Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.Wearied in the Greatness of the Way
Weariness—spiritual weariness—that is our subject tonight. It seems that in this chapter, as so often, the language of the Prophet is suggested by the incidents of national history. The memorable journey of Israel through the wilderness, in the passage from Egypt to Canaan, was fraught with many lessons concerning human infirmity and concerning Divine righteousness and grace. In this passage, where Isaiah laments the sinful defections of the nation, he makes use of the wanderings of the wilderness to illustrate the experience of rebellious and apostate Israel. The people wander and wander, and know no repose; they are 'wearied in the greatness of their way'.
I. Causes of Spiritual Weariness.—These are mainly two:—
a. Abandonment to error and sin. 'There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.' They who are led by Satan are led in a devious, an aimless, and altogether unsatisfactory and wretched road.
b. The deceitfulness of false religion. Men, feeling their spiritual need and misery, strive to make out a way of safety and of peace for themselves. They sometimes submit to many sufferings in the hope of propitiating the Deity and of appeasing their own conscience. The self-imposed penances and pilgrimages and privations of the religious who yield themselves to the devices of human religions are chargeable with no small part of the misery of mankind. Men following the lead of such delusive lights grow 'wearied in the greatness of their way'.
II. Signs of Spiritual Weariness.—These are:—
a. Dissatisfaction. The journey is too 'great' for human strength. They who undertake it find no peace.
b. Distress. This is natural enough when effort has been put forth and sacrifices have been made, and all in vain.
c. Despondency. They who journey for long, and who find themselves in no way advanced towards their goal, or who return to the point whence they set out, are likely enough to abandon themselves to despair.
III. Remedy for Spiritual Weariness.
a. Confess the error and folly of the past. If the whole course has been a mistake, it is well to find out that it has been so, to cease deluding self, to acknowledge that the weariness of the spirit is owing to having 'followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts'.
b. Abandon the ways which have brought only to weariness and to misery.
c. Accept Divine guidance, that the feet which have so long and so often erred may be led into the way of peace.
References.—LVII. 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 684. LVII. 14.—Ibid. vol. xxvii. No. 1579. H. Ward Beecher, ibid. (4th Series), p. 90. G. W. McCree, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 275. J. H. Jowett, ibid. vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 35. F. Hastings, ibid. vol. 1. 1896, p. 403.
The Eternal and His Habitations
I. The first great theme of meditation the text brings before us is God's inhabitation of infinite time. In all eternity past there is no vacant century, no unpeopled epoch, no barren, unillumined, God-lacking millennium. He fills immeasurable time to its utmost dimension, every moment of the vast eternity, past and to be, pulsating with God's conscious presence.
II. We are reminded of God's inhabitation of selected space. 'I dwell in the high and holy place.' God presents Himself to us in these words as a being who brings His noblest attributes within space-limits because the dwellers in the high and holy place with whom He communes are beings to whom space-limits attach.
God dwells here with an express and intentional manifestation wanting in those extensions of His wisdom and power which touch every part of the universe alike. God is present, but not equally present and unveiled in all the orbs of the firmament. There are elect realms in which He vouchsafes peculiar epiphanies of His majesty and spiritual perfection.
III. God's inhabitation of the individual hearts of His contrite ones is declared. This rests upon His pure compassion. Not only does He stoop to the finite that is holy but also to the finite that is frail.
That He Who inhabits eternity and receives the homage of the high and holy place should seek this latest enshrinement is a mystery, but it is a self-consistent mystery. In making the humbled heart sensible of His presence He appeals more directly to man's consciousness than would be possible by any other method. He must deal with us first in the sphere of the affections. His opening revelations are revelations of healing tenderness to that part of man's nature which is most susceptible to His influence. 'Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.' That truth gets into the affections and puts mystic fire at their source.
IV. This is a mystery of condescension, but it is a self-consistent mystery. The revival and homeward return of the life that came from God is the clue to this enigma of pity and gentleness. It is no slight thing to recover and restore that life. By this inhabitation of contrite hearts the Eternal will add at last a new kingdom to the high and holy place where He is enshrined. From those to whom He so strangely bows Himself He will attract a devotion of which those never needing a Saviour may be incapable. 'We love Him because He first loved us,'—true for angels, but uniquely true for us.
—T. G. Selby, The Lesson of a Dilemma, p. 165.
References.—LVII. 15.—G. McHardy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. 1897, p. 134. R. J. Campbell, City Temple Sermons, p. 199. F. W. Robertson, Sermons Preached at Brighton (3rd Series), p. 230.
God's Two Homes
We know and believe separately the doctrines of the majesty and of the mercy of God, but it probably seldom occurs to a Christian to think of one as a result of the other. It would not occur to us to say that God sent His Son into the world because He is almighty and infinite, and all-glorious, or that Jesus came to save us because He is the eternal God. Yet this or something very like it is what Isaiah does say in the text.
I. Isaiah, who says so much elsewhere, both before and after this chapter, of the work and the sufferings of Jesus, here does not mention Him; he speaks of the dwelling of God with the humble, of the mercy of God to the contrite, not as fruits of the Incarnation or of the sacrifice of Christ, but as results of the glory of the Eternal Father, the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity. The special truth that seems set forth in these verses is, that the Incarnation and the Sacrifice of Christ, while they are to us the cause and the source of all blessing, of all pardon, of all grace, of all holiness, of all salvation, are themselves not the cause but the effect of the mercy and the love of God the Father; as Jesus says Himself, 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son'.
II. The reason why God is so eager to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones, is simply His own majesty, His greatness, before which they are so little. This is a great and glorious thought if only we can bring our minds to the effort of grasping it. Our creation, our preservation, our redemption, and all the mercies of the Gospel, are not merely acts of God, things that He has been pleased to do, and which we may rejoice that He has done, but which might have been otherwise; they are all the overflow of the fullness of God's own nature. Because He is what He is, He has done what He has done. The time will come when the world and all the works therein shall be burned up, even the works of God Himself. The time will come when there will be no Holy Bible, no Christian Church, no faith in Christ; but those who now know and trust in the redeeming work of God know that their salvation rests, not on the Bible, not on the Church, nor on their own faith, but on Him who is the same yesterday, Today, and for ever; that it can never fail until there be no God, or not the same God as our God.
III. Thus then God's promises are made surer than certainty; we know and more than know that He is ready to dwell with us. Only let us be such as those with whom He dwells: 'With him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the spirit of the contrite ones'. Do not think that this is said only of the beginning of the Christian's conversion: that though he must have a contrite and humble spirit before God will come to dwell with him, yet his heart is healed and his spirit exalted as soon as God comes. It is with the heart that is—not only that has been—humble and contrite, that God will dwell; it is with the spirit that does not forget its own sin, even when it feels and knows and rejoices in God's grace. We have not to do anything that we cannot do, only what our own nature requires of itself. Being weak, we ought to be humble; being sinful we ought to be contrite, even though we had nothing to hope for by it. To this simple confession of the truth—a thing that has no merit, that ought to require no effort—to this God promises His presence.
—W. H. Simcox, The Cessation of Prophecy, p. 48.
References.—LVII. 16-18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No. 1490. LVII. 18.—Ibid. vol. xxii. No. 1279. LVII. 19.—Ibid. vol. xxvi. No. 1558. LVII. 20-21.—Ibid. vol. 1. No. 2886. LVIII.—A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 321. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2411.
He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.
But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore.
Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood,
Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?
Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these?
Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.
Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it.
And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell.
Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.
And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?
I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.
When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain;
And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people.
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.
For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.
I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.