Isaiah 42:16
And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do to them, and not forsake them.
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Isaiah 42:16

The grand stormy verses before these words, with all their dread array of natural convulsions, have one object-the tender guidance promised in the text. So we have the combination of terror and love, the blending in the divine government of terrible judgments and most gentle guidance. The words apply, of course, primarily to the redemption of Israel; but through them shines a picture of the greater redemption of humanity.

1. The blind travellers. They are blind, and their road is unknown to them. It is a symbol of our condition and of our paths in life. Our limited foresight cannot discern certainly even the next moment. It is always the unexpected that happens. We cannot tell what lies behind the next bend in the road, and there are so many bends; and behind one of them, we cannot tell whether it may be the next, sits ‘the Shadow feared of man.’ Life is like the course of the Congo, which makes so mighty a bend northward that, till it had been followed from source to mouth, no one could have supposed that it was to enter the ocean far away to the west. Not only God’s mercies, but our paths, are ‘new every morning.’ Experience, like conscience, sheds light mainly on what lies behind, and scarcely ‘doth attain to something of prophetic strain.’

2. The Leader. How tenderly God makes Himself the leader of the blind pilgrims! It does not matter about being blind, if we put our hands in His. Then He will ‘be to us instead of eyes.’ Jesus took the blind man by the hand.

So here is the promise of guidance by Providence, Word, Spirit. And here is the condition of receiving it, namely, our conscious blindness and realisation of the complexities of life, leading to putting ourselves into His hands in docile faith.

3. The gradual light. Darkness is made light. We receive the knowledge of each step, when it needs to be taken; the light shines only on the next; we are like men in a fog, who are able only to see a yard ahead.

4. The clearing away of hindrances. ‘Crooked things straight.’ A careful guide lifts stones out of a blind man’s way. How far is this true? There will be plenty of crooked things left crooked, but still so many straightened as to make our road passable.

5. The perpetual Presence. If God is with me, then all these blessings will surely be mine. He will be with me if I keep myself with Him. It is His felt presence that gives me light on the road, and levels and straightens out the crookedest and roughest path.Isaiah 42:16-17. And I will bring the blind — The ignorant Gentiles, represented as blind, Isaiah 42:7, and in many other parts of Scripture, and accounted blind by the Jews; by a way that they knew not — By the way of truth, which hitherto hath been hidden from them. I will make darkness light before them, &c. — I will enlighten their dark minds, rectify their perverse wills and affections, and direct them in the right way, until I have brought them, with safety and comfort, to the end of their journey. They shall be turned back, &c. — This may be understood, either, 1st, Of the converted Gentiles, turned back from their former sinful courses, and sincerely grieving, and being ashamed, that they should ever have been guilty of such folly and wickedness as to worship and trust in idols; or, 2d, Of those Gentiles who, when their brethren embraced the true religion, persisted obstinately in their idolatrous practices.42:13-17 The Lord will appear in his power and glory. He shall cry, in the preaching of his word. He shall cry aloud in the gospel woes, which must be preached with gospel blessings, to awaken a sleeping world. He shall conquer by the power of his Spirit. And those that contradict and blaspheme his gospel, he shall put to silence and shame; and that which hinders its progress shall be taken out of the way. To those who by nature were blind, God will show the way to life and happiness by Jesus Christ. They are weak in knowledge, but He will make darkness light. They are weak in duty, but their way shall be plain. Those whom God brings into the right way, he will guide in it. This passage is a prophecy, and is also applicable to every believer; for the Lord will never leave nor forsake them.And I will lead the blind - Having said in the previous verses what he would do to his enemies, God now speaks of his people. He would conduct them to their own land, as a blind people that needed a guide, and would remove whatever obstacle there was in their way. By the 'blind' here, he refers doubtless to his own people. The term is applied originally to his people in captivity, as being ignorant, after their seventy years' exile, of the way of return to their own land. It is possible that it may have a reference to the fact, so often charged on them, that they were characteristically a stupid and spiritually blind people. But it is more probable that it is the language of tenderness rather than that of objurgation; and denotes their ignorance of the way of return, and their need of a guide, rather than their guilt, and hardness of heart. If applied to the people of God under the New Testament - as the entire strain of the prophecy seems to lead ns to conclude - then it denotes that Christians will feel their need of a leader, counselor, and guide; and that Yahweh, as a military leader, will conduct them all in a way which they did not know, and remove all obstacles from their path.

By a way that they knew not - When they were ignorant what course to take; or in a path which they did not contemplate or design. It is true of all the friends of God that they have been led in a way which they knew not. They did not mark out this course for themselves; they did not at first form the plans of life which they came ultimately to pursue; they have been led, by the providence of God, in a different path, and by the Spirit of God they have been inclined to a course which they themselves would never have chosen (compare the note at Isaiah 30:21).

I will make darkness light before them - Darkness, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of ignorance, sin, adversity, and calamity. Here it seems to be the emblem of adverse and opposing events; of calamities, persecutions, and trials. The meaning is, that God would make those events which seemed to be adverse and calamitous, the means of furthering his cause, and promoting the spirit of the true religion, and the happiness of his people. This has been eminently the case with the persecutions which rite church has endured. The events which have been apparently most adverse, have been ultimately overruled to the best interests of the true religion. Such was the case with the persecutions under the Roman emperors, and in general such has been the case in all the persecutions which the church has been called to suffer.

And crooked things straight - Things which seem to be adverse and opposing - the persecutions and trials which the people of God would be called to endure.

And not forsake them - (See Isaiah 41:10, note, Isaiah 41:13, note).

16. blind—God's people, Israel, in captivity, needing a guide. In the ulterior sense the New Testament Church, which was about to be led and enlightened by the Son of God as its leader and shepherd in the wilderness of the Roman empire, until it should reach a city of habitation. "A way … they knew not," refers to the various means ployed by Providence for the establishment of the Church in the world, such as would never have occurred to the mind of mere man. "Blind," they are called, as not having heretofore seen God's ways in ordering His Church.

make darkness light, &c.—implies that the glorious issue would only be known by the event itself [Vitringa]. The same holds good of the individual believer (Isa 30:21; Ps 107:7; compare Ho 2:6, 14; Eph 5:8; Heb 13:5).

The blind; the Gentiles, who were blind, and were called so, above, Isaiah 42:7, and in many other places of Scripture, and were so accounted by the Jews.

By a way that they know not; by the way of truth, which hitherto hath been hidden from them, until by my word and Spirit I revealed it to them.

I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight; I will take away all hinderances, and give them all advantages and conveniences for their journey. I will direct them in the right way. I will enlighten their dark minds, and rectify their perverse wills and affections.

And not forsake them, until I have brought them with safety and comfort to the end of their journey. And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not,.... The Targum interprets this of the people of Israel, thus,

"I will lead the house of Israel, which are like to the blind, in a way which they knew not.''

But it is better to understand it of the Gentiles, who, before the light of the Gospel came among them, were blind as to the true knowledge of God, and especially as in Christ; and of Christ, and the way of peace, life, and salvation by him; and of themselves, and their miserable estate and condition; and of the Spirit of God, and his operations; and of the Scriptures, the Gospel, and the doctrines of it; and which is the case of all men in a state of nature: but the Lord, by his Spirit, opens the eyes of their understandings, and shows them those things they were blind in, and ignorant of, and brings them by a way they knew not before; which way is Christ, the only way to the Father; the way of peace, righteousness, and life; the way to heaven, and eternal happiness: this they knew not before, but thought they must make their own way to God, and their peace with him; must be justified by their own works, and work out their own salvation; but, in conversion, this way to Christ is made known and plain unto them; and in this way the Lord brings all his people to eternal glory:

I will lead them in paths that they have not known; in the paths of duty and truth; in the paths of faith, righteousness, and holiness, and in the ordinances of the Gospel; which they were aliens and strangers to before:

I will make darkness light before them; by going before them himself, as before the children of Israel in a pillar of fire by night; by giving his word to enlighten them; by granting his good Spirit, as a spirit of illumination to them; and by lifting up the light of his countenance on them:

and crooked things straight; remove all obstructions, bear them up under all discouragements, and carry them through all difficulties:

these things will I do unto them, and not forsake them; which may be depended upon, being promised by him that is able to perform, is true, and faithful, and changes not; and, when done, shall not be the last done for them; he will never leave them, nor forsake them, till he has brought them safe to glory.

And I will bring the {t} blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do for them, and not forsake them.

(t) That is, my poor people, who are in perplexity and care.

16. The prophet hastens on to the gracious issue of God’s interposition, the homebringing of the captives through the trackless desert.

the blind here are hardly the spiritually blind, those who cannot discern God’s purpose (as Isaiah 42:18); what is meant is that the travellers cannot see their path, just as the desert is the region of “darkness” because it has no track (cf. Jeremiah 2:6; Jeremiah 2:31). For knew and have known, render know, with R.V.

crooked things straight] crooked places a plain (cf. ch. Isaiah 40:4).

these things … forsake them] Better: These are the things I have determined to do (perf. of resolution) and not leave undone.Verse 16. - I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not. "The blind" here can only be captive Israel, still dim-sighted from the effect of its old sins against light, and therefore greatly needing God's guidance. God promises to "bring them" out of captivity "by a way not hitherto known to them" - the way of voluntary release by the favour of a new king (see the comment on ver. 9). I will make darkness light before them; either, I will illuminate with rays of light and hope the dark and cheerless life that they have been leading (Delitzsch), or, I will throw light upon that dark future which has hitherto stretched before them, and allow them to penetrate its obscurity, and see what is about to happen. Crooked things; rather, rough places; i.e. difficulties of any and every kind. Straight; rather, smooth, level, flat,. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. Dr. Kay translates, "These things have I done, and have not forsaken them;" Mr. Cheyne, "These are the things that I will do, and will not let them slip;" Delitzsch, "These are the things that I carry out and do not leave." According to the two latter renderings, the clause is a mere solemn confirmation of the previous promises. The prediction of these "new things," which now follows, looks away from all human mediation. They are manifestly the work of Jehovah Himself, and consist primarily in the subjugation of His enemies, who are holding His people in captivity. "Sing ye to Jehovah a new song, His praise from the end of the earth, ye navigators of the sea, and its fulness; ye islands, and their inhabitants. Let the desert and the cities thereof strike up, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit; the inhabitants of the rock-city may rejoice, shout from the summits of the mountains. Let them give glory to Jehovah, and proclaim His praise in the islands. Jehovah, like a hero will He go forth, kindle jealousy like a man of war; He will breath forth into a war-cry, a yelling war-cry, prove Himself a hero upon His enemies." The "new things" furnish the impulse and materials of "a new song," such as had never been heard in the heathen world before. This whole group of vv. is like a variation of Isaiah 24:14-15. The standing-place, whence the summons is uttered, is apparently Ezion-geber, at the head of the Elanitic Gulf, that seaport town from which in the time of the kings the news of the nations reached the Holy Land through the extensive commerce of Israel. From this point the eye stretches to the utmost circle of the earth, and then returns from the point where it meets with those who "go down to the sea," i.e., who navigate the ocean which lies lower than the solid ground. These are to sing, and everything that lives and moves in the sea is to join in the sailors' song. The islands and coast lands, that are washed by the sea, are likewise to sing together with their inhabitants. After the summons has drawn these into the net of the song of praise, it moves into the heart of the land. The desert and its cities are to lift up (viz., "their voice"), the villages which Kedar inhabits. The reference to Sela', the rock-city of Edomitish Nabataea, which is also mentioned in Isaiah 16:1 (the Wadi Musa, which is still celebrated for its splendid ruins), shows by way of example what cities are intended. Their inhabitants are to ascend the steep mountains by which the city is surrounded, and to raise a joyful cry (yitsvâchū, to cry out with a loud noise; cf., Isaiah 24:11). Along with the inhabitants of cities, the stationary Arabs, who are still called Hadariye in distinction from Wabariye, the Arabs of the tents, are also summoned; hadar (châtsēr) is a fixed abode, in contrast to bedû, the steppe, where the tents are pitched for a short time, now in one place and now in another. In Isaiah 42:12 the summons becomes more general. The subject is the heathen universally and in every place; they are to give Jehovah the glory (Psalm 56:2), and declare His praise upon the islands, i.e., to the remotest ends of the whole world of nations. In Isaiah 42:13 there follows the reason for this summons, and the theme of the new song in honour of the God of Israel, viz., His victory over His enemies, the enemies of His people. The description is anthropomorphically dazzling and bold, such as the self-assurance and vividness of the Israelitish idea of God permitted, without any danger of misunderstanding. Jehovah goes out into the conflict like a hero; and like a "man of war," i.e., like one who has already fought many battles, and is therefore ready for war, and well versed in warfare, He stirs up jealousy (see at Isaiah 9:6). His jealousy has slumbered as it were for a long time, as if smouldering under the ashes; but now He stirs it up, i.e., makes it burn up into a bright flame. Going forward to the attack, יריע, "He breaks out into a cry," אף־יצריח, "yea, a yelling cry" (kal Zephaniah 1:14, to cry with a yell; hiphil, to utter a yelling cry). In the words, "He will show Himself as a hero upon His enemies," we see Him already engaged in the battle itself, in which He proves Himself to possess the strength and boldness of a hero (hithgabbar only occurs again in the book of Job). The overthrow which heathenism here suffers at the hand of Jehovah is, according to our prophet's view, the final and decisive one. The redemption of Israel, which is thus about to appear, is redemption from the punishment of captivity, and at the same time from all the troubles that arise from sin. The period following the captivity and the New Testament times here flow into one.
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