The calling of the Gentiles. The Jews, for their incredulity, idolatry, and hypocrisy, are rejected. A remnant will be saved. Judgments on the wicked, and blessings on the godly. The blessed state of the new Jerusalem.
Before Christ 698.
THIS chapter, containing the third section of the fifth discourse, may be divided into two parts; the FIRST part, defending the equity and justice of the ways of God, contains, first, an hypothesis preparatory to the conviction of those who presume to find fault; namely, the calling of the Gentiles to the communion of the church, Isaiah 65:1. Secondly, the first conviction of the Jewish nation follows, for their manifest apostacy from God: where we have their sins, of rejecting the divine calling, Isaiah 65:2 of infamous and detestable superstition, Isaiah 65:3-4 of intolerable hypocrisy, Isaiah 65:5. Then the punishment ordained for these crimes, Isaiah 65:6-7 together with the alleviation of this punishment in regard to the faithful, Isaiah 65:8-10. Thirdly, a second conviction, directed by way of apostrophe to the impenitent and disobedient: where, 1 their crimes are set forth, particularly their idolatry, Isaiah 65:11 then the punishment determined for those crimes, is mentioned absolutely, Isaiah 65:12 and relatively to the true worshippers of God, Isaiah 65:13-15. In the SECOND part, which is consolatory, we have first a general promise concerning the faith of the true God to be received every where, and the condition of the new heavens and the new earth, Isaiah 65:16-17 secondly, the special blessings which the church should enjoy at this time: first, pure joy, disturbed by no evils or mourning, Isaiah 65:18-19 secondly, longevity, Isaiah 65:20 thirdly, a secure possession of all those blessings, Isaiah 65:21-23 fourthly, an intimate communion between heaven and earth, Isaiah 65:24 and lastly, a demolition of the power and malice of Satan and his agents, Isaiah 65:25. There can be no doubt that this section, like those preceding, refers to that future and glorious state of the church, which from this and other similar prophesies we have reason to expect after the conversion of the Jews.
Isaiah 65:1. I am sought, &c.— I am made known to those that asked not for me, &c. Lowth. You observe here the Divinity introduced, urging an argument of his grace, in calling the Gentiles to his communion, and soon after complaining of the obstinate disobedience of the refractory Jews, who had for so long a time despised the divine power. I have spread out my hands, in the next verse, signifies, "I have taught, intreated, or called;" to each of which actions spreading out of the hands belongs. See Nehemiah 8:9 in the original.
Isaiah 65:3-4. That sacrificeth in gardens, &c.— The superstition of the Jews is here reproved: the passage is not to be understood literally, but mystically (see ch. Isaiah 66:17.); the prophet herein figuratively setting forth their shameful and detestable deviation from the true faith and the practice of holiness and virtue, which was as hateful and offensive to God as the most odious sacrifices, and vilest superstitions of idolatry.
Isaiah 65:5. Which say, Stand by thyself, &c.— In the following section, ch. Isaiah 66:5 the crime of hypocrisy as here is decried, and every reader will easily recognize in both places the Pharisees and their followers. See Luke 18:10. There cannot be a more lively description of spiritual pride and hypocritical arrogance than these words afford us.
Isaiah 65:6-7. Behold, it is written, &c.— The first words of this passage allude to the subsequent sentence. Behold, it is written before me; "It is absolutely written and determined in the divine court, that such shall be your punishment." Bishop Warburton observes upon the 7th verse, that the execution of the law, wherein the visiting of the iniquity of the parents upon the children is menaced, was appropriated by God to himself. But God has not only reserved this method of punishment to himself, but has likewise graciously condescended to inform us in this passage, after what manner he was pleased to administer it. This verse, like the third and fourth, is to be understood figuratively. See Matt. xxiii 34, 35. We may render the last words, Therefore will I measure out their former wages, or the old arrears into their laps.
Isaiah 65:8-10. Thus saith the Lord, &c.— Thus, &c. as when one findeth a good grape in the cluster, and sayeth, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it, &c. Lowth. See ch. Isaiah 10:22-23 where a promise similar to this is given. The proposition of divine grace, respecting the faithful, is contained in the 8th verse, and more fully explained in the 9th and 10th. In chap. 17: we have a simile of nearly the same kind, and equally elegant with that in Isaiah 65:8. The meaning is, that if in a bunch of bad grapes a good one or two be found, full of good juice, wherein is the blessing, the vintager selects it from the rest, and does not destroy it, as expecting it to come to perfection; so God would not destroy the whole nation of the Jews, but preserve it for the sake of a few righteous persons to be found among them. It is added in the next verse, that to these faithful worshippers of God, as a reward of their duty and constancy, should be granted the secure inhabitation and possession of the land of Canaan, and of Jerusalem, built upon the holy mountains, here called the mountains of God; together with the free use of the flourishing fields and meadows of that country; such as were Scharon and Achor. See Hosea 2:15. Song of Solomon 2:1. Achor was a valley to the north of Jericho, opposite to the town of Ai, where Achan was put to death, and which was remarkably fertile. Joshua 7:26.
Isaiah 65:11. But ye are they that forsake the Lord, &c.— But, &c. Who prepare a table for Gad [the sun], and serve or fill up a drink-offering to Meni [the moon]. The prophet here renews his reproach against the apostate and covenant-breaking Jews, who, forsaking Jehovah, that is to say, separating themselves from the true worship of God, (see ch. Isaiah 1:4.) and at the same time deserting the place which God had appointed for his worship, polluted themselves with idolatry the most abominable and shameful in his sight. The translation above given is from Vitringa, who with much learning justifies and shews its propriety. See Isaiah 65:3-4.
Isaiah 65:15. And ye shall leave your name, &c.— Vitringa reads, Ye shall leave your name for an oath to my chosen: the meaning, says he, is, that the punishment and calamity of these apostates should be so remarkable, that in the forms of swearing men should take their example from the severity of the divine judgment inflicted upon them, and from their miserable state; saying, "If I knowingly and wilfully deceive, may as great calamities happen to me, as have happened to these wicked and apostate Jews!" See Jeremiah 29:22. The Lord shall slay thee, is thought to allude to the total abolition of the Jewish oeconomy. The following verse seems to justify the translation and interpretation given by Vitringa.
Isaiah 65:17. For, behold, I create, &c.— Vitringa observes, that these expressions signify a new and better form of religion, to be introduced into the church, the old and inferior one being abolished. It is plain, from what follows, that the prophet here foretels a future and highly-improved state of religion and felicity, greater than has yet been experienced in the church of Christ: see Revelation 19:7-9.
Isaiah 65:20. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, &c.— No more shall there be an infant short-lived; nor an old man who hath not fulfilled his days: for he that dieth at an hundred years, shall die a boy; and the sinner that dieth at an hundred years shall be deemed accursed. Lowth. The prophet in this verse promises longevity as a necessary adjunct to the felicity of the state which he is describing; and as a proof of this longevity, he mentions, that he who shall die by any extraordinary cause, aged a hundred years, shall be thought to die a child; while the sinner, to be taken off by divine judgment, is not to be thought burdened with age, but punished for his crimes, though he be a hundred years old. Vitringa does not understand this passage in the letter, but metaphorically; as much as to say, "In this holy city, there shall be no violent or punitive death; but, all the inhabitants being holy, all shall die full of days and happy, and shall have, as it were, a foretaste, a pledge and earnest of life eternal, in their long and happy life below." See chap. Isaiah 25:8.
Isaiah 65:22. For as the days of a tree are the days of my people— The prophet here describing another privilege of the church in these happy days, says, that the faithful at this time shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. He subjoins: They shall not plant, that another may eat, which might happen either from enemies, who might seize their fruits, or from their own immature death before those fruits were brought to perfection: intent upon which thought, and on the longevity promised, Isaiah 65:20 he adds, that this inconvenience was not to be feared, because the days of the people of God,—of each of the faithful, should be as the days of a tree; that is to say, should endure as long as the trees planted by them. Their age should equal the duration of a tree, whether of a vine, or of any other. This is more fully illustrated in the next article; and mine elect, &c. shall out-wear, or out-last, the work of their hands: they shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth children to no purpose.
Isaiah 65:24. And it shall come to pass— Behold here an excellent blessing, the truest seal of divine favour and paternal love. We have observed in the analysis, that the closest conjunction of heaven and earth, that is to say, of God and men, is expressed in this verse; wherein the readiness and goodness of God to hear the petitions, and even to prevent the desires, of those who love and serve him, are spoken of in the strongest and most pleasing terms. See ch. Isaiah 30:19 and Psalms 145:18-19.
Isaiah 65:25. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together— The meaning is, that the church at this time shall be free from all internal and external enemies: the wolves and lions, mystically so called, being either destroyed by the power of God, or, they who formerly were such being softened and changed by the grace of the divine Spirit: so that though they were able to hurt, they shall no longer be willing to do so. See chap. Isaiah 11:6-9. The phrase, Dust shall be the serpent's meat, seems immediately to allude to the sentence passed upon the old serpent, Genesis 3:14 which, Isaiah tells us, shall be fulfilled at the period here alluded to; when the devil shall no longer be able to hurt the church, but shall be reduced to the most abject, groveling, and despicable state. So it is said, Micah 7:17 of the enemies of the church, that they shall lick the dust like a serpent: what, therefore, is magnificently foretold in the 91st psalm, of the subjection of Satan to Jesus Christ and his church, and which was formerly fulfilled in Christ, shall at this time be fulfilled in the whole body of the church. See chap. Isaiah 40:10, Isaiah 49:24. The Son of God came into the world to destroy the works of the devil; Romans 16:20. 1 John 3:8. These will be the illustrious consequences of the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. Indeed, to bestow such blessings on the church, is, in the language of prophesy, truly to create new heavens and a new earth. God Almighty render us worthy, and grant us speedily the completion, of these glorious promises! See Vitringa.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The application of these words to the conversion of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews, is fixed by an infallible expositor, Romans 10:20-21.
1. The Gentiles, by divine grace and mercy, are brought into the Christian church; and this not only when they had no desert, but in general, when the Gospel was first offered to them, no desire after God. He sent his ministers among them, calling to them to behold him, his Son, his Gospel, when they had no thoughts about this great salvation, nor stood, as the Jews, in any near relation to him as a people; but they were not disobedient to the heavenly vision; when he called, they answered; when he drew them, they sought him early; Acts 13:42-48. Note; (1.) If God did not first seek us, we should never have inquired after him. (2.) When he is graciously manifesting himself in mercy to us, it becomes us to seek him earnestly in all his appointed ways.
2. The Jews for their impenitence and rebellion are rejected by him. With long patience God bore with them; by a variety of means and methods he had sought to reclaim them; after sending all his prophets, he last of all sent his Son; yet vain was every attempt of Christ and his apostles, inviting them by every endearing plea to turn from the evil of their ways; they obstinately persisted in their own inventions, seeking to establish a legal righteousness, and, riveted in their pride and prejudices to the ceremonial institutions, rejected the counsel of God against themselves. Their fathers' sin had been gross and impious idolatry, forsaking God for stocks and stones, and leaving his temple and altar for groves and altars of their own erecting, where they burnt incense, and offered sacrifices to their idols; and this openly without a blush, as if wilfully designing to provoke God to his face, by their daring impiety, and contempt of his service; addicted to necromancy, and among the graves and monuments consulting the dead, or the evil spirits that were supposed to haunt those melancholy abodes; paying no regard to the distinctions of clean and unclean ordained by the law, but eating swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things. Now these iniquities of their fathers, whose measure they filled up, God would visit upon them; for, though the Jews of our Saviour's day were cured of their idolatries, yet their pride and hypocrisy were yet more detestable; which say, Stand by thyself; come not near to me, for I am holier than thou; so high in their own conceits, and so holy, that they looked down with contempt on others, and thought defilement was contracted even by their touch. These are a smoke in my nose, offensive and loathsome; a fire that burneth all the day; a continual provocation, against which his indignation and wrath burned like fire. For these abominations God will plead with them, and with just judgment recompense them for their iniquities; and all the former sins should come into the dreadful account, and be required of the men of that generation, Luke 11:51. Note; (1.) Sooner or later God will visit for sin, and woe to the soul on whom the vengeance due to it shall be laid! (2.) Nothing is in God's sight more odious than a sinner vaunting his own holiness, and proudly looking down with contempt on others. (3.) Though vengeance may be long delayed, it will surely come at last, when the measure of the sinner's iniquity is full.
2nd, Though the generality of the Jewish people were rejected for their unbelief and rebellion, there was yet a remnant which would accept of the offers of grace.
1. This is represented by a cluster of grapes, hanging on a blighted vine, which the dresser of the vineyard, seeing it in general withered, is ready to cut down; but the master stays his hand for the sake of that one cluster, and because it shews also that there still is life, and the tree may again revive. Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it.
2. God promises, not only, for his servants' sake, not to destroy them all, but to bring a seed out of Jacob and out of Judah, to inherit his holy mountain, the church; and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there, enjoying all the ordinances, and enriched with all spiritual gifts and graces, as the flocks and herds which fed in the green pastures of Sharon and Achor; which was fulfilled in the multitude of those Jewish converts called by the preaching of the apostles, who were also themselves all of the flock of Judah or Benjamin, and by whose labours the spiritual seed of Jacob throughout the world was so exceedingly increased. Note; (1.) Those who are termed in Scripture the elect of God are known by their earnestness in seeking God, and their fidelity in serving him. (2.) None ever sought God in truth, but found him their exceeding great reward.
3rdly, The body of the Jewish people persisted in their impiety and infidelity: to these God now addresses himself.
1. They are upbraided with their sins.
[1.] Apostacy from God and his service. Ye are they that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain; they rejected his government, and neglected his worship. Note; They who forsake the Lord forsake their own mercies.
[2.] Idolatry. That prepare a table for that troop, and that furnish the drink-offering unto that number; their idols so multiplied, and yet so liberally supplied with offerings, while God's altar was utterly neglected. Some suppose the words גד Gad and מני Meni, rendered by troop and number, to be the names of their idols, and to signify the sun and moon. Note; Men, to gratify their lusts, grudge no expence; and shall we then be niggards in the service of the Lord?
[3.] Obstinate impenitence. The former more properly were their fathers sins, though to be visited upon them as a nation; this was the especial guilt of the Jews in our Saviour's day. When I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear: nay, though he became incarnate in his own glorious person, to preach and teach the way of life, they rejected his words and warnings, contradicting and blaspheming; but did evil before mine eyes, following determinedly the imaginations of their own evil hearts, and adding to all the rest that daring consummation of their evil, the crucifying the Lord of life and glory: and did choose that wherein I delighted not, the traditions of the elders, and those false glories which destroyed the spirit of God's word; and shewed that pride, hypocrisy, and enmity against the Gospel, which were so peculiarly provoking to him.
2. Their punishment is denounced. I will number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter; and dreadful was the massacre which the Roman soldiers made of them. Note; When God fights against the sinner, resistance is vain, for he will overcome.
3. The blessedness of God's people, as contrasted with their misery, will aggravate their doom. Note; It will be an additional torment to the miseries of the damned, to see the righteous in the kingdom of God, and themselves cast out. This is instanced in three particulars.
[1.] The one shall be consumed with famine and want, the other enjoy plenty and affluence, which was literally the case, when the Christians, before the siege of Jerusalem, removed to Pella; while the Jews, who were besieged, terribly perished by famine. And also spiritually, those who reject Christ and his Gospel, and seek to fill themselves with the comforts of earth, will ever be unsatisfied here, and in hell want a drop of water to assuage their raging thirst; while his faithful people, who feed upon him in his promises, find the hidden manna sweet and nourishing to their souls, and drink of those consolations which are better than wine; and these but foretastes of the provision that God hath made for them in the eternal world, where they shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more, the most boundless desires of their souls being satisfied in the fruition of God.
[2.] God's servants shall rejoice and sing, when his enemies are ashamed, and with anguish cry out in their pangs. The paths of heavenly wisdom are full of present peace and joy; the paths of sin all lead to shame and misery. And how much greater still will the difference appear, when these shall be rejoicing in glory, and joining the songs of angels, while the sinner is covered with everlasting confusion, and gnawing his tongue for pain, in those eternal torments where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
[3.] The one shall be detested and infamous, the other honourable and distinguished. Hence the Jews are become peculiarly stigmatized; but God's people have a new and honourable name, Christians, or Hephzibah and Beulah, intimating the Lord's love and delight in them: That he who blesseth himself in the earth, who looks for God's blessing, or thankfully acknowledges the mercies received from him, shall bless himself in the God of truth, as the pious servants of God ever do, esteeming God as their great portion, and expecting from him all their mercies: or, shall bless themselves in God, Amen; in Jesus Christ, who is the Amen, the faithful and true witness. Revelation 3:14. And he that sweareth in the earth, which is an act of religious worship, shall swear by the God of truth, to whom alone the solemn appeal ought to be made; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from my eyes; either the idolatry and superstition of the Gentile world, which were a grief to God's people, but at this time shall be rooted out; or the carnal ordinances, which were a heavy yoke, and were by Christ's sacrifice abolished; and this sense seems best to suit the following words.
4thly, We see,
1. A new creation rise at God's command, new heavens expanded, a new earth framed, and these so glorious, that they obliterate the remembrance of the former; which some refer to the Gospel-day, when such a wondrous change should be wrought in the hearts of men, that it should be said, Old things are past away; behold all things are become new, 2 Corinthians 5:17. Others suppose this will be fulfilled during the latter days' glory of the church; others, again, not till after the dissolution of all things, and that Christ will then come, and not before, and reign with his saints upon earth a thousand years; and to this they conceive the apostles to refer, Revelation 21:1-5. 2 Peter 3:13 whilst others look farther, and interpret this of the state and blessedness of the saints of God in glory everlasting.
2. This will give occasion of everlasting joy to faithful souls. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create, as partakers of the blessed change which the Gospel works, and inheritors of the eternal glory that God bestows. For behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy; with such consolation shall the church and every member of it be filled, and all her friends rejoice with and over her, because of her prosperity. The voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her; there shall be no allay or interruption of her joys, but they shall be constant and full, like the source from whence they flow.
3. God himself will rejoice in his own work. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people, when, through the infinite merit of Jesus, and the effectual work of the divine Spirit, they shall be wholly renewed in body, soul, and spirit, and become the blessed objects of God's full complacence.
4. In this blessed state there shall be no untimely deaths, as now when we see the infant carried almost from the womb to the grave; and few, even of those who are aged, reach the full limits appointed to the life of man: the contrary to which many pious commentators suppose will literally be the case in the latter day, when, among other instances of temporal blessings, long life shall be enjoyed. But the words may be also taken in a spiritual sense, as intimating that the youngest convert who departs, shall be raised in the fulness of the measure of the stature of Christ, as if he had lived a hundred years; and those whose lives have been longer spent in Christ's service shall have their full reward in glory; while the sinner, to whatever extent God lengthens out his days, will be accursed at the last. Note; (1.) We need not grieve for early converts snatched away by death; they are happily entered into their rest, and the space taken from the labours of time, shall be added to the rewards of eternity. (2.) An aged saint is a venerable object, an aged sinner the most pitiable and deplorable. (3.) However long God's patience bears with the sinner, his curse will overtake him at last.
5. Their possessions shall not be precarious, nor their enjoyments interrupted. The houses they build, the vine-yards they plant, no enemy shall possess, nor spoiler destroy; but these pious souls shall long, peaceably, and comfortably enjoy the blessings which their God bestows upon them: for as the days of a tree, are the days of my people; as the days of an oak, which lives for ages.
6. Their children after them shall inherit their blessings. They shall not labour in vain, but see the blessing of God upon all the work of their hands: nor bring forth for trouble; their children shall be their comfort, not their sorrow: for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them: their mercies descend to their posterity, together interested in the same Gospel covenant, and prevented and followed with the blessings of divine goodness.
7. A wondrous change shall pass upon the tempers of men. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together; Gentiles and Jews shall now become one fold, and men of the most savage dispositions be brought to the meekness of the lamb: and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock; ravening persecutors not only brought to be men of peace, but laborious ministers, as in the case of Paul and others: and dust shall be the serpent's meat; the sentence pronounced on the devil, Genesis 3:14 and, in him, on all the enemies of God's church and people, shall be fulfilled; they shall be trodden under the feet of God's victorious saints. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, but their power be utterly broken, and themselves ruined, saith the Lord, whose word is faithful, and the accomplishment of it sure.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 65". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany