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:
I. A chief part of the work of the pulpit is the plain and fervent teaching of daily-life morality. Despite the opinions of those who are ready to say that morality is not the Gospel, I say that there is no Gospel without morality, and that the morality of Christ, that is, a morality whose inspiration is the Spirit of Christ, is a very large part of the Gospel indeed. What of our Lord's own teachings? Are they chiefly moral teachings or theological? It is needless to answer the question. What do we mean when we talk of being saved from sin? Just what the words say;—that sin shall be taken away; that is, that men shall obey God's law instead of the devil's; that is, that they shall live pure, virtuous, and moral lives.
II. And do not morals occupy a very foremost place in the welfare of mankind? What is it makes the world often so miserable? It is sin, that is immorality; and if we can do away with the sin and immorality, and bring in virtue and morality, then we shall do much to diminish the miseries of our fellow-men. And if it is important that morals should be taught for the welfare and happiness of mankind, who are to teach morals, if not the ministers of religion? If there were other teachers to do the work, we might well stand excused. But if we do not teach morals, they will not be taught at all; there are no authorised teachers except the ministers of religion; and it is for us to educate the public conscience, until men feel each moral distinction as a solemn fact, until the force of public opinion fall heavily upon him who violates the moral law, until a fairer morality takes its place among us.
III. But if this be one part of our work, and a very great part, why have we succeeded so ill? why is the general morality so low? It is because the people have said, "Speak unto us smooth things," and we have yielded to their words. If you tell men the faults which are diseases in their characters, slowly but surely bringing them down to the grave, they cannot bear it, but keep the disease and dismiss the physician. Whether it hurts or not, the truth must be said, if men are to be saved from the error of their ways.
W. Page-Roberts, Reasonable Service, p. 28.
References: Isaiah 30:7.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 89. Isaiah 30:11.—Preacher's Lantern, vol. ii., p. 229. Isaiah 30:14.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 357.
Isaiah 30:10What was the utility of the Hebrew prophet, and what were the errors to which he was more particularly exposed?
I. It was the duty and the privilege of Israel to keep alive monotheism in the world. It was no less the duty of the prophetic school to preserve in the chosen nation itself the spirituality of religion. Both agents were in the same relative position—a hopeless minority. And both had but an imperfect success. Yet the nation and the institution served each an important purpose. Monotheism languished, but did not die. And though the prophets were not very successful in imbuing the nation generally with their own spirituality, yet they kept the flame alive. They served to show to the people the true ideal of spiritual, not ritualistic, Judaism, and thus supplied a corrective to priest-taught Judaism.
II. What was the great source of error in the prophet's utterances? What was the great pressure that pushed, or tended to push, him aside from the path of duty? The text has told us: "Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things." The desire of man—king or peasant—to hear from the prophet, or the courtier, or the demagogue, not truth, but flattery,—it was that fatal longing which led them to put a pressure on the prophet which often crushed the truth within him.
III. Prophets exist no longer. But flattery exists still, and the appetite for it can be as strong in a people as ever it was in a king. If nations have not prophets to flatter them, they have those whom they trust as much. Far from attempting to correct their faults, the guides whom they trust are constantly labouring to impress on them that they are the most meritorious and the most ill-used nation in the world. Eyes blinded to present faults; eyes sharpened to past wrongs,—there is no treatment which will more completely and more rapidly demoralise the nation which is subjected to it. There will be no improvement where there is no consciousness of fault; and no forgiveness where the mind is invited, almost compelled, to a constant brooding over wrong. With the growth of such feelings no nation can thrive; and he who encourages them is not the saviour but the destroyer of his country.
J. H. Jellett, The Elder Son, and Other Sermons, p. 114.
Isaiah 30:15(Php 4:7)
The protecting power of peace.
I. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." Quietness is the opposite of excitement; confidence is the opposite of mistrust. The two pairs of qualities have their place in human things; they have their place also in the things of God. In both realms the maxim is true, that strength is in the one pair of qualities and weakness is in the other. (1) Quietness is strength. It is the quiet nature that works. It is the quiet spirit that influences. It is the quiet life that impresses and that assimilates excitement, talks and bustles and pushes. But excitement, if it in any sense stir's the world, cannot move and cannot guide it. There is only one kind of excitement which has permanence. Its proper name is not excitement, but enthusiasm; and enthusiasm, being interpreted, is the having God in us; and where God is, there is quietness and there is strength. (2) Confidence is strength. This confidence must be, first, a confidence rightly directed; and, secondly, a confidence stoutly held. The confidence which Isaiah wrote of was, of course, set upon God. And being thus rightly directed, it was a confidence which knew no wavering as to its right to trust, and as to its acceptance with its object.
II. In the New Testament "quietness and confidence" become the peace of God. If you would be happy, if you would be holy, if you would lead a good life, if you would be an influence for good in your generation, you must "seek peace and ensue it." The peace of God Himself must be your prayer, your effort, your ambition. We know where it is to be found—in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified; in Jesus Christ, and Him glorified.
C. J. Vaughan, Temple Sermons, p. 496.
I. There are two kinds of character—the fervent and the contemplative; the enthusiastic and the peaceful—and each of them is admirable and each necessary for the progress and well-being of the world. But each of these is liable to a certain degeneracy which is very common; so that instead of fervour we find restlessness; instead of quietude, lethargy.
II. The fussy, flurried, restless character has no perspective about it, no silence, no sobriety, no self-control; it values no blessing which it has, because it is always yearning for some blessing which it has not; it enjoys no source of happiness in the present, because it is always fretting for some source of happiness in the future. It is the restlessness and discontent bred by a soul which has no sweet retirements of its own, and no rest in God, no anchor sure and steadfast on the rushing waves of life.
III. Now to both these common characters this text offers an antidote: to the self-satisfied, a confidence which is not conceit, a quietude which is that of a glassy sea, not that of a stagnant and corrupting pool; to the restless and anxious, a quietude and confidence which are nothing else than a calm faith and a happy trust in God.
F. W. Farrar, In the Days of Thy Youth, p. 72.
References: Isaiah 30:15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 344. Isaiah 30:18.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 281; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1766; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 344; J. R. Wood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 145; A. Maclaren, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 126. Isaiah 30:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1419; D. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 113. Isaiah 30:20.—M. Dix, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, p. 245; C. Morris, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iii., p. 229. Isaiah 30:21.—J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 382; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1672; R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, vol. i., p. 1; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 376. Isaiah 30:29.—J. R. Macduff, Communion Memories, p. 138. Isaiah 30:32.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages from the Prophets, vol. i., p. 93. Isaiah 31:6.—J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 225.
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.