” A result arising from the acceptance of the Divine under the three foregoing aspects--as Judge, as Lawgiver, and as King. (Homilist.)
The Lord is our King
Let the great day at Hebron when David was made king by a united nation be to us a type of that greater day when a united world with a perfect heart shall crown Jesus King of men.
1. Jesus is our King by Divine anointing.
2. Jesus received regal honours without any protest on His part.
3. When Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven there was another crowning there.
4. Though Jesus was the King of men, He refused to possess universal empire.
5. Our King has two great things to do.
(1) To recover men from sin. He had to bear the penalty. Jesus recovers us also by delivering us from our inclination to sin. And by giving penitence to the human heart.
(2) To make us kings like Himself. He bids every man hope in God.
6. Our King is powerful.
7. He is an active King.
8. What shall we do for our King? (W. Birch.)
Two distinct benefits stand out as soon as we compare the condition of Israel under the judges with that under King David and King Solomon. Under the king was obtained--
1. Unity. One nation with one national life, instead of isolated tribes living under their own judges, and having little cohesion with the other tribes.
2. Salvation from their enemies, and prosperity at home. (Hubert Brooke, M. A.)
Thy tacklings are loosed
Thy tacklings are loosed
The tacklings may denote the good counsels of wise senators; a strong, well-disciplined army; and money, which is necessary to supply the exigences of the State.
These tacklings are loosed, when few prudent men can be found to manage public affairs, and to form the manners of the citizens; when the soldiery become weak and timid, and there is a scarcity of finances to carry into execution the salutary measures that are requisite to be adopted. (R. Macculloch.)
They could not well strengthen their mast
The mast of the ship may signify the most eminent person or persons in the kingdom who were exalted above all the others. The mast, in this figurative sense, could not be well strengthened; when the proper means of aiding and supporting the chief magistrate were wanting or were greatly deficient, he could not receive the succours that were requisite to maintain the dignity and prosperity of the empire. Persons in power are incapable by themselves to advance the public welfare, unless supported by the wealth, the interest, the advice, and courage of those over whom they preside. (R. Macculloch.)
They could not spread the sail
The sail may denote the means that were necessary to be applied and vigorously extended without delay, in order to promote the purposes to which they ought to be subservient, for the benefit of the State. These the people employed in managing public affairs were unable immediately to use, so as to give effect to the measures whereby the common interest might have been forwarded. (R. Macculloch.)
The prey of a great spoil
The power whose situation resembled a ship in distress is supposed to have met with a terrible storm, whereby she had been dreadfully shattered, her cables and ropes loosed or broken, her masts disabled, so that she was almost a wreck. When in this forlorn condition, deserted by the mariners, who had lost hopes of her being able to stand out the tempest, the valuable cargo wherewith she was laden becomes a prey to the fraudulent and rapacious. (R. Macculloch.)
The ship of state
The abrupt transition from the glorious future to the present or the past, is somewhat surprising at this point. It is not Assyria but Zion which is compared to an unseaworthy ship. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
Seems to describe the fate of a hostile ship. (Prof. A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
The lame take the prey
Men labour under seemingly great disadvantages, and amid the most unfavourable circumstances, yet making grand achievements, getting great blessing for themselves, great blessing for the world, great blessing for the Church; and so “the lame take the prey.” (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)
The disabilities of successful men
Do you know that the three great poets of the world were totally blind? Homer, Ossian, John Milton. Do you know that Mr. Prescott, who wrote that enchanting book The Conquest of Mexico, never saw Mexico, could not even see the paper on which he was writing? A framework across the sheet, between which up and down went his pen immortal. Do you know that Gambassio, the sculptor, could not see the marble before him, or the chisel with which he cut it into shapes bewitching? Do you know that Alexander Pope, whose poems will last as long as the English language, was so much of an invalid that he had to be sewed up every morning m rough canvas in order to stand on his feet at all? Do you know that Stuart, the celebrated painter, did much of his wonderful work under the shadow of the dungeon where he had been unjustly imprisoned for debt? Do you know that Demosthenes by almost superhuman exertion first had to conquer the lisp of his own speech before he conquered assemblages with his eloquence? Do you know that Bacon struggled up through innumerable sicknesses, and that Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott went limping on club-foot through all their life, and that many of the great poets, and painters, and orators, and historians, and heroes of the world had something to keep them back, and pull them down, and impede their way, and cripple their physical or their intellectual movement, and yet that they pushed on and pushed up until they reached the spoils of worldly success, and amid the huzzas of nations and centuries “the lame took the prey”? You know that a vast multitude of these men started under the disadvantage of obscure parentage. Columbus, the son of the weaver; Ferguson, the astronomer, the son of the shepherd. America the prey of the one, worlds on worlds the prey of the other. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
The advantages of invalidism
What is true in secular directions, is more true in spiritual and religious directions. There are in all communities many invalids. They never know a well day. They adhere to their occupations, but they go punting along the streets with exhaustions, and at eventime they lie down on the lounge with aching beyond all medicament. They have tried all prescriptions, they have gone through all the cures which were proclaimed infallible, and they have come now to surrender to perpetual ailments. They consider they are among many disadvantages, and when they see those who are buoyant in health pass by, they almost envy their robust frames and easy respirations. But I have noticed among that invalid class those who have the greatest knowledge of the Bible, who are in the nearest intimacy with Jesus Christ, who have the most glowing experiences of the truth, who have had the most remarkable answers to prayer, and who have most exhilarant anticipations of heaven. The temptations which weary us who are in robust health, they have conquered. They have divided among them the spoils of the conquest. Many who are athletic and swarthy loiter in the road, while these are the lame which take the prey. Robert Hall an invalid, Edward Payson an invalid, Richard Baxter an invalid, Samuel Rutherford an invalid. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Physical disability attended by spiritual advantage
Through raised letters the art of printing has been brought to the attention of the blind. You take up the Bible for the blind, and you close your eyes, and you run your fingers over the raised letters, and you say, “Why, I never could get any information in this way; what a slow way of reading. God help the blind.” And yet I find among that class of persons--among the blind, the deaf, and the dumb--the most thorough acquaintance with God’s Word. Shut out from all other sources of information, no sooner does their hand touch the raised letter than they gather a prayer. Without eyes, they look off upon the kingdoms of God’s love. Without hearing, they catch the minstrelsy of the skies. Dumb, yet with pencil or with irradiated countenance, they declare the glory of God. A large audience assembled in New York at the anniversary of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, and one of the visitors, with chalk on the blackboard, wrote this question to the pupils, “Do you not find it very hard to be deaf and dumb?” And one of the pupils took the chalk and wrote on the blackboard this sublime sentence in answer: “When the song of the angels shall burst upon our enraptured ear we will scarcely regret that our ears were never marred with earthly sounds.” (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Spiritual compensation for physical blindness
A lad who had been blind from infancy was cured. The oculist operated upon the lad, and then put a very heavy bandage over the eyes, and after a few weeks had gone by the bandage was removed, and the mother said to her child, “Willie, can you see?” He said, “Oh, mamma, is this heaven?” The contrast between the darkness before and the brightness afterwards was overwhelming. And I tell you the glories of heaven will be a thousandfold brighter for those who never saw anything on earth. (T. De Will Talmage, D. D.)
Poor, yet rich
There are those in all communities who toil mightily for a livelihood. They have scant wages. Perhaps they are diseased, or have physical infirmities, so that they are hindered from doing a continuous day’s work. A city missionary finds them up the dark alley, with no fire, with thin clothing, with very coarse bread. They never ride in the street car; they cannot afford the five cents. They never see any pictures save those in the show window on the street, from which they are often jostled and looked at by someone who seems to say in the look, “Move on! what are you doing here looking at pictures?” Yet many of them live on mountains of transfiguration. At their rough table He who fed the five thousand breaks the bread. They talk often of the good times that are coming. This world has no charm for them, but heaven entrances their spirit. They often divide their scant crust with some forlorn wretch who knocks at their door at night, and on the blast of the night wind, as the door opens to let them in, is heard the voice of Him who said, “I was hungry and ye fed Me.” No cohort of heaven will be too bright to transport them. By God’s help they have vanquished the Assyrian host. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Ordinary Christian, may accomplish great good
There are those who would like to do good. They say, “Oh, if I only had wealth, or if I had eloquence, or if I had high social position, how much I would accomplish for God and the Church.” You have great opportunities for usefulness. Who built the Pyramids? The king who ordered them built? No; the plain workmen who added stone after stone, stone after stone. Who built the dykes of Holland? The government that ordered the enterprise? No; the plain workmen who carried the stuff and rung their trowels on the wall. Who are those who have built these vast cities? The capitalists? No; the carpenters, the masons, the plumbers, the plasterers, the tinners, the reefers dependent on a day’s wages for a livelihood. And so in the great work of assuaging human suffering, and enlightening human ignorance, and halting human iniquity. In that great work the chief part is to be done by ordinary men, with ordinary speech, in an ordinary manner, and by ordinary means. (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)
The lame take the prey
A long, long while that has puzzled one, why the prophet should say, “The lame take the prey.” Our experience of human life goes to show that lame people seldom succeed in taking the great prizes of life. If a man is lame in his power of calculation, and cannot easily count up columns of figures; if he is lame in his caligraphy, if he is lame in his memory, and cannot easily recall names and faces; if he is lame in the power of touch, and cannot detect the difference between two apparently identical fabrics; if a man is lame in any faculty, he is crushed to the wall in the busy rush of human life and arrives at the end of the crowd to take the leavings of the rest. In human life a man who is lame anyhow misses the prey, misses the spoil, misses the prize. But in God’s world, in God’s Book, in God’s dealings with men, “The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong.” Weakness has a fascination for God; and those who have lost everything that this world can give are they who come off best with our heavenly Father. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Henry Fawcett, Postmaster-General
One great Postmaster-General of England was lame in his sight. Mr. Fawcett was blind, but he took the prey of a great office which he fulfilled with great success. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The weak favoured
I got an illustration of this when I happened to be staying in a farm-house. With one exception the family consisted of robust, hearty children, but there was one little lame boy. Whilst I was staying, there came in a great hamper of apples, and at once all the boys and girls in the family, having eyed them wistfully, proceeded to appropriate, and to appropriate very lavishly, the apples. The little lame fellow, with his puny, wan face, looked forward eagerly as those apples disappeared, and no one thought of him, till mother came, a bustling, quick-tempered woman. She said, “What is that you are doing? Put all those apples back again, I tell you.” And very ruefully they replaced them. “Now,” she said, “Jimmy, you come and take your pick.” And the little lame fellow on the crutch pushed his way up to the table, took the ripest and juiciest, and filled his pockets as full as they would hold, and then went back with a flush upon his pale cheeks. Then mother said to the other children, “Now do what you like with the rest.” I saw how in mother’s love the lame take the prey! (F. B.Meyer, B. A.)
The weak specialty cared for
I came afterwards into the house of a workman, a smith, one whose closed fist could fell any man. He had an ailing child, A little, puny thing lay and cried in the cradle. There was no chance to rear it; it must die. And he came in from his smithy--a strong, brawny man, with black hair. And I tell you that child dragged that man down to the level, and its poor, weak, puny frame was able to do for that strong man what the strongest in the village could not--it could fell him! And at once there came upon me the conception, in dealing with God, at any rate, it is not the strong man who can shoulder his way and fight the brunt and take what he will in this world, every one waiting behind him, but it is the weak who get the tenderest blessings. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The lowly are enriched
When I began to preach I thought all God’s best things were on the tall shelf, and when I got very good I should be able to reach them down. Now I find all the best gifts are on the low shelf, that the babes can get at. And it is only when we become as little babes, only when we become simple, natural, and our stiff backs get bent, that we get low enough to take God’s benefits. (F. B. Meyer, M. A.)
And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick
The bliss of heaven
Two principal circumstances are dwelt upon, as constituting the bliss of heaven.
I. THERE IS NO SORROW IN HEAVEN. “The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick.” It is otherwise in this world, ruined as it has been by sin. Here “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” And what men universally feel, they with one consent complain of. In one way or other, every child of Adam is exclaiming, I am sick!” With some--
1. The body is sick. But in heaven there is nothing of all this.
2. The heart is sick--sick of “hope deferred,” of rash and ill-judged wishes, of continual disappointments. In heaven, no heart saith, “I am sick.” No disappointment, there, of former hopes. Even hope finds no admission there. “We hope for that we see not.” But in heaven all is sight, and knowledge, and solid experience.
3. The soul is sick. In heaven no indwelling sin will remain, to suggest evil, when we “would do good”: no tempter, to recommend to us forbidden pleasures: no apostate, rebellious world, to revile, ensnare, or persecute the friends of God. Still--as there can be no doubt that memory will accompany the soul into its heavenly habitation--it may be imagined by some that the recollection of sins committed on earth must interfere with its entire felicity. But the apprehension is groundless. That a deep sense of unworthiness will exist, there is no doubt; even the sinless angels feel this. But the painful sense of guilt will be for ever excluded.
II. THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION IN HEAVEN. “The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.”
1. The forgiveness of sin will be more certain. Forgiveness is certain to the real believer; but who is certain of himself?
2. The forgiveness of sin will then be more complete,--not so much the forgiveness itself, as the consequences of it. (J. Jowett, M. A.)
Healing and pardon
This whole chapter was a gracious message from God to a people who were in extremis. When the worst had come to the worst, He laid bare His arm and brought deliverance for His people. Is not this a general rule with God? The peril of Jerusalem serves as a dark background to bring out the brightness of my text.
I. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS PRESENT FORGIVENESS. There must be a present, conscious, enjoyable pardon of sin--
1. Else there would be no joy in the world for thoughtful minds.
2. Else the main motive and fountain of love would be dried up. Forgiveness begets gratitude, gratitude creates love, and love brings forth holiness.
3. Else we should always be in bondage through fear of death.
4. Else the whole system of grace would be a dead letter, and its glorious privileges would be mere shells without a kernel. Let us bend our thoughts to a consideration of this great blessing as it is treated of in this chapter.
(1) It is plainly promised in the text.
(2) If we wish to obtain this free pardon it will be granted in answer to prayer. Read the second verse: “O Lord, be gracious unto us.”
(3) Pardon is given in connection with the exaltation of God. Read the fifth verse: “The Lord is exalted.” He does not grant this forgiveness until we begin to regognise that He is a great God and a Saviour. We must see that He is great in justice, and we must bow in penitence, and honour that justice.
(4) God grants pardon when men are humbled. See the seventh verse: “Their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.”
(5) God grants this pardon also when the heart is searched. Read the fourteenth verse: “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?” When we begin to examine ourselves, to fear because of sin, and to turn from all hypocrisy, then the Lord will accept us.
(6) God will also pardon us when He is acknowledged to be our Ruler and Lord. Look at the twenty-second verse: “The Lord is our judge,” &c.
(7) He will also forgive us when we put our trust in Him. Read the last clause of the twenty-second verse: “He will save us.” Faith must look for salvation from the Lord alone, and then salvation will come to it.
II. WHEN SIN IS PARDONED, THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN ARE ALSO REMOVED. Sin had made these people sick, as Isaiah saith in his first chapter--“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” But when iniquity is forgiven, then “the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick.” Special chastisement is usually removed when any peculiar sin is forgiven. In the case of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, if some of the temporal results of sin do not cease, yet it is only in appearance that they remain: or rather they remain for other purposes, benign and useful, and not as wrathful inflictions.
III. THIS MAKES A REMARKABLE CHANGE IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE FAVOURED PEOPLE. “The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick.”
1. They have no need to say it when the Lord comes and dwells with them; for the Sun of Righteousness hath risen upon them with healing in His wings.
2. They shall have no thought of saying, “I am sick.” He that feels the joy of pardoned sin forgets all his pains and griefs.
3. These people did not say they were sick, since they had a motive for not saying so. The three lepers who went out and divided the spoil did not say, “We are lepers”: that was forgotten, and they entered the tents as if they had been in health. They went into one pavilion and ate and drank, and then they went into another. Men free from leprosy could not have made themselves more at home. They took away gold and silver and hid it; though they were lepers. So when the Lord pardons our sin there is a prey to be taken: riches of grace are at our disposal.
4. Pardoned people shall not say they are sick, for by a little anticipation they shall declare the very contrary. In a little time we shall be where the inhabitant shall never be sick again. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Sickness and sin
I. Let us speak of THOSE “ILLS THAT FLESH IS HEIR TO.” Wherever man exists in this world, the cry is heard, “I a m sick.” It is so because wherever man exists there is sin. Disease has been sent to reprove the sins of men, and to correct them with salutary pain. We are not competent to decide what specific connection there is between disease and sin in the case of our fellow-men. Endurance of sickness is more often a mark of God’s goodwill than of His severe displeasure.
1. Pain removes us out of the way of temptation, gives us time for reflection, when we were hastily running into danger.
2. How much a formidable sickness has helped a believer in drawing out his thoughts to the heavenly country and the passage into glory! But these considerations do not remove this original and humbling fact that sickness is a disorder in God’s world and that it is connected with that moral disorder which we call sin.
II. THE REMOVAL OF BOTH THESE. AS sickness and sin entered together, so shall they depart together. (D. Fraser, D. D.)
Pardon does not involve immediate deliverance from all evil
Upon one other point connected the forgiveness of sins we get instruction from the experience of Jerusalem. Pardon does not change the outside of life; it does not immediately modify the movements of history, or suspend the laws of nature. Although God has forgiven Jerusalem, Assyria comes back to besiege her. Although the penitent be truly reconciled to God, the constitutional results of his fall remain: the frequency of temptation, the power of habit, the bias and facility downwards, the physical and social consequences. Pardon changes none of these things. It does not keep off the Assyrians. But, if pardon means the return of God to the soul, then in this we have the secret of the return of the foe. Men could not try nor develop a sense of the former except by their experience of the latter, Had the Assyrians not returned, the Jews would have had no experimental proof of God’s restored presence, and the great miracle would never have happened that rang through human history for evermore--a trumpet-call to faith in the God of Israel And so, still “the Lord scourgeth every son whom He receiveth,” because He would put our penitence to the test; because He would discipline our disorganised affections, and give conscience and will a chance of wiping out defeat by victory; because He would baptize us with the most powerful baptism possible--the sense of being trusted once more to face the enemy upon the fields of our disgrace. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
“Nobody is quite well”
A friend who met Lord Beaconsfield soon after that statesman had lost his helpful wife hoped that he was quite well. In a hollow voice Beaconsfield answered, “Nobody is quite well.” This is true. (Quiver.)
Forgiveness and healing
A brother had grievously offended, and had been put out from Church fellowship for his sin; and he so behaved that his pastor thought of him with pain, and was glad to avoid an interview with him, for it only produced a sad attempt at self-justification. At length the Lord brought him to a better mind. He sought his pastor, and said, with tears, “Will you shake hands with me?” The pastor replied, “Right gladly. I rejoice to feel that the past is all forgiven. How are you?” The repentant one made this reply, “I am quite Well now that you restore me to your esteem.” The poor man was extremely ill, but the joy of being once more in his old place in his friend’s thoughts made him refuse to say, “I am sick.” (C. H.Spurgeon.)
“Thy sins be forgiven thee.” It is a beautiful figure. It is as if a boat was moored to a filthy mainland and could not get away. There comes a man who cuts the cable, and the boat floats away down stream.
That is the figure given. The Lord comes and cuts the cable that binds me to the filthy mainland of the past, and my boat goes free. (J. H.Jowett, M. A.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 33". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter