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The damnable nature of sin. The sins of the Jews. Calamity is for sin. Salvation is only of God. The covenant of the Redeemer.
Before Christ 699.
Isaiah 59:1-2. Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened— The prophet here teaches, that the reason why God does not exert his power for the avenging of his people, is not because his hand is shortened, but because he doth not hear their prayers; that he does not hear, not because his ear is grown heavy, but because an intermediate cloud, namely, of their sins, hinders his face from being seen by them in favour, or their prayers from being heard or regarded by him: as much as to say, "The reason of the continuance of your calamities is not want either of power in God to deliver you, or of goodness to hear your prayers; but your iniquities render him a stranger to you, and stop the course of his blessings." See Vitringa.
Isaiah 59:3-8. For your hands are defiled— The prophet here goes on to specify those iniquities which he had mentioned in general, and in such an order, that he distributes them, as it were, through the members of the human body; the hands, the mouth, the feet; dwelling longest, however, upon the faults committed by the mouth; which are set forth literally and properly, first, in the middle of Isa 59:3-4 and then figuratively, Isaiah 59:5-6. The meaning of the expression, They hatch cockatrice' eggs, is, "Their wicked designs are like the eggs of a cockatrice, rank poison, which, when hatched, produce a venomous serpent: they end in destruction and misery." The expression of weaving the spider's web, signifies, "They attempt things, which meet with no success." See Job 8:14. The 4th verse may be rendered, No one pleadeth in righteousness, &c. In Isa 59:8 instead of there is no judgment in their goings, Vitringa reads, there is no regard to right in their goings.
Isaiah 59:9-11. Therefore is judgment far from us— After an enumeration of the grievous sins and offences which deformed the church, the company of the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, and the remaining true believers of the church, burst forth into a bitter complaint in these verses, and in the subsequent ones humbly confess their deplorable state before God. In either part the miserable and afflicted state of the church is supposed; and the most fatal consequences are apprehended, unless God should interpose with immediate help; concerning which we shall see more in the 16th and following verses. The present verse may be rendered, Therefore is remedy, redress, or vindication, far from us, neither does deliverance reach, or come at us. The subsequent expressions in these verses are metaphorical, and denote a state of the utmost confusion and perplexity, of peril and solicitude. In Isa 59:11 for judgment we may read vindication.
Isaiah 59:14. Truth is fallen in the street— Truth falleth down in the forum, or the judicatures, &c.
Isaiah 59:15. And the Lord saw it, &c.— The eighth section is comprised in the remainder of this chapter; wherein we have, first, the most afflicted state of the church, destitute of all human help, Isaiah 59:15.—middle of 16 secondly, the deliverance to be procured for it by the Son of God, its protector and avenger; where, first, the deliverer of the church is described as a hero, completely armed to take vengeance; middle of Isaiah 59:16-17 secondly, the vengeance itself to be executed by him, and the manner of it, Isa 59:18 thirdly, the joyful consequences of this deliverance. First, the conversion of the Gentiles, from east to west, Isa 59:19 secondly, the destruction of other enemies, who should oppose the church; middle of Isa 59:19 thirdly, the conversion of the Jews to their Redeemer in repentance and faith, Isaiah 59:20 fourthly, we have the foundation and seal of this benefit; Isaiah 59:21. See ch. Isaiah 63:5. St. Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 6:14 seems to have borrowed his ideas from the 17th verse of this chapter.
Isaiah 59:18. According to their deeds— According to the height of their demerits, he will repay them to the height; fury to his adversaries, &c.
Isaiah 59:20. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, &c.— It is remarkable, that the Hebrew word גואל goel, rendered Redeemer, properly signifies one who has a right to that office, on account of consanguinity. The application of this text therefore to Cyrus, is certainly improper, and one would wonder that so learned a man as Grotius could ever have made such an application. The LXX have avoided this impropriety by reading, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer or Redeemer, he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. St. Paul cites the passage according to this version, Rom 11:26 and applies it as a prediction to the conversion of the Jews, after the fulness of the Gentiles is come in. The prophesy, says Bishop Chandler, is as yet unfulfilled; but the preservation of the Jews, who, though dispersed among all nations, still remain a separate people, seems to indicate, that they are preserved by God for this purpose, to be an illustrious instance of his goodness to them, and of the truth of the prophets. See his Defence, p. 365.
Isaiah 59:21. As for me, this is my covenant— This memorable prediction is closed with a seal of the perfect love of God toward this new church, composed of Jews and Gentiles united together, and largely endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit; whereby he assures her, that she should never hereafter want either the efficacious influx of the Holy Spirit, for illumination and comfort, or the clear understanding of the doctrine of salvation to be abundantly illustrated at this time from the word of God; for that the darkness which in the former age had overwhelmed the church should be dispersed, the light so long wished for by the pious should arise, and this grace should continue with the church for ever. Upon thee, and in thy mouth, signify the united people of Jews and Gentiles inthe delivered and restored church. The change of number observable in this verse is very common with the prophets. This remarkable prophesy having not yet attained its full completion, we must wait till future time shall more fully discover to us its extent and meaning, as well as that of several others which are parallel to it, and which lead us to expect some mighty change in the state of the church, when, purified from its vices and corruptions, it will receive additional glory from the restoration of the Jews to their God and Saviour, and the intire conversion of the Gentile world, united with the Jews in one common service, and exhibiting such a state of things as the prophet beautifully represents in the subsequent chapter.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, They had complained before of God's inattention to their fasting and prayers: God here farther convinces them that the fault was in themselves.
1. It was their sins, not want of power or grace in him, which occasioned the continuance of their afflictions. Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, he is the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever; length of time, or strength of foes, makes no difference with him; neither is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear, they who cry to him in simplicity will find him ever near to answer and relieve them; if our prayers return not with a blessing, it is because we ask amiss, or grow weary and faint in our minds. But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear: here is the grand obstacle; and, this remaining, how can we hope to succeed with him? See Psalms 66:18. Note; (1.) Sin is the accursed thing which breeds all our sorrows: oh that we saw it in its true colours, and hated it as it deserves! (2.) It is in vain for us to hope for an answer of peace to our prayers, whilst allowed iniquity cuts off the intercourse between God and our souls.
2. God had charged them with sin in general; and afterwards many particulars are alleged, fully vindicating the divine procedure against them.
[1.] Their hearts were desperately wicked; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, this is ever uppermost in their minds; they conceive mischief; as the embryo is formed in the womb, so in their hearts the purpose of sin ripens into act; and bring forth iniquity. They hatch cockatrice-eggs, and weave the spider's web; their schemes are curiously formed, with much art and labour, and, though they appear fair with out, they are big with poison and the most pernicious consequences. He that eateth of their eggs dieth; whoever credulously embraces the false doctrines they broach, or is seduced to follow the evil practices they patronize, brings upon himself swift destruction: and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper; either the foot which incautiously treads in the way of such, is in danger of being stung, or the very attempt to crush them is dangerous, as exposing those who do it to their malignity and persecution. Their web shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works. They who believe their lies will be fatally disappointed, and be left naked before the wrath of God; as will particularly be the case of all who set up their own works and duties as the ground of their acceptance with God.
[2.] Out of the abundance of their heart, their mouth speaketh; your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue hath muttered perverseness; false and fraudulent in their dealings, backbiters and whisperers; or it may refer to the heretical tenets which they broached and openly supported, to the great ruin of men's souls.
[3.] Their actions corresponded with their evil hearts: your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity, either shed in passion, or under pretext of justice; or rather with the blood of martyrs, who, opposing their wicked ways, suffered for their fidelity. This left upon their conscience deep defilement, and cried for vengeance. Their feet run to evil, eager in the pursuit and impatient to gratify their malice and revenge, they make haste to shed innocent blood: wasting and destruction are in their paths: they spread desolations around them, ruining both body and soul, and their ways will conduct them at length to everlasting perdition.
[4.] All truth and justice are banished; none calleth for justice; the injured dare not complain, because power is with their oppressors, and none will interest themselves in their behalf, or see them righted: nor any pleadeth for truth, supporting the cause of oppressed innocence, or vindicating the truths of God from the errors and heretics with which these wicked men have obscured and perverted them. They trust in vanity, deceive themselves as well as others with false confidences; or they trust in lies, hoping, by bold and confident assertions, to carry the cause against truth and justice. The way of peace they know not; how should they, when all their thoughts, words, and deeds, are opposite to God and godliness; and there is no judgment in their goings, no justice in their dealings with men, no discernment of the right way before God, no apprehension of their own danger: they have made them crooked paths, all their ways are perverse before God; whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace, no true peace of conscience, or solid satisfaction; but misery, like their shadow, must attend them, and the wrath of God, present and eternal, abide upon them. Note; Many cry peace to their souls, whose ways inevitably lead to everlasting perdition.
2nd, Though in general there appears to have been a grievous departure from God, yet, in every age, a few faithful at least have been found; and these are represented confessing and bewailing the prevalent sins and misery of their people.
1. Their misery was great under the power of their oppressors. No justice could be obtained from man, and God in righteous judgment refused to vindicate their quarrel and execute vengeance on their foes. Their expectations were grievously disappointed; they waited for light, but behold obscurity, for brightness, or brightness, some eminent interposition of God to rescue them from their afflictions, but we walk in darkness, in thickest darkness, their troubles increasing rather than diminishing, and their hopes sinking fast into black despair. Totally at a loss what way to direct their course, like blind men they groped for the wall; and, though they had God's word, as a light shining in a dark place, they neglected or misunderstood it, so that they stumbled at noon-day as in the night; they were ready to give up all for lost; in desolate places, dejected, and retiring to mournful solitudes to pour out their griefs, or in fastnesses, where they had abundant means of grace, yet not quickened by them: others render the word, באשׁמנים baashmanniim, in sepulchres, as dead men, their state desperate and irrecoverable as that of the dead; under which calamities, bitter were their groanings, roaring as bears, or mourning as doves; they saw no prospect of deliverance, and God seemed to have utterly withdrawn from them his salvation. Note; (1.) When power is in the hands of oppressors, little justice can be expected. (2.) They who hope for the light of God's countenance, and yet walk in the way of iniquity, must needs be disappointed. (3.) None so blind as those who, in the midst of Gospel day, hate the light of truth: justly does God leave them to the darkness they have chosen. (4.) Sinners are ever swinging to extremes, in prosperity secure, in adversity despairing. (5.) When the mourning of the sufferer is more for his sins than his calamities, there is then hope of relief.
2. The pious, who in the name of the people lament their sufferings, confess their sins as the just cause of them: all the charges that God had brought against them are acknowledged to be altogether righteous and true. Their transgressions were many, great, and aggravated, especially as a professing people; for which their consciences condemned them, and which it were folly to attempt concealing from God, particularly in transgressing and lying against the Lord, being false to their vows, and faithless in breaking their allegiance to him, or misrepresenting his truth, as now is done, by robbing the Redeemer of the glories of his godhead, and denying his vicarious punishment and atonement: and departing away from our God, from his commands, worship, and ordinances; speaking oppression and revolt, not merely rebels themselves, but daring to utter their treasonable designs against God's honour and glory, in order to seduce others to join in their defection; and, where they have power, oppressing those who are zealous to oppose their false doctrines and pernicious ways; conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood, contriving how to propagate their errors, and earnest in maintaining them. Justice had ceased to exert herself, and truth was no longer regarded; by which all the bonds of civil society were dissolved; or it may respect the state of the decayed churches of protestantism, where the true doctrines of the Gospel are too generally exploded and trampled upon. Those who should be the first to see them maintained, are the chief apostates from them, while the few that remain true to the principles of free grace and genuine holiness through Jesus Christ, are oppressed without redress, and find no advocate, and the door of the ministry is shut against them. So that truth faileth, yea, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey; when falsehood and iniquity are become fashionable, it is dangerous to be singular by being pious and holy; it ruins a man's interests in the world, and exposes him to the persecution of his brethren, who cannot bear the reproof of his words and ways, so opposite to their own; or, as the word משׁתולל mishtolel, may be rendered, is reckoned a madman, treated as an enthusiast, as melancholic, or disturbed in his senses, for such his conduct makes him appear to those, who, destitute of all zeal for God's glory themselves, and only anxious about worldly advantage, regard others, who act on principles so utterly different, as fools or madmen. And the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment; he observed it, and was justly displeased at the abounding iniquity, peculiarly criminal in a people professing godliness.
3rdly, We have heard how sin abounded; we shall now see how grace much more abounds.
1. God beheld their deplorable case with an eye of pity. He saw that there was no man, none, comparatively speaking; for some few, as appears, lamented their unhappy case; but, in general, there was no man who cared to espouse the sinking cause of justice and truth, or laid to heart the evil of their ways: and wondered that there was no intercessor to stand in the gap, and plead, like Abraham for Sodom, if it were possible to avert the impending judgments. At this God is said to wonder; for, speaking after the manner of men, considering what means and mercies he had vouchsafed them, such a general apostacy was strange. Note; It is very bad with a nation, when her praying advocates cease, or are few; it is then to be feared that destruction is near.
2. To save them from utter ruin, God is pleased graciously to interpose. Therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; when they had no power nor resolution to help themselves, he magnified his strength in their weakness, and by himself, and for his own glory, arose to save them; which may be applied to the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, but, according to the following verses, more eminently refers to the great salvation of Jesus, who by his own arm has vanquished his spiritual enemies—the enemies of all who are willing to be saved by his grace; and his righteousness, it sustained him, his own divine righteousness was his support, and enabled him effectually to accomplish the redemption of mankind; or his faithfulness to his promises, notwithstanding their provocations, engaged him to step forth to their rescue; for he put on righteousness as a breast-plate; being in his own person perfectly pure and holy, all the fiery darts of the enemy were repelled, and when the prince of the world came to tempt him he found him invulnerable; or by his righteous procedure, in delivering his faithful people, and destroying their enemies, he eminently secured his honour and faithfulness; and an helmet of salvation upon his head, clad in that divine panoply, which renders him terrible to his foes, and most adorable and amiable in the eyes of his friends: and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak; zeal for his own glory, and his faithful people's cause; vengeance against his enemies and theirs, which now to the uttermost he resolves to execute. According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies, to the islands he will repay recompence, a just retaliation for the wrongs they have committed against his people, and which will extend to all, even the most distant nations, that have any way oppressed or persecuted them. Note; (1.) Let not wicked men think to trample on the people of God with impunity; their day is coming, big with wrath and fury, the day of vengeance of our God. (2.) Let not the persecuted saints of God faint under their trials; their Lord is at hand, and he will assuredly save his faithful people to the uttermost.
3. The glory of God in this salvation shall be spread far and wide. So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun: from the east to west: the knowledge of the Redeemer's work shall be spread, and God be magnified for his grace, who hath most graciously visited his people, and will continue to protect and preserve them who trust in him. When the enemy shall come like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him; which some interpret of a flood of heresy and persecution, that under the reign of antichrist shall break in upon the nations: others of the irruptions of the Turks and Tartars in the east, and the Goths and Vandals in the west; and it may more generally be applied to the floods of ungodliness which the great enemy of mankind in every place is seeking to raise, in order to overwhelm the cause of God and truth: but in vain, for the Lord will, in his appointed time, break the Mahommedan and Popish yoke; and by his Spirit, wherever the Gospel is preached, doth continually glorify his grace in the salvation of sinners from the power of Satan and the dominion of sin.
4. This salvation will most eminently be manifested in that day of the Redeemer's appearing, when he shall take to him his great power and reign: and hereunto the apostle applies the words, Romans 11:25-26. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord, When having gathered in the fulness of the Gentiles, his ancient people the Jews shall at last be converted to him, and turning from their long course of transgression, and their inveterate rejection of the Messiah, they shall receive him, and enter into the common fold of the church, where all distinction between Jew and Gentile will cease. As for me, this is my covenant with them, there are Gospel blessings still in store for them; my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words, which I have put in thy mouth, the Redeemer having received his message from his Father, and the Spirit without measure for the discharge of his office as Mediator, and in order to furnish his ministers and people out of his fulness unto the end of time, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever. God will have always a church, and maintain the ministry of his Gospel in the world, and by his Spirit will constantly make it effectual to the conversion of men's souls, even to all who will believe: and especially in the last days a more abundant out-pouring of this word and Spirit will be seen, and the knowledge of the Lord cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea. Note; (1.) It is by the ministry of the word that the church is maintained and preserved. (2.) The word is made effectual by the Spirit, who accompanies it to the heart; and Christ hath promised, in the power of his grace, to be with his ministers always, even to the end of the world.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 59". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29