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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Isaiah 29

 

 

Verse 1

ARIEL

Isa . Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt.

The word "Ariel" properly means "the Lion of God," and is elsewhere used of the great brazen altar on which the sacred fire blazed, and which might be said to devour as a lion the sacrifices presented on it to God. In our text, however, "Ariel" is used as a name of Jerusalem. The fact that David had dwelt in it is mentioned, not by way of historical reference, but as aggravating the guiltiness of the city, and as in some way proving that it might expect to be visited with more than common vengeance. In what way is the fact that Jerusalem could be described as "the city where David dwelt" a justification of the woes which the prophet was about to denounce against it? The answer is easy: We are answerable to God for every blessing received at His hands, so that we cannot possess a single privilege which will not, if neglected or abused, be brought against us as a charge and heighten our condemnation. This is as true of communities as of individuals; and the fact that Jerusalem had profited so little, morally and spiritually, from David's residence in it was a clear aggravation of its guilt.—

1. David had dwelt in Jerusalem as a king. As such, his authority and his example might have been expected to have made a deep impression on the religious life of the people. Consider how powerful is the example of men in exalted stations.—

2. David had dwelt in Jerusalem as a poet. Consider how powerful is the influence of song on national character, and how truly David's psalms were national songs. As every English child is taught loyalty by the notes of "God save the Queen," every Jewish child was instructed in piety by the well-known strains of the sweet singer of Israel. Surely if anything could have kept religion alive in Jerusalem, it would have been this writing it into the poetry, this weaving it into the music of the nation. It was like taking possession of the strings of a nation's heart, and providing that their vibrations should respond only to truth.—

3. The memory of David had long been a blessing to Jerusalem. For his sake evil had been averted from it (2Ki ). To pronounce a woe upon the Jerusalem or the city where David had dwelt was to tell the Jews that the conservative influence of that monarch's piety would no longer be of any avail for them; that even as children, though long spared in recompense of the righteousness of their fathers, may reach a point at which they have filled the measure of their guilt, and at which, therefore, they can receive no further favour as the offspring of those whom God hath loved; so their iniquity had reached such a height that forbearance, long manifested for the sake of the most pious of kings, was at length wearied out, and there remained no further place for intercession.

The principle involved in this passage is applicable alike to communities and individuals.

1. It is made the charge against Jerusalem that it was the city where David had dwelt—the plain inference from this being that it was a great aggravation of the national wickedness that so righteous a prince, so zealous a supporter of true religion as David, had sat for years upon the throne of Judah. By parity of reasoning, if there have been raised up in our own country men mighty in the exhibiting and establishing truth, and if in the lapse of time we grow indifferent to the truth, and perhaps even half inclined to the errors which were exposed and expelled, will it not be made a matter of accusation against us that ours is the land in which those worthies dwelt? Suppose, for example, we were to undervalue the Reformation, suppose we were to think lightly of the errors of Popery, then might our text be regarded as denouncing special woe on ourselves—woe to England—to England, the country where Wickliffe, and Cranmer, and Ridley dwelt! For it is not to be questioned that we shall have much to answer for if, after God had raised up Reformers, and they, with incalculable labour and at incalculable cost, had cleansed our Church from the abominations of Popery, we should in any measure let go the truth and make alliance or truce with the tenets or practices of Rome. The same principle is applicable

(2.) to many a parish in which some devoted minister of Christ has laboured, and

(3.) to many a household in which the example and teaching of godly parents have been set at nought.—H. Melvill, B.D.: Sermons Preached during the Latter Years of his Life, vol. i. pp. 125-140.


Verse 7-8

DREAMING

Isa . Shall be as a dream of a night vision, &c.

The reference in these two verses is to the threatened attack on Jerusalem by the Assyrian invasion in the reign of Hezekiah. They take us to the time the invader had taken all the other fortified places in the kingdom; and now his general, Rabshakeh, was encamped before the capital, with the confident expectation of easily taking it. It would seem as if, the requisite preparations having been made, that immense army had retired to rest, with the intention of making the assault on the next day. We can imagine them in their dreams picturing to themselves the scenes of the approaching capture, the shouting, the onset, the slaughter, the devastation, the prisoners, the booty, the triumph, the glory—scenes, however, these which they were destined never to witness! For, in the dead of night, the Destroying Angel went forth, and in the morning nothing remained of 185,000 of them but their lifeless corpses. So ended their dreams!

Even as the army of Sennacherib was dreaming of a conquest which had no real existence, so are there multitudes of persons now dreaming that they are accomplishing the great object of their existence who are no more doing so than if they lay wrapped in the slumbers of the night. I propose to speak of such persons under the three heads of PLEASURE, WORK, RELIGION.

I. PLEASURE. I am not condemning pleasure. Pleasure has its place in every human life, just as truly as work and religion. I am speaking of a life devoted to pleasure. Nor do I speak of the grosser pleasures—these shock us at once, others delude us—but of those whose great aim in life is to please themselves; who, in respect to any proposed course of action, never think of asking, "Is it my duty?" But what is there to show that such a life is only a dream-like substitute for real life?

1. It leaves our best faculties unused. Can it be believed that God made us "a little lower than the angels" that we might spend our lives in pursuits which hardly require the faculties of a man?

2. A life of pleasure is a selfish life. Where pleasure is the habitual object of pursuit there must be selfishness. Wherever pleasure is the great object of life, the interest of others will be held in low esteem.

3. A life of pleasure also exposes to temptation.

4. It unfits men for another world. We shall never be ready for heaven if we never think seriously about it; and pleasure pre-eminently withdraws our thoughts from that world (H. E. I., 5059).

II. Another form of the dream is the impression that WORK, i.e., secular occupation, is the great business of life. Work is not to be spoken of without respect.

1. The Bible praises work. "Six days shalt thou labour."

2. It keeps us from dependence on others.

3. It benefits those dependent upon us.

4. It is good as enabling a man to help his neighbours.

5. Good as giving a man influence by means of the wealth it produces.

6. Good as keeping us out of much evil. Intemperance is usually the vice of the idle. So of other vices. But still it has its dangerous side. It shuts out the other world by the undue prominence it gives to this. It diminishes our sympathy with the suffering, and makes us unconcerned about the kingdom of Christ. Noble as work is when compared with idleness, it is not the great business of life. God did not endow us with intellect, heart, and spirit, with relations to Himself, to our fellows, and to immortality, that we might spend our lives in a practical denial of them all. A life of mere work is a dream as truly as a life of pleasure.

III. Another thing which men are apt to consider the great business of life is RELIGION. In many cases "religion" is little more than amusement; in others superstition; in others mere sentiment. There is a "religion" which is merely an affair of the intellect; another where it is hereditary, where a man follows a form of religion because his fathers did so before him. It is forgotten that religion is a life. Religious knowledge, beliefs, feelings, exercises are but the scaffolding and not the building; means to an end, not the end itself. The great end of life is not to be religious, but to be good. True religion has two sides: it first puts us right with God and then with our fellow-men. We love God first, and only then do we love man and work for his good.

The prophet tells us how the dreams of these Assyrians vanished. Even such will be the disappointment of those who are dreaming away the grand possibilities of the present life.—B. P. Pratten, B.A.: Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii. pp. 187-191.

AWAKENED FROM THE DREAM

Isa . It shall be even as when an hungry man dreameth, and behold he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty.

This passage describes the disappointment of the Assyrians, whose imagination had feasted on the conquest of Jerusalem. The simile is striking. A man in extreme hunger or thirst will dream that his craving is satisfied. He awakes to feel the privation more acutely. The text may be applied to the case of a man disappointed with the world, awakened to a sense of its emptiness, concerned for his soul. There is a sense of sin, danger, need. On the day of Pentecost the awakened cried, "What shall we do?" Thus the Philippian jailor. We will address this state of mind—

I. In words of sympathy. The awakened solicitude is justified by—

1. the value of the soul;

2. the fact of sin;

3. the reality of danger;

4. the provision of the gospel;

5. the call of God;

6. the unsatisfactoriness of neglect;

7. the flight of time.

II. In words of caution.

1. Beware of relapsing into indifference (H. E. I., 1479-1490). Many are awakened and anxious, but it does not endure. Herod heard John gladly and did many things. Transient impressions are like Ephraim's goodness (Hos ). Some are excitable but fickle. When the charm of novelty departs, their enthusiasm departs. Religion experiences similar treatment. Nor is it from yourself alone that you are exposed to this peril. You will meet with those who will endeavour to repress your earnestness. They will commend a moderate attention to religion, but will counsel you to wait until you are older, &c. A quiet, sober, decent attention to religious duties is well enough, but they cannot see the necessity for making religion the primary concern. Beware of such advisers. This is a matter in which earnestness is demanded. Keep fresh and vigorous in your mind the considerations by which you were first awakened. Salvation is either the supremely important thing the gospel declares, or it is nothing. Is the sick man too anxious for health, too attentive to the physician's directions? When the starving man has dreamed of food, does any one repress his eagerness for the reality when, on awaking, he finds it was only a dream? Beware lest either unsympathising friends or your own weakness administer the opiate that will send you back into the slumber of indifference from which you have been awakened.

2. Beware of assuming that you are converted because you are awakened. Awakening is not conversion. Conviction is not conversion; it does not necessarily end in it. Pharaoh said, "I have sinned." It is a hopeful circumstance; a step on the road; attention called to the disease; disappearance of the dream. The awakened on the day of Pentecost were directed respecting conversion.

3. Beware of finding comfort anywhere else than in the gospel. Performance of religious duties; prayers; peaceful feeling, you know not why; impression that you are forgiven. It is untempered mortar; it will not bind the walls. Nothing less than faith in Jesus.

III. In words of counsel. Comply at once with the call of the Gospel. Christ's work is all-sufficient. Faith and repentance is submission at both points. The call is—

1. Gracious.

2. Immediate. Do not delay; do not wait for the Spirit nor anything else. You are a man, not a machine. You must obey the gospel. The Spirit is working with the gospel.—John Rawlinson.


Verse 8

THE FUTILITY OF FIGHTING AGAINST MOUNT ZION

(Missionary Sermon.)

Isa . So shall the multitude of the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.

Nothing tends to inspirit exertion in any great enterprise so much as the certain prospect of success. Hope is the spur of action, the very life of enterprise. Hence to encourage the fearful and animate the brave in the culture of their own piety, and especially in their efforts to extend the kingdom of the Redeemer, there are given in God's Word the amplest promises of Divine help and assurances of ultimate success. But for "the sure word of prophecy," the servants of God would long since have trembled for the ark of the Lord, and have despaired of the salvation of the race. But delays to us are not delays with God. Long ago He has declared, "Yet have I set my King on my holy hill of Zion." "But we see not as yet all things put under Him." The foot of His Providence falls too soft for mortal ear to mark. While He walks on the great ocean of human affairs as Jesus walked on the Galilean sea, His footsteps leave no traces behind. But yet He never stands still. "My Father worketh hitherto." His progress is certain. In reference to the spread of His gospel it may be said, "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man shall come." At His approach all opposition is fruitless, all resistance vain. Every obstacle shall vanish, as a dream is forgotten when the dreamer awaketh.

This passage suggests—

I. The number and might of the enemies of the gospel. It is always unwise to underrate the forces of the enemy. Injury has been done to the cause of missions by this action. Good men in the ardour of their zeal seemed to speak as though heathendom was to be won by one new crusade, and that the walls of Satan's kingdom would fall flat at a single blast of their rams' horns. But Scripture takes opposite ground, and intimates that there must be a continuous and persistent struggle. Our Great General does not conquer in a single campaign; He goes forth "conquering and to conquer." These numerous and powerful enemies of Christ's kingdom arise from our own corrupt nature; from the peculiar circumstances of the heathen world; from every class of society, and are perpetually set in motion by the powers of darkness. Though they are "the multitude of all the nations," they have one prince, "the prince of the powers of darkness." To prevent our forming exaggerated pictures of success, let us remember:

1. That the original enmity of the human heart is always and everywhere the same. Every sinful passion of the human heart starts up an armed enemy against Christ and His truth. If at home, after centuries of Christian work, the obstacles to the gospel are so great, how much more formidable must they be in Pagan lands!

2. The power of Satan is at all times the same. And if here he rules supreme in the children of disobedience, what must his power be in those heathen lands where he is so strongly entrenched in superstition, idolatry and prejudices, crimes and passions of men confederated with him since Adam fell!

3. The world at large, in its spirit and pursuits, is decidedly hostile. Even in our own country, how few can be looked upon as the genuine disciples of Christ, the true soldiers of the cross! How mighty the forces sent out even here against the Lord and against His anointed! This part of the earth is still in the hands of the wicked.

II. The utter futility and certain overthrow of their projects.

1. Their schemes are fallacious and visionary. "It shall be as when a hungry man dreameth." What more delusive than a dream!

2. Their disappointment is certain. The history of the past is against them. Past history has verified the words of the Master, "And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The prophecy of the future, the course of Providence, the covenant of grace, the very progress of civilisation, but more than all the very existence of God, is against them. "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice."

III. The glory that shall arise from thence to Zion's King (Psa ; Psa 72:15). His wisdom will baffle all their designs, His power crush every hostile force, and His kingdom rise on the ruin of their dark confederacies (1Co 15:25).—Samuel Thodey.


Verse 13-14

LIP-SERVICE INSTEAD OF HEART-WORSHIP

Isa . Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near to Me with their mouth, &c.

The charge against the people is clear; it is that of a heartless religion, formal and full of hypocrisy. "Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men." That is, their religion is a mechanical following of human directions, instead of the spontaneous uprising of a heart inspired with the fear and love of God.

I. The charge against the Jews in Isaiah's day. It is twofold—the removal of the heart and the substitution of a lip-service.

1. The removal of the heart. God demands the service of the heart (Pro ; Jer 29:13). The Psalmist felt how reasonable was this demand when he said, "I will praise Thee, O Lord, with the whole heart" (Psa 9:1). A man may do some things with a slack hand and yet be blameless, but to steer an Atlantic steamer in a storm, he needs the whole force of both hands. Unless our whole soul be in God's service, our worship will be thrown back upon us with the withering words, "Who hath demanded this at your hands?" This worthless thing! "Bring no more vain oblations." How strikingly our Lord put this principle of supremacy (Luk 14:26): "In every man's heart I must be supreme, or therein I cannot dwell." Infidels most ignorantly misread this passage. One of their counts against Christianity is that it frowns on family joys; while every day's facts prove that the truest Christian is the best husband, father, &c. God being first in a man's heart, that heart is humanised, its generosity enlarged, so as to take in, not only the family, but "all mankind." But some, after having given their hearts to the Lord, withdraw them from His service (Mat 13:22; 2Ti 4:10).

II. This charge has been true in every generation. The heart's weakness and the world's force are ever the same. This evil existed in our Lord's day (Mat ). For long years before the Reformation whole nations of Christendom presented to God a mere formal worship. And to-day, of how many congregations may the words of Ezekiel be said! (Eze 33:31).

III. The worthless substitution presented to God. "And with their lips do honour Me." The instinct of worship is so strong within the soul that men everywhere worship something. It may be the hideous fetish of the African or the artistic statue of the refined Greek, but something the Greek and the barbarian must have. When that young mother, in the days of Solomon, arose in the morning and found a dead child by her side instead of her own living one, how severe must have been the shock! Had there been no child by her side, no dead substitute, she might have thought that her own child lived somewhere and might sometime be found. But that dead substitute at first nearly killed her by despair. It is bad to withdraw a living heart from the Lord, but to substitute a dead one is first to rob God and then wickedly insult Him (H. E. I., 5066-5070).

IV. The threat (Isa ). The threat is that of cherished expectations bitterly disappointed. In times of extremity, full of confidence in the wisdom of their leaders, they shall seek light and leading, and behold nothing but darkness and folly. How often have the leaders of a nation been stricken with folly, and, like a blinded steersman, have driven the ship to destruction! "The wisdom of their wise men shall perish." Disappointment! It is only another expression about the foolish man disappointed in his false security, his house resting on the sand, and of those who "make lies their refuge, and under falsehood hide themselves." The threat is that "the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place." Though men may not admit that their worship is mere lip-service, and their neighbours not see their hypocrisy, yet to the eye of God

"The painted hypocrites are known

Through the disguise they wear."

—William Parkes, F.R.G.S.

Two conditions under which religion is in a declining state.

1. When the ordinances of divine worship are generally neglected.

2. When the attendance on worship, however large, does not represent a religious state of mind, but is simply an outward performance. The latter was the state into which religion had fallen in Judea. The religious observances of the people were not inspired by knowledge of God's Word, but by human authority. The text—

I. Describes a great privilege. "This people draw near me." God speaks after the manner of men. When we desire to speak closely to a friend we get near him. This is coming close to God (Psa ; Heb 10:22; Heb 7:19; Jas 4:8). Is it not a wonder that the Almighty permits us to draw nigh to Him? Men make it difficult for their inferiors to obtain access; but the Infinite and Eternal One makes Himself accessible to His creatures. Not only so; He has made a way for creatures stained by sin. The Lord Jesus Christ stands between God and man by virtue of His atoning death and interceding life. The guilty, condemned, utterly impure, have only to renounce their sinfulness and avail themselves of this new and living way. If there is truthfulness and sincerity, they will be welcome. In the sanctuary, in meeting for prayer, in the family, in the closet, in the round of daily duty, we may draw near to God. Do you know anything of the blessedness of this privilege? Enjoyment, comfort, purity, fitness for intercourse with men, for the battle of life, for the work of the world, do they not all come through this privilege?

II. Points out a serious abuse (Isa ). Their sin was not the abandonment of worship. That is a measure of ungodliness not reached without a long process. Unsettled faith, indifference to spiritual blessings, habits of sinful indulgence, conduct to it. What multitudes have reduced themselves to this predicament? But it was not their case. They had not relinquished the ordinances of worship; they observed them. But there was a twofold defect: the heart was absent and the motive was wrong.

1. Something was present that ought to have been absent. "Their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men." Their piety was only out of respect for some human authority. Our Lord quoted this part of the text in His exposure of externalism as exemplified by the Pharisees of His time (Mat ). Human authority in religion is here distinctly denounced. One man may hand the Word of God to another, but no man must impose his notions of religion on another by his mere authority. A man's religious service must be the result of his personal conviction. If he is religious because some one else is, or because it is respectable, or because it may promote his worldly interest, or because it is recognised and imposed by the authority of the state, it is not really the honour and worship of God at all, but of man.

2. Something was absent that ought to have been present. "But have removed their heart far from Me." God must be worshipped with the heart. Apart from the outward expression of inward reality, the movement of the lips and the utterance of the mouth are nothing. Real worship is the consent of the understanding, will, affections, to the homage which is paid by the lips. Without this they are mockery, as when one who stands in the king's presence is alienated from his allegiance.

III. Utters a solemn warning (Isa ). Their religion was only the counsel of man. It was unavailing for its purpose, and would come to nothing (1Co 1:19). Such worship is:

1. Unacceptable. God is not deceived. Realise the terribleness of being rejected. He says, "It is not the kind of worship I require." After all your wisdom (Isa ).

2. Unsuccessful. The prayers offered only by the lips are not heard. No answer comes, no blessing descends. This comes of the policy which followed the precepts of men.

3. Unstable. After such religion reaction may be expected. There is no inward life to sustain the outward exercises. Does not the test point to that deeper spiritual blindness which follows the attempt to put the wisdom of man in the place of the wisdom of God?

In religion and at its worship take care:

1. That there is sincerity. See that the heart is right with God. "Ye must be born again."

2. That there is simplicity. Let there be no superfluous externalism in worship; only what is necessary to the suitable expression of the heart's worship.

3. That there is earnestness.

And if a merely formal worship is rejected, what is the predicament of those who do not even offer that, but who live without any acknowledgment of God?—John Rawlinson.


Verse 19

THE JOY OF THE MEEK

Isa . The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord.

I. THE PERSONS HERE DESCRIBED.

Meekness does not mean timidity (2Ti ); not the craven spirit of the coward, but the quiet power of the strong man (Pro 28:1). It does not mean the absence of courage, but the absence of that ignorant and arrogant self-sufficiency which Peter showed when he said, "Though all men forsake Thee, yet will not I." It is that calmness of spirit which grows not out of reliance on self, but out of reliance on God. It is recorded of one whose courage at times had flashed up like a consuming fire, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." His meekness was not feebleness, but a calm strength; quiet endurance in the doing of duty under difficulties. He was not provoked by the wrong-headedness or irritated by the ingratitude of the nation he wished to serve, but he quietly bore their stubbornness, and persisted in doing them good against their will. Hence a quiet doing and a quiet bearing of the will of God is one constituent in this quality of the mind "meekness." It does not mean that equableness of disposition which comes from nature, so much as that calmness of spirit which comes from grace. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). This quality of mind in God's people is shown:

1. In their intercourse with God. In His presence they manifest "a humble, lowly, and contrite heart." Theirs is not the spirit of the Pharisee, but the lowly contrition of the publican. Not "Stand by, for I am holier than thou," but "I am not worthy," &c. In a ready acceptance of the doctrines of grace and salvation through a Saviour crucified. Not like the Pharisees, who scorned the Saviour "as a root out of a dry ground," but like those few elect souls, just and devout, who "were waiting for the consolation of Israel." Christianity is a discipline of humility. In making men Christ-like it makes them meek. Jesus was meek and lowly, and He promises to those like Himself rest of soul.

2. In their submission to the allotments of Providence (Job ; Job 13:15; Mic 7:9; Lev 10:3; 1Sa 3:18; H. E. I. 157, 158, &c.)

3. In their deportment before their fellow-men. They do not arrogate to themselves that superiority which despises and neglects others, but obey the apostolic injunctions (1Pe ; 1Pe 3:8).

II. THE BLESSINGS GOD CONFERS UPON THEM.

1. He saves them. Often in outward troubles they become the charge and care of His providence (Zep ). How wonderfully was Moses saved from the strivings and rebellions of the people! Leaving his vindication in the hands of the Great Judge, God took up his cause; and when the whole camp was against him, God delivered him. How wonderfully was Joseph delivered from the pit and the prison, and Jeremiah in the siege! But always are they saved from soul-destruction. "Saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation."

2. He beautifies them. "He will beautify the meek with salvation." By the robe of righteousness, the inward adorning of the soul in every virtue, by the special manifestation of His mercy when most needed (chap. Isa ), by giving them that esteem and commanding influence which often attracts and impresses their fellow-men.

3. He makes it appear that He delights in them. "The Lord taketh pleasure in His people."

III. THEIR GRATEFUL RESPONSE.

"The poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." They rejoice in His salvation; they praise Him in voice, and heart, and life (Isa ).—Samuel Thodey.

RELIGIOUS JOY

Isa . The meek shall increase their joy.

It is commonly said that while religion is man's duty and his interest, it is not productive of enjoyment. Yet the Bible is full of joyful expressions, and of exhortations to joy. It even meets the sorrows of humanity and brings joy out of them. Its association of joy with conditions not joyful is remarkable (Mat ). Observe the contrasts in our passage (Isa 29:18-19). Circumstances are mentioned which amount to the removal of all alarm (Isa 29:20). From the outward fact, the faith of the persons here described rises to the hand that accomplished it.

Our subject is religious joy.

I. THE SOURCE WHENCE IT IS DERIVED.

"The Lord. The Holy One of Israel." We rejoice in what we have desired, hoped for, and obtained. This does not exclude enjoyment of the blessings of the present life. They are closely associated with it. They suggest it. We ask whence they come. The habit of regarding earthly advantages as gifts from the hand of God keeps the divine character before us as that of a Being to be regarded with pleasure.

Thus, if we ascend to the spiritual region and contemplate the salvation of man, it includes the compassionate love of God, which gave His Son to impoverishment, suffering, and death; full forgiveness of sin; the various influences of the Divine Spirit; the elevated spiritual privileges and hopes bestowed on fallen men. All this came from the grace of God; it originated in His nature. "God is love." But the God whose nature can be read in this way is not a God to repel, but attract; not a God of whom to stand in terrified awe, but a God in whom to rejoice.

And this result emerges if we take a more direct look at the divine character. We are supplied with verbal asseverations as well as historical illustrations. We read of the Almighty, the All-wise, the All-righteous, the All-holy, as well as the All-loving. Power, even with justice, would fail to produce joy. But a God of power, and love, and holiness can be a delight, because He can be loved.

But no object of delight can be considered a part from its subject. Nothing is universally delightful. Before you can enjoy anything you must have sympathy with it, a taste for it. There are people who cannot enjoy the finest concert. There must be the heart that is capable of joy in the Holy One of Israel, the heart of "the meek, the poor among men;" the heart changed by the grace of God.

II. THE ELEMENTS OF WHICH IT CONSISTS.

We know our feelings better by experience than by analysis. We can imagine a father so utterly unsatisfactory in his character and conduct that his own children are ashamed to mention his name. We can imagine one whose kindness, whose faultless conduct, whose commanding intellect render them proud of his name. They think of him with pleasure. Thus the poor among men rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

If you attempt to examine, you will find that your joy in God is compounded of several other feelings, which, like tributary streams, swell with the river of your pleasure.

1. Gratitude. For experience of the divine goodness. It expresses itself in thanks and songs. You think with pleasure of one to whom you are grateful.

2. Affection. Love is closely akin to gratitude. And God has taken away all cause of alienation. The love of God in Christ possesses the heart. Love delights in its object (Rom ).

3. Confidence. We trust Him entirely. In present distresses or future fears. If distrust crosses our minds, we dismiss it as inconsistent with the truth of which we have satisfied ourselves. Now if there is perfect confidence in Him on whom we depend, we cannot fail to rejoice in Him.

4. Approbation. We find the Holy One of Israel a Being in whom we can be infinitely satisfied. At no point, in no respect, could we desire Him to be different from what He is. Nor is it the admiration sometimes expressed for characters there is no desire to imitate. Christians earnestly desire likeness to God. Putting all these together, there must be joy in the Lord.

III. THE AUGMENTATION WHICH IT RECEIVES.

"The meek shall increase their joy in the Lord." Earthly joy is short-lived. The objects from which it proceeds are liable to change and perish. Many of them, even if they continue, fall. They become flat by satiety and continuity. We outgrow them as a child outgrows his toys. But Christian joy is permanent and tends to increase, because its object remains the same for ever, while His fulness is ever unfolding itself. Knowing and experiencing more of God, there is more joy in Him. Thus there is a constant increase—in the present world, and in the world to come.

Would you enjoy this privilege? Then make it possible. Possess the character. Ye must be born again. Do not indulge sin. Keep Christ in your thoughts. Thus you will be superior to earthly enjoyments.—John Rawlinson.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 29:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/isaiah-29.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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