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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 62". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ isaiah-62.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 62". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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FURTHER GRACIOUS PROMISES MADE TO ISRAEL BY "THE SERVANT." Some regard the speaker in this chapter as Jehovah; some as the prophet, or the prophetical order; some as "the Servant." The last supposition appears to us the simplest and the best. The close connection with the preceding chapter is evident. If that then be, in the main, "a soliloquy of the Servant," this should he a continuation of the soliloquy. Israel is promised "righteousness," "glory," "a new name," a guard of angels, a time of peace and prosperity, deliverance from Babylon, and triumphant establishment in Zion under God's protection.
For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace. In the past God has kept silence (Isaiah 42:14; Isaiah 57:11). "The Servant" has not caused his voice to be heard. Babylon has been allowed to continue her oppression unchecked. But now there will be a change. God will lift up his voice, and the nations will hear; and the "salvation" of Israel will be effected speedily. For Jerusalem's sake. "Zion" and "Jerusalem" are used throughout as synonyms (Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 4:3, Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 31:4, Isaiah 31:5, and Isaiah 31:9; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 64:10, etc.), like "Israel" and Jacob." Strictly speaking, "Zion" is the mountain, "Jerusalem" the city built upon it. Until the righteousness thereof go forth (comp. Isaiah 54:17; Isaiah 61:10, Isaiah 61:11). As brightness; or, as the dawn (comp Isaiah 60:3; Proverbs 4:18; Daniel 6:19). Salvation … as a lamp that burneth; rather, as a torch that blazeth (comp. Judges 15:4; Nah 2:1-13 :14; Zechariah 12:6). Israel's "salvation'' would be made manifest; primarily by her triumphant return from Babylon, and more completely by her position in the final kingdom of the Redeemer.
The Gentiles shall see, etc. A continuation of the account of Israel's final glory, as given in Isaiah 61:6-9. What the Gentiles are especially to see and admire is Israel's righteousness. This may point to those acknowledgments of the purity and excellence of the early Church which were made by the heathen (Plin; 'Epist.,' 10.97), and which culminated in the saying, "See how these Christians love one another!" The sceptic Gibbon acknowledges, among the causes of the success of Christianity, "the virtues of the early Christians." All kings (comp. Isaiah 49:7, Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 60:3; Psalms 50:22 :11). Thou shalt be called by a new name (comp. Isaiah 61:4 and 12; and see also Isaiah 65:15). It is not altogether clear what the "new name" is, since in the remainder of the present chapter more than one name is suggested. Rosenmuller supposes" Hephzibah" to be meant. Dr. Kay suggests "the holy people," and notes that the title of "holy ones," or "saints," is given by St. Paul to all Christians (Acts 26:10; Romans 1:7; Romans 16:15; 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.). Mr. Cheyne thinks that it is some unknown title of honour, akin to that mentioned by Jeremiah "Jehovah our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 33:16). "New names" will be given to individual saints in the heavenly kingdom (Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12).
Thou shalt also be a crown of glory, etc. God will exhibit Israel to an admiring world, as a man might exhibit a "crown" or "diadem" which he held in his hand. They will look on with admiration and reverence—"for they shall perceive that it is his work" (Psalms 64:9).
Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken. Judah had believed herself" forsaken" of God (Isaiah 49:14), and had actually been, in a certain sense, forsaken "for a small moment" (Isaiah 54:7). Her enemies, it would seem, had gone so far as to give her the name in derision. Neither shall thy land … be termed Desolate. Judaea had not only been desolated by the Babylonian invaders under Nebucbarlnezzar, but had remained "desolate" during the whole period of the Captivity (Isaiah 32:13, Isaiah 32:14; Isaiah 49:19, etc.). It had come to be spoken of as Sh'marnah, "a desolation" (see Jeremiah 34:22; Jeremiah 44:2, Jeremiah 44:6; Ezekiel 33:29; Ezekiel 36:34). Now all should be altered. As Ezekiel prophesied, "The land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced and are inhabited" (Ezekiel 36:35). Thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah; i.e. "my delight is in her." Hephzi-bah was the name of Hezekiah's queen, Manasseh's mother (2 Kings 21:1). And thy land Beulah. Beulah, or rather Be'ulah, means "married" (comp. Isaiah 54:1). Judaea would be "married" to her sons, or her people, when they quitted Babylon and once more took possession of her. The Hebrew verb toe "to marry" means literally "to be lord over."
As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride. There is a double employment of the analogy with marriage here. The land, Judaea, personified as a female, is married to her sons, or her people, regarded (in this connection) as a male. The people, regarded as a female ("the virgin daughter of Zion," Isaiah 37:22) is also married to Jehovah, and recognizes him as her Bridegroom (Comp. Isaiah 54:5). As Bridegroom, God calls his bride "Hephzi-bah"—"my delight is in her."
I have set watchmen upon thy walls. "The Servant" has appointed watchers upon the walls of Zion—either "prophets" (Delitzsch), or "priests and prophets" (Kay), or, more probably, "angelic beings" (Cheyne), who keep perpetual watch and ward (Comp. Isaiah 52:8). Neither day nor night do they hold their peace, or keep silence, but ever intercede with God for his people, like the "angel of Jehovah" in Zechariah 1:12, reminding him of his covenant with them, and his promises to them, and exhorting him to "awake, awake" for his own honour's sake (Isaiah 51:9-11). It is generally allowed that the "watchers" in Daniel 4:13, Daniel 4:17, Daniel 4:23 are angels; and the same interpretation best suits the "watchmen" of the present passage. Ye that make mention of the Lord; rather, as in the margin, ye that are the Lord's remembrancers; i.e. "ye whose business it is to call to God's remembrance the needs and claims of his people, and the obligations of his covenant promises."
Give him no rest. Compare the teaching of our Lord with respect to the efficacy of importunity (Luke 11:5-8; Luke 18:1-8).
The Lord hath sworn. In answer to the representations of the "remembrancers," God solemnly binds himself by an oath to come to the relief of the people, to restore them to their own land, and to give them the enjoyment of its fruits in peace. By his right hand. God commonly swears "by himself" (Genesis 22:16; Isaiah 45:23; Jeremiah 49:13; Jeremiah 51:14; Amos 6:5), or "by his holiness" (Psalms 89:35; Amos 4:2). Once he swears "by his great Name" (Jeremiah 44:26), and once "by the excellency of Jacob" (Amos 8:7). There is no other place in Scripture where he swears "by his right hand and arm"—emblems of his power to act. Thy corn … thy wine; i.e. the fruits of thy land. Hitherto, even when Israel was in possession of Palestine, its fruits were constantly destroyed, or carried off, by the raids of hostile neighbours. Henceforth this plundering should cease.
Shall drink it in the courts of my holiness. This is not to be understood literally, at any rate, of the whole produce of the laud. What is meant is, that the produce will be consecrated by such festal means as the Law enjoined (Deuteronomy 14:22-27), and that then the remainder will be consumed with due thanks and acknowledgments.
Go through, go through the gates. The speaker returns to the period of the exile, and exhorts the people to pass forth from Babylon, and speed on their way homewards (comp. Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 52:11). Some of them are to clear away obstacles, others are to bring materials and construct a highway along which the stream of emigrants may march (comp. Isaiah 57:14), while a third body removes such stones as might cause stumbling, and a fourth lifts up a standard to direct the march.
Meanwhile Jehovah, by his angels or his prophets, causes it to be made known to the ends of the earth that the redemption of Israel draws nigh, and that Zion's" salvation" approaches. His reward is with him, etc. The words are repeated from Isaiah 40:10. Here they are certainly said of Israel. They go forth from Babylon, having their reward with them—i.e. liberty, honour, riches to some extent (Ezra 1:4-11), and their work, or rather their recompense—the possession of Palestine—before them.
They shall call them; or, men shall call them, equivalent to "they shall be called." The holy people. The Persians in some degree recognized this character in the Israelites (Ezra 1:2, Ezra 1:3; Ezra 6:8-12 : Ezra 7:12-26). So did Alexander, according to Josephus. The Romans, on the contrary, regarded them as the votaries of a degrading superstition. Since the Roman conquest, they have been almost universally despised. Perhaps the prophecy may be considered to still await its complete fulfilment. Thou shalt be called. "Thou" refers to Zion or Jerusalem. She should be called Sought out—i.e. a special object of God's care—and A city not for-saken—the very opposite of her former name (verse 4), which was "Forsaken." All the conditions of her former existence would be altered, nay, reversed, in the future.
Isaiah 62:2, Isaiah 62:4, Isaiah 62:12
The teaching of Scripture with respect to names.
Names are not spoken of in the Scriptures as unimportant, but as of a very high importance.
I. A SPECIAL VALUE IS SET ON THE NAMES OF GOD. The names of God are significant, and set forth his nature. "El" is "the Great;" "Shaddai," "the Strong;" "Jehovah," "the Alone-existent." God selected this last name as that by which he would be especially known to the Jews (Exodus 3:14), and it became a sort of proper name with them and their neighbours. It was this name which was not to be taken in vain (Exodus 20:7). It came to be regarded as so holy that the Jews would not venture to pronounce it, but substituted the word "Adonai," or "Lord," whenever they read the Scriptures aloud. God himself is, in fact, in all his names; and nearly the same reverence is due to them which is due to him. Christians are baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19). The Name of the God of Jacob defends them (Psalms 25:1). The Father keeps them through his Name (John 17:11). They give thanks to his Name (Hebrews 13:15), fear and glorify his Name (Revelation 15:4), confess and sing praise unto it (Romans 15:9). Christ's Name, through faith in his Name, makes them strong, yea, gives them perfect soundness in the presence of all (Acts 3:16).
II. A CERTAIN VALUE IS SET ON MEN'S NAMES. God assigns men names (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:3; Hosea 1:4, Hosea 1:6, Hosea 1:9; Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:13, etc.); alters or modifies their names (Genesis 17:5, Genesis 17:15; Genesis 32:28; 2 Samuel 12:25, etc.); explains the mystical meaning of their names (Matthew 16:18); gives them wholly new names (Revelation 3:12). The sacred writers also sometimes alter men's names in contempt, or as a punishment. Thus Esh-Baal, "man of Paul," becomes Ish-Bosheth, "man of shame;" Merib-Baal becomes Mephi-Bosheth, and the like. The true name of Hezekiah's father seems to have been Jehoahaz, "possession of Jehovah"; but the sacred writers, offended with him on account of his idolatries, would only call him Ahaz, "possession." Conquering kings sometimes required names of subject kings to be changed, apparently as a mark of submission and subserviency. Thus the name of Eliakim was turned to Jehoiakim by Pharaoh-Necho (2 Kings 23:34), and the name of Mattaniah to Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:17). Altogether, human names are recognized as having an importance which profane writers are rarely found to attach to them.
III. A CERTAIN VALUE IS SET ALSO ON THE NAMES OF PLACES. Importance is attached to the significance of place-names, and a meaning is found for them not always in accordance with their real etymologies. Babel (Babylon)was no doubt intended by the Babylonians to mean "the gate of God;" but the sacred writers saw in the name a derivation from balal, "to confound" (Genesis 11:9). When places ceased to correspond to their names, the sacred writers freely altered the names, to suit the circumstances. Thus the Bethel of the patriarchs becomes the Beth-avert of Hosea (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5), Jeroboam's idolatries having turned "the house of God" into "the house of nothingness.'' In the present chapter Jerusalem is supposed to have become "Azubah" on her destruction by the Babylonians, and to be about to be called "Hephzi-bah" on her restoration by the returned exiles. Another name given to her by Isaiah is "Ariel" (Isaiah 29:1). Each name expresses some phase in her history or feature of her character.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Promises of future glory.
Let us assume that Jehovah is the Speaker, and that he utters this oracle in a time of darkness and despondency. What is expressed is the intense passion, if we may so say, of God for the realization of his ideas in the world. The prophet fears not to use the boldest anthropomorphic imagery in setting forth this view of God.
I. THE IRREPRESSIBLE DESIRES AND PURPOSES OF THE ETERNAL. He will not be silent nor will he rest. In dark times it seems that God is refraining himself, putting a restraint upon his lips, holding his peace, etc. Four times in the latter portion of Isaiah that thought occurs (Isaiah 42:14; Isaiah 57:11; Isaiah 64:12; Isaiah 65:6). When impiety and oppression are rampant, the wicked exclaim, "How doth God know?" and the righteous, "Why is he silent?" And yet there should befears and scruples on both sides. Silence and reserve need not mean indifference. Nor would the voice of the Eternal be so impressive were it not for the long spaces of silence that lie between. Sooner or later he will uprouse himself, and his mighty voice will go forth, and there will be a turn in affairs.
II. THE IDEAL ON WHICH HE HAS SET HIS HEART. It is the glory of the ideal Jerusalem, the spiritual city of God, or his Church.
1. The glory of righteousness and salvation. The two terms seem here nearly to denote the same thing. Negatively, freedom from all external calamity and from all internal impurity; positively, attainment of all prosperity and all moral rectitude. This is to be an all-pervading brilliance, or a torch carried far from hand to hand.
2. The beauty of holiness. "Crown of adorning in Jehovah's hand," or "diadem of royalty," shall she be. All the associations of forsakenness, desolation, and widowhood shall pass away, and be replaced by those of nuptial beauty and joy. Her name shall be exchanged for a new one, i.e. her afflicted for a glorious condition.
III. THE ANGELIC MINISTRY. Angelic watchers are on the walls of the city, incessantly engaged in intercession. The idea of them is that of mediatorial beings. Here they intercede with Jehovah that he will raise the city (or Church) to her proper renown among the nations of the earth. And an answer to the prayer seems indicated, when Jehovah swears that the harvest and the vintage shall no more be pillaged by her foes.—J.
The homeward call.
"The prophet returns to the exiles in Babylon, and urges them not to delay their homeward march." It is the same call which resounded in the two former divisions of the prophecy (Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 52:11).
I. THE WAY CLEARED. The gates of Babylon are to be thrown open. Invisible servants of Jehovah are to prepare the way (Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 57:14). A great highway (as in Isaiah 11:16) is seen stretching homeward, from which the party of pioneers is removing obstructions; and on high there floats a banner over the escort of Gentile people (Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 11:10, Isaiah 11:12).
II. THE PROCLAMATION. The news of the approaching salvation of Israel is to be published to the ends of the earth. Meanwhile Zion, by means of angelic or prophetic ministry, is to be informed of her coming deliverance. He who is Retributor and Compensator is at hand.
III. THE REALIZATION OF ZION'S DESTINY. The people are to be known once more by that great appellation given them in the Law (Exodus 19:6), the holy people, partaking of the nature of the holy God—by him redeemed, by him sanctified—a title which passed over into Christian use. In contrast to her former isolation and neglectedness (Jeremiah 30:17), the city will be "sought out," the object of the nations' love and care. In Christians as the elect, the beloved of God, in the Church as the "city set on a hill," or as a glorious and spotless bride, may be found the Christian fulfilment of these prophecies.—J.
HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM
Fellowship with God.
"Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken." Mistaken we may be—our judgment is so weak, our hearts so worldly—but not forsaken. It is a beautiful word, and it is enough. God will not condescend to explain all his ways to men; but he is a Father, and the Father will never forsake his child. Isaiah is called the evangelical prophet, and he is so; he heralds the kingdom of Christ, describes the nature of the kingdom, under a King who shall reign in righteousness, and gives us the pathetic picture of his sorrows. In one word, as a prophet of the Redeemer, he describes the theophany, the appearance or manifestation of God himself; the great coming age of Immanuel, "God with us." Wars are prophesied of, even after the advent of Christ—tribulations and shaking of nations. Much has to be overturned; but amid all there is the pathway of the true King. Jesus comes, and comes to reign. Much is transient here. It is declared so to be. Man is said to be a pilgrim, and yet utters a cry of wonder that he cannot make earth a home. Riches are said to have wings, and then man is surprised that they flee away. Life is said to be like the grass, and then man is staggered that it is cut down. Friends turn false or fickle, and then man is surprised that evil hearts act in evil ways. Nature has her seasons, and then man marvels at the analogue of life which has its night as well as its day. On the one hand man scoffs at and scorns the Bible, and on the other refuses to see how full of realism and truth all its moral revelations are. It is equally true on its restful side. It tells us that amidst all we have a Father in heaven, whose will is wise and just, whose heart is kind and true and good. It assures us in that coming of Christ, to which all the ages looked forward, that God "remembers us in our low estate, for his mercy eudureth for ever," and that, though often mistaken, we shall never be termed Forsaken.
I. THIS IS A DIVINE REPLY. A reply to what? Why, to Zion's utterance in Isaiah 49:14, "The Lord hath forsaken me." Not, mark you, that there have been no Divine footprints in the past, no Divine provision and protection in Zion's yesterday; but now he hath forsaken us. Study life, especially what is called religious life, and you will find that this is always the foolish cry of the Church. It will live in the past. It will not believe that there are prophets and righteous men to-day. It will decorate the sepulchres of the fathers. It did so in Isaiah's time; it does so now. It glorifies the days of Wickliffe and Luther, of Whitefield and Wesley, forgetful that God is the living God, and his voice is heard, his hand outstretched, his purpose working now. I know nothing in which the human mind is so fatally biased as in this backward looking and longing, whilst he is still nigh us in our breath and in our heart. Forsaken? No, there are prophets of truth still; heralds of mercy still; national seers still, who search the very heart of nations. Wherever the Spirit of Christ is, there he is. There are wars, vices, wrongs, still; but their time is not so easy as it was—not so easy, indeed, as in some past ages which we glorify. The Spirit of Christ is becoming more and more the test of good and evil, of wisdom and unwisdom, of the real and the false, of the righteous and unrighteous. There is a light shining to-day that no breakers can put out, no wild storms of passion extinguish. "The Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world" is here. Christ's arm is not shortened; more worn and weary spirits lean on it than ever. Christ's mercy is not exhausted; his forgiveness is still the good cheer of millions of hearts. His revelations of immortality have not faded through the lapse of years. He alone has given to the world its all-covering sky. We feel that whilst we still believe in him and cleave to him, the prophetic words are real and true, "Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken."
II. A DIVINE HARMONY. The words do not stand alone. They are not merely a beautiful text, or an isolated flower, or a separate jewel. We have to take the moral strain of a book to see into the mind and meaning of the plan. We do not interpret Mendelssohn or Mozart by separate passages, neither should we so treat Isaiah. He is evidently the prophet of a golden age, no matter whether there are ten hands visible in the work or one. We test truth by its voice, not by its mere speaker. All prophets were not to be listened to and obeyed simply because they were prophets. "I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evil-doers … Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:14, Jeremiah 23:16); and again, "Let not your prophets deceive you" (Jeremiah 29:8); and again, "Mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies" (Ezekiel 13:9); "Thus saith the Lord God: Woe unto the foolish prophets O Israel, thy prophets are like foxes" (Ezekiel 13:3, Ezekiel 13:4). Yes; there was a moral test then; an instinct which revealed the true prophet, as it reveals the true Saviour. Our Lord rested all on this: "If ye were of the truth, ye would hear my voice:" "My sheep hear my voice." A remarkable instance of this moral test is given us in Ezekiel 13:22. The people were to set their faces against the prophets. Why? "Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life." That which was against righteousness and assisted evil was not to be believed. Why will men be so afraid of this test? Why do they seek to rest authority on the authors and writers of books, and not rest it, as God does, and ever did, and only could, on the truth itself? It was Isaiah's way, it was our Lord's way, it was St. Paul's way. "Commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." I thus come to my word "harmony." It is harmonious with all within us. Isaiah is a prophet of righteousness, of Divine forbearance, of Divine forgiveness, of Divine pity, of Divine ministry, of Divine sacrifice. If asked—Is this a God to be trusted, worshipped, loved? the whole inward being exclaims, "Amen, and amen."
III. A DIVINE CONSOLATION. It is really part of the "comfort ye" strain, as that reaches to the depths of our being. Not forsaken. The same Isaiah is here. We feel sin. Israel felt it. We cannot by any philosophy of heredity escape from the consciousness of personal guilt. Alone the flame burns. At night the thorn pierces through the pillow. Are we left to bear the great sorrow unpitied and unaided? Out of Zion the Deliverer shall come. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God." We feel social evils; we are hurt by unrighteousness, galled and wounded by selfishness. Amid all, fierce wars seem again and again to stir the mad passions of humanity. What thought can light our gloom, can give strength to our hopes? Only this—"A King shall reign in righteousness." If there be no hope for the supremacy of the Christ, all is lost, for beside him there is no Saviour. But are there not signs that a better spirit is abroad? I think so. Men are sighing for a Prince of peace, and with the sigh there is a sob too, "O Lord, how long?" We feel our own solitude. We seem to be forsaken. Change comes. Fortune is turned to misfortune, health to sickness. But there are restful hours in all Christian hearts. Say what men' will of the mysteries, let them ponder the facts; there is a touch of Christ, there is a tender sense of an encircling arm, there is a consciousness of the good Shepherd's care and love. We want to bring home the music of this promise to weary hearts. If we want to exercise more influence than philosophers and moralists, we must have a better message. When Ulysses passed by the island of the syrens, the classic story tells us that, to save himself from their snares, he bound himself with mighty thongs to the masts, and secured his sailors' safety by filling their ears with wax, that they might not be bewitched. But when the sweet singer, when Orpheus, voyaged by the same syren island, he bound himself to no mast. He started a sweeter, nobler music than the syrens could ever reach, and so sailed by in triumph. If we are to win men and keep men—men who have been charmed with the syren voices of the world all the week—our melody must be one that comes down from heaven; the music of forgiveness and mercy, of grace and help, of God's love, and God's care, and God's everlasting throne. We are in him that is true, in him of whom all prophecy is full, who was the Spirit of it all. In life with all its mysteries, and in death with all its leave-takings. We shall never be termed "Forsaken."—W.M.S.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
From night to noon.
The passage rather implies than states a very sad condition in which Israel is found, and it suggests to us, as a starting-point—
I. DARK DAYS THROUGH WHICH A CHRISTIAN CHURCH MAY PASS, The evils and miseries which may then be endured may include, as with Israel at the time of this prophecy:
1. Reduced numbers, causing weakness and humiliation, perhaps approaching extinction.
2. Submission to some kind of bondage; either to the tyranny of some spiritual delusion, or to the despotism of some other master than the Lord of love and righteousness.
3. The actual withdrawal of Christ; a condition in which it is rightly called "the Forsaken," for "he does not many mighty works because of unbelief." He does not dwell there, but passes by; he does not manifest his presence and his power in regenerating, or renewing, or sustaining grace.
4. The appearance of utter forgetfulness on the part of its Divine Head. There is such an absence of all fruitfulness, all usefulness, all moral and spiritual beauty, that its most appropriate name is "The Desolate One."
II. THE DUTY OF ITS MINISTERS and its best friends in these dark days (Isaiah 62:1-6).
1. Pleading with God for his people. For Zion's sake not holding peace, for Jerusalem's sake not resting, but continually and earnestly interceding with God that he will pity, will interpose, will restore.
2. Pleading with his people in God's name. The function of the prophet was to speak for God, and especially when his truth was forgotten and his will neglected. The duty and privilege of the minister of Christ is to declare with all fearlessness and fidelity, and with all needful reiteration, the truth which has been forgotten, the commandment which is being disregarded. This duty is shared by any others, particularly by any other officers, to whom the Spirit of God may reveal his will.
III. THE FUTURE WHICH IT IS IN THE POWER AND IN THE HEART OF GOD TO CONFER.
1. Deliverance from these distressing evils. There shall be "salvation" (Isaiah 62:1). The bonds shall be broken, the delusions dispelled, the assumption of power removed, the "evil thing in the midst" which prevented the indwelling of Christ shall be cast out.
2. Manifestation of the Master's favour. Its "righteousness" in his sight shall "go forth as brightness:" there shall be such tokens of Divine favour that all who dwell around and observe shall "see its righteousness" asserted and behold its "glory" (Isaiah 62:2).
3. The possession of its Lord's regard. Its new name, "Hephzi-bah," shall indicate that its Lord delights in it, looks upon it with a glad approval, holds it in his right hand (Revelation 2:1) as a man holds a crown or diadem, as something of rare value, of great price in his esteem (Isaiah 62:3).
4. The outpouring of its Lord's affection. Its new name is also to be "Beulah:" for it is to be dear to his heart as is the bride to the bridegroom, the object of his fervent love. We may be so conscious of our shortcomings and of our departures from God's will that we may fail to realize the fulness of our privilege. But it is our sacred duty to be dissatisfied with ourselves, as portions of the Church of Christ, until we are such as he can regard with Divine love and affection, such as he can prize as very precious crowns or diadems. If this seems impossible as things are, it behoves us to humble ourselves before him, to plead with him in penitent prayer, to rededicate ourselves to his service, until the hour comes when not only will the darkness have given way to dawn, but the dawn to noontide brightness.—C.
Isaiah 62:8, Isaiah 62:9
The value of security, etc.
The principal lesson here is the inestimable advantage of national independence and consequent individual security. But other lessons also stand out from the passage, viz.—
I. THE REALITY OF NATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY. It is very clearly implied that Israel had suffered grievously in the past as a nation, because of God's wrath. She had sinned and had been condemned, and she had paid the penalty of suffering from a cruel and rapacious invasion; so that her citizens ate not of the corn they had sown, and drank not of the wine they had planted. God makes nations as well as individuals to pay due penalty for their transgressions. Hence we have—
II. THE INDIVIDUAL OBLIGATION which this fact entails. It is impossible for any man to sever himself from the community of which he is a member; he is not at liberty to leave the national course, to be decided by other men, while he gives himself up to more congenial labours. No man can divest himself of his responsibilities as a citizen of his country; every man is bound to exert his influence on behalf of liberty, righteousness, peace, virtue, godliness.
III. THE VALUE OF SECURITY. If it be uncertain whether men will reap what they sow, if it is probable that strangers will partake of the fruit of men's toil, there will be a constantly and powerfully disturbing force at work. But security will promote:
1. Order and good government.
2. Industry—occupation, enterprise, the useful arts.
3. Benevolence—the origination and growth of philanthropic institutions.
4. Piety—the erection of sacred structures and the establishment of religious organizations.
1. Let the prosperity which is the fruit of security be consecrated by gratitude and benevolence. "Eat and praise the Lord," bring the wine "into the courts or his holiness." Beware of a selfish and complacent spirit (see Deuteronomy 6:12), and cultivate carefully and devoutly a spirit of gratitude toward God and kindness toward man.
2. Appreciate at its full worth and give God thanks for the national security which is enjoyed. It is not one of the smaller mercies we have received at his hand that we have no fear of being displaced by any "stranger," that we are so secure of the fruits of our toil. This sense of safety and stability has contributed largely to the resources at our command, and is adding incalculably to the best movements and measures of our time.
3. Rejoice in and bless God for the fact that even though we may not reap all that we sow here, there is a future in which the workman shall be amply and gloriously rewarded (Psalms 126:6; 1 Corinthians 15:58).—C.
God's summons to the enslaved.
Taking the language of the tenth verse as an energetic address to the captive people of God to "go through" the gates of Babylon, and make their way with all diligence to Zion, the home of freedom and sacred joy, we have—
I. A DIVINE SUMMONS TO THE ENSLAVED. To the individual soul, that has been brought into some spiritual bondage, perhaps under the tyranny of some enslaving habit; to the Christian Church, which has allowed itself to become subject to some outside power other than that of its Divine Lord; to the betrayed and subjected nation, which has enjoyed and is capable of an independent government,—comes the summons from above; "Call forth all thy powers, leave no means untried, prepare the way, make a supreme and sacrificial effort to break the bonds, to walk in the way, to reach the goal of a true and lasting liberty."
II. THE REWARD OF OBEDIENCE. "His reward is with him," etc. The first recompense is found in:
1. A blessed sense of deliverance from bondage. The man, or the Church, rejoices greatly that he is one of the "redeemed of the Lord." The fact that God has struck off his shackles and made him breathe the sweet air of freedom, the consciousness that iniquity "has no dominion over him," is the greatest and happiest of all facts to him. Life holds no heritage which is equal to the "salvation" which has come to his heart, to his life.
2. A restored reputation. He did belong to the unholy, the guilty, perhaps to the vicious or to the violent; now he is one of "the holy people" whom all men honour. This conducts to:
3. Communion and friendship with the best and worthiest; with the Highest himself, and with the wise and good among men; he is among those who are "sought out," "not forsaken." Other rewards accompany obedience, not here stated or hinted. We may suggest:
4. Capacity for usefulness to others, occupying a position in which he (or it, the Church) may lead other enslaved ones into spiritual freedom (Psalms 51:12, Psalms 51:13; John 21:15; Acts 26:18; James 5:19, James 5:20).
5. A good hope of an inheritance where perfect freedom dwells.—C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Godly desires for the Church.
The Jews were remarkably attached to localities. They cherished the national associations with such places as Bethel, the Red Sea, the Jordan, etc.; but they loved most intensely Jerusalem and Mount Zion. To the better Jews localities were only shrines of spiritual truths. Bethel meant "God near:" the Red Sea meant "God redeeming:" Jordan meant "God faithful to his word." Those Jews saw the spiritual through the local; we are expected to see the spiritual without the help of the local.
I. THE FERVENT DESIRES OF A GODLY SOUL. To see Zion—the type of Christ's Church—delivered and established in righteousness.
1. Delivered from
(1) its weaknesses, in motive, aim, and work;
(2) its hindrances, in body, business, and relationships;
(3) its prejudices, both individual and sectarian. The Church in the world is like a lamp burning dimly in impure air.
2. Established in righteousness.
(1) The internal character of a Church is the subject of greater anxiety than its outward condition. The King's daughter must be "all glorious within."
(2) The internal character of a church is only preserved as it has a capacity for growing. The figure in the text is of a "brightness," not a mere flash, but brightness brightening, or going forth.
II. THE VARIETY OF MOTIVES THAT INCREASE THE DESIRES.
1. Our consecration vow. We gave ourselves first to Christ, and then to his Church.
2. The emotions of the Christian life. These inspire us to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem."
3. Love to Christ. This, John tells us, is sure to find expression in love for the brethren.
III. THE ONE SUPREME MOTIVE PROMINENT IN THE TEXT, The real welfare of the Church itself. "For Zion's sake." We ought to feel the utmost anxiety that
(1) the joy of the Church should be increased;
(2) the beauty and Christ-likeness of the Church should be perfected;
(3) the efficiency and power of the Church should lye enlarged. Its righteousness—which is its true strength—should shine more and more unto the perfect day.
IV. THE MAN WHO HAS GOOD DESIRES WELL NOT WITHHOLD HIS PERSONAL EFFORTS. "I will not hold my peace," etc. The real greatness of prayer is only knows to the man who works, and the greatness of work only to him who prays.—R.T.
The Lord's new name for his people.
"And men shall call thee by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall appoint" (compare, for the promise of a new name, Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12). Abram, brought into covenant with God, receives a new name—Abraham. Jacob finds his triumph seal his acceptance with God, and he is henceforth known by a new name—Israel. What the name is to be God only knows, but it will recognize the fact that the people had been faithful, and were rewarded for their faithfulness. A singular sentiment prevailed among the Jews in connection with this new naming. The possession of a new name came to be regarded among the pious as a demonstration that all sins committed under the old name were forgiven, and all decrees annulled which were issued against the sinner while possessed of his former appellation. Accordingly, at the approach of death, the Jews were wont to change the name of the dying person, and the reason of this custom will be perceived from the following prayer offered for the dying, to whom the new name has been given: "O God, take pity on A (his former name), and restore him to health, and let him henceforth be called B (the new name); and let him be glad in his new name, and let it be confirmed to him. Be pleased, we entreat thee, O God, that this change of name may abolish all the hard and evil decrees against him, and destroy the broad sentence. If death be decreed upon A (the former name), it is not decreed upon B (the new name), if an evil decree was made against A, lo! this hour he is another man, a new creature, and like a child born to a good life and length of days."
I. THE NEW SAME INDICATES THE END OF THE OLD LIFE. Illustrate:
1. By the new name given in marriage, which closes up the old life in the father's home.
2. By the new name given to those restored to Jerusalem, which intimated the close of the time of captivity in Babylon.
3. By the new name" Christian," which marks the end of the old heathen life, or pagan life.
4. By the new heavenly name (as in Revelation 2:17), which tells that the earth-conflict has ended in the victory of holiness. Apply to the Divine recognition of our final triumph over the old Adam, which is "corrupt according to the deceitful lusts."
II. THE NEW NAME REMINDS MEN OF THE GRACE OF WHICH THEY ARE MONUMENTS. It is very positively stated that God gives the name, to remind men of what he has done for them. The name "redeemed" keeps in mind the "Redeemer." The name "Christian" sets "Christ" ever before us. It is not our name for ourselves; it is God's name for us, and so a constant reminder of what Almighty grace has done, and can do.
III. THE NEW NAME INDICATES THE SPIRIT OF THE NEW LIFE. The name "holy city" calls attention to the fact that the people should be all holy, as those who are fully consecrated unto God.—R.T.
The Bunyan figure of the Beulah-land.
Hephzi-bah was the wife of Hezekiah, and mother of Manasseh. Very uncertain tradition says she was a daughter of the Prophet Isaiah. The name means, "My delight is in her," and Dr. C. Geikie says, "Her name, whether given at her marriage or earlier, wakes a thought of old-world tenderness and poetry. Was it a fond reminiscence of one he had loved and respected, when Isaiah tells us that Jehovah will make Zion, after her long desolation, once more his Hephzi-bah?" The word "Beulah" means "married," and the figure rests upon the Eastern notion of the desolate condition of a maiden or a widow, and the happy satisfied state of the married woman, who has husband and home. A "married" land is one watched over, tended, cared for, and loved. Bunyan uses the name to represent the "waiting time" of old age, or of frailty, in which God's people tarry awhile ere they pass over the river. If somewhat fanciful, his picture is both beautiful and suggestive. "Now I saw in my dream, that by this time the pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of Beulah; … whose air was very sweet and pleasant; the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season. Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and, saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land. In this country the sun shineth night and day: wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle. Here they were within sight of the city they were going to: also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof; for in this land the shining ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also the contract between the Bride and the Bridegroom was renewed; yea, here 'as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so doth thy God rejoice over thee.' Here they had no want of corn and wine; for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimages." This passage is taken from the first part of the 'Pilgrim's Progress,' but a similar passage at the close of the second part should be examined. The following divisions may serve as guides in the spiritualizing of this Beulah-figure.
I. BEULAH-LAND REPRESENTS TIMES OF PEACE AFTER CONFLICT WITH SIN. Such times come in various parts of our life, and are times of refreshing.
II. BEULAH-LAND REPRESENTS TIMES OF COMFORT AND REST AFTER DIVINE CHASTISEMENTS. God is very tender over the healing of his smitten ones, and gives seasons when the very heavens drop balm.
III. BEULAH-LAND REPRESENTS TIMES OF WAITING WHEN EARTH'S TOIL IS ENDED. The beautiful time of holy old age, full of sweet memories and patient trust.—R.T.
Isaiah 62:6, Isaiah 62:7
The work of the praying men amongst us.
"Upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchers; all day and all night they are never silent: ye that are Jehovah's remembrancers, take ye no rest, and give no rest to him, until he establish and until he make Jerusalem a renown in the earth" (Cheyne). If the watchers are men, the idea is that during all the years of Israel's captivity, her watchmen, remembrancers, or praying men, are to keep at their work without ceasing, as it were, every day reminding God of his people and of his promise. The figure of the verse is taken from the temple-service, in which there was appointed a constant watch day and night by the Levites. The watches in the East, even to this day, are performed by a loud cry from time to time by the watchmen, both to mark the time and to show that they are constantly attentive to their duty. Possibly the first reference of the figure is to angel-guards appointed by Jehovah; but we may reasonably use the figure for the earth-messengers of Jehovah, the pious praying souls who are his intercessors among his people. As intercessors, these men—
I. KEEP GOD REMINDED OF HIS PEOPLE. It is a small objection, indicating very superficial thinking, that "God cannot need to be reminded of anything." The answer is easy. If God is pleased graciously to reveal himself in certain relations, he graciously condescends to accept all the conditions involved in those relations. Children tell their parents what the parents know, and both children and parents are blessed in the telling. The prayers preserved for us in the Bible are full of things which God must know. It might be a thought full of help and cheer to us all that while, busied with our earth-cares, we may be forgetting God, our pious brothers and sisters, our praying men and women, Zion's watchmen, are keeping God reminded of us. The bells that sound for morning prayers throughout our land are a voice that God hears as truly as man. Praying men keep Zion's walls ever before her King.
II. KEEP GOD'S PEOPLE EVER REMINDED OF THEIR GOD. Of this there is abundant necessity. Both prosperity and adversity tend to make us forgetful of our God. Even the steady ongoing, that has no ups and. downs, makes the thought of God fade in our minds. So we need the witness of our watchers, our praying men, and their muezzin, or call to prayer. Especially bring out that we need to be kept in mind of the Lord's provisions and promises—the assurance of our full and final redemption. They who pray amongst us, "Thy kingdom come," keep us constantly reminded that there is a necessary preparation for all who are to share in the kingdom.—R.T.
The mission of those who remove hindrances.
The point of interest here is that, so far as Jehovah was concerned, all things were arranged for the return of the exiles, and the restoration of the long-depressed nation. But some men were hindering the return by their hesitancies and doubtings and selfishnesses. Therefore Jehovah pleads with all who trust his Word, urging them to clear the way of the people, and get these hindrances moved out of their path. There are always hinderers to every good work, and there is always the Lord's call to us not to let these hinderers do their evil work. They take the heart out of all good schemes, and often do much worse mischief than the active opponents, because they me a foe within the city, and have deceptive ways which are seldom fully recognized.
I. THE WORK OF THE HINDERER. There is a good work done by the conservative-minded among us, which must not be confounded with the work of the hinderer. It is good to have a drag put on the wheels of impulsiveness. It is well to be compelled patiently to consider schemes which have been thoughtlessly and enthusiastically taken up. But the hinderer is not the man of prudence and caution, but the man of selfishness and doubt. Some men cannot see good in anything, even though to other men the thing may be rich in promise. Others delight in prophesying failure, and plucking the spirit out of enterprise. Others see that proposed schemes will make heavy demands on self-denial, and as they are not prepared for this, they put stones in the way. No good thing was ever started that did not rouse the hinderers. And no good thing was ever carried through that did not overbear and carry away, or brush aside, the hinderers.
II. THE WORK. OF THOSE WHO REMOVE HINDRANCES. They are either energetic men, who will not be repressed, or else men of faith in God, who make their loyalty master difficulties. Men of firmness and persistency are needed in every sphere of Christian enterprise; and it is all the better if they have some pleasantness and even humour, and can remove hindrances without offending hinderers. Men of faith are always needed, who, clearly seeing what God would have done, go steadily on towards its accomplishment, refusing to turn aside either to the right hand or to the left. If we cannot, or will not, help toward the on-coming of Christ's kingdom, at least we can get out of the way of those who will work.—R.T.
The nearness of the Lord's coming used as a persuasion.
The immediate reference here is to the Lord's manifestation in the providences that led to the return of the exiles to Jerusalem. The Church has in every age had some great hope held out before it, and that hope could always be conceived of as a coming or manifestation of the Lord. Three "comings' are commonly recognized. Our Lord's coming in the flesh, as the Babe of Bethlehem, and the "Man Christ Jesus." Our Lord's coming in the Spirit, in the power of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord's coming in some manifestation of himself for the judgment of sinners and the glorifying of his saints. This is the special persuasion to holiness, activity, and. spiritual preparedness which now rests on Christ's Church.
I. THIS BELIEF THE SECOND COMING HAS ALWAYS BEEN HELD BY THE CHURCH; and the fact that some sections have held distorted and extravagant views of it must not be allowed to deprive us all of the inspiration that comes from so sober, yet so great and so glorious a hope. The belief was plainly held by the apostolic Church, and used by the early teachers as a persuasion to watchfulness, quietness of trust, and godly living. Bulwer Lytton is true to life when he describes Olynthus and a party of Christians singing amid the awful desolations of Pompeii, within hearing of the multitude that was rushing hither and thither for precious life—singing with the calm assurance that their Lord was now very near—
''Woe to the proud ones who defy him,
Woe to the wicked who deny him,
Woe to the wicked, woe!"
II. THE DOCTRINE OF THE SECOND COMING HAS ALWAYS HAD ITS PLACE IN THE CHURCH'S CREED. In the Apostles' Creed: "From thence he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead." In the Creed of St. Athanasius: "From whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead, at whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works."
III. THE DOCTRINE OF THE SECOND COMING IS TAUGHT IN OUR HYMNS. The real faith and hope of the Church may be better shown by its favourite hymns even than by its formal creed. In every collection of hymns for Christian use some portion is devoted to the Lord's second advent, and not a few of these hymns have become very sacred and dear to Christian hearts. A few may be recalled to mind—
''Lo, he comes with clouds descending."
"When thou, my righteous Judge, shalt come."
"Great God, what do I see and hear?"
"The Lord shall come, the earth shall quake."
Or that magnificent song of the ancient Church—
"Day of Wrath! that awful day,
Shall the bannered cross display,
Earth in ashes melt away."
IV. DEVOUT SOULS USE THIS HOPE IN URGING THE CLAIMS OF CHRIST ON CHRISTIAN DISCIPLES. For instance, J. A. James says, "We are to be waiting for the Son of God from heaven, and to be looking for his coming as our blessed hope, above all other hopes. This waiting for Christ was in an eminent degree characteristic of the primitive Christians; it is frequently mentioned by the apostles, and seems to have been a prevailing feeling of the Churches. All earnest Christians now have the same spirit. The bride, the Lamb's wife, is, and must be, supposed to be ever looking for the return of the heavenly Bridegroom. The want of tiffs habitual looking for the return of Christ indicates a low state of piety, a prevalence of worldly-mindedness among professing Christians." There is often much foolish talk about the "lost hope of the Church;" and it is strongly asserted that the Church generally is no longer looking for the coming of Christ. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that is true in connection with such statements is, that the great majority of Christian people fail to see that Scripture teaches the Lord's coming in any prescribed mode and time and form. The Church has been content with the inspiration and persuasion of the great fact and the large hope. The universal Church keeps her eyes fixed on the east, watching for the first signs of the dawning of the day of God; but the Church also accepts her Lord's declaration, that it is not for her "to know the times and the seasons."—R.T.