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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
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Nave's Topical Bible - Blindness; Jesus, the Christ; Unbelief; The Topic Concordance - Praise; Unbelief; Understanding; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Unbelief;
Verse 39. Therefore they could not believe — Why? Because they did not believe the report of the prophets concerning Christ; therefore they credited not the miracles which he wrought as a proof that he was the person foretold by the prophets, and promised to their fathers. Having thus resisted the report of the prophets, and the evidence of Christ's own miracles, God gave them up to the darkness and hardness of their own hearts, so that they continued to reject every overture of Divine mercy; and God refused to heal their national wound, but, on the contrary, commissioned the Romans against them, so that their political existence was totally destroyed.
The prophecy of Isaiah was neither the cause nor the motive of their unbelief: it was a simple prediction, which imposed no necessity on them to resist the offers of mercy. They might have believed, notwithstanding the prediction, for such kinds of prophecies always include a tacit condition; they may believe, if they properly use the light and power which God has given them. Such prophecies also are of a general application-they will always suit somebody, for in every age persons will be found who resist the grace and Spirit of God like these disobedient Jews. However, it appears that this prediction belonged especially to these rejecters and crucifiers of Christ; and if the prophecy was infallible in its execution, with respect to them, it was not because of the prediction that they continued in unbelief, but because of their own voluntary obstinacy; and God foreseeing this, foretold it by the prophet. Should I say that, they could not believe, means, they would not believe, I should perhaps offend a generation of his children; and yet I am pretty certain the words should be so understood. However, that I may put myself under cover from all suspicion of perverting the meaning of a text which seems to some to be spoken in favour of that awful doctrine of unconditional reprobation, the very father of it shall interpret the text for me. Thus then saith St. AUGUSTIN: Quare autem non POTERANT, si a me quaeratur, cito respondeo; Quia NOLEBANT: MALAM quippe eorum VOLUNTATEM praevidit Deus, et per prophetam praenunciavit. "If I be asked why they COULD not believe? I immediately answer, Because THEY WOULD NOT. And God, having foreseen their BAD WILL, foretold it by the prophet." Aug. Tract. 53, in Joan.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 12:39". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-12.html. 1832.
137. Final message to the Jews (John 12:27-50)
Jesus trembled as he thought of the suffering that awaited him, but he was determined to finish the work he had come to do. He prayed that through his death he would glorify his Father, and his Father responded in a voice from heaven that the prayer would be answered (John 12:27-29). As the startled onlookers were wondering what they had heard, Jesus told them that the time for Satan’s defeat was approaching. Through Jesus’ crucifixion, people of all nations would be delivered from Satan’s power and brought into the liberty of the kingdom of God (John 12:30-33).
The people were puzzled at Jesus’ statement. He spoke of himself as ‘the Son of man’, but if he used this expression to mean ‘the Messiah’, how could the Messiah die on the cross? They thought the Messiah would live for ever. Jesus had no more time to reason with them, but urged them to believe in him immediately and so walk in the light while he was still on earth. Otherwise the darkness would come upon them and they would be lost eternally (John 12:34-36).
Most of the Jewish people were stubborn in their unbelief, as Isaiah had prophesied. Any who believed in him were afraid to say so openly, for fear of being put out of the synagogue (John 12:37-43). In his final words to the crowd, Jesus explained that to believe in him was to believe in God; to reject him was to reject God (John 12:44-46). Jesus came to save people, not to condemn them, and the words he spoke were the words of God. But in the day of judgment those same words would be a witness for the condemnation of those who rejected them (John 12:47-50).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 12:39". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/john-12.html. 2005.
For this cause they could not believe, for that Isaiah had said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and he hardened their heart; Lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, And should turn, And I should heal them.
They could not believe ... This accounts for the sad remark of Jesus (John 12:35). It was already too late. The people had closed their eyes, stopped their ears, and hardened their hearts. They had shut their eyes to every sign, greeted every spiritual message with some crass literalization of his words, scorned every revelation of himself as the Shepherd, the Door, the Light, the Bread of Life, etc., and had caviled at his every word. Having so hardened themselves, they inevitably suffered the penalty of God's judicial hardening, making them no longer capable of believing. For study of hardening of Israel, see my Commentary on Romans, p. 376; and for comments on the manner of God's hardening all who do not like to keep God in their hearts, see my Commentary on Romans, pp. 45f. It should ever be borne in mind that God's judicial hardening always follows, and never exists apart from the act of evil men sinfully hardening themselves.
John's quotation is from Isaiah 6:10. Matthew quoted Jesus as using exactly the same words (Matthew 13:14,15).
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 12:39". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
They could not believe - See Mark 6:5; “He could there do no mighty works,” etc. The works can and could are often used in the Bible to denote the existence of such obstacles as to make a result certain, or as affirming that while one thing exists another thing cannot follow. Thus, John 5:44; “How can ye believe which receive honor one of another.” That is, while this propensity to seek for honor exists, it will effectually prevent your believing. Thus Genesis 37:4 it is said of the brethren of Joseph that they “could not speak peaceably unto him.” That is, while their hatred continued so strong, the other result would follow. See also Matthew 12:34; Romans 8:7; John 6:60; Amos 3:3. In this case it means that there was some obstacle or difficulty that made it certain that while it existed they would not believe. What that was is stated in the next verse; and while that blindness of mind and that hardness of heart existed, it was impossible that they should believe, for the two things were incompatible. But this determines nothing about their power of removing that blindness, or of yielding their heart to the gospel. It simply affirms that while one exists the other cannot follow. Chrysostom and Augustine understand this of a moral inability, and not of any natural want. of power. “They could not, because they would not” (Chrysostom in loco). So on Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin,” etc., he says, “he does not say if is impossible for a wicked man to do well, but, because “they will not, therefore they cannot.” Augustine says on this place: “If I be asked why they could not believe, I answer without hesitation, because they would not: because God foresaw their evil will, and he announced it beforehand by the prophet.”
Said again - Isaiah 6:9-10.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 12:39". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-12.html. 1870.
39. Therefore they could not believe. This is somewhat more harsh; because, if the words be taken in their natural meaning, the way was shut up against the Jews, and the power of believing was taken from them, because the prediction of the prophet adjudged them to blindness, before they determined what choice they should make. I reply, there is no absurdity in this, if nothing could happen different from what God had foreseen. But it ought to be observed, that the mere foreknowledge of God is not in itself the cause of events; though, in this passage, we ought to consider not so much the foreknowledge of God as his justice and vengeance. For God declares not what he beholds from heaven that men will do, but what He himself will do; and that is, that he will strike wicked men with giddiness and stupidity, and thus will take vengeance on their obstinate wickedness. In this passage he points out the nearer and inferior cause why God intends that his word, which is in its own nature salutary and quickening, shall be destructive and deadly to the Jews. It is because they deserved it by their obstinate wickedness.
This punishment it was impossible for them to escape, because God had once decreed to give them over to a reprobate mind, and to change the light of his word, so as to make it darkness to them. For this latter prediction differs from the former in this respect, that in the former passage the prophet testifies that none believe but those whom God, of his free grace, enlightens for his own good pleasure, the reason of which does not appear; for since all are equally ruined, God, of his mere good pleasure, distinguishes from others those whom he thinks fit to distinguish. But, in the latter passage, he speaks of the hardness by which God has punished the wickedness of an ungrateful people. They who do not attend to these steps mistake and confound passages of Scripture, which are quite different from each other.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 12:39". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-12.html. 1840-57.
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he had raised from the dead. They made him a supper; and Martha served [typical of Martha]: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very expensive, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the aroma of the ointment ( John 12:1-3 ).
Typical of Mary, worshipping; Martha, working...it takes all types. God has built into our characters these very qualities. Martha, busy serving; Mary, busy worshipping.
Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray him, Why didn't they sell this perfume for three hundred pence, and given the money to the poor? ( John 12:4-5 )
Actually, it was very expensive. A pence was a day's wage for a laboring man. So you've got almost a year's wages involved here that this perfume could have been sold for.
This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and he held the purse, and he was stealing out of the money in the purse ( John 12:6 ).
Now, it's unfortunate that in the betrayal of this whole scene in "Jesus Christ, Superstar" they try to make Jesus a very lavish kind of a person, living in opulence, no care for the poor. And Judas turns out the hero; he's the social reformer and the man who's concerned for the poor and all. And they don't really do justice to the text, and that, you have to assume, is deliberate. Because it's right there. Judas didn't really care for the poor, as he would be made out that marvelous man with social concern. He was a thief. He was holding the purse and had been stealing the money out of the purse. That's the only reason he wanted the perfume sold and the money put in the purse. He was not that kind of a person that they tried to portray him.
Then said Jesus, Get off her case: against the day of my burying has she kept this. For the poor always you will have with you; but you will not always have me ( John 12:7-8 ).
So He made Judas leave her alone.
Many of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not only for Jesus' sake, but they wanted to see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests ( John 12:9-10 )
And notice how evil men they are.
they consulted how that they might put Lazarus to death also; because by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus ( John 12:10-11 ).
So they're going to try and destroy the evidence by killing Lazarus.
The next day many people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches off the palm trees, and they went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that comes in the name of the Lord ( John 12:12-13 ).
And so, knowing that Jesus was going to be coming from Bethany, having to come down from the Mount of Olives, they went over to the path that comes from Bethany, down the Mount of Olives, into the Kidron valley to Jerusalem. And as Jesus was coming, they greeted Him, waving the palm branches. And so, we have Palm Sunday, the Sunday before the crucifixion. And they were crying the 118th Psalm, "Hosanna!" "Save now" is what the word means in Hebrew. "Blessed is the King of Israel that comes in the name of the Lord!"
Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it was written, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt. These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him ( John 12:14-16 ).
Now, John is very honest and very frank here. He said, "You know, we didn't think about it until after He was glorified, and then we thought, 'Oh, wow, remember how we waved the palm branches and He was riding on a donkey? Isn't that what Zachariah said? "Rejoice greatly, O daughters of Jerusalem, behold thy King cometh unto thee, but he is lowly, he is sitting on a donkey, the foal of an ass." Wow!'"
In other words, he is saying, "We weren't trying to deliberately set the stage. We didn't say, 'Now what does the Bible say is supposed to have next? Let's work it out this way.'" It wasn't a deliberate conspiracy to set the stage. It was something they just did, and afterwards they realized, "Wow! We were fulfilling prophecy." And the realization came, but not until after Jesus was glorified. So it wasn't a deliberately staged event as far as the disciples were concerned.
And the people therefore that were with him when he called Lazarus out of the grave, and raised him from the dead, they bare record ( John 12:17 ).
They were telling everybody about it.
For this cause the people also met him, for that they had heard that he had done a great miracle ( John 12:18 ).
I mean, it had really been buzzed, this miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. And so everybody was excited.
The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Hey, do you realize how we're not prevailing? the whole world is going after him. There were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast ( John 12:19-20 ):
They could worship from the court of the Gentiles; they could not come in.
And the same came therefore to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and they desired of him, saying, Sir, we would like to see Jesus. And Philip came and told Andrew: and Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit ( John 12:21-24 ).
What a beautiful picture! You have a little grain of wheat. You set that little grain of wheat here on the pulpit, and you can come back a year from now, and it's still one little grain of wheat sitting there on the pulpit. Come back ten years from now, still one little grain of wheat sitting there on the pulpit. But if you put that little grain of wheat into the ground, it dies. But out of the death comes a new form, a new body, comes the stalk, comes the new kernel or corn of wheat, they call it. And many wheat seeds. And the potential of one wheat seed is tremendous. I read somewhere that if you would take a kernel of corn and plant it, and then take from that one kernel of corn all of the seeds that came off the kernels that grew from the one, plant them. I think it is in ten years that you would have enough corn seed to plant every acre of ground on the face of the earth with corn. Just each year planting everything that came from the one. You see, when God created the plants and all, He said, "Be fruitful, multiply. Fill the earth." And surely, the potential is there. And so, Jesus is using a neat little illustration here, referring to His death. "Look, unless it dies, it stays by itself. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit." Talking of His death. Through His death, He was going to bring forth much fruit. You included, tonight. Part of the fruit.
And he that loves his life shall lose it; but he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal ( John 12:25 ).
He had said earlier, "He who seeks to save his life will lose it; he who will lose his life for My sake, the same will find it or save it." Much the same, loving life. You're going to lose it anyhow. But if you are looking forward to that new life, life eternal.
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor. Now is my soul troubled; what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour ( John 12:26-27 ).
You remember He kept saying, "My hour is not yet come, My hour is not yet come"? Now He's approaching the hour. And as He's approaching the hour, He's beginning to go through this inner turmoil. "My soul is troubled; what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'?" He's already beginning to enter into some of the agony of the garden. These are the last days; He knows it. In the garden He prayed, "Father, if it's possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Thy will be done." Now, even before then, He's going through that turmoil. "Father, save Me from this hour. Yet, it's for this hour that I came into the world. For this cause, that's why I'm here."
Father, glorify thy name ( John 12:28 ).
Oh, this is just as powerful as the prayer in the garden when He said, "If it is possible, let this cup...nevertheless, not My will, Thy will be done." How glorious it is when we submit our ways to God. "God, save Me from this hour; but yet, not so, Lord, You just glorify Your name."
There came a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. And the people therefore that were standing around, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, No, an angel spoke to him. And Jesus said, This voice did not come for my sake, but for your sake ( John 12:28-30 ).
I don't need this kind of a spectacular demonstration to make Me believe. It wasn't for My sake that this voice came, it was for your sakes.
But now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of the world be cast out ( John 12:31 ).
You see, they'd just been saying, "Save now," and He says, "No, it's the judgment of the world; for the prince of the world himself is going to be cast out. He is to be despised and rejected of men."
And I, if I be lifted up ( John 12:32 )
The corn of wheat died, it will bring forth much fruit. If I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
This he said, signifying what death he should die ( John 12:33 ).
When He said, "If I be lifted up" He was talking about, "I'm going to be lifted up on a cross. I'm going to die on the cross." And the lifting up was only signifying death on a cross. Unfortunately, many ministers and Christians take this term, "If I be lifted up" as meaning exalting Jesus. "If we just hold Jesus up before people, if we just exalt Jesus, if we just lift Him up before people, He's going to draw everyone unto Him. So, what we must be doing is exalting Jesus before the people and lifting up Jesus before the people, so that all the people will be drawn to Him." That's not what Jesus is saying! And there's even some chorus that is almost blasphemous if you think of it. And it's, "Let's lift Him higher, let's lift Him higher, that all the world might see." You know, He's only talking about death on the cross. The corn of wheat falling into the ground, that it might bring forth much fruit. And not exalting Jesus or lifting Him up before the world. Not referring to that at all, and that's an unfortunate understanding many people have taken, because they didn't read the next verse. They just take this statement of Jesus, "If I be lifted up, I'll draw all men unto Me." "Oh, well then, let's lift Jesus up." No, He's talking about the cross. If I say, "Well, let's lift Jesus up," I'm saying, "Well, let's put Jesus on the cross." So,
This he said, signifying what death he should die. The people answered him, Now we've heard out of the law that the Messiah abides forever: how come you are saying that you've got to be crucified? who, then, is the Son of man? ( John 12:33-34 )
You say, "I'm going to be crucified." Wait a minute! The scriptures say that the Messiah is going to abide forever. "For unto us a child is given, unto us a Son is born, the government shall be upon His shoulders. And the name shall be called 'Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace;' and of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, the Messiah abides forever." Upon the throne of David to order it and establish it in righteousness and judgment, from henceforth, even forever. For the zeal of the Lord of Hosts shall perform this. How come you say you're going to be crucified if the Messiah abides forever?'
And Jesus said unto them, For a little while the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walks in darkness does not know where he's going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light. And these things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them ( John 12:35-36 ).
Now the Pharisees are out to get Him for sure. But yet, He is in control of the events. The crucifixion must take place on Passover in order that He might fulfill in His sacrifice all of the symbolisms of the Passover; the blood of the lamb slain in Egypt on the doorpost, bringing life for those condemned to die. So, it was necessary that the crucifixion take place on Passover, and thus, He hid Himself.
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they did not believe on him ( John 12:37 ):
Now, there is a common misconception that if a person could just see a miracle, surely they would believe. Not so; they saw many miracles and they did not believe. In fact, it was a little worse than that. We are told in verse John 12:38 they could not believe.
That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? ( John 12:38 )
Then there in thirty-nine,
Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, that I should heal them. These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spoke of him ( John 12:39-41 ).
So, Isaiah prophesied that he would be despised and rejected. "A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." "Therefore they could not believe." Why could they not believe? That's an interesting statement: "Therefore they could not believe." Even though they saw the miracles, they could not believe.
Jesus warned in the other gospels concerning the unpardonable sin, that of the continual rejection of the Holy Spirit's conviction upon your heart. A person can reject Christ so many times that believing becomes an impossibility. There is a certain law of metaphysics. Our brains are an interesting instrument, and we can create brain patterns, so that a repeated action can create such a pattern in our brain that it's difficult and, at times, impossible to change the pattern that you've established there.
You watch a woman learn to knit and the needles just seem to go everywhere and it's slow, it's tedious. But as she continues to persist, you find that what's happening is you're patterning the brain, you're establishing grooves up here. Until finally, if you've worked with the needles long enough, you see the needles just flying. And she can be talking, watching television or something, and the needles will just be flying. Because the grooves have so planted in the brain that she doesn't really have to think about it. She can just turn on the mode up there..."knit one pearl, two"...and it just goes, and the pattern is set. And so with many things that a repeated action creates the pattern in the brain, and it becomes a very simple thing.
Now, that's why some of you old people have such a problem with Pac Man. You know, you're just too old to get any new grooves going. But you take this little kids--my little grandson, man is he a whiz at Pac Man! You know, he just sits there and he can . . . and I won't even put a quarter in the thing for myself, I give him the quarter and watch him do it. But I'm lousy at that game. But his, I mean, is just automatic response, that little guy's come down and the little Pac Man is going and he can just turn that little guy around and in, and his reflects are just tremendous. The brain has been patterned so well for that stuff. You watch these kids, and it becomes an automatic kind of a response that they have. I mean, they just get into the machine, almost, into the whole thing. And you can pattern your brain so that it gets established in a set.
Now, unfortunately, a person can do that in regards to believing in Jesus Christ. You see, the first you were faced with the claims of Jesus Christ, and you thought, "I wonder, could this be true? Could He really be the Son of God? Can I really have eternal life by believing? Well, I don't know." And it was a tough decision. I mean, it wasn't easy to say "no" to Jesus. It was a very hard decision for you to make. But ultimately, you said, "Well, no, I don't think so, not tonight anyhow."
Now, the next time you were faced with it, you see, by your saying "no" you started a groove. You planted that in your brain and it becomes a permanent part. So the next time you were faced, it was a little easier to say, "Well, I don't think so, not tonight." The groove got a little deeper. And every time you said "no," the groove became deeper and deeper and deeper, until you can be faced now with indisputable evidence, but you can't overcome that brain groove.
This is the condition the Pharisees were in. Here's a man raised from the dead. Evidence they can't deny. They might try to get rid of it by killing him, but they can't deny it. But yet, they could not believe; they had gone too far. They couldn't reverse it at this point.
It is extremely significant that nine-tenths of the decisions that are made for Jesus Christ are made when a person is a teenager. You see, before you get that groove set too deep. Nine-tenths of the decisions are made during the teen ages. As you get older, that old brain groove gets deeper and deeper until, actually, salvation, statistically, becomes an impossibility. But God is a God of grace, and so, we see many times these eighty or ninety-year-old people coming to Jesus. That's a miracle! Statistically, it's impossible, but God isn't bound by statistics. Mathematically, you can show the impossibility of a seventy-year-old person accepting Jesus Christ. But that happens, what can you say? God is a God of miracles. Salvation is a miracle. "But they could not believe."
Now, you remember when Pharaoh hardened his heart. Then finally, God took over and He hardened his heart. God will confirm you in your position. And so, God confirmed them in their positions. They wanted to blind their eyes, they didn't want to see; alright, then God blinded their eyes. They didn't want to believe; alright, then God made firm their decision, He hardened their hearts, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts and be converted, and that they should be healed. So, "These things said Isaiah when he saw His glory and he spoke of Him."
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess, lest they should have been put out of the synagogue ( John 12:42 ):
And here is a tragic verse of scripture,
For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God ( John 12:43 ).
That has been the nemesis of many a person. What a tragedy when it is said of a person, "Well, he loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." You know, "They might not understand me at the club if I spoke out for Jesus Christ." And they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. What a sad, sad commentary on many people's lives. "I'm more concerned with what people will think of me than I am what God will think of me. I'm more interested in man patting me on the back than I am God patting me on the back. I'm more interested that men should praise me than that God should praise me." They love the praise of men more than the praise of God. That is a very sad case to be in.
And Jesus cried and said, He that believes on me, believes not on me, but upon him who sent me. And he that sees me sees him that sent me ( John 12:44-45 ).
Philip said, "Lord, just show us the Father, we'll be satisfied." And Jesus said, "Philip, have I been so long a time with you, have you not seen me? He who has seen me, has seen the Father. How is it that you say, 'Show us the Father'?" We'll get that next week. "He that sees Me sees Him that sent Me," or sees the Father.
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me, should not abide in darkness ( John 12:46 ).
Now, Paul the apostle said, "You are not the children of darkness that the day of the Lord should take you as a thief by surprise, but you're children of the light, therefore walk as children of the light" ( 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 ) making reference to the statement of Jesus here in John, chapter 12.
If any man hear my words, and believe not, I do not judge him: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world ( John 12:47 ).
How many times has He said this? "He that believeth not is condemned already. I didn't come to condemn the world, but that the world through Me might be saved." Now, He's referring again. That was at the beginning of His ministry, to Nicodemus in John, the third chapter. "God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. And he that believeth is not condemned." ( John 3:16-18 ). "I didn't come to judge the world. If a person doesn't believe in Me, I don't judge him. I didn't come to judge, I came to save." Oh, His glorious mission. Not to bring condemnation, not to bring judgment, but to bring salvation to men.
Now, He is coming again, and when He comes again, it will be to judge. But His first coming, the mission was salvation.
He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one who judges him: and it is the word which I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day ( John 12:48 ).
When you are judged, you will be judged by the Word of God. Your not believing it, that's what is going to judge you. God has given the witness; you didn't believe it, so the Word of God will judge you. Jesus said, "I'm not going to judge you, the Word that I have spoken, that's what is going to judge you."
For I have not spoken of my own; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak ( John 12:49-50 ).
So, "My words that I have spoken, they have come from God, they are going to be the things that judge you. I know that they're true; I know that God has given to me life everlasting." And that's what is going to judge you; you'll be judged by God's Word.
Next week we'll go on into chapters 13 and 14. The fourteenth chapter, in my estimation, is one of the most important chapters in the Bible. Years ago when I was in seminary, I had a professor who said that the fourteenth chapter of John was perhaps one of the most important chapters in the Bible. He said, "You all memorize it." So, I went home and memorized it. And it is an outstanding chapter, and you should commit it to memory. And it's one that's just so full, so rich. We'll be getting into that next week.
And now, may the hand of the Lord be upon your life, to watch over you, to guide you, and to strengthen you for the things that you'll be facing this week. May you just again be open to the things of the Spirit, that God might lead you in His way of righteousness and truth. May the blessings of the Lord be upon you through all of your activities, as you walk with Him in an ever-increasing faith, fellowship and love. In Jesus' name. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on John 12:39". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/john-12.html. 2014.
The explanation of Israel’s unbelief 12:37-43
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 12:39". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-12.html. 2012.
7. The unbelief of Israel 12:37-50
This section of the Gospel contains the writer’s explanation of the significance of the events so far in Jesus’ ministry. John first explained the conflict between belief and unbelief, and then He recorded Jesus’ final appeal for decision. This is the final climax of the decision theme before Jesus’ passion. The key word in this section is "believe," which appears six times.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 12:39". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-12.html. 2012.
John again affirmed that most of the Jews did not believe on Jesus because they could not. God had judicially hardened their hearts because they had refused to believe Him previously (cf. Exodus 9:12; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 12:39". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-12.html. 2012.
Therefore they could not believe,.... God had determined to leave them to the blindness and hardness of their hearts, and to deny them his grace, which only could cure them of it, and enable them to believe: he had foretold this in prophecy, and they were manifestly the persons spoken of; and therefore considering the decrees of God, the predictions of the prophet, and the hardness of their hearts, they were left unto, it was morally impossible they should believe,
because that Esaias said again, in Isaiah 6:9.
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 John 12:39". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-12.html. 1999.
|The Unbelief of the People.|
37 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: 38 That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? 39 Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. 41 These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.
We have here the honour done to our Lord Jesus by the Old-Testament prophets, who foretold and lamented the infidelity of the many that believed not on him. It was indeed a dishonour and grief to Christ that his doctrine met with so little acceptance and so much opposition; but this takes off the wonder and reproach, makes the offence of it to cease, and made it no disappointment to Christ, that herein the scriptures were fulfilled. Two things are here said concerning this untractable people, and both were foretold by the evangelical prophet Isaiah, that they did not believe, and that they could not believe.
I. They did not believe (John 12:37; John 12:37): Though he had done so many miracles before them, which, one would think, should have convinced them, yet they believed not, but opposed him. Observe,
1. The abundance of the means of conviction which Christ afforded them: He did miracles, so many miracles; tosauta semeia signifying both so many and so great. This refers to all the miracles he had wrought formerly; nay, the blind and lame now came to him into the temple, and he healed them, Matthew 21:14. His miracles were the great proof of his mission, and on the evidence of them he relied. Two things concerning them he here insists upon:-- (1.) The number of them; they were many,--various and of divers kinds; numerous and often repeated; and every new miracle confirmed the reality of all that went before. The multitude of his miracles was not only a proof of his unexhausted power, but gave the greater opportunity to examine them; and, if there had been a cheat in them, it was morally impossible but that in some or other of them it would have been discovered; and, being all miracles of mercy, the more there were the more good was done. (2.) The notoriety of them. He wrought these miracles before them, not at a distance, not in a corner, but before many witnesses, appearing to their own eyes.
2. The inefficacy of these means: Yet they believed not on him. They could not gainsay the premises, and yet would not grant the conclusion. Note, The most plentiful and powerful means of conviction will not of themselves work faith in the depraved prejudiced hearts of men. These saw, and yet believed not.
3. The fulfilling of the scripture in this (John 12:38; John 12:38): That the saying of Esaias might be fulfilled. Not that these infidel Jews designed the fulfilling of the scripture (they rather fancied those scriptures which speak of the church's best sons to be fulfilled in themselves), but the event exactly answered the prediction, so that (ut for ita ut) this saying of Esaias was fulfilled. The more improbable any event is, the more does a divine foresight appear in the prediction of it. One could not have imagined that the kingdom of the Messiah, supported with such pregnant proofs, should have met with so much opposition among the Jews, and therefore their unbelief is called a marvellous work, and a wonder,Isaiah 29:14. Christ himself marvelled at it, but it was what Isaiah foretold (Isaiah 53:1), and now it is accomplished. Observe, (1.) The gospel is here called their report: Who has believed, te akon hemon--our hearing, which we have heard from God, and which you have heard from us. Our report is the report that we bring, like the report of a matter of fact, or the report of a solemn resolution in the senate. (2.) It is foretold that a few comparatively of those to whom this report is brought will be persuaded to give credit to it. Many hear it, but few heed it and embrace it: Who hath believed it? Here and there one, but none to speak of; not the wise, not the noble; it is to them but a report which wants confirmation. (3.) It is spoken of as a thing to be greatly lamented that so few believe the report of the gospel. Lord is here prefixed from the LXX., but is not in the Hebrew, and intimates a sorrowful account brought to God by the messengers of the cold entertainment which they and their report had; as the servant came, and showed his lord all these things,Luke 14:21. (4.) The reason why men believe not the report of the gospel is because the arm of the Lord is not revealed to them, that is, because they do not acquaint themselves with, and submit themselves to, the grace of God; they do not experimentally know the virtue and fellowship of Christ's death and resurrection, in which the arm of the Lord is revealed. They saw Christ's miracles, but did not see the arm of the Lord revealed in them.
II. They could not believe, and therefore they could not because Esaias said, He hath blinded their eyes. This is a hard saying, who can explain it? We are sure that God is infinitely just and merciful, and therefore we cannot think there is in any such an impotency to good, resulting from the counsels of God, as lays them under a fatal necessity of being evil. God dams none by mere sovereignty; yet it is said, They could not believe. St. Austin, coming in course to the exposition of these words, expresses himself with a holy fear of entering upon an enquiry into this mystery. Justa sunt judicia ejus, sed occulta--His judgments are just, but hidden.
1. They could not believe, that is, they would not; they were obstinately resolved in their infidelity; thus Chrysostom and Austin incline to understand it; and the former gives divers instances of scripture of the putting of an impotency to signify the invincible refusal of the will, as Genesis 37:4, They could not speak peaceably to him. And John 7:7; John 7:7. This is a moral impotency, like that of one that is accustomed to do evil, Jeremiah 13:23. But,
2. They could not because Esaias had said, He hath blinded their eyes. Here the difficulty increases; it is certain that God is not the author of sin, and yet,
(1.) There is a righteous hand of God sometimes to be acknowledged in the blindness and obstinacy of those who persist in impenitency and unbelief, by which they are justly punished for their former resistance of the divine light and rebellion against the divine law. If God withhold abused grace, and give men over to indulged lusts,--if he permit the evil spirit to do his work on those that resisted the good Spirit,--and if in his providence he lay stumbling-blocks in the way of sinners, which confirm their prejudices, then he blinds their eyes, and hardens their hearts, and these are spiritual judgments, like the giving up of idolatrous Gentiles to vile affections, and degenerate Christians to strong delusions. Observe the method of conversion implied here, and the steps taken in it. [1.] Sinners are brought to see with their eyes, to discern the reality of divine things and to have some knowledge of them. [2.] To understand with their heart, to apply these things to themselves; not only to assent and approve, but to consent and accept. [3.] To be converted, and effectually turned from sin to Christ, from the world and the flesh to God, as their felicity and portion. [4.] Then God will heal them, will justify and sanctify them; will pardon their sins, which are as bleeding wounds, and mortify their corruptions, which are as lurking diseases. Now when God denies his grace nothing of this is done; the alienation of the mind from, and its aversion to, God and the divine life, grow into a rooted and invincible antipathy, and so the case becomes desperate.
(2.) Judicial blindness and hardness are in the word of God threatened against those who wilfully persist in wickedness, and were particularly foretold concerning the Jewish church and nation. Known unto God are all his works, and all ours too. Christ knew before who would betray him, and spoke of it, John 6:70; John 6:70. This is a confirmation of the truth of scripture prophecies, and thus even the unbelief of the Jews may help to strengthen our faith. It is also intended for caution to particular persons, to beware lest that come upon them which was spoken of in the prophets,Acts 13:40.
(3.) What God has foretold will certainly come to pass, and so, by a necessary consequence, in order of arguing, it might be said that therefore they could not believe, because God by the prophets had foretold they would not; for such is the knowledge of God that he cannot be deceived in what he foresees, and such his truth that he cannot deceive in what he foretels, so that the scripture cannot be broken. Yet be it observed that the prophecy did not name particular persons; so that it might not be said, "Therefore such a one and such a one could not believe, because Esaias had said so and so;" but it pointed at the body of the Jewish nation, which would persist in their infidelity till their cities were wasted without inhabitants, as it follows (Isaiah 6:11; Isaiah 6:12); yet still reserving a remnant (John 12:13; John 12:13, in it shall be a tenth), which reserve was sufficient to keep a door of hope open to particular persons; for each one might say, Why may not I be of that remnant?
Lastly, The evangelist, having quoted the prophecy, shows (John 12:41; John 12:41) that it was intended to look further than the prophet's own days, and that its principal reference was to the days of the Messiah: These things said Esaias when he saw his glory, and spoke of him. 1. We read in the prophecy that this was said to Esaias, Isaiah 6:8; Isaiah 6:9. But here we are told that it was said by him to the purpose. For nothing was said by him as a prophet which was not first said to him; nor was any thing said to him which was not afterwards said by him to those to whom he was sent. See Isaiah 21:10. 2. The vision which the prophet there had of the glory of God is here said to be his seeing the glory of Jesus Christ: He saw his glory. Jesus Christ therefore is equal in power and glory with the Father, and his praises are equally celebrated. Christ had a glory before the foundation of the world, and Esaias saw this. 3. It is said that the prophet there spoke of him. It seems to have been spoken of the prophet himself (for to him the commission and instructions were there given), and yet it is here said to be spoken of Christ, for as all the prophets testified of him so they all typified him. This they spoke of him, that as to many his coming would be not only fruitless, but fatal, a savour of death unto death. It might be objected against his doctrine, If it was from heaven, why did not the Jews believe it? But this is an answer to it; it was not for want of evidence, but because their heart was made fat, and their ears were heavy. It was spoken of Christ, that he should be glorified in the ruin of an unbelieving multitude, as well as in the salvation of a distinguished remnant.
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 John 12:39". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/john-12.html. 1706.
Israel And Britain. A Note of Warning
June 7, 1885
C. H. SPURGEON
"But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not
on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he
spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the
Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias
said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they
should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be
converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his
glory, and spake of him."-John 12:37-41 .
The blindness of Israel concerning our Lord was sadly remarkable. It was a
blindness of the eyes, for they saw his many miracles, and yet believed not:
their ears also seemed to be stopped, for they heard his words and did not
understand them; and their hearts also were heavy, for they did not relent
under the plaintive admonitions of a Saviour's love. Their hearts were cruel
towards the Messiah; they hated him without a cause. No door was open to the
heart of Israel; they had hardened their heart, they had shut their eyes,
they had stopped their ears, and even he that spake as never man spake gained
no access to their souls. They went so far as to crucify him, and cried as
they did so, "His blood be on us, and our children,"-words so sadly verified
when Jerusalem was destroyed, and her children slaughtered, sold as slaves,
or scattered to the four corners of the earth. It was indeed, a terrible
blindness which happened unto Israel.
Her rejection of the Lord Jesus is the more amazing because Isaiah gave so
clear an account of the Messiah, and so clearly pictured Jesus of Nazareth.
Descriptions of him could not have been more explicit than were the
prophecies of Isaiah. It would be very easy to construct an entire life of
Christ out of the book of Isaiah, beginning with "a virgin shall conceive and
bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," and ending with "he made his
grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death." Isaiah spake of John
the Baptist as the "voice crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the
Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God," and he foretold our
Lord's ministry by the way of the sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the
Gentiles, where the people who sat in darkness saw great light. The prophecy
portrayed his Lord as "despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief." Clearest of all is he upon his vicarious sufferings,
concerning which he uses a variety of most definite expressions, such as,-
"The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are
healed." Isaiah saw so clearly the day of our Lord Jesus that he spake rather
as an evangelist than as a prophet; as an eyewitness, rather than as one
foretelling a far-off event. Yet all this clearness was lost upon the men of
his generation, and upon those who followed after. The nation had so long
been fickle towards God, and had trifled so long with God's truth, that it
was at length given up to a judicial hardness of heart, so that it could not
understand or perceive. They refused the plainest messages of grace, and were
so confirmed in unbelief that all their prophets cried with one plaintive
voice, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord
Nor was it alone grievous that Israel sinned against the light which shone in
Isaiah's testimony; but, alas, she closed her eyes against the meridian
splendour of our Lord's own life. Jesus bore his own witness in his person,
teachings, works, and gifts. A sad wonder lies in the fact, that they did not
know the Lord of glory although they saw his miracles, which were sure
witnesses to his claims. He wrought among them works which none other man
did. There is about our Lord a likeness to God: in all that he does the
Godhead shines forth. He is so pure that he can say, "Which of you convinceth
me of sin?" How like to him who is saluted as "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of
Hosts!" His teaching is so full of tenderness and gentleness that since God
is love, we conclude that Christ is God. His many miracles touch upon every
point in the great circle of omnipotence. What is there that God can do which
the Christ did not do? Was he not multiform and multitudinous in his works of
power and grace? Herein lay the wonder, that though he did so many miracles
before them, not in secret but actually before their eyes; though he fed them
with bread which they could see, and handle, and eat; though he healed the
sick and raised the dead, they yet believed not on him. How sadly far can men
go in unbelief, prejudice, and hardness of heart! How dim can human eyes
become when men refuse to see! How darkened the understanding when men are
unwilling to comprehend! Let us tremble at this, lest ourselves by imitating
the chosen people in their unbelief should fall into like bondage to
prejudice and ignorance, lest we by tampering with truth should come at last
to be incapable of perceiving it, lest we also by rejecting the testimony of
God should be given up to our own willfulness, to believe a lie and refuse
the truth. Such, then, as Isaiah had foreseen, was the state of Israel in our
Lord's day: never clearer evidence, and never more obstinate refusal to see
it; never truth more plain, and never rejection so determined. Woe to those
who close their ears; for the day cometh when they shall no longer hear! Woe
to those who shut their eyes to the light, for they shall ere long be made
blind! Isaiah was informed that such would be the outcome of his ministry:
the Lord bade him say to the people, "Hear ye indeed, but underststand not;
and see ye indeed, but perceive not." This must have been a very sad business
for so generous and tender-hearted a man of God. It was painful to him to be
so clear and yet to be so little understood. He was the Paul of the Old
Testament; to him belonged fulness of knowledge, clearness of vision,
plainness of speech, and faithfulness of spirit, and yet none of these things
could make the people understand his message and receive it into their
hearts. He was sublime in thought, attractive in word, and affectionate in
spirit, and yet they did not believe his testimony; so that he must often
have been astonished and heart-broken as he spake in vain to a people who
were determined that they would not hear.
This morning I shall draw certain lessons for ourselves from the great
evangelical prophet, his ministry, and the people to whom he ministered so
vainly. Our first meditation shall be concerning Isaiah and his ministry: and
our second shall be concerning the people to whom he spake. Alas! I fear that
we who speak in the name of the Lord in these last days have also to deal
with hearts that are gross, ears that are heavy, and eyes that are dimmed.
Upon this generation also there is falling a measure of judicial withdrawal
of light and discernment; and we also have to cry, "Who hath believed our
report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"
I. First, then, let me speak with you CONCERNING ISAIAH AND HIS MINISTRY. Oh,
that the Spirit of God may speak with power through me. Our text says two
things of Isaiah: first, that "he saw his glory," and secondly, that "he
spake of him."
The first statement is that Isaiah saw. Isaiah was a great seer: his prophesy
begins thus,-"The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning
Judah and Jerusalem." All prophets were more or less seers, and saw what they
foretold; but Isaiah above others was endowed with the seeing and foreseeing
faculty. He had the clearest sight, and for that reason he had the clearest
speech. When a man speaks so that you cannot understand him, the usual reason
is that he does not understand himself; and when a man speaks so as to be
readily comprehended, it is because the thought in his own mind is well
defined. He that would speak well must see well. Mark the two things in the
text-"When Isaiah saw his glory, and spake of him."
In what sense is Isaiah said to have seen that which he spake? Does it not
mean that he realized his thoughts? that they stood out vividly, so as to
make a deep impression upon his own mind? Things to come were already come in
his apprehension: he beheld what he believed, he felt what he foretold. He
was not a dreamy person, maundering about half-fashioned, undeveloped
thoughts; but he was a person who knew, and perceived, and felt what he
preached. He saw with his soul what he set forth with his lips.
But what did he see? It is a most important thing that in these days you and
I should see the same, for the same work lies before us among a people who
are a repetition of that disobedient and gainsaying nation. Read, then, with
care the sixth chapter of Isaiah. Open your Bibles and refer to the passage
verse by verse.
First, what Isaiah saw was the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted
up. When the prophet went abroad among the people he heard them speaking
against the Lord God; some contending for our deity and some for another;
some leaning upon an arm of flesh, and others despising the promise of
Jehovah the God of Israel. All this, I say, he saw out of doors, and he was
troubled. But when he went into the sanctuary of God he saw the Lord sitting
upon a throne : still reigning, still glorious, undisturbed by opposition. He
must then have felt like David when he said, "Why do the heathen rage, and
the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and
the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in
derision. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." As David saw
Christ upon the throne amid the strirvings of the people, so did Isaiah see
the Lord Jesus, not only upon the lowly mercy-seat, but upon a throne high
and lifted up. I pray you, brethren, settle this in your hearts: our Lord is
highly exalted as Lord of all. When you see evil occurrent, do not imagine
that it defeats the eternal purposes of Jehovah: when you hear blasphemy and
your blood runs cold, do not think that Christ has lost his glory: when men
riot in sin, do not dream that the reins of affairs are out of Jesus' hands;
for still he is "God over all, blessed for ever." My heart exalts this day,
as, by undoubting faith, I am assured that he who died on Calvary is now
exalted on high, far above all principalities and powers. "Thou art the King
of glory, O Christ!" To thee our spirits ascribe infinite honour, world
without end. Though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into
the midst of the sea, yet the Lord reigneth. He that died upon the tree is
crowned with majesty, and all the angels of God worship him. "He must reign
till he hath put all enemies under his feet." Let us have no question about
this; for if we have, we shall not be prepared to speak in the Lord's name
with this evil generation. Amid the anarchy of the ages we see the glorious
high throne of our redeeming Lord unmoved, unmovable: this is the rock of our
refuge when the unsettled times rage about us like the waters of the troubled
sea. We cannot be afraid, for Christ is on the throne.
Observe that in Isaiah's vision he not only saw the Lord "upon a throne high
and lifted up," but he saw that "his train filled the temple." so that in
that temple there was room for no one else. The robes of this great King
filled all the holy place; and neither priests nor offerers could there find
standing room. It is a great thing to see how Jesus fills the heavenly
places; in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead. Let it be
acknowledged to be so in heaven, for the glory of our Redeemer fills every
street of the upper city, every mansion of the Father's house. In the church
below, which is also his temple, among his spiritual people, the glory of the
Lord Jesus engages and occupies every heart. They feel that there is none
other in whom they can trust, none other whose words they will receive, none
other in whom they glory; the Lord Christ is all in all to us, and we know no
other Master or Saviour. His train fills the temple. I trust it is so among
us. From Sabbath to Sabbath the one glory of this Tabernacle is the person
and work of Jesus. What a glory hath God put upon the Only Begotten Son, whom
he hath raised from the dead that he should be head over all things to his
church, which he fills with his life, light, and love. Nor may we forget that
all the things that exist are in a sense his temple, and the whole universe
is filled with his train; for "he hath ascended up far above all heavens that
he might fill all things." Glory be unto our ascended and reigning Lord.
In this vision Isaiah saw the flaming spirits that wait upon Christ of God.
He calls them "seraphims." The best interpretation we can give is "burning
ones:" they burn in the sense of consuming. They burn up that which ought to
be consumed, namely, all kinds of evil. There are powers around our Lord
which will destroy evil. You ask me to tell you something about these
seraphim; how can I? They have covered their faces, and covered their feet.
Since nothing is to be seen, what can I tell you? Neither would it be right
for us to speak concerning them, for manifestly it is their desire to be
hidden. Who will violate their wish to be concealed? They covered their
faces, they covered their feet, and therein they did as good as they say,
"Look not on us, but look on him who sits upon the throne, whose attendants
we are." This much is all we know,-exalted intelligences are in waiting upon
our Lord, and are able to fly swiftly at his bidding. Tremble not concerning
this error, or that, it shall be burnt up by those agencies which are at the
command of our exalted Lord. Spirits from God shall run to and fro, and
smite, as with the fire of God, those powers of darkness which now oppress
our race. God himself is a consuming fire: who can dwell with him but those
that are like him? He maketh his ministers a flame of fire. Around our Lord
are the chariots of God, which are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels.
His power knows no limit. His word runneth very swiftly; he speaks, and it is
done; he commands, and it stands fast. Glory be unto thee, O Christ! We will
not fear nor be discouraged, since these thy servants are ready to flame
forth at thy bidding. Truly thou art Jehovah of hosts.
This vision of the body-guard of the Prince of peace was enough to strengthen
Isaiah: thus comforted, he would calmly confront that rebellious generation.
If the prophet, when he opened the young man's eyes strengthened his heart by
making him see horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha, shall not we
be comforted as we behold legions of burning ones surrounding our King, and
standing ready to fulfil his decrees?
Further, we find that Isaiah saw in that vision the perpetual adoration which
is rendered unto Christ concerning his holiness. Those bright spirits had
never tasted of his mercy, for they had never sinned: they understood nothing
of his grace, for they had not been guilty; but being pure in heart they
gazed on the Lord with opened eye and adored his holiness. Their whole souls
were filled with the contemplation of that one all-embracing attribute; and
in responsive song they said each one to his fellow, "Holy, holy, holy, is
the Lord of hosts." They emphasized their words by repeating them three
times; and perhaps they alluded also to the Trinity in Unity as they cried,
"Holy, holy, holy." This is the supreme glory of Christ, that in him is seen
the holiness of God. Oh my friends, let us be like these seraphim, ravished
with the holiness of the atonement, awe-struck with the justice of God in the
great sacrifice. Reflect with reverence that God when he willed to save his
elect would not commit a breach upon his laws; though he would redeem them
from going down into the pit, yet he would not violate his word, nor change
that most righteous penalty of death, which is the due desert of sin. Rather
than stain his holiness he spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him
up for us all. Consider the great love of holiness which must have been in
the heart of the Father, that he would give up his Son to bleed sooner than
his law should be dishonoured; and think of the great holiness of Christ,
that he would rather give his back to the smiters and his cheeks to them that
pluck off the hair, yea, rather stretch out his hands to the nails and expire
forsaken of his God, than suffer sin to go unpunished. God would not even for
mercy's sake issue an unjust pardon to the souls he loved.
As I stand here this morning I also have visions of God, and the cross seems
to me transformed into a burning throne, whereon justice is high and lifted
up to the uttermost, as I see God himself in Christ Jesus bowing his head to
death, that he might be just, and yet the Justifier of him that believeth.
Around that cross I see troops of angels gathering, and I hear one crying
unto another and saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah Jesus, the great
sacrifice for sin." Do you not unite in their reverent homage? If you do you
will go forth and tell of pardon bought with blood, and of the atonement
finished once for all. With hallowed confidence you will tell it out among
the people that the holy Lord reigneth from the tree, until all creatures
fall down and worship him that was slain, because his holiness was thereby
revealed in noonday splendour.
This was not all that was revealed to the prophet; for he heard the seraphim
say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his
glory." Even when men rejected Christ, even when hearts were fat, and eyes
were dim, and ears were heavy, even then the whole earth was full of the
glory of Christ. When scientists tell us that they cannot see God, I am
amazed. To me it is impossible not to see him. Though I cannot pry with the
scalpel into the anatomy of the human frame, yet when I look upon the mere
skin of the human countenance I see the handiwork of God. Though I cannot dig
into the lower strata of the earth and disentomb the fossil and decipher its
stone preserved memorial, yet to me rock, and clay, and sand, and relic of
the past, bear the sure hieroglyph of God. Though I cannot inform you of all
the interesting details of insect life, or descant upon the secrets of
botany, yet to me bees bring honeyed thoughts of God, and flowers breathe the
perfume of his love. Where is God? Say rather, Where is he not? Not with
these grosser senses, but by higher faculties I see and hear my God; yea, he
doth surround me, and my faith embraceth him. I am no fool for this; the best
authority declares that he is the fool who saith in his heart "There is no
God." Yes, the whole earth is full of the glory of Christ, and above the
earth in every cloud it is seen, and above the cloud every star shines out
concerning him. Alas, for the blind-eyes that cannot see that which is
evidently set forth in every place. Alas for the ears which cannot hear when
earth, and sea, and heaven, and hell, are all echoing to the tread of the
Omnipotent Christ of God. Oh brethren, have you ever seen this vision, have
you ever seen God's glory filling the whole earth? If so, you are prepared
for the times that are and are to be times of gloom, and darkness, and sin,
and blasphemy-and yet your heart does not tremble for the ark of the Lord.
When all this was seen of the prophet, he noted that the posts of the doors
moved. If I am rightly informed, there were two huge columns before the
temple called Jachin and Boaz. These were made with singular skill, and were
the wonder of the age. They were of brass, cast by Solomon; but in the course
of ages they had no doubt mellowed into bronze, and there they stood, two
tremendous erections, upbearing massive doors. We are told, I know not
whether it be correct, that the gates that swung upon these columns required
at least twenty men either to open or to shut them; but as the prophet saw
that vision he noticed that these massive columns trembled, and thus did
obeisance to the God who was within their gates. Our Revised Version reads
it, "The foundations of the thresholds were moved." Even to its foundations
the house trembled with solemn awe of the divine presence. Brethren, heaven,
and earth, and hell, and all created things reflect the glory of the Lord,
and thus adore him. Oh Lord Jesus, thou art worthy of all honour. "All the
earth doth worship thee." If it was so with posts and doors, shall not our
hearts rejoice with trembling? shall not our souls be moved in the presence
of the Most High? and will we not fall down before the glorified Christ, as
John did, who wrote, "When I saw him I fell at his feet as dead?" Everything
is filled with awe in his majestic presence, save only man, the impious rebel
who dares defy his God.
Then came the best part of the vision for Isaiah. At the glorious sight, he
felt, "Woe is me, for I am undone, I am stricken dumb. I can never speak
again, for my lips are unclean, and I dwell among an unclean people." Then,
swift as lightning flew a seraph, bringing a coal more burning than himself
from off the altar of sacrifice, wherewith he touched the prophet's lip.
Beloved, this is what we need. We need to feel the atonement laid home to us,
to feel the power of the great sacrifice of Christ, to hear a voice saying
within our spirit, "Thine iniquity is put away, and thy sin is purged."
Though that live coal must have blistered the lip which it covered, yet it
made it eloquent. Common fire would destroy the organs of speech, but the
fire of sacrifice does not so, but it unlooses a grateful tongue, and helps a
grateful heart to tell the love immense, unsearchable, which offered itself
upon the altar of sacrifice, that holiness and love might save the sinner.
Our peace comes from the Holy, Holy, Holy One, who is just, and yet forgives
his people's sin. Brother, if you are to proclaim the glory of your Lord, you
must feel the sacrificial coal applied to the place where your impurity is
most seen, even to your lips; you must know that you are forgiven; for your
conviction that you are clean before God will give you confidence in telling
out to others the story of the cross. This is what Isaiah saw.
Listen for a minute to that further word that follows:-Isaiah when he saw his
glory "spake of him." He that hath seen this sight must speak.
He spake in deep humility. Never braver man than Isaiah, but never one who
walked in lowlier reverence before his God. He never forgot to his dying day
that "woe is me! for I have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
Yet, observe that he spake with very willing obedience. "Here am I," he said,
"send me." He offers himself to be God's mouth to the people, whatever the
message may be. He seems to say, "Here am I in the entirety of my being,
purchased to thee by thy great pardoning love; use me as thou wilt, and send
me where thou wilt." He continued to report his Lord's message under constant
rebuffs, and despite the ceaseless obduracy of Israel. Though he cried, "Who
hath believed our report?" yet he continued that report. That chapter which
begins with his complaint, has in it not only a continuation of the report,
but a fuller version of it than he had ever given before. He was sad but
resolute, grieved yet persevering, broken in heart, but not broken down in
constancy. Brethren, it needs great grace to go upon a fruitless errand. One
had need see the glory of the Lord to be enabled to fight a losing battle. I
am sometimes afraid that I have to do this myself; but if it be so, it is not
ours to bargain for success, but to yield implicit obedience. It is ours to
abide faithful to our commission, whether men will hear or whether they will
forbear. Brethren, be it ours to serve the Lord gladly, and testify to what
we have seen, even though no man should receive our witness.
But then it is said of Isaiah that he "spake of him," that is, of our Lord
Jesus Christ. In all that Isaiah said he had an eye to Christ. It was all his
business among men to speak of the glories of the coming Son of God. May the
Lord give us such a sight of Christ in his glory that from this day forth we
shall be absorbed in glorifying him. May our life be a perpetual ministry
concerning Christ. Remember that word concerning John the Baptist, "John did
no miracle, but all things that John spake of this man were true." If we can
do no miracle and achieve no success, let us at least cry without ceasing.
"Behold the Lamb of God." Though we decrease, it matters not so long as he
doth increase; we are glad to disappear, as the morning star is lost at the
rising of the sun. It is our delight to imitate the seraphim, and with veiled
face and covered feet to attend about the throne of Jehovah Jesus our Lord.
II. I now ask your kind attention to the second part of my subject, which is
a very painful one, CONCERNING THE NATION TO WHICH ISAIAH SPAKE. Their
terrible sin lay in this, that they were willingly blinded by the light which
ought to have been to them a help to see Christ, and they were hardened by
those very truths which ought to have melted them. They became more and more
adverse to Christ through beholding in him such a character as ought to have
won their hearts. To the prophet's teaching they were entirely dead. A
specimen of this we find in the succeeding chapters of Isaiah. Israel and
Syria attacked Ahaz, whose reign followed those of Uzziah and Jotham. The
prophet came and said to Ahaz, "Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither
fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands." Ahaz was assured
that God would help him if he would but trust in him; but instead of doing
so, the king determined to petition for the help of the great king of
Assyria, with the result in the long run that "the king of Assyria came unto
him and distressed him, but helped him not." Isaiah, to confirm his message,
bade the king choose any sign either in the depth or in the height above; but
the infidel king replied, "I will not ask, neither will I test Jehovah." He
had so defiantly cast off allegiance to the true God that he would not even
accept a sign, though it was left to his own choice. Thus Isaiah's message
was rejected though put in the most winning form, for the hearts of the
people were blinded and hardened so as to choose the way of destruction.
Ultimately, as you know, the Assyrians carried the whole people away; for
they had rejected God's message willfully, and wrath came upon them. What a
grievous task to be called to preach to such a people!
They went on from bad to worse as a nation; they turned aside grievously, but
not in heart, so that when Christ came they were unable to discern him, for
had they known him they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. This
blindness was in part a punishment for their long rebellion. If men willfully
shut their eyes, do you wonder that they become blind? If men will not hear,
do you wonder that they grow deaf? He that perverts truth shall soon be
incapable of knowing the true from the false. If you persist in wearing
glasses that distort, everything will be distorted to you.
"Hear the just law, the judgment of the skies!
He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies."
But although this blindness was a punishment for former sin, it was itself a
sin. They willfully rejected the testimony of God against themselves; they
refused the self-evident Christ who would so greatly have blessed them. This
wilful rejection was carried out so effectually that it became impossible to
convert and heal them; they could not be instructed, or reformed, and
therefore they were given over to destruction. Nothing remained but to allow
the Romans to burn the temple and plough the site of the city. It was a
dreadful thing that they should deliberately choose destruction, and
obstinately involve themselves in the most tremendous of woes. Poor Israel,
we pity thee! It was sad indeed to fall from so great a height! Yet we are
bound to admit that God dealt with thee justly, for thou didst choose thine
own delusions. The Lord cries, "Oh that my people had harkened unto me." Our
Saviour weeps and cries, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have
gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under
her wings, but ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."
What I have to say this morning is this-that I am growingly fearful lest our
own country should furnish a parallel to all this. Read the story of England,
beginning where you will, and see how gracious God has been to us. Note well
our great deliverances, from the destruction of the Spanish Armada to the
overthrow of Napoleon. Do not forget how often this little country has been
made victorious in wars against great peoples, who thought to swallow her up.
Then reflect how God sent the light to us; how the gospel spread all over
England, and how it has in many ways been rejected. How often since the days
of Cromwell Rome has been allowed to dim the light of our Protestantism, and
how it labours to do so still! See how this people have received the truth of
heaven, but again and again have proved false to it, turning at one time to
superstition and at another time to infidelity. At this moment we are rich,
and despite depression in business, we are less tried by it than any other
nation. And what comes of all this mercy but increased sin? Why, at this
moment we have sin rampant among us almost beyond precedent. Think how the
poor are oppressed and ground down with awful poverty in many parts of this
great city. Shall not God avenge the cry of starving women? Worse still, if
worse can be: those who dare walk our streets after sundown tell us that
Sodom, in its most putrid days, could scarce exceed this metropolis for open
vice. To our infinite disgust and horror, the names of certain of the
greatest in the land are at this hour openly mentioned in connection with the
filthiest debauchery. This is not the place for details, nor can I mention
the matter, or even think of it without feeling my very soul on fire.
Faithfulness requires plain speech; but it is a hideous evil that the dregs
of vice should be the chosen luxury of certain of our hereditary legislators
and rulers. Woe unto thee, Oh land, when thy great ones love the harlot's
house! Deep is our shame when we know that our judges are not clear in this
matter, but social purity has been put to the blush by magistrates of no mean
degree; yea, it is said that the courts of justice have lent themselves to
the covering and hushing up of the iniquities of the great. Shall not God be
grieved by such a nation as this? He who has read a certain story, which is
but too-well known, must have felt his ears tingle and his heart tremble.
What is coming over us? What horrible clouds are darkening our skies? There
were judges once who would not have suffered the laws to be trampled on by
the great, but would have dealt out equal justice to rich and poor: I cannot
persuade myself that it will be otherwise now, and yet I fear the worst. O
God, have mercy upon the land whose judgment-seats and palaces are defiled
This is not all: a general indifference to all religion is creeping over the
country; at least over this vast metropolis. Ask those who visit from door to
door among our crowded populations, and they will tell you that never before
in their life-time were there so few persons attendant upon the means of
grace. Street after street of this city scarcely possesses more than one
regular attendant upon the preaching of the word. The Sabbath is no longer a
day of worship with millions. What continual efforts are made to rob us of
the Sabbath-day; to degrade it into a common work-day, and to make a slave of
the working-man. To-day the revelation of God is treated with indifference,
or talked of as if it deserved no reverence or credit. Unbelief has sapped
the foundations of the social fabric. Worst of all,-I must not hold back the
charge, many of the avowed ministers of Christ are no ministers of faith at
all, but promoters of unbelief. The modern pulpit has taught men to be
infidels. What truth is there which has not been doubted by divines,
questioned by doctors of divinity, and at length been denounced by the
priests of "modern thought?" Nothing remains upon which a certain school of
preachers have not spit their scepticism. The experience of the unbelief of
Germany is being repeated here. Among those who are ordained to be the
preachers of the gospel of Christ, there are many who preach not faith but
doubt, and hence they are servants of the devil rather than of the Lord.
Think not that I am aiming at the Church of England. With all my objection to
a state-church, I am not so unjust as to conceal my belief, that I see in the
Episcopal Church at this time less of unbelief than among certain Dissenters:
in fact, Nonconformity in certain quarters is eaten through and through with
a covert Unitarianism, less tolerable than Unitarianism itself. So frequently
are the fundamental doctrines of the gospel assailed, that it becomes
needful, before you cross the threshold of many a chapel, to ask the
question, "Shall I hear the gospel here to-day, or shall I come out hardly
knowing whether the Bible is inspired or not? Shall I not be made to doubt
the atonement, the work of the Holy Ghost, the immortality of the soul, the
punishment of the wicked, or the deity of Christ?"
I know I shall stir a hornet's nest by these honest rebukes but I cannot help
it. I am burdened and distressed with the state of religion; a pest is in the
air; no truth is safe from its withering infection. No signs can be more
alarming than the growing infidelity and worldliness which I see among those
who call themselves Christians. Does this nation really intend to cast off
the fear of God and the doctrines of Holy Scripture to follow the vain
imaginings of the sophists and the fashionable follies of the great? Are we
to see again unbelief and luxurious sin walking hand in hand? If so, there be
some of us who mean to take up our sorrowful parable, and speak as plainly as
we can for truth and holiness, whether we offend or please. Be it ours still
to thunder out the law of God, and proclaim with trumpet clearness the gospel
of Jesus, not bating one jot of firm belief in the revelation of God, nor
winking at sin, nor toning down truth, even though we fear that the only
result will be to make this people's hearts gross, and their ears heavy, and
their eyes blind. If it must be so, my soul shall weep in secret; but still,
Oh Lord, here am I, send me. Be of good courage, Oh my heart, for the
faithful have not ceased from among men; other voices will cry aloud and
spare not, if haply our land may be purged of its present defilement.
Hearken yet again while I press this subject personally home to you. Has not
this word a personal bearing upon some of you? Certain of you have heard the
gospel preached plainly and honestly, and yet you have never received it: is
there not creeping over you a fatal indifference? Are not your hearts turning
to stone? Possibly you are professors of religion, and yet you do not feel
the power of it; what does this mean? If you are not a praying people, nor a
holy people, and yet you are a professing people, what an awful doom awaits
you! Shall my ministry be a savour of death unto you? It may be that my voice
grows stale to you, and what I say seems common-place: but is this to be the
reason for your refusing Christ and his salvation, refusing the power of his
word, refusing holiness which we would work in you? Oh, shall it be so? Will
you die? Dear hearers, I should not like to meet one of you at that day of
judgment and have to feel that I preached you into a greater blindness than
you might have known. Oh, be converted! Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?
May God in infinite mercy speak to you that you may believe in Jesus now,
lest that should come upon you which is spoken of by the prophet, "Behold, ye
despisers, and wonder, and perish!"
Ere I have done, hear the sweet whisper which closes the sixth of Isaiah.
Notwithstanding all the terrible work that Isaiah had to do he was not left
without comfort; the Lord said to him, "In it there shall be a tenth." You
know how the prophet cried, "Except the Lord of hosts had left us a seed we
had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrah." The Lord has his
sacred tithe and these he will not lose. The tree has lost its leaves, for it
is winter time; but still it is alive, and the sap will flow again, for its
substance is in it! The tree is leveled by the axe; but weep not despairing
tears, for it shall sprout again, for life is still in it. Even so the Church
must live; truth must be victorious; purity must conquer, the Christ must
reign. Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him. Reject
Christ if you will to-day, Oh ye who think yourselves so exceeding wise, but
there is a people who love him, a secret people who cling to him; and when he
comes, as come he must ere long, they will welcome him and partake in his
glory. As for you that refuse him this day, how will you stand when he
appeareth? Whither will you flee? You shall ask the hills to cover you, but
they will refuse. You shall bid the mountains hide you, but they will not
yield a cavern for your shelter. Be wise now, therefore, and no more resist
your Lord. "Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way while
his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust
in him!" May you and I and all of us be of that blessed number. Amen and
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 12:39". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/john-12.html. 2011.
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28