Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:
The occurrence of the three names, "Jacob, Israel, Jesurun," together is very remarkable, and the order in which they stand is not accidental. The prophet begins with the name that belonged to the patriarch by birth; the name of nature, which contained some indications of character. He passes on to the name which commemorated the mysterious conflict where, as a prince, he had power with God and prevailed. He ends with the name of Jesurun, of which the meaning is "the righteous one," and which was bestowed upon the people as a reminder of what they ought to be.
I. These three names in their order teach us, first, the path of transformation. Every Jacob may become a righteous one, if he will tread Jacob's road. There must be a Peniel between the two halves of the character if there is to be transformation. Jacob must become Israel before he is Jesurun; he must hold communion with God in Christ before he is clothed with righteousness.
II. Here we may find expressed the law for the Christian life. The order of these names here points the lesson that the apex of the pyramid, the goal of the whole course, is righteousness. The object for which the whole majestic structure of revelation has been builded up is simply to make good men and women.
III. Notice the merciful judgment which God makes of the character of them that love Him, Jesurun means "the righteous one." How far beneath the ideal of the name these Jewish people fell we all know, and yet the name is applied to them. Although the realisation of the ideal has been so imperfect, the ideal is not destroyed. Although they have done so many sins, yet He calls them by His name of righteous. And so we Christian people find that the New Testament calls us saints. He who sees not as men see beholds the inmost tendencies and desires of the nature, as well as the facts of the life, and discerning the inmost and true self of His children, and knowing that it will conquer, calls us "righteous ones," even while the outward life has not yet been brought into harmony with the new man, created in righteousness after God's image.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Feb. 5th, 1885.
References: Isaiah 44:1-5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 564. Isaiah 44:3.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 102; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 311. Isaiah 44:3, Isaiah 44:4.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 407. Isaiah 44:3-5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1151.
Isaiah 44:6I. "I am the first." (1) We find in this the affirmation of the fundamental doctrine of a Supreme God, the Creator of all things. (2) This reminds us, further, that as God is the supreme cause, He must also be the supreme end of all that exists, the centre of the thoughts and affections of all the beings He has created. (3) This means, further, that God is at the basis of all that is done to raise and save humanity, to bring it back to the true life which it has lost by separating itself from Him.
II. "I am the last." By this we must understand (1) that God never abdicates, and that He shall ever remain the Supreme Master, when all the lords of a day shall have passed away after having made a little noise in the world. (2) This means, further, that God remains the Supreme Judge, and that consequently the hour of justice shall certainly strike. (3) This reminds us again that God is the supreme refuge of every soul that calls upon Him, the only one which remains standing when all others have disappeared.
E. Bersier, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 350.
References: Isaiah 44:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1377. Isaiah 44:8.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 319; Bishop Walsham How, Plain Words, 2nd series, p. 39.
Isaiah 44:20These two thoughts act and re-act upon each other. The lie in the right hand fetters, hopelessly fetters, the soul, while the enslaved soul, because it is enslaved, cannot discover "the lie" of its hand.
I. Consider what is the force of that expression, "a lie in the right hand." A lie in the hand must mean a lie concealed—a lie inside the hand, held, but covered. And as the right hand is the emblem of strength in a man, it conveys that the lie is strongly and resolutely held. The right hand is what God has promised to hold, therefore the right hand shadows out that by which God apprehends us, and by which we apprehend God. But how shall God hold that which is preoccupied? How shall God guide or comfort or uphold a man who has a lie in his right hand? Such a man shuts himself out, at once, of all contact with God, and therefore out of all blessing; and leaving himself to himself, necessarily falls.
II. The religion of many of us is, simply, a passive thing—that is, it begins and ends in impressions and feelings which we have received; or if it go further at all, it is only in acts of worship and devotion. It does not lead to self-denying acts of love—it does not include separation from the world—it is the same sort of religion which heathen religions generally are, religions of worship and feeling, and not religions that affect the life. But while you only so worship and feel, while the kingdom of God is never advanced by you, you may indeed call yourselves religious, but that word is a lie in that idle right hand of yours. It needs but very little to be honest in the search of truth, and you will find truth; it needs very little else but simplicity of faith, with earnestness to be saved; it needs nothing but to be true to God, to receive His blessing, and to be admitted into all His promises.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 360.
References: Isaiah 44:20.—H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 299; J. Thain Davidson, Forewarned—Forearmed, p. 163. Isaiah 44:21, Isaiah 44:22.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 18. Isaiah 44:21-23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1895.
Isaiah 44:22I. We find in these words a wonderful teaching as to the inmost nature of sin. I refer especially here to the two words for sin which are employed here. That translated "transgression"literally means "treachery" or "rebellion;" and that translated sin "missing a mark." All sin is treacherous rebellion. That is to say, it has relation not only to a law, but to a lawgiver. It is not merely a departure from what is right, it is treason against God. And then, still further, the other word which is employed here conveys a profound and a tragic lesson. All sin misses the mark. Whoever transgresses against conscience and God misses the true aim and scope of his life. Every sin is a deflection from that which ought to be the goal of all that we do. And more than that, not only does each transgression miss the true aim of life, but it also misses what it aims at. All iniquity is a blunder as well as a crime.
II. The second thought is one conveyed by the form in which the promise is given us, viz., the permanent record of sin—"I have blotted out." That points, of course, to something that has been written, and which it promises shall be erased. There is a book written, a permanent record of our evil-doing. Where is it written? Where, rather, is it not written? Written on character, written to a very large extent on circumstances, written above all in the calm, perfect memory of the all-judging God. The book is written by ourselves, moment by moment, and day by day.
III. There is another thought, and that is the darkening power of sin. "I have blotted out as a thick cloud," says the text. Like a misty veil drawn across the face of the heavens are man's sins. That emblem has a double truth in it, viz., that every evil deed tends to obscure and to hide from us the face of God; and also that every evil deed tends to unfit us for the reception of the blessings that come down from above.
IV. The last thought is the removal of the sin. "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins." The erasure implies the making a clean sheet of the blurred page; the cancelling of the whole long formidable column that expresses the debt. The blotting out as a cloud implies the disappearing of the misty vapour, as some thin fleecy film will do in the dry Eastern heavens, melting away as a man looks. God treats all my iniquity of the past as nonexistent, and He pours Himself upon me in order that all the evil that still haunts my spirit may be utterly expelled and driven forth.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Nov. 19th, 1885.
I. Notice, first, the divineness of forgiveness. God removes the clouds, and God alone. The dispensation of pardon is too precious to be entrusted either to men or to angels. The Father has given authority to pardon to His Son, but to none other.
II. Look at the completeness of pardon. In the country which Isaiah knew the clouds were entirely blotted out during four months of the year, and the clearness of the atmosphere enabled the prophet to appreciate this illustration to an extent impossible to us. When God pardons a man there is not a sin to be seen.
III. Look at the assurance which God gives the pardoned that they are forgiven. God might forgive without telling us now that He has pardoned us. He might pardon secretly, but He pardons, giving knowledge of forgiveness, to those whose transgressions He covers. Now what profit is there in this? (1) Knowledge of pardon is a particular knowledge of God. (2) Knowledge of pardon is a source of joy and peace. (3) Knowledge of pardon is a power awakening love. (4) Knowledge of pardon is a motive to the pursuit of holiness. (5). Knowledge of pardon encourages us to bring others to God.
IV. Who are the assured? (1) Those who confess their sins. (2) Those who forsake their sins. (3) Those who turn to God. "Let him turn to the Lord and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 3rd series, No. 11.
I. In this text there is recognised the existence of sin. The individuals to whom this gracious promise was addressed had been guilty of enormous and aggravated rebellion; their transgressions had gathered blackness and density; they were "as a thick cloud," and as a "cloud." The Gospel proceeds altogether upon the basis of an entire and universal depravity. "It assimilates all varieties of human character into one common condition of guilt, need, and helplessness." It recognises but two varieties of character here, and but two varieties of condition in the world beyond the grave.
II. There is affirmed the existence of mercy. Scarcely had the fall defiled the world and entailed its heritage of wrath and shame before the first promise of grace was breathed. When man sinned, perverted his nature, corrupted his way, bereft himself of every love-compelling quality, became utterly defiled and unworthy, then grace came in a new fountain struck out of the Godhead, a new idea for the wonder and homage of the universe. All former displays which God had made of Himself were ascents to higher elevation. This was a mightier putting forth of His perfections, inasmuch as it showed not only how high the love of God could rise, but how deeply the mercy of God could go down; not only the glorious fellowship of angels which it could fill with its rejoicing, but the branded and downtrodden outcasts to whom it could stoop and uplift them from hell into heaven.
W. Morley Punshon, Sermons, p. 205; see also Penny Pulpit, No. 3896.
References: Isaiah 44:22.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 41; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 555. Isaiah 44:23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1240.
Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.
One shall say, I am the LORD'S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.
Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.
They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.
Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.
The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.
The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.
He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.
Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:
And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.
They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?
He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.
Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;
That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:
That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.