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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Isaiah 47

 

 

Verse 3

A DREADFUL MEETING

Isa . I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.

Little did Babylon think with whom she now had to contend. This was no empty threat. It was carried into full and fearful execution. Thus it has fared with other nations, and will, at last, with every impenitent sinner. There is a time of vengeance, as well as of mercy. Then God will meet His enemies, but not as a man.

1. When men are about to meet their enemies, it is generally their policy to keep up the show of peace and friendship as long as they can; and to make their preparations secretly, so that when they strike, the blow may fall without warning—without affording any time for escape. But it is not in this manner that God meets His enemies. He gives them warning upon warning.

2. God does not meet His enemies in vengeance, till He has tried every means to recover and reclaim them. The crime of rebellion is commonly visited, by earthly rulers, with immediate condign punishment.

3. God never meets His enemies in vengeance, without a just and sufficient cause. Men often do.

4. God's anger is infinitely removed from that which burns in the breasts of His fallen creatures. He has no private resentment to gratify, no bye-ends to answer. He acts as a moral governor, as guardian of the interests of the universe.

5. When God will meet impenitent sinners, there is no hope of resisting Him.

6. When He does meet His enemies, it is with a fixed determination to crush them. He will not spare.

7. Men sometimes, when they undertake to crush an enemy, leave the work unfinished. But it is not thus that God will deal with His enemies. Wherever His vengeance strikes, the blow will be fatal.

8. After an earthly prince has subdued his rebellious subjects, and laid them under his high displeasure, he may be moved by their entreaties and sufferings to release them from prison, and restore them to favour. But God will never show favour in another world to those who refuse submission to Him in this, and die with arms in their hands. "Behold, now is the accepted time." When God shall have cast the impenitent into hell, the last ray of light will be extinguished for ever.—Heman Humphrey, D.D.: American National Preacher, vol. iv. pp. 269-274.


Verse 7

THE BOAST OF BABYLON

Isa . I shall be a lady for ever.

The utterance of proud Babylon is identical with that of the vain and self-confident in all ages (Rev ). The delusion prosperity produces in such men, or nations, is always of this sort. This expression suggests that lengthened prosperity in the case of the ungodly leads to—

I. False security (Psa ; Job 29:18). The tendency of riches and honour is to blind the heart to the future; and too often to steel it toward God. Who is so unconcerned about death as the miser? Who is so indifferent to the claims of God, as those (like Herod) who live upon the breath of popular applause? (H. E. I. 3997-4014.)

II. Presumption. "A lady for ever," i.e., in my own right, "no contingency can arise to deprive me of my title and wealth." The prosperous man is tempted to forget he is as dependent upon God now as he was in the days of his adversity (Pro ).

III. Boasting. The vernacular of pride—"a lady," superior to others. Prosperity leads its slaves to imagine they are a higher order of being. In God's sight too!

IV. Self-satisfaction. "A lady." "I am that now. None will dispute it. I need aim no higher. I am rich, increased in goods," &c. (Rev ). How dreadful the delusion! "Thou art wretched," &c. (Rev 3:17).

V. Abandonment to luxury. "A lady for ever," i.e., "I mean to be at ease, to enjoy life." Let us beware, if our worldly position be prosperous, lest we live on the gifts, rather than on the Giver. Let us beware lest we appropriate the talents God has given us to our own ends. That is robbery. If the man who hid his Lord's money was condemned, what shall be the doom of those who use it for self-indulgence?

VI. Spiritual blindness. The certain future of man is declared. But the vain and foolish will not consider their latter end! Prosperity dazzles the eye; the future is wilfully disregarded. The cry of the world, though uttered in other dialects and in different words, is the boast of Babylon, "I shall be a lady for ever." The boast is its belief.

CONCLUSION.—Remember the desolation of self-confident Babylon—widowhood, childlessness, poverty, famine, shame, disease, insanity, exile, death. Nor shall the future of those who disobey the Gospel be less dreadful or severe.—R. A. Griffin: Stems and Twigs, p. 256.

THE NEGLECT OF WARNINGS

Isa . Thou didst not lay these things to heart, neither didst thou remember the latter end of it.

God warns before He strikes. He gives tokens and premonitions of His approaching judgments, before He proceeds to the fulfilment of His threatenings (Amo ; Gen 18:17, &c.) He would have men forewarned that they may be forearmed; that "that day" may not come upon them unawares. He condescends to forewarn His enemies as well as His friends. The men of the old world were warned by the preaching of Noah; the inhabitants of the cities of the plain by Lot; Babylon of her doom and desolation by Isaiah and the other prophets. It was a great enhancement of the guilt of Babylon, and the cause of a great aggravation of her doom, that these merciful warnings were despised; and woe will be unto us if we follow in the same track, and neglect the warnings that are addressed to us.

I. THE COURSE OF CONDUCT CONDEMNED. "Thou didst not lay these things to heart." Though the desolation of Babylon was distinctly foretold—by Isaiah 160 years before the event; by Jeremiah fifty years; and by Daniel when the event was just at hand—yet she took no heed. Let him that is without sin cast the first stone! This insensibility to the threatened judgments of Heaven is—

1. Very common. It is the miserable result of depravity that we delay to the last what we ought to seek first. Though God warns us in every possible way—by His Word, by His providence, by the death of friends, by the calamities that occur around us, by the consequences of sin in the family circles of others—we continue blind and thoughtless. We see this in the young; in the busy, the enterprising, the prosperous; in those who are troubled and tried; in the confirmed and hardened transgressor.

2. Very sinful. It arises from guilt, and leads to greater guilt. It cannot be a trivial thing that God should speak to man, and that man should refuse to hear.

3. Very foolish. To the Babylonians the fabric of their power seemed so fair and strong that no human power could shake it; and they were much too far gone in presumption to dread the divine indignation. Their arrogance and conceit of their extended dominion and invincible prowess was so great, that it never entered into their mind that there was One above them, or that it was possible for them to fall into such calamities as were here threatened. But Babylon was not the first, and will not be the last, in whom the saying will be made good, that "pride goeth before a fall" (Psa ; Psa 73:11-19).

4. Very dangerous. Dangerous because it hardens the man in sin, closes the heart to all heavenly influences, and opens it to those that are earthly and carnal: commits the man to the downward road, all his habits, pursuits, and tendencies impelling him in the one direction; does the work of Satan in the soul; darkens the light of reason and conscience; paves the way for greater departures from God, and blocks up the avenues of return (H. E. I. 1446-1456, 4232-4252). Dangerous because it grieves the Holy Spirit, and provokes Him utterly to depart from us. The business of salvation must be done in God's time. Where has He given any man leave to put off repentance for a single day? He who bids you repent at all, bids you repent to-day. Those who put off repentance for another day, have a day more to repent of, and a day less to repent in.

II. THE FEARFUL JUDGMENT DENOUNCED—a type on a large scale of the overthrow of sinners.

1. The certainty of it. "Therefore hear now this.… these two things shall come to thee." As certainly as she was guilty, careless, and impenitent, so certainly should the wrath of Heaven fall upon her, and fall the more heavily by reason of her hardened impiety and presumption. Impenitent sinner, think of the certainty of your overthrow! It is not more certain that he that believeth shall be saved, than that he that believeth not shall be damned; that the righteous shall go away into life eternal, than that the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment.

2. The suddenness of it. "Those two things shall come to thee in a moment, in one day." Your ruin may come from the quarter least expected: from the treachery of an accomplice; from your nearest and dearest friend; from an unguarded word from your own lip (Isa ). Nothing heightens ruin like unexpectedness. The foolish virgins left in the outer darkness; Haman overthrown at the banquet of Esther; Belshazzar feasting with his nobles when his doom was written upon the wall; the Philistines triumphing when Samson pulled down the pillars of the temple; the man without the wedding garment who had actually taken his place at the wedding feast; Jonah had made good all his plans and preliminary movements, and was asleep when the storm came on (Pro 29:1).

3. The retributory character of it. An exact proportionment of the punishment to the crime. No undue severity shown even to Babylon (Isa ; Jas 2:13; Rev 18:5-6). Nor even to the chief of sinners. Always a just recompense of reward.

4. The utter hopelessness of those on whom it comes (Isa ).

CONCLUSION.—The blessedness of those who have given wise heed to God's merciful warnings. They have the best friend (Isa ). The surest promises (Isa 48:15; Isa 48:17). A heavenly home.—Samuel Thodey.


Verse 10-11

PRACTICAL ATHEISM AND GENUINE PIETY

Isa . Thou hast said, None seeth me.

Gen . And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me.

Here is—

I. PRACTICAL ATHEISM. "Thou hast said, None seeth me," i.e., God is indifferent to our conduct. This is the practical denial of Divine Omniscience (Psa ; Psa 94:7). That the self-existent and eternal God should not see is a palpable absurdity (Psa 94:8-10). This haughty language suggests a sad tendency in human nature.

"This practical atheism is very prevalent and pernicious at the present time. Immense numbers utter the ‘Apostles' Creed' regularly, who exclude God from almost every province of their life. In the formation of their plans, in the management of their business, in their relations to society, &c., ‘God is not in all their thoughts.'" They act as if God did not see them. They are no more restrained in their conduct than they would be if this was their deliberate conviction, or than if they had settled it in their minds that God is regardless of human actions. "The causes of this tendency are not inherent in human nature, but are

(1.) Dislike of God.

(2.) Dread of God."

II. GENUINE PIETY. "Thou God seest me." Heb.: "Thou (art a) God of seeing—of vision." God sees as well as hears (Jacobus). This pious utterance suggests a solemn fact in human history—that God sees us.

1. The very nature of God implies this. The supposition that there is anything that God does not see involves a contradiction.

2. The Bible teaches this (Job ; Psa 139:1-4; Psa 139:11-12; Psa 139:15-16; Jer 23:24; Amo 9:2-3; Act 17:27-28; Heb 4:13). The case of Hagar is a remarkable illustration—a sudden and surprising conviction that God sees and knows all (Gen 16:13-14).

III. GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS WHICH THIS SUBJECT CONVEYS.

Such as these:—

1. It warns the wicked. Secret as their sins may seem, they are all discerned and known by Him who is their Judge (Job ).

2. It should restrain us from evil. "The eye of a child will effectually check the execution of some evil purposes; more the eye of man or woman; yet more the eye of a holy man or woman. But God's eye sees all things everywhere. And He is perfectly holy!"

3. It should incite us to a beautiful and useful life—beautiful in its spirit, and useful in its moral influence. "The athletes of Greece and Rome were inspired to run or wrestle by the knowledge of the fact that they were surrounded by a vast assembly of spectators (Heb ). Oh! if we but, realised God's presence, our life would become brave and beautiful and holy. God is not only present everywhere, but everywhere present to inspire, and aid, and bless."

4. It should comfort and strengthen the people of God amid the duties and conflicts and trials of life. There is One who knows all things that relate to them, and who can with the utmost ease adapt all circumstances and events to their good. They are always under their great Master's eye.—Alfred Tucker.

OMNISCIENCE IGNORED

Isa . Thou hast said, None seeth me.

I. This notion has great influence upon the conduct of man. Such a notion is convenient. Offenders against man retire to the dark when they mean to perpetrate their evil deeds. Concealment is the helpmeet of wrong. Because they sometimes, perhaps often, escape the most watchful human eyes, they fancy it possible to escape the eye of God. They would have no interest whatever in reaching this conclusion, if they never wished to do anything wrong. The sinner persuades himself of two or three things: he has gained his end; he has escaped observation; he has avoided the punishment. It is not necessary that all this be formulated. It is sufficient if the mind accustoms itself to question whether God sees. The sinner will take advantage of a doubt.

II. This notion is utterly untruthful and delusive. Whether our sinful deeds are seen by man or not, there is One to whom they are open as the day. If there is a God at all, this must be so. If you persuade yourself that God does not see, you persuade yourself that God is not. That part of the universe which God does not know, has no God. He who does not know everything is limited; therefore he is not God. But you cannot see Him. When you cannot see a man, you infer that he is not present. So with God. Thus you require that which would argue Him nothing more than a man after all. The spirituality of the Divine nature makes it possible for Him to be everywhere and see everything.

III. God has often, in human experiences, shown the delusiveness of this notion, and the time is fixed for the complete demonstration of its delusiveness.

1. Character is often seen through by man.

2. Retribution often follows man's deeds in the present world. Joseph's brethren, Achan, and Saul.

3. The future state will show that God saw. At the judgment day the books will be opened. What is written there will prove that sin was seen. Hell will be an everlasting proof.

CONCLUSION.—Sinner, God sees you; has seen you all along. Be warned, Christian!

1. Be encouraged and comforted by the thought that God sees. He sees the good and their goodness. Be more constantly influenced by this thought.

(1.) Let it restrain from sin.

(2.) Let it stimulate to holy obedience and earnest work (H. E. I. 2257-2267).—J. R., in the Pulpit Analyst.

It would probably be an aid to excellence of life, if we would suppose some distinguished person always looking upon us. We are often deterred from evil by fear of the disapproval of some one whose good opinion we value. The thought of the Divine observation exerts an important influence on the conduct of such as believe it. It is unspeakably pleasant to those who regard Him as an ever-present friend, with whom they are in full sympathy, whom they desire to please. To those who do not regard Him as their friend, who are not in sympathy with Him, and who pursue a course of conduct contrary to His nature, it is repugnant. Hence men who desire to live in sin persuade themselves that He does not see their actions. This persuasion of sinners is convenient to them, but it is delusive and mischievous.

I. IT IS A CONVENIENT PERSUASION.

1. It is adopted because of its convenience. It is on that account open to suspicion. The mind, in taking it, was not in the most favourable condition for the ascertainment of truth. Why is it convenient to say God does not see? Because there is a desire to do what He does not approve. When the fraudulent merchant remains alone in his office, manipulating his accounts so as to defraud his creditors; when the impure retire behind the curtains of the night and of the chamber; when the burglar disguises himself, and in darkness plies his nefarious occupation; when the murderer watches for his victim in the depths of the forest, it is for the same reason.

2. It rests on an insecure negation. In its most pronounced form, it amounts to a denial of the Divine existence. We will not say that all Atheists are persons whose immoral lives have rendered it impossible to retain comfort along with belief in God (H. E. I. 369); but it is certain that a large proportion of the Atheism around us has no better ground than this. A man in conflict with God's character takes refuge in the denial of His existence. Or, while not formally denying it, he persuades himself that the Divine Being is too great to concern Himself with the small affairs and acts of mortals. Or, perhaps more frequently in the strong confidence that no human eye is upon him, the sinner crowds out of his mind the fact that the Divine Eye is upon him. He does not distinctly deny it, but he practically ignores it; and, hurried on by the strength of passion, forgets that he should have taken more than his fellow-men into consideration. Hence—

3. It becomes a welcome encouragement to sin. The heart is inclined to sin, and only restrained by the fear of punishment. Then if the fear of punishment is removed by the persuasion that there is no witness, the barrier is thrown down, the sinful inclination will be indulged. Gehazi never thought that the watchful eye of God had been upon his proceedings. Beware upon what grounds you release yourself from the restraint imposed by the recognition of God's personal presence everywhere.

II. IT IS A DELUSIVE PERSUASION.

The sinner says none sees him. But there are moments when he suspects that he may have deceived himself. Conscience will sometimes whisper the question, "What if God, after all, has been observant of the sin?"

How frequently do transgressors find that they have not been so secluded from man as they supposed! Some unclosed crevice through which the deed has been seen. Subtle links of evidence are discovered and placed together so as to make a chain by which the most hidden crimes are dragged to light.

And it is unquestionably a delusion that GOD does not see. The sinner forgets the immense difficulties in the way of his convenient persuasion. He forgets that before he is in a position to say there is no God to see, he must know everything in the universe. Because the thing beyond his present knowledge may be this—that there is a God. Or if he supposes that, a God existing, He does not concern Himself with men, he forgets that the idea of a personal God carries with it this notion of His intimate acquaintance with everything about His creatures.—(H. E. I. 4015.)

What does He say about Himself in this respect? Does not the idea that He sees man's acts run through His Word? (Psa ; Psa 139:1-12). In other words, God's acquaintance with our life and ways comprehends everything, however minute. Men practise a delusion on themselves when they imagine He does not see them.

III. IT IS A MISCHIEVOUS PERSUASION.

Inasmuch as human nature is so largely influenced by the fact that there are witnesses of our conduct, it is a mischievous withdrawment of influence for good when the witness whose approbation is the most important is supposed to be withdrawn. From those who are only deterred from evil by the consciousness of being seen or the fear of punishment, it is like the withdrawment of the master's eye from the unfaithful servant. It opens the way to the commission and multiplication of sin. It increases the danger and the measure of punishment. Sin is the material out of which punishment is made. It sometimes overtakes sinners in the present world. For the most part it is deferred to the future state, perhaps to afford time and opportunity for the sinner's repentance. It only falls in its full weight when the sinner has finally rejected the overtures of God's grace. However secretly sin may have been committed, the judgment-day will reveal it (Matthew 25.; H. E. I. 3055). The conduct we are building up in our daily life is preparing the sentence of the Judge. Beware of the deceitfulness of sin. It fascinates with its eye, but it destroys with its sting. It will find out the sinner, though he retire to the deepest darkness or the remotest corner of the earth.

Cherish the belief in God's constant presence and inspection. The very fact of unwillingness to be seen by Him shows a consciousness of something that dare not meet His eye. But is it not better to abandon that something, whatever it is, than delude ourselves with the persuasion that God does not see? Drusus would have all the city see his manner of life. Oh that we all so lived that the thought of God's constant supervision could be a joy! The eye of His infinite holiness is upon us. With infinite approbation He sees the struggle against evil. With sorrowful condemnation He sees the sin. Fear to sin. Cultivate the disposition to please God. Suppress the inclination to the thing that would wish to elude His eye (H. E. I. 2257-2261).—J. Rawlinson.

PERNICIOUS KNOWLEDGE

(Sunday School Sermon.)

Isa . Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee.

Heavy are the charges laid against the great and guilty city of Babylon. Not only had she dealt unmercifully with God's people (Isa ), but her profligacy, luxury, pride, effeminacy, and wickedness were excessive (Isa 47:7-8; Isa 47:10). she was withal superstitious and idolatrous in the highest degree (Isa 47:9; Isa 47:12-13). What was the fruitful cause of all these abominations? Was it brutal ignorance, or barbarous uncultivation? No: it was just the reverse. Alas for the philosophers and wise men of this world! all the abominations of Babylon are here traced to human wisdom and science: "Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee." A proposition which runs counter to many prevalent opinions and prejudices. Let us, then,

I. EXAMINE AND VINDICATE THIS DECLARATION.

1. Of what wisdom and knowledge does Isaiah thus speak? It was human wisdom and science in the highest perfection! The same which opposed Moses in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, Paul at Athens: secular learning, the cultivation of the intellect, philosophy in its deepest and most subtle forms; for to this Babylon even the sages of Greece came as learners! in a word, it was all that the mind of man could attain without revelation.

2. Against this wisdom and knowledge the Scriptures bring the charge of perverting men's minds in morals and religion. This is expressly done in this chapter. Ezekiel affirms the same of the great mercantile city of Tyre (Eze ). St. Paul came more into contact with this worldly wisdom than any of the Apostles, and he was perhaps more capable of appreciating its true character; and he uniformly condemns it (1Co 1:21-27; 1Co 3:18-20; Rom 1:22-23).

3. That this testimony is not overcharged, all history proclaims. Superstitions, vices, and infidelity have prevailed in those countries where, and exactly at those times when, carnal wisdom has been most highly cultivated. Egypt was the birthplace and cradle of science; and in no country was idolatry more degrading. The scriptural account of the state of Babylon, where science was nurtured and developed, is corroborated by profane history. Its abominable vices could not be here detailed. The greatest sages of Greece are all chargeable with either practising or inculcating the grossest vices. The moral atrocities of the French Revolution, when Reason was deified in the person of an infamous woman, prove that time cannot alter the deteriorating tendency of unassisted human intellect.

4. All this is accounted for by the Scripture account of the fall of man. If that account is correct, no other results can follow (Job ). Equally with his other powers, the intellect of man was impaired by the fall of Adam, and became the ally of his polluted heart. The first example of its exercise was an instance of false reasoning against God Himself (Gen 3:12). See also Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21; Eph 4:18. Hence it follows that intellectual blindness is upon the heart of man; all his rational faculties are incapable of just conclusions on any religious subject, except they be assisted by a supernatural power.

5. Hence it inevitably follows that the cultivation of the intellectual parts of man can of itself have no tendency towards moral or spiritual good. If all the mental powers of man be in themselves depraved, the increase of his intelligence can only increase his faculty of evil; so that secular education, apart from religious and moral control, must be in itself a curse and not a blessing. It may create a generation of philosophic sceptics and apologists for vice, or even praters about virtue; but a moral and religious people it never has produced, and never can. Let us therefore consider—

II. THE REMEDY WHICH GOD HATH PROVIDED AGAINST ALL THESE INTELLECTUAL EVILS.

Because we declare the moral powerlessness of merely human knowledge, our enemies affirm that we are the patrons of ignorance and bigotry, wish the mind to stagnate, and desire to repress scientific inquiries. Groundless charges. We fear not the progress of philosophy, if she be guided by religion; nor the wisdom of man, if it be in subordination to the wisdom of God. This is the remedy of the intellectual and moral evils of our time.

1. The supreme need of this generation is instruction in the wisdom and knowledge which are of God, above those which are of men (see vol. i. pp. 373-378).

2. This wisdom and knowledge must be imparted to mankind by those means which God has appointed. The Bible. The preaching of the Gospel. The instruction of children in Divine truth (H. E. I. 793, 794, 803-806, 1751, 1771).

CONCLUDING REMARKS.—

1. Let us beware of the pride of mental cultivation.

2. Let all our knowledge, and all our mental powers, be consecrated to the service of God.

3. Let the poor and simple rejoice that moral and spiritual excellence are attainable by them.—F. Close, A. M.: Fifty-Two Sketches of Sermons, pp. 177-183.

THE SECURITY OF PROUD SINNERS

Isa . For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness, &c.

In the Babylonians we have types of proud sinners in every age—both in regard to their fancied security and the end of it.

I. THEIR FANCIED SECURITY. "I shall be a lady for ever. I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children" (Isa ). The calamities that might come upon other men would not touch them! They were vainly confident of the perpetuity of their pomps and pleasures. Observe—

1. The cause of their fancied security. They thought themselves safe and out of danger, not because they were ignorant of the uncertainty of all earthly enjoyments, and the inevitable fate that attends states and kingdoms as well as particular persons, but because they did not lay this to heart (Isa ), did not apply it to themselves, nor give it a due consideration. They lulled themselves asleep in ease and pleasure (chap. Isa 56:12). They did not remember the latter end (Isa 47:7) of their prosperity, that it is a fading flower, and will wither; of their iniquity, that it will be bitterness; and that the day will come when their injustice and oppression must be reckoned for and punished. To-day ungodly men are easy in their sinful ways, because they never think of death, and judgment, and their future state.

2. The ground of their fancied security.

(1.) Their power and wealth, which they had gotten by fraud and oppression, were their confidence (Isa ). Like Doeg (Psa 52:7). Many have so debauched their own consciences, and are got to such a daring pitch of wickedness, that they stick at nothing; and this they trust to, to carry them through those difficulties which embarrass men who make conscience of what they say and do.

(2.) Their policy and craft, which they called their wisdom, were their confidence. They thought they could out-wit all mankind, and therefore might set their enemies at defiance; but their wisdom and knowledge perverted them—made them forget themselves and the preparation necessary to be made for hereafter.

3. The foolish boastings into which their fancied security betrayed them.

(1.) "I shall be a lady for ever" (Isa ). Babylon looked upon the patent of her honour to be not merely during the pleasure of the sovereign Lord, the fountain of honour, or during her own good behaviour, but to be perpetual (cf. Rev 18:7). Those great ones mistake themselves who think they shall be exalted for ever; death will shortly lay them and their honour in the dust. Saints shall be saints for ever, but those who are merely this world's great ones will be what they are only for a little while (H. E. I. 1537).

(2.) "I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children" (Isa ), i.e., she would never lack a monarch to espouse and protect her, nor would there be any diminution in the numbers of her people. Those that are in the height of prosperity are apt to fancy themselves out of the reach of adverse fate (Psa 10:4-6).

(3.) "None seeth me" (Isa ), i.e., "No one sees me when I do amiss, and therefore there will be none to call me to an account." It is common for sinners to trust to their wicked arts and designs to stand them in stead, because they think they have carried them on so plausibly that none can discern the wickedness and deceit of them. How foolish are they in their wickedness! (Psa 139:11-12.)

II. ITS END. It will be ruin (Isa )

1. It will be a complete ruin—the ruin of all their comforts and confidences. "These two things shall come upon thee (the very two things thou didst set at defiance), loss of children and widowhood. Both thy princes and thy people shall be cut off, so that thou shalt be no more a government, no more a nation." Note, God often brings upon secure sinners those very mischiefs which they thought themselves least in danger of; "they shall come upon thee in their perfection, with all their aggravating circumstances, and without anything to allay or mitigate them." What a contrast between the afflictions of the godly and of the godless!

2. It will be a sudden and surprising ruin. The evil shall come in one day, nay in a moment (Isa ), which will make it much the more terrible, especially to those who were so very secure. "Evil shall come upon thee, and thou shalt have neither time nor way to provide against it, or to prepare for it; for ‘thou shalt not know from whence it rises,' and therefore shalt not know where to stand upon thy guard." "Thou shalt not know the morning thereof;" so the Hebrew phrase is. We know just when and where the day will break and the sun rise, but we know not what the day, when it is come, will bring forth, nor when or where trouble will arise; perhaps the storm may come from that point of the compass which we little thought of. Babylon pretended to great wisdom and knowledge (Isa 47:10), but with all her wisdom cannot foresee, nor with all her wisdom prevent, the ruin threatened (Isa 47:11). Fair warning of this desolation was indeed given them by the prophets of the Lord; but they slighted that notice, and therefore justly is it so ordered that they should have no other notice of it, but that, partly through their own security, and partly through the swiftness and subtility of the enemy, when it came it should be a perfect surprise to them. Those that slight the warnings of the written Word, let them not expect any other premonition.

3. It will be an irresistible ruin (Isa ). There is no opposing the judgments of God when they come with commission. Babylon herself, with all her wealth, power, and multitude, is not able to put off the mischief that comes.—Matthew Henry: Commentary, in loco.


Verses 11-15

FALSE SECURITIES

Isa , Therefore shall evil come upon thee, &c.

I. Look at this picture of utter and painful bewilderment. This is the necessary and inevitable result of sin.

1. We have been warned of it.

2. A way of escape has been made.

II. Hear the divine challenge addressed to the false powers in which we have trusted, as money, chance, self-confidence, atheism.

1. They ought to be most useful when most needed.

2. They should show their sufficiency by their fearlessness. See text.

(1.) There is to be a great collision.

(2.) In that collision only the true can stand.

III. See the doom of false securities.

1. Let no man complain of want of opportunity of estimating the value of his moral securities; or,

2. Of having been allowed to live unwarned.

APPLICATION.—

1. We cannot escape the trial of our securities.

2. If we set ourselves against God, we challenge all the forces of His creation—fire, wind, flood, pestilence, &c.—J. C. Gray: Biblical Museum, in loco.

Isa . Behold, they shall be as stubble, &c.

Part of a terrible description of God's judgment upon Babylon and Chaldea. It is a truth beyond dispute that God's justice is not partial; that the description of the destruction which He awards to one class of sinners is a most fair picture of what He will do with others, for God hath not two or three ways of dealing with men in His justice. The ruin of Chaldea is to us, to-day, a representation and metaphorical description of the destruction which shall surely come upon impenitent sinners when the Lord cometh out of His place to "judge His enemies," &c. At first sight the figures in our text seem contradictory.

I. THE FIRST FIGURE. The punishment of the wicked will be,

1. "easily inflicted." "They shall be as stubble." Nothing can be more easy than to kindle stubble when it is fully dry. So shall it be with impenitent sinners.

(1.) The power of memory shall become a vehicle of sorrow.

(2.) Conscience.

(3.) Increased knowledge. Now you know enough to leave you without excuse, but then your knowledge shall increase so as to leave thee without pretence of apology.

(4.) Companions.

2. Most searching and terrible. The metaphor of fire is used in Scripture, because it is that which of all things causeth most pain, and is the most searching and trying.

3. Most inevitable. "They shall not," &c. There is hope now; there shall be no hope then. How can it be avoided? Man has no strength to match the Most High; no wisdom to invent another plan of salvation; no ability to hide from God's presence.

If you profess to be a Christian nominally, you believe this—one of the fundamental truths of revelation.

II. THE SECOND FIGURE. "There shall not be a coal," &c.; by which is meant that there shall be nothing in hell that can give the sinner a moment's comfort. Nothing as the soul lifts its eye to heaven, for that is lost. Nothing in hell itself, for the more there are, the more wretched. Nothing in themselves, nor in their thoughts. Nothing in God, for the sting of all the punishment will be—"I deserve it; I brought this on myself." Nothing in the past, for that will give agony. Nothing in the soul's present condition. Nothing in their future condition, for they shall never see the shadow of a hope.

III. "BEHOLD." Turn not away your eyes from this meditation. Children of God, behold it; it will make you grateful; make you love poor sinners. Unconverted sinner, behold it. Better to think of it now than to think of it for ever. If false, reject it; but if real, meditate upon these things; and may God lead you out of self to Christ. "Turn ye," &c.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 444.


Verse 12-13

A CALL TO THE UNRIGHTEOUS

(Fourth Sunday in Advent.)

Isa . Hearken unto Me, ye stout-hearted, &c.

Referred at first to local and national circumstances, but addressed to the men of every generation—to ourselves in our own circumstances, rendered more obvious and striking by the near approach of the joyful season of Christmas.

I. God's dealings with mankind have been all of a character which may be called unexpected. No reason can be given why men should be redeemed, rather than fallen angels, save that it so pleased Him who "worketh all things," &c. Suppose that God had left the world to itself for many ages; suppose Him breaking the silence of centuries, of what nature would the world expect the summons to be if roused in the midst of its profligacy by the call, "Hearken," &c.? Would it not be a message of wrath, &c.? It never could have been expected, that after such a summons would follow such words as are found in the text.

II. Having summoned the stout-hearted to hearken, the words that follow are specially adapted to their case—contain the motives which are most likely to bring them to contrition and repentance. The nearness of salvation is made an argument with the ungodly why they should turn from evil courses, just as preached by the Baptist—"Repent ye, for," &c. The argument may not seem at first to be one of extraordinary force, but there is an energy and a persuasiveness in the approach of a Redeemer which may vainly be looked for in the approach of any other persons, or any other event. Apply this argument.

God goes on to speak with more distinctness of His purposes of mercy: "And I will place," &c. Refers originally to what Christ would accomplish at His first appearing in Judea, and also what He would effect at His second advent. But if we confine our thoughts to what has been already effected, we have sufficient material from which to prove the accomplishment of the text. "Righteousness" is the salvation which God promises to be at hand. This is the most faithful description of the deliverance provided through the mediation of Christ, for that deliverance to righteousness which God provided for His own honour whilst providing for our rescue (Rom , &c.) And not only is salvation the righteousness of all, because it provides that God shall be just while the justifier; it is emphatically "God's righteousness," inasmuch as it communicates a righteousness to man which by his own strivings he could not have attained. It does this in two ways—by imputing Christ's righteousness, and by working righteousness in us by the operation of the Holy Spirit.

And this salvation God placed in Zion, for it was only by the going up of the Mediator as a victim to the altar that the curse of the law was exhausted and the honour of the Divine attributes secured. Ages have no power to weaken or remove it. Still is virtue going out from Zion mighty as when the first Atonement was made. But we look for a yet nobler and ampler accomplishment of the prophecy (Isa ; Isa 63:1).

"For Israel my glory." Wonderful words! That fallen man should be His glory is an inexplicable mystery apart from Redemption. A redeemed creature is emphatically the glory of God.—H. Melvill, B.A.: Sermons, 1853, pp. 562-568.

I. A CALL OF GOD TO THE LISTLESS AND IMPENITENT. "Hearken unto Me ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness."

1. This call may be said to apply to three classes—

(1.) To the spiritually deaf;

(2.) To the spiritually obdurate;

(3.) To the spiritually destitute—"Far from righteousness."

2. This call is entitled to our immediate and most earnest attention.

(1.) Because it concerns our eternal destiny;

(2.) Because it is God's call.

II. CONNECTED WITH THIS CALL IS THE GRACIOUS PROVISION AND ACCESSIBILITY OF SALVATION. "I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry." Of this salvation, thus provided and so easily available, we reremark that—

1. It is Divine in its origin and nature. "I bring;" "my salvation."

2. It is prompt in its announcement and delivery. The text signifies anything but delay, anything but cold and indifferent pauses. God makes haste to be gracious. He observes due time. and sent His Son in the fulness of time, He is slow to anger, but plenteous in mercy. As the prodigal's father ran to meet him, so does God to save man.

3. It is mercifully adapted to the sinner's condition.

(1.) He deserves threatening, but obtained instead mercy's rich promise. God might justly have followed the call by threatening; but rather than this, there is a beautiful transition from the severe to the tender, from the prelude of thunder to the sweet and gentle music of love. It is a beautiful gradation from law to grace.

(2.) He deserves the loss of redemptive privileges, but is offered a near salvation.

(3.) He deserves present punishment, but is offered a timely pardon.

III. GOD CONSTITUTES HIS CHURCH THE TREASURY OF THIS ACCESSIBLE SALVATION. "I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory." Here we see—

1. That the church is the world's house of mercy.

2. That the church is entrusted with the most solemn responsibilities.

3. That the church is God's glory and object of honour. "For Israel my glory."—Thomas Colclough in the "Lau Preacher," vol. iii. p. 123.

I. THE DEPLORABLE CONDITION OF UNCONVERTED SINNERS.

1. "Stout-hearted"—stubborn, obdurate, hard. In Eze we have a striking and instructive figure describing the condition of unconverted sinners: "The stony heart"—as hard, as cold, as barren, and as dead as a stone!

2. "Far from righteousness"—rightness in heart, in habit, and in life. Morally wrong. Alienated from God. All are naturally wrong (Rom ). Yet some talk of moral excellence in fallen creatures, &c. The Bible acknowledges no real excellence but what arises from a work of grace upon the soul. Sin has defaced the moral excellences of man (Jer 17:9; Gen 6:5; Rom 8:7). "That which is born of the flesh is flesh"—fallen, corrupt, subject to the law of the Fall. "Ye must be born again."

II. THE WONDERFUL MERCY OF GOD. Has provided a method of deliverance from this deplorable condition. "I bring near my righteousness," &c. This deliverance God brings near (Rom ). Your wrongness may be brought to a final end. The gospel is the grand provision for the restoration of righteousness in fallen and sinful men (2Co 5:21, &c.) Though by nature "far off," you may be brought "nigh by the blood of Christ."

III. THE IMPERATIVE DUTY TO WHICH SINNERS ARE SUMMONED. "Hearken unto Me." When God speaks, it behoves us to listen (Heb ). Hearken to His voice—immediately, earnestly, practically, constantly. "Hear, and your soul shall live."—Alfred Tucker.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 47:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/isaiah-47.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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