World Wide Study Bible

Study

a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary

2

In days to come

the mountain of the Lord’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised above the hills;

all the nations shall stream to it.

3

Many peoples shall come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.


Select a resource above

1. The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw This prophecy is a confirmation of that doctrine which we had a little before, concerning the restoration of the Church. For since it is difficult to cherish the hope of safety, when we are, as it were, in the midst of destruction, while the wrath of God burns and consumes everything far and wide, or while his threatenings strike terror into our minds, at such a period the bare promises are hardly sufficient to support us and to allay our fears. For this reason the Lord determined that to the consolation which had already been proclaimed there should be added this special vision, by way of confirmation, in order to make it more certain and undoubted that, whatever calamities might arise, his Church would never perish. I have no doubt, therefore, but that this vision agrees with what is stated in the 26th and 27th verses of the former chapter.

Hence we learn what was the advantage and design of visions; for since doctrine sometimes has not sufficient weight with us, God therefore adds visions, that by means of them he may seal his doctrine to us. Since, therefore, this vision is connected with the former promise, we learn from it this useful doctrine, that all visions of every kind which God formerly gave to his Prophets must be joined to the promises in such a manner as to be seals of them. And thus we perceive more and more the astonishing goodness of God, that, not satisfied with giving us his bare word, he places before our eyes, as it were, representations of the events.

He has added a confirmation, that the restoration of the Church is a matter of very great importance, and necessary to be known. For where is the truth of the Lord, where is faith, if there be no Church? If there be none, it follows that God is a liar, and that everything contained in his word is false. But as God frequently shows, by striking proofs, that he preserves the Church by unknown methods and without the assistance of men, so he now declares by a remarkable prediction that he will do this.

There were two purposes to be served by this prediction. First, since Isaiah, and others who came after him, were unceasingly to proclaim terror, on account of the obstinate wickedness of the people, until the temple should be burnt, and the city destroyed, and the Jews carried into captivity, it was necessary that such severity should be mitigated towards believers by some consolation of hope. Secondly, as they were to languish in captivity, and as their minds were shaken, even after their return, by a succession of varied calamities, and at length were almost overwhelmed with despair by the dreadful desolation and confusion, they might a hundred times have fainted, if they had not been upheld. As to those who had already fallen, they were raised up and confirmed by the promised restoration, to such an extent, at least, that they retained among them the practice of calling on God, which is the only and undoubted remedy for the worst of evils. הדבר, (haddabar,) the word, is rendered by some interpreters the thing, which accords with the general signification of this term; but it is better to view it as denoting a divine purpose. Isaiah says that it was revealed to him by a special vision.

2. And it shall come to pass in the last of the days 3535     In the last days. — Eng. Ver. When he mentions the end or completion of days, let us remember that he is speaking of the kingdom of Christ; and we ought also to understand why he gives to the kingdom of Christ this appellation. It was because till that time everything might be said to be in a state of suspense, that the people might not fix their eyes on the present condition of things, which was only a shadow, but on the Redeemer, by whom the reality would be declared. Since Christ came, therefore, if that time be compared with ours, we have actually arrived at the end of ages. It was the duty of the fathers who lived at that time to go, as it were, with outstretched arms to Christ; and since the restoration of all things depended on his coming, it is with good reason that they are enjoined to extend their hope to that period. It was indeed always useful for them to know, that under Christ the condition of the Church would be more perfect; more especially because they were held under figures, for the Lord was pleased to arouse them in various wavy for the express purpose of keeping them in suspense.

But there was a peculiar importance attached to this prediction; for, during four hundred years or thereby, there were innumerable occasions on which they might have fainted, had they not called to remembrance that fullness of days, in which the Church was to be perfectly restored. During the various storms, therefore, by which the Church was nearly overwhelmed, every believer, when shipwrecked, seized on this word as a plank, that by means of it he might be floated into the harbour. Yet it ought to be observed, that while the fullness of days began at the coming of Christ, it flows on in uninterrupted progress until he appear the second time for our salvation. (Hebrews 9:28.)

That the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established This vision might be thought to wear the aspect of absurdity, not only because Zion was a little hill of no extraordinary height, just as if one should compare a handful of earth to huge mountains; but because he had but a little before predicted its destruction. How, then, could it be believed that Mount Zion, after having lost all her greatness, would again shine with such lustre as to draw upon her the eyes of all the nations? And yet she is extolled as if she hail been loftier than Olympus.” Let the Gentiles,” says Isaiah, “boast as much as they please of their lofty mountains; for they shall be nothing in comparison of that hill, though it be low and inconsiderable.” According to nature, this certainly was very improbable. What! shall Zion be hung up in the clouds? And therefore there can be no doubt that wicked men scoffed at this prediction; for ungodliness has always been ready to break forth against God.

Now the peculiarity which I have noticed tended to weaken the belief of this prediction; for when Zion, after the destruction of the temple, had fallen into the deepest disgrace, how could she rise again so suddenly? And yet it was not in vain that Isaiah prophesied; for at length this hill was actually raised above all the mountains, because from it was heard the voice of God, and sounded through the whole world, that it might lift us up to heaven; because from it the heavenly majesty of God shone brightly; and lastly, because, being the sanctuary of God, it surpassed the whole world in lofty excellence.

The use of this prophecy deserves our attention. It was, that Isaiah intended to bring consolation, which would support the minds of the people during the captivity; so that, although there should be no temple, and no sacrifices, and though all should be in ruins, still this hope would be cherished in the minds of the godly, and, amidst a condition so desolate and so shockingly ruinous, they would still reason thus: “The mountain of the Lord is indeed forsaken, but there he will yet have his habitation; and greater shall be the glory of this mountain than of all others.” To prevent them, therefore, from doubting that such would be the result, the Prophet has here, as it were, sketched a picture in which they might behold the glory of God; for although the mountain was still in existence, yet a disgraceful solitude made it almost an object of detestation, since it had lost its splendor in consequence of having been forsaken by God. But it was the duty of the pious to look not at those ruins, but at this vision. Moreover, the reason why he speaks in such lofty terms concerning the exaltation of Mount Zion is sufficiently evident from what follows; because thence proceeded the Gospel, in which the image of God shines. Other mountains might excel it in height; but as the glory of God has surpassing excellence, so the mountain in which he is manifested must also be highly distinguished. It was not, therefore, on her own account that he extolled Mount Zion, but in respect of her ornament, the splendor of which would be communicated to the whole world.

3. And many people shall go In the former verse he had slightly noticed the reason why Mount Zion would hold so high a rank. It was because all nations would flow to it, as if the rivers were overflowing through the great abundance of waters. He now makes the same statement, and assigns the reason; for it might be asked why various nations flocked to it in crowds from distant lands. He says, therefore, that the desire of serving God was their motive.

The word רבים, (rabbim,) many, implies a contrast; for it means that there will not be, as formerly, but one nation which devotes itself to the worship of the true God, but that those who formerly were strangers and foreigners (Ephesians 2:19) will come into the same agreement with them about religion; as if he had said that the Church, which had formerly been, as it were, shut up in a corner, would now be collected from every quarter. By the word many he meant various; for unquestionably he did not intend to weaken the force of what he had said a little before about all nations. Now, though this was never fulfilled, that the nations of the whole world, each of them leaving their native country, made a journey into Judea; yet, because the doctrine of the gospel, by which God hath gathered to himself a Church indiscriminately out of all nations, proceeded from Mount Zion, he justly says that they will come to it who having, with one consent of faith, embraced the covenant of eternal salvation, have been united into one Church. We must also observe the harmony between the figures of the law and that spiritual worship which began to be introduced at the coming of Christ.

And shall say, Come By these words he first declares that the godly will be filled with such an ardent desire to spread the doctrines of religion, that every one not satisfied with his own calling and his personal knowledge will desire to draw others along with him. And indeed nothing could be more inconsistent with the nature of faith than that deadness which would lead a man to disregard his brethren, and to keep the light of knowledge choked up within his own breast. The greater the eminence above others which any man has received from his calling so much the more diligently ought he to labor to enlighten others.

This points out to us also the ordinary method of collecting a Church, which is, by the outward voice of men; for though God might bring each person to himself by a secret influence, yet he employs the agency of men, that he may awaken in them an anxiety about the salvation of each other. By this method he likewise strengthens their mutual attachment, and puts to the test their willingness to receive instruction, when every one permits himself to be taught by others.

Next Isaiah shows that those who take upon them the office of teaching and exhorting should not sit down and command others, but should join and walk along with them as companions; as we see that some men are very severe instructors, and eager to urge others forward, who yet do not move a step. But here believers, instead of addressing to their brethren the command, Go up, rather lead the way by their own example. This is the true method, therefore, of profitable teaching, when, by actually performing what we demand, we make it evident that we speak with sincerity and earnestness.

And he will teach us in his ways 3636     And he will teach us his ways. — Eng. Ver. He shows, first, that God cannot be worshipped aright until we have been enlightened by doctrine; and, secondly, that God is the only teacher of the Church, on whose lips we ought to hang. Hence it follows that nothing is less acceptable to God than certain foolish and erring services which men call devotion and likewise, that though he employs the agency of men in teaching, still he reserves this as his own right, that they must utter nothing but his word. Had this rule been followed by those who called themselves teachers of the Church religion would not have been so shamefully corrupted by a wide and confused diversity of superstitions. Nor is it possible that we shall not be carried away into various errors, where we are tossed about by the opinions of men. Justly therefore, does Isaiah, when he claims for God alone the power and authority to teach the Church, shut the mouths of all mortals; so that the office of teaching is committed to pastors for no other purpose than that God alone may be heard there. Let those who wish to be reckoned ministers of Christ allow themselves to be regulated by this statement, that they may take nothing away from his authority.

The Hebrew words ויורנו מדרכיו (veyorenu midderachaiv) may be literally rendered, he will teach us OF his ways; which means, “He will show us what his ways are,” or, he will set before us his ways for a perfect instruction.

Next he adds obedience, we will walk in his paths, by which he points out both the object and the result; for the instruction which is delivered to us from the mouth of the Lord is not mere speculation, but directs the course of our life, and leads us to obey him. But we ought also to observe, that the commandments of God are called ways and paths, in order to inform us that they go miserably astray who turn aside from them in the smallest degree. Thus every kind of unlawful liberty is restrained, and all men, from the least even to the greatest, are enjoined to observe this rule of obedience, that they keep themselves within the limits of the word of God.

For out of Zion shalt go forth the law This is an explanation of the former verse, in which he said that Mount Zion will be placed above all mountains; that is, that she will be raised to the highest pitch of honor, when she shall become the fountain of saving doctrine, which shall flow out over the whole world. He calls it the law; but we have elsewhere spoken of the derivation and meaning of this word; for תורה (torah) means instruction, and the most complete of all kinds of instruction is contained in the law. He speaks, therefore, after the manner of the prophets; for since the rule of godliness was to be obtained from the law, they were wont, by a figure of speech, (synecdoche,) in which a part is taken for the whole, to include under the word law all the instruction which God has given; just as under the word altar they include the whole worship of God.

Now, since we know that this prediction was fulfilled, when the preaching of the gospel began at that very place, (for Christ first taught at Jerusalem, and afterwards his doctrine was spread throughout the whole world,) we must not take the word law in a limited sense; for at that time, as to its figures and bondage, it was rather abolished. (Luke 2:46; Mark 16:10; Ezekiel 47:1; Luke 24:47.) Hence we conclude that the term is applied, without limitation, to the word of God. And when the prophets say that waters will spring out of the temple to water the whole world, (Ezekiel 47:1,) they express metaphorically what Isaiah lays down in plain language; namely, that the source of saving doctrine will be from that place; for out of it the apostles and other teachers spread the gospel through the whole world.

We must observe the reason why the Prophet made these statements. It was, that he might fortify the godly against various changes, which otherwise, on manifold occasions, might have crushed their minds; and therefore it was of great importance to provide against offenses, and to fortify the minds of the godly. “Whatever may be the condition of your affairs, and though you should be oppressed by afflictions on all sides, still continue to cherish this assured hope, that the law will go forth out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; for this is an infallible decree of God, which no diversity or change of events will make void.”

How much the godly needed this consolation may be easily inferred from the course of events which immediately followed; for when Judea had been forsaken, the temple destroyed, the worship of Goal overturned, and the comely order of the Church utterly defaced while tyranny became more and more oppressive, it was natural that their minds should be discouraged, and that all hope should be thrown away. On the other hand, after the return of the Jews from Babylon, when dreadful superstitions gradually obtained prevalence, and the priests, instead of discharging their office in a lawful manner, grasped at wicked tyranny, what else could have occurred to the minds of the goodly than that religion had fallen into neglect, and that the worship of Goal was entirely laid aside, if they had not been supported by this promise? For there can be no doubt that this temptation, which arose out of internal vices, was more injurious than their banishment into Babylon. So long as they were exiles, they had at least prophets, by whose instruction they were encouraged; but in that state of corruption the good effect of instruction had been lost, and no regard was paid to religion or godliness. But by the aid of this prediction alone the Lord granted to them the support which they needed. For why had the law, which God appeared to have consecrated for himself in his own habitation, been thrown down and basely trampled under foot? Who, then, would have thought not only that it would have a place there, but that it would also reign in all foreign places, and in the most distant regions? On the other hand, the Prophet declares not only that the law will remain in its place, but that it will travel further; by which he means that it will not be confined within its former boundaries, for it will be proclaimed to the Gentiles without distinction.

And undoubtedly this had very great authority and weight with the Apostles, when they knew that they were appointed to perform those things which are here promised. Otherwise they would never have had courage enough to venture to undertake the office, and, in short, would not have been able to endure the burden, especially when the whole world furiously opposed them. But they knew that he by whom this had been promised, and from whom they had received authority to deliver this message, would easily remove every obstacle. It ought also to be observed that we obtain from it a strong confirmation of our faith, when we learn that the doctrine of the gospel came forth out of Zion; because we thence conclude that it is not new, or lately sprung up, but that it is the eternal truth of God, of which a testimony had been given in all ages before it was brought to light.

We also infer that it was necessary that all the ancient ceremonies should be abolished, and that a new form of teaching should be introduced, though the substance of the doctrine continue to be the same; for the law formerly proceeded out of Mount Sinai, (Exodus 19:20,) but now it proceeded out of Zion, and therefore it assumed a new form. Two things, therefore, must be observed; first, that the doctrine of God is the same, and always agrees with itself; that no one may charge God with changeableness, as if he were inconsistent; and though the law of the Lord be now the same that it ever was, yet it came out of Zion with a new garment; secondly, when ceremonies and shadows had been abolished, Christ was revealed, in whom the reality of them is perceived.




Advertisements