Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.
In these words, as in other and similar passages of Scripture, God asserts an immeasurable difference between Himself and all created beings.
I. We distinguish the Creator from every creature by declaring Him self-existent. There is no way of accounting for the origin of everything except by supposing something which never had origin. Nothing could have begun to be unless there had been something which never began to be. Here is the grand distinction between the Creator and the creature: the being of the one is underived, and that of the other derived. The existence of all creatures is a dependent existence; it has been imparted by another, and may be withdrawn by that other. The existence of the Creator is a necessary existence, altogether independent, indebted to none for commencement, and resting on none for continuance. It is by His name Jehovah—that name which breathes self-existence—that God proclaims Himself inscrutable and unimaginable.
II. We learn from this the vanity of all attempts to explain or illustrate the Trinity in Unity. If we were able to produce exact instances of the union of three in one, we should have no right to point it out as at all parallel with the union of the Godhead. We ought to know beforehand that the created can furnish no delineation of the uncreated; so that it shows a forgetfulness of the self-existence of God to seek His resemblance in what he hath called into being. He best shows the workings of a sound judgment and ripened intellect who, in such a matter as the doctrine of the Trinity, submits to the disclosures of revelation, and receives it on the authority of God, though unable to explain it through any reasoning of his own. The doctrine of the Trinity is above reason, but it is not against reason.
III. Consider the paramount importance of the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is so bound up with the whole of Christianity, that to think of removing it and yet of preserving the religion is to think of taking from the body all its sinew and its bone, and yet leaving it all its symmetry and its strength. The whole falls to pieces if you destroy this doctrine. The short but irresistible way of proving that the doctrine of the Trinity is in the largest sense a practical doctrine is to remind you that if this doctrine be false, Jesus Christ is nothing more than a man and the Holy Spirit nothing more than a principle or quality. To remove the doctrine of the Trinity is to remove whatever is peculiar to Christianity, to reduce the religion to a system of loftier morals and stronger sanctions than the world before possessed; but nevertheless having nothing to deserve the name of Gospel, because containing no tidings of an expiation for sin. Without a Trinity I must save myself; with a Trinity I am to be saved through Christ.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1731.
Reference: Isaiah 46:5.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 299.
Isaiah 46:12-13I. God's dealings with mankind have all been of a character which may be called unexpected. We do not know in the whole of Scripture a more beautiful transition than that of the text, one less to have been anticipated where there was no acquaintance with redemption. The very circumstance that men are addressed as stouthearted, and far from righteousness, prepares you for an announcement at which the boldest should tremble; it is as the prelude to the storm, and you can look for nothing but a burst of thunder which shall make the mountains rock. But that instead of the thunder should succeed the sweet and gentle music of love; that those who are called stouthearted should be summoned to listen, not to a threatening of destruction, but to a promise of deliverance; that they should be told of the approach, not of a ministry of anger, but of a ministry of mercy,—in this it is that we find cause for wonder, this it is we could not have expected, could not have explained, if we did not know of arrangements through which God can be just, and yet the justifier of sinners.
II. We may be sure that, having summoned the stouthearted to hearken, the words which immediately follow are such as God knows to be specially adapted to the case of the stouthearted; that is, to contain the motives which are most likely to bring them to contrition and repentance. The nearness of salvation is made an argument with the ungodly why they should turn from evil courses—just as preached the Baptist, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." There is a motive to repentance in the approach of a Deliverer. There is a motive in our standing within the possibility of forgiveness. Hitherto we could only despair; now we may hope.
III. It is salvation which God declares He will place in Zion, and we must connect this salvation with the righteousness which He is said to bring near. You have here the most faithful description of the deliverance provided through the mediation of Christ. Sum it up in one word, and that deliverance is righteousness. God placed salvation in Zion when in Zion stood the Mediator who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2147.
Isaiah 46:13(Isaiah 51:5)
I. What are these two things—Jehovah's righteousness and Israel's salvation? How are they related to one another and connected with one another? And what in particular is the meaning of the precedence or priority assigned to the one as coming before the other—My righteousness, My salvation? (1) It is very evident that the Lord's righteousness must mean, not a Divine attribute, but a Divine work, or effect or manifestation of some kind. (2) A judicial dealing with His enemies, on the part of God, precedes and prepares the way for the deliverance or salvation of His people; and when He brings near the one, the other will not tarry. (3) God must first consult for His own righteous name before He can consult for His people's complete safety; He must first right Himself before He can consistently and conclusively deliver them. Only in the train of the righteousness of God can His salvation go forth.
II. It may be said that the Lord brings His righteousness near, or that it is near, in three senses. (1) It is near, the Lord brings it near, in the Gospel offer as a free gift, wholly of grace, not of works at all. (2) The Lord bringeth near this righteousness in the powerful striving and working of His Spirit. (3) The Lord brings near His righteousness in the believing appropriation of it which His Spirit enables you to make.
R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 246.
They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.
Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb:
And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?
They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.
They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.
Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:
I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.