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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 50

Verses 1-3

Isaiah 50:1-3

Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement?


Jehovah and unfaithful Israel

These Israelites went to the only kind of law with which they were familiar, and borrowed from it two of its forms, which were not only suggested to them by the relations in which the nation and the nation’s sons respectively stood to Jehovah, as wife and as children, but admirably illustrated the ideas they wished to express.

(1) There was the form of divorce, so expressive of the ideas of absoluteness, deliberateness and finality--of absoluteness, for throughout the East power of divorce rests entirely with the husband; of deliberateness, for in order to prevent hasty divorce the Hebrew law insisted that the husband must make a bill or writing of divorce instead of only speaking dismissal; and of finality, for such a writing in contrast to the spoken dismissal, set the divorce beyond recall.

(2) The other form which the doubters borrowed from their law, was one which, while it also illustrated the irrevocableness of the act, emphasized the helplessness of the agent--the act of the father who put his children away, not as the husband put his wife in his anger, but in his necessity, selling them to pay his debts and because he was bankrupt.

(3) On such doubts God turns with their own language--“I have indeed put your mother away, but where is the bill that makes her divorce final, beyond recall? You indeed were sold, but was it because I was bankrupt! To which, then, of My creditors (note the scorn of the plural) was it that I sold you? Nay, by means of your iniquities did ye sell yourselves, and by means of your transgressions were ye put away. But I stand here, ready as ever to save, I alone. If there is any difficulty about your restoration it lies in this, that I am alone, with no response or assistance from men.” (Prof. G. A. Smith, D.D.)

The sinner’s responsibility


1. Separated from God.

2. Sold under sin.

THE OCCASION OF IT. Not the will of God, but his own love of sin, and his consequent disregard of God’s offers of deliverance from sin and sorrow. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Israel self-ruined

Those who have professed to be the people of God, and yet seem to be severely dealt with, are apt to complain of God, and to lay the fault upon Him, as if He had severely dealt with them. But in answer to their murmurings, we have here--




1. It Was plain that it was their own fault that they were cast off, for God came and offered them His helping hand, either to prevent their trouble or to deliver them out of it, but they slighted Him and all the tenders of His grace.

2. It was plain that it was not owing to any lack of power in God that they were led into the misery of captivity, and remained in it, for He is almighty. They lacked faith in Him, and so that power was not exerted on their behalf. So it is with sinners still. (M. Henry.)

Verses 2-6

Isaiah 50:2-6

Wherefore, when I came, was there no man?


The Mediator: Divine and human

These words could have been spoken only by the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus They place before our thoughts--

His DIVINE POWER AND GLORY. Power is naturally calm. The power that sustains the universe is, in fact, most wonderful when, unseen, unfelt, with its Divine silence and infinite ease, it moves on in its ordinary course; but we are often most impressed by it when it strikes against obstructions, and startles the senses by its violence. Knowing our frame, and dealing with us as with children, our Teacher seeks to impress us with a sense of His Divine power, by bidding us think of Him as working by inexorable force certain awful changes and displacements in nature. “I dry up the sea,” etc.

HIS HUMAN LIFE AND EDUCATION. “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned,” etc. Gradually, it seems, the Divine Spirit, like a mysterious voice, woke up within Him the consciousness of what He was, and of what He had come on earth to fulfil. Morning by morning, through all the days of His childhood, the voice was ever awakening Him to higher consciousness and more awful knowledge.


1. It is personal. If His own personal teaching had not been in view, there would have been no need for all this personal preparation. “The Lord hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak.” This is His own testimony to the great fact that He Himself personally teaches every soul that is saved.

2. It is suitable. Suitable to our weariness.

(1) While we are yet in a state of unregeneracy.

(2) When we are sinking under the burden of guilt.

(3) When fainting under the burden of care.

(4) When burdened under the intellectual mysteries of theology.

(5) When under the burden of mortal infirmity.

3. The teaching of Christ is minutely direct and particular. When I read that He is ordained to speak “to him” that is weary, I understand that He does not speak in a general, impersonal, unrecognizing way to the forlorn crowd of sufferers, but to every man in particular, and to every man apart. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

The Redeemer described by Himself

In my opinion, these verses (2-6) run on without any break, so that you are not to separate them, and ascribe one to the prophet, another to the Messiah, and another to Jehovah Himself; but you must take the whole as the utterance of one Divine Person. That Jehovah-Jesus is the One who is speaking here, is very clear from the last verse of the previous chapter: “I the Lord” (“I, Jehovah,” it is,) “am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.”

BEHOLD THE MESSIAH AS GOD. Link Isaiah 50:3; Isaiah 6:1-13 : “I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering . . . I gave my back to the smiters,” etc. He, then, who suffered thus, and whom we regard as redeeming us by His death, and as saving us by His life, is no less than the Almighty God. I think the first reference, in these words, is to the miracles which were wrought by the plagues in Egypt. It was Jehovah-Jesus who was then plaguing His adversaries. In a later chapter, Isaiah says that “the Angel of His presence saved them;” and who is that great Angel of His presence but the Angel of the covenant in whom we delight, even Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour? But we must not restrict the text to that which happened in the land of Egypt, for it has a far wider reference. All the great wonders of nature are to be ascribed to Him upon whom we build all our hopes for time and for eternity. The last miracle recorded here, namely, that of covering the heavens with sackcloth, was performed by our Lord even when He was in His death agony. You are not depending for your salvation upon a mere man. He is man, but He is just as truly Divine.

BEHOLD THE MESSIAH AS THE INSTRUCTED TEACHER (verse 4). I call your special attention to the condescension of our Lord in coming here on purpose to care for the weak--to speak consoling and sustaining words to them; and also to the fact that, before He performed that service, He learned the sacred art from His Father. For thirty years was He learning much in Joseph’s carpenter’s shop. Little do we know how much He learned there; but this much we do know, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” And afterwards, when He entered upon His public work among men, He spake with the tongue of the learned, saying to His disciples, “All things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.” All through His time of teaching, He was still listening and learning.


1. He speaks of Himself as being prepared by grace. “The Lord God hath opened Mine ear,” as if there had been a work wrought upon Him to prepare Him for His service. And the same Spirit, which rested upon Christ, must also open our ears.

2. Being thus prepared by grace, He was consecrated in due form, so that He could say to Himself, “The Lord God hath opened Mine ear.” He heard the faintest whispers of His Father’s voice.

3. He not only heard His Father’s voice, but He was obedient to it in all things. “I was not rebellious.” From the day when, as a child, He said to His parents, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” till the hour when, on the cross, He cried, “It is finished,” He was always obedient to the will of God.

4. In that obedience, He was persevering through all trials. He says that He did not turn away back. Having commenced the work of saving men, He went through with it.

BEHOLD THE MESSIAH AS THE PEERLESS SUFFERER (verse 6). It has been asked, “Did God really die?” No; for God cannot die, yet He who died was God; so, if there be a confusion in your mind, it is the confusion of Holy Scripture itself, for we read, “Feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.” In addition to the pain, we are asked, in this verse, to notice particularly the contempt which the Saviour endured. The plucking of His hair was a proof of the malicious contempt of His enemies, yet they went still further, and did spit in His face. Spitting was regarded by Orientals, and, I suppose, by all of us, as the most contemptuous thing which one man could do to another; yet the vile soldiers gathered round Him, and spat upon Him. I must point out the beautiful touch of voluntariness here: “I hid not my face.” Our Saviour did not turn away, or seek to escape. If He had wished to do so, He could readily have done it. Conclusion: Notice three combinations which the verses of my text will make.

(1) Verses 2 and 6. Those verses together show the full ability of Christ to save. Here we have God and the Sufferer.

(2) Verses 4 and 5. Here you have the Teacher and the Servant, and the two together make up this truth--that Christ teaches us, not with words only, but with His life. What a wonderful Teacher He is, who Himself learned the lessons which He would have us learn!

(3) Now put the whole text together, and I think the result will be--at least to God’s people--that they will say, “This God shall be our God for ever and ever; and it shall be our delight to do His bidding at all times.” It is a high honour to serve God; and Christ is God. It is a great thing to be the servant of a wise teacher; and Christ has the tongue of the learned. It is a very sweet thing to walk in the steps of a perfect Exemplar; and Christ is that. And, last and best of all, it is delightful to live for Him who suffered and died on our behalf. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verses 4-11

Isaiah 50:4-11

The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned

The Lord’s servant made perfect through sufferings

In Isaiah 50:4-9 the servant is again introduced, speaking of Himself and His work, as in Isaiah 49:1-6.

He describes--

1. The close, intimate, and continuous communion with God through which He has learned the ministry of comfort by the Divine word, and His own complete self-surrender to the voice that guides Him (Isaiah 49:4-5).

2. His acceptance of the persecution and obloquy which He had to encounter in the discharge of His commission (Isaiah 49:6).

3. His unwavering confidence in the help of Jehovah, and the victory of His righteous cause, and the discomfiture of all His enemies (Isaiah 49:7-9). Verses 10, 11 are an appendix to the preceding description, drawing lessons for the encouragement of believers (Isaiah 49:10) or the warning of unbelievers (Isaiah 49:11). Although the word “Servant” never occurs in this passage, its resemblance to the three other “Servant-passages” makes it certain that the speaker is none other than the ideal character who comes before us in Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53:1-12. The passage, indeed, forms analmost indispensable link of connection between the first two and the last of these. (Prof. J. Skinner, D.D.)

The Messiah an instructed Teacher

After the Messiah had been exhibited in the preceding discourse labouring in vain and spending His strength for nought among the Jews, despised of men and abhorred by the nations, when actually employed in His public ministry, it became necessary to explain this surprising phenomenon. It is, therefore, affirmed that the neglect and contempt which He suffered was not owing to any deficiency on the part of this celebrated Teacher, who was eminently qualified for acquainting men with the Will of God, in the knowledge of which He was perfectly instructed. This important qualification was not imparted to Him by any human teacher, neither did He acquire it in the schools of philosophers and orators, nor was it communicated to Him by the most eminent of the prophets, but by the Spirit of the Lord God, to whom it is here attributed. (R. Macculloch.)

The tongue of the learned

THE CHARACTER DESCRIBED AS NEEDING THE SAVIOUR’S GRACE. “Him that is weary.” This description includes a very large class. All may not ascribe their weariness to the same cause, nor may all be sensible of their weariness to the same extent. Yet all are weary.

1. Not in the world of sense only do you complain of weariness. It is impossible for the unrenewed heart to find rest even in things that are Spiritual. Heaven itself would to such a one cease to be heaven. What a weariness do you find in the religion of Jesus Christ! Of prayer, of public worship, of hearing sermons, of religious conversation, of the service and work of the Lord you say, “What a weariness!”

2. The description, certainly, includes those who are truly anxious about the salvation of their souls.

3. The Lord’s weary ones include His own quickened people, who feel the burden of the body of sin, and are cast down because of their difficulties.

4. The assaults of the adversary, too, contribute not a little to the sense of weariness, which often prostrate a child of God.

5. Add to these the numerous and varied trials and afflictions which beset his pathway to heaven, and you have in outline the picture of his case.


1. His participation of our nature. Absolute Godhead could not of itself have conveyed to us sinners one word of sympathy or comfort. Neither could the angels do it. They are total strangers to the weariness to which sinful children of men are heirs. But, the man Christ Jesus becomes a partaker of the very nature whose burdens He sought to relieve. “Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also took part in the same.”

2. As He thus took upon Him our nature, so He also endured our sinless though humbling infirmities.

3. In addition to all this, the Lord God had given Him the tongue of the learned in another sense. I refer to the communication of the Divine Spirit Isaiah 61:1). Never was there a tongue like Christ’s--so learned, soskilled, so practised, and so experienced. “Never man spake like this man.”

4. The purpose for which this tongue of the learned was given Him is thus described--“That He should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.”

(1) A word,

(2) a word in season,

(3) that He should know how to speak.

5. But when Christ speaks to the weary, it is not to the outward ear merely, but to the heart--with almighty power. And the result is rest.

THE REST WHICH JESUS IMPARTS, when He speaks the word in season.

1. We are seeking rest by nature everywhere, and in everything but in Jesus. We seek it in the outward world, in the moral world, in the religious world--and we find it not. We seek it in conviction, in ordinances, in doing the works of the law--and still it evades us. We go from place to place, and from means to means, and still the burden presses, and we find no rest. No, and never will, until it is sought and found in Jesus.

2. Yet, in the case of a tried believer, the rest that Jesus imparts does not always imply the removal of the burden from which the sense of weariness proceeds. The burden is permitted to remain, and yet rest is experienced. Wonderful indeed! How is it explained? That burden takes us to Jesus. He pours strength into our souls, life into our spirits, and love into our hearts, and so we find rest. It is also matter of much practical importance, that you take heed not to anticipate or forestall His promised grace. For every possible emergency in which you can be placed, the fulness of Christ and the supplies of the Covenant are provided. But that provision is only meted out as the necessity for which it was intended occurs.

3. There is an hour approaching--the last great crisis of human life--when, we shall all, more than ever, need Him who hath the “tongue of the learned.” It will be of all seasons the most trying and solemn--the season that separates the soul from the body, and ushers the immortal spirit into eternity. Is it not our highest wisdom to know this Saviour now? (C. Ross M. A.)

A word to the weary


Though the gift itself is Divine, IT IS TO BE EXERCISED SEASONABLY. It is not enough to speak the right word, it must be spoken at the right moment. (J. Parker, D.D.)

Christ speaking a word in season to the weary


SHOW, FROM THE CHARACTER AND PERSON OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, THAT HE IS A SEASONABLE AND ALL-SUFFICIENT SAVIOUR TO THOSE WHO ARE WEARY. The excellency and glory of Christ may not only be perceived by viewing Him in the whole of His mediatorial character; but, also, by fixing on specific parts of it, and showing that there is a Divine suitability to all the exigencies of ruined men.

1. He can give rest to the mind of the man who is wearied with his researches after human wisdom.

2. He can give rest to those who are oppressed under a sense of guilt.

3. He can speak a word in season to those who have wearied themselves in attempting to establish their own righteousness.

4. He can give rest to those who have wearied themselves in vainly trying to overcome their corruptions in their own strength.

5. He can speak a word in season to those who are weary with the weight of affliction and trouble.

6. He can give rest to those who are oppressed and wearied with the cares of this world.

7. Christ can speak a word in season to those who are weary of living in this world. None of the children of men can enjoy rest, or real peace of mind, but through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (J. Matheson.)

The ministry of preaching

(with Acts 20:27). The first passage is spoken by the Messiah, the second by St. Paul. The one looks forward, the other backward. The one speaks of a preparation and fitness for a work yet to be done; the other is a thankful record of a mission already faithfully accomplished.


1. Observe the gift with which He claims to be endowed as one element of special fitness for His ministry. Speech was the chief instrument employed by Christ for conveying truth to the minds of men. The dispensation under which we live, so emphatically designated the dispensation of the Spirit, was ushered in by two miracles, both of which related to the tongue The Holy Spirit Himself appeared resting upon each one in the form of cloven tongues as of fire. A second miracle was wrought on the uneducated Galilean apostles, enabling them, without learning, to speak intelligently in the dialects of all the nationalities present, so that every man heard them speak in his own language. And why, at the very founding of Christianity, was this twofold miracle wrought in relation to the tongue, if not to indicate that the Holy Spirit purposed to employ speech as the chief instrument in the regeneration of mankind?

2. The purpose for which this gift of speech is to be employed. “To speak a word in season to him that is weary.”

(1) You will have to speak to men suffering, from mental weariness--men who have long searched for truth and failed to find it. See that ye be well furnished with the Spirit, who has promised to guide you into all truth, and who also will help you to guide others into all truth.

(2) You will have others wearied in body, through excessive labour or sore affliction. You may tell them of the illustrious Sufferer of Calvary who, though innocent, suffered for our sins; was in all points tempted like as we are; and who, therefore, is able to succour all those who are tempted.

(3) You will have others wearied in heart, by reason of bereavement. Imitating the Great Teacher in the bereaved family of Bethany, you must direct the thought of the sorrowful to the resurrection power of Christ, when the mortal shall put on immortality, and the corruptible shall put on incorruption.

(4) Others will come to you weary of the vicissitudes, disappointments and reverses of life. With the Master, you may speak to them of the lily, the sparrow, the grass, the flower of the field; how your Heavenly Father careth for these, but how much more He will care for those who have faith in and love towards Him, even to the numbering of every hair on the whitening brow.

(5) Others will come with weary consciences, burdened with sin, fearing the wrath to come, carrying with them, it may be, the dread secret of undiscovered and unconfessed crime. Take solemn heed that the word you speak is a word in season. Do not heal lightly the wounds thus made by the Spirit. Do not attempt to soothe the agony by minifying the guilt, or lessening the condemnation, or diminishing the penalty. Do what the Spirit does. Take of the things of Christ and show them unto the penitent; show them in their preciousness, their efficacy, and their all-sufficiency.

(6) Others may come to you weary of inbred sin. Open your ear to hear what the Lord your God will say unto you; humbly wait with an upward look to your Great Teacher, and He will give you the tongue of the learned.

3. This learning claimed by the Redeemer is set forth as progressive. “He wakeneth Me morning by morning. He wakeneth mine ear that I may hear as disciples do.” If our Lord found it necessary to place Himself in the position of a pupil to receive daily instruction from the Divine Father, how much greater need is there for you who are His ministers? You cannot learn in one lesson all that the Holy Spirit has to communicate. Cultivate a sensibility of soul, a readiness to hear the softest, gentlest tone of God, whether in nature, in providence, in history, in the inspired word, or in the deep secrets of your own heart.


The weary world and the refreshing ministry

THE WEARY WORLD. It is not one man that is weary, the generation is weary, the world is weary. All sinners are weary. Wearied with fruitless efforts after happiness. There is the ennui yawn, and the groan of depression heard everywhere.

THE REFRESHING MINISTRY. “The Lord God hath given me,” etc.

1. The relief comes by speech. No physical, legislative, or ceremonial means will do; it must be by the living voice, charged with sympathy, truth, light.

2. The effective speech comes from God. “The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned.” No man can speak the soul-refreshing thing unless God inspires and teaches him.

3. The speech that comes from God is a “word in season.” It is exactly suited to the mood of the souls addressed. (Homilist.)

A word in season to the weary

(with Matthew 11:28-30):--

We may name WOUNDED AFFECTIONS as a very frequent cause of weariness. We do not know, until the blow comes, how heavily we have been leaning on the staff of friendly sympathy. Breaking beneath our weight, it leaves us tottering and weary. But amidst all our heart-troubles the voice of the Saviour is heard saying, “Rest! Come unto Me and I will give you rest.”

THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF OUR DESIRES is another common antecedent of lassitude. All of us are furnished with larger appetites than we have ability or opportunity for satisfying. Pleasure! Money! Power! Reputation! How seldom do men know when they have enough of that which they most desire. So, as the material of sensuous enjoyment becomes exhausted, the sense of emptiness becomes more painful. But in this mood, too, we are met by the Divine Saviour: “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.” For Christ would fill the soul with the only object of desire that cannot disappear in its grasp: with the Eternal Himself.

VACANCY OF MIND AND THE SENSE OF MONOTONY is another common cause of weariness. “Nature abhors a vacuum,” as the old philosophers said. The mind cannot endure its own emptiness. It is so constituted that it must have change and variety of impressions and ideas; otherwise it turns upon itself, and its fine mechanism is worn down with useless friction. But He who comes to reveal the Father meets us, too, in this mood of self-weariness. It is His message to tell us of a new self which it is the will of God to impart to us; a new heart in which it may please God to dwell, and with which He can hold fellowship. The man who yields himself to the Spirit, and is born of the Spirit, need no longer be disgusted with himself, having found his nature anew in God.

But the load of A GUILTY CONSCIENCE is even more fatiguing than that of a vacant mind. Need it be pointed out how profoundly Christ meets this guilty dejection of the human heart?

Quite a different cause of weariness is to be found in THE BURDEN OF EARNEST THOUGHT AND NOBLE ENDEAVOUR. For the Christian, it is enough that his Saviour has “suffered in the flesh”--has borne “the weary weight of all this unintelligible world” in uncomplaining meekness. He is to “arm himself likewise with the same mind.” (E. Johnson, M.A.)

Noble gifts for lowly uses

GOD’S HIGHEST GIFTS HAVE THEIR DEFINITE END AND PURPOSE. In Nature, for instance, nothing has been created in vain. And so it ought to be in human life, that world of feeling and desire within the breast of man. You see that the prophet looked upon the tongue of the learned as a gift from God, holding it in trust, where many would have counted it as their own. And he saw it was a gift for very plain and apparent purposes--for men are stewards, and not owners of all that is bestowed upon them. This splendid administrative genius of the Anglo-Saxon race, dominant and even imperious, but only because it has seen into the heart of purposes working themselves out in the midst of the ages, the wealth it has acquired, the influence it commands, has this no meaning in the economy of nations? You only need the touch of Christ to consecrate it and turn it into right channels, and the whole world is blessed thereby. “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.”

THIS DEFINITE PURPOSE IS A VERY SIMPLE ONE, AND POSSIBLY AT FIRST SIGHT INSUFFICIENT. Ambition would say so, and ambition is as natural to the human heart as desire itself. We ask great things, we would be great things, we would do them. It must be confessed, however, that no sin of man has been more constant and apparent than that which has made men look down upon these lowly uses belonging unto lofty gifts. A proud reserve has been considered in all ages as appropriate to commanding talents. The statesman’s wisdom, the orator’s art, the poet’s fire, what are they side by side with all that wondrous wealth lavished upon simple fishermen in Galilee, and carried into the home of Lazarus, and spent among the humble poor. Between the highest born among men and the humblest service henceforward there can be no disparity. “If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet,” He said to His disciples, “ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.” And as with individuals, so with nations. God gives special gifts for His own purposes.

THIS PURPOSE IS A VERY URGENT AND APPROPRIATE ONE. After all, the end is not beneath the means. It needs the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to him that is weary, that word fitly spoken which dries the tear from the eye, and banishes sorrow from the heart. To do away with pain and assuage grief, is not that a noble, a Divine thing? And will you see how Christianity has been doing this in lower and yet very important directions, permeating society by its subtle influences for good? And more when you understand Isaiah’s words in their true and spiritual significance, what a field of usefulness unfolds itself! For the great burdens of mankind are not physical, but mental and spiritual. (W. Baxendale.)

Words in season for the weary

THE EDUCATION OF THE DIVINE SERVANT. We must notice the difference between the authorized version and the new. In the one, “the Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know.” In the other, “of them that are taught”--or, as the margin reads, “of disciples.” The thought being that the Lord Jesus in His human life was a pupil in the school of human pain, under the tutelage of His Father.

1. His education was by God Himself.

2. It was various. He passed through each class in the school of weariness.

3. It was constant. “Morning by morning” the Father woke Him.

4. It dealt with the season for administering comfort. “That I should know how to speak a word in season.” There are times when the nervous system is so overstrained that it cannot bear even the softest words. It is best then to be silent. A caress, a touch, or the stillness that breathes an atmosphere of calm, will then most quickly soothe and heal. This delicacy of perception can only be acquired in the school of suffering.

5. It embraced the method. “That I should know how.” The manner is as important as the season. A message of good-will may be uttered with so little sympathy, and in tones so gruff and grating, that it will repel. The touch of the comforter must be that of the nurse on the fractured bone--of the mother with the frightened child.

HIS RESOLUTION. From the first, Jesus knew that He must die. The Lord God poured the full story into His opened ear. With all other men, death is the close of their life; with Christ it was the object. We die because we were born; Christ was born that He might die. On one occasion, towards the close of His earthly career, when the fingers on the dial-plate were pointing to the near fulfilment of the time, we are told He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. What heroism was here! Men sometimes speak of Christ as if He were effeminate and weak, remarkable only for passive virtues. But such conceptions are refuted by the indomitable resolution which set its face like a flint, and knew that it would not be ashamed. Note the voluntariness of Christ’s surrender. The martyr dies because he cannot help it; Christ dies because He chose. It has been thought that the opened ear refers to something more than the pushing back of the flowing Oriental locks in order to utter the secret of coming sorrow. It is supposed to have some reference to the ancient Jewish custom of boring the ear of the slave to the doorpost of the master’s house. Under this metaphor it is held that our Lord chose with keen sympathy the service of the Father, and elected all that it might involve, because He loved Him and would not go out free. The images may be combined. Be it only remembered that He knew and chose all that would come upon Him, and that the fetters which bound Him to the Cross were those of undying love to us and of burning passion for the Father’s glory.

HIS VINDICATION. “He is near that justifieth Me.” These are words upon which Jesus may have stayed Himself through those long hours of trial. They said that He was the Friend of publicans and sinners. God has justified Him by showing that if He associates with such, it is to make them martyrs and saints. They said that He was mad. God has justified Him by making His teaching the illumination of the noblest and wisest of the race. They said He had a devil. God has justified Him by giving Him power to cast out the devil and hind him with a mighty chain. They said that He blasphemed when He called Himself the Son of God. God has justified Him by raising Him to the right hand of power, so that He will come in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. They said that He would destroy the temple and the commonwealth of Israel. God has justified Him in shedding the influence of the Hebrew people through all the nations of the world, and making their literature, their history, their conceptions dominant.

HIS APPEAL (verse 16). To obey the Lord’s servant is equivalent to fearing the Lord. He who does the one must do the other. What is this but to proclaim His Deity? (F. B. Meyer, B.A.)

A word in season to him that is weary

A word to the weary

To speak a word is easy, to speak a word in season is difficult; but to speak a word in season to him that is weary is more difficult still; and yet to be able to accomplish this end wisely and successfully is to be one of the greatest benefactors to our race. (E. Mellor, D. D.)


Weariness the word reveals its parentage clearly enough. To be weary is to be worn--or worn out--or worn down. One wears his coat until it is worn out; and so you wear your strength until it is worn out, There is a weariness also which is not the result of excessive toil, but of indolence. For no man sighs so much, complains so much, fears so much, as the man who sets himself the task of passing through life doing nothing. Sometimes weariness is a virtue; sometimes it is a sin. But whether it be virtue or sin, there is no man who does not know well what it is to be weary. (E. Mellor, D. D.)

Words to the weary

We have many doors in our nature, and at every one of these weariness may enter.

There is--to begin at the lowest door of all--the physical one, THE WEARINESS WHICH COMES TO US FROM BODILY TOIL, or from toil which, whether bodily or not, tells upon the body by wasting for the time its energies. So far as such toil is rendered necessary by the very fundamental conditions of our existence, the weariness which ensues upon it is a Divine appointment, and the most benign provision has been made for meeting and banishing it. You need no word in season for such weariness as this. There is something better than a word for you. There is night with its soothing darkness. There is your bed with its repose; and there is sleep, ‘‘Nature’s soft nurse, that doth knit the ravelled sleeve of care, and steep your senses in forgetfulness.” And there is not merely the night, but the Sabbath. But there is also a weariness which has the nature of a chastisement, because it is produced by excessive and needless toil. While labour is a Divine thing in just measure, yet, when it becomes care, worry, vexation, hot and insatiable ambition, greed, it becomes criminal, and draws after it sooner or later grim consequences, the thought of which ought to make men pause. You cannot run both quickly and long. What is the word in season for such cases as these? The word may not be pleasant, for the words in season which God utters to us are often like thunderclaps to startle us, or like a firm grip of the hand which seems to say, “Stop, or you are undone.” But surely the word in season to many is: Release your strain, moderate your speed, economize your energies, stop up the leak through which your health is trickling already, and may soon be rushing like a stream; what shall it profit you if you gain the whole world, and lose your life?

Some men are WEARY WITH PLEASURE. There is no decree of God more stern or more inflexible than that which has determined that misery shall be the constant companion of the man that seeks pleasure. He may be a swift runner, but pleasure runs more swiftly still. Let us accept it as a moral axiom which has no exception, that the fulfilment of duty is the condition of happiness in this world. The word in season, therefore, for those who are weary in pleasure is this: Revise and reverse your whole judgment as to what you are and as to your relation to God, and this world, and the world which is to come.

Some men are WEARY WITH WELL-DOING WHICH SEEMS TO COME TO SO POOR AN END. This is so common a tendency that we are warned against it, “Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season ye shall reap if ye faint not.” “Be ye steadfast, unmovable,” etc. Men who are working for God in this world have doubtless a heavy task in hand. The soil is uncongenial. It is beaten hard with sin and evil habit; and the ploughshare enters it with difficulty, and with difficulty makes its way. Take any sphere of benevolence you like, whether the lower one of sympathy with the common sufferings of man, or the higher one of concern for their spiritual necessities and sorrows and dangers, and the labour is no holiday play. Well-doing appears so often like building in a quagmire. We sow good seed, and then the enemy sows tares. We root up one evil, and another springs up in its stead. Well-doing in the shape of teaching would not be so wearying if the children were not so listless, so rude, so dull, so forgetful, so disappointing. Well-doing in the shape of charity would not be so wearying if there were not so much of ingratitude and imposture. What is the word in season to those who are weary in such good work? Such as these: Think, before you withdraw from what appears to be unfruitful labour, that God still holds on His Divine purpose, and is kind to the unthankful and the evil; think that He is good and doeth good continually, and that, were He to grow weary in well-doing, He would plunge the world into desolation in a moment. Think, too, that if you grow weary, all others may grow weary too, and that then the world will be left to itself: ignorance, vice, crime, wretchedness spreading with every hour, until the earth will be little better than a suburb of hell itself. Think, to, that in well-doing you do find some results, though they may not be equal to your hope, and that the results, though unseen, may still be there, and will appear some day, and be reaped by another’s hand. And be sure of this, that nothing good is ever lost.

There are those who ARE WEARY OF THE STRIFE WITH SIN. This is emphatically the battle of life and the battle for life. What is the word in season to him who is thus weary? This--that Christ has already vanquished your most powerful foe, and will make you more than conqueror.

There is one word more in season for those who ARE WEARY IN SIN, BUT NOT YET WEARY OF IT. Would to God they were weary of it! for to feel it to be a burden and a woe is the first step to deliverance. (E. Mellor, D. D.)

Weary souls

So far as we can tell, all life is joyous, except that of humanity. Even those creatures which are under the care of man have not the joyousness they might have if they were roaming the fields or hills. Look at the horse on the American prairies; see him in some of the cabs and coal carts at home! Though the life of birds and animals is naturally a happy one, the life of humanity, for the most part, is one of trouble. People who firmly resolve to act rightly and Christianly in this world, shall certainly “have tribulation.” In the Bible, we have the record of many people who knew what it is to have a weary soul. Above all weary souls, let us remember the loving Saviour, who was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

YOU MAY BE WEARY WITH THE PARTICULAR BURDEN WHICH WEIGHTS YOUR LIFE. Every one of us has a special burden of our own. The Christian philosophy of burden-bearing is to take things as we find them and make the best of them; not like a vicious horse to kick against the “splinter hoard,” or set up our back rebelliously. Directly we submit to the yoke, and say Thy will he done, our burden becomes lighter. The Divine Word teaches that your life has a Divine purpose.

Perhaps, your soul is WEARY BECAUSE OF THE UNKINDNESS OF YOUR FRIENDS. Let your only aim be to please God and do your duty; and then, though the action of friends may grieve you, it shall neither hinder your work nor give you a weary soul.

But another may say that his weary soul is caused by HIS SIN. When you behold Jesus on the Cross you will see what He suffered for sin; and when you behold Him risen from the dead, you will see the power at your hand to enable you to flee from every temptation.

Some of you may have weary souls, because YOUR LIFE IS VERY BITTER. But in heaven your sorrow and sighing, like that of the apostle John, shall flee away. (W.Birch.)

A word to the weary

Are there any WEARY WORKLINGS here? The soul of man once found its rest in God. Weary, was a word unknown in the language of Eden; for Jehovah was then the spirit’s home. Its affections reposed upon the all-sufficient God. He was a Friend of whose company the soul could never tire, and in whose service it never could grow weary. But now that the soul has taken leave of God, it has never found another rest like Him. Till it comes to live on God Himself, the hungry soul of man never will be satisfied. Ye worldlings, who wander joyless through a godless world, with weary feet and withered hearts, seeking rest and finding none, come to Jesus, and He will give you rest.

Are there any WEARY WITH THE BURDEN OF UNPARDONED GUILT? You remember when Christian had panted up the hill, and came in sight of the Cross, how his burden fell off and rolled away down into the sepulchre; and you remember how he wondered that the sight of a cross should instantly relieve him of his load. Come to Christ upon the Cross, and you will understand the pilgrim’s wonder; for your burden will, in like manner, fall off and disappear.

Are there any WEARIED WITH THE GREATNESS OF THEIR WAY? You have been long seeking salvation. Suppose that one of those winter evenings you went down into the country on a visit to a friend. It is a dark night when the stage coach stops; the conductor steps down, opens the door, and lets you out. He tells you that your friend’s house is hard by, and if the night were a little clearer, you would see it just over the way. “‘Tis but a step, you cannot miss it.” However, you contrive to miss it. Your guide springs up into the box--the long train of lamp light is lost in misty gloom, and the distant rumble of the wheels is drowned in the rush of the tempest. You are left alone. The directions you received were quite correct, and if you followed them implicitly, you could not go wrong. But you have a theory of the matter in your own mind. “What did he mean by saying, that it was just a step? He cannot live so very near the highway.” You pass the gate, and plod away up the hill, till at last you become impatient--for there are no symptoms of a dwelling here. You turn aside into this lane, and you climb over that stile, till weary with splashing through miry stubble fields, and all drenched with driving rain, you find yourself, after many a weary round, precisely where you started. Half dead with fatigue and vexation, you lift the latch of a cottage-door, and ask if they know where such-a-one resides. And a little child undertakes to guide you. He opens a wicket, and points to the long lines of light gleaming through a easement a few paces distant. “Do you see the lights in yon window? Well, that is it; knock, and they’ll open the door.” In such a homely instance, you all know what it is to be weary in the greatness of your way--to spend your strength in a long circuit, when a single step might have sufficed. But are you sure that it is not in some such way, that you “labour and find no rest,” whilst there is but a step betwixt you and Christ? That is the wisest and happiest course which the sinner can take--to go at once to the Saviour. (J. Hamilton, D.D.)

The weary

“Weary” denotes a class to which a multitude belong that no man can number, of every nation, kindred, tribe, and people.

1. Physical weariness--of the slave on the march; of the toiler in the sweating den; of the seamstress working far into the night by the wasting taper; of the mother worn with watching her sick child.

2. Mental weariness--when the fancy can no longer summon at will images of beauty; and the intellect refuses to follow another argument, master another page, or cast up another column.

3. Heart weariness--waiting in vain for the word so long expected but unspoken; for the returning step of the prodigal; for the long-delayed letter.

4. The weariness of the inner conflict of striving day by day against the selfishness and waywardness of the soul on which prolonged resistance makes so slight an impression.

5. The weariness of the Christian worker, worn by the perpetual chafe of human sorrow, sin, and need. (F. B. Meyer, B.A.)

The gift of consolation

Nothing so clearly betokens a tongue befitting the disciples of God as the gift of consolation, and such a tongue has He who is the speaker here: “to aid with words him who is exhausted”--through the pain of suffering and mortification of spirit. (F. Delitzsch, D.D.)

He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned

God’s day school

“Morning by morning He openeth mine ear to hear as the scholars.” If we would rightly understand this Divine application of Isaiah’s words, we must first understand the human application of them, looking through the type to the anti-type, and thus beholding the Servant of Jehovah as “blind” and “deaf, yet “well-pleasing” to God as one “magnifying the law and making it honourable,” and both shadowing forth and preparing the way for the perfect service of the perfect Servant. Taking first then this human view of the text, observe--

The closed ears of God s scholars. “He openeth mine ear. In the earlier description of Israel, associated with Isaiah’s call to the prophetic office (a passage more frequently quoted in the New Testament than any other words of the Old), the ear is said to be “heavy,” and the heart “gross,” and the eyes “closed.” Alas! this is the sorrowful condition not only of Israel but of humanity.

The closed ears Divinely opened. “He openeth.” The ear is too heavy for the word itself to penetrate tilt He who breathed it comes. By Him it is opened, at a time of spiritual crisis oftentimes, but even then the scholar of God is too often deaf to his Teacher’s voice. His ears need to be often opened anew. “Morning by morning.” We must all be day scholars in the school of God. And we learn “as the scholars.” The double meaning of this word “scholar” suits the meaning of the passage admirably. A “scholar” is one who is learning his alphabet, and a “scholar” is also one that knows much more than his fellow-men, and can teach them with the “tongue of the scholar.” But there must be learning before teaching, and if we are scholars in God’s school we shall know “more than the ancients.” What then are His lessons?

1. The first lesson God teaches is a lesson of obedience (verse 5).

2. The second lesson God teaches is a lesson in patience (verse 6). Morning by morning the Divine voice calls us to suffer as well as to do.

3. The third lesson God teaches is a lesson in boldness (verse 7). Flint-like are the true scholars of God. Omnipotence is on their side and they know it.

4. The fourth lesson God teaches is a lesson in service (verse 4). The ear is opened that the tongue may be loosed to speak for Him who opened it. Every scholar must be a teacher. Look at the application of the text to Jesus Christ. Isaiah was His favourite book, and this text doubtless was often in His mind, as it was once upon His lips.

(1) Do we learn obedience? He also “learned obedience by the things that He suffered,” so that it was “His meat” to do the will of God always, and in Him only was the ideal attitude of obedience realized. “Lo I come: I delight to do Thy will, O My God.”

(2) Do we painfully learn the lesson of patience? Let us “consider Him who endured the contradiction of sinners.”

(3) Do we gain something of His boldness? It was when the persecutors of the earliest disciples marvelled the boldness which they showed that “they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus,” for at His feet they had learned this manly virtue.

(4) Do we attempt service? How did God’s holy Servant fulfil His consoling mission by speaking words in season to the weary? And the old lesson is also the new, “Have faith in God.” The “faith” of the New Testament is the “trust” of the Old. (H. C. Leonard, M.A.)

The inspiration of noble ideas

Where do great men get their noblest ideas? Michael Angelo produced such exquisite faces that Fiesole declared he must have been in paradise to borrow them. A watchful heart will find God furnishing thoughts for such a generous service. One wonders whether Goethe had not been lately reading that verse (Isaiah 50:4) when he said that his best thoughts always came to him unawares, like birds pecking at his windows, and saying, “Here we are!” (C. S.Robinson, D.D.)

God’s voice heard in stillness

Said the aged Christian lady to Mark Rutherford, “The voice of God, to me at least, hardly ever comes in thunder, but I have to listen in perfect stillness to make it out.”

Morning communion with God

On the 1 st of May, in the olden times, many inhabitants of London used to go into the fields to bathe their faces with the early dew upon the grass under the idea that it would render them beautiful. This may have been superstitious, but to bathe one’s face every morning in the dew of heaven by prayer and communion, is the sure way to obtain true beauty of life and character. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 6

Isaiah 50:6

I gave My back to the smiters

The shame and smiting


AS THE REPRESENTATIVE OF GOD. In the person of Christ Jesus, God himself came into the world, making a special visitation to Jerusalem and the Jewish people, but at the same time coming very near to all mankind. When our Lord came into this world as the representative of God, He came with all His Divine power about Him (Isaiah 50:2). He did equal marvels to those which were wrought in Egypt when the arm of the Lord was made bare in the eyes of all the people. It is true He did not change water into blood, but He turned water into wine. He did not make their fish to stink, but by His word He caused the net to be filled even to bursting with great fishes. He did the works of His Father, and those works bare witness of Him that He was come in His Father’s name. But when God thus came among men He was unacknowledged. What saith the prophet? “Wherefore when I came was there no man? when I called was there none to answer?” A few, taught by the Spirit of God, discerned Him and rejoiced; but they were so very few that we may say of the whole generation that they knew Him not. Yet our Lord was admirably adapted to be the representative of God, not only because He was God Himself, but because as man His whole human nature was consecrated to the work, and in Him was neither flaw nor spot. This is especially the sin of those who have heard the Gospel and yet reject the Saviour, for in their case the Lord has come to them in the most gracious form, and yet they have refused Him.

I want to set the Lord Jesus before you AS THE SUBSTITUTE FOR HIS PEOPLE.


1. Christ was personally prepared for service (Isaiah 50:4).

2. This service knew no reserve in its consecration. Our blessed Master was willing to be scoffed at by the lewdest and lowest of men.

3. There is something more here than perfect consecration in the mere form of it, for its heart and essence are manifest in an obedient delight in the will of the Father. The words seem to express alacrity. It is not said that He reluctantly permitted His enemies to pluck His hair, or smite His back, but “I gave My back to the smiter, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair.”

4. There was no flinching in Him. They spat in His face, but what says He in the seventh verse? “I have set My face like a flint.” Oh, the bravery of our Master’s silence! Cruelty and shame could not make Him speak.

5. And do you notice all the while the confidence and quiet of His spirit! He almost seems to say, “You may spit upon Me, but you cannot find fault with Me. You may pluck My hair, but you cannot impugn My integrity. You may lash My shoulders, but you cannot impute a fault to Me,” etc. Be calm then, O true servant of God! In patience possess your soul. Serve God steadily and steadfastly though all men should belie you.

6. The last two verses of the chapter read you a noble lesson. “He gave His back to the smiters;” if, then, any of you walk in darkness, this is no new thing for a servant of God. The chief of all servants persevered, though men despised Him. Follow Him, then. Stay yourselves upon God as He did, and look for a bright ending of your trials.


1. Our blessed Lord is well qualified to speak a word in season to him that is weary, because He Himself is lowly, and meek, and so accessible to us. When men are in low spirits they feel as if they could not take comfort from persons who are harsh and proud. The comforter must come as a sufferer. Your Master “gave His back to the smiters, and His cheek to them that plucked off the hair,” and therefore He is the Comforter you want.

2. Remark not only His lowliness, but His sympathy. Are you full of aches and pains? Jesus knows all about them, for He “gave His back to the smiters.” Do you suffer from what is worse than pain, from scandal and slander? “He hid not His face from shame and spitting.” Have you been ridiculed of late? Jesus can sympathize with you, for you know what unholy mirth they made out of Him. In every pang that rends your heart your Lord has borne His share. Go and tell Him.

3. In addition to His gentle spirit and His power to sympathize, there is this to help to comfort us--namely, His example, for He can argue thus with you, “I gave My back to the smiters. Cannot you do the like! Shall the disciple be above his master?”

4. His example further comforts us by the fact that He was calm amid it all.

5. Our Saviour’s triumph is meant to be a stimulus and encouragement to us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The back given to the smiters

In Psalms 129:3 the same figure is applied to the sufferings of Israel as a nation. (Prof. J. Skinner, D.D.)

The Roman lash

The lash is nothing among us compared with what it was among the Romans. I have heard that it was made of the sinews of oxen, and that in it were twisted the hucklebones of sheep, with slivers of bone, in order that every stroke might more effectually tear its way into the poor quivering flesh, which was mangled by its awful strokes. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Plucking off the hair

Of the beard (Ezra 9:3; Nehemiah 13:25); an extreme insult to an Oriental, to whom the beard is the symbol of dignity. (Prof. J. Skinner, D.D.)

Verses 7-9

Isaiah 50:7-9

For the Lord God will help Me

Messiah neither ashamed nor put to shame

The verse is better rendered thus: “But the Lord Jehovah helps Me, therefore I was not ashamed” (i e.

, felt no shame)

; “therefore I made My face like flint” (figure for determination, Ezekiel 3:9), “and knew that I should not be put to shame” (Isaiah 42:4). (Prof. J. Skinner, D.D.)

Messiah the courageous Champion

The Redeemer is as famous for His boldness as for His humility and patience; and, though He yield, yet He is more than a conqueror. Observe--

THE DEPENDENCE He hath upon God (Isaiah 50:7; Isaiah 50:9). Whom God employs He will assist, and will take care they want not any help that they or their work call for. Nor will He only assist Him in His work, but accept of Him (Isaiah 50:8). By His resurrection Christ was proved to be not the man that He was represented; not a blasphemer, etc.

THE CONFIDENCE He thereupon hath of success in His undertaking (Isaiah 50:7).

THE DEFIANCE which, in this confidence, He bids to all opposers and opposition. God will help Me, and “therefore have I set My face like a flint.” (M. Henry.)

Temptation to shame in religion

One and the same Divine Person speaks in all this section of the prophet Isaiah. One and the same Being is He, throughout this section, who speaks as “I;” “I came,” “I called:” One who asks, “Is My hand shortened that it cannot save?” and then, without break, without transition, speaks of His meritorious obedience, His sufferings, and His shame. Our Lord Himself, when prophesying of Himself the specific humiliations which are here spoken of by the prophet, speaks of them as foretold (Luke 18:31-32). But how then as to the words which follow? Our Lord came into the world to suffer; His human spirit was straitened until those sufferings were accomplished; His daily sufferings in doing the will of His Father were His daily bread. How then to Him belong those words which seem to speak of human struggle, as well as of victory: “I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I shall, not, be ashamed”? It is perhaps best explained by that great rule of St.

Augustine: The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Body. For He willed to speak too in us, who vouchsafed to die for us. He made us His members. Sometimes therefore He speaks in the person of His members; sometimes in His own Person, as our Head;” “and the whole He speaketh, as though it were one Person.” The words of prophecy seem to be tempered, so as to include us His members, nay rather to speak of our victories in Christ, and of our strength supplied by Him, the Christian’s unashamed boldness in the cause of Christ. Those holily unashamed of God now, God will keep from shame: on those ashamed of Him, He will bring the shame they shrink from. It is startling to see how, in the account of the last severing off of those who are cast out for ever from the sight of God, the first place is occupied by cowards (Revelation 21:7-8). There must, then, be something far more malignant, far more offensive to God, and more destructive to salvation, than men think of, in this false shame before men. And yet no one scarcely gives it more than a passing thought; few question earnestly their own consciences about it; few repent of it towards God, or ask His forgiveness of it. It is of moment to know the intensity of the first temptation. First, men cowardly disavow what they know to be right; then they profess what they know to be wrong; then, having disavowed God, they are open to temptation, from whatever quarter of occasion, or surprise, or passion, the impulse may come. They have kindled their fire: they have despised the grace which would quench it: it remains, that it should consume them. And yet, while its influence is so subtle, that it escapes men’s observation, unless they are declaring war against it, it is the earliest, the latest, the most infectious, the most universal, the most overspreading, the deadliest disease of the soul. It antedates passion, and it outlives it; it occasions countless sins, but itself is hid under the sins which it occasions; it destroys the goodness of all which seems good, hut is unfelt like paralysis; it nips all wakening good, but is unseen like the frost-wind; it pleads a hatred of hypocrisy and of profession, and is itself the worse hypocrisy of the two, a hypocrisy of evil; to the young, it puts on the appearance of good-nature; to the elder, of courtesy; to the saint, of charity: nothing is too low, nothing too high for its attacks. The senselessness of the sin aggravates its enormity. What is it, of which man is ashamed? It is (and this is a yet deeper aggravation), it is uniformly some gift or grace of Almighty God. In childhood, it was some early habit of piety, which God had vouchsafed to teach, which others had not been taught or had violated. The phases of the sin change with changing years; its essence is unchanged. It is the law of God, or the truth of God, or the friendship of God, and God Himself in all, of whom man stands ashamed before man. And what is this world, before which a man stands ashamed of the Infinite God? Away with such cowardly thoughts of worshipping God, as a sort of Penates, a household god who is to be owned in private and set up within doors, to receive his lip-homage there, and be forgotten or ignored in the face of men. Accustom thyself to the thought of the ever-present Presence of thy God; look to that Eye which recalled Peter to Himself, and which rests on thee; be ashamed to be ungrateful to thy Redeemer, a recreant to thy God; and another fear will displace human fear, another shame will dispel human shame, a shame which maketh not ashamed, a shame which is the earnest of everlasting glory, the shame to be ashamed of thy God. (E. B. Puscy, D. D.)

Therefore have I set My face like a flint

I set My face like a flint

I set My face like a flint “the holy hardness of perseverance” (Stier)

;--words, too, which doubtless have a special reference to the historic fulfilment. “When the time was come that He should be received up, He Steadfastly set His face (as a flint) to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). (Michaelis.)

The strong will

The happiest of gifts for a man to be born with is strength of will; not that a man can by it avoid suffering and sin; but for this--that suffering especially raises and heightens the strong will; that when itforsakes sin it forsakes it without a sigh. Happiness within, attractiveness towards others, ease of repentance and amendment, firmness against opposition, are the splendid dower which the strong will brings to the soul. It is our wisdom then to ask, How shall we keep or make our wills strong?

1. We cannot do this merely by persisting in having our own way, as we call it. Our own way may be wrong; and no one ever uses the strength in connection with crime or fault--never calls a sinful, a wilful, a violent man a strong man. The reason is evident, namely, that wilful sinning is only using a will in the direction in which it is easiest to use it. And this cannot make the will stronger, any more than a mind would grow strong, which employed itself only on intellectual work which presented no difficulty to it. The will must make progress by avoiding things to which it is prone, and by aiming at things which it simply knows in any way to be good, although for the time being it may be that they are not fully desired.

2. There are times when there rises before us a noble ideal of what we ought to be, and we feel an impulse to believe we might be. What is that ideal? It is the “will of God concerning us.” It is what we may each become by the power of the Spirit of God. Into this ideal we cannot at once pass. But we can be ever approaching it. It is not in human nature to make that sudden change, but it is perfectly possible to make a beginning. And for this purpose we must call in the aid of that very will itself to act upon our will; for there is no power in us higher, more primary, than the will. If the will is to be affected, the will itself must do the work. Suppose one resolve be made; then here at once our will begins to be of constant use to us, and to grow stronger in itself. Our will is not really acting at all when it is working out, however strongly, a natural inclination. The will is only strengthened when it is set to active work, something which we have clearly seen to be our duty, although when we come to do it we find the pursuit of it tax our strength exceedingly. (Archbishop Benson, D.D.)

The Redeemer’s face set like a flint


1. By the offers of the world. The populace wanted to take Him by force and make Him a king.

2. By the persuasions of His friends. Christ’s kinsmen said that He was beside Himself, and they would have laid hold of Him, and confined Him if they could. They thought His zeal had carried Him beyond the bounds of reason; and when He told His disciples about His approaching death upon the cross, “Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee;” and all the disciples would fain have persuaded Him to choose an easier path than that which led to Calvary, and the grave.

3. By the unworthiness of His clients. “He came unto His own,” etc.

4. By the bitterness which He tasted at His entrance upon His great work as our substitutionary sacrifice. The first drops of that awful tempest which fell upon Him in Gethsemane were hot and terrible.

5. By the ease with which He could have relinquished the enterprise if He had wished to do so.

6. By the taunts of those who scoffed at Him.

7. By the full stress of the death-agony.

HOW HIS STEADFAST RESOLVE WAS SUSTAINED. According to our text and its connection--

1. Our Lord’s steadfastness resulted from His Divine schooling (Isaiah 50:4).

2. It was sustained by His conscious innocence (Isaiah 50:8).

3. It was maintained by His unshaken confidence in the help of God (Isaiah 50:7).

4. It was sustained by the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).


1. If there is anything right in this world, be on the side of it.

2. If you have a right purpose that glorifies God, carry it out. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Courage in danger

Leonidas being told that the Persian archers with whom he had to fight were so numerous that their arrows would darken the sun, said, “So much the better; we shall then fight in the shade.” (R. Macculloch.)

Fixed determination: Joan of Arc

It was in vain that her father, when he heard her purpose, swore to drown her ere she should go to the field with men-at-arms: it was in vain that the priest, the wise people of the village, the captain of Vancoulers doubted and refused to aid her. “I must go to the king,” persisted the peasant girl, “even if I wear my limbs to the very knees. I had far rather rest and spin by my mother’s side,” she pleaded, with a touching pathos, “for this is no work of my choosing; but I must go and do it, for my Lord wills it.” “And who,” they asked, “is your Lord?” “He is God.” Words such as these touched the rough captain at last; he took Jeanne by the hand, and swore to lead her to the king. (J. R. Green.)

Verses 8-9

Isaiah 50:8-9

He is near that justifieth Me

Jehovah the justifier

The consciousness of innocence is expressed (as often in the Book of Job) under the conception of a legal process.

(Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

To “justify”

To “justify” is to show to be in the right, by giving Him victory in His cause. The time-long conflict of Israel and her religion with the nations and their idolatries is represented under the figure of a process or plea before God’s tribunal. The triumph of the religion of Jehovah is Israel’s “justification,” or success in her plea. (A. B. Davidson, D.D.)

Messiah’s justification

By His resurrection from the dead and ascension to the right hand of God, with their joyful consequences, He was declared to be the true Messiah, and the Son of God with power (Acts 2:36). (R. Macculloch.)

The enemies of Christ as a moth-eaten garment

They fall into decay like a worn-out garment, and become the food of the moth, which they already carry within them--a figure of destroying power which works imperceptibly and slowly, yet all the more surely (Isaiah 51:8; JobHo 5:12). (F. Delitzsch, D.D.)

Verses 10-11

Isaiah 50:10-11

Who is among you that feareth the Lord?


The fear of the Lord

The fear of the Lord blends its operations with the exercise of every other grace. It intermixes with faith, and renders it fruitful; it co-operates with love, and prevents it from becoming secure; it unites with hope, and keeps it from swelling into presumption; it mingles with joy, and so moderates it that we rejoice with trembling. It extends its benign influence through every department of Divine worship, and so occupies the mind with awful respect for God as excites to caution and circumspection in every situation and service, whilst it cherishes amiable humility in the Divine presence. (R. Macculloch.)

“Light” and “darkness”

There is no more intelligible image--none more interwoven into the texture of popular thought and popular phraseology--than that by which light is made to express joy and felicity, while darkness, and other kindred terms, are employed to denote misery and discomfort. So commonly are such words applied in a metaphysical sense, that, in the case of some of them (the word gloom, for example) it is hardly possible to say which of the two they are oftenest used to indicate--a certain state of mind, or a certain state of outward nature. (E. M. Goulburn, D.C.L.)

The child of light walking in darkness

(1) See how the Lord inquires for His people. In every congregation He asks this question: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord?” These are the wheat upon the threshing-floor.

(2) Observe, how clearly the Lord describes His own people. The description is brief, but remarkably full. Holy reverence within the heart, and careful obedience manifested in the life, these are the two infallible marks of the true man of God.

(3) The Lord not only makes an inquiry for these people, but takes note of their condition.

WHAT IS THIS CONDITION INTO WHICH A CHILD OF GOD MAY COME? The person described is one that fears the Lord, and obeys the voice of His servant, yet “walketh in darkness, and hath no light.”

1. To many who know nothing of Christian experience this condition might seem to be a surprising one.

2. This condition is a severe test of grace.

3. It is also very sorrowful.

4. Perhaps the worst feature of this darkness is, that it is so bewildering. You have to walk, and yet your way is hidden from your eyes.

5. Yet this does not absolve us from daily duty. The walk has to be continued, though the light has departed. When it is quite dark, it is safe to sit down till the day dawns. If I cannot sleep, at any rate I can quietly rest, till the sun is up. He that believeth shall not make haste. But what if you cannot stand still? What if you may not remain where you are? Something has to be done, and done at once; and thus you are compelled to walk on, though you cannot see an inch before you. What but a Divine faith can do this?


1. What is there to trust in the name of Jehovah? It is “I Am,” and signifies His self-existence. This is a fine foundation for trust.

2. But we understand by “the name” the revealed character of God. When thou canst not see thy way, then open this Book and try to find out what sort of God it is in whom thou dost trust.

3. By “the name of the Lord” is also meant His dear Son, for it is in Jesus Christ that Jehovah has proclaimed His name.

4. It is also good when you are thinking of the name of the Lord, to remember that to you it signifies what you have seen of God in your own experience. This is His memorial or name to you.

5. But, furthermore, the text says, “Let him stay upon his God.” Let him lean upon his God; make God his stay, his prop, his rest. This is a variation from the former sentence. He was to trust In the name of Jehovah, but now he is to lean upon his God. You have taken God to be your God, have you not? If so, He has also taken you to be His own. There is a covenant between you: lean on that covenant. Treat it as a valid covenant in full force.


1. If you do not trust Him now, you will have cause to suspect whether you ever did trust Him at all.

2. Because His promises were made for dark hours.

3. Here a permit is especially issued for you, to allow you to trust in God in darkness. Thus saith the Lord, “Let him trust.”

4. More than this, I understand this verse to be a command to trust in the name of the Lord. It is an order to trust in our God up to the hilt, for it bids us “stay” ourselves upon our God. We are not fitfully to trust, and then to fear; but to come to a stay in God, even as ships enter a haven, cast their anchors, and then stay there till the tempest is over-past.

5. If you do not stay upon God in the dark, it would seem as if, after all, you did not trust God, but were trusting to the light, or were relying on your own eyesight.

6. Remember one thing more, our blessed Lord and Master was not spared the blackest midnight that ever fell on human mind.


1. Such a faith will glorify God. It does not glorify God to trust Him when you have a thousand other props and assistances.

2. It is very likely that through this darkness you will be humbled.

3. If thou wilt trust God in thy trial, thou wilt prove and enjoy the power of prayer.

4. If in your darkness you go to God and trust Him, you will become an established Christian.

5. By and by we shall come out into greater light than we have as yet hoped for. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Light in darkness

THE CIRCUMSTANCE expressed by the words “walking in darkness, and having no light.” This description is properly applicable only to circumstances of the deepest distress. In our darkest hours there are generally some rays of light left. If some enjoyments are withdrawn, others remain. If we suffer in one way, we receive pleasure in another. Seldom does it happen that our condition is so deplorable as to be entirely gloomy and wretched. In such circumstances we are necessarily led to look out for comfort.

OUR BEST RELIEF IS TRUSTING IN THE NAME OF THE LORD and staying ourselves upon God. Let us turn our thoughts to the Deity, and reflect on His perfect government.

1. In such circumstances we should consider that the Deity is always intimately present with us, and sees all that passes in the world.

2. We should further consider that this Being stands in the nearest relation to us. He is our parent, we are His offspring.

3. To these reflections, let us add that this Being is almighty, all-wise, and all-benevolent.

THE RELIEF DERIVED FROM HENCE CAN BE ENJOYED ONLY BY THOSE THAT FEAR THE LORD. It is in well-doing that we are commanded to commit our souls to God. (R. Price, D.D.)

The believer in darkness


THE CIRCUMSTANCES STATED. He walks in darkness, etc. No spiritual light? No; he who has Jesus Christ in his heart cannot be ignorant. Nor is he miserable. Nor does he walk in the darkness of sin. The text refers to providential darkness.

THE DIRECTIONS GIVEN. Trust in the name of the Lord--in His power, benevolence, fidelity. (J. Summerfield, M.A.)

A day-star for dark hearts

1. If this were the only word Isaiah had ever written, it, would be cherished as a marvel of sweetest wisdom; just as, were there only one star, it would be admired with surpassing interest and wonder. But, one amongst many, the brightest star and the richest text ceases to enkindle the enthusiasm or attract the gaze of men.

2. There are many things about this word strikingly suggestive--

(1) The Old Testament designation of a saint--“One that feareth the Lord.”

(2) By linking this verse (verse 10) to the one that follows, and studying the two as a pair, what lessons do they give--on the superiority of Divine darkness to human light; on the blessedness of rather being under the cloud, patiently waiting God’s appearing, than striking sparks of our own light to lead us in the ways of common life. Heaven-sent darkness--say care or affliction, is better than sparks of one’s own kindling--say gaiety, mirth, delusive theories of life.

3. The text assumes that, although joy in the Holy Ghost ought to mark every saint of God, yet, as a matter of fact, the truest saints have to endure darkness, gloom, and trial. And it requires that all such should not be dispirited by the clouds which cross their sky, but that even when long patience and earnest gazing fail to perceive the presence of God they should still rely on Him. Many would say: If any among you fears the Lord and walks in darkness, let him suspect there is something wrong; be careful to examine himself whether he is in the faith, etc. But where we would say “Examine,” the prophet says “Trust.” (R. Glover, D. D.)


The prophet’s word--



BRINGS COMFORT TO ALL “ THE TROUBLED.” There are a multitude whose outward or inward troubles produce darkness whatever their character may be. Some, for instance, are troubled by their state of health; it is such as produces a peculiar tendency to gloom. There are others who are troubled with the course of Providence. Others are troubled in soul. Such temptations beset them! Resisted, these renew their attack. Overcome, they rise up afresh to distress them. (R. Glover, D. D.)


I suppose that there are very few, if any, who reach old age or even middle life without the painful experience of times of depression of spirits. There come, perhaps, days in the life of every one when all things seem against him. Such times are not foreign to the experience of God’s greatest saints, and Isaiah appears to contemplate them as times to be expected by the servant of God.

1. Isaiah is not alone in this. There are numberless instances in Holy Scripture which show how true it is.

2. But whatever the cause, if the conscience is clear from wilful sin, what is our duty under such a state of depression? The text sets before us two things as needful--

(1) Obedience. The prophet assumes that those to whom he is speaking will, in spite of their perplexity, obey. He would have them acquiesce in the God-permitted darkness, however trying and painful it may be. Better darkness than a light which is not kindled from above. And yet not seldom it is such a time of depression which drives a man to despair, and leads him in the end to give up his faith altogether. In hours of darkness great is the temptation to have recourse to fires of our own kindling--to seek for light elsewhere than from the “Father of Lights;” and so in the verse following that taken as the text, Isaiah turns to those who are yielding to the temptation, and warns them in tones of scornful irony against false lights of their own kindling.

(2) Faith.

3. This week we are watching our Lord in His path through the dark vale of suffering and along the way of sorrows. Our eyes are fixed on but one figure. To-day we contemplate those two points which the Epistle especially brings out--His perfect obedience, and His perfect trust. Let us learn a much-needed lesson--“It is sufficient for the disciple that he be as his Master.” (E. C. S. Gibson, M.A.)

Trust in God


1. They that fear God may signify--

(1) Those who have a sincere regard to the commandments of God, and have chosen Him as their portion and hope. Those who desire and deserve to be distinguished from the profane despiser, the secure formalist, or the disguised hypocrite. Those, in a word, who are, and who desire to appear upon the Lord’s side in every struggle, and who resolve with Joshua, that whatever others do, they will serve the Lord.

(2) But we may explain the words in a stricter sense, and suppose, that by fearing the Lord is to be understood a due reverence for His infinite majesty, a humble veneration for His sacred authority.

2. The next part of the character is, “and obeyeth the voice of His servant;” that is to say is willing to hearken to the message of God, by the mouth of His servants.

3. “That walketh in darkness, and hath no light.”

(1) Sometimes light signifies knowledge, and darkness signifies ignorance Ephesians 5:8; Acts 26:18; Job 37:19).

(2) Sometimes darkness signifies distress or trouble, and the correspondent signification of light is deliverance and joy (2 Samuel 22:28-29; Job Psalms 97:11; Esther 8:16). None of these senses is to be excluded in the passage before us. Believers may walk in darkness, when ignorant or uncertain as to what nearly concerns them, as well as under distress and trouble. They have also a mutual influence upon, produce, and are produced by one another. A good man may walk in darkness--When he is in doubt or uncertainty as to his interest in the Divine favour. When he is under the pressure of outward calamity. When the state of the Church is such, that he cannot understand or explain, in a satisfying manner, the course of Divine providence.

THE DUTY OF TRUST IN GOD AND THE FOUNDATION OF IT. Trust is a reliance or confidence in God, that, however discouraging appearances may be for the present time, yet, by His power and wisdom, our desires and expectation shall take place, whether as to deliverance from trouble, or the obtaining of future blessings. Trust rests ultimately on the promise. It is of the greatest moment to understand the nature and tenor of the promises. For this end, it may be proper to distinguish the promises of God, as to futurity, into two heads, absolute and conditional. By absolute promises I understand only those that are so in the most unlimited sense, that is to say, revealed as a part of the fixed plan of Providence, suspended on no terms but what all, of every character, may expect will certainly, come to pass. Conditional promises divide into three different heads

(1) Promises made to persons of such or such a character, or in such or such a state.

(2) Promises, the performance of which is suspended on our compliance with something previously required, as the condition of obtaining them.

(3) Promises, not only suspended on both the preceding terms, but upon the supposition of some circumstances in themselves uncertain, or to us unknown.


1. See what judgment you ought to form of inward suggestions, and strong or particular impressions upon your minds. The suggestion of a passage of Scripture of itself gives no title to the immediate application of it, because the great deceiver may undoubtedly suggest Scripture, as we find he could reason from it in our Saviour's temptation. We are, in every such case, to consider the tenor of it, if it be a promise or encouragement, that is, how and in what manner it may be safely applied. If any thing happens to be suggested that expressly suits our present condition, either by setting home the obligation of duty, with particular evidence upon the conscience, or pointing out the grounds of comfort, it ought to be thankfully acknowledged as from the Spirit of God.

2. See what it is that we ought to seek for with the greatest earnestness, and may hope to obtain with the greatest confidence.

3. Adore the wisdom, justice and mercy of God, in the order He hath established, according to the different nature of the promises. That which is of unspeakable value, and radically contains all the rest, is placed first in order, and offered in the most free and gracious manner, without money and without price. Salvation is preached to the chief of sinners, and a Saviour held forth as able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by Him.

4. Learn what is the plainest, the shortest, and indeed, the only sure way to deliverance from distress or calamity of whatever kind. It is to fly to the mercy of God through the blood of Christ, to renew the exercises of faith in Him, and you will perceive every other covenant-blessing flow clear and unmixed from this inexhaustible source. (J. Witherspoon, D.D.)

The want of assurance

THE CHARACTER ADDRESSED is distinctly drawn. It is “a child of light walking in darkness.” Poverty, disease, litigation, oppression, perplexity, the loss of intimate friends and relations, doubts, disappointments, errors in religion, actual transgressions, and the temptations of the adversary, working with the corruptions of the human heart, are permitted in the providence of God, to affect Christians in various degrees of perturbation and sorrow, until they “walk in darkness and have no light.”

THE DUTY RECOMMENDED. “Let him trust,” etc. (A. McLeod, D.D.)

The duty of those who have not assurance


1. Doubting respects ourselves; and calls in question our having already become subjects of Divine grace: but unbelief respects the Lord, and calls in question, either the reality of Divine things, or Christ’s willingness and power to save them that believe.

2. Doubting of our safety does no more than reject the evidence which is furnished by our own minds; an evidence which is often very imperfectly delivered and received: but unbelief always rejects the testimony which God has given us of His own Son, and so, by contradicting God, makes him a liar, so far as the sinner has it in his power.

3. Doubting of one’s piety may be at times both reasonable and profitable; for when a man has but a small measure of grace, it may lead him to seek for more: but unbelief, always against the Word and attributes of the God of our salvation, is unreasonable, unprofitable, and impious.

4. Doubting of one’s personal piety often includes, not only anxiety to be saved by Divine grace, but also a sincere desire to attain to an assured interest in the everlasting covenant: but unbelief excludes the idea of love to the true God, rejects the covenant of grace, and distinctly relinquishes the mercy which is offered in the Lord Jesus Christ.

5. Doubts are consistent, not only with sincere piety, but also with progress in sanctification: but unbelief is the exercise of an unregenerate heart.

6. Doubting of one’s holiness humbles under a sense of sin, and produces penitence and sorrow: but unbelief hardens the heart into negligence or despair; or exasperates the sinner more and more against Divine things.

ASCERTAIN, WITH ALL DILIGENCE, THE CAUSE OF YOUR OWN DOUBTS AND UNEASINESS: for it is by understanding your disease, you will be qualified to apply the remedy provided in the Gospel of God.

1. Error causes darkness and doubt. Clear views of Divine truth is the preventive and the cure.

2. Indolence, and consequent inattention to the due improvement of our talents, often occasion spiritual decline and despondence. The remedy is found in vigilance and Christian activity.

3. The passions, through the remaining corruptions of the heart, often cause transgressions, and consequent doubts and despondence.

4. Satan is the principal cause of those doubts and fears; and resistance to his exertions is the means of assurance.

5. In pointing out the duty of Christians, who have not the assurance of salvation, I must not omit, Steadfast continuance in practical obedience to all the commandments. (A. McLeod, D. D.)

God’s message to the desponding

When such an experience comes upon the saint, it will not be always safe to say that it is the shadow of some special sin. The security of the saint is rooted in the fact that God has a hold of him, and not at all in his consciousness that he has a hold of God. His comfort may be affected by the latter, but his safety is due entirely to the former. Hence, they who roundly affirm that if a man be walking in darkness and finding no light he cannot be a Christian, are making salvation depend, not on God’s work for a man and in him, but simply and entirely on his Own emotions. Moreover, they are strangely oblivious of some of the best-known passages in the history even of the most eminent saints. But despondency is not a state of mind in which any one desires to remain. And he should be encouraged to get out of it as quickly as possible. For it puts everything about him into shadow. It sets all his songs to a minor key. It gives to all his prayers a wailing pathos. It takes away much of his buoyancy and elasticity for work.


1. It may spring from natural temperament. Each of us is born with a certain predisposition to joy or sadness, to irascibility or patience, to quickness of action or deliberateness of conduct, which we call temperament. While conversion may Christianize that temperament, it does not change it.

2. Spiritual despondency may be caused by disease. That which we call lowness of spirits is very often the result of some imprudence in diet, or some local disturbance. See the relief which this affords. It removes from religion the responsibility for the depression of such a man as Cowper, and traces his spiritual gloom to disease of the brain.

3. Spiritual despondency is often the result of trial. Think of Peter’s words: “Ye are in heaviness through manifold trials.” One affliction will not usually becloud our horizon. But when a whole series of distresses comes on us in succession, the effect is terrible. First, it may be, comes sickness, and we are getting round from that when business difficulties overwhelm us. These are scarcely arranged before bereavement comes; and while we are still in the valley, we are set upon by Apollyon in the shape of some scandalous accuser who seeks to rob us of our good name.

4. Spiritual despondency may be caused by mental perplexity. The old beliefs are once more on their trial, and when a youth reaches the age when he must exchange a traditional piety for a personal conviction, he is plunged for the time into the greatest misery. It seems to him almost as if everything were giving way beneath him.

THE COUNSELS TO THE DESPONDING which are given or suggested by this text.

1. The oppressed spirit must keep on fearing the Lord and obeying the voice of His servant.

2. To the desponding believer the second thing to be said is, keep on trusting God.

3. Then, let us not fail to note the deep meaning of that word “stay.” It encourages you to lean your whole weight upon God, and to do that continuously. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)




1. He may want the light of direction.

2. He may want the light of knowledge.

3. He may want the light of comfort.


Willing and unwilling unbelief

For practical purposes we may make one broad distinction--that between willing and unwilling unbelievers. I turn to the consideration of that class of unbelievers who would believe if they could; who are neither rebels against moral restraint, nor consumed by a morbid pride: who love good deeds and good men and desire only to know and believe what is true. It is strange that some of them should accuse themselves of unbelief, seeing that the very wish to believe is a sign that they do believe already--a proof of loyalty to their Father in heaven rooted deep down in their inmost souls. Their faith is genuine though not strong enough to bear the fruits of love to God or of hope and consolation. There are those to whom the difficulty of believing in God is all but insuperable owing to the constitution of their minds. To such, every conception, to be a conception at all, must be accurate and sharply defined. Reason stands like a sentinel before the door of the imagination and feelings and will let nothing pass that does not carry the passport of clear and absolute definition. They are, therefore, for the time incapable of realizing any of the joys of belief and can no more be blamed for their unbelief than for not being able to fly. I do not think religion is attainable by the mere exercise of the reason. Another source of difficulty is also constitutional. When people are of a desponding and melancholy temperament, they naturally dwell on the darker side of things; and as this is the exact opposite of faith in God, no wonder it should be so much more difficult for them to believe. It is true, and there are numberless instances to prove it, that many a naturally depressed mind has found its only relief from apprehension and despondency in the sense of God’s abiding friendliness. It has been said to me more than once:--The next best thing to believing for one’s self is to see others believe. So it behoves all who live in the celestial sunshine of faith and hope to reflect by their cheerful and pure lives as much as possible the light that shines on their own souls upon the hearts of others less happy than themselves. (C. Voysey, M.A.)

Spiritual darkness

(with Micah 7:8):--Isaiah describes the experience. Micah besides that describes himself as being, or having been, in the heart of the experience. The Bible is a many-sided book.

DARKNESS AS A FACT OF CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE, AND THE CHRISTIAN’S PROPER EXERCISE UNDER IT. In the natural world it is not always light, at least with our planet. The sun goes down and darkness spreads. So in the higher life. The spiritual heavens are not always bright. Some sun or other that had been shedding its light on the soul goes down, and the man sits in darkness.

1. It may be the light of faith that is darkened. Spiritual realities are withdrawn into shadow.

2. It may be the light of God’s face that is felt to be withdrawn.

3. Darkness may come in the form of the fading away of some Christian hope--personal hopes or hopes for the kingdom of God. This dark experience gives a striking demonstration that God only is man’s Comforter.

DARKNESS AS A MEANS OF SPIRITUAL DISCOVERY. Perhaps the best explanation of this darkness, and it is a vindication too, is found in the results which it works. In nature the darkness of night lets us see what we cannot see when the sun is shining. It is the same with spiritual night, or may be. The man of God may then get great enlargement of spiritual information and understanding. There need be no mystery why all this is so. The man that sits in darkness is by the pressure of his position made a more diligent searcher into Divine things.

DARKNESS AS A DISCIPLINE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. It may secure for it some of its best graces--the mildest, the most mellowed, the most hallowed. There are plants that grow best in a dim light. Amongst those Christian graces that take deeper root in the dark are:

1. Humility.

2. Trustfulness.

3. Self-surrender.


1. The painfulness of this discipline must not be forgotten. They only know the horrors of Divine desertion who have relished the joys of Divine communion. If these things are done in the green tree what shall be done in the dry? If God takes such means to improve grace, what means will He take to punish sin?

2. Sympathize with the deserted child of’ God. God is not angry with him. “Behind a frowning providence,” etc. God does earnestly remember him Jeremiah 31:20).

3. Ye who sit in darkness beware of two things--impatience and sullen indifference. (J. Wardrop, D. D.)

Spiritual darkness

This DARKNESS may arise possibly--

1. From over-occupation in the affairs of life. The questionable has been acted upon as the admissible.

2. From a disordered state of the body. The brain has not been kept clear by rational living. Late hours, undue excitement have brought on spiritual dyspepsia; or excesses of youth are now demanding their penalty, or an inheritance of evils has caused it.

3. From a non-apprehension of the fulness of the atonement of Christ. We may believe in God’s ability to pardon, but do not realize how He leads us into holiness; or whether we have come to Christ in the right way, or about the uncertainty as to the time of our conversion, or fear lest the past neglect to make progress in the Divine life should cut us off from all hope; or the gloom comes from neglecting the Bible and prayer for something less profitable, or from over-religious excitement that has given us a distaste for obscurer and quieter work, or disappointment in hopes respecting the coming of Christ’s kingdom, or from seeing much of mystery and pain around, or from trouble how to save the masses, or from the spread of materialistic ideas, and so on.

HOW ARE CHRISTIANS TO BE DELIVERED FROM IT? “Trust in the name of the Lord.” We know how a name can cheer men. The mention of the name of Caesar and of Wellington had a wonderful effect upon their men. Trust in Him for pardon and sanctification. You are His friend, and are longing for Him. He will work in you. Trust absolutely in Christ; “stay” upon Him. A sufferer of fourteen years said, “I can bear anything, for Christ is with me.” (F. Hastings.)

A Child of light walking in darkness


1. Walking in darkness is taken (1 John 1:6) for living in sin and ungodliness. But so it is not to be taken here; for Christ would not have encouraged such to trust in God, who is light, and there can be no fellowship between Him and such darkness, as the apostle tells us. Nay, the Holy Ghost reproves such as do “lean on the Lord” and yet transgress Micah 3:11). And besides, the text speaks of such who for their present condition fear God and are obedient to Him, which if they thus walked in darkness they could not be said to do.

2. Neither is it to be meant of walking in ignorance, as in John 12:35. For one that hath no light, in that sense, can never truly fear God nor obey Him.

3. He means it of discomfiture and sorrow, as often we find in Scripture darkness to be taken (Ecclesiastes 5:17); as, on the contrary, light, because it is so “ pleasant a thing to behold,” is put for comfort Ecclesiastes 11:7), And that so it is taken here is evident by that which is opposed in the next verse, “Walk ye in your light, yet ye shall lie down in sorrow.” But--

4. Of what kind of sorrow and for what?

(1) It is not to be restrained to outward afflictions only, which are called man’s infirmities, as being common to man; which arise from things of this world, or from the men of the world; though to walk in darkness is so Isaiah 59:9). For, in them also, a man’s best support is to trust inGod. But yet that cannot be the only or principal meaning of it. He adds, “and hath no light,” that is, no comfort. Now, as philosophers say, there is no pure darkness without some mixture of light, so we may say, there is not mere or utter darkness caused by outward afflictions: no outward affliction can so universally environ the mind, as to shut up all the crannies of it, so that a man should have no light. Besides, God’s people, when they walk in the greatest outward darkness, may have most light in their spirits. But here is such an estate spoken of, such a darkness as bath no light in it. Therefore--

(2) It is principally to be understood of the want of inward comfort in their spirits, from something that is between God and them. Because the remedy here provided is faith. In the foregoing verses he had spoken of justification. But because there might be some poor souls who, though truly fearing God, yet might want this assurance, and upon the hearing of this might be the more troubled, because not able to express that confidence which he did, he adds, “Who is among you,” etc. These words have a relation also to the 4 th verse, where he says that God had given him the “tongue of the learned, to minister a word of comfort in season to him that is weary and heavy laden;” and thereupon, in this verse, he shows the blessed condition of such persons as are most weary through long walking in darkness; and withal he discovereth to them the way of getting out of this darkness, and recovering comfort again.


1. He is said to have no light. “Light,” saith the apostle (Ephesians 5:13), “is that whereby things are made manifest,” i.e., to the sense of sight and as light and faith are here severed, so sight also is (2 Corinthians 5:7) distinguished from faith, which is the evidence of things absent and not Hebrews 11:1). When, therefore, here he saith he hath no light, the meaning is, he wants all present sensible testimonies of God’s favour to him. To understand this, we must know that God, to help our faith, vouchsafeth a threefold light to His people, to add assurance and joy to their faith; which is to faith as a back of steel to a bow.

(1) The immediate light of His countenance.

(2) The sight and comfort of their own graces, unto which so many promises belong. So that often when the sun is set, yet starlight appears.

(3) Though he want the present light of God’s countenance, and the sight of present grace, yet he may have a comfortable remembrance of what once before he had still left.

2. He walks in darkness.

(1) To walk in darkness implies to be in doubt whither to go.

(2) Those in darkness are apt to stumble at everything.

(3) Darkness is exceedingly terrible and full of horror. (T. Goodwin.)

The child of God in darkness


1. God’s Spirit. The Spirit is not the direct efficient or positive cause of them. The Spirit of God may concur in this darkness that befalls His child.

(1) Privatively. He may suspend His testimony, and the execution of his office of witnessing adoption.

(2) Positively. He may further proceed to reveal and represent God as angry with His child for such and such sins formerly committed, and make him sensible thereof; not barely by concealing His love, but by making impressions of His wrath upon his conscience immediately, and not by outward crosses only.

2. A man’s own guilty and fearful heart.

3. Satan. He works upon

(1) carnal reason,

(2) guilt of conscience,

(3) jealousies and fears.


1. Extraordinary; as--

(1) Out of His prerogative.

(2) In ease He means to make a man eminently wise, and able to comfort others.

(3) In case of extraordinary comforts and revelations.

2. Ordinary.

(1) In case of carnal confidence.

(2) For neglecting such special opportunities of comforts and refreshings as God hath vouchsafed; as for the neglect of holy duties, wherein God did offer to draw nigh to us.

(3) In case of not exercising the graces which a man hath; when Christians are, as it were, between sleeping and waking.

(4) In case of some gross sin committed against light, unhumbled for, or proving scandalous, or of old sins long forgotten.

(5) In case of a stubborn spirit under outward afflictions.

(6) In case of deserting His truth, and not professing it and appearing for it when He calls us to do it.

(7) In case of unthankfulness, and too common an esteem had of assurance, and of freedom from those terrors and doubtings which others are in.


1. To show His power and faithfulness, in upholding, raising up, and healing such a a spirit again as hath been long and deadly wounded with reward terrors.

2. As to know the power of Christ’s resurrection, so the “fellowship, of His sufferings;” that thereby the soul may be made more “conformable to Him.”

3. To put the greater difference between the estate of God’s children here, and that hereafter in heaven.

4. To let us see whence spiritual comforts and refreshings come: that God alone keeps the keys of that cupboard, and alone dispenseth them how and when He pleaseth.

5. Other ends God hath, to make trial of our graces and a discovery of them. The same end that God had in leading His people through “the great wilderness, where no water was,” where “scorpions stung them,” which was to prove them, etc.; the same ends hath God in suffering His people to go through this desert, barrenness, and darkness, where no light is, and where terrors of the law do sting them--for His dealings then were types of God’s dealings with His people new--to prove them, and to make trial of their hearts.

(1) There is no grace God tries more than the grace of faith.

(2) Of all temptations none try it more than desertion of God’s countenance.

(3) In these conflicts of faith with desertions consisteth the height of our Christian warfare.

6. As it makes for the trial and discovery of graces, so it is a means sanctified to increase them, and to eat out corruptions.

(1) It is a means to destroy the flesh.

(2) To humble.

(3) To bring in more assurance and establishment.

(4) It trains you to fear God more, and to obey Him.

(5) To set believers’ hearts a-work to pray more and more earnestly.

(6) It causeth them to prize the light of God’s countenance the more when they again obtain it, and so set a higher price upon it, and to endeavour by close walking with God, as children of light, to keep it. (T. Goodwin.)

Counsel to those who walk in darkness

1. Take heed of rash, desperate, impatient and unbelieving speeches and wishes.

2. Let the troubled soul make diligent search.

3. Keep and lend one ear, as well to hear and consider what makes for their comfort, as unto what may make against them.

4. Make diligent search into, and call to remembrance what formerly hath been between God and you. The remembrance of former things doth often uphold, when present sense fails.

5. But now if former signs remembered bring thee no comfort in, but the waves that come over thy soul prove so deep that thou canst find no bottom to cast anchor on, the storm and stress so great that no cable will hold, but they snap all asunder, as is often the case of many a poor soul, then renew thy faith and repentance.

6. Then, stand not now disputing it, but be peremptory and resolute m thy faith and turning to God, let the issue be what it will be. Faith is never nonplussed.

7. Let him trust in the name of the Lord.

8. Wait upon God, thus trusting in His name, in the constant use of all ordinances and means of comfort. Waiting is indeed but an act of faith further stretched out.

9. Above all things pray, and get others also to pray for thee.

10. Having done all this, you would not rest in ease of conscience but healing. (T. Goodwin.)

Trust in the name of the Lord

The name of God, that is, God’s attributes, and Christ’s righteousness do sufficiently, and adequately, answer all wants and doubts, all objections and distresses. Whatsoever our want or temptations be, He hath a name to make supply (Exodus 34:5-6). Art thou in miser and eat distress “The Lord merciful.” The “Lord,” therefore able to help thee; and “merciful,” therefore willing. Yea, but thou wilt say, I am unworthy; I have nothing in me to move Him to it. Well, He is “gracious;” now grace is to show mercy freely. Yea, but I have sinned against Him for many years; if I had come in when I was young, mercy might have been shown me. To this He says, I am “long-suffering.” But my sins abound in number, and it is impossible to reckon them up, and they abound in heinousness; I have committed the same sins again and again; I have been false to Him, broke promise with Him again and again. His name also answers this objection, He is “abundant in goodness;” He abounds more in grace than thou in sinning. And though thou hast been false again and again to Him, and broke all covenants, yet He is “abundant in truth; “ also better than His Word, for He cannot to our capacities express all that mercy that is in Him for us. But I have committed great sins, aggravated with many and great circumstances. He forgives “iniquity, transgression, and sin;” sins of all sorts. But there is mercy thus in Him but for a few, and I may be none of the number. Yes, there is mercy for “thousands.” And He “keeps” it; treasures of it lie by Him, and are kept, if men would come and take them. Object what thou canst, His name will answer thee. Needest thou comfort as well as pardon? He is both “Father of mercies” and “God of all comforts” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Needest thou peace of conscience, being filled with terrors? He is the “God of peace” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). But I have a heart empty of grace and holiness, and full of corruptions. He is the “God of all grace” to heal thee, as well as of peace to pardon thee. Needest thou wisdom and direction? He is the “Father of lights,” as the apostle says. Is thy heart inconstant and full of double-mindedness? He is “unchangeable” also. Thus all objections that can be made may be answered out of His name. Therefore it is all-sufficient for faith to rest upon. (T. Goodwin.)

Darkness and, light, and light and darkness

One cannot listen to these words without feeling that one needs to distinguish between the appearance and the reality of things. There are peculiarities in the lot of both the righteous and the wicked which baffle our expectations. The sufferings of the godly and the prosperity of the ungodly have always been a puzzle to thoughtful men. However confusing facts of this order may be, they very plainly constitute a most serious part of our earthly test and discipline.


1. The character of the righteous.

(1) He is animated by devout and reverential feeling towards God--he “feareth the Lord.” This inward sentiment of reverence is the living root of all practical godliness.

(2) He rules his heart and life by the inspired Word of God--He “obeyeth the voice of His Servant.” “His Servant” is the Servant of prediction, the Messiah of promise.

2. His trials. “That walketh in darkness and hath no light.” It is literally, “darknesses.” The shadows which fall upon our path are not one, but many. It is very startling, that men who revere God Himself, and obey His servants, obey even His chosen Servant of all, should ever “walk in darkness and have no light.” Yet that is sometimes their lot. They may not only be in darkness for a short while, but may be called to “walk” in it. Walking denotes, not what is occasional, but what is habitual. Be thankful that you walk not in the pitch darkness of many a poor soul in our day, to whom nothing exists but matter and motion and force.

3. The consolations of the righteous.

(1) Study the “name of the Lord.” His name declares His nature.

(2) Have faith in God. Trust.

(3) Leave the issue entirely to the Almighty. Let him “stay upon his God.” The word is, “lean upon his God.” The illustration is, a weak person leaning all his feebleness on a strong one,.and being upheld by his strength.


1. The illusions of the wicked. Observe their activity.

(1) They “kindle a fire,” The fire is kindled for the sake of its light, not for the sake of its warmth. The righteous often “walk in darkness and have no light;” not so the wicked. They know how to make their own light. They have great confidence in their own resources. They ply their abilities to banish their ills, and to provide themselves with satisfactions. Men must have at least the semblance of good, if destitute of the reality. The industry of men in the pursuit of imaginary blessings is very noteworthy, very melancholy, and very pitiful. They “compass themselves with sparks.” I am not sure that “sparks” is the exact word that should have been used here. But it seems to be fire in some minute form. The impotence of mail is set forth and the inefficiency of his endeavours. He is very laborious. He surrounds himself with his artificial glimmers, and hopes to compensate their feebleness by their multitude. There are no Divine lights in the firmament of his night, and he fancies that the dim and dusky fiickerings which his own hands have multiplied about him are sufficient for his needs.

2. The seeming success of the, wicked. “Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks that ye have kindled.” It is as if the Almighty said to wilful and rebellious creatures: “Take your own way. Pursue your dream, and eat the fruits of your folly.” The light of the wicked, like the darkness of the righteous, is not single but manifold. They “walk,” too, amidst these lights, they live and delight themselves in “the light of their” own fires, and surrounded by “the sparks that they have kindled.”

3. The doom of the wicked. “This shall ye have at My hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.’

(1) Men must lie down in sickness. Projects which flashed such alluring brightness grow very pale when health is gone and powers of enjoyment have fled. “Shade me from the lying glare,” cries the defrauded sufferer, when the head is sick and the heart is weary.

(2) Every man must lie down to die. When that solemn hour arrives, the wasted fingers will enkindle no more lights, and the shrunken limbs move no more amidst them. The whole circle of self-deceptions with which you have encompassed your soul, shall sink and vanish together, like the last glimmer forsakes the expiring wick, and leave only a noisome ash behind. How different are the righteous and the wicked in their darkness! The righteous “leans,” the wicked “lies down.” “Leaning” is an act of spiritual power; “lying down” in the languors of dissolution, with chilling perspirations crawling on breast and brow, is impotent endurance. The righteous “leans” on God; the wicked sinks helpless and “lies down” to die. The righteous finds succour and salvation; the wicked, sorrow. “Leaning” is the moment of triumph; “lying down,” of utter overthrow and ruin. (H. Batchelor.)

“The cloud across the sun:”

Contrary to the teaching of those who affirm that religion’s ways are invariably ways of pleasantness and peace, and that the world’s ways are invariably rough and disappointing, it is the religious man who “walketh in darkness, and hath no light,” and it is the worldly man whose pathway is illumined and whose prosperity is assured;


1. By “the fear of the Lord ‘ in the language of the Old Testament is meant a religious disposition, combining reverence and love. There are two kinds of fear--one wholesome, the other unwholesome; one the offspring of knowledge, the other of ignorance; one which liberates the soul, the other which brings it late bondage. And it is the reverential fear to which the prophet refers as attached to the character under consideration. Then, He obeyeth the voice of His Servant. That is a fuller characterization of the godly man, which takes into account conduct as well as disposition. This twofold description completes the picture. The interior life and the outward walk correspond. The character, then, is not that of an empty religious professor. Nor is he a backslider.

2. The character which comes before us in the second half of the text is not so fully described as is that of the godly man in the preceding verse. Nevertheless, the constrast which is suggested enables us to complete the outline without difficulty. It is not necessary that we should think of one who is outwardly and notoriously immoral. But it is necessary that we should think of one who is uninfluenced by the fear of God, and whose character is lacking in all the root-elements of a sincere piety. And how full of suggestion the words “He kindleth a fire”! That is to say, he warms himself from without rather than from within. He contemplates life on its physical and material side only. He finds himself in a world well suited to his requirements and capable of affording him many pleasurable excitements, and so he proceeds to gather together the materials for a good fire. To the superficial observer the difference between the godly man and the worldly man, especially when the latter happens to be respectable and moral, may not be very striking. Yet the difference is vital. It is a difference in kind as well as degree. They belong to different realms.

THE TWO CONTRASTED WALKS--the one in darkness, the other encompassed with sparks. Health and material prosperity are not necessarily signs of the special favour of God. Nor are sickness and adversity any sure indication of the Divine displeasure.

1. It is the portion of a good man sometimes to have to walk in darkness.

(1) There is the darkness of adversity.

(2) There is the darkness of religious doubt. A good man may find himself in this transition period drifting away from the old moorings--drifting away he hardly knows whither. He has to re-make his creed, and during that period of re-making he is compelled to walk, more or less, in darkness.

(3) There is the darkness of spiritual drought. The man whose faith is greatly tried is counselled to exercise a stronger faith.

2. In contrast to all this, there is the “walking” of those who walk in the light of the fires of their own kindling. Is this world, with all its absorbing interests, really empty and unsatisfying? No doubt it is, sooner or later. But for the present the majority of those around us are satisfied with it as a sphere of habitation. And supposing there be no God and no hereafter--then one may almost ask whether the worldly have not the advantage over the unworldly, and whether this life, with all its struggles and efforts, is really worth living. But if there be a God and a hereafter; if the kingdom of the soul is as great a reality as the kingdom of the senses; if character is everything--then we are fools indeed if we accept the creed of the materialist, and live the life of the sensualist. There are only two philosophies of life possible to us; and one of them is not a philosophy. The man who follows the first is he who walks in the light of the Sun--the sun’s Sun, the great source and fountain of all illumination. The man who follows the second is he who walks in the light of Chinese lanterns and all kinds of pyrotechnic devices, and who in consequence never arrives at the goal.


1. There can be no real and lasting success in life apart from God. In the domain of literature, science and art; in the field of material enterprise and industry; in the haunts and abodes of pleasure, how brightly the world’s bonfires are burning! How the flames sparkle, and dance and leap! What crowds, what gaiety, what laughter! Soon, however, the laughter will die away, and all that will be left of that brilliant human assemblage on this side the grave will be a few brief epitaphs and a few handfuls of dust. “He shall lie down in sorrow,” or as Matthew Henry quaintly paraphrases it, “He shall go to bed in the dark.” That is a reminiscence of our childhood. And that is what it all comes to sooner or later, if we read Goethe and Byron instead of our Bible; if we worship the beautiful instead of the holy; if we live the life of the senses instead of the life of the soul.

2. Elsewhere we are told that “to the upright there ariseth a light in the darkness.” And again it is said, “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” (T. Sanderson.)

False and true in character


1. The true have a distinctive principle and conduct. All character is made up of principles and acts. The principle is “fear,” not of a crouching serf, but of a loving child--filial reverence; the conduct is, obeying the voice of His Servant--Christ. Here is the true spirit and its true development. Piety may listen to the voice of philosophies, but obeys the voice of Christ. His whole life was a voice.

2. The true have their seasons of darkness--“walketh in darkness.” Jacob, Job, Asaph, Jeremiah. The cloud is not spread by a Divine hand over the heart, but rises from the corrupt elements of our moral nature. A dark day is not the sun’s fault; he shines in his own great orbit in November as in June; the darkness arises from the vapours of the earth; so with moral gloom--cause not in God, but in us.

3. The true in seasons of darkness have a sure relief--“they trust in the name of the Lord”--in His disposition, and power to help. Christianity a proof of the former, the universe of the latter.

THE LIGHTS OF THE FALSE AND THEIR RUIN. “Walk in the light of your fire,” etc.

1. The false have their lights. Such as general custom, temporal expediency, corrupt religions, pseudo-philosophies lights are their guides and comforts in their relations to both worlds.

2. The false will have their ruin. “This shall ye have at My hand.” The “candle of the wicked shall be put out.” All their lamps, however luminous, shall be quenched in a midnight, without a ray of moon or star. (Homilist.)

Darkness the element of trial

What is it that is tried in us? Even the same which, it has pleased God to promise, shall be rewarded in us, if we bold it fast--our faith in Christ. And this consists of several parts; which, however, may be summed up in three heads--

1. Belief in what He has revealed to us.

2. Belief in what He has promised to us.

3. Belief in what He has required of us. But the text calls our attention particularly to the two latter, as arising out of the former; and in the particular shape of obedience to His commands; and trust in His care of us.

But it is plain, that if we are thus tried, there must be the possibility of a different result. There must be a choice; a choice between doing right and doing wrong; between the things which we see and the things which we do not sea; between acting for ourselves, and trusting in God to act for us. And accordingly, the text goes on to set before us the other class of persons, who find themselves in the same darkness and perplexity, but seek a different way out of it. “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire,” etc. These are the men of the world, the prudent ones; those who will not venture, but will make sure of everything! They will not be kept in the dark! (R. Scott, M.A.)

The prophet’s sublimity and sarcasm

As the holy prophet, here, addresses himself to two very different sorts of men, whom he accordingly describes by two very opposite characters; so he varies his manner of expression, in just proportion to the figure which they make. To the one, his style is serious, and sublime, and full of enlivening encouragement; equal to the dignity of the holy rule they walk by: to the other, like their own way of thinking, disdainful, and sarcastical; laughing at their foolish devices, their unsuccessful projects, and mocking at the bitter calamity, which, with all their conceited wisdom, in the end, they bring upon themselves. (L. Blackburne, D.D.)

Light in darkness: true and false

In every time of distress or doubt, in every dark, perplexed, and gloomy season, it is as reasonable, as it is natural for every man, who is not wholly lost to all sense or foresight, to cast about, and to look out for any glimpse of light that may suffice to guide him through it. This is a turn which every thinking man will find his mind must surely take in any present misery, or visibly approaching danger. But, here, the righteous and the wicked part asunder; and persevering in the different routes they take, they come no more together.



He who endured the hiding of His Father’s countenance when bearing our sins, bids you “stay” on Him as your God. What an illustration of Isaiah 42:16! (E. Avriol, M.A.)

Encouragement and warning

COMFORT is here spoken to disconsolate saints, and they are encouraged to trust in God’s grace.

CONVICTION is here spoken to presuming sinners, and they are warned not to trust in themselves. (M. Henry.)

Unwilling darkness

The peculiarity of the case of those here stated is, that it is an unwilling darkness. (J. R. Macduff, D.D.)

F.W. Robertson’s experience and counsel

Very instructive in this regard is the experience recorded by Frederick W. Robertson, of his striving toward the light, in that terrible spiritual conflict which he fought out among the solitudes of the Tyrol. In one of his letters written there he says: “Some things I am certain of, and these are my Ursachen, which cannot be taken away from me. I have got so far as this: Moral goodness and moral beauty are, realities, lying at the basis and beneath all forms of the best religious expressions. And, generalizing from his own case, he thus addressed the working-men of Brighton: “It is an awful hour--let him who has passed through it say how awful--when this life has lost its meaning and seems shrivelled into a span; when the grave appears to be the end of all, human goodness nothing but a name, and the sky above this universe a dead expanse, black with the void from which God Himself has disappeared. In that fearful loneliness of spirit, when those who should have been his friends and counsellors only frown upon his misgivings and profanely bid him stifle his doubts, I know but one way in which a man may come forth from his agony scatheless; it is by holding fast to those things which are certain still--the grand, simple landmarks of morality. In the darkest hour through which a human soul can pass, whatever else is doubtful, this, at least, is certain. If there be no God and no future state, yet even then it is better to be generous than selfish; better to be chaste than licentious; better to be true than false; better to be brave than to be a coward. Blessed beyond all earthly blessedness is the man who, in the tempestuous darkness of the soul, has dared to hold fast these venerable landmarks. Thrice blessed is he who, when all is cheerless within and without, when the teachers terrify him and his friends shrink from him, has obstinately clung to moral good. Thrice blessed, because his night shall pass into clear, bright day.”

Melancholy Christians

Serious Christians are apt to be melancholy ones, and those who fear always to fear too much. (M. Henry.)

Looking Godwards

Believe in God--if only by way of experiment, and for a moment--with all perplexing questions imperially commanded for a time into silence; believe, I mean, in One worthy to be God, the Best conceivable, all that a God ought to be; then remember how such a One has all time and all resources at His command; that He must necessarily be working on a vast scale; and then believe that you, as a living part of one living whole, are necessarily cared for and included in His all-perfect plan. The experiment is, at least, a pleasant one, and quits within our power; and I should not wonder if, in the temporary belief, the idea became as light, which evidences itself, and needs no proof but itself that it is light. (H. H. Dobney.)

God in “the thick darkness:”

Do not fear to draw near, like Moses, even “to the thick darkness,” for God is there. Out of the night is born the morning, and chaos comes before the kosmos. (H. H. Dobney.)

“Polish up the dark side:”

“Look on the bright side,” said a young man to a friend, who was discontented and melancholy. “But there is no bright side,” was his doleful reply. “Very well, then polish up the dark one,” said the young man promptly. (The New Age.)

Security in the darkness of life

I remember once hearing a devout engine-driver relate his religious experience. He said: “The other night when I was on duty there was a dense fog; we could not see a yard before us, but I knew that the permanent way was under us, and every now and then we caught a glimpse of some signal or other, and in time came safely to the journey’s end; so,” he said, “I know if I am true to the great commandments and promises, God will guide and bring me through.” In the darkest hours, when reason and experience utterly fail, remember that the permanent way is there; be true to the line of trust on one side, and obedience on the other, and God will vouchsafe you comforting signals, and in due season bring you to the appointed rest. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Spiritual darkness

The tree that waves its branches so freely in the great expanse and spreads out its leafy surface towards heaven, so eager for light and for heat, struck its root in secret underground, in great darkness and bondage. Take heed that you do not undervalue your time of spiritual darkness and conflict. The joy of eternity often strikes its root in very bitterness of spirit. Meekly fulfil all your groaning and patiently abide your time in darkness, “looking unto Jesus.” Do you know that you would not so painfully feel your darkness if the Holy Sunlight did not underlie it?
The diviner the sunlight at centre, the pain-fuller is the encompassing night. (J. Pulsford, D.D.)

Faith useful in dark days

On ancient churches we see the dial, the quaint invention of our fathers; but this is the pathetic failure of the dial, it is of use only as long as the sun shines. But what we want is the faith that helps us when it is dark, when disappointment lacerates the soul, when the grave is being dug, when trials lay us low, and when guilt darkens the day and puts the shutters up on the windows of the heart. (J. A. Davies, B. D.)

Facing Godwards

In the old myth, Orion whose eyes had been put out whilst he slept on the sea shore, recovered sight by gazing toward the rising sun. If our inner vision has been blinded, and all the grand truths and hopes of life lost to sight, let us turn our blind face toward heaven and keep it there, until He who looseth the bands of Orion turns for us the shadow of death into the morning. (W.L. Watkinson.)

Verse 11

Isaiah 50:11

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire

A child of darkness walking in light

By the “fire” and “the light of their fire” which wicked men are said to walk in, two things must be meant.

THEIR OWN NATURAL RIGHTEOUSNESS and the sparks and acts thereof.

THE LIGHT OF OUTWARD COMFORTS from the creatures, which in this world they enjoy, and the sparkling pleasures thereof which they walk in, and content themselves with, neglecting communion with God, being estranged from the life of God, and living without Him in the world. (T. Goodwin, D.D.)

Sparks of our own kindling

Our mistake is, not that we seek happiness (for to do so is inherent in the constitution of our nature), but that we seek it from fictitious and artificial sources, which are not naturally calculated to yield it. The many fictitious sources, from which men seek to derive happiness, are compared to a fire kindled, and sparks struck out, by way of relieving the darkness of the night. It is, of course, implied in the metaphor, that true happiness, the real and adequate complement of man’s nature, resembles the Divinely-created and golden sunlight.

THIS COMPARISON DOES NOT LEAD US TO DENY THAT PLEASURE AND GRATIFICATION OF A CERTAIN KIND ARE DERIVABLE FROM WORLDLY SOURCES. Just as man can relieve himself in great measure from the discomfort and inconvenience of natural darkness, by kindling a fire and surrounding himself with sparks, so can he alleviate, to a certain extent, the instinctive sense of disquietude and dissatisfaction, so irksome to him at intervals of leisure, by the various enjoyments which life has to offer.


1. Unsatisfactoriness inheres in their very nature, inasmuch as they are all more or less artificial. They are miserable substitutes, which man has set up to stand him in stead of that true happiness, which is congenial to his nature, and adapted to his wants. The light of the sun is nature’s provision for man. That light answers all the purposes for which light is required, far more beautifully, as well as far more simply, than the most splendid artificial illumination. But the shedding abroad of the golden sunlight is not dependent on man’s will, or within the compass of his ability. Effectually to remove the pall of darkness from the face of nature, and to spread the morning upon the mountains, is the prerogative of the Divine Being. Whereas in the alleviation of the darkness, man has a share. He can kindle a fire, and compass himself about with sparks. During the period of the sun’s absence, he can replace his light, by the sorry substitute of torch and taper. The glare, however, which these shed around, is not like the genial, cheering, cherishing light, which proceeds from the great luminary which rules the day. It exercises no quickening influence on vegetable life,--its clear shining brings not out the bloom and perfume of the flower, nor the verdure of the tender grass, nor sends a thrill of joy through the whole realm of nature. Now, every fact which has here been stated, in regard to things natural, finds its counterpart in things spiritual.

2. The fitful character of the enjoyment derived from worldly sources renders it comparable to a fire and sparks struck out. The glow of a kindled fire is not equable. It casts a flickering and uncertain light, now smouldering beneath the fuel which feeds it, now bursting forth into bright and vivid flashes. Thus it presents us with a lively emblem of worldly joy, which is subject to repeated alternations of revival and decay, and whose high pitch can be sustained, only for a very short period of time. Not so the peace and pleasantness derived from walking with God. If it be not a light so dazzling as that which is sometimes shed abroad by the kindled firebrands of worldly joys, it is at least subject to no such variations of lustre.

3. A fire requires continually to be fed with fresh fuel, if its brilliancy and warmth are to be maintained. Hence it becomes an apt emblem of the delusive joy of this world, falsely called happiness, which is only kept alive in the worldling’s heart by the fuel of excitement.

4. But perhaps the chief drawback of the worldling’s so-called happiness is that it is consistent with so much anxiety--that it is subject to frequent intrusions from alarm, whenever a glimpse of the future untowardly breaks in upon the mind. And possibly this feature of it too is symbolized in the prophetic imagery, which is here employed to denote it. It is in the night-time, when the kindled fire glows upon the hearth, and man pursues his employments by the light of torch and taper, that apprehensions visit his mind, and phantom forms are conjured up which scare the ignorant and the superstitious. Would that the forebodings of the worldling were equally groundless with the fears of the superstitious! What makes the Christian’s joy so intrinsically preferable to his, is that it can endure the survey of the hour of death, and of the day of judgment. (E. M. Goulburn, D.C.L.)

False religions

MAN CREATES THEM. “Ye have kindled the fires.” What are they? There are at least five false religions that prevail in Christendom, and under the name of Christianity.

1. The religion of creed. A sound creed is essential to a sound religion, but is not itself a sound religion.

2. The religion of moods. Desires for heaven, dread of hell, sensuous sympathy with Christ’s sufferings, these are the religious “sparks.”

3. The religion of ordinance.

4. The religion of proxyism. Many are depending upon services.

5. The religion of merit. All these are false religions prevalent amongst us, as man is the creator of them.

HEAVEN ALLOWS THEM. “Walk in the light,” etc.

1. The permission is strange.

2. The permission is significant.

(1) It shows God’s respect for that freedom with which He has endowed human nature.

(2) It suggests that in giving the Gospel, He has given all that is necessary for man to get the right religion.

MISERY FOLLOWS THEM. “This shall ye have at My hands,” etc Death will put out all false light from the soul. Who shall imagine the “sorrow” that follows the extinction of all the religious lights of the soul!

1. There is the sorrow of bitter disappointment;

2. of poignant remorse;

3. of black despair. All hopes of improvement gone. No religion will beam on with increased radiance up to and beyond the grave for ever, but the religion of Christ. (Homilist.)


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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 50". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.