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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Isaiah 9

 

 

Verses 2-4

DISCOURSE: 871

BLESSINGS IMPARTED BY THE GOSPEL

Isaiah 9:2-4. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

THE dispensations of God in this world are never so afflictive, but there are some alleviating and consolatory circumstances to cheer us under them. The judgments with which he threatened to punish his apostate people were very tremendous [Note: Isaiah 8:19-22.]: yet he comforted them in the mean time with prospects of the Messiah’s advent. Whatever reference the words of my text may have to the deliverance of the Jews from Sennacherib’s army, we are sure that they refer to Christ, and to the blessings that should issue from the ministration of his Gospel. St. Matthew quotes them in this view [Note: Matthew 4:12-16.]; and the very words themselves are far more suited to a spiritual subject than to any temporal occurrence [Note: The first verse of the chapter is inexplicable, according to our version. Bishop Lowth translates it differently, and thereby makes the sense of the whole passage clear. “There shall not hereafter be darkness in the land which was distressed. He formerly debased the land of Zebulon and Naphthali, but in the latter time he hath made it glorious, even the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. [For] the people, &c,” The meaning is, that as the northern part of Galilee had been particularly afflicted by the incursions of the Assyrians, so it should be particularly honoured by the ministry of Christ.].

We notice then in the text three rich blessings resulting from the ministry of Christ, and of his servants in all ages; namely, light, joy, and victory. The first which the Christian receives, is,

I. Light—

Men are everywhere “sitting in darkness and the shadow of death”—

[This was the case with the Jews, notwithstanding they were God’s professing people, and had continual access to the word and ordinances of God. And it is the case with us, notwithstanding we are called Christians, and have the word and sacraments administered amongst us. We are like persons immured in a dungeon, or bereft of sight: light is shining all around us, but we see it not: we are as much in darkness as if there were no light at all. The Scriptures uniformly represent us thus; and experience abundantly confirms their testimony. How ignorant are men of their own hearts; of God; of the way of acceptance with him; and indeed of the whole circle of divine truth! Nor is this ignorance confined to the illiterate: it obtains as much among the great and learned, as among the poorest and meanest of mankind.]

But by the Gospel the eyes of their understanding are opened—

[All were not enlightened by the preaching of Christ and his apostles; nor are all instructed now by the word they hear: but they whose eyes are opened, do attain by the Gospel a wonderful insight into “the truth as it is in Jesus:” they discover the depth of their own depravity: they behold “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ:” a thousand other things, “which the natural man cannot receive,” are open to their view: “they are brought out of darkness into marvellous light [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.]:” “neither do they from thenceforth walk any more in darkness, because they have the light of life [Note: John 8:12.].”]

Together with light, the Christian is filled with,

II. Joy—

That which in the text we read “Thou hast not increased the joy,” is in the margin translated, “Thou hast increased to it the joy,” namely, to the nation of saints that are multiplied. This seems to be the more proper rendering of the words, and to agree best with the context; for all who are illuminated with divine truth, have,

1. A sacred joy—

[Whatever joy a carnal man partakes of, let him only be brought into the divine presence, and it vanishes at once. To speak to him of God and heaven and hell, is to make him melancholy. But the Christian’s joy is a holy sacred joy: “he joys before God.” It was appointed under the Law that the people at the beginning and end of harvest should bring their first-fruits and their tithes to the temple, and, feasting upon them with their friends, rejoice before God [Note: Deuteronomy 16:9-15.]. Thus the Christian brings his temporal comforts into the divine presence, that he may enjoy God both in and with them. By religion, all his joys are greatly enhanced; nor does he ever enjoy his food or his friends or any blessing in life so much, as when he is led to God by them, and glorifies his God in them. But the most delightful seasons are those wherein he can go to his God in secret, and pour out his soul before him. One hour spent in communion with his Lord is more to him than a whole life of carnal joy: it is a feast of fat things, an antepast of heaven.]

2. An exalted joy—

[The Christian’s joy is compared to that of a successful husbandman, and a victorious warrior. In every age, the in-gathering of the harvest has been an occasion of joy [Note: Isaiah 16:9-10.]: the seizing also of the spoil from a vanquished enemy has ever been considered as a ground of triumph. There is indeed on both these occasions too much of what is merely carnal: still however the spirits of the people are raised far beyond their usual pitch. In this respect the Christian’s joy resembles theirs. When he begins to see the fruit of his painful labours and his dubious conflicts, he cannot but rejoice that he has not laboured in vain, or fought in vain. Yes, his soul is joyful in his God, and “he rejoices with a joy that is unspeakable and glorified.”]

To this the Gospel contributes, by crowning its converts with,

III. Victory—

As natural men are blind, so are they also under sore bondage—

[The Egyptian or Babylonish yoke was light in comparison of that which Satan has imposed on all the human race. He holds them fast in his chains, and “leads them captive at his will” — — —]

But through the Gospel they are effectually delivered from it—

[When the Jewish nation was oppressed by the Midianites, God raised up Gideon to effect its deliverance. But how was the deliverance wrought? by arms? No: God would not suffer him to employ the army he had raised, but first released all of them except ten thousand, and then dismissed all of those except three hundred. And how were those three hundred armed? with sword and spear? No: but with earthen pitchers, and lamps, and trumpets: and with this little army so accoutred, he put to flight the whole host of Midian: they brake their pitchers, held forth their lamps, and blew their trumpets; and the enemies were put to flight [Note: Judges 7:19-21.]. Thus, precisely thus, does the Christian triumph over his enemies: unable to accomplish any thing by his own arm, he, by the mere light and sound of the Gospel, vanquishes his foes. When indeed the rout commences, he summons all his powers to destroy them; nor ceases from the pursuit, till he has effectually subdued them all. Behold a man who was lately enslaved by the world, the flesh, and the devil; see him at once throw off the yoke, behold him trampling on the world, crucifying the flesh, and bruising Satan under his feet! Is this a dream? No; it is a reality, that may be seen now as much as it was on the day of Pentecost, or on the day that the blood-thirsty Saul became a preacher of the faith he had once destroyed. “Such is the heritage of the servants of the Lord:” they all are conquerors, and “more than conquerors, through Him that loved them.”]

Infer,

1. How strangely do men misconceive of the nature and operation of the Gospel!

[That which Christ and his apostles preached, is deemed fanaticism, and is supposed to lead to melancholy and licentiousness. But how opposite is this sentiment to that which is contained in the text! Only let the Gospel be searched into with candour and diligence, and we will venture to affirm that it shall approve itself as light, and become a source of joy, and lead to certain victory. Whatever remains of darkness, grief, or bondage, shall be gradually banished, and the felicity of heaven be enjoved, in proportion as the soul is subjected to the dominion of Christ.]

2. How much do the saints of God live below their privileges!

[If we look at the first converts, we shall be ready to think that they were of a different species from us; so far are we below them in spiritual attainments. But is not the Gospel the same as it was in their day? Does it not require as much of us as it did of them? And will it not operate as powerfully on our hearts as it did on theirs? O let us not be satisfied with such indistinct views of the mysteries of God: let us not be contented with such scanty measures of joy and triumph: let us not think it enough to gain some small advantages over our spiritual enemies: let us look for greater things, and expect more signal displays of the Divine power and goodness! We are not straitened in God, but in ourselves: let us only be strong in faith; and “according to our faith it shall be unto us.”]


Verse 6

DISCOURSE: 872

CHRIST’S INCARNATION AND CHARACTER

Isaiah 9:6. Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

THERE is no true peace or happiness in the world except that which arises from the Gospel of Christ; for God himself testifies that there is no peace to the wicked. But where the Gospel truly prevails, peace and joy immediately spring up as its proper fruits. Such a change as this the prophet describes in the preceding context; and then, in the words before us, traces it to its real source. From the words themselves we shall be led to consider,

I. The advent of Christ to take the charge of his kingdom—

Though given to us by God, he came in an obscure and humble form—

[He was a little “child, born” in as helpless a state as others, and subject to all the sinless infirmities of our nature. He was indeed in a more especial manner the gift of the Father’s love [Note: John 3:16.]; the most invaluable gift that God himself could bestow. He was the Child, and the Son, of whom all the prophets spake, the offspring of a virgin, “Emmanuel, God with us.” But as the end of his coming was to redeem our fallen race, he came in such a way, as was best suited to the accomplishment of his own eternal purpose and grace.]

Yet, notwithstanding his mean appearance, he came to assume the government of the Church—

[As the Creator of the universe, he must of necessity have also been the governor of it before his incarnation. But now he came to administer the government as mediator; for all judgment was committed to him, not only as the Son of man, but because he was the Son of man [Note: John 5:27.]. The Church, in a more especial manner, is subjected to him in this view; and he is the head of it, as well for the purpose of communicating his influence to the members, as of managing its concerns [Note: Ephesians 1:22.]. And so entirely is every thing under his controul, that not so much as a hair falls from the head of any of his people without either his express command, or righteous permission. As in the days of his flesh he exercised the most unlimited authority over diseases, devils, and the very elements, so now every thing, whether designedly, or against its will, fulfils his unerring counsels.]

We shall the less wonder at his elevation to a throne, if we consider,

II. His qualifications for the regal office—

His being called by any name, imports that He really is what he is called. He is therefore,

1. A wonderful Counsellor [Note: Those are by many considered as two distinct titles; but, if we unite them, each title will have its proper attribute.]—

[He, in concert with the Father, formed the stupendous plan of man’s redemption, a plan in which are contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [Note: Colossians 2:3. ἐν scil. μυστηρίω. ]. Moreover in executing this plan, he has not only defeated all the plots and devices of Satan, but has invariably overruled them for the accomplishment of his own designs. His people too he endues with “wisdom from above,” enabling them to discern things hidden from the carnal eye, and guiding them in the way to heaven, so that a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein [Note: Isaiah 35:8.]. Who that has known ever so small a part of his ways, must not exclaim with amazement, How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!]

2. The mighty God—

[Angels and magistrates are sometimes called gods in a subordinate sense; but He is “The mighty God,” “God with us,” even “God over all, blessed for ever.” The dispensations, both of his providence and grace, manifest him to be a “God, wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” Indeed, if he were not God, he never could bear upon his shoulder the government of the universe. He must be omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, or else he never could hear the supplications, and supply the wants, of all his people at the same instant. However strange therefore it may seem, He who was a little child, was at the same time the mighty God; it was “the Lord of glory that was crucified;” it was “God who purchased the Church with his own blood [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:8. Acts 20:28.].”]

3. The everlasting Father—

[This title respects not his relation to the Deity (for with respect to that, he is the Son and not the Father) but rather his relation to his spiritual seed, whom he has begotten by his word and Spirit. But perhaps the words should rather have been translated, “The Father of the everlasting age.” The Jewish dispensation was intended to continue but for a limited time; but the Christian dispensation was never to be succeeded by any other: hence it is called “the last times;” and may be considered as “the everlasting age.” Of this Christ is the author; it owes its existence to him as its parent; it is preserved by his guardian care; and the whole family in heaven and earth who participate its blessings, both bear his image, and inherit his glory.]

4. The Prince of Peace—

[In all which Christ has done, whether in planning or executing the work of redemption, he has consulted the peace and welfare of his people. It was to purchase their peace that he became incarnate and died upon the cross. It was to bestow on them the blessings of peace, that he assumed the reins of government, and undertook to manage all their concerns. Peace was the legacy which he left to his Church when he was just departing from the world; and, on his ascension, he poured it down like a river on myriads of his blood-thirsty enemies: yea, at this very hour does he dispense it according to his own sovereign will, and impart it, with royal munificence, to all the subjects of his kingdom.]

This subject furnishes us with abundant reason,

1. For admiration—

[If all heaven was filled with wonder at the sight of their incarnate God, and if the “Angels yet desire to look into” that “great mystery of godliness,” how marvellous should it appear in our eyes! Let us then adore with reverence what we cannot comprehend; and exclaim with profoundest wonder, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift [Note: 2 Corinthians 9:15.].”]

2. For gratitude—

[Has the mighty God become a little child for us, and shall we regard his condescension with indifference? Is he governing and overruling every thing for our good, and shall we feel no sense of his kindness? Let us rather say, What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits he has done unto me?]

3. For devotedness to God—

[If the government be upon his shoulder, we should shew ourselves willing to have it there, and submit ourselves cheerfully to his authority. In vain shall we regard him as the source and foundation of our peace, unless we yield ourselves to him as the governor of our lives.]


Verse 13

DISCOURSE: 873

OUR IMPENITENCE UNDER THE DIVINE CHASTISEMENTS

Isaiah 9:13. The people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts.

RICH as God is in mercy to repenting sinners, he is full of indignation against the impenitent. Hence his most gracious invitations and promises are often intermixed with the most awful threatenings [Note: Matthew 11:20-21; Matthew 11:28.]. He had just before declared his intention of sending the Messiah to his chosen people. He now threatens them with utter excision for their impenitence [Note: Compare ver. 6, 7. with ver. 11–15.]. The grounds of his displeasure are no less visible amongst ourselves than amongst the Jews. We are at this time suffering under his chastising hand. But few, if any, of us are suitably affected with his judgments.

The solemnity of this day [Note: The Fast-day, March 1798.] leads us to inquire,

I. What is the end for which God chastises us?

He does not ever afflict his people willingly and without a cause. Sin is the ground of the controversy that he has with us. It is for the removal of this that he sends afflictions,

1. Upon individuals—

[His most highly favoured people are not exempt from chastisement: while they have any sin unmortified, God will not leave them altogether unpunished [Note: Jeremiah 30:11.]. Even the upright Job had much dross which was to be purged in the furnace of affliction [Note: Job 23:10.]. David also found much benefit arising from his trials [Note: Psalms 119:71.]: and acknowledged them to have been tokens of God’s love and faithfulness [Note: Psalms 119:72.]. Under the New Testament dispensation God has had the same end in view: He “delivered the incestuous man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:5.];” and visited with bodily sickness many of those who had profaned the Lord’s supper, in order that they might not perish with the ungodly world [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 11:32.]. Nor can we doubt but that our troubles are sent for the same benevolent purpose; of whatever kind they be, they are intended to purge away our sin, and bring us nearer unto God [Note: Hebrews 12:10.].]

2. Upon nations—

[When a nation is altogether ripe for ruin, God executes vengeance without any view to their reformation; but till then he will continue to correct them with much long-suffering and forbearance. The ten successive plagues of Egypt were sent to overcome their obstinacy. The Israelites, both in the wilderness and in Canaan, were continually informed of the distinct offences for which their various punishments were inflicted; and even their captivity in Babylon was intended for their good [Note: Jeremiah 24:5.]. We cannot precisely say what are the peculiar enormities by which we have provoked the Majesty of heaven. But it is certain that God is visiting us for sin: the calamities we this day deplore, are tokens of his displeasure [Note: Isaiah 42:24-25.]; nor can we expect a removal of them, till the end, for which they are sent us, is accomplished.]

It should be the business of this day to inquire—

II. What effect his chastisements have produced upon us?

The rod, which is now held over us, has a voice, if we have ears to hear it [Note: Micah 6:9.]. It calls us to repent of all our evil ways. But what change has hitherto been produced,

1. In the nation?

[Every reform is talked of, except a reform of our hearts and lives. What order of men amongst us has duly improved this awful crisis? Is not dissipation as prevalent among the higher ranks as ever? Is there a reformation begun among those who ought above all to be examples to the flock [Note: Those whom God particularly notices in the text, are “the ancient and honourable, and the prophet that teaches lies.”]? Are the watchmen, whose office it is to warn others, as earnest and faithful as the occasion requires [Note: Ezekiel 33:6-8.]? Are evils of any kind put away from amongst us? Or is there, even at this hour, any serious appearance of turning unto God? Are not our very fasts a mere formal and hypocritical lip-service? May they not even be numbered amongst our greatest sins? Alas! what shall the end of these things be? The generality are altogether regardless of God’s displeasure: because they do not feel in their own persons the stroke of his rod, they are indifferent about the calamities of others [Note: Isaiah 57:10.]. Many, like Ahaz, have even increased in their iniquities since the commencement of our present troubles [Note: 2 Chronicles 28:22.]. They have hardened their hearts and refused to receive correction; nor will they cry when God binds them [Note: Job 36:13.]. Nor is this peculiar to any one order of people more than another [Note: Jeremiah 5:1; Jeremiah 5:4-5.]: some are presumptuously boasting of our power to withstand the arm of God [Note: ver. 10.]; others, of whom better things might have been hoped, refuse to unite even in the outward services of this day. (Have these men never done any thing to increase our national guilt, that they refuse to deprecate our national judgments? Or have they no occasion to implore mercy for themselves?) To none was the prophet’s complaint ever more applicable than to ourselves at this juncture [Note: Isaiah 1:4-6.].]

2. In individuals?

[Some there are, we trust, who “weep between the porch and the altar.” Some are “grieved for the affliction of Joseph [Note: Amos 6:6.], but these are few in number; nor are they by any means so deeply affected as they ought to be. But where shall we find any that have been humbled under the divine chastisements? Who amongst us is truly “turning unto him that smiteth us?” Who is “seeking the Lord of hosts?” Who have been mourning over their sins this day in secret? Who have put from them their idols and their abominations [Note: Ezekiel 20:7.]? Who have cried for mercy as perishing sinners? Or stood in the gap to intercede for their distressed country? Happy they whose personal troubles have wrought this blessed change! But we fear that few, if any, have so laid to heart the public calamities, as to have experienced from them such a salutary effect.]

We shall conclude our inquiries with some suitable and important observations—

1. God will surely overcome at last—

[He is now maintaining a controversy with us. Nor can we expect that he should lay aside his rod till it has accomplished his will. If we continue to walk contrary to him, no doubt he will continue to walk contrary to us. If the scourging us with rods will not suffice, he will scourge us with scorpions [Note: 1 Kings 12:11.]. He will repay us seven-fold more for our sins [Note: Leviticus 26:21; Leviticus 26:27-28.]. Four times are we warned that his hand is stretched out still [Note: Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21; Isaiah 10:4.]. Let us then cease from the unequal combat [Note: Ezekiel 22:14. Isaiah 10:3.], and turn to him, before the measure of our iniquities be completely filled.]

2. If we turn to God with our whole hearts, he will cease from his anger—

[We have most abundant evidence of this delightful truth. The repentance of Nineveh is a standing encouragement for all nations. [Note: Jonah 3:10.] Even the temporary humiliation of Ahab prevailed to defer the impending judgments [Note: 1 Kings 21:29.]. What then should not be effected if this whole nation turned to God in sincerity? God would sooner send an angel to deliver us, or open a passage for us through the sea, than suffer our enemies to prevail against us [Note: Exodus 14:22. with Isaiah 51:10 and 2 Kings 19:35. with Psalms 34:7.]. His promise to this effect is absolute [Note: Jeremiah 18:8.]. Let this consideration lead us to repentance; and let the prophet’s advice to mourn, and fast, and weep, be followed without delay [Note: Joel 2:12-13.].]

3. If we return not to God, our present miseries will he only an earnest of far greater miseries in another world—

[God punishes men in this world in their national capacity; but in the future world every individual shall answer for his own sins. Nor are we left to doubt what will be the doom of the impenitent [Note: Luke 13:3.]. In comparison of that, temporal calamities are of no account. Oh! who can dwell with everlasting burnings [Note: Isaiah 33:14.]? Let me beseech you then by the terrors of the Lord. It would be terrible indeed to fall into the hands of man; but woe be to those who fall into the hands of the living God [Note: Hebrews 10:31.]. Let the exhortation of Christ then sink deep into your hearts, “Fear not man, who can only kill the body, but God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. I say unto you all, Fear him [Note: Luke 12:5.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 9:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/isaiah-9.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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