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54. Future Glory of Zion

Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. 2Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; 3For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. 4Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. 5For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. 6For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. 7For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. 8In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. 9For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. 10For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

11O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. 12And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. 13And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. 14In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. 15Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. 16Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.

17No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

11. Thou wretched. He continues the same subject, and promises not only that the Church shall be restored to her ancient splendor, but that God will cause her to be adorned with attire of greater magnificence, as if it had been wholly composed of precious stones. All this was expressed by Haggai in a single word, when he said,

“The glory of the latter temple shall be greater than the glory of the former.”
(Haggai 2:10)

As to the names of the jewels 7272     “These seem to be general images to express beauty, magnificence, purity, strength, and solidity, agreeably to the ideas of the eastern nations; and to have never been intended to be strictly scrutinized, or minutely and particularly explained, as if they had each of them some precise moral or spiritual meaning.” ­ Lowth. which are here described by the Prophet, and about which even the Hebrew writers are not agreed, we need not give ourselves much trouble, provided we understand the meaning of the passage.

This earnest address is exceedingly well fitted for soothing the grief of believers; for it represents the Church, which was ready to be drowned, as being now rescued by him from shipwreck. Whenever therefore we shall see her violently shaken by tempests, and weighed down by a load of distresses, and deprived of all consolation, let us remember that these are the very circumstances which induce God to give assistance.

12. And I will lay thy windows with pearls. By these metaphors he shows that the condition of the Church, as has been formerly said, will be far better than at any former period. The Church is compared to a building, which is customary in every part of Scripture. (Jeremiah 24:6; Matthew 16:18.) For this reason he now draws a picture of a costly and magnificent structure. But it ought to be remarked, that the Prophet represents God as the architect of this building; for this work ought to be entirely ascribed to him alone.

But it may be asked what the Prophet means by “carbuncles, sapphires, pearls,” and other kinds of jewels; for by a similar metaphor Paul meant doctrine. “As a wise architect,” says he, “I have laid the foundation.” And again,

“If any man build on this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man’s work shall be made manifest.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-13)

Whether or not this be the Prophet’s meaning, will appear from the following verse.

13. For all thy children. I consider that the copulative ו (vau,) “and,” here, as in many other passages, denotes for; and hence we may easily conclude that Isaiah spoke not of doctrine, but of men, of which the spiritual building of the Church is reared. It is by doctrine, indeed, that the Church is built; but, the building of it is effected by assembling men together, and reducing them to a state of obedience to God. The difference then between Paul and Isaiah is this, that Paul makes those “precious stones” relate to doctrine, and Isaiah makes them relate to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are bestowed on men, in order that the Church may be built of them. It is proper to observe the diversity of gifts with which the Lord adorns his Church; for all are not “emeralds,” and all are not “carbuncles,” but the Lord assigns to every one his rank according’ to his own pleasure. (Ephesians 4:11)

Taught by Jehovah. It deserves attention, that all that belongs to the ornament of the Church, proceeds from no other source than from the grace of God; for if we are “carbuncles” and “sapphires” in consequence of our being taught by the Lord, it follows that this does not proceed from nature. Now there are two ways in which the Lord teaches us; by external preaching, and by the secret revelation of the Holy Spirit. What kind of teaching the Prophet means is explained by Christ, when he quotes this passage; and therefore we ought not to seek a better interpreter. “It is written in the prophets,” says he, “All shall be taught by God. Every man who hath heard and learned from the Father cometh to me.” (John 6:45) If this passage were to be understood as relating to external preaching, the conclusion which Christ draws from it would not be well founded; for it does not follow, “The Gospel is preached, and therefore all believe.” Many oppose, others openly scorn, and others are hypocrites. Those only “who have been foreordained to life” (Acts 13:48) are sincerely teachable, and are entitled to be ranked among the disciples. The Gospel is preached indiscriminately to the elect and the reprobate; but the elect alone come to Christ, because they have been “taught by God,” and therefore to them the Prophet undoubtedly refers.

This makes it evident in what way we become living and precious stones for building the temple of God. It is when the Lord has formed and polished us by his Spirit, and has added to the external preaching of the word the internal efficacy of the Spirit. Hence we learn how great is the depravity of the human mind, which cannot be bent and formed anew, unless the Lord move it by the power and efficacy of his Spirit. Isaiah has connected both modes of teaching, the internal and the external; for he gives the appellation of “children of the Church” to those who are “taught by the Lord.” If they are her children, they must then have been conceived in her womb and nourished by her, first “with milk, and next with solid food,” as Paul says, (1 Corinthians 3:2) till they “grow up and arrive at manhood.” (Ephesians 4:13)

Thus the external administration of the word is necessary if we wish to be disciples; and this shows the extreme madness of fanatics, who abuse this passage for the purpose of overturning the preaching of the word and the ministry which the Church enjoys; for they cannot be “the children” of the Church, if they do not allow themselves to be educated in her. In vain will they boast of secret revelations; for the Spirit does not teach any but those who submit to the ministry of the Church, and consequently they are the disciples of the devil, and not of God, who reject the order which he has appointed; for we see that these two things, “Children of the Church” and “Taught by God,” are united in such a manner that they cannot be God’s disciples who refuse to be taught in the Church. They ought likewise to be properly distinguished, as Isaiah also distinguishes them, that we may not apply to men what ought to be ascribed to the efficacy of the Spirit; but at the same time they ought to be joined together, so that we may know that in this matter God chooses to employ the agency of men.

Besides, we are taught by this passage that the calling of God is efficacious in the elect. Augustine examines this passage judiciously, and applies it skillfully against the Pelagians, who extolled man’s free­will in opposition to the grace of God. They appeared, indeed, to ascribe something to the grace of God, but in such a manner that, when they brought it forward, they gave to it an inferior place to man’s free­will; just as the Papists do, who assert that any person can either receive or reject it. “But” (says Augustine) “all shall be taught by God. Now, God’s disciples are efficaciously taught, and follow his calling.” He likewise adds that passage of John’s Gospel which we have quoted. This shows clearly that it is not from free choice made by man, and which is capable of being bent in either direction, that it proceeds.

From these words it ought also to be observed how highly the Lord values his doctrine, by means of which he admits us into his building, so that we become “pearls, sapphires, and carbuncles;” for they who wish to build the Church by rejecting the doctrine of the word, build a hog’s sty, and not the Church of God. We see also what opinion we ought to form about implicit faith, about which the Papists yelp, who wish men to become fools, that they may suffer themselves to be imposed upon; for, since we must be taught by God, it is not reasonable that we should resemble beasts.

It may be asked, were not the prophets also, and the patriarchs, and other believers under the Law, taught by God? They undoubtedly were; but here the Prophet spoke by comparison, because there is a more abundant revelation in Christ, and the Lord hath spoken so plainly as to give a public manifestation that he is the teacher of the Church, and also to gain many disciples. This passage agrees with one in the Prophet Jeremiah.

“Every one shall not teach his neighbor, nor a man his brother; for all shall know me from the least even to the greatest, saith Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

Accordingly, if in ancient times it was necessary that all the children of God should be disciples of the Holy Spirit, much more in the present day, seeing that this prediction relates strictly to the kingdom of Christ.

And great peace. By the word “peace” he denotes happiness, that is, all prosperity. And hence we may infer what is the true happiness of men. It is, when God enlightens our understandings, so that we embrace the salvation which has been revealed to us in Christ; for, so long as we are destitute of that knowledge, we are at the greatest possible distance from happiness; because even God’s blessings, till they are sanctified by faith, become a curse to us.

14. In righteousness. He means that God will be the maker and architect of his Church. I am aware that there are some who explain it differently, and who think that “righteousness” means “good­works.” And indeed that exposition has some plausibility, arising from the Prophet having spoken about doctrine; for we are taught for this very purpose, that we may lead a pious and holy life. But the Prophet’s meaning was different, namely, that the Church shall be restored under God’s guidance, who wishes to be its guardian and defender, he contrasts “righteousness” with the violence and oppression by which the Church has been thrown down, or, at least, he expresses “stability,” as if he had said that it shall not be a frail building, or one that might impose on men for a short time by mere deceitfulness of appearance; because God will sincerely defend his work, and, being “righteous,” will not only restore it completely, but will afterwards preserve it in safety for a long period. Thus, although men are leagued in every way for the destruction of the Church, they will gain nothing; for the Lord guards her by his “righteousness.” We have formerly 7373     ‘See Commentary on Isaiah, Vol. 1, p. 488; 3, p. 411. seen this form of expression; and on this account I think that the interpretation which I have given is more simple, though some may think that another interpretation is more plausible.

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