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21

Declare and present your case;

let them take counsel together!

Who told this long ago?

Who declared it of old?

Was it not I, the Lord?

There is no other god besides me,

a righteous God and a Savior;

there is no one besides me.

 

22

Turn to me and be saved,

all the ends of the earth!

For I am God, and there is no other.

23

By myself I have sworn,

from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness

a word that shall not return:

“To me every knee shall bow,

every tongue shall swear.”

 

24

Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,

are righteousness and strength;

all who were incensed against him

shall come to him and be ashamed.

25

In the Lord all the offspring of Israel

shall triumph and glory.

 


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21. Tell ye. He again challenges all those who might have annoyed the Jews and shaken their faith by their taunts; for he always keeps this object in view, to fortify the faith of the people against all the assaults of the Gentiles. Amidst temptations so numerous and so severe, there was danger lest the Jews should sink under their terrible afflictions, if there had not been powerful arguments on the other side to induce them still to worship and trust the true God; and therefore he permits heathens to produce and bring forward everything that they can find in support of their cause.

Let them also take counsel together. These words are added, in order to inspire greater confidence; for the Prophet means, as we have already said, that they will gain nothing, though they “take counsel” among themselves and enter into a conspiracy. Yet, perhaps, he intended also to make it evident that there is nothing but groundless pretense and falsehood in all that infidels contrive for excusing their errors. Whatever then may be the gaudy ostentation with which they plume themselves on their inventions, the Prophet shews that the word of God will be abundantly strong to support the faith of believers. He challenges them to a strict examination, in order to compare with the Law and the prophets all that infidels boast of as having been foretold by their idols. I cheerfully admit what is generally believed, that the Prophet speaks of the redemption of the people; but as the overthrow of the Babylonian monarchy was likewise connected with it, I think that it is also included.

Who hath proclaimed this from the beginning? Because there is a repetition of the same statement, מקדם (mikkedem) and מאז (meaz) mean the same thing; as if he had said, “from the beginning,” or, “from of old;” for this prophecy was published long before the event happened. Hence believers might with certainty conclude that God had spoken.

And a savior. To foreknowledge he adds power, as in a former passage. Yet he likewise describes for what purposes he exerts his power, that is, for “saving” his people.

22. Look unto me. Hitherto he addressed the Jews alone, as if to them alone salvation belonged, but now he extends his discourse farther. He invites the whole world to the hope of salvation, and at the same time brings a charge of ingratitude against all the nations, who, being devoted to their errors, purposely avoided, as it were, the light of life; for what could be more base than to reject deliberately their own salvation? He therefore commands all “to look to him,” and to the precept adds a promise, which gives it greater weight, and confirms it more than if he had made use of a bare command.

And ye shall be saved. Thus we have a striking proof of the calling of the Gentiles; because the Lord, after having broken down “the partition-wall” (Ephesians 2:14) which separated the Jews from the Gentiles, invites all without exception to come to him. Besides, we are here reminded also what is the true method of obtaining salvation; that is, when we “look to God,” and tum to him with our whole heart. Now, we must “look to him” with the eye of faith, so as to embrace the salvation which is exhibited to all through Christ; for “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him may not perish.” (John 3:16.)

For I am God. When he exhorts all the ends of the earth, he at the same time shews that all men have hitherto wandered, and have not “looked to” the true God; for where infidelity exists, there cannot be a distinct looking towards God, so as to distinguish him from empty masks. In a word, he declares that the ruin of all has been occasioned by their being driven about by their wicked inventions, and thus revolting from the true God, from the knowledge of whom certain and eternal salvation flows. The Lord therefore stretches out his hand, in order to rescue all and point out the method of obtaining salvation.

This makes it evident that it was not at random that the doctrine of the Gospel was preached to all nations, but by the decree of God, by whom it had been long ago ordained. Yet, as I remarked a little before, he accuses the Gentiles of stupidity, in allowing their senses to be tumed and whirled about in all directions, wherever their fancy led them. Though by nature they could not approach to God, and though they even sucked in with their milk the superstitions by which they were blinded, yet God might have justly reproached them with wicked contempt of his grace; for ignorance always implies hypocrisy, when men choose rather to be deceived by empty flatteries than to go straight to God.

23. I have sworn by myself. He adds a clearer confirmation of the preceding statement; for, in consequence of this calling being unusual and marvellous, he adds an oath, as is usually done in what is new and hard to be believed. The Jews might have objected, that they alone were called by the name of the elect people; but, when he confirms it by an oath, this removes all debate. The Prophet still, indeed, aims at the same object, namely, that the glory of God shall be so visible in the restoration of the Church as to arouse the whole world to the admiration of it from the rising to the setting of the sun, or, to express it more briefly, that this demonstration of the power of God shall be so splendid and illustrious as to strike all nations with fear. Yet from these words we may justly infer what I have remarked, that the Gentiles shall be admitted to an equality with the Jews, so that God shall be the common Father of all, and shall be worshipped in every country.

Now, God “swears by himself,” because he cannot have another equally competent witness of the truth; for he alone is the truth. “Men,” as the Apostle says, “swear by a greater than themselves; but God, because he had no greater, hath sworn by himself.” (Hebrews 6:16.) We ought to observe the reason why he “swears.” It is because he intended to aid the weakness of his people, that they might not be tossed about in uncertainty. This certainly is wonderful condescension, that, in order to remedy the fault of our distrust, he does not scruple to bring forward his own name as holding the place of a pledge; and the more base and disgraceful must be our unbelief, if even an oath does not satisfy us. Besides, since God claims for himself all confirmation of the truth, we ought to be exceedingly careful, when we appeal to him by an oath, not to mingle any other names either of saints or of any creature, but, by using his name with all becoming reverence, to preserve the honor due to him entire and unabated.

The word hath gone out of my mouth in righteousness. He means that all that he has commanded to be published by his Prophet is firm and lasting, as if he had said that this commandment did not proceed “out of his mouth” rashly or unadvisedly. And in this sense the word righteousness is often used in Scripture, that is, for a word that is not deceitful, which shall clearly appear to be perfectly true; and thus he says that the decree cannot be revoked.

And shall not return. This is another mode of expression conveying the same idea. It means that the word of God shall continue to make progress, till the actual result shall make manifest that it has proceeded from a just and true and almighty God. A person is said to return, when some obstacle hinders him from proceeding farther; but, because nothing can prevent God from executing what he has decreed, the Prophet justly infers that nothing can interrupt or retard the course of this word. The particle כי, (ki,) that, must be viewed as introducing an explanatory clause; as much as to say, “This is the word,”

That to me every knee shall bow. By this mode of expression he means that all the Gentiles shall be suppliants to God, because the astonishing deliverance of the Church shall strike terror upon all. Yet hence also it follows, that his worship shall be spread among all nations; for we cannot truly “bend the knee” before God till he hath been made known to us. To an unknown God, indeed, men may render some kind of worship; but it is false and unprofitable. But here he speaks of a true profession, which proceeds from a knowledge of God deeply seated in our hearts; for, where there is no faith, there can be no worship of God, and faith is not directed to a thing unknown or uncertain. Accordingly, he has made use of the sign to express the thing itself, as is frequently done.

Hence it ought to be observed, that God demands also external worship; for the Prophet does not separate an external profession of religion from the inward feelings of the heart. In vain, therefore, do fanatics boast that in some manner they worship God and do homage to him, while they bow down before idols. In vain, I say, do they pretend that their heart is upright towards God; for the worship of the heart cannot be separated from an external profession. In like manner the soul cannot be dedicated and consecrated to God, while the body is consecrated to the devil; for both ought to be consecrated to God, and thus the worship of the heart ought also to be accompanied by an external profession.

“With the heart we believe to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (Romans 10:10)

Hence also the Lord, approving of the piety and uprightness of his people, says, “that they have not bowed a knee before Baal.” (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4.)

Paul applies this passage of Isaiah to the last judgment, when he says (Romans 14:10, 11) that “we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;” although the subject here treated of is, the redemption of the people, the publication of the gospel, and the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. But he takes for granted (what all ought to know) that those statements which relate to the kingdom of Christ must not be limited to any part of it, but extend to the whole of its course, till it arrive at full perfection. The knee is bent to Christ, when his doctrine is obeyed, and when the preaching of the gospel is accepted. But many still oppose and boldly despise him; Satan contrives many schemes and incessantly carries on war with him; and therefore we are at a great distance from the full accomplishment of this prophecy. Then shall every knee be truly bent to Christ, when he shall triumph over vanquished and utterly ruined adversaries, and shall render visible to all men his majesty, which Satan and wicked men now oppose. Thus Paul teaches that, when Christ shall ascend his judgment-seat to judge the world, then shall be fully accomplished that which began to be done at the commencement of the gospel, and which we still see done from day to day.

Every tongue shall swear. By a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, the word swear is put for worship, reverence, or subjection. “Swearing” is one department of the honor which is due to God; for by it we confess and acknowledge that he is the Author and Father and lawful defender of the truth, and that “all things are naked and open to him.” (Hebrews 4:13.) Whenever therefore this honor is bestowed on idols, the majesty of God is dishonored by abominable sacrilege; and consequently they who worship him purely swear exclusively by his name. But on this subject we have spoken 215215     See Commentary on Isaiah, vol. 2, p. 70. in the exposition of another passage. (Isaiah 19:18.)

24. Surely in Jehovah. He shews what is the nature of true faith and of the true worship of God; that is, when we not only acknowledge, or perceive by the understanding, that there is a God, but likewise feel what he wishes to be towards us. Whoever shall be satisfied with a bare knowledge departs very widely from faith, which must invite us to God in such a manner that we shall feel him to be in us. In like manner Paul wishes that

“Christ should dwell in the hearts of believers through faith.” (Ephesians 3:17.)

He who imagines that God sits unemployed in heaven either will not humble himself sincerely before him, or will not make an open and sincere profession.

Righteousness and strength. As these are the two principal parts of our salvation, when believers acknowledge that they receive both of them from God, they ascribe to him the undivided praise of a happy life, and testify that by nature they do not possess that which they acknowledge that they owe to his grace. Thus they own that in themselves they have nothing either of “righteousness” or of “strength,” but seek them in God alone, that he may not be defrauded of his right.

To him shall he come. Here commentators differ; but, for my own part, I take a simple view of this passage as relating to believers who submit themselves to God, so as to enable us to perceive the nature of the contrast between them and rebels, who do not cease obstinately to resist God. I explain it thus: “They who shall confess that their righteousness is placed in God will approach to him.” He means that we obtain access to God through faith, so that they who perceive that their righteousness is placed in him, feel that he is present; and indeed no man, if he be not reconciled to God, will ever approach to him willingly, but, on the contrary, all who dread his majesty will fly to the greatest possible distance from him. Thus the Prophet applauds the very delightful result of grace, because it will unite to God those men who were formerly driven away from him by their wickedness; and to this corresponds what is said by the Psalmist,

“Thou art the God that heareth prayer; to thee shall all flesh come.” (Psalm 65:2.)

But all who defy him shall be ashamed. After having testified that God wishes to gather strangers from their dispersion, that he may bring them into a state of intimate friendship with himself, he threatens vengeance against despisers, who, being without God, and despising God, give the reins to their wicked passions, and wallow in the enjoyments of the world. As it is only by faith that we obey God, so it is by unbelief alone that Isaiah declares his anger to be provoked; while he distinguishes all unbelievers by this mark, that they are disobedient to God, and even challenge him to a contest. Although they now use the language of triumph, the Prophet declares that they shall be clothed with shame and disgrace.

25. In Jehovah shall be justified. He now makes a brief reply to an objection which might be urged, that it appeared absurd to say, that the Lord called the Gentiles, who had always been alienated from him. “Is it in vain that the Lord hath chosen the seed of Abraham? Is his promise void, which he so frequently repeated?” (Genesis 15:5, and 17:7.) In order to remove this doubt, he declares that the Lord will nevertheless stand by his promises; that, though he choose the Gentiles, yet the covenant which he made with the fathers shall not fall to the ground, because the elect people shall enjoy the privileges of their rank. Nor does he in this passage, as in many others, speak of the rejection of that nation; but the Prophet simply shews that the grace of God, which shall be diffused throughout the whole world, shall flow from that fountain.

As to the greater number having been rejected by God, still this did not set aside God’s covenant; because the remnant of adoption were always the true and lawful Israel; and although they were few in number, yet they were the first-born in the Church. Besides, all those among the Gentiles who had been ingrafted into that body began also, as we have formerly seen, to be accounted children of Abraham.

“One shall say, I belong to Jacob; another shall subscribe with his band, I am a descendant of Israel.” (Isaiah 44 5.)

And on this ground we are now reckoned the genuine Israel of God, though we are not the descendants of Israel. The Prophet therefore added this, both that the Jews might not think that the Lord’s covenant had failed, and that they might not boast of their birth and despise the Gentiles.

All the seed of Israel. He extends this seed farther, that they may not suppose that it ought to be limited to the family of Abraham; for the Lord gathers his people without distinction from among Jews and Gentiles, and here he speaks universally of the whole human race.

Shall be justified and shall glory. It ought to be observed that the Prophet says that we “are justified and glory in the Lord,” for in none else ought we to seek “righteousness” or “glory.” He has joined to it “glory,” which depends on “righteousness,” and is added to it. Hence also Paul says,

“Where is thy glorying? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.” (Romans 3:27.)

And, again,

“If Abraham was justified by works, he hath glory,
but not before God.” (Romans 4:2.)

It follows, therefore, that they alone deservedly glory who seek their righteousness in God, and acknowledge that in themselves they have no ground for glorying.




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