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The blessings of Christ's kingdom. Desolation is foreshewn. Restoration is promised to succeed.
Before Christ 713.
Isaiah 32:1-2. Behold, a king shall reign— The prophet sets forth the two consequences of this gracious and glorious benefit; namely,—in these verses,—the flourishing and prosperous reign of Hezekiah, to shew forth itself at this time in all the authority and beauty of virtue and holiness, as a type of Jesus Christ, the most perfect king, who was to spring from him; such as he should shew himself in his kingdom, after having avenged his church by the rulers of the Roman empire, from the tyranny of Satan, opposing and endeavouring to extirpate it: and in Isa 32:3-8 he sets forth the repentance and conversion of many. There is no doubt that these words have their most complete and full verification in the Messiah. In Isa 32:2 we might read, and that man, namely, the king, shall be as a protection against the wind, &c.
Isaiah 32:3. And the eyes, &c.— The prophet here goes on to set forth the prerogatives of this time and kingdom; which, however primarily they may refer to the reign of Hezekiah, must, in their full and complete sense, be referred to the reign of Christ. He says, that the demonstration of the divine glory, justice, and grace, should be so brightly displayed in this strange event of the Assyrian overthrow, and in other similar signs discovered at this time, (see chap. 38:) that they who before hung in doubt respecting the care and providence of God to his people, as if dimness was before their eyes, should now be plainly convinced of his divine presence with his people, and of the certainty and efficacy of his aid. Their eyes should be opened, and their ears should, with reverent attention hear those truths concerning the divine interposition, which they had too little regarded from God's prophets heretofore.
Isaiah 32:4. The heart also of the rash— Of the inconsiderate. The meaning of this verse is, that men of precipitate judgment, who had too inconsiderately passed their opinion concerning the administration of divine Providence, and had either unfortunately and unreasonably, or in a doubtful and involved manner, delivered their notion of God and his ways, should by this remarkable event be awakened to a right and perfect knowledge of the divine Providence, and should express their thoughts and faith, plainly, openly, and fully, without doubt or hesitation.
Isaiah 32:5-8. The vile person, &c.— The meaning of this passage is, clearly, that, after the time of this great deliverance under the reign of a pious and just king, those things and persons which had appeared under false colours, should be called by their true names, and should be brought to light and appear in their true and proper colours. The 8th verse might be rendered, But the liberal, or ingenuous deviseth, or consulteth for ingenuous things, and for ingenuous things will he stand; that is, as an advocate and patron. The meaning is, that an ingenuous man, of a good mind, and a lover of the truth, will ingenuously explain his opinion concerning the works and ways of God, and the whole order of his providence, which the hypocrites so much maligned and misrepresented; and will strenuously defend those ways and works, as ever just and right, against all such unjust censurers. The Christian reader need not be told how exactly these particulars belong to his kingdom, who is a king reigning in righteousness; a hiding-place from the storm of sin and the world; Joh 16:33 whose kingdom is a kingdom of light, of faith, of love; all whose subjects are enlightened with the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; who gave eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, tongues to the dumb, and, by his divine grace, changed the most churlish and illiberal dispositions into generosity and love. See Vitringa.
Isaiah 32:9-10. Rise up, ye women— The prophet, to shew the sinners and hypocrites in Zion, (ch. Isaiah 33:14.) that they must not build any false hopes of blessings from God, such as he had just now predicted, while in their state of impenitence,—denounces against them the calamities which, first by the Assyrian, Isa 32:9-10 and then by the Babylonish destruction, Isa 32:11-14 should come upon them. By the women at ease, and careless daughters, are to be understood the cities and villages of Judaea, vainly confident in their present security; and he tells them, that, at a certain period, which he here calls a day beyond a year, the land of Canaan, not by the inclemency of the heavens, but by means of the desolation to be brought upon it by its enemies, should deceive the common hope of its inhabitants, who enjoyed its fruits in plenty, and of the best kind, not for their necessities only, but also for their delights. There is great doubt respecting the phrase which we render many days and years; Vitringa thinks that it signifies two years, for it is literally, שׁנה על ימים iamim al shanah, days above a year; and that it denotes the time of the continuance of the calamity brought upon Judaea by Sennacherib. We may just observe, that the destroying of the vintage is a symbol of taking away all joy. See ch. Isaiah 16:8.
Isaiah 32:11-14. Tremble, ye women— Tremble, &c.—and gird sackcloth upon your loins, Isa 32:12 upon your breasts; lamenting for the pleasant field, for the fruitful vine: Isa 32:13 for the land, &c.—yea, for all the houses of joy; [for] the joyous city, Isaiah 32:14. Because the temple is deserted; the thronged city left; the clift and watch-tower shall for a long season be for dens, &c. Vitringa. The prophet begins and proceeds in a more lofty tone than in the former passage, because the calamity here described, which is that of the desolation of the land, and of the city of Jerusalem by the Chaldees, should be much greater and more terrible than that brought upon them by the Assyrians. The meaning of the passage, and the gradations by which the prophet expresses this desolation, are rendered more clear by the version which Vitringa has given above. If we are to understand the first part of the 12th verse as it stands in our translation, the mothers must be meant, lamenting for the infants whom they suckled at their breasts, and who were destroyed at this time of common calamity. The entire devastation of the land, and its uncultivated state, are foretold in the 13th verse, as well as the depopulation of the towns and cities. The dereliction of the temple, and of the city of Jerusalem itself, is foretold in Isa 32:14 together with the ruin of those fortifications wherein much of their strength consisted; their ruin, not for ever, but for a long season; till the period mentioned in the next verse.
Isaiah 32:15-16. Until the Spirit be poured upon us— The prophet teaches, that the calamity which he had foretold should at length terminate, after a long delay, in excellent benefits to be conferred upon the people of God, as he had shewn in ch. Isaiah 29:17, &c. and Isaiah 30:19, &c. which are analogous to this. The benefits that he here enumerates are principally spiritual: and though the prophet, no doubt, in these words refers primarily to the blessings consequent upon the people's return from the Babylonish captivity; yet there can be no doubt that they likewise refer to the effusion of the Holy Spirit in the times of the Messiah, and the consequent conversion of the Gentile world; that wilderness, which, through grace, should be turned into a fruitful field. See ch. Isaiah 29:17. Ezekiel 36:24; Eze 36:38 and Vitringa.
Isaiah 32:19. When it shall hail— The prophet having, in the preceding verses, set forth the felicity of the church restored, could not pass by the divine judgment upon its enemies. By the decent, or foot of the forest, we understand that track of country which was beneath mount Libanus, and usually called Syria, together with the great cities situated in and about that valley; and the meaning of the prophet is, that the enemies of the people of God, such as the Syrians and Babylonians, who are to be considered also as types of the enemies of the church of Christ, should be punished by the divine judgments at that time when God should procure peace for his church.
Isaiah 32:20. Blessed are ye that sow, &c.— The wilderness of the Gentile world was to be changed into a fruitful field; the prophet therefore foresaw it would come to pass, that the apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ, departing from Judaea, should, throughout the whole known world, and in the most celebrated and frequented parts of it, sow the seed of evangelical doctrine, and prepare the Gentiles to receive that seed by spiritual discourse and instruction, thereby eradicating the prejudices and superstitions inconsistent with the glory of Christ. He saw also, that after the kingdoms of the world were become Christian, the ministers of the word of grace, who had devoted themselves to that office, would promote the same work with great zeal, that the fulness of the Gentiles might come in, and the whole world be turned into the field and paradise of God: he therefore sees and praises them in this clause of his prophesy, blessing and extolling their labours, and obliquely exhorts them to proceed with all diligence and fervour in this pious and acceptable work. See chap. Isaiah 28:24, &c. and Isaiah 30:24. There is no need to speak of the completion of this prophesy: the zeal of the apostles of Jesus Christ, the evangelists and first preachers, amidst a thousand obstacles and difficulties, was astonishingly great; nor was their success less, but rather great beyond all conception. Among these, for instance, how great is the praise of St. Paul! who does not boast vainly, that he laboured more abundantly than they all. This great man so conducted himself, as if that whole vast wilderness of the Gentiles was committed to him by the divine command, to plow, to sow, and to subject it to Jesus Christ. What a spirit was in him! what diligence! what grace! He indeed sowed truly, and plowed beside all waters! O blessed apostle, chosen and sent upon so great a work, by the divine appointment! what our Isaiah, a figure of thee, would have done, thou, animated by the same evangelical spirit, hast completed. In the following ages of the church we want not striking instances of Christian zeal, though amid declining Christian virtue. If in the latter times ambition has more distinguished itself than zeal, it is our duty to rouse up in our own breasts some of that glowing zeal of better times, in which, alas! we are too deficient.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Under Hezekiah's government the people enjoyed great blessings: himself a righteous governor; his princes copying his example; by them the oppressed were protected, the ignorant instructed, the law of God both taught and understood; and, as the consequence thereof, a right estimation made of the characters of men, as viewed in this glass of truth. And to this the prophesy primarily may refer; but we may say of it truly, a greater than Hezekiah is here.
1. The righteous government of Christ is foretold. Behold, with transport and joy, a king, the Lord upon his throne, shall reign in righteousness, protecting his people, and punishing his enemies; his laws most equitable, and his administration altogether righteous: and princes shall rule in judgment; those who are ordained by him to have rule in the church, who preach his Gospel, administer his ordinances, and execute their office according to his appointment.
2. His faithful people shall be saved from wrath by him. A man, or that man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; by him the sinner's soul is sheltered from the storm of divine vengeance, which, by the interposition of his own body on the tree, he hath endured for us, and from the fiery darts of Satan, and the fierce temptations of sin, which else would overwhelm us: as rivers of water in a dry place: refreshing, quickening, and comforting the souls of his people, when parched up as the dry ground for want of rain; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land; such a wearisome land the Christian pilgrim finds this world; and, scorched with the sultry beams of persecution, affliction, or temptation, must utterly fail but for this hospitable shadow, which Christ his rock spreads over him; there he feels support ministered, there he is hid in the hour of trial; and under this shadow, fitting with great delight, renews his strength.
3. Great light and knowledge shall be diffused. The eyes of them that see shall not be dim, but distinctly and abidingly discover the light of the glory of God in the Gospel of his dear Son; and the ears of them that hear shall hearken; earnest to search the Scriptures, and to obtain deeper discoveries of divine truth. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, to which they before paid no regard; and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly, or elegantly, as when illiterate Galileans were endued with wisdom from above; or, as is still the case, when, by divine grace, the soul is led into the knowledge of the Gospel, and taught of the Spirit, and then even a child can speak more distinctly of the things of God, than the wisest unenlightened man.
4. Eminent discernment, to distinguish the characters of men, and fidelity to reprove, shall then be in the ministers of Christ; weighing persons in the balance of the sanctuary, they shall charge men's sins home upon their consciences: or the meaning may be, that then the vile person (נבל Nabal, a fool,) shall no more be called (נדיב Nadib, a prince), nor be put in trust with the Gospel, which his folly must disgrace; nor the churl, the covetous person, be called bountiful or honourable, since ignorance in understanding, and covetousness in temper, would be a scandal to the ministry. For the vile person, or the fool, will speak villany, or folly; advancing doctrines opposite to the oracles of wisdom, such as the natural rectitude of man, the merit of works, &c. and his heart will work iniquity, which is the natural fruit of false principles; to practise hypocrisy, pretending a regard for the interests of piety and religion, when most effectually sapping the foundations of true holiness; and to utter error against the Lord, denying the godhead, or debating the glory of the Redeemer, to make empty the soul of the hungry, by withholding from them the bread of life; and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail, by turning them away from the doctrines of the free and all-sufficient grace of God, the fountain of living waters, to the empty and broken cisterns of resolutions formed in man's self-sufficient strength. The instruments also of the churl are evil; his methods to gratify his covetousness, being more solicitous about his own gain than the good of the souls committed to him: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor, or afflicted, with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right things; if any under concern for their souls come to inquire, he gives them bad advice how to get rid of their convictions, and heals the hurt slightly, contriving to prejudice them against those who were able to extricate them from their troubles in the way of grace and truth. Such is the character of a false and faithless minister: but the liberal deviseth liberal things; being possessed of a princely spirit, meet for a ruler in God's church: fraught with divine grace, and perhaps enjoying the blessings of Providence, he contrives how to be useful, dispensing the doctrines of the Gospel zealously; not for filthy lucre's sake, but of a willing mind, and is an example to believers in charity and liberality; and by liberal things shall he stand, or be established; his own spirit strengthened, and a blessing bestowed on his labours.
2nd, We have,
1. A warning of approaching judgments, directed to the daughters of Zion, whose wantonness, pride, and vanity, had contributed to fill up the measure of the nation's iniquities. They are represented as careless, or confident, and at ease, without any concern, either about their sin or danger; but they are called to hear the word of God and tremble, and, by an immediate humiliation, to prevent, if possible, the impending wrath of the Almighty, or prepare to meet it. Heavy is the threatened judgment; the vintage failing through drought, or consumed by the enemy; the pastures ravaged, or withered away, so that the kine should not give their milk; the land desolate, and producing only briars and thorns; their joyous houses, where mirth and pleasure reigned, ruined; the palaces forsaken, the city deserted, the fortifications mouldering away, and Zion become the den of beasts and wild asses, while flocks graze in the streets, once crowded with inhabitants, and this desolation abiding for ever: which directs us to apply this catastrophe not only to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, but to the final ruin it afterwards underwent, and in which it lies to this day. Note; (1.) When men live carelessly and at ease in their sins, death will come upon them with a terrible surprise. (2.) They who have abused their plenty by pride and excess, are justly made to feel the miseries of want. (3.) The only way to prevent our eternal sorrows, is by a timely regard to God's warnings, and by present humiliation for our sins. (4.) They who continue impenitent will quickly experience an awful change, when their houses of joy and pleasure must be quitted for an abode in everlasting burnings, where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
2. A promise of future blessings: which looks forward to the latter days of the Gospel dispensation: for so long will Jerusalem be trodden down of the Gentiles, Luke 21:24.
(1.) The Spirit shall be poured out from on high; from heaven, as on the day of Pentecost; and this shall be again abundantly the case in the last days, when Jews and Gentiles shall be converted, and made one fold under one shepherd. Note; The desolations of every fallen soul would for ever continue, if the Spirit from on high were not poured out to convert and renew the heart of the sinner.
(2.) A mighty change shall be produced by his divine power. The wilderness shall be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest; the world, which was a wilderness, full of impiety and iniquity, now, by grace renewed, shall bring forth fruits of righteousness and true holiness; and numerous converts, thick as the trees of the forest, be added to the church daily. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness; the word of God, and the doctrines according to godliness, be received and embraced by those who before were utterly ignorant of them, or at enmity against them; and righteousness remain in the fruitful field, increasing in every divine temper and disposition. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; the work of divine grace, which the Spirit works in the heart, shall produce peace, as the evidence of our reconciliation with God; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever; for if truly interested in the Redeemer, no troubles need disturb us; it is our privilege to rest satisfied in him, and, with unfailing confidence, expect the constant supplies of his grace, strength, and consolations on earth, and the possession of the inheritance purchased for us in glory everlasting. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places, the enmity between Jews and Gentiles being utterly abolished, their foes of earth and hell restrained from disturbing their repose, and none to make them afraid; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest; the storm of wrath being poured on the ungodly, see Rev 16:21 and the seat of anti-christian oppression and tyranny laid in the dust. Revelation 18:0. Note; (1.) Wherever the Spirit of God is poured out on a soul, immediately the fruit will be holiness to the Lord. (2.) A clear discovery and divine persuasion of the all-sufficiency of the Redeemer's mediation, is the solid ground of peace within; and whilst our souls fix on this alone, we may rest assured that there neither is nor can be any condemnation. (3.) Whenever the soul makes mention of his grace and righteousness only, both atoning and sanctifying, then will the heart experience most abundantly the transforming power of divine grace, and grow like him from whom cometh our salvation. (4.) Whatever troubles may attempt to disturb our present repose; if we be found in Christ, we know for our comfort there is a mansion of eternal rest provided for his faithful redeemed. (5.) When storms of vengeance descend on the ungodly, they, who have fled for refuge to the hope set before them, and dwell in Christ, are sure to be hid in the day of his fierce anger.
(3.) An especial blessing is promised to the ministers of God, and their labours: as diligent husbandmen cast their seed on well-watered lands, and see it springing up so fast that their cattle are let in to crop it, or at harvest bring home the corn; so shall the word of God be in their mouths, quickened by the Spirit, producing an abundant harvest of souls, in whom they see the fruit of their labours; and who will be their crown and rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus. Note; They who sow beside all waters, that is, take every opportunity of doing good, shall find God not unrighteous to forget their works of faith and labours of love.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 32". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany