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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Isaiah 45

 

 

Verse 2

CROOKED PLACES MADE STRAIGHT

Isa . I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight.

Man must go; the only question is—How? He may go, either with God, or without Him; God does not force Himself upon us. Whether we go with God, or without Him, we shall find crooked places. But having taken God as our leader, we have come to know what is the meaning of having these crooked places made straight for us. Straightness may be in apparent crookedness; amid all the curvature and intricacy, Christians have been brought through upon a course, that for all high purposes—filial education, spiritual culture, and strength—has been practically and really straight. A child might go to the geographer, and say, "What nonsense you talk about the earth being round! Look on this great crag; look on that deep dell; look on yonder great mountain, and the valley at its feet; and yet you talk about the earth being round!" The geographer's view is comprehensive; he sees a larger world than the child has had time to grasp. We should regard the text—

I. AS A WARNING. There are crooked places. One could wish that we could make one's own the experience of those that have gone before; but each man must run his own course.

1. There are crooked dispositions,—men of whom you can make nothing. Let the young, especially, be forewarned, and so forearmed. There are those to be met with in life, who, when you think you are walking in the line of their sympathies, will turn perversely upon you; men who, in the midst of your strenuous efforts to serve them, will be as unthankful and ungracious as the rock or the sand that is unblest by all the rich rains of Heaven.

2. There are crooked places in circumstances.

When we think we are proceeding most satisfactorily, we sometimes come to knots and difficulties of which we can make nothing.

3. Crooked places are found in the uncertainties of life. No man can certainly say what will transpire during the next hour; and so, again and again, to our disappointment and mortification, we are compelled to withdraw from our methods, and to abandon that on which we had set our heart.

II. AS A PROMISE. "I will go before thee." This was a Divine promise made to Cyrus; and God has made the same promise to all who put their trust in Him. It is surely something to have a Father's promise singing in the heart. Many know the inspiration even of a human promise. We need the triumphant faith that says definitely to God, "Thou didst promise this, and we wait for its fulfilment." We need patience, too; patience that comes of faith, that God may, so to speak, have time to fulfil His promise. God does not say when He will straighten our path; nor how. He who waits for God is not misspending his time; such tarrying is the truest speed. If we could believe that, how calm, how quiet, how strong, how sublime would be our life!

III. AS A PLAN. We should regard the text as a scheme—a method, a special way of doing things; "I will go before thee." The word before shows the plan; and it also expresses the difficulty on the human side. God does not say, "I will go alongside thee;" nor, "I will go behind thee;" but before thee. Sometimes, it may be, so far before, that we cannot see Him. There is sovereignty here; but there is love and tenderness too, as when the mother goes before her child that is just learning to walk. The idea of God going before every man, as if he were the only man in the world, does not dwarf God, but rather exalts Him exceedingly. "My Father and your Father," said Christ, "my God and your God."

CONCLUSION.—Let us beware of regarding the truth of the text as a mere matter of course. There is an essential question of character to be considered: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord;" "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly."

2. Let us beware of regarding this text as a license for carelessness. "The place whereon thou standest is holy ground," is the expression of every man who knows what it is to have God going before him.—Joseph Parker, D.D., The City Temple, pp. 4-12.


Verse 5

EVERY MAN'S LIFE A PLAN OF GOD

Isa . I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me.

This declaration renders credible the sketch given by Xenophon of Cyrus's rare excellence of character. He was a model of greatness in every form, because God had guided him, unseen, to be the minister of His own sovereign purposes to the nations of that time. Others have been manifestly "guided" by God for their work: Abraham, Joseph (Gen ), Moses, Samuel, Paul—Christ Himself (Joh 18:37). But they differed from other men only in their consciousness (more or less clear) of their being divinely "guided" for their work. The "guiding" is granted to all men, i.e., God has a definite life-plan for every human person, guiding him, visibly or invisibly, for some exact thing, which it will be the true significance and glory of his life to have accomplished.

When we turn from God's Word to His works, we find the same universal and minute arrangement. Every particle of matter, every force of nature, has a purpose, and is used for the furtherance of a comprehensive divine plan.

It is contrary, then, to both these revelations to suppose concerning any man that his Creator has no definite thoughts concerning him, no place prepared for him to fill, no use for him to serve, which is the purpose of his existence. Every human soul has a complete and perfect plan cherished for it in the heart of God. What dignity does this thought add to life! What support does it bring to the trials of life! What instigations does it add to send us onward in everything that constitutes our excellence!

II. Moreover, as God has for every man a definite life-plan which, being accepted and followed, will conduct him to the best and noblest end possible, so He will appoint for him the best possible manner of attaining it. Whatever you have laid upon you to do or to suffer, to want, to surrender or to conquer, is exactly the best for you. Your life is a school exactly adapted to your lesson, and that to the last, best end of your existence. If your sphere is outwardly humble, if it even appears to be quite insignificant, God understands it better than you do, and it is part of His wisdom to bring out great sentiments in humble conditions, great principles in works that are outwardly trivial, great characters under great adversities and heavy loads of incumbrance. The tallest saints of God will often be those who walk in the deepest obscurity, and are even despised or quite overlooked by man. What comfort there is in this truth for us in circumstances otherwise depressive! What invigoration under sorrows otherwise crushing! (P. D. 3235, 3243).

III. But how are we to get hold of this life-plan God has made for us, and find our way into it?

1. Negatives to be avoided.

(1.) Never try to be singular. If God has a distinct design for every man's life, let him seek to be just what God will have him to be, and the talents, the duties, and circumstances of his life require him to be, and then he will be peculiar enough.

(2.) Do not seek to copy the life of another. God has as many plans for men as He has men; and, therefore, He never requires them to measure their life exactly by any other life.

(3.) Never complain of your birth, your training, your employments, your hardships; never fancy that you could be something if only you had a different lot and sphere assigned you. God understands His own plan, and He knows what you want a great deal better than you do.

(4.) While you surrender all thought of making a plan for yourself, do not expect that God will show you the chart of all His purposes concerning you. He will only show you into a way where, if you go cheerfully and trustfully forward, He will show you on still further (P. D. 1440, 1656, 1658).

2. Things we are to do. Consider

(1.) the character of God, and you will draw a large deduction from that; for all that God designs for you will be in harmony with His character. Many employments are by this first principle for ever cut off. No thought is permitted you, even for a moment, of any work or calling that does not represent the industry, justice, truth, beneficence, mercy of God.

(2.) Your relation to Him as a creature. As such it is your general duty to be and to do what He wills; and nine-tenths of your particular duties may be settled, at once, by a simple reference in this manner to what God wills (P. D. 3505).

(3.) You have a conscience, which is given to be an interpreter of His will, and thus of your duty and destiny (H. E. I. 1308).

(4.) God's Word is a guide to present duty, which, if faithfully accepted, will help to set you in accordance with the mind of God and the plan He has laid for you (H. E. I. 543, 558-579).

(5.) Be an observer of providence: for God is showing you ever, by the way in which He leads you, whither He means to lead.

(6.) Consult your friends, especially those who are most in the teaching of God. They know your talents and personal qualifications better, in some respects, than you do yourself.

(7.) Go to God Himself, and ask Him to make clear His will concerning you. He will certainly do so. This is the proper office and work of His Spirit. By this private teaching He can show us, and will, into the very plan that is set for us (H. E. I. 2872, 2875).

Application.

1. Has your life been in accordance with the plan of God? If not, let the past suffice, and humbly seek divine guidance for the future.

2. Young man, all your best opportunities are still before you. Seek God, and consecrate your life to Him, knowing assuredly that He will lead you into just that life which is your highest honour and blessing.

3. How sacred, how strong in its repose, how majestic is a life ordered according to the plan God has formed for it! Living in this manner, every turn of your experience will be a discovery to you of God, every change a token of His fatherly counsel. Oh, to live out such a life as God appoints, how great a thing it is!—to do the duties, make the sacrifices, bear the adversities, finish the plan, and then to say with Christ (who of us will be able?)—"It is finished!"—Horace Bushnell, D.D.: The New Life, pp. 1-15.

THE UNKNOWN INFLUENCE OF GOD

Isa . I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me.

A great Babylonian library, consisting of numerous clay tablets, with arrow-head inscriptions burnt into them, has recently been deciphered. The results are most astounding, confirming once questioned statements of Scripture history, throwing light upon obscure events, and correcting not a few false impressions. Among the principal corrections thus afforded is that of our views regarding the person and religion of Cyrus. Cyrus, it seems, was not a Persian, but an Elamite, and was not a Monotheist, but a worshipper of heathen divinities, adopting Merodach, the god of Babylon, when he conquered that city. The last fact adds great emphasis to our text. Cyrus, to whom the words are addressed, is now proved to be a pagan, a polytheist, an idolater. Yet even he was girded by the unknown God of heaven and earth. Let us consider this unknown influence of God.

I. It springs from the Almighty Power of God. God is not merely a passive object of worship. He exerts active influence. He did not only work in the past in creating the world. He is a living, active God now. Jesus said, "My Father worketh hitherto." Perhaps the poorest definition of God ever framed is that of "A power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness." Still even this meagre, shrunken description of Divinity recognises the fact of an active Divine influence. Now, God's power is not limited by our confession of it, nor by our unwillingness to submit to it. It inspired the eye of the Greek artist and the tongue of the Greek orator as truly as those of a Christian Chrysostom and Fra Angelico.

II. It is directed by the Infinite Goodness of God. We circumscribe this goodness to a pale of grace and a day of grace; but it overflows our boundaries and breaks out, free as the air and broad as the sunlight. God does not wait to be called. He is the first to awaken His slumbering children. The grace of God anticipates the faith of man; for if it is dependent on faith for its fullest manifestation, yet even that very faith is a Divine gift (Eph ). God thinks of the heathen, and gives strength to those who know Him not. Then, no doubt, if a Chinese Mandarin pronounces a just sentence, or a Hindoo Pundit utters a true thought, or an African Chief vindicates the rights of an oppressed tribe, the goodness of these heathen men is an outcome of God's goodness to them. Let us take heart; there is more grace in the world than we know of.

III. It aims at the execution of the Will of God. Cyrus is called God's shepherd (Isa ). So even Nebuchadnezzar, a man of a very different character, is called by God "My servant" (Jer 43:10).

1. Some serve God when they think to oppose Him. As the gale that seems to be tearing the ship to pieces may be driving her the faster to her haven. So Satan, in Job, aiming at opposition to the right, occasioned the most glorious vindication of it. Persecutors often help the cause they hate.

2. Many, like Cyrus, serve God unconsciously. As the corn ministers to our sustenance unwittingly, and as science reveals the glory of God, even when the naturalists who pursue it are agnostics. God endows us with faculties, not that they may rust in vile repose, but to be devoted to His service. Happy are they who are enlightened to serve God consciously and willingly with the powers which they have derived unconsciously from His broad and liberal grace!

Practical conclusions:—

1. The unknown influence of God should lead to our knowing God. We have not to search the heavens for the unseen God. He is nigh us, at our right hand. Our own experience and the blessings of our own life should open our eyes to the goodness of God. Cyrus, trained in heathenism, might be forgiven if to the end he was girded only by an unknown God. Not so we, with light to interpret the providential work of God in our experience.

2. This influence, once recognised, should lead us to trust God. If God girded Cyrus the heathen, will He not gird Israel His people? If He helps those who know Him not, will He not much more aid those who seek and trust Him?

3. This influence should warn us against neglecting the recognition of God. We cannot escape from God. To do so would be our own undoing. We have deep reason for thankfulness that God has not withdrawn His hand from us while we have ignored Him. But the hand which girds can ungird!

4. This influence should prompt us to greater zeal in Mission work. For

(1.) God proves that He claims the heathen by His present influence on them.

(2.) He has begun the work and will help His servants in it.

(3.) It is sad that millions should still be left in ignorance of the hand that girds them with the strength of life.—Rev. W. F. Adeney, M.A.: Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi. pp. 204-206.


Verse 6-7

THE FORMER OF LIGHT AND CREATOR OF DARKNESS

Isa . I am the Lord, and there is none else, &c.

These words occur in the remarkable prophecy of the capture of Babylon by Cyrus; a prophecy fulfilled to the letter.

What was the end proposed in bringing Cyrus to Babylon, and in giving him that empire? The usual answer is, that he might deliver the Jews out of captivity. This is true. But if we rest here, we shall see only a small part of the design of God in this providence. There was a greater end to be answered than even the deliverance of the Jews. It is stated in Isa . The great end of this particular dispensation was to deliver Cyrus and his people from the delusion that there are two eternal and independent Principles, symbolised by Light and Darkness; the one good, and the source of all good; the other evil, and the source of all evil; the one giving blessings to mankind, the other inflicting on them punishments and miseries. Its chief purpose was to bring the inhabitants of all the provinces of the vast Persian empire to know that Jehovah was the Lord, and that beside Him there was no other God.

How was this merciful purpose accomplished? God began in Babylon itself.

1. You recollect the story of the young Hebrews who refused to worship the idol set up there, and were cast into a furnace of fire, from which they were delivered unhurt. We should look beyond that deliverance, great an event as it was in itself, to the end which God intended by it, even to set Himself above the idols of the heathen. The Babylonian idol was put to shame in the presence of its assembled worshippers; and the monarch was led to declare publicly, by a decree, that there was no God like the God of Israel, that could deliver after that sort. All the rulers of the provinces were assembled at that festivity, and what was then done would be spread to the utmost border of Nebuchadnezzar's dominion.

2. Later on he acknowledged, even more emphatically, that Jehovah is the King of heaven (Dan ).

3. Then there was the capture of Babylon, in exact accordance with Isaiah's prophecy.—With all these things Cyrus and his Persians would be acquainted; and thus they would be taught the great truth, that there is but one God, far above every power, subjecting all things to His control, and who alone ought to be worshipped. To the worshippers of Ormuzd and Ahriman God declares, in our text, that He alone forms the light and creates darkness; that He makes peace and creates evil; that there is no power beside Him; no power co-equal and eternal with Him; that good and evil are but His instruments, and continually subject to His all-controlling power.

Were there any effects of this dispensation of Providence? There were. Cyrus embraced this great truth of the existence of one supreme God, and issued a decree for the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem, in terms which acknowledge Jehovah to be the God of heaven and earth, who had spoken by His prophet concerning those very events (Ezr ). In the same book we have also decrees of Darius and Artaxerxes, in which, under the appropriate and supreme title of "the God of heaven," Jehovah is acknowledged as the supreme God. Though the religion of the Persians afterwards became corrupted, it is probable that among them some remained holding the vital truths of piety, even to the days of Christ. "The Magi" who came from the East seeking our Saviour were probably Persians, worshippers of the true God, who, having been instructed especially by the prophecies of Isaiah and Daniel, were waiting for redemption, and expecting the appearance of the Redeemer.

Besides their connection with the history of God's gracious dealings with man in past times, the words before us contain some great principles that concern us.

I. Take this general principle, "I am the Lord, and there is none else; there is no God beside Me," and mark a few of the consequences that result from it.

1. As there is one supreme God, whose perfections are infinite, whose glories are unshadowed, our first duty is to keep Him ever in our thoughts, to set the Lord always before us. For this reason, among others, was the Son of God manifested, that our meditations on the Divine character might be more constant and impressive, because brought more within the limits of our conception (H. E. I. 846-848).

2. As there is but one God, so there is but one government and will; and therefore we can be at no loss, when that will is made known to us, to discover the line of duty. Idolaters, acknowledging different rulers among their gods, could have no settled principles. The dominion of one god interfered with that of another. Will was opposed to will, and therefore law to law. To us there is but one God, and therefore but one law. What a foundation for morals does this furnish! and what a foundation for hope! The law comes from an all-perfect Being, and therefore changes not (Psa ). It is for all men alike. It can never be transgressed with impunity. To think that it may be so transgressed is one of the most perilous of all sins (Deu 29:19-20). All its forms are forms of the one great law of love (Mat 22:37-40). And it has its one source in love: "God is love!"

II. We have the declaration, I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil." Light is the emblem of good; darkness the emblem of evil According to the opinion of the Persians, these were eternal and independent principles; a system which afforded no hope of deliverance. But here our God declares that both are His, either by formation or permission; both are under His control, and at His disposal.

1. He is the Author of all light or good. All our blessings, spiritual and temporal, come from Him, in the overflowing of His spontaneous bounty. They place us, therefore, under the greatest obligations of gratitude and obedience to Him.

2. The text refers us to darkness or evil.

(1.) Of moral evil He is not the author, but He has permitted it. The heathens knew that it existed, and, unable to account for the fact, invented an eternal being, all evil himself, and the source whence it proceeds. Our Bibles explain this great mystery. We can conceive of two sorts of creatures; either moved by a sort of mechanical impulse, and thus doing what was right, and then what is called virtue could not have existed, and there would have been no more of holiness or virtue in a saint or angel than in the atoms which compose the material universe, moved each to its own place by the appointment of the Divine Will; or possessing will, and sufficient power to choose what is good, and yet liable to the seductions of vice. God chose to create beings of the latter kind. Virtue implies the power of preference and choice, and from the wrong use of this power in creatures whom God endowed with it, evil proceeded. The creature is directly the author of evil; but God has permitted its existence. Even this permission, terrible as it is in its direct consequences, over-ruled for good (H. E. I. 2276-2280).

(2.) As moral evil is by His permission, so natural evil is by His infliction. The miseries which have been the consequences of sin have been so by His appointment. They are all evidences that He hates sin. The various afflictions which come upon men in the course of divine providence are all according to God's appointment, because He is determined to subject man to a state of discipline in reference to another world. And He has connected inward misery with sin, that it might be felt by us to be "an evil thing and a bitter," that so we might be constrained to ask for deliverance. It is good for us to feel this.—Richard Watson: Works, vol. viii. pp. 478-494.

This sublime asseveration is true in the realms both of creation and Providence. It is opposed to the Oriental doctrine of two opposite creators, and may have been intended for the benefit of Cyrus, who was probably a disciple of that doctrine. It affirms the opposite doctrine of our Supreme Being. We use the text as affirming God's supreme disposal of earthly affairs.

I. THE IMPORT OF THE STATEMENT.

It is opposed to the doctrine of two creators in its strong affirmation that whatever is done, of both kinds, is done by the one Being who speaks. And it is opposed to the doctrine that God does not interfere in human affairs; it strongly affirms the contrary, and traces all action to Him. For fuller statements of the truth in both its aspects, such passages may be consulted as Isa ; Isa 44:24-28; Act 17:26-28; Mat 6:26-34. With such passages as these in our minds, we shall perceive that the divine activity was concerned in the creation of all things in the material universe, and is concerned in their sustentation and control. We shall perceive that He has to do with the nations of the earth, appointing their position, measuring their prosperity, and directing the circumstances that conduce to it. He separated the Jews from other nations and from the land of Egypt. He gave Nebuchadnezzar his commission in connection with their chastisement and captivity. He appointed Cyrus to be the instrument of their return. We shall perceive that each individual man is the subject of His action. The general management of the world includes the special Providential management of the individual. For the whole of life is composed of its numberless minute circumstances. Birth, infancy, the training which influences character and position, prosperity, adversity, alternate light and darkness, sickness, death, its time and manner, with the causes leading to it—all are in His supreme all-controlling hand.

II. THE SATISFACTORINESS OF THE STATEMENT.

The government of the world is in the best hands.

1. It is in the hands of one Person. Government by one supreme mind is, in itself, the best form of government. Monarchy, with unlimited power in the possession of the monarch, is the ideal government. Why is it desirable and necessary to limit the monarchs of the earth by bringing in other counsellors? Because no man is competent to the task of personal government. If one could be found possessed of wisdom that could make no mistake, equity that could do no wrong, goodness that sought only the well-being of all, and power that could give effect to all his decisions, he he would be fit to govern the world. But no such man can be found. The best is imperfect. And the supremacy might fall into the hands of folly or wickedness. Human rulers must be surrounded, therefore, with the safeguards and limitations that are found necessary in experience. But in God all qualifications meet for the centring in Him of unlimited rulership.

2. It is in the hands of One who possesses the competency to govern without being limited. For the wisdom, power, goodness, and righteousness that are requisite to the uncontrolled universal government are possessed by Him. These attributes are esentially in His nature, and their exercise essential to any action He performs. Therefore He makes no mistakes, therefore no difficulty is insuperable by Him; therefore all His methods are arranged with a view to the general good, even although they may not seem so, as storms bring benefit to the atmosphere, and therefore no injustice is done by Him to any of the creatures that are comprehended in His wide dominion.

3. It is in the hands of One who possesses the right to control human affairs (1Ch ). He created. He preserves. Man's sin has not destroyed God's governmental right. It has created a necessity for darkness as well as for light. It is for Him to determine the measures of light and darkness that shall brighten or cloud the pathway of every one.

These truths are capable of important uses. Let us—

1. Acknowledge the divine supremacy. It quiets the soul in the experience of life's alternate light and darkness. Without this, a man feels that he is like a waif on the waters, driven hither and thither without power of effective resistance. He will chafe. With it, he is like a ship under the guidance of a competent captain. Human life becomes entirely different when we are satisfied that its vicissitudes are not the result of accident, but are controlled by the supreme Intelligence.

2. Submit to the divine arrangements. The question is not speculation. It affects our interests and our feelings. Darkness may envelop us, losses may be sustained. Sorrows, some of them deep, heart-rending, long sustained, may be appointed. There may be rebellion in heart. There may be the mere submission of the heathen, which only means that we submit to our lot because resistance is useless. But there may be Christian submission. It proceeds from the heart's submission to God Himself. It bows to the will of God because of the confidence in the character that directs the will. It is enough to say "the Lord hath done it." It is satisfied with the voice of Jesus in the storm: "It is I." Like the great Example, it says, "Not my will, but thine be done, O my Father."

3. Accept the divine discipline. When the light shines upon our way, let us be glad and thankful. When the darkness gathers, let us ask, "Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" "What is the sin on account of which the chastisement is sent?" Believers are chastened with a view to their improvement; to the deepening and enrichment of their spiritual life. Many have found their times of trouble times of richest spiritual fruitfulness. And sinners are visited with dark days as warnings. The sickness and sorrow that rend the heart are meant to show the uncertainty and insufficiency of earthly things, and to rend the heart from sin.—J. Rawlinson.

THE ORIGIN OF EVIL

Isa . I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness, &c.

This bold unqualified assertion that the Source of all light is also the Fountain of darkness, that evil as well as good is the work of God, must task and perplex every thoughtful mind. No intelligent reader can fail to be struck and impressed by the opening words of the chapter: "Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus." We have to bear in mind that Cyrus was a Persian. The creed of Cyrus and the Persians, though singularly pure and noble, had one grave defect. They believed in one God indeed, and thought of Him so nobly that their symbol for Him was a circle with wings—the circle to denote the completeness, the perfection, the eternity of God; and the wings His all-pervading presence. But while they believed in one only God (Ahuramazda), the Maker of all that was good, they also, and out of reverence for One to whom they dared not attribute any wrong, believed in an anti-god (Ahriman), whom they made responsible for all that was evil. We may fairly say, that since these words were addressed to a Persian, their main purpose was achieved if they conveyed to him the thought that the universe was not governed by two rival powers, but by one Supreme Person, ever in harmony with Himself, who tolerated and controlled the evil forces of the universe no less than the good, though He did not originate them. But, softened and modified thus, the claim is tremendous; and yet it meets and satisfies the cravings both of intellect and heart as no easier, no dualistic theory does or can do. The intellect demands unity. And how can our hearts be at rest until we know and are sure that God rules over the kingdom of darkness as well as in the kingdom of light? "I am the Lord, and there is none else." Obviously the words open up the whole question of the existence, the permission, the origination of evil. And, in considering this question, it will be well for us to determine—

I. What, and how much, of the evil that exists we can ourselves honestly attribute directly and immediately to God our Maker.

1. Much of the evil within and around us is of our own making. A large proportion of the pain, loss, and moral defeat of which we are conscious, has sprung from our own follies and faults. After making all due allowance for hereditary bias, for unhappy and unfavourable conditions, for almost irresistible conspiracies of opportunity with inclination, we are conscious of many faults and sins which we might have avoided and ought to have avoided. God forbade the sins into which we fell. His Spirit strove to hold us back from them. We would give in to them, as we now confess with penitent shame. Candour compels us to exonerate Him from all responsibility for the sufferings they have produced.

2. Much of the evil that has lowered and afflicted our lives has been of our neighbours' making. We inherited, with much that was good, some evil bias from our fathers. We have often had to breathe an atmosphere charged with moral infections from the corrupt habits of the world around us. Our education was not good, or was not wholly good and wise. As we look back and think of all we have lost and suffered, it is probable that we attribute far more of the evils which have fallen on us to men than to God. Here already is an immense deduction. Take away all the wrongs, pains, losses, temptations, sins, which might and would have been avoided had both we and our neighbours done our best to obey the law of conscience even, and how much do we leave? Very much less than we commonly assume.

3. For much that seems evil to us is not really evil, or is not altogether evil. Cyrus and his Persians had such evils as noxious plants and animals, excessive heat and cold, famine, drought, earthquake, storms, disease, and sudden death in their minds mainly when they spoke of the works of Ahriman. But, as we know, these apparent ills are not necessarily ills at all, or they are products of causes which work for good on the whole, or they carry compensations so large that the world would be the poorer for their loss. This point admits of much illustration, e.g., storms destroy, but revivify the air; the struggle for existence among plants and animals evolves their more perfect species, &c. Much that we call evil is even designed and adapted to call our attention to the true order of human life. Those who are driven towards pessimism could hardly do better than rouse themselves to look on human life as a whole.

II. In what sense may we reverently attribute all evil to God? Here we approach a problem which the wise of all ages have pronounced insoluble; and hence it becomes us to move with diffidence, and to bear in mind that the most we can hope to attain is a working hypothesis which will commend itself to our reason, not a final solution of the mystery.

The question with us, after all, is not of what we can discover, but of what God has revealed, of how we are to explain and vindicate a claim which He Himself asserts. Science herself admits that, by a thousand different paths of investigation and thought, it is led to the conclusion that, if there be a God at all, there can be but one God. We see most of God in the highest of His works, i.e., in man, and in that which is highest in man, viz., thought, will, affection. In God we have the creative and Supreme Spirit, Maker of all things, the Fountain of all force, the Administrator of all laws, of whom we frame our highest conception when we think of Him as the Source of all that is noblest in man—as the Infinite Mind, the pure Eternal Will, the absolute Love. This being so, we ask—

1. How did evil arise? For the origin of evil we must go back to the creation of all things. There must have been a time when the Great Creative Spirit dwelt alone. In that Divine solitude the question arose whether a creation should be called into being, and of what kind it should be. What, then, is implied in the very nature of active intelligent creatures such as we are? We would not have had God surround Himself with a merely inanimate world, nor tenant that with mere automata, incapable of a spontaneous and enforced obedience. But, if free to think truly, must not active intelligences be free to think untruly? if free to love, must they not be free not to love? if free to obey, must they not be free to disobey? The very creation of beings in themselves good involves the tremendous risk of their becoming evil.

Must we not go further, and say that it involved a dead certainty, a certainty which must have been foreseen and provided for in the eternal counsels of the Almighty, that in the lapse of ages, with a vast hierarchy of creatures possessed of freewill, some among them would assert and prove their freedom by disobedience? How else could man, e.g., assure himself that he was free? This being so, how long would it be before he put his freedom to the touch? The poet Cowper says: "I could sit at ease and quiet in my chamber all day long; but the moment I knew the door was locked upon me, I should try to get out at all risks." Free creatures, again, creatures with intelligence, will, passion, are active creatures, and there is something in the very nature of activity which blunts and weakens our sense of inferiority, dependence, accountability. The Bible affirms that what Reason might have anticipated actually took place. It tells us that both in heaven and on earth the creatures God had made did thus fall away from Him. And it moreover asserts, in accord with philosophy and science, that, by their disobedience to the laws of their being and happiness, they jarred themselves into a false and sinister relation to the material universe; that, by introducing moral evil into the creation, they exposed themselves to those physical ills from which we suffer to this day.

2. How may evil be justified? How can we reconcile it at once with God's perfect goodness and unbounded power? On our hypothesis we reconcile it with His power by the plain and obvious argument that even Omnipotence cannot at once create freewill and not create it. If God made man free to choose evil, how can He possibly compel him to be good except by taking away his freedom of choice and action? But if we would reconcile the existence of evil with the goodness of God—and this is by far the most difficult achievement—we must take the whole theory of human life and destiny taught by the Bible, and not merely a part of it. The Bible teaches that the lines of human life and destiny are to be produced beyond the grave; that while, in large measure, men do receive the due reward of their deeds here and now, yet a more exact retribution will be meted out hereafter—a more abundant reward for all that has been good in us, a more searching punishment of what is evil; that in His compassion God came down to us, virtually saying to us, "I might much more reasonably attribute the evils from which you suffer to you than you to me. But, see, I freely take them all on Myself. I take away the sin of the world by a sacrifice so great, that you can but apprehend it afar off. I foretell a final, a complete victory over it. And, meantime, it shall have no power to hurt you if you will but put your trust in Me."—Samuel Cox, D.D.: Genesis of Evil (two sermons), pp. 1-41.


Verse 8

THE HEAVENS DROPPING RIGHTEOUSNESS

Isa . Drop down, ye heavens, &c.

There is a fulness in the language more than commensurate with the revival of the piety and temporal well-being of the Jews after their return to Canaan. It points to Gospel times; righteousness, and all the blessings of the Messiah's reign, were to descend as copious showers and refreshing dews upon the earth … so that the desolate wilderness should suddenly become fertile (see vol. i. pp. 364, 399). The evangelic prophet invokes this. Such are the Divine promises. We may observe from the words under consideration—

I. That the Divine influence is requisite to the prosperity of religion in the heart of the believer, and in any Christian community. The moment the Church of Christ loses sight of this truth, that moment she becomes shorn of her strength. She goes a warfare at her own charges. With frail human power she attempts what Omnipotence alone can effect. In a work so great our mightiest efforts are powerless when unaided by Divine strength. This truth should be a settled principle in our hearts: "All evil is of myself. I inherit it from my birth," &c. Sin robbed man to some extent of physical beauty, and does so now. The change in his mental and moral nature was equally great. Sin weakens and debases the powers of the soul. The understanding is blinded and the heart hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, or it would require Satanic wickedness for men to sin against God as they now do. Our sins are unspeakably greater than we can conceive of. All evil is from ourselves, and all good is from God. This is true of saint and sinner. Divine influence is requisite in the conviction of sin, and in the conversion of the sinner (H. E. I. 1477, 1400-1405). Their progress in the Divine life, conquest over every foe, &c., are derived from "the supply of the Spirit of Christ;" in whom they possess all spiritual blessings, and are now the "partakers of the grace of life," and inheritors of the kingdom of glory.

II. That the resources of Divine grace, which God has promised to bestow in order to effect this prosperity, are abundant and inexhaustible. Such prosperity is eminently enjoyed where there are numerous conversions, and where the life of God in the hearts of His people is exemplified in every action by intense affection for one another, and their united continuous effort for man's highest weal and the Redeemer's glory. Everything revealed to us of the Divine character and purpose encourages such effort. The promises are pregnant with blessing. They reveal the purposes of Divine love, and warrant the most enlarged expectations and fervent appeals to God that He will "do as He has said." His gracious and immutable purposes are the universal spread of the Gospel. God shall pour down righteousness, the earth shall receive the abundant blessing and bring forth salvation (Rev ).

III. That human instrumentality is invariably employed, in co-operation with Divine agency, in achieving this prosperity. It is impossible to ascertain the precise point where human instrumentality and Divine agency meet, and how both are united to attain the same purpose. Our duty is to labour in dependence upon God. Would it be possible to find a Christian whose conversion was effected apart from human agency in some form or other? Every outpouring of the Spirit upon the world has been preceded by united supplication. Say not that human instrumentality is unimportant; nothing is so which God deems good to employ (1Co ). When gracious influences come down like showers and refreshing dew, the sinner should open his heart to welcome the blessing.

IV. That such a consummation is to be devoutly desired and sought by the fervent and united prayers of His believing people. The salvation of sinners, and the happiness of believers, should prompt the prayer, "Drop down," &c. Such a consummation would cause earth to bear a closer resemblance to heaven. "The whole earth shall be filled with His glory."—T. Jowett, The Christian World, July 31, 1863.


Verse 9

STRIVING WITH GOD

Isa . Woe unto him, &c.

The idea of rebellion is one of frequent recurrence in this book. A sinner rebels against God's authority and dominion. Is frequently styled an enemy, and this is evident both from his heart, tongue, and life. Is frequently described as fighting against God, or contending with Him, and this is the idea of the text.

I. MANIFESTATION OF THIS STRIFE. To strive is to oppose, and in a variety of ways sinners exhibit opposition to God.

1. The unblushing opposition of infidelity. Nothing can exhibit more daring wickedness. Rejects the Scriptures, and boasts of the sufficiency of nature to teach us virtue and religion. How devoted they are in prosecuting their work! How eager to dissuade others from their adherence to the Christian religion!

2. The fearless transgressions of the bold and daring in iniquity. Who lay aside all the restrictions of conscience, and the respect of the virtuous around them. Who give themselves up to every evil way and work. Who have no fear, &c. (Luk ).

3. Those who resist the providential dealings and interpositions of God for their salvation. Providence subserves the designs of grace. Adversity, &c., are often employed to lead to thought and consideration, &c. The resistance of these is striving against God. If these do not soften, they harden (H. E. I. 56-59, 145, 229).

4. Those who will not yield to the overtures of the Gospel. The Gospel proclaims men enemies, and seeks their return to friendship. The Gospel proclaims an amnesty; but of course it is on the principle of their throwing down their weapons and ceasing to strive and rebel. Whoso persists in unbelief strives against God—yea, against the riches of His grace.

II. THE EVILS OF THIS STRIFE.

1. It is full of infatuation. It cannot be vindicated upon the principle of reason or propriety. A sign of the mind being blinded by the wicked one. There cannot be greater madness or more complete folly than to strive against God.

2. It is fraught with evils to our own souls. It excludes the greatest blessings God has to bestow (Jer )—the divine favour, peace, hope, all the rich communications of heaven. It degrades the mind, hardens the heart, &c.; converts conscience into a gnawing worm. Often makes life insupportable.

3. It is full of ingratitude. The child—the befriended. But all figures must fail in the illustration.

III. ITS FINAL RESULTS.

1. We cannot injure Deity. We might a potsherd like ourselves. Neither,

2. can we benefit ourselves. Who hath hardened himself against the Lord and prospered? Nor can we,

3. Escape the triumphs of the Divine judgments over us. One must prevail. We cannot! Then God will; and His prevailing will be our "woe." The woe of His righteous sentence, &c. To each and all such (Rom ).

CONCLUSION.—

1. Let the careless think and stop in their career.

2. Let the hesitating allow good emotions to prevail (H. E. I. 1489).

3. Let the seeking now exclaim, "I yield, I yield, I can hold out no more," &c.

4. Let the children of God rejoice, and labour for the weal of others.—The Pulpit Cyclopœdia, vol. iii. pp. 150-152.


Verse 9-10

CAVILLING AGAINST GOD

Isa . Woe unto him that striveth, &c.

I. That man is formed by God, and that all his affairs are ordered by Him as really as the work of the potter is moulded by the hands of the workman.

II. That God has a design in making man, and in ordering and arranging his circumstances in life.

III. That man is little qualified to judge of that design, and not at all qualified to pronounce it unwise, any more than the clay could charge him that worked it into a vessel with want of wisdom.

IV. That God is a Sovereign, and does as He pleases. He has formed man as He chose, as really as the potter moulds the clay into any shape that he pleases. He has given him his rank in creation; given him such a body and intellect as He pleased; He has determined his circumstances in life just as He saw fit. And He is a Sovereign also in the dispensation of His grace—having a right to pardon whom He will—nor has any man any right to complain. Not that God, in all respects, moulds the character and destiny of men, as the potter does the clay. God is just, &c., as well as Sovereign; and man is a moral agent, and subject to the laws of moral agency which God has appointed. God does nothing wrong. He does not compel man to sin and then condemn him for it (H. E. I. 1779, 1780). He does His pleasure according to the eternal laws of equity; and man has no right to call in question the rectitude of His sovereign dispensations.—Albert Barnes, D.D.


Verses 11-13

THE PEOPLE OF A PRAYER-HEARING GOD

Isa . Thus saith the Lord, &c.

A wonderful promise wonderfully fulfilled. The facts and principles involved in it are of perpetual value.

I. God has a people whom He distinguishes as His sons.

II. He is specially concerned for their welfare and happiness, present and future.

III. He is always ready to interpose for them; you may ask, command.

IV. He has ample ability and resources for their help.

V. He has made final provision for their final deliverance out of all trouble.—J. Lyth, D.D., Homiletical Treasury, Isaiah, p. 61.


Verse 15

THE CONCEALMENT OF GOD

Isa . Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.

In philosophy, facts hold the place which revelation holds in religion. Experience gives the philosopher his facts, and facts bring him to a point where he must confess mystery. Where is the metaphysician that hath ever explained the action of mind upon matter, and the ready movements of flesh and bone at the secret bidding of the mysterious visitant within? And where is the anatomist who hath discovered its origin with his searching knife? No; there is a mystery in it. For a mystery in philosophy is a fact unexplained, as a mystery in religion is a revelation unexplained.

Take another instance. Much has been discovered, and much has been demonstrated, in the science of astronomy. The motions of the heavenly bodies have been made matter of calculation amongst men; the results proving themselves true by periodical returns of infallible observation. But there is a point at which we reach a mystery here. Upon what do all these calculations depend? Upon what do all these motions rest? Upon a quality which Sir Isaac Newton baptized; he gave the mystery a name; he called it "gravitation." Grant gravitation, and we can reason about the solar system. But what is gravitation? Who can explain that?—M‘Neile.

Compare Rom .

I. GOD'S HIDING OF HIMSELF WITH REGARD TO HIS OWN NATURE AND PROPERTIES.

1. The doctrine of the Trinity.

2. His revelation of Himself as "the Saviour." What mysteries are involved in the Incarnation and the Atonement!

3. The application of redemption to the individual, by the operations of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration is a fact, but who can explain it to us?

There is nothing that should surprise us in this, if we would but observe how little way our reason can make when labouring amongst things with which we are every day conversant; but we should expect that it would be altogether incompetent to the unravelling the incomprehensible. It will also be evident that we are a mystery to ourselves; that every object around us baffles our penetration; that there is not an insect, a leaf, an atom, which does not master us as we attempt to apprehend its nature and its growth.… If, then, making trial of our powers on the commonest objects by which we are surrounded, we feel ourselves defeated in our philosophy by the worm or the water-drop; can it be rational, when we turn ourselves to the study of God, to expect to find the Almighty a being which we may thoroughly comprehend? It is enough that we observe the most gifted of our fellows applying themselves assiduously to the commonest facts, the most familiar occurrences, and yet able to do nothing more than trace a connection between cause and effect. We ought to be convinced that we possess not the capacity which can allow us to embrace the wonders of the Deity. So that not only the stars in their rushings, and the waters as they flow in their tides, but every sand-grain and every bubble, and every beat of the pulse, and every blade of grass, and every floating insect, all join in preparing us for the fact that the God of Israel must be a God that hideth Himself.—Melvill.

What we would ever maintain in respect to all this concealment of the Deity is, that it should summon forth our thankfulness. It prevents great evils, and secures great blessings:

1. What food would there be to human pride, if reason availed even to the finding out of God!

2. If God did not thus hide Himself, there would be no reason for faith, and consequently none of the glory we render to God when we exercise it, and none of the moral advantage which flows to us from the being required to lean constantly on an invisible staff.

3. We could not then have that conviction that in the Bible we have the Word of the living God which now arises from our perception that the obscurity, of which some complain, is the result of the sublimity of the disclosures there made to us.

II. HOW GOD HIDES HIMSELF IN REGARD TO HIS DEALINGS WITH HIS CREATURES.

1. God conceals much in the dispensations of His Providence; He does not lay open the reasons of His appointments and permissions. But besides the moral discipline that is thus secured for us, will not the ultimate solution of all those mysteries gain more glory for God, than if the whole course of Providence had been made plain from the beginning?

2. God hides from His creatures the day of their death. But this concealment is in many ways a blessing to the individual and to society.

5. God has hidden from us the results of our own actions. But this is palpably to our advantage, for thus we are reminded, as we could not have been in any other way, of our dependence upon God, and the necessity of acknowledging Him in all our ways. Especially is this a blessing in the workings of benevolence. We are thus led to carry on our operations in the best possible spirit, in the consciousness that we are but instruments in the hand of God. Besides, it is this very hiding which enables us to honour God by our performance of duty. It were comparatively nothing to labour with the certainty of success; the trial of obedience lies in the being summoned to labour when we cannot be assured of success: and if we prosecute the enterprise, in spite of all that is disheartening in the hiding of results, we glorify God by that best of all offerings—a simple and unquestioning conformity to His will: our own obedience being of a far higher cast than if we were stimulated by the known amount of success, is nothing less than a fresh proof that we should praise God under His character of "the God that hideth Himself."—H. Melville, A.M., "The British Pulpit," vol. iii. pp. 142-152.

That God is a Saviour is a declaration written in lines of light on every page of the Book of Revelation. What, too, is history, with all its dark passages of horror, its stormy revolutions, its ceaseless conflict, its tears, its groans, its blood, but the chronicle of an ever-widening realm of light, of order, of intelligence, wisdom, truth, and charity? It is a tale of slow, patient, but persistent and victorious progress. Yet there is a destroying power at work in the universe on a scale of enormous magnitude, and to most men the dominant feature in this vast universe seems to be confusion. Shocks and shatterings cause more noise and make more show than the germinations, the uprisings, the upbuildings. The earthquake is long remembered, the soft springing of the corn passes unnoted by. Hence to most men God is hidden. If they believe there is a God, they think of Him merely as the Judge, the Avenger, the Destroyer, not as the Saviour.

But why should God hide Himself? If He has purposes of mercy always before Him, why does He not make them abundantly plain to all mankind? Why leave the world to groan and madden under the terror lest a malignant tormentor should be master and ruler of, at any rate, this lower sphere?

I. The reason lies partly in the essential mystery of the Divine nature—a nature whose judgments must remain unsearchable by man's limited intelligence, and whose ways must be past finding out; His nature and methods we can grasp just as an infant can grasp the thought and purpose of a man (Job ; Rom 11:33).

II. God hides Himself through His patient, deep, and far-reaching method in the government of mankind. He is governing us as free beings on a profound and obscure but benignant method; the aim being to train us to govern ourselves in the light of His truth and love. The only way to govern in freedom is to allow full play to freedom. We are free to try our paths and see where they issue. But when men go astray by the very misery that succeeds their sin (Luk ), God leads them back to Himself and proves that He is the Saviour.

III. The day of the Lord is a long day. His methods work through generations. Consider the years of the right hand of the Most High, and understand how His way must be hidden in each brief generation; while in the generations in which His hand is on the world in judgment, the darkness in which it is buried must be profound indeed.

IV. God hides Himself behind the fatherly chastisement with which He exercises and educates the individual human soul. It is in the nature of chastisement to hide for a moment the wisdom and the love of the hand which administers it (Heb ).

V. There are seasons of darkness in which God seems hidden, which are among the most sacred and salutary experiences of the soul. By them God is drawing out and drawing up its deeper longings and aspirations, exercising its patience, and kindling its hope (H. E. I. 1645-1648, 1656).

VI. God hides, must hide, much of His method, but while the Cross stands as earth's most sacred symbol there can be no utter hiding of His love. He has set the Cross in the midst of us as the sign how much He cares for us. Whatever we suffer, while that Cross abides, we can say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him"—J. Baldwin Brown, B.A., in the Christian World, September 19th, 1879.

When Divine manifestations are described in Scripture, two symbols are used, fire and cloud, symbolising light and darkness. The import of this is that we may know God in part, but cannot fathom His perfections. As an old philosopher said, "Nothing is at once so known and so concealed as God." This union of the knowable and unknowable in God is set forth in the text.

Looked at in connection with the context, the words express astonishment and admiration at the mode in which God fulfilled His purposes through Cyrus. The obscurity of His ways, the incomprehensibility of Providence, is the subject.

I. The Lord is a God that hideth Himself. His dispensations, though always wise and merciful, are often mysterious. This is in harmony with both reason and experience.

1. From the nature of God, and from the character and situation of man, reason would conclude that the ways of Providence must often be incomprehensible. For God's wisdom is infinite, His ways above our ways. How can mortals comprehend His counsels and purposes? It is the very height of folly, of profane arrogance, for men to summon the All-Wise to their tribunal. We cannot tell the end He has in view, nor assign reasons for His procedure, nor foreknow the effect of His action. If God were not incomprehensible, faith would lose its value.

2. Experience proves that God hides Himself. Why does He suffer wickedness to prosper? Why does He afflict His own children? Why does He cut off the child and the youth? Why do men of eminent usefulness die prematurely, and worthless men live long?

II. Though God hides Himself, He is the Saviour of His people. His inscrutable ways are connected with the salvation of His children.

1. Think of the attributes of God. His love wonderful, His power unlimited, His care incessant, His wisdom infinite. Can He err, or be cruel?

2. Remember His promises. "All things shall work together for good," &c. In times of darkness and suffering the promises apply.

3. Look at experience. Your own. How has God dealt with you? That of others. Reflect on the sufferings of patriarchs, prophets, and saints, and the end thereof.

In conclusion, learn,

1. The guilt and ingratitude of believers when they murmur against God's dealings. They assume to be wiser than He, and are impatient and rebellious.

2. We may well long for heaven. Here there will ever be darkness; there we shall see light in God's light. All mysteries will be solved.—Henry Kollock, D.D.: Sermons, pp. 574-580.

This chapter contains a prophecy respecting the deliverance of Israel from Babylon. God promises to anoint Cyrus to be the saviour of His people, and to do great things to enable him to deliver them from bondage (Isa ). Cyrus was to be thus raised up, not for his glory, but for the sake of Jacob (Isa 45:4). Though he knew not God, he was to be an instrument in God's hands (Isa 45:4-5, Isa 44:28). God can use any instrument He pleases (Dan 2:21; Dan 4:35). Contemplating the predicted deliverance of Israel by such a surprising instrumentality, the prophet is filled with amazement, and exclaims, "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself," &c.

God hides Himself in two ways.—

1. In the mystery of His counsel. Instances: His permitting His people to remain so long in such severe bondage, and in the wonderful means chosen for their deliverance. Many similar instances. No one can say beforehand what are God's purposes in His providences, nor how He will bring them about. History must be their interpreter (Psa ; Psa 79:9; Rom 11:33).

2. In His chastisements. At times He withdraws from His people on account of their sins (Isa ). Then they seem to be left utterly in the power of their foes (Psa 42:9). A period of mystery and painful perplexity (Psa 79:9). But in due time He manifests Himself as "the saviour of Israel." He uses unexpected means for their deliverance, but those means prove abundantly sufficient (Isa 45:17).

I. That the Saviour hides Himself is a thing to be lamented. Grave evils result therefrom. In His Church there is deadness, barrenness, contentions, divisions. Sinners are at ease in Zion. The foes of Zion are arrogant and insolent. God's kingdom makes no advance in the world. Those who love it are disheartened; their work for the salvation of sinners appears to be at a standstill. A cause of great grief to them. The stoppage of any earthly works is not to be compared with it for calamitousness. The stoppage of works which give employment to thousands is a great loss to a country; but a much heavier loss is the stoppage of the work of grace which gives eternal life. What will become of our children, relatives, neighbours, the world at large, should saving operations be at an end? Nothing can revive it but the coming forth of the Saviour.

II. The Saviour does not hide Himself without a cause. His sovereignty is not the cause of His concealment, nor of His withholding comforts from His people; for it is His delight to dwell in their midst and to bless them. The cause will be found in them. From below, and not from above, comes the mist that forms itself into thick clouds and hides the face of the Saviour from us (Isa ; H. E. I. 1644). We see a father sometimes showing his displeasure towards his disobedient child by refusing him his company, and so deals the Lord with His children as long as they continue contented with a low spiritual state, or a state of transgression into which they have fallen (Isa 1:15; Hos 5:15). This is the cause, and this only; not because His people are poor, ignorant, or in trouble.

III. The hiding of the Saviour ought to produce self-humiliation in His people. They ought to inquire into the reasons for their sad and terrible condition, in humble prayer before God (Psa ). They are apt not to do this; prayerlessness is one terrible result of backsliding (Isa 64:7). But until they give themselves earnestly to self-examination, self-reformation, and humble waiting before God, His face will be hidden from them.

IV. The Saviour continues the same though He hides Himself. Though He hid Himself in the days of Isaiah, He was still the "God of Israel, the Saviour." The sun is as full of light and heat when hid behind clouds as it is when seen in all its glory, and so God is as full of grace and mercy when hiding Himself because of the sins of His people, as He is when manifesting Himself in gracious deliverance. In the day of darkness His people may doubt this (Isa ). Nevertheless it is true (Isa 59:1). Let them return to Him in penitence, and they will find it true.

V. The Saviour does not intend to hide for ever. He has graciously made the term of the continuance of His concealment from us to depend on ourselves (Hos ). We are told what will certainly happen if His people turn to Him (Isa 54:7-10).

Let us lay these truths to heart. We greatly need that the Saviour should manifest Himself to us. Let us entreat Him to do so. Model prayers are provided for us in His Word (Jer ). Let us present them with the humble perseverance that is pleasing to Him (Isa 8:17). So doing, ere long He will draw near to us; and when He does so, let us lay hold on Him, saying, "O God, Thou art our God; our souls thirst to see thy power and thy glory, as we have seen Thee in the sanctuary."—William Roberts: Pregethau, pp. 261-268. Translated from the Welsh by the Rev. T. Johns, of Llanelly.


Verse 17

ISRAEL SAVED IN THE LORD

Isa . But Israel shall be saved in the Lord, &c.

The text contains a promise of "everlasting salvation" to the pious just, and is brought forward among the promises of their temporal deliverance from the Babylonish captivity; and there is a better, greater, and more lasting salvation that affects the soul, preserving it from endless misery, and securing its everlasting happiness, in and through the Lord Messiah.

I. THE GLORIOUS OBJECT—"Everlasting salvation," in the Lord.

1. Everlasting salvation includes a deliverance from ignorance, guilt, &c.; and the possession of light, peace, &c.; and this state continued and increased for ever. It is grace consummated in endless glory (Rev , &c.)

2. This everlasting salvation is "in the Lord"—the Lord Messiah, Jesus Christ. It is in Him as a possession, purchased by His own blood, in whose right only we can obtain it. It is in Him as an inheritance, kept in trust, and to be conveyed by Him to the appointed heirs of it. It is in Him as in a grand exemplar, in His human nature, of the complete and final happiness of the saints who are predestinated, &c. (Rom ; Php 3:21). It is in Him both as a beatific object and a perpetual medium, through which the blessed will see and enjoy God for ever.

II. THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSONS TO WHOM EVERLASTING SALVATION IS PROMISED—"Israel."

1. Israel is a name of great distinction in Scripture. God Himself gave it to the patriarch Jacob, and in very peculiar circumstances (Gen ). His posterity bore that name; as we are now called Christians, from Christ. But these were Israelites only by carnal generation—not in spirit and temper imitating the faith and treading in the steps of their progenitors, Abraham, &c. (Rom 9:6). The Israelites to whom everlasting salvation is promised, are such as are so in a spiritual sense: and under the name of Israel, in the sense of it, all true believers in Christ are comprehended.

2. True Israelites are such as have given their unfeigned consent to be God's people, subjects and servants—such as have "joined themselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant."

3. In consequence of this, true Israelites are such as live in an unreserved subjection to the laws and government of God and the Redeemer (Rom ). Through faith in Christ they are virtually united to Him, and from Him receive those hourly supplies of grace that qualify men for every good word and work.

III. THE GROUNDS OF THE CERTAINTY OF THEIR SALVATION.

1. The possession Christ has taken of it, in the name and nature of all true believers in Him (Heb ; Joh 14:2-3).

2. Christ's intercession, which He ever lives in heaven to make for them (Heb ).

3. His mighty power which is engaged for them (1Pe ).

4. God's promise (Joh ; Tit 1:2; Heb 6:17-18).

Application.

1. How precious should Christ be to believers!

2. The Lord's people have good reason to love Christ's appearance (2Ti ; Heb 9:28).

3. What an encouragement to diligence and perseverance in appointed duty, seeing everlasting salvation will be the consequence of it! (1Co ).—Sketches of Sermons, vol. iv. pp. 289-294).


Verses 18-25

HOW GOD REVEALS HIMSELF

Isa For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, &c.

In Isa , the promise is made that "Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation." This gives the drift of the whole passage, Isa 45:18-25. In Isa 45:18-19, the words of Jehovah begin with the assertion that He is the absolute One; and from this two thoughts branch off—

1. That the prophecy is a revelation of light, no black art.

2. That the love of Jehovah, displayed in creation, attests itself in relation to Israel. Isa declare that the salvation of Israel becomes the salvation of the heathen world. In accordance with this holy and benevolent will, the cry is uttered, "Look unto Me," &c. (Isa 45:22); Jehovah will not rest till His object has been accomplished (Isa 45:23); but this bending of the knee will not be forced (Isa 45:24); the reference of Isa 45:25 is to the Israel of God out of all the human race. There are three leading ideas that are to be gathered out of the passage.

I. God's revelation of Himself is open and truthful (Isa ). In Isa 45:15 we read, "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself," and Isa 45:19 seems to answer the exclamation. Both declarations are true; God cannot wholly conceal nor wholly reveal Himself. A man even is always greater than his greatest work.

1. God's speech in nature is in no secret place. The sun is a mighty word of God; but it can tell us only by feeble suggestion of the Sun of Righteousness; and yet the pure mind can see and hear far more of God in nature than the keenest scientific analyst (P. D. 485, 1526, 2545).

2. God spoke in no secret place when He spoke amid the peaks of Sinai, and on the heights of Calvary. The laws proclaimed to Moses, and shown to be honourable and glorious in the death of Christ, are the offspring of the Eternal Mind; Calvary is the Divine commentary upon Sinai.

And all really Divine revelation is truthful. The command, "Seek ye my face," accounts for the religious nature of man. Not in the grandest of God's works can we rest content, and realise the joy for which we have been created. Seek ye my face in righteousness of life; this is the Divine law of seeking; and all who thus seek after God shall as surely find Him as the new-born child finds the nutriment of its mother's bosom.

II. God's revelation of Himself is in reference to the highest practical objects.—"Look unto Me, and be ye saved;" He is "a just God and a Saviour." God gives us such a knowledge of Himself as avails for the great practical ends of life, but not such as to satisfy speculation (H. E. I. 2229-2244).

We know far more of what electricity can do than of what it is. We do not know what God is absolutely; but we know what He can do for us; He is "a just God and a Saviour;" i.e., there is nothing incompatible in this. As a just Being, He is a God of law; but as a Saviour, He does not cease to be a God of law; by law He condemns, and by law also He saves. Grace is the work of a mightier law than even condemnation.

Note the two elements of the faith which is essential to salvation.

1. "Look unto Me;" lift up your eyes to the Infinite Strength which is reaching down to help you; that is the active element. "And be ye saved;" accept the Divine method of salvation; that is the passive, trustful element.

III. God's revelation of Himself is to issue in the salvation of the whole earth (Isa ).—This has been the inspired assurance of prophets and apostles even in the darkest ages of the world (Php 2:9-11; Rev 15:3-4). The ruling idea of these and like passages is not merely that evil shall be conquered at the last and goodness triumphant; but that this final issue of things shall come about through men coming to know God in Christ, coming to worship and love Him as the supreme goodness and beauty. The worship of the gods of this world, now so fervent, will be gradually abolished; and life, as it reaches towards the higher developments in this world, will not only be a higher morality, but a clearer knowledge, and a more passionate and enraptured sense of God.—Charles Short, M.A., Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv. pp. 120-122.


Verse 19

COMFORT TO SEEKERS FROM WHAT THE LORD HAS NOT SAID

Isa . I have not spoken in secret, &c.

We might gain much solace by considering what God has not said. In our text we have an assurance that God will answer prayer, because He hath not said unto the seed of Israel, "Seek ye my face in vain." The proposition I come to deal with is this: that those who seek God, in God's own appointed way, cannot, by any possibility, seek Him in vain; that earnest, penitent, prayerful hearts, though they may be delayed for a time, can never be sent away with a final denial (Rom ; Mat 7:8).

I. I shall prove this, first, by the negative, as our text has it. It is not possible that a man should sincerely, in God's own appointed way, seek for mercy and eternal life, and yet a gracious answer be finally refused. For several reasons.

1. Suppose that sincere prayer could be fruitless, then the question arises, Why, then, are men exhorted to pray at all? Would it not be a piece of heartless tyranny if the Queen should wait upon a man in his condemned cell, and encourage him to petition her favour, nay, command him to do it, saying to him, "If I do not send you at once an answer, send another petition, and another; send to me seven times, yea, continue to do it, and never cease so long as you live; be importunate, and you will prevail." And what if the Queen should tell the man the story of the importunate widow—should describe to him the case of the man who, by perseverance, obtained the three loaves for his weary friend, and say to him, "Even so, if you ask you shall receive," and yet all the while should intend never to pardon the man, but had determined in her heart that his death-warrant should be signed and sealed, and that on the execution morning he should be launched into eternity? Would this be consistent with royal bounty—fit conduct for a gracious monarch? Can you for a moment suppose that God would bid you come to Him through Jesus Christ, and yet intend never to be gracious at the voice of your cry?

2. If prayer could be offered continuously, and God could be sought earnestly, but no mercy found, then he who prays would be worse off than he who does not pray, and supplication would be an ingenious invention for increasing the ills of mankind. For a man who does not pray has less woes than a man who does pray, if God be not the answerer of prayer. The man who prays is made to hunger; shall he hunger and not eat? Were it not, then, better never to hunger? How, then, can it be said, "Blessed are they that hunger"! &c. The man who prays thirsts; as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so he pants after his God; but if God will never give him the living water to drink, is not a thirsty soul much more wretched than one who never learned to thirst at all? He who has been taught to pray has great desires and wants; his heart is an aching void which the world can never fill; but he that never prays has no longings and pinings after God, he feels no ungratified desires after eternal things. If, then, a man may have these vehement longings, and yet God will never grant them, then assuredly the man who prays is in a worse position than he who prays not. How can this be?

3. If God do not hear prayer, since it is clear that in that case the praying man would be more wretched than the careless sinner, then it would follow that God would be the author of unnecessary misery. Now, we know that this is inconsistent with the character of our God. We look around the world and we see punishment for sin, but no punishment for good desires, &c.

4. Should there still be some desponding ones, who think that God would invite them to pray and yet reject them, I would put it on another ground. Would men do so? Would you do so? Can God be less generous than men?

5. Have you forgotten that this is God's memorial, by which He is distinguished from the false gods? (Comp. Psa ; Psa 65:2.) One of the standing proofs of the Deity of Jehovah is, that He does to this day answer the supplications of His people. Could you seek His face, and yet He should refuse you, where would be His memorial? The answer may tarry, but only that it may be the more sweet when it comes (H. E. I. 3895-3898).

6. If God do not hear prayer, what is the meaning of His promises? (e.g., Psa ; Psa 91:15; Jer 33:3; Isa 65:24, &c.) How shall He make His veracity to be proved if He do not answer His people? But His word must stand, though heaven and earth should pass away.

7. If God hath virtually said to us, "Pray, but I will never hear you; seek ye my face in vain," then, I ask, what is the meaning of all the provisions which He has already made for hearing prayer? I see a way to God; 'tis paved with stones inlaid in the fair crimson of the Saviour's blood. I see a door; it is the wounded side of Jesus. Why a Mediator, an Intercessor, &c., &c., if prayer be unavailing?

8. I use the argument which the apostle uses upon the resurrection. If God hear not prayer, what gospel have I to preach? As the apostle said concerning the resurrection, "then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain; ye are yet in your sins."

9. Where, then, were the believer's hope? Hang the heavens in sackcloth, let the sun be turned into darkness, let the moon become a clot of blood, if the mercy-seat can be proved to be a mockery.

10. What would they say in hell, if a soul could really seek the Lord and be refused? Oh, the unholy merriment of devils then!

I have been arguing against a thing which you know theoretically is not possible; but yet there are some who, when they are under conviction of sin, still cleave to this dark delusion, that God will not hear them. Therefore I have tried, by blow after blow, if possible, to smite this fear dead.

II. That the Lord does hear prayer may be positively substantiated by the following considerations:—

1. For the Lord to hear prayer is consistent with His nature. Whatever is consistent with God's nature, in the view of a sound judgment, we believe is true. Now we cannot perceive any attribute of God which would stand in the way of His hearing prayer.

2. It is harmonious with all His past actions. If you want a history of God's dealings with men, turn to Psa . What does He mean by His promises? As I said negatively, if He did not hear, where were His promises? so I say positively, Because of His promises He must hear. God is free, but His promises bind Him: God may do as He wills, but He always wills to do what He has said He will do. We have no claim upon God, but God makes a claim for us; when He gives a promise, we may confidently plead it. Promises made in Scripture are God's engagements, and as no honourable man ever runs back from his engagements, so a God of honour and a God of truth cannot, from the necessity of His nature, suffer one of His words to fall to the ground.

CONCLUSION.—Try for yourself. If you would know that God hears prayer, you must test the fact, for you will never learn it through my saying, "He heard me;" you will only know it through His having heard you; and I therefore exhort you, since it is not a peradventure but a living certainty, that "he that asketh receiveth," &c., pray to Him even now to save your souls. Pray as if you meant it, and continue as Elijah did, till you get the blessing.—C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 508.


Verse 21-22

A JUST GOD AND A SAVIOUR

Isa . A just God and a Saviour.

These words occur in an assertion of the sovereignty of God, which is repeated again and again throughout this chapter, and forms the essential truth around which all its predictions cluster. Isaiah has foreseen that the Almighty would make Cyrus His servant in breaking the captivity of Babylon, and freeing the people from its thraldom. In this he hears the voice of the one Lord above the changes of the world, saying, "I am the Lord, and there is none else: there is no God beside me." Again, over the wreck of ancient heathendom—Egypt and Ethiopia—the voice of the Sovereign King rings the proclamation, "I am the Lord," &c. And then he gazes into a day when all the ends of the earth shall look to heaven for salvation; and once more he hears the chorus, "There is no God beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me." Hence we see the force of these words for Isaiah; God was just because He was a Saviour, and as a just God He sought to save.

How may this great truth be illustrated, and what lessons flow from it?

I. "A just God and a Saviour." There is in God an everlasting harmony between the just and the merciful. He is just, because He is a Saviour; He is a Saviour, because He is justice seeking to save.

1. Mark the truth on which Isaiah founded this mighty truth, viz., the supreme and solitary sovereignty of God—"I am the Lord," &c. The same Lord was over all; in Him was no double nature; He, the one God, was at once the just God and the Saviour. Realise this, and the idea of the atonement which represents Christ as inducing God to be merciful passes away (H. E. I. 390).

2. What is God's justice, and what His salvation?

(1.) God's justice is not merely the infliction of penalty; God's salvation is not merely deliverance from penalty. It is true that He does execute penalty and award retribution. He is just to-day. We see it in the stern laws of life. Penalties are the outflashings of a holy anger.

(2.) His salvation is more than the mere deliverance from penalty. It is that; but it is the deliverance from evil. God would save men from evil by making them righteous; and thus He is at once the just God and a Saviour.

3. Take the two great revelations of law and mercy, and we shall see how the law is merciful, and mercy holy.

The law, the revelation of justice, came to lead men to God the Saviour. To save man from evil two things are requisite.

(1.) The sense of immortality. Sin destroys this sense; to awaken him, there is no other voice so powerful as that of the law he cannot obey; the Divine voice in the law speaks to him, and the man feels the sublimity of his nature; and there is the beginning of salvation.

(2.) The sense of sin as a power in life. Man thinks of sin as a misfortune, &c.—anything but a power in him; the law, cursing evil, curses him.

Christ, the revelation of God the Saviour, came to glorify God the just. Men often lose sight of this. Mount Sinai is less terrible than the purity of the man of Nazareth. Men felt it as they said: "Depart from us, for we are sinful." Look at His sufferings. Nothing could tear Him from them—nothing alter His course. Where is there a greater revelation of the righteousness of God? Beneath the Cross we read that God would not pardon without glorifying to the utmost the majesty of the just and holy law. Mark the consummate power of Christ crucified. Sin never was so slain as by Him whom sin slew. The law never was so attested as by Him who bare its penalty.

II. We infer two lessons from this great truth.

1. The necessity of Christian endeavour. We are forgiven at once. In one sense, we are justified at once; for the germ of a righteous manhood exists in the first act of faith. But the realisation of it is progressive. Every day we have to wash the robes of our spirits in "the blood of the Lamb."

2. The ground of Christian trust

We are delivered from condemnation; and we are reconciled to God's purity. We rely on God's justice; for He will make us righteous and holy in Christ.

There are men who trust in the infinite mercy of God, and feel that He will deliver them at last. Remember, to remain in unbelief is to adopt the spirit which killed Christ. To refuse His salvation is to challenge the holy indignation of the Most High: "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh," &c.—E. L. Hull, B.A.; Sermons, First Series, pp. 112-120.

The view we have of the Divine character must have a powerful influence on our own, and will materially affect the whole system of our faith and worship. Everything relating to the perfections and glory of God must be important to us as creatures who live under His government, are dependent on His will, and amenable to His high tribunal. Before Him we must come hereafter, with Him we have immediately to do now. Delightful to know that though just He is still a Saviour, that though a Saviour He is still just.

1. He is a just God. The plenitude of His perfections guards Him from the possibility of injustice. Injustice between man and man is occasioned by the desire of some good which could not otherwise be obtained, or the avoidance of some evil which could not otherwise be warded off. But these things can have no possible application to Him who is infinite in wisdom and power (Jas ).

2. He is a merciful God. This is plain from His dealings with sinful men both in providence and grace (Mat ; Joh 3:17). "A just God and a Saviour!"

I. The union of justice and mercy in the character of God is illustrated by the mixed character of His dispensation in every age.—His dealings with our first parents after their sin. He appears a just God in the Deluge, a Saviour in the Ark. In the Old Testament sacrifices justice was seen in the death of the victim, mercy in the forgiveness of the transgressor. A just God in the fiery serpents, a Saviour in the brazen serpent. Just in the plague, a Saviour in the censer of Aaron (Psa ).

III. Our perception of it should have a powerful influence upon us.—

1. It should lead us to admire the Gospel, in which these Divine attributes are presented in such glorious harmony.

2. It should give sweetness and solemnity to all God's invitations and promises of mercy.

3. It should deepen our humiliation and repentance, since it is against such purity and mercy we have offended.

4. It should awaken caution against sin and desires after holiness.

5. It should kindle our desires at length to be admitted to heaven, where we shall see these glorious divine attributes fully displayed.—Samuel Thodey.

A UNIVERSAL CALL FROM THE ONLY SAVIOUR

Isa . There is no God else beside me, &c.

In the words which immediately precede the text, the Lord is showing the gross ignorance and folly of the heathen, whom He represents as setting up the wood of their graven images, and praying unto gods that could not save them. As their idols had not been able to deliver them from the judgments He had inflicted on them for their sins, He calls upon them to take counsel together, that they might be convinced of the vanity of their worship, and of the sinfulness of their conduct; and as He had predicted those judgments long before they were executed, and their idols had not, He appeals to them to acknowledge that it was He alone who could foretell things to come. He then, in the words before us, assures us that there was no god else beside Him; a just God and a Saviour; and invites them all to look unto Him for deliverance from every evil.—Let us consider,

I. THE GRACIOUS INVITATION CONTAINED IN OUR TEXT. "Look unto me," &c. Observe,

1. To whom it is addressed. "All the ends of the earth." To Gentiles as well as Jews (Mat ); to you. Your past sins may have been as numerous as the leaves of the forest, or the sand of the sea, but that does not shut the door of mercy against you.

2. What is implied in it.

(1.) That "all the ends of the earth" need to be "saved." Is that true of you?

(2.) That there is now no obstacle whatever in the way of salvation. The claims of Divine justice have been fully satisfied, and now mercy can be shown.

3. What it calls upon us to do, in order to secure our salvation. "Look unto me." Not to any other person or thing, but to Him. The explanation of the phrase we have in Num ; Joh 3:14-15. It must be the look of faith.

II. THE POWERFUL REASONS BY WHICH IT IS ENFORCED.

1. He who addresses it to us is GOD—God in Christ (2Co ).

2. He is a just God—one from whom the guilty cannot hope to escape; one who will show mercy righteously.

3. He is a gracious God, for He is "a Saviour." Because of what He has done for us, He can dispense grace to the guilty without tarnishing the lustre of His character, and without any disparagement of His justice and holiness.

4. "He is the only God, and consequently the only Saviour." This important fact is twice referred to in our text. Rejecting Him, there is no deliverance for us from the consequences of our sins. As the bitten Israelites would have died had they refused to look upon the brazen serpent, inasmuch as it was the only remedy provided for their cure, so we also must die, miserably and for ever, if we apply not to Him who is the only Physician of souls. Will you not believingly look to Him who alone can rescue you from destruction? Does the shipwrecked mariner turn away his face from his deliverer? Does he reject the assistance of the life-boat that comes to save him? Look to Jesus, and be saved! Believe, and live!—Daniel Rees: Sermons, pp. 68-81.

Salvation! A word of large meaning. The soul's salvation! It suggests the idea of danger, from which rescue is needed. It is pardon for the sinner; holiness for the impure; heaven for the wandering and the lost. Here is—

I. AN IMPORTANT TRUTH.

"For I am God, and there is none else." This is not merely an assertion of the Divine unity. It expresses the idea that GOD, and God alone, is competent to man's salvation.

Man is not competent to his own. He cannot change his nature any more than the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the river return to the source whence it arose. Nor can he atone for sin. He cannot perfectly keep the Divine law, starting from any point. And even if he could, it would be nothing more than his duty; it would not cover past sins, any more than the felon's subsequent honesty would cover and atone for his frauds.

No creature is competent. Under the Levitical dispensation, sacrifices of animals were Divinely appointed. Yet it is expressly stated that in the nature of the case they were inefficacious (Heb ). Their utility consisted in their typical reference to the sacrifice of Him whose offering possessed a Divine element. No mere creature can repair man's ruin.

Yet he need not perish. For God can save. He has personally interposed by means of the incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection, and ascension of His dear Son, by which satisfaction has been made to the demands of righteousness, and the Holy Spirit has been sent to renew the hearts of men.

II. A SIMPLE DIRECTION.

"Look unto me." No man understands the care of his soul until he sees his helplessness through sin; nor will he apply to God for salvation until then. God's work in men begins with the truth respecting themselves. Then it proceeds to the truth respecting Christ. This revealed condition on which salvation becomes possible is that the sinner believes in the Saviour (Joh ). The metaphor in the text is an expressive one, as setting forth the nature of faith. The Israelites bitten by the serpents were to look to the brazen serpent. You make a promise to a man; he looks to you for the fulfilment. A man is shipwrecked: he looks for deliverance to the lifeboat which he sees making its way to him over the waters. Thus the sinner trusts to the Saviour wholly and only (H. E. I. 1957-1968).

III. A GRACIOUS ASSURANCE.

"Be ye saved," i.e., Ye shall be saved. It is a promise in the shape of a command. The two are inseparable. The believing man is a saved man. The two ideas should be placed together always. Many illustrations of this can easily be collected from the New Testament. The question is, "Do you believe?" Then you are saved, and may rejoice in the fact of your salvation. Your liberty is proclaimed—your pardon written in the Book. If it were possible for a believer to be lost, God's word would be falsified. Many Christians darken their spiritual experience by failing to see the certainty with which salvation follows upon faith, or by losing themselves in metaphysical inquiries as to the nature of faith.

IV. A UNIVERSAL CALL.

"All the ends of the earth." In ancient times the earth was believed to be an extended plain. By the ends of the earth are meant all mankind, even the farthest inhabited point. The call of the Gospel is addressed to mankind in a similarly universal way (H. E. I. 2417).

1. All the ends of the earth need it. The ruin is universal. The helplessness is universal. The plague is everywhere. The race perishes. In all history, in all the world's present population, the exception does not exist. You are no exception. Only thus is salvation possible (H. E. I. 2418-2420).

2. It is sufficient for all the ends of the earth. There is no limit to the sufficiency of the salvation God has provided. The value of the atonement can only be estimated by the infinite value of the Son of God, which is the same thing as to say it is immeasurable. The Gospel is compared to a feast which a king has provided. But the provision is so ample that, if the whole world accepted the invitation, it would be sufficient. All things are ready. The universal invitation is issued (2421-2424).

3. It is God's will that all the ends of the earth be informed of it. One is to tell another. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." The disciples of Christ have been from the beginning providentially scattered abroad that they might preach this word. The Church in every age, and every separate church, should be missionary in its character. We must stand in the way, point to the Cross, invite the world (H. E. I. 2448).

4. Its reception by the ends of the earth is predicted. It shall be universally proclaimed, generally received, by all classes and individuals. The present moral desolation shall be fruitfulness and beauty. The desert shall be the garden of the Lord. We expect this on the authority of His word (H. E. I. 2451).

We have seen that God is the only source of salvation for sinners; that in the work of salvation God is everything, man nothing; and that He has authorised all sinners to look to Him for salvation. It follows—

1. That all the glory of salvation must be ascribed to God. Human boasting is excluded. In man's utter ruin and helplessness, God's love in Christ undertook and accomplished the work.

2. That the personal salvation of sinners turns upon their observing the direction to believe. The implication is that the unbeliever is not saved. Refuse to look by faith to Christ, and you exclude yourself. It is a personal matter. See that you are united to Christ.

3. That it is the duty of ministers to direct all sinners to look to Him and be saved. Nothing short of this is preaching the Gospel. Not that we can command acceptance. But we can convey God's message to men, leaving the result between Him and them.—J. Rawlinson.

(Sermon to the Young.)

This is an invitation of surprising mercy to dying, perishing sinners, wherever they may be. It is the great and blessed God Himself calling the Gentile and heathen world to salvation. It is Immanuel, God with us, God who put on our flesh and blood, calling us to look unto Him and be saved. If we are sensible of our misery by nature and practice, if we are weary of sin, and would escape the wrath to come, we must look to Him with an eye of faith and holy dependence as our only Saviour.

I. "Look unto Me, and be ye saved." This reminds us of the time when the Israelites were bitten by fiery serpents. Moses was directed to lift up a serpent of brass, which shone brightly under the rays of an Eastern sun, and was visible from all parts of the camp. By a miracle, every one who looked at this serpent was healed. No doubt every wounded parent directed his eyes to the appointed remedy, and exhorted his children to do the same. As the cure of the brazen serpent extended to the farthest distant part of the Israelitish camp, so the effect of Christ's sacrifice extends to those who dwell in the farthest away parts of the earth; God calls upon "all the ends of the earth," the north and the south, the east and the west. The cleansing power of Christ's blood has no geographical limits; it is not measured by longitude and latitude. Colour and race make no difference. The descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth have an equal claim. All are to come. For what? To be saved. To be saved from their sins; and from the consequences of the crimes they have Committed, the vices they have indulged in, the angry passions they have cherished, from the curse under which they were born, and which many have so well earned for themselves.

But who is it that issues this general invitation? This question brings us to the other part of the text:—

II. "For I am God, and there is none else." God here gives the reason why we should attend to the call, because it is made by Him who has a right to make it, and who is alone able to save.

I. "I am God:" therefore

(1.) I am all-sufficient to save. What is there that the most miserable of creatures can stand in need of, that is not to be found in ample measure in the treasure-house of God? When the Creator undertakes to be a Saviour, the creature cannot perish. There is wisdom enough in Him to make the fool wise; light enough to scatter all our darkness; power enough to make the weakest strong in grace, and active in every duty.

(2.) It is for Me to prescribe the means of obtaining salvation. "I am God;" look unto Me, therefore, ye sinners, and be saved; I will give salvation to him that looks; he that believeth on Me shall be saved from sin and death.

2. "There is none else;" there is none that can save beside Me. The salvation of a sinner is too great a work for any except God. A man cannot change a dead sinner into a living saint; he can make a house, a watch, a ship, foretell an eclipse, calculate the distance of a star; but of God alone can it be said, "You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." It requires a Divine Power to secure one in temptation, to fit him for the society of God and angels, to bring him through death to eternal glory; and yet all this is to be done if the sinner is to be saved.

None but God has a right to declare the terms of salvation. If He says, "Look and be saved," who shall forbid the banns, or narrow the breadth of the invitation? If the Lord of Heaven says to perishing sinners on earth, "Ye shall be saved, if only ye believe," who dare impose painful rites or laborious ceremonies, or human absolution? The faith spoken of must be a vital principle, showing itself in repentance and aiming at holiness; for a dead faith cannot save (H. E. I. 1978-1986).

CONCLUSION.—How broad and glorious is the salvation of Christ! how it answers to the weaknesses and the wants, the miseries, the dangers, and the fears of the awakened sinner! It reaches not only to us, but to even the savage nations, such as our fathers once were. But we must not trust to wearing the name of Christ; we must learn to look to Him with the eye of faith, the heart of love, and the life of sincere obedience.—George Clark, M.A.: Sermons, pp. 279-285.

I. THE BLESSING OFFERED: salvation.

II. THE PERSONS TO WHOM IT IS OFFERED: "all the ends of the earth;" Gentiles as well as Jews; every one who needs it.

III. THE CONDITION ON WHICH IT IS OFFERED. "Look unto Me."

IV. THE ARGUMENT THE BENIGNANT SAVIOUR EMPLOYS TO INDUCE GUILTY SINNERS TO ACCEPT IT. "For I am God, and there is none else;" "a just God and a Saviour." The argument is twofold:

1. Sinners may trust Christ without suspicion, for He is omnipotent.

2. Sinners should trust Christ alone, for there is none else able to save.

CONCLUSION.—The duty of all immediately to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ that they may be saved It is the voice of infinite love that entreats us to be saved. Shall we then turn away from the invitation of such a Saviour? Besides, it is an authoritative command to us to do our duty. It is outrageous folly to trifle with the injunctions of the King of heaven. To those who are looking to Christ, the text is fraught with the richest consolation. "He is able to save you to the uttermost."—W. France: The Scottish Pulpit, vol. iv. pp. 42-48.

Give your most earnest thought to these four great facts: I. All need to be saved. II. There is One who can save. III. The salvation He offers is worthy of Him. It is present, ample, certain, complete. IV. There is only one way by which that salvation can be made ours, by looking to Jesus.—J. A. Spurgeon: The Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 351.

THE NATURE AND AUTHOR OF SALVATION

Isa . Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.

I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THIS WORD, "AND BE SAVED.".

There is implied in it,

1. Deliverance from the dominion of sin in this world. We argue the necessity of this deliverance from the facts—

(1.) That sin is the root and fountain of misery. To remove effects, we must remove the cause: before man can be happy, he must be holy; before he can be saved from sorrow, he must be saved from sin.

(2). That they who enter heaven must be identified with heaven in character (H. E. I. 2730-2738).

(3.) That deliverance from the power of sin is the very purpose for which the Spirit of Christ is given to them that believe. Hereby we dissipate the false and misleading ideas of those who imagine that salvation is a state into which we are not introduced till we die.

2. Deliverance from the consequences of sin in the world to come. These include,

(1.) Irretrievable exile from the presence, and the glory, and the joy of Jehovah—the radiating centre of all happiness and peace.

(2.) The righteous punishment of all the sinner's transgressions.

(3.) The extinction of hope.

(4.) That bitter remorse which springs from the recollection of having lost a heaven that might once have been won, and plunged into a misery which might once have been shunned. This is the worm that never dies, this is the fire that is never quenched.

II. THE WAY IN WHICH THIS SALVATION IS TO BE SECURED.

"Look unto Me, and be ye saved." There is in this verse no preliminary required of man, only a look at the Saviour! No preparatory reformation, no preparatory repentance even! Repentance itself is the gift of Christ (H. E. I. 4225-4231, 4249, 4250).

III. THE CHARACTER IN WHICH THE SAVIOUR PRESENTS HIMSELF TO SINNERS.

Look at Christ,

1. As having borne the punishment which you deserved, and thereby made it inconsistent with the equity of God to punish the believer.

2. As our High Priest who pleads for us within the veil, and sends His Spirit forth to seal us to eternal glory.

3. As able to instruct us savingly in all the will and word of God.

4. As the Sovereign King, whose laws we are unreservedly to reverence and obey.

5. As the source and distributor of all blessings, who has a right to all we hold on earth.

IV. How ARE WE TO LOOK TO JESUS?

1. In looking to Jesus, there is involved a looking away from every other ground of pardon, of salvation, of recovery (H. E. I. 1944-1951).

2. We must look under strong convictions of our helplessness and imbecility.

3. Look to Jesus, not only under a conviction of your insufficiency, but of His fulness (H. E. I. 934-941).

4. We are to look intently, just as the beggar looks into the face of him who has the world's wealth around him; just as the shipwrecked seaman gazes in the face of him that has the means to rescue.

5. We must look continually. It will not do to look at the Redeemer to-day, and to-morrow forget His existence and His claims; we must look to Him from first to last (P. D. 2313, 2314).

We hold the doctrines of election and of predestination to be scriptural and precious truths; but if a man will make these drags upon our efforts to proclaim the everlasting Gospel, and dampers on our zeal in the cause of perishing souls, we will stand up for their defence, and maintain that these doctrines are desecrated and abused, and instead of being, as meant, consolations to all true believers, are made barriers in the way of heaven's going forth to recover the lapsed children of Adam, and to rescue the heirs of eternity from going down to perdition. We are to act upon the principle that there is sufficiency in Christ for all; that His blood can wash the most inveterate stains of guilt; and we are to bound its saving efficacy by nothing short of the limits of the globe.—Cumming.

J Cumming, D.D.: "The British Pulpit," vol. i. pp. 321-334.

LIFE FOR A LOOK

Isa . Look unto Me, and be ye saved, &c.

The precious truth contained in this statement has been put in this memorable form: "We have here the greatest possible blessing, for the greatest possible number, under the best possible guarantee, and on the easiest possible terms." While we proceed along these lines, let us breathe the prayer that God would remove the scales from blind eyes, and unstop deaf ears, that His message of grace may be understood and believed.

I. THE GREATEST POSSIBLE BLESSING. Moses was instructed to make a serpent of brass, and set it upon a pole, "that every one that was bitten, when he looked upon it, might live" (Num ). Life and salvation are the same thing, for life is salvation from death, and no blessing can bear comparison with this. A patient may have every attention, but there is one blessing he earnestly desires—to have his life spared, his health restored. The shrieking passengers in wild commotion on that burning ship are seeking one thing—to save their lives. And the most urgent need of the soul is life. Every other blessing is included in this salvation. Your sins expose you to the curse of the law; but Christ has redeemed you, being made a curse for you. What greater blessing can there be? It is not mere deliverance from punishment, but also the rectification of your disordered spiritual nature. Nothing deserves the name of salvation which does not purify the heart. Salvation is complete and final (Mar 8:36).

II. FOR THE GREATEST POSSIBLE NUMBER. "All ye ends of the earth," "every one that is bitten," however far gone he might be. What a significant emblem of the Cross in its far-reaching efficacy (Joh ). Some years ago a terrible story came from sea. Fire was spreading fast along the decks, and left only two boats available for the 477 souls on board. These were soon filled, leaving the large number for whom there was no accommodation to the alternative of death by fire or water. In this fearful plight the captain first threw his wife overboard, and then himself plunged into the waves. If the lost family of mankind were placed in similar circumstances with respect to the salvation of the soul, many of us might with reason plunge into the deeps of despair; but, blessed be God, there is room for all. "All ye ends of the earth." Where can you go to be beyond the sweep of these words? To what end of the earth can you retire where this voice will not reach? (Pro 8:4). There is only one place where it is not heard. It does not run, "All ye ends of hell;" but you are still in a world of hope.

III. UNDER THE BEST POSSIBLE GUARANTEE. "For I am God, and there is none else." The serpent on the pole was no human device. It was the Divine method of recovery to the suffering Israelites. Moses might have said, How can healing come from a serpent of brass? but he stumbled not through unbelief. God's ways are not our ways. Jesus was lifted up to draw all men unto Him. Despise the Cross, and there is no other way of recovery, for this is God's way. If He guarantees life and salvation, who shall gainsay or oppose His will? Here, then, is the highest possible security. The Almighty gives us eternal life through His Son, and signs the deed with His own hand. Anything short of this would be unworthy of our confidence; but when a faithful God thus binds Himself, we may surely rest on His word. It is no hazardous speculation in which we are called to embark; no doubtful venture, for the highest authority in the universe has pledged His honour and faithfulness to make it sure.

IV. ON THE EASIEST POSSIBLE TERMS. "Look unto me." We have but to look to Christ to save us; to depend on Him for salvation; to use a good Scotch word, we have to "lippen" all to Him. He has died to secure your salvation. Why, then, should you distrust Him? Look away from your poor sinful selves, away from all your feelings and strivings, to Him the one source of salvation (Joh ). Nothing can be easier, and it has been made thus easy to be within the power of all. We make it difficult by our prejudices, our ignorance, our despair. There is no deficiency in the provisions of the Gospel. All things are ready. Yet there is room. You dare not doubt the efficacy of the Redeemer's sacrifice, nor question the boundlessness of His love. Nor can you plead that you are too sinful to be forgiven. Were you not sinful you would need no salvation. It may be you try to make yourself better before you look to Him; but you cannot make yourself better except by looking to Him. The longer you refuse to look the worse you will become. Come to Him as you are, sinful and wretched, and He will take you as you are (Joh 6:37).—William Guthrie, M.A.

It is to the second person in the Godhead—to our Lord Jesus Christ—that we are to look (Joh ). In the language of metaphor, the mind, as well as the body, has eyes. We say, "Look at this fact; look at this or that other historic personage—at Julius Cæsar, Luther, Abraham;" and we all understand what is meant when such language is employed. It is in some such way that we are told to look at the Saviour.

I. If you look unto the Lord Jesus, you will see God manifest. How shall we find out the Almighty unto perfection? How shall we know the dispositions and character of that great Being with whom our eternal destiny is linked far more intimately and enduringly than with the dearest friend of our bosom? Philosophy answers: "In nature" (H. E. I. 361). But the Gospel replies: "You will see Him better still in Jesus Christ" (H. E. I. 847, 855-857, 1495-1497, 2243).

II. You will see not only God manifest, but Divine love incarnate. According to the medium through which it shines, the same light gives a radiance of a very different colour and influence—it cheers or depresses; through a clear or gold-tinted glass of a lantern it sheds a bright and summer-like ray, through a blue glass of the same lantern it darts a cold, pallid beam. In a sinful world like this, we could easily imagine an awful incarnation from which the Divine attributes should have shone out upon us cold, lurid, or ghastly, just as they do when viewed through that sin-smoked glass which guilt holds up when it tries to look upon God; an incarnation in which the vindictive attributes of the Almighty had come on errands of severity into the midst of our sinfulness. But what was the actual fact? (Joh ; Joh 3:17). Look to Jesus, and you will see that God is love.

III. Looking unto the Lord Jesus, there is yet another sight with which the penitent sinner is regaled, and that is righteous reconciliation. We behold a Saviour who so completely made satisfaction for us that God's very righteousness is declared in the remission of the sinner's transgressions. The Son of God offered a sacrifice so infinitely acceptable that no other offering, no further supplementary sacrifice on the part of the sinner, nay, nor on the part of the Saviour Himself, will ever be required. Now forgiveness is offered to each one of us. Do we accept it? God has set forth His Son as a propitiation for our sin, and whenever the sinner puts forth as his plea, that Christ hath died, the controversy is ended, and God sees no iniquity in the now humble and penitent transgressor. This is the atonement, the at-one-ment: God pacified toward the sinner, and the sinner reconciled to God by the peace-speaking Cross.

IV. Whoever looks at the Saviour long enough, will find life transmitted from Him into his own soul. The moment that God's injunction is obeyed, and the sinner casts himself on Christ for salvation, that moment he is safe; but it may be a long time before he can realise his safety—before the blessings of the Gospel, which are actually his, are also his in conscious possession. When the serpent-bitten Israelite obeyed God's command, and gazed at the serpent of brass, he lived; in that very look the virus of death was miraculously countervailed, and his recovery began. But just as you can imagine the anguish so intense that one moment could not charm it into ease and ecstasy—nay, the smart so keen that the stings which had been received would mingle for a time with the throbs of convalescence, and in half-slumberous moments the patient might dream that he was still death-doomed; so when you reflect what a malignant malady is sin, how deep it has dug its fangs into our inmost nature, and how long we have been tossing in its consuming torture, you can scarcely wonder that the surviving smart or the returning twinges of the old death-stroke sometimes startle the believer, and make him question if he can be really recovered, or dread a fatal relapse. But what would you have advised the man in such a case to do? To look again, look constantly, eagerly, till every qualm of doubt, every fear of death was drowned in the tide of transmitted life and healing. And you who still feel the discomfort of the old disease, and fear lest the ancient wound should fester afresh and kill your soul at last, look again steadfastly, solely, unto Jesus Christ. As in the old miraculous cure, through the gazing eye health flowed into the poisoned blood, and passed into the twinging nerves; so through the eye that fixes trustfully and lovingly on the Lord Jesus—God's beloved Son and the sinner's propitiation—renovation flows into the corrupt nature, and comfort into the wounded spirit, till by and by recovery mantles on the cheerful countenance, bounds in the obedient step, and swells out in the psalm of thanksgiving.

V. If you look to Jesus as God reveals Him in His Word, and as He is in Himself, you will see a Saviour who, when He attracts your love, will assimilate your life to His. If you look to a right purpose, and long enough and simply enough, you will not only get sensible, but visible salvation; that is, you yourself will look like one who has looked to Jesus (2Co ).—James Hamilton, D.D.: The Penny Pulpit, No. 1713.


Verses 23-25

CHRIST'S DOMINION

(Missionary Sermon.)

Isa . I have sworn by Myself, &c.

To "bow the knee" is to render homage as to a king. To "swear" is formally to accept and profess allegiance. It supposes a monarch. The text finds its fulfilment in Christ, and is applied to Him (Rom ; Php 2:9-11). It sets forth the glory of His dominion.

I. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WITH WHICH IT IS CONSTITUTED.

By His Godhead, He has a right to the allegiance of all His creatures. His dominion over them can never be relinquished. When such as have rebelled return to their allegiance, they restore the right which has been unjustly withheld.

But He has acquired the right of supremacy over the mediatorial kingdom by His mediatorial work. His death on the Cross acquired it. The passage already named from the Epistle to the Philippians, with others, traces the Redeemer's exaltation to His atoning death. One who has well executed the earlier stages of a great work is likely to be entrusted with its completion. Joseph was the most likely to carry into effect the plans he had indicated to Pharaoh.

II. THE UNIVERSE TO WHICH IT WILL BE EXTENDED.

The terms here and elsewhere are universal. The corresponding passages enter into detail. They specify the world, heaven, the unseen realm of spirits.

1. The inanimate and irrational parts of creation are unconsciously subordinated to His authority. The dominion over the inferior creation was given to the first man. It was weakened by the Fall. Restored and realised in Christ (Psa ; Heb 2:6-9). It will be consummated at the resurrection (Rom 8:19-23). They are mixed up with man from the beginning. Therefore subordinated to Christ.

2. The holy and the renewed parts of the universe are willingly subordinated to His authority.

(1.) Holy angels (Isaiah 6, compared with Joh ; Eph 1:20-23). They ministered to Him on earth. Would have come in legions to save Him from death, had He willed. An army always at His command. They are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. Beautiful doctrine of their perpetual environment. It is a consolatory thought in perilous crises.

(2.) Renewed men. His dominion over them is a spiritual dominion. He reigns in their hearts. Because of what He has done for them, and because of what He is, they love Him. Therefore they willingly subject themselves to His authority. They are zealous for His honour. They stand up for Him against the world's hostility.

3. The hostile and impenitent part of mankind will be eventually subordinated to His authority. Prophetic Scripture is full of the idea of a universal reign of righteousness in this world through the universal prevalence of the Gospel. Ignorance will be dispelled; idolatry will disappear; indifference and unbelief will be destroyed; sin, if not extinct, will be hated; peace and righteousness will be the universal characteristic of mankind; primitive purity will be combined with high civilisation. The poetry of the Bible description of the latter day is well worthy the attention of all who are interested in the progress of mankind and in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ (H. E. I. 979-1162).

III. THE CERTAINTY WITH WHICH IT IS ASSURED.

The text is the strongest form of asseveration. It rests on the word of God which cannot be recalled or falsified, and on the oath of God which He sometimes uses for confirmation. On certain solemn occasions, when the greatness of the blessing and the difficulties in the way of its realisation rendered it desirable, He has confirmed His word of promise by a solemn oath (Gen ). Thus here. And this word is being fulfilled:—

1. In the mission and work of Christ. In order to its fulfilment, He became incarnate, lived His life on earth, offered the sacrifice of Himself. This is the power which is destined to attract all men to Him. He is exalted to the throne, where He reigns until all His enemies shall be subdued.

2. In the dispensations of His Providence. In the exercise of His royal authority, He gave the command to preach the Gospel; a command which is permanently binding on His disciples. He opens doors of entrance in every part of the world; in India, China, and many other countries now, as in the Roman empire at first. He fills the Church with requisite power. Men are raised up with Christ's love in their hearts and a sacred willingness to enter these doors. Money is placed in the possession of the Church sufficient for the occupation of the fields of usefulness that are from time to time opened. It is His will that by means of His Church the prediction shall be accomplished.

3. In the work of the Holy Spirit. Whatever of sovereignty must be assumed in contemplating the principle on which the Holy Spirit is bestowed in order to the world's subjection to Christ, it is certain that as much of the Spirit is bestowed as the Church is at any time prepared for by labour, prayer, faith.

Now all this is in the course of being accomplished. It seems slow. Creation was slow. Almost all great works are accomplished slowly. Yet it is really proceeding. See how the principles of the Gospel and the men of the Gospel are leavening society. Our duty is clear. Bow the knee to Christ. Believe in Him. Work for Him. Support His cause. Pray for its extension.—J. Rawlinson.

THE FUTURE TRIUMPHS OF THE GOSPEL

Isa . I have sworn by Myself, &c.

These words announce—

I. A UNIVERSAL SUBJECTION. "Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear."

1. "I have sworn by Myself." It is implied that God has a right to this subjection. This right is peculiar and perfect; superior to that of any master to a servant, or a sovereign to a subject, for God has an entire and absolute property in us all. Our very existence is owing to Him. We breathe His air, eat at His table, wear His apparel, and are daily living upon His bounty. If He were to call you to Him, and say, "Take that thine is, and go thy way," what would you take? You could not take even yourself, but would relapse into non-existence (Act ).

2. This submission is not natural. "Unto me shall every knee bow, and every tongue shall swear." Their previous condition was a state of alienation and rebellion. The Bible, throughout, assumes that this is man's present state (H. E. I. 3390-3396).

3. This submission is to be universal. "Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." Christ had no doubt that His kingdom, though small in its commencement, would spread far and wide (Mat ). Hitherto the progress of Christianity has been comparatively small, and its success much confined. There is no country, or town, or village, where even the majority are as yet governed by it. But it is not to be so always (Psa 72:11; Zec 14:9; H. E. I. 979).

4. This submission is Divinely assured. How strong is the pledge here given! "By Myself have I sworn. The word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return." If it be a righteous thing for God to do, He will do it. Some of God's words have returned to Him, but they were threatenings, and threatenings are conditional (e.g., Jon ). But here the engagement is absolute: it is nothing less than an oath. But was it necessary for God thus to bind Himself down? No; but "an oath for confirmation is an end of all strife," "wherein God, willing therefore to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things"—for His word is as immutable as His oath—we might be encouraged to look forward with confident hope to a brighter future for our world.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS SUBMISSION IS TO BE EXEMPLIFIED. "Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength; even to Him shall all men come."

This shows us that that universal homage is to be eventually paid to God in Christ. For it is with God in Christ that we have to do (Joh ; Php 2:9-11).

"Even to Him shall all men come." To whom should men go for help, but to Him in whom all power is to be found? If there were but one well in a neighbourhood, all the inhabitants around would flock to it for water. If there were only one refuge from a cruel and victorious enemy, thither would all the people hasten. When the famine was in Egypt and the surrounding countries, Jacob said in effect to his sons, "Go unto Joseph; he is in possession of the corn." All that these symbols set forth is to be found in Christ. "To Him," said dying Jacob, "shall the gathering of the people be."

III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF REFUSING TO SUBMIT TO OUR MERCIFUL KING. "And all that are incensed against Him shall be ashamed."

1. It seems strange that such characters as these could be found; yet such is the case (Psa ). You are mistaken, if you suppose that the men of the world will love and admire your religion. They hated its Founder, not only "without a cause," but for the very excellences He displayed. Heathen philosophers thought that if Virtue appeared incarnate, all the world would fall in love with her. It did appear; thirty-three years "the image of the invisible God" was seen going about "doing good,"—and what was the result? The men of the world pursued Him with remorseless malice, and hung Him on a tree!

In like manner, the Church of Christ was opposed by them from its earliest commencement. They employed every kind of persecution against His cause and disciples. So it is still. In every self-righteous character there is a settled opposition against the sovereignty and grace of God (H. E. I. 2677-2679).

2. The future of these foes of Christ. "All that are incensed against Him shall be ashamed" (Rev ; Isa 60:12; Luk 19:27). "All," whether high or low, the moral as well as the profligate. "All!" There may be many of them, but though hand join in hand, yet shall not the wicked go unpunished. Their multitude will not afford any alleviation to their misery. "The way of transgressors is hard" ever here, and it leads down to the chambers of eternal death. But there is a Saviour able and willing to save the chief of sinners, and who will in no wise cast out any who come unto Him."—William Jay: Sunday Evening Sermons, pp. 33-40.

RIGHTEOUSNESS AND STRENGTH

Isa . In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.

One distinguishing praise of the Gospel dispensation is its completeness. All the spiritual wants of those who embrace it are therein provided for. This completeness is all in Christ. In Him are all the believers' supplies treasured up; out of His fulness they must daily receive "grace for grace." The great variety of their necessities, and of His gifts, may be reduced to the two mentioned in the text. All they want is a title to heaven, and a qualification for the enjoyment of it; whatever gifts comprehend both these, comprehend all they can require; and righteousness is their title to heaven, strength secures their meetness for it.

I. In the Lord the Believer has Righteousness. In himself, he has none. There is hardly anything more plainly taught in Scripture than this. Nevertheless men are apt to suppose they have a righteousness of their own—a righteousness of the law. Such a righteousness St. Paul had at one time: if you would learn what value he put upon it when he was instructed in the truths of the Gospel, read Php . He counted such a righteousness loss, instead of gain. His prayer was, that in the last day he might be found, not in it, but in "that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." This is the only righteousness which will avail us anything then; and this the believer has in the Lord. It is this, because Christ is his. He has not wrought it himself: Christ has wrought it for him. But though he has not the glory, he has the benefit. The reward of righteousness is his also. Being justified in Christ, he shall also be glorified with Him.

II. In the Lord the Believer has Strength. In him dwelleth no good thing. He cannot produce from the stock of nature one truly holy fruit. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." What one action truly good and pleasing to God can enmity produce? The enmity must be first removed, and the principle of love implanted in the breast, before the work of love can proceed from it. Man, in his natural state, may imitate good actions, but his actions cannot be really good, however well they may look. The tree must be made good ere the fruit can be good. For this the Saviour's strength is necessary (Joh : 1Co 15:10; Gal 2:20; Php 4:13; H. E. I. 2391, 4080, 4081).

Thus simple and intelligible is our religion. It presents us with one great object, JESUS CHRIST and bids us seek all we need in Him. In doing this day by day, lies the art of maintaining peace of conscience, and of acquiring a growing victory over every lust within and every foe without.

PRACTICAL DIRECTIONS—

1. Renounce all other righteousness but that of Christ. Otherwise, you dishonour Him and injure your own souls. If you do not trust wholly to Christ's righteousness, on the ground of your acceptance with God, you do not trust it at all to any saving purpose (H. E. I. 1960, 2411, 2412). A clearer vision of the law would show us that nothing but the righteousness of Christ can satisfy its demands.

2. Renounce all dependence on your own resolutions. So long as you trust in them, the offer of Christ's strength must be superfluous to you. What have your resolutions amounted to? To anything really holy and spiritual? And what has been the effect of them? How often have you carried them out? Have you not repeatedly failed to do so? Will you go on risking your eternal welfare on those expedients which already have failed you a thousand times? True holiness is within your reach, but not by any strength of your own. You must believe in Jesus for it, if you would be partakers of it in truth. And in Him only must you trust (H. E. I. 932, 933, 4766).

3. Be diligent in making use of Christ for both righteousness and strength. It is not enough that you renounce false grounds of peace and rejoicing. The work of every day must be to live on Christ, that by His righteousness you may have peace, hope, and joy; by His strength, victory and holiness. Does conscience trouble you? Endeavour to get a clearer sight of and a firmer hold on the righteousness of Christ (H. E. I. 1893, 1894, 3350). When worldly cares press upon you, when temptations beset you, when you find it very difficult to walk in the way of duty, lay hold on the Redeemer's strength. Practical Christianity is, from beginning to end, nothing else but living a life of faith on the Son of God. Let this one thing, then, be the business of every day. Every day brings its trials, its snares, its peculiar duties, its advantages, its opportunities—go forth to meet and use them only in the name and power of Christ. So each day will be a day of victory. To overcome the world is a great thing, a far greater thing than many suppose; but in the strength of Christ it shall be accomplished by the believer (1Jn ; Rom 8:37; H.E.I. 1078, 1098, 938, 945).—John Fawcett, A.M., Sermons, vol. i. pp. 74-89.

GLORYING IN THE LORD

Isa . Surely, shall one say, &c.

Even from the gospel of the Old Testament we may derive an answer to the interesting inquiry, "How can a man be just with God?"

I. THE BELIEVER'S SOURCE OF SALVATION. The text contemplates men as sinful, i.e., polluted, weak, and guilty; accordingly it describes the Lord as being—

1. The source of his "righteousness." Both the principle and practice originate in the grace of God. And in every stage of the process "salvation is of the Lord" (Joh ; Eph 4:24; Php 1:11; Isa 26:12).

2. The source of his "strength." There is a wide difference between perceiving what is right, or even de siring to act aright, and actually performing the will of God. The Lord imparts the energy by which we do His will (Php ); the fortitude by which we suffer His will (Rom 5:3-5); and the persevering and unconquerable firmness with which we sustain the attacks of our enemies (Rom 8:37). Strength, suited and proportionate, is promised (Isa 40:29; Deu 33:25; Isa 41:10); and these promises are verified by the experiences of the faithful (2Sa 22:40; 2Co 12:9-10).

3. The source of his "justification." Not personal and perfect innocence, for, Rom ; but that state which results from forgiveness. Of this "the Lord" must have the "glory," for He has provided the means of pardon (Isa 53:6; Rom 3:25); He propounds the terms of pardon (Joh 3:16; Rom 3:26); He bestows that grace by which we obtain pardon (Eph 2:8; Col 2:12); He grants the pardon desired (Rom 3:24; Rom 8:33; Col 3:13); He blesses with a sense of pardon (Gal 4:4-6); and He will attest their pardon, in a public justification of His servants at the last day (Rom 2:4-10; Mat 25:34-40).

II. THE BELIEVER'S HUMBLE ACKNOWLEDGMENT. This is—

1. The language of humble confession; of weakness and inability. The text may refer to the past and the present.

2. The language of humble gratitude.

3. Or the text may respect the future; and then, by way of anticipation, this is the language of humble confidence (2Co ).

4. This is also the language of humble but exulting triumph (Isa ; Rom 8:35-39; Psa 23:4; 1Co 15:55; Rom 2:7-10; Rev 1:5-6).

This language is rendered all the more striking by contrast, "all that are accursed," &c.; shall be confounded at their stupid infidelity, &c.—Sketches of Sermons, vol. iii. pp. 54-58.

THE SEED OF ISRAEL

Isa . In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory.

I. WHO ARE THE SUBJECTS OF THIS PROMISE? "All the seed of Israel." To Jacob this name was first given, and you know how he obtained it; how he was knighted on the field of battle. It is a name of high honour: "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel" [i.e., a prince with God]; "for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." The promise is to his "seed."

"The seed of Israel" may be viewed under two aspects. First, as Jews, the natural descendants of Jacob. They nearly always were, and are now, very far from being the people of God, unless by a national covenant. But the period will come when the veil will be taken away from their hearts, and this promise will then be fulfilled to them.

But there is another aspect under which we may view Israel. Observe the distinction which our Saviour makes when speaking of Nathaniel: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile." In speaking of him as "an Israelite," He distinguishes him from men of other nations, and by calling him "an Israelite indeed," He distinguishes him from men of his own nation (Rom ). All along there were some in Israel who, like their ancestors, were partakers of faith and humility. These were peculiarly "the Israel of God," and the ground of their being so called was not their natural relationship to Jacob, but their spiritual relationship to him (Rom 2:28-29). Therefore, if your hearts are circumcised—if you are renewed in the spirit of your minds—you are "the Israel of God" (Php 3:3; Gal 3:29).

But who of this "seed of Israel" are entitled to the promise? All of them! "In the Lord shall all," &c.

1. The expression seems to imply number. Though the righteous have always been few when compared with the wicked around them, yet collectively considered, and when gathered out of all nations and tongues, they will be "a number which no man can number" (Heb , and especially Isa 53:11, "satisfied!").

2. It expresses impartiality. There is no difference here as to country, condition, or complexion (Rom ; Gal 3:26-28). Children differ in age, size, strength, feature, but they form one and the same family. Before the time of harvest the wheat grows in various places, and is separated by hedges and walls, but when it is reaped it is carried home and gathered into the same garner, while no inquiry is made whether it grew in this enclosure or that. "All the seed of Israel" have one Father, are all included in the same eternal purpose, redeemed by the same precious blood, justified by the same grace, destined to the same glory. Therefore you should love them all, and never be ashamed to hold communion with those with whom Christ holds communion.

III. WHAT IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THIS PROMISE?

1. The dignity of the Benefactor. "In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." Who is the person here spoken of? A very important inquiry. Wherever you see "the LORD" in capitals in the Bible, you are apprised of the word JEHOVAH in the original. This name is therefore applied to Christ; for it is certainly of Him that it is said in the preceding verse, "Surely shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness," &c. "Why, then, you would make Jesus Christ to be God?" No, I do not make Him to be so: I find Him to be so. And it is necessary that He should be so, for without this there could not be an all-sufficiency of worth to expiate our offences, or of power to save us from the dominion and pollution of sin. It is necessary for us that we should be able to say, "My Lord and my God!"

2. The relation on which the blessedness here promised depends: "In the Lord. Of this "in" much is said in Scripture (Isa ; 2Co 5:17; Eph 1:3; Php 3:8). Between Christ and all His people there was a virtual union before the world began, and there is now a vital and a visible union—a vital union, when they are enabled to receive and embrace Him by faith; a visible one, when they join His Church, and make a profession of His name. Not only is He the source of blessedness, but we can be partakers of it only by being in Him. A refuge is a place of safety, but you can be secure only by being in it. The ark preserved Noah and his family, but had they been out of it when the rain descended, they would have perished along with the unbelieving world; but "the Lord shut him in," and therefore he was preserved. Consider also our Saviour's teaching in Joh 15:4-5.

3. The privilege here promised. It takes in two things:—

(1.) Justification. "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory." Does this mean that they shall be justified from imputations and slanders? Yes, in a sense this may be implied, so that the Christian may say, "He is near to justify me" (see Psa ). So Joseph and David were in due time cleared from the calumnies that were cast upon them. So shall it be with all God's people who have borne reproach for His sake (P. D. 3114).

But the greater blessing here promised is justification from sin. This is the blessing that descends on all believers in Christ Jesus (Act ; 2Co 5:21). How was Christ "made sin for us?" By imputation only. Our sin was reckoned to Him, and He became responsible for the consequences (1Pe 3:18). How are we made righteous before God? In the very same way. Christ's righteousness is reckoned to us, and in consequence of it we are absolved and justified. How far does this justification extend? For answer, see Rom 8:1; Jer 50:20. All true believers in Christ are now "accepted in the Beloved," both as to their persons and their services, and are not only freed from the curse of the law, but are invested with a title to everlasting life.

(2.) Exaltation. The exultation of which our text speaks will be the natural result and expression of the exaltation which God has in reserve for His people. Poor, mean, despised, they may be now, but then the shout of a King shall be heard among them. Is that King ours? Let us never be ashamed now to own, to talk of, to publish Him in whom we then shall glory. Soon "He will come again to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in them that believe."—William Jay: Sunday Evening Sermons, pp. 41-47.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/isaiah-45.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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