Isaiah 9
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
In bright contrast to the preceding gloomy outlook, bursts the enrapturing view of future glory on the prophet's soul.

I. COMPENSATION FOR PAST SUFFERING. Not forever is the land to lie darkened. A great light of deliverance is to appear. The prophet's glance rests on the northern and eastern portions of the kingdom of Ephraim. They had been conquered by Assyria, and the people carried away captive (2 Kings 15:29). But "as the former time brought shame to Zebulon and Naphtali, the latter also bringeth honor towards the sea, beyond the Jordan, towards the heathen-march." The depopulated land will bask in the sunshine of restored prosperity. Assembling "before Jehovah," i.e. in his sacred place, they will rejoice as at a harvest ingathering, or at a division of spoil after victory. For the Assyrian yoke will be broken, and crushing will be the defeat of the foes of the nation, like that of Midian in days of yore. Every trace of war and barbarity will be placed under a ban, and be destroyed by fire - the boot that had clanked on the heel of the foreign soldier, and the red battle-garment.

II. THE EVERLASTING KINGDOM OF PEACE. The pledge of its establishment is the promise of the wondrous Child.

1. His names. Not only Immanuel, God with us, is he to be called; but other names bespeak his attributes as a great Prince. Wonderful Counselor: against whose deep providence no plots can contend, and conspiracies of short-sighted craft will be in vain. Hero-God: invincible in battle. Everlasting Father: maintaining and fostering his people, educating them by law and by love. Prince of peace: who will cause wars to cease to the ends of the earth. "The empire is peace," was the noted word of a potentate of one time, that charmed the ear for the moment, only to deceive men's hopes. None but the Messiah can assure peace to the nations, as nothing but the fellowship of the truth and of justice can disincline the nations to war.

2. The nature of his government. It is for "endless wealth." It is to resume, in the deepest and best sense, the well-remembered glories of David's kingdom. It is to be supported, not by countless battalions ("The Lord delighteth not in the legs of a man"), but by "justice and righteousness henceforth and forever." Its spread will include the spread of true religion. Hence it may be confidently expected that the "zeal of Jehovah," the ever-burning energy of Divine love, will bring to pass these happy results.

"The great Shepherd reigns,
And his unsuffering kingdom yet will come." - J.

In wrath God remembers mercy; be makes us to "sing of mercy and of judgment." He "will not always chide, nor keep his anger forever." Even unto disobedient and perverse Israel he will manifest his Divine pity, his redeeming power. Respecting this promise we may note -

I. ITS HISTORICAL FULFILMENT. This, in the literal and primary sense, is involved in no slight obscurity (see Exposition). The difficulty in determining the period when these regions saw the light of liberty and plenty after the time of darkness and desolation is painfully suggestive of the fact that it is a very difficult thing to find any instances of a nation that has once lost its place and power recovering its position. Even those which have had the best opportunities of so doing have failed to use them; witness Egypt, Greece, Rome. It seems as if nations could "find no place of repentance." The fact may well stir every patriotic feeling in our breasts, and make us resolute to infuse into all our laws, customs, institutions, the purifying and preserving influences of Christian truth.

II. ITS SUPREME ILLUSTRATION. (Matthew 4:15, 16.) Undoubtedly this passage finds its culminating fulfillment in the advent and the work of Christ. "That was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlighteneth every one."

1. The era when Jesus was born was one of peculiar darkness. Ignorance, vice, superstition, violence, fanaticism, unbelief, despair, - these abounded as never before.

2. He became the Light of the world.

(1) His truth illumined the dark valleys of error;

(2) his life shed a bright light on the life of man;

(3) his redeeming death opened and made clear to all mankind the way of return and restoration to God.


1. Among peoples. Many are the communities, larger or lesser, which, found in gross darkness, have been enlightened by the gospel of the grace of God. Beside the various European nations and our own islands, there are such places as Greenland, the islands of Polynesia, Madagascar, etc.

2. In individual men. Down into the human soul, into the mind dark with unbelief or crusted over with worldliness, or blinded by prejudice and consequent misconception, or beguiled and led astray by evil passion or some strong, spiritual hallucination, there has shone the light of Christian truth, a "healing ray from heaven;" and he that walked "in the shadow of death" now dwells in the light of God, and will dwell in his glory.

(1) We may all open our hearts to its shining;

(2) we have the fatal power of closing them if we choose;

(3) we are all invited to reflect and multiply its beams. - C.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. The glory which God revealed then through the prophet was but a prelude to that greater glory which the Incarnation made manifest. So much so that these words are used in Matthew 4:16, and relate to Jesus leaving Nazareth and coming to Capernaum, upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim, that so the prophecy might be fulfilled.

I. THE GREAT DARKNESS. History attests that of which prophecy foretells. There was moral darkness. Look at Corinth - so much so that to Corinthianize was to play the wanton. Look at Ephesus. Look at Rome, with its lust and license; its terrible realism in the cruel sports of the amphitheatre, stained with the massacre of beasts and with the gladiators' blood. Think of the intellectual darkness, when even the city of philosophy, proud Athens, erected an altar - which was a monument of its failure in the search after wisdom - "to the unknown God."

II. THE SOMBRE SHADOW. "The land of the shadow of death." This language does not apply alone to the article of death itself. Every hopeless sorrow is a shadow of the grave. Death reigned supreme over human thought. There was no "looking forward" which could comfort the weary heart of man in its bereavements and griefs. Over city and throne, over the groves of philosophy and the gardens of pleasure, the same shadow brooded. So that the gloom came not alone when life drew near to its close, but the long dark shadow fell over all the pursuits and hopes of human life. As we think of all this we shall understand what the prophet means by a "great" light. For the wondrous glory of the Savior's revelation of "life and immortality" none of us can overestimate. It changed the face of society, and turned the weeping eyes of a weary world to glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life.

III. THE WELCOME LIGHT. Light makes all things beautiful. And light from "above" transfigures the lot of man. It turns his afflictions into momentary tribulations, and makes him to look, not on' the things which are seen and temporal, but on those which are unseen and eternal. It is related, therefore, to human life as well as spiritual life. Heaven is not only "the rest that remaineth;" its spirit pervades the entire sphere of our earthly history. Everywhere that blessed light shines; and whilst it makes us patient and hopeful in adversity, it gives cheerfulness to our pursuits and sacredness to our friendships - inasmuch as we are his disciples who said, "Let not your heart be troubled... I go to prepare a place for you." - W.M.S.

Cheyne's translation brings out the meaning and reference of this passage. "Surely there is (now) no (more) gloom to her whose lot was affliction. At the former time she brought shame on the land of Zebulun, and on the land of Naphtali, but in the latter he hath brought honor on the way by the sea, the other side of Jordan, the district of the nations." The historical facts to which allusion is made are:

1. The despoiling of Upper and Lower Galilee by Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29; comp. Zechariah 10:10). This part of the country was attacked first, and it suffered most and longest.

2. The Messiah, the Savior, the great Light shining on the darkness, came in the part of Galilee belonging to Zebulun. It is here noted, as a characteristic of the Divine dealings, that those who suffer most are graciously considered first, and that Divine restorings come most tenderly where there have been Divine woundings and smitings.

I. THE DARKNESS OF BONDAGE MAKES BEAUTIFUL THE LIGHT OF LIBERTY. This district had been the first to fall under the yoke of Assyria. As the border country, its sufferings under bondage had been extreme. This may be taken to represent the bondage of men under sin. "Whosoever committeth sin is the bond-slave of sin." Christ came to bring liberty for such captives. And the more bitterly the yoke of sin is felt, the more glorious seems that breaking of bonds and letting prisoners go free, which was the work of the spiritual Redeemer.

II. THE DARKNESS OF SUFFERING SHOWS UP THE LIGHT OF LIFE. The distress of the country resulted in prevailing diseases of singularly painful types, such as the demoniacal possessions. In view of these how gracious was his work who came healing all the diseases of the people, and casting out the evil spirits! Life for the stricken! Life for the maimed, blind, deaf, dumb, dead! Life even for those "dead in trespasses and sins." "In him was life, and the life was the light of men."

III. THE DARKNESS OF LONELINESS GLORIFIES THE LIGHT OF LOVE. Galilee was a despised, neglected region. "Can any good thing come out of Galilee?" Christ, the Lord of love, finds out the neglected one and comes first to it; honors it, brings to it the joy unspeakable of being cared for and loved. The sinner, in the sense of his sin, feels lonely - nobody cares for him. It is light, hope, the dawn of bliss, when it comes right home to a sinner's heart, "Jesus cares for me." The light has risen on your dark Galilee; but the grave question is - Have you seen the light? Have you welcomed the light? Are you walking in the light? - R.T.

They joy before thee, in view of the Redeemer thou hast sent. There can be no joy like that men feel in the acceptance of God's "unspeakable gift." Illustrate by the song and chorus of the angels at Bethlehem: "Unto you is born a Savior;" "Glory to God in the highest." And by the triumph-song of the redeemed ones in the glory: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, "etc. There had been times of great rejoicing in the history of Israel, such as in the days of Solomon (2 Kings 4:20; 2 Kings 22:13); and of riotous feasting, as in days of Uzziah (Isaiah 5:11-14). But such joy was merely passing excitement; it was as the "crackling of thorns under a pot" compared with the deep, lasting joy of the time when Jesus, the Redeemer from sin and all its consequences, bowed the heavens, came down, and dwelt among men. We ask

(1) why men should chiefly rejoice in a Redeemer; and

(2) what kind of joy theirs should be who have proved how he can redeem.


1. Because the one thing man needs above all others is redemption; not science, not revelation, not civilization, not morality, not social elevation. Man is in one condition whose interests are, to him, supreme - he is a sinner, and so his supreme need is a Savior. With the need and the supply the Word of God fully deals. It is the Divine message to man, the sinner. Its voice may be translated thus: "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help found."

2. Because this one thing, redemption, is wholly beyond man's attainment. We are amazed at what man ear, do, in overcoming material obstacles and yoking to his service the giant forces of nature. Bat at redemption from sin man is arrested; there his power ceases. "No man can redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him." God is represented as saying, "I looked, and there was no man... therefore mine own arm brought salvation."

3. Because man had no reason to expect redemption, and could make no claim to Divine intervention. Redemption is a sovereign device, a display of infinite mercy, a work of unbought love. Its root is, "God is love."

II. WHAT KIND OF JOY THEIRS SHOULD BE WHO HAVE PROVED HOW HE CAN REDEEM. There are two figures blended in the text. Joy of harvest. Joy of victors on dividing the spoil of battle-fields. They suggest-

1. The joy of possession - a harvest of supply for coming needs, spoil from the tents of the foe.

2. The joy of triumph. To possess the enemy's camp is proof that the foe is wholly vanquished. Jesus, as our Redeemer, has "led captivity captive, and received gifts for men." - R.T.

And the government shall be upon his shoulder.

I. THE ACHIEVEMENT WHICH LAY OUTSIDE THE PURPOSE or THE SON OF GOD. For what end was that wondrous Child born, that holy Son given? He came not to restore a fallen human dynasty. The most ardent and eager hopes of his countrymen were directed to the overthrow of the Roman power and to the re-establishment of the kingdom of David in all, and more than all, its pristine glory. Jesus Christ distinctly disavowed any such purpose as this. His kingdom, he said, was not "of this world."

II. THE SPIRITUAL EMPIRE WHICH HE CAME TO ESTABLISH. We shall see what and how truly great this was if we consider:

1. In what condition Christ found the world when he came. He found it

(1) with its mind full of fatal error - the favored people having sunk into a dreary, withering formalism, and the whole Gentile world into idolatry or unbelief;

(2) with its heart full of pride, selfishness, and hatred;

(3) with its life full of unrighteousness and impurity.

2. What he came to accomplish in regard to it. He came to undo all this; to expel this blighting error; to uproot this pride, cruelty, and selfishness; to abolish this iniquity and enormity; to plant and nourish in the mind and heart and life of man the beautiful and admirable opposites of all this - truth, humility, love, righteousness; and so to exercise a beneficent and transcendent power, and so to take the government of the world upon his shoulder.

3. The only way by which he could gain his end. Christ knew that the one way to exert this renovating power, to wield this victorious influence, was by winning the world's devotion to himself through his own dying love. Therefore he deliberately entered and determinately pursued the path which led to Gethsemane and to Calvary. Lifted up before the eyes of a wondering and believing world, he would draw all men unto himself, and thus to truth, to holiness, to God.

4. The extent to which he has succeeded. In spite of the miserable corruptions which have dishonored and enfeebled his Church, and in spite of the languor and inactivity by which large periods of its history have been marked, we find that

(1) error is dying and truth reviving under every sky; the heathen temple is being closed; the hoary systems of misbelief, pierced and penetrated by modern science and assailed by Christian truth, are shaking to their fall;

(2) pride is being humbled;

(3) philanthropy - a pitiful, generous, self-sacrificing regard for the unfortunate and the abandoned - is taking the place of hard-hearted indifference;

(4) the Prince of Peace is being honored where the god of war was once worshipped.

(5) Righteousness and purity are returning to human life. Slavery, lust, drunkenness, profanity, are not yet dead, but their death-warrant has been signed and they are doomed to die. The thought of Jesus Christ is taking possession of the human mind; his principles are reaching and regulating human life; his Spirit is changing the human world; the government is being laid upon his shoulder.

(1) Let us rejoice in the growing power of that Son that was born to our race. The empire of the Caesars, of the Pharaohs, of the Napoleons, is nothing but a memory, a history; the rule of Jesus Christ is a benign, a mighty, a growing power, an abiding, and extending influence. That is a fruitless, sapless stump; this is a tree of life, bearing all manner of fruits, "and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations."

(2) Let us take care that we are among the subjects of his spiritual realm. His is the future of the world; to be separated from him is to lose the heritage, to forfeit the citizenship which will soon be the one thing worth possessing.

(3) Let us recognize the true wisdom; not to strive after outward grandeur In this attempt we may fall and be bruised or even broken, or we may succeed and be satiated and thirst again. The true wisdom is found in shedding a sweet and sanctifying influence over all whom we can reach and bless. - C.

His name shall be called Wonderful. And well may he have been named Wonderful, whose words, whose works, and whose love were such as those of Jesus Christ. We look at -


1. It struck his contemporaries with awe and with astonishment (see Matthew 5:28, 29; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 22:22).

2. It strikes us with wonder still. That a Jew, brought up at Nazareth, receiving a very slight education, having no intercourse with men of other nations, acted upon by the narrowing and stiffening influences which were prevalent and powerful in his land and time, should teach as he taught about

(1) the fatherhood of God;

(2) the spirituality of Divine worship and sacred service;

(3) the openness of the outcast and the abandoned to return to the favor and likeness of God;

(4) the spiritual and universal character of the kingdom of God;

(5) the needfulness of the child-spirit and of humility for entrance into the kingdom of truth and righteousness;

(6) the attainment of life through death, etc.; - all this is not only surprising, marvelous; it is positively unaccountable on any other theory than that God dwelt in him and he in God.


1. This also excited the astonishment of his contemporaries (see Matthew 7:27; Mark 1:27; Mark 7:37; Luke 5:26, etc.).

2. It calls forth our reverent admiration still. We wonder and adore as we realize that

(1) he compelled the earnest attention of his countrymen;

(2) he has commanded the attention of all the ages and of most of the peoples ever since;

(3) he has been, and is regarded as the Savior, the Lord, the Friend of millions of individual souls, and has brightened, comforted, transformed innumerable human lives;

(4) he has produced a manifest change - often amounting to a revolution - in the sentiment, the principles, and the institutions of mankind.


1. On one occasion, at least, the people were powerfully impressed with the fervor of his love (John 11:36; see also John 13:1).

2. The love of Christ is far more astonishing to us who can better recognize its greatness. Now that the facts of the Incarnation and the purpose of his sufferings and his death have been illumined by the teaching of the Divine Spirit, we know how surpassingly great, how wonderful, were

(1) his sacrificial love to our race - not sparing himself, but delivering himself up for us all, and pursuing that path of sacrifice even to the very end;

(2) his distinguishing love to the individual soul. So that, with Paul, every one may say, "He loved me;" may, indeed, say, "He loves me" - is seeking my salvation, has borne with my sin and shortcoming, extends to me his pardoning love, is dealing patiently and tenderly with me, is leading me by the right and wise way to the heavenly city. - C.

His name shall be called Counselor. If we approach Jesus Christ as a Divine Counselor, i.e. as One that has unerring wisdom to impart to us respecting the chief good of human life, the secret of true success, the way to reach the goal and secure the prize, we shall find from him these principal counsels -

I. THAT IF WE WOULD FIND THE TRUTH WE SEEK WE MUST COME AS A CHILD TO ITS SOURCE. Into the "kingdom of God, "which is the kingdom of truth and joy, he tells us emphatically and repeatedly we must enter as a little child, that has everything to learn, and is willing to be taught by its heavenly Father, by its one great Teacher (see Matthew 18:34; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:14; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18).

II. THAT NOT HUMAN HONOR AND WORLDLY WEALTH, BUT THE LIKENESS AND THE FAVOR OF GOD ARE THE TRUE OBJECTS OF PURSUIT. (See Matthew 5:45; Matthew 6:19, 20; Luke 12:15; Luke 4:4; John 5:44; John 14:23.)


IV. THAT IN CLOSE AND LIVING UNION WITH HIMSELF WE ATTAIN OUR HIGHEST HERITAGE. The chief counsel of Christ was that, with our sins, our sorrows, our struggles, our aspirations, we should come into intimate union with himself, the Savior, the Friend, the Master, the Leader, of mankind. In clearest, strongest, tenderest tones he says ever to us all, "Come unto me; abide in me; follow me; and ye shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of Life." - C.

The Everlasting Father. If we take the words in their literal rendering, "the Father of Eternity," we gain a meaning which is more consonant with the scriptural teaching respecting the Messiah, the Son of man. He is One who has much to do with eternity; he is an (or the) Eternal One. This attribution to Jesus Christ suggests to us -

I. THE BRIEF SPACE OF TIME WINCH HIS LIFE OCCUPIES AS A MATTER OF HISTORY. Only "a little while" had they the Light of the world with them. Parts of three years, a space of time to be counted by months, - this was all the interval between his coming and his going; it was a lightning-flash between the long spaces of darkness.


(1) through all human history: for all the lines of national life (Hebrew, Roman, Grecian, etc.) converged and met at his birth; all that had existed had been leading up to, had been preparing for, his advent;

(2) to the remotest ages, even to the beginning. "Before Abraham was, I am;" "He was before all things;" "In the beginning was the Word."

III. ITS LONG FORWARD LOOK. The scribes and Pharisees thought, when they saw him die on the cross, that his would be but an ephemeral career; that his influence would quickly die, and his name be soon forgotten. But we know that

(1) he has commanded the attention of the world for eighteen centuries;

(2) he has been by far the greatest Power therein;

(3) he is now recognized and honored by his Church as its living, reigning Lord;

(4) he will appear as its Judge;

(5) he will be forever the Object of our heavenly worship and service. He is the "Father of eternity." Therefore:

1. Let us reverence him while we trust and love him. Our Friend with whom we have such happy fellowship is One in very closest connection with the Divine; he is the "Father of eternity, "though manifested in time, and with us for so brief a day.

2. Let us trust him while we work for him. We may be disappointed at the smallness of results, at the apparent distance of the goal; we may be impatient in spirit, and we may be hurried or even unchristian in the methods we adopt, in the weapons we employ. Let us be steadied, calmed, righted, as we remember that he whom we serve is not one who is shut up to a few years or decades, or even a few centuries, in which to work out his mission of love; he is the "Father of Eternity;" he is Lord of all future time; he will cause his Word to be fulfilled; we may patiently wait, while we earnestly and faithfully work. - C.

The Prince of Peace. Before considering what is the peace which is distinctively Christian, it may be well to remark:

1. That the first, incidental result of the coming of Christ is not peace, but discord (see Matthew 10:34-36). The first consequence of the introduction or the revival of Christian truth is persecution. For this the Christian faith is not responsible; it is due to the fact that error is so blind, bigotry so pitiless, sin so cruel.

2. That everything is not gained for Christ when a superficial smoothness has been secured. It will take much more than a cessation of "war," a dismantling of forts and a disbanding of troops, to arrive at the peace which is of Christ. It is a Christian poet who writes -

"I love no peace which is not fellowship,
And which includes not mercy;
I would have, Rather, the raking of the guns across
The world." Better, in Christ's name and in his cause, the stern and even the sanguinary struggle which seeks to establish righteousness than the hollow peace which is satisfied with slavery, serfdom, or servility.

3. That the peace which the Messiah came to bring was not that of the conquering sword, but the prevailing Spirit; that which is won, not on the battle-field, but in the depths of the human heart - first in the heart of the Son of man himself, and then in the souls of all the children of men. Of this spiritual rest which the Prince of Peace imparts, we may say that it includes-

I. PEACE WITH GOD. Sin separates between us and our Divine Father; it produces condemnation on his part, dread on our part; it ends in an unnatural and deplorable alienation. In Christ is mercy, restoration, peace. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God," etc. (Romans 5:1; see Romans 8:1).

II. INWARD REST. Sin is the great disturber, the constant troubler of the human heart. It is the source of all disorder, and therefore of all distress. It casts down that which should be uppermost - conscience, reason, holy aspiration, etc.; it enthrones that which should be in subjection - passion, self, temporal interests, etc. The Prince, of Peace secures to the human soul its right condition; he restores the true order; he redresses, re-establishes, revolutionizes; he "makes all things new" within. And when the spiritual nature is thus reset, all its powers taking their proper place and discharging their rightful functions, there is a "great calm" within; they who repair to the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, have "rest unto their souls" (Matthew 11:28-30).

III. SOCIAL CONCORD. Christian love (John 13:34, 35), Christian magnanimity (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:18-20); Christian reconciliation (Matthew 5:25), Christian generosity (Romans 12:10; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3), Christian courtesy (1 Peter 3:8; 1 Peter 5:5), Christian patience (1 Thessalonians 5:14), - these are the conditions and the sources of true and abiding peace among men. - C.

The word "Everlasting Father," or "Father of Eternity," is applied to Messiah as the Revealer of God to men. That the passage can only refer to Messiah is agreed by all devout students. God designed to reveal himself at last and fully to his creatures through a man's earthly life. God can only reveal himself to a creature in the lines of that nature which he has given to the creature. When God was dealing with man, he set forth the manhood of his Messiah most prominently; but when man comes to know his gift, he finds he has received his God, and learned the name by which he may be called. Arguing may not always convince of the Deity of Christ. It is rather like trying to prove to a man that it is the spring-time of the year. Spring is in the atmosphere - in the balmy breathing of the air, in the quickening power of the sunshine, in the lengthening days, and in the bursting life of leaf and flower everywhere around us. So the very atmosphere of Christ is the atmosphere of God. Everywhere, and in everything, we feel that he is God. Our text is striking in the contrasts it presents - contrasts which were realized in the human life of the Messiah. Everywhere in his story we find the blended God and man. He was the outcast babe for whom there was no room in the inn, and yet angels heralded his birth, and Magi offered to him the worship due to a king. He was a simple child of twelve years old, and yet the temple doctors were astonished at his understanding and answers. He submits to John's baptism of water, and yet the Holy Ghost descends upon him, and the voice of "most exceeding peace" gives testimony to him as the Divine Son. He weeps the tears of human friendship at the grave of Lazarus, and yet he speaks the words which call the dead to life. He dies in agony and shame, as only a man could die; he rises in triumph and glory, as only a God could rise. So in this prophecy of Isaiah. The "coming One" is a child, but the "key of government is upon his shoulder." He is a child, and yet he is "Wonder-Counselor, God-Mighty-One, Prince of Peace." He is the Son, and yet it can be said of him that he is the" Everlasting Father." This last assertion seems to be the most astonishing of them all. "The Son is the Father." Christ sustained this view: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Every man's work is to find the Father in Christ. No man has truly seen Christ who has not found in him the Father, and learned from him the fatherhood of God.

I. MAY WE THINK OF GOD AS FATHER? To show himself to man, God must come into man's sphere, not as a cherub or as an angel, but as a man. "Verily, he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham." He must also show himself in some particular form of man. Men are kings, or prophets, or judges, or husbands, or fathers, or sons, or brothers, and God must make choice of the form that may most worthily represent him. Some say we must think of God chiefly as a King. But few of us are stirred at heart by the relations of a king. He is a person to be feared, obeyed, and served. If he is to be loved it is only with a patriotic, it is not with a personal, affection. In the pages of history we can scarcely find a king whose character and career help us to a worthy idea of God. Think of the kings of Eastern nations. Think of so-called Christian kings. There rise before the mind scenes of barbarity, Blood-guiltiness, tyranny, debauchery, and cruelty which make us ashamed to set the thought of God and of earthly kings together. On the other hand, there never has been age or nation in which the dearest thoughts and tenderest associations and most reverent feelings did not gather round the word "father." Everywhere, even in benighted heathendom, fathers have been men's ideals of the pure, the revered, and the good. God comes nearest to men if he can be shown to them as the "Everlasting Father." Love is the supreme glory of fatherhood; but it is only primus inter pares, the equals of "authority," "justice," "holiness." It would not be fair to say of any good earthly father, "He is all love, all indulgence; there is in him no justice, no reverence, no government." We never want to bolster up the authority of our earthly father by deluding ourselves into the notion that he is a king; and we can yield our fullest allegiance to God as our "Everlasting Father." We need not force ourselves to conceive of him as that mysterious thing, a moral Governor, for which we can find no human model. What is God to you when you can fully receive the revelation that he is the Father? Is there any less reverence for him? Is your sense of justice, righteousness, law, or authority weakened when you call him "Father?" Let Christ teach us the true God and the eternal life. He shows us a weeping prodigal child pressing his face into a father's bosom, heart beating to heart, the one in all the anguish of penitence, the other in all the anguish of pitying, fatherly love. The father's arms are round the restored boy; and who shall say that all highest law is not vindicated when that father wipes away the tears, and calls for music and dancing, the best robe, and the fatted calf? Who ever saw weeping rebels on kings' bosoms? Who ever saw kings shedding tears over returning subjects? We must go deeper, far deeper, into the very heart of the truth about God when we say, "He is our Father."

II. MESSIAH SHOWS GOD TO US AS "EVERLASTING FATHER." The Epistle to the Hebrews opens with a very striking statement: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by Son." God had spoken by creation of a Creator, by prophets of a God, by ambassadors of a King, and now by Son of a Father. Messiah is represented as Son, and Son of God, to enable us to conceive of God as Father. The very person of our Lord Jesus Christ is itself a revelation of the Father. The gospels show us that his supreme effort was to make men know and think well of the Father. He was a Jew, and yet his originality is nowhere felt more than in the word which he uses for God. We find very seldom, almost never, any of the recognized Hebrew terms - El, Elohim, Shaddai, or Jah; Jehovah or God; his word is always "Father." On every page we find the term recurring. Illustrate from the sermon on mount; address on sending the disciples forth for their trial-mission, etc. Conclude by commending this view of God as the first and foundation-truth of the Messianic revelation. We need not be anxious to set it under limitations and restrictions. Christ never fenced it off. He never limited its applications. He never hesitated to preach it everywhere. He expected to waken a new spirit in men, the child-spirit, by telling them of their Father in heaven. If we simply follow Christ, we shall show men the Father-God everywhere in Messiah's life and teaching, seen even in Messiah's death and atonement and sacrifice. - R.T.

I. CONCERNING ITS INFATUATED PRIDE. (Vers. 8-12.) The word of menace is to fall like a heavy weight upon the nation, a "burden" especially to be felt by the kingdom of the ten tribes (cf. Zechariah 9:1). It has been made tributary to the Assyrians, yet imagines it will recover its former power by violence and predatory raids. In their bravado they exclaim, "Though the bricks fall down, we will build with freestone; and though sycamores are felled, we will make cedars spring up instead!" To punish this insolence, Jehovah has armed its smaller enemies against it - Syrians in the north-east, Philistines in the south-west; and severer judgments are to follow. The cup is not yet full; the avenging hand is still stretched out. The strophe gives us a picture of infatuation, leading to obstinate resistance and incurring accumulation of punishment. We may be reminded of that fine picture in Homer of Ate, the spirit of error or bewilderment, who with soft feet walks above men's heads, and who would lead all astray to their ruin ('Iliad,' 19:91, sqq.). Yet neither the nation nor the individual falls a prey to such temptations without guilt, though where the guilt begins it may be difficult to trace. The temper of insolence and bravado is a symptom of this aberration creeping on. What need have we to pray that the "eyes of our mind may be opened," that we may never have the light of discernment between the "spirit of truth and the spirit of error" put out in our bosom!

II. CONCERNING ITS OBSTINATE IMPENITENCE. The nation "turns not to him that smote it." It hears not the rod and who hath appointed it. Suffering either changes the disposition and bends the will upon new objects, or it rouses the temper to determined perseverance in the evil course. Men must know the time to retreat and turn back no less than to go forward in a given course. For, as patient continuance in well-doing is blessed with highest promises, the harshness of the impenitent heart treasures up against itself a store of wrath. In this case a visible destruction has come upon Israel. A day of battle has taken place; "hexad and tail, palm and rush," officers and privates in the army alike, have been cut off. For the leaders of Israel have proved misleaders, and their blind followers have perished. And the prophet represents Jehovah as looking sternly on, neither rejoicing in the youth of the nation, nor pitying its disasters. Suffering unrelieved by pity, woes over which Heaven frowns rather than expands with infinite smiles of hope, - such things follow impenitence and willfulness.

III. CONCERNING ITS FLAGRANT INIQUITIES. We say flagrant, and this word exactly fits the prophet's description: "Wrong burning like fire, devouring thorn and thistle, and kindling the thickets of the forest, so that they curl up in columns of smoke." Covetousness devours and ravages like a famine or a pest. Every one begins to devour his own arm in insatiate greed; that is, one tribe its brother-tribe. Not content with mutual rapacity, Manasseh against Ephraim, and Ephraim against Manasseh, the two turn against Judah. And so again and again the deep warning reverberates: "His anger is not turned away; his hand is stretched out still."

IV. CONCERNING JUDICIAL WICKEDNESS AND THE FINAL ISSUE. Here the prophet seems to turn to Judah. As one of Jehovah's noblest attributes is that of Father of the fatherless, and as justice is his delight, so nothing can more darkly designate offense against him than the spoliation of the widow and the orphan. Here, then, the climax of denunciation is reached. And the prophet has now only to hint the future judgment and overthrow. What will they do in the day of visitation? What refuge will be open? What retreat in which a false glory may be hidden? They will cringe as prisoners, and as slain they will fall Better to have the troubled heart, which nevertheless finds its refuge in God, than the reckless self-confidence which invites his anger. Poverty of spirit - against this no prophetic doom is hurled; and adversity with honesty is no real adversity, for the hand of Jehovah is here stretched out, not to smite, but to help. - J.

A King shall reign in righteousness. "Of the increase of his government and prosperity there shall be no end... To establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever." David's reign, as that of the first and most faithful theocratic king, is the imperfect earthly type of the ideal kingdom, founded on righteousness, and ruled in righteousness. Whatever may have been the personal infirmities of David, officially he was thoroughly loyal and true to the Divine supremacy, and, speaking in human measures, it may be said of him, "Righteousness was the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." Messiah's spiritual reign is the complete antitype and realization of the righteous kingdom. His people are, ideally, "all holy;" they are called to be holy, pledged to strive after holiness, and Messiah rules them in righteousness.

I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS KINGDOM. That is, the vindication and manifestation of the Divine righteousness, in the obedience, submission, life, and death of the Lord Jesus. He "magnified the Law and made it honorable." In him "righteousness and peace kissed each other." The spiritual kingdom could have no other basis than God's righteousness, and Jesus must clear that righteousness of all misapprehension, and show men how it lies as the corner-stone of the kingdom which he built up.

II. THE INCREASE OF THE RIGHTEOUS KINGDOM. It must be progressive, because it has vitality, which necessarily involves increase and growth; it must be aggressive, because there is a war-spirit in all righteousness; it cannot abide quietly beside evil, or rest until all evil is conquered and won. It is as light, and must conflict with darkness. It must be universal; for, being the kingdom of the one God, it is the kingdom of all men everywhere. There is no end to the labors of the servants of this kingdom, until the very utmost limits of the earth are reached. Men must know the name of God the Savior, from "the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same."

III. THE STABILITY OF THE RIGHTEOUS KINGDOM. It is the kingdom of God, the good, the right; and it is kin with him, and stable as he is. "Who shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" Evil can never become so strong as good. Good has always God "at the back of it." And security means peace and prosperity. The first and essential work of all governments is to obtain perfect security for life and for property. Then commerce will flourish, and civilization will advance. Men can trust the government, and adventure their wealth in business enterprise. The righteous kingdom of Messiah gives absolute security to its members. No man in it ever wants to wrong his brother, so no disturbances come to shake its stability.

IV. THE PERPETUITY OF THE RIGHTEOUS KINGDOM. No forces can ever arise in any age to stop it. National sins bring on the destruction of nations. Right must be eternal. It can never be replaced by a better. "Against it the gates of hell cannot prevail." It may, in conclusion, be shown that the rule of righteousness ensures peace, power, prosperity, universal piety towards God, and universal brotherhood amongst men. - R.T.

The spirit which is here rebuked is that of a guilty defiance of God. Jehovah had visited Israel with the signs of his displeasure - had humbled and impoverished her. What attitude should she now assume? That of humility and amendment? Nothing was further from her mind. She would contend in her own strength against her fate, against the Lord who had abased her; she would show to him the futility of his correction. The bricks might be fallen down; it was of no consequence - they would build with hewn stones. The sycamores were felled; it was all the better - they would put cedars in their place (ver. 10). They would, in their proud independence, convert Divine chastisements into a national advantage. Thus they breathed the very spirit of defiance. Respecting this arrogant temper, we mark -


1. First comes some serious departure from God or from his service on the part of the nation, the Church, the family, or the individual man.

2. Then comes the Divine correction. This may be in the form of prophetic, or parental, or pastoral rebuke, or of some serious reverse in temporal affairs, or of bodily sickness, or of painful bereavement.

3. Then comes the resentment and revolt of the human will against the Divine. Instead of hearkening, heeding, and repenting, the nation (or the individual) determines to act in a spirit of defiance. In its (his) own strength, it will rise above its present circumstances; it will make good its position; it will brave the worst perils; it will endure extremest hardships, the greatest losses; it will turn its fallen bricks into massive stones that will not fall; it will exchange its feeble sycamores that are cut down for strong cedars which the wildest gales will spare.

II. ITS GUILT. The guilt of cherishing such a spirit is of a very aggravated character.

1. It goes beyond the ordinary sin of inattention. To be heedless when God is speaking, by whatever voice he may address us, is surely iniquitous enough; but to act in deliberate defiance of the Almighty is, by many degrees, worse.

2. It amounts to a positive rebelliousness on the part of the human will against that of the Divine. It is man resolving that, with his puny strength, he will match himself against his Maker and will prevail. It is sin which Contains the elements of insubmission, determined opposition, arrogance.

III. ITS FOLLY. In the case of Israel it was to be followed with fearful penalty. That guilty nation was

(1) to be pressed on every hand by its enemies (ver. 12);

(2) to be devoured by them (ver. 12);

(3) to be prepared for still impending miseries: "For all this," etc. (ver. 12). The nation (or the individual) that indulges in this evil spirit of defiance will find, in time, what a disastrous mistake it (he) has made. For the defiance of God

(1) shuts out immeasurable good - whoso hearkens when God reproves, and, heeding his voice, returns in penitence to his side and his service, begins an upward path which leads to the heavenly hills; but it also

(2) shuts in to unimaginable woes. We may let the words of the text (ver. 12) suggest the form they take.

1. Inextricable difficulty. The being surrounded on every hand by enemies; for sin leads on and down to cruel captivities of many kinds, from which the soul struggles vainly to disengage itself.

2. Waste. The being devoured by adversaries; time lost; strength impaired; the soul ravaged; reputation despoiled.

3. Fear of the future. A dread of the outstretched hand of Divine retribution which has more strokes to deal. - C.

For all this his anger is not turned away. The reference of the previous verses is to the calamities which are surely overtaking Rezin of Syria, and Pekah of Israel, as judgments on them, signs of Divine indignation, for their schemes against Judah. Rezin was threatened by Assyria; Pekah was threatened both by his former ally, Israel, and on the other side by the Philistines. As yet, however, these judgments had not proved effectual in humbling Rezin and Pekah, or in leading them to forsake their self-willed ways and seek the help and guidance of Jehovah; so yet more and heavier judgments must come on them, and they must not think, because there seemed a little lull in the storm, that Divine wrath was abated. Divine judgments were exhausted, or God's outstretched hand drawn back.

I. DIVINE ANGER, BEING THAT OF AN INFINITE BEING, CAN NEVER BE AT A LOSS FOR MODES OF EXPRESSION. There are always fresh arrows in his quiver. This should check all carnal security. Clear heavens may but mean gathering storms. Hush in the evening air may but indicate approaching earthquake. The seemingly secure house of prosperity may be within a moment of the lightning-flash. God can always find out how best to smite.

II. DIVINE ANGER, BEING A REMEDIAL FORCE, WILL NOT CEASE UNTIL ITS PURPOSES ARE WROUGHT OUT. It proposed the humbling of Syria and Israel, and the conviction of the sin of their willfulness and ungodliness. Therefore, if Syria and Israel resisted one expression of the anger, another must be found. Since the anger works only towards good, we may well say, "Blessed be God, that he will never cease to be angry until he is enabled to forgive."

III. DIVINE ANGER, BEING THE STERN SIDE OF LOVE, SPENDS ITSELF IN CORRECTIVE DISPENSATIONS. If we ask what Divine love would do for sinners, for rebellious, for persistent sinners, then the answer will tell us what Divine anger would do for them. To the resistant and willful God's dealings take form as anger. To the submissive and humble God's dealings take form as chastisement. The features prominent in Divine dealings we ourselves determine by the response which we make to those dealings. - R.T.

There are three classes among mankind in reference to whom we here learn the thought and feeling of God. We infer from what is stated in the text -

I. HIS SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE YOUNG. Things had come to such a state, the natural order of things was so reversed, that "the Lord would have no joy in their young men" (ver. 17). Hence we may fairly argue that the common and normal condition is that in which God has joy in the young. It is a strange and unnatural thing to him, that which is altogether alien to his own disposition, to take no deep and Divine interest in them. God has the young people in his thought, in his affection; they are the objects of his peculiar regard and tender interest. He is seeking their true welfare; he is addressing himself to them in the terms and the tones of fatherly love. There is nothing more pleasing in his eyes than the response which the young heart makes to his inviting voice.

II. HIS PECULIAR TENDERNESS TOWARD THE AFFLICTED. It is a sign of the very extremity of the Divine displeasure that the Lord will not even "have mercy on the fatherless and widows." The rebelliousness of Israel must have been great indeed, her iniquity heinous and aggravated indeed, to bring about a conclusion so startling and so strange as that. For it is the most wide departure from the constant thought and habit of the Most High. It is in his heart of pity to show peculiar kindness to his afflicted children. Those who are in sorrow commonly receive the precious sympathy of their fellow-men; this may fail, but it is certainly insufficient. Then the wounded spirit finds refuge in the sympathy of Christ; it has the strongest assurance of his presence, his pity, his succor (Psalm 103:13; Hebrews 4:15, etc.).

III. HIS SEVERITY TOWARD THE FALSE. The prophet regarded himself as being at the head of the nation, and expected to be so regarded by others. But not so did the Lord regard him if he were false to his vocation. In the Divine view he was not the distinguished bough waving from the top of the palm tree; he was the coarse reed that grew in the rank marshes (see vers. 14, 15).

1. Any and every dissembler is hateful to God. He denounces the hypocrite, wherever he is found (ver. 17).

2. But the false teacher is the object of especial Divine displeasure. "The prophet that teacheth lies is the tail." Be it remembered that the prophet is now, what he was then, the man who professes to speak for God; that if, making this profession, we publish that which is error rather than truth, we do two things which are most deplorable. In the first place we draw down on ourselves the awful anger of the righteous Ruler; and in the Second place we slay those whom we pretend to heal: they "that are led (misled) of us are destroyed (ver. 16). To receive religious error into the soul is to be poisoned with a deadly drug; guilty indeed is the hand that administers it. - C.

The point of the expression is, that the leaders of the nation are really misleaders. The persons referred to are described in ver. 15 as "the ancient and honorable, "and as "the prophet that teacheth lies, "evidently including those having influence by reason of their social status, and having influence by reason of their official positions. It is well for us to remember the responsibility of positions as well as of talents. Society is directly affected by the morality, the prevailing tone, the intelligence, and the religiousness of the upper and the learned classes. Leadership is also a talent or endowment, given by God to individual men and women, and so it is to be regarded as, and used as, a Divine trust. A man's power of leadership among his fellow-men is to be laid on God's altar, and used in God's service.


1. Relationship, as masters, husbands, fathers, etc.

2. Position, one class of society becoming ideals to the class below them.

3. Character, natural and trained.

4. Education, involving superior knowledge and mental control.

II. SOME HAVE VERY SPECIAL POWERS OF LEADERSHIP. Illustrate by the first Napoleon. Some men seem to master our wills, and compel us to do what they wish. We find such persons in all spheres of life. The Power is one of the secrets of success in business. It is often the genius of secretaries, and of teachers. Illustrate from T. Moore's poem in 'Lalla Rookh,' "The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan."

III. SUCH INFLUENCE MAY BE MADE A CURSE. Leadership may cover and excuse wrong-doing. Personal relations may disturb moral distinctions.

IV. SUCH INFLUENCE MAY BE MADE A BLESSING. Leadership may present the example of righteousness and obedience. Personal relations with others may be Christ-like, and so a leading towards goodness and God. Special Divine judgments come on those who determinedly lead others astray. The enticer and seducer who wile into the ways that lead down to the pit, God surely hateth and watcheth. His hand will be heavy on them some day. - R.T.

From this declaration of judgment against a guilty nation we may gather some principles which are applicable to men as well as nations elsewhere, and indeed everywhere. We learn -

I. THAT SIN IS A WASTING POWER. "Wickedness burneth as a fire" (ver. 18):, Where sin abounds there desolation abounds. The longer a man (or nation) has lived under its dominion the more has power withered and possession decreased, the more has heritage been wasted and lost.

1. Sin first destroys the less valuable. "The brier and the thorn it shall consume" - the visible, the temporal, the pecuniary, the material, the fleshly.

2. Then the more valuable. "It shall kindle in the thickets of the grove." The reputation, the intelligence, the character, the influence for good, - these disappear under the consuming fires of sin.

3. Then it amounts to a conspicuous disaster. "They shall mount up in volumes of rising smoke." The ruin is so striking that attention is commanded; all surrounding nations must observe it; all neighbors must remark it.

II. THAT IT TURNS ITS HAND UPON ITSELF. Of the fire of human sin humanity itself is the fuel (ver. 19). This is palpably and painfully true:

1. Of the individual. He that sins against God wrongs his own soul, first and most (Proverbs 8:36). It is not only the drunkard and the debauchee who injure themselves by their iniquities. Look on far enough, or look down deep enough, and you will find that every transgressor is putting his own most precious interests, as fuel, into the devouring flame; every such man "eats the flesh of his own arm" (ver. 20).

2. Of the community. It is sin, the departure from the Divine will, which brings about

(1) faction in the state;

(2) contention in the Church;

(3) discord in the family.

Often, in its ultimate outworkings, it becomes remorseless and insatiable. "No man will spare his brother;" he "eats and is not satisfied" (ver. 19; see Galatians 5:15).

III. THAT THE WASTE OF SIN IS ITS DIVINELY APPOINTED PENALTY. "Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened." It seems to be in the very nature of things that sin, whether in the individual or the community, should consume and destroy; but so much has the Lord of hosts to do with the nature of things that those who thus suffer the consequences of their guilt may well feel that the punitive hand of God is laid upon them. And they will also do well to feel -


The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bible Hub
Isaiah 8
Top of Page
Top of Page