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Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment
Privilege and responsibility
The doctrine of the passage is simply this, that they who enjoy extraordinary privileges, or expect extraordinary favours, are under corresponding obligations to do the will of God; and, moreover, that the nearer the manifestation of God’s mercy, whether in time or eternity, the louder the call to righteousness of life.
These truths are of no restricted application, but may be applied wherever the relation of a Church or chosen people can be recognized. (F. A. Alexander.)
God’s mercy and man’s duty
When God is coming towards us in a way of mercy, we must go forth to meet Him in a way of duty. (M. Henry.)
Reformation the precursor of regeneration
God does not demand of a man, when He sends to him the gracious announcement of the Gospel, that he should change his heart, in order to his having a share in His proffered mercy. He does not say to him, You are now a disloyal subject, and before you can have an interest in the blood of My Son, I require you to become loyal. But He does require that he should set himself to the giving up the overt acts of disloyalty. He sends the tidings of a flee pardon to His alienated subjects, but He bids them, as it were, get ready for its reception. “Keep ye judgment, and do justice,” etc. The manner in which the doctrines of Scripture are oftentimes propounded has a distinct tendency to repress men’s energies, or to give them an altogether wrong direction. The Bible addresses itself unreservedly to sinners, as though they had a moral power of action, for which they were, in the largest sense, accountable, and through which they might make some progress towards deliverance. Hence, it calls on the wicked to forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and to turn unto the Lord. It bids them cease to do evil, and learn to do well; it clearly demands a preparatory reformation, and such an attention to the conduct as shall, in some sense, make way for the free pardon of the Gospel.
I. SHOW WHAT LIES WITHIN THE POWER OF THE UNCONVERTED; AND WHAT, THEREFORE, THEY ARE BOUND TO DO IF THEY HOPE FOR, CONVERSION. We apply this direction to the case of every individual, whatever his station in society; and we consider it as requiring of him a more diligent attention to the duties of that station, as preliminary to his obtaining a single share in the mercies of redemption. If he be living in any known sin, let him renounce it. God’s Spirit, so to speak, is scared away by his intemperance, his lust, his uncontrolled tempers, and if he would hope for visitation from this Spirit, let him strive to sweep the chamber, and to garnish it for its reception.
II. THE PERFECT HARMONY OF THESE STATEMENTS WITH THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE. We are accustomed to preach to you the insufficiency of works, in helping forward that justification which is purely of faith; and now we seem to teach the vast importance of works, and those, too, works wrought by mere human strength, as distinctly instrumental to human salvation.
1. The throwing of a man upon certain resources which we hold him to possess, is not representing him as able to advance one step without God. It is God’s own appointment that we should use the strength which we have, before more is imparted; and since we only teach submission to this appointment, there can be nothing of interference with the freeness of grace.
2. Our representation of the duties of the unconverted, if they desire conversion, must be correct, inasmuch as it is formed altogether on a Scriptural model. We refer you to the preaching of John the Baptist, as furnishing this model.
3. There is a difficult passage in the history of our Lord’s ministrations, which can only be explained on the supposed truth of what we have advanced. When the young man came to Jesus, and demanded what good thing he must do that he might have eternal life, the Saviour replied, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
4. We admit that, if a man reform his life under the idea that the reform is meritorious, he may possibly be no nearer conversion i but if he attempt to reform, simply as a preliminary, he shall, surely, be thereby brought unto greater fitness for the reception of grace; and yet the grace when it comes shall have lost none of its characteristics, but still be grace the very freest and the most undeserved.
5. Again, salvation is a thing of faith, not of works. The very desire after conversion pre-supposes faith. If a man do not believe in the coming wrath, he can have no wish for a change that is to secure him against the outbreak of that wrath i and in exhorting him unto an immediate fighting against sin, we exhort him to bring his faith into practice.
6. The individual who goes out into the arena of life and makes an effort in his own strength to overthrow evil, will be a hundredfold better taught the moral decrepitude of man, by the little progress that he makes, or the defeat that he sustains, than another who sits down in his closet and seeks to ascertain his native insufficiency by throwing his power into a balance, or computing it by a process of mathematical calculation. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Blessed is the man that doeth this
The blessedness of right-doing
“Blessed is the man that doeth this.
” It must be so, for in doing judgment and justice he in some measure resembles the blessed God, who exerciseth judgment and righteousness in the earth, and delighteth in these things. (R. Macculloch.)
The duties of the first table are typified by the observance of the Sabbath; those of the second table are signified in the comprehensive expression, “That keepeth his hand that it do no evil.” (Prof. S. R. Driver,D. D.)
A great variety of reasons have been given for the special mention of the Sabbath here. The true explanation is afforded by a reference to the primary and secondary ends of the Sabbatical institution, and the belief involved in its observance.
1. It implied a recognition of Jehovah as the omnipotent Creator of the universe (Exodus 20:11; Exodus 31:17).
2. As the Sanctifier of His people, not in the technical or theological sense, but as denoting Him by whom they had been set apart as a peculiar people Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12).
3. As the Saviour of this chosen people from the bondage of Egypt Deuteronomy 5:15). Of these great truths the Sabbath was a weekly remembrancer, and its observance by the people a perpetual recognition and profession, besides the practical advantages accruing to the maintenance of a religious spirit by a weekly recurrence of a day of rest. (J. A. Alexander.)
I. THE DUTY REQUIRED. To keep the Sabbath, to keep it as a talent we are to trade with, or a treasure we are entrusted with; keep it holy, keep it safe, keep it with care and caution, keep from polluting it; allow neither yourselves nor others either to violate the holy rest nor omit the holy work of that day.
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT WE HAVE TO DO THIS DUTY. Blessed is he that doeth it. The way to have the blessing of God upon our employments all the week is to make conscience and business of Sabbath sanctification; and in doing so we shall be the better qualified to do judgment and justice. The more godliness the more honesty (1 Timothy 2:2). (M. Henry.)
Sabbath-keeping and justice
We are not just if we rob God of His time. (M. Henry.)
Resoluteness in Sabbath observance
Those that would keep the Sabbath from polluting it must put on resolution; must not only do this, but lay hold on it, for Sabbath time is precious; but it is very apt to slip away if we take not great care; therefore we must lay hold on it, and keep our hold; must do it, and persevere in it. (M. Henry.)
The utility of the Sabbath
As the Sabbath was instituted while man was yet within the precincts of Paradise, and unseduced by the wiles of the devil, we are warranted to conclude that a day of holy rest was useful and necessary to him, even in a state of innocence; and if it was of use and advantage to him then, how much more must it be now! Man is now become so sinful, so earthly, so forgetful of God, so careless of his highest interests, that were it not for the solemnities of the Sabbath, he would speedily lose all sense of religion, and utterly neglect the salvation of his soul. (D. Rees.)
An unpolluted Sabbath
The text gives us to understand that in order to keep the Sabbath from polluting it, we must keep our hands from doing any evil. Nor can we suppose that the day is to be sanctified merely by acts of negative holiness, but also by acts of positive goodness. (D. Rees.)
Sabbaths and week-days
“That keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. The best evidence of our having kept the Sabbath well will be a care to keep a good conscience all the week. (M. Henry.)
The blessedness of keeping Gods holy day
What are we to understand by “polluting the Lord’s day?
1. This holy time is certainly thus abused when it is spent in mere idleness.
2. When it is devoted to worldly amusement.
3. By all labour which may not fairly come under the description of work of necessity and mercy. (J. N. Norton.)
A little boy was on a visit to his uncle, and when the morning of the Lord’s Day came, the uncle said, “Come, my man, you and I will go out and fish awhile! “Uncle,” answered the boy, very gravely and somewhat . . . puzzled, does God require us to fish here on Sunday at our house He doesnt allow us to do it.” The fishing excursion was given up, and good came of the child’s pointed sermon. (J. N. Norton.)
Neither let the son of the stranger
“The son of the stranger”
“The son of the stranger” means simply the individual foreigner (R.., “the stranger”), not one whose father was a foreigner. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The non-Israelite. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
Consolation far proselytes
The case supposed is that if a foreigner who has “joined himself to the Lord, i.e has become a proselyte by accepting the symbols of Jewish nationality (circumcision, etc.), but now has reason to fear that his qualifications will be disallowed. It is likely that the immediate cause of apprehension was some manifestation of an exclusive and intolerant spirit amongst the leaders of the New Jerusalem. Against this spirit (if it existed) the prophets words enter a strong protest. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
Unbelief many times suggests things to the discouragement of good people which are directly contrary to what God Himself hath said; things which He hath expressly guarded against. (M. Henry.)
We must understand those of Israelitish descent. (F. Delitzsch, D. D)
The eunuch “a dry tree”
The eunuch being “a dry tree” feels that having no children he will have no permanent place or name in the kingdom. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
For thus saith the Lord
Characteristics and privileges of God’s people
The pride of ancestry, and boast of ceremonial exclusiveness and glorying in the flesh, the Lord, by His prophet, looking forward to Gospel days, now abolishes, and marks out the true distinctions of His people to be that which is moral and spiritual, to the exclusion of all bodily defects or natural peculiarities.
I. THE MARKS AND DISTINCTIONS OF GOD’S PEOPLE.
1. Keeping the Sabbath.
2. Choosing the things that please Him.
3. Taking hold of His covenant.
4. Being joined to Him to serve Him.
5. Loving His name.
6. Serving Him.
II. THE GRACIOUS AND GLORIOUS PRIVILEGES OF GOD’S PEOPLE.
1. Incorporation with His Church.
2. Joy in the sanctuary.
3. Acceptance of their spiritual worship. (J. Gemmel, M. A.)
And take hold of My covenant.--
Taking hold of God’s covenant
By a lively faith, although the devil rap her on, the finger for so doing. (J. Trapp.)
Holding fast” by God’s covenant
(R.V.):--Hold fast (as Isaiah 56:2). By holding’ fast My covenant is meant adhering to his compact with Me, which includes obedience to the precepts and faith in the promises. (J. A. Alexander.)
Taking hold of God’s covenant
It was generally supposed by the Jews that no one, except the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, could be in covenant relationship with God. Paul, however, says, in writing to the Romans, “But Esaias is very bold;” and he is so in this instance. He declares that men may take hold of the covenant of God though, heretofore, they appeared to be shut out from its privileges.
I. WHAT IS THIS COVENANT? It has been well said, “He who understands the covenants holds the key of all theology.” There was, first of all, a covenant made with our father, Adam;--not, perhaps, in set terms, but virtually,--that, if he should do the will of God, he should live. But, alas l our great covenant head, Adam the first, could not keep that covenant. I should think that none of us want to take hold of that covenant, for we are all sufferers by it already. There is a second covenant, made with the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ; and by that covenant, it was provided that He should Himself perfectly keep the law, and that He should suffer the penalty due from His people for their breaches of the law; and that, if He did both these things, then all those who were represented in Him should live for ever.
1. The new covenant is a covenant of pure grace.
2. It is a “covenant ordered in all things and sure.”
3. The ensign of this covenant is faith.
II. HOW CAN WE LAY HOLD OF IT?
1. I must loose my hold of the old covenant.
2. The main plan is by believing in Christ Jesus unto the salvation of thy soul.
3. But I have known those laying hold on the covenant begin in different ways. Some have laid hold upon it by a confession of sin; and the Lord has said, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
4. Another way of laying hold of it is, “by seeking” the Lord in prayer. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
5. When you have once accepted Christ, I like you to get a hold of the covenant in all sorts of ways. We have only two hands, but there are some creatures that have a great many hands, or feelers, or suckers; and when they want to be quite safe, they seize hold with all their hands. Christ has made a covenant with His Church, and I like to lay hold of that covenant by uniting with His people. It will be a great help to you to lay hold of the covenant by availing yourself of all Church privileges. The right thing for every sinner to say is just this, “The covenant of grace exactly suits my case. Jesus Christ has come to save the guilty and the needy; that is the sort of person I am, so I will lay hold of His covenant. I have got a grip of it, and there I hang. If His Gospel be true, I am a saved man.”
III. WHAT IS THERE TO LAY HOLD OF?
1. An atonement.
2. There is another place where you can lay hold of the covenant, and that is, the mercy-seat. Go and bow before God in prayer, Christ being your Intercessor, plead with God for mercy, through His atoning blood, and then say, “ I will never leave off praying till I get the blessing.”
3. It is also a grand thine to lay hold of a promise in God’s Word.
4. There is another thing which you should lay hold of, and that is, an invitation.
IV. WHY SHOULD I NOT LAY HOLD OF GOD’S COVENANT?
1. One reason for doing so is this. Others, who are like yourself, have done so.
2. Out of all who have ever come to Christ, there has never been one rejected.
3. You are the very sort of character that is bidden to come. “This man receiveth sinners.”
4. There is nothing else for you to hold to. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Even unto them will I give
God gives, but not indiscriminately
Again and again the Lord says “will I give,” and “ I will give.
” He is always giving; He lives to give. God so loved the world that He gave; His hands are outstretched in continual dispensation of blessing. Observe here the usual condition upon which great honour are promised. This is not an indiscriminate rain of benediction, clouds emptying themselves without regard to character; it is not a confusion of man with man; but there is a principle of discrimination, election, selection, or choice,, running,, through the whole action. (J. Parker, D. D.)
A place and a name
The noun offers several meanings suitable in this passage. It signifies a “monument” or “memorial, ‘ as a lofty indicator or pointer Ezekiel 21:24), as a finger-post pointing to the person for whom it has been erected (2 Samuel 18:18; 1 Samuel 15:12); in this sense, however, the word would declare more than the promise permits one to expect. The Semitic term also signifies a place (Numbers 2:17; Deuteronomy 23:12; Jeremiah 6:3), and a “share” or portion (2 Samuel 19:43). (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
God’s promise to pious eunuchs
There seems no reason to doubt that the promise is to be understood literally. An illustration of what is meant is found in 2 Samuel 18:18, where we read that Absalom, in the prospect of dying childless, erected the pillar to his own memory which was known as “Absalom’s hand” (also 1 Samuel 15:12, R.V. marg.). The case of those here spoken of is precisely similar. They have “no son to keep their name in remembrance, but their memory shall be perpetuated by a monument erected within the temple walls;, and such a memorial, testifying to the esteem of the whole community, is “better ‘ (and more enduring) “than sons and daughters.” (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
Better than sons and daughters
Better than sons and daughters may either mean better than the comfort immediately derived from children (as in Ruth 4:15), or, better than the perpetuation of the name by hereditary succession. Most interpreters prefer the latter sense, but both may be included. A beautiful coincidence and partial fulfilment of the promise is pointed out by J. D. Michaelis, in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, whose conversion is recorded in Acts 8:7, and whose memory is far more honoured in the Church than it could have been by a long line of illustrious descendants. (B. A. Alexander.)
I will give them an everlasting name
Our greatest poet asks, “What’s in a name?” but whoever reads his Bible carefully will see that the Jews attached very great importance to names. Thus we often find in the Bible that the name of a person is used when the person himself is meant, as for example, “ The name of the God of Jacob defend thee;--we will call upon the name of the Lord;--let their name be blotted out that they may be no more a nation.” Jewish parents never gave their children a name for the sake of its sound, but because it expressed some peculiarity in the child, or some circumstance connected with its birth, or some wish for its future career. God Himself set this example when He named the first man Adam--“red earth”--to commemorate the fact that dust he was, and unto dust he should return.
The noblest name
1. Every Christian parent who now takes a child to the font of baptism should try and choose a name with some good meaning in it, and should endeavour to bring up the child to live a life worthy of its name, even as the parents of Timothy gave him a name which means “ one who fears God,” and early taught him in the Holy Scriptures that he might learn what God would have him to do.
2. No matter what name our parents may have given us, all who are baptized have the very best of names. It is the name of Christ, the name of “Christian.”
(1) It is the oldest name, older than all the Howards or Sydneys of England, older than Saxon or Norman, or Jew, or Greek, or Roman. The name of Christ, which we bear, is from everlasting.
(2) It is the noblest name; most great families derive their name from some famous act of their founder, some great victory, or some wide estate; our name is better than all, for we are named after the greatest Conqueror, one who triumphed at the price of His own blood, one who conquered Death and Satan, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. We are a royal family, for we bear the name of the King of kings, a better name than that of Caesar, or Pharaoh, or Tudor, or Stuart: all old families have a crest and a coat of arms, but our arms are the best, and they are the Cross.
(3) It is an everlasting name; some of the grandest old names in England have died out, many of the proudest family names are only to be seen on a tomb, but the name of our family will never be extinct, it becomes better known every year, and will be spread far and wide till “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea.” What, then, is required of us who bear such a name? The son of a good father would not willingly disgrace the name which has been made famous, so we must remember whose name we bear. (J. W. Buxton.)
Also the sons of the stranger
Gentiles enjoying God’s favour
This is a clear prophecy of the call of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ.
Let us attend to this description of those who are objects of the Divine favour, and entitled to the privileges of His house.
1. They join themselves to the Lord. This supposes a former distance and alienation from Him. But that is removed by humble repentance and returning to the Lord. It includes, renouncing all their idols; forsaking all their sin, everything contrary to the nature and will of God: a deliberate choice of Him, as their portion and felicity; and of His people, as their friends and associates.
2. The design of their thus joining themselves unto the Lord is to serve Him. This is further expressed in the phrase, to be His servants; not only to serve Him occasionally, or for a while, but perpetually; to adhere to Him and His ways, from a deep conviction that nothing can be more reasonable, important, and advantageous than to hear what He saith, and to do it.
3. It is added, and to love the name of the Lord. They take delight in His service; they perform it not from fear and a servile dread, but from a sincere and strong affection. They love His name; that is, they love him, His worship and His ways, and pursue His work with delight. It is opposed to narrow; selfish, mercenary views, which render the service less acceptable and comfortable. They esteem it their meat and drink to do His will.
4. Another thing-expected from God’s people is, that they keep His Sabbath from polluting it. This is an essential character, a distinguishing mark, of good men.
5. God’s people take hold of His covenant. They enter into serious, deliberate, solemn engagements to observe and keep His laws, in order to obtain the blessings which He hath promised; and which, in so doing, they cheerfully expect. They take hold of it; which implies a hearty consent to God’s terms, a cheerful approbation and acceptance of them and delight in them. It likewise implies a steady resolution. They take hold of it, as those who are determined not to let it go. (J. Orton.)
The rewards of God’s servants
I. HOLDS OUT UNIVERSAL ENCOURAGEMENT TO MAN.
1. By the transfer of the priesthood from Aaron to Christ.
2. By the change of sacrifice. From the blood of bulls and of goats to the precious blood of the Son of God.
3. By the removal of place. From Jerusalem to the temple of the universe.
4. By a change of worship. From ritual to spiritual. What an encouraging prospect! (Ephesians 2:11-22.)
II. INCULCATES UNIVERSAL PIETY, Piety in heart and practice. The duties enumerated may be divided into three classes.
1. Those which relate to Christ, expressed by taking hold of His covenant--accepting--agreeing to it.
2. Those which relate to God as the Governor of the world.
(1) His servants.
(2) Walk by His laws.
(3) Keep His Sabbaths.
3. Those which relate to the Church.
III. PROMISES UNIVERSAL HAPPINESS.
1. Access to heaven. “I will bring them to My holy mountain.”
2. Joyfulness in His service. “I will make them joyful in My house of prayer.”
3. The Divine acceptance of their religious engagements. “Their burnt-offerings and sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar.” (R. Watson.)
Even them will I bring to My holy mountain
The house of prayer
If we accept the interpretation that the second Isaiah has given us the prophecies of the restoration, we may regard this chapter as a description of Israel after the return from the Chaldean captivity, and, further, the condition of worship in the reign of the Messiah.
We place before you the whole matter as a plea for God’s house in the present day.
I. THE LOCATION OF WORSHIP. “Mine house.” With God every where, what need is there of setting apart any particular spot for worship? While all creation is God’s magnificent temple, why should we consecrate any particular place of building for the purpose of worship? We have a promise in the Book itself (Jeremiah 31:33-34). But we must suppose conditions of thought, and degrees of poetry, which do not exist, in order to worship God in the general terms implied in these statements. We infer from the history of public worship that God has adapted its forms to the state of mankind in the various periods of the periods of the past. To-day worship its forms to the state of mankind in the various periods of the past. To-day worship must be conducted with a view to the position of the religious thought which prevails.
1. The first essential element of worship is concentration. The circumstantial in religion must be flamed to centre thought upon God in His nearness to man. The patriarch’s altar, the tabernacle of Moses, and the temple of Solomon did this. In the teaching of Christ we meet with an expansion of the geography of worship. The temples on Moriah and Gerizim were doomed, both by the force of circumstances and the Incarnation. God in Christ became the consummation of the central idea of God. But Christ was human as well as Divine. We find Him both in the synagogue and the temple. He drew His disciples together, sometimes into a house, other times on the mountain slopes, or in secluded spots, for instruction and fellowship. He introduced a simplicity into worship which indicated a more spiritual thought than that which obtained when gorgeous ritualism formed its environment. The time had arrived when He would introduce a method by which we would worship the Father “in spirit and in truth. ‘ But never has Jesus Christ hinted at the probability that such a worship would consist of abstract thought, universal observation, or individual reflection, apart from the offices of time and space. When God and man meet they must meet somewhere. Although the necessity for a restricted spot had passed away, and the whole earth became a consecrated temple, when the eternal Son chose it as His imperial palace, yet the limitations of the spiritual man, while dwelling in a tabernacle of clay, suggest the setting apart of places for worship. In an age when life is at a higher pressure than ever it has been, and consequently, an age when our thoughts are agitated, scattered, embittered, and inflamed, of what incalculable value must the house of prayer be.
2. Our next point is association. We have been told that there is such a thing as abstract thought, but where is abstract life? How far can one go on the path of life without the aid of others? It seems absurd that people should assume so much piety as not to require any association or assistance. If the Hall of Science is needed, why not the Hall of Prayer?
3. Our third plea for the house of prayer is memorial. Every place of worship in England is a witness to the Being of God, and to His providence and salvation. “Mine house” is a significant designation, showing His acceptance of the gift. It is the language of love in response to the gift of love.
II. THE ESSENCE OF WORSHIP. “House of prayer.” Prayer is a comprehensive term, having devotion as its central idea. There would have been an appropriateness in calling it the house of praise, for from no other house has so much and so grand music ascended to heaven. It might have been called the house of preaching, because the word is gone forth out of Zion to the ends of the earth. But why did God name it the house of prayer? Under the old dispensation, sacrifice occupied the most prominent place in the services, but even then its name was the house of prayer. Reverence for God is the first step of the ladder. Waiting upon God is the next step. (T Davies, M. A.)
And make them joyful in My house of prayer
My house of prayer
Jesus Christ, when in a sublime act of indignation He drove out the desecrators of the temple, applied the words to the outer courts of that noble material building. But He Himself has taught us not to limit the phrase, but to give it the widest possible meaning. It is not for us to speak of God’s house of prayer as if it were restricted to any one locality, or as if it described any particular kind of structure. God’s house of prayer may be found anywhere, everywhere. Wherever the human heart reaches out with holy longing towards the Divine Father, and craves the blessing of His presence; wherever He unveils the glory of His truth and the beauty of his love, responding to the eager desires of His pleading children, there is His house of prayer. It may be grand in form, or poor and mean; there may be no material structure at all, but the solemn temple of Nature itself, yet shall it; be consecrated for worship by the prayers which ascend to God. Yet, we still find it necessary to establish and set apart places of worship, and because we frequent them for this holiest of purposes, we speak of each of them as a house of prayer. As it is necessary that we should consecrate one day out of the week for the special purposes of religion, so we find it desirable to meet at some regularly appointed spot to engage with our fellows in acts of devotion. And the reasonableness becomes apparent. We want such places for convenience’ sake. If social religion is to have any existence at all, if the communion of the saints is to be a reality, if there are to be united praise and prayer and instruction in Divine truth, then men and women must know where they are to gather for these purposes. Further, it is not merely a matter of convenience; it is helpful to our spiritual and daily life. We want as places of worship some which are unassociated with our secular affairs--places which seem to stand away from the cares and worries and strivings of our common life--where we can give our minds and hearts a season of rest--an opportunity of calmly, and without distraction, contemplating and estimating the character and meaning, the worth or worthlessness of the work we are doing in the world. Of course this might be done at home, in the shop, in the office, in the chamber, but not so effectually, not so thoroughly, as in the quiet place specially devoted to religious worship. There, seeming to stand at a distance from worldly avocations, we judge them and our relation to them more impartially and honestly. (W. Braden.)
I. THERE SHOULD, BE A NATURAL ASSOCIATION BETWEEN THE TWO. I reach this conclusion by remembering two things.
1. That we, as human beings, have in us the capacity for joy.
2. That the religion we profess, when rightly understood, is a joy-producing religion.
II. WORSHIP IS THE EXPRESSION OF OUR NOBLEST RELIGIOUS FEELINGS IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD. It is not a mere ceremonial act, an observance of prescribed ritual on certain days and in appointed places. It is the going forth of the man towards God. Therefore, our joy must utter itself, ought to utter itself, when we enter into the courts of His house. I believe that the Divine Father has no sympathy with those who would turn His house of prayer into a place for gloomy, and unhappy thoughts, and who would exclude from His service everything pleasant and beautiful. They misunderstand and libel Him by their desire for dreariness If God has taught us anything with distinctness in the outer world of nature it is that He loves all that is pleasant and sweet and joyous. Is there n t something joy-exciting in the very thought and act of worship? This has been the thought of most peoples.
1. The Greeks who worshipped gods of uncertain passions and dispositions, nevertheless seem to have made the worship a season of joy--“they wreathed themselves with flowers, they anointed themselves withsweet perfumes, they surrounded their temples with every attraction, they invoked every pleasure they could think of, they sought to make the hour of their worship a charming and beautiful hour. Their joy in this respect was of a sensuous character, more animal than spiritual, and we do not need to imitate them; but even the heathen had the idea of indulging in gladness in the presence of their gods.
2. The same emotion was constantly expressed by the Hebrews. We often regard the religion of the Jews as harsh, stern, dreary, a constant pressure upon the minds and souls of the people. Never was there a greater mistake, as a careful study of their numerous festivals and rites would prove. Remember the worship-literature of the Jews, that magnificent collection of psalms which is one of the most precious treasures handed down to us from the past. It is full of jubilance. Expressions of personal sorrow there are in abundance; but even they are turned into subjects of song.
3. If it was possible for Jews to enjoy worship, if it was natural for them to give expression to gladness of heart when coming into the Divine presence, is there not more abundant reason why we, as Christians, possessing a fuller and purer and more intimate revelation of God, should rejoice before Him?
III. FOR THOSE WHO SEEK TO WORSHIP GOD IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH THIS JOY IS ASSURED BY THE PROMISE, “I will make them joyful in My house of prayer.” Our anticipation of the worship of God’s house, and the manner in which we present ourselves to Him, should be gladsome. Why? Because we go expecting to meet God, and receive the gracious fulfilment of the promise. Our hope of blessing to come already fills us with delight. When we have entered into the engagements of Divine worship, if we have been in the right spirit of desire, God has drawn near us and fulfilled our largest hopes. He has apparently devised the means by which this shall be brought about through the three exercises of our worship--our praise, our prayer, and our study of His truth. These seem in themselves calculated, ordained, consecrated for the very object of exciting our joy.
1. Think of the very act of praise. What does it mean? That we are recalling to mind the Divine mercy, and tenderness, and compassion, and love which have come into our life. We praise God for what He is; for what His works reveal Him to be; for what He has done for us; and you cannot do that without some inspiration of gladness filling your soul. Praise itself springs from and excites to joy.
2. The same glorious result is wrought by means of prayer. That man who has never yet held conscious communion with his God in prayer, has never yet experienced one of the noblest and purest joys of which his nature is capable.
3. And shall I add the same of the other exercise--the study of His truth? As the man who, digging for gold, is flushed with delight when his toil is rewarded by some rich nugget; as the student of Nature, when investigating her secrets, is gladdened as he perceives the traces of some new law, or a possible combination of well-known causes that will produce a new result, so Christians know the thrill of satisfaction that springs from a fresh realization of the meaning of Divine truth. God stands revealed in clearer light, and all the wonders of His work for man through the history of the world, and especially in the person of Christ, are understood and loved as they were never understood or loved before. These awakenings to joy are always taking place in God’s house. One comes there perplexed concerning his path of duty, and to him there is uttered some wise precept, which makes the way clear once more. Another is troubled concerning the terrible mystery of life, its inequalities and sorrows; but to him is revealed the Fatherhood of God, and that means perfect love and assurance of blessedness for man as the ultimate issue of all things. Does not that oppressed soul rejoice? And how many, conscious of unforgiven sin, venture into the holy place. And they see a vision of Calvary with its sacred Victim; the heavens seem to open for them, and they behold the ascended Christ, the Mediator. Who shall measure the joy of these? (W. Braden.)
Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people
The thing here spoken of is God’s house, described--
I. BY ITS APPROPRIATION UNTO HIM. “My house.”
II. BY ITS EXTENT OF RECEIPT IN RESPECT OF OTHERS. “For all people.”
III. BY THE EMPLOYMENT OF ITS INHABITANTS. “It shall be called a house of prayer.” (J. Owen, D. D.)
The Church of Christ
I. CHRIST’S CHURCH OF SAINTS, OF BELIEVERS, IS GOD’S HOUSE.
II. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST UNDER THE GOSPEL IS TO BE GATHERED OUT OF ALL NATIONS.
III. THERE ARE ESTABLISHED ORDINANCES, AND APPOINTED WORSHIP FOR, THE CHURCH OF CHRIST UNDER THE GOSPEL. (J. Owen, D. D.)
I shall endeavour to make it appear that the best homage which we can pay to God is that which is most public.
I. THIS IS THE WAY OF GIVING THE GREATEST HONOUR TO GOD. When a multitude of people meet together to worship the Almighty, and to set forth His praises, it makes some little figure of heaven; it raises our minds to more magnificent conceptions of God, and more fully represents Him to us as the Governor of the world: whereas, if we look upon Him as only intending our private interest, as busied only to serve our present wants, we may be thought to conceive of Him rather as an idol than as that infinite Being whose care and providence are extended to the concerns of the whole creation. To worship God truly is to make Him known to be the Lord of the universe, the common Parent, Preserver, and Benefactor of all mankind; and therefore public assemblies are the best signification of His glorious perfections and vast dominion. They who cannot use their minds to any abstracted ways of thinking, may be wonderfully confirmed and heightened in their acknowledgments and thoughts of a Deity, when they see how the learned and the rich and the honourable, and the greatest persons upon the earth, do bow and kneel before their Maker, and humble themselves in the dust of the sanctuary to witness their profound veneration of an infinite wisdom, power and goodness.
II. THE NATURE OF RELIGION IS SUCH THAT IT ESPECIALLY REQUIRES A PUBLIC EXERCISE. Christians are not to look upon themselves as single persons, of distinct and separate interests; but as members of the same mystical Body, as parts of the same spiritual Society; that they are redeemed as a Church, and are to glorify God as a Church; that their chief blessings are those they enjoy in common.
III. THERE IS NOTHING THAT SO MUCH PROMOTES A SPIRIT OF UNIVERSAL CHARITY AS A DUE ESTEEM AND PRACTICE OF PUBLIC WORSHIP. What can bring us to a greater concern for one another, and more unite our affections, than a frequent meeting at the same place of worship, and joining together in the same duties of religion?
IV. FREQUENTING PUBLIC WORSHIP, WITH THAT PREPARATION AND WITH THOSE DISPOSITIONS WHICH IT REQUIRES, IS THE BEST WAY WHEREBY WE MAY ATTAIN TO SOLID PIETY, We have many times a Divine truth more strongly imprinted on our minds, or more fully confirmed unto us, when our hearts are tender and devout, than when our heads are exercised in the deepest thinking. It is further observable, that men are generally much more subject to impressions and affections when they are assembled than when they are alone. (T. Mannigham, D. D.)
God’s house the house of prayer foe all people
1. In order to the realization of the glorious scene in which the world shall finally be seen prostrate before God in prayer, the first and earliest step necessary was the revelation of the Divine existence; “for he that cometh to God must believe that He is.” “How shall they call upon Him of whom they have not heard?”
2. But does He take an interest in the affairs of the world? If not, prayer to Him is useless. In answer to this inquiry Sinai rises to view. God is there, legislating for sinful man. Listen to His law as He proclaims it, and mark how much of it relates directly to your welfare. Apart from the Gospel, nothing in the universe displays the Divine benevolence so much as the giving of the law.
3. But is the great God accessible? That He takes a benevolent interest in human affairs is evident. If, however, the terrors of Sinai are not laid aside--if that is a specimen of His usual state--who can venture to approachHim? The temple on Sion is an answer to the inquiry. “Let the people build Me a sanctuary,” saith God, “that I may dwell among them.” This was another stage, a vast advance in the Divine condescension. To show His own sense of its importance, He supplied the model, and selected the spot, and superintended the erection of the building. When completed, the Majesty of Heaven came down and visibly possession. When it was rumoured abroad that the Lord of Heaven had a house upon earth, did not the guilty race come to cast themselves at His feet and sue for mercy?
4. But, it might have been asked in the next place, “Will He pardon? Accessible He may be, but is He propitious?” Approach and read the inscription over its gates, “The house of prayer.” Then there is hope for the penitent. Let us enter and ascertain. On crossing the threshold and looking around, we find that it is distributed into three parts. We find ourselves at first in the court of the temple; here the principal objects are a great altar of sacrifice, and a laver in which the sacrifices are washed. “What mean that cleansing water, and that bleeding lamb?” They say, as plainly as they can, that if without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” and that the victim whose blood is shed must be spotless. We advance, find ourselves in the second part, the holy place. Here the principal objects are a golden candlestick, a table of shewbread, and an altar of incense; and what mean these objects? They denote that the sacrifice is accepted, that God propitiated, that He is waiting to illuminate and anoint His worshippers with His Spirit, to feast their souls on living bread, and to accept their praises as grateful incense. “But what means that mysterious veil which conceals the third part of the temple, the holiest of all?” It denotes that sinful man can fully approach a holy God only through a Divine Mediator, and that that Mediator is not yet come. But we know what is within. There stands the ark of the covenant, and the mercy-seat resting upon it, denoting mercy resting on faithfulness; and there are the cherubim overshadowing the mercy-seat, intimating the reverence with which even mercy itself should be sought, and the profound mystery which it involves. “But what means that mass of dazzling light above?” It is the symbol of the Divine presence. And why dwells He there?” that men may come and fall down before Him, and that He may commune with them from off the mercy-seat. He makes it His rest, that men may come to Him, and make it their rest. Numbers through successive ages availed themselves of His grace.
5. But everything there--gracious as it was, calculated as it was to bring all people in humble prostration before God--existed only in type and promise. It may be asked, therefore, in the next place, “Have those types been accomplished?” The fulness of time arrives, and, behold, God sending forth His Son! Calvary appears; there, as our Substitute; He is making an infinite compensation for our demerit. The day of Pentecost arrives--behold in its scenes a proof that our Advocate has entered on His office of intercession above, and that His sacrificial plea prevails. Is it then still asked if the ancient promises have been fulfilled? Let the tears of the sinner, the joy of the saint, the success of the Gospel in every subsequent age, bear witness.
6. But, again, admitting that God is thus accessible and gracious, is He thus accessible and gracious to all? Is the Gospel Church less open and free than the Jewish temple? Its gates are never to be shut, night nor day! Its blessings are to be offered without money and without price. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.” “O Thou that hearest prayer, to Thee shall all flesh come.”
7. And is there ground to conclude that this sublime result shall be realized? “I have sworn by Myself, the word hath gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto Me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear.” Conclusion--
(1) To this point everything in the mediatorial government of Christ is tending with the directness and force of a law. To this end, therefore, every event in His Church, every movement of His people, should be intentionally subordinated.
(2) The question will be entertained, then, by every Christian mind, How may this sacred place be made most effectually to subserve this great end? By making it literally a house of prayer. The very presence of a church or chapel is to be viewed as a perpetual protest against all prayerlessness and irreligion.
(3) Here everything is to be done with the view of leading to prayer.
(4) Here, too, the salvation of the world, and whatever may be instrumentally necessary to that salvation, should be made the subject of prayer. (J. Harris, D. D.)
The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith
An important Divine declaration
“Declaration of the Lord, Jehovah: gathering the outcasts of Israel, I roll further gather beyond it to Its gathered ones.
That Isaiah 56:8 declares something of importance, and, because it might possibly seem strange, something to be solemnly confirmed, is shown by the expression, which is in itself solemn, and is here placed at the head of the declaration. So far is it from being the case that Gentiles who love Jehovah will be excluded from the congregation, that it is rather the design of Jehovah to gather some from among the Gentiles and add them to the gathered diaspora of Israel. The double name of God likewise, points to something important. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
Others to be gathered
God’s work now is that of gathering. There was a time when it was scattering. Man built the tower of Babel, which was intended to be the centre of unity, the armoury of power, and the seat of dominion, whence some mighty Nimrod might sway his sceptre over all the human race: but the Lord would not have it so. Infinite wisdom baffled finite ambition. Now the Lord is gathering together in one the children of God which are scattered abroad. Jesus hath made both Jew and Gentile one, breaking down every wall of partition. This ingathering process is going on every day by the testimony of the Word, and it is to be continued until the end of time.
I. THE INSTANCES MENTIONED: instances of gathering by the hand of the Lord, who is described as “The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel. Outcasts have been gathered, and this is the token that others shall be gathered. I suppose Isaiah first alludes to the banished who had been carried away captive to Babylon and to all parts of the East, but who were at different times restored to their land. But I prefer to use the text in reference to our Divine Lord, seeing that to Him shall the gathering of the people be.
1. When He was here below He gathered the outcasts of Israel by His ministry.
2. He gathered them by forgiving their sins. This brought them nearer still, and held them there.
3. Our Lord gathered many by graciously helping them. He met with some whose great trial was sore affliction, temptation and sorrow. Magdalene is a chief instance.
4. He gathered them, also, so as to enrol them under HIS banner. It was a marvellous moment for Levi, when he sat at the receipt of custom, when
Jesus called him. You will, perhaps, think that my Master’s gathering power lay in His being here Himself. It is true there was a matchless charm about Him, and yet to let us know that we must know Him no longer after the flesh, there was not even in the charms of Christ’s most blessed Person enough of power to prevent the people crying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” His power is spiritual, the power of His own Spirit, and therefore it is exercised now though His bodily” presence is removed.
II. THE. PROMISE UTTERED. “The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, etc.
1. This promise is very wide. It means in the first place that the Gentiles should be brought to know the Lord. It was a bright day when first of all the centurion of Caesarea sent men to Joppa, and received a visit from Peter, and was baptized of him. Fair also was the day when the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized of Philip. How strange it must have seemed at first to the apostles, who were all Jews, and very strongly Jewish too, especially Peter, to see the Gentiles gathered. One marvels that Paul was not more narrow in heart, considering his birth and education, but he had vanquished his old notions, and gloried in being the apostle of the Gentiles. It is delightful to think of men of divers colours coming to Christ, and in the best possible manner proving the unity of our race. What would the twelve have thought if they could have foreseen that the Gospel which they preached would bind in one brotherhood all races of men?
2. The promise is continuous. “Yet will I gather others.” That was true when Isaiah stated it; it would have been true if Peter had quoted it on the morning of Pentecost. It was quite true when Carsy acted upon it, and started on what men thought his mad enterprise, to go as a consecrated cobbler to convert the learned Brahmins of India. It is quite as true now. If the promise had been written this morning and the ink were not yet dry it would be no more true than it is now:--“Yet will I gather others to Him.
3. The promise is most graciously encouraging, because it evidently applies very pointedly to outcasts. Has there strayed into this house of prayer an outcast from society? Hearken thou to this word. But if not an outcast from society, it may be you are an outcast in your own esteem.
4. The promise is absolute. This is the kind of language which only an omnipotent being can use as to men’s minds.
III. THE FACTS WHICH SUSTAIN OUR FAITH IN THIS PROMISE.
1. The perpetuity of the Gospel. Still is the good news preached among you.
2. The blood of atonement has not lost its power.
3. The Spirit of God is with us still.
4. The glory and majesty of the Gospel, or rather the greatness of the glory of God in the Gospel, demands that many more should be gathered than have as yet been enfolded in the Church.
5. There must be many more souls to be ingathered because of the longings of the saints. They are not satisfied unless they see conversions. The Church needs more conversions. We never prosper as a Church unless we have a fresh stream of young blood running into us.
IV. THE CONDUCT CONSISTENT WITH THIS PROMISE.
1. To believe it, and then to pray about 2:2. If you pray, you must work, for prayer without endeavour is hypocrisy.
3. Expect to see others gathered.
4. Those who have not yet been gathered should be encouraged to hope. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
All ye beasts of the field, come to devour.
The defenceless condition the community owing to the incompetence of its spiritual leaders
1. All the wild beasts of the field and the forest are invited to come and devour the unprotected flock.
2. For its rulers neglect their duty; they are inefficient as dumb dogs; they are slothful, greedy, and sensual.
3. In consequence of their incapacity the righteous perish, none regarding their fate (Isaiah 57:1-2). (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The metaphor of wild beasts
The people being represented in the following verses as a flock, their destroyers are naturally represented here as wild beasts. (J. A. Alexander.)
That a new chastisement at the hands of the heathen is actually contemplated need not be assumed. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The flock: its guardians and its devourers
These words (Isaiah 56:9) are to be understood as a note of warning, a sound of alarm. It is not that God wishes His flock to be devoured that He thus summons the beasts of prey to gather round the fold; on the contrary, He is concerned for their safety, and warns them of the danger in which they stand. No style of address was better fitted to startle both flock and shepherds from their careless security. God’s flock is still surrounded by ravenous beasts.
I. THE UNPROTECTED STATE OF THE FLOCK.
1. In the case before us the sheep are shamefully neglected.
2. The opposite course must tend to secure the safety and well-being of the flock. Pray, then, for your minister.
II. THE WILD BEASTS THAT THREATEN TO DEVOUR THE FLOCK. Some are open and undisguised; others are wily and insidious. Conclusion: We point you to the Chief Shepherd. (W. Guthrie, M. A.)
His watchmen are blind.
The old Hebrew pulpit a beacon to modern preachers
(with Jeremiah 8:11):--
I. THE OLD HEBREW PULPIT AT THIS TIME WAS IGNORANT. The “watchmen” are said to be “blind” and “ignorant.” They did not see and “understand” the things that ought to have been clear to their vision and intelligible to their judgment. An ignorant pulpit, though a contradiction in terms, has ever been too prevalent. There may be profound pulpit ignorance where there are the most distinguished scholastic acquirement and literary charms. On the other hand, there may be considerable pulpit intelligence where there is but a very small degree of mere scholastic attainment. Many a noble-souled, Gospel-inspired man, who knew no book but the Bible, no language but his own, and could not speak even that with grammatical propriety, has done the true work of the pulpit. That pulpit is an ignorant pulpit that does not “discern the things of the Spirit”--things that the Spirit of God approves, and the spirit of man requires. I call that an ignorant pulpit which ministers to the speculative in man rather than to the spiritual, to the intellect rather than the heart, and presents a dead creed rather than a living Christ. I call that an ignorant pulpit which ministers to sects rather than to souls, represents Christ as one sent to save a favourite few, rather than as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” I call that an ignorant pulpit that does not practically feel that all Divine truth to man is but infinite love for man speaking through the intellect to the heart.
II. THE OLD HEBREW PULPIT AT THIS TIME WAS MARKED BY SLOTHFULNESS. The watchmen are called “dumb dogs that cannot bark.” It is because these animals have ever been used by man as sentinels whose bark warns of approaching danger; and because they are only useful as they bark, that they are employed as symbols of indolent preachers. There are men who, when they speak, speak with a drowsy soul, and their words are somnific. Perhaps there are more in these times dumb from expediency than from slothfulness. They echo only the opinions that are current in their Church. They add nothing to the stock of Christian intelligence.
III. THE OLD HEBREW PULPIT AT THIS TIME WAS MARKED BY SELFISH GREED. “Yea they are greedy dogs which can never have enough,” etc. Such strong language expresses their ravenous selfishness. It would seem that these corrupt prophets cared for no one but themselves. How stands the modern pulpit in this respect? This selfish greed shows itself in other ways besides the striving after “filthy lucre.” There is the greed for popularity.
IV. THE OLD HEBREW PULPIT AT THIS TIME WAS MARKED BY SUPERFICIALITY. “They have healed the daughter of My people slightly.” Dr. Blaney, in his translation, substitutes the word “superficially” for “slightly.” Although these words are taken from another book they refer to the same subject, and to the same class of men. The words, however, from Isaiah describe their character, these words describe their work. They did something, but it was partial and ineffective. They did not seek to eradicate the disease, but merely administered temporary palliatives, which, whilst they deadened the pain, fostered the virus of the malady. The idea undoubtedly is, that instead of endeavouring to work into the moral heart of the people profound convictions as to the enormity of their sins, and fulminate in their ears the righteous denunciations of Heaven, they presented considerations of false comfort. This superficial healing of souls is an immense injury. It deludes the patient. It wastes the restorative season. That pulpit is superficial which fails either to generate supreme love to the great God in hearts where it is not, or to strengthen it in hearts where it is. (Homilist.)
To-morrow, shall be as this day
Faith and presumption
The future is very differently contemplated by different individuals.
Men of a sanguine temperament gild it with golden visions that are never realized. Such persons meet with many disappointments. It is quite right to expect good in the future, providing we eagerly seize the opportunities and avail ourselves of the advantages of the present. But it is in the field of to-day that we must sow the seed of what we are to reap on the morrow. Men of a directly opposite temperament are constantly foreboding evil. This desponding disposition is itself a very heavy burden to bear. If there be evil in the future, it doubles it by the anticipation, and the anticipation is frequently a heavier burden than is the reality; and if the future brings no such evil, we have been carrying a burden, when in reality there was no burden to bear. How wise are the words of Jesus, “Take no thought for the morrow,” etc. Both these dispositions need to be corrected. There is still another class who are morally reckless about the future. This results neither from temperament nor imagination, but from their moral condition: the madness is in their hearts. They were persons of this class who made use of the words contained in our text. These words, although polluted by the sense and circumstances in which they are here used, express a truth as well as a falsehood.
I. THEY MAY BE THE EXPRESSION OF A PERFECTLY RATIONAL FAITH AND REASONABLE SENTIMENT.
1. It is reasonable to expect that nature will be as productive in the future as it has ever been in the past. Why should we fear that seed-time and harvest or summer and winter will fail, or that the soil will be less productive than it has been? Surely if we are to expect any change, it is a change for the better; the sun will shine as brightly as it has done, and the rains will fall as abundantly, and the earth will be more extensively reclaimed and better cultivated. The soil yields a great deal more now than it used to do; and still there remaineth much land to be possessed.
2. This is a reasonable sentiment when used in the light of human progress. The progress made in arts and sciences ought greatly to increase the resources of society. Labour is the wealth of a nation, and therefore the more labour can be made to produce, the wealthier a nation must be. Not only so, but the productions of one country have by these means been brought within easy access of other countries, so that failure in one part is largely compensated for by a more abundant supply in other places.
3. This is also a rational sentiment when we remember the goodness and unchangeableness of God. His goodness to us in the past ought to inspire us with confidence in Him for the future; and this confidence ought to have respect to all the concerns of life.
4. This is a reasonable sentiment when you consider the promises of God and the predictions concerning the future. Is it not said that the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose? Let the Gospel be preached to the savage and the uncivilized; if they receive it they will not only sit at the feet of Jesus, but they will also soon become clothed, and begin to cultivate the soil, and the change thus produced on the face of nature will correspond with the change in their moral and spiritual condition.
5. Then there is a future beyond the present life in relation to which these words may be used with still deeper emphasis. The man who has fled for refuge to the hope set before him, and has striven to walk with God here, may say with confidence, as he enters into the valley of the shadow of death, “I will not fear,” for “to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.”
II. THIS MAY ALSO BE THE LANGUAGE OF WICKED PRESUMPTION.
1. It is so when it is the utterance of idleness. No man has a right to neglect the duties of to-day, and to flatter himself that his life will be crowned with increased abundance on the morrow.
2. It is so when it is the language of extravagance and profligacy. The latter is the spirit in which it is used in this verse. “Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine,” etc. The men who used these words had evidently closed their ears to warning, and given themselves up to a life of self-indulgence. This was no doubt the feeling of the prodigal, who wasted his substance in riotous living. He promised himself that the debauches of to-day should be succeeded by still greater debauches on the morrow. We are not to burden ourselves with anxious cares about the future, but neither are we to pledge our future income to meet our present expenses. Nor are we to use, as bread for to-day, what God has sent to be sown as seed for the morrow.
We ought to study the law of proportion, and to live in proportion to our income, to give in proportion to our income, and to save in proportion to our income and the position of responsibility in which we are placed, either as to family or work-people.
3. This is the language of sinful presumption when it is used as an excuse for the neglect of present privileges and opportunities.
(1) It is often so used in relation to secular things.
(2) But it is still more frequently used in relation to religion.
Many plead this as an excuse for the neglect of religion. The time is not convenient. They are too young, or their temptations and difficulties are at present too great. They hope that their circumstances will undergo a change. But some, who have flattered themselves that they were too young, have not lived to become old. This excuse is also pleaded by some who have in them some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, for delay in publicly avowing themselves on the Lord’s side, and casting in their lot with His people. There is something in the way to-day which they expect will be removed to-morrow. But, perhaps when to-morrow comes the difficulties are increased, and the resolve, which was almost formed, is wholly abandoned. This excuse is also pleaded for not entering into some sphere of usefulness to which you were clearly called. But the door closes and it is too late. (A. Clark.)
Optimism, false and true
Whether we are warranted in expecting the future to be better than the present, depends upon our standpoint; upon whether we look at the future as men of the world, purely and simply, or as followers of Jesus Christ. It may be the height of folly to say by our lips, or by out lives, “To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant;” but, on the other hand, our so saying may involve the highest wisdom.
I. HOW IN PROPHESYING GOOD OF THE MORROW, WE MAY NOT BE SPEAKING CORRECTLY.
1. It is folly to prophesy good of to-morrow in respect to worldly things.
2. It is folly to prophesy good of to-morrow just because the future promises development. If to-morrow be more abundant than to-day, it will be because we have well spent to-day, and have not dreamed away our time and our opportunities.
3. It is folly to prophesy good of to-morrow unless we take steps to bring the good to pass.
II. HOW IN PROPHESYING GOOD OF THE FUTURE WE MAY BE SPEAKING ABSOLUTE TRUTH. Is there anything about which we may say with certainty, “To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant”? Ability to talk thus, however, presupposes two things
1. That we know the grace God.
2. Patient continuance in well-doing. (J. S. Swan.)
Discounting the future
In this picture, that exaggerated hopefulness which it describes seems to have been the result of intoxication. It is one who has filled himself with strong drink, who, from the midst of his revels, cries out, “To-morrow shall be as this day, nay, much more abundant.” In point of fact, however, such artificial stimulus is in no wise necessary for the excitement of extravagant hopes. Such hopes are born out of circumstances the most discouraging and amid surroundings the most dismal and dreary, Let us bless God that it is so. I doubt whether life would be long endurable if it were otherwise. In fact, it is at the point when the spring of hopefulness fairly snaps that men and women break down. And yet, like some other forms of so-called nourishment, this is one which has a perilous power of enervation. It is worth while to remember that the future is simply and inevitably and inexorably the outgrowth and outcome of the present. The man or woman of ungoverned temper imagines that age will cool their blood and so diminish their provocations. But age weakens nothing save our powers of demonstration. And so of the rest of the infirmities of our nature. Does the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eye, or the pride of life--do our covetousness and our selfishness and our untruthfulness go through a sort of transformation-scene process, and emerge at some given point in our future in the guise of the Christian graces or the cardinal virtues? The future does not create progress, but only reveals it. And thus we see the province and, if I may so speak, the function in the moral and spiritual world of Hope. That function is to inspire the present. And, therefore, if I were asked to indite that legend or motto which should be the rule and law for every young life among us, I would write the one word “Now.” (H. C. Potter, D. D.)
They were wicked men who spoke these words. Just think of what these words are in the mouth of a wicked man.
1. To-morrow shall be another day in which I shall rob God of His due.
2. I will tempt God another day; I will stand out against God.
3. Or, looking at God’s mercy, he says, “Well, God is merciful, God is willing to bless me, but I will not be blessed.”
4. If the man says this, it implies that he will give another day to fasten the fetters of sin firmer upon him.
5. Again, the wicked man says, “ I will encourage sinners another day to continue in their sin; I will set them the example of sinning still further than I have done hitherto.” But what are you doing when you are thus encouraging men in sin? You are doing your best to seal that sinner’s doom. You are doing your best to make that sinner’s death-bed terrible. You are doing the best you can to harden that sinner in defiance of God and in his rejection of all that might save his soul; you are making that man laugh his life away in frivolity and evil
6. You are strengthening Satan in his great argument to keep men from Christ. What is that great argument? No hope for you; how can you expect to be saved? Have you not been living away from God! You have sinned away the day of grace.
7. If you say, “To-morrow shall be as this day then what is your state.? Why, that if you die to-morrow you shall go to hell. If you were to die to-day in your sins, you would go to hell. Then, if to-morrow is to be as to-day, you are deciding--I shall live to-morrow in such a state that if I die to-morrow I shall go to hell.
7. You are keeping Christ another day standing at the door.
8. You mean to have another day of resisting the strivings of God’s spirit. (J. M.Hussey.)
Can we make sure of to-morrow?
These words, as they stand, are the call of boon companions to new revelry. They are part of the prophet’s picture of a corrupt age when the men of influence and position had thrown away their sense of duty, and had given themselves over, as aristocracies and plutocracies are ever tempted to do, to mere luxury and good living. Base and foolish as they are on such lips, it is possible to lift them from the mud, and take them as the utterance of a lofty and calm hope which will not be disappointed, and of a firm and lowly resolve which may ennoble life. Like a great many other sayings, they may fit the mouth either of a sot or a saint.
I. THIS EXPECTATION IF DIRECTED TO ANY OUTWARD THINGS, IS AN ILLUSION AND A DREAM. It is base and foolish to be forecasting our pleasures, the true temper is to be forecasting our work. But, leaving that consideration, let us notice how useless such anticipation, and how mad such confidence, as that expressed in the text is, if directed to anything short of God. We are so constituted as that we grow into a persuasion that what has been will be, and yet we can give no sufficient reason to ourselves why we expect it. “The uniformity of the course of nature” is the corner-stone, not only of physical science, but, in a more homely form, of the wisdom which grows with experience. We all believe that the sun will rise to-morrow because it rose to-day, and for all the yesterdays. But there was a to-day which had no yesterday, and there will be a to-day which will have no to-morrow. The sun will rise for the last time. The uniformity had a beginning and will have an end. So, even as an axiom of thought, the anticipation that things will continue as they have been because they have been, seems to rest on an insufficient basis. How much more so, as to our own little lives and their surroundings! We shall be nearest the truth if we take due account, as we do so to-day, of the undoubted fact that the only thing certain about to-morrow is that it will not be as this day.
II. BUT YET THERE IS A POSSIBILITY OF SO USING THE WORDS AS TO MAKE THEM THE UTTERANCE OF A SOBER CERTAINTY WHICH WILL NOT BE PUT TO SHAME. We may send out our hope like Noah’s dove, not to hover restlessly over a heaving ocean of change, but to light on firm, solid certainty, and fold its wearied wings there. Forecasting is ever close by foreboding, hope is interwoven with fear, the golden threads of the weft crossing the dark ones of the warp, and the whole texture gleaming bright or glooming black according to the angle at which it is seen. So is it always until we turn our hope away from earth to God, and fall the future with the light of His presence and the certainty of His truth. We have an unchanging and an inexhaustible God, and He is the true guarantee of the future for us. The more we accustom ourselves to think of Him as shaping all that is contingent and changeful in the nearest and in the remotest to-morrow, and as being Himself the immutable portion of our souls, the calmer will be our outlook into the darkness, and the more bright will be the clear light of certainty which burns for us in it.
III. LOOKED AT IN ANOTHER ASPECT, THESE WORDS MAY BE TAKEN AS THE VOW OF A FIRM AND LOWLY RESOLVE. There is a future which we can but very slightly influence, and the less we look at that the better every way. But there is also a future which we can mould as we wish--the future of our own characters, the only future which is really ours at all. In that region, it is eminently true that “to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant. The law of continuity shapes our moral and spiritual characters. The awful power of habit solidifies actions into customs, and prolongs the reverberation of every note, once sounded, along the vaulted roof of the chamber where we live. To-day is the child of yesterday and the parent of to-morrow. That solemn certainty of the continuance and increase of moral and spiritual characteristics works in both good and bad, but with a difference. To secure its full blessing in the gradual development of the germs of good there must be constant effort and tenacious resolution. As we grow in years, we shall grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, until the day comes when we shall exchange earth for heaven. That will be the sublimest application of this text, when, dying, we can calmly be sure that though to-day be on this side and to-morrow on the other bank of the black river, there will be no break in the continuity, but only an infinite growth in our life, and heaven’s to-morrow shall be as earth’s to-day and much more abundant. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The changeful and the abiding
To-day’s wealth may be to-morrow’s poverty, to-day’s health to-morrow’s sickness, to-day’s happy companionship of love to-morrow’s aching solitude of heart, but to-day’s God will be to-morrow’s God, to-day’s Christ will be to-morrow’s Christ. Other fountains may dry up in heat,, or freeze in winter,, but thin” knows no change, “in summer and winter it shall be. Other fountains may sink low in their basins after much drawing, but this is ever full, and after a thousand generations have drawn from it its stream is broad and deep as ever. Other fountains may be left behind on the march, and the wells and palm trees of each Elim on our road be succeeded by a dry and thirsty land where no water is, but this spring follows us all through the wilderness, and makes music and spreads freshness ever by our path. What may be round the next headland we know not; but this we know, that the same sunshine will make a broadening path across the waters right to where we rock on the unknown sea, and the same unmoving mighty star will burn for our guidance, me we may let me waves and currents roll as they list--or rather as He wills, and be little concerned about the incidents or the companions of our voyage, since He is with us. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Experience and hope
Experience is ever the parent of hope, and the latter can only build with the bricks which the former gives. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The power of habit
How dreadfully that law of the continuity and development of character works in some men l By slow, imperceptible, certain degree the evil gains upon them. Yesterday’s sin smooths the path for to-day s. The temptation once yielded to gains power. The crack in the embankment which lets a drop or two ooze through is soon a hole which lets out a flood. It is easier to find a man who has done a wrong thing than to find a man who has done it only once. Peter denied his Lord thrice, and each time more easily than the time before. So, before we know it, the thin gossamer threads of single actions are twisted into a rope of habit, and we are “tied with the cords of our sin.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Character the result of trivial actions
How important the smallest acts become when we think of them as thus influencing character! The microscopic creatures, thousands of which will go into a square inch, make the great white cliffs that beetle over the wildest sea and front the storm. So, permanent and solid character is built up out of trivial actions, and this is the solemn aspect of our passing days, that they are making us. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Hope for men in the Christian redemption
We might well tremble before such a thought, which would be dreadful to the best of us, if it were not for pardoning mercy and renewing grace. The law of reaping what we have sown, or of continuing as we have begun, may be modified as far as our sins and failures are concerned. The entail may be cut off, and to-morrow need not inherit to-day’s guilt, nor to-day’s habits. The past may be all blotted out through the mercy of God in Christ. No evil habit need continue its dominion over us, nor are we obliged to carry on the bad tradition of wrong-doing into a future, day, for Christ lives, and. “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, all things are become new. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Presuming on the future
We have all read of that Persian prince who, having grown to man’s estate and completed his education, divided his life into four decades. The first ten years of his life he would devote to travel, since travel, he rightly argued, was as much an educator as were books. The second decade he would employ in the affairs of government, since government is part of the duty of a prince. The third decade he would reserve for the pleasures and the benefits of friendship, since friendship is, after all, the melody and fragrance of life. And then the fourth decade he would give to God. It was a most taking and attractive plan of life. But it was marred by one considerable defect. During the first ten years the prince died, and for that contingency he had made no provision whatever. (H. C. Potter, D. D.)
To-morrow is the most wonderful of days, or, as Isaiah has it, “a day great beyond measure.” Its history outshines the record of centuries. It is the day on which idle men labour and fools reform. It is the day when every man does his duty. It is the harvest-time of good intentions. To-morrow the worst of sinners will be a saint. To-morrow the frivolous pleasure-seeker will be transformed into a serious-minded devotee, a whole-souled worker for the good of humanity. To-morrow the dishonest man will be honest, the immoral man will be pure, the selfish man will be benevolent. To-morrow bad habits will be resolutely overcome, evil tempers will be conquered, wrong desires will be banished. To-morrow myriads of men and women will heed the call of Christ. If the world could but see the bright dawning of its mythical glory! But it never can. To-morrow is like the rainbow’s end, which continually moves on and keeps its distance undiminished when foolish children seek its golden treasure. (G. H.Hubbard.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 56". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25