Isaiah 48:18
If only you had paid attention to My commandments, your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like waves of the sea.
A River of Peace and Waves of RighteousnessAlexander MaclarenIsaiah 48:18
Christ's Peace and RighteousnessR. Tuck Isaiah 48:18
Dredging the River of PeaceW. J. Harsha, D.D.Isaiah 48:18
God's Appeal to ManW. D. Horwood.Isaiah 48:18
Hearkening to God's CommandmentsJ. N. Norton.Isaiah 48:18
National Peace and RighteousnessW. S. Davis.Isaiah 48:18
Obedience and its BlessingH. P. Wright, B.A.Isaiah 48:18
Peace and Righteousness SacrificesA. Roberts, M.A.Isaiah 48:18
Peace as a RiverJ. N. Norton.Isaiah 48:18
Peace as a RiverF. B. Meyer, B.A.Isaiah 48:18
Peace as a RiverProf. J. Skinner, D.D.Isaiah 48:18
RighteousnessF. W. Gunsaulus, D.D.Isaiah 48:18
RighteousnessR. F. Horton, D.D.Isaiah 48:18
Righteousness as the Waves of the SeaA. Raleigh, D.D.Isaiah 48:18
Righteousness as the Waves of the SeaF. B. Meyer, B.A.Isaiah 48:18
The Blessings of ObedienceR. Tuck Isaiah 48:18
The Desire, Plan, and Regret of the EternalHomilistIsaiah 48:18
The Divine Commandments Sources of PeaceC. Bradley, M.A.Isaiah 48:18
The Great Privation; Or, the Great SalvationIsaiah 48:18
The Lost IdealA. Raleigh, D.D.Isaiah 48:18
The Outline of the Ideal in Every Man's LifeA. Raleigh, D.D.Isaiah 48:18
The River an Image of PeaceW. S. Davis.Isaiah 48:18
What Might have BeenJ. H. Jowett, M.A.Isaiah 48:18
The New RevelationE. Johnson Isaiah 48:12-22
God is What He is for His PeopleW. J. Mayers.Isaiah 48:17-18
God, Our Teacher and LeaderW. J. Mayers.Isaiah 48:17-18
It Might have BeenW. Forsyth, M.A.Isaiah 48:17-18
Life an EducationR. H. Story, D.D.Isaiah 48:17-18
Profitable Teaching and Right LeadingJ. Parrish, B.A.Isaiah 48:17-18
The Benefit of AfflictionsN. Emmons, D.D.Isaiah 48:17-18
The I Am's of God and of ManW. J. Mayers.Isaiah 48:17-18
The Soul's GuideIsaiah 48:17-18
True ProfitJ. Vaughan, M.A.Isaiah 48:17-18
Human Freedom and Divine RegretW. Clarkson Isaiah 48:17-19
O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea. What might have been! How often we reproach ourselves with thinking over the "might have beens"! How searching it is to find God helping us regretfully to realize what might have been (comp. Psalm 81:13-16)! "Peace" and "righteousness" here both stand as terms to express "prosperity," that best of prosperities which comes as the manifestation of Jehovah's righteousness or fidelity to his promises. The figures used may be thus explained: if they had been faithful to their covenants their national prosperity would have followed on, age after age, like the ceaseless current, day and night, of a noble river. If they had been obedient, they would have mastered all forms of difficulty and opposition with a resistless power like that which belongs to the waves of the sea. The time of exile in Babylon was a sad break in the national prosperity. There would have been no occasion for it if Israel had been faithful and obedient J.A. Alexander says, "Nothing could well be more appropriate at the close of this division of the prophecies than such an affecting statement of the truth, so frequently propounded in didactic form already, that Israel, although the chosen people of Jehovah, and as such secure from total ruin, was and was to be a sufferer, not from any want of faithfulness or care on God's part, but as the necessary fruit of its own imperfections and corruptions." Two of the blessings that always follow on obedience are indicated here - they are permanence and power.

I. PERMANENCE AS A RESULT OF OBEDIENCE. This is one of the most marked impressions made on sensitive minds by the sight of the full-flowing river, especially in Eastern lands, where it is, in such a marked way, contrasted with the mountain wadies that are sometimes dry and at other times roaring with flood. The river flows on for ever. Men come and go. Cities rise and fall into decay on its banks. Commerce now uses and now neglects it. Dynasties last their little while. The river flowed on ages ago just as it flows now; it will flow still, when we have "had our little day and cease to be." So nothing can occur to stop the current of true prosperity in the obedient. "Patient continuance in well-doing" involves continued conditions of well-being. "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

II. POWER AS A RESULT OF OBEDIENCE. The steady advance of the tide is an impressive illustration of quiet, persistent power. The rush of the wind-driven wave is the illustration of majestic masterful power. He that does the will of God overcomes himself; and he who overcomes himself need never fear that he will meet a mightier foe. - R.T.

O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments.
1. It is the duty of all people to "hearken," however and whenever God may see fit to speak to them. 2. To hearken denotes a reverent and careful attention to God's message. 3. To hearken implies also that we consider God's commandments as binding upon us, and as pointing out certain particulars which we are required to attend to.

(J. N. Norton.)

Peace may be compared to a river — I. IN ITS ORIGIN; small, joyous, sparkling, vigorous, rapid. II. IN ITS PROGRESS — widening and deepening; receiving new tributaries on the right and left, from the various means of grace, as they are supplied with the dew of heaven and showers of blessings; sweeping away — as it rolls on in its strength — the obstacles of unsanctified affections and unconquered lusts. III. The beautiful figure of the text conveys the idea also of OVERFLOWING ABUNDANCE. The ancient heathen, in order to represent the universal power and beneficence of Jupiter, used the symbol of a river flowing from his throne. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the "perfect peace" enjoyed by God's true children. The Psalmist describes it as "great peace." St. Paul refers to it as "the peace of God which passeth all understanding." We make mention of it in our daily prayers as "that peace which the world cannot give." It is not a scanty, fluctuating, failing stream, but a full tide of peace, both wide and deep, and supplying to the utmost every longing of the soul. IV. The language suggests the idea of PERPETUITY. It is not uniform, indeed, any more than the course of the river. Now it is half hidden in a narrow channel, among overhanging mountains and forests; and now spread over a wide bed conspicuous in the plain. Again, it is seen contracting and deepening itself, and moving onward with tenfold velocity and strength. Such, too, are the variations in the Christian's peace. V. The promise of "peace as a river" includes the idea of INCREASE. It shall grow stronger and more pervading. As the mighty river may be traced back to an insignificant spring, far up the mountain-side, so is it with the beginnings of peace in the soul.

(J. N. Norton.)

From this verse we may learn that when God smites men on account of sin, it gives Him no pleasure. John Knox said that he never chastised his children without tears in his own eyes. Jeremiah, in the bitterest chapter of his Lamentations, bears this graceful witness to our covenant God: "He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men." And surely if in the gentler chastisement of His hands the Most High takes no pleasure, much less can He find delight in that withering curse which destroys the finally impenitent. Nor is this the only lesson which lies on the surface of the text. Observe, the Lord addresses words of poignant regret over the prize the sinner has lost, as well as the penalty he has incurred. What loss thinkest thou is that which God bewails on thy account? "Peace like a river," and "righteousness like the waves of the sea." There is a privation which you unconsciously suffer. You are a stranger to peace. David Hume used to say that Christians were melancholy people. But that was a happy retort, in which somebody observed — "David Hume's opinion is not worth much, for he never saw many Christians; and when he did see any, there was enough to make them miserable in the sight of David Hume." The true Christian has a peace which is totally unknown to any other man. I. The metaphor is full of beauty, and not wanting in instructiveness either, by which PEACE IS COMPARED TO A RIVER. 1. Peace like a river, for continuance. 2. For freshness. The water which runs down the Thames, say at Maidenhead, never was there before. It is fresh water, fresh from the hills to-day, and to-morrow it is the same, and the same the next day — ever fresh supplies from the heart of old England, to keep her glorious river swelling and abounding. Now the peace which a Christian has is always fresh, always receiving fresh supplies. 3. A river increases in breadth, and its waters augment their volume. Such is the Christian's peace. Pure and perfect though it is at the first, little temptations seem to mar it; oftentimes the troubles of this life threaten to choke it. When the Christian is ten years older, and has meandered a few more miles along the tortuous course of a gracious experience, his peace will be like a broad river. 4. The peace of the Christian is like a river, because of its joyful independence of man. We have heard the story of a simpleton who went to see the reputed source of the Thames, and putting his hand over the little rivulet that came trickling down the ditch, he stopped it, and said, "I wonder what they are doing at London Bridge now that I have stopped the river." But who knew the difference? A whole Parliament could not make the Thames swell with waves, and fifty Parliaments could not lessen the body of its waters. It were well, by the way, if they could preserve its streams from the pollution of those foul and putrid sewers constantly emptied into it. The rivers would be better without the interference of men. Such is the Christian's peace. I have watched this river as it broke over the stones of adversity; and when the tide of earthly comfort ran low, it hath seemed as if the flow of peace were clearer and more transparent than ever. The devil cannot rob us of the peace which comes from God, neither can the world take it away. II. "THY RIGHTEOUSNESS AS THE WAVES OF THE SEA." 1. Notice how this metaphor surpasses the previous one in dignity, if not in delicacy. We can all see a sort of comparison, and yet at the same time a strong contrast, between the water of an inland river and the collection of waters which make up the wide expanse of the sea. One for the most part is tranquil, the other always heaving and surging to and fro. So I suppose, as the words were originally addressed to the Jewish nation and referred to their temporal welfare, the river would represent the beauty and happiness of their own land, like the garden of Eden, watered by the river of God's pleasure; and the sea, with its waves rolling in majestically one after another in unbroken succession, would set forth that progress which is the renown of righteousness. Generation after generation would witness the rising tide of prosperity. Each chapter of their chronicles would lift its crested plume and tell of mighty acts and righteous deeds, till, like the roar of ocean, the righteousness of Israel should proclaim the name of the Lord from the river even to the ends of the earth. Oh! what did that rebellious seed of Jacob lose by forsaking the Lord! This seems to me to be something like the meaning. 2. But I want to apply this metaphor of the waves of the sea, like that of the flowing of the river, to the happiness of the believer. The man who believes in Jesus Christ has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him. But how is this righteousness like the waves of the sea? (1) For multitude. You cannot count the waves of the sea, do what you will; and so is it with the righteousness of Christ, you cannot count its different forms and fashions. Let us tell you of some of these waves. I was born in sin and shapen in iniquity, but the holiness of Christ's birth takes away the unholiness of my nativity. I have committed sins in my childhood, sins against my parents; but Jesus Christ was a child full of the Spirit; so Christ's childish perfection is imputed to me, and hides my childish sins. I have to mourn over sins of thought; but Christ can say, "Thy law is My delight," and the thoughts of Christ's mind cover my thoughts, &c. (2) For majesty. What an illustration of overwhelming power! And ask now, who can withstand the power of Christ's righteousness? "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Then, it is majestic because it is profound. Who can plumb the depths of the righteousness of Christ? — deep as the demands of the law, deep as the miseries of hell, deep as the thoughts of God. It is majestic, too, because of its ceaseless energy. Wave upon wave, it breaks upon the eternal shore of Divine justice, fulfilling the counsels of God, while it covers all the sins of His people. (3) And the analogy may be traced still further, if you reflect on the sufficiency of the one and the other. All over the world, at low water, you will find certain muddy creeks, bays, and coves. How are all these to be covered? There is water enough in the sea to cover every cove and creek; and there is not a river which will have to say "We had no tide to-clay." There is enough righteousness in Christ to cover you. (4) The righteousness of Christ is like the waves of the sea for origin.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)


(W. S. Davis.)

I. THE CONDUCT THESE MEN OUGHT TO HAVE PURSUED. "O that thou hadst hearkened," &c. What does this hearkening mean? 1. An understanding of God's commandments 2. A remembering of God's commandments. 3. A regarding of them as commands. II. A BLESSED RESULT OF THIS CONDUCT WHEN PURSUED. 1. It leads the soul to Christ, the great Prince of Peace. 2. It leads us to the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. 3. The commands gradually make us holy, and holiness leads to peace. III. THE EXTENT OF THIS BLESSED EFFECT. "As a river."

(C. Bradley, M.A.)

I. THE LOST IDEAL — what might have been. II. THE DIVINE LAMENTATION OVER THIS. III. THE DIVINE PROPOSAL FOR RESTORATION. What means this next word, "Go ye forth of Babylon"? &c. (ver. 20).

(A. Raleigh, D.D.)

I. THE DUTY OF THE CREATURE. To hearken to the Divine commandments. Filial obedience springing from love to his Father in heaven ought to be the rule of his life. II. BLESSINGS RESULTING FROM PERFORMING THIS DUTY GLADLY AND WILLINGLY. 1. The peace of such is as a river. A river the source of verdure and fertility. As the river beautifies the landscape, so does peace beautify the soul. Its fostering influence is essential if the virtues and graces of the Spirit are to develop within us. 2. "Thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." When the tide is coming in the waves advance farther and farther over the strand. Those who hearken to the Divine commandments make progress in righteousness.

(H. P. Wright, B.A.)

Not as the brook, as it gushes rapturously forth, breaking musically on the stones, and flashing in the glee of its early life; not as a streamlet hardly filling its wide bed, and scarcely affording water enough for the fish to pass to its higher reaches: but like a river far down its course, sweeping along with majestic current, deep and placid, able to bear navies on its broad expanse, to collect and carry with it the refuse of towns upon its banks without contamination, and approaching the sea with the sympathy begotten of similarity in depth and volume and service to mankind. Oh, rivers that minister perpetually to man — not swept by storm, not drained by drought, not anxious about continuance, always mirroring the blue of the azure sky, or the stars of night, and yet content to stay for every daisy that sends its tiny root for nourishment — in your growth from less to more, your perennial fulness, your beneficent ministry, your volume, your claim, ye were meant to preach to man, with perpetual melody, of the infinite peace that was to rise, and grow, and unfold with every stage of his experience! Such at least was God's ideal for Israel, and for all who swear by His name and make mention of Jehovah as God.

(F. B. Meyer, B.A.)

A perennial stream, such as the Euphrates (Amos 5:24). It is easy to understand the impression made on the mind of a native of Palestine, accustomed to "deceitful brooks" that run dry in the summer, by the sight of a great river, flowing on for ever in undiminished volume. The actual history of Israel had been like the wadis of Judea, transient gleams of prosperity being interrupted by long intervals of misfortune.

(Prof. J. Skinner, D.D.)

God promises a river of peace if we will dredge out the channel: The water is His business — the water-course is ours. There are three important words which we should consider carefully. I. "PEACE." If we are to dredge the river we must get out of the way at once and for all time any false conceptions about peace itself which we have been entertaining. Nothing stops the inflow of Divine life more effectually than false notions. Peace is an essentially Hebrew word, but it contains a cosmopolitan thought. The Jews said "Peace" as a salutation in the market-places and upon the highways, but we all want peace as a proof of our salvation and a mighty power of service. The Greek salutation was "rejoice." When Christ rose from the dead He used this form: "Rejoice." (R.V. "All hail!") And well may we rejoice, since the bands of death have been burst asunder. But Christ also said, Peace. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you." Hence we are authorised in our wish to appropriate this thought in all its blessing. The Jew has always said, "Peace." The whole Orient has adopted His salutation in the universal "Shalom" of the present day. His deeply religious nature was clearly set off from the volatile, rejoicing, joy-loving nature of the Greek. What, then, is exactly meant by the word? 1. Peace versus Nirvana. There are some who think that peace means a sort of Christian Nirvana, a state of abstraction, absorption in the infinite, or self-surrender to nothingness in general and nothing in particular. Peace is consistent and co-existent with the intensest activity. A river may run through the busiest cities without losing its deep steadiness and gentle murmur. Our Lord Jesus was called the "Prince of Peace," and yet He was the most practical of workers. 2. Peace versus mere activity. If people escape the error of supposing that peace consists in mere contemplation, they are apt to suppose that it may be found by running about in ceaseless activity. The blessed Master by His Spirit imparts peace. It may not be secured by mere struggle, anxiety, and activity. 3. Peace versus compromise. Compromise does not secure permanent or genuine peace. Eli compromised for the sake of peace, and his sons broke his heart. Never take a half-hearted course to avoid turmoil. Of two pains you may choose the less, but never of two evils in the sense of sins. II. "RIVER." Among the quieter objects of nature none is more suggestive of God's power and wisdom, of God's loving presence in the world which He has made, than the river which winds in and out among the hills, steals quietly through clattering towns, kisses fields and pastures into fruitfulness and verdure, and smilingly bares its breast to be scarred by the countless keels of the world's commerce. Hence the figure of the text gives us at once an idea of what peace is and what it does. It is the inflow of the Divine life, bringing the Divine quietness, patience and power, and resulting in spiritual beauty and fruitfulness. We have hence but to apply our ideas of a river to peace to discover the practical lessons we need to learn. 1. Heavenly supply. Every river has a source, and is dependent upon a constant, renewed supply. This source and supply are always from above. Peace, also, comes from above. Its source is in God. God's resources are infinite, and the supply shall not fail. 2. Useful overflow. Possibly when God made the promise we are considering He had in mind the river Nile, whose regular overflow could be depended upon to enrich Egypt, and bring food to the people. Or He may have thought of the Jordan, which "overflowed all its banks in the time of harvest." Certain it is that the river of peace runs out of its banks, and is useful only when it does. The overflowing heart of the Christian is the sympathetic heart. 3. Progressional expansion. A proper river grows broader and deeper as it progresses toward the sea. Our peace shall grow broader and deeper as we go on in the Christian life. III. "HEARKEN." This is the most important word of all, when we consider that it contains the condition of the promise God makes as to peace. All God's promises are conditional. If we fulfil our part of the contract He will not fail in His. "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts." The trouble with most of us is that we do not "let" the Holy Spirit do in us and for us what He yearns to do. Some Christians complain that God does not supply them with peace when their hearts are so choked and their lives so clogged and cumbered that the river cannot flow in. Let us pursue the thought a little to see how we may dredge the channel and secure the blessing. 1. Blasting out deep-rooted rocks. This is the arduous part of the engineer's work when a river channel to be deepened. Some such work as this, deep and heroic, needs to be done by us if we are to offer a free course to the river of peace. Deep-rooted prejudices against the truth must be loosened and cast out of our minds. Hidden loves and yearnings for the world must be explored and destroyed. Pride is a great rock whose adamantine sides must be pierced. Love of excitement is another. Other rocks in the river's course are mentioned in Colossians 3:8. God's Word furnishes the dynamite by which they may be uprooted. 2. Rip-rapping to prevent dissipation of power. There have been heavy rains in the mountains, or the snows have suddenly melted and a mighty freshet comes tearing down the stream. The soil composing the banks is loose and loamy, and some protection must be afforded where the bends occur and the cities are built. Then the men set to work, and great nets of boughs and branches of trees are built, and these are made stable by rocks and bags of sand, and so the "rip-rap" is formed and the waters are kept in their course. We are constantly in danger of losing spiritual power through the broadening of our energies and the dissipations of our forces. A proper overflow of blessing to others is necessary; yet the river is not to run entirely out of its channel and waste itself fruitlessly and even harmfully. The love of Christ is to "constrain" us — keep us within limits. Let us not be afraid of being "narrow" in this sense. A river is powerful only when properly narrow, — otherwise it becomes a bog and a stench. 3. Guarding against the formation of sudden sand. bars. Those who dwell near sandy rivers or harbours formed by river mouths know what an amount of careful piering and dredging is necessary to keep the channel clear. Let us learn a lesson from the pains taken by the engineers. If we find a place in our spiritual life where sudden bars are apt to form, disturbing or retarding the flow of peace, let us at once protect the spot by special prayer.

(W. J. Harsha, D.D.)

I. HERE ARE THE PRIVILEGES OF GOD'S PEOPLE, Peace like a river; righteousness like the waves of the sea. The very same blessings which are said in the New Testament to constitute the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). 1. This blessed peace is of two kinds — peace with God, and peace within themselves. This peace is compared to a river. The comparison is very beautiful and significant. Look at a river. What are you struck with? (1) The stillness and the smoothness of its course, so striking as contrasted with the noise and the disturbance which are so often heard upon its banks. So still is the course of the real Christian when compared with the troublesome world through which he moves. (2) Look again at the deep river. What an idea does it give us of fulness and abundance! And what an emblem then, in this respect, of the abundance of the Christian's peace! "The Lord of peace Himself gives him peace always, by all means." "Always" — in prosperity and in adversity — in health and in sickness — in ease and in pain — in abundance and in want — in joy and in sorrow — in the midst of friends and in the midst of enemies — in life and in death. And "by all means" — for by how many instruments, through how many channels, does the Lord send peace into His people's hearts! By His Word — by His ordinances — by His providences — nay, by a thousand things which might seem, at first sight, more likely to mar their peace than to promote it. (3) Take another view of a deep river. How long has it been flowing? How long will it flow? And how long will the peace of the Lord's people last? "As long as the moon endureth" (Psalm 72:7). Yea, longer far (Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 54:10). 2. "Righteousness." The people of God are clothed in the merits of their Saviour. Now, of this righteousness it may well be said that it is "like the waves of the sea." Behold the sea, and the idea it gives us is that of vastness and immensity — an almost boundless mass of waters. And what is the height, the length, the breadth, the depth of the righteousness of Christ! The waves of the sea are a fit emblem of power and might — who can withstand them? who can rebuke them? And who can lay anything to the charge of those whose righteousness is that of their Redeemer? II. WHY DO NOT THE BLESSINGS WE HAVE SPOKEN OF BELONG TO EVERYONE? It is impossible to enjoy God's peace in the midst of the world's sins. III. WHAT TENDERNESS THERE IS IN THE TEXT! what commiseration of the sad estate in which sinners have reduced themselves!

(A. Roberts, M.A.)

I. AN EARNEST DESIRE OF THE ETERNAL. 1. He desires for man an abundance of peace. The word "peace" stands for something more than freedom from national war or moral agitations. It stands for happiness in its widest and deepest import. The happiness desired, then, is not a little happiness, not a few drops, not even a copious shower that soon passes away, but a "river." (1) Ever augmenting in fulness. (2) Ever increasing in calmness. The deeper and fuller the river becomes, the more calm. (3) Ever approximating to its consummation. 2. He desires for man an abundance of spiritual prosperity. "Thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." "Righteousness" must also be taken in a general sense as standing for rectitude of soul and holiness of character. Those waves, how majestic in aspect! how resistless in flow! how unconquerable in energy! The Eternal does not wish us to have a little religion, but to "comprehend with all saints what is the length," &c. II. AN UNALTERABLE PLAN OF THE ETERNAL. The plan is that happiness should only come through obedience. "O that thou hadst hearkened," &c. 1. The constitution of the human soul shows this. The sum of all God's commandments has been reduced by Christ to love — supreme love to God. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart." Now, the nature of the soul shows that there can be no true and perfect happiness without this. (1) Nothing but a supreme love for Him can draw out harmoniously the soul's powers. (2) Nothing but supreme love for Him can satisfy the soul's conscience. 2. The order of society requires this. All are members of a social system, and each has a mission to fulfil, not only in relation to himself, but in relation to others. For society to act in harmony it is necessary that there should be one will worked out by all. Where each follows his own will there must be eternal collisions and anarchies. 3. The history of the world manifests this. Every chapter in the world's history shows that the disobedient have been miserable, whilst the obedient have been happy. 4. The Word of God declares this. III. AN INEXPRESSIBLE REGRET OF THE ETERNAL. "O that thou hadst hearkened unto My commandments." Such Divine exclamations are not altogether unusual. Such expressions of Divine feeling indicate two things — 1. The immense evils involved in disobedience. God alone knows the evils connected with disobedience to the individual, society, the universe. And seeing the dark and turbulent ocean of miseries springing from disobedience, He seems to sigh over it. His heart seems to break into commiseration. Fools may laugh at sin, but God is solemn over it. 2. That restoration to obedience is man's deepest necessity. God does three things to restore man to obedience. (1) Presents His law in the most attractive forms; not in characters on stone, in dry propositions, but in the lovely life of Jesus. (2) Presents the most powerful encouragement to obedience. The Gospel abounds with motives from heaven, earth, and hell, from time and eternity, to follow Christ. (3) Offers the Divine Spirit to help to obedience. Mark the pivot on which thy destiny hinges. It is obedience.


What is a commandment of God? We are too commonly inclined to regard it merely as the expression of the wish of God. It is more than that. It expresses a law of life. To disobey a commandment is not merely to go against the will of God; it is to violate eternal law. Every commandment is the expression of a fundamental law, which it is our welfare to observe, and our destruction to ignore. A parent says to her child, "Thou shalt keep thy-self clean." There is a commandment. But why? Because it is thy parent's wish? Yes, but more than that. Because it expresses a law of life, the condition of physical health. It is even so with all the commandments of God. The Ten Commandments are just ten laws, proclaiming what are the conditions of a healthy moral life. 1. Let us hear our text again. "O that thou hadst hearkened when I made known to thee the laws of moral and spiritual health. I have instructed thee what laws to observe in building a house; I have instructed thee what laws to observe in building a life. O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments." "Hearkened." The word is full of intentness; it is suggestive of quick apprehension. It means to prick the ears, as some hare or rabbit pricks its ears and listens at the slightest movement in the thicket, or at the sound of a footfall in the distant field. 2. But they had not hearkened. They had not pricked their ears and listened. They turned a sort of indolent and indifferent ear, and pursued their own way. Now, what happens when a man will not hearken to God's commandments, when he shapes his life in utter indifference to the revealed law? Two things happen, and they are as inevitable as death, for they are the forerunners of death — spiritual restlessness and spiritual feebleness. (1) Let a man hearken to the commandments of physical health, and all the many organs of his body will work together in a smooth harmony, as though they were not many but one. But now let the man refuse to hearken to the commandments of health, what then? The harmony will be broken, the brotherhood will be changed into anarchy, one after another the organs will rise in mutiny, and the man's bodily life will become the abode of restlessness and pain. Defiance of physical law produces physical restlessness. It is even so with those spiritual organs which inhere in the soul. Let a man hearken to God's commandments, let him obey the laws of spiritual health, and all his spiritual organs will form a holy brotherhood; conscience, will, affection, emotion, reason, shall all work together in the harmony which we name peace. But let a man defy the laws of God, and the soul will become a scene of civil strife; conscience, will, reason, and desire will be pitted one against another, and the whole soul of man, like to a little kingdom, will suffer the nature of an insurrection. (2) Defiance of spiritual law also produces spiritual feebleness. Every time I disobey a commandment of God I weaken my moral resources. Is it not to this process of gradual impoverishment that we refer when we say of some man, "Poor fellow, he has got no will left "? 3. But now, see what might have happened. "O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments," five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, or forty years ago: instead of spiritual restlessness and spiritual weakness, "then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." (1) Peace like a river! I don't think it is the figure we should have chosen as a symbol of peace. I rather think we should have taken some lonely mountain tam, some sheet of glassy water, hidden away in the bosom of the everlasting hills, as our symbol of peace. "Peace like a river." The mountain tam is a symbol of ease; the flowing river is the symbol of peace. The river, deep and full and progressive! The Apostle Paul declared that he had the peace which is the gift of Christ. Then it was peace like a river. Was it? Listen to the old man: — I am content," there is peace — full, deep, rich contentment. But listen again — "Not that I am already perfect, . . . I press toward the mark." Peace, but like a river! Fulness with progress! Contentment with aspiration! Life at rest, but moving on to the perfection of God! (2) But more than that, instead of thy present spiritual feebleness, thy righteousness would have been "like the waves of the sea." Take your stand upon the shore, and watch the waves roll in, like an army of white-crested warriors, shaking their snowy plumes, and riding forth to battle. Do you remember that Old Testament figure which describes the strength of the pure — "terrible as an army with banners"? I have sometimes been reminded of the figure as I have stood upon the beach, and watched the great waves rolling in and tossing up their snowy foam — "terrible as an army with banners." "Thy righteousness like the waves of the sea," a conquering and jubilant army Have you ever tried to stop a wave of the sea? It cannot be stopped. "Thy righteousness like the waves of the sea" — nothing shall check it. No threats shall hinder it. No bribe shall allure it aside. Temptations shall be only like those sand-castles which our little ones build along the shore, and thy righteousness shall sweep them away with joyful ease. 4. It would be a poor and melancholy business for a preacher to get up and merely tell his people what might have been; it would be a funeral dirge rather than a Gospel. If the Gospel of God has a tender and inspiring note for anybody, it is for those souls which are burdened with a depressing sense of what might have been. "What might have been" must be followed by "what may be," if souls are to be lifted out of bondage and darkness into liberty and light. Still, if you can get a man to sigh for what might have been, you have laid the foundation for what may be. A sigh for the past is a prayer for the future. Hope may be born out of sorrow, as diamonds are born out of slime. What do we need? Well, first of all we need to know that we have another chance, that we can begin again. Don't let anyone fall into that fatal snare of believing that God has cast them off. God never hides His face. It is we who obscure it. Go down into the West Riding of Yorkshire, and look at those tall mill chimneys as they pour out dense volumes of coal black smoke, which hangs like a dark pall between the inhabitants and God's sky. What would you think if some poet, living in one of these towns, were to begin to cry, "Hide not thy face from us, O blue sky"? The blue sky is not hiding its face; it is your own black smoke that obscures it. Can the obscuring cloud be removed? "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins."

(J. H. Jowett, M.A.)

If you have ever been at St. Andrews, and have looked at the ruins of that great cathedral, you have seen not only the massive walls that are left in a small part of it, but you have seen just the appearance above ground, the whole shape of the cathedral — nothing more than that: you can just form an idea of what it would be if it stood there in all its grandeur. Well, there is left in every man something of this kind. Sin depraves, but it does not obliterate the organic powers and the natural peculiarities and tendencies of the individual. What I might have been — that is not a picture which has altogether vanished in the air; there is some outline of it left, an outline in each man. Of course, these differ very much among themselves, just as pictures differ in a gallery or as human faces in a crowded street, all of which, perhaps, you will find to have a general resemblance, but none of which are exactly alike. The ideal of another person would not be mine, nor mine his. There are diversities.

(A. Raleigh, D.D.)

I. AN APPEAL OF GOD TO MAN. 1. The appeal made by the Almighty to the Jew, and also to the Gentile, is full of pathos and the most intense affection. It tells us how unwilling God was and is that any man, or any body of men, should perish; should pass away from His love and care and protection, and that if anyone did so, it would be their own fault; and that such a consequence of disobedience would be necessary for the upholding of the Divine laws. 2. The manner of the appeal, too, indicates that the Commandments of God had not been properly regarded, and therefore there is a tone of sorrow and regret. The case reminds us of Christ weeping over the doomed city of Jerusalem. If we are neglecting our first and foremost duties with respect to God, if we are so taken up with the world, its different callings; its pleasures, its ambitions, its cares, and its disappointments, as to keep out of view the imperative duty of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and of working out by self-denial and constant obedience to the Almighty will our own personal salvation, then the words of our text, with all their force of meaning, may be applied to ourselves. 3. But such an expression of grief with God is generally predictive of judgment. It was so with the tearful words of the Redeemer. II. THE RESULTS WHICH MIGHT HAVE BEEN; or those which follow obedience to the commandments of God. 1. On the condition of hearkening to or obeying the Divine commands there would follow a peace as full and deep and calm as to be like a river. 2. This latter comparison of righteousness is very striking. Like the waves of the sea for constant activity, for breadth and depth, for a wide circuit of influence, for sublimity, power, and greatness. And such is Christian life and character when considered in their relative bearings on ourselves and society at large.

(W. D. Horwood.)

The words are addressed to a nation; the images before us are images of national life; the peace — that is, the outward prosperity of the people — shall flow like a river; the righteousness of the united people shall be like the prevailing unity, the accumulated power, the forceful, restless energy of the sea waves.

(W. S. Davis.)

Thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.
1. Religion being the supreme act of the soul, it is not strange that its highest product should claim the grandest symbol in the vocabulary of God for its utterance. Isaiah, whose mind was more ocean-like in grand unity and rich variety of colour than any other prophet, saw so deeply into the nature of righteousness that not the plain, or sky, or mountain, with which he was familiar, offered him so complete a definition of its quality, or so full a suggestion of its life in the soul, as the wonderful sea. Poets have always sought the melodies of ocean to reinforce and complete their own especially when the deeper and larger experiences and hopes of man are touched. 2. Innocence is not righteousness, though many a soul thinks because it has not been stained by sin it is righteous. Innocence has no waves, no perils, no tragedies, no gulf streams, nothing so stormy as a plunging breaker. Innocence is a plain of white snow. The rosy hues of sunset do not glimmer down into its deeps! No one is engulfed in its splendour; no one can sail upon its bosom. It is passionless, without a yearning or a song. Righteousness is like a sea, full of currents; it is restless and restful with living energies. It has perils, and means storm and stress, as well as peace and beauty. It offers opportunities to its sailor for heroisms and enterprises of soul. A mountain can describe justice; it is its portrait, bard, unmovable, grand, crystalline. But righteousness is mobile, just as grand, but full of movement. 3. Even Jesus sought the seaside because He felt most of all souls how something above His soul influenced it as the moon influences the ocean. All nation-builders, poets, great achievers of the intellectual and spiritual wealth of the race know that not from within, or from beneath, but from above the long, sweet influences work to lift the life to its sublime heights. Part of the secret of a strong and blessed life lies in knowing the tides, in counting upon them, and in relying on the fact that these influences from above will do more for our exaltation and joy than any of our own efforts may do. At low tide, with a fresh east wind, a white-capped wave seems to try to reach some beautiful Place on the shore. It yearns and strains and fails. Let it wait till the moon-drawn tide comes under it with soft, strong advances, and lo, the walls of the land are washed to jasper, and the wave has mounted where it never could have reached alone. Wait until God sends His tide and you will reach your highest goal. 4. Righteousness has majestic unity and richest variety, like the waves of the sea. Men would often make one type or aspect of righteousness the judge of all others, and call it alone perfect. The sea is so much like man's soul because it is so much a changeful unit; so like man's righteousness because every man's righteousness takes on all the hues of his personality. At all moments of the day and night the sea is a palette of colours, yet one sea rolls in all this marvel of changing tints. Righteousness is equally variant; it takes on the sky's hues above the soul, and the wonderful tints of the bottom of the sea. The sea is a challenge to man's sense of infinity. It whispers of eternity. So does all genuine righteousness, for it is ageless, and seems to rely on the life everlasting. Its whole mission is to fling us out on the forever of God and the soul. So the sea shall be no more when we have learned its lesson.

(F. W. Gunsaulus, D.D.)

God would have a man's righteousness to be like the waves of the sea; that is, He would have him to be possessed of a goodness that cannot be measured, and that can never end. For if we want the symbol of strength, of variety, of voluminousness, abundance, and endlessness, we have it, not in the grand mountains that are called everlasting, but in these ever-fluent never-resting waves of the sea. The waves of the sea! why, they have made all the strata of the world nearly; they have immersed every continent in turn again and again and again; they have been lapping and chafing the shores of this world through ten thousand ages, and roaring in answer to the winds all over the lengths and breadths of the ocean, and yet now, to-day, they are as fresh and young and buoyant as they have ever been before. Well, this is the emblem which God takes to set forth the beauty and glory of man's life.

(A. Raleigh, D.D.)

Walk along the coast-line when the tide has ebbed, mark the wastes of sand, the muddy ooze, the black unsightly rocks. Not thus did God intend that any of His children should be. It was never His will that their righteousness should ebb, that there should be wastes and gaps and breaks in their experience, that there should be the fatal lack of strength and purity and virtue. The Divine ideal of the inner life is mid-ocean, where the waves reach to the horizon on every side, and there are miles of seawater beneath.

(F. B. Meyer, B.A.)

1. Is not the first idea of the waves of the sea their multitudinousness? Righteousness, then, like these waves of the sea, would mean an unfailing movement, an active goodness, strong or gentle, reaching over the boundless surface of life, breaking in pure foam and music on every beach. It would mean a kind of limitless and incalculable force, too, not contracted like waters in a pool or pond, but issuing out of vast depths and distances, and swayed by cosmic impulses, so that there is no end, no pause, no exhaustion — a sense of the infinite, a promise of eternity. 2. The second idea must be that of the beauty of the waves of the sea. That is not a modern sentiment; it occurs in the earliest poetry of the world. It was AEschylus that coined the exquisite phrase, "the countless smile of the many-sounding sea," and a poet like Isaiah must have felt that poetry of the sea as you have done. 3. May we add a third suggestion, which would hardly occur, perhaps, to those who knew only the tideless Mediterranean, namely, the beneficence of the waves of the sea. They are for ever washing the land. Our righteousness is intended to have a cleansing effect on the shores of earth. Not like the troubled waters, which throw up mire and dirt — they are intended to ring human life with a belt of ozone, to wash out into the depths the corruptions of the earth, and to fling high upon the shore the sting and the strength of the salt. To influence the world for good is a thought to thrill you with hope and desire, to be good, to do good, to make good.

(R. F. Horton, D.D.)

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