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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Isaiah 58

 

 

Verses 1-4

Isaiah 58:1-4

Cry aloud, spare not

“Cry aloud”

“Cry with the throat.
” Crying with the throat or from the lungs is here opposed to a simple motion of the lips and tongue (
1 Samuel 1:13). The common version, “Cry aloud,” is therefore substantially correct, though somewhat vague. The LXX in like manner paraphrases it ἐν ἰσχύι. J.D. Michaelis reads, “as loud as thou canst.” The positive command is enforced by the negative one, “spare not,” as in Is

54:2. The loudness of the call is intended to suggest the importance of thesubject, and, perhaps, the insensibility of those to be convinced. The prophet here seems to turn away from avowed apostates to hypocritical professors of the truth. (J. A. Alexander.)

Conviction before comfort

When our Lord Jesus, promised to send the Comforter, He added, “When He is come, He shall convince;” for conviction must prepare for comfort, and must also separate between the precious and the vile, and mark out those to whom comfort doth not belong. God had appointed this prophet to comfort His people (Isaiah 40:1); here He appoints him to convince them, and show them their sins. (M. Henry.)

The minister must be faithful

He must be vehement and in good earnest, must cry aloud, and not spare. Not spare them, nor touch them with his reproofs as if he were afraid of hurting them, but search the wound to the bottom; lay it bare to the bone; not spare himself, or his own pains, but cry as loud as he can. Though he spend his strength, and waste his spirits; though he get their ill-will by it, and get himself into an ill-name; yet he must not spare. The trumpet doth not give an uncertain sound, but, though loud and shrill, is intelligible. So must his alarms be, giving them warning of the fatal consequences of sin (Ezekiel 33:3-4). (M. Henry.)

National sins protested against

I. TESTIFY AGAINST SOME OF THE PREVAILING SINS AND CRYING ABOMINATIONS OF THIS LAND.

1. Pride.

2. Luxury.

3. Pleasure.

4. Gluttony.

5. Drunkenness.

6. Swearing.

7. Sabbath-breaking.

8. Lying.

9. Avarice.

10. Adultery and fornication.

11. Profane contempt of holy things.

12. The evil passions which agitate the bosoms of men, and which receive the sanction of a large portion of the community--not as casual evils, but as principles of action, and tests of what is called highmindedness and honour. Some of the most prevailing of these, when stripped of their specious coverings, and exhibited in their proper character, are--ambition, envy, malice, and revenge.

13. Flagrant insincerity., and wicked abuse of professed acts of public worship.

14. Hardened impenitence.

II. URGE WITH FAITHFULNESS AND IMPARTIALITY THE SENTENCE OF GOD DENOUNCED UPON EACH. (R. Shittier.)

Selfish piety

Selfish piety is the popular piety of this age and land.

I. IT IS VERY EARNEST. The piety’, of Israel at this time seems to have been anything but a dull and inactive power; it was very busy.

1. It was earnest in study. “They seek Me daily,” etc. (Isaiah 58:2).

2. It is earnest in prayer. “They ask of Me the ordinances of justice,” etc.

3. It is earnest in its self-sacrifice. It endures lastings and self-mortifications (Isaiah 58:3).

4. It is earnest in its churchism. “Ye fast for strife and debate,” etc. It would seem that the Israelites were divided into religious parties or factions, some professing to be more orthodox than others. There was a rivalry, therefore, in their devotion; one tried to excel the other, and the competition ran so high that they began to “smite each other with the fist.”

5. It is earnest in its professions. They made “their voice to be heard on high.”

II. IT IS TERRIBLY REPREHENSIBLE. The prophet is here called upon to “Cry aloud, spare not,” etc.

1. It is an insult to God. “He abhors the sacrifice where not the heart is found.” This selfish piety is the most abhorrent of all impieties.

2. It is pernicious to souls. This selfish piety inflicts incalculable injury upon its possessor: it warps the judgment, it deadens the conscience, it awakens false hopes generates diseased affections and dehumanizes the man. Nor is the injury confined to the possessor himself. (Homilist.)


Verses 1-14

Verse 2

Isaiah 58:2

Yet they seek Me daily

Hypocitical religion

When the prophet went about to show them their transgressions, they pleaded they could see no transgressions they were guilty of; for they were diligent in attending God’s worship, and what more would he have of them?
Now,

1. He owns the matter of fact to be true. As far as hypocrites do that which is good, they shall not be denied the praise of it; let them make their best of it. It is owned that they have the form of godliness.

2. He intimates that this was so far from being a cover or excuse for their sin, that really it was an aggravation of it. Show them their sins that they go on in, notwithstanding their knowledge of good and evil, sin and duty, and the convictions of their consciences concerning it. (M. Henry.)

Religious, but unsaved

Men may go a great way towards heaven, and yet come short; nay, may go to hell with a good reputation. (M. Henry.)

Two great problems

The prophet and the world may be considered as engaged in two opposite problems. The problem which the world is ever seeking to discover is to find out what is the least religion they may have, and yet be saved; the problem which the prophet is here endeavoring to solve, is what is the most religion you may have, and yet be lost. (D. Moore, M. A.)

Forms of religion

There are four distinct forms of Gospel service, all of which, if accompanied by right affections towards God, afford just and scriptural evidence of an accepted or reconciled state. These four forms of service are--the habit of daily prayer, a love for the preached Word, an open profession of Christ, and an apparent earnestness in inquiring after the ways and will of God. These, however, are not in themselves decisive tests of spiritual character; causes may operate to induce these outward observances, wholly distinct from the love of God in its governing and ruling power. Education may prompt a man to acts of daily worship; by local sympathies, or by the power of fashion, a man may be induced to make a religious profession; and he may with much apparent earnestness be inquiring which is the way to life eternal, when he has a secret mental reservation to keep the joys, the comforts, and the forbidden delights of the present world. (M. Henry.)

Formalism

I. WHY MEN GO SO FAR.

1. It is a sentiment of moral uneasiness which makes the formalist of every grade and character.

2. But in estimating the causes which induce men to go certain lengths in a religious life, we should not entirely omit the expectation of a considerable degree of credit in the world; a secret pride at being numbered among the people of God--an indefinite notion of outward prosperity as usually following on a bold religious profession.

II. WHY IT IS THAT THEY WILL NOT GO FURTHER, For this I shall assign two reasons.

1. Defective knowledge--an imperfect acquaintance with the way of salvation. Men know not the end of Christ’s work, they know not the jealousy with which He regards any interference with that work.

2. Defective obedience--they stop short of some form of Gospel requirement with which they should comply.

III. APPLY SOME TESTS OF SPIRITUAL SINCERITY. (M. Henry.)


Verses 3-7

Isaiah 58:3-7

Wherefore have we fasted?
--

Fasts

Fasts were a common feature of the old Israelitish religion (1 Kings 21:9; 1 Kings 21:12; Jeremiah 36:9). In Zechariah 8:19 we learn expressly that during the exile four days were observed annually as fasts, in commemoration of dates connected with the fall of Jerusalem. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

Fasting

I. CONSIDER IN GENERAL THE DUTY OF FASTING, ITS NATURE, ENDS AND USES. As to the meaning of the word, fasting is only an abstinence from food. Whether this abstinence should be total or partial, and how long it should be continued, cannot be determined by any general rule that can reach all persons; but the constitutions and strength of particular persons must be considered, and such abstinence used by them respectively as will best answer in each the ends and uses of fasting. We are not to look upon fasting in itself as a thing that recommends us to God. But there are good ends for which fasting is appointed, and which are promoted by it, that make it acceptable to God regard, therefore, must ever be had to those ends, and such measures taken as may be most conducive to them, and they are chiefly these--

1. For subduing and mortifying the sinful appetites of the body.

2. For the better disposing the mind to prayer and other spiritual exercises. The corruptible body is too apt to press down the immortal soul.

3. For the testifying our shame and sorrow; our anger at ourselves for our sins. We have God’s express command for it to His people the Jews. The prophet Joel frequently and earnestly presses them to this duty. Holy men of old practised it, as we find in the instances of Ezra, David, Daniel, etc. And that we may not think this to be such a Jewish rite, as concerned only those that lived under their dispensation, we read that when the prophet Jonah denounced God’s judgment against Nineveh, those Gentiles proclaimed a fast, and observed it universally from the greatest to the least. And to put this matter out of all doubt, the blessed Author of our holy roll,on, in His Sermon on the Mount, though He does not directly command fasting yet supposes it a duty to be practised by Christians, gives directions for the right performance of it, and upon such a performance assures us of a blessing from our Father in heaven.

II. REFLECT UPON THOSE FAULTS OF THE JEWS RECORDED IN MY TEXT, WHICH MADE THEIR FASTS UNACCEPTABLE TO GOD.

1. Though they used great outward austerity, and severe discipline towards the body, there was no inward change.

2. Their divisions and contentions. “Ye fast for strife and debate,” etc.

3. Their want of compassion and charity to those that were in affliction (verse 7). A like thread of hypocrisy ran through their fasts, and prayers, and alms, and all their services in our Saviour’s time.

III. INQUIRE WHETHER WE OF THIS NATION ARE NOT JUSTLY CHARGEABLE WITH THE SAME SINS WHICH THEY COMMITTED, and so severely smarted for; and whether we have not too much reason to fear that God may expostulate with us about our public fasts, as He did with them, “ Are they such fasts as I have chosen?”

IV. PRESS YOU TO THE PRACTICE OF SUCH THINGS AS MAY MAKE THIS DAY OF HUMILIATION AN ACCEPTABLE DAY UNTO THE LORD. And what can do this but our careful avoiding those sins which the Jews are here reproved for, and practising their contrary duties?

1. We must be sure to avoid that foolish and provoking sin of hypocrisy.

2. Also all strife and division. S. Let us take heed of unmercifulness and hard-heartedness to those that are in want and misery; for, with what face can we ask, with what reason can we expect from God, supplies for our wants, or succour in our distress, if we refuse such help as we can give to our poor brethren in their affliction? (Bp. Talbot.)

Incipient Pharisaism

There is an incipient Pharisaism in their evident expectation that by external works of righteousness they would hasten the coming of the Messianic salvation. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

Ye fast for strife

J. D. Michaelis tells a story of a lady who was never known to scold her servants so severely as on fast days, which he says agrees well with physiological principles and facts! (J. A. Alexander.)


Verses 5-9

Isaiah 58:5-9

Is it such a fast that I have chosen?
--

The fast which God has chosen

I. GOD’S PURPOSE IN COMMANDING MEN TO FAST.

1. To lead us to prayer (Isaiah 58:4), prayer so real that our voices are “heard on high,” that God will hear and answer.

2. To aid us in realizing communion with Him (Isaiah 58:9); that His voice be heard by us as truly as ours by Him; our voice to Him (Isaiah 58:8), His to us.

3. To aid in repressing self in all its forms. In John 3:30, we have thegeneral principle, also in Philippians 2:8.

II. THE NATURE OR CHARACTER OF TRUE ABSTINENCE.

1. To loose our bands (Luke 13:16), “whom Satan hath bound” Luke 11:21-22; Matthew 5:29-30).

2. To undo our burdens (Psalms 55:22; Matthew 11:28-30).

3. To break every yoke, every habit that enslaves (Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 6:12-18). “I will not be brought under the power of any.”

4. To bring the flesh into subjection to the spirit (Galatians 5:17).

III. THE EFFECT OF TRUE ABSTINENCE.

1. “Then” thy light shall break forth like morning (Philippians 2:15-16; Matthew 5:16).

2. “Thy righteousness shall go before thee ‘ as a leader to higher grace and 2 Corinthians 3:18).

3. Thy prayer shall be heard (verse 9).

4. There shall be light from on high, and His guidance for ever (verse 10; Psalms 32:8; Exodus 33:14).

Conclusion: To keep this season properly, we must be ourselves “free” as now creatures in Him. We must act habitually in the spirit of freedom Galatians 5:1). We must do what in us lies to make others free Numbers 10:29). (H. Linton, M. A.)

Philanthropic piety

In these verses you have the religious instinct working, not through selfishness, but through love, not in formal religious devotions, but in earnest philanthropic services.

I. ITS RITUAL IS PHILANTHROPIC SERVICE. “Pure religion and undefiled is this, to visit the widow and fatherless,” etc.

II. ITS INFLUENCE IS GLORIOUSLY BENEFICENT. What is it? “Light.” “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning. Prosperity will come on them as the genial dawning of a long and blessed day. “Health.” “Thine health shall spring forth speedily.’ All weakness and disease will depart, and healthful vigour will come into the soul. “Righteousness.” “Thy righteousness shall go before thee.” The eternal law of rectitude--not expediency, not caprice, not passion, not morbid sentiment, will guide the footsteps as a leader through the winding path of life.’ “Glory. “The glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward” (margin, “shall gather thee up, that ye shall bring up the rear’).

III. ITS SPIRIT IS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. “Then shalt thou call and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am.” The idea is that if men would only be real in their religion, show their love to Him by labouring earnestly for the good of suffering humanity, then He would respond to their prayers, and grant them their request. (Homilist.)


Verse 6-7

Isaiah 58:6-7

Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
--

Practical fasting

In reply to the question, how the acts here mentioned could be described as fasting, J. D. Michaelis says that they are all to be considered as involving acts of conscientious self-denial, which he illustrates by the case of an American slaveholder brought by stress of conscience to emancipate his slaves. (J. A. Alexander.)

Oppression

People may be oppressed in their reputation by unmerited reproaches. (R. Macculloch.)

A foretokening of Gospel morality

This passage is one of those in which the holiness peculiar to the Gospel seems to be foretokened in the morality of the prophetic canon. The twilight clouds were red with the coming Sun.

1. Isaiah and his brother-prophets were holier and heavenlier and richer in the works of love upon an anticipated Christ than we are in a Christ already our crucified Example. These men of God knew no divorce between belief and love, between living perpetually in the presence of a benevolent Lord and imitating His benevolence to their “fellow-creatures. As it is the spirit of truth that has solemnized the union of the principle of faith with the works of charity, so it is, and in all ages has been, the master policy of the spirit of evil to effect their separation.

2. The whole religious providence towards man in every age has been a system operating by the combined influence of faith and love--both directed towards His own perfect essence. In our existing condition, what is faith but love relying on support? What is love but faith forgetting the support in the Supporter? Every progressive step in attaining habits of compassion and kindness upon earth must necessarily be a step towards estimating and loving Him who is the essential Spirit of benevolence. The love of man is the type and shadow of the love of God. The people of God are here engaged with the rudiments and images of those affections which are to be the duty and happiness of their eternity. (W. Archer Butler.)


Verse 7

Isaiah 58:7

Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry?
--

Almsgiving

Why there are so many evils in the world is a question that has been agitated ever since man felt them. It becomes not us, with too presumptuous a curiosity, to assign the causes of the Divine conduct, or, with too daring a hand, to draw aside the veil which covers the councils of the Almighty. But from this state of things we see many good effects arise. The enjoyments of life are grafted upon its wants; from natural evil arises moral good, and the sufferings of some contribute to the happiness of all. Such being the state of human affairs, charity, or that disposition which leads us to supply the wants, and alleviate the sufferings, of unhappy men, as well as bear with their infirmities, must be a duty of capital importance. Accordingly, it is enjoined in our holy religion as being the chief of the virtues. It is assigned as the test and criterion by which we are to distinguish the disciples of Jesus, and it will be selected at the great day as being that part of the character which is most decisive of the life, and according to which the last sentence is to turn. Charity, in its most, comprehensive sense, signifies that disposition of mind which, from a regard and gratitude to God, leads to do all the good in our power to man. But all that I intend at present is, to consider that branch of charity which is called almsgiving.

I. WHAT IS THE MOST PROPER METHOD OF BESTOWING CHARITY.

1. The best method of bestowing charity upon the healthy and strong is to give them employment. One half of the vices of men take their orion from idleness. To support the indolent, therefore, to keep those idle who are able to work, is acting contrary to the intention of God; is doing an injury to society, which claims a right to the services of all its members; is defrauding real objects of charity of that which is their proper due,. and is fostering a race of sluggards to prey upon the vitals of a State. But he is a valuable member of society, and merits well of mankind, who, by devising means of employment for the industrious, delivers the public from a useless incumbrance, and makes those who would otherwise be the pests of society, useful subjects of the Commonwealth.

2. Another act of charity, of equal importance, is to supply the wants of the really indigent and necessitous. If the industrious, with all their efforts, are not able to earn a competent livelihood; if the produce of their labour be not proportionable to the demands of a numerous family; then they arc proper objects of your charity.

3. Another class of men that demand our charity is the aged and feeble, who, after a life of hard labour, are grown unfit for further business, and who add poverty to the other miseries of old age.

4. Children also bereft of their parents, orphans cast upon the care of Providence, are signal objects of compassion.

5. But there is a class of the unfortunate who are the greatest objects of all; those who, after having been accustomed to ease and plenty, are by some unavoidable reverse of fortune condemned to bear, what they are least able to bear, the galling load of poverty; who, after having been perhaps fathers to the fatherless in the day of their prosperity, are now become the objects of that charity which they were wont so liberally to dispense.

II. EXHORTATIONS TO THE PRACTICE OF THIS DUTY. This duty is so agreeable to the common notions of mankind, that every one condemns the mean and sordid spirit of that wretch whom God has blessed with abundance, and consequently with the power of blessing others, and who is yet relentless to the cries of the poor and miserable. The practice of this duty is incumbent upon all.

1. To the performance of it you are drawn by that pity and compassion which are implanted in the heart.

2. Consider the pleasure derived from benevolence. (J. Logan, F. R. S.)

Dealing bread to the hungry

Thine “own bread it must be, and that especially whereof thou hast on the fast-day abridged thyself; for what the rich spare on such a day the poor should spend. Hereby,

1. Men’s prayers shall speed the better (Acts 10:4).

2. They shall make God their debtor (Proverbs 19:17).

3. That is best and most pleasing alms to God that is given in Church assemblies; for,

13 almsgiver (Luke 21:1-2), setting it down in His book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16). (J. Trapp.)

“To break bread,”

“To break bread,” meaning to distribute, from the Oriental practice of baking bread in thin flat cakes. (J. A. Alexander.)

Breaking bread to the hungry

Not only to give them that which is already broken meat, but break bread on purpose for them; give them loaves and do not put them off with scraps. (M. Henry.)


Verses 8-14

Isaiah 58:8-14

Then shall thy light break forth

The secret of prosperity to nations, churches, and men

(Isaiah 58:8-10; Isaiah 58:14, “Then,” “then,” “then,” “then “):--

I.
MEN AND CHURCHES CHARGE GOD FOOLISHLY, AND COMPLAIN WITHOUT CAUSE OF THEIR OWN LOW ESTATE.

II. GOD REBUTS THEIR BLASPHEMOUS CHARGE, AND ASSERTS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF HIS DEALINGS IN AN APPEAL TO THEIR OWN CONSCIENCES AND COMMON-SENSE.

III. GOD RETURNS THE CHARGE AGAINST HIMSELF ON THE SINNERS’ OWN HEADS, AND REVEALS HIS SECRET, IF MEN WILL HAVE EARS TO HEAR. “Then” is the secret of light and darkness; of health and sickness, or want of spiritual vigour and vitality; of covenant righteousness in the enjoyment of covenant blessings, or apparent breach of covenant in the withholding of what is good; of glory, such as that of Israel in the wilderness, when the glory of the Lord was “their rereward,” when the pillar of cloud and fire was in the midst of them by day and night, or shame, as when the ark was in the hands of the Philistines, or the Assyrian or Babylonian invaded God’s heritage and profaned His temple; of prayers answered, or unanswered; of God’s presence manifested in undeniable! tokens, or denied, undiscerned, apparently withdrawn; of power to be God’s witnesses and workmen in doing good to others, or impotence, conscious inability to be fellow-labourers with God and for God, want of spiritual life and energy. “Then” is the secret--then, and not till then--then, and not otherwise--then certainly-then according to the promise of the covenant, and in the way of the covenant and kingdom. In further application of the text to ourselves learn such lessons as the following--

1. The salvation of the Gospel is salvation from sin itself.

2. In the Gospel, accordingly, blessedness and righteousness go together, and so also sin and misery.

3. There is under the Gospel no substitute for repentance.

4. Man, in all the work of salvation, from beginning to end, must co-operate with God. (R. Paisley.)

God the rewarder

If a person, a family, a people be thus disposed to everything that is good, let them know for their comfort that they shall find God their bountiful rewarder.

1. God shall surprise them with the return of mercy after great affliction, which shall be as welcome as the light of the morning after a long and dark night (Isaiah 58:8; Isaiah 58:10). They that arc cheerful in doing good, God will make them cheerful in enjoying good. They that have showed mercy shall find mercy. Those that have helped others out of trouble, God will help them when it is their turn.

2. God will put honour upon them. Good works shall be recompensed with a good name. This is included in that light which riseth out of obscurity.

3. They shall always be safe under the Divine protection. “Thy righteousness shall go before thee,” as the vanguard, to secure thee from enemies that charge thee in the front; and “the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward,” the gathering, host to bring up those of thee that are weary and are left behind, and to secure thee from the enemies that, like Amalek, fall upon thy rear.

4. God will be always nigh unto them to hear their prayers (Isaiah 58:9). As, on the one hand, “he that shuts his ears to the cry of the poor shall himself cry and God will not hear him,” so on the other hand, he that is liberal to the poor, his prayers shall come up, with his alms, for a memorial before God Acts 10:4).

5. God will direct them in all difficult and doubtful cases (verse 11).

6. God will give them abundance of satisfaction in their own minds (verse 11).

7. They and their families shall be public blessings (verse 12). (M. Henry.)

“Break forth as the dawn

“Break forth” is the verb used in IsaGe 7:11; Psalms 74:15, of the bursting of waters through a fissure in the earth’s surface; by a vivid metaphor the dawn was conceived as “splitting” the heavens and flooding the world with light The same word occurs on the Moaite Stone in the phrase “from the splitting of the dawn.” (Prof. J. Skinner,D. D.)

Thine health shall spring forth speedily

A healthy Church

I. ESSENTIALS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH.

1. A Scriptural constitution.

2. Nutritious food.

3. Pure air.

4. Regular exercise.

II. CHARACTERISTICS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH

1. Health is sometimes known by outward appearances. The rosy cheeks, the sparkling eyes, the sonorous voice, all testify to health. A healthy Church may be known by its prayer-meetings, contributions, missionary spirit, etc.

2. Health is known by tastes. A sickly man’s taste is bad. Unwholesome dainties are preferred to strong meat. So with regard to an unhealthy Church. Silly anecdotes are preferred to good scriptural teaching. Thinks much of forms and ceremonies.

3. Contentment of mind. An unhealthy man is querulous and difficult to please. So an unhealthy Church. It is a fault-finding Church.

4. Work. Sickness disables a man for labour. Health stimulates to work. A healthy Church may be known by its labour.

III. THE DESIRABILITY OF A HEALTHY CHURCH. A healthy Church--

1. Is one of great comfort to itself.

2. Will survive through many trials. The healthy man is heedless of east winds, etc. So a healthy Church survives persecutions, etc.

3. Is attractive. People shun unhealthy Churches as they do fever dens.

4. Is one likely to live.

Lessons:

1. A morally sick Church is a great curse to a neighbourhood.

2. The sooner the better that many a Church should apply to the great Physician for spiritual healing.

3. The Church will by and by become perfectly whole.

4. When perfectly whole, diseased persons will no longer be admitted into its fellowship (Revelation 21:27). (J. Williams.)


Verses 9-11

Isaiah 58:9-11

Then shalt thou call

God’s wonderful response to His people’s prayers

When God calls to us by His Word, it becomes us to say, “Here we are; what saith our Lord unto His servants?
” But that God should say to us, “Behold Me, here I am,” is strange. When we cry to Him, as if He were at a distance, He will let us know that He is near, even at our right hand, nearer than we thought He was. “It is I, be not afraid.” When danger is near, our Protector is nearer, a very present help. “Here I am,” ready to give you what you want, and do for you what you desire. What have you to say to Me? God is attentive to the prayers of the upright (
Psalms 130:2). No sooner do they call to Him, but He answers, Ready, ready. Wherever they are praying, God saith, Here I am hearing; I am in the midst of you, nigh unto them in all things (Deuteronomy 4:7). (M. Henry.)

If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke

One path to prosperity

In the figures implied the prophet represents extreme adversity; and by metaphors which he distinctly puts forth he describes renewed prosperity; and he connects the marvellous change from the deepest adversity to the highest prosperity with the avoidance or laying aside of three sins which then beset the people of God, and with the performance of two ordinary duties.

1. The besetting sins.

2. The duties.

Oppression

The oppression of others is an early sin, a sin which you often see rampant among children--among very little children. Oppression is a household sin, it will be found more or less in almost every family. There may be some cases where it is not, but they are decided exceptions. And it is a sin in connection with all family relations. The godly husband is charged to love the wife even as himself, and even as Christ loveth the Church; but there are many husbands--some: professing to be Christ’s disciples--who are the wretched oppressors of wives. Oppression Is a household sin--seen in parents--seen in brothers and sisters--seen in the husband. And it is a social sin--seen in all the walks of life.

1. Especially where men employ each other, and take advantage of each other’s skill, and of each other’s strength. It is a national sin--seen more or less in all rulers; and an international sin--seen in the conduct of nations to each other. Manifestly, therefore, a very common sin is this putting on of the yoke--seen where men have no right to put on the yoke at all; and seen in a heavy yoke where men have only the right to put on a light yoke, and they impose a heavy yoke; and seen in thus keeping on of the yoke after the yoke should be removed. (S. Martin.)

Creed and outward ordinances not the supreme things

1. Nothing is here said about this people having declined from religious belief, or in this case from the observance of religious rites. God had to find fault with them on these grounds, but what I want you to notice is, that God is not speaking of such declension here. What does this show? It shows that a man, so far as the creed on his lip is concerned, may maintain his orthodoxy, and that a man, so far as religious ordinances are concerned, may maintain his devoutness, and yet have a heart thoroughly declining from God’s statutes.

2. There is an eternal connection between righteousness and blessedness.

3. The true state of individual saints and of congregations of saints is light, not obscurity; brightness, not dulness; happiness, not misery; spiritual health, not moral sickness; usefulness, not sterility and barrenness; continuance, not declension. (S. Martin.)

“Putting forth of the finger”

A gesture of derision. Hence the middle finger is called by Persius, digitus infamis. (J. A. Alexander.)


Verse 10-11

Isaiah 58:10-11

And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry

The reflex influence Of missionary enterprise

I.
MISSIONARY ENTERPRISE EXALTS CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. The whole life of the Christian after his conversion is a discipline fitted to purify and exalt his character. What, then, are the works and exercises that tend most to build up Christian character to a lofty height? I know nothing equal to work that engages us directly in seeking the conversion of our fellow-men, and especially of those whose conversion seems naturally most difficult, such as we find in the mission field.

1. The first test I set before you is the tendency of this work to exercise the Christian graces. Whatever exercises these most, must produce the highest Christian result; for Christian character is just the Christian graces consolidated and fixed in the soul by cultivation. Take, then, a grace like faith. I confidently ask if home chanty--needful and precious as it is--be as lofty a kind of charity as that which deals with want and woe, enforced by the naked claim of humanity in distress. Is it not an exalted feature of British commerce that every great calamity strikes to its heart, so that immediately a subscription is opened on every stock-exchange? But why should missions be less expansive, and the soul be less provided for than the body?

2. Our second test shall be resemblance to God. From beginning to end, God takes a missionary attitude. He sends the Son; He sends the Spirit; apart even from grace, He sends rain on the just and on the unjust. As the true God delights in mercy, truth, and righteousness, we claim for the works that foster these in the soul, as the most God-like, the highest stamp of worth and sacredness l

3. Our third test shall be the example of Jesus Christ. What was He if not a missionary--the missionary that travelled the farthest, stooped the lowest, gave up the most, suffered the worst? The very world has learned new ideas of greatness and goodness from Jesus Christ; and this central idea of self-sacrificing love, as the very element of moral grandeur, stands out like a new revelation.

4. I mention a fourth test, which is, our imitation of the greatest Christians. Can one be mentioned that has not sympathized with the spread and diffusion of the Gospel?

II. The second way in which missionary enterprise reacts beneficially on the Church is in INCREASING CHRISTIAN JOY. This, of course, would follow from improving Christian character. But I take another line of illustration.

1. Missions remove hindrances to Christian joy. It is a great hindrance to think that the world is still in so backward a state. But the faithful Christian can say, “Well, this is not my fault. I am doing something to remedy it; and the more that we all do, the sooner will the evil be cured.” It is also a great hindrance to Christian joy that the Church is so divided. But here, generally, in the mission field, matters are at their best. I will only mention another hindrance to joy which missions remove--the sceptical doubts and questionings as to the truth of Christianity. Now the visible living power of the Gospel, as seen on the mission field, is not only an evidence of divinity, but meets some current objections and difficulties. Objections are taken to the unity of the human race. But here, in point of fact, the race is shown to be one. And this casts indirect light on the question as to the antiquity of man. A book that casts more light on the history of the human race than any other, that goes more to the depths of human nature, and that works more stupendous and blessed changes on man in every country and clime, is not likely to be mistaken as to his age, and the conviction, which every day’s experience of missions deepens, that the Bible is the God-given book for the race, may help us to wait calmly and hopefully as, occasional difficulties arise, till time and study clear them away.

2. While missions thus remove hindrances to Christian joy, they also give positive occasions to it. The triumphs of me Gospel in these new scenes must delight every Christian heart. The Christian, as it were, lives over again his own Christian experience in coming to the Saviour and tasting the riches of His grace. He enters into the gladness of the missionary who, after many a hard and sore struggle, rejoices that he has not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. He rises even to the joy of angels, as fellow-helpers to conversion, and as assuming the guardianship of unlooked-for heirs of salvation to whom they minister. Nay, the Christian’s joy is not complete, till he thinks of his God and Saviour, who for this hour came to the Cross, with all its shame and sorrow, and now, in looking back on it all, sees here of the travail of His soul and is satisfied.

III. The third way in which I shall show that missionary enterprise reacts beneficially on the Church is IN ENLARGING ITS REWARD. I might have dwelt on the impulse to usefulness and success in all other directions which, with the foregoing enhancements of character and joy, constitute reward in this life. But I point rather hero to “the recompense of the reward” hereafter. Our term of labour is bounded. Ought we not, then, to take home the truth that heaven, with its rewards, is dependent for its degrees on the effects of time? The missionary field thus holds out a glorious opportunity of brightening heaven. It will be brightened by the very results of our labours in peopling it with ransomed souls; but over and above, there are glorious rewards and honours of which we can only speak here like men that dream. (J. Cairns, D. D.)


Verse 11

Isaiah 58:11

And the Lord shall guide thee continually

Our Guide

Our earthly existence is a pilgrimage which none can successfully perform without Divine aid.

I. ALL MEN NEED A GUIDE. There are many who have been determined to have their own way; and when that way has led them rote” the path of sin and ended, in,, shame and unhappiness, they have said, “Ah, I wish I had known this in time! Many persons often wish, “O that I could begin my life again with my present knowledge of what is best for me!” In the pilgrimage of earthly existence there are many perils. There is often the uncertainty of darkness. We are beset by the peril of false leaders. There are spiritual robbers who meet us on every hand. There are snares of sinful pleasure and selfish indulgence. There is the intoxication of prosperity. Some allow themselves to be broken down by adversity. We are in peril from flatterers.

II. THE LORD IS OUR GUIDE.

1. He is a compassionate guide.

2. A faithful guide.

3. A perfect guide.

4. He knows your life at the end as well as the beginning.

III. TO WHAT WILL THE LORD GUIDE US?

1. To truth.

2. To success in life. True success is to be able to do the will of

God.

3. The Lord will guide the burdened to the arms of strength. (W. Birch.)

The promised guidance

I. IT IS A NECESSARY PROMISE. “What could the children of Israel have done in the wilderness, without the cloudy fiery pillar to lead them over its trackless wastes? This world is just such a wilderness to us.

II. IT IS A REASONABLE PROMISE. I do not mean that it is reasonable for us to expect it. No, indeed, we have no right to look for a blessing so great and so gracious. I mean it is a reasonable promise so far as God is concerned. It is what He can easily fulfil.

III. IT IS A COMFORTING PROMISE. It meets our wants as the children of God, and meets them fully. If we are depending on our fellow-creatures for help, there are always two difficulties in our way. One is that our friends may not know just what help we are needing; or if they know it, they may not be able to reach us with the help we need. But God is able to concentrate His power, His presence, and His sufficiency in the case of each of His people, as thoroughly and as effectually as though that single case were the only one existing to claim His attention or to enlist His power. (R. Newton, D. D.)

A happy Christian

Observe in what connection this sunny sketch of prosperity occurs. It is set in a frame that excites the strong prejudice of some professing Christians. The setting is a framework of duties. The blessings are not promised to every Christian unconditionally,” “but are fenced in with terms: If thou doest this, and if thou doest that, then shall such-and-such blessings be thine.” Though salvation is of grace, the happiness of the Christian does depend upon his obedience.

I. These people, who are thus full of God’s Spirit, are described as possessing CONTINUAL GUIDANCE. “The Lord shall guide thee continually.”

1. There come to them, as to other men, dilemmas in providence. He goes not amiss who goes in the company of God.

2. The path of doctrine, also, is sometimes difficult. The Holy Ghost will lead us into all truth. So shall it be, likewise, in matters of spiritual experience.

3. Our experience often seems to be as though it had no rule. If we are enabled by grace to seek close and vital union with Christ, and to live upon Him continually, we may rest assured that whether our experience be gloomy or delightful, and whether our inward conflicts or joys be paramount, He will still be at the helm, and will guide us continually.

II. The second blessing promised in the text is INWARD SATISFACTION. “And satisfy thy soul in drought.” It is a blessed thing to have the soul satisfied, for the soul is of great capacity. The Christian has got what his soul wants. He has a removal of all that which marred his peace, blighted his prospects, and made his soul empty and hungry. His sin is pardoned; he is reconciled to God. He is satisfied with God’s dispensation. He is satisfied with God’s love. He is satisfied with promises that can never be broken, with covenants that can never be violated, with oaths that stand fast like mountains, and with the words of God which are great as the fathomless sea. He is satisfied with his God. The consequence of such a satisfaction as this is that the Christian is as well satisfied at one time as at another, if his soul be right. He shall be satisfied in times of drought. In the vast times of distress the Christian is still satisfied.

III. The next blessing is, SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND HAPPINESS. “And make fat thy bones.” Note the figure. It is not “make fat thy flesh.” When Jeshurun waxed fat he kicked. Sometimes abundance in earthly things makes poverty in heavenly things. But fatness here is to be upon the man’s hardest and most necessary part of his frame. A man is really built up when his bones, the solid pillars of the house of his manhood, have been strengthened. Vigour has been put into his constitution where it was most required. The figure seems to me to indicate two or three things in one. There is health here, the soul purged from its vices, sicknesses, and unbelief, pride, sloth, and such like. There is vigour here, no lukewarmness. There is growth, the man is not stunted. Christian joy is, after all, Christian strength.

IV. The fourth blessing is this, “AND THOU SHALT BE LIKE A WATERED GARDEN.” This figure of a garden is a very sweet and attractive one. Our fancy is soon at work to invent a picture of flower-beds, and fruit-trees, shady walks, and pleasant fountains, laid out close to some grand mansion, and opening its fairest views to the best apartments of the palace. Such a garden needs constant care, and then, although it may be more beautiful at one season than another, it will never be like a wild heath, or totally bereft of charms. But, alas! some professors of religion are not like this: there is little evidence of diligent cultivation in their character.

V. There is the blessing of CONTINUED STRENGTH, CONTINUED FRESHNESS, CONTINUED SUPPLY. “As a well of water whose waters fail not.” There are many wells in the East which do fail, and many apparent springs which deceive the traveller. I observe that the margin has it, “whose waters deceive not, or lie not. And how many a man who has appeared like a Christian has been but a mere deceiver! Not so God’s true people. They shall have so much grace that when a Christian friend expects to find grace in them, he shall not be disappointed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Thou shalt be like a watered garden

A watered garden

Cannot a garden water itself? No. That is the answer, definite, cold--discouraging, encouraging, as we may take the term. Is it not enough to be a garden? what matter about the sunshine? who cares about the rain or the dew? Is it not enough to be a garden, a geometric form, pearled and diamonded with many a flower? The king’s gardens cannot do without rain; Solomon’s parterres wither away but for the morning dew and the summer shower. We need something from without. Cannot a man sustain himself by his own resources? He cannot. What do you mean by being a man? A figure is not a man; a corpse is not a man; a mere personality, if it could be detached from all other personalities, would not be a man. We cannot live upon stature or figure or aught that our hand can hold. Life is deeper; there is a sanctuary of life, a well far away, where spring water bubbles and gurgles and flashes out in the sunlight like a great gospel preached to the thirst of man. Self-sustenance is not the law of the body; why should it he the law of the mind? The mind is not sustained by itself. You have books; lay them down, be your own book. You cannot. What do you want with all these libraries, and museums, and academies, and colleges, and schools of every name and degree? These are the wheatfields which the soul reaps, and it needs them every one, for the soul is bigger than literature. The soul lives by friction with some other soul. God is fire. To come into happy attrition with Him, or contact, or friction, who can tell what may come out of that soul touching soul, man praying to God? We are continually undergoing a process of education. What hast thou that thou hast not received? Have you ever seen a garden that has been left to itself? What do you think of it? God waits to give us every one more water, more sustenance, more sunshine. What we might be if we would enjoy our privileges! (J. Parker, D. D.)

The garden of God

1. The Church is appropriately compared to a garden because it is the place--

I. OF CHOICE FLOWERS. Christ comes to His garden, and plants there some of the brightest spirits that ever flowered upon the world. Some of them are violets, inconspicuous, but sweet. You have to search and find them. You do not see them very often, perhaps, but you find where they have been by the brightened face of the invalid, and the sprig of geranium on the stand, and the new window-curtains keeping out the glare of the sunlight. These flowers in Christ’s garden are not like the sunflower, gaudy in the light, but wherever darkness hovers over a soul that needs to be comforted, there they stand, night-blooming cereuses.

2. But in Christ’s garden there are plants that may be better compared to the Mexican cactus--thorns without, loveliness within; men with sharp points of character. They wound almost every one that touches them. They arc hard to handle. Men pronounce them nothing but thorns, but Christ loves them notwithstanding all their sharpnesses. Many a man has had a very hard ground to cultivate, and it has only been through severe trial he has raised even the smallest crop of grace. A very harsh minister was talking to a very placid elder, and the elder said, “Doctor, I do wish you would control your temper.” “Ah,” said the minister, “I control more temper in five minutes than you do-in five years:”

3. There are others planted in Christ’s garden who are always radiant, always impressive--more like the roses of deep hue that we occasionally find; the Martin Luthers, St. Pauls, Chrysostoms, Wyckliffes, Latimers, and Samuel Rutherfords. What in other men is a spark, in them is a conflagration. When they sweat, they sweat great drops of blood. When they pray, their prayer takes fire. When they preach, it is a Pentecost. When they fight, it is a Thermopylae. When they die, it is a martyrdom.

4. In this garden of the Church I also find the snowdrop, beautiful but cold-looking, seemingly another phase of winter. I mean those Christians who are precise in their tastes, unimpassioned, pure as snowdrops and as cold.

5. But I have not told you of the most beautiful flower of all this garden. If you see a century plant your emotions are started. You say, “Why, this flower has been a hundred years gathering up for one bloom, and it will be a hundred years more before other petals will come out. But I have to tell you of a plant that was Gathering up from all eternity, and that nineteen hundred years ago put forth its bloom never to wither. It is the passion plant of the Cross!

II. The Church is a place OF SELECT FRUITS. The coarser fruits are planted in the orchard or they are set out on the sunny hillside; but the choicest fruits are kept in the garden. So in the world outside the Church, Christ has planted a great many beautiful things--patience, charity, generosity, integrity; but He intends the choicest fruits to be in the garden, and, if they are not there, then shame on the Church. Religion is not a mere sentimentality. It is a practical, life-giving, healthful fruit--not posies, but apples. The Church of Christ is a glorious garden and it is full of fruit. I know there is some poor fruit in it; but are you going to destroy the whole garden because of a little gnarled fruit? There is no grander, nobler collection in all the earth than the collection of Christians.

III. The Church is the place of THOROUGH IRRIGATION. No garden could prosper long without plenty of water. I have seen a garden in the midst of a desert, yet blooming and luxuriant. All around was dearth and barrenness; but there were pipes, aqueducts, reaching from this garden up to the mountains, and through those aqueducts the water came streaming down and tossing up into beautiful fountains, until every root and leaf and flower was saturated. That is like the Church. The Church is a garden in the midst of a great desert of sin and suffering; but it is well irrigated. From the mountains of God’s strength there flow down rivers of gladness. Preaching the Gospel is one of the aqueducts. The Bible is another. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are aqueducts. Everything comes from above; pardon, joy, adoption, sanctification. (T. De Witt Talmage.)


Verse 13-14

Isaiah 58:13-14

If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath

Sabbath observance a Godward duty

If the true fast (Isaiah 58:3-7) typifies the Israelite’s duties towards his neighbour, the Sabbath represents his duties towards God.
(
Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

Turning the foot from the Sabbath

“If thou turnest thy foot away from the Sabbath” is equivalent to saying, “ If thou dost not tread its holy ground with the foot of week-day work.” (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

The Sabbath day

We shall consider the words of the text--

I. WITH REGARD TO THE JEWS. With that view we shall state--

1. The reasons for the institution of the Sabbath.

2. The manner in which the prophet required it to be celebrated.

3. The promises made to those who worthily hallow the Sabbath day.

II. WITH REGARD TO CHRISTIANS.

1. Are Christians obliged to observe a day of rest?

2. Is that day celebrated with all the sanctity it requires? (J. Saurin.)

The institution of the Sabbath

Four considerations gave occasion for the institution of the Sabbath day.

1. God was wishful to perpetuate two original truths on which the whole evidence of religion devolves; the first is, that the world had a beginning; the second, that God is its Author.

2. The second reason was to prevent idolatry. This remark claims peculiar attention, many of the Mosaic precepts being founded on the situation in which the Jews were placed. Let this general remark be applied to the subject in hand. The people, on leaving Egypt, “were separated, from a nation that worshipped” the sun, the moon, and the stars. The ancient

Egyptians,’ says Diodorus of Sicily, “struck with the beauty of the universe, thought it owed its origin to two eternal dignities, that presided over all the others: the one was the sun, to whom they gave the name of Osiris; the other was the moon, to whom they gave the name of Isis.” Cod, to preserve His people from these errors, instituted a festival which sapped the whole system, and which avowedly contemplated every creature of the universe as the production of the Supreme Being. And this may be the reason why Moses remarked to the Jews, on leaving Egypt, that God renewed the institution of the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:15).

3. God was wishful to promote humanity.

4. In a word, the design of God, in the institution of the Sabbath, was to recall to the minds of men the recollection of their original equality: he requires masters and servants alike to abstain from labour, so as in some sort to confound the diversity of their conditions, and to abate that pride, of which superior rank is so common a source. (J. Saurin.)

Sabbath observance

I. THE DUTY is thus stated: “ If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath,” etc.

1. This, then, is the first point to be noticed with respect to the observance of the Sabbath. It is, says God, “My holy day,” the day which I have hallowed for Myself, which I have reserved for My own. We are no more at liberty to determine for ourselves how we will employ the Sabbath, than the Israelites were at liberty to determine for themselves to what uses they would put the tabernacle, or the temple, which had been built and sanctified for God, according to His direction and for His own peculiar service; and, by regarding any of the Sabbath hours as being at our own disposal, we are guilty of the same profanation with which the Jews would have been chargeable, had they determined to do their pleasure with respect to the uses which they would make of God’s holy habitation, respecting which He had said, “This is My rest for ever: here will I dwell.”

2. Let us suppose, then, that we have turned away our foot from trampling upon God’s day, by consulting our own will and inclination as to the way in which we employ it, and are wishing and waiting to know what is the will of God concerning it. The text thus proceeds: “And call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable.” To call anything is to give it a name corresponding with its nature, or to describe it by its qualities. We are to call the Sabbath “a delight;” or are to call “the holy of the Lord,” i.e the holy day of the Lord, “honourable.” Here, then, are two properties of the Sabbath, two points of view in which we are to regard it. It should be so distinguished from other days by the peculiar delight which it affords, as well as by the pre-eminent dignity with which it is invested.

3. The honour to be paid to the Sabbath is our part: the delight to be found in the Sabbath is God’s part. And the text proceeds to show that if we honour His day, God will surely keep His promise of making it a delight. Let us, then, carefully consider the way in which we should “honour the Sabbath. What is said to be “ore” own is evidently distinguished from what belongs to the Sabbath. It comprehends whatever we have to do, or to delight in, which appertains to the six days’ work from which God ceased, and which He had ended on the seventh day, in contradistinction to what appertains to the seventh day which God set apart and sanctified and blessed. There is, therefore, no reference in these words to sinful ways, or to unlawful pleasures; but to the appointed duties and allowed delights of the six days which God has given to us for these purposes. Heaven--the rest which remaineth for the people of God--is described in the Epistle to the Hebrews as a Sabbath-keeping, a Sabbath-rest. The Sabbath is a figure of that blessed and holy state. “Our own ways and pleasures,” then, are those which belong to this lower creation; and which we shall have done with when we depart out of the world; and for these things six days are given to us. The things of the Sabbath are all such things as shall be perfected and enjoyed for ever in that city of Cod, in those courts above, where Sabbaths never end. These remarks will furnish us with a practical rule for determining what may be done and what may not be done on the Sabbath day. Where there is the “single eye,” that is, the simple aim, to do the will of God, all doubts will be readily solved and difficulties disappear, and the duty he made plain by asking such questions as these: Is this secular work necessary for the supply of our daily wants, for the relief of suffering nature, for the accomplishing the will and service of God? Is it indispensable to these ends that it should be done, and done on the Sabbath day? If, in the conscientious exercise of an enlightened judgment, we decide in the affirmative, then we may do such necessary things with confidence and comfort. But, even in these things, care must be exercised that they do not interfere, beyond the just and reasonable limits of necessity, and charity, with the appropriate “duties” and employments of the day. Not finding their own pleasure. Pleasure is here evidently contrasted with business, God has given to us not only our six days labour and work, but also our six days gratifications and sources of enjoyment. There are the delights of earth, as well as the duties of earth. There is Nature, with all her various works. There are also the pleasures of literature, in all their vast and various extent. There is, further, the enjoyment of social intercourse, and an almost countless number of modes of refreshment, for both body and mind, which God would have us to use, as opportunity is given and need may be, to invigorate us for the more serious employments of the head or the hands. But these are “our own pleasure;” and this we are not to find on God’s holy day. Mark the expression, “not finding thine own pleasure.” In order to “find,” we seek. “Our own pleasure “ may casually come in our way; but we must not look for it, endeavour after it, or pursue it as our object, in any manner or measure upon the Sabbath. The pleasures which we must endeavour on this day to “find must be such as are not of earthly origin or of man’s invention, but such as will endure when the world shall be no more, and will furnish a part of the business and the bliss of the Christian’s happy and eternal home. Further, “not speaking (thine own) words.” “Thine own,” here, is in italics; it is inserted by the translators, and only encumbers the passage. The meaning is, not doing thine own ways, not finding thine own pleasure, “nor speaking words;” that is, not speaking words concerning thine own ways and thine own pleasure.

II. To such AN OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH A SPECIAL PROMISE IS MADE. “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.” If we make the Sabbath a holy day, God will make it a happy day. In the application of this promise to ourselves, we must suppose and take it for granted that we are reconciled to God. Then, in the very measure in which we honour the Sabbath, God will make the duties and employments of the day channels of joy and peace and sacred pleasure to the soul. And I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, etc. This is a promise of national prosperity and temporal advancement, with a confirmation of the blessing pronounced by Isaac upon Jacob and his posterity. And, although these were shadows of better things to the Christian Church, and the fulfilment of this promise is now to be looked for in spiritual and eternal blessings, yet it has frequently been testified, on observation and experience, that a holy Sabbath has been followed by a happy week; and, when we honour God’s holy day, we shall not fail to find that His blessing still rests upon it. (T. Best, M. A.)

Early English law an the Sabbath

In almost the earliest, if not the earliest, code of English law--the laws of Enach, King of Wessex--there was a provision made for the observance of Sunday. According to these laws if a slave was forced by his master to work upon Sunday, he was by that very fact set free, and the lord had to pay a fine. If the slave worked by his own will and without the direction of his lord, he was subjected to corporal chastisement, and if a freeman worked on the Holy Day he became a slave. He lost his freedom, or else he had to pay what, at that time, was the almost impossible fine of sixty shillings. Now that law at the very beginning of English legislation may have had very much to do with the position that the Anglo-Saxon race has taken in the world. According to the promise of this old prophet the word of the Lord has said, “I will make thee to ride upon the high places of the earth if thou keepest the Sabbath day.” (R. F. Horton.)

The Sabbath a rest form self

I suppose the essence of this Christian Sabbath was never more perfectly described than in the words of the prophet.

1. The first principle of the Christian Sabbath is that there should be one day in the week on which we are not doing our own ways, nor finding our own pleasure, nor speaking our own words, that is to say, the Christian Sabbath is not to be, like the civic Sunday, rest from work, important as that may be, but it is a rest from self, which is all-important, and is, indeed, the creation and the preservation of the spiritual in man. It is a rest from self, not to speak our own words on that day, not to take our own pleasures, not to adopt our own way. I think we see what is meant if we put it in this way. Our life as men is literally rooted in God, and its health depends on our knowing it and recognizing it.

2. Now, when we have recognized that this is the purpose of the day we still have to consider how that purpose is best accomplished. According to the practice of the Old Testament, and, apparently according to the intention of the New, the sanctuary, the place of public worship, is the means by which that can be accomplished.

3. I think we ought to honestly face the question which is often raised at the present time, whether the life I am describing cannot be maintained without the sanctuary. Men say frequently to-day that they find they can really worship better in their own homes, and still more in the open country, than in the assembly of the house of God. Now, the only danger I see in that position is that by the very necessity of the ease it violates the first requirement of the Sabbath as it is here stated. You stay at home in your house or you go out into the country on Sunday. In doing that you are going your own way, you are seeking your own pleasure, you are following your own bent--that is to say, you are violating the very principle on which this Sabbath rests. And it does not seem very improbable that when you have violated the very principle at the beginning you will succeed in recovering it at the end. (R. F. Horton.)

A Sabbath-week

Common-sense must tell us that no man who is going his own way, finding his own pleasure, and speaking his own words, for six days in the week, will abstain from them on the seventh. The devotion, the obedience, and forgetfulness of self which should mark the devout worshipper on Sunday, must be his companions all the week through. And the exercise of those graces through the week must be our habitual preparation for the Lord’s Day. So that, in fact, the teaching of the prophet amounts to this--that the true servant of God will at no time do his own ways, find his own pleasure, or speak his own words, where ways, pleasure, or words will not be such as God would love to look upon. The Christian will seek God’s grace, that in all things he may follow the example of his Lord, who declared, “I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” I appeal to your own hearts and consciences, to what you know of yourselves or have seen in others, whether any good has ever come to any of us, from going our own way, finding our own pleasure, speaking our own words? (R. E. Paget, D. D.)

“Thine own ways”

His supposed that Isaiah required the Jews to keep what has been called a Puritanical Sabbath. I believe that this is a complete misconception of the prophet’s meaning. Their “own ways,” which the people were forbidden to follow on the Sabbath, were the common secular labours of the week. Doing their own pleasure” has no reference to recreation or amusement. Some translators render it doing their “own business;” but it probably means here, as it constantly means elsewhere, doing “what they liked.” Luther translates it admirably, doing their “own will.” They were to spend the Sabbath, as God had commanded them, in rest; they were not at liberty to follow their own inclination by carrying on their ordinary trade. Their “own words, which they were not to speak on the Sabbath, were the words in which their business was transacted; words which, like the business itself, belonged to the other days of the week. What the prophet forbids on the seventh day is what the Commandment forbids--not pleasure, but work. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Rabbinical prohibitions

The stricter Rabbinical schools built upon this general prohibition of all work innumerable minute precepts, many of which are so grotesque that to quote them would be to answer no other purpose than to amuse. One ingenious commentator, who happily appears to have had only a very few disciples, insisted that as it was a duty to rest from the beginning to the end of the Sabbath, all muscular exertion was sinful; and that, therefore, strict fidelity to the Commandment required that a man should remain during all the twenty-four hours of the Sabbath in exactly the same position, without moving a limb or a finger, a kind of “rest which must have been very much more exhausting than hard work.” (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

The Sabbath compared to the best room of the house

1. Every house of any consideration has in it a best room. It is usually the largest in the house, and the most comely. It usually is furnished with the choicest things which the owner can afford, and represents the best outward estate of his household. Here is the best carpet. Here are the best colours. Here is the best furniture. Here are hung the best pictures. Here are the chairs burnished and covered. And here, it may be, is the sofa, luxurious with extra springs. The few choice treasures are put upon the mantelpiece, or on some corner shelf. Whatever there is that stands apart from common uses by being a little better the parlour receives. And this room is scrupulously kept--too scrupulously, often. All festive occasions are celebrated in it. It is the room of honour. It is here that we devote ourselves to our company when we would show them hospitality. It stands in the house as a perpetual reminder of beauty--what little beauty we can command; of hospitality--so much as we are able to exercise of it; of superiority. A best room is not simply an emblem of vanity, as cynics would say. To have a room which has in it choice things, is rather the unconscious inspiration of ideality, it is a desire to maintain it in the household; and it is a silent but real influence for refinement and for higher living.

2. It is a sad thing to see a person or a family that makes one day just like another; that does not care to make one day better than any of the others; that regards all things as good enough. On a low level, it is a moral influence that leads one to desire to dress better on some occasions than on others, and to spread a better table on some occasions than on others. It is aspiration in one of its lower forms. How, what the parlour is to the house, the Jewish Sabbath and its substitute, the Christian’s Lord’s Day, were meant to be to the week. The week is a house, and Sunday is the best room in it, and it ought to have the best things put into it, and it ought to be kept religiously; and it is to exercise upon all our time just the same unconscious influence, or conscious influence, as the case may be, which a well-prepared and well-kept parlour does invariably exercise upon all the occupants of the house. Every week was to have its parlour day. It was to be a day that should be looked up to by the young and the old as the best day of the week. In other words, it was to be “a delight.” It was to be “honourable,” and so, memorable. (H. W. Beecher.)

And call the Sabbath a delight

The luxury of the Sabbath

The word is a strong one, Delight, Delicacy, Luxury. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

The Sabbath a delight

I. POINT OUT A FEW PARTICULARS “WILL THE TRUE BELIEVER ESTEEMS AND CALLS THE SABBATH A DELIGHT shewing at the same time why the natural man should find no delight, at least no holy delight, in that day.

1. Because it brings with it a cessation and rest from worldly cares.

2. Because on that day he hopes to learn much in the school of Christ.

3. Because of that holy communion which it allows with the people of God.

4. Because of the remembrances which that day brings with it. On the Sabbath God rested from His work. On the Sabbath, how many of our Saviour’s gracious miracles were wrought! On the Sabbath, how many spiritual miracles doth He still work! On our Sabbath day it was that our Lord burst the bonds of death. Is not here matter of pleasurable meditation? Salvation is finished; and man restored to the favour and presence and image of God I

5. Because it is a type and foretaste of the heavenly rest--of the eternal Sabbath.

II. SHOW HOW WE MAY EMPLOY IT SO AS TO MAKE IT MOST DELIGHTFUL. By giving the whole day to God, so far as possibly can be done, in spiritual exercises. (C. Neale, M. A.)

The brightest of days

We are to find in this day--

1. The joy of healthy repose.

2. The joy of domestic reunion and consecration.

3. The joy of eternal Sabbatism. (T. De W, Talmage, D. D.)

The Sabbath a delight

The day of worship should be a day of gladness.

1. It brings rest from the toils and cares of the week. From the dust; and the sweat, the grime and the languor, I shake myself free for a while. I reach an oasis, with palm-trees and a well, in my pilgrimage through the deserts. I sit down under God’s shadow.

2. It invites to the noblest exercises and employments. Mind and heart, lips and soul and all my nature, unite in prayer, in praise, in the study and contemplation of the things which are unseen and eternal. There is no work on earth to compare with it.

3. It introduces to the communion of souls. I go up to God’s house in company with many others. I realize that I am not alone, that I am a member of a brotherhood and family, that all around me are kindred souls. It is a thought that brings me strength, and that satisfies my love.

4. It lifts me into the presence of my Lord--Father, and Son, and Spirit. I dwell in His sanctuary. I hearken to His voice. I feel His quickening and invigorating touch. I receive afresh His baptism and unction. Behold, God is in this place, and it is for me the gate of heaven. (A. Smellie, M. A.)

The Sabbath a delight

“If thou tallest the Sabbath a delight,” because it leads thee to God; not “a burden,” because it leads thee from thine everyday life (Amos 8:5). (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

The Sabbath a festive time

“It is a festival time for man’s higher nature in communion with the unseen. As the tired eye, which has been strained by long and close application to some work near at hand, rests itself by gazing on the far horizons or the stars, so there is a rest in lifting thought from the near and the lower objects which too often engross us, and fixing it upon the unseen and eternal. This is, perhaps, the grand reason for our Saviour’s own comment: “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)

Honourable

The Sabbath made “honourable”

When do we make the Sabbath an “honourable,” glorious day?

1. When we make honourable preparation for it.

2. When we give it honourable entertainment.

3. When we have a precious esteem of every moment of Sabbath time, and are jealous lest any drop of it should run waste.

4. When we have a singular esteem of all the institutions and ordinances of the day.

5. When it is the grief of our souls that we can keep Sabbaths no better, and we strive cordially and conscientiously to keep the next better than we did the last. (T. Case, M. A.)

Nor speaking thine own words

Sabbath-speaking

“Nor speaking thine own words.” “Talking talk.” (J. A. Alexander.)

Useless words,

Useless words, void of meaning, and of needless number: the phrase, as in Hosea 10:4, is here applied to unspiritual gossip and bombast. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

Speech rest on Sunday

Hitzig on this passage remarks that “the law regarding the Sabbath has here already received the Jewish addition, that ‘speaking is work. “ But from the promise that God’s Sabbath-rest was a rest from His speaking the creative words (Psalms 33:6), the only conclusion drawn was that one must rest on the Sabbath, in a certain measure, from speaking as well as working; and when Rabbi Simon ben Jochai called to his talkative old mother on the Sabbath, “Sabbath-keeping is called silence,” this was not meant to be understood as if speaking in itself were working, and all speaking on the Sabbath was therefore forbidden. The Rabbinical explanation of the present passage is as follows: “Let not thy speaking on the Sabbath be the same as that on working days. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

Better for the Sunday rest

Scientists say that telegraph wires are better conductors on Monday than on Saturday, on account of their Sunday rest. The well-proved fact that human beings profit by a weekly rest-day emphasizes the protest of Christian people against the secularization of the Sabbath. (Christian Budget.)


Verse 14

Isaiah 58:14

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord

Delighting in God

I.
WHAT IS IMPLIED IN DELIGHTING OURSELVES IN THE LORD.

1. A contemplation of His infinite and adorable perfections; such a contemplation as to derive the highest satisfaction from them; to see in them all that is amiable and lovely.

2. A well-grounded hope of interest in Him; for though this is not the primary, it is a subordinate ground of the believer’s joy, and one of unspeakable importance.

3. Communion with God in holy duties.

4. A sanctified use of all our common mercies, receiving them as His gift, and esteeming them on that account.

5. Contentment in Him, even in the absence of every other good.

6. Delighting in God is accompanied with the cheering prospect of being for ever with Him.

II. VIEW SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES ARISING FROM THIS HEAVENLY STATE OF MIND. Delighting ourselves in the Lord will weaken the influence of sin, and strengthen all the Christian graces. It will be an antidote against fretfulness and discontent, carnality and worldly-mindedness, presumption and self-confidence. It will confirm our faith, inflame our love, and brighten our hopes and prospects. Communion with God disarms our spiritual enemies, or secures us from their attack. It is of eminent use in all the parts of practical religion. It makes active in doing, and steadfast in suffering the will of God; it infuses life into our prayers and praises, and causes us to come with boldness and cheerfulness to the house and table of the Lord. Sorrow and dejection enfeeble the mind; but the joy of the Lord is our strength. The joys of religion will convert this miserable world into a little heaven, and make the Church militant resemble the Church triumphant above, where there are do mourning garments, no dejected countenances, or hearts consumed with grief. (B. Beddome, M. A.)

Duty the road to prosperity

I. DELIGHT IN THE LORD IS CONNECTED WITH THE OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH.

II. TRUE PROSPERITY DEPENDS UPON OBEDIENCE TO DIVINE COMMAND.

III. THERE CAN BE NO PERMANENT PROSPERITY APART FROM MORALITY. (Homiletic Review.)

Riding over the heights

The meaning is, “I will carry thee triumphantly over all obstacles” (Deuteronomy 32:11). (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 58:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/isaiah-58.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, May 24th, 2019
the Fifth Week after Easter
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