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The care of God over his vineyard: his chastisements differ from judgments. The church of Jews and Gentiles.
Before Christ 715.
The latter part of the first discourse is contained in this chapter, wherein the prophet declares two great future events; the first is the destruction of the enemies of the church; Isa 27:1 the second the state of the delivered church, various attributes whereof are enumerated in order; as, first, its establishment in a state of purity, Isaiah 27:2.; secondly, the gracious care and providence of God towards it, after the destruction of the profane and hypocrites by his judgments, Isaiah 27:3-5; thirdly, its progress and amplification, under the divine grace, opposed to the severity which he had used towards its enemies, Isaiah 27:6-8; fourthly, the purity of its doctrine and worship, after the destruction of the city, the mistress of superstition and idolatry, Isa 27:9-11 and lastly, the collection of its scattered members, of all the pious, dispersed through the world, Isaiah 27:12-13.
Isaiah 27:1. In that day, &c.— In that day shall Jehovah punish with his sword; his well-tempered, and great, and strong sword; Leviathan the rigid serpent, and Leviathan the winding serpent: and shall slay the monster, that is in the sea. Lowth. This prophesy may be connected either with the last verse of the preceding chapter, and that day, or time, refer to the time of indignation there spoken of; or you may connect it with the latter end of the 24th chapter, and particularly the 21st verse; for the destruction of the kings of the earth there mentioned, is the same with that of the animals in the present verse. There are three distinct creatures here spoken of: By the leviathan, rigid or straight serpent, the crocodile seems to be meant; by the winding serpent, the dragon, or large African serpent; and by the monster in the sea, most probably the whale. Vitringa thinks, that by the two first of these creatures are signified the kingdoms of Egypt and Assyria, as they existed after the times of Alexander the Great; and by the whale the kingdom of Arabia, and the other neighbouring nations, which were adversaries to the people of God; or that by these three animals are to be understood the persecutors and adversaries of the church, who should exist successively in the world, and be destroyed by the divine judgments. See his Note.
Isaiah 27:2. In that day, &c.— The church, being purified by the fire of affliction, shall at that time, the prophet informs us, appear in its true character: Fervent in faith, love, zeal, piety, it shall be beheld in all its full beauty and comeliness, which is the end and design of all its afflictions and trials, This he sets forth by an elegant emblem, declaring that God should have at that time a vineyard of red, or fervent wine; alluding to the church, glowing with the zeal of religion and red with the blood of martyrs: see Revelation 7:14. This was the case of the church at the time of the Maccabees, and at the time of the apostles, after the Dioclesian persecution; but yet, says Vitringa, we expect something greater in the full completion of this prophesy.
Isaiah 27:3-5. I the Lord do keep it— We have in these verses a fine testimony of the divine grace and clemency towards the church, of God's constant care and continued affection to it. This elegant period contains a declaration of God's gracious purpose toward his church, Isa 27:3 and the reason of it: the declaration of his gracious purpose, considered under the emblem of a vineyard of pure and red wine, comprehends three benefits; the care of it, the watering of it, and the protection of it, which God himself promises to discharge. The other part of this period, which explains the reason of the divine purpose, begins with the words, wrath or fury is not in me: the meaning is, that God is not ill-disposed to his spiritual church, but, on the contrary, most tenderly inclined to it: If, therefore, at any time he may seem to have been severe against it, this is not the effect of anger and fury, but of love and true affection towards it; and the reasons of his providence are to be sought for from those more sublime causes which are principally approved by God, and in that way which tends chiefly to the manifestation of his glory. But, lest any one should take this for an absolute declaration, and so turn it into an argument of error, it is added, "But if at any time I exercise my wrath and fury tending to the destruction of men, that fury burneth not but against the thorns and briars, useless and hurtful wood; that is, the enemies and adversaries of myself and my people; the impenitent, unfruitful, barren, profane and hypocritical, who claim to themselves the name of the vineyard, that is to say, of the church, though they pertain not to it, and are the true objects of my punitive justice, that it may burn and consume them, and which cannot be delivered from my wrath, unless they seek by true repentance a protection in my favour, and are reconciled to me. God is here introduced as an enraged enemy, about to consume the thorns and the briars, that is, the impious transgressors of his law, unless they make peace with him." The clause will be more clearly understood if read thus: Anger is not in me [towards my church]; yet, who would oppose thorns and briars against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Isaiah 27:5. Unless he should take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; I say, that he may make peace with me. Take hold of my strength, alludes to the laying hold of the horns of the altar. See 1Ki 1:50 and Vitringa.
Isaiah 27:6-8. He shall cause them, &c.— Or, In times to come, Jacob shall take root: Israel, &c. Isaiah 27:7. Hath he smitten him according to the stroke of those that smote him? &c. Isaiah 27:8. In measure, when thou didst send it [the stroke] forth, thou didst contend with her, when he blew with his stormy blast in the day of the east-wind. If God had no anger, and no other reason for chastising his people, than to purify his vineyard from hypocrites, from thorns and briars,—this being effected by the divine judgment, it was necessary that his light, grace, and blessing should expand themselves in greater abundance over his church; which the prophet here foretels. The church, freed from its great affliction, he declares should shine with new splendor, and, long defiled and deformed, should shew all its glory with a remarkable produce and increase; to which end it had been preserved and purified: Yet some might think, that in the great affliction wherewith God had tried his church, he had treated her somewhat too severely. The prophet does not deny that God had acted with rigid justice; but he shews that this exercise of the divine justice had not exceeded the due bounds, and that there was the greatest difference between that manner of punishment which he had used toward his enemies, and the reason of the punishment which he had inflicted upon his church. His enemies had perished in the flame of his judgments; but he had preserved his church and faithful people for better things. This is the sense of the present period. Vitringa thinks that the meaning of the eighth verse is, that even in God's greatest judgments,—for instance, that upon Babylon,—he punishes his church differently from his enemies; for even at that time he did not omit due measure or moderation in the just and severe punishment of his people. He destroyed them not, but brought them back, chastised and purified, into their own country. This is that measure or moderation which God used toward his people at the time of the terribly-sounding blast of the east-wind; the vehement wind, which came from the desart. See chap. Isaiah 21:1. The prophet here introduces the Babylonish judgment, that it might be compared with that of Epiphanes, and illustrated from it; for, although a similar tempest might be raised up at that time by the kings of the Syrians, it was not without the divine providence, to which all kings are subject: It was not with a design to destroy, but to purify the church, and in the end to overthrow the enemies of it. See Vitringa.
Isaiah 27:9-11. By this therefore, &c.— By this, &c.—And this shall be all the fruit of removing his sin, that he make all the stones of the altar as chalkstones beaten asunder, &c. Isaiah 27:10 because the defenced city [Babylon] shall be desolate; a mansion broken in pieces and left, &c. Nothing can more commodiously answer to a flourishing state of the church, than the purity of the doctrine and worship of that church; whereby, being freed from superstition, idolatry, and the ridiculous ceremonies of false religion, and utterly renouncing those vices, it serves God in spirit and truth, with pure hands and an upright heart; and this is the attribute which the prophet here claims to the delivered church; wherein he describes, first, metaphorically, or mystically, this attribute of pure doctrine and worship; Isaiah 27:9 secondly, he adds the reason and argument, drawn from the state of the defenced city, which was thought to be the chief mother of idolatry and superstition; namely, Babylon, the judgment upon whom is related properly in the 10th verse, and figuratively in the 11th. The meaning of the 9th verse is this: "Therefore, because all punishment and chastisement of the church has for its end the purification of the church, the iniquity of Jacob shall be purified by this very thing:" that is to say, Jacob shall obtain remission of sins, and the assurance of that benefit; and with remission of sins, a deliverance from the evils and calamities oppressing him: And this shall be all the fruit of his sin removed: that is to say, "This shall be an undoubted sign and argument of the total removal of his sins, namely, that he make all the stones of the altar, &c.—that he destroy all the monuments of idolatry, and hereby shew his attachment to the true God." In the next verse the reason for so doing is subjoined; because the defenced city, that Babylon which so confided in its idols, is become solitary, and utterly destroyed. It is remarkable that the Jews, after the Babylonish captivity, never fell into idolatry. The reader will easily observe, that Babylon is spoken of in the 11th verse metaphorically, under the image of a tree rooted up, withering, and fit only for the fire. Some understand by the women here, the Medes, who were an effeminate and luxurious people. This prophecy may refer not only to Babylon, but to the other famous and idolatrous cities, as Antioch and Persepolis, the latter of which particularly was set on fire by a woman. See Quint. Curt. lib. v. c. 7. and Vitringa.
Isaiah 27:12. And it shall come to pass, &c.— This verse contains the 5th attribute of that time, in which God, raising his church as it were from the dead, and purifying it from idolatry and superstition, collected together by his powerful arm the dispersed members thereof. The prophet makes use of a peculiar expression, יחבט iachbot, which we render shall beat off: It is metaphorical, and alludes not only to the beating or thrashing of wheat, but also to the beating of olives from the trees; and the meaning is, that God will beat or thrash the land and people of Syria, which kingdom extended as widely as the prophet here expresses; taking vengeance of the tyranny and perfidy which they had used towards his people; that by this means liberty might be granted to the Jewish nation of going to Jerusalem, and performing the duties of their religion. They should be gathered one by one like olives, which, being beaten by a vehement motion from the tree, are carefully gathered one by one and brought together. See Jer 3:14 and Vitringa.
Isaiah 27:13. And it shall come to pass in that day.— Every one must observe, that the present verse is similar to that preceding, though it contains something greater and more expressive. The allusion is, probably, to the trumpets blown at the Jewish festivals; and the sense of the metaphor or emblem is, that it should come to pass that the dispersed Israelites, especially in Egypt and Assyria, should be most clearly informed and invited by some public edict or proclamation, or some other manifest sign of liberty, to return to their own country, freely to live there, and perform the rites of their religion at Jerusalem. The first completion of this prophesy must be fixed at the time of the Maccabees; see particularly 2 Maccabees 1 : But certainly it has a much more extensive view, and refers to the times of the Messiah, and the great trumpet of the gospel, summoning to Jerusalem, as the seat of Jesus Christ, all the faithful, both Jews and Gentiles. See Hos 11:10-11 and Matthew 24:31. Some have thought, and with great appearance of truth, that this remarkable prophesy will then have its full completion, when, the conversion of the Gentiles being perfected, the Jews shall embrace the religion of Christ. See Romans 11:25. The latter part of the verse may be read, And they shall come, who wander in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts who are in the land of Egypt; and they shall worship, &c.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. The execution of judgment on the great enemy of God's people, called Leviathan, the serpent, the dragon, either Antichrist, Rev 12:3 or Satan himself, or rather both. Though strong, furious, crafty, and poisonous, God's sword can reach him; and as he hath destroyed the persecuting powers of old, he will as surely destroy those that still rage, by the two-edged sword of his gospel expelling their poisonous errors, or by the sword of his judgments punishing them with everlasting destruction, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 20:15.
2. In the day of vengeance on his enemies, his grace and mercy to his church will eminently appear, and she shall sing for joy over her persecutors fallen, and the peace and comfort of the faithful shall be everlastingly restored, Revelation 15:1-4; Revelation 19:1-7.
(1.) The church is represented as a vineyard of red wine, a people ingrafted on Christ the living vine, and thence enabled to bring forth the choicest fruits of faith and holiness. I the Lord do keep it; though his church lies in the midst of a howling wilderness, where wicked men, more savage than beasts of prey, roam continually, and threaten to break through and spoil, yet it is safe under his protection, and flourishing under his care: I will water it with the dew of heavenly influences every moment, for every moment we need his gracious help; lest any hurt it, or lest he visit it, the enemy of souls, intent to deceive and destroy; I will keep it night and day, in prosperity and adversity, at all times, amidst every danger; he that slumbereth not, neither sleepeth, will preserve all those souls which live by faith on him. Note; The more we know of the riches and fulness of the divine promises, the more will our hearts be filled with thankfulness, and our lips with praise.
(2.) The people of God, as such, are assured of his favour. Fury is not in me; however terrible to his enemies, to the faithful God is all love, and their iniquities are cancelled by redeeming blood; no wrath remains against them, even their chastisements are the rod of mercy: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together, meaning either, that should he contend with them for their sins, his own people would be but as briers and thorns before the consuming fire without the atoning Blood; or rather, that when hypocrites and false teachers, like briers and thorns, spring up to trouble his people, he would step into his vineyard as a man of war, and quickly destroy and burn them up.
(3.) God directs them how to preserve an abiding sense of his regard to them. Or let him take hold of my strength; in times when his corrections are on his people, they need not be terrified, but apply to that Almighty Saviour the strength of God, who is the ever-living and all-prevailing advocate for faithful believers; that he may make peace with me, by pleading the Blood which he once shed for the redemption of the world; and he shall make peace with me; God, for his sake, will be perfectly pacified toward the believing soul, and comfort it with the confidence of his mercy.
(4.) The church shall have a great increase. He shall cause them that come of Jacob, the spiritual Israel of God, to take root, to be established and to spread their branches on every side; especially in the latter day of gospel-truth, when Israel shall bloom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit, as in the days of the Apostles, Col 1:6 and as it shall be more abundantly fulfilled hereafter.
2nd, Though God had intimated that sometimes afflictions would fall upon his faithful people, yet very different would his dealings with them be from his judgments on their enemies.
1. Respecting the measure of them. Though he should smite them, yet not as he smote those that smote him, his strokes on his people would be mitigated; and, however rough the wind blew for a season, he would say, Peace, be still. But their enemies would be utterly consumed, their fortresses destroyed, their country a wilderness, where cattle would feed. Like a withered tree they would be condemned to the flames; and this in just judgment, because they are a people of no understanding; and, being ungrateful and disobedient to their Maker, receive the reward of their deeds in utter destruction. This may primarily refer to the Jewish nation and their foes, but it has a more enlarged view to all the people of God and their enemies. Note; (1.) If we be God's children, we shall, because we need it, feel his gracious rod. (2.) Though involved in the same outward calamities, there is at all times a wide difference between those who are corrected in mercy, and those who suffer in wrath. (3.) They who obstinately reject God's warnings may expect in a judgment-day no mercy.
2. The end that God proposed in correcting his people, was their holiness and salvation. By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; and a gracious end this is, for which every faithful soul has reason to bless God, who can say, before I was afflicted I went astray. The particular sin here to be removed is idolatry: when he maketh all the stones of the altar, erected for idol-worship, 2Ki 16:10-12 as chalk-stones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up. And after the captivity the Jews were so thoroughly cured of that idolatry, to which before they were so prone, that the least traces of it no longer appeared among them. Note; It is a blessed symptom for good, when our sin, our bosom sin, which did most easily beset us, is thus radically destroyed.
3. When God hath, for their good, corrected his faithful people, he will gather them together wherever dispersed, and however distressed. It shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall beat off, and collect his faithful ones, as fruits to be laid up in store, or as corn separated from the chaff, from the channel of the river (Euphrates) unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, every soul that cleaves by faith to Jehovah, O ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, which, if referred literally to the Jewish people, signifies the proclamation of Cyrus; by which they were restored to their own land from all places of their dispersion; but rather it refers to the collection of the faithful Israel of God, even those who yield to be saved by grace, and by the means of the trumpet of the everlasting Gospel, recovering those who were ready to perish, and the outcasts, like the wretched in Ezekiel, lying in their blood; outcasts from God's church, and perishing in their sins, till quickened and restored by the power of divine grace through the word of the Gospel, and brought to join the holy worship of the saints in God's church on earth, and to prepare for the everlasting service of God in glory. Note; (1.) Whenever the Gospel trumpet is blown, they who know the joyful sound will assemble thither. (2.) The Gospel is to the lost the trump of Jubilee, glad tidings of great joy. (3.) It is a mercy when we have liberty to worship God, and a greater to delight in the service, and to say of God's courts, Here would I dwell for ever.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 27". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19