Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!
I. The Christian thrives better from not being permitted to make haste in acquirements. This passage is directed against anything like hurry or bustle. It does not so much declare that the believer can never advance rapidly as that he shall never move with that agitated step which betokens insecurity. It does not denote a sluggish pace to be unavoidable; but simply implies that what is hasty and sudden will not be allowed. And a little reflection will convince us of the advantages of such an arrangement. It holds good in almost everything, that what is done hastily is seldom done well. There is a great deal of rough work in all matters of learning, which the scholar would gladly avoid; but there will be nothing substantial in it unless this natural inclination be carefully opposed. The case is just the same in regard to religion; there is a great deal of rough work here as well as in languages or sciences. It is for the believer's advantage that he is not allowed to slur over this rough work. Take the experience of Christians, and you will find that where progress has been most rapid, the commencement has been most arduous. If the Christian have once been greatly humbled, emptied of self, and alarmed at the view of God's wrath against sin, he will never afterwards lose the feelings thus excited within him. They will accompany him; not to agitate him, but to admonish him; not to terrify, but to alarm.
II. Consider certain of the comforts and enjoyments which are ensured to the believer by the promise that he shall not make haste. (1) He has a protector always at hand, so that in seasons of emergency he need not run to and fro in search of succour. He has nothing to hasten from, for he is shielded against every assault. He has nothing to hasten to, for he is already enclosed within a rampart of security. (2) We speak of the advantages which result from what is called presence of mind. If the Christian but live up to the privileges which this promise includes, he will never know what it is to be scared by unexpected things, or hurried into injudicious. He can never be called upon for instant decision, so. as to have no time for asking counsel of God. (3) Meekness and patience are included in the announcement of our text. It promises the believer that he shall be collected in the midst of danger, confident in the face of difficulties, hopeful in trial, happy in affliction, steadfast in death. "He that believeth shall not make haste."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2061.
Our day is one in which men, emphatically, "make haste." Hurry, bustle, drive, meet us at every turn. Of this state of things every one complains, but no one seems able to extricate himself from it. We are drawn into a vortex; it is useless to struggle; all we can do is to yield.
In the passage to which the text belongs, a contrast seems to be drawn between those persons who construct some refuge of their own to protect them from the ills of life, and those others who are willing to avail themselves of that well-built and well-founded House which the Lord God hath provided for them; and then the dismay and disappointment of the one party, when their expectations are found to deceive them, are contrasted with the calm security and confidence of the other. The idea of the text is, that if a man believes in God, and trusts in God, and will consent to work on the lines which God has laid down, he will be saved from that restless, worldly agitation of mind which produces so frequently such calamitous results.
I. Notice how, in temporal matters, this desirable state of things will be brought about. Let a man believe thoroughly in God as one who rewards faithful labour, although He may not see fit to reward it at once, and that man will be kept from the perils into which a restless and unsettled agitation of mind would probably betray him. He can afford to be strong and patient, for he knows that the reward will come.
II. Turn from temporal to spiritual matters. (1) The man who "believeth" has not to run helplessly hither and thither, when a strain comes upon him, seeking for principles to sustain him in the hour of trial. He has got his principles, and they are ready for use. Restless agitation is not his, for his soul is centred and held in equipoise. (2) The man who believes in a living God will not be full of nervous apprehensions about the future of Christianity. Men may break themselves in pieces against the Rock of Ages, but the Rock itself will never move. "He that believeth shall not make haste."
G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to My Friends, p. 136.
References: Isaiah 28:16.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xi., p. 277; J. G. Murphy, Book of Daniel, p. 62; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2061; S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 38.
Isaiah 28:17All men know themselves to be sinners against God. They know, also, that as sinners they are in peril and are not safe. Hence their anxiety to find some refuge for safety. They know they might find this in the way of forsaking sin and turning to the Lord; but they do not choose to forsake their sins. Hence there seems to be no convenient resource but to hide themselves under some refuge. Our text speaks of the "refuge of lies." Notice some of these refuges.
I. An unsanctifying hope of heaven. A good hope purifies the heart. But there certainly are hopes indulged that fail to purify the heart of those who hold them. Those hopes are worthless—a mere refuge of lies.
II. An old experience, that is all old, is a lie.
III. There are two forms of self-righteousness—the legal and the Gospel—both of which are refuges of lies. The legal depends on duty-doing, evermore trying to work out salvation by deeds of law. The Gospel form sets itself to get grace by works. Men try to get a new heart, not by trying to turn from all sin, but by praying for it.
IV. Universalism is an old refuge of lies. It never saved any man from sin. It throws no influence in that direction.
V. God declares that "the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies." No doubt the hail is the symbol of God's displeasure. He loves truth too well to have the least sympathy with lies. He loves the souls of men too well to have any patience with agencies so destructive. Therefore, He loathes all these refuges of lies, and has solemnly declared that the hail shall sweep them all away.
VI. There is a refuge which is not one of lies. There is a hiding-place which no waters can reach to overwhelm. It lies far above their course. You need to come into such communion with Christ, that His power and presence and fulness shall flow through your heart fully and freely, and be in you a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
C. G. Finney, Sermons on Gospel Themes, p. 119.
References: Isaiah 28:17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1501. Isaiah 28:20.—W. H. Langhorne, Penny Pulpit, No. 1030; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 244; Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 67. Isaiah 28:23-29.—S. Cox, Expositor, 1st series, vol. i., p. 88. Isaiah 28:24-29.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 142. Isaiah 28:25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1626. Isaiah 28:29.—Ibid., vol. xii., No. 711.
Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.
The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:
And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.
In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people,
And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.
But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.
For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.
For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.
Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.
Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.
Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?
When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?
For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.
For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.
Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.