Tell you, and bring them near; yes, let them take counsel together: who has declared this from ancient time?…
I. The grand truth is manifestly this — that THERE IS IN GOD AN EVERLASTING HARMONY BETWEEN THE JUST AND THE MERCIFUL. He is just, not in opposition to salvation, but because He is a Saviour. He is a Saviour, not in opposition to justice, but because He is justice seeking to save.
1. Let us mark the ground on which Isaiah founded that mighty truth, the supreme and solitary sovereignty of God — "I am the Lord, and there is none else; there is none beside Me." He had looked over the conflict of nations and the decay of empires, and seen one eternal God causing all to work His will. Realise that vision of God, and then the idea that He needs reconciling to Himself must instantly fall: for if God's justice needs reconciling to His mercy, then we have two Gods, the just and the merciful; and it is no longer true that He is God, "beside whom there is none else." Realise this, and the idea of the atonement which represents Christ as simply appeasing God the just and inducing Him to be merciful, passes away. God needs no reconciling to Himself: justice is in everlasting union with mercy.
2. Let us ask what is God's justice, and what His salvation? and then we shall see how they are in perfect harmony. God's justice is not merely the infliction of penalty; God's salvation is not merely deliverance from penalty. It is true that He does execute penalty and award retribution. We see it in the stern laws of life by which one error brings down life-long sorrow; one true effort reaps, inevitably, its blessed reward. There is a just God over all, for men ever reap just what they sow. But justice in God is something far grander than the mere exercise of retribution; it is the love of eternal truth, purity, righteousness; and the penalties of untruth, impurity, unrighteousness, are the outflashings of that holy anger which is founded in His love of the right, the pure, and the true. In the same way, God s salvation is more than the mere deliverance from penalty. It is, at the same time, the deliverance from evil, salvation from the cruel lusts of wrong; from the bondage of unholy passions growing into the giant-life of eternity; from the deep degradation and horrible selfishness of sin. Here, then, we see how His justice and His salvation are in perfect harmony. His salvation is to free men from the penalties of justice by making them righteous, true, and holy in Christ.
3. Take now one step further. Take the two great revelations of law and mercy, and we shall see how the law is merciful and mercy holy.
(1) The law, the revelation of justice, came to lead men to God the Saviour.
(a) The sense of immortality. Man, feeling that life is bounded by the present, will never be freed from evil. But sin destroys the sense of immortality, confines him to the narrow circle of the earth, and dares him to look beyond. Under its influence man forgets the grandeur of his nature, sinks into a mere animal, and becomes the slave of material things. To awaken him there is no other voice so powerful as that of the law he cannot obey — a law majestic in purity, and thundering penalties on transgression. The Divine voice in the law speaks to him, making him feel that he is greater than material things — greater than his sinful idols. He asks: Why does it mark out me? And the awful Sinai of conscience awakens at that voice, and the man feels the sublimity of his nature; and there is the beginning of salvation.
(b) The sense of sin as a power in life. The voice of law shows him that in him is the power which the just God hates in holy anger. Cursing evil, it curses him. Thus law is the revelation of God the Saviour. Before its awful majesty and impossible claims man learns the weakness, and slavery, and horror of sin; and is prepared to accept the mercy that delivers him.
(2) Christ, the revelation of God the Saviour, came to glorify God the just. The righteousness of God never was so revealed as in the loving Saviour of the world. Mount Sinai is less terrible than the purity of the man of Nazareth. Men felt it as they said, "Depart from us for we are sinful." Look now at His sufferings. Nothing could tear Him from them — nothing alter His course. Where is there a greater revelation of the righteousness of God? In the garden, the pure and holy One shudders at the contact with sin. Where can we see the awfulness of holiness so sublimely revealed as in that passion of woe? The just God was in the Saviour. Mark now the consummate power of Christ crucified; and what is it but a power rousing men to be holy as God is holy? Sin never was so slain as by Him whom sin slew. The law never was so attested as by Him who bore its penalty.
II. We infer TWO LESSONS from this great truth.
1. The necessity of Christian endeavour. We are justified at once; for the germ of a righteous manhood exists in the first act of faith. But the realisation of it is progressive. The Christian ideal is to be as Christ was, faithful, holy, and undefiled. Every day we have untruthfulness, selfishness, unbelief, to overcome.
2. The ground of Christian trust. Some men find security in the belief that they are delivered from the stern awards of justice. But we are not delivered from God's purity, we are reconciled to it. In the justice of God lies our confidence now, for He will make us righteous and holy in Christ. And this gives us hope in the midst of life's discipline, and explains much of its mystery. The object of His discipline is not to make us happy simply, but to train us into holiness, which is blessedness. There are men who trust in the infinite mercy of God, and feel that He will deliver them at last. Remember, that to remain in unbelief is to adopt the spirit which killed Christ. To refuse His salvation is to challenge the holy indignation of the Most High.
(E. L. Hull, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
WEB: Declare and present it. Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has shown this from ancient time? Who has declared it of old? Haven't I, Yahweh? There is no other God besides me, a just God and a Savior; There is no one besides me.