He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.
Just as "no man liveth unto himself," but every man liveth for the circle in which he is set, so no nation liveth unto itself - it liveth for the world of nations in its time, and for all the ages. This universal truth is illustrated for us in the case of prominent, or elect, or selected nations. Egypt keeps alive the sense of mystery for the world, the claims of the unknown. Chaldea pleads in all the world for the claims of human observation, for the basis-principle of science. Greece keeps up today its mission to the world, and preaches to us the claims of the "beautiful," the basis of all art, all ideal creations. Rome declares to the world the supreme importance of wise and stable government for the ordering of society. And Israel has its voice in every land and every age, pleading for the foundation-principles of religion, which are the unity and spirituality of God. Israel is a tree whose branches overspread the earth; these are its leaves, and these leaves are for the healing of the nations that are diseased and dying of idolatries and sensuousness. As we think of Israel after the flesh, we should remember that we are the true Israel, the spiritual Israel, who hold fast and testify for the old Mosaic truths, "God is One" and "God is a Spirit." The world-mission of Israel is -
I. To PRESERVE THE WORLD'S TRUTH. That is, "In the beginning God." This truth was given to man as man. It is man's birthright. When man became mentally and emotionally biased by yielding to self-will and sin, this first truth was imperiled. If man, as God created him, had thought, he would only have thought of God, one God. When sinful man thinks, he runs along one or other of two lines - he either conceives of two gods, one presiding over pleasant things, and the other over disasters; or else he thinks of many gods, each one occupying a more or less limited sphere. So "monotheism" was put in peril, and had to be preserved through all the ages during which God left man to a free experiment of that self-willedness which he had chosen. In his infinite wisdom God preserved the essential and foundation-truths of religion for long ages in a direct Adamic line, giving to men length of life sufficient to permit of tradition covering the long generations up to the Flood. After the Flood, God preserved the world's truth in the one Abrahamic family; and when that family grew into a nation, he made it, in a very solemn way, the depositary of the world's truth, and set it in a central land, where it might be but slightly influenced by the notions of surrounding nations. "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there in circumcision? Much every way, chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." It is true that Israel did not prove faithful to its duty of preserving the world's truth; but after the chastisement of the Babylonian exile (and to that the prophet is referring in our text) they never fell into idolatry, and they exist to-day, scattered everywhere, but holding fast their trust of monotheistic truth.
II. To EXHIBIT THE WORKING OF THAT TRUTH. "Example is better than precept." The world might fairly ask to see a national life raised on the foundation of belief in one unseen, spiritual God. Israel is that nation. It is in many respects a striking example. It failed only when it shifted from its foundation. A glance at the old world, which grouped round the eastern end of the Mediterranean, will show how central "little Palestine" was, so as to be in view of all the nations, as a "city set on a hill." The practical applications of this part of the subject are that we hold the trust of these truths, and of the yet further revelations that have been given; and the question of supreme interest to all around us is - Do they make us better men and women? Are others won to accept our truths because of the illustrations which we find for them in our lives and relations? Do we "walk worthy of our calling?"
III. To WITNESS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD FOR THAT TRUTH. The presence of a Jew anywhere is a plea for belief in one God. The exaggerated stubbornness with which Jews plead for this truth prevents their being willing to receive the further revelation concerning the one God, that he has been manifest in the flesh. We who are the spiritual Jews have it as our work to proclaim "God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself" to all the nations. Jews have but half a mission now; but the time is coming when their veil shall be taken away; they shall see in Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God, and join with us in going out through all the world, and preaching the old truth and the new gospel to every creature. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.