Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.
I. THE REASONS OF DIVINE REJECTION. The nation's practices and fashions are inconsistent with the religion of Jehovah.
1. Wizardry, magic, soothsaying, and augury prevail. These are distinctly heathen, Philistine, practices. The Law repudiated every kind of magic (Leviticus 19:26; Exodus 22:17). Such arts are described under various names in Deuteronomy 18:10, 11. The principle was in every case the same - the attempt to gratify human curiosity and desire by unlawful means. Modern "spiritualism" springs from the same root. The path of true science is above-ground and full of light; that of false science is subterranean and dark. The methods of sound knowledge may be explained to all. The worker of good comes to the light, and hates occult procedure which can give no account of itself. The magical spirit still works against true Christianity, which is the "light of the Eternal." Christian ministers become magicians if they teach that changes can be wrought or blessings secured by the mere administration of sacraments; or by the mere repetition of a formula, such as "I do believe, I will believe;" or by the artificial putting on of a particular frame of mind. Obedience, not the mimicry of it, purity, not the representation of it, is required by God.
2. Ill-gotten wealth and luxury. The people were immoderately money-loving. Like Tyre, they heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the mire of the streets (Zechariah 9:3).
"Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, 3. They are full of the materials for war, Their reliance is on horses and chariots. When a nation places confidence on physical force only, it is another symptom of moral enervation. How often has this been seen in history! The very existence of a great armed force is a constant provocative to war. It breeds a martial imagination and a bellicose spirit. National jealousies are roused, and the slightest occasion may set a continent aflame. The people must learn that Jehovah delights not in the legs of men, i.e. in serried battalions, and that in proportion as they lean on armies they are faithless to God. They must learn to say, "Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy" (Hosea 14:3). 4. They are full of idols. This is perhaps the worst feature of their state. The prohibition of idols is grounded in the nature of our thought. The idol defines and narrows what ought to be left indefinable. The Phoenician and other idols introduced into Israel brought down the Divine to the forms and dimensions of the human being, and all human passions the most sensuous could be projected upon them. And when man sees only his idealized self before him in the sculptor's work, he falls to self-adoration. It was quite otherwise with the grand music and religious poetry of the prophets and psalmists. Lofty poetic images by their very vagueness and suggestiveness lead the mind to the truth beyond and behind them. High music and poesy we ever need in worship; but too definite forms fetter the flight of the devout imagination. In general idolatry means self-love, and must ever be antagonistic to pure religion. "Thus man lowers himself, becomes unworthy to appear before Jehovah, and belong to his people." And judgment is inevitable; there can be no escape from it now! II. TERROR AT THE APPROACH OF THE JUDGE. "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, fleeing before Jehovah's terror, and the splendor of his majesty." The soul living in falsehood as its element shrinks away from the coming truth which must annihilate it. Men's fears represent to them at last their follies and their sins. "Like bats and vermin hurrying from the sudden light. "At last we hear a voice upon the slope
3. They are full of the materials for war, Their reliance is on horses and chariots. When a nation places confidence on physical force only, it is another symptom of moral enervation. How often has this been seen in history! The very existence of a great armed force is a constant provocative to war. It breeds a martial imagination and a bellicose spirit. National jealousies are roused, and the slightest occasion may set a continent aflame. The people must learn that Jehovah delights not in the legs of men, i.e. in serried battalions, and that in proportion as they lean on armies they are faithless to God. They must learn to say, "Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy" (Hosea 14:3).
4. They are full of idols. This is perhaps the worst feature of their state. The prohibition of idols is grounded in the nature of our thought. The idol defines and narrows what ought to be left indefinable. The Phoenician and other idols introduced into Israel brought down the Divine to the forms and dimensions of the human being, and all human passions the most sensuous could be projected upon them. And when man sees only his idealized self before him in the sculptor's work, he falls to self-adoration. It was quite otherwise with the grand music and religious poetry of the prophets and psalmists. Lofty poetic images by their very vagueness and suggestiveness lead the mind to the truth beyond and behind them. High music and poesy we ever need in worship; but too definite forms fetter the flight of the devout imagination. In general idolatry means self-love, and must ever be antagonistic to pure religion. "Thus man lowers himself, becomes unworthy to appear before Jehovah, and belong to his people." And judgment is inevitable; there can be no escape from it now!
II. TERROR AT THE APPROACH OF THE JUDGE. "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, fleeing before Jehovah's terror, and the splendor of his majesty." The soul living in falsehood as its element shrinks away from the coming truth which must annihilate it. Men's fears represent to them at last their follies and their sins.
"Like bats and vermin hurrying from the sudden light. "At last we hear a voice upon the slope
"At last we hear a voice upon the slope
I. THIS IS ISAIAH'S INVITATION TO HIS COUNTRYMEN TO REPENT. To feel the full force of his appeal we must notice the connection of the text with its context.
O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Homilist.I. SYMPATHETIC FELLOW FEELING. All who are anxious for their own welfare, desire the welfare of others.
II. MUTUAL PROGRESS. Two together are stronger than two apart. "Let us" A weak brother at our side will not only get help but will afford us assistance.
III. APPRECIATIVE KNOWLEDGE. "Let us walk in the light of the Lord." The light is the place for safety. Light is life, darkness is death.
IV. UNFAILING PROVISION. "The light of the Lord." God is the only source of light, but He is an all-efficient source. He never can fail. God is light.
1. The prophet commences by quoting (vers. 2-4) what is probably an ancient prediction, quoted also by Micah (Micah 4:1-3). The people would doubt. less look eagerly for the fulfilment of this prophecy, so agreeable to their national hopes. But no sign of its accomplishment was to be seen. They were indeed enjoying in the reign of Uzziah a season of secular prosperity, but they were far from being "established in the top of the mountains"; they were surrounded by watchful foes, and certainly there were no signs of the long foretold reign of peace.
2. The light of worldly prosperity had not brought them the fulfilment of the prophecy of peace. Isaiah then bids them "walk in the light of the Lord"; for, as he goes on to show, God had forsaken His people on account of those sins which their prosperity had engendered. Therefore it was that this prophecy was not fulfilled to them. Their very prosperity kept them back from greater prosperity (vers. 6-9).
3. But this state of things could not continue. If they refuse to walk in the light of the Lord, He will not only withdraw the promised blessings, but will humble them by taking away the prosperity they already enjoyed (vers. 10-21).
II. THE SITUATION OF THE CHURCH OF GOD THUS DESCRIBED BY ISAIAH REMAINS ALMOST UNCHANGED TO THE PRESENT DAY.
1. We still look for the time when "the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains," and the promised "peace on earth" shall be realised; but we see no sign of its immediate approach. The Church still continues beset with foes, unable to stem the rising tide of rationalism and unbelief; and certainly these are no signs of the long-foretold reign of peace.
2. If we inquire why this is so, the answer is the same as it was in the days of Isaiah. We do not, with a single eye, walk in the light of the Lord. We enjoy a large measure of worldly prosperity. Science and secular knowledge and useful arts make rapid progress, and in their light we walk, too often forgetting that it is but a reflected radiance, borrowed from the one source of all true light. If the Church makes some impression upon the world, the world also makes great inroads upon the Church.
3. But this state of things cannot last forever. Isaiah of old spake of the day of the Lord, which would surely overtake His people if they continued to follow their own inventions and to neglect God. A yet greater and more terrible day of the Lord is at hand. In that day all the pride of our modern civilisation, its wisdom and knowledge, will aid us no more than the idols of silver and gold, unless withal we are found walking in the light of the Lord.
(A. K. Cherril, M. A.)
Homilist.To "walk in the light of the Lord" implies —
I. THAT WE AVAIL OURSELVES OF HIS REVELATION OF TRUTH.
II. THAT WE ORDER THE COURSE OF OUR LIVES ACCORDING TO HIS EXAMPLE AND THE GUIDANCE OF HIS WORD AND SPIRIT (Jeremiah 10:23).
III. PROGRESS. It supposes that we leave behind our former darkness and sin, our slothfulness and error, and march every day some distance on our road to eternal life.
IV. LIGHT INSPIRES CHEERFULNESS AND JOY; and if we "walk in the light of the Lord," we must have the only true happiness and peace. The truth of the Gospel is enough to cause constant exultation.
1. As indicative of a cordial reception of His truth. Light is the general emblem of knowledge; and there are many striking points of analogy between religious knowledge and light. The phrase is applicable to the whole body of Divine revelation, which may be viewed as the light of God, that breaks forth, as it were, from His countenance: His countenance, which is the emblem of His immaculate purity, as well as His infinite intelligence. He is said "to dwell in the light which no man can approach unto." And this is also significant of the glory of revealed truth — it is the very light in which the perfections of God stand manifested; the light that develops to us His secret counsels, His plans of government, especially His plan of saving mercy; the light, in allusion to which the prophet elsewhere speaks when he says, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come," etc.(1) This expression is applicable to the law — that law which embodied the principles of the truth, indeed the only authenticated truth which then existed in the world. It was the purpose of God that His Church should walk in this light under that preparatory dispensation; that the Church should travel onward to meet the superior splendours of the Gospel dispensation, the dispensation of the Sun of Righteousness.(2) To the Gospel, especially, the expression "the light of the Lord" is exceedingly applicable. This is that great light which shines in the midst of the darkness of the world. This is the glory of the Lord which is "revealed." And this Gospel also threw its light on the future; it abolished death; it proclaimed a resurrection. The Gospel showed, also, the principles on which God governs the world, both moral and providential; that the whole world is under mediatorial government; and that everything is moved for religious purposes — to support the Church, to diffuse the truth. To "walk," then, "in the light of the Lord" with respect to the Jews, was to retain the faith which had been handed down to the Church; to retain it free from all Gentile delusion, from all pagan intermixture, from all rabbinical subtleties.
2. To "walk in the light of the Lord," seems to imply the full reception of all the blessings which the light revealed. And there is this idea suggested in this view of the phrase, "the light of the Lord," that there is an inseparable connection between the truth of God and the favour of God. Whilst the truth creates piety, the piety of the Church is to react on the Church and preserve it from decline.
3. To "walk in the light of the Lord" implies the zealous prosecution of all those duties which the light unfolds.(1) It seems to imply that the Church is bound to avow herself, not to put her light under a bushel.(2) Also that there is to be an aggressive spirit in the Church, arising from those views of evil which the light will give, and which while they concern the purity of the Church, are thrown on the mass of darkness which surrounds the Church.(3) To "walk in the light of the Lord," is to direct the spirit of enterprise in the Church. The ancient Church itself had an office to perform to the world. That Church had to preserve the primitive theology, to protest against the corruptions of paganism: to show, in the connection of religion with public as well as personal happiness, the folly of Gentile paganism, and to show the absolute necessity of submission to the spiritual government of Almighty God. (Ver. 3.) The Church in her purest ages walked in this light of evangelical enterprise; and her achievements were noble — in beneficence most splendid, in its results the most excellent of the world. And there are in modern times the same decisive evidences of the Divine will as it respects the Church.
4. To "walk in the light of the Lord" is to walk in the calm contemplation of the final fulfilment of prophecy.
II. THE MOTIVES OR PRINCIPLES WHICH ENFORCE THIS EXHORTATION.
1. There is moral obligation, for what is moral obligation but submission to the will of God — and to Him who is the Sovereign, we being the subjects? Therefore it is incumbent on us to submit to, and to recognise His will, to love His law, to mark His rule, and to feel all the force of the sanctions appended to that rule. This may be very appropriately illustrated by the very phrase itself: it is "the light of the Lord" — the light of Jehovah, sovereign light; the light dispensed by Him for special purposes and the natural light does not more clearly indicate its office than the moral light indicates the special intentions of the God of heaven. This light is given for a special purpose; it is directing light; and saving light; it regulates the degree of personal as well as collective responsibility.
2. Then there is also obligation specially induced by conviction of privilege. Privilege exists wherever light exists. There was nothing in the Jewish Church which bore any comparison to the gift of religious truth to that nation. Any nation that has the light of the Lord and the ability to use it, is signally privileged, and attains the very altitude of human glory. All this is not given us for vain glory; it is conferred that we might preach Christ and bring the world under His government.
3. The blessings attendant on walking in the light of the Lord. There is personal salvation, for instance, diffused to the very greatest possible extent. Then, if you look at the subject simply in reference to Churches, there is a very powerful motive; for, to "walk in the light of the Lord" is the sole condition for retaining the light.
I. THE SECRET CAUSE OF THIS PEOPLE'S GUILT — moral and spiritual gloom. By implication, at least, we learn from this text that moral darkness is the fruitful mother of every species of iniquity. One master stroke of Paul's pen gives the secret of the sins of Rome in his day — "their foolish heart was darkened. The way of the wicked," says Solomon, "is as darkness."
I. Let us dwell upon the natural darkness of men —(1) Observe that sin blinds men as to its own nature. Its solicitations to our first parents were such as to hide from their innocent, unsuspecting minds all knowledge of its own hideous features; and not until it was too late did they know what an evil and bitter thing it was to sin against the Lord. Not till sin has done its work does it allow itself to be seen and known It is in the month honey, but when eaten a deadly poison. It changes its shape like Proteus, and its colours like the chameleon. It has the fascinating voice of a siren, luring to destruction.(2) Sin also deceives men as to their own moral condition. (Isaiah 5:20.)(3) Sin, moreover, hides from man the deep spirituality of the Divine law. He is in the dark as to its inner meaning and far-reaching influence. If he observes the letter of the law he thinks he has done well. He altogether overlooks the fact that "whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."(4) Sin also darkens the mind and heart of man as to the Divine character. This must be so, because it is only the pure in heart who can see God.
2. This darkness is wilfully and wickedly incurred. If the "house of Jacob" were ignorant of the character of God, this was their own fault, for God had revealed Himself in manifold and marvellous ways. And if they had sufficient light who dwelt in the dim dawn of revelation, what shall be said of us who have the accumulated light of intervening centuries?
II. We have THE ONE REMEDY DECLARED. "Walk in the light of the Lord." Like all Divine remedies it is striking in its simplicity.
1. Get into the light. Con. version is the passing of the soul "out of darkness into His marvellous light." What is this light?(1) The people to whom this exhortation was first addressed would, I think, understand by it the light of the Divine Word. To Israel the words of the prophet meant, "Study the law of the Lord, and so come into the light of that law." To us they mean, "Search the Scriptures," and so come into the light of Divine truth. Bible reading of itself will not save, but it reveals the Saviour who can and will.(2) Isaiah also meant by this exhortation that they should get into the light of communion with God. They bad sought fellowship with idols, but now Isaiah calls them to return to fellowship with Jehovah. Every blessing is born of communion. The diamond which sparkles and flashes out rays of light was once but a piece of black coal It had no inherent light. It is as if by some mysterious process the light has become absorbed until it has transformed that black substance into the likeness of its own essence. Thus the nature of the sinner, black and dark through sin, becomes, in communion with the eternal, pure and beautiful with the light of God.
2. Make progress in the light. "Walk in the light." Both the Old Testament and the New speak of the daily life of the godly man as a walk, suggesting that it is to be a progressive life.
3. Associate with the children of light. "Let us walk in the light of the Lord," says Isaiah. He will not walk in the light alone, but will seek the company of those like minded with himself. He will use his influence to induce others to walk in the light with him.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Sunday School Chronicle.Lately we have discovered a new method by which a terrible disease can be cured. It is called the light method, and the cure is wrought by concentrating upon the scarred and diseased form a powerful and peculiar light. The effect of the light is so great that in time the disease is arrested and the skin becomes healthy and natural.
(Sunday School Chronicle.)
Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.Clear and brilliant light often brings out exquisite colours, as happens among the Alps and also in the north frigid zone, where the humble little plants called lichens and mosses are in many cases dyed of the most brilliant hues, purple and gold predominating. Warmth, in like manner, will stimulate vegetable growth in the most astonishing manner, but it is growth not necessarily accompanied by the secretion of valuable substances, such as give quality and real importance to the plant. In English hot houses, for example, we have plenty of spice trees, those generous plants that yield cinnamon and cassia, the nutmeg and the clove; but although healthy and blossoming freely, they never mature their aromatic secretions. Though they have artificial heat equal to that of their native islands, which burn beneath the sun of the Indian Ocean, we cannot supply them with similar and proportionate solar light. Our cloudy skies shut us in from the full and direct radiance of the sunshine, and wanting this, heat alone will not avail.
(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
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