Click here to join the effort!
Who is this that cometh from Edom?
Jehovah’s triumph over His people’s foes
A passage of unique and sublime dramatic power. The impotence of Israel’s enemies to retard or interfere with their deliverance has been insisted on before (Isaiah 41:15 f., 49:25, Isaiah 41:26, 51:23, 54:17); and it is here developed under a noveland striking figure. The historical fact upon which the representation rests is the long-standing and implacable enmity subsisting between Israel and Edom. The scene depicted is, of course, no event of actual history; it is symbolical; an ideal humiliation of nations, marshalled upon the territory of Israel’s inveterate foe, is the form under which the thought of Israel’s triumph is here expressed. The prophet sees in imagination a figure, as of a conqueror, his garments crimsoned with” blood, advancing proudly, in the distance from the direction of Edom, and asks, “Who is this that cometh?” etc. In reply, he hears from afar the words, “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save,” i.e. I who have announced (Isaiah 45:19) a just and righteous purpose of deliverance, and am able to give “it effect. The answer is not yet sufficiently explicit, so he repeats the question in a more direct form, “Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel?’ etc. (Isaiah 63:2-3). Not Edom only, then, but other nations also have been trodden down and subdued (Isaiah 63:4-6). In the hour when the contest Israel contra mundum was to be decided, no human agent, willingly or consciously, came forward to assist; nevertheless, God’s purposes were not frustrated: Israel’s opponents were humbled and defeated; but human means, in so far as use was made of them, were the unconscious instruments of Providence. And thus the blood-stained colour of the Victor’s garments is explained: it is a token of Jehovah’s triumph over His people’s foes, primarily, indeed, over those foes who would impede the release of the Jews from Babylon, or molest them when settled again in Palestine, but by implication also, over other foes who might rise up in the future to assail the people of God. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
The Saviour--God of Israel
The image presented is one of the most impressive and awe-inspiring in the Old Testament, and it is difficult to say which is most to be admired, the dramatic vividness of the vision, or the reticence which conceals the actual work of slaughter and concentrates the attention on the Divine Hero as He emerges victorious from the conflict. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
Who is the Hero?
It was a serious misapprehension of the spirit of the prophecy which led many of the Fathers to apply it to the passion and death of Christ. Although certain phrases, detached from their context, may suggest that interpretation to a Christian reader, there can be no doubt that the scene depicted is a “drama of Divine vengeance” (G. A. Smith), into which the idea of propitiation does not enter. The solitary Figure who speaks in Isaiah 63:3-6 is not the servant of the Lord, or the Messiah, but Jehovah Himself (comp the parallel, Isaiah 59:16); the blood whichreddens His garments is expressly said to be that of His enemies; and the “winepress” is no emblem of the spiritual sufferings endured by our Lord, but of the “fierceness and wrath of Almighty God’ (Revelation 19:15) towards the adversaries of His Kingdom. While it is true that the judgment is the prelude to the redemption of Israel, the passage before us exhibits only the judicial aspect of the Divine dealings, and it is not permissible to soften the terrors of the picture by introducing soteriological conceptions which lie beyond its scope. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The Conqueror from Edom
What does it mean--the prophetic Genius waiting, watching, and questioning; the mighty stranger coming fresh from victorious battle, with the robe red as if with the stain of grapes, coming up from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? Edom, remember, was the country where the Israelites’ most inveterate enemies lived. No other nation pressed on them so constantly or gave them such continual trouble as the Edomites. And Bozrah was the capital city of Edom, the centre of its power. When the conqueror comes from Edom, then, and finds Israel anxious and eager upon the mountain, and shows her his stained robe in sign of the struggle which he has gone through, and then tells her that the victory is complete, that because he saw that she had no defender he has undertaken her defence and trodden Edom under foot for her, we can -,understand something of the power and comfort of such a poetic vision to the Hebrew’s heart. There may have been some special event which it commemorated. Some special danger may have threatened on the side of the tumultuous Edomites, and some special unexpected deliverer may have appeared who saved the country, and was honoured by this song of praise. But every such special deliverance to the deep religious and patriotic feeling of the Jew had a much wider meaning. Every partial mercy to his nation always pointed to the one great mercy which was to embrace all others, to the coming of the Messiah, whose advent was to be the source of every good, and the cure of every evil. And so these words of Isaiah mount to a higher strain than any that could have greeted an Israelite warrior who aright have made a successful incursion into Edomite soil. The prophet is singing of the victorious Messiah. This Hebrew Messiah has come, and is more than the Hebrew Messiah: He is the Christian’s Christ, He is our Saviour. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
Christ’s struggle and triumph
Very often now this sounds strange and incomprehensible; this absorption of every struggle between the good and the evil that is going on in the world into the one great struggle of the life and death of Jesus Christ; but it follows necessarily from any such full idea as we Christians hold of what Jesus Christ is and of what brought Him to this world. If He be really the Son of God, bringing in an utterly new way the power of God to bear on human life; if He be the natural-Creator-King of humanity, come for the salvation of humanity; then it would seem to follow that the work of salvation must be His, and His alone: and if we see the process of salvation, the struggle of the good against the evil, going on all over the world, we shall be ready still to feel that it is all under His auspices and guidance; that the effort of any benighted soul in any darkest heathen land to get away from its sins, and cast itself upon an assured mercy of its God, is part of His great work, is to the full intelligent faith of the well-taught Christian believer just what the struggle of a blind plant underground to reach the surface is to the free aspiration of the oak-tree, which in the full glory of the sunlight reaches out its eager branches toward the glorious sun--a result of the same power, and a contribution to the same victorious success. All forces strive after simplicity and unity. Operations in nature, in mechanics, in chemistry, which men have long treated as going on under a variety of powers, are gradually showing themselves to be the fruits of one great mightier power, which in many various forms of application is able to produce them all. This is the most beautiful development of our modern science. The Christian belief in Christ holds the same thing of the spiritual world, and unites all partial victories everywhere into one great victory which is the triumph of its Lord. On no other ground can Christianity stand with its exclusive claims, and Christianity is in its very nature exclusive. In the susceptibility of all men to the same influences of the highest sort, there comes out the only valuable proof of the unity of the human race, I think. Demonstrate what you may about the diversity of origin or structure of humanity, so long as the soul capable of the great human struggle and the great human helps is in every man, the human race is one, On the other hand, demonstrate as perfectly as you will the identity of origin and structure of all humanity, yet if you find men so spiritually different in two hemispheres that the same largest obligations do not impress and the same largest loves do not soften them, what does your unity of the human race amount to? Here, it seems to me, Christ in His broad appeal to all men of all races, is the true assorter of the only valuable human unity. If this be so, then wherever there is good at work in the world, we Christians may see the progress of the struggle, and rejoice already in the victory of Christ. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
The method of Christ’s salvation
Let us go on and look, as far as we may, into the method of this salvation; first, for the world at large, and then for the single soul. And in both let us follow the story of the old Jewish vision. Who is this that cometh from Edom?” Sin hangs on the borders of goodness everywhere, as just across the narrow Jordan valley Edom always lay threateningly upon the skirts of Palestine. How terribly constant it was! How it kept the people on a strain all the while! The moment that a Jew stepped across the border, the Edomites were on him. The moment a flock or beast of his wandered too far, the enemy had seized him. If in the carelessness of a festival the Israelites left the border unguarded, the hated Edomites found it out and came swooping down just when the mirth ran highest and the sentinels were least careful. If a Jew’s field of wheat was specially rich, the Edomite saw the green signal from his hilltop, and in the morning the field was bare. There was no rest, no safety. They had met the chosen people on their way into the promised land, and tried to keep them out; and now that they were safely in, there they always hovered, wild, implacable, and watchful. There could be no terms of compromise with them. They never slept. They saw the weak point in a moment; they struck it quick as lightning strikes. The constant dread, the nightmare, of Jewish history is this Edom lying there upon the border, like a lion crouched to spring. There cannot be one great fight, or one great war, and then the thing done for ever. It is an endless fight with an undying enemy! Edom upon the borders of Judah!
1. We open any page of human history and what do we see? There is a higher life in man. Imperfect, full of mixture, just like that mottled history of Hebrewdom; yet still it is in human history what Judea was in the old world--the spiritual, the upward, the religious element; something that believes in God and struggles after Him. Not a page can you open but its mark is there. “Sometimes it is an aspiration after civilization, sometimes it is a doctrinal movement, sometimes it is a mystical piety that is developed; sometimes it is social; sometimes it is ascetic and purely individual; sometimes it is a Socrates, sometimes it is a St. Francis, sometimes it is a Luther, sometimes it is a Florence Nightingale. It is there in some shape always: this good among the evil, this power of God among the forces of men, this Judah in the midst of Asia. But always right on its border lies the hostile Edom, watchful, indefatigable, inexorable as the redoubtable old foe of the Jews. If progress falters a moment, the whole mass of obstructive ignorance is rolled upon it. If faith leaves a loophole undefended, the quick eye of Atheism sees it from its watch-tower and hurls its quick strength there, If goodness goes to sleep upon its arms, sleepless wickedness is across the valley, and the fields which it has taken months of toil to sow and ripen are swept off in a night. Is not this the impression of the world, of human life, that you get, whether you open the history of any century or unfold your morning newspaper? The record of a struggling charity is crowded by the story of the prison and the court. The world waits at the church door to catch the worshipper as he comes out. The good work of one century relaxes a moment for a breathing spell, and the next century comes in with its licentiousness or its superstition. Always it is the higher life pressed, watched, haunted by the lower: always it is Judah with Edom at its gates. No one great battle comes to settle it for ever: it is an endless fight with an undying enemy.
2. How is it in these little worlds, which we are carrying about? You have your good, your Spirituality, your better life; something that bears witness of God. How evil crowds you! You cannot fight it out at once and have it done. You go on quietly for days, and think the enemy is dead. Just when you are safest, there he is again, more alive than ever. We live a spiritual life like the life that our fathers used to live here in New England, who always took their guns to church with them and smoothed down the graves of their beloved dead in the churchyard that the hostile and watchful Indians might not know how weak they were. This is the great discouraging burden of our experience of sin. “We look and there is none to help. We wonder that there is none to uphold.” No power of salvation comes out of the good half of the heart to conquer and to kill the bad. We grow not to expect to see the bad half conquered. Every morning we lift up our eyes, and there are the low, black hill-tops across the narrow valley, with the black tents upon their sides, where Edom lies in wait. Who shall deliver us from the bad world and our bad selves? What then? It is time for the sunrise when the night gets as dark as this. It is time for the Saviour when the world and the soul have learnt their helplessness and sin. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength?” The whole work of the Saviour has relation to and issues from the fact of sin. If there had been no sin there would have been no Saviour. He comes from the right direction, and He has an attractive majesty of movement as He first appears. This, as to the watcher on the hill-tops of Judea, so to the soul that longs for some solution of the spiritual problem, some release from the spiritual bondage, is the first aspect of the approaching Christ. He comes from the right way, and He seems strong. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
The righteous Saviour
Let us look at what He says to His anxious questioner; what account of Himself He gives; what He has done to Edom; and especially what mean these blood-stains on His robes.
1. We ask Him, “Who is this?” and He replies, “I that come in righteousness, mighty to save.” That reassures us, and is good at the very outset. The Saviour comes in the strength of righteousness. Righteousness is at the bottom of all things. Any reform or salvation of which the power is righteousness must go down to the very root of the trouble; must extenuate and cover over nothing; must expose and convict completely, in order that it may completely heal. And this is the power of the salvation of Christ. Edom must be destroyed, not parleyed with; sin must be beaten down, not conciliated; good must thrive by the defeat, and not merely by the tolerance of evil.
2. The questioner wonders, as the Saviour comes nearer, at the strange signs of battle and agony upon His robes. “Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat?” And the answer is, “I have trodden the winepress:” “I will tread them in Mine anger,” etc. It is no holiday monarch coming with a bloodless triumph. It has been no pageant of a day, this strife with sin. The robes have trailed in the blood. The sword is dented with conflict. The power of
God has struggled with the enemy and subdued him only in the agony of strife. What pain may mean to the Infinite and Divine, what difficulty may mean to Omnipotence, I cannot tell. Only I know that all that they could mean they meant here. This symbol of the blood bears this great truth, which has been the power of salvation to millions of hearts, and which must make this Conqueror the Saviour of your heart too, the truth that only in self-sacrifice and suffering could even God conquer sin. Sin is never so dreadful as when we see the Saviour with that blood upon His garments. And the Saviour Himself, surely He is never so dear, never wins so utter and so tender a love, as when we see what it has cost Him to save us. Out of that love born of His suffering comes the new impulse after a holy life; and so when we stand at last purified by the power of grateful obedience, it shall be said of us, binding our holiness and escape from our sin close to our Lord’s struggle with sin for us, that we have “washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
3. But He says something more. Not merely He has conquered completely and conquered in suffering: He has conquered alone. He brings out victory in His open hand. From His hand we take it by the power of prayer, and to Him alone we render thanks here and for ever.
4. Yet once more. What was the fruit of this victory over Edom which the Seer of Israel discovered from his mountain-top? It set Israel free from continual harassing and fear, and gave her a chance to develop along the way that God had marked out for her. Freedom! That is the word. It built no cities; it sowed no fields; it only broke off the burden of that hostile presence and bade the chosen nation go free into its destiny. And so what is the fruit of the salvation that the Divine Saviour brings to the souls of men? It does not finish them at once; it does not fill and stock their lives with heavenly richness in a moment. But it does just this. It sets them free; it gives them a new chance.
5. And notice that this Conqueror who comes, comes strong “travelling in the greatness of His strength.” He has not left His might behind Him in the struggle. He is all ready, with the same strength with which He conquered, to enter in and rule and educate the nation He has saved. And so the Saviour has not done all when He has forgiven you. By the same strength of love and patience which saved you upon Calvary, He will come in, if you will let Him, and train your saved life into perfectness of grace and glory. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
Mighty to save
I. THE NATURE OF THE CONFLICT CHRIST WAGED IN OUR WORLD AMONG MEN. It was--
1. Voluntary. Christ came joyfully, willingly, and self-forgetfully.
2. Sanguinary. The victory was not achieved without a severe struggle.
3. Substitutionary. The hero was travelling in his strength, and had wrought deliverance from the foe, had saved those for whom he had gone forth to the fray. So our Redeemer came to conquer sin and death, not for Himself, but for us.
II. THE COMPLETENESS OF THE CONQUEST CHRIST ACHIEVED IN THE CONFLICT. The victor from Edom was more than a conqueror.
1. He survived the fight. Many a warrior has won a victory, but has lost his life in winning it. Jesus laid down His life to conquer death, but He took it up again; “and behold He is alive for evermore.”
2. lie subdued the foe. The hero from Edom was travelling peacefully, for the enemy had been completely vanquished, the conquest finally won of lords.”
III. THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE CROWN CHRIST SECURED BY HIS GREAT CONQUEST. The conqueror from Edom appeared clothed in glorious apparel and in great strength; there was a halo of glory around his head. In this aspect we get a picture of our triumphant Lord. He assumed the vestment of our poor humanity, and was “as a root out of a dry ground;” yet He was clothed with the beautiful garments of grace and righteousness, of spotless purity. His crown of glory consisted in the following facts--
1. That justice was satisfied.
2. That pardon was procured. The full price of redemption was paid.
3. That heaven was opened. (F. W. Brown.)
The second advent
I. The first thing is to determine the just answer to the question, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? in other words, we have to ascertain who IS THE WARRIOR DELINEATED IN THIS PROPHECY.
1. The only endeavour to refer this prediction to another than Christ, appears to be that which would assign as its subject Judas Maccabeus, because this great Jewish captain who did so valiantly for the Jews in the days of Antiochus, overcame the Idumeans in battle; and if every circumstance favoured that interpretation (and we might, perhaps, suppose that this illustrious deliverer, in common with Moses, and Joshua, and other saviours of Israel, may be regarded as a type of the Messiah), still we could only plead for the accommodation, not for the completion of the prophecy. However splendid the achievements of Judas Maccabeus, there can be no sense, commensurate with the expression, in which the chieftain could describe himself as “speaking in righteousness,” and assert that the year of his redeemed was come, or affirm that his own arm had brought salvation: so that were it allowed that the prediction had a primary fulfilment in Judas Maccabeus, we should still have to search for another accomplishment. It seems, however, satisfactorily established that Idumea or Edom at the prophet’s time was a different country from that which Judas conquered. This circumstance excludes Judas Maccabeus from all share in the prophecy before us; and there remains none but the Redeemer of men in whom we can look for its accomplishment.
2. When it is admitted that the prophecy delineates Christ, we have to determine whether it be to an action already achieved or yet to be performed by the Saviour, that so sublime a description refers. It can only have been through inattention or oversight that any have supposed the prediction to relate to the death and passion of the Mediator. You observe that though the Redeemer is introduced as stained with blood, it is with the blood of His enemies, not with His own. There is a little obscurity in the answer arising from our translator having used the future tense instead of the past; and, according to Bishop Lowth, it should be, “I trod them in anger, and trampled them in indignation, and their life blood was sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My apparel.” It was not, therefore, the winepress which He trod in His agony at the crucifixion, whence He brought these dyed garments; He must have been engaged in shedding the blood of others rather than pouring forth His own, ere He breaks forth on the seer’s vision travelling in the greatness of His strength. The only circumstance associated with the first advent of Christ to which the prophecy can be fairly thought to refer, is the destruction of Jerusalem at that terrible visitation in which the Redeemer came down in vengeance, and dealt with His enemies with the strongest retribution. Yet, whatever there might have been in the desolations of Judea answering to the fearful expressions which Christ applies to this act, it certainly was not from Edom and Bozrah that He came, when returning from the overthrow of Jerusalem. Of course it was not from the literal Edom, and the literal Bozrah, but neither was it from the figurative. We believe that Edom and Bozrah are here used to denote nations that have been opposed to Christ and His people, and never was there a fiercer opposition than that of the Jews ere their city was destroyed; still it is quite at variance with the rules of Scripture metaphor, that the posterity of Jacob should be described by terms which belong rightly to the posterity of Esau. We may add that Christ’s description of vengeance taken is immediately followed by thankful acknowledgments of great good to the house of Israel. If the prophecy have reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, how comes it to be instantly succeeded by a hymn of praise for God’s mercy to the Jews? On these various accounts we do not hesitate to assert that the prediction finds no fulfilment in the events of past days; that the future must be charged with its accomplishment, and that the fearful form on which the prophet looked, the form of a warrior, fresh from the victory, must be that of Christ appearing, as He shall appear, at the close of this dispensation, when He has swept a clear scene for setting up His kingdom, and purged the earth from the pollutions of crime. And to those who are familiar with the prophecies which describe the last times, it will immediately suggest itself, that the sudden transition from the assertion of the destruction of antichristian powers, to the offering up of the thanksgiving of the Jews, is in admirable keeping with the whole tenor of prophecy. It seems clearly the import of yet unfulfilled predictions of Scripture, that the restoration of the Jews to their own laud, that great event on which hangs the conversion of the nations, shall not be accomplished without the opposition and overthrow of the confederated powers of antichrist. If, therefore, we consider the final destruction of the antichristian powers as the slaughter of Idumea, from which Christ is returning, it is quite natural that the praises of the house of Israel should immediately succeed the account of the overthrow.
II. Our business is to show THE JUSTICE OF THE INTERPRETATION which would associate the prophecy with the Saviour’s second advent.
1. We shall examine what Scripture makes known with regard to the second advent.
2. We shall endeavour to establish the thorough agreement between all we are thus taught, and the prophecy of ore” text.
(1) This coming is represented as accompanied by terrific judgements. It appears from the Book of Revelation that immediately before the millennium, the scene that is to be introduced by the coming of Christ, there will be a gathering of the kings of the earth to battle for the great day of God Almighty. This is the confederacy of antichristian powers. We not only find that when Christ appears the second time it will be to take vengeance on His enemies, but we seem to be furnished with a thorough answer to the question, “Who is this that cometh from Edom etc.
(2) The only point which seems to need illustration, ere we proceed to fix the meaning of the text, is the use of the terms Edom and Bozrah, to denote the confederated powers of antichrist. It is common in Scripture to take the name belonging to some great foe, and to give it to others whose Isawickedness is the only connection with the parties so called (e.g. 1:10)
. The antichristian power which was allowed for years to persecute and to harass the Church, and is at last to be thrown down with violence, is expressly denominated “Babylon.” In like manner, names such as Edom and Moab, belonging originally to the declared foes of God and His people, are used for others who imitate these foes in their enmity. If you examine the predictions which relate to these nations you will find prophecy, according to the character which it usually presents, passing on from the past to what we must believe yet to come; or, rather, describing the fall of those that first bore the name in language inappropriate, unless designed to apply to others who by their wickedness should deserve the same punishment. So far as Edom and Bozrah are concerned, the expressions are evidently too strong to refer to those places literally; and it is impossible to read them and not see that they relate to a yet future judgment.
(3) As to the text, we must ascertain the period of the judgment it announces. No sooner has Isaiah asserted that the visited land is given up to Christ, as the avenger, than he breaks out into the exclamation, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose;” and proceeds with a glowing account of the Mediator’s kingdom. Hence it will appear evident that the judgments described are those which shall introduce the millennium, the thirty-fifth chapter having reference to this scene of blessedness; and, therefore, the thirty-fourth chapter delivering, as it does, a fearful visitation connected with subsequent happiness, must be expected to coincide with other predictions respecting Christ’s second coming. But why are we anxious to prove that the thirty-fourth chapter of Isaiah predicts the judgment that attends the Redeemer’s advent? Simply because, if this be proved, we shall also prove that by the names Edom and Bozrah are denoted those antichristian powers that shall be destroyed by the brightness of Christ’s coming. In the fifth and sixth verses of the thirty-fourth chapter, it is on Idumea and Bozrah that the prophet fastens the calamity which forms the subject of his prophecy. Idumea and Bozrah denote the antichristian powers who shall be confederated when Christ shall appear. It may be contended that the prophecy was fulfilled in the destruction of the literal Edom. We know that Edom was laid waste by Nebuchadnezzar, but this event in no degree justifies so high-wrought a description. It cannot be without opposition and convulsions that Satan is driven from his usurped dominion. It is from Edom the warrior advances--the land in which dwelt the enemies of righteousness. We know this Mighty Being; we know the work with which He is busied. It is the Redeemer who was crucified in weakness; and who, after a display of marvellous forbearance, shall come forth to avenge His own elect, and destroy them that destroyed the earth. Therefore, we know what answer to give when the prophet demands, “Who is this that cometh from Edom?
(4) We have still to consider the answer in the text, and show its appropriateness as proceeding from Christ at His second appearing. When the prophet asks the name of the being whom he beheld travelling in the greatness of His strength, the reply is, “I that speak in righteous” “This reply is not only characteristic of the Redeemer, but peculiarly appropriate, as the Redeemer returns from the slaughter of His enemies. His actions have just proved Him mighty to destroy, and His words announce Him “mighty to save,” so that He is able to confound every foe, and uphold every friend. “Now it seems to us that in the reply given to the challenge of the prophet, there is a distinct assertion that He who comes with dyed garments from Bozrah maintains those principles of righteousness which cannot be maintained but by an infinite judge. I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. The time at which the answer is made can only be that of Christ’s second appearing. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Christ has achieved salvation
We behold here a new revelation of a blessed and startling fact. People talk of Christ as though He were going to do something grand for us after a while. He has done it. You might as well talk of Washington as though he were going to achieve our national independence in 1950 as to speak of Christ as though He were going to achieve our salvation in the future. He did it in the year of our Lord 33, on the field of Bozrah, the Captain of our salvation fighting unto death for our emancipation. All we have to do is to accept that fact in our heart of hearts, and we are free for this world, and for the world to come. (T. De W. Talmage, D. D.)
I. TAKE THE WORDS OF THE VICTORY WON ON CALVARY, and how they bring home to us the greatness of our need and of our redemption! Nothing short of a Divine interposition could save us. There was an old rule of the poet’s art which a heathen has left on record, which said that in the drama the intervention of a god was not to be made use of by the poet, except on an occasion worthy of it. And in the great drama of the world’s redemption, wrought out in the presence of heaven and earth, God Himself may with all reverence be said to have acted upon this rule. God waited while human systems did what they could for the salvation of the world. God waited through the long ages while Edom--the power of the world--seemed to wax mightier and mightier. Each one of the centuries whichrolled on before the Incarnation only added to the hopelessness and despair of humanity. System after system of philosophy was tried. Each in its turn promised much, but performed little; until at length a dull, blank despair seemed to be settling down upon a decaying and dying world. And then, at length, God Himself intervened. And the work which the Son of God undertook in His infinite pity for man was no holiday task, to be entered upon with a light heart.
II. WE MAY TAKE THE VISION AS RECEIVING A FULFILMENT IN OUR OWN LIVES, whenever in the mercy of God we win a victory over the power of evil around us. There are times when we need some such vision as this to comfort and reassure us in the stress of the conflict. There is the Conqueror from Edom. His blood-stained garments are the pledge of His victory over your foe. And that victory which He won for you on Calvary He will repeat in you, if you will only yield yourself up to Him.
III. BUT THE PROPHECY IS NOT EXHAUSTED YET. Victory after victory may be won; but there are gaps in the ranks of those who have fought; and we have sorrowfully to confess that the power of evil still remains in the world. Foiled in one quarter, it is successful in another. And so it goes on from generation to generation. The heart is made sad and the head grows heavy with the thought that, conquer evil in our own person as we may, yet, after all, it will outlive us. It will give our children after us just the same trouble that it has given to us. Yet, here too there is comfort for us in the vision of the prophet, if we only take in its full meaning, for it points forward to a final victory in the future when the power of evil is to be destroyed. (E. C. S. Gibson. M. A.)
I. THE HERO HERE IS ONE WHO HAD FOUGHT IN THE MIDST OF ENEMIES. What Edom was to Israel, sin is to the universe. Christ fought in the midst of enemies; entered the very heart of this sinful world, battled with evil in all its forms.
II. THE HERO HERE IS ONE WHO HAS BEEN DEEPLY WOUNDED. He returns from Bozrah with dyed garments. Christ was wounded--
1. In HIS body.
2. In HIS reputation. He was represented as a blasphemer, as a political traitor, ,as the emissary of Beelzebub.
3. In His soul. “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, ‘ etc.
III. THE HERO HERE IS ONE RETURNING FROM BATTLE IN GREAT MAGNIFICENCE. “Glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength.” With what magnificence Christ returned from the battle of earth to the scenes of heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
IV. THE HERO HERE IS ONE WHOSE CAREER HAD BEEN DISTINGUISHED BY RIGHTEOUSNESS. “I that speak in righteousness. I, the declarer of righteousness (as some render it). Though a warrior, he had invented no stratagems to deceive, and had violated no rights. Christ was righteous in all His conflicts. He taught righteousness, He practised righteousness, He fought for righteousness, He died for righteousness.
V. THE HERO HERE IS ONE, WHOSE STRENGTH IS MIGHTINESS TO SAVE. His form was the very embodiment of strength; but his strength was not to destroy, but to save. (Homilist.)
1. “I that speak in righteousness.” The very essence and being of Christ is righteousness. But the expression here seems to refer to the fact of His being the incarnate righteousness of God and the imputed righteousness of man. He speaks in our stead. He stands holy in place of our unholiness.
2. “Mighty to save.” The victory was for man. He is mighty to save--
(1) From the vengeance of Divine justice.
(2) From the malignity of Satan.
(3) From the voice of an accusing conscience.
(4) From the power and fear of death. (Homilist.)
No man may punish Christ’s enemies, but Himself
1. We have no authority.
2. We have no prescription, or rules authorized by custom.
3. Persecution does no good.
4. Christians are taught to love their enemies.
5. The certainty of the day of judgment deters good men from persecuting. It is not enough to persecute the enemies of Christ; we are bound by every solemn tie to perform every duty, yea more, every kind office of friendship towards them. (B. Robinson.)
This that is glorious in His apparel
The glory of Christ in His humiliation
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS THE GLORY OF OUR REDEEMER WAS APPARENT EVEN IN HIS SUFFERINGS, and shone through the dark cloud that covered Him in His humiliation.
1. From His ready undertaking of the work of our redemption. There can be little honour to any man in submitting to what he cannot avoid, or doing what he dare not refuse; but the humiliation of Christ was perfectly” voluntary.
2. From the greatness of those sufferings which He endured. A weak person is crushed by a small weight; but he who is able to endure uncommon sufferings shows himself to be possessed of uncommon strength. Our blessed Lord, in His life in this world, endured the greatest and most dreadful sufferings.
(1) His afflictions began early, with His first entrance into the world.
(2) His afflictions were constant, without interruption.
(3) Of the severest kind.
(4) The afflictions of our Lord not only continued, but increased, through His life, till they at last issued in an extraordinary conflict with the powers of darkness, and an immediate subjection to the wrath of a sin-arching God.
3. From the purity of His carriage, and the perfection of His patience.
4. From the end He had in view in His sufferings, and which He so effectually obtained. The glory of God, and the salvation of sinners.
II. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.
1. We are here caned to admire and adore the unsearchable wisdom and unspeakable love of God.
2. The guilt and danger of all who are not reconciled to God.
3. The encouragement of sinners to return to God through Christ.
4. Be is able to uphold the weakest Christian in the midst of the most dangerous temptations, though He often suffers the self-sufficient to fall before His enemies. Wherefore believe in the almighty power of your Redeemer.
5. The comfort of every disconsolate soul. (J. Witherspoon.)
Mighty to save
Might and mercy
Most of our ideas of might are associated with the “terrible majesty of God. E.g the deluge; destruction of the cities of the plain; earthquakes, etc. These show might in connection with judgment. The text directs our thoughts to might in connection with mercy.
I. POWER IN THE WORKING OUT OF THE GREAT REDEMPTIVE PLAN.
1. Typical sacrifices.
2. Prophetic ministry.
3. Christ’s atonement and intercession.
II. POWER IN THE SAVING AGENCY AT WORK IN THE WORLD.
1. The Divine Spirit.
2. The Church of Christ.
III. POWER AS SEEN IN THE LIVES OF THOSE SAVED BY DIVINE MERCY.
1. Their numbers. “A great multitude.”
2. Their characters. Mary Magdalene; Saul of Tarsus; the
Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:11).
IV. POWER IN THE COMPLETION OF THE WORK OF MERCY. Resurrection of body, and eternal union of body and soul in glory. Conclusion:
1. The divine fight of mercy does not render personal effort unnecessary.
2. The fact that the Divine power and mercy are united in seeking our salvation should lead us to immediate and hearty surrender to God. (Julius Brigg.)
Glorious Almightiness of the Redeemer
The Redeemer’s mightiness to save may be seen--
I. IN THE NATURE OF THE EVIL FROM WHICH HE saws. So we measure the success of a physician, a statesman, a warrior. Christ saves from sin, the most malignant disease--from sin, the wildest internal revolt--from sin, the strongest aggressive foe. In this saving work this “Announcer of Righteousness is almighty in atonement and in redemption. He makes a man right with God, right with self, right with the universe.
II. IN THE BIOGRAPHIES OF THOSE HE HAS SAVED. The Christ of the ages has transformed multitudes. His victory on the Cross over the heart of the dying thief is but a pledge and specimen of His victory by the Cross over a million others. Mary, Saul, Augustine, Bunyan, are but conspicuous instances out of a great multitude which no man can number.
III. IN THE WORK HE HAS YET TO ACCOMPLISH. The Divine predictions are, “As I live, the whole earth shall be filled with My glory.” “He must reign,” etc. How vast the work of the Redeemer yet to be done! Its vastness is illustrated in--
1. Individual characters yet to be renewed and perfected. Introspection helps us to understand this.
2. The vast area of human lives to be regenerated. The redemptive work is to girdle the entire globe.
3. The ages through which this work will continue. For such stubborn, widely-extended, and long-enduring sinners, only He can be equal who is “mighty to save.” (U. R. Thomas, B. A.)
A mighty Saviour
I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE WORDS “TO SAVE”? Something more than just delivering penitents from going down to hell. By the words “to save, I understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire, the first spiritual conviction, onward to complete sanctification. All this done of God through Jesus Christ.
II. HOW CAN WE PROVE THAT CHRIST IS “ MIGHTY TO SAVE”? The argument is, that He has done it. We need no other; it were superfluous to add another. He has saved men in the full extent and meaning of the word, which we have endeavoured to explain. The best proof you can ever have of God’s being mighty to save is, that He saved you.
III. WHY IS CHRIST “MIGHTY TO SAVE”?
1. Because of the infinite efficacy of his atoning blood.
2. Because of the omnipotent influence of His Divine Spirit.
IV. WHAT ARE THE INFERENCES TO BE DERIVED FROM THE FACT THAT JESUS CHRIST IS “MIGHTY TO SAVE “?
1. Ministers should preach in faith.
2. There is encouragement for men and women who are praying to God for their friends.
3. Here is encouragement for the seeking sinner. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Omnipotent to save
I. IN THE DIGNITY OF THE NATURE OF CHRIST, AND THE MYSTERIOUS CONSTITUTION OF HIS PERSON WE HAVE THE BEST OF REASONS FOR CONCLUDING THAT HE IS OMNIPOTENT TO SAVE.
II. IN THE TRIUMPH OF CHRIST OVER ALL HIS AND OUR ENEMIES WE HAVE ANOTHER REASON FOR BELIEVING THAT HE IS OMNIPOTENT TO SAVE.
III. IN THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST FROM THE STATE OF THE DEAD WE HAVE ANOTHER REASON TO BELIEVE THAT HE IS OMNIPOTENT TO SAVE.
IV. IN THE EXALTATION OF CHRIST TO GLORY WE HAVE ANOTHER AND A CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT HE IS MIGHTY TO SAVE.
V. IN THE POSITIVE DECLARATIONS OF SCRIPTURE ON THIS SUBJECT, AND IN PLAIN MATTERS OF FACT, IN THESE SCRIPTURES RECORDED, WE HAVE THE MOST INTELLIGIBLE EVIDENCE THAT HE IS MIGHTY TO SAVE.
VI. IN THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE ALL GOOD CHRISTIANS HAVE AN EVIDENCE OF THE FACT THAT CHRIST IS OMNIPOTENT TO SAVE. Conclusion:
1. Let us beware of trusting in any power but that of Christ.
2. Let us rejoice that He is in all points such a Saviour as we require. (W. Craig.)
Christ’s power to save
I. SHOW THAT THIS IS A PREDICTION OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
II. CONSIDER THAT ATTRIBUTE OF THE LORD JESUS TO WHICH THE TEXT REFERS. “Mighty to save.”
III. DRAW SOME PRACTICAL INFERENCES. If Christ is mighty to save--
1. Ministers have the best motives to preach the Gospel with unlimited freedom, energy and zeal.
2. Abundant encouragement is provided even for those who are ready to sink in despair.
3. Whatever disastrous events may come, the Church is secure.
4. If you have experienced His might and His mercy, let it be your uniform aim to show forth His praise both by your lips and by your life. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
I have trodden the winepress alone
The single-handed conquest
THE INTERESTING FIGURE EMPLOYED. “I have trodden the winepress.” This is Jesus speaking after HIS conquest over HIS foes,
1. This denotes the supreme contempt with which the mighty Conqueror regarded the enemies whom He had overcome. It is as if He had said, “I compare My victory over them to nothing but the treading of the winepress.”
2. There is in the figure an intimation of toil and labour; for the fruit of the vine is not bruised without hard work. So the mighty Conqueror, though, in contempt, He says His foes were as nothing but the grapes of the vintage to His might; yet, speaking as a man like unto us, He had something to do to overcome His foes.
3. Moreover, there is an allusion to the staining of the garments.
II. THE GLORIOUS FACT STATED. “I have trodden the winepress.”
III. THE SOLITARY CONQUEROR DESCRIBED. “I have trodden the winepress alone.”
IV. SOME SWEET AND SALUTARY CONSIDERATIONS SUGGESTED BY THIS SUBJECT.
1. The first inference is, there is no winepress of Divine wrath for thee, O believer, to tread.
2. There are winepresses of suffering, although not of punish ment, which thou wilt have to tread. But I want thee to remember that thou wilt; not have to tread these winepresses alone.
3. But since Jesus trod the winepress alone, I beseech you give all things to Him. Alone He suffered; will you not love Him alone? Alone He trod the winepress; will you not serve Him? Alone He purchased your redemption; will you not be His property, and His alone? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The lonely treader
I. JESUS CHRIST WAS ABLE TO TREAD THE WINEPRESS ALONE. This is characteristic of a great man, that he is able to stand alone. It does not follow that a man is great because he stands alone. He may be selfish; and not wishing to be pained by the sorrows of humanity, and not desiring to give his labour and substance for the alleviation of those evils which afflict humanity, he shuts himself off from society. Thus his self-inflicted loneliness will be self-inflicted torture. Greater would be his happiness if he had greater self-denial. The man who stands alone through nervous sensibility is in a measure to be pitied and to be helped. Every rough word strikes like a barbed arrow into the centre of his nature. But it was neither selfishness nor nervous sensibility which caused Jesus Christ to be a lonely man. The Saviour stood alone by reason of the sublime grandeur of His nature. The good man is satisfied from himself, and the Saviour was for Himself all-sufficient. Society was not needful to Him in the sense in which it is needful for other men. But it is when a man has to accomplish some vast enterprise that his power to stand alone is tested. The greatness of John the Baptist was revealed, not when the crowds thronged to his preaching, not when the multitudes flocked to his baptism; but when he was cast into prison, and alone he was left to ponder over the world’s cruel baseness, and the difficulty of reforming sinning men. The greatness of Luther was seen, not when men admired his trenchant exposures of Romish errors, not when the crowds thronged his way and crowded the houses and windows to see him pass; but when he stood before that imposing gathering which held his life in its hands, and said, “Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me. Amen.” Only great men can do the world’s greatest works alone. Now the greatest work of all was that which Jesus Christ accomplished when He trod the winepress alone. Some say that He was only a great Teacher. But it is difficult to utter new truths; and great teachers have found it needful for their success to surround themselves with sympathizing adherents. As a great Teacher Jesus was able to stand alone. The rude world was not ready for His moral lessons, and even His disciples could not appreciate the spirituality of His utterances. But He was more than a great Teacher. He came to give Himself to be the light and the life of men. And in carrying out the mediatorial purpose He was able to stand alone; for the indwelling Divinity imparted sublime power. And we, looking back to His finished work, resting upon it by faith, and deriving from it unspeakable blessings, can triumphantly declare that Jesus Christ was able to tread the winepress alone.
II. JESUS CHRIST WAS WILLING TO TREAD THE WINEPRESS ALONE. The perfectly-constituted and fully-developed man loves society. The great man loves solitude; but he also delights in social pleasures; and, though able to stand alone, may not be willing to do so to the extent that his circumstances demand. Or, again, a man may be able to do some great work for the world’s benefit, but says, “ If there is no one to help, if there is no one with sufficient benevolence to sacrifice himself for the good of humanity, I shall not single-handed undertake the work. Now Jesus Christ did not move through this world as a gloomy recluse, and yet He did not give full play to the social part of His nature, because it was needful for Him to be much in solitude that His Divine mission might be successful.
III. JESUS CHRIST WAS CONSTRAINED TO TREAD THE WINEPRESS ALONE. By the sting of the lash the unwilling slave may be compelled to get into the winepress and tread out the grapes, but no such compulsion could be applied to the Redeemer. He had all power--power over Himself as well as over others; but He kept His power in check. He was compelled by the sweet force of His own great love. And the solitariness of Jesus brings to our view the greatness of His love most vividly.
IV. JESUS CHRIST SORROWED TO TREAD THE WINEPRESS ALONE. He possessed a sympathetic nature, and He would be made sorrowful by the fact that His mission separated Him from the loves and the sympathies of mankind.
V. JESUS CHRIST REJOICED TO TREAD THE WINEPRESS ALONE. There is great joy as well as great sorrow in all spiritual work; and Jesus tasted both in fullest measure. This is the climax of benevolence, that it can rejoice in suffering for the welfare of others. And Jesus rejoiced to tread the winepress alone, for He foresaw the beneficent and widespread results of His labours. The treader-out of grapes is producing a refreshing beverage for society; but Jesus Christ was producing not only a refreshing but a healing and reviving remedy for humanity to the very close of the world’s history. Alone He trod the winepress, but not alone does He drink of the new wine, for He saves men in order that they may participate in the results of His solitary labours. Learn--
1. To each man there is a winepress to tread. We must in a sense tread the winepress the Saviour trod, for we must be crucified together with Christ; we must penitently and believingly recognize the fact that He suffered for our sins. But more than that, each man will have his own winepress to tread. Each man has his own work to do, his own cup of sorrow to drink, his own besetting sin to conquer, his special thorn to endure.
2. This winepress must be trodden alone. We cannot be saved by proxy. Jesus Christ, even in the higher departments of HIS work--work which we cannot do--left us an Example, or indirectly taught us how we are to work. Alone each one must tread the winepress. The great works of life must be done alone. Moral victories must be gained when there are none present to applaud.
3. The blessed results of lonely treading will be diffusive. No man can do faithful soul-work without blessing others as well as himself.
4. The glorious rewards of lonely treading will be publicly bestowed. In a measure it is so in this world. In a complete measure it will be so in that world where rewards are rightly administered. The scholar works alone, but receives his prize in public. The investigator toils in solitude, but publicly his labours are acknowledged. We sow in the tears of solitary working but we reap in the joy of many approvals. The truth commands so few admirers in this world of error that we are often found almost alone in its defence and in its advocacy; but to every faithful defender of truth will Jesus Christ say in the presence of assembled nations, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (W. Burrows, B. A.)
There is always a certain degree of solitariness about a great mind. What is thus true of all great minds must have been, beyond all others, characteristic of the mind of Him who, with all His real humanity, could “think it no robbery to be equal with God.” You who are parents have, I dare say, often felt struck by the reflection, what a world of thoughts, and cares, and anxieties are constantly present to your minds into which your children cannot enter. Perhaps there is no spectacle so exquisitely touching as that which one sometimes witnesses in a house of mourning--the elder members of the family bowed down to the dust by some heavy sorrow, whilst the little children sport around in unconscious playfulness. What children are to the mature-minded man, the rest of mankind were to Jesus. Nay, such an illustration falls far short of conveying to us an adequate representation of the measureless inferiority of all other minds to that mighty, mysterious Spirit that dwelt in the bosom of Jesus. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” “The light shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” He had nothing in common with the spirit of the times in which He lived. His views, principles, motives, associations, object of life, were not those of His own nation, nor of any land or clime on earth: they were drawn from the infinite, the eternal. He moved among a narrow-minded, grovelling, sensual race, breathing a spirit of ineffable purity and holiness. (J. Caird, D. D.)
The solicits of Christ’s sufferings
By this I mean not that they were solitary or peculiar as being propitiatory sufferings, though in this they were indeed distinguished from the sufferings of all other men. Nor do I mean merely that they were sufferings of extraordinary and unexampled severity, though that also is true. But there were connected with the nature of this mysterious Sufferer certain features or conditions which rendered His sorrows such as no other of our race could endure,--certain facts which gave to them, as to His whole history, a character of elevation and awfulness, beyond the range of mere human experience. Amid all the sons and daughters of sorrow that crowd the page of human history, Jesus yet stands forth “the man of sorrows,” - the solitary Sufferer of humanity.
I. ALL HIS SUFFERINGS WERE, LONG ERE THEIR ACTUAL OCCURRENCE, CLEARLY AND FULLY FORESEEN.
II. THEY WERE THE SORROWS OF AN INFINITELY PURE AND PERFECT MIND. As it is the cup that is deepest that can be filled the fullest--as it is the tree that rears its head the highest that feels most the fury of the storm, so it is the soul that is largest and most exalted that is capable of the greatest sorrows. A little, narrow, selfish, uncultured mind is liable to comparatively few troubles. The range alike of its joys and its sorrows is limited and contracted. It presents but a narrow target to the arrows of misfortune, and it escapes uninjured where a broader spirit would be “pierced through with many sorrows.” The insect, in the summer, breeze, brimful of mere animal happiness, is exposed to mere animal privation and pain. Its life is but one long sensation. The little child, again, has fewer capacities of suffering, fewer cares and anxieties, and troubles, than the mature-minded man,-the savage than the civilized being,--the ignorant, unrefined, unreflecting man, than the man of high intellectual and moral culture, of thoughtfulness and refinement Of taste and feeling. It is the great law of life that every advancing power, every improvement, physical, intellectual, moral or spiritual, which a man gains, carries with it, as the necessary penalty, an additional liability, a new degree of exposure to surrounding evils. Turn your thoughts to one who has begun to receive that highest of all culture, the renewing influence of Divine grace,--is it not so that he, too, becomes susceptible, in such a world as this, of pains and sorrows unfelt before? The blind know not the pains of sight, nor the deaf of sound, nor the dead and insensible of living ,and breathing men. And so the quickening touch of God’s Spirit wakes the believer’s soul from a state of moral insensibility and death, to one in which the inner eye can be pained by deformities, and the ear by discords, and the spiritual nature by sicknesses and troubles, of which hitherto it had been all unconscious. But if all this be so, how far beyond all human experience, how far even beyond all human comprehension, must have been the sufferings of the soul of Jesus. Conceive of the sun struck out of yonder heavens, and the world suddenly overwhelmed with the horror of perpetual darkness and cold. Imagine the sustaining providence of God withdrawn from the universe, and everything hurrying to desolation and ruin. But no emblem, no comparison can convey to us but the faintest conception of what it was for God’s dear Son, as if God-deserted, to die.
III. IT WAS THE SORROW OF A CREATOR AMID HIS RUINED WORKS, The feelings of Jesus in beholding and living amidst the moral ruin and degradation of mankind were not those merely of an exquisitely pure and sensitive human spirit: they flowed from a far deeper and more awful source. It was nothing less than the world’s great Creator that, concealed in that humble guise, surveyed and moved for thirty years amidst the ruins of His fairest, noblest work, lying widespread around Him! (Genesis 6:5-6; Luke 19:41-42.) There is a sort of sentimental melancholy which gathers over the mind of one who surveys the scene of some great nation’s bygone glory, now, it may be, strewn, only with wreck of departed, greatness. But surely an emotion of a far deeper kind may well be called forth in the thoughtful mind when contemplating the mournful moral and spiritual degradation of humanity, as contrasted with the glory of its original structure, and the splendours of that destiny for which it was created I Even the body, the mere tabernacle in which the soul resides, a work which only Deity could create, is a work over whose ruin even Deity might mourn. Yet every sick-bed by which Jesus stood, and every sufferer’s cry He heard, and every bier and grave to which His steps were led, were to His eye the ruthless destruction of another and another glorious work of God--the proofs of the triumph of the destroyer over the results of infinite wisdom and skill. But the destruction of the body is insignificant in comparison with the ruin of the soul. Shall we wonder, then, that the Creator of such a work as this--so noble, so deathless, so Divine, should have experienced bitter grief for its ruin? Reflections:
1. All such views of the sufferings of Jesus are most obviously suggestive of gratitude for His marvellous self-devotion on our be if.
2. Is not this subject fraught with a most solemn warning to all who are living in carelessness or indifference to the spiritual interests of themselves and others? What more awful intimation could be conveyed to us of the evil of sin, and of the infatuation of those who are indifferent to its fatal consequences, than in the sorrow of Jesus?
3. Such views of the sufferings of Jesus afford to every penitent soul the strongest encouragement to rely on the Saviour’s love. Your salvation was an object which even at such a fearful cost He was willing to seek; and think you He is less willing to seek it now (J. Caird, D. D.)
The loneliness of Christ in His sufferings
We behold the Redeemer--
I. DESERTED BY HUMAN FRIENDS. No human friends could understand or sympathize in the work of Christ. It is the fate of many men to go through life alone. They may have many relatives, acquaintances, companions, and derive much ,,pleasure from their society; but they may never meet with a truly “kindred spirit. Them are two kinds of loneliness--the isolation of distance and the loneliness of the heart; and the latter is the far more complete and sad of the two. The fisherman, alone at night upon the sea, with no other living being near, no sound but the plashing of the wavelets, no sight but of the occasional struggling of a star through the clouds, may be in spirit at his cottage home upon the beach, and space and time are annihilated, and his heart peopled with many a dear familiar form. But far different is the loneliness of the heart! What solitude is there comparable to the spiritual loneliness of him who, with a soul filled with sadness, finds himself jostled in the midst of a gay and pleasure-seeking crowd? So is it with the man of transcendent goodness or genius. Such a one must, to a greater or less extent, be lonely. This it was which constituted the peculiar bitterness of the trial of Elijah (1 Kings 19:14). It has often been said that the possession of a real and truehearted friend is at once the greatest and the rarest of earthly blessings; such a friend as was Jonathan to David. But if such friendships are rare among men, how utterly impossible was it that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, should find a friend and sympathizer, in the truest sense of those words, among the sons of men. Twelve chosen associates, indeed, He had, but they were utterly incapable, as long as He lived below, even of understanding Him, much less could they enter into, and sympathize with, the great work of His life and death. That work was essentially a lonely one. For--
1. He alone could accomplish our redemption.
2. Christ was alone in His foreknowledge. We often hear those who have passed through some heavy trial say, “ If I had known beforehand what I had to endure, I could not have borne it; I should have sunk under the appalling prospect!” So mercifully has our Heavenly Father, knowing our frame, hidden the things that are to be from our eyes. But there was this ineffable aggravation of the grief of the “Man of sorrows, that, to the suffering of the present, there was superadded the heavier prospect of the future.
3. Then, too, from the Divine purity and loftiness of His soul, Christ suffered far more than any mere man could suffer. The more refined and elevated a man’s nature is, the more sensitive he is apt to he; the keener are his sorrows, and the more ecstatic his joys. But sin, and death its punishment, the whole world’s burden of which rested upon the pure soul of the Redeemer, had for Him a dark and dreadful reality of horror, inconceivable by any of us whose innermost heart has been tainted with the love of sin.
4. Moreover, in another way, the grief of the Lord Jesus Christ in this world was what the sorrow of no mere man could be, the sorrow of the Creator in the midst of His mined works.
5. Yet again, in His power of omniscience He stood “alone.” “He that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow.” If we could discern the secrets of all hearts, if the thoughts and desires of a crowd could be rendered audible to us, how continually should we be overwhelmed with shame and horror. But Christ knew all men.
II. LEFT ALONE BY GOD. When He foretold to the disciples their desertion, He added, “And yet I am not alone, because My Father is with Me.” But in the hour of His deepest agony there was an exception even to that companionship of eternity. Far otherwise has it been with the martyrs of Jesus, and with all His faithful people since, in the “article of death.” Conclusion:
1. Christ “trod the winepress alone” for you. Mourn, therefore, and rejoice.
2. Christ will “tread the winepress alone” again: the winepress of the wrath of God.
3. It is oftentimes the lot of God’s people to be called upon in some degree to “tread the winepress alone.” Daniel had to do so. But remember for your encouragement that, in the highest sense, you never can be alone in the conflict. Your Saviour met the world, the flesh, and the devil alone, that you might never have to wage a single-handed warfare, never be left without a higher Presence in the good fight of faith. (H. E. Nolloth, M. A.)
The solitude of Christ
I. CHRIST WAS ALONE IN THE VIEW HE HAD OF THE WORK HE CAME TO ACCOMPLISH. The people were looking for one thing, and He was labouring for another. Of all earthly beings His mother was, for a long season, the nearest to Him. She cherished in her heart, as amongst her choicest treasures, all the words which both human and angelic prophets had spoken to her. But we get a glimpse of a great gulf between even her and Him. All the sadness involved in this kind of solitude we cannot appreciate. We can only get some faint perceptions of it from illustrations drawn from human experience. We know that if a man have some loving purpose in his heart, and some great plan for achieving it, there is nothing so cheers him as to meet with some one who sees the matter very much as he sees it, and who will listen intelligently and with interest while he sets forth the wisdom of his plan and the worth of his purpose. Think of a Christian man going to a strange shore, where painted savages dwell. He sets his heart and his hands to the work of educating and evangelizing them. When he begins his work, who amongst them can understand what he wants to do? When he wants to feel that another heart beats in harmony with his own, he must turn from man to God. Inquire of him, and he will tell you that this is one of the heaviest trials he has to bear. Christ came from heaven to earth on the grandest errand that wisdom ever designed or mercy ever proposed. He saw this world wandering far away from God, to perish there. He set His heart on bringing back the soul from its wandering to the bosom of Him who made it; but, strange to say, He had suffered, died, come back from the dead, risen again to His native skies, before even His own disciples had clear ideas of why He had clothed Himself in mortal flesh, passed through a baptism of agony, and shed His blood on the Cross.
II. HE WAS ALONE IN HIS BURNING ZEAL FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS WORK. a child sees that his father is very earnest about some matter. He cannot see clearly what it is, still less can he explain it to others, and yet he catches the fire from his father’s heart, and in his little way he is all burning with desire that his father may succeed in that about which he is so zealous. The heart may be quick to sympathize where the head is not wise enough to understand. Not even such help as this did Jesus have when He for us was leading the life of sorrow, when He for us was dying the death of shame. In this matter His own disciples were not much better than the carnal-minded multitude. Do not we too frequently leave the Saviour in the same solitude even now? We know what His desires are concerning us. “This is the will of God, even our sanctification.” But, alas I how often it happens that while He looks and longs for that, our strongest desires and most diligent endeavours tend in another direction; while His Word and Spirit, while His providence and grace, arc striving for our holiness, how often we make some other thing supreme t
III. JESUS WAS ALONE IN HIS THOUGHTS AS TO THE MANNER OF ACCOMPLISHING HIS WORK. There was one thing the Saviour could not make His disciples clearly see--that He had come into the world to die, and that His death was to be the life of the world. This kind of solitude we may make the Saviour to suffer even now. We do in this same way put Him to shame when we think that His will can be done without uplifting His Cross, in the full and frequent setting forth of His atoning death. (C. Vince.)
I. A GENERAL VIEW OF THE PROPHECY, It stands by itself. The general subject of the chapter is the destruction of the enemies of God. The scene is one of surpassing sublimity, as one which tells of a conquering Messiah. Every enemy shall be trampled under foot; but it shall be Christ’s own work, and one in which He will have no helper.
II. THE LESSONS THAT MAY BE GATHERED FROM THIS VIEW OF THE PROPHECY.
1. Christ is alone in His great work, as against all other mediators, all other saviours, all other intercessors, all who, whether as saint, angel, or glorified spirit, should be set up by a false theology to bridge over the infinite gulf between us and God. And therefore the work can be done by none but Christ.
2. The work of Christ is alone-has been supplemented and helped by no human works and services.
3. This repudiation of anything in ourselves that shares in the honour of Christ’s mediation is to be extended to our faith. I believe there are very many persons who would have a holy and jealous shrinking from having a saviour in their works, who do not see how near they may go towards having a saviour in their faith; yet this they do when, as the ground of their justification, they trust on the realized experience of a strong personal confidence, and that because it is strong. The mistake arises from their not perceiving that they must be justified by something out of themselves, and not by anything in themselves--by what Christ has wrought for them, and not by anything which the Spirit may have wrought in them. This thought should be comforting to us under those fluctuations of trust and weakened hold upon the promises which may fall to the lot of every one of us.
4. This is said to exclude from all part or lot in Christ’s work, those frames, feelings, convictions, emotions of the spiritual mind, which too many regard as indispensable to their salvation, and which therefore they do in effect put in Christ’s place. (D. Moore, M. A.)
I. IN HIS PERSONAL UNDERTAKING OF THE WORK OF SALVATION.
II. IN THE DIVINE INCARNATION.
III. IN THE PURITY OF HIS LIFE AND THE CHARACTER OF HIS MINISTRATIONS.
IV. IN HIS SUFFERINGS. YE IN HIS DEATH,
VI. IN HIS INTERCESSORY AND MEDIATORIAL WORK. Conclusion
1. He is the alone Saviour for us.
2. Without faith in Christ there is no salvation.
3. How great the guilt of the rejecter of Christ!
4. How glorious the prospect of the believer in Jesus! (S. D. Phelps.)
I. IT HAS MANY SENSES, INWARD AND OUTWARD.
1. There is what I may call the loneliness of simple solitude. Solitude which is first voluntary, and secondly occasional, is but half solitude. Solitude which we fly to as a rest, and can exchange at will for society which we love, is a widely different thing from that solitude which is either the consequence of bereavement or the punishment of crime; that solitude from which we cannot escape, and which perhaps is associated with bitter or remorseful recollections.
2. There is the loneliness of sorrow. Is not loneliness the prominent feeling in all deep sorrow? Is it not the feeling of loneliness which gives its sting to bereavement?
3. There is the loneliness of a sense of sin. Whatever duties may lie upon us towards other men, in our innermost relation to God we are and must be alone. When the sense of sin is heavy upon us, how incapable is the soul of anything but solitude! And if such be the loneliness of repentance, what must be the loneliness of remorse, which is repentance without God, without Christ, and therefore without hope. If repentance is loneliness, remorse is desolation.
4. There is the loneliness of death.
5. Can we follow the soul one step further, and see it standing in judgement before the throne of God? “Every one shall give account of himself to God.”
II. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS. There are two senses at least in which you ought to practise the being alone.
1. Being alone in prayer. I do not mean that you must necessarily be in a place by yourselves, in order to pray: if this were essential to prayer, then the poor and the young in most cases could never pray. But I mean that in praying, whether by yourselves (which is, no doubt, a great advantage) or in the presence of others, you should try to shut out the recollection of any other presence than that of God.
2. If you are to die alone, and if you are to be judged alone, be not afraid also to think alone, and, if necessary, to act alone.
3. If the view of life thus presented seem to any one to be fiat and dreary, let him remember that, though we must pray alone, and judge alone, and sometimes act alone, and certainly die alone, and be judged alone, yet there is a reality of sympathy still, which we may find and rejoice in if we will. It is a sympathy independent of sight and word, secret yet real, unchangeable and eternal. Sympathy with Him who so loved that He died for us, and who is the same yesterday and to-day and for ever. Sympathy with Him, and with God through Him, exercised by the intervention of the Holy Spirit. This is the Divine aspect of Christian sympathy. But there is a human side also. (Dean Vaughan.)
Every one of us probably takes the same impression from those words. What is the figure they summon up before us all? Probably that of a man left to solitary toil, deserted but not faithless, having a heavy burden to bear, and bearing it uncheered by social sympathy,--a hard and bitter work to do, yet nobly doing it alone. From this image our minds pass unconsciously over to the solitude of our spiritual strifes and reward sufferings. We instantly and universally recognize in Him who “trod the winepress alone a representative of all our internal work. For a religious purpose, and as a part of God’s spiritual discipline with us, our deepest experiences must be passed through in solitude. We must suffer alone, we must get wisdom alone, we must be renewed in the inmost spirit of our minds alone, we must resist temptation alone, we must meditate alone and pray alone, and we must pass through the valley of the shadow of death alone. It was a distorted perception of that truth that gave what value they had to the old systems of monasticism, or religious retirement. These ancient practices our modern times have, for the most part, reversed. If a man is much alone now, it must be rather by a direct effort to that end than by popular habits. Some such effort will be salutary to his virtue. Social habits may soften asperities, but it needs solitude to settle our principles. Social habits may make us good-natured, but to get certainty for our ideas, or assurance for our faith, we must be alone. The friction of society may smooth down individual peculiarities, but there are such things as a smoothness that is insipid, and a compliance that is so accommodating as to be cowardly. If constant intercourse with others neutralizes our prejudices, it may also undermine our simplicity, coax our kindly sentiments into vicious compromises, and tempt our integrity out of its self-possession into disgraceful bargains. If we learn amiability in the mixed company, so we do learn what staunch and steadfast convictions are by standing alone. If we form delightful connections in the one, so do we gain the nobler faculty of thinking, acting, believing for ourselves, in the other. At a period when the activities of associate enterprise threaten Christian individuality with so many perils, among customs where majorities take the place of single-headed tyrants, and the bribe of promotion bewilders the clear-sightedness of faith--let us look to our integrity. I do not forget the obvious arguments for association, nor the often quoted benefits of a union of minds. Let them stand for their undoubted worth. It is clear that Christian faith wins some of its noblest victories only in social revivals. But let it be also remembered that a concentration of the individual will upon its own chosen purpose, such as a man never gets except by isolating himself, is a matter of as much moment to the success of every good interest in the world as the contact of numbers. Who would not prize more highly the solemn determination of a single independent mind,-taken and weighed and perfected in solitude, unswayed by public dictation, and incorrupt from the hot breath of crowds, than the longest subscription-list to a set of written or concocted measures, or the enthusiastic “resolutions” of the loudest caucus? Let it be further remembered, that if combinations of masses are promotive of good causes, they are also mighty facilities for bad ones. This truth may enter more readily if we remember that the higher intellectual qualities--those that are more intimately related to the moral, and thus have the largest agency in forming character--depend on solitude for their most successful cultivation. Judgment, imagination, clearness and consistency of thought, breadth of vision, whatever constitutes the originality and natural force of the mind--these are all nurtured in lonely studies. So, emphatically, of those best persons, who by the combined weight of intellectual and moral attributes have been the signal reformers or builders of institutions. Affecting society far and wide, they did not gather their best power in social resorts, but alone with heaven. Paul, three years in Arabia; Luther, in his cell; Alfred, in the Island of Nobles. Mohammed, Columbus, Washington--their youth was apart from men; their career was baptized and initiated in the air of retirement. And of the great Lord of all, the Divine ministry to the world must begin with forty days in the wilderness. If being alone is tributary to intellectual greatness, it is still more so to the proper symmetry and health of the moral principles. Still more strictly does this rule hold of the deeper emotions. The loftiest of all our possible emotions is religious reverence, expressing itself in worship, or prayer. Nature has herself given a broad hint of this truth, in making it absolutely impossible for us to express to any mortal the deepest feeling. Impatience of solitude is a bad religious sign. Whoever dreads to be alone has reason to dread the hereafter. If he is afraid of being left to himself, how shall he dare to meet the searching of his Judge? Something must have gone terribly wrong with us, if we are afraid to be shut up with none but God. This is demanded from us in mere fidelity to Truth herself; for when we begin to esteem her for the multitudes she fascinates, when we begin to count up her adherents and ask whether she draws large audiences, we have already broken from the true loyalty. Next to the sordidness of wedding Truth to her dowry, which Stillingfleet satirizes, is that of choosing her because all the world admires her. A Christian loneliness, the solitude that has Christ in it, renews man’s strength. Human suffering, in all its forms, is solitary. (F. D. Huntington, D. D.)
Duty pertains to the individual
In the responsibilities of life we must tread the winepress alone. Duty is, in the last resort, to be determined by the individual conscience, and to his own Master must each one stand or fall. (A. P. Peabody.)
The soul’s solitude
What are the appointed resources for this spiritual loneliness?
1. Christian fellowship. We are one in Christ. Our fellowship is with Him, and through Him with one another.
2. Direct communion with Christ.
3. We are not alone, for the Father is with us.
4. More intimate union than we can enjoy here is reserved for us in heaven: Shall not this hope bring us into nearer and happier fellowship even here? (A. P. Peabody.)
Christ’s solitariness in the work of atonement
Look at the ancient institution of the annual day of atonement. On other occasions inferior priests slaughtered the animals and prepared the offering. But upon this anniversary, the high priest alone officiated. And all the drudgery, clear down to the lighting of the lamps and the kindling of fire for incense, a long work of preparation, requiring sometimes more than two weeks to complete it, so the Rabbins tell us, was undertaken by him. That day was a day of days to him. He was to put aside his jewelled mitre, and wear none of the so-called “golden garments;” even his shining breastplate of precious stones had to be relinquished, his ephod and his bells. Clad in simple linen, a linen girdle, a linen coat, a linen mitre, he alone entered the Holy of holies, he alone laid the victim on the coals, and he alone led the people’s scapegoat away into the wilderness. All this was typical of the solitary errand of our Lord Jesus Christ. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Christ’s solitariness in death
Did you ever ponder the pertinency of the fact that none among all the disciples of our Lord, not one o fall the adherents who followed Him, was permitted to die with Him? He was condemned as a rebel; yet not a single man or woman who succoured Him, or sustained Him, in that so-called insurrection, suffered for it. A few of His friends talked about it; one of them said outright on a conspicuous occasion, “Let us go and die with Him;” but none of them ever did. The meaning of this is very plain. It was an infinitely wise precaution against mistake. It would, without a doubt, have misled some feeble minds if, by any accidental confusion, another name had been coupled with His in the dying hour on the cross. It was just as well that all those disciples forsook Him and fled. One Priest, one Lamb, was all that was needed. (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)
For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart
“The day of vengeance"
“The day of vengeance," announced in Isaiah 61:2.
“Is in Mine heart,” i.e in My purpose. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The Redeemer’s vengeance upon the grand enemy of the redeemed
These words are a material repetition of the first promise (Genesis 3:15). We have here--
1. The designation of God’s remnant of mankind--sinners. “My redeemed.” They are Mine by election, Mine by My Father’s donation, Mine by the purchase of My blood, and they are to be Mine by conquest.
2. The deep resentment that the glorious Redeemer has of the quarrel of the redeemed. “The day of vengeance is mine heart.”
3. The stated time for the deliverance of the redeemed. “The day. “The year.”
4. The Redeemer’s satisfaction with the view of all this. He speaks of it with a particular air of joy and triumph. (E. Erskine.)
The annals of redeeming love
I. THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS REDEEMER. He is--
1. A chosen Redeemer. “Mine elect.”
2. A mighty Redeemer. “Mighty to save.”
3. A Redeemer of great authority. “The government shall be upon His shoulder.’ “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.”
4. A wealthy Redeemer.
5. An incomparable Redeemer.
6. A resolute and courageous Redeemer.
II. THE REDEEMED.
III. THE YEAR OF THE REDEEMED. There is--
1. The year of purposed redemption. With respect to this year Christ is called “a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
2. The year of purchased redemption. This year the great God was incarnate; the great Lawgiver voluntarily subjected Himself to His own law; God blessed for ever was made a curse; everlasting righteousness was brought in; God actually laid the foundation of a throne of grace, in justice and judgment, etc.
3. The year of exhibited redemption. The year of a Gospel-dispensation among a people.
4. The year of applied redemption; under which may be comprehended the whole period of time from the soul’s conversion unto the day of death.
5. The year of consummate redemption. This is a year which never, never ends.
IV. THE YEAR OF THE REDEEMED, THE JOY OF THE REDEEMER’S HEART.
V. APPLICATION. (E. Erskine.)
The Redeemer’s vengeance
I. WHO IS THE GRAND ENEMY THAT THE GLORIOUS REDEEMER HAS IN HIS VIEW? Satan.
II. THE GROUND OF THE QUARREL THAT OUR REDEEMER HATH AGAINST THIS ENEMY. What injury hath Satan done to the redeemed? He hath deceived them; he defaced the image of God; he made them liable to the curse of the law; he made them his own slaves.
III. WHAT VENGEANCE IS IT THAT OUR REDEEMER TAKES UPON THIS ENEMY OF THE REDEEMED? A bruising of his head (Genesis 3:15). A judging of the devil (John 16:11). A destroying of the devil (Hebrews 2:14). A spoiling of principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15). Our glorious Redeemer--
1. Invades Satan’s usurped kingdom and government, which he had established in this world. Satan is called “the god of this world.’
2. Out-shoots the devil in his own bow--takes this wise spirit in his own craftiness.
3. Condemns sin, the first-born of the devil.
4. Wrests the keys of death and hell out of the devil’s hand.
5. Lays a heavy chain upon the roaring enemy.
6. Takes those who were his slaves from under his power, and arms them with His truth, whereby they make war against him, under Christ as their Leader and Commander.
7. Makes a spectacle of him and all his legions (Colossians 2:15).
8. Makes a road between heaven and earth, by His ascension, through the very territories of the devil, who is called “the prince of the power of the air.
9. Will, at the last day, make the poor believer, who was once under his power, and whom he many times harassed with his fiery darts, to judge and condemn him. “Know ye not that the saints shall judge angels?”
10. Burns his galleries, where he has walked up and down. “The earth . . . shall be burned up.”
IV. THE STATED TIME OF VENGEANCE, here called a “day.”
1. There are some seasons of His taking vengeance upon him in his own person.
(1) Upon the back of his first sin, when that proud spirit, swelled with ambition, attempted the throne of heaven, the Son of God, armed with His Father’s power, turned Him and His apostate legions down from heaven to hell (2 Peter 2:4).
(2) The day of Christ’s incarnation.
(3) Of Christ’s death.
(4) The last judgment.
2. When Christ is avenged upon this enemy in the redeemed.
(1) The day of conversion.
(2) The day of believing.
(3) The renewed actings of faith under strong temptation.
(4) The day of special nearness to God in His ordinances.
(5) When the Redeemer brings multitudes of souls to yield themselves unto His obedience.
(6) When an honourable testimony is given for Christ in a Church against errors and blasphemies that the devil and his emissaries have vented, to the darkening of the Redeemer’s glory.
(7) The day of death, when the poor believer is guarded to glory through his principality.
V. WHY THIS DAY OF VENGEANCE IS SAID TO BE IN THE REDEEMER’S HEART.
1. He had firmly purposed it.
2. The thoughts of it were a delight to Him.
3. He had not forgotten the quarrel he had with Satan and his works.
4. The stated time of final vengeance lay as a secret in His own breast.
V. APPLICATION. (E. Erskine.)
The year of my redeemed is come
The “year” of redemption
A rendering preferred by many authorities is, “the year of My redemption:” the plural being taken as expressing the abstract idea, in accordance with a common Hebrew usage. The year of redemption, is the same as the year of Jehovah’s favour in Isaiah 61:2; it is the time of Israel’s victory and salvation, a year that has no end. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The year of the redeemed
I. THE PERIOD FORETOLD. The word “year,” in such connections as this, is to be interpreted in a general sense as applying to a lengthened period of time. “The year of the redeemed may not mean so much the year when Christ died, in order to redeem them, as the period when He should begin to win the victories of His grace among them; the period when He should be “lifted up” by the preaching of the Gospel, and “draw all men unto Him;” the period when the sign of the Son of Man, in the preaching of Christ and of Him crucified, should be visible in the ecclesiastical world, represented in the everlasting prophecy as heaven, and when by the preaching of a crucified Saviour, sinners, numerous as on the day of Pentecost and in succeeding times, should be won from darkness to light, and translated from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
II. THE CERTAINTY OF ITS ARRIVAL. God has decreed it, and all its glories must be realized. It may be said to be come in the distinct and positive revelations of prophecy. In the prophecies of God, the decrees of God are unfolded. (W. H. Cooper.)
And I looked, and there was none to help
Man’s extremity the Divine opportunity
The doctrine of the text is, that salvation, of every kind and every degree, is from the Lord.
I. THIS POINTS OUT TO US THAT ALL MEN ARE IN A MISERABLE CONDITION. Why should man need salvation? He is lost.
II. THE TEXT IMPLIES THE INTERPOSITION OF GOD. The Speaker is the great Messiah, and He speaks in righteousness. There are difficulties in the way of a sinner’s recovery which none can remove but God. “The righteousness by faith” is accompanied by the power of God, and this alone can save the soul.
1. This shows God’s knowledge of the dreadful condition of the sinner. He lays help on One mighty to save.
2. It bespeaks His forbearance (Romans 3:25-26).
3. It implies the impossibility of man’s being saved but by a Divine arm; and the all-sufficiency of God to save sinners, however deeply sunk in sin, misery,” and guilt.”
4. Here is the language of,, triumph, as though God delighted in this work of saving sinners: “Mine own arm, etc. He had a sufficiency of wisdom to devise the plan; a fulness of merit to justify, of the Spirit to sanctify, of mercy to pity, and of grace that should abound, in the sinner’s pardon, and in the purity and peace of his conscience.
III. THE ADVANTAGES OF THIS SALVATION.
1. The full character of God is displayed. Here I see God to be just and wise in pardoning the sin He punishes, and showing His abhor fence of the sin He forgives.
2. Salvation is secured to every believer.
3. This secures all the glory to God.
4. It is the most encouraging that could have been devised.
5. It binds the strongest obligation on us. If saved without any power or merit of my own, what shall I render for such a salvation to such a sinner (J. Cooke.)
I will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord
God’s redemptive triumph evoking thanksgiving, prayer and confession
The dialogue ended, the prophet’s tone changes.
In the assurance that the redemption, guaranteed by Jehovah’s triumph, will be wrought out, he supplies faithful Israel with a hymn of thanksgiving, supplication and confession, expressive of the frame of mind worthy to receive it (Isaiah 63:7-19; Isaiah 64:1-12). In a stream of surpassing pathos and beauty the prophet, as it were, “leads the devotions (Cheyne) of his nation, and lends words by his eloquence to their repentance. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
A chastened piety
The passage (Isaiah 63:7-19; Isaiah 64:1-12) is one of themost instructive of Old Testament prayers, and deserves careful study as an expression of the chastened and tremulous type of piety begotten in the sorrows of the Exile. So far as the ideas of the passage are concerned, it might have been composed at any time from the Exile downwards. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The tender mercies of God
To discover the heights or to fathom the depths of this grace, exceeds the power of men or angels; yet the view perhaps may be enlightened by some of the following reflections.
1. In purposing and planning the grit work of redemption, the Eternal Mind was self-moved, uncounselled, unsolicited.
2. This love was wholly disinterested, having no-reward in view but the pleasure of doing good.
3. This love is still more sublimely considered as acting towards inferiors.
4. Redeeming love is still more wonderful as exercised towards enemies.
5. This love appears altogether astonishing when we consider the greatness of the sacrifice it made.
6. The extent of redeeming love further appears in the magnitude of the blessings which it intended for a ruined race.
7. This mercy is heightened by the fact that the Saviour is so necessary, reasonable and all-sufficient.
8. This mercy is still further heightened by the patience and condescending tenderness which He exercises towards His people. He calls them His friends, His brethren, His children, His spouse, the members of His body, the apple of His eye.
9. This wondrous mercy is further expressed in the gift of Sabbaths and sacraments, and especially the written Word.
10. Fresh evidence of this love springs up at every review of God’s past providence towards the Church.
11. All these are the more affecting as being marks of distinguishing love.
12. The grace of God appears still greater as being abundant. (E. Griffin.)
A song concerning loving kindnesses
I. THE MERCIES TO BE MENTIONED. A complete summary we cannot give, for who can count the sands of the sea or the stars of the sky?
1. The list commences with special electing love. In the Hebrew the eighth verse runs, “For He said, they only are My people.”
2. Pass on to the next sweet token of Divine lovingkindness which is found in the Fatherly confidence which the Lord has manifested towards His people. “Children that will not lie. ‘
3. His great sympathy with us. “In all their affliction He was affected (Isaiah 63:9).
4. His intimate intercourse with us. “The Angel of His presence saved them.”
5. The gracious interpositions of God on behalf of His people. “In His love and in His pity He redeemed them.”
6. God provided for, led, protected and upheld His people by a wondrous special providence while they were in the wilderness. “He bare them,” etc. (Isaiah 63:9).
7. The prophet further goes on to mention the Lord’s chastening. It is to be sorrowed over that we need chastening, but God is to be praised that He does not withhold it from us (Isaiah 63:10).
8. The next thing the prophet sings about is God’s faithfulness, for though He did smite His people, yet in a very short time we find that “He remembered the days of old,” etc. (Isaiah 63:11-13). We will close this catalogue with one more choice mercy, for the prophet tells us of God’s giving His people rest after all (Isaiah 63:14).
II. CERTAIN POINTS WORTHY OF SPECIAL MENTION.
1. Whatever has been bestowed upon us by God reveals His lovingkindness.
2. The consequent praise which is due to God on account of this.
3. The uniform nature of all God’s dealings with us. “According to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us.” Let us praise Him according to all that the
Lord hath bestowed upon us, blessing Him for bitters and sweets, for blacks and whites, for storms and calms.
4. The grandeur of the goodness which is shown in every mercy. “The great goodness toward the house of Israel.” Ingratitude makes little of much, but gratitude sees much in little.
5. We ought to take peculiar note in our song of the condescending tenderness and pity of God, for such is the force of the next expression, “which He hath bestowed on them according to His mercies,”--a clearer rendering would be, “according to His compassion.”
6. One other special note demands to be heard, and that is the multitudinous displays of His love. “According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses,” of all shapes, and at all times, and in all ways, and from all points of the compass.
III. PRACTICAL REASONS WHY WE SHOULD THUS MENTION THE LOVINGKINDNESSES OF THE LORD.
1. That we may have pleas in prayer. This is the best way of praying: “Lord, Thou hast done this for Thy servant, Thou hast done that for Thy servant, therefore I beseech Thee do more. This is not after the manner of men, for when we once relieve a man’s necessities we say to him, “Do not come again;” but every gift which God gives is an invitation to come again, and the best way in which we can show our gratitude is to seek for further gifts.
2. These memories will act as stays to your faith.
3. They will minister to your present comfort.
4. The thought of all this would make us love God more, and obey Him better.
5. To mention the Lord’s goodness enables us to cheer others, for we do not know who may be standing by.
6. It will glorify Him, and this should always be your master motive. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
A rinsed mouth
The Lord rinse your mouths out if you have a bitter way of talking about other people, or about His providence, and lead you henceforth to glory in His holy name.(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Children that will not lie
Sincerity toward God
The Christian exemplifying the power of truth in his renewed nature, and in all the engagements and relations of life, is a phenomenon--a miracle of grace.
A Christian Church, consisting of believers adorning, in all things, the doctrine of God our Saviour, are men “wondered at. Yet, peculiar or eccentric as the course of such men may be deemed in the world, it is evident, from Scripture, that the people of God are expected to render practical homage to the truth no less habitual and profound.
I. THEIR REGARD FOR TRUTH. “Children that will not lie.
1. They estimate truth at its proper value. Buy the truth, but sell it not. Divine truth--the truth as it is in Jesus--is the greatest treasure our world contains. The full possession of this treasure cannot be secured with diligence and care. “Search the Scriptures.” “Prove all things.” “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding. Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.” Yet no man ever reached a full and abiding conviction of Divine truth by a mere process of investigation. No one will ever come to the light until he feels that he is walking in darkness. No one will ever find the truth until he feels that he has everything to learn in order to life and salvation, and that Christ alone can teach him. “All Thy children shall be taught of the Lord.”
2. When truth is sought from this Divine source it will be cordially welcomed.
3. They are concerned for the preservation of the truth in themselves. Not in the letter only, but in its spirit and power. The truth may be held in unrighteousness. The Gospel itself may become the savour of death unto death. What solemn words are “those of Christ, “If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
4. They bear a distinct and consistent testimony for the truth. What we feel deeply we shall speak freely. We believe, said the apostle, and therefore speak.
5. If the truth be so valued, received, obeyed, and testified, it will exert a practical influence in all the relative duties and circumstances of life.
II. HOW FAR IS THIS THOROUGH TRUTHFULNESS DISTINCTIVE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD?
1. Sincerity toward God--faith unfeigned--brings with it the conviction that the subjects of it are His people. They have the witness within themselves. They are the children of light. They that have known the truth in its power can say, “The truth dwelleth in us, and shall be in us for ever.”
2. Their relation to God is made manifest to others.
3. Such sincere and faithful men have the strength of the people of God. If you would find the strongest men in the world’s history you must not look for them in camps, in senates, or in palaces, but in dungeons, in exile, or at the stake. It was not Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon, or Wellington that affected the greatest changes in the world, but men who were made witnesses for the truth. “Ye are strong, for the Word of God abideth in you; and ye have overcome the wicked one.” The spirit of faith alone is invincible.
4. Those who are faithful to the truth have the freedom of God’s people. “I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts.”
5. They have the peace of the people of God and the honour sure to arise from fidelity. (J. Waddington, D. D.)
Fidelity between God and His people
God deals fairly and faithfully with them, and therefore expects they should deal so with Him. (M. Henry.)
“Children that will not lie”
God’s people are children that will not lie, for those that will are not His children, but the devil s. (M. Henry.)
In all their affliction He was afflicted
God not impassive
Just as a man may feel pain, whilst in his own person he is raised above it, so God feels pain without His blessedness suffering hurt; and so He felt His people’s suffering; it did not remain unreflected in His own life; it moved Him inwardly.
(F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
“The Angel of His presence”
1. The “Presence” (lit. “Face”) of Jehovah is used elsewhere of His self-manifestation. The fundamental passage is Exodus 33:14-15. But compare also Deuteronomy 4:37; Lamentations 4:16.
2. An “angel of the Presence,” on the other hand, is a figure elsewhere unknown to the Old Testament: the phrase would seem to be “a confusion of two forms of expression, incident to a midway stage of revelation” (Cheyne).
3. The “Face” of Jehovah, however, is not (as the LXX inferred) just the same as Jehovah Himself in person. It is rather a name for His highest sensible manifestation, and hardly differs from what is in other places called the Mal’ak Yahveh (Angel of Jehovah). This is shown by the comparison Exodus 33:14 f with Exodus 23:20-23. The verse, therefore, means that it was no ordinary angelic messenger, but the supreme embodiment of Jehovah’s presence that accompanied Israel in the early days. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The Angel in whom Jehovah was seen; who was Jehovah Himself in manifestation. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
Not some one of the “ministering spirits,” nor some one of the angel-princes standing in God’s immediate presence (archangels), but the one whom God makes the medium of His presence in the world for affecting the revelation of Himself in sacred history. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The Angel of His presence
The great majority of men dread affliction more than they dread sin. And yet the two things are related--sometimes as cause and effect and sometimes by more distant connections.
I. AFFLICTIONS MAY BE DIVIDED INTO THREE CLASSES--the physical, the mental, and the emotional. Not that we can ever totally separate these three, but for purposes of consideration it may be practicable to do so.
1. It is very hard to resist a plea from physical disability. It is well that it should be so, for callous indifference to the causes of sorrow and pain found in the lives of others is surely a most unpromising state. Anything which will draw us out of ourselves, and keep us from being self-contained, must surely be, in some sort, a servant of God. Our Lord recognized the physical afflictions of men and entered sympathetically into them.
2. But physical afflictions, though more impressive, are oftentimes more endurable than mental afflictions. Indeed, when we come to the last analysis of the case, we find that the mental region is the region where pain reports itself. If we could totally separate the physical and mental, and keep the mind clear and calm while the body suffered its pains and penalties, affliction would be a very different matter from what it now is. Only that then physical affliction would lose its meaning and purpose, for everything physical is for the sake of the mental. But there are mental sufferings which do not report themselves in physical manifestations. The mind is often so tried with doubt and debate--so cast down by its own inability and decrepitude--that it is in a constant state of unrest, and no report thereof is made in the physical frame--no report anyway of such a nature that all can read it.
3. But back of the intellectual department of the mind is that other profounder realm covered by the word “emotional.” This emotional region is the strangest and strongest of all. It is the realm of love, of joy, of peace--or of hatred, joylessness, discord. Without our emotions we should be not men and women, but stones, or at best animals. Our emotions gather around persons, places, objects, and these become to us of such transcendent worth that all the world seems poor in comparison with them.
II. When we think of these things, HOW WONDROUS, HOW TERRIBLE DOES THIS NATURE OF OURS SEEM! We become afraid of ourselves. To be owners of ourselves seems too great a responsibility. Does it not seem to us that the Creator, in giving us this nature, has taken upon Himself a responsibility so great and so fearful that none but Himself could bear it? We ask ourselves, in amazement, what must His own nature be?
III. Is not this the revelation made by the prophet, that WE ARE NOT ALONE IN OUR AFFLICTIONS.
As it was with the Israelites, so is it with all the Spiritual Israel; for they and we are not unlike.
“In all their affliction He was afflicted.
” He! Who? The Deliverer.
The One who identified Himself with them.
And His nature has not changed.
We assume that Deity cannot suffer, but we do not know it.
We suppose that Deity means perfection--impassive perfection. But is impassivity perfection? May there not be suffering which has in it more of perfection than imperfection, suffering which does not arise from sin, or from weakness, or from anything outside perfection
V. Anyway, Jesus Christ has come between us and naked, unknowable Deity; He has united in some way the human and the Divine. And He is, in some mysterious manner, identified with us; and in all our afflictions He is afflicted, and inside all the affliction is “the Angel of His presence” to save us. I can’t tell you what this Angel of the presence means. But cherish faith in these unseen forces and powers--ay, in unseen personal ministries. (R. Thomas, D. D.)
The spheres of compassion
I. GOD’S COMPASSION IN THE SPHERE OF HUMAN SORROW. We must not make too much of human sorrow. There is much else in the life of man. There is the joy of youth and the sober delights of age. Does any man really think that God looks down on all this welter and does not care--and, because He does not care, does not prevent it? God would not prevent it if He could, and He could not if He would. A world such as ours, and without suffering, is not possible to God. It is His sovereign will which has made every law under which we suffer, and His holiness which enforces every penalty. This compassion in the sphere of sorrow has been from the “days of old” long before men had eyes to see it. But it reaches its highest manifestation in the life of Jesus our Lord. God’s compassion is still working in the sphere of human sorrow, in the heart of the ascended Christ. Even now in all your affliction He is afflicted, and the angel of His presence is saving you, not from suffering, but from fall and shame.
II. GOD’S COMPASSION IN THE SPHERE OF SIN. The compassion of God has a greater work to do than to transform suffering, by grace, into nobility and strength. It has to go down into the depths of sin. Though the sin of the world lies behind all our suffering, there is much sorrow that is wholly pure. But when we come to sin, to the bondage of evil habit, the riot of wicked passion, to the indulgence of sloth and vanity and pride, ending in defiance of the Almighty and rebellion against His law, then compassion might well be exhausted. And then, indeed, holiness cannot but condemn, and sovereignty cannot but execute the decree; but compassion finds a way even in the sphere of,, sin, and so the prophet continues,” “m” His” love and in His pity He redeemed them. But the compassion needs no words to make itself known. In the thorns on His brow, in the nails in His hands, in the prayer for human forgiveness, compassion proclaims its victory. This cross of Christ, just because it is so unlike man and is so like God, is the greatest mystery in the world. Whatever be your sin, whatever be your shame, whatever may have been your past lack of faith, come to-day again to the Cross, to find that sovereignty, holiness, and compassion have redeemed you.
III. GOD’S COMPASSION IN THE SPHERE OF HUMAN WEAKNESS. Our human needs are not all supplied when our sufferings are borne with us, and our sins are pardoned. Though we cross our Red Sea, we have still the years of pilgrimage: though we lose our burdens at the Cross, we have still our cross to carry. Though we surrender ourselves to Christ, we have our warfare to accomplish. And who is there among us who knows the frailty of his past, the slips and falls of poor human nature, who does not feel the inspiration of the Word when it completes the revelation: “He bare them and He carried them all the days of old.” There is no one so helpless as a disciple of Christ. Before we came to Christ, we could gird ourselves, and walk whither we would. Now we cannot take a step alone. Only by continually casting ourselves upon Him in our prayers, being led, guided, instructed, strengthened by HIS Spirit; only by clinging to Him in faith does our safety lie. (W. M. Clow, B. D.)
Christ with His people in trouble
We remember an old tale of our boyhood, how poor Robinson Crusoe, wrecked on a foreign strand, rejoiced when he saw the print of a man’s foot. So is it with the Christian in his trouble; he shall not despair in a desolate land, because there is the foot-print of Christ Jesus on all our temptations and troubles. Go on rejoicing, Christian; thou art in an inhabited country; thy Jesus is with thee in all thy afflictions and in all thy woes. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
In His love and in His pity He redeemed them
Discipline by chastisement
“In His love and His pity He redeemed them,” says Isaiah. These sharp and tragic punishments where with God visited His people were part of His redemptive work. God punished in order to redeem. He used the sword in order to deliver His people from the curse and doom of sin. It was “love and pity” that prompted even His terrible judgments. God still sometimes inflicts upon His people great and sore troubles, so that we are tempted to think He has forgotten to be gracious. But in reality it is love that sends the trouble; it is pity that prompts the punishment. “God’s wrath,” somebody has said, “is but His love on fire.” A God who never punished sin would not be a loving God. (J. D. Jones, B. D.)
There can be no government, there can be no Church, save there be discipline. In the natural world we find this law. In the animal kingdom there is ruling and serving. In the vegetable kingdom superior vitality makes the weaker plants give room. Among men we witness this not alone where brute force is displayed and secures mastery. We see it in the intellectual and moral world. Each man has his sphere, his proper position. He must be held in that position, else there is chaos and utter waste--worse than utter waste, of all his power. The work of discipline is to restore and hold man to his proper sphere. We now behold man as fallen. See him in his pristine glory. See him as he falls. Even in his prostration he is not wholly without compensation, for he has gained a knowledge of good and evil. But now the tendency in man, which before was toward God, is downward. We see in fallen man attempts to recover himself a recognition of the necessity of Divine help. In Scripture, more especially, do we find it set forth that God is the Source of that help which can restore man. Here is sovereignty manifested in mercy. Observe the characteristics of this discipline.
I. IT IS JUST.
II. IT IS EQUITABLE (Psalms 85:10).
III. IT IS REMEDIAL--designed, like a righteous, law, for good, not for punishment. -It is paternal, for it brings the wanderer home.
IV. IT IS SPECIAL. It is adapted to each case.
V. IT IS EXHAUSTIVE OF DIVINE HELP. You cannot think of any one thing which God has neglected to do that man might be saved.
VI. IT EXHAUSTS THE GREATEST EFFORTS OF THE HUMAN SOUL. Take away the beneficial effect of this Divine discipline, and the human soul sinks in anarchy and woe for evermore. Rightly improved, it lifts man to more than his pristine glory. (N. H. Schenck, D. D.)
But they rebelled, and vexed His holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
Except here and in Isaiah 63:11 and Psalms 2:11 the predicate “holy” is never in the Old Testament used of the Spirit of Jehovah.
It is, perhaps, impossible to determine the exact connotation of the word in this connection. It cannot be accidental that in all three cases the holy Spirit is a principle of religious life; hence the phrase hardly signifies so little as merely “His Divine Spirit’; as Jehovah’s “holy arm’ may mean no more than His Divine arm. Nor is it likely that it describes the Spirit as the influence that imparts to Israel the quality of holiness, i.e separateness from other nations, and consecration to Jehovah. The idea rather is that the Spirit is holy in the same sense as Jehovah Himself is holy--a principle which is both pure and inviolable, which resents and draws back from the contact of human impurity and especially of wilful opposition. This Spirit is a national endowment, residing in the community (verse 11); it is the Spirit of prophecy, resting on Moses, but manifesting its presence also through other organs of revelation Deuteronomy 34:9; Numbers 11:25 ft.). Hence it is said to have led the people (verse 14), and to “vex” the Spirit is to resist His guidance by disobeying the Divine word which He inspires. The use of this verb marks the highest degree of personification of the Spirit attained in the Old Testament, preparing the way for the New Testament doctrine concerning Him. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The Holy Spirit
The Spirit of [Jehovah’s] holiness, as an existence capable of feeling, and therefore not a mere force, is distinguished from Him. For as the Angel, who is His countenance, i.e the representation of His nature, is described as a person, both by His name and the mediatorial work of redemption ascribed to Him, so the Spirit of Holiness, i.e holy in Himself and producing holiness (Psalms 143:10) is similarly described by the circumstance that He is grieved, and He can therefore feel grief Ephesians 4:30). Thus Jehovah and the Angel of His countenance and the Spirit of His holiness are distinguished as three existences, in such a way, indeed, that the latter two have their existence from the first; who is the primal ground of the Godhead and of everything Divine. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
Rebellion against God
The pronoun at the beginning is emphatic: they on their part, as opposed to God’s forbearance and long-suffering. (J. A. Alexander.)
The sin and consequence of vexing the Holy Spirit
I. INQUIRE CONCERNING THE EVIL DONE.
1. The nature of it. We are not to understand it as if the blessed Spirit of God was capable of real perturbation or passion. That, common reason will tell us, the Divine nature is not capable of. But yet there is some great thing lies under this expression, which we may conceive of in these two particulars.
(1) His will is really crossed.
(2) He doth apprehend and resent this matter; though without any commotion, or perturbation. He resents it so as not to look upon it as a matter of indifference. This He keeps by Him as the just matter era controversy, which He will manage; and will animadvert upon it in His own time, and when a fit and proper season shall come.
2. The cause of this vexation. We may well understand in the general that sin does so; being in its own nature a direct contrariety to His good, and holy, and acceptable will. But especially rebellion against the Spirit of God is vexatious, which is a higher pitch of sin, and implies a continued course of disobedience. We may understand what sin is more especially vexing to the Spirit of God, if we allow ourselves to consider what the titles and attributes of this Spirit in Scripture are.
(1) The Spirit of God is styled the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). It is therefore very grievous and vexing to this Spirit, to have a light esteem of Divine truth; to be indifferently affected towards it; to have a loose adherence to it; an easiness to part with it; and much more a proneness to oppose it, and run away from it.
(2) The Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29). It is therefore very vexing to this blessed Spirit when that grace, of which it is the Author, and which it is its office and business to convey and apply, or effectually to reveal, is rejected.
(3) The Spirit of faith (2 Corinthians 4:13). When persons continue under the Gospel in obstinate unbelief; and the great things there revealed and discovered to us are but as a tale that is told, or regarded no more than we would regard the word of a child; a most vexing thing to the Spirit of God this must be understood to be.
(4) A Spirit of contrition and repentance (Zechariah 12:10). We cannot conceive a greater vexation to Him than to find hearts hard as rocks and stones, under the dispensation of the everlasting Gospel.
(5) The Spirit of love (2 Timothy 1:7); which is the great principle that disposes and inclines the soul towards God. A cold heart, then, towards God; a heart that is disaffected to Him, that keeps at a distance from Him, that will not be engaged in sweet communion with Him through love, is a most vexing thing to His Spirit.
(6) A Spirit of power and of life (John 6:63; 2 Timothy 1:7). It is a very vexatious thing to this Spirit when any indulge themselves in deadness of heart; when they allow themselves to be formal, lukewarm, and indifferent.
(7) The Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4). Here it is said, “They rebelled and vexed His holy Spirit. Thin is a most vexing thing, when persons professing the Christian name indulge themselves in a liberty to walk at random.
(8) A heavenly Spirit, and the design of all its gracious operations upon souls is to fit them for heaven (2 Corinthians 5:5). A worldly heart, therefore, is a vexation to this Spirit.
(9) A Spirit of prayer (Zechariah 12:10). It is the great business of this Spirit to actuate souls, and to raise them to God, in the way of prayer. It is a very great vexation, therefore, to the Holy Spirit, when persons grow to a prayerless disposition.
(10) A Spirit of sincerity and uprightness; and wherever it obtains, it makes men upright and sincere. Thus it is called the Spirit of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Hypocrisy, therefore, or a deceitful dealing with the blessed God in matters of religion, is a most vexatious thing to his Spirit.
(11) A Spirit of union, peace and meekness, among them that belong to God. Animosities among the people of God are the most vexing things imaginable to the Spirit of God
(12) A Spirit of sobriety and temperance, in opposition to grossly sensual lusts. It is a very vexatious thing to the Spirit of God, when among a people that profess His name, there is a general profusion, and running into vile sensual lusts (Jude 1:19).
II. INQUIRE CONCERNING THE EVIL SUFFERED HEREUPON. Namely, His turning against them so as to become their enemy.
1. The nature of this evil. It is implied that He shall cease doing for such a people as He hath done. Have we vexed[ the Spirit of God? then it is natural to expect that the Spirit of God will retire. Then these words express some positive evils against such persons.
2. Consider how justly this penal evil does ensue in this case.
(1) This is very despiteful dealing, to do that which will vex His very Spirit.
(2) This is a wickedness wherein the most immediate kind of affront is offered unto God.
(3) Sinning so as more directly to vex the Spirit of God, does carry with it a withstanding of the Spirit in that which is its proper office; which is a great aggravation of the wickedness. It is one thing when I withstand a person in a thing which he does casually and by the bye; and another when I withstand him in that which is his stated business.
1. Among a people professing the name of God, the Spirit of God is wont to be at work; and where it is not doing any work, we cannot but suppose it to be thus vexatiously resisted and contended against.
2. Consider whether this may not be much our case and the case of the generality at this time, even thus like the Jews to have vexed the holy Spirit of God, which hath been for a long season dealing with us.
3. Let us be persuaded to hasten the taking up this controversy by humbling and abasing ourselves in the dust before the Lord; for ourselves on our own account, and on the behalf of the generality of those among whom we dwell.
4. Let us apply ourselves particularly and with great earnestness to supplicate the continuance of the Spirit, where it remains breathing in us; and the restoring it, where it had been in any measure restrained. (John Howe, M. A.)
Vexing the Holy Spirit
I. SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH MEN MAY BE SAID TO VEX THE HOLY SPIRIT. This sin is committed--
1. When the all-important office executed by the Spirit in the Church, as sent by Christ to quicken, convert and sanctify the soul, is not duly recognized and honoured.
2. When the means and instruments by which He carries on His work are despised or abused.
3. By the unwarrantable doubts and fears which sometimes depress the minds of the people of God.
4. When any good motions or purposes which He excites in the heart are suppressed, or not followed out.
5. When the grace and energy which He imparts are not actively and faithfully exercised.
II. THE DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCES OF VEXING THE HOLY SPIRIT.
1. One result of the Spirits “turning against” any one would be His withdrawing altogether the instruments and means and opportunities of grace which men have despised or abused; and as they sought not to arrive at the knowledge of the truth, leaving them to perish in the darkness which they have loved.
2. Another thing obviously implied is, HIS ceasing to work and make the means of grace effectual for conviction and conversion. (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)
Then he remembered the days of old
Israel rembering God’s dealings with His people
It is possible that the words “Moses” and “His people” are marginal explanations, the former to “shepherd” and the latter to “he”: “Then he” (Israel) “remembered the days of old, saying, Where is He” (God). . . “with the shepherd of flock” (Moses) . . . “His holy Spirit within it!” (the flock).
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
Where is the Lord?
I. A SACRED, LOVING REMEMBRANCE. The people remembered what God did to them. What was it?
1. He gave them leaders. “Where is He that brought them up out of the sea?” etc. Moses and Aaron, and a band of godly men who were with them, were the leaders of the people, through the sea and through the wilderness. We are apt to think too little of our leaders. First of all we think too much of them. We seem to swing like a pendulum between these two extremes. There have been epochs in history that were prolific of great leaders of the Christian Church. No sooner did Luther give his clarion call, than God seemed to have a bird in every bush; and Calvin, and Farel, and Melancthon, and Zwingle, and many besides joined him in his brave protest against the harlot-church of Rome. The Church remembers those happy days, with earnest longing for their return.
2. God put His Spirit within these shepherds. They would have been nothing without it. A man with God’s Holy Spirit within him, can anybody estimate his worth?
3. Then there was, as a happy memory for the Church, a great manifestation of the Divine power. “That let them by the right hand of Moses.” “The right hand of Moses,” by itself, was no more than your right hand or mine; but when God’s glorious arm worked by the right hand of Moses, the sea divided, and made a way for the hosts of Israel to pass over. What we want to-day is a manifestation of Divine power.
4. Then there came to God’s people a very marvellous deliverance: “That led them,, through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble. Understand by the word “wilderness here, an expansive grassy plain; a place of wild grass and Kerbs, for so it means. And as a horse is led where it is flat and level, and he does not stumble, so were the hosts of Israel led through the Red Sea. God has done so with His Church in all time. Her seas of difficulty have had no difficulty about them.
5. As a blessed ending to their trials, God brought them into a place of rest: “As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord causeth him to rest: so didst Thou lead Thy people. In the desert they rested a good deal; but in Canaan they rested altogether. As the cattle come down from the mountains, where they have been picking up their food, when the plains are fat with grass, and they feed to their full, and lie down and rest, so did God deal with His people. I read it, first, literally as a sketch of Israel’s history; next, as a sketch of the Church a history. The same thing has happened to us as individuals.
II. AN OBJECT CLEARLY SHINING, like the morning star I see, through the text, God’s great motive in working these wonders for His people.
1. It was God who did it all. But then, why had God done all this? Did He do it because of His peoples merits, or numbers, or capacities?
2. God works His great wonders of grace with the high motive of making known to His creatures His own glory, manifesting what He is and who He is, that they may worship Him.
III. AN ANXIOUS INQUIRY, which I find twice over in my text. Believing in what God “has done” and believing that His motive “still” remains” the same, we begin to cry, Where as He that brought them up out of the sea with the she herd of His flock?” etc.
1. This question suggests that there is some faith left. “Where is He?” He is somewhere, Then, He lives.
2. The question implies that some were beginning to seek Him. Where is He?
3. It shows that she has begun to mourn over His absence. I like the reduplicated word. “Where is He? Where is He?” Not, “Where is Moses? Where are the leaders? The fathers, where are they? But where is He that made the fathers? Where is He that sent us Moses and Aaron? Where is He that divided the waters, and led His people safely?” Oh, if He were here! One hour of His glorious arm; just a day of His almighty working, and what should we not see?
4. Where is He, then? Well, He is hidden because of our sins.
5. For your comfort, the next verse (Isaiah 63:15) tells you where He is. He is in heaven. They cannot expel Him from His throne.
6. “Where is He?” Well, He is Himself making an inquiry; for, as some read the whole passage, it is God Himself speaking. He remembered the days of old, Moses and His people; and when He hid Himself, and would not work in wrath, yet He said to Himself, “Where is He that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock?” When God Himself begins to ask where He is and to regret those happier days, something will come of it. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
That led them
God and His people
GOD LEADS HIS PEOPLE BY INSTRUMENTS WHICH HE CHOOSES AND QUALIFIES,
II. HE DEFENDS THEM WITH THE ARM OF HIS POWER.
III. HE REMOVES EVERY DIFFICULTY THAT INTERCEPTS THEIR COURSE.
IV. HE GLORIFIES HIS OWN NAME IN THEIR DELIVERANCE. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
To make Himself an everlasting name
God’s glorious and everlasting name
(with Isaiah 63:14 : “to make Thyself a glorious name “):--Manschief end is to glorify and enjoy God. God’s greatest and highest object is to make to Himself a glorious and an everlasting name. Since God is God it must be so: for He is full of love and kindness to His creatures, and He cannot more fully bless His creatures than by making Himself known to them. Everything that is good, true, holy, excellent, loving, is in God. God may well desire to make to Himself a name--that is to say, to make Himself known--because He is worthy to be known. This knowledge of God is the heaven of the perfect. It is the help of the growing. Men can only get holier and better as they know more of God. It is also the great hope of sinners. If you knew Him better, you would fly to Him. If you understood how gracious He is, you would seek Him. If you could have any idea of His holiness, you would loathe your self-righteousness. If you knew anything of His power, you would not venture to contend with Him. If you knew anything of His grace, you would not hesitate to yield yourself to Him.
I. GOD’S DESIGN HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED. From everlasting He was God most glorious; He existed, but He had as yet no name. For a name is that by which any one is revealed, and until His power called into being the hosts of heaven, God was God alone, and there were none to whom He could be known. Then the angels lifted high His praise in their songs, and bowed low before His throne. In creation His name was manifested and magnified. But our subject is how God has made His name glorious amongst men.
1. The text speaks of God as making to Himself a great and glorious name, in redeeming Israel.
2. As God got to Himself a great name at the Red Sea, He has done much more by the great work of salvation in the gift of Jesus.
3. HIS design has been accomplished in the saints in glory.
II. GOD’S DESIGN IS BEING ACCOMPLISHED. In many ways the grand work is still going forward. God is carrying out His gracious plan. This purpose is being fulfilled--
1. In sparing the provoking.
2. In turning the rebellious to Himself.
3. In forgiving the guilty.
4. In purifying the unholy.
5. In preserving the tempted.
6. In using weak instruments.
7. In doing great things for His people by sending very wonderful seasons of refreshing and reviving to His Church.
III. GOD’S DESIGN IS VERY DELIGHTFUL.
1. Because it hides pride from men.
2. Because it opens a great door for sinners.
3. Because it gives comfort to strugglers.
4. Because it sustains in trying times.
5. Because it answers our chiefest prayers. “Hallowed be Thy name, etc. (C. H Spurgeon.)
Look down from heaven
An appeal to God
GOD’S PEOPLE IN TROUBLE.
II. THEIR RESOURCE.
III. THEIR PLEA. Past interpositions. Past mercies. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. OUR FATHER’S HOUSE.
II. OUR FATHER’S CHARACTER. Strong; tender; compassionate.
III. OUR FATHER’S FAITHFULNESS. Survives our ingratitude; vicissitude; time.
IV. OUR FATHER’S NAME.
3. From everlasting.
V. OUR FATHER’S CLAIMS. Honour; obedience; love. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The habitation of Thy holiness and of Thy glory
Whither did our Lord ascend?
(with Isaiah 6:3, “The whole earth is full of His glory”):--What was the new scene into which our Lord was introduced? He went up into heaven.
1. What is heaven? The place where Almighty God is specially present John 14:2; John 16:28). But is not the Father present everywhere?Psalms 139:7-12; Psalms 139:7-12). What means the being “specially present? Has it any meaning? In the case of men they are present to us, or absent from us; but there is no medium between the two. Presence does not seem to admit of more or less. Either we are here or elsewhere. There are many doctrines of religion, and this is one of them, that can only be apprehended by analogy, or, as the apostle says, “in a glass darkly.” The union of body and soul furnishes in this case a very just analogy. There is no part of the human body in which the soul is not present. I mean by the soul simply the animating principle and the principle of sensation. Every member of the living body is endowed with feeling, or sensibility to pain. But that this sensibility resides not in the mass of matter, but in the soul or life, is, of course, clear from the fact that when death separates body and soul, the body has no longer any feeling. Yet, although the soul pervades the whole body, and resides even in its remotest extremities, it has a special connection with what are called the vital parts. A man may pluck out his right eye, and cut off his right hand, or his right foot, without ceasing to live. Assault the heart, and you assault the seat of life. Surely, then, there can be no objection to affirming as, on the one hand, a general residence of the soul in every member of the body, so, on the other, a special residence of the soul in the heart. There is the figure of the truth of which we are in search. Now, let us elicit the truth from it. No district of this fair, broad universe is without the presence of Almighty God. In that Presence stands the being of everything that is. Yet, although the presence of God in and under all things as their support is unquestionable, arc we, for this reason, to deny His special connection with a certain part of the universe above others? No? The earth is but the remote extremity of creation--the universe has a heart, the special seat, the royal residence of that God who quickens with His presence the entire framework of the world. This place, wherever it is locally situated, is the source of all movement in the world, just as the heart is the source of all movement in the natural body. Heaven! The region in which the hand of God immediately operates without any intervention of secondary causes, the region in which His fiat is issued to the firmament, and the firmament pours forth its rain upon the earth, and the earth yields her fruit to the inhabitants, and the heart of those inhabitants is filled with food and gladness; the region is called heaven. This is the region to which our blessed Lord’s body was carried up on the day of His ascension; and into which, without seeing death, the patriarch Enoch and the Prophet Elijah were translated.
2. In what sense Christ’s people are now with Him in heaven. The apostle intimates that Christians themselves, in their present state of existence, have undergone a similar translation. “God,” says he, “who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace we are saved), and hath raised us up together (mark, hath raised us up together), and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” How can language so strong be substantiated? Just consider prayer--prayer offered in the faith of Christ. It penetrates to these regions of which we have been speaking, and has its effect and operation there. A sublime thought indeed, and one of which we may make good use in stirring up ourselves to prayer I Prayer penetrates to a region beyond the stars, and, in the holy audacity of its enterprise, lays hold of that primary will of God from which proceed, through a long series of intermediate causes, all the movements of the universe. And prayer, if genuine, is the voice of the Christian’s affections, the outpouring of his heart. Hence, because his thoughts are in heaven, his hope in heaven, his affections in heaven; the Saviour, around whom gather all his thoughts, and hopes, and affections, in heaven; because his prayers move in that sphere and touch the spring of God’s will, he himself, according to the spiritual element of his nature, is said to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ.”
3. Consider, that this region is “the habitation of God’s holiness and of His glory.” And here remark a striking and most instructive contrast between the two passages of which my text consists. It is said in the latter of them that “the whole earth is full of God’s glory.” The seraphim say nothing about holiness as witnessed upon the earth. Alas! what could they say? There is no spot upon the earth where an intelligent and devout eye may not see and adore the glory of the Divine Being. But when upon the stage of this earth we look “for judgement, behold oppression; for righteousness, behold a cry.” Holiness, like Noah’s dove upon the water, can find no resting-place for the sole of her foot upon this earth. But heaven is the habitation of God’s holiness, no less than of His glory. Every heart admitted within its precincts is a mirror which gives back the holiness of the Most High, His hatred of sin, His stern and uncompromising righteousness, His exact justice, His fervent and all-embracing love. There shall in no wise enter into the heavenly, “anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
4. Heaven cannot possibly be accessible to any man without a congeniality of mind to its pursuits and employments. A tropical plant cannot possibly thrive in the bleak and raw atmosphere of the North; vegetation generally is blighted and killed by an atmosphere uncongenial to it. And he who loves not praise and thanksgiving, who turns away from the thought of God’s presence as an intrusion on his peace, who regards sin with levity rather than with fear, and freely cherishes any animosity, or worldly or carnal lusts--that man’s sentiments and character, quite irrespective of any Divine decree, must exclude him from the habitation of holiness to which he hath no affinity.
5. Our blessed Lord’s presence in heaven is that which lends to it its great attraction in the eyes of the true Christian. (Dean Goulburn.)
Doubtless Thou art our Father
The Jewish Church a spiritual body
The true sense of the verse, as it appears to me, is that the Church or chosen people, although once, for temporary reasons, co-extensive and coincident with a single race, is not essentially a national organization, but a spiritual body.
The father is not Abraham or Israel, but Jehovah, who is and always has been its Redeemer, who has borne that name from everlasting. (J. A. Alexander.)
God’s fatherly regard for His people
“For Thou art our Father; for Abraham is ignorant of us, and Israel knows us not. Thou, Jehovah, art our Father; from of old our Redeemer is Thy name.” Jehovah is Israel’s Father Isaiah 64:7), i.e begetter (Deuteronomy 32:6); His creative power and loving, merciful purpose called it into existence. The second “for” justifies this confession, that Jehovah is Israel’s Father, and that it can therefore look for fatherly care and help from Him alone; even the dearest and most honourable men, the nation’s progenitors, cannot help it. Abraham and Jacob--Israel--have been taken away from this world, and are unable of themselves to intervene in the history of their people. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The Jewish sense of orphanhood
These words came from the heart of the Jewish people when they felt themselves “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise.” They had wandered from the God of their fathers, and they feel as if their fathers had east them off. If Abraham were to appear on earth, he would not know them; if Jacob were to return, he would not acknowledge them; and what then can they do? They cannot endure life, cannot bear the burden of its sorrows and struggles without a father and a friend. What can they do but pass up beyond men, and seek a father in God? Their heart is an orphan everywhere, else, and is forced to this door of refuge; “Doubtless Thou--Thou art our Father. (J. Ker, D. D.)
The cry of the orphaned heart
It has never died out, and is present still in many a spirit.
I. THE WORDS EXPRESS A DEEP LONGING OF THE HUMAN HEART. With all its folly and frivolity and sin, the heart of man has been made to feel after these words: “Our Father--our Father which art in heaven.” The lower creatures have not this cry, because they have not our wants, our aspirations, or the possibility of our hopes. There are wonderful instincts among them--most wonderful often in the most minute. But what curious microscope ever discovered among them a spire pointing heavenward, or tokens of prayer and praise? The magnet which is passed over the earth to draw things upward finds nothing in this world which trembles and turns to it save the human heart. It is very true that many hearts make little viable response, and seem to bear the want of a heavenly Father very lightly. But even in them there may be discerned the heart-hunger that shows itself in unnatural cravings which the lower creatures do not feel. The void may be discovered in the restless attempts men make to fill it. When we look at the length and breadth of man’s history, it ,tells us that this cry constantly returns, “O that I knew where I might find Him! There have been men in all ages to whom the answer of this cry has been the one necessity of life, and if you could convince them that is impossible to find a heavenly Father, they would smile no more.
II. YET IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO SPEAK THESE WORDS WITH FULL ASSURANCE. The struggle to reach them is evident in the men who use them here, and is felt in the very word “doubtless,” with which they begin their claim.
1. There is one difficulty, which belongs specially to our time, in the mind of man as it deals with the universe and its laws. There is a form of science which says, “I have ranged the world, and there is nothing in it but material law. There may be a heart in man, but there is no heart beyond to answer it; or, if there be, the heart of man can never reach it.”
2. Besides the mind, the heart finds difficulties in itself. There are so many things in life which make it hard to believe in the love of God.
3. And still beyond the mind and heart there is the conscience. When we think of a Father in heaven, we must think of a righteous Father, of One “who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.” The weak, indulgent fatherhood, which is passed so lightly from hand to hand, will not fit into the parts of the world’s history which show the terrible penalties of sin; it will not satisfy the soul when it is brought face to face with the majesty of God’s law and the holiness of HIS character.
III. WITH ALL THESE DIFFICULTIES, IT IS A FEELING WHICH CAN BE AND HAS BEEN REACHED. There have been men who could look up and say, “Doubtless Thou art our Father.” They have said it not only in sunshine, but in storm and in the shadow of death; have given up their lives that they might testify to it clearly and fearlessly; and have shut the door and said it to their Father who seeth in secret. But we are to, think of One, the greatest of all. Even those who take the lowest view of Jesus Christ will admit that He, beyond all others, taught men to think of God as a Father, and gave the example of it in His own life and death. How strong it made Him, and how patient, how active in doing good, how comforted in solitude, that His Father had sent Him, and was present with Him, putting the cup of suffering into His hand, and ready to receive Him when He said, Father, into Thy hands commend My spirit!” But His example, His influence, wonderful as they are, would not enable us to follow Him to God as a Father, unless there was something in His death which laid hold of us with stronger power. It is this which enables us to go to God the Judge of all with confidence, because we go through the blood of sprinkling. And when the conscience can say, My Father; the heart beans to say it also. When the heart has found a Father in God, all the world’s laws cannot lay hand on it to imprison it; it moves “through the midst of them, and so passes by.”
IV. THIS FULL SENSE OF GOD’S FATHERHOOD IS NOT GENERALLY GAINED AT ONCE. We do not say that the position is not gained at once. As soon as any one comes to God through Christ, he is no more a stranger and an enemy, but a child, and all the, dealings of God with him are paternal. But he may fail to recognize a Father’s voice and hand. Think of the ways by which it may be gained. Come, first of all, by a more simple and loving faith to the death of Christ in the fulness of its meaning. Then seek more fully to give Christ entrance into your heart and life. As the-heart is purified we see God. To have God for our Father is not merely to be forgiven, it is not even to be sanctified; it is to be one with Him in thought and feeling, to listen to Him and speak with Him, as one speaks with a friend. It is peculiarly the work of the Holy Spirit to lead us into this inmost sanctuary of sonship. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” But to be led by Him, we must not grieve Him by sin or neglect, but welcome His whispered admonitions; and then, as we listen and obey, we shall reach the innermost room where “the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
V. TO USE THESE WORDS TRULY IS A MATTER OF INFINITE MOMENT TO US ALL. Here is a Friend we need in every stage of life, and in every event of it. (J. Ker, D. D.)
The assurance of God’s Fatherhood
There are three chambers by which we advance to the assurance of Fatherhood in God. The first is the upper chamber of Jerusalem, which comes to us ever and again in the Lord’s table, with its offer of pardon and peace. The second is the chamber of the heart, to which we give Him admission in love and obedience. And the third is the home, where the Holy Spirit teaches us to cry, “Abba, Father.” (J. Ker, D. D.)
The creed of the optimist
I. This noble utterance represents THE CONSOLATION AND FINAL APPEAL OF TEE SPIRIT OF MAN, baffled and dissatisfied with what the poet calls “the riddle of this painful earth,” or despised and rejected by his fellow-men; and that appeal is to the responsibility, omnipotence, unalterable love, and unerring justice of a Divine Father.
II. The cry of Isaiah is THE INSPIRED TEXT OF THE OPTIMIST, of the man who, in spite of the riddles and difficulties and waste and failure in a world teeming with injustice, persists in enthroning God alone behind all worlds, and saying to Him, “Doubtless Thou art our Father, though scientific materialism be ignorant of us, and the facts of experience seem to be against us.” (Basil Wilberforce, D. D.)
God the Redeemer
“God” signifies both a redeemer and an avenger, but the latter only as he is the former. Hence one reason for the close linking together of the two books of Isaiah. In the first Jehovah is the Avenger of the nation against the oppressor, of the poor against the godless rich, of the widow and fatherless against the unjust, of the outraged Theocracy against the no-gods which claim to be Jehovah’s rivals and equals. In the second He is the Redeemer, who ransoms and delivers through the Nan of His choice. It is used in both senses throughout the Books of the Law, and in the Psalms. But in the writings of the prophets it is nearly confined to Isaiah. (F. Sessions.)
The Lord is our Redeemer for the soul. It is a great comfort to know that it is our heavenly Father who is our Redeemer. It is God in Christ.
1. Our Redeemer has suffered for us.
2. He is our Redeemer from the grave of sin.
3. He is our Redeemer, bringing us to God.
4. He is our Redeemer from our wicked self, and from the power of sin. (W. Birch.)
The Redeemer of Israel
“Our Redeemer from everlasting is Thy name.” (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)
O Lord, why hut Thou made us to err from Thy ways?
God’s anger with His people
Very singular is the plea that the sinfulness of the people is due to the excessive and protracted anger of Jehovah, who “causes them to err from His ways” (cf. Isaiah 64:5; Isaiah 64:7).This feeling appears to proceed from two sources; on the one hand the ancient idea that national calamity is the proof of Jehovah’s anger, and on the other the lesson taught by all the prophets, that the sole cause of Jehovah’s anger is the people’s sins. The writer seems unable perfectly to harmonize these principles. He accepts the verdict of Providence on the sins of the nation, but he feels also a disproportion between the offence and the punishment, which neutralizes all efforts after righteousness, unless Jehovah will relent from the fierceness of His wrath. The higher truth, that the Divine chastisement aims at the purification of the people, and is therefore a mark of love, is not yet grasped, and for this reason the Old Testament believers fall short of the liberty of the sons of God. Yet amid all these perplexities the faith of the Church holds fast to the truth of the Fatherhood of God, and appeals to the love which must be in His heart, although it be not manifest in His providential dealings. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
God’s withdrawing His presence, the correction of His Church
These are words that carry a great deal of dread in them: tremendous words as any in the Book of God. It is the true Church of God that speaks these words. They were “all as an unclean thing,” and their “holiness all faded away as a leaf” (Isaiah 64:6). Yet faith maintains a sense of a relation toGod; therefore they cry, “Doubtless thou art our Father,” etc. (Isaiah 63:16). And if God would help us to maintain, and not let go our interest in Him as our Father by faith, we should have a bottom and foundation to stand upon. Observe, here, the condition of the Church at that time.
1. It was a time of distress and oppression (Isaiah 63:18).
2. A time of deep conviction of sin (Isaiah 64:6-7). Well, then, suppose it be a state of great oppression, and a state of great conviction of sin what is the course that we should take? We may turn ourselves this way and that way;, but the Church is come to this, to issue all in an inquiry after, and a sense of God’s displeasure, manifesting itself by spiritual judgments.
I. WHAT IS IT TO ERR FROM THE WAYS OF GOD? The ways of God are either God’s ways towards us, or our ways towards Him, that are of His appointment. God’s ways towards us are the ways of His providence. Our ways towards God are the ways of obedience and holiness. We may err in both. The ways that God hath appointed for us to walk in towards Him are these here intended. Now we may err from thence--
1. In the inward principle.
2. In the outward order.
II. WHAT IS IT TO HAVE OUR HEARTS HARDENED FROM THE FEAR OF GOD?
1. There is a total hardening.
2. A partial hardening.
III. HOW IS GOD SAID TO CAUSE US TO ERR FROM HIS WAYS, AND TO HARDEN OUR HEARTS FROM HIS FEAR?
1. God is said to do that (and it is not an uncommon form of speech in Scripture) whose contrary He doth not do, when it might be expected, as it were, from Him. If there be a prophet that doth prophesy so and so, “I the Lord have deceived that prophet” (Ezekiel 14:9), that is, I have not kept him from being deceived, but suffered him to follow the imaginations of his own heart, whereby he should be deceived.” God may be said to cause us to err from HIS ways, and to harden our hearts from His fear merely negatively, in that He hath not kept us up to His ways, nor kept our hearts humble and soft in them.
2. God hardens men judicially, in a way of punish-meat. This is a total hardening.
(1) The first thing God doth, when He hardens men’s hearts penally, is to give them over to their own lusts (Romans 1:24).
(2) Then He gives men up to Satan to blind them and harden them, for he is “the god of this world that blinds the eyes of men.
(3) God doth judicially give up men to hardness of heart by supplying therein His providence with opportunities to draw out their lusts.
(4) In pursuit of all these, God gives them over to “a reprobate mind” Romans 1:28), i.e a mind that can neither judge nor approve of anything that is good.
3. God may be said to cause men to err from His ways, and to harden their hearts from His fear, by withholding, upon their provocation, some such supply of His Spirit, and actings of His grace, as they have formerly enjoyed to keep up their hearts to the ways and in the fear of God. That is the hardening here intended.
IV. WHY DOTH THE HOLY GOD DEAL THUS WITH A PROFESSING PEOPLE?
1. What provokes God to it.
(1) Unthankfulness for mercy received (verses 8-10).
(2) Inordinate cleaving to the things of the world at a most undue season.
(3) Our unprofitableness, and unsuitableness to the means of grace we have enjoyed.
2. What does God aim at in such a dispensation?
(1) To awaken us unto the consideration of what an all-seeing God He is, with whom we have to do.
(2) To awaken us.
V. WHAT WAY SHALL WE TAKE NOW FOR RETRIEVING OUR SOULS OUT OF THIS STATE AND CONDITION? One way is prescribed here. It is by prayer: “Return, O Lord.” The arguments here given are peculiar to the case; and we may plead them.
1. Sovereign mercy and compassion (verse 15).
2. Faith fulness in covenant (verse 16). (John Owen, D. D.)
We are Thine
The intimate relation subsisting between God and His people
The intimate relation subsisting between God and His people suggests strong encouragement in their supplications at the throne of grace.
The Lord God is more ready to give good things to them that ask Him than earthly parents are go give to their children. They may be poor, niggardly, or hard-hearted; whereas the treasures of our heavenly Father are inexhaustible, His liberality is unbounded, and His compassions never fail. (R. Macculloch.)
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 63". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent