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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Isaiah 46

 

 

Verses 3-5

DISCOURSE: 945

GOD’S CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE

Isaiah 46:3-5. Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: and even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, end I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you. To whom will you liken me?

THAT men who know nothing of the One true God should form to themselves idols to represent imaginary gods, is not so much to be wondered at: because every child of man feels himself dependent on some superior Being, though of the nature or character of that being he has no distinct conception. But that persons who have been instructed in the knowledge of Jehovah, and been themselves eye-witnesses of his mighty works, should have any disposition to renounce him, and to place their dependence on idols of wood and stone, is utterly unaccountable, on any other principle than that of man’s total depravity, and radical alienation of heart from God. But such is the fact: man is prone to idolatry: his “carnal mind is enmity against God:” and from the time of the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt to the time of their captivity in Babylon, not all the judgments or mercies with which they were visited from time to time could keep them from indulging their favourite propensity. One would have thought that the very things which they had seen, even the deportation of the Babylonish idols by the hands of their enemies, should have been sufficient to convince them, that nothing formed by mortal hands could save a man. The prophet, in Jehovah’s name, here appeals to them respecting this: See, says he, what helpless things those idols are! “Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth: their idols (unable to move themselves) were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle; your carriages were heavy loaden with them; they were a burthen to the weary beast; and are themselves gone into captivity [Note: ver. 1, 2.].” ‘But how different from them am I!’ says Jehovah: ‘They are carried by their votaries, yea, and by their enemies too, incapable of resistance or of motion: whereas I carry my people: I have carried them from the very womb; and I “will carry them to hoar hairs,” even to the latest hour of their lives.’

That we may enter more fully into this description which Jehovah gives of himself, let us consider,

I. What he has done for his people—

Jehovah addresses his people here as his children; and brings to their minds what he had done for that whole nation in the wilderness. He had borne them in his arms as a father does his child—

[In the wilderness, when the people were required to march, it must of necessity happen that many females were not in a condition to carry their new-born infants, and more especially as the journeys were often of long continuance. Hence the fathers are represented as carrying their children [Note: Numbers 11:12.]: and under this character God represents himself as having carried them [Note: Deuteronomy 1:31.]. Now the whole nation at that time were precisely in the state of little infants; as ignorant of the way which they were to go; as incapable of providing sustenance for themselves; as unable to protect themselves from enemies, or from a variety of dangers to which they were exposed. They needed in every respect Jehovah’s care, as much as a new-born infant the attention of its parents. And all this care did God bestow upon them. From the first moment of their departure from Egypt, he went before them in the pillar and the cloud: he sought out for them the places where they should encamp; he regulated all their motions; he supplied them with bread from heaven, and with water from the rock; he delivered them from every enemy; and carried them in perfect safety for the space of forty years. They were cast upon him, as it were, from the womb; and from the womb he thus Administered to them with parental care and tenderness.]

And in this way he still carries in his arms the true Israel—

[The nation of Israel typically represented those, who, as Believers in Christ, are in a spiritual sense the children of Abraham. And these, who are Israelites indeed, are precisely in the state of the Jews in the wilderness, or of infants in their parents’ arms. Their incapacity to guide or support themselves is quite as great, and their need of succour from on high as urgent. But God has taken the charge of them, and administered to them whatsoever their necessities required. Look ye back, ye “remnant of the house of Israel,” and say, whether God has not incessantly watched over you for good; whether he has not borne with your weaknesses, supplied your wants, directed your ways, upheld you in your goings, and kept you from ten thousand snares, into which you must have inevitably fallen, and by which you must long since have perished, if he had for one hour intermitted his tender care? You cannot but acknowledge, that to you, as well as to the Jewish nation, is that description applicable: “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness: he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him [Note: Deuteronomy 22:10-12.].”]

But God further intimates,

II. What he has engaged to do for them—

To the Jews he promised a continuance of his care—

[The individuals whom he brought forth out of Egypt he suffered to die in the wilderness, on account of their multiplied iniquities: but the nation, as a nation, he preserved; and those children, whom their unbelieving parents supposed to be doomed to inevitable destruction, he brought in safety to the Promised Land. And though, by their innumerable transgressions, the nation has brought down his displeasure upon them, insomuch that they are scattered over the face of the whole earth, yet are they preserved in a way that no other nation under heaven ever has been, in order that they may ultimately enjoy all the blessings prepared for them. They are at this day living witnesses for him, that “he changeth not,” but is still the same gracious and compassionate God as ever [Note: This is the import of “I am he.” See Psalms 102:27.].]

To the spiritual Israel also he engages that he will keep them, even to the end—

[“His gifts and calling are without repentance [Note: Romans 11:29.].” “Where he has begun a good work, he will carry it on, and perfect it, unto the day of Christ [Note: Philippians 1:6.].” If “he has laid in our hearts the foundation of his spiritual temple, he will complete it [Note: Zechariah 4:9.];” and “be the finisher of that faith of which he has been the author [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].” “His ways in this respect are not like the ways of men:” they, either from impotence or versatility, often relinquish their plans: he never does. In his own mind he considers the blessings which he bestows, not merely as a benefit conferred, but as a pledge of future blessings: “He will not forsake his people, because it hath pleased him to make them his people [Note: 1 Samuel 12:22.].” Hence we are justified in founding on the experience of past benefits an assured expectation of future: “Thou hast delivered my soul from death: Wilt thou not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living [Note: Psalms 56:13.]?” The very repetitions in our text strongly confirm this important truth: “Even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” And to the same effect the Apostle Paul assuring us that God will keep his engagements with us, uses in one short sentence no less than five negatives; “He will never, never leave thee; he will never, never, never forsake thee [Note: Hebrews 13:5-6.].”]

From this statement of his own ways, he teaches us to infer,

III. His unrivalled title to our regard—

“To whom will ye liken me?” says he to his people of old: Are any of the gods of the heathen able to effect for their worshippers what I have wrought for you? So will I say to those who have received spiritual blessings at his hands: “To whom will ye liken him?” Who in the whole universe has such a title,

1. To your confidence?

[Are there any of the sons of man that could have brought you out of darkness into light, as he has done; or turned you from the power of Satan unto God? Could any of them have preserved you from the snares which Satan has spread for your feet? Who amongst them is able to keep you in future? or have you any sufficiency in yourselves, so as to “direct your own paths [Note: Jeremiah 10:23.],” and to maintain your own steadfastness? No, verily: and nothing but a “curse awaits the man who trusteth in man, or who maketh flesh his arm [Note: Jeremiah 17:5-6.].” God alone is equal to this task [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Corinthians 3:5.]: in him alone therefore must be all our hope, and all our trust — — —]

2. To your love—

[Amongst your fellow-creatures you may have many who, both for their personal qualities and their kindness to you, are entitled to your esteem. But to whom are you indebted, as you are to your Redeeming God? He has come down from heaven for you: he has died upon the cross for you: he has wrought out a salvation for you: he has by his Holy Spirit imparted that salvation to your souls: HE has given you that measure of stability which you have already evinced; and has engaged his almighty power to keep you even to the end. Where have you ever found such a Benefactor as he? where, one who can vie with him in any one particular? Truly in comparison of him the whole creation is but as the dust upon the balance: and therefore you should love him infinitely above all, and say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee [Note: Psalms 73:25.]” — — —]

Let me then, in conclusion, address myself,

1. To those who entertain a rival in their hearts—

[You can easily see how just God’s indignation was against those who worshipped graven images, in preference to him: but know, that he is no less offended with those who “provoke him to jealousy” by “setting up idols in their hearts.” He says, and well may say, “My son, give me thine heart [Note: Proverbs 23:26.].” This is his exclusive right: and if you withhold it from him, it matters not what else you give: it is all hateful in his eyes, and never will come before him with acceptance: “your very prayers will be an abomination in his sight [Note: Proverbs 15:8.],” and your best sacrifices only as “the cutting off a dog’s neck, or offering swine’s blood [Note: Isaiah 66:3.]”— — —]

2. To those who profess themselves to have experienced God’s tender care—

[What gratitude becomes those who are so indebted to their God! Was Israel highly favoured above the heathen? Their obligations were nothing in comparison of yours. Their blessings, though great, were temporal: yours are spiritual and eternal — — — But look around you and see, how many even of your own friends and relatives are yet in bondage to their sins; whilst you have been delivered with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Look also to those who have been “brought out of the world for a season, and yet been again entangled with it and overcome [Note: 2 Peter 2:20.];” whilst you are yet “holding on your way.” And who is it that has made the difference between you? Must you not say, “By the grace of God I am what I am?” Stir up then your souls to thankfulness, and say, “By Thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art He that took me out of my mother’s bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee [Note: Psalms 7:6.].”

And let your confidence in him for the future be entire. Lie in his hands precisely as a little infant in its parent’s arms; and look to him, exactly as the Israelites in the wilderness did, to direct your every way, and to supply your every want. It is not possible for your reliance on God to be too simple or too entire. In this respect also is David an excellent pattern for you to follow: “Thou art He that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope, when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me! for trouble is near: for there is none to help. Be not thou far from me, O Lord! O my strength, haste thee to help me [Note: Psalms 22:9-11; Psalms 22:19.]!”

Let your devotion to him also be unreserved. “You are not your own, but his; and therefore you should glorify him with your bodies and your spirits, which are his [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:20.].” This is what God expects at your hands: “Ye have seen,” says he, “how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then shall ye be a peculiar treasure unto me, above all people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a Kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel [Note: Exodus 19:4-6.].” Yes, these words I do speak to you in God’s name. Your privileges are all a delusion, if they be not productive of this effect: but if they lead to this issue, then is God glorified in you, and ye shall ere long be glorified with him in the realms of bliss [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.].]


Verse 12-13

DISCOURSE: 946

CHRIST THE SALVATION OF ISRAEL

Isaiah 46:12-13. Hearken unto me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry; and I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.

THEY who deny or doubt the existence of a Supreme Being, may discover his eternal power and godhead by the works of creation, and ascertain his infinite superiority above all false gods, by the numberless predictions which he has given by his prophets, and the never-failing accomplishment of them in their appointed season. To this last criterion God himself refers idolaters in the chapter before us, and challenges them to bring any of their false deities, who should be able to stand in competition with him. To us, who acknowledge his unrivalled glory, there is one thing which displays, in a wonderful manner, the transcendent riches of his grace; I mean, the freeness with which his offers of mercy are made even to the most abandoned of mankind. This remark obviously avises from the words of our text; and will be fully illustrated by considering,

I. The characters addressed—

The words, in their primary meaning, were intended to describe those who were unhumbled by the judgments inflicted on them in the Babylonish captivity, and unaffected with his promises of deliverance from it. As applied to us, they comprise two common characters:

1. Those who feel no remorse for their past sins—

[All must acknowledge that they have sinned against God, and that, as sinners, they ought to humble themselves before him. But how many never call their past ways to remembrance, or say with themselves, what have I done [Note: Jeremiah 8:6.]! Their sins give them no uneasiness: instead of mourning over their offences, they palliate them; and, instead of imploring mercy at God’s hands, they deny that they have any need to deprecate his wrath and indignation. And must not such people be called “stout-hearted?” If God himself complains of those who represent it as a vain thing to serve the Lord, that “their words are stout against him [Note: Malachi 3:13-14.],” surely the same complaint may justly be made against those who practically declare his service to be a needless yoke, and an intolerable burthen.]

2. Those who are unconcerned about their eternal salvation—

[Many, alas! are as improvident about the future as they are unconcerned about the past. They will profess indeed that heaven is a desirable portion; but they will never inquire seriously whether they be in the way to attain it; nor ever exert themselves in earnest to secure it. If an empty wish, or a formal round of duties, will suffice for the acquisition of it, they will be content to pay the price: but if they are to run as in a race, and to fight as in a single combat, in order to have it awarded to them, they do not think it worth the contest. What now must we say of these, but that they are “far from righteousness and salvation?” Surely, if they be far from a concern about these things, much more must they be from the attainment of them.]

When we reflect upon the characters here addressed, how shall we stand amazed at,

II. The address itself—

The prophet, in these words, foretold both the deliverance of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and the coming of their Messiah to save the world. To sinners of our day the text declares,

1. That God has provided a Saviour for them—

[Christ is undoubtedly that “salvation whom God has placed in Zion,” and whom we are commanded to call, “The Lord our righteousness.” Him has “God sent into the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” — — — Hearken to this, ye stout-hearted: though ye have despised your God, your God has not despised you; but has pitied your fallen state, and made provision for your restoration to happiness. Yes; for the angels that fell, he instantly “prepared” a place of unutterable and everlasting torment [Note: Matthew 25:41.]: but for you he prepared a Saviour, even his only dear Son. And shall not this make your obdurate hearts relent? Or will ye receive such stupendous grace in vain?]

2. That God now offers salvation to them—

[This salvation is nigh to all of us, and the tidings of it are now sounding in our ears. It is placed in this our Zion as much as ever it was in Zion of old. Christ is now present in his ordinances according to his promise; and will be so even to the end of the world. At this very hour he “proclaims liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” To you, even to you, ye stout-hearted, is “the word of this salvation sent.” Your past iniquities shall be forgiven, if only you will humble yourselves before him. Nor is this all: your God will not only restore you to his favour, but will “glory” over you with unutterable joy. “You shall be even a crown of glory and a royal diadem in his hands [Note: Isaiah 62:3.].” Let not then your hearts be yet hardened against him; but let his transcendent “goodness lead you to repentance.”]

Advice—

1. Endeavour to see your obduracy in its true colours—

[If you are free from gross sins, you think but little of an unhumbled and impenitent state. But what can be worse than a seared conscience and a callous heart? What can be worse than to feel no sorrow or contrition for your past offences, no desire to please your God, no anxiety to save your souls? Be assured that such a state, with whatever name it may be glossed over, is hateful in the extreme: and that, if continued in, it will prove as fatal as a course of open profligacy and profaneness.]

2. Fear lest God should give you up to final impenitence—

[The present address, which is made by God himself, shews clearly enough, that he “has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live.” But he is a holy God; nor will his Spirit “always strive with man.” He may be provoked at last to “swear in his wrath that you shall never enter into his rest.” This he most assuredly does with respect to many, who “grieve his Spirit” till they have altogether “quenched” his sacred motions. “To-day therefore, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts,” “lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.”]

3. Think what regret you will feel, when that salvation, which is now so near you, shall be removed to an unapproachable distance—

[Of all the miseries that can afflict a soul in the future world, we cannot conceive any more distressing than the thought of having had a Saviour provided for us, and salvation through him offered to us. No words can express the sense which a self-ruined sinner will have of his folly, when he sees in one view the mercies he has slighted and the judgments he has brought upon himself. Now he can be “far from righteousness,” and glory in his shame: but then he will see that, which even courted his embraces here, removed afar off indeed; so far, as to preclude a possibility of ever attaining the possession of it. The Lord grant, that they who have hitherto slighted these overtures of mercy, may now embrace them with their whole hearts!]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 46:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/isaiah-46.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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