Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. HIS ORIGIN. "From Ishai's worn stem a shoot will sprout forth, and a green branch burst forth from his roots." From the stock of David, now fallen very low, the coming Deliverer will arise in all the vigor of youth. Seldom does the great man come but of some pure and generous strain of blood. Like some stream which, long hidden underground, reappears again in the daylight, or some vein of precious ore, recovered after some extensive "fault," so it was believed the royal race and the spiritual prowess of David might be obscured for ages, but must be illustrated before the world again. As God saves and blesses the world by means of great men, so in a measure is this true of houses, families, tribes, and nations. There is a principle of providential selection running through life. Though men be of one blood in all their tribes, it is not to be denied that there are different qualities in that blood. Hence noblesse oblige, and great endowments make great expectations and imply great responsibilities. The thought of the seeming extinction, yet destined revival of David's house, may remind us of the imperishableness of the germs of good. David's house was never restored to the throne in the visible sense. Yet the memory of David persisted, begot hope, inspired patience, and was gradually converted into one of the mightiest of spiritual forces in the conscience of the nation. An idea may pass through many changes of form, but it dies not so long as the faith and passion of the heart in which it sprung are living.
II. His SPIRIT. In the religious mode of thought a true temper of the mind is to be traced to Divine inspiration, no less than the great physical or mental ability. What meaning lies in our common expressions, "a gift," "an endowment," "a talent," "an influence!" None of them but is deeply religious, if we trace them to their primary felt significance. Upon this chosen one there "rests the Spirit of Jehovah." And three characters, in the iterative idiom of the Hebrew, are given of this spirit. It is that
(1) of wisdom,
(2) of courage,
(3) of reverence. The qualities of the statesman, the soldier, the man of God. "His breathing is in Jehovah's fear." There can be no simpler nor stronger expression of a man thoroughly "animated," as we say, by religious principle. And
(4) he has the attributes of the just judge. Prompt to redress the injuries of the oppressed and suffering, his rule of conduct is not the pleasure of his eyes and ears, but the eternal equity of him who is no respecter of persons. As the consequence of thus vitally living in communion with God as in the common and necessary air he breathes, he possesses irresistible strength. His mere word of judgment smites the earth more powerfully than the despot's scepter, while his mere breath destroys the wicked like a pestilence. In a word, it is a sublime picture of moral majesty. This King needs not the weapons of ordinary warfare. He has a better defense of his throne than swords and spears, a better battle-array than the suit of armor. Justice and faithfulness themselves are his best, his only preparations.
III. THE BLESSINGS OF HIS RULE. There will be a marvelous growth of peace and prosperity. The progress of true culture is marked by the subduing of savagery. The wild animals change their nature and become harmless to mankind. Wickedness is ferocious; men's untamed passions are like the wolf, the bear, and the deadly serpent. There will be no sin nor sinners in Zion, because the knowledge of the true God wilt be all-diffused and all-inexhaustible as the ocean. To what state of life do these predictions refer? To the advent of Christ and his kingdom? Certainly; and yet when Christ came, not only did not universal peace set in, but the light of Zion and the glories of the sacred city were quenched in blood. And Christ himself opened up a gloomy perspective of the future in his closing prophecies. Where, then, and when this scene of bliss? Let us content ourselves with believing that the prophecy refers to some state to us unknown. Earth will be earth, and not heaven. This heaven is in the soul first; there we dream of it, nay, we realize it as we listen to the prophet's glowing words, and believe that but a step may carry us into a world where it is realized by all. The prophecy is already fulfilled for us if God has made a heaven of hope in oar hearts. - J.
Matthew 3:16; Luke 4:1, 14, 18; John 3:34). This full possession by our Lord of the Spirit of God revealed itself, and is still found, in these particulars which the prophecy indicates.
I. His PERFECT PIETY. In him dwelt the "fear of the Lord" without measure (ver. 2), and he "delighted in the fear of Jehovah;" "the fear of Jehovah was fragrance to him" (emended readings for, "and shall make him of quick understanding," etc., ver. 3). He could say, "I delight to do thy will... yea, thy Law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:8). To reverence, to please, to obey God, to consult his will and be subject to it, was the law of his life and the refreshment of his spirit.
II. His INTUITIVE PERCEPTION OF THE BEST AND HIGHEST. In "him was the spirit of wisdom and understanding." He distinguished at once the false from the true, the glittering show from the genuine good, the passing pleasure from the abiding joy, the fictitious gain from the invaluable heritage, the vanity of earthly honors from the blessedness of the Divine favor. Christ saw all things on which he looked in their actual and essential nature, and in their true proportions. Hence -
III. HIS EXCELLENCY AS OUR GUIDE. In him was "the spirit of counsel" (see Homily on 'Chief counsels of Christ,' Isaiah 9:6).
IV. His KNOWLEDGE OF THE DIVINE AND OF THE FUTURE. Fallen, degenerate man, with conscience defiled and reason depraved, could know nothing certainly of these two supreme subjects: he wanted, urgently and imperatively, one who had "the spirit of knowledge" in him, and could tell him distinctly and finally, not what he guessed or what he hoped, but what he knew. This Jesus did. He revealed the Divine Father unto men (Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; John 10:15). And he made known to us the truth as to the future; he brought life and immortality out into the light (John 5:28, 29; John 11:25, 26; 2 Timothy 1:10).
V. HIS PROFOUND KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN HEART. He judged men, "not by the outward appearance," not "by the sight of his eyes or the hearing of his ears," but by looking down through the coverlet of the flesh, through the armory of speech, into the secret chambers of the soul. He not only saw through the fig tree, but through the flesh, and knew Nathanael's simplicity of spirit "He knew what was in man" and knows now, discerning the hollowness of some men's pretensions, appreciating the excellency beneath some men's doubts and diffidences.
VI. HIS ABSOLUTE IMPARTIALITY. (Ver. 4.) He had one measure for the rich and the poor, for the mighty and the meek; he showed unvarying kindness towards the humblest, and he showed a constant readiness to receive those who were enriched with worldly wealth, or endowed with social honor. The testimony of his enemies was true enough; he "regarded not the person of men" (Mark 12:14). Such is the genius of his gospel - "the common salvation" (see 1 Corinthians 3:11; Galatians 3:28; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 6:8).
VII. HIS RIGOROUS RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Vers. 4, 5.) Christ, in his righteousness, demanded the spiritual service of all men, and he condemned all that withheld it. He showed himself the determined enemy of evil.
1. He denounced it in scathing terms when he was with us (see Matthew 23.).
2. He announces himself as the Judge of all, who will punish the impenitent according, to their, deeds (see Matthew 25.)
VIII. His FAITHFULNESS. (Ver. 5.) Having loved his own, he loved them - to the end. He "never leaves nor forsakes" those who serve him. Throughout our fidelity to him his love to us is constant; in the time of our slackness or departure he visits us in his faithfulness with his kind correction, in order to attach us to himself, or to call us back to his side; in the hour of our suffering he makes good his presence of Divine support; when everything earthly fails us, the faithful Promiser will fulfill his word, and receive us to himself, that we may dwell in his glory. - C.
Isaiah 4:2). The idea is of a sucker springing up from a hewn stump. The word used (netser) is singularly suggestive of despised Nazareth, with which place the early life of Messiah was associated, and of which it could jeeringly be said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Wordsworth remarks on the sublime contrast in this prophecy and the foregoing," The mighty and haughty worldly power of Assyria - the type of impiety and antichristianism - will be hewn down, like a great forest, in the pride of its strength and glory, never to rise again; but the spirit of prophecy here reveals, that when the house of David seemed like a tree hewn down to a stump in the earth, then a sucker would spring up from the stump, and a branch shooting forth from its roots would bear fruit and overshadow the earth. And so it came to pass. At a time when the house of David seemed to be reduced to the lowest estate, when the Virgin was a poor maiden in a village of despised Galilee, then by God's miraculous agency the Branch sprouted up from the hewn-down stump, and grew up into a mighty Tree, and brought forth much fruit, and received the world under its shade." It has been cleverly suggested that "the cedar of Lebanon, the symbol of the Assyrian power, was to be cut down, and, being of the pine genus, which sends forth no suckers, its fall was irretrievable. But the oak, the symbol of Israel, and of the monarchy of the house of David, had a life remaining in it after it had been cut down, and the rod or sucker that was to spring from its roots should flourish once again in greater glory than before." We fix attention on the sentiment entertained respecting suckers, which are usually despised, thought to be weak and frail things, from which nothing of value is ever to be expected.
I. THE SURPRISE OF CHRIST'S LOWLY BEGINNINGS. Born into a poor family, at a time when David's race was at its lowest humiliation; born, as one crowded out by the hurry of life, in the courtyard of an inn; brought up in a despised village. There were but a few gleams of glory resting on his infancy. Angels heralded the tidings, of his birth; Magi offered worship to him at the Bethlehem cottage, But Herod would, if he could, have broken off that sucker, almost ere it began to show its greenness. It would take a great power of imagination to picture a splendid career and a world-wide renown for that poor Bethlehem babe. "He came to his own, and his own received him not"
II. THE HOPE OF CHRIST'S EARLY YEARS. We need not accept the strange and foolish legends of Apocryphal Gospels concerning the infancy and childhood of Jesus. We have one all-sufficient historical incident, presenting the boy of twelve years, and convincing us that a wonderful manhood was in its unfolding. His mother observed much, and pondered over many things in her heart, and the story of Christianity has verified every hope which that good mother cherished.
III. THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST'S GROWTH. The sucker became strong, grew into a branch, began to put forth branches of its own, became a tree whose beauty attracted the attention of all men. Two passages suggest illustration and detail: "And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him;" "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Other suggestions come from the statements, "All that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers;" and, "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." Intelligence, submissiveness, obedience, were the beautiful features of his child-time - the splendid promise of after-years.
IV. THE AMAZING RICHNESS OF CHRIST'S FRUIT. When the sucker came to bearing-time, it altogether surpassed the old tree of David. Illustrate its fruitage
(1) of holy example;
(2) of wise teaching;
(3) of gracious healings;
(4) of heroic sufferings;
(5) of eternal triumph over sin.
Moral and spiritual fruitage answering to the needs of thirsting and hungry men. Fruit which was the "Bread of life." The despised tree of David at last sent forth a sucker, which swiftly grew into a tree, whose leaves were for the healing of all the nations, and whose fruit was for the spiritual quickening of a world that was "dead in trespasses and sins." - R.T.
by measure, but without measure - the fullness of God dwelling in him (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). Compare the beginning of our Lord's sermon at Nazareth: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me" (Luke 4:18). The point suggested is that God's enduements are always in precise adaptation to a man's work. Here, in relation to Christ, the "qualities are arranged in three pairs, but all spring from one Source, the Spirit of Jehovah, which rests permanently upon him. They are
(1) moral and intellectual clearness of perception;
(2) the wisdom and bravery which befit a ruler;
(3) a knowledge of the requirements of Jehovah, and the will to act agreeably to this knowledge" (Cheyne).
Christ was a Teacher, Healer, Example, Savior, Head of a spiritual kingdom. As fitting him for these positions and offices, he was endued with -
I. WISDOM. The special gifts of the ruler, as called to judge difficult, complex cases. In its highest form implying comprehension of the secret things of God.
II. UNDERSTANDING. Or keen, quick discernment; the sagacity which discovers the right thing to do, and the right word to say, in all human relationships.
III. COUNSEL. The power to form wise plans; the clear purpose which fits a king for the exercise of sovereignty. "He shall know how to administer the affairs of his spiritual kingdom in all the branches of it, so as effectually to answer the two great ends of it - the glory of God, and the welfare of the children of men."
IV. MIGHT. The ability to carry plans into execution. With men we often find a divorce between the skill to plan and the power to execute.
V. FEAR OF GOD. The disposition which keeps us ever anxiously watching for, and resolved to do, God's will. The reverence and faith which is the beginning of all wisdom. Illustrations of each may readily be found in the life of the Lord Jesus; and it may be urged that all these enduements brought him the power that lies in righteousness - the power
(1) to wither all evil;
(2) to nourish all good. - R.T.
head of the Messianic kingdom. The picture presented here is designed to be in sharp contrast with that of the unjust judges referred to in Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 2:14, 15; Isaiah 10:1, 2. The figure of clothing one's self, or being clothed, with moral attributes is not infrequent in the Scriptures. The girdle is mentioned as an essential part of Oriental dress, and that which keeps the other garments in their proper place and qualifies the wearer for exertion. The rules, or characteristics, of the Messianic or spiritual kingdom may be illustrated under the following headings.
I. RIGHTEOUSNESS AS BEFORE GOD. The absolutely right is to be sought; and it will be found in what
(1) God is;
(2) what God commands;
(3) what God approves.
Matthew Henry says, "He shall be righteous in the administration of his government, and his righteousness shall be his girdle; it shall constantly compass him and cleave to him, shall be his ornament and honor; he shall gird himself for every action, shall gird on his sword for war in righteousness; his righteousness shall be his strength, and shall make him expeditious in his undertakings, as a man with his loins girt." Compare the kingdom ruled by considerations of righteousness with the kingdoms ruled by considerations of expediency.
II. EQUITY BETWEEN MAN AND MAN. The determination that every man shall get his due, and bear his due. Many cases arise in which strict justice must be toned by consideration of circumstances. In view of human infirmity, the equitable must sometimes be put instead of the right.
III. EFFICIENT PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED. The strong hand on the wrong-doer is ever an essential of good government.
IV. FAITHFULNESS TO DUTY. Duty being distinguished from right in this, that it is something we are bound to do, upon the authority of some one who has the right to command us. "Faithfulness" is closely kin with "loyalty." And Messiah is a theocratic King, a Vicegerent of Jehovah.
V. PEACE EVERYWHERE. Because, if righteousness prevails, nobody will wrong others, and nobody will have wrongs to avenge. Jealousies, envyings, violence, covetings, all fade before advancing righteousness; and when Jesus, the righteous King, reigns over mind and heart and life, then the glory-day will have come, and "no war or battle-sound" will then be "heard the world around." - R.T.
I. THE INTENSIVE POWER OF DIVINE TRUTH. More power is needful
(1) to act on any living thing than on lifeless, inert matter;
(2) to act on a sentient creature than on life without sensation;
(3) to act on intelligence and will (on man) than on the irrational and irresponsible animal;
(4) on man sunk into the lowest moral condition (with seared conscience, mastering passions and habits fixed in vice) than on one who has not yet chosen his course, or who has been trained in the ways of virtue. The very highest instance of power with which we are familiar is that spiritual influence which transforms those who have gone furthest away from God, from truth, and from righteousness - those who are to the moral world what the tiger, the lion, or the asp is to the animal world. The gospel of Jesus Christ has this power. With such wonderful intensity does it work on those on whom its truth is brought to bear, that it redeems and renews the worst, so changing them in life and in spirit that it may be said of them that the wolf dwells with the lamb, etc.; so transformed do they become, under its benignant influence, that the most innocent and helpless have nothing to fear, though they be placed completely within their power (ver. 8).
1. Individual instances abound of the conversion of notorious drunkards, of savage prize-fighters, of shameless courtesans, of ribald atheists, of those who were abandoned by all, and who abandoned themselves to hopeless sin, of men who were the terror of their tribe or of their district, etc. Therefore we need not and we should not despair of those who are living amongst us, and who are at present a long way off from truth and righteousness. The gospel of Christ can change the very nature of these - can tame the most ferocious, can raise the most fallen, can liberate the most enslaved, can make beautiful the most deformed of the children of men; it can do so by the power of the truth and of the Spirit of God.
2. Families, societies, communities have undergone as complete a transformation.
II. THE EXTENSIVE RANGE OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. (Ver. 9.) What a vast void would there be if the waters were withdrawn! Into what profound depths should we look down! What mighty stretches of sand and clay and rock would be disclosed! What lengths and breadths are covered, what depths are now filled up by the abounding waters of the sea! As containing the element of life to millions of living creatures, as supplying a highway for the nations of the earth, and as providing scope for the ambition, courage, and enterprise of man, what a grand sufficiency do we see in the waters of the ocean! So shall it prove to be with Divine truth. There shall be seen to be a sufficiency, in the gospel of the Savior, to cover the entire earth, to meet the wants of the whole population of the globe. No land so remote, no clime so rigorously cold or scorchingly hot, no interior so impenetrable, no barbarism so rude, no prejudice so inveterate, but that the gospel of Christ shall cover it with its benignant power.
1. Let us rejoice in the earnest of its fulfillment; great things have been already done towards the realization of this glorious estate.
2. Let us resolve to have our share in its execution
(1) as a Church, and
(2) as individual souls, to each of whom God has committed some word to be spoken, some work to be done. - C.
brought about by the leading of the little child. God is training us all; we are all at his great school. Christ is the great Teacher; the Word of God is our "book of reference." But there are other sources of instruction at his command. Of these is the family life which he has instituted, and where we may all learn most valuable lessons. We may consider how we are led by the little child - leading sometimes from bad to good, and at other times from good to better things. The little child sometimes leads -
I. FROM THE FAR DISTANCE OF FLAGRANT WRONG TOWARDS THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST. We have often read of the dissipated, or ungodly, or unbelieving parent, who has separated himself (herself) from all sacred privileges, and, it may be, gone far in forbidden paths, when all other influences have failed, being led by the soft, pleading accents of the little child to the safe precincts of the home, or to the services of the sanctuary, or to the path and practice of sobriety, and so to the kingdom of Christ. Sometimes it is not the living voice, but the remembered pleadings of the departed child coming from the other side the veil, which lead the distant wanderer to "come to himself," and then to "arise and go to the Father."
II. FROM OUTSIDE INTO THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM. And this:
1. As a model. When the disciples were discussing amongst themselves which of them should be the greatest in the kingdom, Jesus Christ took a child and set him in the midst of them, and said that, except they were wholly changed and became as little children in their spirit, they could not so much as enter that kingdom at all. It is the child-spirit which introduces us into the kingdom of Christ. They who are kept outside by difficulties which they cannot solve, and they also who are excluded from faith and peace by a sense of unworthiness from which they cannot rise, need but to have the simple, unquestioning spirit of childhood; they need but to realize that they are God's very little children, and should take his word even as they expect their own little ones to take theirs, and they will "come in" and be blessed.
2. As a motive. We are moved by many motives, and our serious decisions are usually determined by more considerations than one. There are many strong and urgent reasons why a man should yield himself to God; but if all these fail to move him, let him remember the little child (children) beneath his roof for whom he is responsible, who will almost certainly imbibe his spirit, and grow up to be such as he is; and for his (their) sake, if not for his own, let him live the life which is right and worthy and wise.
III. ON, IN THE KINGDOM, TOWARD THE GOAL AND THE PRIZE.
1. The little child continually reminds us of those graces which our heavenly Father looks to see in us. As we are pleased with the docility, the trustfulness, the obedience, the affection of our children, and are pained when we witness the reverse, so is he affected by our attitude towards him.
2. The little child leads us into the field of Christian usefulness. The Christian Church saw the little child ignorant, unenlightened, neglected, in danger of growing up to manhood far from truth and God, and it let him put his hand into its arm and lead it into the school where it should receive the knowledge and the influence which it needed. And the child having thus, by its very weakness and simplicity and necessity, led the Church into the school, it is for the Church to lead the child into the ways of heavenly wisdom, into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, into the path of usefulness and holy service. - C.
I. PROPHETIC SCRIPTURES SET FORTH A PERFECT BEING, AN IDEAL KING. Men have always been on the outlook for a glorious future - "a good time coming." But poetic imagery has been vague, and generalization has meant weakness. Bible prophecy sets before us:
1. A Person - a Son; and the actual incidents of his life, as a veritable human being, are foretold.
2. A perfect Person. Observe the statements of this chapter, and the idea that was formed of Messiah.
3. A Person with kingly authority. If he be a perfect man, he must be a king among men. This kingly idea was set forth
(1) in the theocracy founded by Moses;
(2) in David's reign;
(3) in Daniel's vision.
In the times of Jewish captivity the promise of such a leader and deliverer was needed to keep men from utter despair. The conception of a perfect person is as utterly beyond us as the conception of a perfect age. Before Christ came neither had been realized. Now one has. The perfect Person has come, and we have a right to say that "with God all things are possible," seeing that the one so-called impossible has been overcome. The historical Christ is the realization of what men thought to be the impossible.
II. PROPHETIC SCRIPTURES SET BEFORE US A PERFECT AGE, AN IDEAL KINGDOM. Observe the figures of the chapter; and such expressions as "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea," and Daniel 7:13, 14. Poetry has its "golden age," for the most part, in the past. Scripture has it in the future. Towards it we are moving. For it we are working. In olden time men failed in faith that the perfect King would come, and now we fail in faith that the perfect kingdom will ever come, because we cannot quite explain the when, the how, and the why. It may be said - Have we any seemingly good reasons for our failing faith? And it may be urged that
(1) the golden age has never yet been reached in part, anywhere;
(2) there are no signs of its nearing approach; and
(3) we cannot clearly mark even our own growing meetness for it.
The perfect age has scarcely even a faint beginning in us. But who can discern victory through the smoke of battle? And yet the victory may, in effect, be won. With cleared eyesight we might see many hopeful signs; such as these:
1. The King has come, and is conflicting for his rights.
2. The perfect kingdom is sometimes nearly reached by the saintly believers.
3. In limited measure it is realized in the Church of Christ.
4. In its wider form, as a kingdom of righteousness, it is extending over all the earth. And if God could give the world the perfect King, he can also give the perfect age. The practical question is - What are we doing to hurry its on-coming? The world's hope lies in the spreading of the knowledge of the Lord. Everywhere the heralds must go until the earth is full, as full as the sea-basin is with the waters. We must, for ourselves, know the Lord, and we must speak of him, and witness concerning him, to others; for every act of godly living and godly laboring is bringing near the "golden year." - R.T.
I. HONOR TO THE ROOT OF JUDAH. The scion from the ancient trunk will be honored far and wide among the heathen, because of those virtues already described in the preceding section. It will be a banner to which they will flock, a center of light and living oracles.
II. REDEMPTION OF THE REMNANT. The mighty hand of Jehovah will be stretched forth to gather the scattered ones from all the four quarters of their dispersion. When the banner is raised, the heathen will own its power and the captives will be released.
III. INTERNAL UNITY. The two great tribes will remain side by side, but then enmity will cease. The recent destruction of Samaria had been caused by that enmity; which ceasing, it will be found that union is strength, and the nations will submit on the West and East. And those great threatening neighbors, Egypt and Assyria, will feel the weight of Jehovah's hand and the punishment which the word of his mouth inflicts. And as the great river is smitten into seven fordable streams, the company of pilgrims will flow back, a way made for them by the hand of their God, as in the days of their forefathers, and the exodus from Egypt. The scion from the old stump may be taken as a figure of the revival of true religion in times of decay. And such revival means the union of long-sundered hearts, the recognition of an internal unity among all the faithful, the restoration of influence, and the dismay of the ungodly world. - J.
I. MANY IDEAS OR FORMS OF REST ARE INGLORIOUS. They are connected with mere military conquest. There is the peace of subjection, or there is the peace of compromise, or there is the peace which belongs to the desert and the wilderness, when they are simply let alone. But Christ's peace is his own beautiful peace of nature. "My peace I give unto you." His rest is not artificial. It is the rest of holy expectation. He sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied.
II. THIS GLORY IS PROSPECTIVE AS WELL AS PRESENT. It "shall be glorious." The golden age of the gospel is in the future. "From henceforth expecting;" "He must reign." It will be a glorious rest. For truth will conquer error. Right will conquer might. Love will have victory over all forms of division and hate. It shall be; for Christ hath spoken it. It shall be; for he has all power in heaven and earth. It shall be on spiritual grounds; for the mightiest moral force ever and always triumphs in the end.
III. THIS REST OF CHRIST IS OUR REST TOO. We have not only received forgiveness through the cross, but newness of life as well. We have rest now, not in its fullness, but in its ideal; for we have the mind of Christ. We have within us the kingdom and patience of Christ; we are one with the Father through Christ. "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." - W.M.S.
(1) John 3:14. Here the idea is a general one. Lifted up in the sense of being set in sight of men, as the brazen serpent was when set up on the pole in the middle of the camp.
(2) John 8:28. Here the idea is that his Messiah-ship would be evident when his life was complete, and that would not be until he was lifted up in death.
(3) John 12:32. Here we find Greek proselytes anxious to see Jesus. Such pressing into the kingdom was premature. The "corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die." Greeks and Gentiles must wait just a little while longer. The ensign would soon be lifted up; then to it they may seek. It is interesting to notice that the Syriac word for "crucify" means "to raise," "to lift up," as men set up a standard. Christ's power from his cross - Christ's attraction as an Ensign - is our subject, and we note -
I. CHRIST, ON HIS CROSS, ATTRACTIVELY REVEALS HIMSELF TO THE MINDS OF MEN. We can only get imperfect and unsatisfactory views by limiting our attention to Christ's work. In that way we can only hope to formulate cold and lifeless doctrines. But our views are equally imperfect if we limit our attention to Christ's person. Then we can do no more than nourish sentiment, or set before ourselves an example for imitation. We must combine both, and let each illuminate the other. Illustrate the splendor of the combined oxy-hydrogen light. How much Christ made of himself! In a man it would be painful egotism; why is it not in him? Because it was his mission to manifest God to men; so he must point to himself. All his life, speech, doing, suffering, was a gradual disclosing of himself, of the deep mystery of his origin, his claim, of God in him. But what we need to see more fully than we do is that, apart from his death, as he died, his life could not have efficiently revealed him. Death only completes the test. If he bad failed in that supreme hour, an imperfect sonship could never have shown to us the perfect Father-God. We can see that only the story of his life could not have sufficed, for:
1. His enemies misrepresented that life, and said, "He hath a devil."
2. Disciples misunderstood it, and only saw its meaning after his death.
3. Critics now can explain the life, but are hopelessly puzzled by the mystery of his death. Lifted up, Christ is set before us
(1) as the model Man;
(2) as not a mere man;
(3) as the Son of God with power.
And if religion demands personal love to and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we must know him, we must know him fully; and we can only thus know him as he is "lifted up."
II. CHRIST, ON HIS CROSS, ATTRACTIVELY SHOWS HIMSELF TO THE HEARTS OF MEN. Men may be driven or drawn to goodness. The gospel has its majesty of driving, its "whip of small cords." "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." But its great power is its drawing power; its moral influence; its constraint of the affections, and of the will. A voice from the "Ensign," from Jesus lifted up, is ever calling to us and saying, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see." Suffering has a strange power on human hearts. Self-sacrificing suffering moves us strangely. Crucifixion was curse and shame, but it set Christ in the world's eye. No kind of death could so lift him up and compel the dying world to look. And Christ crucified is still the supreme persuasion, the irresistible attraction, to men. Jesus lifted up, an Ensign for the gathering of the people, may be an old and worn story, and it may have lost something of its drawing power for you. Ah! that can only be because men, and men's words, have stood in front of him, and taken your eyes off him. See him only. Look to the Ensign, and then you will find your soul asking itself - "For whom, for whom, my soul, Were all these sorrows borne?" and you too will feel "the strong attractive power." - R.T.
Isaiah 10:20-22), who are spoken of in the following verse (ver. 12) as "the outcasts" and "the dispersed." The remnant of a thing or of a community is not the choice part, but rather that which is left when everything (every one) else has been chosen - the shapeless scraps which remain when all else has been selected and appropriated; the broken-off ends which are flung aside as of no account; the scattered men who fall out of rank, dispirited or disabled, etc. It signifies that which is of least regard among men. The remnant of Israel was that part of the community that was left when kings had lost their throne, and nobles their nobility, and priests their function, and the country was wasted. However despised and rebuffed of man this remnant might be, it should still have a place in the thought and in the purpose of God. He would remember it, would "recover" it, would "gather it together," would manifest his favor toward it in the eyes of all the nations. We may let God's treatment of the remnant of Israel remind us -
I. THAT HUMAN SOCIETY ALWAYS CONTAINS ITS REMNANTS, those of very small account in its estimate. We can always find, if we look for them, those who seem to be abandoned, to be helpless, to have "no future," to be beyond recovery; those for whom there is nothing but resignation, if not, indeed, despair; those whose cause no man espouses, and who do not expect to be recovered or restored. Of these are:
1. The hopelessly sick - those who inherit a constitution or receive injuries which disqualify them for the battle of life, and place them at the mercy of the community of which they are members.
2. Those who have broken down - who went up eagerly to the battle and struck some good stroke, but have been sore wounded; who have overtaxed their strength, and who find themselves unnerved and incapable, obliged to resign their duties to other hands, their post to other aspirants.
3. Those who have mistaken their calling - who have pursued a line of action beyond their capacity, or for which they were not fitted; who have, consequently, been halting and stumbling all along their course, and have come into ill repute and condemnation.
4. Those who have been signally unfortunate - who have embarked all their resources in one scheme which has broken down, or who have entered into some most serious (perhaps the supreme human) relationship which has proved to be a disastrous mistake; whose heart is well-nigh broken, and whose hopes are quite blighted.
II. THAT THESE ARE THE OBJECTS OF PECULIAR DIVINE REGARD. Some of these are near to us; they are the poor whom "we have always with us," living hard by us, worshipping in our sanctuaries, walking in our streets. As we have opportunity, we should assure them that they must not take the negligence or disregard of man as in any way indicating the mind of God. As the human mother lavishes the wealth of her tenderness and love on that one of her children who is the frailest and the most dependent of her family, so does the Divine Parent care most for those of his children who are most in need of his special kindness. Was it not the "little ones" i.e. the weak, the disregarded, the despised, the unbefriended, whom our Lord treated most graciously, and whom he specially commended to our sympathy and succor (see Matthew 12:20)? Unto such, if they are his disciples, he will multiply his favors, and on them pour out his richest and most abounding grace. There are "remnants," "outcasts," of another kind - those who have gone down in the battle of temptation; who are bowed down with a sense of shame and dishonor, and who are cast off by their fellows as worsted and useless. Is there any hope for them in God? Yes, there is ample room in the promises, because in the heart of the Divine Savior, for these. In his thought they are not remnants to be flung into the fire; driftwood on the river of fate, for which there is nothing but to be carried down the stream and cast over the cataracts; disinherited sons for whom there is nothing better than to forget the family to which they belong, and make themselves happy with the husks in the far country. No; in the heart and in the hope of Jesus Christ these are gold for his crown; they are ships that, with chart and compass, may yet sail gallantly down the river of life, and out into the shoreless seas of a blessed immortality; they are sons and daughters that will be most warmly welcomed beneath the Father's roof, and seated at the Father's table. In this best sense may the remnant be restored. - C.
I. HE ATTRACTS ALL. (See the previous Homily.)
II. HE BREAKS DOWN ALL SEPARATIONS. Of race, class, age, prejudice, religious forms, etc. In him there is "neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female. He is all and in all."
III. HE IS SUPERIOR TO ALL PHYSICAL DIFFICULTIES. They come to him from all parts. The Spirit of Christ triumphs over mountains and over seas. It goes into the fever-lands, and gains influence in the frozen zones. Missionaries go everywhere preaching Christ, and his Spirit in them is their heroic mastery of all disabilities.
IV. HE CAN SATISFY ALL HEARTS. Glad hearts and sorrowful ones. Empty hearts and full ones. Lonely hearts and satisfied ones. Dead hearts and yearning ones. He has life, love, truth, rest, hope, peace, at his command; and of this grace he giveth to all men liberally. He can perfect the unity of the race by winning the universal love, the supreme love, which is the life of humanity, and the ensuring of the brotherhood. All men can be sons of the one Father in their love. All men can be brothers, indeed, by the love of their common sonship. Christ is God, and he wins us for God, and he wins us as God - R.T.
Romans 11.). But we may take a more practical view of the subject if we regard it thus; we have pictures of -
I. PRESENT SPIRITUAL ANARCHY. The people of God everywhere dispersed, the theocracy broken up, the temple destroyed, the Law unobserved, the heathen triumphant, - all this a vivid picture of the "kingdom of God" in a state of dissolution: truth unrecognized, commandments disobeyed, conscience perverted, the Divine will disregarded, God himself unknown in the world.
II. THE ULTIMATE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE DIVINE KINGDOM. The restoration of Israel as depicted here, whether it be to their own land and their ancient institutions or whether it be to their true place in the spiritual purpose of God, may speak to us of that grand consummation of human hope, when the kingdom of our God shall be re-established upon earth; when that kingdom, which is not the enforcement of any ecclesiastical regime, or the observance of any rules of diet or of devotion, but "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17), shall take the place of" the kingdom of this world," which is iniquity, unrest, and death.
III. THE CONDITIONS OF ITS ATTAINMENT. These are threefold.
1. The disappearance of fratricidal strife. (Ver. 3.) What Judah and Ephraim were in old theocratic times, that neighboring Churches or Christian comrades have been to one another all through these "Christian centuries." Sadly must the Lord of love have looked down on his heritage, the purchase of his sorrow and his death, and have seen the envies and the jealousies, the hatreds and the cruelties, which have marked and marred the intercourse of his disciples. No progress of his blessed kingdom can be expected in any community when they whose relations should be beautified by concord are all disfigured by enmity and strife. Let Christian Churches cease to hope for any results from their preaching or their praying, so long as bitterness blights the heart, and contention characterizes the Church (see Matthew 5:24). There is no effort, there is no sacrifice, which it is not worth while for any Christian society to make in order that it may wrench out "the root of bitterness" which, while it remains, will neutralize all devotion, and make all zeal to be "nothing worth."
2. Active co-operation among the people of God. "They [Ephraim and Judah together] shall fly... they shall spell... they shall lay their hand," etc. (ver. 14). Their united forces were to prevail over the bands of the enemy, and to secure victory on every side. So shall it be in the spiritual campaign. It will be when all the Churches of Christ unite, not indeed in any one visible amalgam, but in well-concerted action, joining heartily against the common foe, going out together against ignorance, unbelief, ungodliness, vice, indecision, and all the long train of sin; it will then be found that the enemy will be subdued, and victory be secured.
3. Divine energy working on the side of truth, (Vers. 15, 16.) As the Lord interposed on behalf of Israel in one deliverance, and would do so in another, by his overcoming might making the pathway from Egypt and the highway from Assyria, so will he interpose on behalf of the spiritual forces which are doing his work in the world. He will make that possible and practicable which seems impossible and impracticable; will enable the champions of his cause to go where it seems hopeless for them to penetrate, and to conquer where victory seems utterly out of reach. Therefore
(1) let prayer be earnest,
(2) let the heart be hopeful,
(3) let effort be energetic and persistent. - C.