Sunday, May 28th, 2023
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 65". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ isaiah-65.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 65". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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I am sought of them that asked not for Me
Jehovah’s answer to the prayer of the Church
The supplication is ended; and chap.
65. appears to be intended as the answer--an answer, however, in which a distinction is drawn between worthy and unworthy members of Israel, and a different prospect is held out to each. God has ever, He says, been accessible to His people, He has ever been ready to renew intercourse with them: it was they who would not respond, but provoked Him with their idolatries. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
A nation that was not called by My name
“A nation that called not on My name.” The reference is to those among the people who, after the Restoration, still practised the idolatries of their pre-exilic forefathers. (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)
The very bold prophecy
We learn on inspired authority that this is a very bold passage (Romans 10:20); it required much courage to utter it at the first, and in Paul’s day it needed still more to quote it and press it home upon the Jews around him. He who protests against a self-righteous people, and angers them by showing that others whom they despised are saved while they themselves are being lost, will have need of a dauntless spirit. This text has the clear ring of free grace about it; and for this reason it may be called bold.
I. THE PERSONALITY OF GOD IN THE WORK OF HIS GRACE. This is remarkably prominent in the work before us.
1. The personality of God comes forth in that He Himself is observant of all that is done. Do any seek him? He saith, “I am sought. De any find him? He saith, “I am found. Is there any preaching of the Gospel? The Lord declares, “Behold Me, behold Me.”
2. He Himself in the great object of desire where grace is in operation. When men are savingly aroused, they seek--what? Religion? By no means. They seek God, if they seek aright. The Lord saith, “I am found.” If men do not find God they have found nothing. God Himself fills the vision of faith; observe the words, “Behold Me, behold Me.” We look to God in Christ, and find all that our soul needs.
3. He Himself is the Speaker of that call by which men are saved. Here are the words: “I said, Behold Me, behold Me.” The Lord Himself speaks the effectual word.
4. He Himself is the director of the message., “I said, Behold Me, behold Me, unto a nation that was not called by My name. ‘ Not only does God speak the Gospel, but He speaks it home to those whom He appoints to hear it. This surrounds the Gospel with a strange solemnity: if the Gospel blesses us, it is not it, but God that blesses: God Himself has come unto us. This fact has another aspect to it; for if the Gospel be rejected, it is God that is rejected. Read the next verse: “I have spread out My hands all the day unto a rebellious people.
II. THE DELIGHT WHICH GOD TAKES IN THE WORK OF GRACE. God is glad to be sought and found by those who once were negligent of Him.
1. It is evident that He rejoices in contrast to the complaint of the next verse.
2. The Lord rejoices in each step of the process. There is a poor soul beginning to cry,, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him!” and lo the Lord says, “I am sought. A man has only just begun to attend the House of Prayer; he has only lately commenced the earnest study of the Bible; the Lord sees it, and He says, “I am sought. As when a fisherman smiles because a fish has begun to nibble at the bait, so the Lord notes the first movings of the heart towards Himself, and He says, “I am sought.” The very next sentence is, “I am found.”
3. The Lord also rejoices in the persons who seek Him. He says, “I am sought of them that asked not for Me. He will be glad for any heart to keep on seeking that has begun to seek; but He is best pleased when non-seekers become seekers.
4. The Lord rejoices in the numbers who seek and find Him. “I said, Behold Me, behold Me, unto a nation.” When shall the day come that nations shall be born at once?
III. THE DESCRIPTION WHICH GOD HIMSELF GIVES OF THE WORK OF GRACE.
1. The Lord tells us where He finds the objects of His grace. He says, “They asked not for Me; they sought Me not; they were not called by My name.” What a mercy it is that He comes to us in our sin and misery; for assuredly we should not else come to Him.
2. He next describes that Gospel which comes to them as the power of God. Here are His own words: “I said, Behold Me, behold Me.” The way of salvation is, “Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”
3. Then the Lord goes on to mention the converts which the Gospel makes. The careless become seekers, the ungodly finders, the prayerless behold their God and live.
4. The Lord also describes the experience of the saved. God comes to us that we may come to Him.
IV. THE USE WHICH GOD MAKES OF ALL THIS. The Lord here took care that when He said, “I am sought of them that asked not for Me,” His words should be written down, and that they should be made known to us. It is not everything that God may say to Himself that He will afterwards repeat to us; but here these private utterances of the Divine heart are spoken out to us by Isaiah, and left on record in this inspired Book. To what end d-o you think it is so?
1. That he may excite in us wonder and admiration.
2. To destroy pride and self-esteem.
3. To encourage you who are seeking Him: for if those who do not seek Him often find Him, why, you that do seek Him are sure to find Him.
4. To encourage workers. Go to work among the worst of the worst; for since God is found of those who seek Him not, there is hope for the vilest.
5. That he may convict those who do not come to Him of the greatness of their sin. Look, saith He, those who never heard of Me before have found salvation, while you who have been instructed, and invited, and impressed, have still held out and resisted My Spirit. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A people that provoked Me to anger
Obstinacy provokes God’s wrath
By rejecting His love with stiff-necked obstinacy, they have incurred wrath, which, though long and patiently restrained, now bursts out with uncontrolled violence.
“The people that continually provokes Me to My face, sacrificing in the gardens, and burning incense on the tiles, who sit in vaults and pass the night in retired places, who eat flesh of swine, and broken pieces of abominable things are in their dishes, who say: Halt: Come not too near me! For I am holy to thee,--these are a smoke in My nose, a fire blazing continually.” (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
Illegal and superstitious cults
The reference to “bricks” remains unexplained; sitting in the graves was for the purpose of obtaining oracles or dreams from the dead - the so-called “incubation.” (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)
“Broth of abominable things”
Such creatures as are enumerated in Isaiah 66:17. The “sacrifices are boiled and yield a magical hell-broth” (W. Robertson Smith)
. (Pro/. J. Skinner, D. D.)
Which may, Stand by thyself
“ I am holier than thou”
For “I am holier read, probably, else I will make thee holy.
” The practices referred to were “mysteries,” and the initiated would communicate his “holiness” to others by contact with them, and so unfit them for all the ordinary uses of life (cp. Ezekiel 44:19). (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)
Verse 5 alludes to those who claimed superior sanctity in virtue of certain rites into which they had been initiated. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
Self-righteousness,--a smouldering heap of rubbish
The application of the passage to Israel is just thus. Year after year God dealt with great patience towards His chosen people, but they seemed to be desperately set upon idolatry in one form or another. Sometimes they worshipped Jehovah, but then they did it under figure and symbol, whereas He has expressly forbidden that even His own worship should be thus celebrated. At other times they altogether rejected Jehovah, and worshipped Baal and Ashtaroth, and whole troops of the gods of the heathen, and thus they provoked the Lord exceedingly. They also practised necromancy, or pretended communion with the dead, and witchcraft and sorcery, and all manner of abominable rites, like the depraved nations around them. When this open rebellion was given up, as it was after the captivity--for the Jews have never been guilty of idolatry since that day--they fell into another form of the same evil, namely, self-righteousness: so that when our Lord came He found self-righteousness to be the crying sin of Israel, the Pharisees carrying it to such a pitch as to render it utterly ridiculous. They reckoned that the touch of a common person polluted their sacredness, so that they needed to wash after walking down a street. When they traversed the ways they took the edge of the pavement, so that they might not brush against the garments of the passers-by, and even in the temple in prayer they stood by themselves lest they should be defiled. Their whole spirit is expressed in the words of the text--“Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.” This God declares to be as obnoxious to Him as smoke in a man’s nose. Self-righteousness is rampant in our own day.
I. THE SIN OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS GROWS UP AMONG RELIGIOUS PEOPLE. It is not always the sin of the outside world, for many outsiders do not pretend to any righteousness at all, and I fancy they think all the better of themselves for that. This is an idle plea which it needs not many words to expose. “I make no profession,” says one. This is about as honour-able a confession as if a thief should, boast when caught at picking pockets, “I do not make any pretence to be honest,’ or a liar when detected should turn round and cry, “I never professed to speak the truth.” Among those who profess to be religious, self-righteousness very frequently comes in, because they have not truly received the religion of Jesus Christ; if they were true believers they would be humble and contrite, for self-righteousness and faith in Christ are diametrically opposed. Many who mingle with Christians, and are religious in a certain sense because they practise the forms of religion, are wont to put the form into the place of the spirit. These persons, too, even when they do not join the Christian Church, but only worship or seem to worship with Christians, are very apt to think that they must be better than other people because they do so. It is the danger of outwardly religious people, who are not savingly converted, to dream that they are somewhat advantaged by a mere attendance on the means of grace. Should an Egyptian rub his shoulders against an Israelite, would it turn him into an Israelite? Will living near a rich man make you rich? Do you forget that cry of our Lord, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin. Woe unto thee, Bethsaida?
II. THIS IS A SIN WHICH FLOURISHES WHERE OTHER SINS ABOUND. We read of these people that they did evil before the eyes of God, and chose that wherein He delighted not. They blasphemed God, and polluted themselves with unhallowed rites, communing with demons and the powers of darkness, and pretending to speak with departed spirits; and yet for all that they said--“Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou.” Self-righteousness is never more ridiculous than in persons whose conduct would not bear scrutiny for a moment. Self-righteous men, like foxes, have many tricks and schemes. They condemn in other people what they consider to be very excusable in themselves. These people will make a righteousness this way--they plead that if they do wrong yet there are some points in which theyare splendid fellows. Some one thing in which the unconverted man may excel is put in to make up for his deficiencies in a hundred other ways. By hook or by crook a man will make out that he is not so bad as he seems to be; the inventiveness of self-esteem is prodigious. No heap of rubbish is too rotten for the accursed toadstool of proud self to grow upon.
III. IT IS IN ITSELF A GREAT SIN. One is almost startled to find self-esteem placed after such a list of sins as this chapter records. To the Jew the eating of swine’s flesh and broth of abominable things was a great pollution, but self-righteousness is classed with it; it is even placed with necromancy and witchcraft. Drunkenness and swearing are sin in rags, but self-righteousness is sin in a respectable black coat. It is an aristocratic sin, and does not like to be put down with the common Tuck; and if we call it sin, yet many will plead that it is only so in a very refined sense. But God does not think so; He classes it with the very worst, and He does so because it is one of the worst. For a man to be self-righteous is in itself a sin of sins. For, first, it is blasphemy. God is holy. Here comes this base impostor and boasts, “And I am holy too. Is not that a ludicrous and contemptible form of blasphemy? It is profanity in its very essence. More, this self-righteousness is idolatry, for the man who counts himself to be righteous by his own works worships himself. Practically, the object of his adoration is his own dear, delectable, excellent self. Then, again, it is profanity, for it gives God the distinct lie. The Lord declares that no man is righteous.
IV. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE FRUIT OF MAN’S OWN THOUGHTS. Look at Isaiah 65:2. Those who have high thoughts of themselves do not walk according to God’s commandments, but according to their own notions. If any man thinketh himself to be righteous in himself, he has never derived that idea from God’s law, and certainly not from the Gospel, for the Gospel knows no man after the flesh as righteous, but it regards all men as sinners, and comes to them with pardon; it treats men as lost and comes to save them. Self-righteous people are not much inclined to search the Scriptures, they do not read them with an understanding heart, so as to get the meaning; they rather make the Bible say their own meaning, and twist it to support their own pleasing dream.
V. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS HAS THIS VICE ABOUT IT, THAT IT ALWAYS LEADS TO DESPISING OTHERS. That is the pith of the text.
VI. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS IS MOST ABOMINABLE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. What does He compare it to? He says, “It is a smoke in My nose, a fire that burneth all the day. At the bottom of the garden we gather together the dead leaves, and all the rubbish of the garden, and the heap is lighted, and it keeps on burning and smouldering all the day; and if you go and stand in the eye of the wind your eyes will smart, your nose will be offended, and you will feel that you cannot bear it. We do not wonder that He thus scorns and abhors proud selfrighteousness, for God is a God of truth, and truth cannot bear a lie, and selfrighteousness is a mass of lies. Moreover, self-righteousness is such a proud thing. God is always provoked with pride. Self-righteousness also denies the wisdom of God’s plan, and is utterly opposed to it. God’s present plan of working in the world goes upon the theory that we are guilty; being guilty, He provides a Saviour for us, and sends us a Gospel full of grace.
VII. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS MOST EFFECTUALLY BARS A MAN FROM ALL HOPE OF SALVATION. We cannot be saved unless we become truly holy, but no man ever becomes truly holy who is content with a false holiness. Self-righteousness prevents repentance. You will never believe in Jesus Christ while you believe in yourself. What is the remedy for all this? God saith, “Behold Me”; that is to say, He bids thee cease from doting upon thine own fancied beauties and worshipping thine own foolish image. Look first to the holy God and tremble. Canst thou, of thyself, ever be like Him, pure, spotless, glorious? Look to Him and despair. Then comes the second, “Behold Me. See Jesus Christ on the cross dying, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. As thou seest Him dying thy self-righteousness will die. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
False grounds of superiority in holiness
The disposition to arrogate the dignity of religious worth and excellence has never become extinct among men, nor the quite consistent disposition to turn it to the use of pride.
1. In some instances, an assumption of superior holiness has been made upon the ground of belonging to a certain division or class of mankind; a class having its distinction in the circumstance of descent and nativity, or in some artificial constitution of society. Thus the ancient Jews,--in virtue merely of being Jews. Imagine the worst Jew comparing himself with Aristides, Phocion or Socrates. The Brahmins, in virtue of a pretended pre-eminently holy descent; an emanation from the head of their creating god. In popish countries, the numerous ecclesiastical class. Something of this even in protestant England. In these instances there has been an assumption of holiness independently of individual personal character. What an infamy to perverted human reason, that anything which might leave the individual evidently bad, in heart and life, could yet be taken as constituting him the reverse of bad, that is, holy!
2. In many periods and places men have reputed themselves “holy” on the ground of a punctilious observance of religious forms and ceremonies whether of Divine appointment or human invention. This took the place of the true religious sanctity among the Jews. It is a grand characteristic of paganism. It actually stands instead of religion and morality among the far greater part of the people under the dominion of the Romish Church. It is to be feared there are some among us who venture a delusive assumption on the ground of a regular attention to the external services of religion. But we have cause to know that all this may be, and yet no vital transforming prevalence of religion in the heart.
3. Another ground of such assumption is general rectitude of practical conduct, separate from the true religious principle of moral excellence.
4. The pride of self-estimation for holiness is apt to be betrayed by persons who have preserved a character substantially free from reproach, against those who have, in some known instance, fallen into great sin. It might have been a case in which they were encountered by sudden, or complicated, or very extraordinary temptation, such as all should pray earnestly to be saved from. The delinquent may have penitently deplored the transgression through many subsequent years. But it has been often enough seen that another person, who has been happy enough not to incur any such marked blemish on his character, will assume a tone of high superiority against him, though he may never have had the same strength of temptation to combat with; may never think of ascribing his exemption to any higher cause than his own good principles; and may be quite destitute of some valuable qualities the other possesses. The whole life of this self-applauder may have been little better than a series of negatives. His faulty, penitent brother may have done much good.
5. A man may have had his mind directed to a speculative knowledge of religious doctrine; and we will suppose that it is valuable knowledge that he has gained. All this ma be, and yet the man feel little or nothing of the sanctifying power of religious truth. Yet, so ready is the speculatist to take to himself all the dignity and excellence of his subject and his cause, that this man may take up a lofty pretension--if not strictly and formally to “holiness,” yet to some meritorious relation to truth and religion; something which authorizes him in a high contempt,--not only of those who know nothing about religion, but also of those who feel its genuine influence and power, when they are feeble in the speculative intelligence of it. He accounts himself to be, as it were, in the confidence of religion, and that he must be invested with something of its venerable character, when he can so authentically declare its mind.
6. There is such a thing as a factitious zeal in the active service of religion; and that forms a ground of high pretension. Men in restless activity; hill of scheme, and expedient, and experiment, and ostentatious enterprise. But an attentive observer could easily descry that the cause of God was a very secondary concern with them, even at the best interpretation. Their grand object (whether they were conscious of it or not) was their own notoriety; and the cause of religion happened to be that which would most effectually serve this purpose.
7. There are a number of persons among professing Christians whose minds are almost ever dwelling on certain high points of doctrine, sought chiefly in the book of God’s eternal decrees. And it is on these doctrines that they found, in some manner, an absolute assurance of their being in the Divine favour. God forbid that we should deny or doubt that there is a firm and rational assurance of salvation attainable in this life. But such persons as we are referring to betray that their assurance, which takes its stand on so lofty a position, independent of a faithful estimate of the heart and life, has an unsanctifying effect; it slackens and narrows the force and compass of the jurisdiction of conscience; and, especially, cherishes in them the spirit of our text.
8. We may name as one of the things made a ground of pretension and pride, the experience of elated, ardent, enthusiastic feelings, in some semblance of connection with religion, bat not really of its genuine inspiration. (John Foster.)
Thus saith the Lord, As the new wine is found in the cluster.
God’s regard far the faithful remnant of His people
As one does not destroy a cluster consisting of good and bad berries, because one would also destroy the Divine blessing contained in it, so Jehovah for His servants’ sake will not annihilate Israel. He will not destroy all indiscriminately; the sense is not” the sap along with husk and shell (Knobel, Hahn), but: the berries having good sap along with the preponderant bad berries (J. H. Michaelis, Seinecke). (F. Delitzsch, D.D.) It is an application to new circumstances of Isaiah’s doctrine of the remnant (Isaiah 6:13). (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
Destroy it not
“Destroy it not”
View the passage in reference to--
I. GOD’S ANCIENT PEOPLE, THE JEWS.
II. CITIES AND NATIONS GENERALLY.
III. THE STATE OF CHRISTIAN CHURCHES.
IV. PENITENT BACK SLIDERS.
V. YOUNG INQUIRERS.
VI. THOSE WHO ARE CALLED MOST UNPROMISING CHARACTERS. (J. G.Pearsall.)
Here we have four lessons taught us by a bunch of grapes.
I. THAT GREAT GOOD MAY BE STORED IN LITTLE THINGS. A bunch of grapes is a little thing, and yet there is a blessing in it. With a heart given to Jesus, a child is a sun which cannot but shine, a fountain which cannot but send out streams, a flower which cannot but fill the air with sweetness.
II. GOD ALONE PUTS THE BLESSING INTO LITTLE THINGS. In this He displays--
1. His wisdom.
2. His omnipotence
3. His condescension and compassion.
III. LITTLE THINGS ARE TO BE SPARED FOR THIS BLESSING IN THEM. There are plenty of little things which you are apt to despise because they are little, and yet, destroy them not, says God, for a blessing is in them.
1. Your vows and resolutions.
2. Your principles.
3. Your habits.
4. Your character.
5. Your friendships.
6. Your interest in the heathen.
IV. IF THE BLESSING IS LACKING IN THEM THEY WILL BE UNDONE FOP. EVER. “Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it.” As if it were said, If there were no blessing in it, then it might be destroyed. It is the blessing which delivers. If there is no blessing in us, we are doomed. The unprofitable servant hid his talent in the napkin, but he could not hide himself from his master’s indignation. (J. Bolton.)
That prepare a table for that troop
Luck and Fortune
Among Orientals the planets Jupiter and Venus were worshipped as the Larger and the Lesser Luck.
They were worshipped as Merodach and Istar among the Babylonians. Merodach was worshipped for prosperity. It may be Merodach and Istar to whom are here given the names Gad (or Luck) and Meni, or Fate, Fortune. There was in the Babylonian Pantheon a “ Manu the Great, who presided over fate.” (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
The rites described are the lectisternia, well known throughout the ancient world, in which a table was spread, furnished with meats and drinks as a meal for the gods. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
God or chance?
Let us give the passage its true rendering, and it may convey to us a very solemn lesson. It is, “ That as for you that forsake His service, that prepare a table for fortune, and pour out the wine for destiny, I have destined you for the slaughter. Behold, My servants shall eat; but ye who prepare a table for fortune shall be hungry. Behold, My servants shall drink; but ye who pour out libations to destiny shall be thirsty. Behold, My servants shall rejoice; but ye who believe in luck shall be ashamed. Ye shall leave your name for a curse. My servants shall bless themselves, and shall swear by the God of Amen--that is, the God of verity and of faithfulness. The apostate Jews were beginning to trust in the gods of the nations, to make banquets to the planet Jupiter, which they regarded as the star of fortune, and to pour libations to the planet Venus, which they regarded as the star of luck. Therefore God tells them that not these stars, not these idols, not these imaginary entities; but that He would be their destiny, and that He would deliver them, because fortune and destiny which they worshipped could guide them only to hunger and thirst, and ruin; but His servants, they who trusted in Him, should never be ashamed; they should find Him to be their God, a God of blessing, a God of amen--yea, a faithful witness. (F. W. Farrar, D. D.)
The temptation to ignore God
Have we no similar temptation? The passage is full of the deepest lessons. It touches upon the very first commandment - “Thou shalt have none other gods but Me.” It emphasizes the very first chapter o Genesis - “It is God that hath mad us, and not we ourselves.” It is nothing short of a whole philosophy of history and a whole philosophy of life. The terms, “accident,” “fortune,” “luck,” play a vast part in the customs and literature of the world, but no part at all in Scripture. The very word “chance,” properly speaking, is entirely absent alike from the Old and New Testament. It is, I suppose, belief in chance that gives its terrible fascination to that pestilent folly of gambling which has ruined so many thousands of Englishmen. But let us look at this subject of the supposed government of life by chance from far wider points of view than these.
1. For instance, it very closely affects our human history. The ancient nations believed in chance. They called it “chance,” or “fortune, if one man got a crown as the prize of his wickedness and the other got a gibblet; they called it “chance” if a battle lost, which raised one ruler from a dungeon to a throne, cut down another form the throne to a dungeon. In this way they, as the prophet says, raised a table to fortune. Do you look at the history of mankind in this way or not? What is history to you? Is it a mere ghastly phantasmagoria of human passions struggling together, or is it the unfolding of a great Divine drama to a merciful issue? Neither in national life nor individual life can we pretend to understand the dealings of God. We cannot tell why the career of a great man is cut short just when he might seem to have been most able to save his country, and why the life of a villain is not cut short before he has done thousands into misery and ruin. We are like a deaf man watching the angers of the harpist as they dance over the strings.
2. But now, turning from history in general to the individual lives of each of us, I can hardly exaggerate the difference which it will make to us whether we regard our lives as being guided by God or as being guided by accident. Nominally, I suppose, we all profess that it is God who is weaving the pattern of our little clay; but do we truly believe it, and do we behave as if we did? Take, for instance, the events of which we habitually speak as the accidents of life. If we can think that these things happen simply by chance, what misery it may cause us! How do men and women thus painfully stricken sometimes curse the day of their life I But what a difference when they have the grace to recognize that this may be in their own life but bitter aloes from the gentle hand of God! As this thought, that it is God and not chance who “shapes our ends,” touches even the most imperfect characters with the glory of resignation, how may it give to the whole course of our daily, life the grace of contentment! (F. W.Farrar, D. D.)
I wish to emphasize the prophet’s warning against the counter sin of pouring out spiced wine for destiny--in other words, of regarding all life as though we were the helpless victims of blind necessity, of irreversible laws, of passionless and adamantine forces, which we can neither modify nor resist. The forms taken by this view of destiny are sometimes religious and sometimes irreligious.
1. One of them pro-Ceases to be very religious indeed--it is Calvinism.
2. Another form of this worship of destiny is fatalism--the notion that as God has decreed everything in this life, nothing will happen except what He has decreed, and therefore that it is quite useless for men to stir. When, in the conquest of Mexico, the unhappy emperor, Montezuma, was crushed with blow after blow of disaster, he made use of this proverb, “We are born; let that come which must come.” Fatalism, like Calvinism, is founded on misapprehended truths, and issues in deplorable results; and it, too, must be flung away as being, for all practical purposes, absurd and false.
3. But there is one more form of “preparing a table for fortune, and pouring out spiced wine for destiny.” It is materialism, which denies the existence of God altogether, or treats Him, at the best, as an unproved hypothesis. It makes its God of science, of nature, of material laws, of man himself. It makes man a mere machine. It destroys at a touch all responsibility. It makes suicide a perfectly permissible resource. It says, to quote its own votaries, that nothing is worthy our efforts, our struggles, or our energies--that the world is a bankrupt in all quarters, and life a business which does not pay its expenses, and annihilation preferable to existence, and the world fundamentally something which ought not to exist. Well, as long as there is such a thing as Christianity, we must brand the insolent, aspiring brow of these spurious notions. (F. W.Farrar, D. D.)
Therefore will I number you to the sword.
The declaration of God against the disobedience of Israel
I. THE ACCUSATION. A guilty inattention to the voice of God.
II. THE THREAT (Isaiah 65:13-14). (R. G. Buddicomb, M. A.)
God’s call despised
I. THE GRACIOUS CALL OF GOD.
II. THE IMPENITENCE OF MANY.
III. THE INEVITABLE RESULT. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Behold, My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry
The better feast
It is observable how frequently in Holy Scripture mankind are divided into two classes.
In the text, the Lord God Himself clearly distinguishes between His servants and others. The one shall eat, drink, and rejoice; the other shall hunger, thirst, and be sorrowful.
I. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE LORD’S SERVANTS.
II. THE MISERY OF THOSE WHO DISOBEY HIM. (W. Mudge.)
Incentives to religious decision
I. FROM THE SUPERIOR ADVANTAGES OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE BEYOND ALL THE BOASTED DISTINCTIONS OR PROFESSION OF WORLDLY AND UNGODLY MEN.
1. They have a better Master and portion.
2. They have better resources and supplies.
3. They have better enjoyments.
4. They have better prospects.
II. FROM THE PECULIAR SOURCES OF DISSATISFACTION AND WRETCHEDNESS TO WHICH YOU ARE EXPOSED. (S. Thodey.)
Behold, My servants shall sing
Heathenism knows nothing of the gladness described in oar text, But in this life every man may sing for joy of heart.
1. God makes His servants sing for joy of heart. There was once a famous musician who could bring out the most charming music from one string of a violin. Like that violin, many of us have only one string, and that a cracked one; but our God can make it sound forth perfect praise.
2. You may recognize a servant of God by his joyous face. We do not see many joyous faces, except in little children; and only then at odd times. The human race is born to trouble; but God can turn our sorrow into joy. How pleasant to look on a glad and joyous face I Nightingales do not often come so far north as Manchester; but last year one of those birds built its nest outside our city, and dozens of people went out to hear the sweet singer of the night. Letters were written to the newspapers about it, and everybody thought it a remarkable thing. How sweet it was to hear the warble of that bird in the darkness of the night! If the nightingale sang in the day-time, we might not notice it any more than the melody of the lark or the music of the wren; it is delightsome to us because it is a song in the night. Likewise, a joyous face and joyous words are equally remarkable. In this world of dark doubts and fears, let the singing of the joy in your heart be seen in your face and heard in your words.
3. The servants of God are also known by their joyous disposition. Live temperately, be home in good time every evening, rise early; and the joyousness of life shall enter your heart.
4. The servants of God have the joy of knowing Him.
5. There is the joy of pardon.
6. There is the joy of salvation.
7. We have also the joy of faith. How blessed to be able to trust God’s care! In the long roads of the East, where people have to travel wearily on foot for many miles, it is the custom of kindly-hearted people to put on the road-side a pitcher of water, so that the thirsty traveller may freely drink. Likewise, God puts blessings and comforts for us on our pathway; and such tokens of His goodness cause us to sing for joy.
8. We have the joy of His presence. One day, when the Grecian army was near the enemy’s camp, Alexander the Great slept very peacefully; and when he awoke, one of his friends said--“Alexander, how is it you slept so well?” The king replied, “Slept so well? Of course I can sleep well. Does not Parmenio watch?” Does not God watch over you?
9. There is the joy of His promises. Lord Chatham one day promised his son that when the garden wall was pulled down, he should be present to see it fall. But forgetting has promise, he gave orders for the wall to be taken down in the absence of his son. He remembered it the next day, and at once ordered it to be rebuilt, in order that the promise might be kept. But God never forgets His promise.
10. There is the joy of the future. You may ask, “Is there any joy in death? Yes! One day, a sculptor was near death; pain shot through his frame; and when his wife’s tears dropped on his face, he said, “My dear, have patience; this pain is only the chiselling!” So, when death comes to you, you shall have the joy of knowing that your pain is God’s kindly hand dealing very gently with you. (W. Birch.)
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth
“New heavens and a new earth,”
“New heavens and a new earth,” i.a new universe, Hebrew having no single word for the Cosmos. The phrase sums up a whole aspect of the prophetic theology. The idea of a transformation of nature so as to be in harmony with a renewed humanity has met us several times in the earlier part of the book (Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 29:17; Isaiah 30:23 ff, Isaiah 32:15; Isa 32:35, etc.), and is a frequent theme of prophecy, but the thought of a new creation is nowhere expressed so absolutely as here. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The state of the Church during the millennium.
The heavens and the earth mean the New Testament Church. There are beauty and propriety in the figure employed; for, not to speak of the manner in which the state of the world is affected by the state of religion, the dependence of the Church upon spiritual and heavenly influences is as immediate as that which our earth has upon the surrounding atmosphere. When the sky is filled with dark clouds and pours forth incessant rains, or when it emits a continued and scorching heat, the fruits of the field are destroyed; but when it diffuses genial influences, and gives sunshine and rain, in just proportions, fertility and abundance are the results. In like manner the state of the Church depends upon the influences which God is pleased to communicate: should these be rich and gracious, the Church is prosperous-and happy; but should these be scanty and afflictive, the interests of religion languish and decay. When, therefore, it is said that God will create new heavens and a new earth, we are to explain the words as referring to the beneficial change which is to be effected upon the state of the Church. This change will be so great, and so blissful, as to merit the name--a new creation. It will introduce so many bleasings, and unfold so many beauties, and diffuse such universal joy, that the former state of affliction, sorrow, and danger shall not be remembered nor come into mind. To what period in the history of the Church does this prediction (Isaiah 65:17) refer? Many of the early Christian writers regarded it as descriptive of the state of the Church in heaven, and supported their view by the words of Peter, that after the earth and atmosphere have been destroyed by fire, there will be formed new heavens and a new earth, in which the righteous shall dwell. But the verses assert that, in the time to which this prediction refers, there will be sin and death, and that men shall build houses and inhabit them; and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. Others, again, have viewed the predictions as pointing out the change which took place upon the Church and world, when the Jewish State was overthrown, and the Gospel was preached to all nations. At this time the relations which existed between heaven and earth underwent a great alteration. The worship of the sun, moon, and stars was abolished in many places, the false gods with which they had filled heaven were set aside, and just views of the supreme Being were attained by many, while God lifted the covering of darkness which had been spread over all nations, offered Himself to them as their gracious God, and invited them, as His people, to come into the communion of the Church. But though the change which then happened was great--so great as to be set forth by such terms as God’s shaking the heavens and the earth--yet it does not correspond to the magnificence of the scene delineated in the words before us. The seeds of prosperity and coming happiness were then sown. But then judgment kept pace with mercy. The word was received in much affliction; and nearly all the Churches had to endure severe and fiery trials, while on the literal Jerusalem the wrath of God fell and consumed it. We agree, therefore, with those who look upon the text as character izing the state of the Church in the millennium. The glory of the Church will then outshine and eclipse all the happiness that has ever been seen on earth, and exceed the loftiest expectations of the saints.
1. It will be a period of unparalleled gracious communications on the part of God. The heavens will then seem to be opened, and the Divine Persons to smile on man. The whole of that time shall be a season of gracious refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
2. It will be a period of clear and universal knowledge.
3. Of extraordinary holiness. This is the result which sanctified knowledge invariably produces.
4. It will be a period of unprecedented joy. In Isaiah 65:16 it is said, that “the former troubles shall be forgotten;” and in Isaiah 65:18 God says, “be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” The state of the Church will be so prosperous, and the benefits conferred upon its members so full and so gracious, as to afford to all the highest causes of gladness. There will be a joy derived from clear and exalted views of Divine truth; from sin overcome, grace imparted, and holiness promoted; from realized communion with God, and from heavenly contemplations.
5. It will be a time of cordial union and love.
6. Of universal peace and liberty.
7. Of remarkable outward prosperity,
8. All things shall be subordinated to the interests of religion. The world and its engagements are now too frequently injurious to the growth of piety. But, then, the service of God will be the one grand business that will engage all hearts and all hands. (A. Somerville.)
God rejoicing is the new creation
This passage, like the rest of Isaiah’s closing chapters, will have completest fulfilment in the latter days when Christ shall come. But the work which is spoken of is begun already among us. There is to be a literal new creation, but that new creation has commenced already; therefore, even now we ought to manifest a part of the joy. Do you know what this work of creation is, which is here thrice promised in the words, “I create . . . I create . . . I create It is evidently a second creation, which is altogether to eclipse the first, and put it out of mind. Concerning the joy to which we are called, we would say--
I. IT IS A JOY IN CREATION. “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth. I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” It is a most right and excellent thing that you and I should rejoice in the natural creation of God. The man who is altogether bad seldom delights in nature, but gets away into the artificial and the sensual. One of the purest and most innocent of joys, apart from spiritual things, in which a man can indulge, is a joy in the works of God. Much more is there something bright and pure and spiritually exhilarating in rejoicing in God’s higher works, in God’s spiritual works, in God’s new creation. There is no one of the attributes of God which has not its illustration under the economy grace; and blessed shall your whole being be if you can to the full rejoice in that which God creates. There is one reason why you are called upon to rejoice in it, namely, that you are a part of it. When I lay sore sick and tormented in body, it seemed always to be such a joy to me that I myself, my inner self, my spirit, had been new-created, and that my nobler part could rise above the suffering, and soar into the pure heavens of the spiritual realm; and I said of this poor body, “Thou hast not yet been new-created; but thou shalt yet be delivered.”
II. IT IS A JOY WHICH WILL ECLIPSE ALL THAT HAS GONE BEFORE. “And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” God’s great new-creating work ought to fill us with such joy as to make us forget the old creation, as though we said to ourselves:--What are the sun and the moon? We shall not have need of these variable lights in the perfection of the new creation, for in heaven, “they need no candle, neither light of the sun.” What is the sea, though it be the very mirror of beauty In that new creation there will be no more sea, and storms and tempests will be all unknown. What are these luxuries of sight and hearing? We shall not want them when our eyes shall behold the King in His beauty in the land that is very far off. The joy of the spiritual is such that, while it admits the joy of the natural, yet, nevertheless, it swallows it up as Aaron’s rod swallowed up the rods of the magicians. As an instance of the expulsive powers of a new delight, we all know how the memory of the old dispensation is gone from us. Did any one of you ever weep because you did not sit at the Passover? Did you ever regret the Paschal lamb never, because you have fed on Christ. I want you to feel just the same with regard to all your former life as you now feel towards that old dispensation. The world is dead to you, and you to the world. You have a higher pleasure now which enchants your soul.
III. IT IS A PRESENT AND A LASTING JOY. “Be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create.” Be glad in anything that the Lord has created in you. Find your joy, also, in the new creation of God, as you see it in others. I think it is very beautiful where John Bunyan represents Christiana and Mercy as admiring each other. They had both enjoyed a wash in that wonderful beauty-giving bath, and Mercy said to Christiana, “How beautiful you are! I never saw any one look so lovely as you are.” But Christiana said that she was not beautiful at all; she could not see anything about herself to admire, while in Mercy she saw everything to esteem and love. Oh, to have an eye for the work of God in other people, and to rejoice in it! Such an eye sees not itself, and yet it is itself one of God’s loveliest works.
IV. IT IS A JOY WHICH GOD INTENDED FOR US. “For, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” He has made the new city, the new people, the new world to be a source of joy. Take Jerusalem as the emblem of the Church of God. God always intended that His chosen, called, and converted people should be a rejoicing. God intended not only that we should have joy, but that we should spread it among others. As soon as ever we are converted, what is one of the first things that comes of it? Why, joy. But by-and-by, there will be a still greater joy. We shall enter into heaven, and there will be joy among the angels, and joy in our heart over God’s new-creation work, which will proceed at a glorious rate. Then the nations will be converted to Cod. I know not when, nor exactly how but the day shall come when Christ shall reign from pole to pole.
V. IT IS A JOY IN WHICH WE SHALL SHARE WITH GOD. “And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
There shall be no more thence an infant of days
The whole is a highly poetical description of longevity, to be explained precisely like the promise of new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17).
(J. A. Alexander.)
The child shall die an hundred years old
Youth and age
There is promised a practical annihilation of the line which divides youth and age. Youth shall be wise and age shall be ardent. We are to study the spirit of youth in history and in the Church. Hope, enthusiasm, energy, and audacity are elemental forces in youth. Youth makes mistakes, but age magnifies difficulties. Age regards that impossible which to youth presents the prospect of success. Most of the leaders of our American Revolution were under forty, and the same fact appears in European history,” so that Disraeli was right in saying, The history of heroes is the history of youth “ So in art. Raphael died at thirty-seven, Keats at twenty-two, Shelley before thirty, and Professor Clifford at thirty-five. The time for action is the morning! There is a fiery enthusiasm in youth. It is to be utilized. Luther was but twenty-four when he denounced the Papa! Church, and Calvin twenty-six when he wrote his great work, “The Institutes. So with Wesley and Summerfield, who made themselves felt in early manhood. Robertson, of Brighton, died at thirty-four. Though preaching to but few, he has influenced the world by his broad and catholic views. Henry Martyn died at thirty-two, and Harriet Newell when hardly out of girlhood. Is youth blind? It is sometimes good to be blind to danger and difficulty, uninfluenced by discouragements, if only awake to the grandeur of the work and the promised alliance of God!
I. THE ELDER SHOULD NOT BE JEALOUS OF THE YOUNGER. It is pitiful to see a cynical spirit shown toward those who are coming to take our places. Better imitate the magnanimous temper of John, who said, as he saw the growing popularity of the Master, “He must increase, I must decrease.” The coming generation must do their own thinking and make their own philosophies. Wisdom was not born with us. It will not die with us. God honours individuality. He makes faces unlike and minds unlike.
II. THE CHURCH SHOULD BE ALERT TO TRAIN YOUTH TO BE EQUAL TO THE DEMANDS OF THE AGE. its offices of trust should not be wholly in the hands of old persons.
III. SOME PEOPLE NEVER SEEM TO LOSE THEIR YOUTH. It is a lovely sight to see the youthful spirit strong at seventy. It is like seeing a river pouring its life through a desert.
IV. WE LEARN HOW TO CONTINUE TO BE YOUTHFUL. If linked to Christ, how can we be otherwise than glad and growing, hopeful and purposeful? A vital, vivid, constant faith in God feeds enthusiasm with perpetual strength. Suffering often brings a deep, quiet joy. Shrink not from it. Moreover, we can cultivate this youthful spirit. We can compel ourselves to look on the bright side of things. They who believe that all things work together for good to those who love God ought to be continually young. (A. H Bradford,. D. D.)
“The child shall die an hundred years old”
The verse is a puzzling one. But none the less it is true. The more Christlike men and women become, the nearer they grow to absolute childlikeness. It is with them as with the ripe corn in the autumn; the corn bends its head down again to the ground out of which it sprang in the spring. Just so the saints of God, in their maturity, in their noblest and wisest and heavenliest estate here on earth, resemble most the children--resemble them in their trustfulness and teachableness and lowliness. (A. Smellie, M. A.)
When James Clerk Maxwell, loaded as he was with his scientific learning, lay dying, these were his last words: “Lay me down lower, for I am very low myself, and it suits me to lie low; and then, with a long, loving look at his wife, he went home to God. He was a man, but he died as a child. (A. Smellie, M. A.)
But the sinner, being an hundred years old, shall be accursed
The aged sinner
I. IT IS NOT USUAL FOR A MAN TO LIVE TO THE AGE OF A HUNDRED YEARS. Some, indeed, have lived so long, but their number has been very small, and he who flatters himself that he shall do so is both vain and foolish.
II. As it is not usual for any man to live to the age of a hundred years, so IT IS LESS LIKELY THAT THE SINNER SHOULD LIVE SO LONG. The way of a sinner is such as naturally tends to shorten his days, and provoke God to destroy him.
III. IF A WICKED MAN SHOULD LIVE TO BE A HUNDRED YEARS OLD, YET HE MUST DIE AT LAST.
IV. WHENEVER WICKED MEN DIE, WHETHER IT BE IN YOUTH OR EXTREME OLD AGE, THEY DIE ACCURSED. Some of them are cursed by their fellow-creatures, whom they have injured or oppressed; but, above all, they are under the curse of God. It is a dreadful thing to live under a curse, but it is far worse to die under one; yet this is the awful condition of such as live and die in their sins. They may possess much, and have their houses, lands and estates, but it is with a curse; they may also hope for more, but when it comes it is with a curse. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
As the days of a tree
Of all natural objects trees have the closest fellowship with man.
When growing together in dense primeval forests they indeed exclude his presence, and the gloom and solitude produce an awe as of the supernatural world. But in the open cultivated spaces around his home they become domesticated, and are regarded with a sentiment akin to affection. God first talked with man under their shadow; man’s first worship was helped, if not inspired, by the solemn sights and sounds of the grove, the flitting lights and shades as of mysterious shapes, and the whispered secrets of the leaves; and the pillared aisles and groined interlacing of branches first suggested to him the ideas of architectural beauty which grew into permanent shape in the house of prayer. The heart twines around them some of its most fragrant memories; and at the end of every vista of the vanished years we see through the golden light a favourite tree associated with some cherished Incident of the past. Trees are often planted as memorials of visits to celebrated scenes, or at the birth of an heir to an estate. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
As the days of a tree
These human associations give to the emblem of the prophet a touching significance. It is a very appropriate emblem. The comparison between the two kinds of life is very close. In every particular connected with organic existence, in the laws of their development, decay and reproduction, trees and human beings are complete counterparts of one another. Even their structure to a certain extent is similar. The leaves correspond to the lungs and digestive organs; the blossoms represent the distinctions of sex; and the names of trunk, arms, and limbs are given indiscriminately to similar parts of both organisms. But if we inquire what a tree really is, we shall find in the emblem a correspondence still more profound. A tree is generally supposed to be a single individual, in the same sense that a man is an individual. It passes through a period of youth, maturity and old age. It has a fixed limit of size and age. It gradually loses its vital properties, and ceases to perform its vital functions. But this popular view is altogether erroneous. A tree is not a single individual; it is an aggregate of separate, independent individuals, a composite organism in which there is no centralization of life, and all the parts are frequently repeated: there being as many lungs as there are leaves, and as many organs of reproduction as there are blossoms. Each shoot is a distinct plant performing the functions of nutrition and propagation by and for itself, but, by virtue of its organic union with the rest of the tree, contributing to the general welfare, and helping to build up the common fabric. Cut off--its removal would not virtually injure the tree, nor impair its own vitality; and planted in the soil, it would strike root and in course of time grow to the same size as its parent. A tree may thus be said to be a colony of plants growing vertically instead of horizontally. Regarding a tree, then, as a body corporate, consisting of an aggregate of living and dead plants, the dead enclosed and preserved in the tissues of the living, and the living continually reproducing and grafting themselves upon one another, it follows necessarily that there is no physical limit to the size it may attain, or to the age it may reach. From its very nature a tree is immortal. It may go on growing and enlarging for ages, and after thousands of years be still in the full vigour of its existence. Even in Europe, where man has so long held sway, and has ever been destroying the woods and forests, individual trees have survived since the commencement of the Christian era, and their vigorous hold of life seems to secure them a longevity in comparison with which the period already passed may be no more than their early youth; while in other less-known parts of the world trees are to be found whose enormous size would indicate that they reached back to the origin of the existing state of the globe. From the nature of a tree as a composite social organism, it also necessarily follows that it is exempt from death by old age. The individual plants whose combination constitutes the corporate body, being only annuals, may be said to die of old age in autumn, when the leaves fade and fall. But as regards the whole organism there is no such thing as old age. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
The tree of life
These considerations help us to understand more clearly why a tree should have been chosen as the sacrament or symbol of immortality in Eden, and why it should represent the eternal felicity of the redeemed in the heavenly paradise. The expression “tree of life,’ acquires a new and deeper significance when we remember that there is nothing else with life that bridges across the centuries, connects departed dynasties and systems of religion with modern governments and fresh creeds and binds the sympathies of the human heart with the sorrows and joys of other ages dead and gone. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
“As the days of a tree: the Jews
How truly applicable to the marvellous history of the Jews! As trees are the oldest of living organisms, so the Jews are the oldest of living races. Though the least of all people, unable to compete in the arts of life with the nations of antiquity, they have outlived the wisest and most powerful of them. The people that oppressed and led them captive have perished, leaving behind only a few nameless ruins; the kingdoms whose glory overshadowed theirs have vanished, and left not even a wreck behind. But the Jews have still lived on. Like their own cedars of Lebanon they have survived the storms and vicissitudes of ages, and endured while all else has perished around them. Although the trunk and main stem of the Jews may be withered away, and only a fragment remain, yet this fragment is as full of life, is as green and flourishing, as in the brightest days of prosperity. And from this fragment will spring up a new and glorious tree. The tree, rather than the “everlasting ,hills, ‘ may have been chosen by the prophet as the symbol of the perpetuity of God’s people, not only because it has life, and is therefore a more appropriate emblem of life, not only because of its power of indefinite longevity and increase, but also, as Dr. Harvey has suggested, because it is possessed only of a contingent perpetuity. In its own nature a tree is immortal, but it is subject to accidents which impair its vitality and lead to decay and death. Most trees die of mechanical injuries; a storm breaks off a branch and inflicts a wound which exposes the inner heart-wood to the weather, decay takes place, the inside of the trunk becomes hollow, and, incapable of offering resistance, it is hurled to the ground by a fiercer blast of wind than usual. Many trees are placed in unsuitable situations, where they are too much crowded by other trees, or too much exposed to the wind, or where the soil does not afford sufficient nourishment to them, and they die of hunger. Their own growth, by hardening and compressing their tissues, prevents the roots of the young shoots from growing, and the sap from rising freely upwards, and thus they are choked out of life. Add to these causes the manifold destructive influences of nature and the necessities and caprices of men, and it will be at once seen that the great majority of trees must perish ere they have reached their prime, and that even the oldest and largest must finally disappear. This circumstance may have been meant to infuse a salutary warning into the gracious assurance of the text. The days of God’s people would be like the days of a tree so long as they obeyed the laws of truth and righteousness, by which the stability of a nation is maintained; but, like the tree, their days would be cut short prematurely, if they exposed themselves by disobedience to the forces which inevitably bring all that is evil to an end. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
The tree of life
Many of the ablest scholars, ancient and modern, hold to the opinion that the true rendering of the passage is this: “As the days of the tree, are the days of My people”--“as the days,” that is, of the “tree of life!” And there is very much to be said in favour of this rendering. The Tree of Life in Eden--that first of sacraments--was designed to sustain and refresh the life infused into man at his creation. To us, however, there is another Tree of Life, even the Cross of Christ. The body broken, and the blood shed upon that Tree, are to us the means of resurrection and immortality. And, again, there is another Tree of Life, to which as yet we can only look in faith, that, namely, which is fast beside the river that issues forth beneath the throne of God and of the Lamb--which bears its twelvefold fruit twelve times within the twelvemonth, and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. “As the days of the Tree, are the days of My people.” Their destiny is to feed on the Tree of Life in the midst of the Paradise of God; and as the days of that Tree are never ending, never darkened, so shall the days of God’s people be. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Christian life imaged by the trees of the earth
I. THE DURABILITY OF THE CHURCH, of which the Saviour has said, “The gates of hell, of death, shall not prevail against it. That which is true of the Church collectively is true of the humblest living member of the Church; for he shall reign, shall share in the rule of his Saviour, for ever and ever.
II. THE CONDITION OF THE CHURCH AND OF EVERY CHRISTIAN IS TO BE ONE OF DAILY, NOISELESS GROWTH. Nurtured by the sunshine and the rain, by sorrow and joy, by temptation and quiet, exposed to all, and strengthened by all, flourishing like a palm-tree amidst the summer heats, and growing amid snows like a cedar in Lebanon (Psalms 92:12).
III. NOT ONLY GROWING AMID THE CHANGES OF EARTH, BUT DRAWING NOURISHMENT FROM ALL. The Christian is planted here, has his allotted duties here (Psalms 92:13), as the tree is rooted in earth. Both derive nourishment from the earth. Trials, affliction, spiritual and fleshly temptations, and the winds of false doctrine, should but strengthen the Christian.
IV. IT IS FRUIT-BEARING. (W. Denton, M. A.)
And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer.
The Church in harmony with God’s will
The will of the Church of the new Jerusalem will be Jehovah’s will to such a degree that he already hears and fulfils the slightest movement of prayer in the heart, the prayer but half-uttered. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The Divine willingness to hear prayer.
I. MAN NEEDS TO CALL UPON AND SPEAK TO GOD. What is man’s greatest need? To him who believes in a future world--eternal life. To whom shall he go for this? He must call upon God. This is shown--
1. From the consciousness of an existing want which cannot be supplied.
(1) By himself.
(a) From within.
(b) From without.
(2) By the world.
(a) Its inhabitants.
(b) Its wealth.
(c) Its pleasures.
2. From the fact that light, pardon, guidance, comfort, heaven, can only be had from God.
II. MAN IS ENCOURAGED TO CALL UPON AND SPEAK UNTO GOD. This is shown by four considerations of God’s dealings with man--
1. Opening the way of approach to Himself by His Word.
2. Teaching the way by His servants.
3. Directing in the way by His Spirit.
4. Distinctly promising to bless all who come in the way. But from the text we learn explicitly that man is encouraged to call upon and speak unto God. “Before they call, I will answer.’ God perceives and realizes the desires of the Christian heart. Amid all the complex movements of the universe, He sees the unfolding of the praying heart, and, swifter than the lightning flash, the answer comes. David found it so (Psalms 32:5), so did Daniel (Daniel 10:12), and we have found it so (Matthew 6:8). “And while they are yet speaking I will hear. God is willing to listen to the articulated wish of the Christian hearts. Amid the clash of nations’ strife, the busy hum of struggling humanity, the hoarse cries for sensual pleasure, the blasphemies of the lewd, the groans of the crushed and disappointed, He listens to the speaking of His children, and hears the faintest whispered want. Illustrations: The Israelites at Mizpeh (1 Samuel 7:1-17.); David’s triumph over his enemies (Psalms 6:8-9); Daniel and the seventy weeks Daniel 9:21); Cornelius (Acts 10:3). (J. E. Hargreaves.)