Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.
These words could have been spoken only by the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. They place before our thoughts:—
I. His Divine power and glory. Power is naturally calm. The power that sustains the universe is, in fact, most wonderful when, unseen, unfelt, with its Divine silence and infinite ease, it moves on in its ordinary course; but we are often most impressed by it when it strikes against obstructions, and startles the senses by its violence. Knowing our frame, and dealing with us as with children, our Teacher seeks to impress us with a sense of His Divine power, by bidding us think of Him as working by inexorable force certain awful changes and displacements in nature. "I dry up the sea; I made the rivers a wilderness," etc.
II. His human life and education. "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned," etc. Gradually, it seems, the Divine Spirit, like a mysterious voice, woke up within Him the consciousness of what He was, and of what He had come on earth to fulfil. Morning by morning, through all the days of His childhood, the voice was ever awakening Him to higher consciousness and more awful knowledge.
III. The mediatorial teaching for which He had been thus prepared. (1) It is personal. If His own personal teaching had not been in view, there would have been no need for all this personal preparation. "The Lord hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak." This is His own testimony to the great fact that He Himself personally teaches every soul that is saved. (2) It is suitable. Suitable to our weariness: (a) while we are yet in a state of unregeneracy; (b) when we are sinking under the burden of guilt; (c) when fainting under the burden of care; (d) when burdened under the intellectual mysteries of theology; (e) when under the burden of mortal infirmity. (3) The teaching of Christ is minutely direct and particular. When I read that He is ordained to speak "to him that is weary," I understand that He does not speak in a general, impersonal, unrecognising way to the forlorn crowd of sufferers, but to every man in particular, and to every man apart.
C. Stanford, Symbols of Christy p. 147.
Reference: Isaiah 50:2-6.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 243.
Isaiah 50:4Weariness comes to man through various channels and from many sources. We have many doors in our nature, and at every one of these weariness may enter.
I. There is—to begin at the lowest door of all—the physical one, the weariness which comes to us from bodily toil, or from toil which, whether bodily or not, tells upon the body by wasting for the time its energies. What is the word in season for such cases as these? Surely the word in season to many is, Release your strain, moderate your speed, economise your health. What shall it profit you if you gain the whole world and lose your life?
II. Some men are weary with pleasure; I would say a word in season to them. There is no decree of God more stern or more inflexible than that which has determined that misery shall be the constant companion of the man that seeks pleasure. There is no creature either in heaven or earth who shall ever find the real fruit of happiness growing upon any tree but that of loyal obedience to the authority of God.
III. Some men are weary with well-doing which seems to come to so poor an end. The word in season for such men is this:—Think that God still holds on to His Divine purpose, and that were He to grow weary in well-doing, He would plunge the world into desolation in a moment. And be sure of this, that nothing good is ever lost.
IV. There are those who are weary of the strife with sin—what is the word in season to them? This, that Christ has already vanquished your most powerful foe, and will make you more than conqueror.
V. There is one word more in season for those who are weary in sin, but not yet weary of it. "Come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
E. Mellor, In the Footsteps of Heroes; p. 92.
References: Isaiah 50:4.—E. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 264; W. Baxendale, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 347; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., 79. 1. 5, 6.—T. B. Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 124. Isaiah 50:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1486; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 325.
Isaiah 50:7The happiest of gifts for a man to be born with into the world is strength of will; not that a man can by it avoid suffering and sin; but for this—that suffering especially raises and heightens the strong will; that when it forsakes sin it forsakes it without a sigh. Happiness within, attractiveness towards others, ease of repentance and amendment, firmness against opposition, are the splendid dower which the strong will brings to the soul. It is our wisdom then to ask, How shall we keep or make our wills strong?
I. We cannot do this merely by persisting in having our own way as we call it. Our own way may be wrong; and no one ever uses the word strength in connection with crime or fault—never calls a sinful, a wilful, a violent man a strong man. The reason is evident, namely, that wilful sinning is only using a will in the direction in which it is easiest to use it. And this cannot make the will stronger, any more than a mind would grow strong which employed itself only on 'intellectual work which presented no difficulty to it. The will must make progress by avoiding things to which it is prone, and by aiming at things which it simply knows in any way to be good, although for the time being it may be that they are not fully desired.
II. There are times when there rises before us a noble ideal of what we ought to be, and we feel an impulse to believe we might be. What is that ideal? It is the "will of God concerning us," as St. Paul says. It is what we may each become by the power of the Spirit of God. Into this ideal we cannot at once pass. But we can be ever approaching it. It is not in human nature to make that sudden change, but it is perfectly possible to make a beginning. And for this purpose we must call in the aid of that very will itself to act upon our will; for there is no power in us higher, more primary, than the will. If the will is to be affected, the will itself must do the work. Suppose one resolve be made; then here at once our will begins to be of constant use to us, and to grow stronger in itself. Our will is not really acting at all when it is working out, however strongly, a natural inclination. The will is only strengthened when it is set to active work, something which we have clearly seen to be our duty, although when we come to do it we find the pursuit of it tax our strength exceedingly.
Archbishop Benson, Boy Life: Sundays in Wellington College, p. 39.
References: Isaiah 50:7.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 246; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 151, vol. xvi., p. 143.
Isaiah 50:10I. Consider the character of those who are visited with the experience described in the text. Two features stand prominently forth—the pious mind, the godly, Christlike life. (1) The pious mind. "Who is among you that feareth the Lord?" The fear of the Lord was the sign of the godly character and the strength of the godly life. It describes, under the conditions of the older dispensation, the spirit and the attitude of the man to whom the mind and the will of God were not only substantial, but supreme realities in the conduct of his life—the man who set the Lord always before him, and who knew, in his secret soul, that the one great concern of life was to stand right with Him. (2) He will manifest his fear by a godly, Christlike life. "That obeyeth the voice of His servant." He who has an eye for God will also have an eye for Christ. He who feareth the Father obeyeth also the Son, and recognises Him at once as the "Sent of God."
II. The condition of experience described in the text. "Who walketh in darkness and hath no light." (1) The plainest source of this darkness is the seeming frustration of our holiest and most unselfish purposes, a dreary want of success in what seems to us our best and most Christlike work. (2) We may be passing through very heavy pressures of affliction, and missing the comfort, the hope, which we think God should bring to us. We cry that we are forsaken. (3) But the main source of the darkness which sometimes buries the most pious and faithful under its pall is the shadow of their own sinful nature, which at moments it seems to them hopeless even for God to attempt to redeem.
III. The text tells us of the believer's trust and stay. Stay yourselves on God. That is, hold to your duty, the duty next to your hand, in the strength of God. Keep firm in the broad highway, and await the inevitable dawn. Night is not the inevitable thing: "There shall be no night there." The dawn is inevitable; for God lives, and God is light.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Higher Life, p. 205.
I. We must admit that there is wrong somewhere when the mind and soul are not in a state of peace and happiness. Pain is the alarm-bell which tells us something is wrong. If all were perfectly right within us and about us, satisfaction and thankfulness would fill the spirit. But if we are dissatisfied and apprehensive and distressed, then there is something wrong; such a state has a sufficient cause. But suppose people who are restless and suffering mistake the cause of their trouble, suppose they think it comes from something from which it does not come, all their efforts to cure it will be useless. He who takes God's will, as it becomes known to him, and makes it his own, is one with God, is reconciled to God. However dark or uncertain or apprehensive or distressed may be his spirit, that does not in the least interfere with his reconciliation with God, any more than the anguish of neuralgia shakes a man's credit with his banker. But it is quite certain that many of these reconciled souls attribute their perplexities to a wrong cause; they think their sufferings prove that their hearts are not right in the sight of God. Whereas it often happens that their bodies are not right, or their heads are not right.
II. Here comes in the secret of this good text: "Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." The triumph of Christianity over doubts engendered by disease can only come from a simple, manly confidence in the unchangeable goodness of God. To win this may be the life-discipline for some, and noble is the attainment when such in despondency can say, "Though He slay me, yet will I put my trust in Him."
W. Page-Roberts, Liberalism in Religion, p. 157.
I. To some persons it may seem strange advice to tell them, that in the hour of darkness, doubt, or sorrow they will find no comfort like that of meditating on the name of the ever-blessed Trinity. Yet there is not a prophet or psalmist of the Old Testament who does not speak of the "name of the Lord" as a kind of talisman against all the troubles which can befall the spirit of man. It was for this simple reason, that it is by that name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that God has revealed Himself. That is the name by which He bids us think of Him; and we are, more or less, disregarding His commands when we think of Him by any other.
II. Man may give God what name he chooses. Absolute, Infinite, First Cause, and so forth, are deep words; but they are words of man's invention, and words which plain, hardworking, hard-sorrowing folks do not understand; and therefore I do not trust them, cannot find comfort for my soul in them. But Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are words which plain, hardworking, hard-sorrowing men can understand; and can trust, and can find comfort in them; for they are God's own words, and, like all God's words, go straight home to the hearts of men.
III. Some will tell you, that if you are sorrowful it is a time for self-examination, and for thinking of your own soul. I answer—In good time, but not yet. Think first of God. For how can you ever know anything rightly about your own soul, unless you first know rightly concerning God, in whom your soul lives and moves and has its being? Others may tell you to think of God's dealings with His people. I answer—In good time, but not yet. Think first of God. For how can you rightly understand God's dealings, unless you first rightly understand who God is, and what His character is? Truly to know God is everlasting life; and the more we think of God by His own revealed name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the more we shall enter, now and hereafter, into eternal life, and into the peace which comes by the true knowledge of Him.
C. Kingsley, Discipline and Other Sermons; p. 75.
References: Isaiah 50:10.—W. M. Taylor, Limitations of Life, p. 312 (see also Old Testament Outlines, p. 210); Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 139, vol. v., p. 32; A. Watson, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 113; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 263.
Isaiah 50:11In this text the many fictitious sources from which men seek to derive happiness are compared to a fire kindled, and sparks struck out by way of relieving the darkness of the night. It is of course implied in the metaphor, that true happiness, the real and adequate complement of man's nature, resembles the divinely created and golden sunlight.
I. This comparison does not lead us to deny that pleasure and gratification of a certain kind are derivable from worldly sources. Just as man can relieve himself in great measure from the discomfort and inconvenience of natural darkness, by kindling a fire and surrounding himself with sparks, so can he alleviate, to a certain extent, the instinctive sense of disquietude and dissatisfaction, so irksome to him at intervals of leisure, by the various enjoyments which life has to offer. These are lights which gleam brightly for a moment, but will fade and die down beneath the sobering dawn of eternity.
II. Consider the drawbacks of worldly enjoyments. (1) Unsatisfactoriness adheres in their very nature, inasmuch as they are all (more or less) artificial. They are miserable substitutes, which man has set up to stand him in stead of that true happiness, which is congenial to his nature, and adapted to his wants. (2) The fitful character of the enjoyment derived from worldly sources renders it comparable to a fire and sparks struck out. (3) A fire requires constantly to be fed with fresh fuel, if its brilliancy and warmth are to be maintained. Hence it becomes an apt emblem of the delusive joy of the world, falsely called happiness, which is only kept alive in the worldling's heart by the fuel of excitement. (4) But perhaps the chief drawback of the worldling's so-called happiness is that it is consistent with so much anxiety—that it is subject to frequent intrusions from alarm, whenever a glimpse of the future untowardly breaks in upon his mind. It is in the night-time, when the kindled fire glows upon the hearth, and man pursues his employments by the light of torch and taper, that apprehensions visit his mind, and phantom forms are conjured up which scare the ignorant and the superstitious. It is the dim foreboding of evil that cankers effectually the worldling's joy.
E. M. Goulburn, Sermons in the Parish Church of Holywell, p. 429.
References: Isaiah 51:1—C. P. Reichel, Old Testament Outlines, p. 213 (see also Anglican Pulpit of Today, p. 366); Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1050; E. de Pressensé, Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 321. Isaiah 51:1, Isaiah 51:2.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. v9. Isaiah 51:2, Isaiah 51:3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1596. Isaiah 51:3.—Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 153. Isaiah 51:5.—Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 244.
Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.
I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.
The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.
The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.
Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.
Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.
Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.