Who is this that comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel…
Let us go on and look, as far as we may, into the method of this salvation; first, for the world at large, and then for the single soul. And in both let us follow the story of the old Jewish vision. Who is this that cometh from Edom?" Sin hangs on the borders of goodness everywhere, as just across the narrow Jordan valley Edom always lay threateningly upon the skirts of Palestine. How terribly constant it was! How it kept the people on a strain all the while! The moment that a Jew stepped across the border, the Edomites were on him. The moment a flock or beast of his wandered too far, the enemy had seized him. If in the carelessness of a festival the Israelites left the border unguarded, the hated Edomites found it out and came swooping down just when the mirth ran highest and the sentinels were least careful. If a Jew's field of wheat was specially rich, the Edomite saw the green signal from his hilltop, and in the morning the field was bare. There was no rest, no safety. They had met the chosen people on their way into the promised land, and tried to keep them out; and now that they were safely in, there they always hovered, wild, implacable, and watchful. There could be no terms of compromise with them. They never slept. They saw the weak point in a moment; they struck it quick as lightning strikes. The constant dread, the nightmare, of Jewish history is this Edom lying there upon the border, like a lion crouched to spring. There cannot be one great fight, or one great war, and then the thing done for ever. It is an endless fight with an undying enemy! Edom upon the borders of Judah!
1. We open any page of human history and what do we see? There is a higher life in man. Imperfect, full of mixture, just like that mottled history of Hebrewdom; yet still it is in human history what Judea was in the old world — the spiritual, the upward, the religious element; something that believes in God and struggles after Him. Not a page can you open but its mark is there. "Sometimes it is an aspiration after civilization, sometimes it is a doctrinal movement, sometimes it is a mystical piety that is developed; sometimes it is social; sometimes it is ascetic and purely individual; sometimes it is a Socrates, sometimes it is a St. Francis, sometimes it is a Luther, sometimes it is a Florence Nightingale. It is there in some shape always: this good among the evil, this power of God among the forces of men, this Judah in the midst of Asia. But always right on its border lies the hostile Edom, watchful, indefatigable, inexorable as the redoubtable old foe of the Jews. If progress falters a moment, the whole mass of obstructive ignorance is rolled upon it. If faith leaves a loophole undefended, the quick eye of Atheism sees it from its watch-tower and hurls its quick strength there, If goodness goes to sleep upon its arms, sleepless wickedness is across the valley, and the fields which it has taken months of toil to sow and ripen are swept off in a night. Is not this the impression of the world, of human life, that you get, whether you open the history of any century or unfold your morning newspaper? The record of a struggling charity is crowded by the story of the prison and the court. The world waits at the church door to catch the worshipper as he comes out. The good work of one century relaxes a moment for a breathing spell, and the next century comes in with its licentiousness or its superstition. Always it is the higher life pressed, watched, haunted by the lower: always it is Judah with Edom at its gates. No one great battle comes to settle it for ever: it is an endless fight with an undying enemy.
2. How is it in these little worlds, which we are carrying about? You have your good, your Spirituality, your better life; something that bears witness of God. How evil crowds you! You cannot fight it out at once and have it done. You go on quietly for days, and think the enemy is dead. Just when you are safest, there he is again, more alive than ever. We live a spiritual life like the life that our fathers used to live here in New England, who always took their guns to church with them and smoothed down the graves of their beloved dead in the churchyard that the hostile and watchful Indians might not know how weak they were. This is the great discouraging burden of our experience of sin. "We look and there is none to help. We wonder that there is none to uphold." No power of salvation comes out of the good half of the heart to conquer and to kill the bad. We grow not to expect to see the bad half conquered. Every morning we lift up our eyes, and there are the low, black hill-tops across the narrow valley, with the black tents upon their sides, where Edom lies in wait. Who shall deliver us from the bad world and our bad selves? What then? It is time for the sunrise when the night gets as dark as this. It is time for the Saviour when the world and the soul have learnt their helplessness and sin. "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength?" The whole work of the Saviour has relation to and issues from the fact of sin. If there had been no sin there would have been no Saviour. He comes from the right direction, and He has an attractive majesty of movement as He first appears. This, as to the watcher on the hill-tops of Judea, so to the soul that longs for some solution of the spiritual problem, some release from the spiritual bondage, is the first aspect of the approaching Christ. He comes from the right way, and He seems strong.
(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
WEB: Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this who is glorious in his clothing, marching in the greatness of his strength? "It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save."