For thus said the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream…
The illustrations which Grace borrows from Nature are strikingly appropriate. The history of this appropriateness is that Nature and Grace proceed from one and the same Hand, are children of one and the same Parent. You have in the text two objects compared and put side by side — the peace of God's Church and a river. The quietness of a river is perhaps the most obvious ground of the comparison. The peace of God's Church resembles a river —
I. IN ITS SOURCE. The source of a river is hidden. It wells up from the fountains of the great deep beneath the earth. And even the spot where it first rises is often inaccessible, being situated in the heart of tangled brushwood, or beneath the perilous vault of an ice-cave. The source of peace to God's children is God Himself. And God is a God who hides Himself — a God who is apprehended only by those into whose hearts the light of the glorious Gospel has shined. And the spot, too, whence the peace of God's children takes its rise lies not open to the scrutiny of man's eye, or the passage of man's footstep. That spot is the heart, the inmost spirit. Accordingly, men can see that peace only in its effects. And there is yet another sense in which the source of the Christian peace is hidden. The events, the great historical facts, which lie at the root of it — the means by which God ministers it — are by-gone and accomplished. The great central facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus are now, if I may say so, buried and out of sight, and centuries are piled upon them, like rocks and icebergs on the soot where some mighty river takes its rise. But these events, nevertheless, are God's instruments, whereby He exerts a mighty influence on many a heart even at the present day.
II. IN THE METHOD OF ITS NOURISHMENT. It is true that rivers are fed perpetually by their springs. But an external nourishment is also supplied to them by occasional rains and land floods. The river of the Christian's peace — I do not say flows from, but is augmented by contrition. Strange paradox this, that what seems to destroy peace should promote it! But so it is.
III. IN ITS COURSE.
1. A river in its course is quietly progressive. Its quietness is not the quietness of stagnation, but of advancement. The Christian's peace is a peace of progress in grace. It is not a peace which leaves him where it found him, but a peace which bears him on silently towards the bosom of his God.
2. It is exceeding deep. And the peace of God is said to "pass all understanding." This may be understood in two ways. The nature and character of this peace is unintelligible to those who have not tasted it, and by those who have tasted it its depth is unfathomable.
3. It is fertilizing and enriching. The country smiles with plenty along its banks. It is also the great medium of commerce and traffic, whereby men are made rich and their estate and substance is increased. It is a means of communication for those who live on its margin with the ocean and with one another. The peace of God is at the root of all holy fruitfulness. Many people accept the truth that "the fruit of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever," while they discard the truth — equally important and Scriptural — that peace is the root, as well as the fruit of righteousness, and that the Lord Jesus Christ promises to give rest to the weary and heavy laden, before they can and in order that they may, submit themselves to His yoke. At the root of the Christian's love is peace — at the root of his joy is peace — at the root of his long-suffering, gentleness and goodness is peace — at the root of his meekness and temperance is peace. Peace it is which, like the broad bosom of a fair river, quietly undulates along and ministers nourishment to the roots of all these graces, nor is it possible that the leaf of any of them should be green, were the streams of this river diverted another way. This peace is enriching as well as fertilizing, because it opens into the ocean; it is the medium of communicating with God and with the saints of God. It is on the broad bosom of this peace — even because it is through Jesus Christ alone that our prayers float towards our heavenly Father. And I need not tell you what a peculiarly rich traffic is the traffic with heaven. Then, again, this peace of God is enriching, in that it is a medium of communication between us and those who have obtained like precious faith with ourselves. It is a pleasant river, on whose margin both I and my brother dwell — and which conveys from me to him sympathies, and prayers, and outgoings of the heart, and brings back the same from him to me. And when my prayers and missives are sent forth on their way towards heaven, my brother's meet and join them — and both perform the voyage side by side — and no sooner shall both return than he shall send me notice of the treasure he hath acquired, and demand on his part an account of mine. Such is in a figure that doctrine which we profess, when we say/' I believe in the communion of saints."
4. It is clean and cleansing. And we need not to be told that the peace of God's Church is a clean and holy (because a living) peace — clear as crystal and perfectly alien from all defilement. The slightest allowed filthiness of flesh or spirit is abhorrent to the nature of this peace. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." And as this peace is clean, so also it makes clean. As soon as it enters into the conscience, it cleanses it:5. It bears burdens. Barges and ships of many tons' weight float on its bosom down to the ocean. It is one of the most delightful characteristics of the Christian's peace that its buoyancy supports many and grievous burdens. Into God's bosom they are carried in the exercise of confession and faithful repentance; in His breast they must be lodged, if we desire them to be finally obliterated and annulled. But surely, if it were not for His peace within, we could neither have courage to lodge them there, nor strength to support the burden of them ourselves.
IV. AT ITS MOUTH It expands. For the last few miles of its progress, the distance between its banks becomes wider, till at length it pours itself with a full flood into the ocean. So it is as a matter of fact in the Christian's experience. The peace of the true believer is enlarged as he draws near to the heavenly goal, and accordingly the country of his soul is more abundantly fertilized. Who shall say how wide its flood may not extend, when it pours itself into His bosom in eternity, from whom it issued forth in time?
(Dean Goulburn, D. C. L.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees.
WEB: For thus says Yahweh, "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream: and you will nurse. You will be carried on her side, and will be dandled on her knees.