Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:True Imperialism
Many of the changes that time brings are on the surface of life. There is a certain stability at the heart of things. The great laws of life change not. The selfsame sunlight that put an end to Jacob's conflict with the angel gilds our joys and guides our toils Today. So is it with these human hearts of ours. So is it with the great common sentiments and necessities. Motives that swayed men's lives when the world was young can be traced in modern life. Life changes its costume more easily than it changes its character. When we say that history repeats itself, we do not mean that there are occasional coincidences; we mean rather that the best and the worst in human life have a tendency to perpetuate themselves, and that through all the ages the human heart beats to the same tune, cherishes some of the same nobilities and the same follies, and shows itself capable of much that is fine and much that is contemptible.
So we may go back through very many centuries and find in a bit of ancient history that which is repeating itself in the life of Today. The national question among the Jews of Hezekiah's day was, How can we shake off the Assyrian yoke? And the popular solution of the problem was, Enter into an alliance with Egypt. True, Egypt was a land of many idols, but it was also a land of many horses and chariots, and full coffers. And there have always been those in the world who, when they have wanted chariots, have not been over particular where they borrowed them. There have always been those who would fraternize with an idolater—provided he was a rich idolater. Egypt was powerful with that kind of power that the world and the devil can fully appreciate. There is a might that calls to the world in the clang of iron and the thunder of horsemen and the clink of gold, and many there be that trust in it. There is a might that lifts not up its voice in the clamour of the world, but that pleads its rights and its power in the silences of thought, in the quiet inner place where conscience dwells, in the depths of all true feeling, and on the lonely heights of the ideal—and would to God that you and I had more faith in it.
I. The choice between these two is ever before us. Since the days of Hezekiah, kingdoms have risen to greatness and sunk into oblivion. The great centres of power and industry, of learning and dominion, have shifted steadily westward. Places that once pulsated with industrial activity and political influence have now little more than an archaeological significance. But the heart of the West Today is as the heart of the East in many a dim yesterday, and the thing against which the Jewish Prophet protested is the thing against which some one must protest still—even trust in the shadow of Egypt. Recall for a moment the stately and spiritual interest of a song that Israel sang in the days of a purer and more reverent national life: 'He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust Surely He shall deliver thee.' Then the shadow of Egypt fell on the people. They transferred their allegiance, not deliberately, but none the less really, from the unseen to the seen. The great changes of life, and especially those for the worse, are often undeliberate.
II. The difference between the nation and the individual is mainly a quantitative one. If the national confidence is in the shadow of Egypt, it is because the individual confidence is there. The shadow of an earthly ideal, an unspiritual interpretation of life, a material estimate of success, has fallen on our separate souls. No wonder that men miss the divinity of history, and leave God out of their widest reckonings and their corporate counsels, when they fail to find them in their toil for bread, and, reversing the word of Scripture, say, 'We walk by sight and not by faith'.
III. The first debt that we owe to our country must be paid to our God. The highest service that any man can render to the Fatherland is the service of faith. To dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty; to lay up treasure in heaven; to be reverent and prayerful and unselfish; to lean on God amid the simple toils and necessities and pains of one's daily life; to manifest the heroism that passes unrecognized among men because it is heroism, and, therefore, clothed in humility; to be less worldly than you are often tempted to be; to believe in the deathless divinity of conscience, duty, and love—this is the higher patriotism, into whose hands at last the honour and the peace of any people must be placed for safe keeping.
—P. Ainsworth, The Pilgrim Church, p. 227.
References.—XXX. 7.—E. A. Draper, The Gift of Strength, p. 46. W. Baxendale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 278. J. Vaughan, Sermons Preached in Christ Church, Brighton (7th Series), p. 23. XXX. 10.—J. H. Jellett, The Elder Son, p. 164.
The Secret of Strength
Hezekiah was double-minded; he had faith in God, yet he was not free from confidence in the arm of flesh. The Prophet was inspired to dissuade him from relying upon an earthly helper, and to assure him that in returning and in rest he should be saved. Apply this message to our own day.
I. The Need for this Counsel.—This is manifest when we consider—
a. The dangers with which Christians are often threatened from without. Adverse circumstances, sore temptations, fierce assaults of the foe, are likely to disturb and to dismay.
b. The weakness of which we are conscious within. Where shall we look for help and deliverance? Who are we that we should withstand such force, and baffle such craft?
II. In Time of Danger and Alarm it is not Easy to Maintain a Quiet Heart.—The advice is especially hard to follow in days of religious excitement or unsettlement, in days of social restlessness and of political change. In fact, this counsel is most difficult to accept just when it is most urgently needed.
III. The Nature and Bearing of this Counsel.— The exhortation is to—
a. Quietness. A quiet mind is acknowledged to be a great blessing; it is only to be enjoyed by those who live in, and who breathe a serene atmosphere of devotion and fellowship with God.
b. Confidence. This must be placed in Him who deserves and requires it. Faith in an overruling Providence; faith in a gracious and almighty Saviour; this is the posture of the soul which is here commended.
IV. The Blessings which Follow.
a. Strength. This is a paradox, but it is a truth. Not the noisy, blustering, restless nature, is strong; but the nature which waits calmly and patiently on God.
b. Safety. Whatever be the ill that overhangs the soul, whoever be the foe that assails it, there is one Deliverer, and He is Divine; there is one security, and that is quiet faith in Him.
References.—XXX. 15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2985. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 155. J. T. Bramston, Sermons to Boys, p. 8. R. T. Davidson, In Quietness and Confidence, Sermon, 1885. H. M. Hilton, Church Times, vol. xl. 1898, p. 91.
We have here two companion pictures.
I. The Lord waiting to bless. In the word 'wait' there lies, first, the idea of longing and yearning. All true love is a longing to make the beloved happy. Second, along with this longing to bless there is something that regulates the flow of the Divine love, 'Therefore doth the Lord wait'. A man must be prepared for the gift, and then, and not till then, will God bestow it Third, there is often a wise and loving delay that a man may feel his dependence upon God. Instances—Martha and Mary, and death of Lazarus: 'Lord, if thou hadst been here'. Peter in prison, and at last moment, when hope is almost dead, deliverance comes. The Syrophenician woman—The Lord waiteth that He might be gracious.
II. The men waiting to be blessed. Our attitude has to have in it the same elements that God's has—First, earnest desire; second, patient dependence.
—A. Maclaren, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. II. p. 126.
References.—XXX. 18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1766. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 159. A. Murray, Waiting on God, p. 97. T. Barker, Plain Sermons, p. 161. XXX. 19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No. 1419. XXX. 19-21.—A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part i. p. 46. XXX. 20.—Morgan Dix, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, p. 245. XXX. 21.—T. Yates, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 404. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1672. J. Keble, Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 382. XXX. 26.—J. K. Popham, Sermons, pp. 263, 272. XXX. 29.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 274. XXX. 32.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. ii. p. 93. XXXI. 5.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 161. XXXI. 6.—J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 225. XXXI. 9.—Ibid. p. 168. XXXII. 1.—J. Vickery, Ideals of Life, p. 3. W. J. Woods, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 60. A. G. Blenkin, ibid. vol. liv. 1898, p. 298. XXXII. 1, 2.—W. C. E. Newbolt, ibid. vol. xlv. 1894, p. 8. XXXII. 2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1243; vol. xlix. No. 2856; vol. liii. No. 3031. A. Mursell, Hush and Hurry, p. 80. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 38. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 176; see also Sermons Preached in Manchester (3rd Series), p. 135. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 241. R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 212. J. H. Jowett, ibid. vol. lv. 1899, p. 83. T. L. Cuyler, ibid. vol. lviii. 1900, p. 14. Jonathan Edwards, Works, vol. ii. p. 929. J. Boston, ibid. vol. ix. p. 220. E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. v. p. 98. Simeon, Works, vol. viii. p. 45. Blunt, Posthumous Sermons, vol. i. p. 23. C. Bradley, Practical Sermons, vol. i. p. 45. J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints' Days, p. 286. XXXII. 3.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. p. 104. XXXII. 8.—W. S. Rainsford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891, p. 60. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. pp. 111, 122. XXXII. 13.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 222. XXXII. 14, 15.—G. Matheson, Voices of the Spirit, p. 64. XXXII. 17.—J. Fraser, Parochial and Other Sermons, p. 321. J. H. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 380.
That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.
For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.
They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.
The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.
For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.
For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.
And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.
For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.
Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.
The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.
And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.
Behold, the name of the LORD cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire:
And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.
Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel.
And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.
For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.
And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the LORD shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.
For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.