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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Infidelity; Isaiah; Israel, Prophecies Concerning; Self-Righteousness; Sin; Wicked (People); Thompson Chain Reference - Social Duties; Temperance; Temperance-Intemperance; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Beds;
Verse Isaiah 28:20. For the bed is shorter — A mashal or proverbial saying, the meaning of which is, that they will find all means of defence and protection insufficient to secure them, and cover them from the evils coming upon them. מסך massek, Isaiah 22:8, the covering, is used for the outworks of defense, the barrier of the country; and here, in the allegorical sense, it means much the same thing. Their beds were only mattresses laid on the floor; and the coverlet a sheet, or in the winter a carpet, laid over it, in which the person wrapped himself. For כהתכנס kehithcannes, it ought probably to be מהתכנס mehithcannes. Houbigant, Secker.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/isaiah-28.html. 1832.
28:1-33:24 HEZEKIAH AND THE ASSYRIANS
Before reading Chapters 28-33, readers should be familiar with the historical background found in the introduction under the heading ‘Judah’s new policies under Hezekiah’. Hezekiah reversed the policies of his father Ahaz. Whereas Ahaz sought help from Assyria to oppose Israel and Syria, Hezekiah sought help from Egypt to oppose Assyria. Isaiah opposed both policies alike. Faith in God, not reliance on foreign powers, is Judah’s only hope for survival. The messages collected in these chapters were probably delivered by Isaiah during the three or four years from Hezekiah’s revolt against Assyria to the miraculous rescue of Jerusalem in 701 BC.
Bad leadership and its results (28:1-29)
Although his rebukes are directed mainly against Judah, Isaiah opens the section with a short message he once preached against Israel. (The reason for this, as Isaiah will soon point out, is that the message is now equally relevant to Judah.)
The nation’s rulers are a lot of drunkards, who live only to enjoy themselves and do not care about the welfare of the people. Because they are heavy wine-drinkers, they are likened to a flourishing vineyard. A severe hailstorm (symbol of the Assyrian invasion) will now destroy the vineyard, and enemy soldiers will trample the grapes underfoot (28:1-4). Nevertheless, the few who remain faithful to God will not be forsaken. God will give them his wisdom and strength, enabling them to come through the crisis successfully (5-6).
At this point Isaiah makes it plain that his prophecy against Israel applies also to Judah. Its leaders also are drunkards, even the religious leaders (7-8). They are annoyed at Isaiah for his persistent teaching, and indignantly ask him if he thinks he is teaching children. They are tired of hearing his same simple message over and over, telling them to turn from their evil ways and trust in God (9-10). Through Isaiah God has promised them true peace and perfect rest. If they refuse to listen to these clear and simple words, God will speak to them in a different language, one that they will not understand. That is, they will hear the foreign language of the Assyrian armies whom God sends against them to punish them (11-13).
Judah has made an agreement with Egypt to rebel against Assyria, but God sees it as a rebellion against him. It is like an agreement with the world of the dead instead of with the living God. It is based on falsehood instead of on God’s truth (14-15). God is the only reliable foundation on whom Judah can build its hopes. If the Judeans trusted in him, they would not need to go running to Egypt for help (16). God will act in righteous judgment against his faithless people. Their alliance with Egypt will be as powerless against Assyria as a temporary shelter is against raging floodwaters (17-18).
Day and night the ferocious Assyrian attack will go on. The people of Judah will find that all their preparation has not been enough to give them the comfort they hoped for (19-20). In the place where David punished his enemies, David’s people will be punished by their enemies. And the more they ignore Isaiah’s warnings, the more difficult it will be for them to escape the punishment (21-22; cf. 1 Chronicles 14:11,1 Chronicles 14:16).
A farmer knows from experience that he must use different methods of planting and threshing for different crops. God likewise uses different methods in his dealings with people, and his actions are always based on his perfect knowledge (23-29).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/isaiah-28.html. 2005.
"The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it; and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. For Jehovah will rise up as in mount Perazim, he will be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon; that he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act. Now therefore be ye not scoffers, lest your bonds be made strong; for a decree of destruction have I heard from the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, upon the whole earth."
It makes no difference whether Isaiah 28:20 is a popular ancient proverb or not. It surely describes an uncomfortable and intolerable situation; and such are all human devices for security where moral and eternal things are involved. True security is with God alone.
The two place-names here give the sites of battles where David won significant victories over the Philistines (1Chr. 14:11,1 Chronicles 14:16). This verse, however, shows that God will now be on the side of Israel's enemy not as an ally of Israel. The terrible punishment of God's own people by the sword of foreigners was indeed a "Strange work, a strange act; but it was the `strange conduct' of God's people that lay behind God's strange work."
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/isaiah-28.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
For the bed is shorter ... - This is evidently a proverbial saying, and means that they would find all their places of defense insufficient to secure them. They seek repose and security - as a man lies down to rest at night. But they find neither. His bed furnishes no rest; his scanty covering furnishes no security from the chills of the night. So it would be with those who sought protection in idols, in the promises of false prophets, and in the aid which might be obtained from Egypt. So it is with sinners. Their vain refuges shall not shield them. The bed on which they seek rest shall give them no repose; the covering with which they seek to clothe themselves shall not defend them from the wrath of God.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/isaiah-28.html. 1870.
20.For the bed shall be short. By this metaphor he adorns the former statement; for he compares the reprobate, who are pressed down by the hand of God, to those who have concealed themselves in a “short and narrow bed,” in which they can scarcely stretch their limbs or lift their head, and where, in short, instead of rest, they feel sharp pains. He means that the Jews will be shut up in such a manner that they shall be overwhelmed with the severity of their distresses, and that the “bed,” which is given to man for rest, will be an instrument of torture.
If they seek a “covering,” he says that “it will be too short to wrap themselves in it,” and that it is an addition to their former distress, that amidst those heavy calamities they will want all necessary comforts. He chose to express this by the metaphor of a “narrow covering,” that they may know that their condition will be in the highest degree wretched; because the vengeance of God will pursue them on all sides, both above and below, so that they shall have no abatement or mitigation, and shall find no relief. The Lord employs these metaphors, in order to accommodate himself to our weakness; because otherwise we cannot understand how dreadful is the judgment of God. Hence therefore we learn how dreadful are the terrors which shake and confine wicked men, when the Lord pursues them; they search eagerly for places of concealment, and would willingly hide themselves in the center of the earth; but the Lord drags them forth to light, and confines and hems them in, so that they cannot move.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-28.html. 1840-57.
Chapter 28. Now the prophet turns to the local present issues. He is now... he's gone off down the road to the end of things. Now he comes back and he begins to speak of the Northern Kingdom, the major tribe was Ephraim there in the Northern Kingdom. And so the nation of Israel is addressed as Ephraim, its major tribe.
Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet ( Isaiah 28:1-3 ):
So Isaiah is here predicting the invasion of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria. The Northern Kingdom was filled with pride. The Northern Kingdom was filled with prosperity. The fat valleys. The Northern Kingdom was filled with a careless attitude as people were seeking mirth and merriment and pleasure, rather than God, and judgment was hanging over their heads. And yet they were giving themselves just to drunkenness. Here they were standing in a critical place in their history. They're about to be devoured by their enemies. The nation is at the end of the road. They're not going to go any further. And yet the attitude of the people is not a serious attitude of repentance towards God and seeking God, but it is an attitude of just seeking pleasure and just drinking and trying not to think of the heavy judgment that was hanging over them.
It seems that people are always oblivious. That is, the general public is oblivious, though doom is hanging over it. And so it will be when Jesus comes. Jesus said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of man" ( Luke 17:26 ). For the days of Noah, the people were just eating, drinking, the same thing of just going on and pretending like there's nothing wrong. Not realizing that the judgment of God is hanging over them and they're about to be destroyed. Right until the day that Noah went into the ark, the people were going on with just things as usual, drinking and partying and the whole thing. Until Noah was in the ark and it began to rain. And suddenly they woke up. But then it was too late.
Now here is Ephraim. Judgment is hanging over them but they're going on in drunkenness. In their pride and all. And not until Sennacherib comes down with the Assyrian forces, and then it's too late.
We look at the world today and we see people that are just so oblivious to the impending judgment of God that is hanging over the world today. We see all of these forces of evil. We see people so outspoken with their evil, so brazen in their display of evil. Things that people used to be ashamed of and would seek to deny or hide from, now they are parading in the streets with banners. Advertising their sin. And we are ripening towards judgment. And the heavy hand of God is hanging over us and God's judgment is about to fall. And yet people seem to be totally oblivious to it. Going on seeking pleasure. Going on in their pride. And seeking the prosperity not realizing that suddenly it's going to come and God's judgment is going to strike.
So the sad picture of Ephraim and the prophet speaks out against it. Ephraim's going to be trodden underfoot. And within three years from the time of this prophecy it happened. The great and glorious nation that God had favored and blessed was destroyed. And I really feel that the United States is in much the same position. A great and glorious nation which has been blessed of God, but I believe that the heavy cloud of God's wrath hangs over us because of the things that we have allowed and promoted in this land. And it speaks of
The glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up. In that day the LORD of hosts will be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people ( Isaiah 28:4-5 ),
But here they were glorying in the crown of glory of the fat valleys and so forth, but they're going to be wiped out. Now even those that were being warned by the prophet just made fun of the prophet.
But they also have erred through wine, and through the strong drink they have gone out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in their vision, they stumble in their judgment ( Isaiah 28:7 ).
And God speaks out against the drinking and how it has perverted their minds. Deadened and dulled their senses. And has turned them out of their way bringing them into error. Causing them to err in their vision and in their judgment. Drinking, it seems, always clouds a person's vision and actually destroys good judgment. Destroys your inhibitions. People do the dumbest things when they're drunk. Things that they would never do when they were sober. But it just always messes up your judgment.
You don't have good judgment when you're drinking. And we recognize that. Our laws recognize that. That's why we have laws that you're not to drive when you've been drinking because it messes up your vision. It messes up your judgment. And yet, here the people were they were giving themselves over to this. Messing up their lives. And God's heavy hand when you need to have clear insight, when you really need to see what's going on, you can't see because you're into the liquor. When you need to have good judgment and make the right moves, you don't have the ability to do so. The liquor has clouded your minds. The prophet speaks very graphically of them.
For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, there isn't a clean place [around them] ( Isaiah 28:8 ).
But yet they mock at the prophet of God. They say to the prophet of God,
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts ( Isaiah 28:9 ).
In other words, who is he going to teach? He ought to go down and teach the little babies that have just been weaned from the breasts. Let him teach the preschoolers. Who is he going to teach? For his teaching
Precept is upon precept; line is upon line; here a little, there a little ( Isaiah 28:10 ):
But the prophet declares that God has declared:
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear ( Isaiah 28:11-12 ).
Now interesting this verse is couched in here and you wonder what in the world is that verse about and what does it have to do with the context? As he's talking about Ephraim and the judgment that is coming and the blurred vision and the distorted judgment because of their drinking and all. And their mockery of his teaching methods saying you ought to be teaching kindergarteners for his teaching is so simple. Line upon line, precept upon precept. And then out of the middle of this, "For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, 'This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing,' and yet they would not hear."
Now, Paul the apostle in writing to the Corinthian church about the abuse of the gift of tongues, as he speaks to them of this gift of tongues, he picks out this little verse and says this is what God was talking about when in Isaiah He said, "For with stammering lips and another tongue will I speak to this people. And this is the rest wherewith I will cause the weary to rest." Interesting. Paul picks that out and interprets that as a reference or a prophecy of the gift of speaking with other tongues that God would pour out upon the church. And that the gift of speaking in tongues would be a restful experience to those who exercised it. "This is the rest wherewith I will cause the weary to rest." And so it would be a very restful experience to those who would exercise the use of that gift. Very interesting, very fascinating.
And I have found that in my own devotional life, when I have a problem and I don't know how to pray over a particular situation, or I have a problem and I want to praise God and I feel a total inadequacy in English, that as I begin to praise the Lord in the Spirit or I begin to pray in the Spirit that it is such a restful experience. And I just find great rest in it. Great peace in it. And so Paul picks this out as a prophecy concerning those that would exercise that gift in their personal devotional life that it would be just a restful experience. And then he gets right back into the subject again.
But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken ( Isaiah 28:13 ).
In other words, it was so simple that they would stumble over it. They wouldn't hear it. They wouldn't obey it. And thus, they would be snared and taken.
Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule the people ( Isaiah 28:14 )
And it not only is Samaria, but now,
in Jerusalem. Because you have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come to us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hid ourselves: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then you shall be trodden down by it ( Isaiah 28:14-18 ).
You may say, "Well, we've made an agreement with hell or death and we're in agreement with hell. It's not going to touch us. You warn us, you say judgment; not going to hit us." And made refuge your lies. But God's going to sweep away your refuge and the judgment shall come and you'll be overthrown by it. But in the midst of it, the Lord has set for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone. That's a sure foundation. That's something that won't let you down. That's something you can rest in. The sure foundation that God has established. Jesus Christ, the precious cornerstone which was set at naught by the builders, but the Lord has made Him the chief cornerstone.
Now these people are mocking the prophet. They said, "Hey man, don't try to scare us with hell. We've got a covenant with hell. We got an agreement. We've made a covenant with death. And we're in agreement with hell. It doesn't bother us." The prophet says, "Your covenant is not going to stand. It's gonna be broken.
For [he said] your bed is shorter than what you can stretch yourself upon it: and your coverings are narrower than what you can wrap yourself in it ( Isaiah 28:20 ).
There are people who like to mock God and like to scoff at the warnings of God. There are people who seek to find rest in philosophy. There are people who seek to find rest in religion. There are people who are seeking rest in liquor, in pleasure. There are people who are seeking rest in prosperity. But of all of these things it must be said the bed is too short and the blankets are too narrow; you can't find real rest in these things. You'll never find satisfaction in prosperity. You'll never find peace in pleasure. There's only one place of real rest and peace and that is in the sure foundation that God has set. The precious cornerstone, Jesus Christ. The only place you'll ever really find rest is resting in Jesus. In His finished work for your salvation. You'll never find rest in religion.
Now here he speaks about the religious leaders getting drunk. And thus not seeing clearly, their judgment perverted. I think that drinking among the clergy is an abomination. Paul said to Timothy that if a man was to be an overseer in the church, that he was not to be given to wine. And I think that that applies to every minister of God. God said to Moses, "When Aaron and his sons come in before the altar, make sure that they haven't been drinking. For they must be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord."
There's an intimation that the two sons of Aaron that were killed by the fire of God that came out of the altar were killed because they were a little under the influence. When they saw the fire and got all excited, everybody was shouting and they grabbed the little incense burners and took the coals off the fire and began to offer strange fire to God, the fire of God came out from the altar and consumed them. Their judgment was twisted because of their drinking. And thus the warning came after that. And after the death of the two sons, the word of the Lord came to Moses saying, "Go unto Aaron and say unto him, 'Tell your sons and all that when they come in before the Lord that they're not to be drinking.'" God doesn't want any service out of false stimulation, false fire.
So today people are trying to find rest in religious experiences and it is a tragedy that there are churches that will tell you that you can rest in your infant baptism. "You don't have to worry about being saved. Were you baptized when you were a baby? That's all it takes. You were saved when you were baptized." The bed's too short. You can't rest in that. It takes more than having water sprinkled in your face and words mumbled over you when you were a child to save you. It takes an active, believing, trusting faith in Jesus Christ to bring salvation. He that believeth shall find the rest. He'll not be making haste or in frenzy.
Those who tell you that you had an emotional experience twenty-five years ago, you came forward in an altar call, and you wept, that that emotional experience is sufficient. You were saved. I don't care what happened to you twenty-five years ago; I want to know what is your present relationship with God. You can't be saved by past experiences. You are being saved by your present relationship with Him. Past experiences are just that-past experiences. Unless they have been transmitted into my present relationship.
Paul the apostle speaks of his experience on the Damascus Road saying, "Those things which were gain to me, I counted loss" ( Philippians 3:7 ). He was writing thirty years later to the Philippians. I counted them loss there on the Damascus Road. The whole past, man, is junk. And he said, "Yea, doubtless, I do count them thirty years later as I'm writing to you now, those old things which were once gain to me, which I counted loss on the road to Damascus, I still count them but refuse that I may know Him."
But you see, a lot of people twenty-five years ago counted the old life as loss when they came to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. But then in the meantime, they've gone right back. And they're living the old life. They're not serving the Lord. They're not walking with Jesus. They're not living in the Spirit. You ask them about their salvation, "Oh, I had the most glorious experience. I felt this glorious peace and this wonderful warmth that came all over me. And a tingling down my spine and I just sat there and wept before the Lord." What about now? "Oh well, you know, I haven't been to church for years and I really don't see any need of having Christ in my life because, after all, I had that glorious experience then." Oh no, you can't rest in some past experience. You need a vital, living relationship with Jesus today. Jesus said, "Abide in Me and let My words abide in you. For if any man abides not in Me, he is cut off, cast forth like a branch, and is withered; and men gather them together, and cast them into the fire" ( John 15:4 , John 15:6 ). "Abide in Me and let My words abide in you."
So he goes on.
For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim ( Isaiah 28:21 ),
That's where David at mount Perazim smote the Philistines and called the place Perazim because God made a breach there against the Philistines.
he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon ( Isaiah 28:21 ),
That's where Joshua said, "Sun, stand still" ( Joshua 10:12 ), in order that they might have enough time to wipe out their enemies.
that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his acts, and his strange acts. Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth. Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, to my speech. Doth not the plowman plow all day to sow? ( Isaiah 28:21-24 )
In other words, hasn't God made all of this preparation and will He not go ahead and carry the thing through? And the whole idea is, yes, God will carry the whole thing through. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/isaiah-28.html. 2014.
The folly of Judah’s leaders 28:7-22
Isaiah now compared the pride and indulgence of the Ephraimite leaders to that of their Southern Kingdom brethren. The leaders of Judah were even worse. There is some debate among scholars about where reference to Ephraim’s rulers ends and where reference to Judah’s leaders begins. It seems to me that the context favors the change occurring between Isaiah 28:6-7.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/isaiah-28.html. 2012.
The resting place and the cover the Judahites had chosen for themselves (Isaiah 28:12) would prove disappointingly uncomfortable. A treaty with Egypt would be inadequate.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/isaiah-28.html. 2012.
For the bed is shorter than that [a man] can stretch himself [on it],.... When a bed is short, a man cannot lie at his full length, and at ease:
and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself [in it]; when the bedclothes are narrow a man cannot cover himself with them, so as to be warm and comfortable. These proverbial expressions are interpreted by Kimchi of Jerusalem, when besieged by the Assyrian army, when the inhabitants of it were much straitened, distressed, and made uncomfortable; perhaps it may be better understood of the same city when besieged by the Romans, to which the Jews flocked from all parts, in such numbers, for shelter, that there was not room enough for them, at least not provision, and which was the cause of that great distress and miserable condition they were reduced to: in general, the design of the words may be to show that all refuges and shelters, all means made use of for safety and protection, by which they endeavoured to cover and secure themselves, would be insufficient; and particularly such that laid themselves at ease on the bed of their own righteousness, not submitting to Christ and his righteousness, and covered themselves with the rags of their own doings, and not with the garments of his salvation, would find themselves in a very uncomfortable and unsafe state.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-28.html. 1999.
|Judgments Announced; The Corner-stone in Zion.||B. C. 725.|
14 Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. 15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: 16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. 17 Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. 18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. 19 From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. 20 For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. 21 For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. 22 Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.
The prophet, having reproved those that made a jest of the word of God, here goes on to reprove those that made a jest of the judgments of God, and set them at defiance; for he is a jealous God, and will not suffer either his ordinances or his providences to be brought into contempt. He addressed himself to the scornful men who ruled in Jerusalem, who were the magistrates of the city, Isaiah 28:14; Isaiah 28:14. It is bad with a people when their thrones of judgment become the seats of the scornful, when rulers are scorners; but that the rulers of Jerusalem should be men of such a character, that they should make light of God's judgments and scorn to take notice of the tokens of his displeasure, is very sad. Who will be mourners in Zion if they are scorners? Observe,
I. How these scornful men lulled themselves asleep in carnal security, and even challenged God Almighty to do his worst (Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 28:15) You have said, We have made a covenant with death and the grave. They thought themselves as sure of their lives, even when the most destroying judgments were abroad, as if they had made a bargain with death, upon a valuable consideration, not to come till they sent for him or not to take them away by any violence, but by old age. If we be at peace with God, and have made a covenant with him, we have in effect made a covenant with death that it shall come in the fittest time, that whenever it comes, it shall be no terror to us, nor do us any real damage; death is ours if we be Christ's (1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 3:23): but to think of making death our friend, or being in league with it, while by sin we are making God our enemy and are at war with him, is the greatest absurdity that can be. It was fond conceit which these scorners had, "When the overflowing scourge shall pass through our country, and others shall fall under it, yet it shall not come to us, not reach us, though it extend far, not bear us down, though it is an overflowing scourge." It is the greatest folly imaginable for impenitent sinners to think that either in this world or the other they shall fare better than their neighbours. But what is the ground of their confidence? Why, truly, We have made lies our refuge. Either, 1. Those things which the prophets told them would be lies and falsehood to them and would deceive, but which they themselves looked upon as substantial fences. The protection of their idols, the promises with which their false prophets soothed them, their policy, their wealth, their interest in the people; these they confided in, and not in God; nay, these they confided in against God. Or, 2. Those things which should be lies and falsehood to the enemy, who was flagellum Dei--the scourge of God, the overflowing scourge; they would secure themselves by imposing upon the enemy with their stratagems of war, or their feigned submissions in treaties of peace. The rest of the cities of Judah were taken because they made an obstinate defence; but the rulers of Jerusalem hope to succeed better. They think themselves greater politicians than those of the country towns; they will compliment the king of Assyria with a promise to surrender their city, or to become tributaries to him, with a purpose at the same time to shake off his yoke as soon as the danger is over, not caring though they be found liars to him, as the expression is, Deuteronomy 33:29. Note, Those put a cheat upon themselves that think to gain their point by putting cheats upon those they deal with. Those that pursue their designs by trick and fraud, by mean and paltry shifts, may perhaps compass them, but cannot expect comfort in them. Honesty is the best policy. But such refuges as these are those driven to that depart from God, and throw themselves out of his protection.
II. How God, by the prophet, awakens them out of this sleep, and shows them the folly of their security.
1. He tells them upon what grounds they might be secure. He does not disturb their false confidences, till he has first shown them a firm bottom on which they may repose themselves (Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 28:16): Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone. This foundation is, (1.) The promises of God in general--his word, upon which he has caused his people to hope--his covenant with Abraham, that he would be a God to him and his; this is a foundation, a foundation of stone, firm and lasting, for faith to build upon; it is a tried stone, for all the saints have stayed themselves upon it and it never failed them. (2.) The promise of Christ in particular; for to him this is expressly applied in the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:6-8. He is that stone which has become the head of the corner. The great promise of the Messiah and his kingdom, which was to begin at Jerusalem, was sufficient to make God's people easy in the worst of times; for they knew well that till he came the sceptre should not depart from Judah. Zion shall continue while this foundation is yet to be laid there. "Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, for the comfort of those that dare not make lies their refuge, Behold, and look upon me as one that has undertaken to lay in Zion a Stone," Jesus Christ is a foundation of God's laying. This is the Lord's doing. He is laid in Zion, in the church, in the holy hill. He is a tried stone, a trying stone (so some), a touch-stone, that shall distinguish between true and counterfeit. He is a precious stone, for such are the foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19), a corner-stone, in whom the sides of the building are united, the head-stone of the corner. And he that believes these promises, and rests upon them, shall not make haste, shall not run to and fro in a hurry, as men at their wits' end, shall not be shifting hither and thither for his own safety, nor be driven to his feet by any terrors, as the wicked man is said to be (Job 18:11), but with a fixed heart shall quietly wait the event, saying, Welcome the will of God. He shall not make haste in his expectations, so as to anticipate the time set in the divine counsels, but, though it tarry, will wait the appointed hour, knowing that he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. He that believes will not make more haste than good speed, but be satisfied that God's time is the best time, and wait with patience for it. The apostle from the LXX. explains this, 1 Peter 2:6. He that believes on him shall not be confounded; his expectations shall not be frustrated, but far out-done.
2. He tells them that upon the grounds which they now built on they could not be safe, but their confidences would certainly fail them (Isaiah 28:17; Isaiah 28:17): Judgment will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. This denotes,
(1.) The building up of his church; having laid the foundation (Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 28:16), he will raise the structure, as builders do, by line and plummet, Zechariah 4:10. Righteousness shall be the line and judgment the plummet. The church, being grounded on Christ, shall be formed and reformed by the scripture, the standing rule of judgment and righteousness. Judgment shall return unto righteousness,Psalms 94:15. Or,
(2.) The punishing of the church's enemies, against whom he will proceed in strict justice, according to the threatenings of the law. He will give them their deserts, and bring upon them the judgments they have challenged, but in wisdom too, and by an exact rule, that the tares may not be plucked up with the wheat. And when God comes thus to execute judgment,
[1.] These scornful men will be made ashamed of the vain hopes with which they had deluded themselves. First, They designed to make lies their refuge; but it will indeed prove a refuge of lies, which the hail shall sweep away, that tempest of hail spoken of Isaiah 28:2; Isaiah 28:2. Those that make lies their refuge build upon the sand, and the building will fall when the storm comes, and bury the builder in the ruins of it. Those that make any thing their hiding place but Christ shall find that the waters will overflow it, as every shelter but the ark was over-topped and overthrown by the waters of the deluge. Such is the hope of the hypocrite; this will come of all his confidences. Secondly, They boasted of a covenant with death, and an agreement with the grave; but it shall be disannulled, as made without his consent who has the keys and sovereign command of hell and death. Those do but delude themselves that think by any wiles to evade the judgments of God. Thirdly, They fancied that when the overflowing scourge should pass through the land it should not come near them; but the prophet tells them that then, when others were falling by the common calamity, they should not only share in it, but should be trodden down by it: "You shall be to it for a treading down; it shall triumph over you as much as over any other, and you shall become its easy prey." They are further told (Isaiah 28:19; Isaiah 28:19), 1. That it shall begin with them; they shall be so far from escaping it that they shall be the first that shall fall by it: "From the time it goes forth it shall take you, as if it came on purpose to seize you." 2. That it shall pursue them closely: "Morning by morning shall it pass over; as duly as the day returns you shall hear of some desolation or other made by it; for divine justice will follow its blow; you shall never be safe nor easy by day nor by night; there shall be a pestilence walking in darkness and a destruction wasting at noonday." 3. That there shall be no avoiding it: "The understanding of the report of its approach shall not give you any opportunity to make your escape, for there shall be no way of escape open; but it shall be only a vexation, you shall see it coming, and not see how to help yourselves." Or, "The very report of it at a distance will be a terror to you; what then will the thing itself be?" Evil tidings are a terror and vexation to scorners, but he whose heart is fixed, trusting in God, is not afraid of them; whereas, when the overflowing scourge comes, then all the comforts and confidences of scorners fail them, Isaiah 28:20; Isaiah 28:20. (1.) That in which they thought to repose themselves reaches not to the length of their expectations: The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself upon it, so that he is forced to cramp and contract himself. (2.) That in which they thought to shelter themselves proves insufficient to answer the intention: The covering is narrower than that a man can wrap himself in it. Those that do not build upon Christ as their foundation, but rest in a righteousness of their own, will prove in the end thus to have deceived themselves; they can never be easy, safe, nor warm; the bed is too short, the covering is too narrow; like our first parents' fig-leaves, the shame of their nakedness will still appear.
[2.] God will be glorified in the accomplishment of his counsels, Isaiah 28:21; Isaiah 28:21. When God comes to contend with these scorners, First, He will do his work, and bring to pass his act, he will work for his own honour and glory, according to his own purpose; the work shall appear to all that see it to be the work of God as the righteous Judge of the earth. Secondly, He will do it now against his people, as formerly he did it against their enemies, by which his justice will appear to be impartial; he will now rise up against Jerusalem as, in David's time, against the Philistines in Mount Perazim (2 Samuel 5:20), and as, in Joshua's time, against the Canaanites in the valley of Gibeon. If those that profess themselves members of God's church by their pride and scornfulness make themselves like Philistines and Canaanites, they must expect to be dealt with as such. Thirdly, This will be his strange work, his strange act, his foreign deed. It is work that he is backward to: he rather delights in showing mercy, and does not afflict willingly. It is work that he is not used to as to his own people; he protects and favours them. It is a strange work indeed if he turn to be their enemy and fight against them,Isaiah 63:10; Isaiah 63:10. It is a work that all the neighbours will stand amazed at (Deuteronomy 29:24), and therefore the ruins of Jerusalem are said to be an astonishment,Jeremiah 25:18.
Lastly, We have the use and application of all this (Isaiah 28:22; Isaiah 28:22): "Therefore be you not mockers; dare not to ridicule either the reproofs of God's word or the approaches of his judgments." Mocking the messengers of the Lord was Jerusalem's measure-filling sin. The consideration of the judgments of God that are coming upon hypocritical professors should effectually silence mockers, and make them serious: "Be you not mockers, lest your bands be made strong, both the bands by which you are bound under the dominion of sin" (for there is little hope of the conversion of mockers) "and the bands by which you are bound over to the judgments of God." God has bands of justice strong enough to hold those that break all the bonds of his law asunder and cast away all his cord from them. Let not these mockers make light of divine threatenings, for the prophet (who is one of those with whom the secret of the Lord is) assures them that the Lord God of hosts has, in his hearing, determined a consumption upon the whole earth; and can they think to escape? or shall their unbelief invalidate the threatening?
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/isaiah-28.html. 1706.
The Bed and Its Covering
January 9th, 1859 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." Isaiah 28:20 .
God has so made men, that there are two things essential for their comfort, if not for their very existence, namely, sleep and clothing. Had God so pleased it, he might have made man an everlasting watcher, upon whose eyes the mists of night never should descend, and upon whose eyelids the fingers of sleep never should be placed. Perhaps angelic spirits never sleep. Day without night they circle God's throne rejoicing, and ceaselessly they chant his praise. Perhaps their unflagging wings are always stretched for duty, and their untiring voices are ever occupied with song. But manifestly it is not so with man. We need "kind nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep." If we could not sleep, should we not even wish for death? Let sleep be long withholder from our eyelids, if we had no other disease our strength must become prostrate, and the fire of life would smoulder into the ashes of death. Sleep, therefore, is essential even to the very existence of our bodies on earth. Clothing also is needful for our comfort, and, at least in some climates, absolutely necessary for our very existence. God has made the animal creation of such a kind, that they grow their clothing upon their own backs. For the horse and for the sheep no loom works, nor cloth the shuttle hasten in its course. Their backs are their own webs, and they fashion their own garments, as if to teach us, that man alone is imperfect, and needs to long beyond himself: Other creatures can readily find their own habitations, and produce for themselves out of themselves; but man feels his nakedness, and must either seek for the fig leaf of his own righteousness, or else the Lord God must make for him a dress with which he may array himself and stand completely covered. Dress, I say, is essential to man dress and sleep. Now, I think it may be readily granted, that man's body is, after all, only a picture of his inner being: just what the body needs materially, that the soul needs spiritually. The soul, then, needs two things. It requires rest, which is pictured to us in sleep. The soul needs a bed upon which it may repose quietly and take its ease. And, again, the soul needs covering, for as a naked body would be both uncomfortable, unseemly, and dangerous; much more would the naked soul be unhappy, noxious to the eye of God, and utterly miserable in itself. Now, our text tells us that men have sought for rest and for clothing where they are not to be found; that they have gone about to make a bed for themselves which is shorter than that they can stretch themselves upon it; and that they have also sought to make coverings for themselves which have turned out to be narrower than that they can wrap themselves in them. We shall speak, first, of what man has done, and of his vain and futile attempts to find rest and clothing for his soul; and then, afterward, we shall briefly attempt to show how God has accomplished this, and has given to the believer a couch upon which he can to his utmost length and yet find that the bed is long enough, and how the Lord has given him a garment in which he may grow, but he shall always find that, broad as he shall become in the magnitude of his experience or of his sin, yet shall this covering be always broad enough to cover him. I. Well, then, let us take the first figure. The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it. MEN TRY, THEN, TO MAKE BEDS ON WHICH THEIR SOULS MAY REST. One of the most uncomfortable things in the world, I should think, would be a spare bed a bed so spare that a man should not have room stretch himself on it. I cannot conceive how miserable a poor wretch must be who would be condemned to seek an unresting rest, an uneasy ease on a couch shorter than his body. But that is just the condition of all men while they are seeking a rest anywhere else but in the "rest that remaineth for the people of God." With reference to a man's present aims, and present attainments, all that he can ever get on earth is a bed shorter than that he can stretch himself on it. Then, in the next place, we shall notice as to the future world, that all that man can do, if we come to consider it, is too little to give ease to the heart. First then as to the present world, how many beds are there of marks own invention. One man has made himself a bedstead of gold; the pillars thereof are of silver, the covering thereof is of Tyrian purple, the pillows are filled with down, such as only much fine gold could buy him; the hangings he hath embroidered with threads of gold and silver, and the curtains are drawn upon rings of ivory. Lo, this man hath ransacked creation for luxuries, and invented to himself all manner of sumptuous delights. He gets unto himself broad acres and many lands; he adds house to house, and field to field; he digs, he toils, he labors, he is in hopes that he shall get enough, a sufficiency, a satisfactory inheritance. He proceeds from enterprise to enterprise, he invests his money in one sphere of labor, and then another. He attempts to multiply his gold, until it gets beyond all reckoning. He becomes a merchant prince, a millionaire, and he says unto himself; 'Soul, take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry; thou hast much goods laid up for many years." Do you mat envy this man his bed? Are there not some of you, whose only object in life is to get such a couch for yourselves? You say, "He has well-feathered his nest; would to God that I could do the same for myself!" Ah, but do you know that this bed is shorter than that he can stretch himself upon it? If you cast yourself upon it for a moment, the bed is long enough for you, but it is not long enough for him. I have often thought that many a man's riches would be sufficient for me, but they are not sufficient for him. If he makes them his God, and seeks in in them his happiness, you never find the man has money enough, his lands are still too narrow and his estate too small. When he begins to stretch himself, he finds there is something wanted; if the bed could only be made a little longer, then, he thinks, he could be quiet and have room enough. But when the bed is lengthened, he finds he has grown longer, too, and when his fortune has grown as big as the bedstead of Og, king of Bashan, even then he finds he cannot lie upon it easily. Nay, we read of one man who stretched himself along the whole world which he had conquered; but he found there was me room, and he began to weep because there were not other worlds to conquer. One would have thought a little province would have been enough for him to rest in. Oh, no; so big is man when he stretches himself, that the whole world does not suffice him. Nay, if God should give to the avaricious all the mines of Peru, all the glittering diamonds of Golconda, all the wealth of worlds, and if he were then to transmute the stars into gold and silver, and make us emperors of an entire universe till we should talk of constellations as men talk of hundreds, yea, and talk of universes as often talk of thousands, even then the bed would not be long enough whereon we might stretch our ever-lengthening desires. The soul is wider than creation, broader than space; give it all, it would be still unsatisfied, and man would not find rest. You say, "That is strange: if I had a little more I should be very well satisfied." You make a mistake: if you are not content with what you have you would not be satisfied if it were doubled. "Nay," says one, "I should be." You do not know yourself. If you have fixed your affection on the things of this world, that affection is like a horse-leech; it cries, "Give! give!" It will suck, suck, suck to all eternity, and still cry, "Give, give!" and though you give it all, it has not gotten enough. The bed, in fact, "is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it." Let us look in another direction. Other men have said. "Well. I do not care for gold and silver; thank God I have no avarice." But they have been ambitious. "Oh," says one, "it I might be famous, what would I not do? Oh, if my name might be handed down to posterity, as having done something, and having been somebody, a man of note, how satisfied would I be!" And the man has so acted that he has at last made for himself a bed of honor. He has become famous. There is scarce a newspaper which does not record his name. His name is become a household word; nations listen to his voice; thousands of trumpets proclaim his deeds. He is a man, and the world knows it, and stamps him with the adjective "great:" he is called "a great man." See how soft and downy is his bed. What would some of you give to rest upon it! He is fanned to sleep by the breath of fame, and the incense of applause smokes in his chamber. The world waits to refresh him with renewed flattery. Oh, would you not give your ears and eyes if you might have a bed like that to rest upon. But did you ever read the history of famous men, or hear them tell their tale in secret? "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown," even though it be the laurel coronet of honor. When the man is known, it is not enough; he asks for wider praise. There was a time when the approbation of a couple of old women was a fame to him; now the approbation of ten thousand is nothing. He talks of men as if they were but flocks of wild asses and what he looked up to once as a high pinnacle is now beneath his feet. He must go higher and higher, and higher, though his head is reeling, though his brain is whirling, though his feet are slipping, he must go higher. He has done a great thing; he must do more. He seems to stride across the world; he must leap further yet, for the world will never believe a man famous unless he constantly outdoes himself. He must not only do a great thing to-day, but he must do a greater thing to-morrow, the next day a greater still, and pile his mountains one upon another until he mounts the very Olympus of the demigods. But suppose he gets there, what does he say? "Oh, that I could go back to my cottage, that I might be all unknown, that I might have rest with my family and be quiet. Popularity is a care which I never endured until now, a trouble that I never guessed. Let me lose it all; let me go back." He is sick of it; for the fact is, that man never can be satisfied with anything less than the approbation of heaven; and until conscience gets that, all the applause of senates and of listening princes, would be a bed shorter than a man could stretch himself upon it. There is another bed on which man thinks he could rest. There is a watch, a painted harlot, who wears the richest gems in her ears and a necklace of precious things about her neck. She is an old deceiver. She was old and shrivelled in the days of Bunyan; she painted herself then, she paints now, and paint she will as long as the world endureth. And she gaddeth forth, and men think her young and fair and lovely, and desirable: her name is Madam Wanton. She keeps a house wherein; she feasteth men, and maketh them drunken with the wine of pleasure, which is as honey to the taste, but is venom to the soul. This witch, when she can, entices men into her bed. "There," she says, "there, how daintily have I spread it!" It is a bed, the pillars whereof are pleasure; above is the purple of rapture and beneath is the soft repose of luxurious voluptuousness. Oh, what a bed is this! Solomon once laid in it, and many since his time have sought their rest there. They have said, "Away with your gold and silver: let me spend it, that I may eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow I die. Tell me not of fame, I care not for it. I would sooner have the pleasures of life, or the joys of Bacchus, than the laurel of fame. Let me give myself up to the intoxication of this world's delights, let me be drowned in the butt of Burgundy of this world's joys." Have you ever seen such men as that? I have seen many and wept over them, and I know some now, they are stretching themselves on that bed, and trying to make themselves happy. Byron is just a picture of such men, though he outdid others. What a bed was that he stretched for himself. Was ever libertine more free in his vices? was ever sinner more wild in his blasphemy? was ever poet more daring in his flights of thought? was ever man more injurious to his fellows than he? And yet what did Byron say? There is a verse which just tells you what he felt in his heart. The man had all that he wanted of sinful pleasure, but here is his confession
"I fly like a bird of the air, In search of a home and a rest; A balm for the sickness of care, A bliss for a bosom unblest."
And yet he found it not. He had no rest in God. He tried pleasure till his eyes were red with it; he tried vice till his body was sick; and he descended into his grave a premature old man. If you had asked him, and he had spoken honestly, he would have said, the bed was shorter than that he could stretch himself upon it. No, young man, you may have all the vices, and all the pleasure and mirth of this metropolis, and there is much to be found, of which I make no mention here, and when you have it all, you will find it does not equal your expectation nor satisfy your desires. When the devil is bringing you one cup of spiced wine, you will be asking him next time to spice it higher; and he will flavour it to your fiery taste, but you will be dissatisfied still, until at last, if he were to bring you a cup hot as damnation, it would fall tasteless on your palate. You would say, "Even this is tasteless to me, except in the gall, and bitter wormwood, and fire that it brings." It is so with all worldly pleasure: there is no end to it; it is a perpetual thirst. It is like the opium eater; he eats a little, and he dreams such strange wonders; and he wakes, and where are they? Such dreamers, when awake, look like dead men, with just animation enough to enable them to crawl along. The next time, to get to their elysium, they must take more opium, and the next time more and more, and all the while, they are gradually going down an inclined plane into their graves. That is just the effect of human pleasure, and all worldly sensual delights; they only end in destruction; and even while they last, they are not wide enough for our desire, they are not large enough for our expectations, "for the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it." Now think, for a moment, of the Christian, and see the picture reversed. I will suppose the Christian at his very worst state, though there is no reason why I should do so. The Christian is not necessarily poor; he may be rich. Suppose him poor. He has not a foot of land to call his own; he lives by the day, and he lives well, for his Master keeps a good cupboard for him, and furnishes him with all he requires. He has nothing in this world except the promise of God with regard to the future. The wordly man laughs at the promise, and says it is good for nothing. Now look at the Christian; he says,
"There's nothing round this spacious globe, Which suits my large desires;" To nobler joys than nature give, Thy servant, Lord, aspires.
What, poor man, are you perfectly content? "Yes," says he, "it is my Father's will that I should live in poverty. I am perfectly content." "Well, but is there nothing else you wish for?" "Nothing," says he, "I have the presence of God; I have delight in communion with Christ; 'I know that there is laid up for me a crown of life that fadeth not away,' and more I cannot want. I am perfectly content; my soul is at rest." In the Christian religion there is a rest that no one can enjoy elsewhere. Oh! I can say as in the sight of God, my soul is perfectly at rest. "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter-day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." I know that my sins are forgiven, that I am accepted in the beloved. I know there is nothing more that I want except what I have already, for Christ is all and more than all. What can my soul desire more? As for temporals I can leave them in my Father's hands; as for spirituals I can leave them also with him. "My soul is even as a wearied child," resting on its mother's breast. Nothing more I can ask. And now let me stretch myself upon this bed. Let me think of the largest desire that heart ever had, and I find it not at all greater than this bed. What do I ask for? I ask for immortality, I have it here. What do I pant for? I pant for ceaseless, boundless bliss, I have it here. I pant to be God's child, I have it here. I pant to be rich to all intents of bliss, I have the promise here, and I shall have the fruition of it hereafter. I long for perfection. Is that a stretch indeed? And that I have, "perfect in Christ Jesus." I have the promise that "the Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." Oh! I wish you would try and stretch yourselves a moment. Come, let your spirits stretch themselves with all their might. Put out your hands till they grasp the east and west, and let your head and feet lie at either pole of this round world, and is there not room for you in the promise, room in the gospels Nay, reach into the far-off eternity, and let your soul desire the utmost it can conceive, and still the bed is long enough: "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above what you can ask or even think." Now, try and think your best, and he shall exceed it; come and ask your most, and God shall give you more. Oh! blessed is the sleep of the Christian. He sleeps in a bed supported by the everlasting arms of the Saviour. He sleeps there fanned by the breath of the Spirit, and knowing that when he wakes up he shall wake up in the likeness of his Saviour, in the likeness of his God. Thus, I think I have given you some idea of the meaning of this text, "The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it." Now, just for a moment think of this bed in the sense of another world. And here we may say of all the sinner's hope, that it is a bed shorter than that he can stretch himself upon it, Sinner, thou that art without God and without Christ, ask thyself this question, What is thy bed for eternity? What is thy rest in another world? Perhaps, that is a question you have never asked yourself. Ask it now. "Oh," says one, "I am no worse than my neighbors." Is that bed long enough for eternity? Nay, assuredly not. "Nay," says one, "I care not how I shall fare, I shall take my fate." And is that long enough for eternity? You cannot draw any consolation from that when you stand at God's bar. "Nay," says another, "I won't think about it." And is that long enough for eternity? "Ah," cries another, "I go to church, and chapel, and so forth, and that will do." Is that long enough for eternity? You have now to stretch yourself. Let conscience strain you, let death put you on the rack, and pull you out a little, and the bed is not long enough for you. You are obliged to feel that you are uneasy. Nay, there is not a man out of Christ that is not uneasy at times. Harden your conscience as you may, sometimes it will arouse you. Put Mr. Conscience down in a back street, so that the daylight cannot come to him, but you cannot silence him; he has a voice as loud as thunder, and sometimes he will awaken you. I do not care who the infidel is, or what he says: it is mere brag, there is nothing in it. Men who cannot fight are always very big before they come to the battle. So it is with the Infidel, the Atheist, the Socinian; they are very great men when they talk to us, but they know they have none of the greatness that they pretend to; they have none really, for their own consciences cannot rest. I do affirm, again, that there is no man who has a solid peace, a perfect satisfaction in his own mind, but the man who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusts him entirely for his soul's salvation, and puts his hopes and his expectations only in the Lord his God. That man has a bed that is large enough; though he were himself as tall as the heavens, and as broad as the earth. II. Now for the second part of my text. MEN MUST HAVE A COVERING. And here we are told that there are some people who make a covering, but it is narrower than they can wrap themselves in it. There is one garment, friends, that never is too narrow, though the sinner be the hugest sinner that ever trod this earth, and that is the garment of the perfect righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides that, there is none other long enough or broad enough. Now, there are some sinners that think they have clothed themselves, when they have only made for themselves a nightcap. Don't smile that's a fact. There are spiritual nightcaps to be bought in London. "What is that?" says one. Well it is woven in the loom of hyper-calvinism. It is high doctrine cut off from God's Word, taken away from its connection, taken altogether away from that part of divine truth with which we have most to do as sinners, and it is made into an antidote for all the twitchings of man's conscience, and into a soporific whereby souls are sent to sleep, preparatory to their being cast into the arms of Satan. Men get into their heads a doctrinal opinion. That opinion is right, true, good I will preach that opinion against any man; but men forget that opinions are not evidences of salvation if the walk and conversation are not right. They read, for instance, such a passage as this: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Well, they say, "I am in Christ Jesus; there is no condemnation for me!" they put that on their heads, they go to sleep in it, and they think they are covered, because they have simply wrapped this false covering about their heads. They have a blindfold about their eyes, and they cannot see their nakedness, and therefore, they think there is no such thing. Oh, I am grieved to think that there are men who flatter that craving of corrupt nature, after something that is not salvation by Christ. You may as easily be destroyed by trusting in good doctrine as by trusting in good works; for recollect, beloved, that believing right, will no more save you, (if it is only believing right doctrine) than doing right will save you. It is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and receiving his spirit and being made like unto him, is the only salvation that will stand the test of the day of judgment. I used to have a man sitting in front of the gallery, (not in this chapel,) but he used always to nod his head when I was preaching a doctrine; and I remember once, I thought I would cure that old gentleman of nodding his head, for he was about as bad a rascal as ever lived. Whenever I preached about justification, down went his head. Whenever I preached about imputed righteousness, down went his head. I was a dear man, no doubt about that; and so I thought I would cure him, and make his head keep still for once. So I remarked "there is a great deal of difference between God electing you, and your electing yourself, a vast deal of difference between God justifying you by his spirit, and your justifying yourself by a belief that you are justified when you are not; and this is the difference;" said I to the old man, who then put me down for a rank Arminian; "you who have elected yourselves, and justified yourselves, you have no marks of the Spirit; you have no evidence of piety; you are not holy; you live in sin; you can walk as sinners walk; you have the image of the devil upon you, and yet you think you are the children of God." And, now, I say to any here present who are indulging in the same abominable hypocrisy, this is a spiritual delusion whereby many believe a lie; and the time will come when some of us will have to speak as sharply against men who preach doctrine without practice, as we have to preach against those who preach not the doctrine of free, sovereign, distinguishing grace. High doctrine will never cover you. It will only cover you head; it is a logical covering, made of the right sort of stuff; but it is only a headpiece, and that is not a complete covering for the naked man. Now, again, there are some other people who are not content with that. They do not care particularly about this covering for the head, but they think they will get a pair of slippers, and thus cover their nakedness. "What do you mean by that?" says one. Well, good works. "Ah!" they say, "those doctrinal people, they look to the head; I don't care about the head, I shall look to the feet." And so they look to the feet, and they make themselves very decent sort of people, too. They keep the Sabbath, they frequent the house of God, they read the Bible, they say a form of prayer, and they try to be honest, sober, and so forth. Very right. I do not say a word against slippers, only that they are not a good covering for the whole man I do not say a word against good slippers; good works are very well, but they are not sufficient. Good works are like a pair of shoes, but do not let a man think a pair of shoes can become wide enough to cover his whole body. Such men are deluded. They think, if their outward walks and conversation is good, and right, and proper, that, therefore, their whole nakedness is covered. Oh! never delude yourselves into such an idea as that. Though you walk in the commandments of the Lord, blameless in the eyes of all men, yet so long as sin is in your heart, and the past sin of your life is unforgiven, you stand helpless, unclothed souls, in the estimation of God, and your garment is too narrow that you may wrap yourself in it. I have seen some poor souls trying to wrap themselves up in good works, and they were not long enough. "Oh," says one, "come here, and I will tie on a bit for you." And so he brings out a yard of good old stuff that is called "Baptism," and he taggs on that. "Stop," he says, by-and-bye, "I will bring out something else made by a Bishop, called "Confirmation," and another yard is put on. "Wait awhile!" says the man, "you shall have a yard of something else;" and then there is a yard of what is called "Communion," or "Sacrament," put on. "Now, hold hard; you know the Catechism, and say it often; you know the prayers proper to be used at sea, on the land, and the prayers for weddings, baptisms, and churchings; and now," say they, "by degrees the garment will be made long enough to go round you." I have seen the poor souls tug and pull it, to make both ends meet, but they could not. I could tell you the experience of a member of this church. She says, "I attended a place of worship regularly, and tried to work out a righteousness for myself. I could not do it, At last I took to attending daily service in the Puseyite Church. I became the most righteous over-much that you could suppose a person to be. I was never satisfied. I tried sacraments, fasting, private prayer never good enough; never could get up to the mark; never felt that the garment was broad enough in which I could wrap myself." No, and you never will. All the good works in the world, and all the ceremonies, and all the praises of men, and all the almsgiving, cannot make a covering broad enough in which to wrap yourself. Shall I tell you what is sufficient? It is the garment that is "without seam, woven from the top throughout;'' a garment woven by the bleeding hands of Jesus, and then dyed in his own blood. If by faith you can put this garment on, it is broad enough to cover you; though you were wide as giant Goliath, and though your heads reached to the very clouds, it should be long enough for all your needs. So you see that these coverings which men have sought for are not sufficient. Now, there are some people who are not very particular about the head, or the feet, but they come nearer the mark they have been more particular about the loins. They gird themselves with a little garment. Their religion is to think. they like to sit at home and think over the Scripture, to think over certain doctrinal particulars, aml meditate upon them. They think, for instance, one church is not right, and they leave that and join another. But they find that is not right; they tithe the mint there, but they do not tithe the cummin. And they go to another, where they tithe the cummin, but where they do not fast six days in the week. The religion of such a person as this, is the religion of picking holes in other people's religion. Do you say, "Are there any people of that sort?" Yes, I know several of them; they are very good souls, if you estimate them by their own opinion, but if you estimate them by the law and by the statutes of God, you will find them different. They think that all they need to do is simply to feel that they are conscientious in what they are doing. It is very proper and right that they should be conscientious. I am not going to speak against the garments round the loins, they are very good; I only speak against a man thinking that is enough. I do not speak against their nightcaps or slippers, or against the garment round the loins, they are all good in their places; I only speak of putting these instead of the complete raiment of Christ. You may be baptised and re-baptised; you may go from one sect to another, and secede, and secede, and you will be none the better unless you are clothed in the matchless, spotless, seamless righteousness of the Lord. Now, let us bring forth that robe, and let us stand in that. What Jesus did, and what Jesus suffered, is the inheritance of the believer. Now, let the believer be never so full of sin, what Jesus suffered covers all his sin. Let him be never so full of want, the fullness of Jesus supplies it all. Let him be never so loathesome in his own sight, the beauty of Christ makes him comely. Let him be cast down in his own experience, the exaltation of Christ makes him to sit together with him in heavenly places. There are times when the convinced sinner grows great in sin. He feels himself as if he were bloated with iniquity; but even then the garment of Christ is wide enough to wrap him about. Sometimes he grows so tall in his sin, he feels as if he were proud as Lucifer; he casts the cowl of the Saviour's righteousness over his head, and it covers him even then. His feet sometimes seem to tread the very bottom of the ocean, but the long robe of the Saviour's righteousness sweeps the bottom of the sea when the feet of the believer are standing there. All is longer, all is higher, all is broader than all the height, depth, and length, and breadth of our backslidings, our iniquities and sins. What a glorious thing, then it is to be a Christian, to have faith in Christ, to have the Isaac born in our hearts, the new nature put there. Come my soul, take thy rest, the great High Priest has full atonement made. Thou hast much goods laid up, not for many years, but for eternity; take thine case; eat spiritual things; drink wine on the lees and be merry; for it cannot be said of thee, "to-morrow thou shalt die," for thou shalt never die, for "thy life is hid with Christ in God." Thou art no fool to take thy ease and rest, for this is legitimate ease and rest, the rest which the God of Sabaoth hath provided for all his people. And then, O Christian! march boldly to the river of death, march calmly up to the throne of judgment, enter placidly and joyfully into the inheritance of thy Lord, for thou hast about thee an armor that can keep thee from the arrows of death, a wedding garment that makes thee fit to sit down at the banquet of the Lord. Thou hast about thee a royal robe that makes thee a fit companion even for Jesus, the king of kings, when he shall admit thee into his secret chambers, and permit thee to hold holy and close fellowship with him. I cannot resist quoting that verse of the hymn,
"With thy Saviour's garment on, Thou'rt holy as the Holy One."
That is the sum and substance of it all. And on this bed let us take our rest, and during this week let us make Christ's work our only garment, and we shall find it long enough, and broad enough, for us to wrap ourselves up in it.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:20". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/isaiah-28.html. 2011.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26