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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Isaiah 33

 

 

Verses 1-24

SECTION X. A PROPHECY OF JUDGMENT ON ASSYRIA (Isaiah 33:1-24.).

EXPOSITION

Isaiah 33:1-6

THE JUDGMENT ON ASSYRIA AND DELIVERANCE OF JERUSALEM, STATED GENERALLY. Events had progressed since the preceding prophecies were delivered. The negotiations carried on with Sennacherib had been futile (Isaiah 33:7), the heavy fine imposed and paid (2 Kings 18:14) had been of no avail (Isaiah 33:18); the Assyrian monarch was still dissatisfied, and threatened a second siege. Already he was upon his march, spoiling and ravaging (Isaiah 33:1). The people of the country districts had removed into the town (Isaiah 33:8)—in a little time the vast host might be expected to appear before the walls. All was terror, grief, and confusion. Under these circumstances, Isaiah is once more commissioned to declare the approaching discomfiture of the mighty conqueror, and deliverance of Jerusalem out of his hand (verses 3, 4). The deliverance ushers in a reign of righteousness (Verses 5, 6).

Isaiah 33:1

Woe to thee that spoilest. The "spoiler" is here, evidently, Assyria—the world-power of this entire group of prophecies (see especially Isaiah 30:31; Isaiah 31:8), and the greatest "spoiler" of Isaiah's time. Thou wast not spoiled; i.e. "that hast not yet been spoiled thyself." A covert threat is conveyed in the words. And dealest treacherously; rather, usest violence (compare the comment on Isaiah 21:2). When thou shalt cease to spoil, etc. Conquering nations cannot with safety pause on their career. Their aggressions have roused so many enmities that, let them cease to attack, and at once they are attacked in their turn. Every man's baud is against the spoiler whose hand has been against every man.

Isaiah 33:2

O Lord, etc. The mingling of prayer with prophecy is very unusual, and indicative of highly excited feeling. Isaiah realizes fully the danger of his people and nation, and knows that without prayer there is no deliverance. His prayer is at once an outpouring of his own heart, and an example to others. We have waited for thee (comp. Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 26:8). Their Am; i.e. "the Arm of thy people." Every morning. Continually, day by day, since their need of thy support is continual.

Isaiah 33:3

At the noise of the tumult the people fled; rather, the peoples; i.e. the contingents from many nations which made up the huge army of Sennacherib. The "noise" is that caused by God "lifting up himself" (comp. Psalms 29:3-9).

Isaiah 33:4

Your spoil shall be gathered. The "spoiling" of Assyria would commence with the discomfiture of the great host. In the historical narrative (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36) nothing is said of it; but, beyond a doubt, when the host was to a largo extent destroyed, and the remainder fled, there must have been an enormous booty left behind, which the enemies of the Assyrians would naturally seize. A further spoiling of the fugitives probably followed; and, the prestige of the great king being gone, marauding bands would probably on all sides ravage the Assyrian territory. Like the gathering of the caterpillar. The "caterpillar" (khasil) is probably the grub out of which the locust develops—a very destructive insect. Shall he run. It would be better to render, shall they run. The word, indeed, is in the singular; but it is used distributively, of the various spoilers.

Isaiah 33:5

The Lord is exalted. His destruction of the Assyrian host is an exaltation of God; i.e. it causes him to be exalted in the thoughts of those who have cognizance of the fact (comp. Exodus 15:14-16; Psalms 96:3-10, etc.). It is an indication to them that he has his dwelling on high, and is the true King of heaven. He hath filled Zion with judgment, etc. (comp. Isaiah 32:15-17). The destruction is, in part, the result, in part the cause, of the Jews once more turning to God, putting away their iniquities, and establishing the reign of justice and righteousness in the land (see Isaiah 1:26).

Isaiah 33:6

Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times; literally, and the stability of thy times shall be (i.e. consist in) a rich store of salvations, wisdom, and knowledge. The prophet here addresses the people of Judah in the second person, though in the next clause he reverts to the third. Such transitions are common in ancient compositions, and especially characterize the writings of Isaiah. The fear of the Lord is his treasure; i.e. the wisdom intended is that which is based upon "the fear of the Lord" (Psalms 111:10). This will be at once Judah's "treasure," and a guarantee of stability to her government and institutions (compare the Homiletics on Isaiah 32:15-17).

Isaiah 33:7-12

THE PROPHET ENTERS FURTHER INTO PARTICULARS. Having "sketched the main outlines of his revelation," Isaiah proceeds to "fill in and apply the details" (Cheyne). He first describes the despair and low condition of Judah: the men of war wailing aloud; the ambassadors just returned kern Laehish weeping at the ill success of their embassy; all travelling stopped; the land wasted and made a desert; the Assyrians still ravaging and destroying, despite the peace which had been made (2 Kings 18:14-16). Then suddenly he sees Jehovah rousing himself (verse 10), and the Assyrians con-stoned, as if with a fire (verses 11, 12).

Isaiah 33:7

Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without. "Their lion-hearts "(Cheyne); "heroes" (Delitzsch). Literally, lions of God (comp. Isaiah 29:1). They raise a cry of mourning in the streets, with child-like effusiveness (comp. Herod; 8:99; 9:24). The ambassadors of peace. Hezekiah probably sent several embassies to Sennacherib in the course of the war. One went to Lachish, offering submission, in B.C. 701 (2 Kings 18:14); another to Nineveh, with tribute and presents, in the same or the following year. A third probably sought to deprecate Sennacherib's auger, when he made his second invasion (2 Kings 18:17) in B.C. 699 (?). These last would seem to be the "ambassadors" of this verse.

Isaiah 33:8

The highways lie waste {croup. 5:6). The meaning is that' they were unoccupied. Fear of the Assyrians restrained men from travelling. He hath broken the covenant. Sennacherib, when he accepted the sum of money sent him by Hezekiah, must have consented to leave him unmolested for the future. But in a very short time we find him, apparently without any reasonable pretext, sending a fresh expedition against Jerusalem, requiring it to be admitted within the walls, and even threatening the city with destruction (2 Kings 18:17-35; 2 Kings 19:10-13). Isaiah, therefore, taxes him with having broken his covenant. Despised cities. "Sennacherib," says Delitzsch, "continued to storm the fortified places of Judah, in violation of his agreement." Regardeth no man; i.e. "pays no attention to the protests that are made against his infraction of the treaty—does not care what is said or thought of him."

Isaiah 33:9

The earth mourneth; rather, the land. Lebanon is … hewn down; rather, as in the margin, is withered away (comp. Isaiah 19:6). Lebanon, Sharon, Carmel, and Bashan are the four most beautiful regions of the Holy Land, taking the word in its widest extent. Lebanon is the northern mountain-range, one hundred and twenty miles in length, clad with cedars and firs, and generally crowned with snow, whence the name (from laban, white). Sharon is "the broad rich tract of land" which stretches southwards from the foot of Carmel, and melts into the Shefelah, noted for its flowers (Song of Solomon 2:1) and forests (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 14.13, § 3). Carmel is the upland dividing Sharon from the Esdraelon plain, famous for its "rocky dells" and "deep jungles of copse." Finally, Bashan is the trans-Jordanic upland, stretching from the flanks of Hermon to Gilead, celebrated for its "high downs" and "wide-sweeping plains," for its "forests of oak," and in ancient times for its herds of wild cattle. All are said to be "waste," "withered," and the like, partly on account of the Assyrian ravages, but perhaps still more as sympathizing with the Jewish nation in their distress—"ashamed" for them, and clad in mourning on their account. Shake off their fruits; rather, perhaps, shake down their leaves. Mr. Cheyne conjectures that the prophecy was delivered in autumn.

Isaiah 33:10

Now will I rise. Judah's extremity is Jehovah's opportunity. "Now" at length the time is come for God to show himself, tic will rise from his throne, and actively display his power; he will exalt himself above the heathen—lift himself up above the nations.

Isaiah 33:11

Ye shall conceive chaff. The Assyrian plans against Jerusalem shall be mere "chaff" and "stubble." They shall come to naught. Nay, the fury of the foe against Jerusalem shall be the fire to destroy them.

Isaiah 33:12

The people; rather, the peoples, as in Isaiah 33:3; i.e. the nations composing the Assyrian army. As the burnings of lime; as thorns. Things that fire consumes utterly and quickly.

Isaiah 33:13-24

REFLECTIONS ON ASSYRIA'S OVERTHROW VIEWED AS ACCOMPLISHED. The prophet's first thought is, how wonderfully the overthrow has manifested the might of God (Isaiah 33:13). Next, how it must thrill with fear the hearts of the wicked among his people (Isaiah 33:14). Thirdly, how the righteous are by it placed in security, and can look back with joy to their escape, and can with confidence look forward to a future of happiness and tranquil lily (Isaiah 33:15-24). Messianic ideas intermingle with these latter thoughts (Isaiah 33:17, Isaiah 33:23), the image of a happy, tranquil Judah melting into that of Messiah's glorious kingdom.

Isaiah 33:13

Hear, ye that are far off, etc. Jehovah speaks by the mouth of his prophet, and calls on the nations of the earth, far and near, to consider and acknowledge his might, as shown in his judgment on Assyria (comp. Exodus 15:14-16).

Isaiah 33:14

The sinners in Zion are afraid. The prophet proceeds to speak in his own person. The judgment on Assyria, he says, cannot but strike terror into the hearts of the immoral and irreligious in Zion. They cannot fail to realize their own danger, and to tremble at it. Who among us, they will say, can dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? They will recognize God as "a consuming Fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24), whose next outbreak may be upon themselves, and will shudder at the prospect.

Isaiah 33:15

He that walketh righteously, etc. The prophet answers the question which he has supposed to be asked. None can endure the revelation of the presence of God but the holy and the upright—"he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully" (Psalms 24:4; comp. Psalms 15:2-5). Uprightness is then explained as consisting in six things mainly—

We may compare with this summa, y those of the Psalms above quoted. No enumeration is complete, or intended to be complete. Isaiah's has special reference to the favorite sins of the time—injustice (Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 5:23), oppression (Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:12, Isaiah 3:14; Isaiah 5:7; etc.), the receiving of bribes (Isaiah 1:23; Hosea 4:18; Micah 3:11), and bloodshed (Isaiah 1:15, Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 59:3).

Isaiah 33:16

He shall dwell on high; literally, inhabit heights—live, as it were, in the perpetual presence of God. His place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks; rather, strongholds of rocks (i.e. rocky strongholds) shall be his refuge. He shall fly to God, as his "Rock and his Fortress" (Psalms 18:2), not from him, as his "Enemy and Avenger" (Pc. Isaiah 8:2). Bread … waters; i.e. all that is necessary for his support and sustenance. Shall be given himshall be sure; rather, is given him is sure. Godliness has "the promise of the life that now is," as well as that of the life "which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:8).

Isaiah 33:17

Thine eyes. Another transition. Here from the third person to the second, the prophet now addressing those righteous ones of whom he has been speaking in the two preceding verses. Shall see the King in his beauty. The Messianic King, whoever he might be, and whenever he might make his appearance. It has been said that beauty is not predicated of the heavenly King (Cheyne); but Zechariah 9:17; Psalms 45:2.; and Canticles, passim, contradict this assertion. "How great is his beauty;" "Thou art fairer than the children of men;" "His mouth is most sweet; yea, he is altogether lovely." The land that is very far off; literally, the land of far distances. Bishop Lowth renders, "Thine own land far extended," and so Delitzsch and Mr. Cheyne. But if "the King" is Messianic, so doubtless is "the land"—the world-wide tract over which Messiah will reign (Revelation 21:1).

Isaiah 33:18

Thine heart shall meditate terror; i.e. "thou shalt look back upon the past time of terror, the dreadful period of the siege, and contrast it with thy present happiness." Mr. Cheyne quotes as an illustration, appositely enough, Virgil's "Et haec olim meminisse juvabit." Where is the scribe … the receiver? …. he that counted the towers? Where now are the Assyrian officials—the scribe, who registered the amount of the tribute and booty; the receiver, who weighed the gold and silver carefully in a balance; and the engineer officer who surveyed the place to be besieged, estimated its strength, and counted its towers? All have perished or have fled away in dismay.

Isaiah 33:19

Thou shalt not see a fierce people, etc.; rather, thou shalt see no more that barbarous people—the Assyrians—a people gruff of speech that thou canst not hear them, stammering of tongue that thee caner not understand them (comp. Isaiah 28:11). The generation which witnessed the destruction of Sennacherib's army probably did not see the Assyrians again. It was not till about B.C. 670 that Manasseh was "taken with hooks by the captains of the King of Assyria, and carried to Babylon" (2 Chronicles 33:11).

Isaiah 33:20

Look upon Zion, etc.; i.e. turn thy thoughts, O Judah, from the past to the present—from the time of the siege to the time after the siege terminated. The city of our solemnities; or, of our festal meetings; the city where we celebrate our Passovers, our Feasts of Weeks, our Feasts of Ingathering, and the like. A tent that shall not be taken down. There is, perhaps, a reference to Sennacherib's threat to remove the entire population from Jerusalem to a far country (Isaiah 36:19). This threat should not take effect. Not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed. By "the stakes" are meant "the tent-pegs," to which the ropes are fastened which keep the tent firm (comp. Exodus 27:10; Exodus 38:18, Exodus 38:31; 4:21). The promise that they shall "never" be removed must be understood either as conditional on the people's walking uprightly (Isaiah 33:15), or as a promise of a long continuance merely.

Isaiah 33:21

But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a Place of broad rivers; rather, there in majesty the Lord is ours; [the Lord who is] a Place of broad rivers, etc. Some critics think that "a place of broad rivers" may be exegetical of sham, "there," and so apply it to Jerusalem; but the majority regard the phrase as applied directly to Jehovah. As he is "a Place to hide in" (Psalms 32:7; Psalms 119:114), so he may be "a Place of broad rivers," full, i.e. of refreshment and spiritual blessing. Wherein shall go no galley. The river of God's grace, which "makes glad the city of God, "shall bear no enemy on its surface, allow no invader to cross it.

Isaiah 33:23

Thy tacklings are loosed. The comparing of God to a river has led to the representation of Judah's enemies as warships (Isaiah 33:21). This causes Judah herself to be viewed as a ship—a badly appointed ship, which has to contend with one whose equipment is perfect. The prophet's thoughts have traveled back to the existing state of things. They could not well strengthen their mast; rather, they cannot hold firm the lower part of their mast. The mast had its lower extremity inserted into a hole in a cross-beam, and required to be kept in place by the ropes. If they were loose, it might slip out of the hole and fall overboard. They could not spread the sail; rather, they cannot spread the ensign. The ensign would seem to have been attached to the top of the mast. If the mast fell, it would no longer be spread out, so as to be seen. Then is the prey of a great spoil divided. The word "then" is emphatic. Now the disabled ship seems incapable of coping with its enemy. Then (after Assyria's overthrow) Judah will obtain an immense spoil (see Isaiah 33:4). Even the lame shall have their portion.

Isaiah 33:24

And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick. There shall be no sickness in the restored Jerusalem at least, no "sickness unto death." The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity. Once more the prophet floats off into Messianic anticipations.

HOMILETICS

Isaiah 33:6

The fear of the Lord, Judah's treasure.

The best treasure of a nation is a religious spirit. Judaea had been ravaged by the host of the Assyrians under Sennacherib, had had all her "fenced cities" taken (Isaiah 36:1), had been stripped of her most precious treasures in silver and gold by the rapacious king, and was left with an empty treasury, down-trodden vineyards, and fields unsown (2 Kings 19:19); but her best treasure still remained to her—she was rich in "the fear of the Lord." The fear of the Lord gave her

Isaiah 33:10

The opportuneness of God's judgments.

It is characteristic of Divine interpositions that they take place at the moment of greatest need. Isaac is on the point of being sacrificed when the angel calls to Abraham out of heaven (Genesis 22:10, Genesis 22:11). Elisha is compassed about with horsemen and chariots, and on the point of falling into his enemies' hands, when they are smitten with blindness (2 Kings 6:15-18). The Israelites are hemmed in between the Egyptians and the sea, and must perish on the morrow, when the waters are divided for them, and a way opened to them for escape (Exodus 14:10-22). More especially is the appropriateness of the time noticeable, when the interposition is in the shape of a judgment. Judgments are opportune doubly:

I. JUDGMENTS ARE OPPORTUNE WITH RESPECT TO THOSE ON WHOM THEY FALL. God is so merciful that he will not judge men "before the time," or until they have "filled up the measure of their iniquities." Hence it is the general rule that his enemies are at their greatest height of exaltation, and at the very acmé of their haughtiness and pride, when the fatal blow falls upon them. Assyria had reached the zenith of her greatness under Sennacherib in B.C. 700. He himself had reached a pitch of arrogance unknown to former kings (2 Kings 19:23, 2 Kings 19:24; 2 Kings 19:8), when the destroying angel went forth. So Nebuchadnezzar was stricken down at the height of his glory and his glorying (Daniel 4:29-33); and Haman had attained to the greatest elevation possible for a subject (Esther 5:11) when he was seized and hanged in front of his house. Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:21-23) is another instance; and so, perhaps, is Arius.

II. JUDGMENTS ARE OPPORTUNE WITH RESPECT TO THOSE WHOM THEY RELIEVE. Generally, though not always, a deliverance accompanies a judgment. God, when he "putteth down one, setteth up another." Hezekiah and the Jewish nation were delivered by the destruction of Sennacherib's host. Mordecai was saved when Haman suffered death. Alexander and the Catholics of Constantinople breathed again when Arius suddenly expired. The Church had rest when Galerius perished miserably. It is in their utmost need especially that God succors men, perhaps because they then turn to him with most sincerity, and offer their supplications to him with most earnestness. When they call to him "out of the depth," their need and their faith both plead for them, and he "hears their voice" (Psalms 130:1, Psalms 130:2).

Isaiah 33:17

The King in his beauty.

When Christ appeared on earth at his first coming, he "had no beauty that men should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2). Roughly clad and toil-worn, whatever the heavenly expression of his countenance, he did not strike men as beautiful, majestic, or even as "comely" (Isaiah 53:2). But at his second coming it will be different. St. John the Divine describes him as he saw him in vision: "In the midst of the seven candlesticks was one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength" Revelation 1:13-16). The description in Canticles is cast in a more terrene mould, but equally indicates a more than earthly beauty: "My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers; his lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely" (So Song of Solomon 5:10-16). The following adaptation by Dr. Pusey of the words of an ancient writer says all that can be said by unassisted human pen on a topic transcending man's power of thought or speech: "If we could ascend from the most beautiful form which the soul could here imagine, to the least glorious body of the beatified, on and on through the countless thousands of glorious bodies, compared wherewith heaven would be dark, and the sun lose its shining; and, yet more, from the most beautiful deified soul, as visible here, to the beauty of the disembodied soul, whose image would scarce be recognized … yea, let the God-enlightened soul go on and on, through all those choirs of the heavenly hierarchies, clad with the raiment of Divinity, from choir to choir, from hierarchy to hierarchy, admiring the order and beauty and harmony of the house of God; yea, let it, aided by Divine grace and light, ascend even higher, and reach the bound and term of all created beauty,—yet it must know that the Divine power and wisdom could create other creatures, far more perfect and beautiful than all which he hath hitherto created. Nay, let the highest of all the seraphs sum in one all the beauty by nature and grace and glory of all creatures, yet could it not be satisfied with that beauty, but must, because it was not satisfied with it, conceive some higher beauty. Were God forthwith, at every moment, to create that higher beauty at its wish, it could still conceive something beyond; for not being God, its beauty could not satisfy its conception. So let him still, and in hundred thousand, hundred thousand thousand years with swiftest flight of understanding, multiply continually those degrees of beauty, so that each fresh degree should ever double that preceding, and the Divine power should, with like swiftness, concur in creating that beauty, as in the beginning he said, 'Let there be light, and there was light;' after all these millions of years he would be again at the beginning, and there would be no comparison between it and the Divine beauty of Jesus Christ, God and Man. For it is the bliss of the finite not to reach the Infinite".

HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON

Isaiah 33:1-6

Jehovah a Refuge.

It is "Israel's extremity, but God's opportunity." Retribution is about to fall on Assyria; salvation and every resource is to be found in Jehovah.

I. WOE TO ASSYRIA. This land appears under the image of a rapacious spoiler. The time is about B.C. 700, and the allusion is to Sennacherib and his army, who had advanced on a plundering and destroying course. The tables are to be turned, and the greedy conqueror (of. 2 Kings 18:14, 2 Kings 18:15) was to become the object of other's greed in turn. Whether the words imply a complaint of unprovoked aggression and of perfidy is not clear. But to the prophetic eye in every age it is clear that empires founded upon force, fraud, and rapacity cannot endure; that they who take the sword will perish by the sword. It was the fate of Assyria to fall beneath the mightier powers of Media and Babylon.

II. THE ATTITUDE OF PRAYER AND TRUST. "O Jehovah, be gracious unto us! For thee have we waited." It is the attitude of calm confidence; it is the mood in which things distant and unseen are realized. Here the prophet sees what is improbable to the eye of worldly calculation—the downfall of the proudest power of the time. It is not less an energetic attitude—all the endeavor of the spirit straining after that highest point of view, where the confusions of the time fall into the unity of the Divine purpose. It is a seeming weak, yet really powerful, attitude; the foe trembles when he sees us on our knees. The arm of Jehovah is the symbol of strength, put forth in time of danger, interposing and delivering (cf. Exodus 15:16; Job 40:9; Psalms 44:3; Psalms 77:15; Psalms 89:21; Psalms 98:1). Not only in particular emergencies, but "every morning," i.e. constantly and evermore, may that arm be ours to lean upon, and we shall be strong and know no fear. And such is the effect of this act of prayer and contemplation, that already the symptoms of change are heard in the air. There is a confused sound in the distance, as of the roll of many waters; the people are rushing in flight. Jehovah is seen lifting himself up (cf. Numbers 10:35; Psalms 68:1), and a great rout of the nations ensues; and the conquerors are seen swarming down upon the spoils, as the caterpillars on their food.

III. THE ATTRIBUTES OF JEHOVAH AS THEY ARE REVEALED IN PROPHETIC THOUGHT, AS THEY ARE CONFIRMED BY HISTORIC EVENT.

1. His inviolable strength. He is secure; he is One who dwells in the height (Psalms 97:9). The heavens shall rather fall than he be dethroned, his dynasty over all nations come to an end.

2. His abundant resources of good. A chorus seems here to break forth in his praise. He has filled Zion with spiritual treasures, these being ever united with temporal blessings in the theocracy. Justice and righteousness. The effect of the temporal deliverance will be that men will turn to the Deliverer, and will walk in his ways and according to his laws (cf. Isaiah 30:22, etc.; Isaiah 31:6; Isaiah 32:15, etc.). Amidst the vicissitudes of these times, the people will have a principle of constancy. There will be "store of salvations" for every time of need in the religious "wisdom and knowledge" diffused among the people. Compare with this the picture of Hezekiah's reign (2 Kings 18:1-37.). In one word, the "treasure" of the nation wilt be the fear of Jehovah, i.e. true religion—in distinction from successful wars or commercial prosperity. Perhaps the love of material treasured on the part of the kings of Judah is indirectly rebuked. The true wealth of a people, as of an individual, must ever be the mass of its available wisdom and piety.—J.

Isaiah 33:7-12

The uprising of Jehovah.

I. HIS UPRISING IS A FIGURE OF PROVIDENTIAL INTERPOSITION. There are times when he seems to be still, seated, and looking on, and the course of events to defy his will (Isaiah 18:4). Men cry, "How long, O Lord? Awake, stir thyself up to deliver!" But he knows his own time; he is not a day too soon, nor too late. When the hour of providence has struck, the scene instantly changes. "Now will I rise; now I will lift up myself!" It is not for us to know the times and the seasons. Our part is to tarry, expect, work, and pray.

II. GOD UPRISES WHEN MAN IS CAST DOWN. The condition of the land seems hopeless and despairing. The lion-hearted heroes break down in weeping and lamentation, and. the messengers, bewailing the hard conditions of peace, keep them company. The scene is Oriental and passionate. The roads are deserted; the land at the mercy of a perfidious conqueror, who holds his promise in contempt. The land languishing in the wane of the year, and the falling leaves of Bashan and Carmel, seem silently to sympathize with human woe. Yet one word from the Eternal suffices to change the whole situation: it is a word of supreme contempt for all the machinations of man. Their conceptions are as "hay," their pretensions as "stubble," their furious breath as self-devouring fire; and in a great conflagration the people will perish. Worldly passions and worldly might, he that sitteth in the heavens derides; his word abolishes the proud, while it supports the humble.—J.

Isaiah 33:13-16

Living near to God.

Jehovah has uprisen; he has revealed his might in the destruction of the Assyrian host; he calls through the prophet upon all the nations to acknowledge him.

I. THE AWFULNESS OF GOD. We see it reflected from the horror-struck faces of the ungodly and the profane, He is indeed seen to be a "consuming Fire," having his "furnace in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 31:1-9 :19). And all the immoral and the unprincipled, the heedless and the worldly, feel themselves as fuel for his wrath—they whom the continual returns of the Word preached do not alter, so that their old sins remain firm, entire, and unbattered, the baseness of their inclinations unchanged, the levity of their discourse and behavior; those whose former distresses and disasters have not laid low in the valleys of humility, nor circumscribed the lashings out of their luxury; they whose past miseries and restraints give only a relish instead of a check to present pride and intemperance; those whom all the caresses of Providence have not been able to win upon, so as to endear them to a virtuous strictness, or deter them from a vicious extravagance;—all such—unless the great God be trivial and without concern in his grand transactions with our immortal souls—during this condition, so far as we can judge, are fashioning for wrath. "He is a probationer for hell, and carries about with him the desperate symptoms and plague-tokens of a person likely to be sworn against by God, and hastening apace to a sad eternity" (South).

II. DWELLING NEAR TO GOD. Who can endure the vicinity of this devouring Fire? Only they who have intrinsic spiritual worth, which when tried by fire will appear unto "praise and glory." "Only that which yields itself willingly to be God's organ can abide those flames (cf. on the burning bush, Exodus 3:2)." Of all else, like briars and thorns, the "end is to be burned" (Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 30:27). The fire ever burning on the altar (Le Isaiah 6:13) is the symbol of him in whose nature wrath and love unite; the wrath being the symptom of love, which must ever glow against evil. The answer to the question is given in the picture of the good man which follows; his character positively and negatively, his consequent security.

III. PICTURE OF TRUE PIETY.

1. Its completeness. He walks in "perfect righteousness." Not so the righteousness of "scribes and Pharisees," partial and imperfect, but rounded out to the full requirements of the Divine Law. The hypocrite "singles out some certain parts, which best suit his occasions and least thwart his corruptions." The proud or impure man may be liberal to the poor, may abhor lying and treachery, and may be ready in the fulfillment of duties which do not jostle his darling sin. But it "will not suffice to chop and change one duty for another; he cannot clear his debts by paying part of the great sum he owes" (South). To offend in one is to be guilty of all (James 2:10). The chain of duty is broken by the removal of a single link. "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments" (Psalms 119:6). It is not a handsome feature or a handsome limb which makes the handsome man, but the symmetry and proportion of all. So, not the practice of this or that virtue, but an entire complexion of all, can alone render a man righteous in the sight of God.

2. Its leading characteristics. It unites what human corruption is ever tending to dissever, religion and morality. It imitates the Father in heaven in the justice of his perfect Being. It rejects unjust gain, flings the bribe as a thing of pollution from the hand. It is abstinent from the greed of gold, that most downward and degrading vice, making the soul all earth and dirt, burying that noble thing which can never die." "Thou shalt not take a gift, because a gift blinds the eyes of the wise" (Deuteronomy 16:9; cf. 1 Samuel 12:3; Ecclesiastes 7:7). Covetousness is a thing directly contrary to the very spirit of Christianity; which is a free, a large, and an open spirit—open to God and man, and always carrying charity in one hand, and generosity in the other (South). It is exclusive in reference to evil, as inclusive in reference to good. The good man walks with ear and eye shut against the moral contagion around him. As the leaven of disease will not develop save in the unhealthy body, so moral evil will not grow to a head in the soul antipathetic to it. He "seals up the avenues of ill." By listening and looking come all our best and all our worst inspirations. Dead to sin, he "neither hears nor sees;" alive to God, he is all ears and all eyes, for his words, his inspirations. The chastity of the spirit extends to the senses, and if the mind be full of the love of purity, "each thing of sin and guilt" is driven far from it. Itself remains intact as the sunbeams glancing on the garbage-heap.

3. Its security and satisfaction. The good man dwells on the heights (cf. Psalms 15:1-5; Psalms 24:3, Psalms 24:4), inaccessible to miasmata from the poisonous swamps below, braced by the different air, enlivened by glorious prospects. He will have food, and that in abundance. To "eat and be satisfied" is the simplest and strongest figure for intellectual satisfaction, for a rich inner life; as hunger that of an empty, distressed, self-torturing spirit. But as food is of no service without an appetite for it, so this spiritual satisfaction can only be theirs who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who have fixed their minds upon an Object, which still invites the most boundless and unlimited appetite. The nobler senses are never weary of exercise upon objects which delight them. We do not surfeit upon noble music, nor do rare pictures cloy. The desires of the righteous are so agreeable to the ways of God that they find a continual freshness growing upon them in the performance of duty; like a stream, which, the further it has ran, the more strength and force it has to run further (South).—J.

Isaiah 33:17-24

The reign of Hezekiah.

Amidst all the agitation caused by the invasion of Sennacherib, and his perfidy, "the voices of true prophets were raised with power, pointing to the imperishable elements in the true community, and proclaiming the approach of a great crisis, the crushing weight of which should alight only on the faithless, whether among the Assyrians or in Judah" (Ewald). Here we find a reflection of the excitement of the time.

I. THE GLORY OF THE KING. His beauty is a moral beauty—that of a just rule (Isaiah 32:1); an "ideal beauty—the evidence of God's extraordinary favor." The picture should be compared with that in Psalms 45:1-17. The eyes of the people shall see a land of distances. Looking northward and southward, and eastward and westward, the boundaries of the kingdom shall still be extended, far as eye can reach.

II. VANISHED TERRORS. The Assyrian officials who registered the amounts of the tribute, who tested the silver and the gold, who counted the towers of the city about to fall their prey, shall have vanished. The people themselves shall proudly and thankfully number those intact towers (Psalms 48:13). No longer shall the jarring accents of the foreigner's stammering tongue fall upon their ears.

III. THE STRENGTH AND SPLENDOUR OF ZION. Look upon her! Once more the festive throngs shall gather there. Once more she shall be a house of peace, or dwelling of confidence, a quiet resting-place. She had indeed seemed like the tent of wanderers, the pegs ready to be drawn out, the cords to be rent, at the bidding of the conqueror. The people had been threatened with removal (Isaiah 36:17). This fear shall have passed away. The majesty of Jehovah, like an all-protecting regis, terrifying to his enemies, assuring to his friends, shall be revealed in Zion's state. That presence, which is "glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders," shall have returned thither; that right hand, which is glorious in power, shall again have been stretched forth to deliver and to protect. Jehovah, and he alone, is the Defense of Jerusalem. What though she be unlike "populous No, situate among the rivers, with the waters round about it, and the rampart of the sea" (Nahum 3:8), or Babylon, "seated on the waters" (Jeremiah 51:13),—he shall be instead of rivers and canals to his holy city. It is the streams of a spiritual river which "shall make glad the city of God" (Psalms 46:4).

IV. THE DIVINE RULER. By him kings reign and princes decreed justice. The earthly king is but representative of him who is enthroned in heaven, the "great King." Hezekiah is but his vicegerent, his inspired servant. The weak political power becomes strong through him. Though Zion be like a dismasted ship, she wilt prevail over the proud, well-rigged ships of her foes. Sin will cease, punishment will be at end, and, with it, bodily suffering and sickness. "A people, humbled by punishment; penitent and therefore pardoned, will dwell in Jerusalem. The strength of Israel and all its salvation rest upon the forgiveness of its sins."

V. LESSONS.

1. National judgments will only cease with national sins. "Humble repentance is to cure us of our sins and miseries; and there can no cure be wrought unless the plaster be as broad as the sore."

2. The most effectual way to avert national judgments is the way of personal amendment. Particular sins often bring down general judgments. Sin, like a leprosy, begins in a small compass, yet quickly overspreads the whole.

3. The forsaking of sins begets hope in the mercy of God. Because he has promised upon that condition to remove them; because he actually often has so removed them; because, when men are thus humbled, God has attained the end of his judgments (South).—J.

HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM

Isaiah 33:17

The glorious vision.

"Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty," There is much of beauty in this world. And by Christ Jesus God created the worlds. So that he is the Archetype of all beauty. Everything lovely was first a thought of Christ before it became a fact in life. These eyes of ours have seen glorious spectacles: the sun rising to run his race; the tender greens and purples of the seas; the magnificence of Carmel and Lebanon. How much also have we all seen of moral beauty!—the gentleness of pity; the heroism of endurance; the sublimity of sacrifice. Yet these have all been mingled with some elements of worldliness and sin.

I. THIS PROPHECY IS FULFILLED IN CHRIST AS THE TRUE KING. Think of the kings of every age: the Pharaohs; the Caesars. There we see power, pageantry, and, alas! too often criminality and cruelty. Here we see the true King. One whose government is Divine, because it is within, holding in supremacy the conscience and the heart. One who is a King who "reigns in righteousness, mighty to save."

II. A PROPHECY FULFILLED IN THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST'S CHARACTER. Beauty lies in symmetry and completeness; he was perfectly holy, without spot or blemish. Beauty lies in subtle harmonies; and in Christ justice, love, and wisdom were all united in one. Beauty lies in conformity with moral law; and he was "harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." Beauty is not to be found in mere sentiment alone. Character is not to be tested simply by exquisite feeling or profound teaching, but by a life where truth felt and truth spoken and truth lived are all embodied in one. He who spake as never man spake could also say, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?"

III. A PROPHECY FULFILLED THROUGH THE POWER OF SPIRITUAL VISION. "Thine eyes shall see." The beauty of Christ can be seen only through the lens of moral disposition. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." It is distinctly said of the wicked, concerning their view of Christ, "They shall see no beauty in him that they should desire him." We may have the artistic eye to see the beauty of Grecian capitol and Roman arch, but we may not have the spiritual eye whereby alone we discern spiritual things.

IV. A PROPHECY FULFILLED IN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. "Thine eyes." Powers of vision cannot be transferred. How we have longed, perhaps, that those we love should see this beauty too! Nor can they be intellectually willed. We must have the spiritual heart before we can enjoy the spiritual eye.

V. A PROPHECY TO BE PERFECTLY FULFILLED IN THE FINAL REVELATION OF HEAVEN. Whatever we may see there of new displays of God's creative energy and power, however fair and lovely our own beloved ones may be now that they are "without fault before the throne of God,"—we may be sure of this, that Christ will be "the Altogether Lovely." The eye will be perfectly purged from sin, and the soul perfectly alive to God. Then Christ's own prayer will be fulfilled, "That they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me."—W.M.S.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

Isaiah 33:1

Aggravated evil.

I. THAT SIN IS OFTEN FOUND IN AN AGGRAVATED FORM. It may take the forms of which the prophet here complains.

1. Unprovoked aggression. "Thou spoilest, and (though) thou wast not spoiled." Men may go so far as to assail their fellow-men without the slightest justification; this may be in the shape of open war, or of brutal individual assault, or of unlawful appropriation, or of shameful slander.

2. Inexcusable treachery. "And dealeth treacherously, and (though) they dealt not," etc. Men will go so far in iniquity as to deceive, entrap, and even ruin—and that not only in a pecuniary, but even in a moral sense—those who are guileless and unsuspicious; they will take a mean and execrable advantage of the innocence which should not appeal in vain for the protection of the strong. Those thus wantonly and heinously guilty may beguile others from the paths of

II. THAT WHEN THUS FOUND IT EXCITES GOD'S DEEP DISPLEASURE. The Divine "woe" is pronounced against it. And this "woe" is only one note in a large and full outpouring of Divine indignation in all parts of the sacred Scriptures. Prophet and psalmist and apostle, yes, and the Lord of love himself (see especially Matthew 23:1-39.), unite to utter the awful anger of God "against them who commit such things." It includes:

1. His holy indignation directed against the evil-doers themselves; not the sin, but the sinner (Psalms 7:11; Romans 2:8, Romans 2:9).

2. His boundless hatred of the evil deed; not the agent, but the act (Jeremiah 44:4; Habakkuk 1:13). All sin is a leprous, a loathsome, thing in God's sight: how much more so those aggravated forms of it in which man wantonly injures and ruins his fellow-man!

III. THAT IT IS CERTAIN TO MEET WITH RETRIBUTION ANSWERING TO THE OFFENSE. We know:

1. That impenitent sin will be followed by the judgments of a righteous God. The Divine "woe" points to severe punishment—to loss, sorrow, ruin, death (Exodus 34:7; Proverbs 11:21; Romans 2:6, etc.).

2. That retribution will be proportionate to the magnitude of the offence (Luke 12:47, Luke 12:48; John 9:41; John 15:22; Romans 2:12).

3. That retribution is likely to take a form which corresponds to the offence. "When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled," etc.

Isaiah 33:2

The lesser and the larger mercies.

This prayer includes the striking request, "Be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble." The words suggest the pertinent and not unprofitable question—Are we laid under greater obligation by the lesser mercies of God which we are continually receiving, or by the larger ones which we occasionally receive at his hands? We look at both—

I. THE LESSER MERCIES WE ARE CONTINUALLY RECEIVING. God is to us "our Arm every morning;" he is our support from day to day, from hour to hour; "in him we live and move and have our being." We may pass many days in which no striking or impressive mercy is bestowed upon us; but we pass no single hour, we spend no fleeting minute, in which some kindnesses do not come from his bountiful hand. Our indebtedness arising from these may be estimated when we consider:

1. Their regularity. The nature of God's kindnesses is commonly missed by reason of their regularity; they are referred to "law," as if law had any power, in itself, to originate or to sustain. Consequently, they are not traced, as they certainly should be, to the love and care of a Heavenly Father. But their value is immeasurably enhanced by their regularity. How much more "gracious unto us" is our God in that he is "our arm every morning!" in that we can confidently reckon on the morning light, on the evening shadows, on the incoming and outgoing tides, on the returning seasons, and can arrange and act accordingly, than if the Author of nature gave us his blessings irregularly, spasmodically, at such uncertain intervals that we could make no arrangements, and hold no permanent offices, and be in constant doubt as to whether or when our agency would be required!

2. Their constancy. We are leaning on God's arm continually. It is not merely a matter of frequency; it is not by a permissible hyperbole that the psalmist says, "the goodness of God endureth continually" (Psalms 52:1); nor is it without reason that he asks of God "that his loving-kindness and his truth may continually preserve him" (Psalms 40:11). Every year God is crowning with his goodness; he "daily loadeth us with benefits;" he is our arm every morning of our life; each night he lays his hand upon us in sleep and "restores our soul." We may well join in singing—

"The wings of every hour shall bear

Some thankful tribute to thine ear."

For on the wings of every passing hour come many mercies to our hearts and to our homes from the protecting and providing love of God; and we may go yet further and say, or sing, "Minutes came fast, but mercies were more fast and fleet than they." God's creative power gives us our life, and his constant visitation preserves our spirit (Job 10:12).

II. THE LARGER MERCIES WE SOMETIMES RECEIVE. God is" our salvation also in the time of trouble." The greatness of our indebtedness to him for these his larger, his especial and peculiar loving-kindnesses, we may estimate if we consider:

1. Their frequency. Though infrequent as compared with his constant favors, yet they are not infrequent in themselves, if we count them all—national, ecclesiastical, family, individual.

2. Their exceeding preciousness to us who receive them. Who can reckon the worth of one single deliverance from

3. Their costliness to the Divine Giver.

(a) taking this last thought into account, the special mercies of God do incalculably outweigh the constant ones;

(b) that together they constitute an overwhelming reason for worship, for obedience, for consecration;

(c) that we do well to appeal to God in earnest prayer for the special mercies we need, and to wait expectantly for them. "O Lord, be thou gracious unto us; we have waited for thee."—C.

Isaiah 33:5, Isaiah 33:6

A wise nation (Church).

These verses supply us with three features by which a nation or Church that is possessed of true wisdom will be characterized.

I. A PERVADING SENSE OF GOD—of his greatness, his power, his righteousness. "The Lord is exalted; he dwelleth on high; he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness." The result of the deliverance wrought by Jehovah would be the creation of this devout sentiment. The holy nation, the Church after the heart of its Divine Author, will strive to maintain this as an abiding, religious sense; it will cherish that feeling of reverential awe which fills the heart when the greatness of the Exalted One is realized, when the power of him that makes his judgments to be known is felt, when the righteousness of him who overturns iniquity is present to the mind. Well does it speak for the community, civil or sacred, when this sacred sense of God "hath filled" it from end to end, from the least to the greatest. This pervading conviction is, indeed, an essential thing; without it the most vehement protestations, the most honored creeds, the most ecstatic fervors, will soon be found to be as "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal."

II. A DEEP SENSE OF THE TRUE SOURCE OF STABILITY AND STRENGTH. "Wisdom and knowledge," etc. It has always been the case that communities have imagined that their stability and strength rested in things material and visible—in seas and mountains, in armies and navies, in lands and houses, in large numbers of men and women, in goods and grants. But all these things prove to be of no avail when there is inward rottenness, when disunion has crept into the state or into the Church, when the process of demoralization has set in so that it cannot be arrested. No external resources of any kind, however numerous or strong they may be, will save a society that is giving itself up to that which is false and foul. Its defeat and dissolution are only a question of years—or days. The true source of stability and of strength is in heavenly wisdom—that "knowledge" of God which means, not only a perception of the truth but a love of it, a delight in it, an acceptance of it as the one thing that will cleanse the heart, and that should regulate the life.

III. A RIGHT ESTIMATE OF PROSPERITY. "The fear of the Lord is his treasure." What is it that constitutes wealth or prosperity? According to the answer which we give to this question our spiritual position may be well determined. If we are indulging the illusion that our prosperity consists mainly in money, or in stocks, or in mines, or in acres; or if we seek for it in numbers, or in reputations, or in the patronage of the titled, and the strong, we are living in a "paradise of fools." "Surely our riches are not where we think, and the kind heart is more than all our store." Yes! and not simply the kind heart, but the pure heart, the heart

Isaiah 33:10-16

In the presence of the Holy One.

The great question which, in a somewhat different form from that of the text, Balak proposed to Balaam (Micah 6:6) is one that has always stirred the hearts of men everywhere and in all ages. We must find an answer to it if we are to enjoy any "rest unto our souls."

I. THE THRICE-HOLY LORD OUR GOD. That which makes God's intervening purpose (Isaiah 33:10) so serious to his creatures is that when he arises he will be found to be as "the devouring Fire," as "everlasting Burnings;" i.e. he will prove himself to be the Holy One of Israel:

(a) placing limits to its temporary success (Isaiah 33:11);

(b) bringing its decrees and its achievements to nothing, as the lime-kiln reduces everything to ashes;

(c) consuming the strength of the impious and the rebellious as easily and as swiftly as the fiery flames burn up the thorns (Isaiah 33:12). To fallen, guilty man, whose character has been depraved and whose life has been stained by sin, God is obliged to make himself known, and to make himself feared as "the devouring fire," as "the everlasting ['the continual'] burnings," consuming iniquity in the holy ardor of his unquenchable purity.

II. THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY ONE. Who among us shall dwell with this Holy One, this consuming Fire? Who shall abide in his presence and dwell in his holy hill? (Psalms 15:1; Psalms 24:3)? There are different senses in which we are before God, or stand in his presence.

1. His observant presence, which is constant, of which we do well to remind ourselves often, with the thought of which our minds and hearts may well be filled.

2. His interposing presence. Those times and occasions in particular when he arises to judgment (Isaiah 33:10); when he stretches forth his hand in punishment or in reward; when he sends back the Assyrian monarch in humiliating flight, and at the same time lifts up the head of bowed and trembling Jerusalem; when he breaks the arm of the oppressor and the chains of the captive; when he scatters his enemies and redeems his people.

3. His presence in the sanctuary. When he manifests himself to his waiting ones as he does not unto the world.

4. His nearer presence in another world. When in a most solemn sense we shall "stand before" him, and when in a most blessed sense we shall "dwell with" him.

III. THOSE WHO CAN ABIDE IN HIS PRESENCE. The answer is negative and positive.

1. Negative.

2. Positive. They can dwell with the Holy One who are possessed of moral because of spiritual integrity. "He that walketh righteously," etc.; i.e. he that is of sound heart, and therefore of a pure life. With us, in this Christian era, it may be said of spiritual integrity

IV. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THOSE WHO DWELL WITH GOD. Whether here or hereafter, but in a higher degree and more perfect form hereafter, there are promised these two great blessings.

1. Security. "He shall dwell on high: his place of defense," etc. Nothing shall harm him, no sin shall have dominion over him; in the arms of God's protecting care his home shall be impregnable to assault.

2. Sufficiency. "Bread shall be given him," etc. He may not have all he would desire, but he shall have everything he needs for his real welfare and his true joy.—C.

Isaiah 33:17

The King in his beauty.

"Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty." Of this we may take—

I. THE CONTEMPORARY VIEW. Those who heard these words from Isaiah's lips or read them from the roll on which he wrote them would naturally think of Hezekiah. But in what aspect would they think of him as clothed on with beauty? Not, surely, as one arrayed in gorgeous royal robes, or as one surrounded with the pomp of a royal court; but as one who wielded the kingly scepter in righteousness and in wisdom. The king in his beauty, to the eye of the man who speaks for God, is that sovereign who

II. THE MESSIANIC VIEW. If we refer the words of the prophet to him to whom, in themselves and apart from the context, they are most appropriate—to that Son of man who came to be the Savior-Sovereign of mankind, we have two views brought before us.

1. That of Jesus Christ as he lived on earth—the meek King of men (Matthew 21:5), he who claimed to be a King even as he stood bound before Pilate (John 18:33-36). Here we see the King in his beauty as we see him in his purity of heart, in his devotedness to the work his Father had placed in his hands, in his submissiveness to that Father's will, in his quick and tender sympathy with the sorrowing and the abandoned, in his inexhaustible patience with the undeserving and the wrong.

2. That of the Divine Redeemer as he reigns in heaven. Thus viewed, we see in him the beauty of one who

III. THE DISTANT VIEW. Our eyes will see the King in his beauty when we see "him as he is"—the ascended and reigning Lord. Then we shall

Isaiah 33:17

The breadth of the kingdom.

"They shall behold the land of far distances". We look at—

I. THE BREADTH OF THE HISTORICAL KINGDOM. Judah was to be delivered from her Assyrian oppressor. At present she was beleaguered, shut in on every hand, by the invading army; her citizens had no range of land they could traverse—they were confined to the narrow circle made by the besieging hosts of Sennacherib. But soon those boundaries would be removed, the army would be scattered and would disappear. Then the country would be open everywhere; in whatsoever direction they looked they would see hills they might climb and valleys they might cultivate at will; as far as the eye could reach the country would be free to the traveler and to the husbandman. They would behold a "land of far distances," a broad kingdom they might call their own.

II. THE BREADTH OF THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM. That kingdom of Christ, wherein we stand and in which we so much rejoice, is a "land of far distances," a region of glorious breadth of view and range of motion and of action. There is nothing in it that is limiting, nothing that confines; everything is on an enlarged scale. There is about it a noble and inviting freedom; the horizon-line recedes perpetually as we advance. This applies in full to its distinguishing features.

1. The grace of God shown to us in Jesus Christ. The breadth, the fullness, of the Divine Father's love in giving us his Son (John 3:16; Romans 8:32); the fullness of the Saviors love in making such a sacrifice of heavenly dignity, glory, and joy (John 1:1-14; Philippians 2:6, Philippians 2:7; Philippians 2:1-30 Cur. 8:9), and stooping to such depths of darkness, shame, and woe, humbling himself even unto death: what glorious breadths and depths and heights have we here!

2. The mercy of God now extended to us in Jesus Christ; reaching to those who have gone furthest in presumptuous sin, in vice, in crime, in unspeakable enormities; extending to those who have sinned against the clearest light and the most gracious influences; touching those who have gone to the very verge of human life: what noble breadths, what far distances, have we here!

3. The patience of Christ with his erring and imperfect followers.

4. The usefulness of a devoted and generous Christian life. Who can calculate the extent to which a life of holy love, of self-denying service, stretches out and flows on, out into the remote distance of space, on into the far future of time?

III. THE BREADTH OF THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM. We confidently expect to find in the heavenly country a "land of far distances."

1. In its spatial dimensions; if, indeed, that can be truly said to have dimensions which is boundless in its lengths and breadths. To no narrow sphere, reckoned in yards or miles, shall we there be limited. Our outlook will be one that is immeasurably large, for the country of the blessed is, "to our heart and to our hoping," a land of very far distances indeed.

2. In the excellences and glories of the character of its King. When will the time come that we shall have covered all the ground in that great exploration, that we shall have surveyed all the heights and traversed all the breadths of the glorious and beautiful character of the Son of God? There are regions beyond regions, summits beyond summits, there.

3. In the capacities of its subjects. There is something of great interest and of genuine worth in the growth of the human mind from infancy to maturity; something well worthy of being watched and in every way to be desired. But there comes a point beyond which that development may not go; there is a meridian-line, reached at a different age by different men, across which we may not step, at which it is imperative that we return, that we decline. We dare to hope that, in the "land of far distances," that boundary-line is indefinitely far off; that "age after age, forever," we shall go on acquiring not only knowledge but power, the horizon-line of spiritual maturity continually receding as we advance in wisdom and strength.

4. In the range of its service. "His servants shall serve him;" and in what varieties of way may we not hope to serve him there? Here the service of God and of man takes many forms—we can serve by action and by suffering, by example and by persuasion, in word and deed, in things secular and in things sacred, alone and in company with others. We look for a land, we wait for a life, in which opportunities of serving the Eternal Father and of blessing his children will be far more numerous, far more varied, far greater and nobler in their nature. We hope for a land of such glorious breadth on every hand that, not only in our enlarged capacities, but also in our multiplied and magnified opportunities, we shall find it a "land of great distances."

Isaiah 33:18-24

Happy times.

A very pleasant picture is this of a nation or of a Church on which the full blessing of God is resting. There are several elements in its prosperity.

I. A SENSE OF THE DIVINE MERCY. "The people … shall be forgiven their iniquity" (Isaiah 33:24). A sense of pardoned sin and of reconciliation to God is at the foundation of all true peace, all sacred joy, and all holy usefulness.

II. THE MAINTENANCE or DEVOTIONAL HABITS. Zion is to be always known as "the city of solemnities" (Isaiah 33:20). There reverent prayer and grateful praise and earnest inquiry of the Lord are to be continually found.

III. THE ABIDING PRESENCE AND GREAT POWER OF GOD. The word that will most commonly be heard on the lips, because most frequently rising from the soul, will be "the Lord." "Jehovah is our Judge." "Jehovah is," etc. (Isaiah 33:22). Everything is to suggest him, is to be referred to his will, is to be ascribed to his grace.

IV. A PLEASANT RECOLLECTION OF EVILS THAT ARE OVER. (Isaiah 33:18.) Happy the Church or the man when the dark days that have been and are gone are sufficiently removed from present experience to make the memory of them a source of joy and not of pain. Such a time does often come, and we may well rejoice and be glad in it. The home is the dearer and the more delightful for the privations that have been passed through on the way.

V. ABUNDANCE FOR EVERY PURE DESIRE. The "glorious Lord" will secure bountiful supplies for every imaginable need, even as the broad river and outstretching streams provide verdure and grain over all the surface of the well-watered land, even as the affrighted and fleeing army leaves prey which even the halt and the lame will be strong enough to take. In the day of God's blessing there will be nourishment for the thoughtful, and also for those who feel more than they think; truth for the wise and for the simple, for the mature of mind and for the little child; posts of service for the advanced Christian and also for those who have just begun their course; such fullness, even to overflow, of all that meets the wants and cravings of the heart, that the weakest as well as the strongest shall find his place and take his share.

VI. DIVINE GUARDIANSHIP. Prosperity is dangerous, but, with God's Spirit in the Church, it shall not be harmful. On the broad river of success and satisfaction the sails of the spiritual enemy shall not be seen (Isaiah 33:21). "The sun shall not smite by day;" it will illumine and warm, but will not scorch and wither. Consequently, there shall be—

VII. SOUNDNESS AND SECURITY. The inhabitant will not be sick (Isaiah 33:24); "Jerusalem will be a quiet habitation," etc. (Isaiah 33:20). Spiritual soundness, moral integrity, purity of heart, shall prevail. Anal this abounding, there will be no abatement of prosperity; the stakes will not be removed, the tent will remain; there will be no need for any going into exile; there will be a happy permanence and fixedness of abode. The picture is one that is ideal rather than actual; it is what every Church should aim to present. Only the favor of God can possibly secure it. The vital question is—How is that favor to be won? And that question resolves itself into other questions—Is there occasion for humiliation and a change of spirit and of behavior? Is there need for more internal union (Psalms 133:3)? or for more prayer (Luke 18:1; James 4:3)? or for more love both of Christ and man (1 Corinthians 13:1; Revelation 2:4)? or for more zeal (Revelation 3:15)?—C.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

Isaiah 33:2

Constant renewals of Divine help.

"Be thou their Ann every morning." Prophetic reference is made to that wonderful morning, when the inhabitants of Jerusalem arose, and, looking forth from the walls of the city, beheld the besieging army of Sennacherib a multitude of corpses (Isaiah 37:36). The prayer is that every morning of life may bring its witness of as real, if not as striking, helpings and deliverings and defendings of God. The reference to the "arm" is specially appropriate, as keeping in view the soldierly defense of the city. The prophet and others may do what they can with heart and head; but in view of defense against an outward enemy, those that serve with the arm are specially important. Therefore we have the prayer that the Lord himself might be the Arm of those who have devoted their arm to the country. Matthew Henry paraphrases thus: "Hezekiah and his princes and all the men of war need continual supplies of strength and courage from thee; supply their need, therefore, and be to them a God all-sufficient. Every morning, when they go forth upon the business of the day, and perhaps have new work to do, and new difficulties to encounter, let them be afresh animated and invigorated, and, 'as the day so let the strength be.'" Treating the text as a basis for meditation, we observe that God has been graciously pleased to arrange our life on earth, not as one continuous and unbroken space of time, but as a succession of brief periods, carefully and regularly separated from each other; a series of days, we call them, divided by ever-recurring nights of sleep. A man's life is not properly a thing of so much length; it is made up of so many days. Looking back over life, the patriarch Jacob says, "Few and evil have the days of the years of the life of my pilgrimage been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the lives of my fathers." If our life on earth were one continuous, unbroken scene, it would surely be impossible for any of us to become truly good. So much of our hope of ever winning goodness lies in our being able to try again and again, to begin again and again with each returning day. However hopelessly we may end one day, we may step cheerfully forth to new endeavors as each new morning comes. Then how tenderly helpful is the assurance that we can have the "arm of the Lord" for our help every morning! God's idea of life for us is that it shall be given to us in pieces, separated from each other—pieces shaped and fashioned as he may please, and each piece given to us as fresh as if we were really born again every day. God gives us thus, morning by morning, and day-by-day, in order that our thoughts may be fully concentrated on today. Today is ours. To night is not ours. Tomorrow is not ours. No man has any to-morrow until God gives it to him, and then he must call it today. We cannot grasp a whole life; we can grasp the duties of today. What "grace" is for a long and changeful life we do not know, we cannot know. God offers us grace for just the day that begins with this morning. And the arm of the Lord is precisely what we need day by day. Gathering up the scriptural associations of this figure, especially in the Book of Isaiah, the following points may be illustrated.

I. EVERY MORNING WE NEED ASSURANCE OF GOD'S ARM TO LEAN ON. The distinction between the godly and the ungodly man cannot be more sharply defined than by saying, "The ungodly man tries to stand by himself, and the godly man loves to lean on another." The change, the renewal, the new birth of a man, finds its expression in this "loving to lean." It is but the gracious response of God to this gracious disposition, that he offers his arm afresh every morning for the good man to lean upon. "On my arm shall they trust."

II. EVERY MORNING WE NEED THE ASSURANCE OF GOD'S ARM TO GUIDE US. It is the fact of life, but it is much more than that—it is the experience of life, that "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." So Isaiah, speaking of the journeyings of God's people, refers to God who "led them with his glorious arm." That arm is like a signal held out, showing our daily path. It is even the arm and hand that keeps us steadily in the right, the narrow path. The figures of the unknown journey, or voyage, may be used. This journey is taken in stages, and every morning our wise, safe, strong Guide is waiting, ready to give us his good help.

III. EVERY MORNING WE NEED THE ASSURANCE OF GOD'S ARM TO DEFEND US. "That arm is not shortened, that it cannot save." How little we realize our day-by-day dependence on Divine providence! "Dangers stand thick and hover round." By what we call "accidents," men and women about us are killed or wounded every day. Some one defends us. It would be well for us if we more clearly saw God's saving arm defending us continually. Then there are our enemies; some are by circumstance enemies, and some are by willfulness enemies. But how little they ever do that really hurts us! Noisily they dwell around us, like the armies of Sennacherib, but our Defender is there every morning, Shield for each new day. But it is more searching to think of our bad selves and how we need defending from them. Every morning wakes the old self, with some of the old frailties, habits, prejudices, passions. Above all else we need, day by day, the presence and the power of him who alone can defend us from ourselves.—R.T.

Isaiah 33:6

The secret of stability for every age.

This is presented by showing what would be the secret of stability in the kingdom of Hezekiah, when safety and peace were again restored. The prophet anticipates the removal of the great and serious national evils, which had brought on the people Divine judgments, and rejoices in the prospect that "righteousness would exalt the nation." We may well think that, in thought, he passed on to the times of Messiah, when alone his great hopes could be perfectly realized. We have four words given as the great sources of the national security and stability—"judgment, righteousness, wisdom, and knowledge." If we attach precise and appropriate meanings to each of these, we shall learn what are the secrets of stability for all times.

I. JUDGMENT. Not here equivalent to "wise decisions," "skillful plans," or "good counsels." The idea is rather that of strong and vigorous dealing with sin. There is no security for any community or society that is weak in its handling of sin. And this is true also of the individual life; we must be resolute and firm in mastering our own habits and passions, "cutting off right hands, and plucking out right eyes." If a nation is to prosper it must be strong and firm in its judgments.

II. RIGHTEOUSNESS. Here ordering life and relations by good and wise principles and rules. Unrighteousness is disorder—the chaos which follows when "every man does that which is right in his own eyes." Righteousness, for a people, is rightness, corn-fortuity to good rules, the copying of good models. And this is a first and important sense of righteousness for the individual. It is the righteousness which a man may attain; but there is the further righteousness which a man may receive from Jehovah Tsidkenu, "the Lord our Righteousness."

III. WISDOM. This, on its practical side, is the skilful ordering and rule of circumstances, so as to get the most and the best out of them, and resist the evils that may be connected with them. "The wisdom profitable to direct." The wisdom which may be illustrated for social and political life from the ever-watchful man of business, who seeks to turn everything to good account; or from the anxious housewife, who tries to make the best of everything.

IV. KNOWLEDGE. Which, in this connection, is the careful adjustment of things which men may make on the bases of experience. Knowledge proving a practical help. The knowing man is the opposite of the simple, or inexperienced, man, who is bewildered and endangered by difficult circumstances.—R.T.

Isaiah 33:14

Who can stand the testing fires?

The terms "devouring fire," "everlasting burnings," do not mean hell; they mean God in visible, material judgments, such as may be symbolized by the destruction of the Assyrian army; and such as the presence of that army became to the people of Jerusalem. The appeal of Isaiah seems to be this: See the fright into which the people have fallen at the presence of this hostile army. See who has been calm and strong in this hour of national peril. How, then, would it be with men in the more awful times of God's testing judgments? The man who alone can dwell in the "devouring fire" is the good man. He that is able to abide "the everlasting burnings" is "the man that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly." Maclaren says; "The prophet has been calling all men, far and near, to behold a great act of Divine judgment, in which God has been manifested in flaming glory, consuming evil; now he represents the" sinners in Zion," the unworthy members of the nation, as seized with sudden terror, and anxiously asking this question, which in effect means, "Who among us can abide peacefully, joyfully, fed and brightened, not consumed and annihilated, by that flashing brightness and purity?" The prophet's answer is the answer of common sense: "Like draws to like. A holy God must have holy companions."

I. THE TESTING FIRES. These are future, but they are not altogether future. Perhaps we shall presently come to see that the passing testings are more serious than the future ones. Every life-work must be tried with fire; it is being tried with fire. Every day we are in the "everlasting burnings." Life is God's testing fire. This is illustrated by the influence national calamities have upon nations. Through baptisms of blood and devouring fires nations come forth purified. "Through much tribulation [God's testing for us] we must all enter the kingdom"

II. THE EFFECT OF THE TESTING FIRES ON THE EVIL-MINDED. Symbolized is the panic of the godless folk in Jerusalem when Sennacherib drew nigh. At the sound of threatening they took alarm, and hurried to Egypt for help. Their vain self-confidences fell about them as soon as the test was applied. Can we face the judicial and punitive action of that Divine Providence which works even here? and how can we face the judicial and punitive action in the future?

III. THE EFFECT OF THE TESTING FIRES ON THE GOOD-MINDED. They cannot escape from the common earthly conditions. The fires try every man's spirit and every man's work. There are some—should we not be among them?—on whom even the "second death" hath no power.—R.T.

Isaiah 33:16

God's witness to character.

Connect this verse with the description of the righteous man given in Isaiah 33:15, observing how very practical is the righteousness which God requires and approves. The good man walks uprightly, speaks worthy things, wants nothing that is his neighbor's, will neither be bought nor forced to do that which is wrong, refuses to listen to evil, and shuts his eyes that he may not see it. God is on the side of such a good man, and whatever may be the disabilities in which he is placed by his fellow-men, he may be quite sure of safety and provision. "God is a Refuge for him." "None of them that trust in him shall be desolate." "The Lord doth provide."

I. THE GOOD MAN MUST BE IN THE WORLD, BUT HE SHALL BE ABOVE IT. Our Lord prayed thus: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." Put into Eastern figure, before earthly troubles the good man is as safe as a people hid behind the "munitions of rocks" when the invader is in the land. God makes no new lot, no fresh circumstances, for the good man. He does not promise any man that he will alter his earthly conditions, or altogether relieve him of his troubles. He lifts the good man up above his earth-scenes, by "strengthening him with strength in the soul," making his soul bigger than his circumstances. A man is not lost until he has lost heart. But if God supplies inward strength we never shall lose heart, and so we never shall be lost. Outwardly, a man may be tossed about, worn, wearied, wounded, almost broken, yet inwardly he may be kept in perfect peace, his mind stayed on God; he may be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." He may "dwell on high," "out of the reach of present troubles, out of the hearing of the noise of them; he shall not be really harmed by them, nay, he shall not be greatly frightened at them." This is the portion of the good; God's witness to character.

II. THE GOOD MAN MAY HAVE LITTLE, BUT HE IS SECURE OF ENOUGH "Bread and water" represent his necessities, not his indulgences; a sufficiency, but not a luxury. So good Agur prays, "Feed me with food convenient for me." The figure here is taken from the limitations of a time of siege. The "necessary," as distinguished from the "luxurious," is so difficult to decide. What has become a necessity for one person another still looks upon as luxury. One great evil of our age is the development of fictitious wants. We are called back to simplicity by the promises of God. "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." All that is needful is pledged to us, but for all the rest we are dependent on Divine grace; then what "monuments of grace" we must be!—R.T.

Isaiah 33:17

Visions of the King.

The Targum reads, "Thine eyes shall see the Shechinah of the King of ages." The idea of the prophet probably is, that the good man shall see, with his soul-eyes, God himself delivering and rescuing the city from its threatening foes. The good man never can be content with agencies and instrumentalities and second causes, lie must recognize the living God, working his work of grace by means of them. He cannot be content unless he can "see the King in his beauty"—the beauty of his redemptive workings. Some see a reference to Hezekiah, clothed with an ideal beauty, the evidence of God's extraordinary favor. But however we may begin with that, it is but a step to the much more satisfying thing, the spiritual vision of God. "Can God be seen? and if so, how? What is the true vision of God? Is it possible to men? By what means can we realize it? It is a question as old as humanity. In a thousand ways of formal interrogation, or unconscious yearning, we are ever putting it. In a thousand ways of ignorance, superstition, or intelligence, we are ever trying to answer it." We may dwell on—

I. THE EYES THAT SEE. Strangely imprisoned by their bodily senses, which are their sole mediums of communication with the world of material things, men overvalue the knowledge which the senses can bring them, and under-value those more real and more important worlds which are revealed only to the eyes of the mind and of the soul. No bodily vision of God can ever be given to dependent creatures; meeting our sense-conditions, Jesus Christ, the Man, is, for us, the" Brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his person." But souls can have that near sense of God which can only be represented as a vision. Faith, love, purity, holy desire, patient waiting, are the conditions of soul-eyes to which God is revealed. Each of these suggests illustrations and practical applications.

II. THE THINGS THAT ARE SEEN. Three things are indicated.

1. Soul-eyes see the King. They are quick to discern God's presence. They detect him everywhere and in everything. Life is serious, life is glorious, to them, because God is always "walking in the garden," always close by.

2. Soul-eyes are keen to detect his beauty or his graciousness; especially as seen in the tenderness and care of his watchings, defendings, and deliverings. Soul-eyes are long-visioned, and can see the future, which they know is in God's hands, and will surely prove to be the scene of God's triumph. Whatever men may think and say and feel about the present, this is certain—the future is with the good.—R.T.

Isaiah 33:22

The true theocracy.

It is most difficult for us to realize that idea of Jehovah as the direct Ruler and Governor of a nation, which was the one characteristic thought of the Jews, and the great underlying idea of the Mosaic revelation. But this verse gives us most material help by setting out a threefold relation of God to men in the theocracy.

I. GOD IS THE LAW-MAKER. "The Lord is our Lawgiver." This is true in two senses.

1. God gave the formal laws from Mount Sinai, which were written down by Moses, and made the basis of the national covenant. Compare and illustrate by the work of Lycurgus and Justinian. God's laws, as arranged for the Hebrews, were only the adaptations to their national life of the conditions and rules under which God set humanity from the first. This should be made quite clear, lest a notion should prevail that God's Law to the Jew was his first revelation to men. It was the writing out of essential law for the practical use of one people.

2. God gives revelations of his will, which are law for all who receive them. There is no finality in the revelation of God's law, for the very reason that God maintains living relations with us, and those relations involve that the expression of his will is law to us at any given time. Illustrate by the prompt and entire obedience of the prophets to God's will, howsoever it may be revealed to them. Such revelations are made to us, and for us God's will is law.

II. GOD IS THE LAW-APPLIER. "The Lord is our Judge." This is precisely the work of the judge—to show how the principle and the comprehensive terms of the law bear on each particular case. Moses, Joshua, David, Samuel, and Hezekiah, referred each case of difficulty directly to the Divine Judge. But in just this Israel so often failed; and this we still find to be our supreme difficulty. We can accept the fact that law is from God, but we want to preside ourselves over all applications of law. What we need is the confirmed habit of referring all things to God our Judge.

III. GOD IS THE LAW-EXECUTOR. "The Lord is our King." The proper idea of a king is one entrusted with power to carry out the requirements of the national law. The king is the executive. God carries out his own laws. Scripture is full of striking instances which are designed to impress the general truth. Take such cases as Achan, Korah, Uzza, Ananias, and Sapphira. This phase of God's relation is not so difficult to apprehend as the previous one; and yet in these days we are in some danger of losing our sense of the directness of Divine judgments.—R.T.

Isaiah 33:24

No more sickness.

This is clearly a figure, designed to complete the picture of relief from the strain and pressure and anxiety of the time of invasion. Sickness is the constant attendant on prolonged siege. The point on which we may dwell is that sickness is the sign of the presence of evil, of sin; and so heaven is represented as the place where there is no more sickness, because there is no more sin. This connection between sickness and sin lies at the basis of some of the most important Mosaic regulations. It explains the importance ceremonially attached to the one disease of leprosy. Trench states this very skillfully: "The same principle which made all that had to do with death, a grave, a corpse, the occasions of a ceremonial uncleanness, inasmuch as all these were signs and consequences of sin, might in like manner, and with a perfect consistency, have made every sickness an occasion of uncleanness, each of these being also death beginning, partial death-echoes in the body of that terrible reality—sin in the soul. But, instead of this, in a gracious sparing of man, and not pushing the principle to the uttermost, God took but one sickness, one of those visible out comings of a tainted nature, in which to testify that evil was not from him, could not dwell with him; he took but one, with which to link this teaching. Leprosy, which was indeed the sickness of sicknesses, was selected of God to the end that, bearing his testimony against it, he might bear his testimony against that out of which it and all other sicknesses grew—against sin, as not from him, as grievous in his sight; and against the sickness itself also as grievous, inasmuch as it was a visible manifestation, a direct consequence, of the inner disharmony of man's spirit, a commencement of the death, which through disobedience to God's perfect will had found entrance into a nature made by God for immortality."

I. ALL SICKNESS IS A LITTLE DEATH. It is a beginning of death. Strangely death lurks in the smallest things—a pin-prick, a slip of the foot, a tiny clot of blood, the bite of a fly, etc.

II. ALL DEATHS ARE THE SIGN OF SIN. "The sting of death is sin." Sickness and death keep ever before men the fact that they are sinners.

III. SICKNESS AND DEATH WILL GO AWAY WHEN SIN GOES.

IV. AS GOD IS GRACIOUSLY WORKING FOR THE REMOVAL OF SINS, WE KNOW HE IS WORKING ALSO FOR THE REMOVAL OF SUFFERING. The day cometh when he shall be able to "wipe all tears from our eyes."—R.T.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 33:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/isaiah-33.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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