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A RENEWED PROPHECY OF MESSIAH AND OF HIS KINGDOM. This chapter is closely connected with the preceding. With the final destruction of Assyria, which, being cut down, sends out no shoot (Isaiah 10:33, Isaiah 10:34), is contrasted the recuperative energy of Israel, which, though equally leveled with the ground (Isaiah 9:18, Isaiah 9:19), shall spring afresh into life, and "renew its youth." The recovery is connected—or rather identified with the coming of Messiah, whose character is beautifully portrayed (Isaiah 11:2-23.11.5). An elaborate description of Messiah's kingdom follows (Isaiah 11:6-23.11.10)—an expansion of the briefer one in Isaiah 2:3, Isaiah 2:4.
There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse. The blasted and ruined "stem" or stock of Jesse, cut down, and for ages hidden from sight, shall suddenly put forth a sprout—a young green sapling, tender vet vigorous, weak seemingly, yet foil of life (comp. Job 14:7-18.14.9, "There is hope of a tree, if it he cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not crease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant"). "The stem of Jesse" must mean the house of David, for there is but one Jesse (Ishai) in Scripture—David's father. A Branch shall grow out of his roots. That which is at first a sapling gains strength and grows into a "branch" (see Isaiah 4:2, where the word used, though different, is synonymous).
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (comp, Matthew 3:16; Luke 2:40; Luke 4:1, Luke 4:14, Luke 4:18; John 3:34, etc.). The human nature of our Lord required, and received abundantly, the sanctifying and enlightening influences of the Holy Spirit. These influences were not in him transient or occasional, as in too many men, who more or less "resist the Spirit," but permanent and enduring. They "rested upon" him; from first to last never quitted, and never will quit, him. The spirit of wisdom and understanding. The influences of the Holy Spirit are manifold, affecting the entire complex nature of man (see 1 Corinthians 12:8-46.12.11). Here, three pairs of graces are set forth as specially manifested in the Messiah through the power of the Spirit:
(1) "Wisdom and understanding," or intellectual and moral apprehension (εὐσυνεσία) the ability to perceive moral and abstract truth;
(2) "counsel and might," or the power at once to scheme and originate, and also to carry out thought into act;
(3) "The knowledge and the fear of the Lord," or acquaintance with the true will of God, combined with the determination to carry out that will to the full (John 4:34; Luke 22:42; Hebrews 10:7). It is needless to say that all these qualities existed in the greatest perfection in our blessed Lord.
And shall make him of quick understanding. This rendering of the original, though defended by Dr. Kay, is quite without support from any other passage where the same word is used. Modern writers almost all translate, either "the breath of his nostrils shall be in the fear of the Lord" (Herder, Ewald, Meier, Cheyne), or "a sweet savor shall he find in the fear of the Lord" (Gesenius, Delitzsch, Rosenmüller, Knobel). He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes. "God sooth the heart." Our Lord "knew men's thoughts" (Matthew 9:4, etc.), and therefore did not need to "judge according to the appearance" (John 7:24). Thus his judgments were always righteous.
With righteousness shall he judge the poor (comp. Isaiah 32:1, "A king shall reign in righteousness"). It would be characteristic of the Messiah's rule that the poor should be eared for, that oppression should cease, and judgment be no more perverted in favor of the rich. There is an intended contrast between the Messiah's rule in this respect, and that of the princes of Judah (Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 10:1, Isaiah 10:2). Christian countries still, for the most part, follow their Lord's example in this particular, if in no other, having judges that are incorruptible, and tribunals that are free from any leaning against the poor. Reprove; or, plead (as in Job 16:21). The meek of the earth; rather, the humble, or afflicted. Low condition, not meekness of spirit, is what the word used expresses. He shall smite the earth. A slight alteration of the text produces the meaning, be shall smite the terrible one (comp. Isaiah 29:20), which improves the parallelism of the clauses. But there is no need of any alteration, parallelism in Isaiah being often incomplete. The Messiah at his coming will "smite the earth" generally (see Malachi 4:6, and comp. Matthew 10:34, "I came not to send peace on the earth, but a sword"), and will also especially chastise "the wicked." The rod of his mouth … the breath of his lips. "The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). The sayings of Christ pierce the conscience and penetrate the soul as no other words that ever came from a human mouth. In the last day words from his mouth will consign to everlasting life or to everlasting destruction.
Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, etc.; i.e. "righteousness shall be ever with him, ever ready for active use, ever (as it were) bracing him for action." Assuredly, he was "righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works" (Psalms 145:17). Faithfulness (comp. Ephesians 6:14, "Having your loins girt about with truth").
Messiah's kingdom, when fully realized, shall be one of perfect peace. "They shall neither hurt nor destroy in all his holy mountain." Primarily, no doubt, the passage is figurative, and points to harmony among men, who, in Messiah's kingdom, shall no longer prey one upon another (see especially Isaiah 11:9). But, from the highest spiritual standpoint, the figure itself becomes a reality, and it is seen that, if in the "new heavens and new earth" there is an animal creation, it will be fitting that there harmony should equally prevail among the inferior creation. Human sin may not have introduced rapine and violence among the beasts—at least, geologists tell us that animals preyed one upon another long before the earth was the habitation of man—but still man's influence may prevail to eradicate the beasts' natural impulses and educate them to something higher. Already domestication produces an accord and harmony that is in a certain sense against nature. May not this be carried further in the course of ages, and Isaiah's picture have a literal fulfillment? Jerome's scorn of the notion as a poetic dream has about it something harsh and untender. Will not God realize all, and more than all, of love and happiness that poets' dreams can reach to?
The wolf … the leopard … the young lion … the bear are the only ferocious animals of Palestine, where the tiger, the crocodile, the alligator, and the jaguar are unknown. That the Palestinian bear was carnivorous, and a danger to man, appears by Lamentations 3:10; Daniel 7:5; Amos 5:19. A little child shall lead them. Man's superiority over the brute creation shall continue, and even be augmented. The most powerful beasts shall submit to the control of a child.
The lion shall eat straw (comp. Isaiah 65:25). There is nothing impossible in this. Cats are fond of some kinds of vegetable food.
The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp; rather, by the hole—near it. The "asp" is probably the Coluber Naje of Egypt, whose bite is very deadly. The cockatrice den. The "cockatrice" is another deadly serpent, perhaps the Daboia xanthina (Tristram, 'Natural Hist. of the Bible').
My holy mountain. As the Jewish Church is always bound up with the "holy hill of Zion," so the Messianic one receives the designation of "the mountain of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 30:29; Micah 4:2), or "the holy mountain" (Zechariah 8:3). What was physically true of the type is transferred to the antitype, which is "a city set upon a hill" in a certain sense. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord (romp. Habakkuk 2:14; Joel 2:28; Mat 28:1-20 :29). A fruitful knowledge, guiding and influencing conduct, seems to be intended (see below, Isaiah 54:13, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children"). As the waters cover the sea; i.e. "as the ocean covers and fills the bed prepared for it."
THE JEWS AND GENTILES SHALL BE GATHERED TOGETHER INTO MESSIAH'S KINGDOM. It is characteristic of "the evangelical prophet" that he dwells earnestly and frequently on the calling of the Gentiles (see Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 19:22-23.19.25; Isaiah 25:6; Isaiah 27:13, etc.). The prophecies to Abraham had repeatedly declared that "in him," or "in his seed," "all the families of the earth should be blessed" (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4); and some of the psalmists had echoed the glad sound and spoken of God as worshipped generally by "the nations" (Psalms 117:1; Psalms 148:11). But the idea had taken little hold upon the chosen people generally; and was practically new to them when Isaiah was inspired to preach it afresh. To render it the more palatable, he unites with it the promise of a great gathering of the dispersed Israelites from all quarters to the banner of Messiah, when it is set up.
There shall he a root of Jesse. The "root" of this place is the same as the "rod" and "branch" of Isaiah 11:1. The "rod" springs up out of a "root," and is inseparably connected with it. Which shall stand for an ensign of the people; rather, of the peoples. The "rod" shall lift itself up, and become an ensign, seen from afar, and attracting to itself the attention of "the peoples" or "nations" generally. The Acts and Epistles show how speedily this prophecy was fulfilled. Greeks, Romans, Galatians, Cappadoeians, Babylonians (1 Peter 5:13), saw the ensign, and sought to it. His rest shall be glorious; rather, his resting-place; i.e. his Church, with which he abides forever (Matthew 28:20). The Shechinah of his presence makes the Church "glorious" (literally, "a glory") throughout all ages; but the glory will not fully appear till the time of the "new heavens and new earth" (Isaiah 65:17; Roy. 21; 22.), when he will dwell visibly with it.
The Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover, etc. The first recovery was from the servitude in Egypt. Isaiah now foresees that there will be a dispersion of the Israelites through several distant lands, instead of a mere transference of them from one land to another, as in Jacob's time (Genesis 46:1-1.46.29). God, who brought them out of Egypt, will likewise some day "set his hand" to recover them from the various countries through which they will have been dispersed, and restore them to their own land once more. The first fulfillment of the prophecy was undoubtedly, the return from the Babylonian captivity. A secondary fulfillment may have been the gathering of so many Jews from all quarters into the Christian Church (Acts 2:9-44.2.41). It is possible that there may be ultimately a further fulfillment in a final gathering together of Israel into their own land. From Assyria. Assyria is placed first because already the bulk of the Israelites, as distinct from the Jews, had been carried into Assyria by Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29) and Sargon (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11), and were captives there at the time when Isaiah wrote. The transportation of Israelites to the other places mentioned was subsequent to his day. Egypt … Pathros. There was a great migration of Jews into Egypt in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 43:7; Jeremiah 44:1), and a steady influx for some generations under the early Ptolemies. There was also a second large migration in the time of Onias. The Jewish element in Alexandria for some centuries both before and after Christ was very considerable. Pathros was probably a portion of Upper Egypt, perhaps the Phaturite nome, which was the district about Thebes. It is mentioned as the residence of certain Jews in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 44:1, Jeremiah 44:15). From Cush. "Cush" here may he either the African or the Asiatic. It is slightly in favor of the African that we hear in the Acts of an Ethiopian eunuch who was a Jew in the service of Candace, Queen of the African Ethiopia (Acts 8:27). And it is against the Asiatic that it was so remote. It adjoined, however, upon Elam. From Elam, and from Shinar. "Elam" was the fertile tract of alluvial land to the east of the Tigris, between that stream and the mountains, parallel with Babylonia. Its capital was Susa, and in Isaiah's time it was an important country, frequently at war with Assyria. Shinar was an ancient name of Babylonia (Genesis 10:10; Genesis 11:1-1.11.9). The word is used also by Daniel (Daniel 1:2) and Zechariah (Zechariah 5:11). Some regard it as meaning "the land of the two fleers." From Hamath. (On this town, see note to Isaiah 10:9.) From the islands of the sea; i.e. the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean. During the Maccabee period, there was a gradual spread of Jews over the Western world. Alliances were made with Rome end Sparta (1 Macc. 8:1; 12:2-21; 14:20-23, etc.), and Jews became familiar with both Greece and Italy. St. Paul finds numerous Jews at Rome, and in almost every city of Greece.
He shall set up an ensign for the nations (comp. Isaiah 11:10). Christ is the Ensign. God sets it up to draw the nations to his standard. The outcasts of Israel … the dispersed of Judah. "Outcasts" is masculine, "the dispersed" feminine. The meaning is, "He shall gather together the outcasts and dispersed of both Israel and Judah, both male and female."
The envy also of Ephraim shall depart. In the kingdom of the Prince of Peace there shall no longer be quarrels or jealousies among the members. Old feuds shall be put aside; the northern and southern tribes shall agree together, and there shall be peace and harmony throughout the entire Church. Adversaries of Judah. If any such remain among the Ephraimites, Divine vengeance shall "cut them off," that there be no open disturbance of the harmony.
THE UNITED CHURCH SHALL TRIUMPH OVER ITS ENEMIES. PHYSICAL OBSTACLES TO ITS UNION GOD WILL REMOVE. Israel's most persistent enemies had been the border-nations of the Philistines, the Edomites, the Arabs, Moab and Ammon. These are now taken as types of the enemies of the Church, and victory over them is promised (Isaiah 11:14). A further promise is made that physical difficulties shall not prevent the return of the Jewish exiles from distant countries (Isaiah 11:15, Isaiah 11:16).
They shall fly upon the shoulders of the philistines. It is not to be supposed that actual war is intended. The subjects of the Prince of Peace will not draw the sword. But the Church will for many centuries be confronted by enemies, and must contend with them with legitimate weapons. It is this warfare of which Isaiah now speaks. The united Church will be strong enough to assail her enemies on all sides, and will "swoop" upon the border country of the Philistines like a bird of prey. They shall spoil them of the east; or, the Beni Kedem. The phrase is commonly used in an ethnic sense of the nomadic Arabs inhabiting the deserts east of Jordan, beyond the Ammonite and Moabite country, from whose raids Palestine frequently suffered (see Jeremiah 49:28, Jeremiah 49:29; Ezekiel 25:4, Ezekiel 25:10).
The Lord shall utterly destroy; rather, shall lay under a curse (Aquila, ἀναθεματίσει). The tongue of the Egyptian sea. Either the Gulf of Suez or that of Akabah. God shall do away with those obstacles which keep the nations apart and prevent ready intercourse. Both gulfs are thought to have extended anciently considerably further inland than they do at present. With his mighty wind; rather, with the might of his breath (in fortitudine spiritus sui, Vulgate). Shall he shake his hand. A gesture of menace (comp. Isaiah 10:32). Over the river. "The river" (hun-nahar) is, as usually, the Euphrates, the great river of Western Asia. And smite it in the seven streams; rather, and smite it into seven streams; i.e. divide its waters among seven channels, so that it may be readily forded, and cease to be a barrier. Dry-shod; literally, in their shoes; i.e. without taking them off;
There shall be an highway. This is the object in view—the free and unhindered passage of his people from the various regions where they are scattered (Isaiah 11:11) to their resting-place in Palestine.
The spiritual nature of Messiah's perfections.
It was certainly not from Isaiah that the Jews derived their notion that the Messiah would be a mighty temporal prince, the leader of armies, who would break the yoke of Rome from off their shoulders, and give them dominion over all the nations of the earth. Isaiah does, indeed, announce him as a King (Isaiah 32:1), and could do no less, since he was indeed "King of kings, and Lord of lords." But he ever puts forward his spiritual character, his influence over men as a Teacher, his moral and mental excellences. Messiah's qualifications for his high office (as here enumerated) are—
I. HIS POSSESSION OF WISDOM. "Wisdom" here may be that transcendental quality whereby God "established the heavens" (Proverbs 3:19; Proverbs 8:27); or possibly that still more recondite faculty which Jehovah "possessed in the beginning of his way, before his works of old" (Proverbs 8:22). Being distinguished from "understandings" "counsel," and "knowledge of God," it must apparently be supra-mundane and abstract—a power of which it is difficult for man to form a conception. Its sphere cannot be human life or mundane affairs, but the purely intellectual world of supra-sensuous ideas and concepts.
II. HIS POSSESSION OF UNDERSTANDING. By "understanding" seems to he meant moral intelligence—the power of appreciating the moral character, and judging aright the moral conduct of others. Our Lord possessed this quality in the most eminent degree, never misjudging the character or conduct of any one. His unerring insight gave him an absolute fitness to be the final Judge of men, but was far beyond what is needed by any earthly ruler or king.
III. HIS POSSESSION OF THE SPIRIT OF COUNSEL. Here, no doubt, is a quality of which a temporal ruler has need; but it was not as a temporal ruler, or for the most part in temporal matters, that our Lord's counsel was given. The maxims of his lips were not maxims of worldly policy, but such as these: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;" "Take no thought for the morrow;" "Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor," and the like. He counseled men for their spiritual rather than for their worldly good, with a view to a spiritual and not a temporal kingdom.
IV. HIS POSSESSION OF MIGHT. "Might," or ability to execute his designs, is, again, a quality of high value to an earthly ruler; and had our Lord used his might for earthly ends, he might easily have been all, and more than all, that the Jews expected. But he ever restrained himself from any exhibition of physical strength, or power of organization, or even of persuasive eloquence, exhibiting his might only for spiritual cuds, in miracles of mercy, whereby he sought to win men's souls to himself, or once and again in miracles of power, shown forth as evidences of his mission.
V. HIS POSSESSION OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. None could know God's will so well as he, who "was in the beginning with God, and was God" (John 1:1). Partaker from everlasting of his Father's counsels, the instrument whereby the Father worked in bringing all things into being (Hebrews 1:2), he had sounded all the depths of that nature which he had in common with the Father, and knew even as he was known. This was spiritual knowledge of the highest kind, and enabled him to be man's perfect spiritual Guide, capable of setting before him the true and "perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2) as none other ever was, or will be, capable.
VI. HIS POSSESSION OF THE FEAR OF GOD. "Fear" in the Son is doubtless so mingled with love as to be something very different even from the fear which the angels feel, when they veil their faces before the throne. But the words "Father" and "Son" imply authority and submission, awfulness and reverence. And the human nature of Christ had the same experience of the "fear of God" as belongs to his perfected saints, whether in earth or heaven (Psalms 19:9; Psalms 34:9; Ecclesiastes 12:13, etc.). "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy Name?" Messiah's "fear" brought forth that perfect obedience which made him "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26), and constituted him at once our perfect Pattern and our meritorious Sacrifice.
Isaiah 11:10, Isaiah 11:12
God's mercy in bringing the Gentiles into his kingdom.
In the old world, when "all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth," God sent forth a fierce destruction, and swept away the entire human race, excepting eight persons. After the Flood he promised, of his own free grace, that he would never so destroy mankind again (Genesis 9:11-1.9.15). But it was open to him to have sent upon the world some other equally severe visitation, and to have once more rid the earth of "a seed of evildoers." The general corruption of the Gentile world, when Christ came, was excessive. It is scarcely possible that the corruption of the antediluvians can have been greater. As a modern historian sums up his account of heathendom at the coming of Christ, "Corruption had attained its full tide at the commencement of the second century. Vices gnawed at the marrow of nations, and, above all, of the Romans: their national existence was more than menaced; the moral sickness had become a physical one in its effects—a subtle poison penetrating into the vitals of the state; and, as before in the sanguinary civil wars, so now the lords of the world seemed minded to destroy themselves by their vices. Men were denuded of all that was really good, and, surrounded on all sides by the thick clouds of a blinded conscience, they caught with wild eagerness at the grossest sensual enjoyments, in the wild tumult of which they plunged to intoxication". Or take St. Paul's account of the condition of the heathen when he began his preaching: "As men did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, deceit, debate, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Romans 1:28-45.1.32). Yet, instead of destroying this polluted race, God had compassion on them, and went out of his way to seek them.
I. HE LIFTED UP CHRIST TO THEM AS AN ENSIGN FROM AFAR. By the manifestation of Christ's character in the Gospels, he set them up a Pattern which they could not but admire, which drew them irresistibly by its purity and loveliness, made them hate themselves, and brought them low on their knees before his footstool.
II. HE OFFERED HIS GOSPEL FREELY TO THEM FROM THE FIRST. "Go, disciple ye all nations, baptizing them;" "Preach the gospel to every creature;" "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." There was no limit, no favoritism; no offer of salvation only to those who had acted up to their previous light.
III. HE RAISED UP A SPECIAL TEACHER, SPECIALLY QUALIFIED, TO BE "THE APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES." What impression Christianity would have made on the Gentile world without St. Paul, or some one similarly qualified, it is difficult to say. Conceivably, it might have taken merely the dimensions of a Jewish sect, which believed that the Messiah had come. St. Paul, raised up for the purpose, lifted it above the sphere of Jewish controversy into world-wide consideration. Teaching personally at Antioch, at Ephesus, at Athens, at Corinth, at Rome, disputing with philosophers, converting members of Caesar's household, he gave it a position among the religions of the world which could not be ignored by later educated inquirers. The apostle of the Gentiles spread Christianity from Syria to Rome, perhaps to Spain, and gave it that hold upon the attention of the educated classes which secured, under God's blessing, its ultimate triumph.
The Church's triumph over its enemies.
The Church of God will always have its enemies, both internal and external, and its external enemies will from time to time gather their hosts, and unite themselves together, and threaten it with destruction. Great was Israel's peril, and great her fear, when her enemies "consulted together with one consent, and were confederate against her: the tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; Asshur also joining them, and helping the children of Lot" (Psalms 83:5-19.83.8). Yet the danger passed, the confederacy failed, the various nations were "confounded and troubled; they were put to shame and perished" (Psalms 83:17). So it is with the Church. Our Lord has promised that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18); and consequently its enemies labor in vain to effect its destruction. The Church may have confidence—
I. SINCE CHRIST IS HER HEAD. She is "his Church," "built by him," "upon a Rock," i.e. himself; purchased by him with his own blood; loved and cherished and purified by him, that she may be presented to him "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing"—his city, his body, his bride.
II. SINCE SHE HAS A SURE WORD OF PROMISE.
1. In the statement, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20).
2. In the passage concerning the gates of hell.
3. In the clear declarations of the apocalyptic vision, which show her ultimate triumph.
III. SINCE SHE HAS PASSED THROUGH PERILS AS GREAT AS ANY THAT CAN HEREAFTER ASSAIL HER.
1. The peril of the imperial persecutions.
2. The peril of the barbarian invasions (Goths, Huns, Vandals, etc.).
3. The peril of Mohammedanism.
4. The peril of the dark ages.
5. The peril involved in unlimited private judgment.
6. The peril of the French Revolution. Half a score of times has she seemed on the point of succumbing; bat each time that she is struck to the ground, she rises, like Antares, refreshed and reinvigorated.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The coming of the Messiah.
I. HIS ORIGIN. "From Ishai's worn stem a shoot will sprout forth, and a green branch burst forth from his roots." From the stock of David, now fallen very low, the coming Deliverer will arise in all the vigor of youth. Seldom does the great man come but of some pure and generous strain of blood. Like some stream which, long hidden underground, reappears again in the daylight, or some vein of precious ore, recovered after some extensive "fault," so it was believed the royal race and the spiritual prowess of David might be obscured for ages, but must be illustrated before the world again. As God saves and blesses the world by means of great men, so in a measure is this true of houses, families, tribes, and nations. There is a principle of providential selection running through life. Though men be of one blood in all their tribes, it is not to be denied that there are different qualities in that blood. Hence noblesse oblige, and great endowments make great expectations and imply great responsibilities. The thought of the seeming extinction, yet destined revival of David's house, may remind us of the imperishableness of the germs of good. David's house was never restored to the throne in the visible sense. Yet the memory of David persisted, begot hope, inspired patience, and was gradually converted into one of the mightiest of spiritual forces in the conscience of the nation. An idea may pass through many changes of form, but it dies not so long as the faith and passion of the heart in which it sprung are living.
II. His SPIRIT. In the religious mode of thought a true temper of the mind is to be traced to Divine inspiration, no less than the great physical or mental ability. What meaning lies in our common expressions, "a gift," "an endowment," "a talent," "an influence!" None of them but is deeply religious, if we trace them to their primary felt significance. Upon this chosen one there "rests the Spirit of Jehovah." And three characters, in the iterative idiom of the Hebrew, are given of this spirit. It is that
(1) of wisdom,
(2) of courage,
(3) of reverence. The qualities of the statesman, the soldier, the man of God. "His breathing is in Jehovah's fear." There can be no simpler nor stronger expression of a man thoroughly "animated," as we say, by religious principle. And
(4) he has the attributes of the just judge. Prompt to redress the injuries of the oppressed and suffering, his rule of conduct is not the pleasure of his eyes and ears, but the eternal equity of him who is no respecter of persons. As the consequence of thus vitally living in communion with God as in the common and necessary air he breathes, he possesses irresistible strength. His mere word of judgment smites the earth more powerfully than the despot's scepter, while his mere breath destroys the wicked like a pestilence. In a word, it is a sublime picture of moral majesty. This King needs not the weapons of ordinary warfare. He has a better defense of his throne than swords and spears, a better battle-array than the suit of armor. Justice and faithfulness themselves are his best, his only preparations.
III. THE BLESSINGS OF HIS RULE. There will be a marvelous growth of peace and prosperity. The progress of true culture is marked by the subduing of savagery. The wild animals change their nature and become harmless to mankind. Wickedness is ferocious; men's untamed passions are like the wolf, the bear, and the deadly serpent. There will be no sin nor sinners in Zion, because the knowledge of the true God wilt be all-diffused and all-inexhaustible as the ocean. To what state of life do these predictions refer? To the advent of Christ and his kingdom? Certainly; and yet when Christ came, not only did not universal peace set in, but the light of Zion and the glories of the sacred city were quenched in blood. And Christ himself opened up a gloomy perspective of the future in his closing prophecies. Where, then, and when this scene of bliss? Let us content ourselves with believing that the prophecy refers to some state to us unknown. Earth will be earth, and not heaven. This heaven is in the soul first; there we dream of it, nay, we realize it as we listen to the prophet's glowing words, and believe that but a step may carry us into a world where it is realized by all. The prophecy is already fulfilled for us if God has made a heaven of hope in oar hearts.—J.
Judah and the nations.
I. HONOR TO THE ROOT OF JUDAH. The scion from the ancient trunk will be honored far and wide among the heathen, because of those virtues already described in the preceding section. It will be a banner to which they will flock, a center of light and living oracles.
II. REDEMPTION OF THE REMNANT. The mighty hand of Jehovah will be stretched forth to gather the scattered ones from all the four quarters of their dispersion. When the banner is raised, the heathen will own its power and the captives will be released.
III. INTERNAL UNITY. The two great tribes will remain side by side, but then enmity will cease. The recent destruction of Samaria had been caused by that enmity; which ceasing, it will be found that union is strength, and the nations will submit on the West and East. And those great threatening neighbors, Egypt and Assyria, will feel the weight of Jehovah's hand and the punishment which the word of his mouth inflicts. And as the great river is smitten into seven fordable streams, the company of pilgrims will flow back, a way made for them by the hand of their God, as in the days of their forefathers, and the exodus from Egypt. The scion from the old stump may be taken as a figure of the revival of true religion in times of decay. And such revival means the union of long-sundered hearts, the recognition of an internal unity among all the faithful, the restoration of influence, and the dismay of the ungodly world.—J.
HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM
The rest of Christ.
"And his rest shall be glorious." This chapter commences with the full Messianic strain. "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse;" and the music swells, in the Hebrew rhythm of thought, into a sublime prophecy of the reign of Christ. This "root of Jesse" is to be "an ensign of the people," and "to it shall the Gentiles seek." We are thus led to understand the words, "his rest," as applying to the triumph of the Savior.
I. MANY IDEAS OR FORMS OF REST ARE INGLORIOUS. They are connected with mere military conquest. There is the peace of subjection, or there is the peace of compromise, or there is the peace which belongs to the desert and the wilderness, when they are simply let alone. But Christ's peace is his own beautiful peace of nature. "My peace I give unto you." His rest is not artificial. It is the rest of holy expectation. He sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied.
II. THIS GLORY IS PROSPECTIVE AS WELL AS PRESENT. It "shall be glorious." The golden age of the gospel is in the future. "From henceforth expecting;" "He must reign." It will be a glorious rest. For truth will conquer error. Right will conquer might. Love will have victory over all forms of division and hate. It shall be; for Christ hath spoken it. It shall be; for he has all power in heaven and earth. It shall be on spiritual grounds; for the mightiest moral force ever and always triumphs in the end.
III. THIS REST OF CHRIST IS OUR REST TOO. We have not only received forgiveness through the cross, but newness of life as well. We have rest now, not in its fullness, but in its ideal; for we have the mind of Christ. We have within us the kingdom and patience of Christ; we are one with the Father through Christ. "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one."—W.M.S.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Characteristics of Jesus Christ.
The expression of the prophet, "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him," has a very close correspondence with the New Testament references to Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:16; Luke 4:1, Luke 4:14, Luke 4:18; John 3:34). This full possession by our Lord of the Spirit of God revealed itself, and is still found, in these particulars which the prophecy indicates.
I. His PERFECT PIETY. In him dwelt the "fear of the Lord" without measure (Isaiah 11:2), and he "delighted in the fear of Jehovah;" "the fear of Jehovah was fragrance to him" (emended readings for, "and shall make him of quick understanding," etc; Isaiah 11:3). He could say, "I delight to do thy will … yea, thy Law is within my heart" (Psalms 40:8). To reverence, to please, to obey God, to consult his will and be subject to it, was the law of his life and the refreshment of his spirit.
II. His INTUITIVE PERCEPTION OF THE BEST AND HIGHEST. In "him was the spirit of wisdom and understanding." He distinguished at once the false from the true, the glittering show from the genuine good, the passing pleasure from the abiding joy, the fictitious gain from the invaluable heritage, the vanity of earthly honors from the blessedness of the Divine favor. Christ saw all things on which he looked in their actual and essential nature, and in their true proportions. Hence—
III. HIS EXCELLENCY AS OUR GUIDE. In him was "the spirit of counsel" (see Homily on 'Chief counsels of Christ,' Isaiah 9:6).
IV. His KNOWLEDGE OF THE DIVINE AND OF THE FUTURE. Fallen, degenerate man, with conscience defiled and reason depraved, could know nothing certainly of these two supreme subjects: he wanted, urgently and imperatively, one who had "the spirit of knowledge" in him, and could tell him distinctly and finally, not what he guessed or what he hoped, but what he knew. This Jesus did. He revealed the Divine Father unto men (Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; John 10:15). And he made known to us the truth as to the future; he brought life and immortality out into the light (John 5:28, John 5:29; John 11:25, John 11:26; 2 Timothy 1:10).
V. HIS PROFOUND KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN HEART. He judged men, "not by the outward appearance," not "by the sight of his eyes or the hearing of his ears," but by looking down through the coverlet of the flesh, through the armory of speech, into the secret chambers of the soul. He not only saw through the fig tree, but through the flesh, and knew Nathanael's simplicity of spirit "He knew what was in man" and knows now, discerning the hollowness of some men s pretensions, appreciating the excellency beneath some men's doubts and diffidences.
VI. HIS ABSOLUTE IMPARTIALITY. (Isaiah 11:4.) He had one measure for the rich and the poor, for the mighty and the meek; he showed unvarying kindness towards the humblest, and he showed a constant readiness to receive those who were enriched with worldly wealth, or endowed with social honor. The testimony of his enemies was true enough; he "regarded not the person of men" (Mark 12:14). Such is the genius of his gospel—"the common salvation" (see 1 Corinthians 3:11; Galatians 3:28; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 6:8).
VII. HIS RIGOROUS RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 11:5.) Christ, in his righteousness, demanded the spiritual service of all men, and he condemned all that withheld it. He showed himself the determined enemy of evil.
1. He denounced it in scathing terms when he was with us (see Matthew 23:1-40.23.39.).
2. He announces himself as the Judge of all, who will punish the impenitent according, to their, deeds (see Matthew 25:1-40.25.46.)
VIII. His FAITHFULNESS. (Isaiah 11:5.) Having loved his own, he loved them—to the end. He "never leaves nor forsakes" those who serve him. Throughout our fidelity to him his love to us is constant; in the time of our slackness or departure he visits us in his faithfulness with his kind correction, in order to attach us to himself, or to call us back to his side; in the hour of our suffering he makes good his presence of Divine support; when everything earthly fails us, the faithful Promiser will fulfill his word, and receive us to himself, that we may dwell in his glory.—C.
The intensive and extensive power of the gospel.
I. THE INTENSIVE POWER OF DIVINE TRUTH. More power is needful
(1) to act on any living thing than on lifeless, inert matter;
(2) to act on a sentient creature than on life without sensation;
(3) to act on intelligence and will (on man) than on the irrational and irresponsible animal;
(4) on man sunk into the lowest moral condition (with seared conscience, mastering passions and habits fixed in vice) than on one who has not yet chosen his course, or who has been trained in the ways of virtue. The very highest instance of power with which we are familiar is that spiritual influence which transforms those who have gone furthest away from God, from truth, and from righteousness—those who are to the moral world what the tiger, the lion, or the asp is to the animal world. The gospel of Jesus Christ has this power. With such wonderful intensity does it work on those on whom its truth is brought to bear, that it redeems and renews the worst, so changing them in life and in spirit that it may be said of them that the wolf dwells with the lamb, etc.; so transformed do they become, under its benignant influence, that the most innocent and helpless have nothing to fear, though they be placed completely within their power (Isaiah 11:8).
1. Individual instances abound of the conversion of notorious drunkards, of savage prize-fighters, of shameless courtesans, of ribald atheists, of those who were abandoned by all, and who abandoned themselves to hopeless sin, of men who were the terror of their tribe or of their district, etc. Therefore we need not and we should not despair of those who are living amongst us, and who are at present a long way off from truth and righteousness. The gospel of Christ can change the very nature of these—can tame the most ferocious, can raise the most fallen, can liberate the most enslaved, can make beautiful the most deformed of the children of men; it can do so by the power of the truth and of the Spirit of God.
2. Families, societies, communities have undergone as complete a transformation.
II. THE EXTENSIVE RANGE OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. (Isaiah 11:9.) What a vast void would there be if the waters were withdrawn! Into what profound depths should we look down! What mighty stretches of sand and clay and rock would be disclosed! What lengths and breadths are covered, what depths are now filled up by the abounding waters of the sea! As containing the element of life to millions of living creatures, as supplying a highway for the nations of the earth, and as providing scope for the ambition, courage, and enterprise of man, what a grand sufficiency do we see in the waters of the ocean! So shall it prove to be with Divine truth. There shall be seen to be a sufficiency, in the gospel of the Savior, to cover the entire earth, to meet the wants of the whole population of the globe. No land so remote, no clime so rigorously cold or scorchingly hot, no interior so impenetrable, no barbarism so rude, no prejudice so inveterate, but that the gospel of Christ shall cover it with its benignant power.
1. Let us rejoice in the earnest of its fulfillment; great things have been already done towards the realization of this glorious estate.
2. Let us resolve to have our share in its execution
(1) as a Church, and
(2) as individual souls, to each of whom God has committed some word to be spoken, some work to be done.—C.
The leading of a little child: Sunday school sermon.
"And a little child shall lead them." The reduction of the fierceness of wild animals to such tameness that a little child may lead them is a very beautiful, poetical picture of the transformation of the worst of the wicked to the excellency of the Christian spirit. We may, without impropriety, allow these words to suggest thoughts on the way in which the regeneration and perfecting of human character is brought about by the leading of the little child. God is training us all; we are all at his great school. Christ is the great Teacher; the Word of God is our "book of reference." But there are other sources of instruction at his command. Of these is the family life which he has instituted, and where we may all learn most valuable lessons. We may consider how we are led by the little child—leading sometimes from bad to good, and at other times from good to better things. The little child sometimes leads—
I. FROM THE FAR DISTANCE OF FLAGRANT WRONG TOWARDS THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST. We have often read of the dissipated, or ungodly, or unbelieving parent, who has separated himself (herself) from all sacred privileges, and, it may be, gone far in forbidden paths, when all other influences have failed, being led by the soft, pleading accents of the little child to the safe precincts of the home, or to the services of the sanctuary, or to the path and practice of sobriety, and so to the kingdom of Christ. Sometimes it is not the living voice, but the remembered pleadings of the departed child coming from the other side the veil, which lead the distant wanderer to "come to himself," and then to "arise and go to the Father."
II. FROM OUTSIDE INTO THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM. And this:
1. As a model. When the disciples were discussing amongst themselves which of them should be the greatest in the kingdom, Jesus Christ took a child and set him in the midst of them, and said that, except they were wholly changed and became as little children in their spirit, they could not so much as enter that kingdom at all. It is the child-spirit which introduces us into the kingdom of Christ. They who are kept outside by difficulties which they cannot solve, and they also who are excluded from faith and peace by a sense of unworthiness from which they cannot rise, need but to have the simple, unquestioning spirit of childhood; they need but to realize that they are God's very little children, and should take his word even as they expect their own little ones to take theirs, and they will "come in" and be blessed.
2. As a motive. We are moved by many motives, and our serious decisions are usually determined by more considerations than one. There are many strong and urgent reasons why a man should yield himself to God; but if all these fail to move him, let him remember the little child (children) beneath his roof for whom he is responsible, who will almost certainly imbibe his spirit, and grow up to be such as he is; and for his (their) sake, if not for his own, let him live the life which is right and worthy and wise.
III. ON, IN THE KINGDOM, TOWARD THE GOAL AND THE PRIZE.
1. The little child continually reminds us of those graces which our heavenly Father looks to see in us. As we are pleased with the docility, the trustfulness, the obedience, the affection of our children, and are pained when we witness the reverse, so is he affected by our attitude towards him.
2. The little child leads us into the field of Christian usefulness. The Christian Church saw the little child ignorant, unenlightened, neglected, in danger of growing up to manhood far from truth and God, and it let him put his hand into its arm and lead it into the school where it should receive the knowledge and the influence which it needed. And the child having thus, by its very weakness and simplicity and necessity, led the Church into the school, it is for the Church to lead the child into the ways of heavenly wisdom, into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, into the path of usefulness and holy service.—C.
Isaiah 11:11, Isaiah 11:12
The refuge of the remnant.
Allusion is here made again to "the remnant" (see Isaiah 10:20-23.10.22), who are spoken of in the following verse (Isaiah 11:12) as "the outcasts" and "the dispersed." The remnant of a thing or of a community is not the choice part, but rather that which is left when everything (every one) else has been chosen—the shapeless scraps which remain when all else has been selected and appropriated; the broken-off ends which are flung aside as of no account; the scattered men who fall out of rank, dispirited or disabled, etc. It signifies that which is of least regard among men. The remnant of Israel was that part of the community that was left when kings had lost their throne, and nobles their nobility, and priests their function, and the country was wasted. However despised and rebuffed of man this remnant might be, it should still have a place in the thought and in the purpose of God. He would remember it, would "recover" it, would "gather it together," would manifest his favor toward it in the eyes of all the nations. We may let God's treatment of the remnant of Israel remind us—
I. THAT HUMAN SOCIETY ALWAYS CONTAINS ITS REMNANTS, those of very small account in its estimate. We can always find, if we look for them, those who seem to be abandoned, to be helpless, to have "no future," to be beyond recovery; those for whom there is nothing but resignation, if not, indeed, despair; those whose cause no man espouses, and who do not expect to be recovered or restored. Of these are:
1. The hopelessly sick—those who inherit a constitution or receive injuries which disqualify them for the battle of life, and place them at the mercy of the community of which they are members.
2. Those who have broken down—who went up eagerly to the battle and struck some good stroke, but have been sore wounded; who have overtaxed their strength, and who find themselves unnerved and incapable, obliged to resign their duties to other hands, their post to other aspirants.
3. Those who have mistaken their calling—who have pursued a line of action beyond their capacity, or for which they were not fitted; who have, consequently, been halting and stumbling all along their course, and have come into ill repute and condemnation.
4. Those who have been signally unfortunate—who have embarked all their resources in one scheme which has broken down, or who have entered into some most serious (perhaps the supreme human) relationship which has proved to be a disastrous mistake; whose heart is well-nigh broken, and whose hopes are quite blighted.
II. THAT THESE ARE THE OBJECTS OF PECULIAR DIVINE REGARD. Some of these are near to us; they are the poor whom "we have always with us," living hard by us, worshipping in our sanctuaries, walking in our streets. As we have opportunity, we should assure them that they must not take the negligence or disregard of man as in any way indicating the mind of God. As the human mother lavishes the wealth of her tenderness and love on that one of her children who is the frailest and the most dependent of her family, so does the Divine Parent care most for those of his children who are most in need of his special kindness. Was it not the "little ones" i.e. the weak, the disregarded, the despised, the unbefriended, whom our Lord treated most graciously, and whom he specially commended to our sympathy and succor (see Matthew 12:20)? Unto such, if they are his disciples, he will multiply his favors, and on them pour out his richest and most abounding grace. There are "remnants," "outcasts," of another kind—those who have gone down in the battle of temptation; who are bowed down with a sense of shame and dishonor, and who are cast off by their fellows as worsted and useless. Is there any hope for them in God? Yes, there is ample room in the promises, because in the heart of the Divine Savior, for these. In his thought they are not remnants to be flung into the fire; driftwood on the river of fate, for which there is nothing but to be carried down the stream and cast over the cataracts; disinherited sons for whom there is nothing better than to forget the family to which they belong, and make themselves happy with the husks in the far country. No; in the heart and in the hope of Jesus Christ these are gold for his crown; they are ships that, with chart and compass, may yet sail gallantly down the river of life, and out into the shoreless seas of a blessed immortality; they are sons and daughters that will be most warmly welcomed beneath the Father's roof, and seated at the Father's table. In this best sense may the remnant be restored.—C.
Conditions of victory.
These verses probably point to the time when all Israel shall be gathered into the fold of the gospel, and when" their fullness" shall contribute largely to the conversion of the Gentile world (see Romans 11:1-45.11.36.). But we may take a more practical view of the subject if we regard it thus; we have pictures of—
I. PRESENT SPIRITUAL ANARCHY. The people of God everywhere dispersed, the theocracy broken up, the temple destroyed, the Law unobserved, the heathen triumphant,—all this a vivid picture of the "kingdom of God" in a state of dissolution: truth unrecognized, commandments disobeyed, conscience perverted, the Divine will disregarded, God himself unknown in the world.
II. THE ULTIMATE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE DIVINE KINGDOM. The restoration of Israel as depicted here, whether it be to their own land and their ancient institutions or whether it be to their true place in the spiritual purpose of God, may speak to us of that grand consummation of human hope, when the kingdom of our God shall be re-established upon earth; when that kingdom, which is not the enforcement of any ecclesiastical regime, or the observance of any rules of diet or of devotion, but "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17), shall take the place of" the kingdom of this world," which is iniquity, unrest, and death.
III. THE CONDITIONS OF ITS ATTAINMENT. These are threefold.
1. The disappearance of fratricidal strife. (Isaiah 11:3.) What Judah and Ephraim were in old theocratic times, that neighboring Churches or Christian comrades have been to one another all through these "Christian centuries." Sadly must the Lord of love have looked down on his heritage, the purchase of his sorrow and his death, and have seen the envies and the jealousies, the hatreds and the cruelties, which have marked and marred the intercourse of his disciples. No progress of his blessed kingdom can be expected in any community when they whose relations should be beautified by concord are all disfigured by enmity and strife. Let Christian Churches cease to hope for any results from their preaching or their praying, so long as bitterness blights the heart, and contention characterizes the Church (see Matthew 5:24). There is no effort, there is no sacrifice, which it is not worth while for any Christian society to make in order that it may wrench out "the root of bitterness" which, while it remains, will neutralize all devotion, and make all zeal to be "nothing worth."
2. Active co-operation among the people of God. "They [Ephraim and Judah together] shall fly … they shall spell … they shall lay their hand," etc. (Isaiah 11:14). Their united forces were to prevail over the bands of the enemy, and to secure victory on every side. So shall it be in the spiritual campaign. It will be when all the Churches of Christ unite, not indeed in any one visible amalgam, but in well-concerted action, joining heartily against the common foe, going out together against ignorance, unbelief, ungodliness, vice, indecision, and all the long train of sin; it will then be found that the enemy will be subdued, and victory be secured.
3. Divine energy working on the side of truth, (Isaiah 11:15, Isaiah 11:16.) As the Lord interposed on behalf of Israel in one deliverance, and would do so in another, by his overcoming might making the pathway from Egypt and the highway from Assyria, so will he interpose on behalf of the spiritual forces which are doing his work in the world. He will make that possible and practicable which seems impossible and impracticable; will enable the champions of his cause to go where it seems hopeless for them to penetrate, and to conquer where victory seems utterly out of reach. Therefore
(1) let prayer be earnest,
(2) let the heart be hopeful,
(3) let effort be energetic and persistent.—C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Christ the Branch.
"But a shoot shall come forth from the stem of Jesse, and a fruitful sprout shall grow up from his roots" (Henderson's translation; see Isaiah 4:2). The idea is of a sucker springing up from a hewn stump. The word used (netser) is singularly suggestive of despised Nazareth, with which place the early life of Messiah was associated, and of which it could jeeringly be said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Wordsworth remarks on the sublime contrast in this prophecy and the foregoing," The mighty and haughty worldly power of Assyria—the type of impiety and antichristianism—will be hewn down, like a great forest, in the pride of its strength and glory, never to rise again; but the spirit of prophecy here reveals, that when the house of David seemed like a tree hewn down to a stump in the earth, then a sucker would spring up from the stump, and a branch shooting forth from its roots would bear fruit and overshadow the earth. And so it came to pass. At a time when the house of David seemed to be reduced to the lowest estate, when the Virgin was a poor maiden in a village of despised Galilee, then by God's miraculous agency the Branch sprouted up from the hewn-down stump, and grew up into a mighty Tree, and brought forth much fruit, and received the world under its shade." It has been cleverly suggested that "the cedar of Lebanon, the symbol of the Assyrian power, was to be cut down, and, being of the pine genus, which sends forth no suckers, its fall was irretrievable. But the oak, the symbol of Israel, and of the monarchy of the house of David, had a life remaining in it after it had been cut down, and the rod or sucker that was to spring from its roots should flourish once again in greater glory than before." We fix attention on the sentiment entertained respecting suckers, which are usually despised, thought to be weak and frail things, from which nothing of value is ever to be expected.
I. THE SURPRISE OF CHRIST'S LOWLY BEGINNINGS. Born into a poor family, at a time when David's race was at its lowest humiliation; born, as one crowded out by the hurry of life, in the courtyard of an inn; brought up in a despised village. There were but a few gleams of glory resting on his infancy. Angels heralded the tidings, of his birth; Magi offered worship to him at the Bethlehem cottage, But Herod would, if he could, have broken off that sucker, almost ere it began to show its greenness. It would take a great power of imagination to picture a splendid career and a world-wide renown for that poor Bethlehem babe. "He came to his own, and his own received him not"
II. THE HOPE OF CHRIST'S EARLY YEARS. We need not accept the strange and foolish legends of Apocryphal Gospels concerning the infancy and childhood of Jesus. We have one all-sufficient historical incident, presenting the boy of twelve years, and convincing us that a wonderful manhood was in its unfolding. His mother observed much, and pondered over many things in her heart, and the story of Christianity has verified every hope which that good mother cherished.
III. THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST'S GROWTH. The sucker became strong, grew into a branch, began to put forth branches of its own, became a tree whose beauty attracted the attention of all men. Two passages suggest illustration and detail: "And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him;" "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Other suggestions come from the statements, "All that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers;" and, "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." Intelligence, submissiveness, obedience, were the beautiful features of his child-time—the splendid promise of after-years.
IV. THE AMAZING RICHNESS OF CHRIST'S FRUIT. When the sucker came to bearing-time, it altogether surpassed the old tree of David. Illustrate its fruitage
(1) of holy example;
(2) of wise teaching;
(3) of gracious healings;
(4) of heroic sufferings;
(5) of eternal triumph over sin.
Moral and spiritual fruitage answering to the needs of thirsting and hungry men. Fruit which was the "Bread of life." The despised tree of David at last sent forth a sucker, which swiftly grew into a tree, whose leaves were for the healing of all the nations, and whose fruit was for the spiritual quickening of a world that was "dead in trespasses and sins."—R.T.
Christ's enduements by the Spirit.
The prophetic conception of Messiah is of a man, specially endowed and fitted for his mission by God's Spirit. The figures that help prophetic vision are David, endowed with the spirit of rule and of song; and Solomon, endowed with the spirit of wisdom. And the New Testament bids us think of Christ as having the Spirit, not by measure, but without measure—the fullness of God dwelling in him (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). Compare the beginning of our Lord's sermon at Nazareth: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me" (Luke 4:18). The point suggested is that God's enduements are always in precise adaptation to a man's work. Here, in relation to Christ, the "qualities are arranged in three pairs, but all spring from one Source, the Spirit of Jehovah, which rests permanently upon him. They are
(1) moral and intellectual clearness of perception;
(2) the wisdom and bravery which befit a ruler;
(3) a knowledge of the requirements of Jehovah, and the will to act agreeably to this knowledge" (Cheyne).
Christ was a Teacher, Healer, Example, Savior, Head of a spiritual kingdom. As fitting him for these positions and offices, he was endued with—
I. WISDOM. The special gifts of the ruler, as called to judge difficult, complex cases. In its highest form implying comprehension of the secret things of God.
II. UNDERSTANDING. Or keen, quick discernment; the sagacity which discovers the right thing to do, and the right word to say, in all human relationships.
III. COUNSEL. The power to form wise plans; the clear purpose which fits a king for the exercise of sovereignty. "He shall know how to administer the affairs of his spiritual kingdom in all the branches of it, so as effectually to answer the two great ends of it—the glory of God, and the welfare of the children of men."
IV. MIGHT. The ability to carry plans into execution. With men we often find a divorce between the skill to plan and the power to execute.
V. FEAR OF GOD. The disposition which keeps us ever anxiously watching for, and resolved to do, God's will. The reverence and faith which is the beginning of all wisdom.
Illustrations of each may readily be found in the life of the Lord Jesus; and it may be urged that all these enduements brought him the power that lies in righteousness—the power
(1) to wither all evil;
(2) to nourish all good.—R.T.
The principles of Messianic rule.
These are exemplified in the actual administration of the head of the Messianic kingdom. The picture presented here is designed to be in sharp contrast with that of the unjust judges referred to in Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 2:14, Isaiah 2:15; Isaiah 10:1, Isaiah 10:2. The figure of clothing one's self, or being clothed, with moral attributes is not infrequent in the Scriptures. The girdle is mentioned as an essential part of Oriental dress, and that which keeps the other garments in their proper place and qualifies the wearer for exertion. The rules, or characteristics, of the Messianic or spiritual kingdom may be illustrated under the following headings.
I. RIGHTEOUSNESS AS BEFORE GOD. The absolutely right is to be sought; and it will be found in what
(1) God is;
(2) what God commands;
(3) what God approves.
Matthew Henry says, "He shall be righteous in the administration of his government, and his righteousness shall be his girdle; it shall constantly compass him and cleave to him, shall be his ornament and honor; he shall gird himself for every action, shall gird on his sword for war in righteousness; his righteousness shall be his strength, and shall make him expeditious in his undertakings, as a man with his loins girt." Compare the kingdom ruled by considerations of righteousness with the kingdoms ruled by considerations of expediency.
II. EQUITY BETWEEN MAN AND MAN. The determination that every man shall get his due, and bear his due. Many cases arise in which strict justice must be toned by consideration of circumstances. In view of human infirmity, the equitable must sometimes be put instead of the right.
III. EFFICIENT PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED. The strong hand on the wrong-doer is ever an essential of good government.
IV. FAITHFULNESS TO DUTY. Duty being distinguished from right in this, that it is something we are bound to do, upon the authority of some one who has the right to command us. "Faithfulness" is closely kin with "loyalty." And Messiah is a theocratic King, a Vicegerent of Jehovah.
V. PEACE EVERYWHERE. Because, if righteousness prevails, nobody will wrong others, and nobody will have wrongs to avenge. Jealousies, envyings, violence, covetings, all fade before advancing righteousness; and when Jesus, the righteous King, reigns over mind and heart and life, then the glory-day will have come, and "no war or battle-sound" will then be "heard the world around."—R.T.
The Christian golden year.
Isaiah's relief, from the burdens, sins, and sorrows of his times, is his anticipation of the coming days of Messiah, which were to ancient Jews their "golden year." Isaiah's visions break in on his records of evil and prophetic denunciations, and lie like pools of blue in a cloudy sky, or stand like an oasis of palm-trees in a dreary desert. The general thought of this chapter is, that when righteousness can really and fully reign, then peace will be attained. As soon as the righteous King can reach the throne of universal dominion, the world shall be at peace from all its miseries, and not from war alone. When the perfect King is universally acknowledged, then there will be established the perfect kingdom.
I. PROPHETIC SCRIPTURES SET FORTH A PERFECT BEING, AN IDEAL KING. Men have always been on the outlook for a glorious future—"a good time coming." But poetic imagery has been vague, and generalization has meant weakness. Bible prophecy sets before us:
1. A Person—a Son; and the actual incidents of his life, as a veritable human being, are foretold.
2. A perfect Person. Observe the statements of this chapter, and the idea that was formed of Messiah.
3. A Person with kingly authority. If he be a perfect man, he must be a king among men. This kingly idea was set forth
(1) in the theocracy founded by Moses;
(2) in David's reign;
(3) in Daniel's vision.
In the times of Jewish captivity the promise of such a leader and deliverer was needed to keep men from utter despair. The conception of a perfect person is as utterly beyond us as the conception of a perfect age. Before Christ came neither had been realized. Now one has. The perfect Person has come, and we have a right to say that "with God all things are possible," seeing that the one so-called impossible has been overcome. The historical Christ is the realization of what men thought to be the impossible.
II. PROPHETIC SCRIPTURES SET BEFORE US A PERFECT AGE, AN IDEAL KINGDOM. Observe the figures of the chapter; and such expressions as "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea," and Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14. Poetry has its "golden age," for the most part, in the past. Scripture has it in the future. Towards it we are moving. For it we are working. In olden time men failed in faith that the perfect King would come, and now we fail in faith that the perfect kingdom will ever come, because we cannot quite explain the when, the how, and the why. It may be said—Have we any seemingly good reasons for our failing faith? And it may be urged that
(1) the golden age has never yet been reached in part, anywhere;
(2) there are no signs of its nearing approach; and
(3) we cannot clearly mark even our own growing meetness for it.
The perfect age has scarcely even a faint beginning in us. But who can discern victory through the smoke of battle? And yet the victory may, in effect, be won. With cleared eyesight we might see many hopeful signs; such as these:
1. The King has come, and is conflicting for his rights.
2. The perfect kingdom is sometimes nearly reached by the saintly believers.
3. In limited measure it is realized in the Church of Christ.
4. In its wider form, as a kingdom of righteousness, it is extending over all the earth. And if God could give the world the perfect King, he can also give the perfect age. The practical question is—What are we doing to hurry its on-coming? The world's hope lies in the spreading of the knowledge of the Lord. Everywhere the heralds must go until the earth is full, as full as the sea-basin is with the waters. We must, for ourselves, know the Lord, and we must speak of him, and witness concerning him, to others; for every act of godly living and godly laboring is bringing near the "golden year."—R.T.
The center of attraction for the whole world.
"An ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek." In prophetic form we have here expressed the truth which Messiah himself expressed when he said, "And if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." All humanity is figured as turning to look on the crucified One, and responding to an irresistible attraction which makes all gather round him, as armies gather about an ensign or standard, and as clans gather to the appointed meeting-place. Our Lord spoke, on three separate occasions, of the attractive power that would come from his "uplifting."
(1) John 3:14. Here the idea is a general one. Lifted up in the sense of being set in sight of men, as the brazen serpent was when set up on the pole in the middle of the camp.
(2) John 8:28. Here the idea is that his Messiah-ship would be evident when his life was complete, and that would not be until he was lifted up in death.
(3) John 12:32. Here we find Greek proselytes anxious to see Jesus. Such pressing into the kingdom was premature. The "corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die." Greeks and Gentiles must wait just a little while longer. The ensign would soon be lifted up; then to it they may seek. It is interesting to notice that the Syriac word for "crucify" means "to raise," "to lift up," as men set up a standard. Christ's power from his cross—Christ's attraction as an Ensign—is our subject, and we note—
I. CHRIST, ON HIS CROSS, ATTRACTIVELY REVEALS HIMSELF TO THE MINDS OF MEN. We can only get imperfect and unsatisfactory views by limiting our attention to Christ's work. In that way we can only hope to formulate cold and lifeless doctrines. But our views are equally imperfect if we limit our attention to Christ's person. Then we can do no more than nourish sentiment, or set before ourselves an example for imitation. We must combine both, and let each illuminate the other. Illustrate the splendor of the combined oxy-hydrogen light. How much Christ made of himself! In a man it would be painful egotism; why is it not in him? Because it was his mission to manifest God to men; so he must point to himself. All his life, speech, doing, suffering, was a gradual disclosing of himself, of the deep mystery of his origin, his claim, of God in him. But what we need to see more fully than we do is that, apart from his death, as he died, his life could not have efficiently revealed him. Death only completes the test. If he bad failed in that supreme hour, an imperfect sonship could never have shown to us the perfect Father-God. We can see that only the story of his life could not have sufficed, for:
1. His enemies misrepresented that life, and said, "He hath a devil."
2. Disciples misunderstood it, and only saw its meaning after his death.
3. Critics now can explain the life, but are hopelessly puzzled by the mystery of his death. Lifted up, Christ is set before us
(1) as the model Man;
(2) as not a mere man;
(3) as the Son of God with power.
And if religion demands personal love to and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we must know him, we must know him fully; and we can only thus know him as he is "lifted up."
II. CHRIST, ON HIS CROSS, ATTRACTIVELY SHOWS HIMSELF TO THE HEARTS OF MEN. Men may be driven or drawn to goodness. The gospel has its majesty of driving, its "whip of small cords." "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." But its great power is its drawing power; its moral influence; its constraint of the affections, and of the will. A voice from the "Ensign," from Jesus lifted up, is ever calling to us and saying, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see." Suffering has a strange power on human hearts. Self-sacrificing suffering moves us strangely. Crucifixion was curse and shame, but it set Christ in the world's eye. No kind of death could so lift him up and compel the dying world to look. And Christ crucified is still the supreme persuasion, the irresistible attraction, to men. Jesus lifted up, an Ensign for the gathering of the people, may be an old and worn story, and it may have lost something of its drawing power for you. Ah! that can only be because men, and men's words, have stood in front of him, and taken your eyes off him. See him only. Look to the Ensign, and then you will find your soul asking itself—"For whom, for whom, my soul, Were all these sorrows borne?" and you too will feel "the strong attractive power."—R.T.
The unity of the race in Messiah's kingdom.
This unity is the great dream and hope of humanity. It can never be attained in any temporal kingdom, and it could be only a formal and outward unity ii it were. No unities of mind or of government are possible; but unity of heart is. Men can be one in God; and one in that spiritual kingdom in which God rules. This verse is used as an argument for what is known as the second coming of Christ. Its force and value in that relation we do not now discuss. The spiritual suggestion of the passage is now before us, and we are to see that Christ is the bond of unity for the world, which never can be one save in his love, in the life he gives, and in the Father-God he reveals. How this unity is to be secured we may fully see by considering the following points concerning Christ's influence.
I. HE ATTRACTS ALL. (See the previous Homily.)
II. HE BREAKS DOWN ALL SEPARATIONS. Of race, class, age, prejudice, religious forms, etc. In him there is "neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female. He is all and in all."
III. HE IS SUPERIOR TO ALL PHYSICAL DIFFICULTIES. They come to him from all parts. The Spirit of Christ triumphs over mountains and over seas. It goes into the fever-lands, and gains influence in the frozen zones. Missionaries go everywhere preaching Christ, and his Spirit in them is their heroic mastery of all disabilities.
IV. HE CAN SATISFY ALL HEARTS. Glad hearts and sorrowful ones. Empty hearts and full ones. Lonely hearts and satisfied ones. Dead hearts and yearning ones. He has life, love, truth, rest, hope, peace, at his command; and of this grace he giveth to all men liberally. He can perfect the unity of the race by winning the universal love, the supreme love, which is the life of humanity, and the ensuring of the brotherhood. All men can be sons of the one Father in their love. All men can be brothers, indeed, by the love of their common sonship. Christ is God, and he wins us for God, and he wins us as God—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent