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The glorious God will be served in humble sincerity: he comforteth the humble with the marvellous generation, and with the gracious benefits of the church. God's severe judgments against the wicked. The Gentiles shall have a holy church, and see the damnation of the wicked.
Before Christ 698.
THERE is so great an affinity between this and the former section, that the prophet preserves nearly the same order, and repeats many of the same phrases which he had made use of in the last and the foregoing sections. It is divided into two parts. In the former of which we have, first, a proposition, exhibiting reproof and consolation. The reproof, Isa 66:1-4 where God, in a sublime discourse, occurs to a doubt, which might be raised against a change in the oeconomy of the church; namely, that it did not seem probable, that God would forsake his temple, Isaiah 66:1-2. He declares his sense of sacrifices, and of carnal worship from hypocrites, and that under the oeconomy of grace, Isaiah 66:3, and threatens a severe and imminent judgment upon sinners, Isaiah 66:4. The consolation is directed to those who fear God; the discourse, by an apostrophe, being turned to them: which consolation is derived from the severe and public vengeance which God would inflict upon those who despised them, Isaiah 66:5-6.—from the calling of the Gentiles, and from the success of that call, Isa 66:7 the wonderfulness whereof is shewn, Isa 66:8 and the cause, Isaiah 66:9.—and from the joyful consequences of this call, namely, the benefits of divine grace to be conferred upon this new church; where we have an excitation to joy from this hope, Isa 66:10 while those benefits are declared at large, Isaiah 66:11-14. An exposition or confirmation of this prophesy is added; wherein the mode of the vengeance to be taken upon the apostates by fire and sword is set forth, Isaiah 66:15-16; and the cause of so great a severity, namely, the grievous and detestable crimes of the hypocrites, Isaiah 66:17-18. The manner of calling his ancient people back to Canaan is then set forth; first, with respect to the instrumental causes,—middle of Isaiah 66:18-19.; secondly, with respect to the manner of bringing them, Isa 66:20 and thirdly, the privileges of those who are brought are described, Isaiah 66:21. In the SECOND part of this section we have the epilogue, or conclusion of the whole prophesy; setting forth the condition and treatment of the true worshippers of God, and of hypocrites, in all times of the church of the new covenant, until the creation of the new heavens and the new earth attains its perfect completion, with respect to the faithful and the hypocrites, Isaiah 66:22-24.
Isaiah 66:1-2. Thus saith the Lord, &c.— God here makes use of a sublime discourse, suitable to his Majesty, to reach the genuine sense whereof we must consider it as directed to the hypocrites, who supposed the care of the temple and sacrifice to be the principal and most acceptable part of worship in the sight of God. The words may be thus paraphrased: "Why, ye hypocrites, do ye build and adorn my temple upon earth with so much labour? If I regarded a visible temple as the place of manifesting my glory, I have one of the highest excellence and splendor in the heavens, which I have prepared for my glory and for the use of the celestial hosts. In which view the whole earth, and whatever is made of earth and terrestrial matter, (as is every temple, however splendid) ought to be considered as my footstool." (See chap. Isaiah 57:15.) Further, "whatever is your boast, from building me a house, all this is vain; for my hand hath formed all these things, and they have all existed by my power and will; so that you can confer upon God nothing but what is his own." See Psalms 50:12. Though therefore God, for the reasons of his providence toward his church, permitted, for he did not command, David or Solomon to build him a material temple; yet he would not have it esteemed as his true house, or seem on this account to be indebted to the builders. He only, according to his wisdom, was willing to indulge the Israelites, that in the time of the infancy of the church, they might substitute a figurative in the room of the true house of the Lord. The discourse rises; "Nay," saith the Lord, "not even the celestial house is acceptable to me: I have another, more noble, pure, and agreeable to my nature, the true place of my rest; namely, men formed and prepared by grace to receive the influx of the Divine Spirit;" which is thus expressed, To this man will I look, to him who is poor and contrite in spirit, and who trembleth at my word. See ch. Isaiah 57:15.Matthew 5:3; Matthew 5:3.Psalms 138:6; Psalms 138:6. Vitringa is of opinion, that this discourse is directed to the hypocrites, who, despising the Gospel of the Son of God, after they had made the temple a den of thieves, were yet zealous to repair and adorn that temple: they did not consider that, a new oeconomy being established, no earthly and material temple could be acceptable to the God whose throne was in heaven, and who every where found the place of his rest in the humble and contrite heart.
Isaiah 66:3. He that killeth an ox, &c.— God here shews, that the external ritual worship offered to him by hypocrites and wicked persons, void of faith and holiness, was no more estimable in his sight, than the material temple above spoken of; but that he was as much offended by the ritual worship of the impure, as by the most grievous crimes perpetrated against the immediate commands of the law, and particularly under the new oeconomy, after the promulgation of the law of liberty, and the perfect and true sacrifice offered by his Son, to expiate the sins of the world. The sentence may be supplied, He who killeth an ox, [with the dispositions above mentioned] is [esteemed guilty of as great a crime in the sight of God] as he who killeth a man. As if he cut off a dog's neck, means, in order to sacrifice it. This animal was held in the greatest abhorrence by the Jews; insomuch, that the very price of a dog was forbidden to be brought into the house of the Lord. See Deuteronomy 23:18. As if he blessed an idol, means, as if he hououred an idol with gifts and presents. See Vitringa.
Isaiah 66:5. Hear the word of the Lord, &c.— Hear, &c. your brethren who hated you, who cast you out, say, Jehovah shall be glorified for, of on account of, my name: but we shall see your joy, &c. Vitringa supposes that the apostles and followers of Christ, the seed of the first church, who were to constitute that spiritual temple which God had determined to build and inhabit, upon the abolition of the material temple, are here addressed, and comforted by God, on account of the contempt, hatred, and excommunication of them, by their brethren among the Jews and Pharisees. See John 16:2. The words, the Lord shall be glorified for my name, that is to say, for that profession of faith which we hold, and of which we are the authors and teachers; these words belong to the pharisaical professors of religion; and the answer, but we shall see your joy, &c. to the prophetic chorus, or the true believers. See chap. Isaiah 65:5. The meaning of the next verse is, that God by his providence should so direct matters, that a hostile army should break in upon the city and temple, with great tumults and warlike shouts, and that these forces should be considered as the executors of his vengeance, and their tumult and clamours as his voice, at this time rendering recompence to his enemies. See Zec 14:13 and Vitringa.
Isaiah 66:7. Before she travailed, &c.— Another consolatory argument is here urged, to those who reverence the word of Jehovah, who form the true Sion, taken from the sudden and wonderful increase of the church among the Gentiles, superior to all human thoughts and expectation; for from the 9th and 11th verses it appears abundantly, that these words are thus connected with the context. Isaiah in the former section had done two things; first, predicted the call of the Gentiles; and then the punishment of those who rejected the Gospel. In this section, after he had repeated the indignation conceived by God against the hypocrites and rejectors of the Gospel, he in the same manner consoles the pious Jews, from the unexpected event of the wonderful success of the calling of the Gentiles, who, joined with them in one body, should form one church, and inherit the earth. The metaphor here used, is very frequent in the Scripture, and very easily understood in the present passage; which is illustrated sufficiently by the following verses.
Isaiah 66:11. That ye may milk out, &c.— That ye may draw forth the delicious nourishment from her abundant stores. Lowth.
Isaiah 66:12. Beheld, &c.— Behold, I will diffuse peace over her like the river [Euphrates], and the glory of the Gentiles as the flowing Nile: Ye shall suck, ye shall be carried at her side, &c.
Isaiah 66:14. And when ye see this, &c.— When the true believers, at the time of this distinguished mercy of God to his church, should observe his favour to them, and his punishment of their enemies, full of joy they should triumph in the salvation of Jehovah; their understanding of the divine will, their faith, hope, and all the spiritual dispositions which support their state, here metaphorically called bones, as in other places, (see ch. Isaiah 57:11.Psalms 34:21-22; Psalms 34:21-22.) should acquire greater strength, and, indued as it were with new life, should put forth the flourishing fruits of piety, love, zeal, and good works; that is to say, should grow green, should germinate, should greatly flourish; which is the force of the original word פרח parach: And the brighter the proofs were of the hand or power of Jehovah, exerted for the advantage of his people, and of his indignation and severity toward their enemies, which this last period of the church should afford, so much the greater cause for rejoicing should the church have at that time: so much the stronger should their faith and hope be found, and their good works abound and flourish. See Vitringa, who reads the last clause, And the hand of the Lord shall be conspicuous with his servants, while he shall handle their enemies severely.
Isaiah 66:15-16. For, behold, &c.— This passage is wholly figurative, exhibiting God, as about to take vengeance upon the enemies of his church, under the figure of a commander and warrior, as well as of a judge, armed at all points, severely to take vengeance upon those who have provoked his indignation. See chap. Isaiah 63:1, &c. and Revelation 18:8; Revelation 14:20; Revelation 14:20. Some suppose that this passage refers to the general judgment; but it is rather, according to the whole tenor of this prophesy, to be referred to the judgments of God upon the rebellious Jews, and upon the antichristian enemies of the church.
Isaiah 66:17-18. They that sanctify themselves— These verses specify the cause of the extreme severity denounced in those preceding, and are to be understood figuratively, like the expressions used in Isa 66:3 and in ch. Isaiah 65:3-4; Isaiah 65:11. אחד אחר achar achad, Behind one tree, may be rendered, After Hecate, or Ahad, which Ahad, or Adad, was an Assyrian idol. See Selden, and Macrob. Saturn. 23. In the midst, may either signify publicly, without any fear or shame, (see ch. Isa 19:19 Isaiah 61:9.) or it may refer to the idol's being placed in the midst of the sacred grove.
Isaiah 66:18-20. It shall come, that I will gather, &c.— The prophet here describes the manner of converting the Gentiles, after the rejection of the greater part of the Jews. Vitringa thinks that this alludes to the first calling of the Gentiles, and that St. Paul manifestly refers to this passage, in his epistle to the Romans, Romans 15:16. The passage is sufficiently plain from what has gone before in this book. The author of the Observations remarks, that in the 20th verse there is an allusion to the mode of travelling in caravans in the East: the editor of the Ruins of Palmira tells us, that the caravan which his company formed to go to that place consisted of about 200 persons, and about the same number of beasts of carriage, which were an odd mixture of horses, camels, mules, and asses; but there is no account of any vehicle drawn on wheels in that expedition, nor do we find an account of any such things in other Eastern journeys. There are, however, some vehicles among them usual for the sick, or for persons of high distinction. Thus Pitt observes, in the account of his return from Mecca, that at the head of each division some great gentleman or officer was carried in a thing like a horse-litter, borne by two camels, one before and the other behind, which is covered all over with sear-cloth, and over that again with green broad-cloth, and set forth very handsomely. If he had a wife attending him, she was carried in another. This is apparently a mark of distinction. There is another Eastern vehicle used in their journeys, which Thevenot calls a coune. He tells us, that the counes are hampers, like cradles, carried upon camels' backs, one on each side, having a back, head, and sides, like the great chairs which sick persons sit in. A man rides in each of these counes, and over them is laid a covering, which keeps them both from the rain and sun, leaving as it were a window before and behind, upon the camel's back. The riding in these is also a mark of distinction, according to Maillet; for, speaking of the pilgrimage to Mecca, he says, "Ladies of any figure have litters; others are carried sitting in chairs, made like covered cages, hanging on both sides of a camel; and as for ordinary women, they are mounted on camels without such conveniences after the manner of the Arab women, and cover themselves from sight, and the heat of the sun, as well as they can, with their veils. These are the vehicles which are in present use in the Levant. Coaches, on the other hand, as Dr. Russel assures us, are not in use at Aleppo; nor do we meet with any account of their commonly using them in any other part of the East: but one would imagine, that if ever such conveniences as coaches had been in use, they would not have been laid aside in countries where ease and delicacy are so much consulted. As then the caravans of these returning believers are described by Isaiah as composed like Mr. Dawkins's to Palmira, of horses, and mules, and swift beasts; so I imagine are we to understand the other terms of litters and counes, rather than of coaches, or of chariots, in our common sense of the word. For, though our translators have given us the word chariot in many passages of Scripture, yet the wheel-vehicles which those writers speak of, and which our version renders chariots in the present text, seem to have been mere warlike machines; nor do we ever read of ladies riding in them. On the other hand, a word derived from the same original is made use of for a seat, however moved, such as the mercy-seat, 1Ch 28:18 where our translators have used the word chariot, but which was no more of a chariot, in the common sense of the word, than a litter is; and that sort of seat, mentioned Lev 15:9 which they have rendered saddle, seems only to mean a litter or a coune." See Observations, p. 213. Instead of Tarshish, &c. Isa 66:19 we may read Tartessus, Phile,—Ethiopia, or the Ethiopians,—the Tubareni, and Greece.
Isaiah 66:22. For as the new heavens, &c.— This conclusion connects not only with the preceding period, but with the argument of the two former sections, as well as with the whole book, with respect to its principal scope. For, what scope and end, not only of this book, but of the whole prophetic word, can be fixed upon more properly, than to set forth the history and events of the true church, and its adversaries, both in this mortal life, and in futurity? We may therefore affix a very ample signification to the particle כי ki, for, or because. The above promise of a church to be called from the Gentiles, and to be supported and taught by ministers, appointed by God for that end, from the Gentiles themselves, Isa 66:21 with the addition of the remnant of the Jews, is here enlarged by the promise of the stability and duration of this eminent blessing. The discourse is directed to the same church of believers in Christ, which the prophet had addressed in all the consolatory periods of this section. As the new heavens and the new earth which God had promised to create, ch. Isa 65:17 were to remain before Jehovah, so should this spiritual church, which was to inherit these new heavens and new earth, remain or continue a glorious church. See Vitringa.
Isaiah 66:23. And it shall come to pass— The meaning is, that in consequence of the creating and perfecting of these new heavens and new earth; that is to say, of establishing this new and spiritual oeconomy; all men at length throughout the world, acknowledging and embracing the true religion, should with great zeal, at the stated times, publicly worship and adore God, and that with spiritual worship. For God is a spirit and they who worship him acceptably under the new covenant, must worship him in spirit and in truth. See Zechariah 14:16. The meaning of the phrase, From one new moon, &c. is, at new moons and sabbaths, or, at certain and appointed days.
Isaiah 66:24. And they shall go forth— We have here the end of all transgressors, of incredulous Jews, and apostate Christians, like them obstinate in unbelief or apostacy, and hardened in spiritual death, to begin in this world, and to continue for ever. The prophet here speaks of the punishment of sinners, who had been in the communion of the external church, so called, had despised the divine vocation, had excommunicated and oppressed their brethren, see Isa 66:5 and who are here called, the men that have transgressed, have rebelled, or revolted against me.—They shall go forth, means those who had joined themselves to the communion of the church, spoken of in the preceding verses. See Matthew 8:12.Mark 9:44; Mark 9:44; Mark 9:50. The reader will observe, that the ideas in this verse are figurative; the first figure is taken from the valley of the children of Hinnom; the second from worms preying upon dead bodies. Instead of an abhorring, we may read, an execration. Our Lord, in his judicial sentence upon the impenitent, will say, Depart, ye cursed, or, execrated, into eternal fire: An evil which will be added to their state of pain, and to a condemning conscience: Separated from the communion of God and the saints, cast into the profoundest misery and torment, they will be exposed to the ignominy, contempt, and execration of devils and condemned spirits; unlike the pious, who shall worship for ever before the Lord. These are the different ends of the different kinds of men, the pious and the wicked; in which, after various preparatory judgments of God, the end of all ages will arrive, and our conditions respectively be determined for ever: with which this divine book of our inimitable prophet terminates also. God grant that our lot may be with the holy, with those who reverence the Lord, and love the truth; with the humble, the meek, the merciful, and those who persevere in good works to the end of life; through the grace of our Almighty Lord, Saviour, and Judge, Jesus Christ, who is to distribute these blessings according to the will of his Father! "Full of which hope," says Vitringa, "and prostrate before his throne, I return, with the most profound humility, my sincerest thanks to God the Father in his Son Jesus Christ by the Spirit, for the grace and light wherewith he hath favoured me, his unworthy servant, during my comment on this book; earnestly requesting of his mercy, that, pardoning the errors into which I have ignorantly fallen, he would render this work conducive to the glory of his great name, the benefit of the church, and the consolation of the pious."
To conclude.—The regularity, sublimity, and elegance of composition of this divine poem are alone sufficient to recommend it to every reader of taste; but when the depth, the clearness, and extent of the prophesies contained in it, are taken into the account, we shall not be thought to speak too largely when we say, that the book of Isaiah is one of the most complete and excellent of all compositions human or divine, and deserving the most attentive and repeated perusal.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The grand delusion of the Jewish people was, the confidence they placed in their outward privileges and ritual services, their temple and sacrifices. To undeceive them herein, the prophets and evangelists warn them of the vanity of these things, and that the temple which they so highly prized, would soon be razed from its foundations, as it was by the Chaldeans, and more intirely afterwards by the Romans.
1. The prophet rebukes their mean and unworthy notions of God, as if confined to the temple which they had built, whom heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain. Thus saith the Lord, the Heaven is my throne, where most transcendently he displays the infinite brightness of his glory; and the earth is my footstool, subject to his government, and at his disposal. Where is the house that ye build unto me? which can contain his immensity, or be worthy of his dignity, who is exalted above all blessing and praise; and where is the place of my rest? who needs no repose, and can take no satisfaction in the wretched fabrics of puny mortals: for all those things hath mine hand made; heaven, earth, and the inhabitants of both: and all those things have been, or are, saith the Lord; were created by his power, and subsist by his providence: how impossible, therefore, for this eternal Creator of all to need a temple made with hands, or this omnipresent Deity to be circumscribed within these narrow bounds?
2. The temple he delights in is not that which consists of hewn stones, and cedars overlaid with gold; a far nobler mansion he hath formed for himself. To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word; which some interpret of Christ, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the godhead bodily; but more generally may be applied to every believer, who is an habitation of God through the Spirit, and whose character is here delineated; poor in his own eyes, sensible of his spiritual wants and utter weakness; of a contrite heart, broken with a consciousness of intire demerit; and trembling at my word, with that reverence and godly fear which faith inspires; such a heart is the living temple of the Deity.
3. Their sacrifices are rejected, abolished, abhorred: they were ever detestable, when offered by those whose ways were wickedness; but now to persist in them, and depend upon them for acceptance with God, when the one great sacrifice once offered put a period to the ritual service, was utterly abominable. Murder, idolatry, and the most unclean and forbidden sacrifices, as the offering of a dog, or the blood of swine, were not more highly criminal, and abhorred of God, nor would be attended with deeper and more condign punishment, than the continuance of their incense and oblations, which was now in effect to trample under foot the blood of the Son of God, to reject his Gospel, and do despite to the Spirit of grace. Note; Many think that they take great pains to save their souls by duties and services springing from a proud unregenerate heart, and will not be persuaded that their trust in these only brings upon them more sure destruction.
4. God gives them up to their own inventions; and woe to that soul which he abandons! Yea, they have chosen their own way; cleaving to the law for righteousness, they wilfully and obstinately rejected Christ and his salvation; and their soul delighteth in their abominations; they are pleased with their own services, and flatter themselves that God approves them, when in fact he abhors them. Therefore, says he, I also will choose their delusions, giving them up to their own deceived hearts; and will bring their fears upon them; the calamities which they dreaded, especially the horrible devastations of the Romans, who they feared would take away their place and nation, John 11:48; which to prevent, they crucified the Redeemer, and thereby most effectually drew upon their own heads the judgments which they sought to avoid: because when I called, none did answer; when I spoke, they did not hear; deaf to the preaching of Christ and his apostles, they hardened their hearts in unbelief and impenitence. But they did evil before mine eyes; reviling, blaspheming, persecuting, and at last murdering the Lord Jesus, and utterly rejecting his Gospel; and choose that in which I delighted not; not only the ways of wickedness and sin, but the false confidences of a legal righteousness, and the vain interpretations of oral tradition. Note; (1.) They who are deaf to God's warnings, will be made to feel his wrath. (2.) Wilful rejection of the light is justly punished by God's leaving a sinner to the delusions that he hath chosen, and giving him up to a reprobate mind. (3.) Nothing more is needful to kindle up a hell within sinners' hearts, even on this side the grave, than to bring their own fears upon them.
2nd, The prophet turns from the disobedient, against whom God's judgments are denounced, to those who trembled at his word; and encourages the humble and contrite with the assurances of God's regard, and his blessing upon them.
1. God will appear to vindicate them against their persecutors. Your brethren that hated you, and cast you out for my name's sake; as the Jews did the apostles and disciples of Christ, though their brethren, excommunicated them from their synagogues, and were their bitterest and most implacable enemies, stirring up the Gentiles against them in every place; said, Let the Lord be glorified; pretending zeal for his honour, and many really thinking that he who killed them did God service: but he shall appear to your joy, supporting and strengthening them against all opposition, giving success to their labours, and comforting them in all their tribulation: and they shall be ashamed; all their devices baffled, the Gospel spreading in spite of their opposition, and speedy destruction hastening upon their own heads. Note; (1.) A Christian's bitterest foes are often those of his own house. (2.) Church rulers have been in general the chief persecutors in times of persecution, and cover, with the fair pretext of zeal for religion, the enmity of their hearts against the truly faithful ministers, whose boldness, diligence, and exemplary lives, reproach their sloth, negligence, and carnality. (3.) They who suffer for their fidelity, shall find the comforts of God an abundant support and recompense.
2. Heavy will be the vengeance of God on their enemies. A voice of noise from the city; the shrieks of the wounded, the groans of the dying, and the shouts of the conquerors: a voice from the temple; of lamentation, when set on fire by the Romans; or that which Josephus reports was heard in the temple shortly before its destruction, when the doors flew open of their own accord, and a voice issued from the holy place, crying, Let us depart hence: A voice of the Lord that rendereth recompense to his enemies, by whose direction and order all these judgments came upon them.
3. To the wonder and joy of his people, and the confusion and astonishment of his enemies, God will enlarge and establish his church in the earth. Before she travailed, she brought forth: before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. The church of Christ is represented as a pregnant woman, that immediately, with little or no pain, brings forth her son; so speedily and easily, by the preaching of a single sermon, Act 2:41 were multitudes regenerated and converted to Christ. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? so strange and uncommon. Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? since the creation the seasons go on in gradual succession, and the fruits require time to ripen them: or shall a nation be born at once? which is usually the work of ages: for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children; no sooner began the Gospel to be preached, than multitudes both of men and women, as the drops of dew from the womb of the morning, were added to the church daily, Acts 4:4. Shall I bring to the birth, in conviction, and not cause to bring forth, in conversion and regeneration? Shall I cause to bring forth, in one place and age, and shut the womb, saith thy God? that there should not be a constant succession of spiritual births? Note; (1.) Whatever labour, pains, and prayer ministers use according to their bounden duty, so as to be said to travail in birth till Christ be formed in their hearers, it is still God's work to regenerate the soul, and every real convert is born of him. (2.) God will have a church to serve him in the world to the end of time; and we may expect the fulfilment of this prophesy more eminently hereafter, both respecting Jews and Gentiles, Hosea 1:10-11.Romans 11:25-26; Romans 11:25-26.
4. All the friends of Jerusalem are called to rejoice with her, as we congratulate each other on the birth of a son. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her. They who love God love his church and people, have their interests at heart, pray for their peace and prosperity, take delight in her communion, and mourn over her sorrows, afflictions, declensions, and persecutions, and therefore they cannot but partake in her joys as their own: That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations: as full breasts afford the sweetest nourishment to the infant, and abundantly supply its wants; so plenteous, so precious, shall the consolations of God's Spirit be to the soul which by faith feeds on the sincere milk of the word, and on those great and precious promises contained in the oracles of God: that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory; a glorious Saviour, a glorious Spirit, a glorious provision of promises, a glorious hope, a glorious inheritance: these are the delight of the believing soul, and there is abundance for all who seek it; they may come and milk out from these breasts of glory, to the satisfying of the most boundless desires of their souls.
5. God will give them most abundant cause for joy in the gathering of the Gentiles, and the ruin of every enemy. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river; so plentiful, so abundant; peace with God, peace of conscience, peace among themselves, and, like a river full to its margin, it shall flow uninterrupted through the faithful soul into the boundless ocean of eternal joy: and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream; multitudes of converts shall be made, and these of the mighty and noble, numerous as the drops of water in the river; or, as Egypt by the overflowing of the Nile, the church shall be enriched with their abundance of good things. Then shall ye suck the milk, the riches of the Gentiles, or the breasts of the church's consolations: ye shall be borne upon her sides, or at her side, as the nurse carries her infant charge, tenderly and safely, and be dandled upon her knees, as the mother with fond delight dandles her darling boy. And this represents the tenderness with which young converts must be treated, and the delight of the church, her members, and especially her ministers, in those that are born unto her. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; with that unutterable affection which mothers only know, yea, with tenderness infinitely greater than theirs, will God comfort his people. If he chides, and they return sorrowing, their sorrows melt his heart, and he returns with the kisses of his love to dry up the falling tear; if they be afflicted, he feels with more than human sympathy, with his kind arm supports their reclining head, refreshes them with his consolations, and raises them from the bed of languishing. And ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem, in the church and her ordinances, where God especially manifests his favour towards his people: and when ye see this, experiencing the wondrous grace of this compassionate God and Saviour, your heart shall rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and your bones shall flourish like an herb; you shall both be strengthened and comforted with divine consolations, springing up within the heart, as an herb in a well-watered garden, and which will be as marrow to the bones, Proverbs 17:22. And the hand of the Lord shall be known towards his servants; his care and protection of them, and kindness towards them, shall be manifested to their comfort and honour, and his great glory; and his indignation towards his enemies, upon whom his vengeance will fall so remarkably and terribly, that they who behold it will own that it is the finger of God.
3rdly, We have here an awful display of the wrath of God revealed from heaven against the ungodliness of men, and a bright prospect of the glory and triumphs of the saints, which, like the pillar of the cloud, gives light to God's Israel, but hangs lowering with vengeance over his enemies.
1. Christ will appear, to the terror of the wicked, in flaming fire, and with fury like a whirlwind, his judgments irresistible as terrible. Arraigned at his bar, and their guilt too glaring to be denied, the sword of inexorable justice is unsheathed, and the multitude of criminals executed. Their crimes are idolatry, superstition, and every abomination committed in defiance of God's law. They purify themselves in the gardens, and, according to their idolatrous rites, behind one tree in the midst. Some suppose אחד Achad, which we render one, to be the name of their idol; and others read the words, one after another, eagerly crowding to this hated worship; eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse; unclean and forbidden animals; and therefore they are consumed together: God, being privy to their works and thoughts, and seeing their utter apostacy from his worship and service, executes vengeance upon them. This relates either to the Jews, as some interpret it, many of whom might have brought back with them, and practiced in secret, those idolatries which they had learnt in Babylon: or, as others, to the Antichristian church, in which idolatry shall revive, and Christ's ordinances be disregarded: or it may more generally refer to all the wicked who rebel against God. We have seen fire and sword terribly devour Jerusalem; with the same temporal judgments shall the seat of Antichrist be destroyed, Rev 18:8 and we expect Jesus, the Judge of all, to be at last revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on all who know not God, and obey not his Gospel.
2. He will set up his kingdom in the world, to the great joy of his people, as he did at the first preaching of the Gospel, or as he will do more universally at last, when his name will be spread from pole to pole.
[1.] All nations shall hear the Gospel word, and be gathered in to Christ. It shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues, and they shall come and see my glory; the glory of Christ in his person and offices, or of his Gospel, in the great and precious promises of it; or of the church, into which they will be gathered, and where the members shall in purity of manners, beauty of order, and unity of affection, eminently adorn their profession, and glorify their Lord. And I will set a sign among them; an ensign, such as Christ is, lifted up in the Gospel word, to whom the gathering of the people will be; or some miraculous sign, as when on the day of Pentecost the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the apostles, and, to the astonishment of the different nations assembled at Jerusalem, they heard them speak all their several languages: and it is not improbable, that before the great day of the Lord's power, these miraculous gifts may be again restored.
[2.] Preachers shall for this purpose be sent forth. I will send those that escape of them unto the nations; either the apostles and converts of the Jews, who escaped the general impenitence of their countrymen, and went forth into every place preaching the Gospel; or, those who escape when the Antichristian powers shall be broken, and are as brands plucked out of the burning, will be enabled feelingly to preach the grace of a Redeemer, and the dreadful danger of sin: to Tarshish, Pul and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, and to the isles afar off. Concerning the countries here meant, interpreters are divided and uncertain; but the sense is clear, that they should go into all lands far and near, even to the most distant isles of the sea, preaching the Gospel to those that have not heard my fame, nor seen my glory; strangers to Christ and his word; and to whom his fame had never reached: and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles, the glory of the pardoning, sanctifying, comforting, and saving grace of the Redeemer.
[3.] The effect of their ministry in the conversion of the Gentiles would be great. They shall bring all your brethren, the Gentiles, and all converts who have one father, for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations; either the ministers shall present them before the Lord, as the fruit of their labours; or they should offer up themselves, their bodies, souls, and spirits, as living sacrifices, Romans 12:1. Upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, according to the condition and circumstances of the several converts; some rich, some poor, some weak, some strong; but all eager to come into the church of Christ; or these carriages may represent the Gospel ministers, by whom the souls of men are brought home to Christ; to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, the place of general resort; as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord, so shall the Gentiles be presented to God in the beauty of holiness, their hearts purified by faith, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, as vessels of honour, and accepted as a well pleasing oblation, Romans 15:16. Note; (1.) They who are brethren in Christ, must love as brethren. (2.) The most acceptable offering is the sinner's heart; for this shall please the Lord better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs.
[4.] God will appoint the ministers of this sanctuary out of these Gentile converts. I will also take of them for priests, and for Levites, saith the Lord. Though the Aaronical priesthood is destroyed, God reserves this prerogative to himself, to appoint his own ambassadors; and no man who is not called of God has any right to minister, no ordination of man being able to make those ministers of God, who are not first inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take this office upon them. Let those who dare make that profession in order to intrude into the sacred office, while conscious of their utter unacquaintedness with any inward call, tremble at the complicated guilt which they incur, by lying not only against their own consciences, but against the Holy Ghost.
[5.] There shall be a succession of such Gospel ministers to the end of time. For as the new heavens, and the new earth which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord; the Gospel dispensation, which succeeded the Mosaical, wherein all things are become new, a new covenant established, new institutions made, new commandments given, and these to abide for ever; so shall your seed and your name remain; a spiritual seed, both of ministers and people, who shall have a name in the earth, and in whom the church will be maintained and preserved against all the powers of darkness.
3. The solemn, frequent, and constant returns of worship in the Gospel church, are described in terms borrowed from the Jewish dispensation. Their new moons, indeed, and sabbaths are abolished; but in their stead the Lord's day is appointed for the religious assemblies of Christians for prayer, the preaching of the word, and joining in the Lord's Supper; and all true believers are careful to maintain and keep up these stated opportunities of worship, not forsaking the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is.
Lastly, They shall with joy behold the Redeemer's triumphs in the final and eternal destruction of his enemies and theirs. They shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me; either of the Jews who should be massacred by the Roman sword, whom the Christians would see lying unburied on the earth; or of the Antichristian powers overthrown and destroyed, Revelation 19:19-21. By the word of God: or at the resurrection day, the saints of God going forth from their graves, shall see the wicked, loathsome and abhorred as putrid carcases, cast into the everlasting burnings of hell: for their worm shall not die; eternal horrors gnawing incessantly their guilty consciences; neither shall their fire be quenched; consuming, yet unconsumed; cursed with immortality amid the unutterable tortures of those raging flames, no death, though courted, shall come to their release; but, tormented day and night for ever, they shall have no rest: and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh; the saints of God beholding them with abhorrence, and applauding the justice of God in their damnation. Note; (1.) Let sinners hear and fear; sin will certainly receive its wages at the last; and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of that God who is a consuming fire. (2.) In eternity, God will be magnified for his judgments executed on the wicked, as well as for his grace manifested to the faithful; and they who join the songs of angels in celebrating redeeming mercy, will find matter for their praises also even in the miseries of the damned: for when the smoke of their torment ascendeth up, for ever and ever, the saints of God will cry Allelujah! Revelation 19:2-3.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 66". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany