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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Isaiah 60

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 60:1

Taking these words into the full illumination of Christianity, they express, very beautifully, the awakening of a man to his true work in the world. It is because the "glory of the Lord has risen upon him," that the Christian is able to reflect the light which has entered his soul.

Notice:—

I. The dawning of the light: "Thy light has come." Man is not in a world of darkness, but blind in a world of light. All he needs is the opening of the spiritual eye, that the light may be seen. Our little life is enveloped by the spiritual world. Behind the appearance of earth, beyond the waste and decay of these frail bodies, it stands for ever in unclouded splendour. When the soul is born again, it seems as if the curtains of night were suddenly withdrawn, and the whole spiritual universe flashed in a moment into day; because until the dark veil of the carnal was dissolved the soul had been blinded to the invisible. There are three requisites for the dawning of the light—three stages in the history of the soul's enlightenment: (1) spiritual penitence; (2) spiritual love; (3) spiritual prayer.

II. The awakening call. "Arise, shine." That summons is the inevitable result of the dawning of the light. When God is felt to be near a man thus—in penitence, love, and prayer—that man is imperatively bound to reflect the glory which has risen in his heart; to bear witness of the light which has pierced and transformed his soul. This is based on a great principle, viz., the deepest emotion in a man's nature must reveal itself in his life. There is no such thing as a life-long hypocrisy: sooner or later the master-passion within a man will glow to a red-heat, and he will stand transparent before the eye of the world. When God enters the soul, it shines unconsciously, and men feel its secret charm. The glory of the Lord manifests itself in life. (1) In the majesty of holiness. Christian separateness is not external nonconformity. It is being in the world and yet above it, having saintly separateness of soul amidst all the duties 6f life, making men feel that your inner life is apart from the business of the world, that your heart is in eternity. (2) In the beauty of unselfishness. The life of God is the life of the cross in the heart. (3) In the earnestness of your efforts for men.

E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 70.


The glory of the Christian Church.

I. That this and other similar prophecies had their measure of fulfilment when Christ came we all know; when His Church, built upon the apostles and prophets, wonderfully branched out from Jerusalem as a centre into the heathen world round about, and gathering into it men of all ranks, languages, and characters, moulded them upon one pattern, the pattern of their Saviour, in truth and righteousness. Thus the prophecies concerning the Church were fulfilled at that time in two respects—its sanctity and its catholicity. It is often asked, Have these prophecies had then and since then perfect accomplishment? Or are we to expect a more complete Christianising of the world than has hitherto been vouchsafed it? Consider the state and prospects of the Christian Church in this respect.

II. Whereas God is one and His will one, and His purpose one and His work one—whereas all He is and does is absolutely perfect and complete, independent of time and place and sovereign over creation—yet in His actual dealings with this world, that is, in all in which we see His providence, He seems to work by a process, by means and ends, by steps, by victories hardly gained and failures repaired and sacrifices ventured. Thus it is only when we view His dispensations at a distance, as the angels do, that we see their harmony and their unity; whereas Scripture, anticipating the end from the beginning, places at their very head and first point of origination all that belongs to them respectively in their fulness.

III. The Christian Church had in the day of its nativity all that fulness of holiness and peace named upon it, and sealed up to it, which beseemed it viewed as God's design—viewed in its essence, as it is realised at all times and under all circumstances—viewed as God's work without man's co-operation—viewed as God's work in its tendency and in its ultimate blessedness; so that the titles given it on earth are a picture of what it will be absolutely in heaven. The same interpretation will apply to the Scripture account of the elect people of God, which is but the Church of Christ under another name. In their election are sealed up, to be enrolled and enjoyed in due season, the successive privileges of the heirs of light. In God's purpose—according to His grace, in the tendency and ultimate effects of His dispensation—to be called and chosen is to be saved. For God's providence moves by great and comprehensive laws; and His word is the mirror of His designs, not of man's partial success in thwarting His gracious will.

IV. It is our duty to walk by faith; therefore we will take the promises in faith; we will believe they are fulfilled, and enjoy the fruit of them before we see it. We will unlearn the expectation of any public display of God's glory in the edification of His Church, seeing she is all glorious within, in that inward shrine, made up of faithful hearts, and inhabited by the Spirit of grace.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 79.


I. Notice the tidings announced in the text: "Thy light is come." That language is very significant when we remember that Jesus said of Himself at the beginning of His public ministry, "I am the Light of the world."

II. While Jesus Christ, the true Light, "shines in the darkness," and the darkness does not receive it, it is His body, the Church, and not the unbelieving world, which is lighted up at His glorious appearing. Accordingly, the prophet, in the text, says of Zion and of her only, "Thy light is come."

III. The glad announcement made to Zion was designed to exert a practical effect on the daily conduct of her children. "Arise, shine." Christians are reminded that, if faithful to their holy calling, they will "shine as lights in the world."

J. N. Norton, Old Paths, p. 73.


References: Isaiah 60:1.—D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3521; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xvi., p. 13; Short Sermons for Family Reading, p. 49; A. Watson, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 156; F. W. Farrar, The Fall of Man, p. 382; E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 61; C. J. Vaughan, Good Words, 1869, p. 101; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 69; S. Baring-Gould, Preacher's Pocket, p. 43. Isaiah 60:1-3.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 10; G. Huntington, Sermons for the Holy Seasons of the Church, p. 27; A. Maclaren, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 232; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 32.


Verse 2-3

Isaiah 60:2-3

The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

I. The first token that was shown to the Gentile world that the great Light had arisen which was to cast its beams over them as well as over the small nation which alone hitherto had known God was the star, the wonderful star, which was seen in the sky. This star appeared but twice to the Magi—once to tell them to set out, and once to tell them they had arrived. All the rest was faith. Faith that made them watch; faith that made them gather their gifts; faith that made them set forth on their long journey and maintain it to the end.

II. It was the manifestation of the Redeemer, the Light of the world, to the Gentiles. But much had yet to be done before the Gentiles were received into the full equality of privilege and grace with the Jews. It was above thirty years yet before the rending of the veil of the Temple showed that the partition wall was broken down by the death of Christ, which divided Jew from Gentile; still longer before the commission was given to go and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Holy Trinity; still longer before the vision at Joppa and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Caesarea bade St. Peter baptize Cornelius, the first Gentile Christian, into the Church.

III. Let us claim our share in that exceeding great joy with which the wise men saw the first brightness of that star when they saw it in the East. If we do truth—that is to say, if we really try to please God, by living according to His will, by constant prayers, by confessing our sins, and ever asking His pardoning grace to enable us to obey better—then we come to the light, and our deeds will be made manifest that they are wrought in God.

G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 36.


Reference: Isaiah 60:3.—Bishop Walsham How, Plain Words, 2nd series, p. 34.



Verse 5

Isaiah 60:5

Enlargement of heart is the true description of that higher progress to which it is ever the aim of God to lead us; the text pictures the progress, and unfolds to us both the pain and the joy. The language of the prophet is intended to present to our mind's eye that nameless dread, that inward shrinking and shuddering, with which the forecast shadows of great crises affect us as we approach them, and through which lies our passage to a larger freedom, a larger power and a larger joy.

I. It is very wonderful how all the great things which have largely influenced the world have grown from small, narrow, hard, but intensely vital beginnings, and have grown by enlargement of heart. Look, from this point of view, at the greatest of all institutions—the Church. There is a clear orderly progress in the development of a Divine idea and in the effect of a Divine influence on man from the day when Abraham "crossed the river" until now. The Church is the depositary of this sacred counsel, this redeeming purpose, which underlies all man's history; and again and again the heart of the Church has been enlarged in seasons of sore strain and dread to take in those wider views of its vocation, its mission from God, and for God, for which, in the order of Providence, "the fulness of time" was come.

II. A kindred, or rather a parallel, course of enlargement has gone on in similar society. While God has been enlarging His Church, to comprehend better the meaning and the scope of His Gospel on the one hand, He has been enlarging, on the other, man's heart to receive and to rejoice in it. And, looking at it only from the secular side, it is most notable that the periods of man's greatest enlargement, when intellect and spirit have broken out of the old bounds and have occupied a new world, have been ages of convulsion and revolution, of ceaseless conflict and awful dread. The vision of a fairer order has never been wanting to mankind; when the path has been darkest, this vision has always been brightest; it is in the seasons of strain and dread that the fairest pictures of this higher order of things have been portrayed. There is travail everywhere through all the spheres of creation; and man's life, standing as it does on the summit level of mere creature development, travails in birth with a kingdom of heaven,—a kingdom with a new commandment: Love one another.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Higher Life, p. 92.


References: Isaiah 60:5.—E. Hale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 58. Isaiah 60:6.—Preacher's Lantern, vol. i., p. 427. Isaiah 60:7.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 409. Isaiah 60:8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 63; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 262; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 276; J. R. Macduff Communion Memories, p. 62.


Verse 13

Isaiah 60:13

I. Every attentive reader of Scripture must be aware what stress is there laid upon the duty of costliness and magnificence in the public service of God. Even in the first rudiments of the Church, Jacob, an outcast and wanderer, after the vision of the ladder of angels, thought it not enough to bow down before the unseen presence, but parted with—or, as the world would say, wasted—a portion of the provisions he had with him for the way in an act of worship. The Book of Exodus shows what cost was lavished upon the tabernacle even in the wilderness; the Books of Kings and Chronicles set before us the devotion of heart, the sedulous zeal, the carelessness of expense or toil, with which the first temple was reared upon Mount Zion. The glories of the Christian sanctuary were not to be less outward and visible, though they were to be more spiritual also.

II. It may be objected that such outward splendour in the worship of God is spoken of in terms of censure or jealousy by our Lord and Saviour. Thus, He says, while enumerating the offences of the Pharisees: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess." And when His disciples pointed out to our Lord the great size of the stones of which the temple was built—a temple, let it be noted, thus ornamented by the impious Herod—He answered abruptly: "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." The answer surely is easy. Our Saviour condemned the show of great attention to outward things, while inward things which were more important were neglected. Thus He says Himself in His denunciation of the Pharisees: "These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other "—the inward—"undone." What Scripture reproves is the inconsistency, or what is more solemnly called the "hypocrisy of being fair without and foul within," of being religious in appearance and not in truth. If it is an inconsistency to pretend to religion outwardly while we neglect it inwardly, it is also an inconsistency, surely, to neglect it outwardly while we pretend to it inwardly. St. Paul says expressly: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Now, to adorn the worship of God our Saviour, to make the beauty of holiness visible, to bring offerings to the sanctuary, to be curious in architecture and reverent in ceremonies,—all this external religion is a sort of profession and confession; it is nothing but what is natural, nothing but what is consistent, in those who are cultivating the life of religion within. It is most unbecoming; most offensive, in those who are not religious; but most becoming, most necessary, in those who are so.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vi., p. 295.


References: Isaiah 60:13.—W. Walters, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 253. Isaiah 60:17.—J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 327.


Verse 18

Isaiah 60:18

Consider how salvation is a wall and how gates are praise.

I. There are three safeties which a sinner wants. First, he wants to be saved from the condemnation of his sins; then he wants to be saved from the power of his sins; and then he wants to be saved from the conflict and presence of his sins. Therefore a man's salvation comes to him with three unfoldings. This threefold salvation is, to every man that receives it, as a wall. On the one side, towards the adversary, it is a wall of fire; on the other side, as it shows itself to him that is within it, it is shelter. It is beauteous, as with all bright and precious stones, inlaid with all the loveliness and the attributes of God. And whatever comes through that wall to touch a man has first touched and pierced his Saviour; for all the faithfulness of God, and all the power of God, and all the glory of God, and all the work of the great Mediator, go to make the eternity and the sufficiency of that great bulwark.

II. "Thou shalt call thy gates Praise." What is praise? The joy of a happy spirit, pouring itself back into the bosom of God as its only fountain. Through the walls of salvation, the Christian enters into a perfect peace—that with a happy heart he may go out praisingly. In every object in nature, he likes to see some reflection of an unseen world; in every providence, he traces a Father's hand. He has thoughts high above, that make him walk this world an independent man. Heaven is gilding all the distance to him. He comes at last to Zion "with songs and everlasting joy upon his head."

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 165.


Praise is loftier than prayer. In prayer, I bow in my own family; in praise, I join the general assembly and Church of the firstborn written in heaven. Prayer isolates me; by my wants and misery it sets me apart. Praise unites me; by my glory and my gratitude it makes me one with the universe of adoring creatures. Prayer is the wail of an imprisoned spirit; praise is the song of the emancipated spirit floating over and through and out of time and space. Prayer speaks of its want; praise, of God's fulness. Prayer centres in self; praise anchors on God. "Thou shalt call her gates Praise;" these gates revolve on four hinges, or rather, to drop the mere allegory, praise is composed of four emotions. These are adoration, humility, affection, and gratitude,—all praise strikes these four notes, and includes these as its spiritual elements.

I. Praise is the gate by which we pass out of ourselves. What is religion without thankfulness? There are some persons to whom it seems impossible to take the wings of the morning; their religion seems at best to be a divine kind of grumbling, which would not be if they could but pass through the gates of praise.

II. It is by this path that the believer passes from his old state; it is through these gates that he passes under and into new relations. He enters the Church through the gates of praise. Gratitude is the very bond of our fellowship and union; it is when we speak of our gratitude that we know each other. The Church is a city built of hymns and hallelujahs; its walks are salvation.

III. The gateway by which we pass to higher knowledge and to higher life is praise. A grateful heart is a learned heart, and it is the companion of a thankful mind. The whole universe is a cathedral of praise; its gates revolve on their hinges of melody; they heave and lift themselves with Æolian airs. This idea filled the mind of the Psalmist when he said, "All Thy works praise Thee." In all the wonderful adaptations of the mind to things, and things to the mind, God is praised.

E. Paxton Hood, Sermons, p. 153.


References: Isaiah 60:18.—S. Cox, Expositions, 1st series, p. 79; Bishop M. Simpson, Sermons, p. 279.


Verse 19

Isaiah 60:19

I. There is no better test of men's progress than the advancing power to do without the things which used to be essential to their lives. The lives of men who have been always growing are strewed along their whole course with things they have learned to do without. From the time when the child casts his leading strings aside, because his legs are strong enough to carry him alone, the growing man goes on for ever leaving each help for a higher, until at last, in that great change to which Isaiah's words seem to apply, he can do without sun and moon as he enters into the immediate presence and essential life of God. And if every progress in life is a change from some new boyhood to some yet riper manhood, if every man is a child to his own possible maturer self, may it not be truly stated that all the spiritual advances of life are advances from some symbol to its reality, and that the abandoned interests and occupations which strew the path which we have travelled are the symbols which we have cast away easily, because we had grasped the realities for which they stood?

II. You may ask (1) How can I tell the symbol from the reality, and so know what things it is good to hold less and less, what things it is good to hold more and more indispensable? The answer no doubt lies in a certain feeling of spirituality and infiniteness and eternity, which belongs to those things which it is good for a man not to be able to do without. (2) When I know what things I must not allow to become indispensable to me, what shall I do then? Shall I throw all those things away? No, certainly not. Not to give up the symbol, but to hold it as a symbol, with that looser grasp which lets its inner reality escape into us, and at the same time makes us always ready to let it go when the reality shall have wholly opened from it, that is the true duty of the Christian as concerns the innocent things of the world. (3) How shall I come to count nothing indispensable but what I really ought to, what I really cannot do without? The answer to that question is in Christ, who holds the answers of all our questions for us. Jesus lifted His disciples past one conception of necessity after another, until at last they knew nothing that was absolutely necessary except God. They began as fishermen, who could not do without their nets, and boats, and houses, and fishing friends, and sports, and gains, and gossipings. He carried them up till they were crying, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us."

Phillips Brooks, Sermons, p. 282.


References: Isaiah 60:19.—A. B. Bruce, Expository 1st series, vol. x., p. 433; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii, p. 25. Isaiah 60:20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1176. Isaiah 60:22.—G. Cousins, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 9; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 299.



 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 60:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/isaiah-60.html.

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Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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