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33. Distress and Help

Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee. 2O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble. 3At the noise of the tumult the people fled; at the lifting up of thyself the nations were scattered. 4And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpiller: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them. 5The Lord is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. 6And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure. 7Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly. 8The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man. 9The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits. 10Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself. 11Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. 12And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire.

13Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. 14The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? 15He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; 16He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. 17Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. 18Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers? 19Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand. 20Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. 21But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. 22For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us. 23Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey. 24And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.

20. Behold Zion. Some read it in the vocative case, “Behold, O Zion;” but it is preferable to read it in the accusative case. He brings forward a promise of the restoration of the Church, which ought to have great weight with all godly persons; for when the Church shakes or falls, there can be no hope of prosperity. That the Church will be restored he shews in such a manner that he places it before our eyes as having actually taken place, though he speaks of what is future; and his object is to give greater energy to his style, as if he had said, “Again you will see Zion restored and Jerusalem flourishing.” Although believers see everything destroyed and scattered, and although they despair of her safety, yet in Jerusalem there shall be a quiet and safe habitation.

The city of our solemnities, or of our assemblies. By this designation he shews that we ought to judge of the restoration of Zion chiefly on this ground, that the people “assembled” there to hear the Law, to confirm the covenant of the Lord, to call upon his name, and to offer sacrifices. When the people were deprived of these things, they were scattered and nearly lost, and appeared to be separated from their head and utterly abandoned. Accordingly, nothing was so deeply lamented by godly persons, when they were held in captivity at Babylon, as to be banished from their native country and at the same time deprived of those advantages; and that this was the chief complaint of all believers is very manifest from many passages. (Psalm 137:4.)

“Zion” is called by him “a city,” because it formed the middle of the city, and was also called “the city of David.” (Isaiah 22:9.) The extent of Jerusalem was different and larger; for, as we mentioned in the explanation of another passage, 1414     Commentary on Isaiah there was a double wall, which is customary in many cities. Here it ought to be observed that the restoration of the Church is the most valuable of all blessings, and ought above all things to be desired; that everything else, even though it should be most abundant, is of no avail, if this single blessing be, wanting; and, on the other hand, that we cannot be unhappy, so long as Jerusalem, that is, the Church, shall flourish. Now, it is restored and flourishes, when God presides in our assemblies, and when we are assembled in his name and thus cleave to him. Wicked men indeed shelter themselves under the name of God, as if they were assembled at his command; but it is an empty mask, for in their heart they are very far from him, and attempt nothing in obedience to his authority.

Jerusalem a peaceful habitation. He says that believers, who had long been agitated amidst numerous alarms, will have a safe and “peaceful habitation” in the Church of God. Although God gave to his people some taste of that peace under the reign of Hezekiah, yet it was only in Christ that the fulfillment of it was manifested. Not that since that time the children of God have had a quiet habitation in the world; even in the present day this peacefulness is concealed; for we lead an exceedingly wandering and uncertain life, are tossed about by various storms and tempests, are attacked by innumerable enemies, and must engage in various battles, so that there is scarcely a single moment that we are at rest. The peace which is promised, therefore, is not that which can be perceived by our bodily senses, but we must come to the inward feelings of the heart, which have been renewed by the Spirit of God, so that we enjoy that peace which no human understanding is able to comprehend; for, as Paul says, “it goes beyond all our senses.” (Philippians 4:7.) The Lord will undoubtedly bestow it upon us, if we dwell in the Church.

A tent which shall not be carried away, the stakes of which shall never be removed. By these metaphors of “a tabernacle” and of “stakes,” he describes accurately the condition of the Church. He might have called it a well-founded city, but he says that it is “a tabernacle,” which, by its very nature, is such that it can be speedily removed to a different place, in order that, though we may consider the condition of the Church to be uncertain and liable to many changes, yet we may know that it cannot be moved or shaken; for it will remain in spite of storms and tempests, in spite of all the attacks of enemies, and in opposition to what appears to be its nature, and to the views of our understanding. These two statements appear to be inconsistent with each other, and faith alone reconciles them, by maintaining that it is safer to dwell in this “tabernacle” than in the best defended fortresses.

We ought to employ this as a shield against temptations,which otherwise would speedily destroy our faith, whenever we perceive the Church to be not only shaken, but violently driven about in all possible directions. Who would say that amidst that violent storm the “tabernacle” was safe? But since God does not wish his people to be wholly fixed on the earth, that they may depend more on himself alone, the protection which he promises to us ought to be reckoned better than a hundred, better than a thousand supports.


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