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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Isaiah 31

 

 

Verse 4-5

DISCOURSE: 905

GOD THE PROTECTOR OF HIS PEOPLE

Isaiah 31:4-5. Thus hath the Lord spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.

THE first of the commandments is, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” And that is directly violated, when we alienate from God the confidence that is due to him alone, and place it on any creature in preference to him. This was the sin which the prophet reproved, both in this and the whole foregoing chapter. Sennacherib, King of Assyria, had come against Jerusalem with a powerful, and, humanly speaking, irresistible army. Many of the Jews, instead of looking to Jehovah for his gracious and merciful protection, applied to Egypt for help, and carried their wealth to Egypt, in order to obtain it. God, offended with this want of confidence in him, sent them word, that the Egyptians should help in vain, and to no purpose; and that their real strength was, to sit still, and to rely on God alone [Note: Cite Isaiah 30:1-7; and compare it with ver. 1–3.] — — — If they would with real penitence and faith rely on him, He would afford them speedy and effectual deliverance. This assurance God delivered to them under the different images which are contained in my text; which shew, not only what God would be to them, but what he will be to his Church and people in all ages of the world.

Let me, with a special view to these images, point out to you,

I. The protection which God will afford to his people—

We are told, that, “as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever: and that they who trust in him shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever [Note: Psalms 125:1-2.].” But, as the emergency that existed at the time the prophet uttered my text was extremely urgent, so the images by which he was directed to encourage their affiance in him were precisely such as were suited to the occasion. God promised to protect them—

With the firmness of a lion—

[A lion, growling over his prey, regards not the shouts of a multitude of shepherds: unmoved himself, he infuses terror into them; and would soon make them repent of their temerity, if they dared to approach him. And who shall prevail on Jehovah to relinquish his defence of Jerusalem? in reference to the Assyrian army, which God was determined to destroy, the prophet says, “The Lord of Hosts hath purposed; and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out; and who shall turn it back [Note: Isaiah 14:24-27.]?” The same also we may say in reference to the weakest of all his saints: “If God be for you, who can be against you [Note: Romans 8:31.]?” “Who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good [Note: 1 Peter 3:13.]?” God is not only a tower of defence to his people to preserve them, but “a wall of fire round about them,” that shall devour their assailants [Note: Zechariah 2:5.]. He may indeed suffer the enemies of his people to prevail for a season; and they may vaunt, as the Assyrians did, of all their conquests: but they are only as a rod in Jehovah’s hands; and all which they effect is only as the axe or saw that accomplishes the will of him who uses it: but when they have effected his purpose, they themselves, who sought nothing but to gratify their own ambition, shall be made monuments of his righteous indignation: “The light of Israel will be to them for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day [Note: Isaiah 10:5-7; Isaiah 10:12-17.].” Yes, verily, “God’s counsel shall stand, and he will do all his will [Note: Isaiah 46:10.]:” and “when He works, who shall let it [Note: Isaiah 43:13.]?” “The Lion of the tribe of Judah [Note: Revelation 5:5.]” shall assuredly prevail, though all the powers of earth and hell were combined against him.]

2. With the tenderness of a parent bird—

[A bird, though utterly unable to cope with a bird of prey which it sees hovering over its nest, will fly to protect its young; and, insensible to its own danger, will intercept its potent adversary, and rather perish itself than give up its offspring to the devourer. And, “for our miseries is Jehovah grieved [Note: Judges 10:16.];” yea, in all our afflictions, too, our God himself is afflicted [Note: Isaiah 63:9.]:” and whosoever “toucheth us, toucheth the apple of his eye [Note: Zechariah 2:8.].” When Pharaoh had overtaken the Hebrews at the Red Sea, “the pillar of fire, which had hitherto led the fugitives, went and stood between the Egyptian camp and them; so that they came not near to his people all the night,” during which period an opening was made for their escape [Note: Exodus 14:19-21.]. And in ten thousand instances has God interposed for his people in every age; nor is there any one, who, if he could review all the dealings of God towards him, might not find, in his own experience, some interpositions fully answerable to the image that is before us.]

3. With the success of the attendant angel—

[At the destruction of the Egyptian first-born, Jehovah, the Angel of the Covenant, accompanied the destroying angel; and, wherever he saw the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled on the door-posts, immediately interposed, and constrained the destroyer to pass over that house: in remembrance of which marvellous deliverance, a feast was instituted, and was called “The Feast of the Lord’s Passover [Note: Exodus 12:23; Exodus 12:27.].” To that the prophet, in my text, refers; saying, that “Jehovah, passing over Jerusalem, will preserve it.” Now, so effectual was the Lord’s intervention in that instance, that, whilst in every other house, throughout all the land of Egypt, the first-born both of man and beast was slain, in the houses of the Hebrews died not so much as one [Note: Exodus 12:29-30.]. And, when was so much as one true believer ever left to perish? We are expressly told, that “it is not the will of our Father that one of his little ones should perish [Note: Matthew 18:14.].” No: however sifted his people be, “not the smallest grain shall ever full upon the earth [Note: Amos 9:9.].” Behold the Apostle Paul: no less than forty persons had bound themselves, by an oath, to murder him: and so well were their plans laid, that there did not appear the slightest chance for his escape. But God so ordered it, that Paul’s own nephew overheard the plot, and, by a timely mention of it to the governor, defeated it: and thus was that valuable life preserved [Note: Acts 23:12-24.]. Peter too, according to all human appearance, was consigned to death, there being only a few hours to elapse before he was to be brought forth from prison for execution. But with irresistible power did God cause the irons, with which his servant was bound, to fall off; and the prison doors to open, as it were of their own accord: and thus was the stroke averted in the very instant that it was about to fall [Note: Acts 12:6-11.]. What dangers have awaited us, we shall never know till we stand before our God in judgment: but then it will be found, that God has been our shield from numberless assaults; and that, through the agency of his holy angels, we have “been kept, on ten thousands of occasions, from dashing our foot against a stone [Note: Psalms 91:11-12.].”]

Such being the security promised to us, let us consider,

II. Our duty resulting from it—

This merciful care, which God vouchsafes to us, doubtless calls for corresponding feelings on our part. If he affords us such marvellous protection, we ought to surrender up ourselves to him in a way of,

1. Affiance—

[The fault of the Hebrews was, that they leaned on an arm of flesh, instead of relying solely upon God. And we must be on our guard against this sad propensity. We are “not to say, ‘A confederacy, A confederacy,’ with them that say, ‘A confederacy;’ but to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and to make Him our fear and Him our dread [Note: Isaiah 8:12-13.].” The language of David should, under any emergency whatever, be the language of our hearts: “Shall I lift up mine eyes unto the hills (to any earthly powers)? From whence then cometh our help? Our help cometh from the Lord, who (is not only above them all, but made them all, yea,) made heaven and earth [Note: Psalms 121:1-2. Bishop Horne’s translation.].” It is not possible for our confidence in God to be too strong, provided we leave to God the time and manner of fulfilling his promises. He may, as he did in the case of Jerusalem, suffer matters to proceed to the greatest extremity: but “the vision will come at its appointed time [Note: Habakkuk 2:3.]:” and, in a full assurance that it shall not tarry beyond that time, we should say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him [Note: Job 13:15.].” The well-known boast of the Apostle should be ours [Note: Romans 8:35-39.] — — — And in dependence upon God, we should hurl defiance on all our enemies, even as Hezekiah was taught to do in the very depth of his extremity [Note: Isaiah 37:22.].]

2. Gratitude—

[“If the Lord had not been on our side, now may Israel f the Lord had not been on our side when men rose up against us, they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul [Note: Psalms 124:1-4.].” Never, till all the wonders of God’s love shall be revealed, shall we have any idea of the deliverances that have been vouchsafed unto us, and of our obligation to God on account of them. “Satan, that subtle adversary, who beguiled our first parents in Paradise, has, on thousands of occasions, sought to draw our minds from the simplicity that is in Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3.]:” yea, “as a roaring lion, also, he has been seeking to devour us [Note: 1 Peter 5:8.].” And is it owing to our own wisdom or strength that we have not fallen a prey unto his teeth? No: the Lord has interposed to screen us from his fiery darts; and has again and again rescued us from the snares which he had laid for our feet. See how David was kept from shedding blood [Note: 1 Samuel 25:32-33.], and Peter from utter apostasy [Note: Luke 22:31-32.]! and who can tell what evils you might have perpetrated, and what your state might have at this moment been, if God had not “kept you as the apple of his eye,” and “borne you, as on eagle’s wings,” throughout this dreary wilderness [Note: Deuteronomy 32:10-11.]? I tell you, Brethren, that his visible interpositions for his people of old have been only shadows of what he has invisibly done, and is at this moment doing, for you, if only you place your trust in him: and that David’s acknowledgment is that which it becomes every one of you to make: “The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him [Note: Psalms 37:39-40.].”]

3. Fidelity—

[Believing in God, we have nothing to fear, and nothing even to think of, but how we may best serve and honour him. St. Paul, when in daily expectation of a cruel death, said, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy, and fulfil the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus [Note: Acts 20:24.].” And I would ask, of all who believe the declarations in my text, Should not such “love constrain you to live unto your God [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14.]?” Realize the determination which he formed from all eternity, and from which not all the wickedness of our ruined world has ever been able to divert him, to save our souls from death by the sacrifice of his only dear Son in our stead. Realize the merciful interposition of the Lord Jesus Christ between us and the wrath of our offended God, and his actually becoming a curse for us. Realize his dying in our place and stead, and by his own obedience unto death effecting a reconciliation for us, and purchasing for us all the glory of heaven. Realize, I say, the deliverances shadowed forth by those vouchsafed to Jerusalem, and spiritually fulfilled in you; and what, think you, will be your feelings on the occasion, or your expression of them? Will there be any bounds to your love, any limits to your obedience, any intermission to your songs of praise? No: you will be “ready either to be bound or to die for His sake,” who has “so loved you, and given himself for you;” and “you will be satisfied with no attainment, till you shall awake up after the likeness of his perfect righteousness [Note: Psalms 17:15.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 31:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/isaiah-31.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, January 25th, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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