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66. Judgment and Hope
Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? 2For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. 3He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. 4I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.
5Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. 6A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the Lord that rendereth recompence to his enemies. 7Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. 8Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. 9Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God. 10Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: 11That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. 12For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees. 13As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. 14And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the Lord shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies. 15For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. 16For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. 17They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord. 18For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. 19And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. 20And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. 21And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord. 22For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. 23And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. 24And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
1. This saith Jehovah. This discourse is different from the preceding one; for here the Prophet exclaims against the Jews, who, puffed up with vain confidence in the sacrifices and the temple, indulged freely in their pleasures, and flattered themselves in their sins under this pretense. He shews that this confidence is not only foolish and groundless, but diabolical and accursed; for they grossly mock God who endeavor to serve and appease him by outward ceremonies. Accordingly, he reproaches them with endeavoring to frame an idol in place of God, when they shut him up in the temple. Next, he speaks of the renovation of the Church, and of the extension of it throughout the whole world.
Heaven is my throne. His aim being to shake off the self-complancency of the pretended or hypocritical worshippers of God, he begins with his nature. By assigning “heaven” for his habitation, he means that the majesty of God fills all things, and is everywhere diffused; and that he is so far from being shut up in the temple, that he is not shut up or confined within any place whatever. The Scripture often teaches that God is in heaven; not that he is shut up in it, but in order that we may raise our minds above the world, and may not entertain any low, or carnal, or earthly conceptions of him; for the mere sight of heaven ought to carry us higher, and transport us into admiration. And yet, in innumerable passages, he protests that he is with us, that his power is everywhere diffused, in order that we may not imagine that he is shut up in heaven.
It may be thought that this is beyond all controversy, and was at that time acknowledged by all; for who did not know that heaven and earth are filled by the majesty of God? They might therefore object that there is no man who wishes to thrust God out of heaven, and that the Prophet has no good reason for waxing wroth and breaking out into such violent invective. And undoubtedly they rejected with great haughtiness this doctrine of the Prophet, and were highly irritated and enraged, as if great injury had been done to them. But it is easy to reply that, when men endeavor to appease God according to their own fancy, they frame an idol that is altogether contrary to his majesty, Relying on their useless ceremonies, they thought that they had performed their duty well when they went frequently to the temple, and offered in it prayers and sacrifices. The Prophet shews that the majesty of God must not be measured by this standard, and that all that they bring forward, unaccompanied by purity of heart, are absolute trifles; for since it is evident from his dwelling-place being in heaven that the nature of God is spiritual, if the worship do not correspond to that nature, it is undoubtedly wicked and corrupted.
Where is that house which ye will build for me? Under the word house or temple he includes all the ceremonies in which they thought that the worship of God consisted; and because they measured God and his worship by the temple as a standard, the Prophet shews that it is unworthy of God’s majesty to view his presence as confined to a visible and frail building. He does not argue merely about God’s essence, but at the same time discourses concerning his true worship, which he shews to be spiritual, in order that it may correspond to the nature of God, who “is a Spirit.” (John 4:24.) And if men diligently considered what is the nature of God, they would not contrive foreign and new modes of worship for him, or measure him by themselves. 217217 “Et ne mesureroyent sa grandeur infinie a leur petitesse.” “And would not measure his infinite greatness by their littleness.” This common and often expressed sentiment is more weighty and energetic than if the Prophet had brought forward something new; for he shews that they are so stupid and dull as to be ignorant of that which was well known to the merest idiot, and that they resemble dumb beasts in imagining that God dwells and reposes in the temple. He therefore asks contemptuously, “Where is that house?” For it was absurd to think either that God dwells on the earth, or that he is concealed and shut up in a prison. Besides, the temple was built on a small mountain, and could not contain the glory of God within its limited dimensions.
And where is this place of my rest? And yet the Lord had said of the temple, “This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have chosen it,.” (Psalm 132:14.) In another passage it was said, “Enter, O Lord, into thy rest.” (2 Chronicles 6:41.) Besides, we have seen, in a former part of this book, that “the Lord’s rest shall be glorious in it.” (Isaiah 11:10.) Finally, this was the ordinary designation of the temple, and yet the Prophet now finds fault with it. I reply, the temple is called God’s rest, because he gave the token of his presence in the temple; for he had chosen it as the place where men should call upon him, and from which he would give a display of his strength and power. But he did not command it to be built in order that men might conceive of his majesty according to their own fancy, 218218 “Afin que les hommes creussent de sa majeste tout ce que bon leur sembleroit.” “In order that men might believe concerning his majesty whatever they thought fit.” but rather that, reminded by the outward signs of God’s presence, they might raise their minds higher and rise to heaven, and acknowledge that God is greater and more excellent than the whole world. Yet, as the minds of men are prone to superstition, the Jews converted into obstacles to themselves those things which were intended to be aids; and when they ought to have risen by faith to heaven, they believed that God was bound to them, and worshipped him only in a careless, manner, or rather made sport of worshipping him at their own pleasure.
This passage is very appropriately quoted by Stephen, (Acts 7:49,) and is indirectly accommodated by Paul to the sense which we have now stated; for they shew that those persons are grievously deceived and far astray who bring to God carnal ceremonies, as if pure worship and religion consisted of them, or who wickedly and profanely disfigure his worship by statues and images. Stephen addresses the Jews, who, being attached to the figures of the Law, disregarded true godliness; while Paul, speaking to the Gentiles, affirms that “God dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” (Acts 17:24.)
2. Yet my hand hath made all these things. The Prophet refutes the false opinion which men form about the worship of God, by thinking that sacrifices and outward ceremonies are of great value in themselves; for the state of the question is this. God cares nothing about ceremonies, but they are empty and useless masks, when men think that they satisfy God by means of them. When he says that he made all these things, this must not be understood as referring solely to the temple, but to all that was there offered to God. Now he says that he “made all these things,” in order that men may know that God has no need of this external worship, as he declares (Psalm 50:10) that all the animals were created by him, and are his own, though by sacrifices of them the Jews hoped to obtain his favor. But foolish mortals have this disease deeply seated in them, that they transform God according to their inclination, though he appointed external worship not for his sake, but for our advantage; that is, that we may be trained by it according to the capacity of our flesh.
And all these things began to be. It is the same as if he had said that he must not be compared to these things, which at one time began to be; for he is eternal and had no beginning. “I could dispense with your sacrifices,” saith the Lord, “for, before they began to be, I was, and therefore they can be of no service to me.” In short, he maintains that ceremonies are of no avail in themselves, but aim at a different object. Isaiah takes for granted that it is impossible that God could receive any addition; and hence it follows that he is satisfied with himself alone; for he could do without the world from all eternity.
And I look to him who is humble and contrite in spirit. Next, a definition of lawful worship is added; for, when he says that God “looketh to the humble,” I have no doubt that he who is “humble and contrite in spirit” is indirectly contrasted by him with the array, and splendor, and elegance of ceremonies, by which the eyes of men are commonly dazzled, so as to be carried away in admiration. On the other hand, the Lord testifies that he demands humble and downcast minds, and that tremble at his commandments. By these words he describes inward purity of heart and sincere desire of godliness, and at the same time shews in what way we ought to be prepared to please God.
And trembleth at my word. So far as relates to “trembling,” it might be thought strange at first sight that he demands it in believers, since nothing is more sweet or gentle than the word of the Lord, and nothing is more opposite to it than to excite terror. I reply, there are two kinds of trembling; one by which they are terrified who hate and flee from God, and another which affects the heart, and promotes the obedience, of those who reverence and fear God. This clause, I am aware, is viewed by others as relating to the Law, which threatens and terrifies, and proclaims the dreadful judgment of God. But I take it in a more general acceptation; for even believers tremble at the promises when they embrace them with reverence. Hence infer that true godliness consists in having our senses brought into a state of obedience to God, and in making no boastful or wicked claims for ourselves. The nature of faith is to yield obedience to God, and to listen to him attentively and patiently when he speaks. But when we are puffed up and carried away by a vain confidence in ourselves, we have no piety or fear of God; for we cannot make even the smallest claim for ourselves without despising God.
We ought carefully to mark the expression which he employs, “Trembling at the word of God.” Many boast that they reverence and fear God; but, by disregarding his word, they at the same time shew that they are despisers of God. All the reverence that we owe to God must be paid to his word, in which he wishes to be fully recognised as in a lively image. The amount of what is said is, that God prefers this sacrifice to all others, when believers, by true self-denial, lie low in such abasement as to have no lofty opinion about themselves, but to permit themselves to be reduced to nothing. Thus also the Psalmist says, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a contrite spirit; an afflicted heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17.) Because this modesty of faith produces obedience, this pious feeling is likewise added, that, laying aside all obstinacy, they tremble at the word of God.
From these words we ought to draw a remarkable consolation, “Though we appear to be wretched in our abasement and humility, and though we appear to be unworthy of being beheld by men, yet we are truly happy; because the Lord looks upon us, and bestows on us his favor.” When we are tempted to despair, let us think that in this way the Lord exalts his servants to heaven, though they have been cast down to hell, and almost sink under the burden.
3. He that killeth an ox, as if he slew a man. There are two clauses in this verse. In the former, Isaiah plainly declares that all the sacrifices of his nation are of no value in the sight of God, but are held by him in abomination; in the latter, he describes the dreadful corruption by which they mingled the ceremonies of the Gentiles with the sacrifices of the Law, and in this way corrupted and perverted everything. The greater part of commentators think that these words repeal the sacrifices of the Law, but this is a mistake; for Isaiah, in this passage, treats of the same subject of which he had formerly treated in the first and fifty-eighth chapters, and does not absolutely condemn sacrifices, but rather the blemishes and corruptions of them, because the Jews thought that God was satisfied with a deceitful and empty appearance, and at the same time cared not about the true fear of God and a pure conscience. He does not speak, therefore, of the thing itself, but censures men who abused sacrifices; because this was as much as to offer to God the shell of an empty nut. In a word, no sacrifices are acceptable to God but those which proceed from a pure heart and an upright will.
Yet it is probable that the Prophet alludes to the sacrifices of the Gentiles, which were shocking and monstrous; for they killed men, or buried them alive. Neither the Romans, (who reckoned themselves to be more religious than other nations,) nor even the Jews, abstained from this crime. Nay more, (κακόζηλοι) wicked imitators polluted themselves by many child-murders, thinking that they followed their father Abraham. Isaiah says that, “when they kill an ox, they do the same thing as if they slew a man;” 219219 “Qu’ en sacrifiant un boeuf, e’est autant que s’ils coupoyent la gorge a un homme.” “That, in sacrificing an ox, it is the same as if they were cutting a man’s throat.” and thus he shews that the Jews, though they had a religion which was peculiar and which God had appointed, yet were in no respect better than the Gentiles, among whom everything was polluted and profane, and were not more highly approved by God; because the name of God is profaned by hypocrisy of religion not less than by corrupted and false worship. How necessary this admonition was, we have formerly seen; for, while the Jews were convicted of all crimes, yet, so long as they concealed themselves under this shadow, they thought that they were safe. Justly therefore does the Prophet meet them by saying, that they gain nothing more by their attempts to appease God than if they sought to offer sacrifices from the abominable sacrileges of the Gentiles.
And truly they have chosen their own ways. There are two interpretations of this passage; for the antecedent to the pronoun may either be the Gentiles or the Jews; that is, either that the Jews mingled and entangled themselves with the wicked ceremonies of the Gentiles, or that they followed their own inventions. The former exposition would not be inappropriate, were it not that it is unnatural, because the word “Gentiles” has not been formerly expressed. It was the most aggravated part of the wickedness of the Jews, that they not only abused the pure worship of God, but likewise, through their contempt of the Law, defiled the temple and every other place by wicked and abominable superstitions. They built altars on high places, planted and reared groves, took delight in games and public entertainments, and copied everything else that was appointed by public authority for the purpose of corrupting the hearts of men. Thus there was produced among them a confused medley of superstitions, such as we now behold in Popery, in which we see various patches sewed together, taken out of every kind of superstitions, not only heathen and Jewish, but likewise such as have been recently contrived by Satan, that he might more easily, and with greater plausibility, impose on the world. These and similar practices the Prophet would justly pronounce to be doubly worthy of condemnation, because, while they boast of the name of God, and make profession of his worship, still they are not ashamed to stain and pollute that worship by the sacrileges of idolatrous nations.
The other interpretation is not obscure, and is equally appropriate, that the Jews were devoted to their own inventions, and followed their own abominations, He affirms that they do not worship God sincerely, who despise him according to their own caprice, not only because they are full of avarice, hatred, ambition, dishonesty, cruelty, and extortion, but because they corrupt the worship of God by their own contrivances. Although the pronoun refers to the Jews, yet the Prophet condemns all superstitions which they had borrowed from the heathen nations. Consequently, there is little difference between the two interpretations; for he merely teaches that, because they have insolently and rebelliously shaken off the yoke of God, because wickedness openly prevails among them, everything that proceeds from them is polluted and detestable. Streams that bring down dirty and offensive matter from a muddy and polluted fountain cannot be clean or pure. Choice and desire reveal their obstinacy more clearly; that is, because, knowingly and willingly, they despised God’s commandments, and devoted their heart to everything that was opposed to them, as if they wished intentionally to disdain everything that proceeded from God, that they might obey their depraved lust.
4. I also will choose their delusions. 220220 “‘That I may mock them.’ Here the word תעלוליהם (tagnalulehem) means להתעולל בם, (lehithgnolel bam,), that I may mock them,’ in the same sense as the words used in another passage, כי התעללת בי, (ki hith-gnallalt bi) ‘because thou hast mocked me.’ (Numbers 22:29.)” — Jarchi. The Prophet means that the Jews gain nothing by holding out various and plausible pretences and by searching for excuses; because God does not care for the cunning or fine speeches of men. And indeed it is not proper to measure God by our own capacity, and we ought not to depend on human judgment; but it is our duty to judge of the works of God from his word. I will choose; that is, “I will scatter the clouds which they endeavor to spread over themselves, so that their delusions shall be manifest and visible to all; for now they appear to be hidden, but one day they shall be dragged forth to public view.” The meaning may be thus summed up. “Because the Jews have indulged so freely in sinning that everything which they chose was preferred by them to the command ments of God, so also, in his turn, God will lay open their delusions at his pleasure.”
And will bring upon them their terror. 221221 “Et leur feray venir les choses qu’ils craignoyent.” “And will bring (or cause to come) upon them the things which they dreaded.” Under the word “terror” he repeats the same thing, according to the custom of Hebrew writers. “I will cause them to know that they have fallen into a mistake, and that the terrors which they indulged shall fall on their own heads. 222222 “Je feray qu ils cognoistront avoir failli, tellement que ce qu ils craignoyent leur tombera dessus la teste.” “I will cause them to know that they have been mistaken, and that what they dreaded has fallen on their own head.” Thus their excuses or hypocritical pretences will be of no avail for confounding truth and falsehood and veiling superstitions; because the Lord will clearly distinguish between them.
Because I called. The Prophet again condemns the Jews for obstinacy, in not having suffered the Lord to correct them. This is the only remedy that remains for correcting our vices, that we hear the Lord speaking, when he endeavors to bring us back into the right way; but when we sear and harden our hearts, it is the worst of all evils. Whenever therefore men prefer their own inventions to the ordinances and commandments of God, they openly despise God, to whose will they ought to have yielded. This is especially the case when there is added such obstinate hardness of heart as shuts the door against holy warnings, and it is vain for them to allege that they cannot displease God by doing that which they undertake for the purpose of worshipping him; for all that men, by neglecting the word, choose and follow, the Lord rejects and abhors.
Before mine eyes. He repeats what he had formerly said, that the Jews sinned in the sight of God, as if they had resolved to provoke him to anger. At length he adds their manner of doing so, that, with perverse desire, they sought what God had forbidden; nor is it without good reason that he so frequently censures the wicked insolence of men, in defrauding God of his right, by treating contemptuously what he approves.
5. Hear the word of Jehovah. He directs his discourse to the true worshippers of God, and promises to them what they could scarcely have expected during those terrible calamities; and he expressly addresses them, because at that time there were many who falsely boasted of the name of God. Nay more, leaving the undistinguished multitude, he directs his discourse separately to a small number, as he formerly said,
“Seal the law, bind the testimony among my disciples.”
Ye who tremble at my word. He points out the true and sincere children of God, by this mark, that they “tremble at the word of the Lord.” This indeed is an uncommon virtue; and therefore he contrasts it with the false profession of those who, by bearing the outward mark of circumcision, wished to be reckoned among the people of God, and made a great profession and show of holiness; that we may know that they alone reverence and fear God who reverence and fear his holy word; that is, who, in consequence of being powerfully impressed by hearing the voice of God, constrain all their senses to obey; for this is a remarkable proof of godliness.
Your brethren said. Because it is customary with hypocritical worshippers of God to make loud boasting of their pompous ritual, the design of the Prophet is, to arm and fortify believers for enduring their attacks, that they may not give way when they are mocked and insulted. As if he had said, “You have to contend not only with foreign nations, but with domestic foes, who hold a place in the Church, and who are bound by the tie of brotherhood on account of the covenant of God which is common to you all. If they mock at your simplicity in the same manner as they haughtily despise God himself, you must boldly and fearlessly resist that temptation.” He therefore calls them “brethren,” although they were enemies of believers and of the word of God, for it is by way of concession that he gives to them that name which they falsely usurped. Hence we infer that this is not a new evil, that enemies, who bear the name of brethren, are nourished in the bosom of the Church. This internal war must be incessantly carried on with hypocrites, who cannot patiently endure that we shall worship God with an honest and upright conscience.
Casting you out for the sake of my name. Literally, “bidding you begone.” As we see the Pope thundering dreadfully against us, as if we had been base and worthless persons; so hypocrites were casting out the small number of believers; for, being superior in number, authority, and wealth, they likewise exercise that tyranny in such a manner that they approve or disapprove of everything according to their own caprice, and cause that believers may be reckoned as of no value, whom they not only overwhelm by their vast numbers, as the chaff does the wheat, but also trample proudly under their feet.
Let Jehovah be glorified. Or, in the future tense, “Jehovah will be glorified.” Others translate it, “Jehovah is severe;” but let us see which is the preferable meaning. They who translate it, “Jehovah is severe,” think that wicked men complain of God’s excessive severity, in not sparing his people and in acting severely toward them; and they think that by this word the people were tempted to despair; for, when wicked men endeavor to turn us aside from God, they take away all hope and confidence of salvation. But I give the preference to either of the other two expositions. That which is most generally approved is the following. Wicked men laughed at the prophecies and promises, because that glory which the Prophets had so frequently mentioned was nowhere to be seen; as if they had said, “Let the Lord display some testimony of his glory, that we may safely rely on it;” and therefore the Prophet wishes to arm believers against such blasphemy, that they may not allow their faith to be overturned by the sneers of wicked men. But this passage might be appropriately and perhaps more correctly interpreted to mean, that wicked men have promised very great things for themselves, as if by their good deeds they had deserved God’s favor, as Amos 5:18 also reproaches them, that, while they fearlessly provoke God, they confidently trust that he will be gracious to them. Since, therefore, relying on their sacrifices, they scorned all threatenings, and boasted that God would assist them, he replies that they shall see the glory of God in a very different manner. 223223 “His verront la gloire de Dieu autrement qu’ils ne pensent.” “They shall see the glory of God in a different manner from what they think.”
But he will be seen to your joy. As if he had said, “God, by his coming, will cause believers to know that they have not hoped in vain; for he will appear for the advantage of believers, and for the destruction of those who maintain that he will appear as the defender of wickedness, of which he will be the severe avenger. The former shall enjoy gladness and consolation, while the latter shall be ashamed and shall blush, for they shall quickly feel that the judgment of God, which they now laugh at, is at hand.”
6. A voice of tumult from the city, a voice from the temple. He confirms the preceding statement; namely, that God hath not threatened in vain, that he will speedily come to take vengeance on hypocrites, in order that what has been promised concerning gladness may be more eagerly expected by believers. It is uncertain what are the enemies whom he describes; for this passage may be explained as relating to the Babylonians, whose destruction was the deliverance of his Church. It may also be explained as relating to other enemies, who were nourished in the bosom of the Church; and I am more favorable to this opinion, though I do not deny that it may be viewed in reference to any kind of enemies. But he has in his eye domestic foes, of whom he had formerly spoken, who disdained the voice of God continually addressing them by the mouth of the prophets. He therefore threatens that they shall speedily hear another and more terrible voice; but there is immediately added a mitigation, that the same terror may not discourage the believing servants of God.
The meaning may be thus summed up. “In vain do wicked men boast and set their own obstinacy in opposition to the judgments of God, for they shall not escape his hand, and even ‘from the temple,’ which was their lurking-place of false confidence, his voice shall come forth, and believers will then receive the fruit of their patience.” Would that we did not at the present day experience similar contempt in hypocrites, who set at nought all remonstrances and threatenings, and have no respect for the word of God! To them, therefore, instead of the mild and gentle voice which they now hear, we are compelled to threaten “a tumultuous voice,” which they shall one day hear from other and very different masters; for since the world, with irreligious scorn, disdains the word of God, it shall be constrained not only to hear, but likewise to experience, an armed voice, that is, fire and sword.
7. Before she travailed, she brought forth. Having formerly comforted believers, that they might not be discouraged by the insolence and contempt of brethren, whom he would at length punish, and having thus commanded them to wait for the coming of the Lord with a steady and resolute heart, the Lord at the same time adds, that he will punish them in such a manner that, by their destruction, he will provide for the safety of believers. Nor does he speak of one or two men, but of the whole Church, which he compares to a woman. The same metaphor has already been sometimes employed by him; for God chiefly aims at gathering us into one body, that we may have in it a testimony of our adoption, and may acknowledge him to be a father, and may be nourished in the womb of the Church as our mother. This metaphor of a mother is therefore highly appropriate. It means that the Church shall be restored in such a manner that she shall obtain a large and numerous offspring, though she appear for a time to be childless and barren.
Before her pain came upon her. He repeats the same statement which he has already employed on other occasions; but he expresses something more, namely, that this work of God shall be sudden and unexpected; for he guards believers against carnal views, that they may not judge of the restoration of the Church according to their own opinion. Women carry a child in the womb for nine months, and at length give birth to it with great pain. But the Lord has a very different manner of bringing forth children; for he says that he will cause the child to see the light, before it be possible to perceive or discern it by any feeling of pain. On this account he likewise claims the whole praise for himself, because a miracle sets aside the industry of men.
She brought forth a male. He expressly mentions “a male,” in order to describe the manly and courageous heart of these children; for he means that they shall be a noble offspring, and not soft or effeminate. In like manner we know that believers are regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, that they may finish, with unshaken fortitude, the course of their warfare; and in this sense Paul says that they “have not the spirit of timidity.” (Romans 8:15.)
8. Who hath heard such a thing? He extols the greatness of the thing of which he has spoken; for he means that there shall be a wonderful and “unheard of” restoration of the Church; so that believers shall not judge of it from the order of nature, but from the grace of God; for when men reflect upon it: they think that it is like a dream, as the Psalmist says. (Psalm 126:1.) He does not mean that the Church shall be restored perfectly and in a moment; for the advancement of this restoration is great and long-continued, and is even slow in the estimation of the flesh; but he shews that even the beginning of it exceeds all the capacity of the human understanding. And yet he does not speak hyperbolically; for we often see that the Church brings forth, which previously did not appear to be pregnant. Nay more, when she is thought to be barren, she is rendered fruitful by the preaching of the gospel; so that we greatly admire the event, when it has happened, which formerly we reckoned to be altogether incredible.
These things were fulfilled in some measure, when the people returned from Babylon; but a far brighter testimony was given in the gospel, by the publication of which a diversified and numerous offspring was immediately brought forth. In our own times, have we not seen the fulfillment of this prophecy? How many children has the Church brought forth during the last thirty years, in which the gospel has been preached? Has not the Lord his people, at the present day, in vast numbers, throughout the whole world? Nothing, therefore, has been here foretold that is not clearly seen.
Shall a nation be born at once? He illustrates the glory of the miracle by a metaphor. No “nation” ever came into the world in an instant; for it is by degrees that men assemble, and grow in number, and spread their nation. But the case is very different with the Church, which all at once, and in more than one place, brings forth a vast number of children. It amounts to this, that God, in a wonderful manner, will cause innumerable children of the Church, in an extraordinary manner, to be born all at once and suddenly.
Shall a land be brought forth in one day? The word ארף, (eretz,) “a land,” may be taken either for any country, or for its inhabitants.
9. Do I bring to the birth? As in the preceding verse he extolled in lofty terms the work of God, so he now shews that it ought not to be thought incredible, and that we ought not to doubt of his power, which surpasses all the order of nature; for, if we consider who it is that speaks, and how easy it is for him to perform what he has promised, we shall not remain in such uncertainty as not instantly to recollect that the renewal of the world is in the hand of him, who would have no difficulty in creating a hundred worlds in a moment. A little before, by a burst of astonishment, he intended to magnify the greatness of the work. But now, lest the minds of good men should be perplexed or embarrassed, he exhorts them to consider his strength; and, in order that he may more fully convince them that nothing is so difficult in the eyes of men as not to be in his power and easily performed by him, he brings forward those things which we see every day; for in a woman’s bringing forth a child we see clearly his wonderful power. Shall not the Lord manifest himself to be far more wonderful in enlarging and multiplying the Church, which is the principal theater of his glory? It is therefore exceedingly wicked to limit his strength, by believing that he is less powerful, when he shall choose to act directly and by openly stretching out his hand, than when he acts by natural means.
10. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem. He promises that they who formerly were sad and melancholy shall have a joyful condition; for Isaiah has in view not his own age, but the time of the captivity, during which believers continually groaned, and, overwhelmed with grief, almost despaired; and therefore he exhorts and stimulates to joy all believers, who are moved by strong affection toward the Church, and reckon nothing more desirable than her prosperity. In this way he instructs them that none shall have a share in so valuable a blessing but they who are prompted by a godly love of the Church, and desire to seek her deliverance, and that too when she is contemptible in the eyes of the world; as the Psalmist says,
“For thy meek ones love her stones, and will have compassion on her dust.”
And therefore he adds, —
All ye that mourn for her; for, since in the captivity there was frightful and shocking desolation, and there appeared to be no longer any hope of safety, he arouses believers, and bids them be of good cheer, or at least prepare themselves for joy. And this exhortation contains also a promise and something more, for a bare promise would not have carried so much weight. But those statements must not be limited exclusively to a single period; for we ought to abide by the general rule, of which we have often spoken already, namely, that those promises must be extended from the return of the people down to the reign of Christ, and to the full perfection of that reign.
11. That ye may suck. This verse ought to be joined with the preceding verse; for the Prophet explains what shall be the occasion of joy, namely, because the wretched and miserable condition of the Church shall be changed into a happy and prosperous condition. By the word “suck” he makes an allusion to young infants; as if he had said, “That you may enjoy your mother with every advantage, and may hang on her breasts.” Here all believers, whatever may be their age, are compared by him to children, that they may remember their infirmity and may be confirmed by the strength of the Lord; and therefore this metaphor of “sucking” and “milking” ought to be carefully observed.
From the breast of her consolations. Some take the word “consolations” in an active, and others in a passive sense; but I prefer to adopt the passive signification; for he means the consolations which the Church has received, and of which he makes his children partakers. And indeed none can be greater or more abundant, none can be more excellent, than that ground of joy; and this appears more clearly from the following clause, “that ye may be delighted with the brightness of her glory.”
12. I cause peace to flow on her like a river. He continues his metaphor, and compares the children of God to infants, that are carried in the arms, and warmed in the bosom of their mothers, who even play with them. And in order that he may express more strongly his affection toward us, he compares himself to a mother, whose love, as we have formerly seen, (page 30,) exceeds every other by a wide interval. (Isaiah 49:15.) The Lord wishes to be to us in the room of a mother, that, instead of the annoyances, reproaches, distresses, and anxieties, which we have endured, he may treat us gently, and, as it were, fondle us in his bosom. By the word “peace” he means prosperity.
And the glory of the Gentiles as an overflowing torrent. The word “glory” contains a repetition, by which he denotes every kind of riches, so that nothing is wanting to full and perfect peace; for, since the Gentiles had formerly lived luxuriously, and had enjoyed a vast abundance of everything desirable, he affirms that all riches, and everything that belongs to a happy life, shall be possessed by believers, as the rivers run into the sea. By “constant flowing” he denotes continuance; for, since God is an inexhaustible fountain, his peace differs widely from the peace of the world, which quickly passes away and is dried up. Whenever therefore we behold the sad and melancholy condition of the Church, let us remember that these promises relate to us not less than to that people. Seeing that the Lord has rivers of peace which he wishes to cause to flow into his Church, let us not despair even amidst the fiercest wars; but, in our distresses and straits, let us cheer our hearts and rejoice. When he takes pleasure in us as infants, and not as men of mature age, we ought to acknowledge our condition, that we may be satisfied with such consolations. And indeed it is a token of remarkable condescension that he thus bears with our weakness.
13. As a man 224224 “The English version, which in multitudes of cases inserts ‘man’ where the original expression is indefinite, (translating οὐδείς, for example, always ‘no man’) here reverses the process, and dilutes ‘a man’ to ‘one.’ The same liberty is taken by many other versions, old and new, occasioned no doubt by a feeling of the incongruity of making a full-grown man the subject of maternal consolations. The difficulty might, if it were necessary, be avoided by explaining איש (ish) to mean a man-child, as it does in Genesis 4:1; 1 Samuel 1:11; and in many other cases. But the truth is, that the solecism, which has been so carefully expunged by these translators, is an exquisite trait of patriarchal manners, in their primitive simplicity. Compare Genesis 24:67; Judges 17:2; 1 Kings 2:19, 20, and the affecting scenes between Thetis and Achilles in the Iliad.” — Alexander. whom his mother comforteth. It is wonderful that the Prophet, who appeared to have already spoken enough about this renewal, dwells on it so largely. But, because he can neither express the greatness and warmth of the love which God bears toward us, nor satisfy himself with speaking about it, for that reason he mentions and repeats it frequently.
And you shall have consolation in Jerusalem. There are two ways in which this may be explained. It may be said that believers shall have joyful hearts, when they shall behold the Church restored; or, that the Church, after having been restored, shall discharge her duty by gladdening her children. I prefer the latter interpretation, though either of them is admissible. The former appears to be a richer interpretation; but we must consider what the Prophet meant, and not what we think the most beautiful. In the first place, indeed, he makes God the author of the joy, and justly; but, in the second place, he adds that Jerusalem is his handmaid. But this is not addressed to irreligious scorners, who are not moved by any solicitude about the Church, but to those who, with holy zeal, declare that they are her children.
14. And ye shall see. By the word “see,” he expresses undoubted experience, that believers may not doubt as to the result, but, embracing this prediction with full belief, may patiently endure for a time the barrenness of the Church.
And your bones shall flourish as grass. He illustrates his former statement by a metaphor, saying that “their bones” shall regain their former vigor, as faded “grass” becomes fresh and green again. He mentions the “bones,” which are commonly dried up by a melancholy spirit, (Proverbs 17:22,) and, on the other hand, are replenished and invigorated by a happy and cheerful disposition. Thus he describes an ardent and invaluable joy, and seems to allude to the sadness by which believers had been almost dried up during the captivity, and had become like dead men. The Lord therefore comforts them, and promises that the Church shall flourish, and shall abound in everything that is desirable; as if bones, that wanted moisture, should regain their former vigor, or as grass, which appears to be dead during the winter, recovers its freshness every year.
And the hand of Jehovah shall be known toward his servants. That they may cherish confidence, he nexts bids them rise to God, who will then reveal his assistance. It follows from this, that the hand of God has not always been known, but has sometimes remained concealed, as if he had no care about his people. At first sight, he appeared to have cast them off; for Daniel, and other good men, (Daniel 1:6,) not less than Zedekiah, (Jeremiah 52:9,) were carried into captivity. He says, that when the fine weather shall smile upon them, there shall be such a distinction between the good and the bad, as to make manifest this hand, which formerly was in some measure hidden; because he will no longer conceal himself, or permit the wicked to ravage without control, but will openly shew how great is his solicitude about his people. If therefore for a time the enemies have the superiority, and pursue their lawless course without being punished, if we appear to be overlooked and destitute of all assistance, let us not despair; for the time will come when the Lord will reveal himself, and will rescue us from their assaults and tyranny.
15. For, lo, Jehovah will come in fire. The object of this (ὑποτύπωσις) lively description is, that believers, when they see worthless men laughing at their distresses, and growing more and more insolent, may not on that account turn aside from the right path, or lose courage; for he intended not only to smite wicked men, who are moved by no threatenings, and scorn all instruction, 225225 “Et se moquent de tout ce qu’on leur dit.” “And mock at everything that is said to them.” but to comfort good men, that they may feel that they are happy, because they are under God’s protection; and may not attach themselves to the wicked on account of the prosperity of all their undertakings. Their advantage is, therefore, what he has chiefly in view, that they may be satisfied with God’s protection and grace. But it may admit of doubt whether or not he includes the last judgment, along with the temporal punishments with which he now begins to chastise the wicked. For my own part, I have no doubt that he intends to include that judgment also, along with those which were only the forerunners of eternal destruction.
Will come. This began to be accomplished, when, by carrying away the people to Babylon, God took vengeance on domestic foes. Next, when the time of the deliverance was accomplished, he attacked more severely the wicked Gentiles by an armed force, and ceased not to give other and various proofs of his approach, by which he shewed himself to be present with the elect people, and came in fire to judge their enemies. Lastly, we know that he will come in fire at the last day, to take vengeance on all the wicked. But this passage ought not to be limited to the last judgment, so as to include all the rest. Yet these threatenings, as we shall see soon afterwards, are especially directed by the Prophet against hypocritical Jews.
These metaphorical expressions are very customary in Scripture; for we could not comprehend this dreadful judgment of God in any other way than by the Prophets employing metaphors drawn from known and familiar objects. (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Peter 3:7.) By means of them the prophets endeavor to make a deep impression on our senses, that, struck with the true fear of God, we may not envy the wicked, for whom such dreadful vengeance is prepared. Hence we see how trivial and useless are the speculations of the Sophists, who dispute about the refined nature and qualities of that fire; for the design of Scripture is to point out to us under figures the dreadful judgment of God, which otherwise we could not imagine or understand. This is still more evident from the word “sword,” in the following verse; for it conveys the same meaning.
16. For Jehovah will judge in fire. Here he brings forward nothing new, but merely confirms the former statement, and shews that this judgment will be dreadful; that none may think that it is a matter of small importance. Accordingly, he describes that horror in strong language, that the wicked may fear, and that believers, on the other hand, may keep themselves holy and chaste, and may withdraw from the society of the wicked. Yet let them endure patiently the unjust and cruel attacks of enemies, till the armed avenger come forth front heaven. 226226 “Jusques a tant que Dieu vienne du ciel a main armee pour en faire vengeance.” “Till God come from heaven with an armed force, to take vengeance on them.”
And many shall be the slain of Jehovah. He threatens the destruction of all men, so that there may be a prodigious mass of corpses. And he expressly added this, because ungodliness reigned everywhere, and believers were subjected to a dangerous temptation on account of the prosperity of the wicked; for such is the fickleness of our minds, that we allow ourselves to be led away by a bad custom, and are alarmed by a multitude, as if it were sufficient for restraining the hand of God. This sinful fear the Prophet corrects by reminding’ them, that the more ungodliness shall abound, and the greater the number of wicked men, so much the more will the wrath of the Lord be kindled, that he may make a greater and more extensive slaughter; and the multitude and conspiracy of the ungodly shall not hinder him from carrying them away by the same ruin.
17. They who sanctify themselves. He now describes those enemies of whom he said, that God’s anger would be kindled against them; for it might have been doubtful whether he spoke of foreign and avowed enemies, or directed his discourse to the despisers of God, although they had been mixed with those who were elect and holy; and therefore he plainly addresses the false and degenerate Jews. Nor have I any doubt that, in the first place, he rebukes hypocrites, and, in the second place, when he says, “Who eat swine’s flesh,” he describes men of immoral lives, that is, those who were openly wicked and grossly licentious. Hypocrites sanctified themselves, that is, assumed false disguises of holiness, and deceived many under this pretense.
They purified themselves in the gardens; that is, they polluted themselves with various superstitions, although they imagined that, by means of those superstitions, they rendered themselves pure in the sight of God. Others, without any reserve, despised God and all religion. It is therefore a general statement, in which he includes all the ungodly, to whatever class they may belong; that is, both those who openly display their wickedness, and those who hide and cover it by various disguises.
Behind one in the midst. 227227 “Gessenius attaches to it here (as he does in 2 Samuel 4:6) the sense of the interior or court of an oriental house, and applies it to the edifice in which the lustrations were performed before entering the gardens; which may also be the meaning of the Septuagint version, εἰς τοὺς κήπους, ἐν τοῖς προθύροις. Maurer and others follow Scaliger, who makes it mean the midst of the grove or garden, where the idol was commonly erected. But Knobel, by ingeniously combining Genesis 42:5; Psalm 42:5; Psalm 68:26, makes it not improbable that “in the midst,” means in the crowd or procession of worshippers.” — Alexander. Some commentators supply the word “pool,” or “laver;” as if holy water had been placed “in the midst” of the garden for ablutions. But another meaning would be equally appropriate; that every one chose a God for himself exclusively, and therefore every one out of many trees had his own tree.
18. For I — their works, and their thoughts. 228228 “Car je voy leurs oeuvres et leurs pensees.” “For I see their works and their thoughts.” He confirms what he said in the preceding verse; namely, that punishment shall be executed on all the ungodly, in order that, although the Lord permit them for a time to sin with impunity, yet believers, being convinced that they shall one day be punished, may guard against following their example. The Lord here testifies that he sees and observes their works, and that one day he will actually manifest that none can be concealed from his eyes. Others understand by it that the ungodly can accomplish nothing without God’s permission. That statement is indeed true, but is not applicable to this passage; for everybody sees that it is unnatural, and at variance with the context of the Prophet, who merely confirms what he formerly said, that hypocrites and wicked men shall not finally escape with impunity, because God perceives all their actions, and schemes, and thoughts; and that they gain nothing by their evasions, as if they were never to be dragged to the judgment.
Because the time is come. These words confirm still more what has been already said, for he says that the time is at hand when he shall assemble all the nations, that he may cast off the hypocrites and ungodly, and gather and adopt a people to himself from among them. The Jews were puffed up with pride, and despised all other nations as unholy. But the Lord declares that he will adopt those nations, that they may be partakers of his glory, of which the Jews prove themselves to be unworthy.
This is a remarkable passage, which teaches us that God is not confined to any people, so as not to choose whomsoever he pleases, by casting off unbelievers whom he formerly called to himself. This is abundantly explained by Paul, (Romans 10:19; 11:25,) where he shews that we have come into a possession which was left empty, after the Jews were cast off through their unbelief. Isaiah now threatens them in this manner. “Think not that God is in want of peoples when you have revolted and have rendered yourselves unworthy of his grace, for he will have others; but he will shew that he is the judge, and will not finally permit you to abuse so great forbearance.”
And they shall come. He says that “they shall come,” because, being ingrafted by unity of faith, they shall be united in the Church with the true Jews, who have not swerved from the adoption; for, in consequence of the Jews being near to God, the Gentiles, who were at a distance, must be joined to them, that, by the removal of disagreement, they might become one body.
And shall see my glory. To “see the glory” of the Lord, is nothing else than to enjoy that grace which he had bestowed on the Jews; for the special privilege of that nation was, that they beheld the glory of God, and had tokens of his presence, he says that now the Gentiles, who had not enjoyed these benefits, shall see and behold that glory, for the Lord will reveal himself to all without exception.
19. And I will place in them a sign. This may be understood in two ways; either that God holds out a sign, or that by some symbol or mark he seals his own people, that they may be placed in safety. The former exposition is more generally approved, but some reason childishly about it as relating to the sign of the cross, while others refer it to the preaching of the Gospel. In my opinion both are mistaken; for he seems rather to allude to what, Moses tells us, happened at the departure and deliverance of the people. It is also declared (Revelation 7:3) that “as many as the Lord hath sealed” shall be safe, even when his anger shall be fiercely kindled throughout the whole world; just as they whose door-posts were marked in Egypt escaped safely. (Exodus 12:13.) And thus he shews that none can escape God’s wrath, except the elect, on whom the Lord has impressed his mark and seal.
And will send some of them, being reserved. In a word, the Prophet heightens the description of what has been already said about the grievous and terrible vengeance which the Lord will execute on the ungodly; for all would have perished without distinction if the Lord had not marked some of them with his seal. From the general destruction of the whole nation, therefore, he says that he will reserve a small number. And this is the true meaning of the Prophet; just as he had said, in other passages, that he would rescue “a remnant” from the general conflagration. (Isaiah 1:9; 10:22.) Of this band, which had been reserved, he says that some shall be his heralds to celebrate his name among the Gentiles; just as we see that the doctrine of salvation, by the agency of a few, was spread far and wide.
To the nations of Tarshish, Pul, and Lud. By the name “Tarshish” he denotes Cilicia, and includes the whole coast of the Mediterranean Sea opposite to Judea. Others think that it denotes Africa and Cappadocia; but I rather adopt the former view. By Lud, some suppose Lydia to be meant; and others, Asia Minor. By “those who draw the bow” are meant the Parthians, because they were skillful in archery. By Tubal and Javan he denotes Italy and Greece, and by the Islands he denotes unknown countries; for by the name “Islands,” as we have seen on many former occasions, the Jews denoted all that lay beyond the sea.
Which have not heard my name. He means that the knowledge of God shall be spread throughout the whole world; for the Greeks, Italians, Parthians, Cilicians, and other nations had heard nothing about pure religion and the true worship of God; and the whole world was plunged in the deepest darkness of ignorance. He therefore promises that the glory of God shall be known in every part of the world. The word “nations” is emphatic; for at that time the Lord was known to not more than one people, but now he has revealed himself to all.
20. And they shall bring. Here he clearly explains what was formerly said, namely, that all who shall escape and survive, though they be few in number, shall nevertheless be priests, who shall bring sacrifices to God from all places. He alludes to the ancient ceremony of the Law, though he points out the difference that will be between those oblations and the sacrifices of the ancient Law; for he appoints a new kind of punishment and new sacrifices. As he had said that he would gather all the nations, so he now shews that the priests, whom he had appointed, shall not labor in vain; for God will grant prosperity to their undertakings.
All your brethren. He gives the name of “brethren” to those who formerly were strangers; for he has in his eye the new relation which arises from faith. We know that foreign nations were ingrafted by faith into the family of Abraham. Yet others bring out a different meaning, which I do not absolutely reject. “When God shall gather a new people to himself out of foreign nations, the Jews, who had been scattered in all directions, shall be brought into one place.” This was also accomplished; but it seems more appropriate to refer it to the calling of the Gentiles, because at that time, by the removal of the difference, a brotherly relation began to be established among all whom God wished to adopt to be his children. Abraham was the father of one nation, and yet not all who were descended from him according to the flesh are accounted his children; for the Ishmaelites and the Edomites were rejected. (Romans 9:7.) The time when he became “the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5; Romans 4:17) was when God adopted the Gentiles, and joined them to himself by a covenant, that they might follow the faith of Abraham. And thus we see the reason why the Prophet gives the name of “brethren” of the Jews to us, who formerly were aliens from the Church of God. It is because he had previously cast out of their place false and reprobate brethren.
It is our duty to observe this fruit which is produced by the godly labors of those who faithfully serve the Lord, namely, that they “bring their brethren” from deadly errors to God, the fountain of life. By this consolation they ought to cheer their hearts, and to support them amidst the distresses and tribulations which they endure. The Lord does not suffer any of his own people to perish. Thus it is a high enjoyment and privilege, when he wishes to make use of our labors for delivering our “brethren.”
Out of all nations. He means that there shall no longer be any difference between Jews and Gentiles; because God will throw down “the partition-wall,” (Ephesians 2:14,) and will form a Church “out of all nations.” And thus was fulfilled the saying of David concerning Christ,
“Ask of me; I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession.” (Psalm 2:8.)
When he speaks of the “holy mountain,” he accommodates himself to the customs and usages of that period; for at Jerusalem God was worshipped in the temple. But now the temple is everywhere diffused; for everywhere we are at liberty to “lift up holy hands to God,” (1 Timothy 2:8,) and there is no longer any distinction of places. He likewise mentions oblations and sacrifices, which were offered in the temple; although the sacrifices which are now to be offered differ widely from the ancient sacrifices. But the prophets, as we have frequently remarked, were under a necessity of borrowing comparisons from known and familiar objects. Formerly the sacrifices were taken from the flocks and herds; but the Apostles and other priests of Christ slew men themselves, and offered them as a living sacrifice to God by the Gospel. Paul testifies that he discharged the office of the priesthood, when he slew men by the sword of the Gospel, “that they might be an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:1 6.)
It is not therefore a legal priesthood, and does not resemble that of the Papists, who say that they sacrifice Christ; 229229 “Qui se vantent de sacrifier Iesus Christ.” “Who boast of sacrificing Jesus Christ.” but it is the priesthood of the Gospel, by which men are slain, in order that, being renewed by the Spirit, they may be offered to the Lord. Thus, whomsoever we can gain to Christ, we offer in sacrifice, that they may be wholly consecrated to God. Moreover, every person sacrifices when he devotes and dedicates himself to God, and offers to him unreserved obedience; and this is the sacrifice which Paul calls “reasonable.” (Romans 12:1.) The end of our calling is here pointed out to be, that, washing away our pollutions, and being dead to ourselves, we may learn to devote ourselves to the cultivation of holiness.
With horses and chariots. There are some who endeavor to find an allegory here, and who think that the Prophet made use of the word “bring” on this account, that the Gospel does not constrain men by fear, but rather draws them gently, so that of their own accord they betake themselves to God, and run with cheerfulness and joy. But for my own part, I take a simpler view of this passage. Because this doubt might arise in the minds of many persons, “How is it possible that men shall come to us from countries so distant?” he replies, “Horses, chariots, and carriages shall not be wanting; for the Lord has at his command all that can be of service for assisting his people and conducting them to the end which he has in view.” Yet I do not deny that the Gospel may be called a “chariot,” because it conveys us to the hope of eternal life; but I think that the Prophet simply declares that nothing shall hinder God from gathering his Church, and that he will have at his command all the necessary means, that none of the elect whom he has called may fail in the middle of the course.
21. And I will even take some of them for priests and Levites. The Prophet heightens the description of that which he had already declared about the extraordinary grace of God. He had made known that the Church of God should be collected out of all nations, so that, in spite of every difficulty and obstruction, even distant nations should draw near to them. But now he proceeds further, and instructs them that the Gentiles shall not only be adopted by God, but shall also be elevated by him to the highest honor. Already it was a great honor, that unclean and polluted nations were reckoned to be a holy people; but now here is something far more wonderful, that they are elevated to the highest pinnacle of rank.
Hence we see that the priesthood under Christ is very different from what it was under the Law; for under the Law one tribe exclusively was admitted to the priesthood, and the Gentiles, as unclean, were so far from having it in their power to discharge that priesthood, that they were even forbidden to enter into the temple; but now all are admitted without distinction. Some expound this passage in a general manner, that the Gentiles shall be priests; that is, shall offer themselves to God, as Scripture frequently denominates all believers “a royal priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10.) But he appears to describe in an especial manner ministers and teachers whom the Lord also chose from among the Gentiles, and appointed to execute this distinguished office; that is, to preach the Gospel; such as Luke, Timothy, and others of the same class, who offered spiritual sacrifices to God by the Gospel.
22. For as the new heavens. Here he promises that the restoration of the Church shall be of such a nature that it shall last for ever. Many might be afraid that it would be ruined a second time; and therefore he declares that henceforth, after having been restored by God, its condition shall be permanent. Accordingly, he mentions here two benefits of surpassing excellence, restoration and eternity. When he speaks of “new heavens” and a “new earth,” he looks to the reign of Christ, by whom all things have been renewed, as the Apostle teaches in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Now the design of this newness is, that the condition of the Church may always continue to be prosperous and happy. What is old tends to decay; what is restored and renewed must be of longer continuance. (Hebrews 8:13.)
So shall your seed and your name remain. God had promised that “the sun and moon,” so long as they remained in heaven, should be witnesses of the eternal succession, that the posterity of David might not be cut off. But because some interruption arose from the treachery and ingratitude of the people, the restoration effected by Christ actually confirmed that prediction. Justly, therefore, does Isaiah say, “Your sons shall succeed to you, and your grandsons shall succeed to your sons;” and as God will establish the world, that it may never perish, so the succession of the Church shall be perpetual, that it may be prolonged through all ages.
In a word, he explains what he had formerly said about renewing the world, that none may think that this relates to trees, or beasts, or the order of the stars; for it must be referred to the inward renewal of man. The ancients were mistaken when they thought that these things related absolutely to the last judgment; and they had not sufficiently weighed the context of the Prophet or the authority of the Apostle. Yet I do not deny that they extend as far as to that judgment, because we must not hope for a perfect restoration before Christ, who is the life of the world, shall appear; but we must begin higher, even with that deliverance by which Christ regenerates his people, that they may be new creatures. (2 Corinthians 7:1.)
23. From a month to his month, and from a Sabbath to his Sabbath. 230230 “Depuis un mois jusques a un autre mois, et depuis un Sabbat jusques a son autre Sabbat.” “From one month till another month, and from one Sabbath till his other Sabbath.” The Prophet again points out what shall be the difference between the nature of the spiritual worship of God which shall be under the reign of Christ and of the carnal worship which was under the Law. Sacrifices were offered every month at the new moon. There were Sabbaths, and other festivals, and solemn days, which they carefully observed. But under the reign of Christ there shall be a constant and uninterrupted solemnity; for there are not fixed and stated days of sacrifices on which we must go to Jerusalem, or offer anything in one place or in another; but our oblations, festivals, and rejoicings are continued from day to day in unbroken succession. Yet he alludes to the ancient custom of sacrifices as we have already said that the prophets are frequently accustomed to do.
So then the Lord wishes to have “pure sacrifices” offered to him daily, (1 Peter 2:5,) not such as were formerly offered under the Law or are now offered by Papists, who either rely foolishly on their ceremonies, as if they were expiations of crime, or basely venture to sacrifice Christ, 231231 “Ou mesmes d’une audace desesperee osent se vanter qu’ils sacrifient Jesus Christ.” “Or even with desperate audacity dare to boast that they sacrifice Jesus Christ.” but spiritual sacrifices, that we may reverence and adore God with a pure and sincere worship. (John 4:24.) As to the opinion held by some, that this passage proves the abrogation of the Law and of ancient ceremonies, it does not appear to me to rest on sufficient grounds, it is indeed certain that those legal ceremonies have been set aside, and that may be gathered from this passage; but in proof of that point I would choose to employ other passages which contain stronger evidence. There is only here a contrast between the Sabbath and festivals which were celebrated under the Law, and the perpetual Sabbath which we have at the present day. (Hebrews 4:9, 10.)
24. And they shall go forth. We must not here attempt to obtain subtle and ingenious interpretations; for he simply informs those who shall be adopted into the Church that they shall see, all around them, the dreadful vengeance of God. Yet there is an implied contrast between the straits of the calamity and the free departure; as if he had said, “Out of the dark prison in which they had been confined they shall again come forth to the light.”
And shall see the dead bodies of men. He does not mean that this slaughter shall take place in the assembly of believers; for this would greatly diminish the happiness of the Church, in which God displays all testimonies of joy and gladness. But as he formerly spoke of the perpetual glory by which he shall dignify his people, so he now threatens the punishment which he shall inflict on the reprobate, that the godly may be more careful to keep themselves in the fear of God.
And their fire shall not be extinguished. When he says that they shall be tormented by “fire,” this mode of expression, as I have formerly remarked, 232232 Commentary on Isaiah, vol. 2 p. 387. is metaphorical. And this is clearly evident from the succeeding clause; for worms will not be formed out of the earth to gnaw the hearts of unbelievers. The plain meaning, therefore, is, that the wicked shall have a bad conscience as an executioner, to torment them without end, and that torment awaits them greater than all other torments; and finally, that they shall tremble and be agitated in a dreadful and shocking manner, as if a worm were gnawing the heart of a man, or a fire were consuming it, and yet thus consumed, he did not die.
And they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. Because the wicked are now held in the highest honor, and from their lofty position look down with contempt on good men, the Prophet threatens a shocking change; for, along with unutterable torments, they shall also endure the deepest disgrace; as it is just and right that they who despised and reproached the glory of God shall be loaded with every reproach, and shall be the objects of abhorrence to angels and to the whole world.