"For just as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, will endure before Me," declares the LORD, "so your descendants and your name will endure.
I. THAT GOD MAY CALL US TO UNWELCOME BUT EXCELLENT SERVICE. The Jews could not have anticipated, nor would they have desired, such a disposition of themselves, and such a use of their powers as is indicated in the nineteenth verse. It was strange to their thought, alien to their sympathy. Yet it was a most admirable service, with which they might well be contented. Thus God often blesses us now with opportunities we do not court, but which prove to be excellent and admirable indeed. Possibly he may deal with us in a way very similar to that before us. As the persecution of the early disciples resulted in their going everywhere, away from home and friends, preaching the gospel (Acts 8:8), so some providential ordering which is unpleasant at the time, removing us from scenes that are inviting or from persons that are dear to us, may place us in conditions of great usefulness and blessing.
II. THAT GOD INVITES US ALL TO A NOBLE VICTORY. There had been bitter hatred and bloody strife between Jew and Gentile; each had sought to triumph over the other on the battle-field; each longed to have his feet on the other's neck. The peaceful picture of the text (ver. 20) supplies a beautiful and blessed substitute. One is to bring the other, in friendly and honourable conveyance, and to present him in holy sacrifice to God. Not to wreak vengeance; not to obtain civil supremacy; but to bring to God's house and to introduce to his service, is to gain the true victory over our brother.
III. THAT GOD IS EFFECTING A WONDROUS AND LASTING RENOVATION. He is creating new heavens and a new earth which will endure (ver. 22 and Isaiah 65:17). He will make all things new. This kingdom of sin and folly which has so long prevailed shall disappear, and in its place shall be seen a kingdom of "righteousness, peace, and joy;" a far greater change, more wonderful, more difficult of accomplishment, more to be desired, than the displacement of the material elements and the substitution of others in their place. This new kingdom is one which will be essentially Divine.
1. It will be of God. He "will make it."
2. It will be characterized by reverence for him, and one of its main features will be regular and universal worship (ver. 23). It will be durable as the strongest of his handiworks. It "shall remain."
IV. THAT GOD WILL RECEIVE THOSE FURTHEST AWAY TO NEAREST INTERCOURSE WITH HIMSELF. Of the Gentiles themselves God would take "for priests and for Levites" (ver. 21). This was a startling promise, and never was literally fulfilled. But it finds a glorious fulfilment in the kingdom of Christ. Now we (Gentiles) who were afar off are brought nigh. We worship and serve in the sanctuary; we sit down at "the table of the Lord;" we have freest and fullest access to God; every harrier in the way of perfect intercourse has disappeared; we are admitted to the royal presence, and "stand before the King;" nay, we ourselves are "kings and priests unto God." That which once seemed hopelessly impossible has become a constant privilege under Jesus Christ. - C.
Isaiah 60:20, 21): — The Christian Church is not the conqueror of the Jewish polity, but the heir and successor. The new covenant has been developed out of the old. There was no break when Christ came, but a fulfilment and a completion. And so the promises were handed down in the Christian line, among which these from the latter part of Isaiah, relating to the "stability' of the ancient Church, are not the least remarkable. They declare that God is an "everlasting" light to His people, that their permanence is like the permanence of the creation of God.
Isaiah 56:7 is here (ver. 23) expressed by a figure, which, understood literally, involves a physical impossibility; but the prophet cannot altogether emancipate himself from the forms of the Jewish economy, and clothes a spiritual truth in a garb which in strictness is too narrow for it (cf. Zechariah 14:16-19).
For as the new heavens and the new earth.i.e. Israel as a nation with the same ancestors and an independent name, remains for ever (cf. Jeremiah 31:35 f.; 33:20-26), as the new heaven and the new earth. And just because Israel's calling in regard to the heathen world is now fulfilled and all things are made new, the old fencing off of Israel from the heathen now comes to an end; and what qualifies for priestly and Levitical service in God's temple is no longer mere natural descent, but inner nobility The prophet thus represents to himself the Church of the future on a new earth and under a new heaven; but he is unable to represent the eternal in the form of eternity; he represents it to himself merely as an unending continuation of temporal history (ver. 23).
(F. Delitzch, D. D.)
(Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
(T. D. Woolsey.)
(T. D. Woolsey.)
(T. D. Woolsey.)I. WE SHALL LOOK AT SEVERAL CAUSES TO WHICH IT IS NOT DUE: but to which, on a superficial view, it might be ascribed.
1. It is not owing to strength borrowed from governments, the Church grew without help from the government; it grew also in spite of long efforts of the government to destroy it.
2. For is the stability of the Church due to the stability of its forms of discipline and order. These have passed through a great variety of changes, from the times of the nascent Church, when there was little of established order, down through the ages of hierarchy, to our times, when the Church thrives in a great variety of forms, and with varied theories of government.
3. Nor yet is the stability of the Church owing to the stability of theological systems. It grew, it almost reigned, before any received dogmatic statements of its sacred truth were current. It has outlived theories and expositions innumerable, and indeed nothing connected with Christianity has been more changing than the scientific arrangements of its truths.
4. Nor can the stability of the Church be explained by saying that it got the control of opinion and kept thought in leading strings, so that when science was emancipated, new conditions full of danger to the Church began. It arose in spite of a reigning heathen opinion and philosophy, which it overthrew and put another in the place. It has in its healthiest state favoured all knowledge in the confidence of being itself together with every other true thing from God.
5. Nor can the stability of the Church be attributed to the condescending patronage of large-minded men, who saw in its justice and humanity a help for the world to be found nowhere else, but yet did not believe in it themselves.
II. TO WHAT, THEN, IS THE STABILITY OF THE CHURCH DUE? To this question it is no sufficient answer that the Holy Spirit is ever in and with the Church. For the Spirit's office is to act on men according to the laws of character by Divine realities. It is due —
1. To this: that the Gospel, on which the Church is built, works out some of the great problems which lie on the heart of man, in a way to give lasting peace and satisfaction to the soul. I refer to practical rather than to intellectual problems, although even the restless questionings of the mind either meet with an answer from the Divine oracles, or are carried up into a higher realm of truth. The power inherent in Christianity itself, as a way of reconciling God and man, and of raising man above sin by great truths and great hopes, is a real and permanent power. It is suited to all natures and capacities, to all races and times.
2. To those permanent features of the Gospel, which bind men together in a brotherhood pervaded by the spirit of love and fellowship.
3. To its self-reforming capacity. The human and the Divine have ever mingled and will ever mingle in the historical progress of Christianity, as they mingle in the development of a Christian life. There are unavoidable sources of corruption in the revolutions of society, in the growth of wealth, in the love of self-gratification, in the increase of worldly comforts. There are other sources in the ignorance of untrained Christians, in the ambition of the clergy and their love of dominion, in the rewards offered within the Church to the aspiring, in formalism, in a dead orthodoxy. At the lowest ebb of Christian life and knowledge there remain within the reach of the Church the sources of a better spiritual state, so that it can reform itself as it has done more than once.(1) As long as the Bible is acknowledged as an authority, there is an appeal to it from all other authorities, from popes, and councils, and philosophers, and the current opinion of the time.(2) There are at the times of greatest declension men who arc somehow led, .as we believe, by the Divine Spirit concurring with the Word, into a deeper experience; they rise above their times, they reach convictions which are irrepressible, they must proclaim to the world at any cost what they found out as the resting-places of their souls; they become the starting-points of a reform which sweeps over all Christian nations.
4. The stability of the Church is ensured by the stability of Christ. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day and for ever." Doubt is of to day, but He is of all time. He is a permanent possession for the soul. He does not wear out in a lifetime. He is the permanent possession of the Church in all its ages and changes He does not wear out while there are men to long for redemption.
(T. D. Woolsey.)
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