Isaiah 50:11
Behold, all you that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that you have kindled. This shall you have of my hand; you shall lie down in sorrow.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) All ye that kindle a fire.—The words obviously point to any human substitute for the Divine light, and thus include the two meanings which commentators have given them: (1) Man’s fiery wrath, that worketh not the righteousness of God; and (2) man’s attempt to rest in earthly comforts or enjoyments instead of in the light and joy that comes from God.

That compass yourselves about with sparks.—The words are rendered by many commentators, gird yourselves with burning darts, or firebrands, i.e., with calumnies and execrations as your weapons of warfare (Comp. Ephesians 6:16.)

Ye shall lie down in sorrow.—The words point to a death of anguish, perhaps to the torment that follows death (comp. Luke 16:24), as the outcome of the substitution of the earthly for the heavenly light.

Isaiah

DYING FIRES

Isaiah 50:11
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The scene brought before us in these words is that of a company of belated travellers in some desert, lighting a little fire that glimmers ineffectual in the darkness of the eerie waste. They huddle round its dying embers for a little warmth and company, and they hope it will scare wolf and jackal, but their fuel is all burned, and they have to go to sleep without its solace and security. The prophet’s imaginative picture is painted from life, and is a sad reality in the cases of all who seek to warm themselves at any fire that they kindle for themselves, apart from God.

I. A sad, true picture of human life.

It does not cover, nor is presented by the prophet as covering, all the facts of experience. Every man has his share of sunshine, but still it is true of all who are not living in dependence on and communion with God, that they are but travellers in the dark.

Scripture uses the image of darkness as symbolic of three sad facts of our experience: ignorance, sin, sorrow. Are not all these the characteristics of godless lives?

As for ignorance-a godless man has no key to the awful problems that front him. He knows not God, who is to him a dread, a name, a mystery. He knows not himself, the depths of his nature, its possibilities for good or evil, whence it cometh nor whither it goeth. He has no solution for the riddle of the universe. It is to him a chaos, and darkness is upon the face of the deep.

As to sin, the darkness of ignorance is largely due to the darkness of sin. In every heart comes sometimes the consciousness that it is thus darkened by sin. The sense of sin is with all men more or less-much perverted, often wrong in its judgments, feeble, easily silenced, but for all that it is there-and it is great part of the cold obstruction that shuts out the light. Sin weaves the pall that shrouds the world.

As for darkness of sorrow-we must beware that we do not exaggerate. God makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and there is gladness in every life, much that arises from fulfilled desires, from accomplished purposes, from gratified affections. But when all this has been freely admitted, still sadness crouches somewhere in all hearts, and over every life the storm sometimes stoops.

We need nothing beyond our own experience and the slightest knowledge of other hearts to know how shallow and one-sided a view of life that is which sees only the joy and forgets the sorrow, which ignores the night and thinks only of the day; which, looking out on nature, is blind to the pain and agony, the horror and the death, which are as real parts of it as brightness and beauty, love and life. Every little valley that lies in lovely loneliness has its scenes of desolation, and tempest has broken over the fairest scenes. Every river has drowned its man. Over every inch of blue sky the thunder cloud has rolled. Every summer has its winter, every day its night, every life its death. All stars set, all moons wane. ‘Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang’ come after every leafy June.

Sorrow is as deeply embedded in the necessity and constitution of things as joy. ‘God hath set one over against another, and hath made all things double.’

II. The vain attempts at light.

There is bitter irony in the prophet’s description of the poor flickering spot of light in the black waste and of its swift dying out. The travellers without a watch-fire are defenceless from midnight prowlers. How full of solemn truth about godless lives the vivid outline picture is!

Men try to free themselves from the miseries of ignorance, sin, and sorrow.

Think of the insufficiency of all such attempts, the feeble flicker which glimmers for an hour, and then fuel fails and it goes out. Then the travellers can journey no further, but ‘lie down in sorrow,’ and without a watchfire they become a prey to all the beasts of the field. It is a little picture taken from the life.

It vividly paints how men will try to free themselves from the miseries of their condition, how insufficient all their attempts are, how transient the relief, and how bitter and black the end.

We may apply these thoughts to-

1. Men-made grounds of hope before God.

2. Men-made attempts to read the mysteries.

We do not say this of all human learning, but of that which, apart from God’s revelation, deals with the subjects of that revelation.

3. Men-made efforts at self-reformation.

4. Men-made attempts at alleviating sorrow.

Scripture abounds in other metaphors for the same solemn spiritual facts as are set before us in this picture of the dying watchfire and the sad men watching its decline. Godless lives draw from broken cisterns out of which the water runs. They build with untempered mortar. They lean on broken reeds that wound the hand pressed on them. They spend money for that which is not bread. But all these metaphors put together do not tell all the vanity, disappointments, and final failure and ruin of such a life. That last glimpse given in the text of the sorrowful sleeper stretched by the black ashes, with darkness round and hopeless heaviness within, points to an issue too awful to be dwelt on by a preacher, and too awful not to be gravely considered by each of us for himself.

III. The light from God.

What would the dead fire and the ring of ashes on the sand matter when morning dawned? Jesus is our Sun. He rises, and the spectres of the night melt into thin air, and ‘joy cometh in the morning.’ He floods our ignorance with knowledge of the Father whose name He declares, with knowledge of ourselves, of the world, of our destiny and our duty, our hopes and our home. He takes away the sin of the world. He gives the oil of joy for mourning. For every human necessity He is enough. Follow Him and your life’s pilgrimage shall not be a midnight one, but accomplished in sunshine. ‘I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’50:10,11 A child of God is afraid of incurring his displeasure. This grace usually appears most in believers when in darkness, when other graces appear not. Those that truly fear God, obey the voice of Christ. A sincere servant of God may for a long time be without views of eternal happiness. What is likely to be an effectual cure in this sad case? Let him trust in the name of the Lord; and let him stay himself upon the promises of the covenant, and build his hopes on them. Let him trust in Christ, trust in that name of his, The Lord our Righteousness; stay himself upon God as his God, in and through a Mediator. Presuming sinners are warned not to trust in themselves. Their own merit and sufficiency are light and heat to them. Creature-comforts are as sparks, short-lived, and soon gone; yet the children of this world, while they last, seek to warm themselves by them, and walk with pride and pleasure in the light of them. Those that make the world their comfort, and their own righteousness their confidence, will certainly meet with bitterness in the end. A godly man's way may be dark, but his end shall be peace and everlasting light. A wicked man's way may be pleasant, but his end and abode for ever will be utter darkness.Behold, all ye that kindle a fire - This verse refers to the wicked. In the previous verse, the Messiah had called upon all the pious to put their trust in God, and it is there implied that they would do so. But it would not be so with the wicked. In times of darkness and calamity, instead of trusting in God they would confide in their own resources, and endeavor to kindle a light for themselves in which they might walk. But the result would be, that they would find no comfort, and would ultimately under his hand lie down in sorrow. The figure is continued from the previous verse. The pious who are in darkness wait patiently for the light which Yahweh shall kindle for them But not so with the wicked. They attempt to kindle a light for themselves, and to walk in that. The phrase, 'that kindle a fire,' refers to all the plans which people form with reference to their own salvation; all which they rely upon to guide them through the darkness of this world. It may include, therefore, all the schemes of human philosophy, of false religion, of paganism, of infidelity, deism, and self-righteousness; all dependence on our good works, our charities ties, and our prayers. All these are false lights which people enkindle, in order to guide themselves when they resolve to cast off God, to renounce his revelation, and to resist his spirit. It may have had a primary reference to the Jews, who so often rejected the divine guidance, and who relied so much on themselves; but it also includes all the plans which people devise to conduct themselves to heaven. The confidence of the pious Isaiah 50:10 is in the light of God; that of the wicked is in the light of people.

That compass yourselves about with sparks - There has been considerable variety in the interpretation of the word rendered here sparks (זיקות ziyqôth). It occurs nowhere else in the Bible, though the word זקים ziqqiym occurs in Proverbs 26:18, where it is rendered in the text 'firebrands,' and in the margin 'flames,' or 'sparks.' Gesenius supposes that these are different forms at the same word, and renders the word here, 'burning arrows, fiery darts.' The Vulgate renders it 'flames.' The Septuagint, φλογὶ phlogi - 'flame.' In the Syriac the word has the sense of lightning. Vitringa supposes it means 'faggots,' and that the sense is, that they encompass themselves with faggots, in order to make a great conflagration. Lowth renders it, very loosely, 'Who heap the fuel round about.' But it is probable that the common version has given the true sense, and that the reference is to human devices, which give no steady and clear light, but which may be compared with a spark struck from a flint. The idea probably is, that all human devices for salvation bear the same resemblance to the true plan proposed by God, which a momentary spark in the dark does to the clear shining of a bright light like that of the sun. If this is the sense, it is a most graphic and striking description of the nature of all the schemes by which the sinner hopes to save himself.

Walk in the light of your fire - That is, you will walk in that light. It is not a command as if he wished them to do it, but it is a declaration which is intended to direct their attention to the fact that if they did this they would lie down in sorrow. It is language such as we often use, as when we say to a young man, 'go on a little further in a career of dissipation, and you will bring yourself to poverty and shame and death.' Or as if we should say to a man near a precipice, 'go on a little further, and you wilt fall down and be dashed in pieces.' The essential idea is, that this course would lead to ruin. It is implied that they would walk on in this way, and be destroyed.

This shall ye have - As the result of this, you shall lie down in sorrow. Herder renders this:

One movement of my hand upon you,

And ye shall lie down in sorrow.

How simple and yet how sublime an expression is this! The Messiah but lifts his hand and the lights are quenched. His foes lie down sad and dejected, in darkness and sorrow. The idea is, that they would receive their doom from his hand, and that it would he as easy for him as is the uplifting or waving of the hand, to quench all their lights, and consign them to grief (compare Matthew 25)

11. In contrast to the godly (Isa 50:10), the wicked, in times of darkness, instead of trusting in God, trust in themselves (kindle a light for themselves to walk by) (Ec 11:9). The image is continued from Isa 50:10, "darkness"; human devices for salvation (Pr 19:21; 16:9, 25) are like the spark that goes out in an instant in darkness (compare Job 18:6; 21:17, with Ps 18:28).

sparks—not a steady light, but blazing sparks extinguished in a moment.

walk—not a command, but implying that as surely as they would do so, they should lie down in sorrow (Jer 3:25). In exact proportion to mystic Babylon's previous "glorifying" of herself shall be her sorrow (Mt 25:30; 8:12; Re 18:7).

All ye that kindle a fire, that you may enjoy the light and comfort of it, as it is explained in the following words. You that reject the light which God hath set up, and refuse the counsel of his servant, and seek for comfort, and safety, and the knowledge of God’s mind, and the enjoyment of his favour, by your own inventions; which was the common error of the Jews in all ages, and especially in the days of the Messiah, when they refused him, and that way of righteousness and salvation which he appointed, and rested upon their own traditions and devices, going about to establish their own righteousness, and not submitting unto the righteousness of God, as is expressed, Romans 10:3.

That compass yourselves about; endeavouring to warm and refresh yourselves on all sides.

With sparks; or rather, with firebrands, as this very word is fitly rendered, Proverbs 26:18, which is better than sparks or flames, which is there put in the margin, because firebrands only, and not sparks or flames, are capable of being thrown by one man at another. And this word is no where else used in Scripture. He mentions firebrands, either to imply that these fires yielded more smoke than heat or light, of because these were the usual materials of a fire.

Walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled; use your utmost endeavours to get comfort and satisfaction from these devices.

This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow; this shall be the fruit of all, through my just judgment, that instead of that comfort and security which you expect by these means, you shall receive nothing but vexation and misery, which shall pursue you both living and dying; for this word, which is here rendered lie down, is frequently used for dying, as Genesis 47:30 Job 21:26, and elsewhere. Or it is a metaphor from a man that lying down on his bed for rest and ease, meets with nothing but trouble and pain, as Job complained, Job 7:13,14. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire,.... To enlighten and warm yourselves; who, rejecting Christ the Light of the world, and despising the glorious light of his Gospel, and loving darkness rather than light, set up the light of nature and reason as the rule of faith and practice; or the traditions and doctrines of men to be guided by; or their own righteousness for their justification before God, and acceptance with him:

that compass yourselves about with sparks, that fly out of the fire kindled, or are struck out of a flint, which have little light and no heat, and are soon out; which may denote the short lived pleasures and comforts which are had from the creature, or from anything of a man's own:

walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled; an ironical expression, bidding them take all the comfort and satisfaction they could in their own works and doings, and get all the light and heat they could from thence:

this shall ye have of mine hand; which you may depend upon receiving from me, for rejecting me and my righteousness, and trusting in your own:

ye shall lie down in sorrow; instead of being justified hereby, and having peace with God, and entering into heaven, ye shall be pressed down with sore distress, die in your sins, and enter into an everlasting state of condemnation and death; see Mark 16:16. This was the case and state of the Jews, Romans 9:31. This is one of the passages the Jews (g) say is repeated by the company of angels, which meet a wicked man at death.

(g) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 104. 1.

Behold, all ye that kindle {m} a fire, that surround yourselves with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of my hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

(m) You have sought consolation by your own devises, and have refused the light and consolation which God has offered: therefore you will remain in sorrow and not be comforted.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. that compass yourselves about with sparks] Lit. as R.V., that gird yourselves about with firebrands (cf. Proverbs 26:18). The verb “gird” hardly suits the metaphor; hence it is better with many authorities to change מאזרי into מאירי (“that kindle”). “Fire” and “firebrands” are both images for the machinations of the ungodly party against the true servants of Jehovah (cf. Psalm 7:13; Ephesians 6:16).

walk in the light &c.] Rather: walk into the flame of your fire &c. Their mischievous designs shall recoil on themselves (Psalm 7:15 f.).

this shall ye have of mine hand] Better: from my hand is this (appointed) for you.

ye shall lie down in sorrow] perhaps: in the place of torment; see on ch. Isaiah 66:24.Verse 11. - All ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; or, with firebrands. The persons intended seem to be those whose "tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity" (James 3:6), and who by means of it are employed in "stirring up strife all the day long." They are condemned to be scorched by the fire which they have themselves kindled, to be made wretched by the strife which they have themselves caused to spring up. Their end, moreover, will be to lie down in sorrow; or, in torture (Cheyne). God will punish them in the next world for the misery which they have brought about in this, and will thus exercise retributive justice upon the wicked ones, whose main object in life has been to embitter the lives of their fellow-men.



His calling is to save, not to destroy; and for this calling he has Jehovah as a teacher, and to Him he has submitted himself in docile susceptibility and immoveable obedience. Isaiah 50:5 "The Lord Jehovah hath opened mine ear; and I, I was not rebellious, and did not turn back." He put him into a position inwardly to discern His will, that he might become the mediator of divine revelation; and he did not set himself against this calling (mârâh, according to its radical meaning stringere, to make one's self rigid against any one, ἀντιτείνειν), and did not draw back from obeying the call, which, as he well knew, would not bring him earthly honour and gain, but rather shame and ill-treatment. Ever since he had taken the path of his calling, he had not drawn timidly back from the sufferings with which it was connected, but had rather cheerfully taken them upon him. V.6 "I offered my back to smiters, and my cheeks to them that pluck off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting." He offered his back to such as smote it, his cheeks to such as plucked out the hair of his beard (mârat as in Nehemiah 13:25). He did not hide his face, to cover it up from actual insults, or from being spit upon (on kelimmōth with rōq, smiting on the cheek, κολαφίζειν, strokes with rods, ῥαπίζειν, blows upon the head, τύπτειν εἰς τὴν κεφαλήν with ἐμπτύειν, compare Matthew 26:67; Matthew 27:30; John 18:22). The way of his calling leads through a shameful condition of humiliation. What was typified in Job (see Isaiah 30:10; Isaiah 17:6), and prefigured typically and prophetically in the Psalms of David (see Psalm 22:7; Psalm 69:8), finds in him its perfect antitypical fulfilment.
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