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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Isaiah 27



Verse 2-3


Isa . In that day sing ye unto her, &c.

There are different opinions as to what is meant by "leviathan, that crooked serpent," and "the dragon that is in the sea" (Isa ), whether the same power is signified by different names, &c.

(1.) On a point concerning which learned and able men cannot see eye to eye, it would be presumptuous in me to give an opinion.

(2.) If we cannot feel certain as to the literal meaning, the spiritual is plain.

(3.) Neither of the expositions affects the substance of the prophecy. A great deliverance is spoken of, to be accomplished by the destruction of the enemies of the Church, and the Lord gives a command to comfort His people. There is in our text a command and a promise.


1. "Sing ye unto her." It is taken for granted that the spiritual condition of the Church is pleasing to God, but that the feeling of His people is in a low state. Sometimes the Lord directs His servant to reprimand them: "Show unto my people their transgression." A Church may need comfort while some of its members deserve correction. Possibly the faulty members are the cause of discomfort to the Church, and render it desirable that she should be comforted. It is so in the family. We comfort the family when a member of it has transgressed. The fact that one member needs correction causes the others to need consolation. In some cases, it requires much wisdom to decide whether an encouragement or a reproof should be given. We have seen the rod used when a kind word would have been more suitable; and some are singing songs while it would be more appropriate to sound an alarm. There is need for rightly dividing the Word of truth. "A word in its season," &c.

Possibly the accurate expositor will ask who is commanded to sing. Is it the prophets, or the priests, or the choir of the Temple? This is a poetical book, and sometimes it calls on the heavens, the mountains, and the trees of the field to sing. In this respect I would rather let the command of the text remain undecided, and say to everybody and everything, "Sing unto her!"

2. What shall be sung to this vineyard? Remind her in this song that she is "the vineyard of the Lord of hosts." The Old Testament is full of references to a vineyard, to vines, and to wine. The reason for this is, that the Bible is an Eastern book. A vineyard supposes—

(1.) Separation. Not the superiority of its soil to that of the surrounding country makes the vineyard, but its separation. It is not because the saints are by nature better than others that they are God's vineyard, but because they are set apart by Him. The idea of separation as regards the Church is made conspicuous in every age. The saints, the disciples, constitute the flock and the vineyard of the Old Testament, the Church of the New. When I speak of a separated Church, of course I do not allude to any sect, but to the Church in general. There are hypocrites in the Churches, but none in the Church. It is in the world, but not of the world. The soul is in the body, but not of the body. "Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (2Co ). Ceremonials cannot plant the vine; there are necessarily ordinances, but circumcision could not make the Jews a godly people, and there were thousands of ungodly people partaking every year of the Passover. A change of heart, a change in the condition of the soul, constitutes the planting in the vineyard; not a ceremonial separation, but a change of mind; not the affixing of the stamp of a sect, but the impartation of the image of God (H. E. I. 1171-1183).


A large and comprehensive one. It includes—

1. Care. "I the Lord do keep it." With regard to a vineyard, there is a special meaning in the word "keep." The vine requires great care. There is much work for the knife. From the pruning of the vine by the vinedresser, there is much valuable instruction to be gained. We learn that what appear to be grievous losses may secure great gains (H. E. I. 63, 104, 126). Oh, this pruning, how painful it often is! But it is not done because the Owner of the vineyard delights in it; it proves His love. See Jochebed taking an ark of bulrushes, putting the child Moses in it, and then laying it amidst the perils of the Nile: not because she hated him! No; love was at the bottom of it all, though it appeared otherwise. It behoves the pulpit still to assure God's people of His care for them.

2. Provision. "I will water it." There was necessity for watering the vineyard constantly. This was done by means of trenches conveying the water to the roots of the plants. For this purpose rain-water was carefully stored in cisterns; dew was also of great service. The means of grace are somewhat like watercourses. We are dry enough and withered in appearance, but what would we be without the means of grace? What is the dew? The noiseless influences of the Holy Spirit. We will compare revivals to showers; they are not with us, like the watercourses, always. I do not know whether the natural vineyards must have water without intermission; but the vineyard of the Lord of hosts requires it "every moment," and here is His promise to supply the need.

3. Safety. "Lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." It shall be protected from the blighting frost, from thieves and spoilers, from "the boar out of the wood," from "the little foxes that spoil the vines." "I the Lord do keep it." He will not only give His angels charge concerning it, though He will do that. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him." That shall be done, and more! "For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about her, and will be the glory in the midst of her." All things are in the hand of God, and under His control they shall co-operate for her safety. It is not surprising that Moses, as he surveyed Israel from the top of Mount Nebo, should say, "Happy art thou, O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help? The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." In dwelling near God there is safety. Israel was always flourishing when with God. The safety of God's people means more than being kept together and saved from destruction: "Lest any hurt it!" How excellent are the promises of God!—Gweithiau Rhyddieithol, pp. 48-51, by the late William Ambrose of Port Madoc, translated from the Welsh by the Rev. T. Johns, of Llanelly.

Verse 4-5


Isa . Fury is not in me, &c.

The figurative language in Isa sets forth some powerful and terrible enemies of Israel—cruel, crafty, and bloodthirsty oppressors. But, terrible as they were to Israel, they were no more than "briers and thorns" in the way of Israel's God. He would "march against them and go through them," just as soldiers on their march tread down and crush so frail a barrier as these would be against them. His own people the while should be the object of His special and necessary care (Isa 27:2-3). And if they should so offend as to draw down His judgments upon them, still He would not deal with them as adversaries. He would be ready to make peace with them again on their humbling themselves before Him. The solemn disclaimer of our text should be borne in mind by us when we study—

I. GOD'S THREATENINGS AGAINST THE WICKED. Many of these are very terrible, and a certain class of religionists would have us believe that these alarming texts of Holy Scripture are metaphors that mean nothing, and that we dishonour "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" if we associate His name with anything that savours of wrath, vengeance, and severity. But this is taking a meagre and one-sided view of the Divine character. In God there is not only love, but also holiness, which "cannot look upon iniquity;" justice, which "will by no means clear the guilty;" and truth, which forewarns and will not fail to punish the transgressors of law and order. Let us not mistake the character of such punishment. A furious man acts on the passionate impulse of the moment. He strikes blindly and without consideration; does many things which, when the excitement is over, he will be sorry for and try to undo. But nothing like this is there with God. His threatenings are not uttered in blind and inconsiderate wrath, but in awful calmness of judgment, and in vindication of His essential and eternal holiness; and thus, too, they will be executed. This it is that will make the judgment-day so awful, and that then will reduce the condemned to despair. The son who sees his father's anger so stirred against him, that vain attempt were it to reason with him, vain to offer a word of explanation or excuse, does well to keep out of his father's way, and hope for a better time to stand before him and ask to be forgiven. But no such hope is there, when the offender sees that his aggrieved parent—not furiously, but "of very faithfulness"—is about to administer a threatened punishment; ay, and that his heart is heavy, and his eye dim with tears, even while he punishes! And this, allowing for the inevitable weakness of any illustration of such a matter, may serve to convey the idea which I would impress upon you. "The Father of mercies and God of all comfort" will certainly execute His threatenings against impenitent transgressors. Not in passionate haste, not on sudden impulse of which He might afterwards repent, will the Lord make "a way for His anger" against sin.

II. THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT. Not a few earnest men becloud and all but explain away this fundamental doctrine, because (they tell us) they cannot endure the thought of sin being punished in the person of the Sinless One. They do not like to hear of the Father's "wrath" being averted and (as it is said) "appeased" by the death of His Son; of God looking out (as it were) for a victim, and fastening upon the One found guiltless as a substitute for the guilty mass! But this mistaken representation arises from attributing to God a passion which in men would be indignation and wrath. But what does our text say? "Fury is not in Me." We may not think of our heavenly Father as an angry Being, furiously raging against those whom the devil has proved too strong for, and not to be appeased till He found a victim on which to wreak His vengeance! But no unwillingness on our part to hear it can alter that which is written (2Co ; 1Pe 4:18; Isa 53:5-6). If we study this great subject aright, we shall find in the Atonement the result of the co-working of the calmest (and therefore most inflexible) justice and the tenderest love.—T. W. Peile, D.D.: Sermons, pp. 101-112.

The text expresses the preference of God for forgiveness rather than for punishment, and the conditions of that forgiveness; but, at the same time, the utter overthrow of all who continue in opposition to His will. It suggests—

I. A blessed absence in the nature of God. "Fury is not in me." Fury seems to be uncontrolled and uncontrollable anger, such as that with which the storm seems to beat upon the dismasted, helmless vessel; such as that which inspires the hungry lion that has been for some hours disappointed of its prey. When a man is so under the influence of anger that no consideration from within or intercession from without can pacify him, he is in a state of fury. But no such state is possible to our God. His anger is always under control, He is always the Lord God, abundant in goodness and truth; and we have also plentiful evidence that, in the height of His displeasure, He is accessible to intercession on behalf of His creatures. See how the Son of God ends His woes against "Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites," with "O Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered," &c. Recall the effect of Abram's pleading for Sodom, and that of Moses for unbelieving Israel (Numbers 14) The declaration of the text has been abundantly verified in all ages. Nevertheless,

II. This blessed absence in the nature of God is compatible with contention with the unrepenting. "Who would set the briers," &c. Imagine a father and a son at variance, the father being in the right, and the son in the wrong. There are two ways of reconciliation: either the son must comply with the conditions of the father, or the father must lower his standard to the level of the son. But what a wrong would the father do himself, his family, and society, if he were to adopt this course! He ought not, will not. If the son resolves to fight it out, reconciliation is impossible. This is the relative position of God and the ungodly man. God says, "I am Jehovah, I change not." It is a blessed impossibility. But the unrepentant man ought, can, must! If not, the fire of goodness must be set against the briers of wickedness, a contest as hopeless, and of which the issue is as certain, as that of the devouring flame with briers and thorns.

Conclusion.—The absence of fury in God leads Him to prefer pardon to punishment, and to provide means for the former. "Let him take hold of my strength," &c. Men, churches, and nations are lovers of peace in proportion as they are righteous (Psa ). The preference of God for peace depends upon the very attribute of which the ungodly would rob Him, His righteousness. What is God's strength? How take hold of it? When a man falls overboard at sea, the appointed means of rescue is the life-belt which is thrown to him. Seizing that, he lays hold of the strength of the vessel to save him. When the man-slayer, fleeing from the avenger of blood, entered the city of refuge, He took hold of God's appointed means of shelter. God's strength is His pardoning prerogative, exercised to us through Christ, the "arm" or "strength" of the Lord. See how Moses takes hold of it (Num 14:19). And the prodigal (Luk 15:21; Rom 5:1).—Horace Bushnell, D.D.


I. IN WHAT GOD'S STRENGTH CONSISTS. First, we think of Almightiness, that irresistible power which created the world, &c. We are apt to forget those other and higher sources of strength which belong to God (1Ki ). Wisdom is strength (Ecc 9:15-16). Truthfulness is strength. Justice is power. Mercy to the weak is often the manifestation of the highest strength. England has often put forth her power; her soldiers have crushed the most appalling rebellions; her guns have sunk the mightiest navies; but history will perhaps record it as the highest display of her power when, under a sense of justice, she withdrew her forces when she might have crushed her foes (as in the late Transvaal war, 1881). Now, this element of mercy, as manifest in the work of Christ, is God's strength (Rom 1:16; 1Co 1:24). God's fatherly love is the essence of His power (H. E. I., 3206). Christ is the expression of that love. Christ is God's strength. "And let him take hold of My strength."


(1.) By submission. (Rom ; Psa 2:10). As nothing is so reasonable, so nothing is so wise as submission to God.

(2.) By prayer. Prayer is the hand of the child stretching out in the dark and anxious to feel itself under that father's protecting power. Prayer takes hold of God's strength.

(3.) By obedience (1Pe ). When Saul of Tarsus, after asking, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" went straightway and did God's will, then there came to him a moral power mightier than he had ever wielded before.

III. THE RESULT OF THUS TAKING HOLD OF GOD'S STRENGTH. The result is that Divine strength is infused into our minds. We become "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" Trust is the medium through which God's power is transmitted to man's weakness (Heb ). We can only really know those whom we love and trust (Dan 11:32). The most invincible and lasting institution in the world is the Church of Christ, because composed of those who are "partakers of the Divine nature," and whom God has made strong.—William Parkes, F.R.G.S.

Verse 6


It did not often happen to ancient nations to rise into new vigour after being conquered and removed. Ancient Assyria and Babylon fell, and their influence faded. But it was otherwise with Israel. They had flourished; abused their trust; were punished by being conquered and removed. But they did not perish. From the Babylonian grave they rose. Centuries longer they existed, until their crowning sin. No further need for their national existence. It ceased. But their separate identity as a race continued. The Jew is everywhere. Everywhere he is a witness to the truth of the Bible. And the influence of the Jewish people continues. The influence of the classic writers of Greece and Rome continues. Their study is essential to a liberal education. But only the few enjoy that advantage. The literature of the Jewish race was confined almost entirely to their sacred books. But how wide its influence! Read by the scholar and the peasant, &c. Lifts men's thoughts above the level of this world, and presents a loftier ideal of human character than any of the mere "thinkers" of ancient or modern times.

Nor is it only the perpetuation and influence of a literature. It is the perpetuation of a type of moral life. One who came of Jacob has exerted and is exerting an influence never equalled. Born in a manger, trained in poverty, dying on a cross, He has been and is the fountain of spiritual life to millions. In Him they have become a new seed of Jacob (Gal ).

The text foretells the stability, the growth, and the diffusion of the Church.

I. ITS STABILITY. "Take root." This is necessary to growth. And life is necessary to it. You may plant a stone, or a piece of dried wood, but it can never take root. Why? It wants the mysterious principle called life. Reasons for this. And the roots are the firmest part of the plant. Hence the metaphor—a man is rooted in his position. Fine forest-tree with roots, like arms, many feet on every side. Impossible to dislodge that tree. This is one of the emblems of the stability of the Christian's spiritual position (Col ). Thus the stability of the Church, the aggregate of spiritual men, is set forth in the text. It has struck its roots so deep, and spread them so far, that, as hitherto, so in the future, it shall continue. Storms of opposition, persecution, infidelity unable to uproot it. "The gates of hell shall not prevail."

II. ITS GROWTH. Rooting of a tree only valuable in relation to its continued life and growth. Change is the law of life. Look at it in the individual member of the spiritual Israel. In the living tree in spring the bud breaksforth, then the beautiful blossom—promise of the fruit. So in the Christian life. Gradually it develops by a certain though irregular progression. Nor will this promise of fruitfulness be falsified (Gal ; Rom 6:22; Psa 92:13-14; H. E. I., 2508-2516, 2538-2544). Multiply this by the number of living members in any Church, and how much of spiritual goodness and beauty will be in that circle! Not only within it, but in the homes, among the neighbours, over the whole sphere of their influence. Then multiply this by all the Churches. What an amount of moral beauty thus in the world!

III. ITS DIFFUSION. "And fill the face of the world with fruit." This vision was always present to the prophet's eye. Suppose it realised, and the whole world converted. Then the world will be filled with goodness. But it is all in the spiritual succession from Jacob. How much comes of little! So it has ever been; small beginnings, gradual growth, great endings.

Do you say you cannot believe in the world's conversion? Do you believe the harvest comes from the seed? That Jesus multiplied the loaves? Is anything too hard for the Lord?—J. Rawlinson.

Verses 7-9


Isa . Hath He smitten him as He smote his smiter, or was he slain as his slayers were slain? In exact measure, when dismissing her, Thou didst contend with her; He scared her away with His rough blast in the day of the east wind. Therefore on these terms [or, hereby] shall the guilt of Jacob be purged, and this shall be all the fruit of taking away his sin, when he maketh all the altar-stones like lime-stones dashed in pieces, that Ashérahs and sun-images rise up no more.—Cheyne.

This is a continuation of the song of the vineyard (Isa ). That song was to be sung after deliverance from disasters which had come upon God's chosen people, as the chastisement of their sins. The prophet here pauses to reflect and to instruct them. His instructions are of exceeding value to us, for God acts on the same principles in every age.


They fail in duty, or they even transgress His commandments. Then they certainly suffer. Utter is the delusion that they may sin with impunity. Unlike human parents, God never spoils His children; He has no foolish fondness for them that would lead Him to be blind to or tolerant of their faults. On the contrary, sin in them is most grievous to Him (H. E. I., 4563-4570), and the chastisement thereof is certain and often severe (Amo ). Terrible was the punishment which Isaiah foresaw would come upon Israel—deportation to the land of their conquerors. In that calamity what varied and awful sufferings were involved! So it is still! there is severity as well as mercy in the God we serve. Because He loves us, He will not allow us to go on to ruin unchecked. By terrible calamities, if need be, He will arrest us in the path to perdition.



1. In the fact that they befall them here and now. How kind in Him, not to stand silently by, and leave them to go on unchecked to ruin! Remember, the sinner has no claim upon the mercy of God in any form.

(1) it always falls short of the guilt of the sinner. Did justice measure it out, so that it should be commensurate with the guilt of the transgressor, it would mean destruction. This is seen in the case of the enemies of God. Persistent ungodliness is visited at length, not with chastisement, but with judgment, i.e., utter ruin (note the picture of the doom of Babylon in Isa ). So that when God's erring people have been chastened most severely, His prophets can put to them Isaiah's question in Isa 27:7. To it they can only return the answer given in Psa 103:10.

(2). It always falls short of the transgressor's power of endurance (H. E. I., 180,187). When it is ended, he still lives—lives to bless the hand that smote him (Psa ; Psa 119:75; Psa 119:67).

3. In the motive that inspires them all. By them God seeks, not the destruction of His erring people, but their deliverance. Israel was held in the degrading bondage of idolatry; the terrible calamities of the captivity were the strokes by which He brake their fetters. When the discipline was over, they hated idolatry in all its forms; all the altar-stones in which they had delighted were "like limestones dashed in pieces," and the Ashérahs and sun-images rose in their midst no more. It is the same motive that inspires Him in all His afflictive dealings with His people to-day (H. E. I., 56-59, 66-74). Therefore, if He is visiting us with afflictions,—

1. Let us not be rebellious, but submissive (H. E. I., 158).

2. Let us be moved to penitential self-examination (H. E. I., 145-147).

3. Let us give heartfelt thanks to God because He is resolved to make us like Himself (Heb ; H. E. I., 162-165).


Isa . By this, therefore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin.

The history of God's ancient people is a divine teaching. He had brought them into special relations to Himself, and had conferred on them special privileges. They were intended to be witnesses for Him in the world. To a large extent they failed. Instead of persistent faithfulness to their mission, they repeatedly fell into idolatrous practices. Punishment came. They repented. But when the impression was gone, they renewed the sin. For centuries this continued, until the terrible disaster of the Babylonian captivity. Then they finally renounced idolatry. This was the divine design in permitting that disaster to befall them. The prophet foretold it with suggestive accuracy. "By this shall the iniquities of Jacob be purged," &c.

Their conduct, and the divine dealing with them, finds its parallel in the history of the modern Church. The parallel holds—


The spiritual Jacob sins. Saintly individuals, here and there, whose conduct is an honour to the gospel; but comparatively limited number. Many who in youth felt strongly have seriously declined from the warmth of their first love. Instead of keeping themselves from the world, they are under its influence; like imperfect swimmers, who get within the power of a wave and find they have neither strength nor skill to cope with it. They listen to the sentiments of the world on matters of religion and morality. By little and little they conform. Like Samson, when shorn of his locks, they become weak as other men. From contentment with imperfection they become reconciled to positive sin. Sometimes they even exceed their teachers. Christian professors who have declined into sinful ways often become worse than those from whom they have taken their lesson.

And does not God hate sin in them as He hates it in others? A man's standing in Christ is nothing, if he is living in wilful sin. It deadens his conscience, interrupts his communion with God, exposes him to the peril of final apostasy and perdition. Read the former as well as the latter part of 1Jn . (H. E. I., 4563-4570.)


The discipline God sent to the Jewish people was—

(1.) Severe. It seemed hard to be driven from their beautiful city to a foreign land, possibly to be absorbed in its population or held in slavery. Nor had they the consolation of knowing that they had not brought it on themselves. God knows how to regulate the severity of suffering according to all the facts that must be taken into account, and all the ends that are to be served. However severe our sufferings, we are compelled to admit that they are always less than we deserve. But if His strokes are to be felt, they must sometimes be severe.

(2.) Punitive. God punished Jacob for his sin; but He did not cast him off. His disapprobation of sin had been shown in words; now it must be shown by punishment (Hos ). The sufferings of God's people are sometimes trials of faith. But they are often punishments. When a parent inflicts punishment, does he mean that he has disowned his child? Does it not spring from and prove the relation between them? God punishes as a father: and because He is a father. But this is different from allowing the penal consequences of sin to fall fully on them. That would be disownment, perdition. He fulfils His word (Psa 89:30-37. H. E. I., 56-59, 66-70).

(3.) Corrective. "Purged; and this is all the fruit, to take away his sin." It does not win the pardon of sin. No man's suffering can atone for his sin. That comes another way. The divine One has atoned. Here repentance, reformation is contemplated. As when the husbandman prosecutes his labours he aims to produce the fruit, so God's design in His people's troubles is to take away their sin. A rough method; but necessary. The wild storm damages but purifies. The vine-dresser cuts off branches that the tree may bear more fruit. The sharp frosts of affliction kill the weeds of sin. The medicine is distasteful, but it attacks and dislodges the disease.

But have afflictions invariably this effect? No. Sometimes received in a rebellious spirit; God not recognised in them; thoughtfulness not encouraged; the heart is hardened; comfort is sought from pernicious sources; the soul is driven further from God and deeper into sin.

But when trouble is sanctified—

(1.) It suggests serious thoughtfulness. How has it come? From God? Why? Sin. Our moral instincts point to retribution. Perhaps some particular sin. May be an immediate connection of the punishment—with intemperance for instance, or fraudulent business transactions. There will be self-examination. God, responsibility, eternity will be realised.

(2.) It produces self-humiliation. Confession of sin. Penitential cry for mercy at the cross. Renewed self-dedication.

(3.) It reawakens spiritual life. It is a reason for the reception of fresh impetus. New earnestness in the culture of holiness; new watchfulness against evil. Like a child corrected.

Then if troubles surround you—

(1.) Be conscious of God's hand. Look beyond the secondary causes.

(2.) Justify God in His dealing.

(3.) Be patient; wait His time.

(4.) Study His design in sending the trouble. And unite with Him for the accomplishment of that design (H. E. I., 143-154).—J. Rawlinson.

Verse 8


Isa . In measure when it shooteth forth, &c.

I. There is a special appropriateness in comparing the trials of life to storms.

1. Storms are the exceptions and not the normal or common condition of the atmosphere. "In the world ye shall have tribulation." True; but Christ in saying so does not assert that we shall have tribulation only. "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." Yes; but it is not said that there is nothing but trouble. "Through much tribulation," &c. Yea, through many storms the mariner has to go through life; but there is fine weather also.

2. Storms come from God. See what is said about trouble (Job ), "All my springs are in THEE," the sweet and the bitter.

3. Storms come from different directions: the family, the Church, business, &c.

4. Storms are unpleasant to bear. The anxiety of the sailor's wife. The traveller on the moor.

5. Storms leave their traces behind. The ravages of the sea. The effects of gales on edifices. So in life. The bereaved family. The capitalist reduced to want, &c.

6. But storms are beneficial (Heb ).

II. The storms of life are regulated and controlled by God. It is of Him that our text speaks. Who "debates in measure?" Who "stayeth His rough wind in the day of His east wind?" He who is almighty, all-wise, and good. His greatness, as shown in the firmament, hints that He is too great to observe human beings. But notice our Saviour's teaching: while instructing us concerning His Father, He speaks not of His omnipotence, &c., but of His observation of small things (Mat ). Put a green leaf or a drop of water under a microscope, and you will see myriads of living animalcules. God observes every one. "Casting all your care on Him, for He careth for you." "He" and "you!"

III. The storms of life are proportioned to His people's strength. "In measure." (See pp. 290, 291.) A Jew never exercised greater care and exactitude in weighing out his gold and diamonds than does God while meting out trials to His people. "Grace to help in time of need;" yea, and storms equal to our strength. We do not know how much our strength is. One man over-estimates his strength, another under-estimates it. "But He knoweth our frame." "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able" (H. E. I. 179-188, 3674-3695).

In various ways He maintains the merciful proportion of the storm to the strength.

1. He does so sometimes by sending the lesser storms before the greater. Jacob at Bethel was unable to undergo the trials of Jacob at Mahanaim. By the time he reached the latter place, he had become a prince, an Israel. Carrying the least burden prepares a man for carrying the greatest (Hercules and the ox).

2. Sometimes by sending the heaviest first. The man may then be in the fulness of his vigour, or in spirit he may be so contumacious that some rough handling may be necessary to bring his pride into subjection.

3. By removing one trial before another comes. Poverty is taken away before ill-health sets in. "He stayeth His rough wind."

4. By sending each one in its time. "It could not have come at a worse time." Who says so? "If it had happened at another time, it would have been easier to bear." That may be so, but would it have been as profitable? It was necessary for you to feel. Less suffering would not have sufficed for that end.

IV. The storms of life promote purposes of wisdom and love.

1. The Lord sometimes orders trials as chastisements. It is not always so; we are too apt to explain everything as chastisement. But God has promised to correct (Jer ), and it is the promise of a father, not the threatening of a judge.

(1.) Sometimes one correction prevents many more.

(2.) When the Lord sends trials in the way of correction, He graciously gives His children the reasons for thus dealing with them. "The iniquity which he knoweth" (1Sa ). What father would correct a child without explaining to him what it was for? And what correction would benefit the saints while ignorant of the object in view? Possibly the neighbours may not know, but he has himself a private account with God. Hence arises a consequent duty (H. E. I. 144).

(3.) When God thus sends trials, they are corrections, and not merely punishments; manifestations not of vengeance, but of His love. A gardener uses the pruning-knife only for the good of the fruit-bearing trees in his garden. God's corrections are designed only to take away the sin of His people (see Isa , and Zec 13:9; H. E. I. 56-74).

2. The Lord sometimes orders trials as exhibitions of the graces of His people. The tempest which beat upon Job was not corrective, though he thought so while it lasted (Job ; Job 13:24). The trial brought out into view his trust in God: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." The Lord's purpose was to prove that Job was "a perfect and an upright man" (H. E. I. 91-98).

3. Storms are sometimes preventive. A fiery trial is approaching; the man is in danger, for he is too weak to withstand it; by a lesser trial he is withdrawn from it. Two ships are drawing near in a fog; they are making towards each other at a perfect angle. The top-mast of one is blown down; the men on deck bemoan the misfortune; but it was the means of slackening the pace of the vessel, and so prevented a collision. A man is sometimes laid on a bed of sickness to save his life—to save his soul!

4. Storms sometimes prepare men for nobler work. Moses, after being brought up in the lap of luxury, is watching the flock forty years in Midian. All the learning of Egypt is lost in a shepherd. Nay! Moses requires a double education, for he has a duplicate work to perform—appearing before Pharaoh in the palace, and leading Israel through the wilderness. E.g., what good can a preacher do, if he has no experience of his own? (Psa ; 2Co 1:3-6; H. E. I. 101-108, 2464, 2465).

Some one may say that he has no knowledge of storms from experience. Wait! Peradventure thou shalt know. Should they come, bow. Nothing breaks, if it bends.—Gweithiau Rhyddieithol, pp. 78-81, by the late William Ambrose of Port Madoc. Translated from the Welsh by the Rev. T. Johns of Llanelly.

Verse 10-11


Isa . Yet the defenced city, &c.

I. WHAT A WONDERFUL PICTURE! Proud Babylon so utterly overthrown that on its site cattle feed, and women gather dried sticks for firewood. What an astonishing faith that rendered it possible for any one even to conceive of such a national revolution. That faith grew out of a victorious confidence in the righteousness of God as the ruler of the world, and in His faithfulness to His promises. Such a faith we should cultivate when we see iniquity triumphant. Its utter overthrow is sure. II. WHAT AN ASTONISHING DECLARATION! "For it is a people of no understanding; therefore," &c. It appears to be in direct contradiction to our Saviour's prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." But in the latter case the ignorance was involuntary; in the former, it was deliberate and persistent. Babylon resisted every effort God made to instruct her, and persisted in her career of defiance of His authority and of outrage on all the claims of man. Such obduracy was at length confronted by Divine justice, and then ensued utter ruin. This is the eternal law of the universe. Therefore, let the impenitent tremble, for persistence in sin forfeits all our claims upon God as our Creator (H. E. I., 4488, 4489).

Verse 13


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

This prophecy was literally fulfilled (Ezra 1); but it has a wider meaning, and thus also it shall be fulfilled.

I. THE GREATNESS OF THE GOSPEL. "The great trumpet."

1. It is designed for the world. When liberty was proclaimed for the slaves of the West Indies, the slaves of America remained in bondage. When the slaves of America were liberated, the bondmen in Cuba, Peru, &c., were not set free. But here is a blessing for the whole world. "Which shall be to all people,.… a light to lighten the Gentiles" (Luk ; Luk 2:32). One side of the earth can only enjoy the rays of the sun at the same time; but this "light" shall shed its rays on the whole world.

2. It is designed for the world in its most important interests. There are inventions and scientific discoveries—such as the steam-engine, &c.—which are valuable to the whole world. But they are valuable only in regard to the present life. But the Gospel meets the wants of the soul, and concerns the endless life beyond.

3. It is so great that all other things in the world are small in comparison with it; trade, learning, &c.

4. It is so great that it bestows greatness upon everything it touches. Upon oratory, although it is independent of excellency of speech. Upon any country in which it is proclaimed and accepted: e.g., Great Britain, America. Under its shelter liberty, learning, &c., flourish (H. E. I. 1124-1132).

II. THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL. "The great trumpet shall be blown." What is the good of a trumpet without some one to blow it? (Rom .)

1. Who is to blow it? Not angels (Heb ). The law was given by the ministry of angels; by them the trumpet was blown on Mount Sinai (Act 7:53). But they recognise that the trumpet of the Gospel is to be blown by man (Act 5:20; Act 10:31-32). This treasure is in earthen vessels. Gideon's Lamps. Men are better than angels for this purpose. This is proved by the fact that God ordered it so. But there are other minor satisfactory arguments, such as:

(1.) The danger of glorifying the missionary above the mission.

(2.) The angels' disadvantages. They lack the necessary experience. Blessed lack, in all other respects! They have never been contaminated by sin, and hence know not how to speak to the heart of the sinner. By men the trumpet is now being blown, and will be blown to the end of time. The trumpeters are falling, ministers are dying, but the ministry is alive!

2. How is it to be blown?

(1.) Clearly (1Co ). If the promises are proclaimed, care must be taken to show to whom they belong. So with the threatenings, &c.

(2.) Vigorously. It must be done thoroughly, or not at all.

(3.) Bravely (Eph ). The question is not what will "take," what is popular, what would please the masses, but "What saith the Lord?"

III. THE OBJECTS OF THE MINISTRY. "They which were ready to perish."

1. Pagans are such (Romans 1) "Them which sat in the region and shadow of death" (Mat ).

2. Every unconverted sinner. They are all to be addressed as those who are "ready to perish." The matter cannot be compromised because they are seat-holders, contributors, &c. Your kindness shall not prevent our blowing from the trumpet the tones you need to hear.

IV. THE SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL. "And they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem."

1. Whence shall they come? From their Pharisaical hiding-places, the quicksands of excuses, &c. They are bound in the chains of slavery; but "they shall come!" This is as certain as the deliverance from Babylon. Take up your harps and strike them!

2. How will they come? Weeping. Without delay. Confidently.

3. Whither and to whom will they come?

(1.) To Christ; they cannot live without Him.

(2.) To His house.


1. Thousands have come; will you?

2. God has another trumpet.—Gweithiau Rhyddiethol (pp. 174-176), by the late Rev. W. Ambrose, Portmadoc. Translated from the Welsh by the Rev. T. Johns, Llanelly.


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 27:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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