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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Isaiah 61

 

 

Verses 1-3

THE SIGNS OF A TRUE MINISTRY

Isa . The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, &c.

This word, in all the beauty and grace of its meaning, was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ; yet it may be regarded as setting forth the signs of a true service for the Kingdom of God, whether rendered by an individual labourer or by the Church in its collective capacity. Looked at in this light, the text becomes solemn as a judgment-seat, and terrible as the vision of God. It declares—

I. THAT THE TRUE MINISTRY IS ALWAYS INSPIRED AND DIRECTED BY THE HOLY GHOST.

That our service may be animated by the Holy Spirit, and should express Divine ideas and purposes, is clear, from the consideration that ours is not an earthly ministry contemplating earthly matters. In working out religious ideas and Christian purposes, it is not the man who has the longest head that can always do the most good; it is the man who says—and says in reverence and humility—"I am but a vessel, an instrument, an agent; I am not the master, I am but a servant; Lord God, be thou my inspiration, my strength, and the completeness of my power!" (1Co ). Our service at home, in the school, &c., ought to be more intensely spiritual. Spiritual character, vitality, will exercise a subtle influence, intensify, and extend. Have we the Holy Ghost?

II. THAT THE TRUE MINISTRY IS ANIMATED BY THE SUBLIMEST BENEVOLENCE.

III. THAT THE TRUE MINISTRY, WHETHER PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, NEVER SHRINKS FROM ITS MORE AWFUL FUNCTIONS (Isa ).

APPLICATION—Let us often stand before this text as before a judgment-seat. Have we the Holy Ghost, or is ours but a feeble testimony we have learnt from teachers that have no claim to Divine inspiration? Are we a joy to all that mourn, &c.? are we a terror to evil-doers, &c.?—Joseph Parker, D.D., City Temple, pp. 397-404.

THE DIVINE PREACHER "Of whom saith the prophet this?" I. THE SPEAKER. Doubtless Isaiah was called to comfort the exiles in Babylon, But this language is too elevated to apply to him. The speaker is "the servant of Jehovah," the Messiah. Jesus, when at Nazareth, appropriated the words to Himself (Luk , &c.) Though to all appearance a poor, unlettered peasant, Jesus was appointed to fulfil so high a function. What an evidence of His divinity! II. IN WHOSE NAME AND WITH WHAT AUTHORITY DOES HE SPEAK?

1. The qualification. The Spirit was given without measure—the Spirit of wisdom, of compassion, of help.

2. The commission. The Lord "anointed Him." Approved, sanctioned, prospered by the Lord, He must needs possess the attractiveness and the authority ascribed to Him. This is the explanation of His incomparable power. III. TO WHOM DOES HE SPEAK? To the meek, &c. IV. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE MESSAGE Good tidings, &c.

1. Of the Father's interest and care.

2. Of His purpose of salvation.

3. Of redemption, as expressing and carrying out Divine intentions of grace.

4. Of spiritual riches, which the poor of this world might possess.

5. Of everlasting life and happiness.

APPLICATION.—

1. Accept Christ's offers of grace!

2. Publish the compassion of this Divine Messiah!—The Homiletical Library, vol. ii. pp. 123, 124.

I. The moral disease—broken-heartedness.

By the broken-hearted, I understand those who, in the language of Scripture, "sorrow after a godly sort;" whose grief is occasioned by sin, in some one of its endlessly varied forms. It may be best understood by a reference to one or two examples—presenting it in its causes, and in its effects and outward features. Brokenness of heart is often the result—

1. Of the presence of guilt upon the conscience (Psa ; Psa 38:1-8).

2. Of a continued feeling of sin, in its strength in the nature (Rom ).

3. Of God's dealings with the soul, in order to recover it from backsliding (Psalms 51; Jer ).

4. Of seeing sin prevailing in the Church, and among the people of God (Jer ).

5. Of a season of desertion (Psa ).

6. Of the reproaches, and calumnies, and persecutions of the wicked (Psa ). If broken-hearted, is it through the sorrow of this life, or sin?

II. The Physician.

1. The sympathy which leads to the healing of the broken-hearted is with God. There are other comforters.

2. He who has come to heal is peculiarly qualified, by His nature and by His experience, for sympathising with the afflicted—the Spirit, the "Comforter."

3. The balm which the Physician applies differs according to the different causes of brokenness of heart.

(1.) If unpardoned guilt—the blood and righteousness of Christ (Heb ).

(2.) If unsubdued sin—grace, and strength, and purity, secured in the covenant (Eze ).

(3.) If backsliding—the tokens of reconciliation (Luk ). (4,) If desertion and darkness—support of faith (Isa 1:10), restoration of God's presence.

(5.) If prevailing iniquity—the Sovereignty of God. He can vindicate His glory. He will yet do so.

I. The condition of men by nature—they are captives.

1. Men are not now in their original and native country. The captive, though born in bondage, yet looks away to his fatherland. That man is not in his native and original condition is evident.

(1.) This is an historical fact—recorded.

(2.) The evidence of this is to be found in the very nature of man himself—for, He must have a god, and worship. He bears a conscience, recoguising another law than that which he is under. He is still in a state of progression.

2. The expression "captives" has a reference to the manner in which men became foreigners. There are but two ways in which any can pass into bondage—through war and stratagem, or through being sold.

3. The expression of the text leads us to look to the state and character of man for the features of captivity.

(1.) Like the captive and slave, man has lost his freedom. He is in bondage to sin—to the flesh—to the world.

(2.) Like the captive and slave, man has lost his dignity. Of position—as a king's son. Of character—as Godlike, Of employment—as a worshipper of, and a fellow-worker with, God.

(3.) Like the captive and slave, he has lost his courage—denying God, he dreads man.

(4.) Like the captive and slave, there are given to him hard and unrewarded tasks. He is made to fight against God—to destroy himself—to violate conscience.

(5.) Like the captive and slave, he is miserable.

II. The object and office of Christ.

1. Before accomplishing the actual deliverance of man from his captivity, Christ procures the reversal of his sentence of banishment (Gen ).

2. Before, &c., Christ had to ransom man as a lawful captive, passive. "Ransomed"—"redeemed"—"bought," &c.

3. In order that men may be delivered, Christ overthrows the power which has led them captive, and keeps them enslaved (Mat ; Col 2:15; Psa 68:18).

4. Having crushed the oppressor, Christ leads forth His people from their captivity (Isa ; Isa 49:25).

5. This He does through preaching (2Co ).

6. That believers are the Lord's freemen, is manifest in their character and conduct.

I. The time—"the acceptable year of the Lord."

2. While this law served important political and religious purposes among the Jews, it was typical of the Christian dispensation (Luk ).

3. As the Jubilee was ushered in by trumpets, so was the Christian dispensation by preaching. Christ is said to have died at the commencement of the last Jubilee observed.

4. We have thus a perpetual Jubilee, and a perpetual sounding of trumpets (Rom ).

The Jewish year of Jubilee was a political institution intended for wise purposes. It was to prevent the oppression of the poor, to guard against the miserly accumulations of the rich, and to preserve the ancient patrimony of families, notwithstanding personal reverses, as a sort of inalienable entail. As in the year of Jubilee all slaves that had sold themselves, in the liquidation of their debts into bondage were liberated, and all property that had been temporarily alienated reverted to its original owner, there was a sort of equality retained amid the tribes, the balance of society was preserved, and an effectual check was put upon the system of confiscation and bondage, which might otherwise have become an unmitigated feudalism.… With the Jubilee, however, as a political institution, we have not now to deal: our object is to show that like almost everything else in Jewish polity or ritual, it set forth in shadow the deliverances of the new and better covenant. The analogies are plenteous and significant.

If you study the history of the Jewish Jubilee, you will find—

1. That IT COMMENCED AT THE CLOSE OF THE DAY OF ATONEMENT. Of the solemnities of that day, you are doubtless aware.… It was after these solemnities, after the prostrate knee and afflicted soul, after the ensanguined altar and the banished trespass offering, after the humbled entrance into the holiest and the exulting emergence from it, that the solemnities of the Sabbatical year began. Scarcely had the priest's voice been hushed, scarcely had the last echoing benediction from his lips reached and thrilled the furthest of the crowd, before the sound of the trumpet, caught up and transmitted through all the Jewish city, proclaimed the commencement of the year of Jubilee. Is not this a type of the way in which spiritual blessings are exclusively introduced to mankind.

There could be no Jubilee for us, a race of lost and guilty rebels taken in arms, traitors convicted of treason, unless an all-prevalent atonement had previously purchased our pardon. A criminal does not rejoice in the interval between the sentence and its execution.… The atonement is the exclusive source of safety and happiness for man. Apart from its reconciling provisions there is a curse upon humanity which no sorcery of the world's wizardry can charm away. And all complacency which men may feel, and all good of which they may imagine themselves possessed, are but delusive as the midnight dream. There can be no peace, or if there be it is a peace which God hath not spoken, like the treacherous calm just outside the eddy of the maelström, which only speeds the doomed vessel into the cruel eddy of its waves. There can be no hope, or if there be it will have no freedom from the blush of shame, and no steadfast anchorage by which to hold. There can be no joy, or if there be it will be a baseless and fugitive emotion, transient as the dew, but not like the dew, melting into the light of heaven. Peace and hope and joy for renovated man can come in happy jubilee only from the Atonement of Christ.

2. Among the blessings of the Jubilee there was REST FROM EXHAUSTING LABOUR.

By a providential arrangement, similar to that which secured a double supply of manna on the sixth day, the land had unusual fertility in the sixth year, so that in the seventh, which was the ordinary, and in the fiftieth, which was the special Sabbatical year, there was a suspension of the common duties of husbandry. Both the land and the labourers had rest, and yet the supply did not fail, for there was plenty in every barn, and there was gladness in every heart. Profane history tells and confirms what scoffing unbelief might otherwise have regarded as a tale, for we are told by Josephus, an impartial historian certainly, that in the time of Alexander the Great, there was special exemption from taxes during the Sabbatical year, and after the return from captivity the Sabbatical year was reverently and constantly maintained.

3. THE RESTORATION OF ALIENATED PROPERTY.

4. THE RESTORATION OF FREEDOM.—W. M. Punshon, LL.D.: The Penny Pulpit, No. 3397.

II. The circumstances which render this year, or season, acceptable or joyous.

If we advert to the year of Jubilee, these will become apparent.

III. The ground on which this year, or season, has become acceptable.

1. The ground of its being acceptable is suggested in Lev . It commenced on the day of atonement.

2. By His work of atonement Christ has procured—

(1.) The remission of sins (Act ).

(2.) Deliverance from prison and bondage (Gal ).

(3.) Our lost inheritance (Eph ).

(4.) He has produced mutual love (Joh ).

3. It is only in Christ that the privileges of this year can be offered—that you can reach them. These blessings are as free to all, as were those of the Jubilee to the Jews.

IV. The acceptable season is limited—a year.

1. The whole Gospel dispensation, which must come to a close.

2. This life, as respects individuals. There are no years in hell. It matters not to those there, that there is grace here.

3. See that it mean not something still shorter—the season of the strivings of God's Spirit.

Practical lessons.—

1. That we come to God in Christ—immediately.

2. That we sound the silver trumpet of the Gospel, and proclaim the Jubilee of the world.

I. A leading employment of Christ as Mediator—preaching.

1. The grand instrument for establishing this kingdom.

2. Christ still fulfils this inspired declaration variously. By the inspired writings—often alone. By a standing ministry. By the lives of consistent believers, &c.

3. Look to Christ as your teacher.

4. Seek to be an instrument, or mouth to Christ. II. The subject of Christ's preaching—"the Gospel." III. The persons to whom Christ preached.—James Stewart: Outlines, pp. 17-28.

The world seems to echo and re-echo with the groans of the suffering. We can form no adequate conception of the widespread misery that exists. Surely, if ever there was a time when Messiah could prove the power of His grace to comfort those who suffer it is now. Has He given such proof? Let facts speak. See the dying who have heeded His story. In our own experience we find no helper in sorrow like the Lord. In health and prosperity we may undervalue His succouring grace; but whenever we are brought into circumstances of sore distress, we find no arm but His can support us.

I. He is an appreciative comforter. Strictly speaking, Jesus is the only appreciative comforter. We wish to be, but fail through incapacity. Let us not say, "No one knows what I feel." He knows the very degree, &c. II. He is a sympathetic comforter—suffers with us. III. He is a wise comforter. IV. The main truth is, He is an intelligent comforter.

It is He alone that brings to us the true explanation of suffering. The world without Him regard it as a penal arrangement; Christ shows us sorrow is discipline; that those who suffer most should be the best. We had never found this out apart from revelation. Whatever nature shrinks from we deem obnoxious. Take heed lest you miss the blessing of woe. Sorrow is discipline. Those who suffer most become the worst, unless they become the best. The child who is corrected either becomes more obedient or more way ward. Christ shows us sorrow is not misfortune. In the article of sorrow, spiritual prosperity may be as great as at any other time. Amidst the wildest storm the vessel may be borne on a strong current towards the desired haven. The most fertilising rain may descend at midnight. In the seven-time heated furnace the Hebrews walked with God.—Stems and Twigs: second series, pp. 255-257.

CHRIST'S MISSION. I. The great distinction in which our Lord exulted. II. The great message our Lord had to deliver. III. The great work our Lord had to accomplish.—J. P. Chown: Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., pp. 49-52.

I. The anointing of the Lord Jesus. The Spirit communicated. The manner. The measure. II. The object for which He was anointed.—Studies for the Pulpit, Part I., pp. 318-320.

I. The qualification. II. Work. III. Aim of a true minister of Christ.—Dr. Lyth.

I. The auspicious day on which the Jubilee commenced. II. The valuable privileges the Jubilee secured. III. The publicity with which the Jubilee was announced.—J. Rawlinson.


Verse 3

TREES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

Isa . Trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, &c.

I. CHRISTIANS UNDER THE FIGURE OF TREES. This suggests three things—

1. Life. The tree differs from many things in a landscape, in that it has the principle of life. The rock, &c., is sublime, but it has no life. But the tree grows from feebleness to strength, and the children's children of those who plucked its leaves repose under its shade. In like manner, all men spiritually dead except the Christian. "He" only "who hath the Son hath life."

2. Beauty. How sterile any landscape appears from which all trees are absent, and how much enriched is any scene by their presence! The world was equally devoid of what was lovely and great in character until Christianity came. Even the ungodly acknowledge that a consistent Christian is lovely. Men of old exclaimed, "Behold how they love each other!"

3. Utility. The tree which the prophet had in view (for the term is specific) was the terebinth, or what has been called the oriental oak—a tree as famous for its important uses, as for the majesty of its form. It is not merely an appeal to the eye which a Christian makes. Let a single Christian live consistently in a family, and that family is the better for him; let there be in a country a body of consistent and holy followers of Christ, and the manner and usages of that country will become quickly improved. It is to the Christian the world has to look for the means of its renovation. Philosophy and science and literature have failed: the Cross alone can be successful.

II. THE LORD AS THE CREATOR OF THE CHRISTIAN EXCELLENCES.

1. He gave him spiritual life. We were first planted in Paradise, but sin outrooted us, and we lay withering and dying, ready to be cast into the fire; nor could any human, angelic, or other finite power restore us. God sent His only Son to die that we might live. He planted us in Him, and gave us new and eternal life.

2. He supplies him with the means of growth. When He has taken the tree and planted it in His pleasant places, He does not forget to cultivate it. What stores of instruction in the Bible; what direction and guidance in Providence; what variety of trials and temptations, suited to his changing state, are supplied! (Joh ; Joh 15:2).

III. THE GREAT DESIGN AND END OF OUR BEING MADE TREES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

1. God's glory and our spiritual welfare go together. The beauty of the flower, &c., are the glory of the gardener.

2. God's glory is the highest end which any created being can serve.—Pulpit Outlines, 1852, p. 63, &c.

I. The plant: a tree of righteousness. II. The means by which it was produced: Jehovah's husbandry. III. The purpose of this generous and skilful husbandry: "That He might be glorified."—Geo. Bowden: The Methodist Recorder, June 18, 1869.

Isa . I. The land flourishes. II. The social condition of the people is prosperous. III. The people themselves are holy and happy. IV. The memory of their sorrows is wiped away for ever.—Dr. Lyth.


Verse 6

GOD'S PRIESTHOOD v. MAN'S PRIESTCRAFT

Isa . But ye shall be named the priests of the Lord.

To such low purposes has the noble word of "priest" been prostituted, so vilely has it been dishonoured, and so repulsive are all its present associations, that I confess it does not seem to me any very great compliment, or anything to rejoice much about, when my text declares, "And ye shall be named priests." "Ye are," said the Holy Ghost of all believers, "a royal priesthood." This chapter has reference to the kingdom of Christ. It looks forward to the time when He should come who could say, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," &c. When He came, all earthly priesthoods were abolished, and of all members of His kingdom it was to be said, "And ye shall be named the priests of the Lord."

I. How is the office of the priesthood entered? You may glean this from the induction of Aaron and his sons into the priestly office, for they are the types of Christ's high priesthood and the priesthood of all believers. The Holy Ghost has most clearly taught by this type the order of entrance into spiritual priesthood.

1. The priests became so by virtue of their union with the high priest (Exo ). And the call of Christ unto His high priesthood also includes the call of all His sons into their spiritual priesthood. The question of right to priesthood was not at all a question of personal qualities or social advantages. Carry out this argument in reference to all believers. Just as by virtue of their union and identification with Aaron his sons became priests, do you and I, by virtue of our union and identification with Christ, become the Lord's priests.

2. In the consecration of Aaron's sons to the priesthood there was not only union with the high priest, but there was also blood sprinkling. Christ's high priesthood rests on an accomplished sacrifice—on blood. What does my priesthood rest on? Why, on blood too. Not only was the blood put on Aaron, but on Aaron's sons; and believers enter into priesthood by virtue of the same blood that forms the basis of Christ's high priesthood. Unless we have the blood sprinkled upon us, we are no priests.

3. The anointing gives the qualification for priesthood. If we are believers, have not we received the anointing which qualifies for priesthood? (1Jn ; 1Jn 2:27).

4. The qualification of garments. They were dressed for priestly service (Exo ).

II. The privileges and duties appertaining to this priesthood.

1. To offer up spiritual sacrifices (1Pe ). Our bodies (Rom 12:1); our prayers; our praise; our intercessions.

2. It was the priest's duty and privilege to maintain the service of the sanctuary. Every believer, being a priest, has equal right with every other believer to engage in maintaining the service of the sanctuary. How long shall clerical intolerance pervade the land, and how long will the people submit to it? Preach up the priesthood of believers, and the priestcraft of a clique must fall. Know of no priesthood concerning which it cannot be said, "This honour have all the saints."—Archibald G. Brown: Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 750.

I. The office of God's people. Priests to intercede. Ministers to execute God's will: II. Their privileges—supply—honour.—Dr. Lyth.

Isa . I. The present condition of God's people. Shame. Confusion. II. Their future condition. Joy—proportionate, everlasting.

Isa . I. The principles of the Divine administration in His Church. God loves judgment. Hates hypocrisy. II. The mode in which these principles are applied. God directs His people by His Word. And by the agency of His Spirit. III. The manner in which they are permanently secured. By the New Testament covenant—sealed with blood.—Dr. Lyth.


Verse 9

THE BLESSED SEED

Isa . All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.

I. There is a "seed" or race, "which the Lord hath blessed." Elsewhere it is described as "the Israel of God" (Gal ). But it is neither co-extensive with nor confined to the descendants of Jacob (Rom 9:6-8; Gal 4:28; Gal 3:28; Eph 3:6; Php 3:3).

1. This seed God hath blessed abundantly—with peace. Peace with God (Rom ). Peace of conscience (Heb 10:2; Heb 10:22). Peace from the assaults of their enemies (Luk 1:74). Peace amid the cares of life (Php 4:6-7). Thus there is a glorious fulfilment of the promise (Psa 29:11).

2. With purity (1Jn ; 1Th 5:23).

3. With strength (Joh ; Col 1:11).

4. With hope (Rom ; 1Pe 1:3).

5. With joy (1Pe ; Rom 5:11).

6. With that which is the source and fountain of the peace, and hope, and joy—an assurance of His love (Rom ; Rom 8:16). Are these blessings yours? Are you numbered among "the Israel of God"?

II. The blessings which God confers upon His people are chiefly in ward, but our text teaches us also, that there are outward signs by which those who belong to "the seed which the Lord hath blessed" may be infallibly known. "All that see them shall acknowledge," &c. God has distinguished His ancient people by certain physical characteristics, which have survived through many generations, and have proved indestructible by all changes of climate and condition; so that wherever any of them are found we may say with confidence, these are the children of Abraham. They differ greatly from each other, and yet they preserve a family likeness by which they are unmistakably distinguished from all the rest of the human race. And there are certain marks by which all who belong to God's spiritual Israel are as clearly marked off from their fellow-men. Such as—

1. Love for Christ. It is one undeniable and never-failing characteristic of the believer that he loves Jesus Christ in sincerity. His love for Christ will show itself in various ways—in an earnest endeavour to keep His commandments; in a cheerful submission to all His appointments; in self-sacrificing labour to extend His kingdom and promote His glory.

2. Unworldliness. The Christian is in the world, not of it.

3. Consistency. The conformity of his life to the principles he professes. Do these marks distinguish you? Let it be your daily prayer and endeavour that they may become more manifest in you.—James Harris, M.A.; Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii. pp. 373-384.

Isa . I. The believer's boast. II. Determination.—Dr. Lyth.


Verse 11

THE PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL ASSURED AND ILLUSTRATED

(Missionary Sermons.)

Isa . For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden, &c.

I. The seed. II. The extent of the ground to be brought under cultivation. III. The manner in which the fruit-fulness is produced.—Bishop Wilson: Sermons delivered in India, pp. 395-417.

The vision of the prophet extends from the prosperous state of restored Israel to the ultimate glory of Christian Zion in the universal diffusion of righteousness and praise. We have here a beautiful and suggestive analogy between things natural and things spiritual.

I. The life and sprouting of spring follow the desolation and death of winter. Far deeper is the moral deformity and death which has come upon our race by sin. Man, made in the image of God, has lost the holiness which made him one with God; is now "dead in trespasses and sins," &c. The curse of evil extends to the whole race in all its generations. The facts that show the moral condition of the mass of mankind, looked at in the light of Divine truth, and judged by the purity of the Divine law, are more appalling than any winter blight and desolation.

II. The "earth," and "garden" bring forth their precious fruits and flowers under culture. In nothing does man toil more laboriously against the curse than in tilling the ground. There is the same necessity for labour in the moral culture of the world. Corrupted human nature is not made to yield the fruits of holiness without toil. Every conversion represents more labour than can be made to appear to the eye. Wherever the Word of God has had free course and been glorified are found proofs of God's blessing on labour.

III. The "earth" and "garden" cause the things that are sown in them to spring forth with certainty. As surely as winter passes away and spring returns, seeds germinate, grasses grow, plants and trees put forth new beauty and fruitfulness, and this with a regularity that amounts to certainty (Gen ). "So," in like manner, with equal certainty, "will the Lord God," &c. "Righteousness," lost to our race by the sin of Adam, is restored by the mediation of Christ. As sin and dishonour were joined together as a twofold curse, so righteousness and praise are joined together as a double blessing. Let the work of righteousness appear in social order and purity, commercial and political integrity; let the people be all righteous, and glory will dwell in the land. The text assures us that God will do all this. Delay is no falsification of His promise (Isa 55:10-11).

IV. The "earth" brings forth the things that are sown in it mysteriously as to manner. Beneath the surface are subtle forces and workings of nature by which the seed is made to grow. These hidden workings fitly represent the operation of God in the production of moral results.

V. "The earth and garden" bring forth their fruits universally. There are sandy deserts and miry places that cannot be cultivated, but generally speaking, the earth gives her increase. With more literal truth it may be said the moral world is capable of universal cultivation. The necessity for cultivation is universal, and the Church is God's husbandry that it might be His husbandman. The Divine covenant that assured success is made with the race, not with any particular portion; and the Spirit who glorifies Christ in the work of human salvation is given to the world. If, therefore, the Church will extend the means which God has appointed, He will accompany them by His sure effectual blessing, and "cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all nations."—William Jackson.

Could anything be more incredible than; prophecy of spring in winter time to a man not already familiar with the glory with which summer can clothe the world? Who can wonder that the heathen found this the divinest thing which they could imagine; that the power which drew forth these glorious hoards from the dark treasures of earth, and flung them with such royal hand abroad, was to them the most God-like God? Life rising year by year, nay, day by day, out of death. Just as incredible as spring is to winter, as life is to death, is the summer splendour that shall one day mantle this sad world.

Let us consider—

I. The concords of the natural and the human worlds. The worlds are one; the author is one; the life is one. One living breath breathes through both. The poet, in the highest form, is the man who can disclose the unity. The culture of the spiritual life in man is like the culture of a seed field. "Behold a sower went forth to sow." This stands as the image of the divinest work ever accomplished in this great universe. Isaiah had a keen eye for this unity. His prophecies are full of imaginative revelations of the likeness between the ways of God in nature and in man. The future of the world unfolded itself before him as the outburst of a glorious spring, a spring which should know no autumn, a dawn that should never darken into night. Yes, hopeless as it may seem, it shall be (Isa ; Isa 35:5-10).

II. The winter of life and of the world. All that we look upon, all that strains our pity, oppresses our sympathy, saddens our heart, and kills our hope, to the prophet's eye was but as the earth in winter—bare, bleak, stern, cold, dank, dark, tainted with decay, storm-beaten, frost-nipped, snow-wreathed, a wilder ness of desolation, a waste of death. There are times when the wrong, the selfishness, the unholy passion, the bitter misery which fills the world, quite distracts us. We dream of what a home of the sons of God might be like; the life that beings made in God's image, in His likeness, might live. And we look round, and the heart sinks in utter despair. Where is the trace of it? Isaiah saw it all in his day—world and Church rotten together (Isa ). But he saw something which Christ also sees beyond. He saw that it was a winter, out of which the Lord God would bring a glorious period—spring.

III. The certainty of a future everlasting spring. The law reigns throughout all the spheres that light shall burst out of darkness, spring out of winter, life out of death. Does the law range through all the stages of creation, and fail in the highest? Does the Lord cause the earth to bring forth and bud, and fail to touch the coldness and deadness of the winter of our world? Does man break the chain of the victorious purpose that runs through creation, and defy successfully the Eternal Ruler to bring summer, out of His winter, life out of His death? No, a thousand times no, or the world had been dead long ago. The fact that God bears it all is, knowing what we know of God, profoundly significant. It means that He sees already a tint of greenness crisping over the wintry barrenness, and foresees the day when (Isa ). But to an intelligent eye winter is not all desolation. There is a prophecy in every shrinking bud and blade, &c. Those see it most fully whose hearts are most attuned to sympathy with the patience and the hope of God. "The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." It is a significant collocation. Praise is the voice of joy. To be joyful man must be right—right within, right all round—that is, right with God. Right-doing makes the soul glow, as the blood glows in the rosy morning air; and as it glows it sings. Here is the principle of the reformation, the revival, the restitution, and all are images of spring. It is the turning man's heart to righteousness, to Gods righteousness, to Christ. The world had once a vision of what life may grow to when man's heart is turned to righteousness by being made the captive of the Divine love. What outburst of all beautiful things, what joy, what praise was there (Act 2:41-47). Thus shall it be one day when the Pentecostal fire leaps from heart to heart through the great world, the world which is redeemed, and waits only to be renewed and restored.—J. Baldwin Brown, B.A.: The Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi. p. III, &c.

Isa . I. The wintry aspect of the world. II. The promise of spring. III. The power by which the change is effected.—Dr. Lyth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 61:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/isaiah-61.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Thursday, May 28th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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