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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 64



The church prayeth for the illustration of God's power: celebrating God's mercy, it maketh confession of its natural corruptions; it complaineth of its affliction.

Before Christ 698.

Verses 1-3

Isaiah 64:1-23.64.3. Oh that thou wouldst rend, &c.— Wouldst rend, &c. Isa 64:2 as the fire kindleth the dry fuel; as the fire causeth the waters to boil, &c. Lowth. The ideas are here taken from the descent of God upon mount Sinai, and are very similar to Judges 5:4. The connexion is this: "Oh that thou wouldst descend, that the mountains might flow at thy presence! thy indignation so raging, as a fire breaketh out of dried sticks, (so the original may be rendered,) and spreads the flames around, and as a more vehement fire makes the water to boil." It is subjoined, To make thy name known to thine adversaries, namely, "to consume in thy wrath;" which answers to the former member:—that the nations may be moved at thy presence, which answers to the latter member; that is to say, so moved, as the fire makes the water to boil. When thou didst terrible things, which we looked not for, namely, "when thou descendedst to deliver us from Egypt, and to form us into a people, the mountains flowed, &c." See Exodus 19:18. Deuteronomy 32:22; Deuteronomy 32:52.Psalms 18:7; Psalms 18:7. &c. and Vitringa.

Verse 4

Isaiah 64:4. For since the beginning, &c.— See 1 Corinthians 2:9. The meaning of the phrase, Neither hath the eye seen, O God, besides thee, is, "no one can relate or explain, as no one hath seen, what is known only to God, in all his wonderful operations, whose mighty wisdom far transcends human thought and counsel." St. Paul has expressed this paraphrastically, Neither have entered into the heart of man the things, &c. Comp. ch. Leviticus 8:9.

Verses 5-7

Isaiah 64:5-23.64.7. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth, &c.— Thou meetest with joy those who work righteousness; who in thy ways remember thee. Lo! thou art angry; for we have sinned; because of our deeds; for we have been rebellious: and we are all of us as a polluted thing; and like a rejected garment are all our righteous deeds: and we are withered away, like a leaf, all of us; and our sins, like the wind, have borne us away. There is no one that invoketh thy name, that rouseth himself up to lay hold on thee: therefore thou hast hidden thy face from us; and hast delivered us up into the hand of our iniquities. Lowth. The supplication interrupted by the earnest vow in the preceding verse is here repeated. The supplicants acknowledge their common apostacy from God, and general corruption; in the mean time praising and celebrating the conduct of divine Providence toward the true worshippers; which confession of their fault, and acknowledgment of the justice of the divine judgment, run through these verses. The 6th verse alludes to the leprosy, which was the highest degree of uncleanness among the Jews. The prophets frequently borrow their images from the received customs and ritual ceremonies of the nations, among which the distinction betwixt things clean and unclean makes no small figure; and under these images they frequently describe moral defects, and religious offences, as in the present passage; which immediately referring to the Jews, the word righteousness, or justifications, alludes to all those external ceremonies and services wherein they placed merit, and whence they hoped for justification. See Rom 10:3 and Vitringa.

Verse 12

Isaiah 64:12. Wilt thou refrain Wilt thou contain thyself at these things, O JEHOVAH? &c. Lowth.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. The church's request, desiring some glorious manifestation, as in the days of old: that God would appear for the salvation of his people, and, with vengeance burning as the most vehement fire, terrify and consume their enemies. And this may respect either Christ's first coming in the flesh, to destroy the spiritual enemies of his believing people; or that manifestation of his glory which shall be made, when fire shall come down from heaven, devour the seat of antichrist, and destroy his tyranny; or that appearance of Jesus on the clouds of heaven, when he shall come to judge the world, and all created nature be dissolved in one universal conflagration. Note; God will make himself known to all; to his faithful people in mercy, to his enemies in terrible judgment!

2. God had wrought strange wonders of old, therefore his praying people hope for the same interposition. When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for; when dejected in Egypt they saw no hopes of deliverance, then did God shew his wonders great and terrible; thou camest down, as on mount Sinai, in all the pomp of awful majesty; the mountains flowed down at thy presence; and if he be pleased still to appear, all mountains of difficulty shall quickly vanish; and all oppressors, though lofty as the summit of these mighty hills, be laid in the dust.

3. The promises of the great things in store for God's faithful people, more than eye hath seen, or ear heard, strengthened their faith, and quickened their desires of his appearing gloriously and speedily to help them. For since the beginning of the world, men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, besides thee, what be hath prepared for him that waiteth for him: great as the wonders of God's mercy in the deliverance of his people have appeared, yet other wonders of mercy and grace, known only to God, are yet in store for them that love him. The apostle, 1Co 2:9 particularly applies these words to the knowledge of the Gospel truths, which neither the light of nature, nor the deepest researches of human wisdom, could discover, without a revelation from God; nor even then, till he gave the seeing eye, and opened the understanding to understand the Scriptures: and when the eyes are in a measure enlightened, and we comprehend many truths, we still know but in part; many revealed truths are still mysterious and incomprehensible; and we wait for a more perfect state, when we shall know even as we are known. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth, and worketh in righteousness; rejoiceth in God his Saviour, in the grace bestowed, and the glory promised; and, in consequence, walks under the influence of the Spirit of holiness, desiring to please God in all things: those that remember thee in thy ways; in all instituted ordinances, means of grace, and providences; improving them, in order to maintain nearer communion with God. Now, where souls are thus found, waiting on God, he will meet such with his mercies, denoting his readiness to hear, pardon, and save them out of all their troubles. Note; (1.) Faith in God will produce patient waiting upon him, and that shall never be disappointed. (2.) Much is yet unknown by us of the riches of grace to which in this life we may attain, and more with respect to the glory prepared for the faithful in eternity. (3.) They who would meet God, must be found in the way of righteousness; out of that we may, not expect his presence or blessing. (4.) Cheerfulness in the ways of God is the ornament of our walk, as well as highly our duty. Gloomy and melancholy Christians are a discouragement to his service. (5.) As all God's ways are right, in all let us remember him; in prosperity thankful and humble, in adversity resigned and patient; praising him in all and for all, and assured that all shall work together for our good.

4. Desiring to return to him, they still hope and trust in his promises, notwithstanding their sins. Behold, thou art wroth, for, or because, we have sinned, and justly provoked God's displeasure. In those is continuance; in the ways of righteousness God's favour would be secured to them: and we shall therefore be saved, in those blessed ways. Some translate the words, ונושׁע עולם בהם bahem olam venivvasheang, In those, our sins, we have been ever, being thus conceived, and from the womb transgressors; yet we shall be saved, sincerely coming to thee through the riches of a Redeemer's grace extending to the case of the most desperate sinner. Note; While we see and lament our sins, acknowledge God's justice in our punishment, and cast our souls at his feet, we cannot perish there.

2nd, They had confessed, We have sinned; now they enlarge on their transgressions, confessing and bewailing them, justifying God in their afflictions, acknowledging their own unworthiness of the grace which they called for, and, pleading their misery, cast themselves on his mercy.

1. They confess their guilty state. But we are all as an unclean thing, or person, which is the state of every man by nature; and they whose eyes are most enlightened to know their real condition, will most lament their deep and desperate guilt and corruption within, till Christ be fully revealed. This also particularly respected the deplorable estate of the Jewish people, who were sunk almost universally into the dregs of iniquity. And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, naturally most impure: which is true, not only of the ceremonial righteousness of forms, and rites, and outward devotions, but of all moral righteousness arising from self-confidence, and intended to commend us to God for pardon and acceptance.

2. They acknowledge the general carelessness and neglect of God's worship. And there is none that calleth upon thy name; none, comparatively speaking, who had any desire to seek God for pardon or grace. There is none that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee; they who performed their devotions, did it either to support a good opinion of themselves, or through the force of habit, and were so lifeless, lukewarm, and negligent in them, that they knew nothing of the importunity of prayer, or the wrestlings of faith; and such services added but to the number of their sins. Note; (1.) There is not a surer proof of a careless and lost soul, than the neglect of private prayer. (2.) The life of prayer is faith, which lays hold of God's promises, and will not quit him without a blessing. (3.) Our cold hearts need much to be stirred up to the work of prayer, for spiritual sloth is grievously apt to creep even upon believers.

3. They own their afflictions to be the fruit of their sins. We all do fade as a leaf; our professions wither, our root is sapless, our boughs blasted; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. As the autumnal blasts shake down the withered leaf, and hurl it away, so did the wrath of God, because of their iniquities, disperse them first in Chaldea and the countries of the Babylonish monarchy; and now the dispersion is become universal. For thou hast hid thy face from us in displeasure, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. Note; False professors, however blooming they may for a time appear, will quickly be blasted: usually in this world their decays are manifest; at least, at death their leaf falls, and the wind of vengeance hurls them into hell.

4. They plead their relation to God, notwithstanding the prevailing iniquity. Some were still found faithful, and, as a people, God had not cast them all away. But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; though we have done so much against thee, we cannot quit this endeared relation: correct us as a father, but do not utterly disinherit us. We are the clay, and thou our potter; mould us to thy will; we are content to be and suffer according to thy pleasure; only remember, we are all the work of thy hand, created by thy power, by peculiar mercy collected into a people, therefore destroy not thine own work.

5. They intreat, if not the removal of their sufferings, yet a mitigation of them, and some prospect of their end. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord; correct us but in measure, not in fierce anger, lest we be utterly consumed: neither remember iniquity for ever; but forgive at last, and remove from us thy heavy hand. Behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people; and therefore, though thou visit our iniquities with the rod, and our sin with scourges, yet take not thy loving-kindness utterly from us.

6. They spread their miserable state before God. Their cities desolate and in ruins, their country a wilderness, and Zion's palaces lying in the dust; and, what was still a bitterer cause of anguish, their holy and beautiful house, that temple so magnificent and glorious, where the Shechinah once abode, and holy worship was offered to God, where their fathers of old praised the Lord, is now burned up with fire, which was the consummation of their miseries: and all our pleasant things are laid waste; not merely their palaces and possessions ruined, but, above all, their sacrifices ceased, their feasts of gladness at an end, the worship of God interrupted, and no more songs of praise resound in the courts of the Lord's house. Note; (1.) Human misery is an object of the divine compassions. (2.) They who have truly at heart the interests of God's kingdom, are more concerned for the desolations of the spiritual temple, than for any losses of their own.

7. They humbly and earnestly expostulate with the Lord on their unhappy case. Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things? shall not jealousy for thine own glory awake? thy bowels of mercy yearn over our miseries? Wilt thou hold thy peace, as an unconcerned spectator of these things, and afflict us very sore? shall there be no end nor abatement of our sufferings? surely thou wilt not contend for ever: arise, O Lord, plead thy own and thy people's cause! Note; Though God long and heavily afflict sinners, let them not utterly despair, if they sincerely desire and determine to return to him.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 64". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.