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For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace
The Church blessed and made a blessing
(Isaiah 62:1-23.62.12):--The words of the great Deliverer are continued from the foregoing chapter.
1. He will not rest until the glorious change in the condition of His people is accomplished (Isaiah 62:1).
2. They shall be recognized by kings and nations as the people of Jehovah (Isaiah 62:2-23.62.3).
3. She who seemed to be forsaken is still His spouse (Isaiah 62:4-23.62.5).
4. The Church is required to watch and pray for the fulfilment of the promise (Isaiah 62:6-23.62.7).
5. God has sworn to protect her and supply her wants (Isaiah 62:8-23.62.9).
6. Instead of a single nation, all the nations of the earth shall flow into her (verse ,10).
7. The good news of salvation shall no longer be confined, but universally diffused (Isaiah 62:11).
8. The glory of the Church is the redemption of the world (Isaiah 62:12). (J. A. Alexander.)
The gradual development of the glory of Jerusalem
“For Zion’s sake I shall not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I shall not rest, until her righteousness breaks forth like morning-splendour, and her salvation like a burning torch.” (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The moral illumination of the world
I. THE PRESENT IMPLIED OBSCURITY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. “The righteous One and the Saviour” (Vulgate). Whenever the righteous One and Saviour are hidden there is obscurity.
II. HER ANTICIPATED GLORY. The burning lamp is a symbol of the presence of Jehovah. Jesus is termed “the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His person.” Connect both the figures in the text. The Sun of Righteousness shall go forth like the light of the morning.
1. Manifestly. Light maketh manifest.
2. Irresistibly, as the light of the morning.
3. Universally. As all the earth turns to the sun, all are visited by the morning light. “Righteousness shall go forth as brightness” in all the earth.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE WORK IS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED. “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.” Some think these are expressions of Jehovah. Correct or not, it is a Scriptural truth; it has long lain near the heart of God! Others, that Jesus is the speaker. The world is His purchased property, but His own world received him not. Yet the Father has pledged Himself to vindicate His right: “Ask of me.” The most common opinion is that these words are Isaiah’s, as a man of God and as a minister of God. It is proper to be used by all who mention the name of the Lord. Human agency, then, is the means employed. In providence God helps man by man. In grace the same. The Word of God is to be carried and held forth as light. The text indicates the manner also.
1. It shall be consistent--prayer and exertion. “Not hold my peace, not rest.”
2. Affectionate exertions also--from a principle of love. “For Zion’s sake.”
3. Persevering. “Until the righteousness go forth.” (J. Summerfield, M. A.)
The extension of the Gospel
I. THE BLESSING OF THE GOSPEL AS APPLIED TO YOUR OWN SOULS. Two inclusive blessings, righteousness and salvation.
II. THE EXTENSION OF THIS BLESSING THROUGHOUT THE EARTH. It is evident that it is in the promise of God that it shall be so, because it is made the subject of the persevering intercession of Christ. “For Zion’s sake will I,” etc.
III. THE GROUND OF OUR ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE EXTENSION OF THIS BLESSING. What can be stronger? It is the grace of the intercession of the Son of God. (C. Bridges, M. A.)
(with Isaiah 62:6-23.62.7):--
I. THE CAUSE OF DIVINE UNREST. The needs of the Church, Zion; the condition of the city, Jerusalem. It is in the lack of “righteousness,” the need of “salvation.” This is still true of our Churches and cities. The sin is pro found, the sorrow unfathomable. Yet there is not total darkness. There is twilight; but all the Divine yearning is, that the twilight may brighten into noon.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS DIVINE UNREST. It is not chiefly that of indignation at wrong, but it is the unrest of anxiety for others, the unrest of pity. It is--
2. Universal. Even God will share it.
III. THE MANIFESTATION OF THIS DIVINE UNREST.
1. In loud human proclamation of the truth.
2. In prayer to God.
3. In God’s unrest, in which He gives Jesus to save and bless. Christ’s piercing cry of grief, “O Jerusalem,” utters the unrest in God. Learn--
(1) The remedy for all the unrest of the universe. “Righteousness,” “Salvation.”
(2) The opportunity good men have for communion with God. Be unhappy because of the sin and sorrow in the world. Have fellowship with Christ. Share the Divine unrest. (U. R. Thomas, B. A.)
The heavenly workers and the earthly watchers
(with verses6, 7)--
1. The preceding chapter brings in Christ as proclaiming the great work of deliverance for which He is anointed of God; the following chapter presents Him as treading the wine-press alone, which is a symbol of the future judgment by the glorified Saviour. Between these two prophecies of the earthly life and the still future judicial energy, this chapter lies, referring, as I take it, to the period between these two--i.e to all the ages of the Church’s development on earth. For these Christ here promises His continual activity, and His continual bestowment of grace to His servants who watch the walls of Jerusalem.
2. Notice the remarkable parallelism in the expressions: “I will not hold My peace;” the watchmen “shall never hold their peace.” And His command to them is literally, “Ye that remind Jehovah--no rest (or silence) to you! and give not rest to Him.” So we have here Christ, the Church and God, all represented as unceasingly occupied in the one great work of establishing “Zion ‘ as the centre of light, salvation and righteousness for the whole world.
I. THE GLORIFIED CHRIST IS CONSTANTLY WORKING FOR HIS CHURCH. We are too apt to regard our. Lord’s real work as all lying in the past, and, from the very greatness of our estimate of what He has done, to forget the true importance of what He evermore does.. He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. In that session on the throne manifold and mighty truths are expressed. It proclaims the full accomplishment of all the purposes of His earthly ministry; it emphasizes the triumphant completion of His redeeming work by His death; it proclaims the majesty of HIS nature, which returns to the glory which He had with the Father before the world was; it shows to the world, as on some coronation day, their King on His throne, girded with power. But whilst on the one side Christ rests as from a perfected work which needs no addition nor repetition, on the other He rests not day nor night. When the heavens opened to the rapt eyes of John in Patmos, the Lord whom he beheld was not only revealed as glorified in the lustre of the inaccessible light, but as actively sustaining and guiding the human reflectors of it. He “holdeth the seven stars in HIS right hand,” and “walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” Not otherwise does my text represent the present relation of Christ to His Church. “I will not rest.” Through all the ages His power is in exercise. He inspires in good men all their wisdom: and every grace of life and character. Nor is this all. There still remains the wonderful truth of His continuous intercession for us. In its widest meaning that word expresses the whole of the manifold ways by which Christ undertakes and maintains our cause. So we have not only to look back to the cross, but up to the throne. From the cross we hear a voice, “It is finished.” From the throne a voice, “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.”
II. CHRIST’S SERVANTS ON EARTH DERIVE FROM HIM A LIKE PERPETUAL ACTIVITY FOR THE SAME OBJECT. “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night. On the promise follows, as ever a command “Ye that remind Jehovah, keep not silence.” There is distinctly traceable here a reference to a twofold form of occupation devolving on these Christ-sent servants. They are watchmen, and they are also God’s remembrancers. In the one capacity as in the other, their voices are to be always heard. The former metaphor is common in the Old Testament, as a designation of the prophetic office, but, in accordance with the genius of the New Testament, as expressed on Pentecost, when the spirit was poured out on the lowly as well as on the high, on the young as on the old, and all prophesied, may be fairly extended to disignate not some select few, but the whole mass of Christian people. The remembrancer’s priestly office belongs to every member of Christ’s priestly kingdom, the lowest and least of whom has the privilege of unrestrained entry into God’s presence-chamber, and the power of blessing the world by faithful prayer.
1. Our voices should ever he heard on earth. A solemn message is committed to us by the very fact of our belief in Jesus Christ and His work.
2. Our voices should ever be heard in heaven. They who trust God remind Him of His promises by their very faith; it is a mute appeal to His faithful love, which He cannot but answer. Beyond that, their prayers come up for a memorial before God and have as real an effect in furthering Christ’s kingdom on earth as is exercised by their entreaties and proclamations to men.
3. These two forms of action ought to be inseparable. Each, if ,genuine, will drive us to the other, for who could fling himself into the watchman’s work, with all its solemn consequences, knowing how weak his voice was, and how deaf the ears that should hear, unless he could bring God’s might to his help? And who could honestly remind God of His promises and forget his own responsibilities?
4. The power for both is derived from Christ. He sets the watchmen; He commands the remembrancers. And, as the Christian power of discharging these twofold duties is drawn from Christ, so our pattern is His manner of discharging them, and the condition of receiving the power is to abide in Him. Christ asks no romantic impossibilities from us, but He does ask a continuous, systematic discharge of the duties which depend on our relation to the world, and on our relation to Him.
III. THE CONSTANT ACTIVITY OF THE SERVANTS OF CHRIST WILL SECURE THE CONSTANT OPERATION OF GOD’S POWER. “Give Him no rest: “ let there be no cessation to Him. These are bold words. Those who remind God are not to suffer Him to be still. The prophet believes that they can regulate the flow of Divine energy, can stir up the strength of the Lord. It is easy to puzzle ourselves with insoluble questions about the co-operation of God’s power and man’s; but practically, is it not true that God reaches His end, of the establishment of Zion, through the Church? The great reservoir, is always., full to the brim; however much may be drawn from it, the water sinks not a hair’s breadth; but the bore of the pipe and the power of the pumping-engine determine the rate at which the stream flows from it. “He could there do no mighty works because of their unbelief.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.
Hindrances to the spread of the Gospel
Our particular inquiry is, What obstacles to the conversion of the world are found among those who, in different ways, are enlisted in the cause of foreign missions?
I. THE DEFECT OF OUR CHRISTIAN CHARACTER, OR THE WANT OF A HIGHER DEGREE OF HOLINESS.
II. THE DIRECT INDULGENCE OF AFFECTIONS WHICH ARE SELFISH AND EARTHLY.
III. DIVISION AND STRIFE AMONG CHRIST’S FOLLOWERS.
IV. THE UNNECESSARY EXCITEMENT OF POPULAR PREJUDICE.
V. FALLING SHORT IN OUR DUTY IN REGARD TO THE BENEVOLENT USE OF
VI. THE WANT OF A PROPER FEELING AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF OUR
DEPENDENCE ON GOD FOR THE SUCCESS OF OUR EFFORTS. (Leonard Woods, D. D.)
The encouragements and duties of Christians
1. There are declarations respecting the character and essential attributes of God, as, for example, His sovereignty, His power, His justice, His wisdom, His love; even from which, if we had no express or specific direction, we might justly and safely infer that the Almighty cannot always permit His own world to remain the almost unmitigated form of general apostasy and wretchedness; and that for the sake of His own glory He will cause a vast and mighty change, by which the revolt of the world shall be terminated, and by which it shall be recovered and reclaimed to Himself.,
2. There are declarations with regard to the sufficiency and design of our Saviour’s sacrifice (John 1:29; John 12:32; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2). That the sacrifice of Christ, of which such is the declared sufficiency and design has hitherto but very partially and imperfectly accomplished its object is plain; that, so long as the world continues as it is, that partiality and imperfection must still continue is plain also; and we must therefore judge that it never can fulfil the objects for which it was originally offered, except in the final effusion of the Divine Spirit among all the nations of the earth.
3. There are declarations in regard to thee majesty and extent of the Saviour’s exaltation and royalty. As the reward and the recompense of His sufferings, He has been made the possessor of a wonderful mediatorial kingdom, a kingdom in the gaining and maintaining of the authority of which the Spirit is the agent, and the Word is the instrument--that kingdom in which the Spirit, through the Word, is destined to maintain a universal sway (Psalms 2:7-19.2.8; Isaiah 9:6; Psalms 62:8, etc.).
4. There are those declarations with regard to the final and renovating change, as we find them expressed throughout the general structure of the prophetical writings. Because He who cannot lie has promised, therefore we believe.
1. There are peculiar duties pressing upon the ministers and other public officers of the Church of Christ. The ministers are called upon to cultivate peculiar eminence in personal holiness; they ought to cultivate an enlarged and most accurate acquaintance with evangelical truth, an ardent zeal for the glory of God, a tender compassion for the souls of men! They ought to give themselves up wholly to their high vocation. They ought to labour with quenchless ardour and perseverance, while prayer ought to be, as it were, their very food, their very air, and their very being. As to the other public officers of the Church, their special duty appears to be the following--exemplary firmness in the belief of Christian doctrine, in the practice ofChristian precepts, and in the manifestation of a Christian spirit; fervent, brotherly love amongst themselves, towards all their fellow-Christians, and especially towards the poor, whose interest they are invoked to superintend; cheerful assistance to the pastors of the flock, in all measures which may be deemed proper for preserving the purity of the Church, and for the conversion of the ungodly; and an earnest endeavour with regard to all departments of Christian character, that they may shine as lights in the world.
2. But there are general duties which press upon all the members of a Christian Church.
(1) A careful avoidance of all worldly conformity.
(2) The practice of sincere brotherly affection towards all other followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(3) Increased zeal in maintaining and extending that ministry which has been ordained for the conversion of men.
(4) A strong mental confidence in the fact that the change upon which our aspirations have been fixed shall actually be accomplished. There is nothing by which God is so much dishonoured as unbelief.
(5) There must also be the spirit of importunate prayer (Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 62:6). (James Parsons.)
Intercessory prayer and the Divine reapers
The prophet here tells us--
I. WHAT HE WILL DO FOR THE CHURCH (Isaiah 62:1).
II. WHAT GOD WILL DO FOR THE CHURCH (Isaiah 62:2-23.62.5).
1. The Church shall be greatly admired. “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness” etc.
2. She shall be truly admirable. “Thou shalt be called by a new name, etc. Two names God shall give her.
(1) He shall call her His crown (Isaiah 62:8).
(2) He shall call her His spouse (Isaiah 62:4-23.62.5). (M. Henry.)
And thou shalt be called by a now name
The new name
(with Isaiah 62:12):--According to the Hebrew idiom, the name which expresses the nature and character of a person is used as equivalent to that nature and character.
The promises of these verses involve, accordingly, far more than appears upon the surface.
I. THE NEW NAME ABOLISHES THE OLD. In the prophetical writings Israel’s sins are very plainly described and very faithfully upbraided. The favoured people are called rebels and traitors, idolaters and spiritual adulterers. Upon their repentance, the old reproach is wiped away, and the old appellations are discarded. This is how Divine mercy treats all true penitents and believers. Former sins are forgotten, former rebukes are reversed, former sentences of condemnation are cancelled.
II. THE NEW NAME EXPRESSES A NEW CHARACTER. The Christian dispensation, by peculiar agencies and spiritual powers, for the removal of the nature and life of men (2 Corinthians 5:17). In accordance with the fact is the expression of the fact; in accordance with the new nature, the new birth, the new life, is the new name.
III. THE NEW NAME IS SIGNIFICANT OF A NEW STATE OF FAVOUR AND ACCEPTANCE. Especially those upon whom the great change has passed are the Lord’s. His possession and property, His beloved and honoured, for whom no privileges are too great and no dignities too eminent. The new name is His name who confers it, and who delights to deem and to call His beloved ones His own. (Homiletical Library.)
Thou shalt also be a crown of glory
Zion a crown of glory God’s hand
It is only through figurative representations that prophecy here sees what Zion will be in the future; she becomes a crown of adornment, a tiara (the head-dress of the high priest, Exodus 33:4; Zechariah 3:5; and of the King, Ezekiel 21:26) of royal dignity in the hand of Jehovah her God.
It is a leading feature in the picture that Jehovah holds the crown in His hand. Zion is not the ancient crown which the Eternal bears on His head, but she is the crown which He holds in His hand, because in Zion He is recognized by all creation; the whole history of redemption is the history of Jehovah’s taking the kingdom and bringing it to perfection, in other words, the history of the working out of this crown. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken
A joyful change of condition
“No more shall it be called to thee (shalt thou be called) Azubah (Forsaken), and thy land shall no more be called Shemamah (Desolate); but thou shalt be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her), and thy land Beulah (Married), for Jehovah delights in thee, and thy land shall be married.
The joyful change of condition is expressed in the prophet’s favourite manner, by significant names. The common version not only mars the beauty of the passage, but renders it in some degree unintelligible to the English reader, by translating the first two names and retaining the others in their Hebrew dress. It is obvious that all four should be treated alike, i.e that all the Hebrew forms should be retained, or none. Henderson prefers the latter method, on the ground ,that “the names are merely symbolical, and will, never be employed as proper names. It is probable, however, that they were all familiar to the Jews as female names in real life. This we know to have been the ease with two of them (1 Kings 22:42; 2 Kings 21:1). It is better, therefore, to retain the Hebrew forms, in order to give them an air of reality as proper names, and at the same time to render them intelligible by translation. In the last clause there is reference to the primary meaning of the verb, viz that of owning or possessing; and as the inhabitants of towns are sometimes called in Hebrew their “possessors,” its use here would suggest, as at least one meaning of the promise, thy land shall be inhabited, and so it is translated in the Targum. (J. A. Alexander.)
I invite your attention to some reflections on the Scriptural use of marriage, as a type of the mystical union betwixt Christ and His Church. This tender, beautiful image implies--
I. CHOICE. In all nations there has been the instinctive rule that the initiative choice is not with the bride, but with the bridegroom. Its spiritual parallel is in the declaration of Jesus to His disciples, “Ye has not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” “I am jealous over you,” said Paul, “with godly jealousy, for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” At the same time all are bound, because all are invited, to “seek the Lord while He may be found,” to “choose this day whom ye serve;” then the farther element in the marriage symbol will be verified.
II. DEVOTION. You will love Him because He first loved you. It is often observed in ordinary married life, how the mutual love of husband and wife enables them to bear, not only without bitterness or mutual recriminations, but with a greater clinging to, and confidence in each other, the trials, sorrows, and burdens of life. Love lightens the load, when each one, for the other’s sake, cheerfully takes his or her share. The love of Christ endears Him to the believer, and the believer to Him.
III. INSEPARABLE UNION. Earthly ties of man and wife are liable to many incidents of severance. Necessities of particular callings in life sometimes separate them, lands and seas asunder. Guilt, aversion, insanity, disease and death, often dissolve the union, which once bid fair to be firmly riveted “till death them should part.” The believer’s union with Christ is liable to no such disastrous issues. Not that this consolatory doctrine dispenses with the necessity of a faithful, obedient, and devout course of effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life. The Divine idea of marriage is a united family, basing its bond of union on the unity of its parentage. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,” etc. True spiritual union with Christ involves an ascendency of affection. “If any man love father or mother more than Me,” etc. In a deep sense it may be said of Christ and His disciple, “They twain are one Spirit.” (J. B. Owen, M. A.)
Thy land shall be married
“Thy land shall be married,”
“Thy land shall be married,” i.e it shall become fruitful again and be replenished.
1. Her sons shall heartily espouse the land of their nativity, and the interests of it, which they had for a long time neglected, as despairing ever to have any comfortable enjoyment of it. Thy sons shall marry thee, i.e they shall live with thee, and take delight in thee. When they were in Babylon, they seemed to have espoused that land, for they were appointed to settle, and to seek the peace of it (Jeremiah 29:5-24.29.7); but now they shall again marry their own land, “as a young man marrieth a virgin” that he takes great delight in, is extremely fond of, and is likely to have many children by. It bodes well to a land when its own natives and inhabitants are pleased with it, prefer it before other lands; when its princes marry their country, and resolve to take their lot with it.
2. Which is much better, her God shall betroth her to Himself in righteousness (Hosea 2:19-28.2.20). (M. Henry.)
Monopoly and communism
I propose to name some of the suitors who are claiming the hand of this Republic.
1. There is a greedy, all-grasping monster who comes in as suitor seeking the hand of this Republic, and that monster is known by the name of Monopoly. His sceptre is made out of the iron of the rail-track and the wire of telegraphy. He does everything for his own advantage and for the robbery of the people. Such monopolies imply an infinite acreage of wretchedness. Great monopolies in any land imply great privation.
2. Another suitor claiming the hand of this Republic is Nihilism. He owns nothing but a knife for universal blood-letting and a nitro-glycerine bomb for universal explosion. He believes in no God, no government, no heaven, and no hell, except what he can make on earth. He slew the Czar of Russia, killed Abraham Lincoln, and would put to death every king and president on earth, if he had the power. (T. De W. Talmage, D. D.)
For as a young man marrieth a virgin
Fervid devotion to a cause
It is difficult to see how any real parallel can exist between an intellectual interest or reasoned sense of duty to a public cause or institution, although prescribing exertion and even sacrifice, and the spontaneous, glowing, fervid devotion of a young man to his chosen bride.
Say you so? Then let me say that as yet you know not some salient features of human nature. As a matter of fact abstractions, as we call them, do provoke passion; the passion of love and the passion of hate, no less truly than do concrete and visible objects. Millions of human beings have worked, suffered, fought and died for these very abstractions; for a political or social doctrine, for the fame of a fallen dynasty, for the credit of some secret club or association, for a country that has been crushed out of existence, for some wild undemonstrable theory, for some baseless or grotesque superstition, no less than for a true and soul-inspiring faith or principle. (H. P. Liddon, D. D.)
Practical devotion to the Church of Christ
Isaiah’s comparison would suggest that the devotion of her sons to the city of God would have three characteristics.
I. AN UNRESERVED, WHOLE-HEARTED DEVOTION; a devotion which bestows on its object its best and its all. “With my body I thee worship; and with all my worldly goods I thee endow,” is the language not only of a Christian Church formulary, but of the human heart in its better mood, throughout all time; and it marks the first characteristic of that devotion to the Church of God which Isaiah saw in vision across the centuries. Undoubtedly a partial fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy may be recognized in the love and service which Israel after the flesh received from a long line of patriot children. Noblest among them were the Maccabees; but they were only samples of a spirit which was shared, in their day and afterwards, by thousands of their countrymen. That temper was indeed too often mingled with moral alloy that sullied its purity. But the men who saved their country from the cultured Paganism of Antiochus Epiphanes, and who even after the utter ruin of their sacred house by Titus, rose once and again to pour out their blood like water in an unavailing struggle with Imperial Rome at the epoch of its greatest military power, were assuredly not men only under the sway of a common or sordid motive. In their love to “Jerusalem the Holy,” whose name was stamped upon their coins, they surely exhibit the careless self-abandonment of the passion which gives itself without stint to the object of its choice. The Lord had chosen Zion to be a habitation for Himself, and this choice made her, to those who had faith in it, the object of a passionate attachment in some respects without a parallel in history. Now, our Lord proclaimed and founded, within the Jewish nation, yet with a capacity and, indeed, an internal necessity of passing beyond its bounds, a new Society, which was to be more to the intellect and heart of man than the Greek πόλις, or the Roman World Empire, or the Jewish theocracy itself, ever had been or could be; yet which should sanction and satisfy, in ample measure, those instincts of union, brotherhood, improvement, order, of which earlier forms of association among men were the outcome and assertion. This Society, in virtue of its origin, its object, and its compass, He named the Kingdom of Heaven. Certain is it that the Church of Christ has inspired millions of Christians with mingled love and enthusiasm. If we believe that Christ’s Church, though built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, has for the chief cornerstone, Himself; if we see in her, not a self-formed collection of individuals who agree in following Him, but, as Scripture says, His Body, instinct with His life; if for her He shed His most precious blood that He might present her glorious and immaculate in the realms of purity; then, in making much of her, we surely are doing no wrong to Him. Only because, notwithstanding the sears and stains which mark her sojourn here below, she is yet so intimately His, should she be so precious to His servants;--drawing the noblest souls into the highest paths of service.
II. THE DEVOTION WHICH ISAIAH PREDICTS WILL BE DISINTERESTED. The truehearted bridegroom marries, not that he may win rank or wealth, or public recognition, or any outward advantages whatever., he weds his” bride” for her own sake, because she is what she is, because in wedding her he finds the joy and satisfaction of his heart. It is “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.” So was it also to be with the espousals of the soul. The Holy Bride is wooed for her own sake, and not for anything that she may bestow on those who would win her.
III. AND THE PROPHET’S COMPARISON SUGGESTS A DEVOTION THAT WILL LAST TILL DEATH. “Till death us do part.” Weariness, impaired health, diminished opportunities for usefulness may come with years; but the tie of sacred service to the cause and Church of Christ can only end with life. (H. P.Liddon, D. D.)
I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem
The watchman’s call
The prosperity of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which teaches the Gentile world through Hebrew channels, depends on two conditions--watchfulness and prayer.
To the latter of these subjects this discourse will be devoted. Let us dwell on importunity in prayer. “And give Him no rest.”
I. THIS IS A CALL TO THE INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN, and to a particular duty. Personal devotion will largely relate to matters affecting the individual and the family, but it must not stop there. The Christian must not forget that he is a member of the great Catholic Church, and must bear its burdens on his spirit to God in prayer.
II. THE CHURCH ALSO MUST MEET ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS TO PRAY FOR A LARGER OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY GHOST.
III. BY A FEW CONSIDERATIONS WE WILL ENDEAVOUR TO ENFORCE THE DUTY.
1. One is the fact that God has promised to meet us on the ground of earnest and constant prayer.
2. The history of importunate prayer is full of marvels.
3. If we survey the situation of the Church, and call to mind the responsibility which rests upon it, our own souls would be moved to greater earnestness. Precious souls are perishing around us; the Cross of Calvary, the love of God, the traditions of the Church, conscience, humanity, the judgment, heaven, hell, beseech us to rescue the perishing. There is but one power that will make the Church of Christ equal to every task which the Master has set before it--earnest prayer.
4. Importunate prayer ends in praise. Jerusalem will be established, and will become the praise--the glory--of the earth.
5. Although prayer in all its aspects is the inheritance of every Christian, yet every Christian is not a watchman. Therefore a word to Church leaders will be in place. Let them look round and survey the state of the Church. (T. Davies, M. A.)
The saints’ importunity for Zion’s prosperity
It is a truth which holds good, both in Scripture and experience, that the care of Zion lies at the bottom of all God’s powerful actings among the sons of men. All that He is and does, in the methods of His common and extraordinary providence, is for the sake of His Church, which is the principal cause and interest; He has in the world.
I. WHAT ARE THOSE SHAKINGS TO WHICH THE CAUSE AND CHURCH OF CHRIST ARE EXPOSED IN THE EARTH?
1. There are shakings to which the cause of Christ is exposed, which arise from outward violence (Psalms 2:2).
2. There are shakings which arise from inward decays A building will shake and totter and grow ruinous, without any outward violence, if the foundation is undermined ‘; or if the pins and fastenings, whereby it is held together, decay. This is the ease(l) When Gospel-truth is perverted or denied.
(2) When Gospel-holiness is neglected.
(3) When love is not cultivated.
II. WHEN MAY GOD BE SAID SO TO ESTABLISH HIS CHURCH AS TO MAKE IT A PRAISE IN THE EARTH? To make up this praise and renown there are four or five things. As--
1. Abundance of light and knowledge.
2. High degrees of holiness.
3. Abundance of peace (Psalms 72:7).
4. A. multitude of converts.
5. A rich supply of all temporal good things.
Men’s natures shall be changed; their corrupt lusts and passions shall be subdued; and all their riches, honour, and power shall be employed for the support of Christ’s cause and kingdom.
III. THE DUTY OF SUCH AS MAKE ANY PROFESSION OF CHRIST WITH REFERENCE TO THIS GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY. “Ye that make,” etc.
1. This day of Zion’s establishment and praise should be uppermost in our thoughts. That which has no place in our thoughts and affections will have very little in our prayers. The Church of old deprecated this as an abominable sin; (Psalms 137:5-19.137.6).
2. It should be continually in our prayers.
3. Prayer for Zion’s establishment must be with a holy importunity and constancy. It is not the work of one day, but of every day; the blessing prayed for has every other blessing and mercy in the bowels of 2:4. Zion’s friends are called to pray and work. The former branch of the verse commands action: “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem. It is hypocrisy to ask in private what you would not be glad to do in public. Your time, gifts, substance and lives are God’s.” (J. Hill.)
We propose to put this illustration of Jewish patriotism into another frame. For in the New Testament Jerusalem stands metaphorically for the Church of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:22; Gal 9:26). The rebuilding of the Jewish capital will thus signify in Gospel speech the establishment of the Christian Church.
I. A CALL TO SPIRITUAL PATRIOTISM. All through the second part of Isaiah Jerusalem is idealized, for Jerusalem, as the city actually was, presented small occasions for felicitation. But the Jerusalem “the Servant of the Lord” saw was the world’s centre--the capital of all the nations! It was “the city of the Great King,” and while the power and glory of other nations lay in their armies, their wealth, their population, their culture, the glory of Jerusalem was her religion. Now, what Jerusalem was to “the Servant of the Lord” the Christian Church is to the Christian; he is a fellow-citizen with the saints, bound, therefore, to be a spiritual, patriot. Only the Christian Church is not limited to one nation. Above all, the Church is a spiritual metropolis among the world powers, a heavenly fatherland on earthly soil, an eternal State established amidst temporal surroundings. Thus the love of a Jew for Jerusalem comes to represent the solicitude of a Christian for the Church. The Jew never forgot his fatherland.
II. THE OUTCOME OF SPIRITUAL PATRIOTISM IN WATCHFULNESS AND PRAYER. Patriotism is hers set forth under two similes.
1. Spiritual patriots are to be sentinels. “I have set watchmen upon thy walls,
2. Jerusalem. The godly life is ever a campaign, and spiritual men are “men with an eye,” as Carlyle phrases it. When others cry, “Peace, peace,” it is often their painful duty to be nonconformists to a general delusion and to sound an alarm. And how great a result may be produced by the faithfulness of even one man! On a dark night in December 1602, when the inhabitants of Geneva, lulled by peaceful professions, slept, but never dreamed of danger, a daring attempt known in history as the “Escalade” was made by their foes. The Savoyards scaled the walls, and would have admitted their comrades but for the discharge of the musket of one of the sentries. He fell a martyr, but the crack of his piece brought the citizens from their beds, and the city was saved, while Beza, then eighty years of age, returned to God public thanksgiving, announcing the 124 th Psalm for singing. There is work for our sentinels to-day.
3. But spiritual patriots are also “the Lord’s remembrancers. The old State appointment is our illustration. In the Book of Esther the work of the remembrancer comes out in the chronicles which were read before the king on the occasion of his attack of insomnia; and the office, in a modified form, is known to us to-day in connection with our city councils. But there are elect souls who are the Lord’s remembrancers. It may be that not every Christian has leisure of heart for this full consecration, for these remembrancers are such as make the progress of God’s kingdom their prime solicitude. Eli could bear to hear of the ruin of his ,house in the death of his sons, but died on learning of the capture of God’s ark. This is the highest style of patriotism. General Wolfe, in shattered health, led the handful of English that took Quebec from the French. Stricken down just as victory was assured, yet stimulated by the cry, “They run,” he could just inquire who ran, and when told it was the French, forgetful of his own interests, he gasped, “I die happy,” and closed his eyes. Shall spiritual patriots show less devotion? It is theirs to exercise unbounded faith in the Divine the text lies in its emphasis of urgent and perpetual prayer. Take ye no rest, and give Him no rest. This is the Old Testament anticipation of the parable of the importunate widow. When a lady appealed to the great Protector for the release of her husband, Cromwell preserved a stolid demeanour so long as the wife confined herself to the proprieties of measured speech, but directly she burst into tears her plea was granted. Prayer is the wireless telegraphy which unites heaven and earth; if only each heart be a “receiver ‘ it shall never lack a message from on high, and there is always a great “receiver” there in the heart of our God.
III. FOR THE TRIUMPH OF THIS SPIRITUAL PATRIOTISM “THE SERVANT OF THE LORD.” RENDERS HIMSELF RESPONSIBLE. The prayers of the Church and the purpose of Jesus Christ run in parallel lines when the prayer-spirit is deep and real; or better, our prayer and His purpose are two streams that run into one channel with united force. True prayer is not the attempt to wring benediction from an unwilling hand. God is not in danger of forgetting His pledges only His pledges can scarcely take effect in spiritual benediction till the Church is ready to claim her own. There are millions of money in Chancery with no one to claim it; there is boundless grace in God waiting to be appropriated by man. While our prayers co-operate with God’s purpose never may we forget that all real prayer has its origin in God: it is the Divine purpose struggling for expression in the human heart. This brings us to our point of rest. “The Servant of the Lord” has rendered Himself responsible for His Church. The proof lies in His Cross, in His intercession, in the wonderful providence by which His Church has been preserved from extinction all along the ages, notwithstanding that she has lived all the while in the midst of foes. While we leave the responsibility of final issues with our Lord, we may share the glory and the joy of being “workers together” with Him. How clearly this comes out “ this connection! For Zion’s sake, says He, will I not hold my peace.” “I have set watchmen upon thy walls or, they shall never hold their peace.” “I will not rest.” “Take ye no rest.” The Christ-spirit is thus the Christian spirit; the work of Christ is continued by His Church. Now look at the magnificent result anticipated! The Church is to become God’s city of light (verse 1). The ideal is developed in the Revelation (Revelation 21:23-66.21.24). Whatever light stands for, whether revelation, or brightness, or beauty, or safety, or purity, all these are to find their home and sphere in Christ’s Church. The Church of Christ is to be first a guiding light to men--but afterwards she is to be as a sunrise to the nations (Isaiah 9:2). For the Church is to be at once the expositor of God’s righteousness and the channel of God’s salvation. (J. T. Briscoe.)
No rest for God or His people
In its present position, Jerusalem is at once a witness for God and a type of man--a witness to God’s truth and justice, and a type of man’s sin and sorrow. Prayer to God is enjoined as a means to secure the renovation and blessing of the temporal Jerusalem; and prayer is still one of the mightiest forces which can be brought to bear on the waste places and ruined magnificence of man’s spiritual nature.
I. A CHARACTER WE MUST ENDEAVOUR TO DESERVE. The prophet describes God’s servants as those who “make mention of the Lord,” or, in other words, are “the Lord’s rembrancers.” Not that they had need to remind Him of their needs or His fulness, but that their business was to bring Him to the remembrance of those about them.
II. If we are thus to be the Lord’s remembrancers THERE IS A DANGER WE MUST SEEK TO AVOID. This is, the danger of keeping silence, of withholding our testimony, or giving it half-heartedly and in a perfunctory manner. There are not a few roads which end at this habitation of “silence.
2. Despair, whether it be despair of ourselves or of others. Hopefulness is as necessary as faithfulness.
3. We shall “keep silence” if we grow weary in well-doing; if patience gives place to fretfulness, and love of ease cries out against the practice of self- denial; if the crown is longed for while the cross is shunned, and the reaping is desired while the sowing is neglected.
III. In connection with all this, THERE IS A DUTY WE MUST FAITHFULLY PERFORM. “Give Him no rest.” No rest for the servant, and no rest for the Master. Surely this means: “Be earnest in supplication.”
IV. A RESULT IN WHICH WE MUST STEADFASTLY BELIEVE. We are to be “remembrancers” and “pleaders” till He establish, and “till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” That He will do these great things we are devoutly to believe; that He may do them we are earnestly to pray. The early verses of our chapter draw a picture already seen by the prophetic eye. Righteousness, bright as the light going forth with salvation, clear as the burning lamp. The new name given to betoken the new nature. The joy of wedding festivity celebrating the union of the once forsaken city- with her new-found Lord and King. Glowing picture this; yet to be fully realized in the capital of the Holy Land, and yet to be spiritually realized in the fulness of blessing which shall crown all faithful labour, and be the answer to every earnest prayer. (W. J. Mayers.)
The Lord’s rembrancers
(R.V.):--It is hardly possible not to linger a little over this curious appellation, “the Lord’s remembrancers,” given in the margin of the Authorised Version, and in the text of the Revised. Several interpretations of it have been suggested. The original word itself has both the ordinary meaning of one who reminds another, and a technical meaning 2 Samuel 20:24) akin to, though not identical with, that of the English word. By some it is applied to the angels, who are also supposed to be the “watchmen upon the walls, referred to in the preceding clause. But such an explanation lifts the passage entirely out of the sphere of human privilege and duty, and introduces into it allusions to matters about which very little is known. There may be in it a special reference to prophets, whose functions would naturally include that of leading the people in their supplications to God, as well as that of warning them of danger and inciting them to effort. But there is no need to confine the term to officials of any kind. The entire New Testament is a sufficient authority for applying it to all true Christians. If, indeed, there be truth in the tradition, in Judaism itself it was recognized in part of the sacrificial ritual that every man could be and ought to be the Lord’s remembrancer. Psalms 44:1-19.44.26. describes some of the marvellous things done by Jehovah for Israel in the past, and the forsaken and oppressed condition of Israel in the present; and one of its closing verses is said to have been regularly sung for long in the temple worship--the one in which Jehovah’s rembrancers, after having reminded Him of their need and of His promised help, call upon Him: “Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord? Arise, cast us not off for ever.” John Hyrcanus is reputed to have abolished this custom, in spleen at the refusal of the Pharisees to let him reign in peace, or possibly, according to a more charitable conjecture, under the feeling that the idea of awakening and reminding Jehovah involves a defect of faith. The psalm, however, is entirely true to human nature. For when men are tempted to imagine themselves forsaken of God and begirt inextricably by perils, it is an immense stimulus and encouragement of faith to remind God of their needs and of His promises, of their present reliance upon Him, and even (for Scripture warrants it elsewhere) of the way in which His faithfulness and honour are concerned in their protection and deliverance. Jacob prayed in that way, when he trembled at the thought of his brother’s probable rage, pleading God’s actual words of promise: “O God of my fathers, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:. . . Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother:. . . for (again) Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea. Two rembrancings, and between them a little prayer; and of course the result was that, when Esau came, instead of pouring his rough followers upon the struggling and indefensible caravan, he fell on his brother’s “neck and kissed him.” David was surprised and almost staggered in unbelief at the prospect of greatness and renown which the prophet Nathan opened up to him, but he recovered and fed his faith by reminding Himself and his God of the promise, and prayed, “Now, O Lord God, the word that Thou hast spoken concerning Thy,, servant and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as Thou hast said. In this very prophecy Israel first of all reminds Jehovah of what He has been wont to do, anti what needs to be done now: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. The result is seen in vision at once: “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion;” and so all the watchmen lift up their voices: “Break forth unto joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem: the Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. We shall never suffer much prolonged doubt as to our own establishment or the Church’s, if we will only duly remember and exercise our high vocation, to remind God of our perils and needs and of His promised grace and help. (R. W. Moss.)
Not watchmen (lit. “lookers out”) as in Isaiah 52:8; Isaiah 56:10, but as in Isaiah 21:11; Song of Solomon 5:7, lit. “keepers,’ those who guard the city, especially dining the night. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
Three kinds of ministers
The ministers of the temple of truth, it has been said, are of three kinds: first, those stationed at the gate of the temple to constrain the passers-by to come in; secondly, those whose function is to accompany inside all who have been persuaded to enter, and display and explain to them the treasures and secrets of the place; and, thirdly, those whose duty is to patrol round the temple, keeping watch and ward and defending the shrine from the attacks of enemies. We are only speaking very roughly if we say that the first of these three functions is that of the
Preacher, the second that of the Teacher, and the third that of the
Controversialist. (J. Stalker, D. D.)
Go through, go through the gates
The conversion of the Jews
THE GLORIOUS EVENT TO BE PROCLAIMED (Isaiah 62:11). When the Divine Spirit would attract special attention to any subject, He prefixes “Behold” to the truth revealed. We have here “Behold thrice repeated.
1. The nature of the event. “Thy salvation cometh. Thy salvation is rendered by the ancient versions (Syriac, Arabic, LXX, Chaldee, Vulgate) and the best modern interpreters, “Thy Saviour;” and from the words, “His reward is with Him,” it is clear that this is the intended meaning of the prophet. The glowing promises of our text, and the prophecies connected with it, were most manifestly never fulfilled at His first coming. The second coming of Christ as the Deliverer of His people Israel is then the event here foretold; an event yet before the Church (Romans 11:26-45.11.27). It is not enough to proclaim Christ crucified to the Jews; we must also proclaim the once crucified Immanuel speedily to appear in glory, to punish His rebellious subjects, and to save His people.
2. The things connected with this event. “His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.” It is not quite clear whether “His reward” refers to the reward which Christ receives or which He bestows. Our Lord is to “see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied,” and He is to be “glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe.” But I apprehend that the reward which He bestows is here intended (Revelation 22:12). He has also a work to perform. What that work is, we may learn from the following chapters. It comprehends, doubtless, a lengthened series of events. Notice these three--the overthrow of His enemies; the mercies in store for Israel; the establishment of His kingdom.
3. Its required proclamation. By “the daughter of Zion ‘ is meant the Jewish nation. It is a solemnly announced command to all to tell the Jews of the Coming Saviour. But why should the Lord tell the ends of the world to care for Zion? He foresaw and foreordained that the Jews should be scattered everywhere, that there might not be a spot upon the earth uninterested in or unmoved by their return. It was always the duty of Christians to preach the Gospel “to the Jew first,” and then to the Gentile.
II. THE BLESSED RESULT OF THIS EVENT TO THE JEWS (Isaiah 62:12). The words apparently lead us to two classes of persons to be blessed at our Saviour’s coming.
1. “They shall call them the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord;”
2. “Thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken?’ There may be a reference in the first class to the converted Gentiles (Justin Martyr), and in the second to the converted Jews. Through the chapter these are combined, while the Jews arc addressed by the personal pronoun (Isaiah 62:2). In this view, our text would contain a delightful reciprocation of congratulation between Jews and Gentiles. Yet, as the leading subject of the chapter is the restoration of the Jews, and as, in the preceding verse, the ends of the world are to be addressed on the subject, it is rather probable that the word “they” may here refer to the admiring nations of the earth. They shall call them, i.e the Jews, the holy or consecrated people, the redeemed of the Lord;” and then the prophet himself, as if beholding Jerusalem thus glorious, changes the person and number of his language, and in the rapture of exultation exclaims, “Thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.”
III. THE. DUTIES TO “WHICH WE ARE CALLED (Isaiah 62:10). Here the inhabitants of cities, where ever the Jews may be, are called to prepare roads for their return to their own land, that they and the nations at large may be ready to receive and welcome the great Lord and King of the whole earth. The general direction is to prepare the Jews, and thus also the Gentiles, for the coming Saviour.
1. Indifference is to be cast off. “Go through, go through the gates.” The double direction shows the ardour of the Divine mind, the importance of the duty, how dull Christians in general would be to it, and how needful to rouse them by repeated exhortations.
2. A way is to be prepared. “Prepare ye the way of the people,” etc.
3. A standard is also to be lifted up for the nations. “Lift up a standard for the people.” This is added not only as a duty to be discharged, but as a great encouragement to fulfil duties to the Jews, by the blessed effect it will undoubtedly have upon all nations. The meaning of this standard will be more clear by referring to Isaiah 11:10-23.11.12. A standard is a token ofwar: it is to assemble, direct and encourage the army, and to animate them in proceeding against their enemies. To lift up this standard is to preach the Gospel. But for whom is this standard to be lifted up? “For the people. The original is in the plural number, “for the peoples,” and it is by the best translators rendered, “the nations.” The restoration of the Jews, then, is a part of the Divine plan for attracting the attention of and for blessing the whole world. (E. Bickersteth.)
Gather out the stones
Clearing the road to heaven
I. ENDEAVOUR TO REMOVE SOME OF THE STUMBLING-BLOCKS OUT OF THE POOR BEGINNER’S WAY.
1. Let us begin with a very old and common difficulty, the doctrine of election. Many will say, “Perhaps I am not one of God’s chosen.” I know not any better way of practically treating the matter than of saying, “I will go to Jesus because He bids me.’ When you are ill you do not know whether you are ordained to get well, but you send for the doctor; you cannot toll whether you are predestined to be rich, but you endeavour to make money; you do not know whether you will live through the day, but you work to provide yourself with bread; thus common-sense cuts the knot which mere theory can never untie. Leave the subtleties of argument alone, and act as sensible men. Go to Jesus and try whether He will reject you.
2. A deep sense of sin. If there had not been great sin, there would not have been need of a great Saviour.
3. A fear that the day of grace has passed. The Lord’s grace can come to a man at any time, and at any hour.
4. A tendency to blasphemous thoughts. They should lead you to go and tell Jesus Christ about it, but they should not drive you to despair.
5. The absence of anything like a horrible thought, or a terror, or an alarm. If you arc allowed to come to Jesus without being so molested by the Evil One, do not fret about that, but rather rejoice. There is no need to go round by bell’s gate to get to heaven.
6. A want of sensibility with regard to their sins. A man is saved by having his heart broken, and being led to cast himself upon Jesus; and if you have not yet received this part of salvation, your business is to come to Jesus for it, not to stay away till you get it of yourself, and then come to Christ with your feelings as a recommendation.
7. “I cannot believe.” The smallest grain of saving faith will save a man. It is the object of faith we should look to.
8. “I do not think I can be saved, because I am not like so-and-so.” Do be content to have nothing good in yourself, and to be nothing good, and to take all your good from Jesus Christ.
9. “I never have any joy and peace.” You shall receive the joy when you exercise the faith.
II. POINT YOU TO HIM WHO IS “THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE” who has already cleared the stumbling-blocks out of the way. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world
Who is this?
(with Isaiah 63:1):--As in God’s immediate dealingswith men we usually see the Son of God most manifest, this passage may fitly represent the glorious appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ whenever He has come forth to vindicate the cause of His people and to overthrow their enemies. This vision will be astoundingly fulfilled in the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fourteenth and nineteenth chapters of the Book of Revelation give us parallel passages to this. The scene before us describes an interposition of the Messiah; the return of the Divinely-appointed Champion from the defeat of His enemies. As it is evidently picture of salvation rather than of damnation; as the main feature in it is that He is mighty to save; as the great and chief element of the whole thing is that the year of His redeemed is come, and that the Warrior’s own arm has brought salvation to His people; I cannot question that this text is applicable to the first coming of Christ. Then He did battle with the hosts of sin and death and hell, and so vanquished them that in His resurrection He returned with the keys of death and hell at HIS girdle. Then was He seen as “mighty to save.”
I. THERE IS A PROCLAMATION (verses 11, 12). The commentators as a whole can see no connection between the sixty-third chapter and the preceding part of the Book of Isaiah; but surely that connection is plain enough to the common reader. In these verses the coming of the Saviour is proclaimed, and in the next chapter that coming is seen in vision, and the evangelical prophet beholds the Saviour so vividly that he is startled, and inquires, “Who is this?’
1. This great announcement tells you that there is a salvation from without. Within your heart there is nothing that can save you. The proclamation is, “Behold, thy salvation cometh.” It comes from a source beyond yourself.
2. It is a salvation which comes through a person. “Thy salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.” The great salvation which we have to proclaim is salvation by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
3. This salvation leads to holiness; for the text says of those who receive the Saviour, “They shall call them, The holy people.”
4. It is salvation by, redemption; for it is written that they shall be called “The redeemed of the Lord. In the sacred Scriptures there is no salvation for men except by redemption.
5. This salvation is complete. “Thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.” See the beginning of it: “Sought out,” See the end of it: “Not forsaken.” You will not begin with God, but God will begin with you. You shall be sought out, and then you will seek Him. He seeks you even now. But suppose the Lord found you, and then left you; you would perish, after all. But it shall not be so; for the same Lord who calls you “Sought out also calls you Not forsaken.” You shall never be forsaken of the grace of God, nor of the God of grace.
II. CONSIDER THE QUESTION, “Who is this that cometh from Edom?” The prophet beholds in vision the Captain of salvation, returning from battle, arrayed like the warriors of whom we read, “the valiant men are in scarlet.” He beholds the majestic march of this mighty Conqueror, and he cries, “Who is this?” When a soul first hears the proclamation of God’s salvation, and then sees Jesus coming to him, he says, “Who is this?”
1. The question in part arises from anxiety, as if he said, “Who is this that espouses my cause? Is He able to save?”
2. The question also indicates ignorance. We do not any of us know our Lord Jesus to the full yet. “Who is this?” is a question we may still put to the sacred oracle. Paul, after he had known Christ fifteen years, yet desired that he might know Him; for His love passeth knowledge.
3. As the sinner looks, and looks again, he cries, “Who is this?” in delighted amazement. Is it indeed the Son of God? Does He intervene to save me? The God whom I offended, does He stoop to fight and rout my sins? It is even He.
4. I think the question is asked, also, by way of adoration. As the soul begins to see Jesus, its anxiety is removed by knowledge, and is replaced by an astonishment which ripens into worship.
5. It appears from the question that the person asking it knows whence the Conqueror came; for it is written, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” Yes, our Redeemer has returned from death, as said the Psalmist, “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption”? Next notice that the prophet in vision observes the colour of the Conqueror’s garments. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” Red is not Christ’s colour; hence the question arises, “Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel. Our beloved’s garments are whiter than any fuller can make them. The glory of His purity is such that we say to ourselves, “Red, why, that is the colour of Edom, the adversary! Red, that is the colour of the earth of our manhood. Red is the colour of our scarlet sins. Why is He red? Although the text treats of the blood of His adversaries, yet I would have you devoutly think of our Lord literally as shedding His own blood, for His victory was thus accomplished. The text sets forth the result of that blood-shedding in the overthrow of His enemies and ours; but we cannot separate the effect from the cause. I remember how Rutherford seems to glow and burn when in his prose poetry he talks of “the bonnie red man.”
7. But yet the question comes from one who perceives that the Conqueror is royally arrayed. “This that is glorious in His apparel. The Jesus we have to preach to you is no mean Saviour; He is clothed with glory and honour because of the suffering of death.
8. The question ends with “travelling in the greatness of His strength.” He did not come back from slaughtering our enemies feeble and wounded, but He returned in majestic march, like a victor who would have all men know that his force is irresistible. The earth shook beneath our Lord’s feet on the resurrection morning, for “there was a great earthquake.” The Roman guards became as dead men at His appearing. The Lord Jesus Christ is no petty, puny Saviour. As He travels through the nations it is as a strong man against whom none can stand, mighty to rescue every soul that puts its trust in Him.
III. CONSIDER THE ANSWER. NO one can answer for Jesus: He must speak for Himself. Like the sun, He can only be seen by His own light. He is His own interpreter. Not even the angels could explain the Saviour: they get no further than desiring to look into the things which are in Him. He himself answers the question “Who is this?” The answer which our Lord gives is twofold. He describes Himself--
IV. As a Speaker “I that speak in righteousness.” Is He not the Word? Every word that Christ speaks is true. The Gospel which He proclaims is a just and righteous one, meeting both the claims of God and the demands of conscience.
2. Our Lord also describes Himself as a Saviour. “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Observe that the word “mighty is joined with His saving, and not with his destroying.” Conclusion: Hearken to the proclamation, “Behold thy salvation cometh.” Jesus can save you, for He is mighty to save! He has saved others like you. He can overthrow, all your enemies. He can do this alone. He is able to save you now. It is a sad wonder that men do not believe in Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Thou shalt be called, Sought out
The first meaning of our text is very clear. Here is a prophecy, that as Jerusalem, having been despoiled her beauty by her enemies, was for a long time forsaken and worthy to be called, “A city which no man seeketh after,” so, in a brighter day, her glory shall return, she shall be an attraction to all lands, and the joy of the whole earth; multitudes of willing pilgrims shall seek her out that they may behold her beauty. She shall be a city greatly set by and greatly sought out by those who love the hallowed spots where the mighty deeds of the Lord were wrought, and the arm of Jehovah made bare.
2. The text, doubtless, has a similar reference to the Church of God. During many centuries the Church of Christ was hidden--a thing obscure, despised, unknown, abhorred; she concealed herself in the catacombs; her followers were the poorest and most illiterate of men, proscribed by cruel laws, and hunted by ferocious foes Although the royal bride of Christ, and destined to be the ruler of nations, she “made no figure in the world’s eye; she was but a little stone cut out of the mountain without hands. But the day is already come in which multitudes seek the Church of Christ. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Am I sought out?
In a fuller and more spiritual sense the Church of God may well be called “Sought out”; and the like title may truthfully be applied to every single member of that dearly-loved and dearly-purchased family.
I. THE NATURAL CONDITION IMPLIED IN THE TITLE, “SOUGHT OUT.”
1. If the Church of God has been “sought out,” then it is clear enough that originally it was lost.
2. We were so lost that we did not seek the Lord.
3. As we had no thought of coming to God, so we never should have willed to return.
4. So far from seeking God, we did not desire Him to seek us.
5. Our being sought out, considering our condition, was one of the greatest wonders ever known or heard of. I have heard this expressed in words occasionally; when a man has come to join the Church, he has said to me,
“If any one had told me six months ago that I should make a profession of being a follower of Christ, I would have knocked him down.’ And yet the thing did occur.
II. WE HAVE SURPASSING GRACE REVEALED. This grace lies in several particulars.
1. That they were sought out at all. It is very wonderful grace on the part of God that He should plan a way of salvation; but there is something more gracious than this generous summons. One would have supposed that after the invitation had been freely given and the preparation for the feast had been generously made, the Lord would leave men to come or not as they willed.
2. But this grace appears even more conspicuous if you consider the persons sought out. That any should be sought out is matchless grace, but that we should be sought is grace beyond degree.
3. Nor must I fail to bring to your recollection, that the surpassing grace of God is seen very clearly in that we were sought “out.” The word “out” conveys a mass of meaning. Men go and seek for a thing which is lost upon the floor of the house, but in such a case there is only seeking, not seeking out. The loss is more perplexing, and the search more persevering, when a thing is sought out. We were mingled with the mire; we were as when some precious piece of gold falls into the sewer, and men have to gather out and carefully inspect a heap of abominable filth, to turn it over, and over, and over, and continue to stir and rake, and search among the heap until the thing is found. Or, to use another figure, we were lost in a labyrinth; we wandered hither and thither, and when ministering mercy came after us, it did not find us at the first coming; it had to go to the right hand and to the left, and search hither and thither, and everywhere, to seek us out, for we were so desperately lost, and had got into such a strange position, that it did not seem possible that ever grace could come to us. And yet we were sought out! No gloom could hide us, no filthiness could conceal us, we were found. The lives of some of God’s people, if they could be written, would make you marvel. The romance of Divine grace is infinitely more interesting than the romance of imagination.
4. The grace of God is illustrious in the Divine Agent by whom we are sought out. It was not the minister; he might have sought thee year after year, and never have found thee. Thy tearful mother, with her many prayers, would have missed thee. Thine anxious father, with his yearning bowels of compassion, would never have discovered thee. Those providences, which like great nets were seeking to entangle thee, would all have been broken by thy strong dashings after evil. Who was it sought thee out? None other than Himself. The Great Shepherd could not trust His under-shepherds; He must Himself come, and oh! if it had not been for those eyes of omniscience, He never would have seen thee; He never would have read thy history and known thy ease: if it had not been for those arms of omnipotence, He never could have grasped thee; He never could have thrown thee on His shoulders and brought thee home rejoicing.
5. Remember that the glory of it is that we were sought out effectually. We are a people not sought out and then missed at the last.
III. THE DISTINGUISHING TITLE JUSTIFIED. How were we sought out?. Let us justify the name.
1. We are sought out in the eternal purposes and the work of Christ.
2. This seeking out, as far as we know it, began by gracious words of mercy. A godly mother told us the truth with weeping, a holy father set us a good example; we were sought out by that little Bible we were taught to read, and that hymn-book which was put into our hands. We were sought out when we were taken to the house of God. We were sought out while the preacher called the Sabbath-breaker, the hard-hearted, the hypocrite, the formalist, the abandoned, the profane. According to our case we felt that he was calling us, and the eyes of Jesus were looking on us, and His voice was bidding us repent and live.
3. Afflictions sought us out. The fever hunted us to the Cross. When the cholera came, it carried a great whip in its hand to flog us to the Saviour. We had serious losses, a decaying business, all which should have weaned us from the world. Our friends sickened; from their graves we heard the voice of invitation, “Come unto Christ and live. ‘ We were disappointed in some of our fondest hopes, and our heart, riven for the time, yearned after a higher life and a deeper satisfaction.
4. Then came mysterious visitations. It was in the night season when all was still, we sat up in our bed, and solemn thoughts passed through us; the preacher’s words which we had heard years ago came back fresh as when we heard them for the first time; old texts of Scripture, the recollection of a mother’s tears, all these came upon us. Or it was in the midst of business, and we did not know how it was, but suddenly a deep calm came over us.
5. But after all, these visitations, these providences, these preachings, and so on, would all have been nothing, if it had not been for the appointed time when the Holy Spirit came and sought us out.
IV. A SPECIAL DUTY INCUMBENT UPON THOSE WHO WEAR THE TITLE, “SOUGHT OUT.” If it be really so that you are such debtors to Divine seeking, ought you not to spend your whole lifetime in seeking others out? We are not to preach merely to those who come to listen. Let us hunt for souls by visitation. Where all other means fail, seek men by our prayers. As long as a man has one other man to pray for him, there is a hope of his salvation. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A city not forsaken
“A city not forsaken”
1. A forsaken city! What a picture it presents. Streets once crowded with life, left desolate. Halls once ablaze with light--darkened. Every voice of music hushed, every dancer gone. No man of wisdom to advise. No soldier to defend. No peopled homes. No schools with children. No trade. No port. No active work for God or man. A city forsaken! Bereft, indeed!
2. But “A city not forsaken”! How different I with its crowded streets; its marts of trade; its palace of legislature; its courts of administration and justice; its glory of magnificent architecture; its busy river; its turrets ablaze with the glory of their gold; its towers of strength; its bulwarks of defence; its processions of royalty; its merchants; its scholars; its citizens, good, bad and indifferent; its sanctuaries; its slums; its manifold life and stir. Ay, verily, “a city not forsaken” is a place of interest and power; a place to live in; where the pulse beats; where men feel the blessings of community, and find the possibilities of success; where trade has its markets; where intellect is sharpened, and where extremes meet--the place of the temple, the arena, the theatre, the gymnasium, and the forum. (C. H. Kelly.)
The Church, a city not forsaken
The text is uttered respecting the Church of the Lord, and is true of every part of that Church. It is descriptive. It is historic. It is prophetic. (C. H. Kelly.)
The presence of God in His Church
If it was the delight of the ancient Jews to know that the Lord was in His temple in Jerusalem, it is also ours to know that He is with us.
1. His Church abounds in splendour; in numbers; in wealth; in structures. She is rich in schools and universities. Her sons are among the greatest scholars; the bravest soldiers; the most eloquent speakers. She is like the King’s daughter, arrayed in costly attire, and all beautiful within, having external adornment and internal excellence; but what of all that, if that were all? What if she were forsaken of God? If there were no shout of the King in the camp?
2. But there is the presence of God--the Father in His family; the Captain with His hosts; the King in His city.
3. Having this truth, how rich is the Church of God! It involves the heritage of power, wisdom, love.
4. We will rejoice because, having God in the city, the commonwealth is safe; truth will be victorious; vice will be curbed; crime will cease; ignorance will be instructed; men and women will be saved; children will be nurtured and trained aright; true spiritual religion, as contrasted with mere conventional Churchism, will prevail; the love of worldliness will give place to spirituality of life; there will be honesty instead of theft; truthfulness instead of lies; purity instead of wickedness holiness instead of mere professional Church membership. (C. H. Kelly.)
The Church, “a city not forsaken” by its own people
1. Its numbers are larger to-day than ever. They help to constitute its wealth, to make it full of power; they make its defence stronger than walls of brick and stone; mightier than ramparts. The fellowship of believers; the communion of saints; the brotherhood of Christians is very real. It is found in this city--this Church of God. It is illustrated in the lives of myriads who dedicate their intellect, their love, to it. Verily, this city is not forsaken. Its dwellings are peopled. Its population increases.
2. And more are coming. One day Henry Clay stood on a peak on the Aleghany Mountains, with arms folded, and as though looking into the distance far beyond. Some one said to the rapt thinker, “Mr. Clay, what are you thinking about?” He replied, “I am listening to the ontramping of the feet of future generations of Americans. He knew they would come. So we. We rejoice in the millions of our city. But yet there is room. They come. They will continue to come. This is no forsaken spot. It never will be. Desolation does not belong to this Zion.
3. There are good reasons for its sons not forsaking it. In it they have found salvation. In it they have been made joyful. When they were pursued and troubled, it opened its gates to them, and gave them refuge and safety The walls which surround It can never be broken through by any foe; for God is the strength of those walls, and every citizen is absolutely safe. (C. H. Kelly.)
But have not any forsaken this city? The answer is, to their own sad sorrow, Yes! At this hour there are sheep that have strayed; prodigals that have wandered; backsliders that have fallen. They have forsaken purity; they have turned their backs on God. What has the City herald to proclaim to such? What is the message of the King? The proclamation is mercy; amnesty; full forgiveness. The message of the King is, Return. Will you come? The gates of the city are open: Will you enter? You have forsaken the Church; but God has not forsaken you. But, so far as you are concerned, the gates of the city will soon be closed. Take care that you are on the right side. One of our ministers said that one evening, after a day’s excursion, he and his party were about to enter an Eastern city. They saw a horseman approach at a gallop. Our friend asked, “Why does he ride so fast?” “Because,” said the guide, “he knows that in a few moments it will be sunset, and the city gate will be closed; and, if he is not in before that, he will be too late, and must remain outside in the dark.” It is nearly sunset with some of you who have forsaken the city; soon the gate will be closed; be quick and enter in! (C. H. Kelly.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 62". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent