Isaiah Chapter Fifty-nine
Reproofs of sin and wickedness. (1-8) Confession of sin, and lamentation for the consequences. (9-15) Promises of deliverance. (16-21)
Commentary on Isaiah 59:1-8
(Read Isaiah 59:1-8)
If our prayers are not answered, and the salvation we wait for is not wrought for us, it is not because God is weary of hearing prayer, but because we are weary of praying. See here sin in true colours, exceedingly sinful; and see sin in its consequences, exceedingly hurtful, separating from God, and so separating us, not only from all good, but to all evil. Yet numbers feed, to their own destruction, on infidel and wicked systems. Nor can their skill or craft, in devising schemes, as the spider weaves its web, deliver or save them. No schemes of self-wrought salvation shall avail those who despise the Redeemer's robe of righteousness. Every man who is destitute of the Spirit of Christ, runs swiftly to evil of some sort; but those regardless of Divine truth and justice, are strangers to peace.
Commentary on Isaiah 59:9-15
(Read Isaiah 59:9-15)
If we shut our eyes against the light of Divine truth, it is just with God to hide from our eyes the things that belong to our peace. The sins of those who profess themselves God's people, are worse than the sins of others. And the sins of a nation bring public judgments, when not restrained by public justice. Men may murmur under calamities, but nothing will truly profit while they reject Christ and his gospel.
Commentary on Isaiah 59:16-21
(Read Isaiah 59:16-21)
This passage is connected with the following chapters. It is generally thought to describe the coming of the Messiah, as the Avenger and Deliverer of his church. There was none to intercede with God to turn away his wrath; none to interpose for the support of justice and truth. Yet He engaged his own strength and righteousness for his people. God will make his justice upon the enemies of his church and people plainly appear. When the enemy threatens to bear down all without control, then the Spirit of the Lord shall stop him, put him to flight. He that has delivered, will still deliver. A far more glorious salvation is promised to be wrought out by the Messiah in the fulness of time, which all the prophets had in view. The Son of God shall come to us to be our Redeemer; the Spirit of God shall come to be our Sanctifier: thus the Comforter shall abide with the church for ever, John 14:16. The word of Christ will always continue in the mouths of the faithful; and whatever is pretended to be the mind of the Spirit, must be tried by the Scriptures. We must lament the progress of infidelity and impiety. But the cause of the Redeemer shall gain a complete victory even on earth, and the believer will be more than conqueror when the Lord receives him to his glory in heaven.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Isaiah》
 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.
Perverseness — Perverse words are such as are contrary to God's word. Words every way contrary to God's will.
 None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.
None — None seek to redress these wrongs, and violences; they commit all rapines, and frauds with impunity.
Bring forth — These two words of conceiving, and bringing forth, denote their whole contrivance, and perfecting their wickedness.
 They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.
Cockatrice eggs — One kind put for any venomous creature, a proverbial speech signifying by these eggs mischievous designs, and by hatching them, their putting them in practice.
Web — Another proverbial speech whereby is taught, both how by their plots they weave nets, lay snares industriously with great pains and artifice. And also how their designs will come to nothing, as the spider's web is soon swept away.
 Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.
Webs — Their contrivances shall not be able to cover or defend them.
 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.
Wasting — They meditate on little or nothing else.
Paths — In what way or work soever they are engaged, it all tends to ruin and destruction.
 The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.
The way of peace — They live in continual contentions, and discords.
Judgment — No justice, equity, faith, or integrity.
 Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
Justice — Judgment, and so justice is here taken for deliverance. God doth not defend our right, nor revenge our wrong, because of these outrages, and acts of violence, injustice, and oppression.
 We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.
As dead men — He compares their captivity to men dead without hope of recovery.
 We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.
Mourn — Their oppressing governors made the wicked roar like bears, and the good mourn like doves.
 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;
Transgressions — The word here signifies sins of an high nature, such as wherein there is much of man's will against light: rebellious sins.
Multiplied — They admit of no excuse; for they are acted before thee, and multiplied against thee, whereby thou art justly provoked to deny us all help.
Testify — As so many witnesses produced proves our guilt.
Are with us — Are still unforgiven.
We know — We are convinced of them.
 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
Lying — Transgressing here, and lying, seem to be one and the same thing, inasmuch as in their transgressing the law of God, they broke their solemn engagement to God upon mount Sinai.
Departing — Turning from God to idols.
Speaking — As it were, talking of little else one among another, but how to oppress their neighbours, and apostatize from God.
Uttering — That is, first contriving in their heart false accusations, false worship to the dishonour of God; laying the contrivances and uttering them.
From the heart — And when they dealt with men in ways of fraud, it was from the heart, but when they spake with God it was but from the lip.
 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
Judgment — He speaks here of the sentences in courts of judicature.
Truth — Truth is cast to the ground, and justice trampled under foot, even in publick.
Equity — No such thing will be admitted in their courts.
 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.
Faileth — All things are amiss, neither judgment or justice, or truth, is to be found among us.
A prey — Or, as some render it, is accounted mad, is laughed at. Josephus tells us, that immediately before the destruction of Jerusalem, it was matter of scorn to be religions. The translators reach the meaning of the word by prey: the wicked, like wild beasts, endeavouring to devour such as are not as bad as themselves: where wickedness rules, innocency is oppressed.
 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.
No man — To appear in the behalf of equity.
His arm — He would do his work without help from any other.
Righteousness — His justice; seeing there could be no justice found among them, he would avenge the innocent himself.
 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.
For — God, resolving to appear as a man of war, puts on his arms; he calls righteousness his breast-plate, to shew the justness of his cause, as also his faithfulness in making good his promises.
Vengeance — Or garments made of vengeance: as God is said to put on the former for their sakes, whom he would preserve, so he puts on these for their sakes, whom he will destroy, namely, his peoples enemies.
Zeal — For his own honour, and for his own people. The sum of all these expressions is, to describe both the cause and effect together; the cause was righteousness and zeal in God, the effect, salvation to his people, and vengeance on his enemies.
 According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence.
Deeds — Heb. recompences or deserts. That is, he will recompence his adversaries with those effects of his fury that they have deserved.
Islands — To those remoter nations under the king of Babylon, that thought themselves secure.
 So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.
Fear — Worship the Lord.
The west — The western part of the world.
His glory — The glorious God.
The rising of the sun — The eastern parts.
When — At what time soever the devil, or his instruments shall make violent irruptions upon the church.
A standard — God shall make known himself to take their part and defend them, by his spirit alone.
 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.
The Redeemer — Christ, of whom the apostle expounds it, Romans 11:26, the prophets usually concluding their promises of temporal deliverances with the promises of spiritual, especially such, of which the temporal were evident types.
 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.
My covenant — What I have promised, to them that turn from their iniquity.
My words — Which thou hast uttered by virtue of my spirit.
Of thy seed — A promise of the perpetual presence of his word and spirit with the prophets, apostles, and teachers of the church to all ages.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Isaiah》
59 Chapter 59
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened
In the former address, to the dead works on which the people founded their claim to redemption, there were set in contrast the virtues well-pleasing of God, and for which Jehovah promises redemption as a gracious reward; in this discourse, the sins which hinder the accomplishment of redemption are still more directly laid bare. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
Sin and grace
In this chapter we have sin appearing exceeding sinful, and grace appearing exceeding gracious. (M. Henry.)
Why some seekers are not saved
I. THE FACT CONFESSED.
1. The people of whom I am specially thinking have been hearers of the Gospel, and diligent hearers too.
2. They have become men of prayer, after a fashion (Isaiah 58:2).
3. These people are greatly disappointed with themselves: not altogether so, for they know to a great extent where the blame lies, but yet they had hoped better things of themselves.
II. THE IMPUTATION IMPLIED AND MET. Notice the first word of our text: “Behold! “ This is like our nots bene; mark well, turn your eye this way. If you are not saved, it is not because God is unable to save you, nor is it because He is unwilling to hear your prayers.
III. THE ACCUSATION PRESSED AND EXPLAINED. Your accusation may be turned against you. You thought that God’s hand was shortened, that it could not save; but it is your hand that is shortened, for you have not laid hold upon Christ. The real reason why you have not found peace is sin. It may be--
1. Sin unconfessed.
2. Sin unforsaken.
3. Sin hankered after.
4. Sin of which you are unaware.
5. Some sin of omission.
6. An ugly temper.
7. An intellectual sin.
8. Gross or secret sin. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Hindrances to the conversion of all nations
1. The lack of deep, earnest sympathy with Christ on the part of His people.
2. An evil heart of unbelief.
3. The unconsecrated wealth of the Church. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
The sad issues of sin
I. IT BRINGS SEPARATION. Instead of running to God, we flee from Him. His dazzling majesty appals us. His righteousness and purity compel us to hide from Him.
II. IT BRINGS DISENCHANTMENT AND DISILLUSIONMENT. For a little we arc fascinated, beguiled, befooled; but soon there is a rude awakening. “Their webs shall not become garments,” etc. (Isaiah 59:6). The mirage fades await and we discover to our dismay that there is nothing around or within us but a desert of sand and thorns.
III. IT BRINGS BEWILDERMENT AND PERPLEXITY (Isaiah 59:9). We are in doubt regarding the most elementary matters of belief and behaviour. (A. Smellie, M. A.)
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God,--
Sin separates God and men
A DREADFUL EVIL THAT THIS PEOPLE WAS UNDER. Separation from God.
II. THE PARTY AT WHOSE DOOR THE BLAME LIES, they who have made the breach.
III. THE PROCURING CAUSE OF THIS EVIL, “your iniquities.” (T. Boston.)
The dreadful efficacy of sin
I. WHAT IS THAT SEPARATION WHICH SIN MAKES BETWIXT GOD AND SOULS? Not a local separation, for “He is not far from every one of us, for in Him we live,” etc.
1. In it there is something negative; i.e the Lord denies them the influences of His grace, countenance and fellowship.
2. There is something positive in it: sin kindles a fire against the soul.
II. THE GREATNESS OF THE EVIL OF SEPARATION FROM GOD, which many go so light under. Alas! many reign like king Saul, when God departed from him; but how sad a thing this is, will appear if we consider--
1. What God is. Everything in God speaks terror to those that are separated from Him.
2. All created things are empty and unsatisfactory.
3. To be separated from God is the saddest plague out of hell.
4. It is a very hell to be separated from God.
5. Those that continue in a state of separation from God, have no quarter to which they can turn for comfort in an evil day.
III. HOW SIN MAKES THIS SEPARATION BETWIXT GOD AND A SOUL.
1. There is a guilt of sin, whereby the sinner is bound over to misery for his sin.
2. There is the stain of sin. (T. Boston.)
Sin the great separator
I. SIN SEPARATES MAN FROM GOD AS TO PLACE. Of course it remains true of every inhabitant of earth, and even of hell, that God is not far from every one of us. But sin has blunted, has even destroyed the sense of His nearness, has led men to feel as though He were far distant. As a man’s iniquities increase God seems farther and farther from him, until at last he feels that heaven is too distant for him to reach, and God too far off to hear his prayers.
II. SIN SEPARATES MAN FROM GOD AS TO CHARACTER.
III. SIN SEPARATES MAN FROM GOD AS TO WILL. Separation of will is the most complete of all kinds of separation. Continents and oceans may divide men, and yet they may be one in heart and aim.
IV. SIN SEPARATES MAN FROM GOD AS TO INTEREST. It is to the interest of the sinner that there should be opportunity for indulgence in sin, that the punishment of sin should be removed, that the restraints of virtue should be broken down. We may well rejoice that God’s interest is with all that is the opposite of this. It is God’s aim that sin should be destroyed. Hence by fearful sufferings He brands it with disgrace. But God in His wonderful love has taken means to destroy this separation, and to draw us back to Him. (Homilist.)
The tragic schism
When separation comes to pass, the force of disseverment and alienation can only be that of sin.
1. He who is the spring of life can know neither impoverishment nor limitation, and the changes and fluctuations of the universe can no more project themselves into His being than the casting of a leaf or the shedding of a blossom from the tree can impair the vital force entrenched in its roots. The heathen man will sometimes say, “The gods are growing old; they are not so ready in helping their worshippers as when we were young.’ An eternal Spirit is secure against such an innuendo. “His arm is not shortened that it cannot save.”
2. And there can be no failure of care for our welfare or slackening off in His inclination to help us. Unless God be a fiction of the brain He must be predisposed to save and succour the people He has formed for Himself. The age-long impulse by which He draws men to religion is a sufficient proof of that. When we take into account what God really is, the chief mystery of the world is that any prayer in it should go unanswered, and the mystery is one with the mystery of iniquity itself. It was no wonder that He whose everlasting home had been in the bosom of infinite love should marvel at that which is so commonplace to us--unbelief. What a side-light does this cast upon the terrible significance of sin! It is the one thing which keeps God and His creatures apart.
3. The conditions of modern business life are sometimes adduced as an excuse for the waning spirit of prayer and the outfading consciousness of Divine help. If business does unfit its votaries for realizing God’s presence and power, it can only be for one of three reasons, all alike bearing the taint of sin and justifying the declaration of the prophet. You seek unlawful ends in business, or you seek lawful ends by unlawful means, or the methods of conducting business tend to kindle within you unlawful passions.
4. We are sometimes ready to put down this tragic schism to the progress of scientific thought. Men’s hearts are petrified by the new dogma that the order of the universe is unalterable, along with its godless corollary, that to pray is to fritter away time, strength, and vital force, and to vex one’s own soul. Let the difficulties raised by the new science be freely allowed. Upon even devout minds these views of the uniformity of Nature and her methods, be they proven or unproven, may so act as to check the temper of prayerfulness. Temptation does take on intellectual forms as it addresses itself to thinking people. If a child were to find out that his father’s estate had been signed over to trustees, and that for a certain term of years that father could not be altogether a free agent in providing for the wants of his household, all immediate expenditure being determined by some outside authority, and if on that ground the child were to break off relations with his father, would not that be the mark of a mean, depraved, repulsive character? Supposing that God had made Nature His plenipotentiary, or trustee, and for the time being had surrendered His own power of answering supplication for temporal benefits, it would surely be base in us to use that as a plea whereby to justify ourselves in restraining prayer before Him.
5. The problems of temperament are sometimes brought in to explain this tragic schism. Men palliate their callousness to prayer and their misgivings concerning its benefits by putting them down to deficiency of sentiment or imagination, matter-of-factness, poverty of the religious instinct, congenital disability answering to colour blindness in the physical realm. It is assumed, upon very slender proof, that a peculiar poise of the faculties disqualifies for enthusiastic spiritual beliefs. It may be allowed that from the intellectual standpoint people are variously endowed and equipped; but a man’s religious history is not determined by the quality, condition, or specialized habits of the brain. It is simply impossible for a man to have capacity for common truth, practical righteousness, philanthropy, family life and friendship and yet to have no capacity for converse, with God, whose nature is the spring and animating principle of all these qualities. Man is religious by constitution and irreligious only by errancy of habit and practical life. Does prayer seem barren and God unresponsive and heaven very far off? It can only be explained by our lack of oneness with the Divine will and law.
6. The inscrutable methods of God’s sovereignty are sometimes adduced to explain away this ominous separation referred to by the prophet. Now and again occasions arise when the Lord does seem to withdraw Himself from HIS people. There are inexplicable factors in God’s dealings with us, but those factors belong chiefly to the sphere of providence rather than to that of grace. More often than not, it is sin which veils God and His goodness from the sad, breaking, woe-begone heart, and we shall not get out of the gloom by closing our eyes to the explanation and assuming that this terrible silence of the Most High, this apparent indisposition to help, at the mere thought of which the heart sickens and faints, is one of the decrees of His unsearchable sovereignty.
7. This separation is often veiled from us by the illusions of the senses and the pomps of this present evil world. It needs much courage and sobriety of mind to realize the perils with which it is fraught. The form assumed by our personal sin may be so secret and subtle that it is easy for us to think that, in our case at least, this is not the malign force which separates from God and makes His presence fleeting as a dream. We have not been guilty perchance of glaring, flagitious, anti-social transgressions which provoke the reproaches of those who watch our behaviour. Yet spiritual sins may cleave to us which work portentous mischief in the religious life. (T. G.Selby.)
Visions which lure to destruction
Near the source of one of the great rivers of the East there stands a Buddhist monastery of widespread fame, built on the edge of a beetling cliff. In the chasm beneath clouds are often seen floating, upon which the pilgrims who have climbed to the shrine look down. Under certain conditions of the sun and atmosphere a magnificent phenomenon appears. The sun, greatly enlarged and begirt with coruscations of prismatic splendour, is reflected upon the screen of vapours. From the central disc shafts of gold and purple and violet pulse and throb. The devotees call the sight “the glory of Buddha,” and when the prismatic marvel appears, half mad with religious frenzy, they cast themselves into the palpitating mass of colour, falling unconscious suicides into the grim gulf below, to which only vultures and jackals can approach. And the separating chasm between ourselves and God is often filled up with a meretricious pomp that disguises its tragedies, and men are again and again betrayed into self-destruction. Perhaps it is a vision of the world with its wealth and power that scintillates there, the gorgeous phantoms which passed before the eye on the mount of the temptation. All the hues of Vanity Fair shimmer beneath our feet, and we think surely we may plunge into the iridescence that seems to beckon us. Or it may be the glory of Nature spreads itself athwart the yawning gulf. She interposes the magic of her shows, entices with the glory of her stately order, usurps the nimbus of a factitious sovereignty, and takes the very place of God Himself. The gulf dividing from God is hidden by her enchantments. Or, the rainbow glories of an aesthetic religion veil the deep moral separation. Men sometimes commit ethical suicide under the cover of an ornate worship. We cultivate art, music, the devices that enthral the senses, and call the product piety, forgetting that we are in no sense at one with God. Pageants superimpose themselves upon unwelcome facts, and underneath the circles of deceitful splendour there gape gulfs of deep and irretrievable perdition. If sin is ignored, unconfessed, unforsaken, if unflattering truths are obstinately disguised, we shall find at last that our capacity for communion with God is lost and our doom is an abyss from which there can be no uplifting. (T. G. Selby.)
Inconspicuous sins may hinder communion with God
Pathologists found difficulty in identifying the bacillus of an epidemic that has become sorrowfully familiar to us; not only because it was one of the tiniest of all microscopic organisms, but chiefly because it could not be stained with the dyes used in studying other minute forms of life. Yet what a messenger of sorrow and death it was! This hideous trifle brought swift and cruel separation to husband and wife, parent and child, lover and friend, and put the silence and deep gloom of the grave between thousands of victims and the sweet sunny homes in which they would fain have tarried. Now some sins have a criminal dye put upon them by statutory, law, are branded by the damnatory force of public opinion, or show red like crimson because of the disintegrating influence they begin to exert at once upon the individual and the society to which he belongs. Other sins do not stand out in conspicuous colours. Men have no apparent interest in describing them as atrocities. Unless we are watchful and cultivate keen spiritual perceptions, these more obscure forms of sin are apt to elude our consciousness. And yet they may separate between us and our God. (T. G. Selby)
They hatch cockatrice’ eggs
THE DEVICES OF THY. WICKED.
1. Like eggs--productive.
2. Like cockatrice’ eggs--injurious.
3. Like spiders’ webs--frail, useless.
II. THEIR EFFECT.
1. Upon others--mischief, death.
2. Upon themselves--disappointment, retribution. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The schemes of the ungodly
The meaning seems to be that the persons spoken of brood over and bring to maturity projects of wickedness, whose effects are almost equally fatal to those who acquiesce in them and to those who oppose them. “He that eateth of their eggs,” i.e either he who enters into their schemes or he who is their victim. “That which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.” Should one try to stamp out one of their diabolical plans, its deadly nature will only be the more clearly manifested. Verse 6 is the development of the second image of Isaiah 59:5, the point of comparison being the uselessness for any good social end of the schemes devised by the ungodly. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
And weave the spider’s web:--
See the spider’s web and behold in it a most suggestive picture of the hypocrite’s religion.
1. It is meant to catch his prey; the spider fattens himself on flies. Foolish persons are easily entrapped by the loud professions of pretenders, and even the more judicious cannot always escape.
2. A spider’s web is a marvel of skill; look at it and admire the cunning hunter’s wiles. Is not a deceiver’s religion equally wonderful? How does he make so barefaced a lie appear to be a truth.
3. A spider’s web comes all from the creature’s own bowels. Even so hypocrites find their hope and trust within themselves.
4. But a spider’s web is very frail. Hypocritical cobwebs will soon come down when the broom of destruction begins its purifying work.
5. Which reminds us of one more thought, viz that such cobwebs are not to be endured in the Lord’s house. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
As the spider weaveth her web to catch the smaller flies, so do they lay their plots to take the poorer sort of people, and them which are most destitute of friends. (W. Day, M. A.)
Their webs shall not become garments
The art of weaving
The art of weaving is older than human history; figures drawn from
it are found in the earliest literature of all nations.
It is frequently employed in the Word of God to set forth the sublimest truths of life, and in the classical mythologies it occupies an even more important place. The three fates preside over the lives of men, and they practise the weaver’s art. Clothe holds the threads, Lachesis introduces the warp, and the grim goddess Atropos cuts the web when the fabric of human destiny is complete. In later times we find the figure with a still wider import. The spirit of Goethe’s “Faust” labours in the workshop of the spring-time to weave the garment for Nature by which God Himself may be seen by mortals. Thus in all the ages of the world the figure of the loom has commended itself as one most aptly setting forth the deepest truths of human experience. (J. Wallace, M. A.)
Character as a web
The prophet Isaiah has laid hold on the idea, now a commonplace of our thought, that all character is a web. In the case of all the web is variegated; in the case of some the piece is spoiled by rotten threads. As our days fly past they dart across the warp of the Divine purposes the woof of human action and human thought, and the marvel is that multitudes live on in brutish carelessness while the loom of life spins on. We look back on a misspent day with the wretched consolation that it will be all the same a hundred years hence. Will it? If threads missing in the web do not spoil its market value, then it may; but if one false thread ruins the whole, then life with one day misspent is by so much of less value in the sight of God. (J. Wallace, M. A.)
From our text we wish to look at one or two methods of character-weaving which are doomed to miserable failure when the web of life is spun.
I. There are HALF-DONE DUTIES. Multitudes perform their duty in such a way that it is but half done. In the ordinary routine of life they are always a little late, and consequently have to work with haste. Or take the higher duty of man to love God and keep His commandments. There are moments of Pisgah vision, but what weary leagues of plain are there unredeemed by any thought of God! This half-done duty is life’s shuttle plied with a palsied hand, and the fabric of character is such as in the end will put the weaver to the blush.
II. There are HALF-CONQUERED TEMPTATIONS. Many a man is conquered who does not fall.
III. What is the secret of duties half done, of temptation half conquered? The secret is HALF-CONSECRATED LIVES. If all the provinces of the soul do not obey the Divine mandate, we need not be astonished if rebellion sometimes shows its head. When we have done our best to weave, we are not to go to heaven in our own garments. Christ has provided raiment for His people, woven on the Cross and dyed there in colours more enduring than Tyrian purple. We have to weave as those who have to prove their calling, not win it. (J. Wallace, M. A.)
Projects injurious to others are hurtful to self
They may do hurt to others with their projects, but can never do any real service or kindness to themselves, by them. There is nothing to be got by sin. (M. Henry.)
Our text speaks of works which are inadequate to the purpose for which they are performed. An unprofitable and useless manufacture is denounced. What should we think of a manufacturer who persisted in making a kind of cloth so flimsy and rotten that it would hardly hold together--so weak and threadbare that either it could not be made up into garments, or, if it were, they would be useless for either adornment or comfort. And how great would be our astonishment if this imprudent man actually proceeded to clothe himself with the flimsy stuff he had made! Yet such, in a moral sense, is the conduct of those who are condemned in our text. They weave a web with which they try in vain to effectually clothe themselves. The “web” is the fabric of their own righteousness, or works. The persons spoken of are they who are self-sufficient in their wickedness and pride of heart. They are unrighteous people, who think themselves righteous, or who desire to be thought so by others. But the material they produce is as flimsy as a spider’s web; and it will serve for neither decency nor comfort, for neither ornament nor use. Let us think of the purposes a garment is intended to serve, and we shall be supplied with various illustrations of the utter inadequacy of self-righteousness.
I. A GARMENT IS DESIGNED FOR PERSONAL COMFORT. A garment is useless, and even intolerable, unless it affords warmth and ease. We are quite unable to produce a fabric which will afford either substantial comfort or permanent peace.
1. However genuine our present righteousness might be, it would not absolve us from the guilt of past sin.
2. Our own righteousness is insufficient for comfort because, it leaves, untouched the passions of the unregenerate- heart.
3. Our own righteousness is inadequate for comfort because it affords no effectual protection against temptation.
II. THE SECOND PURPOSE--A GARMENT IS INTENDED TO SERVE IS DECENCY. A garment which is ill-fitting, or of unseemly pattern, or formed of coarse and worthless material, is unpleasing to others no less, and possibly more, than to the wearer himself. And one’s own righteousness--that is the righteousness which is not produced under the influence of the Holy Spirit--will no more bear the scrutiny of one’s fellow-men, than would a ragged coat or a draggled and threadbare dress. Like an inferior garment, it may pass muster in the crowd, or escape criticism on a casual view, but it will not bear close inspection. A man cannot so cover himself with his own righteousness as to appear at all times decently and respectably clothed.
1. The garment is so thin that it does not hide the natural ugliness of the soul.
2. It is likewise so limited in its dimensions as to cause serious disfigurement of the life.
3. The garment of self-righteousness is undurable.
III. THE GARMENT OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS IS INTENDED TO SECURE FOR ITS WEARER ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD. There are garments which are necessary for certain occasions, or for admission to particular places. Such was the wedding garment in the East, and such is the modern court dress. The garment of outward works is designed by the wearer to serve a similar purpose. It is intended as a recommendation to the favour of God and a passport to heaven. But it will answer neither of these ends. If we would sustain the scrutiny of God, we must be clothed in something of finer texture, of stronger substance, and of richer hue, than the flimsy and bedraggled garment of our own righteousness.
1. It will not cover us to the satisfaction of God because of its insufficient dimensions and its many flaws.
2. Nor is it in fact any real covering in the sight of God. Let us learn the worthlessness of merely outward righteousness, and the absolute necessity of repentance, regeneration, and holiness of heart. (J. W. Keyworth.)
Webs and garments
A mere web of cloth might be said to be of no practical use. It may lie on the shelves in the draper’s shop for a time, but it is intended for something beyond that. The ultimate purpose in connection with it is the garments that may be made from it. It has possibilities--the possibility of garments in it--and that was intended from the first. It has not realized the intention regarding it until it is ultimately turned into garments. So when the prophet says, “Their webs shall not become garments, he is referring to the wicked plans of wicked men among the Israelites, and means that their plans would not reach the final, the complete and practical stage. Their purposes would be frustrated by a higher Hand. The words may be applied to ourselves, and in various ways.
I. SOME PURPOSES ARE FRUSTRATED BECAUSE OF SOMETHING LACKING IN OURSELVES--indolence, want of energy, or want of ability to complete our purposes.
II. SOME PURPOSES ARE FRUSTRATED BECAUSE OF POSITIVE HINDRANCES IN THE WAY THAT WE CANNOT SURMOUNT, AND THAT PERSONALLY WE MAY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH. It is to us one of the most inexplicable things in Providential dealing, how men who devote themselves to a great and good object, and who seem to us essential for its success, are often cut down in the mid-time of their days, just when to our eyes their presence seemed most needed. Why should it be so? No doubt we should see things differently, however, if with wider vision we could look before and after; and find that, higher ways than we can dream of, men whose plans seem to be frustrated are more than satisfied with the Divine mode of dealing. In the text it is wicked purposes that are referred to, and though often a good purpose seems to be checked as well, yet there will be no real failure in life’s plans if we live according to our light. Working in line with God there is a deeper sense in which, instead of our webs not becoming garments, it might be said that the very stars in their courses will fight for us. The great purpose of our life will be fulfilled if we keep near to God. Conclusion:
1. This true success is, above all and first of all, an inward thing. It refers pre-eminently to the inward condition. It must begin there.
2. “ We see not yet all things put under Him, but we see Jesus.” Whether as to humanity as a whole, or as to individuals, that is true; all things are not yet put under, but there is ever one source of help and hope, and only one. Looking unto Jesus, if that be the attitude of our life, then it cannot be said, whatever befall, that life’s purpose has failed, and in higher ways than we can tell our webs shall become garments, the beautiful and durable garments of the soul. (J. S. Mayer, M. A.)
Their feet run to evil
A picture of moral corruption
This verse and the first part of the following have been
interwoven by Paul, in Romans 3:15-17, into his description of
universal moral corruption.
The representation of life as a road, and of one’s mode of action as a manner of walking, is a common feature in gnomic compositions, where its terminology has been fully developed. From the beginning of verse 7, one may perceive that steadfast believers, during the exile, were persecuted even to death by their fellow-countrymen who had forgotten God. The verbs “run” and “hasten” depict the delight felt in wickedness, when the conscience is completely asleep. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
Therefore is judgment far from us
Dejection and trouble the outcome of sin
The sorrow and dejection of the people is depicted in striking and
It is the better mind of the community which is here expressed--its intense desire for the fulfilment of the Divine promises, its weariness through hope deferred making the heart sick. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
A sad sequence
“Therefore,”--on account of these sins and disorders, and not on account of Jehovah’s remissness (Isaiah 59:1-2). (Ibid.)
We wait for light
Help for seekers of the light
1. These persons are in some degree aware of their natural darkness. They are looking for light.
2. They have a high idea of what the light is. “Brightness.
3. They have some hope that they may yet obtain this light; in fact they are waiting for it, hopefully waiting.
4. They are such as have learned to plead their case with God, for our text is a complaint addressed to the Lord Himself.
5. The person I am desirous of comforting is quite willing to lay bare his heart before God, to confess his desires whether right or wrong, and to expose his condition whether healthy or sound.
II. ASSISTANCE. It shall be my happy task to assist into the light those who would fain flee from the darkness. We will do so by trying to answer the query, “How is it that I, being desirous of light, have not found it yet?”
1. You may have been seeking the light in the wrong place. You may have been the victim of the false doctrine that peace with God can be found in the use of ceremonies. It is possible, too, that you have been looking for salvation in the mere belief of a certain creed. You have thought that if you could discover pure orthodoxy, and could then consign your soul into its mould, you would be a saved man.
2. You may have sought it in the wrong spirit. Some appear to deal with God as if He were bound to give salvation; as if salvation, indeed, were the inevitable result of a round of performances, or the deserved reward of a certain amount of virtue.
3. Others have not obtained peace because they have not yet a clear idea of the true way of finding it. What thou hast to do is but to accept what Jesus has finished.
4. Perhaps thou hast not found light because thou hast sought it in a half-hearted manner.
5. Is it not possible that there may be some sin within thee which thou art harbouring to thy soul’s peril?
6. It may be that you have only sought peace with God occasionally.
7. The great reason, after all, why earnest souls do not get speedy rest lies in this, that they are disobedient to the one plain Gospel precept, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, etc.
III. A few words by way of AROUSING. What an unhappy state is thine! You have been in the dark year after year, when the sun is shining, the sweet flowers arc blooming, and everything waiting to lead thee forth with gladness. What joys you lose by being an unbeliever! What sin you are daily committing! for you are daffy an unbeliever! Unless Jesus Christ be your shield and help you are undone!
IV. ENCOURAGEMENT. There are many around you who have trusted Jesus and found light. They once suffered your disappointments, but have now found rest to their souls. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
And judgment is turned away backward
The sin of a nation becomes national, and brings public judgments,
when it is not restrained by public justice.
And He saw that there was no man
God, man’s great Redeemer
Do not let us suppose this is mere poetry.
Conceive what inspires it,--the great truth that in the Infinite there is a heart to throb for men, and a will to strike for them. This is what the writer desires to proclaim, and what we believe the Spirit of God moved his poor human lips to give their own shape to,--the simple truth that there is One, however hidden He may be to men’s eyes, who feels for men, who feels hotly for men, and whose will is quick and urgent to save them. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
“He wondered that there was no intercessor”
“He stood aghast that there was no one interposing.” The common version (“wondered”), though substantially correct, is too weak to express the full force of the Hebrew word, which strictly means to be desolate, and is used in reference to persons for the purpose of expressing an extreme degree of horror and astonishment. (J. A. Alexander.)
That the whole description refers to a future event can hardly be questioned. The perfects in this verse (Isaiah 59:16) and the next are those of prophetic certainty. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
For He put on righteousness--
Self -manifestations of God’s holy nature
Just as in Ephesians 6:1-24.
the manifold self-manifestations of the inner life of the soul are symbolized under each of the different pieces of armour, so, under the pieces of Jehovah’s armour there are set forth the manifold self-manifestations of His holy nature, formed out of wrath and love combined. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The armour of the redeeming God
Judiciously and beautifully is the inexorable justice of God compared to the impenetrable brazen coat-of-mail; His gladdening salvation to the protecting helmet glittering afar; His vengeance, having many modes of inflicting effective chastisement, to the bright-coloured garments over the coat-of-mail; and His wrathful jealousy to the fiery red military cloak. No weapon is mentioned--neither sword nor bow--for His arm, and this alone, procures Him help. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The Head of the Church a mighty Hero
1. “He put on righteousness as a breastplate.” He assumed the exercise of that right which appertained to Him, of vindicating His Church from the hands of their enemies, of rendering them victorious over their oppressors, and of restoring them to liberty and tranquillity. Righteousness peculiarly belongeth to him, His heart is set on advancing its interests; it is not more conspicuous in the equity of His laws than in the dispensations of His providence, whereby He repays fully to His adversaries, and exalts His upright servants to happiness and comfort. This righteousness He is said to have put on, so is openly to show that it belonged to Him, and that every hostile weapon directed against Him and those He was going to avenge, should rebound on themselves with irresistible force. Furnished with righteousness for a covering, the Most Mighty went forth with invincible courage to attack His enemies, well knowing that all their efforts were incapable of wounding Him, or of preventing Him from obtaining the victory.
2. “And a helmet of salvation on His head. The Son of God is represented having on a helmet of salvation because it affords Him perfect security from all the insults that are aimed at Him by His foes, and preserves Him in complete safety when contending for conquest with those that rise up against Him.
3. “And He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing.” The expression may refer to the under garment that was anciently worn by some Eastern nations below their coat or cloak. The garments of vengeance may denote the sword, the bow, and the spear, with the other instruments that were to be employed in executing awful vengeance on His persecuting foes, and in showing Himself strong in behalf of those who trust in His name. These He put on when He determined immediately to avenge the wrongs done to Himself and His Church.
4. “And was clad with zeal as a cloak.” Zeal is not properly a detached principle, but it is a mixed affection, combined of love and displeasure, manifested by vigorous exertions to advance the welfare of the beloved object, by every proper expedient, to express displeasure against those who have injured the persons in whose happiness it is interested. Properly speaking, it is not a single passion, but an essential ingredient necessary to the lively exercise of every other affection. When attributed to Jehovah, it denotes His tender regard for the interests of His kingdom and glory, and
His just indignation of everything that opposes their establishment and prosperity. With this zeal He was clad as with a cloak worn by the warriors of ancient times. The words may import that the Lord God would publicly demonstrate, by His interposition in favour of His servants, that He was truly solicitous to promote their safety and happiness; and, by the execution of righteous vengeance upon their enemies, that He would not permit those who disturbed the peace of His Church to remain unpunished. (R. Macculloch.)
Clad with zeal as a cloke
The best cloak
The solitary champion who is here spoken of is the Prince of the house of David, our Lord Jesus Christ. When a man has all other excellences, then zeal is still needed to elevate and perfect his entire manhood. Behold the altar, built of unhewn stones, and after God’s own law; behold the wood laid thereon; see the victim slain and the blood flowing; but you cannot make a sacrifice without fire. Behold in the altar the figure of the man; he has faith, courage, love, consecration; but if he lacks the fire of fervent zeal his life will be a failure.
I. ZEAL IS TO BE REGARDED AS A CLOAK THAT COVERS ALL. The Christian man is to wear zeal as we wear an outward garment which covers all the rest of our garments--a flowing robe which encompasses the entire person.
1. Zeal is all enveloping: zeal should envelop all the powers of the Christian. He is to invest himself with faith and love with patience and perseverance, with hope and joy; but zeal must be over all these. We are not to be zealous with one part of ourselves, nor zealous in one particular duty only, nor zealous at one special season; but to be altogether zealous, for all Christ’s work, for all Christ’s truth, and at all times zealous not only in one good thing, but in all good things.
2. We are to wear holy zeal as a cloak, in order to preserve the different parts of our soul from danger. Zeal is preserving. Zeal is to wrap up the whole man, so that when he is subject to a furious haft of persecution, or a biting wind of poverty, or a torrent of down-pouring griefs, the pilgrim to the skies may hold on his way, and bid all weathers brave defiance.
3. Zeal is comforting, even as the cloak when wrapped about the traveller in the snow-storm. The man who is possessed by an irresistible passion for carrying out his life-work, will gird this gracious ardour well around him, and let the snowflakes come as they may, they- will only fall, as it were, into a furnace, and will melt before they can injure.
4. We may regard zeal as a cloak by reason of its adorning a man’s character. Many a person looks all the more comely because of the garment in which he has arrayed himself. There is no more becoming garment to the Christian when he possesses all the virtues than an all-enveloping zeal.
5. We must take care to put on zeal as a cloak and not as a hood. Nobody wears his cloak over his head, and yet I have known some persons whose zeal has blindfolded their judgment. Zeal, like fire, is “a good servant, but a bad master.”
6. Zeal is a cloak, and therefore not intended to supersede the other graces. We do not put on our great coats and leave off all our other clothes.
7. Zeal is a cloak, and therefore we are not to regard it as an extraordinary robe to be worn only occasionally on high days and holidays. Zeal for God should be exhibited in workshops, should be worn in the market-house, in the senate, or wherever we may labour. Since the storm is always on, and we are always pilgrims, it will be like the cloak which we cannot bear to lay aside.
8. While I say that zeal is not everything, recollect that the cloak covers everything, and do not let your zeal he such a scanty thing that it will only hang like a girdle round your loins. Remember our Lord put on zeal. While the Christian religion is an internal thing, there is no religion in the world which shows itself so much externally.
II. HOW OUR LORD EXHIBITED THIS ZEAL.
1. In His earliest childhood you have tokens of His inward zeal. “Wist ye not.” etc?
2. In after life you see His burning zeal in leaving the comforts of life.
3. His very dress showed His zeal, because it was not ostentatious, but in every way suitable for incessant labour and humble service.
4. He showed His earnestness in persevering in His work under all manner of rebuffs.
5. And, as a clearer proof of His zeal still, all the blandishments of the world could not attract Him.
6. Look at His incessant labours.
7. In His preaching you see His zeal.
8. Probably you see His zeal most of all in his prayers, for a man’s intensity of heart may eminently be judged of by his secret devotion before God.
9. He proved His zeal again by giving up Himself.
10. Observe what His zeal was made of.
III. WHAT WAS IT THAT THE ZEAL OF CHRIST FED UPON
1. Christ’s zeal was based upon a defined principle. He had of old said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God yea, Thy law is within My heart.” He had set his heart upon a great purpose, He had weighed it, counted the cost, looked at it on all sides, and now He was not to be turned from it.
2. The zeal of our Lord Jesus Christ was occasioned by intense love. He loved His Father; He could not, therefore, but do His will. He loved His people; He could not, therefore, do otherwise than seek their good. Oh, how He loved the souls of men! It was a passion with Him.
3. The zeal of our Lord Jesus Christ had an eye to the recompense. “For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame.”
4. Our Lord Jesus Christ was so zealous because He had a greater spiritual discernment than you and I have. We are not zealous because we cannot see. We can see these houses, these streets, and this in money. We can hear those people’s tongues, and we can look at these creature comforts. But our ears are as though they were stopped up with wax, and our eyes as though they were blinded to better things. When Jesus was here He saw angels, and He beheld the spirits of men; He looked upon men, not as flesh and blood, but as immortals. Best of all, He saw God. He could say, “I have set the Lord always before Me: because He is at My right hand I shall not be moved.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
When the enemy shall come in like a flood.
These words suggest--
I. THE MORAL INVASION OF HUMAN SOULS.
1. The soul has an arch enemy. This enemy is called by different names. The old serpent, the devil, Satan, roaring lion, etc. He is characterized by great power, malignity, craft. He has mighty armies under his power. Principalities and powers, etc.
2. This arch enemy sometimes makes a tremendous onslaught. “Cometh in like a flood.” There are times in the human soul when evil seems to rush on it as an overwhelming torrent.
II. THE ALL-SUFFICIENT GUARDIAN OF HUMAN SOULS. “The Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” The soul that gives itself up to Divine guardianship has an impregnable fortress.
1. The Spirit of the Lord is stronger than the enemy.
2. The Spirit of the Lord is wiser than the enemy. The Spirit of the Lord has an intellect, that overrules, battles, subordinates all the workings of the foe. He makes his hellish discord swell the harmonies of the universe.
3. The Spirit of the Lord is nearer to the soul than the enemy. The soul does not live in the devil, but the soul lives in the Spirit; the soul can live without the devil, the soul cannot live without the Spirit.
The great enemy’s opposition overcome
I. THE ENEMY.
2. Political sins.
II. CHARACTER OF THE ENEMY’S OPPOSITION.
1. Active. “Shall come in,” etc.
2. Vehement. “Like a flood.”
III. THE ENEMY CONFRONTED. “The Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”
1. In the faithful, earnest preaching of the Gospel.
2. In the social services of the Church.
3. In the godly example of Christians. (J. S. Clomer.)
The standard of heaven lifted up against the powers of hell and their auxiliaries
I. AN ATTACK made by hell and its auxiliaries upon the kingdom and interest of Christ. “The enemy shall come in like a flood.” Notice--
1. By whom the attack is made. “The enemy. The Church of God, or His saints in this world, have many enemies. They are expressed in the singular number, because of their unity in their designs against Christ and His kingdom, and because they attack under one principal leader and commander, namely, the god of this world, whose kingdom Christ came to overthrow.,
2. The manner of the enemy’s attack. He comes in like a flood, with great violence and noise, as though he would sweep away all clean before him Revelation 12:15). It is no unusual thing, in Scripture, to represent the irruptions of hell and its armies upon the Church of God under the notion of a rapid flood or river, which threatens the ruin of everything that stands in its way (Psalms 93:3).
3. The progress of the “standard” I understand Christ, who is not only a standard-bearer “among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon 5:10), but the Standard or ensign itself (Isaiah 11:10). By the “lifting up” of the standard I understand the displays of the glory of Christ in a Gospel dispensation, accompanied with the efficacy of the Spirit of the Lord.
4. The repulse itself given to the enemy of the Spirit of the Lord He
is “put to flight” (Marg.)
, or, as Calvin reads It, the Spirit of the Lord shall drive him back like the waters of Jordan, which were driven back towards their fountain, when they stood in the way of Israel’s entry upon the possession of the promised land.
5. The certainty of this promise of driving back the enemy--it is not a maybe, but a shall be. (E. Erskine.)
The enemy of the people of God
I. WHO IS THE ENEMY THAT COMES IN LIKE A FLOOD? The devil, called sometimes “the god of this world.”
1. Satan has a strong party within, to wit, indwelling sin.
2. The world without us is another main auxiliary of hell--the profits, pleasures and preferments of the world, called by the apostle, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eves and the pride of life.”
II. WHY THIS ENEMY IS LIKENED TO A FLOOD.
1. Because of the noise, made by error, persecution, defections, and violences of all kinds. The poor soul is many times put in such confusion, through the noise of these mighty waters, that it cannot hear the voice of God either in His Word or providences.
2. Because of their multitude.
3. Because of their unity in bending all one way in their opposition against Christ and His cause.
4. Floods are mighty, violent and rapid in their motion.
5. They are of a sweeping nature, and are ready to hurl down everything that is not well fixed.
6. A flood is in a continual motion; so the actings of sin and Satan and the world, against Christ and His cause, are incessant.
III. THE PROGRESS OF THE ENEMY. How far may he come in!
1. The enemy may come in within the borders of Zion (Micah 5:5-6).
2. The enemy comes in, not only within the borders, but even into the palaces of Zion, her public assemblies for divine worship (Job 1:6).
3. The enemy may come into the pulpits of the Church by an erroneous and corrupt ministry (Jude 1:4).
4. The enemy may come into the judicatories of the Church, which are the thrones of judgment; so far may the enemy come in as to influence those judicatories to join hands with the spoilers and oppressors of the people of God, instead of defending them.
5. The enemy may come into the dwellings of Jacob. The devil lodgeth in the house of the wicked, and he may come in and work much mischief in the house of a godly David.
6. He may come into your closets, and go along with you to your knees, when you would be alone with God.
7. The enemy may come into your very heart.
IV. THE CERTAINTY OF ALL THIS.
1. Plain Scripture testimony (Revelation 2:10).
2. The state of the believer in this world--a militant state.
3. The experience of the saints of God in all ages.
1. This world is not the believer’s resting-place. If it were, of all men he would be the most miserable.
2. See, hence, why it is the believer frequently expresseth such longing desire to be away.
3. See, hence, the need that we have of Christ in his kingly office, to subdue, restrain, and conquer all His and our enemies.
4. See, hence, encouragement to poor tossed and tempted believers. Though the enemy come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. (E. Erskine.)
1. Thy enemies are God’s as well as thine.
2. The Lord of hosts is with thee: God is upon thy side.
3. The enemy is already defeated and baffled by thy glorious Head and General; thou hast only a shattered enemy to grapple with.
4. There are many triumphing in glory, against whom the floods did run with as great violence as they do now against thee.
5. The battle will soon be over.
6. The word of command is given by the glorious General, “Fight, the good fight of faith, stand fast in the faith, quit yourselves like men, be strong.” (E. Erskine.)
The enemy coming in as a flood
1. He sometimes casts out a flood of error; he studies to corrupt the simplicity of the Gospel, and to turn men away from the pure and precious truths of God.
2. Sometimes the enemy comes in with a flood of open persecution.
3. Sometimes he comes in with a flood of manifold corruptions upon the visible Church. Sometimes he studies to corrupt the worship of God by superstition, mingling in ceremonies of man’s inventions with the pure ordinances of Divine institution. Sometimes he breaks in upon the government and discipline of the Church, attempting to introduce schemes of government not warranted by the Word of God. Sometimes he comes in with a flood of profanity corrupting the lives of professors, to the scandal of religion; sometimes with a flood of neutrality and indifferency about the things of God, under the colour of moderation. (E. Erskine.)
I. THE CONFLICT. “The enemy shall come in like a flood.” It is a startling metaphor. Away up on the hills there is a lake or reservoir dammed up.
Suddenly the barrier breaks; and there comes a great rush of water down the hillside upon the unsuspecting valley beneath, sweeping away before it the hay-ricks, the stables of the cattle, the hovels of the poor, and the mansions of the great, overwhelming all life in one common watery grave, leaving presently, when it is passed, a desert where there had bloomed a garden of the Lord. Evil is always imminent just as the reservoir is always threatening. Not to watch against it, not sometimes to lift the eye to see whether the barrier holds, not to know that you are in danger, is insensate folly. But there are special crises of temptation comparable to the moment when the barrier breaks and the water pours down upon the land. So is it with the temptation of despair. So it is when we are tempted to sudden passion. Is this not true of the evil in society around us? The dragon has been pouring forth streams of water to sweep away the Word of God upon our world. It was so in the days of Pagan persecution; it was so in the days of mediaeval darkness; it was so just before Wyclif, our morning star, and Luther, the minor sun, protested against the evils of their time; it was so at the end of the eighteenth century, when the parsons were dissolute and drunken and fox-hunting; and when Socinian heresy filled Nonconformist pulpits, and when the masses of the people were drenched in stupidity and sin. Such times as these, when the enemy comes in like a flood, recur with periodicity in the history of men. We do well, then, to confess our impotence. You cannot resist that flood by your resolutions, by your pledges, by your endeavours; you may as well throw up your hands at once and cry with Jehoshaphat, “We have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee.” At such times we may always count upon God.
II. THE AUGUST AND LONELY WARRIOR depicted in the text. It would seem almost in this chapter as though He was like a warrior resting. He has put off His helmet and His breastplate, and divested Himself of His garments. But suddenly He sees the encroachment of the enemy over the lonely spirit or over the world. He steps forward and wins. He sees that there is none to help; He wonders that there is no intercessor, therefore His arm brings salvation. Mark that word--the arm of the living Christ brings salvation to man when no one else can help him.
III. OUR FATAL LIMITATIONS. Why is it that we are not always conquerors? The answer comes in verses 1-3. There is some fatal hindrance in your life that saps Christ’s power. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The standard uplifted in the face of the foe
I. We shall take the general statement of the text as referring to THE CONFLICT WHICH IS RAGING IN THE CHRISTIAN’S INNER MAN.
1. It is well for us distinctly to understand the position of the Christian. This is not the land of our triumph, neither is this the period of our rest. There is one whose name is called “the enemy,” the “evil one”; he is the leader among your adversaries; hating God with all his might, he hates that which he sees of God in you.
2. The text leads us to look for seasons when this position will be more than ordinarily perilous.
3. It will be well for you who know the spiritual conflict to be thoroughly conscious of your own utter impotence against this terrific danger. What can a man do against a flood?
4. The text, after having plainly bidden us thoroughly realize our position, and after suggesting to us our weakness, bids us turn to our only help, a Helper mysterious but Divine.
5. We have then to fall back as to our present difficulty, whatever it may be, upon spiritual power. If the battle of salvation were to be fought by man alone, then you and I might throw down sword and shield and despairingly give it all up, but when we understand that the Spirit of God has laid bare His holy arm to save us, we are not afraid of the worst moment in the fight.
6. Let us now take two or three instances in which this great truth is conspicuous. This is true of a soul under conviction of sin. After conversion it frequently happens, and especially to those who have been guilty of gross sin before conversion, that temptation comes in with unusual force. Another case sometimes occurs to a Christian, when it is not so much enticement to sin as temptation to doubt.
II. Let us now turn to THE HOLY WAR WITHOUT US. The Christian Church is too conspicuous an object of Divine love not to be the butt of the malice of the powers of darkness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
In time of flood
These heartening words were spoken to exiles who were preparing to return to the homeland. When they lifted their eyes to the possibilities of return they seemed to gaze upon range after range of accumulating difficulties which would obstruct their journey home. As often as the prophet proclaimed their deliverance they proclaimed their fears. Their fears were aid one by one, but as soon as one was laid another arose! The enemies on the right hand and the left hand, what about them? The hostile peoples will accept their chance, and will come down upon the returning company in destructive array I “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” We, too, are exiles returning to the homeland. We, too, have been in the dark realms of captivity, and by His redeeming grace our eyes have been lifted toward the better country. And we, too, are full of uncertainties and fears. There is a desert to traverse, a wilderness to cross, waters to pass through, mountains to climb, and we know not how we may safely reach our journey’s end. And particularly are we beset by the enemy, who suddenly and unexpectedly roars down upon our path. But if we have the fears, ours, too, are the promises. Between the enemy and ourselves there shall be erected the standard of the Lord.
1. “ When the enemy shall come in like a flood.” The figure is surely taken from the riverbeds of their native land. They had looked upon the dry, bleached ravines in time of drought, when scarcely a rivulet lisped down its rocky course. And then the rain had fallen on the hills, or the snow had melted upon the distant mountains, and the waters had torn down like a flood. I have picnicked away up in the solitudes of the higher Tees, when there was only a handful of water passing along, a little stream which even a child could cross. And once I saw what the natives call the “roll” coming away in the distance. Great rains had fallen upon the heights, and this was their issue; in a moment the quiet stream became a roaring torrent, and shouted along in thunderous flood. That, I think, is the figure of my text. Now, what are some of these flood times in life when the enemy comes against us in overwhelming power?
2. “The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” King Canute had his regal chair carried down to the flowing tide, and he commanded the waters to retreat. The waters paid no heed, and the mighty flood advanced. But our King raises His standard against the threatening flood, and the retreat is absolutely assured. Have you noticed that wonderfully suggestive passage in the Book of Revelation where a promise is made of help in the time of flood? “And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away at the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his” mouth.” That great promise has been abundantly confirmed in countless lives. Even the earth itself is our ally in contending with the foe. The beauties of nature will help us to contend with the forces of evil desire. But we have more than nature as our defence; we have the Lord of nature, the Lord in nature, not so much the supernatural as the Spirit who pervades nature and all things. And so, too, it is in the flood times of sorrow. The Spirit of the Lord will engage for us, “lest we be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” Have I not seen sorrow come into a life, and it has been entirely a minister of good and never of ill? The devil has not got hold of it, and used it as a destructive flood. It has been a minister of irrigation rather than destruction, and in the moist place of tears beautiful ferns have grown, the exquisite graces of compassion and long-suffering and peace. “The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard!” Well, then, let Him do it. Do not let us attempt to do it for ourselves. Let us hand it over to Him. “Undertake Thou for me, O Lord.” The life of faith just consists in a quiet, conscious, realizing trust in the all-willing and all-powerful Spirit of God. (J. H.Jowett, M. A.)
An overpowering manifestation of God
We explain the passage thus: Jehovah will come like a river, one hemmed in, which a wind of Jehovah (i.e a violent tempest) rolls along in rapid course. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him
The opposing standard
I. THE STANDARD-BEARER. “The Spirit of the Lord.”
II. THE STANDARD. Christ. He is fitly resembled to a standard on the following accounts.
1. The standard is a signal of war. When Christ descended to this lower world, and came upon an expedition of war against the god of this world, and his usurped empire over the children of men, this war was proclaimed Genesis 3:15).
2. A standard is a signal of peace. When peace is proclaimed the white flag or ensign is displayed. As the appearance of God in the nature of man was a signal of war against hell, death and sin; so it was a signal of peace to man upon earth.
3. A standard is an ensign of victory. So a risen and living Redeemer is a signal of His victory over the powers of hell.
4. A standard is a signal of gathering. When the standard is set up, the army is to gather, volunteers are to be enlisted. The manifestation of Christ in the flesh, and the revelation of Him in the Gospel, is a signal to lost sinners to shake off the tyrannical yoke of sin and Satan, that they may, under Christ’s conduct, recover their ancient liberty (Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 11:10).
5. A standard is for direction and order; when the army is to march, the standard goes before, and the soldiers know whereaway to move by the motion of their standard.
III. THE LIFTING UP OF THIS BLESSED STANDARD.
1. The first uplifting of it was in the eternal counsel of Heaven, before ever the foundation of the world was laid (Proverbs 8:23).
2. It was lifted up in the first promise (Genesis 3:15).
3. In the actual incarnation, obedience and death of the Son of God.
4. By the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and His exaltation at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
5. In the dispensation of the everlasting Gospel.
6. When there is any remarkable appearance for Christ and His cause, in a Church or nation, in opposition to any of the works of the devil.
7. When God in His providence breaks and baffles wicked and blood-thirsty persecutors, who were making havoc of His Church, granting them respite and deliverance from trouble.
8. This royal Standard is lifted up by the Spirit of the Lord in the morning of conversion, when through discoveries of the glory of Christ, the soul is determined to make a surrender of its heart, and to lift up the everlasting doors, that this King of glory may come in.
9. The Spirit of the Lord lifts up the Standard in every renewed manifestation and discovery of the glory of Christ, especially after a dark night of desertion, temptation, and despondency.
IV. WHENCE IS IT THAT THE LIFTING UP OF THE STANDARD, OR THE DISPLAYING OF THE GLORY OF CHRIST BY THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD, GIVES A REPULSE TO THE ENEMY, OR DRIVES HIM BACK:
1. The displaying of the glory of Christ by the Spirit of the Lord, sets faith in a lively exercise, which is the great engine whereby we are enabled to overcome Satan, the world, and all our enemies.
2. By displays of the glory of Christ, love is inflamed.
3. Displays of the glory of Christ inspire the soul with courage and strength to oppose the enemy, when he comes in like a flood.
4. Displays of the glory of Christ, by the Word and Spirit of the Lord, dispirit the enemy, though coming in like a flood. (E. Erskine.)
The Church’s power
See, hence, what it is that makes a Church “terrible as an army with banners,” to the powers of hell, and the wicked of the world. It is not carnal wisdom and policy; it is not a yielding to the humours of men in the matters of Christ; it is not a squaring our conduct according to the wisdom of this world: no, it is the presence of the Spirit of the Lord, and a following the standard of the Word, which He has given for “a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our paths.” (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
And the Redeemer shall come to Zion
The Redeemer coming to His Church
THE PERSON OF WHOM THE FATHER SPEAKS, AND HIS COMING.
2. “Shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob.” The coming which is here spoken of is for the above purposes, and not chiefly His coming in the flesh, which does not so well suit the context. It is His spiritual coming which is meant; His coming in His kingdom. To the Jews, as a people, to “turn away ungodliness from Jacob,” as the LXX read it, and St. Paul in Romans 11:26. To His Church in general, often called Zion, Jacob, and Israel; to introduce the millennium, and spread religion through all the world (Revelation 19:11-16). To the hearts of His people (John 14:18-19; John 14:23; Revelation 3:20). Then have we “Christ in us the hope of glory;” Christ “dwelling in our hearts by faith” Ephesians 3:14; Ephesians 3:17; Galatians 2:20-21).
II. THE BLESSINGS CONSEQUENT ON HIS COMING IN THESE SENSES, My Spirit that is upon Thee, and My words which I have put in Thy mouth, shall not depart out of Thy mouth, etc. These are the words of the Father to the Redeemer.
III. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THESE BLESSINGS ARE PROMISED THE WAY IN
WHICH THEY ARE OBTAINED AND THE CERTAINTY OF OBTAINING THEM IN THAT WAY. They are promised to those that are “in Jacob,” members of Christ’s Church. To those that “turn from transgression.” To those who are the “seed” of Christ by faith (Galatians 3:9; Galatians 3:26). The certainty of obtaining them may be found in God’s Covenant. (J. Benson. D. D.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》