Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.
The general truth taught by these words is this: wrong-doing promises much, but it certainly ends in bitter disappointment. The good to be gained by sin is seen and tasted and handled only in dream. It is never actually possessed, and visible disappointment is the bitter fruit of transgression.
I. The very nature of sin suggests this fact. (1) Sin is a wandering from the way which God has appointed for us—the way which was in His mind when He made man—the only way which has ever been in His mind as the right way. There is no adaptation in nan's real nature to any way but one, and that is obedience to a Father in heaven, the result and fruit of true love for that Father. (2) Sin is a practical withdrawing from the protection of Divine providence. It thus wounds, sometimes instantly, and always eventually, the transgressor himself. It is as when a hungry man dreameth, and awaketh, and behold, he is faint.
II. Look at a few recognised facts about sin. (1) The angels who kept not their first estate left their own habitation. So far as we can understand the matter they sought freedom, but they found chains. They sought light; they found darkness. They sought happiness; they found misery,—as when a hungry man dreameth and eateth, and awaketh and finds himself famishing. (2) Our first parents, in yielding to the first temptation, sought equality with God; but they soon found themselves fallen below the natural human level. (3) The general history of sin is found in epitome in the life of every sinner. In families and churches and nations, in societies of all kinds, we see illustrated the truth that sin everywhere, by whomsoever committed, is the occasion of most bitter disappointment.
S. Martin, Penny Pulpit, No. 621.
Isaiah 29:11-12I. There is something of truth in the representation that the Bible is a sealed book. We always regard it as a standing proof of the Divine origin of the volume, that it is not to be unfolded by the processes which we apply to a merely human composition, and that every attempt to enter deeply into its meaning, without the assistance of its Author, issues in nothing but conjecture and confusion. The Bible is addressed to the heart, not merely to the head. Revelation is designed not only to convey to the intellect a few definite notions of things which its own sagacity is unable to discover, but to act upon the affections, and win them over to the service of God. The very fact that unless the Holy Spirit explains the Bible it is impossible for the student to enter into its meaning, may be seized on by those who seek an apology for neglect; and men may retort upon an adviser who says, "Read this, I pray you," by asking, "How can we, since on your own showing the book is sealed?" The Bible is a sealed book to all who interpret it by their own unaided strength. But "if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." Hence the key is within reach. You are taught how the flame may be kindled by which the seals shall be dissolved. Can it, then, be any justification for the neglect with which Scripture is treated that any of its statements overpass our unassisted comprehensions?
II. If one great body of men excuse themselves by pleading that the volume is sealed, another will take refuge in their own want of scholarship. Here, again, the excuse is based on a truth; but yet it in no degree justifies neglect. The well-educated man has undoubtedly advantages over the uneducated, when both are considered as students of Scripture. The poor may be deterred by positive inability from reading the Bible, and thus be dependent upon their children or neighbours for acquaintance with its chapters; and even where there has not been this total want of common instruction, and the poor cottager is able to read the Bible for himself, it is not to be questioned that he will find many difficulties which never meet the better educated. Here comes in with fresh force all our preceding argument in regard to the office of the Spirit as the interpreter of Scripture. If the understanding of the Bible, so as to become morally advantaged by its statements, depend on the influences of the Holy Ghost, it is clear that the learned may search much and gain no spiritual benefit, and the unlearned may read little and yet be mightily profited. The instant you ascertain that the book cannot be unsealed by mere human instrumentality, but that an agency is needed which is promised to all without exception who seek it by prayer, you place rich and poor on the same level, so far as "life eternal" is concerned, which is the knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2129.
References: Isaiah 29:11, Isaiah 29:12.—Old Testament Outlines, p. 191. Isaiah 29:13.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 40. Isaiah 29:13, Isaiah 29:14.—Pulpit Analyst, vol. i., p. 207. Isaiah 29:18.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 115. Isaiah 30:1.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 103.
Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.
And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.
And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.
Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.
Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.
And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.
It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.
Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.
For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:
And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:
That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.
But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.
They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.