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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Isaiah 14



Verse 3-4


Isa . And it shall come to pass in the day, &c.

In these verses is described the feeling of relief and joy of Israel in view of release from the Babylonish captivity. So profound will be their sense of God's deliverance and favour, that they will look with contempt even upon the imperious and exacting Babylon, whose glory will be smitten, whose strength will be destroyed.

This is an experience known to men in their spiritual seekings and findings of God. Blessed is that "rest" which follows many a season of sorrow, and fear, and hard bondage wherein men are made to serve. Consider—

I. SOME JOYFUL DELIVERANCES, of which we may be said to have here a type. Every soul engaged in a true search after God can recall such experiences: first there was the "sorrow," then the "joy;" first the "fear," then the confidence; first the "bondage," and then the rescue and the liberty. E.g.,

1. The time of spiritual conversion. That is often preceded by deep conviction, anguish, and gloom. Alarming are those awakenings whose first mission is to show us our guilt and danger. Then we feel the grievousness of the bondage of sin. It is a time of exile, want, servitude. What a glorious day is that in which the Lord gives us rest from our sorrow and fear, by removing from us the terrors of the law, and leading us into the liberty of the Gospel! This is the deliverance to which our Saviour calls us (Mat ).

2. The light which comes after a period of great mental conflict and doubt respecting Divine things also illustrates our subject. Honest and reverent doubt, which intercepts a true seeker after God, is no sin. To creatures who have everything to learn, doubt is but a part of the process of learning; all original research, all independent inquiry, has more or less of it. But doubt may become a hard master, a ruthless tyrant; that which comes from mere prying curiosity, idle speculation, empty cavilling, is certain to do so; in this case doubt, instead of being a pathway, becomes a prison (H. E. I., 4867, 4868). But doubt in any case is a source of unhappiness; it should lead, not to scepticism (H. E. I., 4867, 4868; P. D., 910), but to prayer (P. D., 915, 916). Those whose prayers for deliverance from it have been answered, know how blessed is that day when the Lord gives them "rest."

3. The period of victory which follows a season of severe temptation is another illustration. In most virtues weak, there are sides of our character specially exposed to assault. The sin which most easily besets us proves our oppressor, our tyrant (H. E. I., 4482-4484, 4497-4499). Recall the conflicts you have often had, how often sin has wellnigh proved fatal to you. What a gracious day was that when the Lord came to your help, and gave you rest from your enemy!

4. The heavenly life hereafter will be a still better realisation of the thought before us. To many of God's people the general character of their earthly life is so mysterious, burdensome, and sad, that it all seems a bondage to them. To such, death will come as the day of the Lord to give them "rest" (H. E. I., 220, 1623-1628).

II. THE REAL INSIGNIFICANCE OF OUR FOES, which in the day of our deliverance will be made plain to us, and which should be apprehended by our faith even now (Isa ).

1. Greater is He that is for us than all that can be against us, and therefore, if we be faithful, our victory is sure (1Jn ; Rom 8:37; H. E. I., 934, 2368, 2791).

2. By Him even our very foes and oppressors shall be made to help us. In the case of Israel, their masters were to become their servants, their oppressors their subjects (Isa ). It is so in the spiritual life: our very sorrows, fears, nay, our sins, may be made to serve great ends; a vanquished fear, a defeated sin, will leave us stronger to meet the next. Let us so live and strive, by the grace of God, that, having triumphed over every evil habit, every ignoble doubt, every besetting sin, we may be able to say at last, "How hath the oppressor ceased!"—William Manning.

Verses 9-12


Isa . Hell from beneath is moved for thee, &c.

I. There is an invisible world (H. E. I., 2173-2175). II. Its inhabitants stand in a mysterious relation to this. III. Are conscious of passing events. IV. Despise all earthly distinctions. V. Await the coming of their fellows. VI. Receive them according to their moral character.—J. Lyth, D.D.: Homiletical Treasury, part i. p. 20.

Verse 11


Isa . Thy pomp is brought down to the grave.

One of the most effectual means of comforting the Church in times of oppression, is by predicting the downfall of her enemies. Here Babylon is doomed; her monarch, whose conquests had been so far-reaching, whose power had proved so irresistible, is represented as having met with a mightier than himself; as descending to the abode of the dead; as leaving behind him a body which, instead of being honoured with a royal funeral, has no other covering than the dust and the worms; and as being himself insulted by the astonished mockery of the meanest of those who had preceded him into the invisible world. His removal from the world has been as the cessation of a devastating hurricane, and the whole earth rejoices thereat; it re-echoes with songs of gladness that the dreaded victor has himself been vanquished. Well may the world rejoice that its crowned scourges are not immortal!

I. Let us recall some familiar truths concerning this conqueror of conquerors.

2. He is not arrested in his career from any respect for the plans of men, however heroic and useful they may be. How powerful man often appears in his collective grandeur, binding the ocean in chains, controlling the elements, numbering the stars, building great cities which look like temples erected to Time and destined to outlast his reign, founding empires, and spreading himself out by commerce and enterprise to distant islands and continents; and he has always still greater projects behind. But while man plans, death receives his commission; the ground sinks beneath him, his power suddenly collapses. Few histories would be more instructive or impressive than that of the unfinished projects of men of might and genius, e.g., Csar and his proposed digest of law, Cuvier and his proposed compendium of science (Psa ; H. E. I., 3266, 3273).

3. He determines all character. Passing to and fro, he finds character everywhere in the course of formation; suddenly he brings the process to an end, and with their character precisely in the state in which he found it, those whom he strikes down go into the eternal world. A certain fact, a solemn consideration this!

II. Let me remind you of the strange insensibility of mankind to the existence and operations of this power, from which none of us can escape, and which may so unexpectedly bring all our plans and purposes to an end. Few men give any practical heed to the fact that they are mortal (H. E. I., 1557-1565; P. D., 69). The conduct of mankind in neglecting the concerns of immortality, reverses all the elements of wisdom. Men bury themselves in the concerns of time, and forget that their consciences will have an awful resurrection in another world. This insensibility is the more unpardonable since God uses so many means to arouse and to instruct us. Reflect on the momentous character of life, its shortness, its grand purpose, its solemn issues; look to the grand vision beyond the shades of death.

III. In order that we may be delivered from this prevalent insensibility, let us recall some of the advantages arising from a frequent contemplation of, and a Scriptural preparation for, the approach of death.

1. Preparation for death quite changes its aspect. To a Christian it would be a dreadful thing not to die; his would be the case of a child who was never to come of age, of an exile who was never to go home (H. E. I., 1571-1578; P. D., 667, 669, 747).

2. Preparation for death exalts the character of life. It dispels much of the gloom of life; the bright prospect at the end irradiates all the intervening way.

3. In preparing for death we become imbued with the temper and the tastes of heaven (H. E. I., 1566, 2731-2737.)—Samuel Thodey.

Verse 20


Isa . The seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.

I. This is the verdict of the Scriptures. They abound in evidence that confirms it. Whatever may be the resources of wicked men, true glory does not lie in their path, and nought they can do will avail to secure honourable memory for their wickedness. On the contrary, their name and deeds will be attended with disaster and covered with shame. And this in spite—

1. Of the wealth which may be connected with evil-doing (Job ; Psa 52:5-7, &c.); or,

2. The power it may have (Psa ; Psa 73:18-20), even if it be a confederated power (Pro 11:21); or,

3. The ingenuity with which it may conduct its work (Psa ; Mic 2:1-3). These are but a few of the declarations of the Bible on this subject.

II. This is also the verdict of human experience. As a matter of fact, we see that a wicked course of life is regarded as a shame. It is held up as a beacon to be avoided, whilst the career of the good is held up as a model to be followed. History is full of examples of men whose names are held in universal detestation, notwithstanding their connection with ingenuity, wealth, and power. Each of us knows how well the fact is proved by myriads of examples in social life. A persistently wicked course is known to be a blighted one, and any attempt to invest it with glory or renown is felt to be wrong. We recoil even from the thought that it should be possible for such a course to command the homage of men.

III. This truth gives us great hope for the future of our world. If it were possible for wrongdoing to gain for itself imperishable renown, we might tremble for the safety of those principles of righteousness and truth which have always been regarded as the main support and stay of good men. Reckless folly and wild presumption would become exalted and enthroned, and we might well shudder at the possibility that, under the attractions of successful wickedness, men would rush in masses and bow down to Evil, declaring it to be their Good. This abandoned idolatry, this deep depravity, is now reached only in isolated cases, and such are regarded even by godless men as deplorable and hopeless. It is a hopeful fact that evildoers have to carry on much of their work in the dark, for it is a sure token that, as the light widens and deepens, the works of darkness must fall; their covering will be removed, and their shelter will be gone.

IV. This truth is also one of encouragement to every individual Christian in his efforts after a Christ-like life. Evil-doing does not fail for want of effort; its attempts are bold, its struggles are determined. Yet it is doomed always to wear the name of dishonour and shame; a wicked man will never get glory for his wickedness. But Christian life is in itself true and real honour; its glory is as a shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day. The Christian is a son of God, and no higher dignity than this is conceivable (H. E. I., 1073-1076); he is traversing a path which will for ever lead him on to scenes of new splendour and blessedness. Seeing that this is our high calling and destiny, let us neither fear nor envy the seed of evildoers, however strong or secure they may be, but with greater persistency than ever let us "hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."—William Manning.

This is—

1. Matter of observation;

2. The natural effects of bad training and example (H. E. I., 777-779);

3. The judicial appointment of God (H. E. I., 824).—J. Lyth, D.D.: Homiletical Treasury, part i. p. 21.

Verse 32


Isa . What shall one answer? &c.

Translators and interpreters differ as to whether the answer in this verse was intended to be given by or to the messengers of the nations; as to the nations whose messengers are here spoken of; and as to the time when they came on their errand. Adopting the view which represents them as coming to Jerusalem to congratulate Hezekiah after the marvellous deliverance of that city from the Assyrians (chap. Isa ), we remind you—

I. That the wonders of God's love to His Church often surprise strangers as well as friends. For the deliverances wrought for her are often—

1. Surprisingly seasonable, e.g., the over throw of the Egyptian host in the Red Sea, when everything seemed to favour Pharaoh and to be against Israel (Exo ); the deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib.

2. Astonishing because brought about by unlikely means. Who could have anticipated the manner of the deliverance of Jerusalem on this occasion? [Give other examples.]

3. Astonishing because vouchsafed in spite of great provocations and unworthiness. Every such deliverance is a work of grace as well as of power.

1. The strength and stability of the spiritual Zion is guaranteed by the character and resources of the Builder: "The Lord hath founded Zion."

2. Therefore we should not fear the might of any of the adversaries that come up against her (H. E. I., 1246-1251).

III. The stability and security of Zion are sources of delighted satisfaction to the humblest of her inhabitants: "The poor of His people shall trust in it." They know they are under the guardianship of One who is "mighty to save," and who encircles the least as well as the greatest in the arms of His love. Their consciousness of poverty and weakness leads them to rest in Him with an undivided trust, and they thus attain unconsciously to the blessedness of those whose trust is in God only, the peace which rests on the only foundation that cannot be moved.—Samuel Thodey.

Mark what the text affirms, "The Lord hath founded Zion;" this is the guarantee of His love and of her stability: "the poor of His people shall trust in it," or, as the margin has it, "shall betake themselves unto it;" this is the one purpose of her Divine mission upon earth—the care, the teaching, the education, the guidance of the poor.


1. The strongest, most fundamental title to protection is creation. Even among ourselves no one frames an object in order to destroy it; he who makes, makes that he may preserve. Thus is creation in itself a presumptive title to protection; and it is abundantly plain that the strength of such a bond will ever increase with the cost of the object produced. In one sense the whole material universe cost its Creator nothing, for its production was to Him a thing of infinite ease; but this cannot be said of the Church. He spoke to bid the one, He died to make the other exist. When He beholds His Church, He sees in it the monument of His own inexpressible sorrows; He feels this offspring of His Divine agonies drawn closer to His eternal heart by the thought of all it cost to give her being.

2. In this Church of His is His own honour pledged. He hath not covenanted with the world that now is to immortalise it; but He has passed His own word for the perpetuity of His Church (Mat ; Isa 60:20-21).

3. The Church, in its ultimate perfection, is set forth as the very reward of all the sorrows of its Lord. To "see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied" is His destined crown; this "joy set before Him" was that which enabled Him to "endure the cross, despising the shame." (See also Eph .) Shall He be defrauded of His recompense?

4. There is more than creation to bind the Church to Christ, more than promise, more than reward; there is communion, oneness, identification. A man may desert his child; he cannot desert himself. Even though the Redeemer could forget His espoused bride; even though He could deny His plighted promise; yea, though He could abandon His own reward, He cannot abandon His own body (1Co ; Eph 1:23; Eph 5:30). With such a union there can be no separation; if Christ be immortal, the Church is so; when He dies she shall perish, but not till then.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 14:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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