Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE IMPREGNABLE CITY. Its walls and outworks are "salvation." A great word - negatively hinting deliverance from the enemy and the oppressor; positively including all the contents of sacred peace, prosperity, and happiness. But salvation is nothing without a Savior; it is the loving presence of Jehovah who girds about Jerusalem as a wall. In Zechariah 2:9 he is spoken of as a "wall of fire." In another magnificent image, "Round about are the everlasting arms." The idea of the Eden-garden may be compared with that of this fenced city. A "garden walled around, a chosen and peculiar ground," may represent the mystical Church here, the celestial state hereafter. The city is created and fortified by the Eternal.
II. THE CELESTIAL CRY. The command is heard from heaven, "Open ye the gates!" As in Isaiah 40:1, from the same quarter, sounds the gracious word, "Comfort ye my people!" The righteous nation that keepeth faithfulness may enter the Divine city. The emphatic thought is that this city is to be the scene of righteousness, a contrast to the state of "this world which passeth away." "Open to me," exclaims the psalmist, "the gates of righteousness: I will go into them and praise Jehovah; the gate of Jehovah into which the righteous shall enter" (Psalm 118:19, 20). And again, in another sublime passage, "Who shall ascend into the hill of Jehovah? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart" (Psalm 24:3, 4). This righteousness of mind and heart is the gift of the Divine grace. Purity in the human spirit is at once the reflection of God's nature and the condition of "beholding" him. If men are good and faithful, it is because their souls have kept walk and converse with the truthful God (Psalm 31:24). And this they have only learned to do as the result of chastisement and the experience of the evil of other ways. "The Church was always like a barn (Matthew 3:12), in which the chaff is mingled with the wheat, or the wheat overpowered by the chaff'" When the Jews came back from captivity, it was with purified hearts; a large portion of the filth of idolatry had been swept away. And so universally; it is "out of much tribulation," much sifting on life's floor, that we must enter the kingdom - that the pure wheat of chastened character must be gathered into the celestial barn.
III. THE ATTRIBUTES OF JEHOVAH.
1. The firmness of his purpose. The words in ver. 3 are differently rendered: "a steadfast mind thou keepest in;" "firm is the hope thou wilt form;" "a purpose established thou purposest." And this purpose is one of peace. He "thinks the thought of peace" (Jeremiah 29:11). Hence the attitude of the believer is one of fearless and fixed repose; "He shall not be moved forever... shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in Jehovah" (Psalm 112:6, 7). This being of ours, in itself frail, anxious, feverish, needs steadying, staying; and its only sufficient prop must be "Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in truth' (Isaiah 10:20). The essential thing in faith is habitual dependence; the result, ineffable peace. "Peace, peace," are the prophet's emphatic words. "He refrains from epithets; such peace is indescribable." So in Isaiah 57:19, "Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near." And the Christian apostle takes up the thought of the profundity and unutterableness of this bliss of the soul, "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).
2. The constancy of Ms being. Jah Jehovah is a Rock of ages, and may be trusted in forever. One of the four places where our translators have retained the original name Jehovah, of which Jab is the abridged form (Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 12:2). The doubled name is used for emphasis, as in "Peace, peace," above; it expresses the perfection of his majesty, wisdom, holiness, which should reflect the utmost reverence and the most absolute trust in the mind of the believers. And" Rock, Rock of Israel," etc., is another of the sacred names of the Divine Being (Isaiah 30:29; see Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 80, 31, etc.). Actively, to protect, to throw the cool shade of his protection upon the suffering of his people; passively, to resist the utmost shock and assault of his foes. The noble image of one of our poets, too lofty to be applied to mortal, may be applied to him -
"As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form, 3. His irresistible power. He brings down the lofty and the proud. Bulwarks, armed hosts, enormous wealth, are of no avail against "moral influence." And when we thus speak, we mean nothing less than the just will, the fixed purpose, of the Eternal. No Babylon, no Rome, no empire built on force and fraud, need be a terror to the faithful. They, at the day of doom, must "melt like snow at the glance of the Lord," or be abased even to the dust. "We live amidst closing histories and amid falling institutions; there is an axe laid at the root of many trees; foundations of fabrics have been long giving way, and the visible tottering commences. 'The earth quakes and the heavens do tremble.' The sounds of great downfalls and great disruptions come from different quarters; old combinations start asunder; a great crash is heard; and it is some vast mass that has just broken off from the rock, and gone down into the chasm below. A great volume of time is now shattering, the roll is folded up for the registry, and we must open another. Never again - never, though ages pass away - never any more under the heavens shall be seen forms and fabrics, and structures and combinations that we have seen. The world is evidently at the end of one era and is entering upon another;" but the" Rock of ages" will remain, and the Church which rests upon him, "to enlighten ignorance, to fight with sin, and to conduct man to eternity" (Mozley). 4. His just dealings. A plain or straight path is made for the righteous - one free from obstacles and opposition, even as the path of the Eternal himself to the fulfillment of his purposes (cf. Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 11:5; Proverbs 15:19). He is even said to make their path "plain with a level," i.e. to a nicety. It could not have seemed so to the Jews in captivity; and often it must seem, in the midst of perplexity and distress, far otherwise to the children of God now. Yet what seems to be a "roundabout" path in a mountainous country may actually be the shortest from point to point. So with the ways by which the Lord our God leads his children to the end. The direct line which haste and impatience would take is not really the "straight path" in the world of spirit. Here, when we seem to be turning back, we may be really moving forward; we may seem to be "fetching a compass," none the less certainly may be advancing by the safest and most direct road. IV. SONG OF THE CHURCH. A meditation on the ways of God, and the relation of the believing soul to him. Waiting for God. They had watched, as it were, for Jehovah to advance along the great way of judgment by which he was to proceed to open the Messianic kingdom. Longing for the revelation of him. Oh that his Name and memorial (two expressions for one idea) might be known! The Name of God is God revealed, "the side of the Divine Being turned towards man" (Psalm 20:1; cf. Psalm 30:27; 63:9). (For the meaning of "memorial," cf. Exodus 3:15; Psalm 30:4; Psalm 135:13; Hosea 12:5.) The Messianic hope. The judgments of God, the thought is, must prepare for the new kingdom, for the reign of righteousness in the world. Calamities are symptomatic of evils needing to be cleansed away, if significant of the hand of Jehovah at work in reformation, and so prophetic of a new era. The reign on Mount Zion will be ushered in by a series of judgments on the unbelievers and the unrighteous, i.e. the heathen as opposed to the worshippers of Jehovah. Those judgments are a necessity. Righteousness is not learned, the need of it, the beauty of it, are not experienced, except in the school of suffering, of Divine chastisement. The effect of wealth and honor and success is not to lead men to God, and to the paths of rectitude and religion. Neither the Divine mercy, nor the bright example of others, nor the general tone of moral society, have sufficient influence to attract the inveterate sinner to belier things. In vain the light is poured upon the morally blind, upon those who "will not behold the majesty of Jehovah." In vain his hand is lifted up in judgment; their insensibility prevents them from perceiving it, though they are acute enough in their observation of the trifling interests of the sensuous life. There is but one way of dealing with such insensibility. Those judgments will be effective. They shall see the jealousy of Jehovah for his people (cf. Psalm 69:9), for fire shall devour his adversaries. His jealousy is like fire (Psalm 79:5; Zephaniah 1:18). In consuming it purifies, in purifying it consumes (cf. Deuteronomy 32:22; Job 20:26; Job 22:20). Remorse, shame, envy, indignation, - those fires within the bosom reflect the judgment of God; resistance, rebellion, impenitence, make them unquenchable. Peace and deliverance for the chosen. The past supplies arguments of hope for the future. A work has been accomplished by the Church, but this is Jehovah's work in it and by it. The deliverance from a foreign yoke was his work also. They had been enslaved to other lords (cf. Isaiah 63:18), and they had done as they pleased with Israel. But they have been swept away into the kingdom of the shades, and are forgotten. "From past events and benefits received, we should reason to God's future kindness, and infer that he will care for us for the future. God is not like man, to be capable of weariness in doing good, or exhausted in giving largely; therefore the more numerous the benefits with which he has loaded us, so much the more ought our faith to be strengthened and increased" (Calvin); cf. Psalm 138:8; Genesis 32:10, 12; Philippians 1:6. "Thee only." Under the dominion of Jehovah alone is peace, blessedness, liberty, to be found. "He is a freeman whom the truth makes free,
3. His irresistible power. He brings down the lofty and the proud. Bulwarks, armed hosts, enormous wealth, are of no avail against "moral influence." And when we thus speak, we mean nothing less than the just will, the fixed purpose, of the Eternal. No Babylon, no Rome, no empire built on force and fraud, need be a terror to the faithful. They, at the day of doom, must "melt like snow at the glance of the Lord," or be abased even to the dust. "We live amidst closing histories and amid falling institutions; there is an axe laid at the root of many trees; foundations of fabrics have been long giving way, and the visible tottering commences. 'The earth quakes and the heavens do tremble.' The sounds of great downfalls and great disruptions come from different quarters; old combinations start asunder; a great crash is heard; and it is some vast mass that has just broken off from the rock, and gone down into the chasm below. A great volume of time is now shattering, the roll is folded up for the registry, and we must open another. Never again - never, though ages pass away - never any more under the heavens shall be seen forms and fabrics, and structures and combinations that we have seen. The world is evidently at the end of one era and is entering upon another;" but the" Rock of ages" will remain, and the Church which rests upon him, "to enlighten ignorance, to fight with sin, and to conduct man to eternity" (Mozley).
4. His just dealings. A plain or straight path is made for the righteous - one free from obstacles and opposition, even as the path of the Eternal himself to the fulfillment of his purposes (cf. Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 11:5; Proverbs 15:19). He is even said to make their path "plain with a level," i.e. to a nicety. It could not have seemed so to the Jews in captivity; and often it must seem, in the midst of perplexity and distress, far otherwise to the children of God now. Yet what seems to be a "roundabout" path in a mountainous country may actually be the shortest from point to point. So with the ways by which the Lord our God leads his children to the end. The direct line which haste and impatience would take is not really the "straight path" in the world of spirit. Here, when we seem to be turning back, we may be really moving forward; we may seem to be "fetching a compass," none the less certainly may be advancing by the safest and most direct road.
IV. SONG OF THE CHURCH. A meditation on the ways of God, and the relation of the believing soul to him. Waiting for God. They had watched, as it were, for Jehovah to advance along the great way of judgment by which he was to proceed to open the Messianic kingdom. Longing for the revelation of him. Oh that his Name and memorial (two expressions for one idea) might be known! The Name of God is God revealed, "the side of the Divine Being turned towards man" (Psalm 20:1; cf. Psalm 30:27; 63:9). (For the meaning of "memorial," cf. Exodus 3:15; Psalm 30:4; Psalm 135:13; Hosea 12:5.) The Messianic hope. The judgments of God, the thought is, must prepare for the new kingdom, for the reign of righteousness in the world. Calamities are symptomatic of evils needing to be cleansed away, if significant of the hand of Jehovah at work in reformation, and so prophetic of a new era. The reign on Mount Zion will be ushered in by a series of judgments on the unbelievers and the unrighteous, i.e. the heathen as opposed to the worshippers of Jehovah. Those judgments are a necessity. Righteousness is not learned, the need of it, the beauty of it, are not experienced, except in the school of suffering, of Divine chastisement. The effect of wealth and honor and success is not to lead men to God, and to the paths of rectitude and religion. Neither the Divine mercy, nor the bright example of others, nor the general tone of moral society, have sufficient influence to attract the inveterate sinner to belier things. In vain the light is poured upon the morally blind, upon those who "will not behold the majesty of Jehovah." In vain his hand is lifted up in judgment; their insensibility prevents them from perceiving it, though they are acute enough in their observation of the trifling interests of the sensuous life. There is but one way of dealing with such insensibility. Those judgments will be effective. They shall see the jealousy of Jehovah for his people (cf. Psalm 69:9), for fire shall devour his adversaries. His jealousy is like fire (Psalm 79:5; Zephaniah 1:18). In consuming it purifies, in purifying it consumes (cf. Deuteronomy 32:22; Job 20:26; Job 22:20). Remorse, shame, envy, indignation, - those fires within the bosom reflect the judgment of God; resistance, rebellion, impenitence, make them unquenchable. Peace and deliverance for the chosen. The past supplies arguments of hope for the future. A work has been accomplished by the Church, but this is Jehovah's work in it and by it. The deliverance from a foreign yoke was his work also. They had been enslaved to other lords (cf. Isaiah 63:18), and they had done as they pleased with Israel. But they have been swept away into the kingdom of the shades, and are forgotten. "From past events and benefits received, we should reason to God's future kindness, and infer that he will care for us for the future. God is not like man, to be capable of weariness in doing good, or exhausted in giving largely; therefore the more numerous the benefits with which he has loaded us, so much the more ought our faith to be strengthened and increased" (Calvin); cf. Psalm 138:8; Genesis 32:10, 12; Philippians 1:6. "Thee only." Under the dominion of Jehovah alone is peace, blessedness, liberty, to be found.
"He is a freeman whom the truth makes free,
without walls or bulwarks, and, even from human points of view, altogether dependent on the Divine defense. J.A. Alexander says, "The condition and feelings of the people after their return from exile are expressed by putting an ideal song into their mouths. Though the first clause does not necessarily mean that this should actually be sung, but merely that it might be sung, or that it would be appropriate to the times and feelings of the people, it is not at all improbable that it was actually used for this purpose, which could more readily be done as it is written in the form and manner of the psalms, with which it exhibits many points of resemblance." It would be quite in harmony with other parts of Scripture prophecy to regard Isaiah as having in mind both present and future circumstances; and it is usually safe to recognize an immediate historical reference. The two associations of the song will, therefore, give us our two points for consideration:
1. God's salvation may come in what he does for us, or outside us.
2. God's salvation may come in what he does by us, or within us.
I. GOD MAY DEFEND US BY WHAT HE DOES FOE US. In the case of Hezekiah, Jerusalem was saved by the sudden and overwhelming destruction of Sennacherib's army. In this we may find a type of all the cases in which men have been saved by the Divine mastering of their circumstances. But all these, which may be called "spectacular salvations," have for their chief design to enable us to apprehend those far higher moral and spiritual salvations that are wrought within us. The outward has little interest in itself. Our chief interest in events lies in their illustration, for those who are dependent on the senses, of moral and spiritual processes. The Bible is full of records of God's outward salvations. They begin with the dividing of the Red Sea, when the people were bidden to "stand still, and see the salvation of God." They are dotted all over the story of the wanderings. They appear again and again in the time of the Judges. Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah have such stories of Divine deliverance and protection to repeat; and psalmists of all the ages join the chorus that follows Moses' great song, "The Lord is my Strength, and my Song, and he is become my Salvation." We still may hold fast our confidence that God is working for us in our circumstances, and even by the discomfiting of our foes, and making for us plain paths. The God of providence is in our life; and in his rule of the events of our lives we too can see his salvation. Keen vision of God's working in things, persons, and events outside us we ought ever to cultivate; but the cultivation is a work of exceeding difficulty in this sensuous and scientific age, when man, his skill and his triumphs, are so unduly honored.
II. GOD MAY DEFEND US BY WHAT HE DOES WITHIN US. He may give us a spirit of wisdom and good counsel, so that the action we take shall be prudent; and in this way security and even rescue from peril are oftentimes obtained. In times of anxiety less importance attaches to what our foes do than to what we do; and so God's grace in us, God's salvation of us, is the thing of supreme concern to us. Our salvation comes by this, "He strengtheneth us with strength in our soul." It follows upon the fulfillment of this assurance, "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." When the exiles went back to a Jerusalem that was without walls or defenses, God kept them safe by helping them to act prudently, and to avoid giving offence to those around them. Looked at in this light, how full all our lives are of Divine salvations! Every circumstance of difficulty and trial; every time of perplexity, when decisions, on which the most serious consequences depended, had to be made, is seen to be a time, or a circumstance, in which God saved us by giving grace, wisdom, guidance, prudence, or good judgment. Either by help within us or without us, God will surely prove a "strong Salvation" to all who put their trust in him. - R.T.
I. GOD GIVES THOSE WHO TRUST HIM HIS OWN PEACE.
1. God's peace is the result of his inward harmony. There are no conflicts within him. And this seems an amazing thing to us, who never do the right save after a fight with the wrong in which we have come off conquerors. As a living Being - a Person - we must think of God as having mind, will, affections, emotions, attributes, and relations to others outside himself. He is One. But in our idea of the unity of God we include the manifold comprehensiveness of God; and we understand that in him is perfect peace, because there is harmony; judgment never conflicts with feeling, will never struggles against desire. Every line tends to the focus of Divine purpose; every power combines to execute the Divine thought. Sometimes our idea of the Divine peace is spoiled by representations that are made of the work of redemption, as if, in connection with it, his justice was in antagonism with his mercy, and his Law made hard terms with his love. Surely that redemption is the work of Divine peace; it is the outgoing of his whole being towards us in the harmony of pitying love.
"Still hushedly, hushedly, snowed down the thought Divine,
2. God's peace follows on his aboveness. A word has to be coined to express this thought. We feel that we should be at peace if we could get above. God is above: not in the conflict which we know, but calm in the vision of it all; calm in seeing the end from the beginning; peaceful as the doctor is when, above the patient, he reads the issue of the disease; peaceful as the teacher, who is above the child, and knows perfectly what is causing it so much care and toil. A little picture in the Leeds Exhibition showed us how man may feel God's peace out of his aboveness. An old farm-laborer, dressed in his long patched brown smock and clouted boots, and grasping tremblingly his stick, was looking up at a little opening that appeared in a dull, heavy, leaden sky. A grand old face, seamed and lined with years of poverty, toil, and care, but full of the peace which God alone can give; tears were glistening in the eyes, and standing ready to drop; but smiles were breaking through, as, remembering sorrows in the home and weary burdens on the heart, he sweetly said, "Up beyond is the blue sky." Peace and God, he knew, were up above; over there.
3. God's peace attends on his righteousness and love. Nothing can disturb the peace of him who always doeth right, and is love. Peace and Righteousness go hand-in-band - twin sisters - through all creation. They live and toil and die together. And in the heart and home of God they have dwelt together from everlasting, before the earth and the world were formed. So he is the God of peace.
II. GOD GIVES THOSE WHO TRUST HIM HIS SON'S PEACE. It is one thing to admire the peace of God, but quite another thing to feel that it may become ours, that it can ever be the possession and the power of a man. The contrasts, God, man, strike us as too severe. The step of descent is too vast. We want a Mediator. We ask for some instance in which God's peace can be seen in a man. And that is one of the revelations made in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is prophesied of as the Prince of Peace. He was the Teacher of peace. He is our Peace. He knew the peace passing understanding. Ills peace was the peace of God, for it also came from inward harmony, from aboveness, and from the intertwinings of righteousness and love. But it also was, characteristically, man's peace. It was such a peace of mind and heart as we may know; and from Christ we may learn what its sources are. Man, too, may reach the restfulness of inward harmony. Man, too, may rise above the petty disturbances of life. Man, too, may win the perfect rule of righteousness and love. But it is Christ who teaches us, and shows us how, and gives us strength to wire He reveals the three great sources of peace for man, and they are found to be these - trust, submission, and obedience. Trust that says, "The Lord knoweth the way that I take." Submission that says, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away." Obedience that says, "My meat and my drink is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." These are the sources of peace for man, for they were the sources of peace for man's Head, the "Man Christ Jesus." Nay, but there is an earlier secret, than this. In Christ, for man, is the great peace. Peace with God, before we can have peace in God, and so the peace of God ruling in our hearts. We "have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;" and his work in us involves such a change in us, such a moral regeneration and renewal, as can only find fitting activity in lives of peacefulness and "sweet reasonableness." Yes, man can have God's peace; for he is a spiritual being, made in the image of God. He feels like God. He thinks like God. He wills like God. He loves like God. And he can be at peace like God. All, indeed, within limitations and in narrow measures; but the passing clouds can find a true mirror in a wayside pool as well as in a mighty mountain-lake. A dewdrop will hold the sunshine in its tiny ball; and the mighty forest oak will go into the limits of the acorn-seed. God can give his own eternal peace to man, his creature. He will give it, he does give it, to all who put their trust in him. - R.T.
forever. The words "forever" in the prophetical books are a figure for "always," "continuously," under all conditions; even in times when trust seems to have no foundations we may keep on trusting, because our trust really is in God.
I. WE CANNOT KEEP ON TRUSTING IF OUR TRUST IS IN THINGS. "The fashion of this world passeth away;" "Here we have no abiding city; Moth and rust corrupt, and thieves break through and steal." So often things will not be "according to our mind." Often we sadly say that "nothing is stable," and "we are sure of nothing."
II. WE CANNOT KEEP ON TRUSTING IF OUR TRUST IS IN MAN. For the pain of life is our disappointment in our best-loved friends. Live on to old age, and we are almost alone; some are changed, and some are dead, and some have proved unworthy. "Cease ye from man."
III. WE CANNOT KEEP ON TRUSTING IF OUR TRUST IS IN SELF. The self-revelations which come with advancing years humble us in the dust. Youth can have its self confidences. But man has learned the life-lesson badly if he is not ready to say, "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."
IV. WE CAN KEEP ON TRUSTING IF OUR TRUST IS IN JEHOVAH. For he is what he was; he will be what he is and has ever been. He is an "everlasting Rock." He has been abundantly proved. Secure and blessed always are they who put their trust in him. - R.T.
Isaiah 26:5-7, 8 (latter half)
I. ITS APPARENT ABSENCE. We still find on the earth "them that dwell on high" - the arrogant, the presumptuous, the oppressor; there is to be seen" the lofty city," exalted in its pride of power, dealing its blows upon the weak and suffering, fearing not God nor regarding the rights of men. In every age, beneath every sky, these men and these cities have been known. To those who have been humiliated and ill treated, God has seemed absent; his righteousness has appeared afar off; their cry has been, "How long, O Lord, how long dost thou not avenge," etc.? Among such suffering and perplexed ones are down-trodden peoples, persecuted Churches, wronged individual men and women.
II. ITS ASSERTION IN DUE TIME. The justice of God "is not dead, but sleepeth." It may be truer to say that it waits in patience for the hour of manifestation; then it descends; and it appears:
1. In the utter overthrow of iniquity. The lofty are laid low, the proud city is brought down to the ground (ver. 5). Instead of power is utter enfeeblement; the weapon of cruelty is stricken out of its hand, the words of condemnation and cursing are taken out of its mouth. Instead of honor is humiliation; the throne is exchanged for the very dust of the ground; and instead of unholy joy is hopeless misery.
2. In the exaltation of rectitude (ver. 6). Those who have been reduced to poverty and need by the unscrupulousness of the sinful will accede to their heritage of power, of wealth, of pleasure, or - what is better than these - of influence, of sufficiency, of thankfulness. God, the Most Upright One, smooths the path of the just (ver. 7), makes it level, enables the righteous to pursue their way of fruitful activity, of Divine worship, of holy joy.
III. THE EFFECT OF ITS ASSERTION. "When God's judgments are in the earth," i.e. when the righteousness of God is seen and felt in the infliction of penalty on the guilty and the leveling of the path of the just, then "the inhabitants... learn righteousness" (ver. 8).
1. The devout are confirmed in their devotion, and they cleave to God and to his service.
2. The waverers are decided, and they resolve to unite themselves with his people.
3. The presumptuous are alarmed, and they may be awakened and redeemed. This is God's intention in, and is the fitting end of, his Divine judgments; it is our folly and our sin if we allow that purpose to be defeated. - C.
evenness; thou, most upright, dost make even the path of the just." This suggests the two topics -
(1) the prevailing feature of the good man's conduct;
(2) the aid which God gives towards maintaining that feature.
I. THE PREVAILING FEATURE OF THE GOOD MAN'S CONDUCT - EVENNESS. The idea of the word may be expressed in New Testament language as "patient continuance in well-doing." The triumph of the good man's life is steady walking, never running, and never dragging, in the way of righteousness. Evenness may suggest "rectitude" - the ruling of all conduct and relations by the sensitiveness to that which is right and kind. Or it may suggest "consistency" - a shaping of all actions into the harmony of godly principles. Or it may suggest the correction of the varying experience, now of mountain heights of emotion, and now of dark valleys of depression; the good man learns to prefer the level road. Or it may suggest the quietness of the good man's life. It flows on like the smooth river, that never roars in flood, always breathing out its blessing, always singing its low sweet song, always moving on to the ocean of God. But to describe any man's life as evenness reminds us at once that evenness is something won; it is not sinful man's natural state, it is a triumph out of struggle. The man who gains it at last must have known much leveling of mountains, raising of valleys, and making rough places plain. This may be illustrated by the labor and skill demanded in the making of a good plain level road through a country of hills and marshes. Compare Bunyan's figure of the varied pilgrim-path of "Christian." Many of us can only say, "Our path should be level, and we wish it were."
II. THE AID WHICH GOD GIVES TOWARDS MAINTAINING THIS FEATURE. We might have said, gaining and maintaining it; for only through grace can we win the true consistency of goodness, or continue in it. Isaiah comforts good people with the assurance that God is ever "making even" their path; working with them, and working through them, to this good end. He removes stumbling-blocks which are too big for them. It reveals to them the things that make their way uneven. He maintains within them the desire for righteousness. He guides every practical endeavor after goodness and charity. He makes the "plain path for our feet." If any man would be holding fast his integrity, he may be sure that God's hard is upon his hand. - R.T.
I. THAT MAN IS CONSTITUTED TO CRAVE AFTER GOD. We have many indications of this truth. We find it in the facts that:
1. The noblest spirits among cultivated peoples find their chief joy in communion with him.
2. The worthiest spirits among uncultivated peoples have been athirst for God.
3. Religious truth and Divine worship prove a powerful attraction to the vast majority of mankind.
4. Every human being is found to possess a capacity for religious knowledge and devotion.
5. Human life without God is found to be constantly unsatisfying and restless.
II. THAT THIS GODWARD ASPIRATION, DULLED BY SIN, IS OFTEN AWAKENED BY AFFLICTION. "I desired thee in the night." Our interest in God, reduced by the various harmful and despoiling influences of a sinful society, sometimes so reduced as to be practically lost, is often awakened by affliction of some kind. It is not until the soul is brought down very low by sickness, by calamity, by bereavement, by treachery and disappointment, or by earthly failure and disenchantment, that it finds its deep and sore need of a heavenly Father, of an unfailing Friend, of a heavenly treasure. When thus injured and spoiled by sin, it is not until our souls are made to see their sinfulness in a fierce and awful light that we crave and cry out for an almighty and all-sufficient Savior; but then we do.
III. THAT, REAWAKENED IN ADVERSITY, IT BECOMES A PERMANENT HABITUDE OF THE SOUL. "With my spirit... will I seek thee early." Whether or not we find this doctrine in the text, we find this truth in the will of God; and God expects to find this fact in human experience. It is bitterly disappointing to the good - and is it not a disappointment to the Good One? - when they who have been brought to the throne of grace by reflection are found, in after-days of comfort and sunshine, to leave the sanctuary unvisited, and to walk on their way, godless, prayerless, hopeless. Such men
(1) defeat God's kind purposes;
(2) add iniquity to their iniquity;
(3) most seriously endanger their own future (see Isaiah 1:5). - C.
would sing when trials had wrought out their blessings, Isaiah teaches them the spirit which they ought to cherish, now, as they anticipated the judgments, or were wearying themselves under their burden. By-and-by they would rejoice that they had held fast by God under the gloom. Then "waiting on him, and waiting for him," is just the attitude they should seek and cherish.
I. Viewed in one way, the circumstances through which Israel would be passing would be JUDGMENTS OF GOD; but viewed in another way, they would only be the ORDINARY COMMONPLACE FACTS OF THEIR NATIONAL LIFE. The growth into overwhelming power of some nations, until they swallowed up all the smaller nations around them, became proud, tyrannical, and luxurious; lost national virtue, and fell a prey to the enterprise and energy of fresher and younger nations. This process the Israelites actually saw going on, at different stages, in the kingdoms around them. The laws that ruled it, the final results of it, they could not discern, and they must have been gravely bewildered by it. All the more because they had themselves to suffer from the encroachments of these rising monarchies. In those trying days it could not have been an easy thing for a Jew to hold fast his faith in God. Reasoning could explain so little. Iniquity seemed to be triumphing over good. Jehovah appeared to have loosed his hand, and left the world to riot in its self-will. Those were great men indeed who could rise above the disasters and the helplessness of the times, and stay themselves on God, and hope in him, and wait for him.
II. But that was quite A MODEL GENERATION. Each age, though expressing itself in new forms and terms, may find its own perplexities mirrored there. Early times had their chief difficulties in outward things, such as the aggrandizement of world-conquerors, and the debasing effect of idolatrous systems. As the world grows older, the perplexities and the trials of faith come more and more out of intellectual and moral conditions; and we incline to think that it is much harder work to hold on to God, with patient waiting, in times of mental and moral confusion than when the earth is disturbed with sword and spear and shield. Perhaps never were men called to steady themselves on God, and wait on him in the way of his judgments, as we are called. There are two peculiarities of our time which, seen on the one side, are just facts of life, but seen from the other side are judgments of God in the midst of which we are to wait upon him.
1. The disposition to accomplish all things by human effort, apart from God. Man, according to present-day teaching, is to be the Savior and Salvation of man. Let but every man lift up his brother - so they say - and the world's golden age shall dawn; but the light that lightens it shall be the brilliancy of human genius, and not the "glory of the Lord."
2. The confusion which advancing knowledge has seemed to introduce into both doctrines and morals. Some of the greatest men of science have been reverent men who, while searching with a free spirit into all that can be known of creation, yet held God fast in the arms of trustful love, and found traces of his handiwork in everything they examined. But not a few are over-ready to discover - some-times even ready to manufacture - antagonisms between reason and revelation. And even the best of us cannot fail to be influenced by the atmosphere of doubt which has thus been created for us. We know what mental struggle means. We know what it is to search after truth that seems ever to glide beyond our grasp. We, too, are walking in the way of God's judgments, and blessed are we if we can truly say, "In the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee." We gather two lessons from these considerations.
1. The bottom, the foundation, the rest, of all things is God. The first truth which the child learns is the truth of God. The utmost truth towards which human intellects and human hearts can push their devious, struggling way, is God. The simplest word that infant Sips can utter is "God;" the largest and awe-fullest word that can burn upon an archangel's lips is the Name of God. That man knows something who knows a little of God. That man knows nothing - all he may seem to know is not within the sphere of true being - who does not know God. The steadying, the resting, of a man's soul is impossible save in God. "Who is a Rock save our God?" Then our supreme work in life must be to know God - to know him by "waiting upon him;" to know him in the face of Jesus Christ.
2. And we learn that those who would hold by God will have to "wait for him. God tests the trusting ones by his mysterious doings and dealings. He hides, as it were, behind the clouds and the darkness that encircle his throne. He is even to be waited on in the way of his judgments." And such a spirit of waiting alone can preserve us amid the judgments. It lies at the very basis of noble and regenerate character. And all life is to us according to our character. "To the pure all things are pure; to the impure nothing is pure." To the bad, godless man, the highest mercies become curses; the self-centered character can make poison even out of angels' food. To the bad mart, punishments are ruin, desolation, woe; even as to heathen nations these prophetic burdens were unredeemable calamity. But to the good man, the God-centered man, punishments are but chastisements, out of which are wrought "the peaceable fruits of righteousness." It has been said that the "dealings of God are punishments to the wicked, but chastisements to the righteous." It should rather be said that there is no difference in the Divine dealing - judgments come both on the righteous and on the wicked; but the attitude in which we meet the judgments makes all the difference. The ungodly man bruises himself "against the bosses of Jehovah's buckler." The godly man - who "waits on the Lord" - binds to bear the rod of his heavenly Father's chastening. To the godless man life is just stern iron and brass; but the Christian man, having learnt of God, is alchemist enough to turn all he touches to finest gold. Then "trust in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."
I. WE DESIRE GOD IN THE NIGHT OF OUR SORROWS. Thick clouds come over the heart. We are no longer surrounded by bright skies and pleasant sounds. We have come to the wilderness side of life. The morning of our expectations has given place to the noonday of our toil, and to the evening of our disappointment. The beautiful dream is over, and earthly joys are only passing guests. At eventide they are gone. The soul, sitting alone, feels how unrequited has been the love of God. Alone in the darkness it seeks his face.
II. WE DESIRE GOD IN THE NIGHT OF OUR DOUBTS. These will come. Old evidences do not afford us the same basis of faith. New difficulties come face to face with the intellect. Mysteries born of experience oppress the heart. Before, perhaps, we were hard and dogmatic to all who differed from us; before we were inclined to think that doubt was in itself a sin, and not the exquisite action of a sincere mind. Now we sit in darkness, and there is temporary eclipse of faith. What we want is God himself - the living God, God in Christ; and we are thankful if we can but "touch him." We feel how blessed religion is, even when our evidences are darkened, and with our soul we desire God in the night.
III. WE DESIRE GOD IN THE NIGHT OF OUR SEPARATIONS. They must come. Be the tie ever so tender, it must be cut; and we must say or look farewell, or perchance hear of the death of some beloved one in a foreign land. These tragedies are about us every day. New habiliments of mourning are put on every hour. No "touch of a vanished hand." Nothing below but empty space! Then the soul cries, "O God, be not far from me!"
IV. WE DESIRE GOD IN THE NIGHT OF OUR OWN DEPARTURE. And it is night. To the Christian, who looks through it to the morning, who believes in the better country, and who sees the light of the new Jerusalem flickering up into the sky as he ascends through the darkness, - still to him, strong as he may be in faith and hope, death is a dark hour. But One alone can lighten that. Not lover, acquaintance, mother, or friend. No. "When I pass through the valley of the shadow of death thou art with me." - W.M.S.
I. UNTOUCHED BY THE VISITATION OF GOD'S GOODNESS. He does not "learn righteousness," though "favor be showed" to him by God. God may be, as he is, multiplying his mercies unto him, so that they are as the sands of the sea - innumerable; visiting him by day and by night with loving-kindnesses continually renewed, besetting him behind and before with his guardianship, laying his hand of gentle power upon him in guidance and in blessing. But all is lost upon him - he is unmindful of everything; he does not "learn righteousness;" he goes on, if not in oppression, or in vice, or in open atheism, yet in a guilty forgetfulness, in an unfilial indifference and ingratitude.
II. UNINFLUENCED BY HUMAN EXAMPLE. "In the land of uprightness he deals unjustly." Around him are men worshipping God, working devotedly in his cause, living in accordance with his will, illustrating Christian virtues in the daily transactions and in the common relationships of life, bearing the best witness to the power and the excellency of Divine truth, supplying a source of influence which ought to tell on a human heart and to mould human character; but this is of no avail. The hardened heart is unmoved, its apathy is undisturbed, its course unchanged.
III. UNAFFECTED BY THE EVIDENCES OF GOD'S GREATNESS. "He will not behold the majesty of the Lord." There are three ways in which the majesty or the greatness of God is revealed to us, all of which deserve and demand our most patient and devout attention.
1. In the material world. In the sky, in the sea, in the mountain, in the storm, in the earthquake, etc. "With God," as manifested thus, "is terrible majesty" (Job 37:22); and he who does "not regard the works of the Lord, nor the operations of his hand," is guiltily blind to the majesty of the Lord.
2. In Divine providence. The majestic holiness of God is seen in the revelation of his wrath against impurity, intemperance, violence, passion, and all other evils; also in the revelation of his approval of righteousness and peace, in the ordering of our human lives. Whoso is unobservant of this is a wickedly dull scholar in a world where such plain lessons are to be learnt.
3. In the gospel of Jesus Christ. There the majesty of God's character shines forth, and we see "the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." In the Incarnation itself, in the character of Jesus Christ, in the severity of the sorrows he bore, in the depth of the shame to which he stooped, in the awful moral grandeur of the death he died, in the unspeakable glory of his heavenly mission, - there, indeed, is the majesty of the Lord to be seen. He who will not dwell on this as on that which, above all other things, is worthy of his most patient and reverent regard, is one of "the wicked," with whom God "is angry."
1. Let us be thankful if we are hearing and heeding the voice of God, if we are opening our hearts to the heavenly influence.
2. Let us take earnest heed to the fact that a guilty inattention leads on and down to a fatal deafness. - C.
I. THE GREAT THINGS GOD HAS DONE FOR US.
1. He has heard our cry in the day of distress (vers. 16, 17). Few things go home to our hearts more readily than the words of the psalmist, "I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me." It is a great thing to have been heard of God, to have gained his pitiful ear, and to have enjoyed his merciful consideration; that amid the millions of his children he has distinguished us and bent on us his benign regard.
2. He has granted full deliverance. "Other lords... have had dominion... but [now] thee only will we celebrate; they are dead;" their very memory is perishing (vers. 13, 14). We may have been under the dominion of some cruel vice (lust, or avarice, or intemperance), or of "the world" (1 John); but in the mercy of God these spiritual adversaries have been defeated, have been slain, they are no more to be dreaded, and now a Divine Redeemer is the Object of our adoration; for him we live, his honor we seek, his Name we strive to glorify (ver. 15), in his holy and ennobling service we spend our days and our powers.
3. He has granted spiritual enlargement. (Ver. 15.) "Thou hast increased the nation, O Lord." To some, especially to those whom he redeems from the bondage of vice or crime, God grants material enlargement, the improvement of their estate, the brightening of their life, the broadening of their sphere. To all who, at the touch of his liberating hand, come out of spiritual captivity into the freedom of his children, he gives spiritual advancement, increase of knowledge, of joy, of love, of influence, of hope. As we love and serve Christ, we are enlarged on every hand - the horizon of our souls is removed beyond its former bounds.
II. THE ARGUMENT THEREFROM. The fact, that God has done such great things for us - and all that has been done for us has been wrought by him (ver. 12; and see Psalm 87:7) - is a strong reason to expect other gracious things in the future. "Thou wilt ordain peace for us" (ver. 12). It is a scriptural argument that the conferring of greater blessings is a security to us for the possession of smaller ones (see Matthew 6:25; Romans 8:32; Psalm 56:13). The gifts of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ,
(1) his most costly gifts,
(2) his most valuable gifts, may be to us a strong assurance that God will not only "ordain peace" in life and at death, but also lead us along all the path of life, and receive us to his presence and glory when our earthly course is run. - C.
accomplish our deliverance, and then our allegiance shall gain full and hearty expression; we shall praise him only, we shall serve him only, and praise and serve him as we ought. Getting illustration from the historical circumstances, we may set forth this point in its personal applications under three divisions.
I. ISRAEL'S TIMES OF OPPRESSION UNDER HEATHEN RULERS. These include the oppression under Pharaoh in Egypt; the inroads of neighboring nations in the times of the Judges; the temporary supremacy of the Philistines; the degrading supremacy of foreign idolatrous systems in the age of the later kings; the crushing of the national life by the self-aggrandizing Assyrians and Babylonians. Israel had a full experience of the power of the oppressor, many "other lords" had held dominion over Israel. These may represent the tyrannies of social custom, prevailing opinion, bodily lust, easily besetting sins, and worldly persecution, which now bear so hardly upon the saints of God. If these do but hold a usurped dominion, it is too often so stringent as almost to crush out all expressions of the life unto God.
II. ISRAEL'S HEART OF ALLEGIANCE TO GOD IN TIMES OF OPPRESSION. The elect remnant, in every age, kept the allegiance, though they had to hide it in secret places. A "ten righteous" ever kept the nation from utter destruction. There is a holy leaven among us now.
III. ISRAEL'S FREEDOM FOR FULL ALLEGIANCE IN THE DIVINE INTERVENTION. Sooner or later God would deliver them, and will deliver us; and then we can open our lips, "make mention of his Name," and give ourselves openly to him, as we have held ourselves secretly for him all through the trying time. - R.T.
Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 49:19, 20; Isaiah 54:1, etc.; Micah 2:1, 2; Micah 4:7; Obadiah 1:19, 20.) Probably he is thinking of the population and strength of the land in the days of David and Solomon, as typical of what is again to be in the happier times. But actually a period of gloom and suffering must precede the glorious restoration.
I. THE PERIOD OF TROUBLE AND EXPECTATION. It is a pathetic picture of the soul in its attitude of anxious suspense. Jehovah was missed and longed for as the light which seems to tarry in the dark days of winter. Prayer was poured forth; and there was a period of acute suffering like that of the mother preceding the birth of a child. Hope was deceived and disappointed again and again (cf. Isaiah 13:18; Isaiah 21:3). Still the land was not blessed, still the population was not restored. The prophet is thinking of the days after the return from exile.
II. THE RESURRECTION Or THE PEOPLE. "Thy dead shall live." "Sublimely recovering himself, the prophet cries that God's saints, though they are dead, shall live," and shall share the duties and privileges of regenerate Israel. The prophet sees, as it were, his countrymen returning from the under-world. So speaks Hosea: "After two days wilt he revive us: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight" (Hosea 6:2); left the vision of Ezekiel - the valley of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-10). With lively faith anticipating the event, he calls upon the new population to awake and cry. It is as if a dew had fallen on the barren land. This "dew of lights" is thought of as something supernatural, existing before the sun. In Psalm 110:3 the ordinary dew is born out of the morning shower. "The dew from the glory of God falls like a heavenly seed into the bosom of the earth; and in consequence of this, the earth gives out from itself the shades which have hitherto been held fast beneath the ground, so that they appear alive again on the face of the earth" (Delitzsch). There is thus a connection between light and life, so often found in conjunction in religious thought (Psalm 36:9; Job 3:16-20; John 1:4). For as the return of the morning light is coincident with the refreshment of the strength, and the awakening to new effort, so in all spiritual parables of the revival of the nation or the individual, light brings life. The renaissance of knowledge precedes or coincides with the reformation of manners, the stir of new activities, the beginning of a new era. And this connection should never be forgotten, "And God said, Let there be light." Even so; and the darkness of superstition, of prejudice, of obscurantism, must be symptomatic of moral death. As the light arouses the sleeper, so the sleeper must bestir himself to greet it and rejoice in it. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
III. RETURN TO SELF-COMMUNION. From this enrapturing vision the prophet returns to the present, with all its sobering and in part depressing circumstances. "He has gained on behalf of his people the comforting certitude that a great exhibition of the Divine justice is on the point of taking place; and his counsel is to withdraw from the doomed into the privacy of communion with God" (Cheyne). While the storm of Divine judgment is sweeping by, let the people of God betake themselves to solitude and prayer (cf. Psalm 27:5; Psalm 31:21; Matthew 6:6). The opening of the door of the prayer-chamber is in times of distress the opening of the door into another world than this - a scene of serenity and elevation. In the presence of our Father who seeth in secret, the problems of the hour are solved, or cease unduly to harass the mind. That which threatened to crush us is surmounted by the new energy of the spirit here imparted.
"Prayer ardent opens heaven, lets down a stream IV. THE COMING FORTH OF JEHOVAH. (Cf. Micah 1:3.) Where is the "place" of Jehovah? It is the supernatural sphere; and every great manifestation of judgment mingled with mercy is a "coming forth of Jehovah." Here it is expressly for judgment to punish men who have incurred blood-guilt, which is, in other words, sin. Yet in the heart of judgment still his pity and consolation live, and we" should keep it constantly before our eyes, when the wicked slay, mock, and ridicule us, and inflict upon us every kind of outrage and cruelty, God will at length make known that the cry of innocent blood has not been uttered in vain; for he never can forget his own people" (Luke 18:7). - J.
IV. THE COMING FORTH OF JEHOVAH. (Cf. Micah 1:3.) Where is the "place" of Jehovah? It is the supernatural sphere; and every great manifestation of judgment mingled with mercy is a "coming forth of Jehovah." Here it is expressly for judgment to punish men who have incurred blood-guilt, which is, in other words, sin. Yet in the heart of judgment still his pity and consolation live, and we" should keep it constantly before our eyes, when the wicked slay, mock, and ridicule us, and inflict upon us every kind of outrage and cruelty, God will at length make known that the cry of innocent blood has not been uttered in vain; for he never can forget his own people" (Luke 18:7). - J.
I. HERE IS RECEPTION. The Lord receives them. He does not spurn their approach because they have kept away till then. The great Father never reproaches the repentant, returning Israel. No. Unlike the proud, resentful spirit of man, "the Lord God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness." The haughty spirit of man would resent the approach of one who was simply driven by stress of weather into the haven of his protection.
II. HERE IS REALITY. They are filled with earnestness. It is no easy ritual of the lips. They "poured out" a prayer. Very expressive indeed is that. The rock was rent, and the waters flowed forth. The poor bruised heart could contain its agony no longer. There was confession. There was that blessed "outness" which of itself brings relief. These men had seen the pouring forth of the swollen Jordan, and of the storm-filled streams of Lebanon. So is it that the earnestness of the soul at once engages the attention and interest of God. It matters little whether prayer be liturgical or free, whether it be in the sanctuary or the closet, so long as the soul seeks God as the hart desireth the water-brooks; and the literal rendering of "prayer" here is "secret speech."
III. HERE IS DISCPLINE. "When thy chastening was upon them." This is very different from self-chosen and self-inflicted chastisement. Some Christians in every age have become self-tormentors: some, with the Flagellants, in the infliction of physical torture, and some in constant introspection - painful searching of their own motives, and mourning over their own want of faith and of feeling. But this text speaks of God's own discipline - a Father's discipline, and therefore a wise, a kind, and a safe discipline. Moreover, it is but for "a season." We read, "when thy discipline was upon them," which, in its very language, suggests that it is not a lasting condition. The Jews came back from exile. Their punishments for idolatry gave place to pardon and restoration. So it is now. God does not delight in the sufferings of his children. "Tribulation worketh patience;" our "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." In the heart of the prickly encasement there is opening out a beautiful flower. - W.M.S.
I. A SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE IS NOURISHED BY PROSPERITIES AND SUCCESSES. The ordinary man does not feel the need of God when all goes well with him. He does not need prayer, for he is not conscious of anything to pray for. If man can stand alone, why should we seek God? And the Christian man, who believes in prayer, is under grave and serious temptation to neglect prayer when he is successful, and free from care. As soon as we become satisfied with ourselves we begin to lose our "first love." The spirit of independence and the spirit, of prayer never did, and- never can, dwell together. Ivy is a poor thing if it grows up independently. Its beauty unfolds only when it leans on another - on one who has independent strength.
II. A SPIRIT OF DEPENDENCE IS NOURISHED BY CALAMITIES. In a thousand forms they come to us, but their message is always the same. They say to us, "See, you cannot, by yourself." Life is not all sunshine and prosperity. We must take it as a whole, take it as it is. We must reckon for trouble. And for life as a whole we need God; we ought to be dependent; we should be happy in our dependence. Jacob, in his anxiety at meeting Esau, was forced to dependence and prayer. Joshua, discomfited before At, was forced to prayer. Jehoshaphat, threatened by national foes, flies to prayer. Hezekiah, stricken with disease and facing death, turns his face to the wall, and prays. Then impress the graciousness of the Divine ways with us. Watching over our eternal interests, God saves us again from the perils of independence, and calls us back to dependence, by putting trouble into our lives, and we learn to say, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now will I keep thy Word." - R.T.
Isaiah 26:19 (with ver. Isaiah 26:14)reference of both of them to he to the hopes of the Hebrew nation at the time of the prophecy, we have our attention called to -
I. THE ISSUE OF UPRIGHTEOUSNESS - DEATH.
1. It tends to fatal ruin. The tyrants of Babylon, being overthrown, should rise up no more, should never regain their position, were as dead men whose day was hopelessly and irretrievably gone. All unrighteousness tends to the same issue; it leads down to loss, to overthrow, to shame, to a depth of ruin from which there is no recovery. At length the guilty man (party, nation) is down so low that those who look on say, "He (it) is dead; he shall rise no more."
3. It sinks into permanent oblivion. God makes "their memory to perish" (see Psalm 34:16; Proverbs 10:7; Ecclesiastes 8:10). No man cares to remember those whose lives have been disgraced by sin; their names lie unmentioned, and their memory fades from view till it is lost in the thickening shadows of time.
4. It goes down to the death which is eternal. "The wages of sin is death."
II. THE ISSUE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS - REVIVAL. "Thy dead men shall live." God's people who have fallen till they have seemed to be wholly lost shall be recovered and shall reappear. Righteousness is immortal; it cannot be buried and forgotten and lost.
1. It commonly ends in restoration to power and position. Joseph is cast into prison, but he comes out to be the first minister in Egypt. David is driven into the caves, but he comes forth to sit down upon the throne. The persecuted people of God, whether in Babylon, in the Vaudois valleys, in Holland, in the Highlands of Scotland, in the woods and rocks of Madagascar, come forth when the "red, right hand" of cruelty is stricken down, and appear as those that have risen from the tomb.
2. It secures an earthly immortality - that of a lasting recollection: "The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance" (Psalm 112:6; Proverbs 10:7): that, also, of abiding influence; for the effect of their holy lives and true, faithful words shall go down to distant generations.
3. It issues in eternal blessedness. The righteous shall go into "life eternal." - C.
chambers, and shut thy doors about thee." We may let this language suggest to us that we should -
I. MAKE TIME FOR DEVOUT REFLECTION. In busy, outwardly active times, when there is an imperious demand on every hand for "work," there is urgent need that this counsel should be given and be taken. Enter into the chamber of solemn and sacred meditation; consider what is your present spiritual condition; estimate the progress you are making in your course; reflect upon the swift and steady passage of your life; realize that the time is not far off when all earthly interest will be nothing, and when it will be everything to know that the righteous Judge is well pleased with the witness you are bearing and the work you are doing.
II. COMPEL EACH DAY TO YIELD ITS HOUR OF DIRECT INTERCOURSE WITH GOD. We cannot live, spiritually, on public devotion. Nothing will nourish the soul in the absence of private, individual fellowship with God. "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray... in secret" (Matthew 6.). The most pressing cares, domestic, or official, or public, will not excuse the neglect of private communion with God. If Daniel, with all the cares of Babylon upon him, found time to pray three times a day regularly (Daniel 6:10), we can compel our duties to make room for devotion. Every day let God speak to us, and let us speak to him, within the shut doors of our own chamber.
III. TAKE UP THE ATTITUDE OF REVERENT EXPECTATION. There are times when man can do nothing more than he has done, and all that is left is patient waiting for God. "And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee." This may be the attitude:
1. Of the diligent, waiting God's increase on his industry.
2. Of the disciplined, waiting God's crowning of his patience; whether of the embarrassed, of the sick, or of the defamed. It is to these that the words of the text are most applicable; for it is they who are to wait for a little while, "until the indignation be overpast," i.e. until the hour of deliverance is fully come, and the work of redemption has been wrought. But we may also regard this as the attribute:
3. Of the co-worker with Christ, waiting the Divine blessing on his zeal. - C.