Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
I. In our text there is a specification of one large class of medicine for spiritual disease; and therefore, by inference, one large class of sickness. "Comfort" is the staple of the prescription, and what was the condition of the patients? "Cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of the Lord's hands double for all her sins." Here evidently the condition of Jerusalem is one of distress, anxiety, and distraction, and this accords most exactly with a passage of the Psalms: "In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Thy comforts delight my soul." We conclude that the case of sickness so emphatically prescribed for in our text is that under which the righteous may be labouring from the difficulties which may encompass him. Our text contains a prescription, but not a prescription which will serve in all cases wherever there is a throng of anxious thoughts, but only in cases in which the party strives to walk according to the precepts of religion, and may therefore be classed among the people of God.
II. Consider the faithfulness and efficacy of the medicine prescribed. The case is that of a righteous man, on whom cares and sorrows press with great weight, and whose mind is torn with anxieties, and thronged by a crowd of restless intruders, distracting him even in his communings with God. Now the very disease under which this man labours incapacitates him in a great measure for any process of argument. The comforts of God are the rich assurances of His forgiving and accepting love; the gracious declarations of His everlasting purpose of preserving to the end those whom He has chosen in Christ; the multiplied promises of spiritual guidance, protection, and victory, which make to the eye of faith the page of Scripture one sheet of burning brightness, always presenting most radiantly what is most suited to the necessity. There are the foretastes of immortality, the glimpses of things within the veil, the communications of the Spirit, the anticipations of glory, which if the cold and the worldly resolve into a dream of enthusiasm, the faithful know by experience belong to the realities of their portion. Here then are comforts, and it is the part of the righteous man in his season of anxiety and distraction to confine himself to these comforts, regarding them as a sick man the cordials which are specially adapted to his state.
III. We make no far-fetched application of the text, if we affirm it as specially appropriate on the approach of the last enemy, death. What has the believer to do when conscious that the time of his departure is at hand, but seize the consolations of Christianity, and give himself meekly over into the Good Shepherd's hands? Let him not argue; let him not debate; let him not sit in judgment,—let him simply have recourse to the comforts of God.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1712.
I. With these words Isaiah opens his gospel; God's good word to man. The earlier chapters are burdens; in view of the sins and wrongs around him, he lifts up his voice and denounces doom. But mercy rejoices against judgment, so he breaks forth before the burden is ended into the most sublime strains of consolation and hope which God's prophets have ever been commissioned to utter to the world. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but I am thy Saviour," is the real text of his prophecy. It is the theme of his poem wrought out with consummate art through a hundred suggestive variations. A people self-destroyed, God-redeemed, is the thought which meets us everywhere; and it is this which makes these closing chapters the great evangelic poems, not of Israel only, but of the world.
II. The words of this passage (1-11) look on to the captivity. The people, afflicted, chastened, broken in spirit, are called upon to listen to the strains of consolation which God has breathed for them in His Word. These words look on through all the ages of human history. It is comfort throughout and comfort to the end. The mercy of judgment is a subject which we too little study. Yet mercy is the deepest element in every judgment with which God afflicts mankind. Great epidemics are healing ordinances. They purify the vital springs. They leave a purer, stronger health when their dread shadow has passed by. Catastrophes in history are like thunder-storms; they leave a fresher, brighter atmosphere. Reigns of terror are the gates through which man passes out into a wider world.
III. Isaiah had the profoundest right to speak of comfort, because he could speak of the advent of the Redeemer to the world. He not only preaches comfort, but discloses the source from which it springs.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 1.
I. In the first place, let us identify the people spoken of. "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people." There was a first reference to the people of the Jews, who we know all through were a people that shadowed forth other people. The people spoken of in these words who are to be comforted are preeminently the people of God. They are those who have Christ for their righteousness, and the Spirit for their strength, grace for their life, God for their Father, heaven for their home.
II. Notice next those messengers through whom this comfort is to be given. There seems to have been no plurality at first, for this is the writing of the prophet Isaiah; but as it was written it was not done with, and as the secretary of the Holy Spirit entered the minute in this book the All-wise Spirit said, "I shall want it for the future; for Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul,—for all My servants through all ages. I shall be saying through all time through them, 'Comfort ye, comfort ye My people."
III. Consider the comfort we are to convey. "Comfort ye My people." (1) By reminding them that I am their God. All this chapter is a remembrance that God is the Father of His people. (2) By reminding them that their captivity in this world is nearly over, and that they will soon be home. There is a glorious world beyond this. We know that there is such a world. Let us cherish the thought, and push through the difficulties of this world. We shall not see it until we reach the throne of glory, and see God as He is. (3) The Saviour is coming to this world, and is on His way to show His glory here. Comfort the people who feel amazed and disquieted by the sight of the strong things that are arrayed against Christ. Tell them that Christ will overcome these things. He will come and fill the world with His victories.
C. Stanford, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v., p. 9.
References: Isaiah 40:1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 221; Ibid. Old Testament Outlines, p. 197; C. J. Vaughan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 168. Isaiah 40:1, Isaiah 40:2.—H. Christopherson, Penny Pulpit, No. 440; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 110; S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 117. Isaiah 40:3.—J. Service, Sermons, p. 1; A. Watson, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 380; J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 40. Isaiah 40:3, Isaiah 40:4.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 129.
Isaiah 40:3-5I. The text teaches us that there are certain things which hinder the spread of the Redeemer's kingdom, spoken of here as valleys, hills, mountains, rough places, and crooked ways. The obstacles to the spread of the Redeemer's kingdom are so numerous, that I must not even attempt to name them, but refer, as an illustration, to heathenism and idolatry abroad, and to ignorance and vice at home. The heathenism we are trying to remove; and that yawning valley of ignorance we are, by God's grace, as a nation, trying to fill up; but our national vices, which are like mountains, we are also commanded by God to level and to remove. Take the vice of intemperance. (1) Intemperance hinders the progress of God's kingdom at home. (2) It is also a hindrance to the spread of the Gospel abroad. How is it that though eighteen hundred years have passed since the Redeemer made His great provision, and gave us the command to carry the glad tidings to all, midnight darkness rests upon most of the human family? (a) There is a want of means.(b) There is a want of men. (c) There is a want of success on the part of those who are already in the field. With all those reasons strong drink has something to do.
II. It is the duty of the Christian Church to sweep this mountain away. (1) The Church must, if she would hold her own. There is no neutrality in this war. (2) The Church must, if she would please her Master.
III. The text puts before us the glorious result. "Thy kingdom come "is our cry. Here is God's answer: "Set to work; lift up the valley, bring down the mountain, make the rough places plain and the crooked places straight, and then I will come." God waits for man. As soon as the Church is prepared to do the Lord's bidding, the world shall be filled with His glory.
C. Garrett, Loving Counsels, p. 142.
The imagery of the text appears to be drawn from the journey-ings of Israel to Canaan. That great event in their national history was constantly before the mind of Isaiah, and is presented in his writings with ever-varying illustration. Let us
I. Compare this prophecy with the history of the Exodus. The prophecies of God's Word shine both before and behind. They not only illumine the darkness of futurity, but they reflect a radiance back on the page of history. So here. In the desert the Gospel was preached to Israel (as St. Paul says) in types and ordinances, and especially by that great act of their redemption out of Egypt. In this was a perpetual type of the Redeemer's work of salvation, a foreshadowing of the inspired song, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God." In the ordinances given by the dispensation of angels might be heard "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way for our God."
II. Isaiah used the message as an illustration of his own ministry. He too, living now probably in the idolatrous reign of Manasseh, felt himself in a spiritual desert. Led by faith he sees afar off, and the seer is himself transported into that bright future. Just as heralds announced the coming of an Oriental king, and pioneers prepared his march across hill and vale and desert plains, so would Divine Providence lead His exiles home, removing all obstacles from their path, and overruling the designs of their enemies.
III. The words of Isaiah certainly point on to Gospel times; for John the Baptist distinctly announced himself as "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord." This preparation, in a spiritual sense, he accomplished by his personal ministry.
IV. But even in John's day the words had a wider signification. Not only the land of Israel, but the Gentile world, even all flesh, was then being prepared to see the salvation of God. Providential agencies were even then at work preparing Christ's way among the Gentiles, as it were constructing a road for the march of Christianity through the desolate regions of heathendom. The two most powerful agencies were Greek literature and Roman dominion.
V. The prophecy sheds a lustre on the world's future. The Christ has indeed come to earth, but it was to suffer and to die. Once more in this wide desert the "glory of the Lord shall be revealed," and not one but "all lands shall see it together."
S. P. Jose, Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduates' Journal, May 13th, 1880.
References: Isaiah 40:3-5.—A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 323; H. P. Liddon, Old Testament Outlines, p. 200.
Isaiah 40:4I. Rough places. (1) In general human history. (2) In individual human life.
II. Rough places made plain. (1) The supreme power of Jesus Christ. (2) The supreme power of Jesus Christ used for the advantage of mankind. (3) The advantage of mankind identified with the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ.
III. The tranquil and blessed future of the world. Christianity is good news. Inequalities are to be rectified. Relations are to be adjusted.
Parker, City Temple, vol. i., p. 59.
Isaiah 40:5Has this revelation of God's glory respect only to the past and to the present? Has it nothing to do with the future? We believe that Jesus Christ was that image of God whom prophets had been desiring to behold. He took flesh, and through His flesh showed forth the fulness of that glory which the previous ages had only seen in scattered glimpses. Is that enough for us? If not, what is it we wish for? Is it something else than the manifestation of Christ? Is Jesus the One that shall come, or do we look for another?
I. If you read the Old Testament, you will perceive that there is a striking uniformity amidst the variety of its records. The misery of the Jewish people in the different ages of their commonwealth is produced by the most different instruments, but the cause of it is always the same. Tyranny is the cause of their groaning. And as the disease is the same, the remedy is the same. A deliverer is their one infinite necessity. Men appear as their deliverers, but they appear in the name of the Lord. He is the enemy of tyrants. He is the Deliverer.
II. Isaiah saw more clearly than any one that only One who perfectly revealed God—who perfectly revealed Him as a Deliverer—could be the Person whom Israelites and all nations desired, whom He Himself was teaching them to desire. He saw, indeed, in every event which took place in his own day a partial epiphany—a manifestation of God the righteous Judge, of God the Deliverer. But the more he recognised these revelations of the glory of God, the more he craved for One that should be perfect, that should be in the strictest and fullest sense for all flesh. Less than that it was treason against God to expect.
III. Let us have no doubt that, however we may classify men's oppressions as individual or as social, as political or intellectual, as animal or spiritual, God Himself has awakened the cry for freedom. Let us have no doubt that that cry is, when truly understood and interpreted, a cry that God will appear as the Deliverer, that His glory may be revealed. We ought to stir up hope in every human being,—hope for present help from God to overcome the sin that most easily besets him; hope that he shall be able to say to the mountains which now stand in his way, "Remove, and be cast into the sea;" hope for the future, that the glory of God the Deliverer shall be fully revealed; and that we, being included in the "all flesh" of which the prophet writes, bearing that nature in and for which Christ died, shall be able to see it and rejoice in it.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i., p. 175.
References: Isaiah 40:5.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 327; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 361.
Isaiah 40:6I. The text is an assertion of the shortness and uncertainty of life. And we may naturally be surprised that there should be so sublime and startling a machinery for the delivery to us of so commonplace a truth. Here is a voice from the firmament. An invisible agency is brought to bear, as though for the announcement of something altogether startling and unexpected. The amazed prophet asks what the message can be for the delivery of which he is summoned by so awful a call. And then he is merely called to publish what every one knew before: "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field." Truths, which we never think of disputing, may be practically those which we are most in the habit of forgetting. It is of well-known truths that a voice from heaven must speak to us, if it would speak of what it is important that we know.
II. It is but needful that the shortness and uncertainty of life should be actually felt, and there must pass a great moral revolution over the world; and numbers who persist in sinning because they believe themselves sure of an opportunity for repentance would be almost driven to an immediate attention to religion, feeling that if not an immediate there would probably be none. And the effect wrought on the unconverted, if we could penetrate them with a consciousness of the uncertainty of life, would not be without its parallel in the righteous on whom we cannot charge the habitual disregard of the dread things of the future. The same feeling is at work, if not in the same measure, in the righteous and the unrighteous—the feeling that the day of death is not near. It could not be that men professing religion would so entangle themselves with the affairs of earth, be so loth to make sacrifices in the cause of God, and apply themselves with so little earnestness and self-denial to the discipline of the heart, were they fraught with the persuasion that "the Judge standeth at the door."
III. If the exhibitions of human frailty may not teach men how frail they are, it may be that these exhibitions will dispose men to prayer. They cannot produce the consciousness, that "in the midst of life we are in death;" but they may excite the feeling, that there ought to be this consciousness, and this feeling may issue in an earnest cry that God would implant it.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1827.
References: Isaiah 40:6-8.—A. Boyd,Penny Pulpit, No. 498; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 999; J. G. Wood, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 114.
Isaiah 40:8The immediate, the historical purpose of these words is undoubtedly to reassure the Jews of the captivity. It was to men whose eyes were resting on the magnificence and power of Bablyon that Isaiah spoke, but of another land and out of an earlier age, the solemn words: "All flesh is grass, and all the beauty thereof is as the flower of the field." In contrast with the perishing life of the great empire city and its vast populations, Isaiah points to the "word of our God." That word, he says, "will stand for ever."
I. By the word of our God—of Jehovah, the God of His people—Isaiah means, beyond doubt, in the first instance, the word of promise uttered in the desert by the inspired voice. The promise of the return from Babylon, the promise of the after-presence of Israel's great Redeemer, would be verified. St. Peter detaches this text for us Christians from its immediate historical setting. He widens it; he gives it a strictly universal application.
II. Isaiah refers to the grass as an emblem of the perishable and the perishing. In looking at it, we look at that which is at best a vanishing form, ready almost ere it is matured to be resolved into its elements, to sink back into the earth from which it sprang. As soon as we are born, says the wise man, we begin to draw to our end. That is true of the highest and of the lowest forms of natural life. Whatever else human life is, whatever else it may imply, it is soon over. It fades away suddenly like the grass. The frontiers of life do not change with the generations of men, as do its attendant circumstances.
III. The word of the Lord endureth for ever. How do we know that? Certainly not in the same way as we know and are sure of the universality of death. We know it to be true if we believe two things: first, that God the perfect moral being exists; secondly, that He has spoken to man. If He is eternal then that which He proclaims as His truth and will, will bear on it the mark of His eternity. The word of God, speaking in conscience, speaking in revelation, is like God Himself above the waterfloods of change; it lasts. While men differ from each other about His word, it remains what it was, hidden, it may be, like our December sun,—hidden behind the clouds of speculation, or behind the clouds of controversy, but in itself unchanged, unchangeable. "Thy word, O Lord, endureth for ever in heaven."
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 706.
"Hast thou not known?" This is not a new revelation. It is an appeal to memory, and that is a strong point in all the Divine pleading. Our memory is to be as the prophet of the Lord in our life. Recollection is to be inspiration; the forty years gone are a pledge of the forty years to come. Let a man be faithful to his own recollections, and it is impossible he can long be despondent, weary and slow of heart, to lay hold of the great work and discipline of life.
I. Is God almighty? (1) Then do not fear for the stability of His works. (2) Have no fear about the realisation of His promises. (3) Do not imagine you can escape His judgments. (4) Be assured that the throne of right shall stand upon the ruins of all wrong.
II. God is not only powerful, but all wise. There is no searching of His understanding. Infinite strength would terrify us, but infinite strength under the dominion of infinite mind recovers us from the tremendous shock which comes of. abstract, immeasurable, unwasting strength. Is God all-wise? (1) Then the darkest providences have meaning. (2) His plan of salvation is complete and final, and we shall waste our strength and show how great is our folly by all attempts to improve the method of redemption and recovery of the world. (3) Our individual life is all understood by Him. That life is but dimly known to ourselves. We catch glimpses of it here and there, but its scope and meaning are still unrevealed to us. It is enough that God knows our life, and that His wisdom is pledged as our defence. (4) We have a guarantee of endless variety in our future studies and services. God is ever extending our knowledge of His works, in reward of the endeavours we are making to acquaint ourselves with the wonders by which we are enclosed.
III. The subject forces upon us the solemn enquiry: What is our relation to this dread Being, whose power is infinite, and whose wisdom is past finding out? We must sustain some relation to Him. We are the loyal subjects of His crown, or rebels in His empire. Pause and determine the answer. Everything depends upon our relation to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Parker, City Temple, 1870, p. 349.
References: Isaiah 40:8.—G. G. Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 17; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 73. Isaiah 40:9.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 275; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 362; J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 101; W. Young, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 330; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 330. Isaiah 40:11.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. xi., No. 652, vol. xiv., No. 794, vol. ix., No. 540, vol. xxiii., No. 1381; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 177; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 3rd series, p. 44; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, pp. 135, 293. Isaiah 40:20.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 244.
Isaiah 40:27I. Isaiah here reaches and rests upon the very foundations of the faith, trust, and hope of mankind—the living God. Creation rests on His hand; man, the child of the higher creation, rests on His heart. What His power is to the material universe His moral nature and character are to the spiritual universe. This is the one ultimate answer of the Bible to all the questions which perplex and bewilder the intellect of man, the one solution of the mysteries which baffle his heart. "Have faith in God." Creation lives by faith unconsciously, and all her voices to our intelligent ear iterate and reiterate, "Have faith in God."
II. Have faith in God. What do we know of God that we should trust Him? what aspects does He present to us? We have two sources of knowledge—what He has said to, and what He has done for, man. (1) There is something unspeakably sublime in the appeal in Isaiah 40:26. It is heaven's protest against man's despair. Nor is Isaiah the only sacred writer who utters it. There is something very strikingly parallel in Job. And in both cases God's appeal is to the grand and steadfast order of the vast universe, which He sustains and assures (read Job xxxviii.). God tells us, if words can tell, that all the hosts of heaven are attendant on the fortunes of mankind. They all live that God's deep purpose concerning man may be accomplished. (2) God declares here that we are not only involved inextricably in the fulfilment of His deepest and most cherished counsels, but that we are needed to satisfy the yearnings of His Father's heart.
III. We may apply these principles to the seasons of our experience when faith in the living God is the one thing which stands between us and the most blank despair. (1) The deep waters of personal affliction. (2) The weary search of the intellect for truth, the struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible, to know the inscrutable, to see the invisible, which is part, and not the least heavy part, of the discipline of a man and of mankind. (3) Dark crises of human history, when truth, virtue, and manhood seem perishing from the world.
J. Baldwin Brown, Aids to the Development of the Divine Life, No. 9.
References: Isaiah 40:27-29.—E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 81. Isaiah 40:27-31.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 136. Isaiah 40:28.—Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, p. 269.
I. Isaiah's despondency. It arose from a twofold source. (1) The sense of a Divine desertion: "My way is hid from the Lord." (2) The absence of Divine recompense: "My judgment is passed over from my God."
II. The truth that removed Isaiah's despondency. (1) The greatness of God in nature. (2) The tenderness of the revealed will.
III. The results of its removal. (1) Strength in weakness. (2) Immortal youth.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 94.
Isaiah 40:28-31I. We have, first, the prophet's appeal to the familiar thought of an unchangeable God as the antidote to all despondency and the foundation of all hope. The life of men and of creatures is like a river, with its source and its course and its end. The life of God is like the ocean, with joyous movement of tides and currents of life and energy and purpose, but ever the same and ever returning upon itself. Jehovah, the unchanged, unchangeable, inexhaustible Being, spends and is unspent; gives and is none the poorer; works and is never wearied; lives and with no tendency to death in His life; flames—with no tendency to extinction in the blaze.
II. Notice, next, the unwearied God giving strength to wearied men. The more sad and pathetic the condition of feeble humanity by contrast with the strength, the immortal strength, of God, the more wondrous is that grace and power of His which are not contented with hanging there in the heavens above us, but bend right down to bless us and to turn us into their own likeness. It is much to preserve the stars from wrong; it is more to restore and to bring power to feeble men. It is much to uphold all those that are falling so that they may not fall; but it is more to raise up all those that have fallen and are bowed down.
III. The last thing in these words is, the wearied man lifted to the level of the unwearied God and to His likeness. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." That phrase means, of course, the continuous bestowment in unintermitting sequence of fresh gifts of power; as each former gift is exhausted, more is required. Grace abhors a vacuum, as nature does; and just as the endless procession of the waves rises on the beach, or as the restless network of the moonlight irradiation of the billows stretches all across the darkness of the sea, so that unbroken continuity of strength after strength gives grace for grace according to our need, and as each former supply is expended and used up God pours Himself into our hearts anew. That continuous communication leads to the perpetual youth of the Christian soul.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 293.
References: Isaiah 40:28-31.—H. F. Burder, Sermons, p. 263. Isaiah 40:29.—Preacher's Lantern, vol. i., p. 444. Isaiah 40:30, Isaiah 40:31.—J. B. Heard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 308.
Isaiah 40:31I. Consider, first, what it is to wait upon the Lord. Three things make it: service, expectation, patience. "Wait on the Lord." We must be as those Eastern maidens who, as they ply their needle or their distaff, look to the eye and wait upon the hand of their mistress, as their guide which is to teach them, or their model which they are to copy. Our best lessons are always found in a Father's eye. Therefore, if you would "wait upon the Lord," you must be always looking out for voices— those still small voices of the soul,—and you must expect them, and you must command them. But service, however devoted, or expectation, however intense, will not be waiting without patience. Here is where so many fail. The waiting times are so long: the interval between the prayer and the answer, between the repentance and the peace, between the work and the result, between sowing-time and reaping-time, and we are such impatient, impetuous creatures. We could not "tarry the Lord's leisure."
II. Consider, next, the action: elevation, rapid progress, a steady course—soar, run, walk. Is it not just what we want—to get higher, to go faster, and to be more calmly consistent? (1) Elevation. What are the wings? Beyond a doubt, faith, prayer; or, if you will, humility and confidence in a beautiful equipoise, balancing one another on either side, so that the soul sustains itself in mid-air and flies upward. (2) "They shall run." Have you ever noticed how the servants of God in the Bible—from Abraham and David to Philip in the Acts—whenever they were told to do anything, always ran. It is the only way to do anything well. A thousand irksome duties become easy and pleasant if we do them runningly, that is, with a ready mind, an affectionate zeal, and a happy alacrity. (3) But there is something beyond this. It is more difficult to walk than to run. To maintain a quiet sustained walk, day by day, in the common things of life, in the house and out of the house, not impulsive, not capricious, not changeable,—that is the hardest thing to do. Let me give four rules for this walk: (a) Start from Christ; (b) walk with Christ; (c) walk leaning on Christ; (d) walk to Christ.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 279.
Isaiah 40:31I. This is the gospel of the exile, the "gospel before the gospel," the good news of the swift accession of power and deliverance to the Jewish people, humiliated, dispirited, and tired out by monotonously waiting in their Babylonian captivity for a long-expected, long-delayed good.
II. Like all gospels, this gospel of the exile is God's. God, in His loving care for a constant education of souls, is the Alpha and Omega of this whole gospel for captive Israel.
III. Like all Divine evangels, this good news for the captives of Babylon is addressed immediately to a special need, and adapted by its form to effect a particular result, viz., that of patient endurance of acute affliction, steadfast resistance to cowardly fears and weakening apprehension, brave battling with anxiety and carewornness, a resolute and determined climb towards the sunny heights and clear expanses of cheerfulness and joy. "Wait for God" is the ever-recurring and all-luminous word of the exile-gospel.
IV. Like all gospels from the heavens, this one for the Hebrew exiles obtained its full and complete verification from the uncontradicted facts of human experience. The sevenfold blessing of the exile stands written in the chronicles of Israel and of the world. (1) First, and most distinctive of the gains of the Jews from their captivity, stands their advanced and perfected knowledge of God. (2) Next comes up out of the exile the more definitely shaped and clearly conceived image of the Anointed of the Lord, the Daysman or Mediator, the Lord our Righteousness, the Herald of a new covenant, the suffering and conquering servant of God, who is to realise the ideal Jerusalem, and bring a new heaven and a new earth. (3) Fired by this hope of a personal Redeemer, and controlled by a spiritual conception of Jehovah, the worship of God entered on that final spiritual phase which has never been wholly eclipsed, though it has suffered, and still suffers, many painful obscurations. (4) Bound up with this we see the generation of a higher ethic, the birth of a nobler conception of life, as the sphere for rightness of aim and righteousness of character. (5) The temporary limitations and restrictions of Israel being removed, it is forthwith lifted into the stream of universal history, never to be taken out again as long as sun and moon endure. (6) The missionary spirit, as well as the missionary idea, glows and throbs in the oracles and songs which represent the highest thought and the purest emotion of this time. (7) This was completed by the enlargement and recension of that unique and marvellous missionary agent, the Old Testament literature.
V. This gospel, like all its fellows, never dies. It endures for ever and ever as a living message, not effete though old, not wasted though abundantly used, but partaking of the unwearied energy and eternal reproductiveness of its Infinite Source.
J. Clifford, Daily Strength for Daily Living, p. 241.
Isaiah 40:31I. Physical weariness is the least part of the weariness of our world. The extent and the depth of heart-weariness is greater than complaint ever utters. There is a hidden, dull, weary, aching weariness in souls everywhere, which never reveals itself.
II. Hope in God is a quenchless hope for our essential, enduring nature, if we can come home to it—a hope that is capable of being re-born and newborn after every disappointment and death. It is a childlike confidence that we are heirs of our Father's estate, and as a matter of birthright entitled to His friendship.
III. Those who wait upon God, and daily lay open their souls to His Spirit and working, know that a new nature is forming in them, and to that nature, in the proper sphere of God's kingdom, all our hopes will be fulfilled. They that wait on God do mount up, they do leave earth's weariness and despair far beneath them.
IV. A new will against all base earthborn inclinations, and a piercing intelligence beyond anything that the natural mind knows, are direct results of intercourse with God. They are virtues of the Divine Breath in man. "They shall mount up with wings as eagles." They are practising little daily ascensions before the day of the great ascension comes. They will come to life's full cup, for they taste it already. God means Human Blessedness; and as often as they mount up into the fine air of His presence, the blessedness meets them and creates new assurance in their breast.
J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 126.
References: Isaiah 40:31.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 270; F. Tucker, Penny Pulpit, No. 439; Short Sermons for Family Reading, p. 425; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 876, vol. xxix., No. 1756; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 219; J. H. Anderson, Ibid., vol. iii., p. 84; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 6th series, p. 49.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counseller hath taught him?
With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.
Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.