The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land.
The prophet appears to introduce himself as addressed in scorn by the people of the land which he is commissioned to warn. "Watchman, what of the night?" What new report of woe hast thou to unroll, thou who hast placed thyself as an authorised observer and censurer of our doings? But the prophetical watchman—the calm commissioner of heaven—replies, adopting their own languages, "Yes, the morning (the true morning of hope and peace) cometh, and also the night (the real and terrible night of God's vengeance): if ye will (if ye are in genuine earnest) inquire, inquire. Obtain the knowledge you seek, the knowledge of the way of life; and acting on this knowledge, repent, and turn to the Lord your God."
I. Consider the question. (1) Some ask the report of the night with utter carelessness as to the reply. (2) Some ask in contempt. (3) Some ask it in horror and anguish of heart.
II. What is still the duty of him who holds the momentous position of watchman in the City of God? (1) He did not turn away from the question, in whatever spirit it was asked. (2) He uttered with equal assurance a threat and a promise. (3) He pressed the necessity of care in the study and earnest inquiry after the nature of the truth. (4) He summed up all by an anxious, a cordial, and a reiterated invitation to repentance and reconciliation with an offended but pardoning God. Thus, the single verse might be regarded as an abstract of the duties of the ministerial office. May God grant to His ministers a genuine desire to fulfil that office, to His people an equal anxiety to receive its labours.
W. Archer Butler, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, 2nd series, p. 342.
References: Isaiah 21:11, Isaiah 21:12.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. no; S. Cox, Expositions, 4th series, p. 336 (see also An Expositor's Note-book, p. 201). Isaiah 22:23.—Preacher's Lantern, vol. ii., p. 429; J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 45. Isaiah 23:4.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 390. Isaiah 24:1-6.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 212. Isaiah 25:6.—Pulpit Analyst, vol. ii., p. 541.
A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.
Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it.
My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.
Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.
For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:
And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:
And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.
The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?
The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.
The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim.
The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled.
For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war.
For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail:
And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it.