That you may say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways…
Whilst this prophecy is originally intended simply to suggest the abundant supplies that were to be provided for the band of exiles as they came back from Babylon, there lie in it great and blessed principles which belong to the Christian pilgrimage, and the flock that follows Christ.
1. They who follow Him shall find in the dusty paths of common life, and in all the smallnesses and distractions of daily duty, nourishment for their spirits. Do you remember what Jesus said? "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." We, too, may have the same meat to eat which the world knows not of. That is a great promise, and it is a great duty.
(1) It is a promise, the fulfilment of which is plainly guaranteed by the very nature of the case. Religion is meant to direct conduct, and the smallest affairs of life are to come under its imperial control, and the only way by which a man can get any good out of his Christianity is by living it.
(2) But this is a great duty as well as a great promise. How many of us Christian people have but little experience of getting nearer to God because of our daily occupations! Therefore we need times of special prayer and remoteness from daily work; and there will be very little realisation of the nourishing power of common duties unless there is familiar to us also the entrance into the "secret place of the Most High," where He feeds His children on the bread of life.
2. Further, my text suggests that for those who follow the Lamb there shall be greenness and pasture on the bare heights. Strip that part of our text of its metaphor, and it just comes to the blessed old thought, that the times of sorrow are the times when a Christian may have the most of the presence and strength of God. "In the days of famine they shall be satisfied." Our prophet puts the same thought, under a kindred though somewhat different metaphor, in another place in this book where he says: "I will open rivers in high places." That is clean contrary to nature. The rivers do not run on the mountain-tops, but down in the low ground.
3. May I turn these latter words of our text a somewhat different way, attaching to them a meaning which does not belong to them, but by way of accommodation? If Christian people want to have the bread of God abundantly, they must climb.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.