Taunt, Retort, and Overture
Isaiah 21:11, 12
The burden of Dumah. He calls to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?…

1. We take this to be a bitter taunt on the part of the Idumaean. "Watchman," he says, "what of this long night of national calamity through which you are passing? Where is the God of David, of Josiah, and of Hezekiah? What about those promises of Divine deliverance which have been your trust," etc.?

2. Then we have the calm retort of the prophet. He says, "'The morning cometh.' You may see nothing but darkness; but to me, on my watch-tower, there are apparent the grey streaks of dawn. I see afar off, but approaching, a glorious deliverance and return - a repopulated city, rebuilt walls, a reopened temple, a rehonored sabbath, a regenerate and a rejoicing people. 'The morning cometh, and also the night: 'to us the morning, to you the night. The sun that shines on you is a setting sun; it is sloping to the west. The dark pall of defeat, captivity, destruction, will soon veil your skies; you have little reason to triumph. We are down, but we are moving up; you are up, but you are moving down."

3. And then comes the prophet's overture. "I do not want," he says, "to gain a barren victory of words. If you will approach me in the spirit, not of mockery, but of inquiry, really wishing to know the mind of God, I will reply to your question. 'If ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.'" As the scoffing Idumaean thus assailed the Jewish Church, so the skeptical European assails the Christian Church, and we have -

I. THE TRIUMPHANT TAUNT OF THE SCOFFER. "What," says the scoffer, "of this long night through which the Church is passing? Eighteen centuries have gone since Jesus Christ declared that his cross would attract all men unto him; but barbarism is still found on island and continent, idolatry still prevails among the millions of Asia, corrupt Christianity still deludes the peoples of Europe, and infidelity, immorality, crime, and ungodliness still hang, like angry clouds, over 'Christian England.' What about this long night of Christendom?" Similarly the hostile critic speaks concerning the individual Christian life. "What of this long night of protracted sickness, of unsuccessful contest with financial difficulties, of undeserved dishonor, of repeated losses in the family circle by death, etc.?"

II. THE CALM RETORT OF THE CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE. He says, "'The morning cometh.' Barbarism is steadily disappearing before Christian civilization; superstition is being honeycombed by doubt; unbelief is finding itself unsatisfied with its hollow husks; earnest, practical religion is making its attack, by a hundred agencies, on immorality and irreligion; the Churches of Christ are putting on strength, and there is a sound of victory in the air, there are streaks of morning light in the sky. On the other hand, there are signs that overthrow and utter discomfiture will overtake and overwhelm the unholy doubts of the scoffer. To the oppressed Christian man, even though weeping should endure for the whole night of this mortal life, 'joy cometh in the morning' of the everlasting day."

III. THE OVERTURE OF THE CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE. He does not content himself with an effective retort. His mission is not to silence, but to convince and to help. He knows that beneath the sneer is doubt or disbelief, and this is too serious and too sad a thing to be left unanswered. So he says, "If you will 'inquire,' do inquire. Come into the court of inquiry with a candid, honest spirit; do not delude yourself by holding up one or two modern objections before your eyes and declaring that there is nothing to be seen. Take into account all the evidence - of prophecy; of miracle; of the life, character, truth, works, of Jesus Christ; of the effects of his gospel on the world, on human hearts, homes, lives; on man, on woman, on the slave, the poor, the prisoner, etc. Set against this what has to he considered on the other side, and then decide whether this redemption in Jesus Christ is not from heaven. Or, again, if you have any serious doubts as to the efficacy of true piety and its actual worth to a man as he goes through life, inquire; but take heed of whom you inquire. Ask of one who has had large and varied experience of life; ask of one who has seen much of men, in whom men have trusted and who knows the thoughts of their hearts; take the testimony of men to whom religion has been not a mere name, or a mere ceremony, but a solid conviction and a living power; and you will find, on such fair inquiry, that it is not only a stay and succor, but is the mainstay and the strength of the human soul in the labors and conflicts of life." - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?

WEB: The burden of Dumah. One calls to me out of Seir, "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?"

Sin the Great Silencer
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