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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Isaiah 63



Verse 1

Isaiah 63:1

The victory of Christ; the destruction of evil by good; the conquest over the devil by the Son of God, at cost, with pain, so that as He comes forth His robes are red with blood, the redemption of mankind from sin by the Divine and human Saviour,—this is the largest and completest meaning of the ancient vision. Wherever there is good at work in the world, we Christians may see the progress of the struggle, and rejoice already in the victory of Christ. It does us good. It enlarges and simplifies our thought of Christ's religion. We shall conquer. But when we say that, we are driven home to Him and Him alone, as our religion. Look at the method of His salvation, first, for the world at large, and then for the single soul.

I. "Who is this that cometh from Edom?" Sin hangs on the borders of goodness everywhere, as just across the narrow Jordan valley Edom always lay threatening upon the skirts of Palestine. So right on the border of man's higher life lies the hostile Edom, watchful, indefatigable, inexorable, as the old foe of the Jews. Every morning we lift up our eyes, and there are the low black hill-tops across the narrow valley, with the black tents upon their sides, where Edom lies in wait. Who shall deliver us from the bad world and our bad selves? The Saviour comes out of the enemy's direction. His whole work had relation to and issues from the fact of sin. If there had been no sin, there would have been no Saviour.

II. Look next what He says to His anxious questioner. (1) We ask Him, "Who is this?" and He replies, "I that come in righteousness, mighty to save." The Saviour comes in the strength of righteousness. He will be the negotiator of no low compromise. He wants to set up the standard of absolute holiness in the midst of a nature all conquered and totally possessed by Him. (2) It is no holiday monarch coming with a bloodless triumph. The power of God has struggled with the enemy, and subdued him only in the agony of strife. Only in self-sacrifice and suffering could even God conquer sin. (3) He has conquered alone. He had fellow-workers, but they only handed round the broken bread and fishes in the miracle, or ordered the guest-chamber on the Passover night. They never came into the deepest work of His life. With the mysterious suffering that saved the world they had nothing to do. (4) What was the fruit of this victory over Edom which the seer of Israel discovered from his mountain-top? It set Israel free from continual harassing and fear, and gave her a chance to develop along the way that God had marked out for her. Christ's salvation sets men free; it takes off the load of sin; it gives us a new chance; and says to the poor soul that has been thinking there was no use of trying to stagger on with such a load, Go on; your burden is removed. Go on; go up to the home that you were made for, and the life in God.

Phillips Brooks, Sermons, p. 37.

References: Isaiah 63:1.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 150; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 292; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 3; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 14; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 129.

Verse 3

Isaiah 63:3

Consider one or two circumstances which rendered Jesus solitary in His sufferings.

I. One of the most obvious of these is, that all His sorrowings and sufferings were, long ere their actual occurrence, clearly and fully foreseen. They were anticipated sorrows. The ignorance of futurity, which mercifully tempers the severity of all human ills, was an alleviation of sorrow unknown to Jesus. Even the smiles of infancy, may we not almost say, were darkened by the anticipated anguish of death, and in the very slumbers of the cradle, He already in fancy hung upon the cross. From the very dawn of his earthly ministry, Jesus looked forward to its dreadful close.

II. Another circumstance which distinguishes the sorrows of Jesus from those of all ordinary men, and which gives to this greatest of sufferers an aspect of solitariness in their endurance, is this—that they were the sorrows of an infinitely pure and perfect mind. No ordinary human being could ever suffer as Jesus did, for His soul was greater than all other souls; and the mind that is of largest compass, or that is cast in the finest mould, is ever the most susceptible of suffering. A little, narrow, selfish, uncultured mind is liable to comparatively few troubles. The range alike of its joys and sorrows is limited and contracted. It presents but a narrow target to the arrows of misfortune, and it escapes uninjured where a broader spirit would be "pierced through with many sorrows."

III. But the feelings of Jesus in contemplating the sin and wretchedness of humanity, the mournful prevalence of evil in the world, were not those merely of a most holy and tenderhearted human being. His sorrow was the sorrow of a Creator amid His ruined works. (1) Such views of the sufferings of Jesus are suggestive of gratitude for His marvellous self-devotion on our behalf. (2) The subject is fraught with a most solemn warning to all who are living in carelessness or indifference to the spiritual interests of themselves and others. (3) Such views of the sufferings of Jesus afford to every penitent soul the strongest encouragement to rely on the Saviour's love.

J. Caird, Sermons, p. 134.

There is a loneliness in death for all men. There is a mysterious something which makes the bystanders feel that before the last breath the embarkation has begun. There is a silence of the soul to earth and earth's thoughts which seems to enter its protest alike against sobs and words—seems to bespeak the forbearance of the surviving towards the solemn, the mysterious act of stepping across the threshold of sense, into the very presence of the invisible God. There was this loneliness then, as of course, in the death, of our Lord. In Him it was deepened and aggravated by the foregoing loneliness of His life. But we have not reached the loneliness yet. The context will give us one clue.

I. "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me." There could not be. "I looked, and there was none to help." If there had been, this particular death had not been died. Christ was doing something in which He could have no assistance. His was a death not with sinners, but for sin; a death, therefore, which none else could die, in that which made it what it was in its truth and in its essence.

II. The divinity, the deity of Christ was another cause of the loneliness. Deity is loneliness, not in heaven, but on earth. If Christ was very God, He must live alone and He must die alone upon earth. It accounts for everything. His Divine Spirit, His soul indwelt of the Holy Ghost, must have been a solitude.

III. Loneliness often is isolation. Lonely men and women—lonely by circumstance or by disposition or by choice—are commonly selfish. Neither atonement nor deity made a solitary, in this sense, of Jesus Christ. He died that we might never be lonely—no, not in death. Though He trod the winepress alone, yet He was not alone in this sense. He trod it for us. The loneliness was His; the sympathy is ours. The cross was His desolation: it is our comfort; it is our ornament; it is our "joy and hope and crown of rejoicing."

C. J. Vaughan, Temple Sermons, p. 176.

Loneliness has many senses, inward and outward.

I. There is first the loneliness of simple solitude. Solitude which is, first, voluntary, and, secondly, occasional, is but half solitude. Solitude which we fly to as a rest, and can exchange at will for society which we love, is a widely different thing from that solitude which is either the consequence of bereavement or the punishment of crime—that solitude from which we cannot escape, and which is perhaps associated with bitter, remorseful recollections. Solitude reveals to us, as in a moment, what manner of spirit we are of; whether we have any root, any vitality in ourselves, or are only the creatures of society and of circumstance, found out and convicted by the application of the individual touchstone.

II. Again, there is the loneliness of sorrow. Is not loneliness the prominent feeling in all deep sorrow? Is it not this which deprives all after-joy of its chief zest, and reduces life itself to a colourless and level landscape?

III. Again, there is the loneliness of a sense of sin. Whatever duties may lie upon us towards other men, in our innermost relations to God we are and must be alone. Repentance is loneliness; remorse is desolation. Repentance makes us lonely towards man; remorse makes us desolate towards God.

IV. There is the loneliness of death. We all speak of death familiarly, as if we knew what it was, as if we had taken its measure and weighed its import. But who amongst the living can tell us what it is? In death we shall be alone, and shall feel ourselves to be so.

V. In the judgment we shall be alone. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

VI. There are two senses in which we ought all to practise being alone. (1) One of these is being alone in prayer. (2) If we are to die alone and be judged alone, do not let us be afraid to think alone, and, if necessary, to act alone.

C. J. Vaughan, Memorials of Harrow Sundays, p. 197.

I. Consider what Scripture reveals to us in regard to Christ's second advent. There is a time appointed in the history of our world, when that very Jesus who appeared on earth, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," shall reappear with all the circumstances of majesty and power, "King of kings and Lord of lords." We are led to expect a day when Christ shall find a home in the remotest hearts and families, and the earth in all its circumference be covered with the knowledge and the power of the Lord. In effecting this sublime revolution, we are taught that the Jews shall be God's mightiest instruments. But it shall not be without opposition, nor without convulsion, that Satan is driven from his usurped dominion. Previously to this great consummation, and in order to the production of this, is to be what Scripture calls the second advent of Christ; and the judgments with which this second coming shall be attended and followed constitute that tremendous visitation which prophecy associates with the last times, and delineates under every figure of woe, of terror, and of wrath.

II. The Redeemer, as exhibited in our text, is returning from the slaughter of His enemies, and He describes Himself as "speaking in righteousness, mighty to save." His actions have just proved Him mighty to destroy, and His words now announce Him mighty to save; so that He is able to confound every foe and uphold every friend. The two grand principles which we expect to see maintained in every righteous government are that none of the guilty shall escape, and that none of the innocent shall perish. And in the reply given to the challenge of the prophet there is a distinct assertion that He who comes with the dyed garments from Bozrah maintains these principles of government, which cannot be maintained but by an Infinite Judge. This agrees admirably with Christ's second advent; for that is the only season at which men living on the earth shall be accurately divided into the evil and the good—into those who are to be consumed, and those who are to be untouched by the visitations of wrath.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1817.

References: Isaiah 63:3.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 92. Isaiah 63:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1126; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 25; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 144. Isaiah 63:7-10.—Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 141.

Verse 9

Isaiah 63:9

These words occur in the course of a most affecting and pathetic prayer which the prophet utters. In the course of his prayer he recalls the wonderful love of Jehovah for His people during their early afflictions,—His patience with their waywardness, and His surpassing gentleness and care while on their way to Palestine. He is the same mighty Helper as of old, and His mercy is not restrained. It is an argument from God's own past, an argument which never fails to sustain His suffering saints, and it is no less cheering to us than to the captive Jews; nay, more so, all the records of His dealings with His ancient people are still witnesses to us, and from them we can gather with what manner of Saviour we have to do. The mediatorial office of Christ did not begin in the manger. It travels back to the door of history before the birth of human souls. It is one Person all along the line, and one character of patient lovingkindness and mercy which is revealed to us in both Testaments.

I. Was there not to be between the Son of God and the sons of men some close relationship, which should exist from the very first? Man was made in the image of God; but already there existed an eternal, uncreated image and only begotten Son, in whose likeness ours found reflection. Between that adorable and everlasting Son of God in heaven, and the new-made son of God on earth, there might be some tie of sympathy and condescension on the part of the great Son, and aspiration and trust on the part of the little son.

II. The Son is the face of God through whom God is visible. Of all creatures He is the immediate Head. It follows that whatever of a gracious nature might pass between new-made man and his Maker, must have passed through the Son of God. His was the nature that touched man's spirit. He it was whom the first man heard walking amid primeval woods.

III. Nor is this relationship of God to man upset by man's fall; on the contrary, it grew closer still. What strange meaning does it not shadow back through every page of man's long troubled history, to know that while these countless generations passed along, their condescending Lord, with His mighty hands, touched all life, and said that their sorrow touched His mighty heart, who was one day to be amongst them a simple Child. Scarcely has God made a new covenant than Jehovah, in the guise of man, is found in Abraham's tent, and the Judge of all the earth was there. From that day we grow familiar, as we read, with a form which seems, as it were, to haunt the world, and a form like unto the Son of man—a form which comes and goes in fitful glimpses, speaks in Jehovah's name, expects the worship due to the Most High, and yet calls himself the angel of the presence of God. The Messiah, the Messenger, the Angel of the Lord spoken of in the Old Testament, was none other than the Eternal Son, who Himself was keeping up a personal intercourse with humanity, never losing touch of that race of which He was to become the Saviour, and who directed the closer revelation which enlightens all prophecy, and which was irradiated by the wonders of the Cross.

IV. There is instruction to be gleaned from this revelation of Divine love. (1) Such as the Son of God proved Himself to be to Abraham, Moses, and David, such He will prove Himself under His new revealed name of Jesus to those who trust Him. If we serve Him He will bear us and carry us, as He did His people in the days of old. (2) Does not the view of the Old Testament which we have been recording relieve the great fact of the Incarnation from being an isolated event? The Eternal Son had been resident among men from the beginning, had seen His glory reflected in His people, dimmed by human sin before He was born at Bethlehem. He was afflicted in their afflictions, and was the life of their life, before He assumed their form.

J. Oswald Dykes, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 111.

References: Isaiah 63:9.—Forsyth and Hamilton, Pulpit Parables, p. 126; T. B. Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 23; R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 49.

Verse 10

Isaiah 63:10


I. Some of the ways in which men may be said to vex the Holy Spirit. (1) This sin is committed, when the all-important office executed by the Spirit in the Church, as sent by Christ to quicken, convert, and sanctify the soul, is not duly recognised and honoured. (2) The sin of vexing the Spirit is committed, when the means and instruments by which He carries on His work are despised or abused. (3) The sin of vexing the Spirit is committed by the unwarrantable doubts and fears which sometimes depress the minds of the people of God. (4) The sin of vexing the Holy Spirit is committed, when any good motions or purposes which He excites in the heart are suppressed, or not followed out. (5) The sin of vexing the Holy Spirit is committed when the grace and energy which He imparts are not actively and faithfully exercised.

II. Consider the dangerous consequences of vexing the Holy Spirit. (1) One result of the Spirit's "turning against" any one would be His withdrawing altogether the instruments, and means, and opportunities of grace which men have despised or abused; and as they sought not to arrive at the knowledge of the truth, leaving them to perish in the darkness which they have loved. (2) Another thing obviously implied in the Spirit's turning against any one, is His ceasing to work, and to make the means of grace effectual for conviction and conversion.

A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 211.

Verse 16

Isaiah 63:16

I. These words express a deep longing of the human heart. With all its folly, and frivolity, and sin, the heart of man has been made to feel after these words: "Our Father—our Father which art in heaven." When we look at the length and breadth of man's history, it tells us that this cry constantly returns, sometimes exceeding great and bitter, sometimes sinking to a low moan or a suppressed whisper. "O that I knew where I might find Him."

II. And yet it is often difficult to speak these words with full assurance. The struggle to reach them is evident in the men who use them here, and is felt in the very word "doubtless" with which they begin their claim. The mind, the heart, the conscience, all find difficulties.

III. But, with all these difficulties, it is a feeling which can be, and has been, reached. We could never believe that such a deep longing had been implanted in man, to be for ever unanswered—a cry pressed from his heart to be mocked with endless disappointment. In view of all the difficulties of mind, and heart, and conscience, there have been men who could look up and say, "Doubtless Thou art our Father."

IV. But this full sense of God's Fatherhood is not generally gained at once. There are three chambers by which we advance to the assurance of Fatherhood in God. The first is the upper chamber of Jerusalem, which comes to us ever and again in the Lord's table, with its offer of pardon and peace. The second is the chamber of the heart, to which we give him admission in love and obedience. The third is the home, where the Holy Spirit teaches us to cry, "Abba, Father."

V. To use these words truly is a matter of infinite moment to us all.

J. Ker, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 176.

Reference: Isaiah 63:16.—Old Testament Outlines, p. 240.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 63:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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