Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,
I. This is nothing less than a prayer that God would manifest Himself as a Judge—yes, and as a Destroyer. Isaiah craved for a man who should deliver men from the oppressions of the world's tyranny, from the storms which are raised by the passions of peoples and rulers, from the weariness and exhaustion which follow when they have accomplished their projects with great labour, and nothing comes out of them. All the misery which they cause springs, so the prophet thinks, from their assuming to be gods themselves, and from the disbelief which they cherish, and which they generate in a God who is altogether unlike them, whose ways are not their ways, whose purposes are not their purposes. And what he longed for was that the true man should appear, who would thoroughly manifest the ways and purposes of the true God, who would remove the thick veil which had intercepted His light from reaching His creatures, who would make them know that He was present with them, that He was ruling them and judging them. To long then for a man who should be a hiding-place from the tempest and a covert from the storm or heat, was the very same thing as to long that God would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would flow down at His presence.
II. There is a natural heart in all of us which is averse from this prayer, which would rather utter any prayer than this. And there is a natural religion which adapts itself to these cravings of ours, and supplies them with a language. To keep God at a distance from men is the end which it proposes to itself; to convert all persons who perform its offices, all prayers and dogmas, into barriers more or less secure against His appearing, and His vengeance, is its art. This religion expresses all different feelings of men, in different conditions of disease. It does not express the one common feeling of men, to be raised out of their diseases, to be made whole. It has no language for the infinite craving after God, the intense longing to be brought face to face with Him—to encounter all His vengeance rather than be separated from Him—which dwells in every man. The universal prayer—the prayer that goes up from the whole heart of humanity—is this of Isaiah's.
III. The prophet had been disciplined to understand that man does not require to be protected against God, but that God should protect him against himself, and should raise him out of the slavery which he invents for himself. Thus did he learn to rejoice, even while he trembled, at the convulsions in the outward world, or in human society. Thus did he understand that by all such signs God was avenging the cause of the poor, of those who had no helper, was shaking kings on their thrones, was surprising the hypocrites. Thus was Isaiah made into the evangelical prophet, the witness that unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, who can be a covert from the tempest, because He is both the Son of man and the Son of God; because God appearing in Him does indeed rend the heavens and come down.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 179.
References: Isaiah 64:3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1538; Isaiah 64:4.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2466.; J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 212.
Isaiah 64:6I. Notice, first, the very pernicious fact of our inaptitude to feel and reflect that our mortal condition is fading. (1) We are very unapt to recognise the common lot and destiny of all human life—that it is to fade and is fading. The vast world of the departed is out of our sight—even what was the material and visible part. What is constantly in our sight is the world of the living, and we are unapt to think of them as all appointed not to be living. And we may note a circumstance which aids the deception, namely, that the most decayed and faded portion of the living world is much less in sight than the fresh and vigorous. "Out of sight, out of mind" in a great degree. (2) We are very prone to forget our own destiny, even while we do recognise the general appointment to fade and vanish. We have some unaccountable power and instinct to dissociate ourselves from the general condition and relationship of humanity. (3) We are apt to regard life much more as a thing that we positively possess, than as a thing that we are losing, and in a train to cease possessing.
II. Notice a few of those monitory circumstances which verify this our declining state. (1) How many successive generations of men have faded and vanished since the text itself was written? (2) To a reflective mind, the constant, inevitable progress towards fading would appear very much related to it. One has looked sometimes on the flowers of a meadow which the mower's scythe was to invade next day:—perfect life and beauty as yet,—but to the mind they have seemed already fading through the anticipation. (3) But there are still more decided indications of decay. There are circumstances that will not let us forget whereabouts we are in life; feelings of positive infirmity, diminished power of exertion, grey hairs, failure of sight, slight injuries to the body far less easily repaired. Let us not absurdly turn from this view of life because it is grave and gloomy, but dwell upon it, often and intensely, for the great purpose of exciting our spirits to a victory over the vanity of our present condition; to gain from it, through the aid of the Divine Spirit, a mighty impulse toward a state of ever-living, ever-blooming existence beyond the sky.
J. Foster, Lectures, 1st series, p. 245.
I. Isaiah forms a most correct estimate of our condition upon earth, because we are all frail like the leaf.
II. The prophet's reminder marks the certainty of our approaching death.
III. The metaphor reminds us of the uncertainty of the time when death may come.
IV. The lesson of our gradual decay is set forth in the falling leaf.
V. The text suggests the renovation which will follow our decay.
W. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 447.
References: Isaiah 64:6.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 303; S. Randall, Literary Churchman Sermons, p. 236; Pulpit Analyst, vol. ii., p. 454; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 102; A. F. Barfield, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 150; F. Wagstaff, Ibid., vol. vi., p. 232; E. D. Solomon, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 296. Isaiah 64:6-8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 437. Isaiah 64:7.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 229; J. F. Haynes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 314; J. P. Gledstone, Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 89; Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 204; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1377.
Isaiah 64:8I. How does the Potter use and convert the clay? (1) It is clear that the clay must be purified. The blood of Jesus Christ passes over it, mingles with it, and it is pure. (2) And so God proceeds to shape and remake it. We are all of the same clay, and we are all made for one purpose, though in different ways and various degrees,—to glorify God: first, to hold His love, and then to communicate that love to others. (3) And then, thirdly, God stamps His own work with His own signet and His own image; it carries its own evidence in it that it is His. To every man's own heart it carries it by a secret witness. To the world and to the Church it carries it, by a mark which characterises it,—a meekness, a love, a holiness, a humility, which cannot be mistaken.
II. In order that God may fashion us, it is plain that our self-renunciation must be complete and our faith must be clear. We must accept our own utter wretched nothingness, and we must have a distinct expectation that God can and will make us all our fondest hope ever grasped, or all our utmost imagination ever painted.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 152.
Isaiah 64:8; Isaiah 33:22God is related to each of us both as a Father and a King. The idea of a Father contains more prominently the sentiment of bountiful and tender cherishing, while that of a King contains more prominently that of regulation and control; and it is not till we have combined them that we can form an adequate conception of the relation in which He stands to us.
I. We should give the idea of God's Fatherhood the first place in our meditations on His character, and not only begin with it, but carry it as the master-thought athwart all our other contemplations of Him, qualifying them with its influence. (1) Even a heathen could say, as an apostle has approvingly told us, "We are also His offspring." How much more is it not incumbent that we make the acknowledgment with filial and confiding hearts—we who enjoy that clear revelation that God created man in His own image? What else does this import than that, above all His other works, He distinguished man by producing him as a son, with a nature resembling His own? Accordingly, He endowed him with a son's prerogative—the dominion over all His inferior creation. (2) If God is our Father, we should have confidence in His lovingkindness.
II. Besides being a Father, God is a King. An earthly father's administration of his family is a matter of privacy. Public interests are not concerned in it, and he may do with his own what pleases his humour. He may open his door and readmit the prodigal, even without any repentance and confession, if he choose. But God's family being the public—the universal public of created moral intelligence,—though this does not affect the personal love of the administrator, yet does it materially affect the mode of the administration. The family of children has enlarged into a kingdom of subjects. The order of all good government of a kingdom is, that the violation of the laws shall be visited with penal suffering before there be a restoration to the privileges of citizenship. Shall the fatherly love of God, then, resign His rebel child as lost? Behold the mystery of our redemption. The paternity of God secures that His regal justice will accept of an adequate ransom, if such should be offered. The proclamation of the gospel is not so much the proclamation of a King, declaring that no man shall be saved except through faith in Christ's sacrifice, as it is the earnest entreaty of a Father that His children should believe, so as to be saved.
W. Anderson, Discourses, 2nd series, p. 1.
References: 64—S. Cox, Expositions, 1st series, p. 118. Isaiah 65:1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1919; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 53.
As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!
When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
Be not wroth very sore, O LORD, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.
Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste.
Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?