Chapter 1 – Isaiah’s Call and Consecration

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.” (Isa. 6: 1.)

The eighth century before Christ gave birth to the most momentous epochs of ancient history. We find in it the eras both of Babylon and Rome, the two mightiest monarchies of the past. It also saw the fall of Israel and Assyria and the decline of Judah until the kingdom at last fell under Gentile sway. Great events are the mold in which great men are developed and the momentous events of this age developed the greatest of the Hebrew prophets, Isaiah.

Before entering upon his writings in detail, we shall look at the frontispiece which appears in the beginning of the volume, a picture of the prophet himself. It is given in the sixth chapter of his prophecies although chronologically it belongs to an earlier date. The story was deferred until for some years he had actually proved in his experience and work the truth of the great commission which had been given to him at the beginning.

The story of Isaiah’s call and consecration is a living picture which speaks to living men today as personally and practically as when it first became true of the great prophet himself. While history changes from age to age, the nature of God and the needs and experiences of human souls are still the same. May it prove to some who read this chapter a similar call and consecration.

I. “In the year that King Uzziah died.” This is not a mere note of time or item of chronology. It suggests a dark background for the picture of divine grace and human consecration which shines out in the story.

The time that King Uzziah died was a very dark one for Judah and doubtless for Isaiah too. He had been the most illustrious of the nation’s rulers since the days of David and Solomon. He had carried the banners of his country before mighty and victorious armies until every enemy had been subdued and Judah had almost reached the ancient boundaries of the Abrahamic promise and the days of Solomon, and it is, perhaps, not too much to say that the throne had reached a height of power and influence unequaled by any earthly dynasty at the time. At the same time the trade of the country had kept pace with its military advance and wealth, and prosperity filled all the land with patriotic hope and confidence.

Suddenly all this was interrupted by the death of Uzziah. Nor was it an ordinary death, but overshadowed by the most tragic and dreadful accompaniments. It had come as a stroke of divine judgment because of a fearful and presumptuous sin. Swollen with pride and self-sufficiency, he had presumptuously ventured, in defiance of the warnings of the priesthood, to arrogate to himself the functions of the high priest and had dared to enter the Holy of holies to offer incense with his own hands. Instantly the stroke of heaven fell upon his daring head and he came out a leper as white as snow, and sank to his grave with the fearful badge of heaven’s most tremendous judgment resting upon him. The effect of such a catastrophe upon the nation must have been overwhelming, and all the excellence of the brief succeeding reign of Jotham was unable to counteract it.

Isaiah had doubtless shared with others the hopes and dreams which Uzziah’s glorious reign had inspired. An intense patriot, and, like all great souls, an enthusiast, Isaiah had entered into the hopes and triumphs of his country with deepest ardor. Doubtless, like most young dreamers, he had built a castle of earthly ambition until its towers had reached to heaven, and had dreamed of the grandeur of his country until it seemed to him that the glowing vision that was already burning in his soul of the latter day glory was to be fulfilled before his eyes and in his own lifetime. But the fearful death of Uzziah shattered his idol and rudely dispelled his early dream, and for a time there seemed nothing before him but desolation and despair.

But at last out of the wreck of his earthly hopes, there burst upon his soul the vision of God and the unseen world where he was henceforth to look for the realization of his shattered earthly dreams. While the throne of Judah was tottering, the everlasting throne was forever unmoved. While earthly heroes might pass away, and earthly ideals be shattered in the dust, God remained forever true, and faith only needed to take the highest flight and look for its realization above. “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.” Such an experience as this has to come to every great soul before he is prepared to live both for time and eternity and to be a true prophet for God in the midst of all human vicissitudes.

Such a rude awakening had to come to the disciples of the Master as they too dreamed of an earthly kingdom and wondered that their Master would not allow the enthusiastic multitudes to “take Him by force and make Him a king.” Even after His resurrection they still continued to ask: “Lord, will You at this time restore again the kingdom unto Israel?” Their dreams also were shattered and they saw the Master to whom they looked as the successor of David and Solomon hanging upon a shameful cross and consigned to a dark and dreary tomb. But out of that rose the vision of the resurrection and that greater coming and better kingdom which He is yet to bring.

So, too, most of us begin our work for God with enthusiastic expectations of earthly success and God has to let us down, as He did Isaiah, until we are prepared to follow the Master outside the camp, to be crucified to earthly honors and triumphs and to look for the realization of our faith and hope in the ages to come.

How often, too, the individual Christian has to be awakened to the vision of God by some such painful shock. You had built your nest securely amid the bowers of love. You had fastened the tendrils of your heart to some sweet face or loved friend; you had dreamed that your security could never be shaken and you had pictured a bright and beautiful earthly future; and lo, instead there came consuming sickness, days and nights of weary pain and the moldering grave. For a while your heart was crushed and your spirit was broken and even life itself had no longer anything in it worth living for. But at last the vision of God began to rise upon your view and the face of Jesus grew real as you looked up through your brimming tears and learned at last that it is only through the wreck of our earthly hopes that we begin to seek the things that cannot pass away, and today, with a chastened peace and a hope that cannot fail, you are thanking God for the day that someone died that you might learn to live.

Or perhaps you had a severer shock, for there is something worse than death. You attached yourself to some human cause, you yielded your confidence and your devotion to some earthly leader. You surrounded him with a halo of your ideals and dreams and you almost worshiped him as God. And then came the rude awakening, the failure of your ideal, the discovery of human weakness, perhaps of sin and shame, and your idol was shattered in the dust and with it all the hopes, ambitions and purposes of your life. Never again would you be deceived into any enterprise of usefulness or service. You had found that “all men are liars,” and you were in danger of becoming cynical and sour and losing faith not only in human nature but in all possible virtue and goodness.

It was then that you found God and learned that there was but one true Leader worth worshiping, but one cause worth embracing, but one life worth living, and today you are patiently, hopefully, victoriously pressing on, gathering out of the wreckage of time all that you can, looking for no perfection here, but laying up the fruits of your service in heaven, and some day expecting the Master to show the finished product and to give to you the glad “Well done” and the great reward. We are not fitted for any earthly ministry until we have seen the failure of life and learned to live for the things that cannot pass away.

Dear friend, look up through your tears and your shattered ideals and idols and see God and begin to live for Him and the things that are above.

II. The vision.

The apostle John tells us that it was Jesus Christ that Isaiah saw in this vision of heavenly glory. “These things said Esaias when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” This was his first view of that glorious Christ, whom above all other ancient seers he beheld afar off and proclaimed as the Hope of the ages. He saw Him “sitting on a throne high and lifted up.” It was the vision of the heavenly temple with the seraphim or “the burning ones,” His ministers and courtiers.

The expression “high and lifted up” is intended to convey the idea that the God of Isaiah was a very much higher Being than the conceptions and ideals of the people. The God they wanted was a kind of fetish who could help them in their temporal needs and deliver them from their troubles somewhat as the idol of the pagan was expected to answer to his call and deliver him in his difficulties or be soundly abused for not doing so. That is the idea of God that many people have. This little planet is at the present time the center of His greatest activities and the object of His loftiest plans. He is preparing for the advent of His Son upon this earth and here He is to work out through Him the greatest problem of the universe. His supreme purpose is to fill the earth with His glory and for this consummation, everything in earth and heaven is combining.

This was Isaiah’s sublime lesson as he listened to the heavenly song and then went forth to be a worker with God in the great plan of bringing back this revolted planet to its orbit around His throne.

Such a vision must come to us before we are truly prepared for the work of God. Then we too will spring to our places in this mighty plan and instead of dreaming about some far off heaven will begin to work to make this green old earth a heaven below.

The heavenly vision had one lesson more for Isaiah, namely: the pattern of true service. He was to go forth into the work of heaven and God permitted him to see the way His servants yonder ministered at His command. The first thing he would be struck with as he gazed upon them was their deep humility. Of their six wings, two were used to cover their faces, two to cover their feet and only two left for flight. They were veiled workers. Even their own transcendent beauty they covered from the sight of others and themselves, and their work, suggested by their feet, was hidden as soon as it was done and they swept on to new commissions without stopping to reflect on what they had done. What a pattern of true service here! God give us the veiled face and the veiled feet.

But again their wings suggested celerity, swiftness and service. They were ready to fly at God’s command and fulfil His messages of love without a moment’s delay. True service still will be ever ready for “the King’s business requires haste.”

The next thought suggested by the vision of the seraphim was worship and praise. Our highest service is to glorify Him. Have we given Him the fire-touched lips and is He using them like aeolian harps to respond to His touch and show forth His praise?

III. The shadow of the vision.

The first effect of this vision was another vision that rose like a dark shadow in the background; the vision of himself. In the light of God’s glory and heaven’s pure service, he could only see his own utter vileness and cry out, “Woe is me for I am undone because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” The true vision of God always humbles us and makes us loathe ourselves.

The story is told of a little child from the slums that stumbled into a mission hall where a kindergarten teacher was giving an object lesson to the little grimy children of the streets, in the form of a beautiful white lily. Not a word was spoken, but the children were permitted to gaze upon and even touch that spotless flower. Immediately the wondering eyes of one of the little girls fell upon herself, and with a shadow of shame upon her face she swiftly turned and fled from the building, and never stopped until she got to her miserable garret home. There soap and wash-basin and every little trinket she could find in the way of cleanliness and ornamentation was brought into requisition, and when she returned half an hour later she was transformed. That beautiful lily had shown her herself and had awakened in her a longing for at least external purity. So God reveals us to ourselves.

Has He shown to you the vision, and has it cured you forevermore of ever expecting anything good in that old self, and led you to say, “I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me?”

It is not a good or wholesome thing to be always sitting in judgment upon ourselves in mortification and condemnation. The chagrin and disappointment which we feel, because we expected to find something good in ourselves and have not is oftentimes but the result of pride. True humility, however, has given up self forever, and never again expects to see anything worth approving, but leaving it forever in the bottomless grave of Christ, turns to Him and takes Him and His righteousness as our beauty and our glorious rest. God keep us there.

IV. The cleansing.

“Then flew one of the seraphim unto me having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs off the altar, and he laid it upon my mouth and said: lo, this has touched your lips and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is purged.”

Thus Isaiah anticipated by eight centuries the glorious promise of John the Baptist and its fulfilment in the story of Pentecost.

If we find no reference here to the atoning blood in the picture of our cleansing, let us remember it is results rather than processes that God is teaching. Behind the fire and the oil we always find the blood in the Old Testament ritual, and the altar here from which the coal was taken suggests the sacrifice which had already been consumed by that altar fire. But the result of Calvary is the Holy Ghost, the baptism of fire that burns up and burns out the life of self and sin and then burns in the blessed image of the Master through the Holy Ghost.

Beloved, have we received that cleansing fire? Thus and thus alone can we be prepared either for holy living or efficient service.

V. The call.

Now comes the call to service. But it was not a call so much as a permission. It was not a command so much as the acceptance of a volunteer. With newly cleansed and quickened ears he was able now to hear what had been unheard before, the voice of the heavens. He seemed to have been brought so very near to the council chamber of Jehovah that he was listening to the counsels of the Godhead as they sadly exclaimed, “Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?” Why did not God say at once, “We want you to go.” Ah, this is the very secret of true service. The Old Testament servant was a slave, who went because he was told. The New Testament servant is a son and partner, who goes because his heart prompts him. Isaiah rose to the regal height of New Testament sonship, and without compulsion or command, he asked the privilege of being a worker together with God. The moment he understood the thought of God, the plan of heaven and the desire of those glorious beings who were filling the earth with His glory, his heart responded, his life was offered, and the glad and willing cry came forth, “Here am I, send me.”

In the beautiful story of David we have the picture of a time when he longed that some one would “give him to drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate.” He did not send any soldier on such a fearful enterprise, but unconsciously the cry came from his heart for a draft of the waters from the well of his childhood. But that was enough for the three brave men that heard his longing, and, dashing through the ranks of the Philistines, came back with their helmets filled with the waters of Bethlehem’s well. That was service so sacred that even David could not bear to drink of such a costly draft. That is true service for our heavenly Master. We are kings and priests unto God. It is royal service He wants. The men who go into the ministry because somebody bids them, or because it offers a professional channel for support, are the ecclesiastical flotsam and jetsam of society, and useless to God and their fellow men. The missionary call is the cry of the heart that has heard the heavenly message and “cannot but” go forth to tell the world of His love.

VI. The commission.

His service is accepted, and God says, “Go.” But, oh, what a commission! Go, not to triumph, but more frequently to fail. Go, not to be admired and loved, but to be rejected, and at last “sawn asunder.” Go, to say, “Lord, who has believed our report?” “All day long have I stretched forth my hand unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” Go, not only to a crucified life but to a crucified ministry. Go, to see the nation go down until at last there is nothing left but the very root of the tree, from which the future growth is yet to spring. Go, not to save the nation, but to gather the remnant out from the nation, the one out of ten who will be willing to hear your voice. And he went, and witnessed and suffered and died. But, oh, the resurrection that has come from the seed Isaiah planted in tears and seeming failure!

Beloved, so He is sending us. Let us not look for an earthly future even in our Christian work. Let us be willing to gather “the remnant,” to have “the tenth,” to save men one by one for that glorious time and that heavenly temple when He shall manifest our work, and we shall find that our labor has not been “in vain in the Lord.”

The writer is indebted to a gifted friend for the fine suggestion of the three epigrammatic words that sum up the teaching of this chapter and the story of a true life.

The first word is “Woe,” “Woe is me,” a vision of self and its eternal renunciation.

The second word is “Lo,” “Lo, this has touched your lips,” a revelation of God and the cleansing baptism of the Holy Spirit that prepares us for life and service.

And the third word is “Go,” a call to service.

Have we gone through these three chapters of Christian life and service and met the “woe,” the “lo,” the “go,” like the ancient prophet of Jerusalem?

Chapter 2 – Sin and Salvation

“Come, now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa. 1: 18.)

The method of the ancient prophet was very different from a modern literary writer. He did not sit down in his library and calmly dictate his message in flowing periods and paragraphs, but in some public concourse or in the temple court, he suddenly appeared and, with dramatic pose and gesture, poured forth a torrent of vehement eloquence, sometimes of stern denunciation, sometimes of solemn warning, sometimes of tender appeal and expostulation. These were afterwards gathered up and published, not as a series of logical addresses, but with all the dramatic irregularity of their first utterance. They resembled not so much the current of some flowing river pursuing its tranquil course to the sea, but rather were like some volcanic stream rolling down the mountain side, and gathering up in its course the rocks and trees of the mountain, or turned aside in its fiery course by the obstructions that it meets on its way and then sweeping on again in some new channel with its mingled current of lava and earth. While the critical eye would fail to find much logical connection, yet the eye of faith can discern through every prophetic message an unbroken thread of spiritual connection and one uniform message of divine reproof and mercy.

The first chapter of Isaiah was probably the first of the prophet’s public messages, and it is a good sample of many others. It may be described generally as a message concerning sin and salvation. Its form is most dramatic. Suddenly appearing in the temple court or the public square, with impressive gestures he calls the attention of the multitude by repeating the very words with which Moses had begun his last message to Israel. “Hear, oh heavens,” he cries, “and give ear, oh earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

Then he arraigns the nation before the bar of heaven and calls as his witnesses the heavens and the earth and the very dumb brutes of the lower order of creation, whose fidelity to their masters is a silent reproof to the disobedience of God’s people. Then follows the arraignment of the sinful nation as he proceeds to characterize the unnaturalness, ingratitude and fearful wickedness of the people, declaring at last that their wickedness has almost brought them to the condition of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Then there seems to have come some voice of protest or defence from some one in the multitude, calling attention to their costly worship and offerings as a proof of their loyalty to God. But this only calls forth a more vehement denunciation of their wickedness, and the prophet proceeds to tell them that the very worst thing about them is their religion, inasmuch as it is a cloak of hypocrisy to cover their sins, and that their prayers and sacrifices are not only rejected, but are an abomination to God so long as their hearts are corrupt and their “hands are full of blood.”

At last the voice of denunciation is changed to one of mercy. The loving heart of God seems to grow weary of reproof and longs to pour itself out in mercy and compassion. One is reminded of the time when the Lord Jesus Himself on earth had upbraided the cities of Galilee for rejecting His message and had begun to say to them, “It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, which are exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell; for if the mighty works which had been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

But at that moment the Master’s heart seemed unable longer to endure the pain of His own reproof, and suddenly He breaks out into an appeal of unspeakable tenderness as perhaps He sees in the multitude before Him some weeping face or penitent heart. “Come unto Me,” He cries, “all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

There is a similar revulsion of feeling a little later in His ministry, when after He had pronounced upon the Pharisees the fearful woes of the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, He suddenly pauses again and breaks out with an appeal of divine compassion, “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone them that are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered you together, even as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not.”

Such a change comes over the prophet’s message here. Suddenly his denunciations close, and turning to the people with tones of tenderness he cries, “Come now and let us end our reasoning; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool; if you be willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land, but if you refuse and revolt, you shall be devoured with the sword, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”

I. Sin.

The prophet gives us a graphic picture of sin and its aggravations.

1. It is contrary to nature. The very heavens and the earth are appealed to against it. The stars in their course follow the laws of nature. The earth pursues her orbit in obedience to the great principle of gravitation. There is harmony everywhere in the material universe and the slightest breach of law brings collision, confusion and destruction. Man alone defies the laws of his being and the will of his Creator and involves himself in catastrophe and destruction. The mute creatures of the lower orders of animal life are appealed to against us. “The ox knows his owner,” and patiently and obediently follows the furrow and goes to the altar of sacrifice without a murmur. The ass, usually accounted foolish and obstinate, knows at least where its fodder is found and finds its way to its master’s crib rather than to the weeds and thistles of the wilderness.

Man alone turns away from the true source of all his supplies and blessings and “hews out for himself broken cisterns that can hold no water.” The stupendous folly and unnaturalness of human sin is vividly brought out by this appeal to the very lowest order of the natural creation.

The instincts of human nature are opposed to man’s sin. “I have nourished and brought up children,” is the complaint of the divine Father, “but they have rebelled against Me.” Human nature prompts man to filial love. The heathen Chinese understand the rights and claims of parents to the respect and obedience of their children, and, without the knowledge of God’s Word to guide them, they present a beautiful example of devotion to filial duty. But Israel, although treated with more than paternal kindness by the divine Parent, has made no return, but even lifted his puny arm in rebellion against the loving heart that nourished and brought him up as a child.

2. Sin is contrary to reason.

“My people do not consider”is God’s next complaint. Sin results from inconsiderateness. It is contrary to all right reason. God does not require our obedience and service for His glory and greatness, but for our good. His commandments are founded upon inherent righteousness, and disobedience must bring suffering and loss just as certainly as the transgression of any law of nature must be followed by a corresponding retribution. Just as surely as a straight line is the shortest road to a given point, so righteousness and obedience bring to us happiness and reward. As certainly as the fire will burn us if we touch it and the precipice will destroy us if we plunge over its verge, so our going contrary to the will of God must bring to us calamity and misery. Common reason should teach us this.

Therefore “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and a good understanding have all they that keep His commandments;” while, on the other hand, the sinner is a “fool,” and disobedience is not only wickedness, but it is bad judgment and reckless folly. It was when the prodigal “came to himself” that he began to go back to his father, and so salvation is a coming to our right mind and a turning back from the path of foolishness as well as sin.

3. Sin is a weight that drags us down. “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity.” Iniquity is spoken of as a burden, a handicap, a weight that drags us down. The Lord appeals to sinners as “heavy laden.” Truly, “the way of transgressors is hard.” Oh, the load of anxious care, remorseful fear and burning shame that the sinner carries! Oh, the expedients to which he has to resort to hide his tracks and bury the consequence of his sins! Oh, the darkness and despair of the after view of the sinful pleasure that looked so alluring when seen from the front! Oh, the lives that are being dragged down to untimely graves, to hopeless despair, to suicide and even to madness by the fearful load of sin! Bunyan represents it under the figure of the pilgrim with the burden upon his back; and our blessed Lord is represented as bearing the sinner’s load and finding it so heavy that it crushed out His life on Calvary.

“Oh, Christ! what burdens bowed Thy head,
Our load was laid on Thee.”

Such is the millstone bound to the neck of every sinner that is surely dragging him down. “Laden with iniquity.”

4. Sin is represented as a seed of evil, self-propagating and full of malignant power to reproduce itself. “A seed of evil doers.” It is not only the first generation of sin that we have to fear, but its countless brood of evil reproduction. It is like those malignant germs of disease that are all around us in the air, in the elements of nature, bacilli which propagate themselves by millions every hour and take possession of our vital organs and prey upon our very life.

One sin multiplies itself a thousandfold. Cain’s first act of unbelief soon grew into a bloody murder and then into an everlasting separation from God. Adam’s single disobedience multiplied itself in the ruin of all the race, and your sin is to perpetuate its career of evil in generations yet unborn. You cannot sin alone and you cannot bury your wickedness with your bones.

5. Sin is an infection. “Children that are corrupters.” Literally, this means “children that corrupt others.” The language suggests some contagious disease which spreads itself to all that come in contact with it. You would not, for any consideration, lie down in the bed in which a smallpox patient had died last night, and yet you are exposing yourselves to the germs of moral infection in the people you meet, in the friends you cherish, in the books you read, in the plays you attend, in the music you hear and in the objects upon which you allow your eyes to gaze. There is pollution in these things. They poison your spiritual health and inject into your souls the germs of mortal disease. Sin is a plague spot in society, a blight to the family, the church, the holiest friendship and every precious thing.

6. Sin is a provocation of the Lord. “They have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger.” God cannot endure sin. There is something in His holiness which instinctively consumes it. Just as the mother bird drives the serpent from her nest, so God, even as the God of love, is bound by His very goodness to protect His universe from the poison of sin.

Dear reader, you would scarcely dare to go out beneath the naked lightning of the skies and defy your Creator. And yet every sin, the most secret, is an open defiance of the Almighty, and more offensive often because you try to excuse it by some deceitful plea that you did not really mean it. Remember every time you sin you are flying in the face of an angry God.

7. Sin is incorrigible. “Why should you be stricken any more; you will revolt yet more and more.” When God’s chastening fails to move us, but leads us on to more reckless disobedience, we are in fearful danger. When we can come back from the gates of death or the graveside of some loved friend and quickly forget all the solemn vows we made and all the good resolutions we pledged if God would only try us once more, we are slowly hardening our hearts and preparing ourselves for the sin against the Holy Ghost. There is a story told of one who, feeling badly after an act of sin, was told by Satan, “Do it again and you won’t feel so badly,” and, as he obeyed, the sensitiveness passed away and he was soon able to commit sin without the reproof of his conscience. This is indeed true, but it is a fearful truth, and such callousness of heart soon leads to the judgment of God, for “he that being often reproved hardens his neck shall be suddenly destroyed and that without remedy.” It is mentioned as the most fearful aggravation of the sin of Ahaz that “in the time of his trouble he trespassed yet more against the Lord; thus did that King Ahaz !” It is as if a great note of exclamation had been drawn across the sacred page and a finger pointing to this monster of wickedness whose very warnings seemed only to harden his heart the more.

8. Sin is a vile, loathsome and incurable disease. What a fearful picture! “The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint; from the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” Sin is soul sickness, desperate, incurable and revolting. Not always does it develop its most loathsome features at the first, but the malignity of the disease is there and sooner or later it will break out into shameless sin and disgusting depravity.

9. Sin is a national curse.

“Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire, your land strangers devour it,” etc. Has this always been true? The empires and monarchies of the past crumbled to decay through the weight of their own corruptions. Nebuchadnezzar fell through his pride; Medo-Persia through its luxury; Alexander the Great through the success that ruined him; Rome through the moral corruption which undermined society. And, among the kingdoms of Europe, Spain and France are striking examples of the loss of national greatness through the spirit of national corruption. Prosperity leads to luxury, luxury leads to license and self-indulgence, and the mightiest nations of today are drifting to the common lot.

The trouble with human society is not that it wants better principles, better government, better politics, but better materials. It is like the arch which tumbled in ruins and while the experts were discussing the wreck and trying to explain the scientific causes through some defect in the lines of the arch, a common workman picked up a bit of the crumbling brick and, squeezing it between his finger and thumb, it crumbled into dust, as pointing to it he cried, “That is what’s the matter with your arch; the brick is rotten.” The only remedy for national calamity and degeneration is the transformation of human nature through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

10. Sin brings ruin and desolation to the individual. The picture of Isaiah applies not only to nations and communities, but to families and individuals. Oh, the wrecked homes and lives that have come about through sin, the great destroyer! Dr. Thomas Guthrie has eloquently said:

“Name me the evil that springs not from this root — the crime that I may not lay at its door. Who is the hoary sexton that digs man’s grave? Who is the painted temptress that steals his virtue? Who is the murderess that destroys his life? Who is this sorceress that first deceives and then damns his soul? — Sin. Who with icy breath blights the fair blossoms of youth? Who breaks the hearts of parents? Who brings old men’s gray hairs with sorrow to the grave? — Sin. Who, by a more hideous metamorphosis than Ovid even fancied, changes gentle children into vipers, tender mothers into monsters, and their fathers into worse than Herods, the murderers of their own innocents? — Sin. Who casts the apple of discord on household tops? Who lights the torch of war and bears it blazing over trembling lands? Who by divisions in the church rends Christ’s seamless robe? — Sin. Who is this Delilah that sings the Nazarite asleep, and delivers up the strength of God into the hands of the uncircumcised? Who, winning smiles on her face, honeyed flattery on her tongue, stands in the door to offer the sacred rites of hospitality, and when suspicion sleeps treacherously pierces our temples with a nail? What fair Siren is this, who seated on a rock by the deadly pool, smiles to deceive, sings to lure, kisses to betray, and flings her arm around our neck to leap with us into perdition? — Sin. Who turns the soft and gentlest heart to stone? Who hurls reason from her lofty throne and impels sinners, mad as Gadarenes’ swine, down the precipice, into a lake of fire? — Sin.”

II. Sin seeks to veil its vileness by the cloak of religion. They pleaded their costly and splendid worship, the multitude of their sacrifices and offerings as some excuse for their faults. But the prophet tells them that this is the very worst thing about their sin; that it culminates in hypocrisy and tries to make religion a substitute for righteousness. The world has plenty of religion but the devil uses it as a channel for the very worst forms of sensuality, licentiousness and sin. God will not accept the worship of insincere hearts and impure hands. Sin prevents His answering our prayers, for “if we regard iniquity in our heart, then God will not hear us.” Sin defiles our most sacred offerings. Sin makes our religion the very worst of all our crimes. “Bring no more vain oblations” is Jehovah’s cry, “incense is an abomination to Me. It is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates, and when you spread forth your hands I will hide My eyes, yes, when you make many prayers I will not hear you; your hands are full of blood.”

The two words which express the character of Judah, as given by Isaiah are wickedness and worship. They had plenty of worship, costly worship, splendid worship, but it was stained with sin, and more offensive to God than even their grossest crimes.

Beloved reader, is your very religion cursed by your unrighteousness? Are your prayers neutralized by your unhallowed lives, and are you shutting the very gates of mercy against your poor soul by your presumptuous sins? Oh, stop and consider before the day shall come of which He has spoken, “Then shall they call, but I will not answer them; they shall seek Me early but they shall not find Me.”

12. Their sin was indelible, incurable and inveterate. The strong adjectives used in our text, “scarlet” and “crimson,” describe not merely the deepest tint possible but a kind of dye that was absolutely indelible. It was made from the eggs of a certain insect, and the stain could never be effaced. The word literally means “double-dyed.” There is no earthly power can take away the stain of human depravity. Culture will not do it. Educate and refine a monster, but at heart he is a monster still. They tell a quaint story of an Oriental despot, who among his queer pets had a little educated pig, which he dressed up in costly raiment, with jeweled rings and chains of gold, but whenever he let it free to gambol in the garden, it invariably plunged into the ditch, and came back defiled with mire and filth. At last he threatened it with death if it ever transgressed again. As it lay that night in terror of the morrow, knowing that the old habit would come back again and plunge it in the ditch once more, a nymph came to its side and offered to cure its swinish heart; and then, the juvenile legend tells us, the nymph took a little lamb and by a surgical operation took out its heart, and after a similar operation on the pig, exchanged the two hearts, and transferred the heart of the lamb to the heart of the trembling little culprit. Next day it was all right, and with the nature of the lamb it loved to gambol in the green fields and keep itself pure. The king was delighted and the pet was saved.

The foolish parable tells the story of the helplessness of the human heart apart from the grace of God. Let us find it out as quickly as we can, for true hope can only begin when we come to self-despair.

II. Salvation.

1. Repentance. The first step in our deliverance from sin is one that we must take. There is something we can do. “Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes, cease to do evil and learn to do well.” This is the preliminary step to every transformed life. You must refuse the evil. You must say “No” to sin. You must give God the right to make you holy. You cannot make yourself holy, but you can consent that He shall. Are you sick enough of sin to do this? Are you ready to take the first step which the old soldier so well described as “right about face.” That is what the word repentance really means. It is to look the other way, to think the other way and to change your attitude towards sin and God.

2. Mercy. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, yet shall they be as wool.” There is a double process here. The first is expressed by the figure of the snow. It does not cleanse, but it covers our sin. After the first fall of the virgin snow, your backyard has still the old refuse there, but the snowy mantle covers it immediately. This is what God does for every sinner when He justifies him through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is the imputed righteousness of Christ, and the vilest sinner may accept it, and in a moment be covered by the spotless robe of the Redeemer and be as white as snow. The other process is deeper and more intrinsic. The cleansing of the wool suggests the finest fibers of our nature, and represents that sanctifying work which the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the soul that yields to Him. That begins with the work of regeneration and reaches on to all the fulness of the Spirit until we are completely transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, and every fiber of our being is spotless as His holy nature.

3. The act by which we become partakers of all this grace is an act of the will. “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” It is not an emotional feeling merely that brings us into contact with the grace of God, but it is a choice, a decision, a fixed purpose. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Shall we meet this simple, practical condition, and with the whole strength of our will say “no” to sin and “yes” to God forevermore?

4. The sequel of all this is an obedient life. “If you be willing and obedient.” The essence of sin was disobedience, and the remedy for sin is a life of willing love and obedience to Him who only asks us to obey Him because it is best for us.

5. And finally, the blessed recompense. “You shall eat the good of the land.” Oh, how good the land of obedience is to its happy children here, and how glorious the inheritance to which it leads forevermore!

God help us to see our sin, to accept His salvation and to walk with Him in holy obedience and happy fellowship.

Chapter 3 – Isaiah’s Vision

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isa. 2: 2-5.)

The second address of the prophet is contained in chapters 2 to 4 inclusive. It begins with a sublime vision of the future glory of Israel and Jerusalem. This is immediately followed by the dark picture of the present condition of things which was anything but ideal. But after the dark eclipse and the long interval of sin and judgment, the vision returns and the closing paragraphs of the fourth chapter are radiant with the promise of a holy people and the presence of their covenant God in the fulness of blessing and the fulfilment of the opening vision.

I. The ideal.

Isaiah’s vision was not original. His words are quoted from an older prophet, the stern and eccentric figure that suddenly appeared in Jerusalem in the early days of Hezekiah’s reign and, with wild gestures and tones of agony and terror, summoned the king and the people to repentance, and became the instrument of Hezekiah’s conversion. It was the prophet Micah who first uttered this sublime picture of the future glory of the house of the Lord, and Isaiah prefixes it to his second address somewhat as a modern minister would put a text at the commencement of his sermon.

1. In the vision of Micah and Isaiah the Lord’s house occupies the center of the stage and the foreground of the picture. It is the old conception of the theocracy, a state founded upon the throne of Jehovah and placing His authority and worship above all other obligations.

2. The house of the Lord is represented as a mountain. The figure suggests vastness, loftiness and glory and the conception in the prophet’s mind is that God’s house, which simply stands for His cause, is the grandest of all causes and the noblest of all institutions. Mountains are used in prophetic imagery to represent great kingdoms. But all earthly organizations dwindle into insignificance in comparison with “His kingdom which is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion which endures unto all generations.” A distinguished statesman, having been appointed as an elder in a humble village church and permitted to pass to the congregation the emblems of the Lord’s supper, remarked that he felt more highly honored in having the humblest place in the service of God than when he had held the highest offices from his sovereign and his country. The day is coming when the lowliest servant of the King of kings will be a prince compared with the proud rulers of time.

3. It is above all other mountains.

It is to be “established upon the top of the mountains and exalted above the hills.”

The Chinese place their sacred pagodas on the loftiest hills and will not suffer a commercial building or a missionary edifice to overtop their sacred temples. They literally carry out the idea that the houses of their gods must be exalted above all hills.

The spiritual conception is fine. The claims of Christ should overtop all other claims. The authority of God should be supreme above all other influences. Have we thus exalted His throne in our hearts and crowned Him “Lord of all”?

4. The Lord’s house is to be the center of attraction for the world. “All nations shall flow unto it.” The name of Jesus already is the mightiest name on earth and the day is coming when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord,” and when all men shall come to Him as the source of life and every blessing. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.”

Zechariah has given us a sublime vision of a day that is coming when Jesus shall hold an annual reception in Jerusalem and all nations shall go up once a year to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and to worship at the feet of our glorified Lord.

The vision of Isaiah shall then be fulfilled and Christ shall indeed be the center of all hearts and all nations.

5. The house of the Lord is to be the light of the world for “He shall teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.” Jerusalem was the light of the ancient world. All true knowledge of God and righteousness came from the divine oracles committed to the chosen people, and from the same Jerusalem came the light of the Gospel in the apostolic age. Once more in the millennial age is Jerusalem again to be the center of light for all men, and the Word of God to go forth to all earth’s millions, so that the “knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” That day has not yet come. At present we are simply giving “the gospel as a witness” to all nations and “gathering out from among the Gentiles a people for His name,” but a brighter light is yet to shine from shore to shore and all nations shall walk in the light of the Lord.

6. The house of the Lord is to be the seat of government for the world. “The law shall go forth from Zion.” One of the curses of the nations today is bad government. It has been somewhat improved through the influence of Christianity among the nations, but we have no Christian nations as yet and never will have a truly Christian nation until the Lord Jesus comes. Then “the King shall reign in righteousness and princes shall rule in judgment.” Then “He shall judge the poor of the people; He shall save the children of the needy and shall break in pieces the oppressor. In His days shall the righteous flourish and abundance of peace so long as the moon endures.”

7. This will bring the golden age of the world. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Man is trying to bring this about through human governments and arbitration treaties. We thank God for what has been accomplished, but the facts of current history are almost a caricature of man’s pretensions, The very heavens must laugh as they behold the kings who at one time were most active in establishing the tribunals of peace a little later provoking by their tyranny the horrors of the world’s most terrible wars.

But the sentiment for peace is born from above and the echoes that float along the centuries in human sentiment and poetry speak forth a deep undercurrent of divine intuition. Not vainly has the poet dreamed of that golden age :

“Through the dark future, down long generations
The echoing sounds grow fainter and then cease,
And like a bell with solemn, sweet vibrations
I hear the voice of God again say Peace;

Peace, and no longer from its brazen portals
The voice of war’s loud thunder shakes the skies.
But beautiful as songs of the immortals
The holy melodies of Love arise.”

II. The failure.

But not yet is the vision. It is as true as it is sublime and beautiful, but, like Isaiah’s, it must wait until He comes, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords. How very stirring to find the young prophet of Jerusalem starting out in his splendid career with this glorious vision. How true to the loftiest natures and the history of every great movement. All great lives begin with such visions. It is this that stirs the breast of patriotism and makes the heroes whose lives have illuminated the pages of history. It is this that moved the Crusader and still inspires the philanthropist, the social reformer, the Christian worker and the world-wide missionary. No life will ever be illustrious until it has had its visions.

Gideons must Isaiahs be,
Vision first, then victory.”

But alas, the brightest vision must seem to fade and imagination and hope must learn to join hands with patience and faith and wait until God’s full time has come. It is all true. It is less than the glorious truth for “eye has not seen nor ear heard nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love Him and which God has revealed unto us by His Spirit.”

But there is another vision and that is the actual reality of life and humanity, and as we turn to that we shall find, as Isaiah did when he turned his eyes from heaven to earth, that the “gold has become dim and the most fine gold changed.” What a picture of corruption met his gaze!

7. The corruption of the rulers.

“How is the faithful city become an harlot. It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Your silver is become dross, your wine mixed with water: thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loves gifts and follows after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither does the cause of the widow come unto them.” (Is. 1: 21-23.) And here is another picture. “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths. The Lord stands up to plead, and stands to judge the people. The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of His people, and the princes thereof: for you have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean you that you beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? says the Lord God of hosts.” (Is. 3: 12-15.) We have become accustomed even in our modern republican life to such exposures of official corruption. Even the best forms of government do not change the selfishness and unscrupulousness of fallen nature. The righteous Judge looks down with indignation upon the reeking and ever-recurring spectacle of oppression, selfishness and misrule and longs for the day when the scepter of righteousness shall be the scepter of His kingdom and earth shall cease to groan beneath the heels of her oppressors.

2. Luxury. “Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots.” (Is. 2: 7.) Prosperity and wealth had debauched the nation and the leading families were given up to self-indulgence and luxurious pleasure which is always a demoralizing influence in the life of nations and which today is threatening the very foundations of society.

3. Idolatry and superstition. “Therefore You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers. Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.” (Is. 2: 6, 8.)

Their relations with heathen nations had introduced their abominations in the form of idolatry, sorcery and devil worship. Our own times, notwithstanding our boasted civilization, have not escaped the same peril. While we do not bow down to idols of wood and stone, we are running after the identical things that had this outcome of their coarser idolatries, for idolatry is but devil worship, and in modern Spiritualism, clairvoyance, Buddhism, Theosophy and Christian Science we have simply later forms of the same devil worship which the great father of lies is seeking to substitute for the worship of the true God in every age, and which he is refining to suit the tastes of the times and succeeding in palming off upon our boasted culture with unprecedented success.

4. Pride. “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: and upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Is. 2: 11-17.)

The spirit of pride is peculiarly offensive to God. It grows with prosperity and human progress until man becomes his own god. The prophet’s severest denunciations are hurled against the high looks and the haughty pride of Jerusalem and the modern prophet might as fittingly denounce the swollen vanity, the self-sufficiency, the assumption, the national vainglory and the intellectual boastfulness of our own age. A recent writer stated that it was the glory of the nineteenth century that it has given us humanity. Man’s confidence in himself and his own sufficiency is a practical atheism that dominates much of human thought today.

5. The vanity and corruption of woman. Finally the prophet’s piercing glance turns to the loud and showy women who form perhaps a large part of his audience and who with haughty necks and scornful eyes are beginning to frown down the awful message of the young enthusiast to whom they had listened for awhile with such admiration and pride. But now their faces blanch while he cries: “Moreover the Lord says, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.” (Is. 3: 16-24.)

This fearful picture might be adjusted without much strain to one of the fashionable parades of today. It is not wrong for women to dress with modest taste, for God has made the world beautiful and given to woman the instinct of good taste. But when a woman dresses for display, for adornment, for personal vanity and to become a center of attraction for the eyes of men, she degrades herself and dishonors her womanhood and her God. It is very significant that the one thing he says about women here is about their dress. It would seem as if a woman’s character was expressed in her apparel. You can tell the pure and modest woman by her dress. You can tell the loud, vain and immodest woman by her walk, her look and her array.

God help you, dear sisters, to dress as women becoming godliness, and above all other charms to wear the “ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which in the sight of God is of great price.”

The condition of woman in Isaiah’s time was one of the very evidences of the degeneration of the nation and the awful precursor of the shame, the outrage and the ruin in which they were so soon to be involved in the ruthless grasp of their pitiless enemies.

III. The later vision.

But the dark eclipse is to pass away and when judgment shall have done its fearful work the day at last will come of which the prophet says, “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remains in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even everyone that is written among the living in Jerusalem: when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” (Is. 4: 2-4.)

The change is to come about partly by divine judgment, bringing conviction of sin, but more fully through the work of the Holy Spirit whom the Messiah is to bring and who is to cleanse them “through the Spirit of judgment and the Spirit of burning.” This was the message later of John the Baptist, as he announced the coming Savior, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

This is the only remedy for all wrong social conditions and for all the evils of our hearts and lives. The coal that touched Isaiah’s lips and consumed his sins must burn out from us the taint of depravity and burn in the holy image of our God.

But it was only the remnant that was to be delivered. “Them that are escaped of Israel and he that is left in Zion and he that remains in Jerusalem.” The whole nation was not to be saved, but “a remnant according to the election of grace.”

This is the principle on which God is working now for both Jew and Gentile. He is not saving all the world, but “gathering out of the Gentiles a people for His name.” He is not saving all Israel, but a remnant from among them are finding the light, accepting the Messiah and getting ready for the glory of the latter days. The work of God is not a wholesale work today, but a little flock, a humble minority.

Dear reader, are you in this remnant? Have you turned from the great broad road of time and are you in the narrow way and with the little flock?

And when this remnant shall have been saved, sanctified and prepared, then will come in all its fulness, the vision of the glory. How sublimely the prophet describes it, “And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion and upon her assemblies a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defense. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.” (Is. 4: 5-6.)

It is the old symbolism of the pillar of cloud and fire that led them through the wilderness and the tabernacle round which they gathered before their covenant God, only all this ancient symbolism is to reach a splendor in the coming age such as only the later visions of the New Testament fully unfold.

The apostle John describes the vision of this tabernacle in the language of the Apocalypse, “The tabernacle of God shall be with men and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people and God Himself shall be with them and shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things have passed away. He that sits upon the throne shall dwell among them; they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them nor any heat, for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and lead them unto living fountains of waters and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

God bring us to that glorious time and that happy company. Isaiah began his visions of sin and sorrow, of darkness and judgment, with this glorious picture. He could not have stood the darkness if he had not first seen the light. Let us go forth into our mission in this world of sin and sorrow with a vision as bright and clear as the ancient prophet. And when our hearts grow sick with sin and all seems dark and wrong let us remember the vision and keep saying, “Though it tarry, yet it will surely come; though He tarry, yet He will surely come,” and the light of that blessed hope will lift us above the shadows of the present evil world and enable us to live under “the powers of the age to come.”

Chapter 4 – Isaiah and Jerusalem

While the great prophet surveys the whole world-wide horizon and has a message for all the nations, yet his special message is to Judah and Jerusalem and he looks at every other question from the standpoint of the chosen people.

I. His first message to his own people is a vision of sin and judgment. This occupies the first chapter and is a fearful indictment to the sinful nation, closing with the solemn announcement of judgment which is surely coming. “I will turn my hand upon you and purely purge away your dross and take away all your tin. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed.” (Is. 1: 25, 27, 28.)

1. This is followed in the second chapter by a glorious vision of Judah and Jerusalem in the last days. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Is. 2: 2-4.) The vision of faith does not rest long upon the dark shadows of sin and judgment, but looks onward to the glory of the latter days, for “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” and Jehovah will not suffer even Judah’s sins to frustrate His purpose of blessing.

3. The prophet’s vision next returns to the approaching judgment which is about to fall upon Jerusalem on account of her rebellion and disobedience. This is described in chapter 22: 1-12. This message is called “the burden of the valley of vision” and is a vivid picture of the siege of the city by the Assyrians. “You that are full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city; your slain men are not slain with the sword nor dead in battle. Therefore said I, look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labor not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people. For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord God of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains.” (Is 22: 2, 4, 5.) The vision is repeated in chapter 29: 1-8, where Jerusalem is represented under the name of Ariel; that is, the Lion of God. “And the multitude of all the nations that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.” (Is. 29: 7.)

4. Next we have the warning of Isaiah against the Egyptian alliance in chapter 31: 1-3. The prophet foretells the humiliation of Egypt and the confession of the foolish politicians that had leaned on this broken reed, instead of trusting in the Lord. “Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose : therefore have I cried concerning this, their strength is to sit still.” (Is. 30: 3, 7.)

“Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord. Yet He also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back His words; but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity. Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord shall stretch out His hand, both he that helps shall fall, and he that is helped shall fall down, and they all shall fall together.” (Is. 31: 1-3.)

5. But now the vision changes from warning and judgment to help and deliverance. God sees His people in the distress which they have brought upon themselves and He flies to their relief. “For thus has the Lord spoken unto me, like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them; so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also He will deliver it; and passing over He will preserve it.” (Is. 31: 4, 5.) This, no doubt, refers to the sudden and glorious deliverance of Jerusalem from the army of Sennacherib. (Is. 37: 36.) This promise is repeated when the hour of danger comes, and like the answering echo, the word is answered by the deed and the record of promise and deliverance follow each other. “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, he shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it for my own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and four score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” (Is. 37: 33-36.)

6. The prediction of Judah’s captivity was left for a later prophet, Jeremiah; but to Isaiah was given the distinguished honor of looking over the captivity and foretelling the glorious return of the captive bands from Babylon. Chapter 35: 1-10 is the exquisite panorama of this joyful procession. As they passed homeward “the wilderness and the solitary place were glad for them and the desert rejoiced and blossomed as the rose.” This beautiful picture has become the panorama of the Pilgrim’s Progress along the heavenly highway to the home above. What a beautiful return it was to the captives of Zion, we learn from the story of Ezra, as he tells us how the fathers that remembered the time when they had left Jerusalem led in chains, wept for joy when they looked once more upon the heights of Zion after the seventy years at Babylon.

In the vision of chapters 44: 28 through 45: 4 we have a more exact account of the principal circumstances connected with their return, at last, with the most important of these circumstances; namely, the fact that it was to come about through Cyrus, king of Persia. That Isaiah should be able to tell us the name of the very man that should be sitting upon the throne of Persia at that time, and that should send back the captives of Jerusalem is one of the miracles of prophecy. When we realize that this was nearly two hundred years before the event occurred, it is not wonderful that the higher critics, who cannot understand anything supernatural, should feel compelled to conclude that there must have been two Isaiahs, one in the days of Hezekiah and one in the days of Cyrus, who knew what he was talking about, because he was describing the history of his own times. How sublime the picture given of this mighty conqueror, like a pawn in the hands of Jehovah. “For Jacob, my servant’s sake and Israel, my elect, I have even called you by your name; I have surnamed you, though you have not known Me.” (45: 4.)

Many of the later visions of Isaiah are but echoes of this glad story of Israel’s return from Babylon. To the prophet’s imagination the vision came with no exact logical or chronological order, but with mingled lights and shades in which events overlapped, and often overleaped each other in sublime confusion, so that the same verse often describes the return of the captives from Babylon, and the restoration of Israel in the last days. As when we gaze at two mountains in perspective, they seem to blend as one mountain, although they may be miles apart; so the vision of the prophet often combines two events far removed in time and yet having common features of resemblance.

7. The next chapter in the history of Judah was the coming of Messiah and His rejection by the nation. The light which falls upon this vision in Isaiah is somewhat dim, and yet it is clear enough for us to recognize “the Man of Sorrows,” “despised and rejected of men, with no form or comeliness; and when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him: we hid as it were, our faces from Him: He was despised and we esteemed Him not.” Still later we see Him “treading the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with Him.” The apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah with reference to the rejection of Christ by Israel and says, “all day long have I stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” The very chapter which most vividly describes the coming of the Messiah, Isaiah 53, begins with a wail of disappointment over the unbelief of the nation, “Lord, who has believed our report and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”

8. But there is a brighter vision in Isaiah, the restoration of the people at last through the coming of their Messiah once more and their repentance and return to Him. The apostle Paul quotes again, from Isaiah 59: 20, in his triumphant conclusion in Romans 11: 26, “and so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” The last five chapters of Isaiah are bright with the promise of the glory of Jerusalem in the latter days. “Arise, shine, for your light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you” (Is. 61: 1) is the call that summons Zion to her restoration and glorious destiny. Her blessing is to overflow to all the nations “the gentiles shall see your righteousness and all kings your glory.” “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” As the apostle expresses it in his profound discussion of the whole question of Israel in Romans 9-11: “If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”

Chapter 5 – Isaiah and the Nations

We cannot properly understand the visions of Isaiah without having a clear conception of the neighboring nations which filled so large a place in contemporary history, and so frequently form the subject of the prophets’ messages. Palestine was situated midway between the two great empires of the world. On the west was Egypt with her tributary states in Africa, generally described under the name of Ethiopia. On the east was Assyria, which was superseded and succeeded later by Babylon. These two mighty empires lived in constant jealousy and conflict, and in the marching and counter-marching of their mighty armies the intervening states of Western Asia became the constant battle ground of the world. These states clustered close to the Mediterranean coast. Chief among them were Judah and Israel. The one with its capital at Jerusalem, shut away to a considerable extent by its inaccessible situation among the hills, was more likely to escape the notice of these passing armies. The other, Israel with its beautiful capital Samaria in the most fertile part of the valley of Northern Palestine, lay in the very path of these contending armies. Further north were the three powerful kingdoms of Syria, Hamath and Tyre, the great maritime kingdom of antiquity. Around the southern frontier of Judah were Edom, Moab and Arabia. These midway states, exposed as they were to one or the other of the great contending parties, were under the constant temptation of joining forces either with Egypt or Assyria for their own protection. Sometimes their joint action took the form of a mutual alliance between each other against the common foe. The politics of Judah and Israel, therefore, circulated about the question of these alliances. The shrewd politicians of Hezekiah’s court were always plotting for some convention, either with Egypt, Assyria or the smaller states. In opposition to this we constantly find Isaiah protesting against all entangling alliances and appealing to the people to remember that God is their national King and able to protect them, Himself, without their leaning upon the broken reed of earthly powers. All these states, he tells them, are themselves to be involved before long in national ruin and their fate will only drag God’s people down with them.

We find the early portion of Isaiah’s prophecies occupied, therefore, with a series of visions relating to these surrounding nations.


In Isaiah 7: 1, an alliance between Israel and Syria was made against Jerusalem, and King Ahaz was greatly alarmed. This was the occasion for Isaiah’s first vision and message regarding Syria in chapter 8: 4. In this message the prophet declares that before the child, which had just been born to him, “shall have knowledge to cry, my father and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.” The vision is renewed in Isaiah 17: 1-11, and a fuller description is given of the fall of Damascus and the extinction of Syria. “The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. And the fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and from the rest of Syria.” All this came to pass under Shalmaneser in the same invasion in which the Ten Tribes were carried away captive and the kingdom of Israel destroyed.

2. ASSYRIA (Is. 10: 5-16.)

This is a sublime passage in which Assyria is represented as a proud, vainglorious power which imagines that its victories are through its own strength and through the favor of its idol gods; while it is merely a rod and an axe in the hand of God, used to chasten His people and then broken and thrown away. So Assyria was to be broken too. Again in Isaiah 14: 25 the vision is continued, “I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.”


Babylon is the next of these world powers to come in for judgment.

The remarkable feature about the prophet’s vision of Babylon is that as yet the mighty Babylonian monarchy had not risen, Babylon being only a province of Assyria. Nearly two centuries were yet to elapse before the destruction of this mighty city, and yet the prophet describes in the minutest details the ruin which came through Cyrus. The ages which followed have only proved how exact was the prophetic picture of Isaiah 13: 13-22, Isaiah 14: 4-6 and Isaiah 34: 9-15.

“Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man takes up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee everyone into his own land. Everyone that is found shall be thrust through: And every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes: their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant places: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.”

“You shall take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, how has the oppressor ceased, the golden city ceased? The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers. He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hinders.”

“And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night or day; the smoke thereof shall go up forever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it forever and ever. But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it; and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof : and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. The wild beast of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered everyone with her mate.”


Moab was really a kindred race to Judah and Israel, being descended from Lot through his wicked daughters. Moab was always jealous of Israel and richly deserved the judgment which at last came upon her. Balak, the king of Moab, tried his best to destroy Israel as they passed through the wilderness, and afterwards succeeded through Balaam in bringing them into unholy relations with the daughters of Moab and thus falling under the divine judgment. In the later history of Judah, Moab proved itself a treacherous foe by standing guard at the fords of the river and refusing to let the fugitives from the destruction of Jerusalem escape. The two chapters, Isaiah 15 and 16, contain “the burden of Moab” and pronounce punishment and ruin upon the people and their cities.


The eighteenth chapter of Isaiah contains “the burden of Ethiopia.” “The land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.” How perfectly this describes that great Eastern Soudan, whose bird-life is fluttering ever upon the air, and whose people have indeed been “scattered and peeled, a nation meted out and trodden under foot.” But from this people there is yet to be brought a “present unto the Lord of hosts, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion.” All this is to come in due time through the gospel of the grace of God, which is at length beginning to reach this oppressed people.

6. EGYPT (Is. 19: 1-25.)

Generally speaking, this prediction is intended to show to the people of Isaiah’s time the utter vanity of trusting in the Egyptian alliance, because Egypt herself is to be led away captive by the king of Assyria. “And the Lord said, like as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years, for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia; so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot.” (Isa. 20: 3, 4.) Thus the confidence of those who had looked for safety to an Egyptian alliance is to be confounded and put to shame. There are some mysterious and remarkable references in the nineteenth chapter which have been variously interpreted. The nineteenth verse has been supposed by many to refer to the extraordinary galleries in the great pyramid of Egypt, which are considered by some to be a symbolical picture of the ages and of the plan of redemption. The twenty-second verse, “the Lord shall smite Egypt and heal it,” has been wondrously fulfilled, and the closing verse is, no doubt, prophetic of millennial times when Israel’s blessings, as the queen of nations, shall also reach and overflow to Egypt and Assyria.

7. EDOM (Is. 21: 11-13.)

Edom was a sort of cousin to Israel, but, like many other secondhand relations, was more unfriendly than even Israel’s enemies. “He called to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning comes, and also the night: if you will enquire, enquire you, return, come.” Edom’s watchmen are represented as crying unto the prophetic watchman, “What of the night?” and the answer comes, “The morning comes and also the night.” For Israel it was to be morning, but for Edom night. How dark the night of Edom history tells us and travelers today can only find the ruins of that greatness which has forever passed away.


The vision of Edom is followed by that of Arabia. (Is. 21: 13-17.) Even the scattered tribes of the desert were to share in the awful tide of carnage and war, which the Assyrian was to bring over the whole of western Asia. The glory of Kedar should fail and the traveling companies of Dedanim be scattered abroad.

9. TYRE (Is. 23:1-18.)

The mighty city of commerce and world-wide riches was to be smitten too. “The burden of Tyre. Howl, you ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them. Be still, you inhabitants of the isle; you whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished. And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the river, is her revenue; and she is a mart of nations. Be you ashamed, O Zidon: for the sea has spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins.”

“He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms; the Lord has given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strongholds thereof. And he said, you shall no more rejoice, O you oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon; arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shall you have no rest. And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot. And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the Lord will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth. And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.” For seventy years Tyre was to be broken and then restored and the day was to come when even her selfish and godless trade should be consecrated to the service of the Lord. This represents, no doubt, the general idea of the consecration of wealth and becomes a type for our own times. Oh, that it might be true today, in this age of commercial selfishness and corruption, that our “merchandise” and our “hire shall be holiness unto the Lord.”

The Northern Kingdom of the Ten Tribes also comes in for its message of judgment. “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! Behold, the Lord has a mighty and strong one, which, as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden under feet. And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which, when he that looks upon it sees; while it is yet in his hand he eats it up.” (Is. 28: 1-4.) What a picture of earthliness, drunkenness and the prostitution of natural beauty and blessing to selfishness and sin! What a message to this age of luxury and culture! How fearfully all this was at length fulfilled in the fall of Samaria and the ruin of the kingdom of Israel and how surely the same moral conditions are to bring the same judgment to every godless and sinful people.

Chapter 6 – The Incarnation Sign

“Moreover the Lord spoke again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And he said, Hear now, O house of David; is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7: 10-14.)

King Ahaz was in great perplexity and despair. The allied armies of Syria and Israel were invading his land, and he had determined to apply to the great king of Assyria to come to his assistance. While this would undoubtedly bring temporary relief, yet to the farseeing faith of Isaiah it was plain that it would inevitably lead to greater danger in the future, and that as soon as the conqueror had found his way to the Mediterranean coast he would speedily come back to lay his greedy hand upon Judah and Jerusalem too. This was exactly what came to pass. The Assyrian king did go against Damascus and Samaria, and eventually blotted out both kingdoms; but he came back also against Jerusalem before long, and the most terrible dangers and sufferings of the dynasty of David came through the very alliance which Ahaz was now about to make.

The prophet Isaiah therefore threw all the weight of his influence against this proposed alliance with Assyria. Going out to meet the king in one of the public avenues of the suburbs, as he was driving in his chariot with his retinue, he earnestly appealed to him not to be afraid of the two firebrands of Syria and Israel, because God had said, “It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.” As the king hesitated, the prophet appealed to him to ask a sign of God for the encouragement of his weak faith; but the king, persisting in his wilful purpose, with mock humility declined, and said, “I will not ask a sign neither will I tempt the Lord.” Then the prophet turned from Ahaz to his attendants, and cried out, “Oh! house of David, hear now, is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.”

The local meaning and application of this message has been much discussed by Bible expositors. Many believe that the primary reference was to some woman unmarried at the time, who was afterwards to be married and give birth to a child, in connection, perhaps, with the royal family, and that this was to be the immediate sign intended by the prophet, while ultimately the type looked forward to the greater event of the Messiah’s birth. It seems unworthy of so great a theme to make any temporary and local application. To apply this prophecy at all to the birth of a child through the ordinary course of nature would throw discredit upon the stupendous miracle of the Savior’s supernatural birth at Bethlehem. There seems no reason at all to attempt any other fulfilment than that which actually did occur when Christ was born of the virgin in the fulness of time.

The only objection seems to be that the prophet appeared to expect this event immediately. But in the perspective of prophecy it has always been the case that such events loomed so large that they appeared nearer than they actually were. The prophecies of our Lord’s second coming in the New Testament read as though the writers expected the Lord to come during their own lifetime, and yet nearly two thousand years have rolled away and the actual event is not yet. Like some vast mountain, which looms so high as you approach that it seems just before you, although it is scores of miles away, so the coming of the Messiah, more than seven centuries distant, appeared to Isaiah’s vision to be just at hand.

We have no hesitation, therefore, in applying this verse directly to the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. The prophetic announcement of this event in itself is almost as great a miracle as the Incarnation itself. So supernatural was the conception of one born of a virgin that it is said the translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into the Septuagint tried to find some other word than “virgin,” and to substitute the word “woman.” They felt that the Greek scholars of Alexandria and the common sense of the world would laugh at the idea of the Virgin Born.

This bold and naked prophecy, standing out like a mountain crag seven hundred and fifty years before the event in the writings of the greatest of the Hebrew prophets, is in itself a sublime witness to Jesus Christ, which to the present time the Jew is unable to explain away. A French scholar has said that the story of Jesus Christ as a human invention would have been more wonderful than the actual events of His history. If it was an invention, who is the stupendous genius that created this transcendent work of literature? We know the author of the Iliad, of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and of other great works of literature, but who is the great Unknown that gave to the ages the book of Jesus of Nazareth? No, the story is as marvelous as the Christ. And so this prophecy of Isaiah stands out as a finger pointing to Bethlehem, and as the prophet here expressed it God’s great “sign.”

In what sense is Jesus, and especially the Incarnation of Jesus, God’s sign to Israel and the world?

I. As already indicated, the prophetic announcement, coupled with its extraordinary fulfilment as recorded in the Gospels, is a convincing sign and demonstration that Jesus Christ is indeed the Messiah, and that Christianity must be divine. It is not merely the gospel story which establishes this, but the extraordinary fact that more than seven centuries before the greatest of the Hebrew prophets had declared to an unbelieving age that this very thing should occur. The prophecy was not understood at the time, and was an inexplicable riddle to the Jewish rabbis. The very strangeness of the announcement makes it all the more impossible for it to have been a collusion or a merely human utterance, and the exact correspondence, later, of the fact with the prediction gives to the miraculous birth of our Lord an emphasis which, to a candid inquirer, is simply beyond criticism.

II. The Incarnation is God’s sign to Israel and the world of His interest in the human race and in the chosen people. The translation of the prophetic name “Immanuel” expresses all this in a single sentence — “God with us.” What stronger assurance can we ask of the divine love and care? It was the dying message of John Wesley, “The best of all is, God is with us.” So great did this manifestation of the divine love seem to Zacharias that it unsealed his dumb lips and called forth the joyful cry, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.” The dream of ancient mythology was the coming down of the gods into human form and human life. But the Incarnation has brought us the everlasting union of the Deity with our fallen race. God has committed Himself to humanity and has taken up humanity into Deity, and through endless ages a Man shall sit upon the throne of the universe and share with the infinite God all His attributes and glories.

One of the rulers of Egypt, it is said, was rearing a valuable obelisk upon its base. At the last moment, in order to impress the engineer with the importance of his responsibility, he fastened his only son to the summit of the obelisk, and then pointing to it said, “Be careful, the life of the heir hangs upon the fate of the obelisk.”

In an infinitely higher sense, God has attached the very life of His own dear Son to the fortunes of this world. Jesus Christ is so identified with man that our failure would be His failure, and He cannot afford to let us fail. Just as your child is part of your very life and cannot cease to be your child, so we belong to God, and God is bound by His own very nature to guard our interests and guarantee our glorious destiny.

Speaking of this in the epistle to the Hebrews, the inspired apostle says: “For both He that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren…. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death; that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” (Heb. 2: 14-17.)

III. The Incarnation is the sign of the supernatural character of Christianity. Two schools of thought divide the minds of men, the one is evolution, the other is the supernatural. The tendency of unbelief today is to explain everything on the principles of rationalism. The whole character of the gospel is opposed to this. It is not a development; it is not the improvement of moral and social conditions through culture. It is a revolution rather than an evolution and the apostle’s words are true of the whole process of redemption. “Therefore if any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new, and all things are of God.” Even Isaac, the type of the great Messiah, could not come in the ordinary course of nature, but the promise had to wait until Abraham and Sarah had outlived their natural strength and the birth of the seed of promise was through a physical miracle in their own bodies. Still more manifestly was the Messiah Himself born, not through natural generation, but through the miraculous power of the Holy Ghost.

But the supernatural did not cease there. Christianity is divine from first to last. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ were the fitting climaxes of His miraculous birth and the conversion of every follower of the Savior is a miracle just as divine. “Except a man be born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Sanctification, too, is not a mere process of self-denial and spiritual endeavor, but it is a miracle of the indwelling Christ incarnate again in every believer.

Prayer is just an open door through which the Deity still interposes in the affairs of human life. And the great consummation is to come, not in the gradual uplift of human society through the forces of civilization, but in “the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven,” and an age of righteousness and glory that will only come with the coming of the King Himself. Of all this the Virgin Birth in Bethlehem was God’s great sign.

IV. The Incarnation was a reversal of all man’s ideas of character, goodness and greatness. Other kings are born amid the acclamations of the multitude and crowned with earthly state and splendid pageant. Other systems of thought tell us about self-exaltation, self-reliance and self-assertion. Christianity begins with self-renunciation. The first step is downward and the only pathway to ascension and glory is the way of humiliation. “He that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.” The apostle has given us the great pattern in the second chapter of Philippians, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2: 5-11.)

V. The Incarnation is God’s sign and revelation of His own character and will concerning men.

Therefore in connection with His incarnation our Lord is called “The Word.” “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us and we beheld His glory, even the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.” Christ as the Word is the expression of God’s character and will toward men. Christ is the Answer to all our questioning and the personal Messenger of God to men. “God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” (Heb. 1: 1.) The blessed Babe of Bethlehem, the loving Friend of sinners, the Teacher who unfolded such wondrous words of grace, He was but the voice of the mysterious Being whom human hearts so long have dreaded. “He that has seen Me has seen the Father. The words which I speak are not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” Would you know how God feels toward sinners, sufferers and helpless mortals? Jesus is the Answer speaking more loudly than words, for He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

VI. The Incarnate Christ is God’s sign in another sense namely, as revealing the hearts of men. This was what the angel said about Him when the annunciation came to Mary, “This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel and for a sign that shall be spoken against that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed.” Human character and destiny are revealed by contact with Jesus Christ. Men are not saved or lost merely by moral character, but by their attitude toward the Son of God. As of old He hung on Calvary between two men that represented at once both heaven and hell, so still it is true that the cross of Jesus is the dividing line between lost and saved men. “On either side one and Jesus in the midst.” Dear reader, on which side are you? Your present character and eternal destiny are to be decided by your attitude toward Him.

VII. Jesus Christ is a sign in the sense that He is the condition and guarantee of all God’s promises and covenants. “All the promises of God in Him are yes and in Him amen.” He is the Surety and Guarantor of every claim we have upon God. Just as the endorsement of the bank officials passes your draft, so every petition we present in the high court of heaven must bear the sign of His name. We are chosen in Him. We are made accepted in Him. We are complete in Him. The Father sees us only in Him. In His name we pray and receive the answer to our prayers. People often want to ask a sign from God that their prayers are heard and some important petition granted. We need no other sign than Christ Himself. His smile, His manifested Presence, His loving acceptance, guarantee every other blessing and, having Him, we may well add, “He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.”

A man of wealth had died intestate and no trace could be found of any will. At last his house was being sold at auction and all its contents. Among the various articles was a picture of his only son, for which nobody seemed to care but a poor old woman who had nursed him when a baby. Eagerly she bought it for a pittance and when she took it home and began to clean the dusty frame she found inside of it the old man’s will, bequeathing all his fortune to the person who loved his son well enough to buy his picture. And so the old lady got the fortune because she loved the son.

Our highest claim upon God is that we are dear to the heart of Jesus Christ and He is dear to us.

VIII. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ signifies above all else the deepest mystery of Christian life, namely, the incarnation of Christ in the consecrated heart. True indeed it is, as the old monk sings:

“Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born,
If He’s not born in you, your heart is still forlorn;
The Christ on Golgotha can never save your soul,
The Christ in your own heart alone can make you whole.”

We cannot better express this than in the following eloquent words from a recent article by Dr. Henry Wilson:

“A piece of tin may reflect the light near which it is placed. The glass surrounding the light radiates the light within.
“Just so we many become reflectors of Jesus Christ by coming to Him, following Him closely, imitating His life by the grace of His Holy Spirit, `enabling’ us so to do; and further we may in a beautiful and true sense be changed by thus constantly `looking unto’ and into the face of Jesus.
“`We all with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord are transformed (transfigured) into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.’ (2 Cor. 3: 18, R.V.)
“But surely the deeper thought and the deeper life is radiating as a lamp the light and life of an indwelling Christ. Paul himself, who, in the passage just quoted, gives us the reflector side of the truth, gives us in Galatians 2: 20, and many another passage, such as 2 Corinthians 6: 16: `I will dwell in them and walk in them,’ the radiating side of the deepest variety of the Christian life — the power of an indwelling Lord, Jesus Christ.
“Moses, from whom the last text is quoted, was himself the best example of a soul reflecting the glory, when he came down from the mount with the skin of his face shining with the light in which he had been living during those wonderful forty days in communion with God.
“But a greater than Moses is the highest example of His own indwelling when He came down from another mount, and `His face did shine as the sun.’ (Matt. 17: 2, and cf. Rev. 1: 16), not reflecting, but radiating the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. (2 Cor. 4: 6.)
“A locomotive is standing on the track, just completed; painted, polished, perfect in every part, and the sun at midday shining upon it and making every bit of brass and steel a burnished blaze of glory. But no motion, except that which comes from without as the workmen painfully `pinch’ it forward inch by inch with crowbars.
“Another engine is within the shed, grimy and stained with the wear and tear of many a journey. But the fire is lighted in the furnace; the water in the boiler reaches 212 degrees; steam begins to pass into the cylinders; the piston moves; the wheels turn; the engine goes forward. Not by external pressure, but by the force of an energizing power within.
“These two illustrations, the lamp radiating and not reflecting light; and the engine moved from within and not from without, may serve to make the difference between the two great schools of teaching on this subject.
“Three words similar in sound may also serve to accent the difference in degree, if not in kind, between these modes of presenting `the truth as it is in Jesus’ — imitation, inspiration, incarnation of Christ.
“For each view abundance of Scripture might be quoted, but our purpose is to emphasize the last as the highest and deepest of all.
“Incarnations and reincarnations are words much used these days and in various senses. To us as Bible Christians the only incarnation worthy of the name is that which took place in Bethlehem of Judea nearly two thousand years ago, and the only reincarnation in which we believe is that which takes place in the heart first and then in the life of all who are `born from above’ in the sense in which Jesus used the words to Nicodemus in the third chapter of St. John; Christmas Day repeated daily in human lives; Christ reborn, reincarnated in lowly hearts and yielded bodies; the whole Christ in the whole man,
“‘A living, bright reality.'”

IX. Finally, the Incarnation is a type and pledge of the Advent. The Christ of Bethlehem will soon be the Christ of glory. He who came in humble stall and manger bed is coming in a little while in power and glory, but it will still be the same human form and the same loving Christ, and it is only as we know Him in His fulness that we shall be welcomed by Him then to a place upon His throne. Blessed Christ, so near, so one. God grant that He may be all this, dear reader, to you and me.

“No distant Lord have I,
Loving afar to be,
Made flesh for me, He cannot rest
Until He rests in me.

Brother in joy or pain,
Bone of my bone is He,
More than my nearest, closest friend,
He dwells Himself in me.

Oh, glorious Son of God,
Incarnate Deity,
I shall forever dwell with You
Because You are in me.”

Chapter 7 – The Wonderful name

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Is. 9: 6, 7).

We have in this chapter a picture of darkness and dawn, and out of the dawn the rising of the Sun of righteousness.

I. The darkness.

The fifth and eighth chapters both close with a vision of gloom. The ninth chapter takes it up with special reference to “the land of Zebulon and Naphtali, Galilee of the Gentiles, and refers especially to the afflictions of this region in contrast with the great light that afterwards rose upon it. The translation in the first verse of the ninth chapter is quite unsatisfactory. The Revised Version is much better. “But there shall be no gloom to her that was in anguish. In the former time He brought into contempt the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time hath He made it glorious by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death upon them hath the light shined.” (Is. 9: 1, 2.)

The Gospel of Matthew refers especially to this prediction (Matt. 4: 13-16), in explanation of the fact that the Lord Jesus began His ministry in this region which had formerly been the most blighted section of all the land. The reason why this region was so severely afflicted was because of its nearness to the Syrian and Assyrian conquerors who swept over the land in their periodical invasions, and always struck this section first, and then, when returning, carried with them its captured population in their cruel and victorious train.

After the fall of Samaria and the subjugation of the northern kingdom, this whole country was settled with immigrants from Assyria, and these colonists gradually became mixed with the former inhabitants, so that the moral and spiritual condition of the land sank lower than its external state.

But the darkness of Galilee was but a sample of the deep gloom that rests upon every section of the world where the light of Christ’s Gospel has not come. That pall of darkness rests today on every heathen nation. How dark are their conceptions of our God and Father! How false are their ideals of righteousness and holiness! How hopeless and comfortless is their sorrow and how black the despair that rests upon the vision of the future! The old Saxon sage expressed it well. One night as they sat in the banqueting hall, and a little bird came fluttering in from the darkness, and flew for a little through the lighted chamber passing out at the other end into the darkness again, the old sage turned to the company, that was even then discussing whether to receive the Christian missionaries into their land or not, and said, “Our life is like this picture that we have just seen. We come out of the darkness into existence, and flutter a little in the light of life, and then we pass out of the light into the same darkness again. We know not whence we come or whither we go; surely we need some one to bring us the light.” So dark, so desolate is this sad world without the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Just as the night lamp seems to make the midnight darker beyond its radiance, so the gladness of our Christmas days and our gospel privileges only seem to bring into more vivid relief the fearful gloom of a Christless world. How sad to think that still two-thirds of its vast population are sunk in just such darkness while we are rejoicing in the light of Bethlehem, Calvary, and the blessed hope of His coming again.

II. The dawn.

“The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light. They that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined.” “You have multiplied the nation, You have increased their joy; they joy before You according to the joy in harvest as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (Is. 9: 2, 3.)

The coming of Jesus Christ has indeed brought a great light into this dark world. When He taught us to say “Our Father who art in heaven,” the whole heaven became illumined with the vision of a God of Love, and all the mummeries of idolatry, like the shadows of the night, shrank away before the rising dawn. The world’s best wisdom has no such conception of God. In all the writings of the sages, in all the libraries of the world, there is nothing to compare with the parable of the prodigal son and the good shepherd, or with these three promises from the lips of Jesus, “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “He that hears My Word and believes on Him that sent Me has everlasting life, and shall never come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am there you may be also.”

The best light that Jesus gives, however, is what He calls “the light of life,” the light that shows us how to walk and gives us strength so to walk. “I am the light of the world.” “He that believes Me shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

And, oh, the glorious light that He has shed beyond the grave, for “Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”

Ancient superstition hung up little lamps in the tombs of the dead, but their faint glimmer only deepened the gloom of Christless despair. The resurrection of Christ has dispelled the darkness of the grave and made the future of every child of God as bright as heaven. In that blessed light we have learned to dry our tears of mourning and to go forth ourselves into the seeming gloom with a shout of victory.

“Oh, grave, where is your victory? Oh, death, where is your sting? Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The paragraph that follows is a fine picture of the new order of things which the Savior is to introduce. Reading again from the Revised Version we quote, “For the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor You have broken as in the day of Midian; for all the armor of the armed man in the tumult and the garments rolled in blood shall forever be for burning, for fuel of fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder,” etc. (Is. 9: 4-7). The idea is that the coming of this King is to change the old order of the world. The weapons of war shall be burned to ashes, the din of strife shall pass away in the sweet music of the gospel, and the Prince of Peace shall begin His everlasting reign. Instead of the battle with confused noise and garments rolled in blood is to be the birth of the heavenly Babe and the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. A new order of forces is to be established upon the earth, and a King of meekness shall supersede the tyrants of bloody oppression and brutal war.

The very center of the light, He is to dawn upon this dark world as the Sun of Righteousness Himself, the blessed Christ who forms the center of the prophet’s vision and whose birth ushers in a new day in the annals of time.

III. The Sun of Righteousness.

1. The Child. The birth of a child was a very significant thing for every Jewish mother and every Hebrew household. From that early hour when Eve forgot her maternal anguish in the joy of her first-born’s smile, and cried out, “I have gotten a man from the Lord,” the highest hope of every Hebrew woman was to be the mother of the Messiah. This deep national instinct could well understand the exulting cry of the prophet, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” It was true to nature as well as redemption, and it carried in its bosom a deeper and larger truth than even their Messianic hopes could comprehend, for that Holy Child has lifted every other child into new dignity and importance, and forever has made the child-spirit the true type of the heavenly character.

The childhood of Jesus Christ was one of the most charming and attractive features in all His humiliation. Adam, the first of men, stepped upon the threshold a full-grown man, but Adam fell, and dragged the race down with him to ruin and sorrow. Jesus Christ came along the feeble steps of infancy and traversed every stage of the pilgrimage of man from the cradle to the grave; and Jesus has not failed. So dear to Him and to the thought of God is this feature of His character that even amid the exaltation of His heavenly throne, He is still worshiped as “thy Holy Child Jesus.” There is something in Him which is as simple as childhood, and He Himself has said, “Whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me, and he that receives Me receives Him that sent Me.” In some mysterious sense a little child is the truest image both of the Father and the Son.

2. The King. For this Child is born to be a king. “The government shall be upon His shoulder.” This means not only the government of the universe but the government of our lives. He is the true Sovereign, and the only One that can ever rule this world so as to realize for it its true ideal of blessing. Man has tried the government of monarchies and they have all failed. He is again trying the government of democracies, and they will also fail. The last vision in the Apocalypse is a lot of commonwealths without crowns, and they are all arrayed against the Lord. No, republicanism is not going to do it any more than despotism. The true King is God’s Holy Child Jesus, of whom the older prophet had already sung, “He shall judge the people with righteousness and the poor with judgment. In His days shall the righteous flourish and abundance of peace so long as the moon endures. He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him.” Dear reader, is He your King? Have you committed the government of your life to His hands and crowned Him “Lord of all”?

3. The Wonderful. “His name shall be called Wonderful.” The Hebrew word literally means “a miracle.” The idea underlying the verse is the supernatural. His birth was supernatural, but all His works and ways are to be supernatural, too. He has projected into human history a higher plane, and under His administration we are to expect not the ordinary laws of cause and effect, but the transcendent working of an Almighty hand, superior to all methods and means and prepared to interpose the supernatural wherever it is needed for the accomplishment of the great purposes of His redemption. What an inspiring thought this is! We so easily fall into the old ruts and get accustomed to the trend of things that we forget that the very idea of Christianity is something above the common, beyond the natural order of things, and involving the wonderful working of our God.

Dear friend, is this Wonderful One in your life? Have you anything supernatural in your religion? Is your salvation a new creation and a miracle of grace? Is your spiritual life superhuman and divine? Has He touched your body with His miraculous power? Have you looked to Him to answer your prayers, to overcome your difficulties and to use your ministries by His wonderful providence and His almighty Spirit, so that your life will be a supernatural witness to that supernatural Book which the devil is trying today to reduce to a mere collection of human documents and ancient literature? The very point of the conflict that is going on today touches this question. Satan, with the help of modern scholarship, is trying to eliminate the supernatural from the Bible, from the story of Jesus of Nazareth and from the church of God. Our young people are being educated in the schools today to apply the doctrine of evolution to everything and to discard the miraculous story of creation and all that is accessory to it. Oh, that we might rise to the issue, and by a supernatural faith and a supernatural life might prove to the world that this Book is indeed supernatural and divine, and that His name is truly Wonderful!

4. The Counselor. The greatest of Israel’s kings, was greatest in his wisdom, but “a greater than Solomon” is here. The royal Babe of Bethlehem is the wisdom of God. Nothing is more wonderful in the life of our Lord than the quiet, instinctive wisdom with which He met every situation and every difficulty. No victory was more impressive than that last day in the temple court, when the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and others came to Him in succession, determined to confuse Him with their fractious questioning, and with calm, imperturbable wisdom He silenced them one by one, until they were glad to slink away from His majestic presence, and “no man after that presumed to ask Him any more questions.”

The blessed Counselor is not only wise for Himself but He is able to give us wisdom. How often a single step in life is the turning point of blessing for all the future. To know just what to do is so important. All night long the disciples toiled at their nets and got nothing, but when the morning came all they needed was just one word of guidance, “Cast your net on the right side, and you shall find;” and lo! the fish came crowding to their nets.

Jesus Christ is our Counselor, and if we surrender our fancied wisdom and trust His guidance we shall not be allowed to err but shall be guided in judgment and kept from stumbling.

5. The Mighty God. This King is no mere human potentate, but the omnipotent One, and all His power is at the service of His people, but His power must be claimed by faith and prayer. Do we know Him in His almightiness, and have we allowed Him to clothe us with His mighty power and make our lives efficient through His strength?

6. The Father of Eternity. This is the correct translation of the phrase. It does not mean that He takes the place of the Father among the persons of the Deity, because He is not the Father, but He is the Father of eternity; that is to say, all His plans and purposes are everlasting, and when we take Him in our lives all our ways take hold on eternity. Earthly kings must pass away. The very benignity of the reign of a Josiah only made his death the more distressing. But this King is everlasting, and when we receive Him, He makes our lives eternal, too. How sad to think of friendships formed only to be severed; plans conceived and executed only to be buried in the tomb, and results that are as ephemeral as our mortal lives! How sublime the Psalmist’s prayer, “Lead me in the way everlasting!” This is what the Father of eternity will do for us:

Take from us the things that wither and decay,
Give to us the things that cannot pass away,
And lead us in the way everlasting.

7. The Prince of Peace. This is His sweetest gift, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” This is His bequest to us, and the prophet tells “of the increase of His government, and of His peace there shall be no end.”

Shall we take Him for the increase of His peace, and in order that we may have it, shall we also give Him the increase of the government? So shall we find as we surrender to Him all our life that He will make real to us His gracious promise, “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me who am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls.”

Chapter 8 – The Parable of the Vineyard

“Now will I sing to my beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard.” (Is. 5:1.)

The fifth chapter of Isaiah is a sort of parable in poetry and song very similar to one of the parables of our Lord, as recorded in the twenty-first chapter of Matthew. This parable was followed by a series of woes addressed by Christ to the Scribes and Pharisees, just as Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard is followed by a similar series of woes. (Matt. 23: 13-29; Is. 5: 8-22.)

I. The vineyard.

He describes the selection of the site in a very fruitful hill. Later, in the seventh verse, he tells us that the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel. The fruitful hill, where He planted this vineyard, was Mount Zion. “He fenced it.” This, no doubt, refers to His separation of Israel from the nations, the restrictions and safeguards He placed around them through the law and ordinances which He gave to them and the peculiar isolation of the land and the people from all other peoples.

“He planted it with the choicest vine.”

This refers to the oracles of God, the Word of revelation which He gave to them and all the covenant privileges and blessings which He committed to them. The tower and the winepress which follow are part of the picture of the vineyard and still further refer to God’s provision for the spiritual culture of the chosen people and the blessed fruit which He expected to come from the love and grace invested among them. This is no new figure, but a very familiar one in the Old Testament. “You have brought a vine out of Egypt,” says the Psalmist, “You have cast out the heathen and planted it. You prepared room before it and caused it to take deep root and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea and her branches unto the river. Why have You then broken down her hedges so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood wastes it and the wild beast of the field devours it.”

So Jesus uses the same figure of His own people. “I am the Vine, you are the branches.” The richest and most valuable of all the products of nature is used to represent the richest of God’s graces to His people. But just as the devil has perverted the vine of the earth to the basest and most destructive purposes, so the vine of the Lord’s planting has been assailed by the adversary and turned aside from its divine purposes through the unfaithfulness of men.

II. The wild grapes.

And so the prophet quickly turns from the beautiful vision of the divine Husbandman and His care for His vineyard to the failure of the vineyard. (Is. 5: 2.) “He looked that it should bring forth grapes and it brought forth wild grapes.” The peculiarity of the wild grape is that it is purely natural, an ungrafted fruit. Therefore it represents most fittingly the quality of all mere natural and human goodness. Human nature can only produce wild grapes; luxuriant and beautiful the vine may seem, but the fruit is worthless. So are all the fruits and graces that grow upon the stalk of humanity. It is only when it is cut back and Christ is grafted into the stalk of our old human nature that there is any good in us. All the failures of the Old Testament were intended to demonstrate this fact, and still men are looking for the development of goodness through education and Christian endeavor instead of through fellowship with the cross of Jesus Christ and entering into His death and resurrection life.

The prophet then proceeds to describe these wild grapes by a series of woes which differentiate and distinguish the various forms of sin in a picture which is as true today as it was in the days of Isaiah.

1. The first of these is greed. Each of these specifications begins with a woe. “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, until there be no place that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth.” The spirit of monopoly had begun in Isaiah’s time, and the men of great wealth were buying up the whole land and laying it out in vast estates, so that the common people were crowded out of house and home, and the soil that the Creator gave for the support of the people was being used for the luxury of the proud.

Isaiah was not a socialist, but the whole spirit of divine legislation is against selfishness, greed and monopoly. It is no sin to be wealthy, but it is a fearful sin to absorb wealth in the spirit of greed and spend it in selfish luxury. A true citizen will always regard his wealth as a trust for society and his fellow men. There is nothing more alarming in the spirit of our times than the colossal fortunes that are being built up and the selfish and godless use that is being made of them by so many.

The apostle James tells us that these are the signs of the last days. “You have heaped up treasure in the last days.”

2. Selfish and sensual pleasure and unreasonable and unseasonable indulgence in appetite and sensual enjoyment. “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, until wines inflame them. And the harp and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts, but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of His hands.”

It is not so much the sin of drunkenness that is here condemned as the sin of pleasure-seeking, of which drinking is a part. These devotees of self-indulgence give up the whole day as well as the whole night to feasting. The effect of this voluptuous life is the deadening of conscience and all spiritual life. “They regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of His hands.” It was the same condition of brutal sensuality which the prophet Amos denounced in the Northern Kingdom, “That lie upon beds of ivory and stretch themselves upon their couches and eat the lambs out of the flock and the calves out of the midst of the stall; that chant to the sound of the viol and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; that drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the chief ointments, but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.”

A life of self-indulgence deadens every high and holy feeling of the heart and makes men selfish and indifferent to God and the claims of their fellow men. They rest in their delicious dream of security, until suddenly the sky darkens, the crash comes and the fearful picture of Isaiah is fulfilled. “Therefore hell has enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure and their glory and their multitude and their pomp and he that rejoices shall descend into it.”

3. Presumption. “Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity and sin as it were with a cart rope: that say, let Him make speed and hasten His work that we may see it and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come that we may know it.” (Isa. 5: 18, 19.) These are the scoffers who the apostle Peter says shall come in the last days saying, “Where is the promise of his coming?”

They were abroad in Isaiah’s time. They made light of the prophet’s message and the prophet’s word. They put aside all finer fears and feelings and drew iniquity with cords of vanity and sin with cart rope. They hardened their hearts in brutal atheism and laughed at the idea of God, righteousness and judgment to come. They saw no sign of the coming tempest, and in their fool’s paradise they went on in reckless defiance of God and man. So still men sometimes harden their necks against the warnings of heaven and God sits in the heavens and laughs, for He sees that their day is coming. It does not often happen that these reckless men are permitted to repent. Like Korah, Dathan and Abiram in the days of Moses, they are permitted to work out to the full the judgment of heaven.

4. False teaching and perverted moral ideas. “Woe to them that call evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” This is another class of moral evils. It is a very subtle form of sin and a very serious one. It is the false philosophy, poetry and religion that come as angels of light and aim at the perversion of the human conscience and the obliteration of all true convictions of right and wrong. It insidiously seeks to undermine virtue by painting in the poetry of passion the charms of license and the delights of sin. It makes the beautiful, rather than the true, the aim of life and subverts the stern authority of God’s Holy Word and makes it all a myth and allegory.

It is abroad today in the poetry of passion, in the popular novel, in the meretricious theater, in the suggestiveness of fashion, in the easy manners of society, in the mixed conditions of the church itself, in the false teachings of apostates cloaking over sin through ecclesiastical indulgence, in the gauzy sophistries of Christian Science, which do away with all real moral principles; and still more, in the unholy mysteries of Theosophy, Spiritualism and occult science that are pouring over us from the Orient with its filthy tide. Our modern literature, our modern plays, our modern society are full of it. The word ‘sin’ is being eliminated from the popular ethics of our day, and compromise, expediency and sentimentalism are taking the place of God’s eternal law and the claims of conscience and righteousness. God says to all these things, “Woe to them that call evil good, that put darkness for light and bitter for sweet.”

5. Drunkenness. “Woe to them that are mighty to drink wine and men of strength to mingle strong drink.” It is not so much the vice of becoming drunk that is here denounced as the power to drink like a beast and not get drunk. It is the sensual animalism that can load itself with liquor and lead others into stupid, beastly insensibility, and yet glory in its own self-control and ability to drink without limitation. This is downright beastliness, and yet the picture is not hard to find in our Christian lands, which, above all other lands, are blighted and disgraced with the curse of drunkenness. The woe that Isaiah here pronounces is one that reverberates through all the centuries of the corridors of time, all the vaults of hell. It is the saddest wail ever extorted from human sin and sorrow. It is indeed the devil’s most dreadful curse upon lost humanity, and fearful indeed will be the punishment of every man and woman that has any part in spreading it among his fellow men.

6. Self-conceit and pride of intellect. “Woe to them that are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight.”

These are the men that had no need of the counsel of Isaiah or the Word of God. They were a law to themselves. The generation is not yet extinct. Pride of intellect, self-sufficiency, all human culture: these form the greatest obstacle to the reception of the Word of God, and it is forever true that “if any man will be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise, for He takes the wise in their own craftiness.” How very sad that very much of the culture of even the present age is arrayed against Christianity. It is because man hates to acknowledge his own ignorance and nothingness and take his place at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him. Therefore the mysterious words of Jesus Christ are always true of the followers of the kingdom of heaven, “I thank You, oh, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hid these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”

7. Unrighteous judgment. There is one more class here described, although they are included in the last woe. “Which justify the wicked for reward and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him.” (Is. 5: 23).

Perverted judgment for the sake of gain, to wrong the innocent and to whitewash the vile: these were the characteristics of men in high places in Isaiah’s time; and God denounces their wickedness in the most severe and unmeasured terms. When the fountains of justice are corrupted and the very courts of law become market places for bribery, violence and oppression, then the very life of a nation is in peril.

III. The harvest.

Therefore the prophet can no longer keep back the vials of God’s wrath, and the most vivid metaphors are used to describe the coming judgment. It will be like the devouring fire as it sweeps over the prairie stubble. “Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the Word of the Holy One of Israel.

It will be like the terrific earthquake as it rends the mountains. “Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against His people and He has stretched forth His hand against them, and has smitten them and the hills did tremble and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away but His hand is stretched out still.”

It will be like the invasion of a desolating army as it sweeps like a whirlwind over the plains. “And He will lift up an ensign to the nations from afar and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly; none shall weary nor stumble among them, none shall slumber nor sleep, neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed nor the latchet of their shoes be broken: whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hooves shall be counted like flint and their wheels like a whirlwind.” (Is. 5: 26-28).

It will be like the roaring of a pack of lions as they leap upon their prey. “Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yes, they shall roar and lay hold of the prey and shall carry it away safe and none shall deliver it.” (Is. 5: 29.)

It will be like the raging tide as it sweeps away the barriers and breaks over the land in desolation, “And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea.” (Is. 5: 30.)

And it will be like a land over which the darkness of Egypt has fallen. The heavens are black with anger and sorrow and terror hangs like a pall of impenetrable gloom, “And if one look into the land, behold, darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.” (Is. 5: 30).

All this came to Judah in a little while. All this has been coming from age to age to nations and races that have brought upon themselves these woes by the corresponding sins and crimes.

All this came upon Assyria and Babylon in their turn when they at length were down under the storm of judgment. All this came to Jerusalem when she perished under the cruel talons of the Roman eagle, and all this is coming to the civilized nations of today when their sin shall have grown ripe for the winepress of the wrath of God. And just as certainly will it come into the life of the individual, for “they that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind,” and even in the present age to a great extent it is literally true. “Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that does evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.”

The evil grapes must find their place in the winepress of the wrath of God. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap; for he that sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

Chapter 9 – The King of Righteousness and Peace

“And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: but with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” (Is. 11: 2-6.)

This is the third picture of Christ in the book of Isaiah. The first is the prophecy of Immanuel in the seventh chapter, the next the Wonderful Counselor in the ninth chapter. Now comes the great antitype of Melchisedek, the King of righteousness and peace.

I. He is a Shoot from the stem of Jesse and a Branch from his roots. The idea is that the family of David was to pass into decay like an old rotting stem, and out of the ruin was to spring a shoot who should become the heir of David’s house and throne. That the Jewish rabbis understood this as a prophecy of the Messiah is evidenced from the Chaldean paraphrase of the old Testament in which this is translated as a son and heir and the name Messiah is used.

There is a fine contrast in the whole paragraph including the previous context in which the king of Assyria is described under the image of a great cedar forest which is to be cut down and utterly fall while the house of David, although seeming to pass into decay, is to be revived by this branch that is to spring from its ruin.

A great principle is here expressed, the principle which underlies the whole Christian system, namely, life out of death. The Lord Jesus Christ came as the outgrowth of a ruined race. He was born of our sinful humanity. He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Humanity had fallen into ruins when out of its decaying roots sprang this new and heavenly Branch which was to “blossom and bud and fill the face of the world with fruit.” Christ Himself was true to this principle all through His life and work. In accordance with it, He went down into death itself and out of the grave He arose in resurrection, life and power to be the Tree of Life for earth’s dying millions.

In like manner, our life must come out of death. Every saved soul is a shoot from the decaying root of a lost past. Every sanctified soul is as one resurrected from the dead, and the glory of the new age is to come through the death of the old and the resurrection not only of men, but of nature too.

The Hebrew word “nazar” signifies a little scrubby shoot. The name is applied to the Lord Jesus in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah again. “A root out of dry ground.” This is forever true not only of the Master, but of all His followers. “The Nazarene” was a name of contempt and humiliation. It signified the last degree of human merit and earthly promise, but from this root has sprung all the hope of earth and all the glory of heaven.

II. He is endowed with supernatural character.

The qualities of wisdom and righteousness here ascribed to this scion of the house of David are not merely remarkable in themselves, but still more remarkable in their source. They are not the inherent qualities of the Messiah, but they are communicated to Him directly and supernaturally by the Holy Ghost Himself. Here is the radical distinction between human ethics and divine righteousness. Man’s morality is the result of natural virtue and ethical culture. God’s righteousness comes down from heaven and is directly communicated by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Therefore Jesus Christ Himself set the example of this new divine righteousness by delaying and suspending all His official ministry until after He received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Although the Son of God, possessing the attributes of deity, He did not exercise them in His own person; but humbled Himself and took the place of dependence upon His Father like any other man, and at length received all the gifts and graces required for His public ministry by receiving the Holy Spirit as we are to receive Him, and living ever after a life of constant dependence by faith and prayer upon God for the supply of wisdom, strength and righteousness for His whole life and ministry. Such stupendous condescension surpasses all other acts of humiliation on the part of our Lord. He consented to be nothing and to receive everything as given Him from above. “I can of My own self do nothing,” He testified. “The words I speak are not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me.” “I, by the Holy Ghost, cast out demons.” “As the living Father has sent Me and I live by the Father, so he that eats Me even he shall live by Me.” The Master received all His gifts and graces just as we receive them: through the Holy Ghost.

The apostle John speaks of “the seven spirits which are before the throne,” that is, the seven-fold ministry and equipment of the divine Spirit. This passage in Isaiah presents to us seven operations of the Holy Ghost in connection with the character and ministry of Christ.

1. The Spirit of wisdom. Wisdom is that quality which enables us to use the right means for the end in view. It is the ability to accomplish results, to bring things to pass, to do the right thing. It is the quality which gives success and efficiency in practical life.

2. The Spirit of understanding. This has reference to knowledge in general. One may possess wisdom and yet have a very limited knowledge. On the other hand, one may possess stores of knowledge and yet have no practical sense or sound judgment. It is said of one of England’s kings:

“He never said a foolish thing
And never did a wise one.”

The Lord Jesus was eminently wise and yet had boundless knowledge. How marvelously He met the snares His subtle foes set for Him and always did the right thing and so answered their ensnaring questions that at last no man dared ask Him anything. At the same time, how marvelous His knowledge of the Word of God. Even at the age of twelve, His familiarity with the Scriptures amazed the Jewish scholars in the temple, and the testimony of all that listened to Him through His public ministry might be expressed in the one admiring reply of the men that tried to arrest Him, “Never a man spoke like this man.”

3. The Spirit of counsel. This is the ability to impart wisdom to others and to guide safely and rightly the steps of those that look to Him for direction. What a “Wonderful Counselor” He is. “When He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them and they know His voice.” He leads His people “in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble.” They that follow Him shall not stumble, and “the wayfaring man though a fool shall not err therein.”

4. The Spirit of might. The Holy Ghost endowed Christ with miraculous power over all the power of Satan, over the forces and laws of nature and over disease and men. The promise of the Comforter still involves the same power for the followers of Christ. Christianity is not a mere set of harmless opinions but the presence of a living potency that brings things to pass.

5. The Spirit of the knowledge of God. The Holy Spirit was the medium of fellowship between the Father and the Son, and in His light and presence we come to know God and hold intimate converse with Him. Divine things and the Divine Being become intensely real.

6. The Spirit of the fear of God. This means devotedness, godliness, piety, sensitive regard for God’s authority and will, and that absolute obedience and faithfulness of which the Lord Jesus could say, “The Father has not left Me alone, for I do always those things that please Him.”

7. The final quality in this sevenfold equipment of the Holy Ghost is expressed by an extremely significant figure, whose beauty and force are brought out by the marginal reading, “and shall make him of quick scent (or smell) in the fear of the Lord.”

The sense of smell is the finest exercise of all our physical qualities. It approaches more nearly to the spiritual and ethereal than any other. The fragrance of the flower has been compared to the soul of nature breathing out in sweet perfume. The scent in animals is the instinct which detects things as no operation of the human intellect possibly can. The dog recognizes his master and his enemy. The wild bird knows where the warm breezes of the Southland blow, and the difference between the poisoned berry and the wholesome fruit of the wilderness.

And so the Holy Ghost gives to us an instinctive life that is higher than the operation of our reasoning powers. We know God, and we know right and wrong. Yes, and we know His messages, His directions, His intimations to us by those finer touches, those more delicate instincts which do not appeal to our reasoning powers or our coarser senses, but which speak to our consciousness with the authority of intuitions, and which bring to us the certainty that we cannot explain to others and yet could not for a moment question.

How marvelously the Lord perceived the thoughts and characters of those around Him. How often He answered men without their having spoken. How He sensed conditions, characters and things by something within Himself which was as unerring as it was incomprehensible to men. The Holy Spirit will be to us such an instinct and will give to us intuitions of God, of truth, of right, of approaching evil and of the will of God for us which will make us of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord, and which will lead us likewise to judge, “not after the sight of our eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of our ears.”

III. The Spirit of righteousness and holiness.

“Righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins and faithfulness the girdle of His reins.” The mightiest thing about the Lord Jesus was not His miraculous power but His unimpeachable righteousness. It was this that saved us from the curse which our unrighteousness had brought upon the race. Had He for one moment failed to meet the tests of Satan the race would have been wrecked forever, and the plan of redemption been an irretrievable failure. Just once Moses, the great lawgiver, failed, and that one failure shut him out of the land of promise. With what subtle art the great enemy sought to overthrow the righteousness of Jesus! Could he have but ensnared Him for an instant and lured Him aside from the pathway of obedience upon which He had staked His life and our redemption, what despair must have filled the heavens, and what hopeless anguish must have been the endless portion of our race! But Jesus overcame because “righteousness was the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins.” Not for a moment did He even think of or desire aught but His Father’s will, and so “by the obedience of One have many been made righteous.” It was through the Holy Ghost that He stood victorious in this awful test, and that same Holy Ghost is the Sanctifier who still comes to lead us through the same conflict and to the same victory.

IV. The Spirit of judgment.

The righteousness of Jesus Christ, however, was not only personal, it also became a consuming fire to destroy the wicked. Once or twice only in His earthly life did that flame flash forth in the words that withered the barren fig tree, and the woes that scathed the hypocritical Pharisees, who knew the right but chose the wrong. He did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. Therefore, when He read from the book of Isaiah in His inaugural sermon at Nazareth the words of His great commission, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” He closed the book at that point, and left unuttered the last sentence of the prophecy — “the day of vengeance of our God.” The time for that had not yet come, but none the less surely is coming. The fire that melts the gold and makes it pure, burns up the chaff to ashes. The holiness of Christ must either save or destroy. The announcement of the forerunner was, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” But there was another fire for those who refused the Holy Ghost: “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” The Lord Jesus Christ must inevitably judge all evil which refuses to be cleansed by His grace and brought into subjection to His Father’s will.

Therefore, He is here revealed as the reprover and avenger of the wickedness of the wicked. “With righteousness shall He judge the poor and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth, and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.”

This last clause has been quoted by the apostle Paul in a remarkable passage in his description of the coming of the Lord, and especially the judgment that is to fall upon the man of sin, the great antichrist of the last days. After speaking of the mystery of iniquity which already works and which is to culminate in that wicked one who is coming “after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish,” he adds, “whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

This is a literal quotation from our text, and it brings into view the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in His sublime character as the leader of the last great conflict and the destroyer of antichrist and Satan.

Let us not, therefore, dream that the mercy of our Savior is a soft and weak emotion, without character or principle behind it. It is a love that can smite as well as save, and of all the fearful pictures of a lost eternity, there is none so terrible and none from which the men that have rejected Christ will so wish to hide themselves behind rocks and mountains as the wrath of the Lamb.”

God save you, dear reader, from that wrath which is but the righteousness of wounded love, of rejected mercy: the wrath of the Lamb.

V. The vision of millennial peace and blessedness.

The picture that follows describes the golden age of faith and hope and prophecy. Human poetry has dreamed of it, but only inspiration has been able to portray it. It is to bring the redemption of the lower orders of creation and the restoration of this sin-cursed earth, as well as the harmony of man with man and man with God. Oh, how the warbling birds will acclaim it! Oh, how the abused beasts of burden, that have groaned under man’s oppression, will almost speak their words of thankfulness! Oh, how heaven will smile as it looks down again upon this paradise restored! “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Is. 11: 6-9.)

“Come, then, oh, Christ, earth’s Monarch and Redeemer,
Your glorious Eden bring;
Where peace at length, no more a timid stranger,
Shall fold her weary wing.”

VI. The restoration of Israel.

Along with this comes the restoration of God’s chosen people, the seed of Abraham. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.” (Is. 11: 11-13.)

There can be no doubt about the literal application of this prophecy. This is not the first restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah, for we are distinctly told that the Lord shall set His hand again a second time to recover the remnant of His people. This also includes the ten tribes represented by Ephraim, as well as the captives of Judah. All are to be united in an everlasting homecoming, such as the sons of Jacob have never seen since the days of Solomon. The envy of Ephraim is to depart, and the vision of Ezekiel 37 is to be fulfilled, and the children of Joseph and the children of Judah are to be one forever. The physical barriers are to be removed, “for the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea.” The political obstacles are to be set aside, for “He shall shake His hand over the river and smite it in the seven streams.” This is the river Euphrates, described by the apostle John in Revelation 16: 12, representing the Turkish power, which is to be “dried up that the way of the kings of the East may be prepared.” These kings of the East are the returning children of Israel, who are to go back as the rulers of the Orient when the filthy rover of Mohammedan persecution and corruption shall have been put aside. Then will come the glad millennial song of Isaiah 12 when the universe shall be summoned to celebrate the great deliverance and the advent of the new creation and the millennial age.

In conclusion, what personal application can we make of this sublime vision to our individual lives?

1. As Christ came out of the ruined stump of Israel, so still our Christian life is born out of death, and at every stage we still must trace the principle of death and resurrection.

2. As the Lord Jesus Christ derived His holiness and righteousness from the Holy Ghost, so still the Christian character is not culture but a supernatural gift of the Spirit of God, and must be received by faith and maintained by union with the Lord Jesus through the spirit of holiness.

3. Like Him, we too may be baptized with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord, and above all, with that intuitive life which will make us of quick scent in the fear of the Lord, and give us the instinct of holiness and divine communion.

4. There is a sense in which the vision of Isaiah 11: 6, is still fulfilled in our hearts and homes. The lion and the bear, the asp and the adder are not always found in the jungle or menagerie. There are human hearts and lives so like these wild beasts of earth that one cannot altogether wonder that men have thought of the doctrine of evolution and have fancied that our progenitors were monkeys and brutes. But when Jesus comes into human lives, the lion will become a lamb, the poison of the asp will cease to be found behind our lips, the subtlety of the serpent will be taken from our hearts, and our strife and alienation will be healed, and we will walk in love even as “Christ also has loved us.” We have no right to be looking for the millennium unless we have the millennium in our own hearts. We have no business to expect an eternity of peace if we are living in strife and envy now. Let us begin the millennial life here if we expect to enjoy it by and by.

5. The Restorer of Israel will also be our Restorer. How much there is waiting for the “times of the restitution of all things which God has promised by all His holy prophets since the world began.” How much God gives us back here of that which sin and Satan have robbed us, and, oh, how much is waiting for that glad day when the lost shall be found and “the years that the locust has eaten” will be given back untarnished forever.

How can we have this blessed King of righteousness and peace, and announce and assist His glorious advent which shall make

“This blighted earth of ours
His own fair world again.”

Chapter 10 – A Nail in a Sure Place

“And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne in his father’s house. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.” (Is. 22: 23, 24.)

This is the fourth picture of the Messiah in the book of Isaiah. He is presented here under the name of Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, to whom is to be given the key of the house of David, and he is “fastened as a nail in a sure place.”

The old painters used to heighten the effect of their visions of beauty by putting in the foreground some hideous picture of a reptile or a toad so that by the effect of contrast the picture itself might be made more striking through the effect of antithesis.

In front of this picture of our Lord the prophet puts in contrast another figure. It is that of Shebna, the treasurer of the king’s house, a prominent official in the service of Hezekiah, who seems to have been puffed up with such egregious vanity that he had actually prepared for himself a splendid sepulcher in some prominent place, perhaps among the tombs of kings, that he might be buried with great honor. Isaiah is sent to him with a terrific message of rebuke and judgment. “What have you here, and whom have you there,” he asks, “that you have hewed for yourself a sepulcher here, as he that hews out a sepulcher on high, and that sculpts an habitation for himself in a rock? Behold, the Lord will carry you away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover you. He will surely violently turn and toss you like a ball into a large country; there you shall die, and there the chariots of your glory shall be the shame of your Lord’s house. And I will drive you from your station, and from your state shall He pull you down.” (Is. 22: 16-19.)

It is in the place of this corrupt and selfish official that Eliakim, the faithful one, is to be appointed, and to exhibit in his character and public administration qualities so different and so lofty that the picture of Eliakim soon passes into the higher vision of the Son of God Himself, of whom he becomes the honored type.

Shebna is a fearful example of official corruption, of personal vanity, and of that sordid earthliness that would even make the grave itself the means of exploiting its ambition and its pride. The judgment of God is revealed from heaven against the spirit of worldliness and selfishness in every form.

Some of our Lord’s most solemn parables were intended to show the fearful doom of the man that lives only to amass money and win success in this world. One of these parables is the story of the rich man who added to his barns and storehouses and kept saying to his soul: “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” But God said: “Fool, this night they require your soul of you; then whose shall these things be that you have provided?” “So,” the Master adds as He points the heart-searching moral, “is he that lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Another of these solemn parables portrays the doom of the selfish worldling on the other side of death. It is the picture of Dives and Lazarus. There is nothing said against the character of this rich man. He was not a bad man, so far as we know, but he simply lived for himself, and this is what we are told of him: “The rich man died and was buried.” He had a funeral, as Shebna planned to have, and doubtless it was a splendid one. But oh! the sequel: “In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment,”and begged that Lazarus, the wretched beggar that had often lain at his door, might be sent with a drop of water to cool his burning tongue. The only fault uttered against him by Father Abraham was: “Son, remember that you in your life received your good things and likewise Lazarus his evil things, but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”

Dear friend, are you meeting the great responsibility which increased wealth brings to every man? Are you recognizing your means as a sacred trust? Are you “laying up in store against the time to come” and investing your wealth “where no moth corrupts, where thieves break not through and steal?”

Over against this hideous character of vain glory and selfishness arises the lofty figure of Eliakim.

I. His name is very suggestive. It means “whom God raised up.” Just as Shebna stood for death and the grave, Eliakim stands for the Resurrection, for a life that seeks its portion not in the natural world, but in the new creation which Christ has ushered in. In keeping with this is his father’s name, Hilkiah, which means “God is his portion.” This also leads our minds to that higher world of which Shebna knew nothing, and to which Jesus Christ is ever opening our faith and hope.

II. His administration is described in beautiful terms : “He will be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.” Just as we are accustomed to call Washington “the father of his country,” so this good man was a paternal governor over the people, and finely represents our blessed coming King,

“Who rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love.”

III. The girdle with which he was to be clothed represents our blessed Lord in His life service. The girdle always stands for service, in contrast with the loose robes that express self-indulgence and ease. While Shebna was living for pleasure, Eliakim was girded for work. Our blessed Master is always represented, even in heaven, as a girded priest, busy in His high offices of intercession and dominion. No sinecure of luxury or selfish glory has He set yonder, but a place of unceasing and faithful ministry as He bears our iniquities, sympathizes with our sorrows and there represents us before the Father, while at the same time He directs all the wheels of Providence from His mediatorial throne in the interests of His people and His kingdom. Like Him, Christian life is strenuous toil and holy activity.

No time for trifling in this life of mine;
Not thus the path the blessed Master trod,
But strenuous toil each hour and power employ,
Always and all for God.

IV. The key of David was given to him. Our Lord applies this to Himself in the third chapter of Revelation, in His message from the throne to the church in Philadelphia : “Thus says He that has the key of David that shuts and no man opens.” There can be no doubt, therefore, about the application of the figure to the Lord Jesus Christ. He carries this key upon His shoulder, which is quite customary in Oriental countries for officials entrusted with the care of some great household. The reference to His shoulder reminds us of the former picture of Jesus Christ in this book: “The government shall be upon His shoulder.” Jesus Christ holds the keys of heaven and earth and hell. How many things He opens for us! the gates of heaven, the gates of prayer, the closed pathway of difficulty, the doors of service, the hearts of men. And how many things He shuts for us; the blessed hand of God which holds us so that none can pluck us out of His hand; the blessed ark of safety, like Noah, of whom it is said, “The Lord shut him in;” the mouths of lions, and the tongues of wicked men and women, which He alone can shut and keep shut.

Blessed Prince of the house of David! Let us give Him all the keys of all the chambers of our being, of all the treasure houses of our life, and we shall find that He is able to keep that which we have committed to His trust against that day.

V. A nail in a sure place. This is a very striking figure, and may refer either to the pegs by which the Arab secures his tent or the iron spikes which they were accustomed to fasten in the masonry of their buildings, at once securing the walls of the building and at the same time becoming a bend on which they hung their valuables inside the house.

1. This is a nail in a sure place. The Lord Jesus Christ is not a guess, a possibility, a theory. He is a mighty certainty. All the assaults of scepticism have only succeeded in establishing Him more firmly in the sure place which He holds in the Word of God, in the hearts of His people and in the plan of redemption. When we trust Him we know that we are resting on a solid rock, and that all else “is sinking sand.” His kingdom is the only certainty of the future. Our best systems of government, our highest forms of civilization, will all pass away, but “His kingdom shall never be removed, and His dominion endures throughout all generations.” The only stable investment for our lives is there.

2. On this nail the prophet said, should be hung “all the glory of his Father’s house.” This does not merely refer to His inheritance in the throne of David, but rather to His heir-ship to all the glory of His heavenly Father. Truly He could say, “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father;” and again, “The Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son.” The apostle says of Him: “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in Him.” All the glory, all the power, all the authority of the Father has been handed over to the Lord Jesus, so that in receiving Him as our portion we are joint heirs with Him of all the glory of His Father’s house.

3. He is the Head of a new race. “The offspring and the issue” referred to here signify what our Lord Jesus Himself has expressed in one of His last messages in the Apocalypse: “I am the root and offspring of David.” He is the real head of David’s house, and at the same time the heir of David’s throne. David sprang from Him quite as truly as He sprang from David. Still more the truth is implied which the apostle expresses so forcibly in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, where he speaks of the Adam race and the Christ race: “As all that are in Adam die, even so all that are in Christ shall be made alive.” There are two races of men in this world: one is the race of humanity born from Adam and inheriting his curse and his doom; the other is the Christ race born from the loins of the Lord Jesus, the second Adam, and inheriting His righteousness and His glory. It is only this new race that can ever enter the kingdom of heaven. The old race is doomed and must pass away under the penalty of sin, but the Christ race shall dwell forevermore and inherit all the glories of Christ, its Head.

To which of these do you and I belong, dear friend? Has your life been reborn from the heart of Jesus Christ, and through Him are you the heir of God and the joint heir of Jesus Christ?

4. Still further we are told that they shall hang upon Him all vessels, both large and small, the cups and the flagons, the vessels of the kitchen and the vessels of the feast, the vessels of commonplace need and service and the vessels of high and holy joy and ministry.

A very deep and practical truth is here expressed. Jesus Christ is the source and the supply of all our needs. These vessels represent the needs of our lives, the temporal and spiritual supplies for which we must go continually to Him. The idea is that we do not have the blessing within ourselves. We are not self-contained depositories of grace, but we come to Him moment by moment and hang upon Him our every need; the little vessels of commonplace life and testing, the flagons of higher and holier joy that stand for the hours of rapture and the moments of blessing. The whole weight of our need hangs upon Him, and all our future hopes are dependent likewise upon our Lord and Head.

How blessed to know that there is nothing which we cannot bring to Him!

“There’s no time too busy for His leisure,
There’s no task too hard for Him to share,
There’s no soul too lowly for His notice,
There’s no need too trifling for His care,
There’s no place too humble for His presence,
There’s no pain His bosom cannot feel,
There’s no sorrow that He cannot comfort,
There’s no sickness that He cannot heal.”