Isaiah 1:22
We have here -

I. DEPLORABLE DEGENERACY.

1. Degeneracy of character. "How is the faithful city become an harlot!" etc. (vers. 21, 23). There is nothing more melancholy than the sight of a people or city or of a human being fallen from spiritual and moral integrity to a depth of sin and folly - devoutness exchanged for impiety, conscientiousness for unscrupulousness, self-restraint and self-respect for laxity or even for licentiousness, spiritual excellency for moral unloveliness. But many illustrations confront us, both in history and experience.

2. Degeneracy of power. The result of this spiritual decline is weakness: the silver becomes dross, the wine is mixed with water (ver. 22). The sinner is not long before he finds that there is "no might in his hand" (Deuteronomy 28:32). Sin saps the life-blood from the soul, and leaves it strengthless and useless. It makes him to be as an Oriental garden from which the life-giving waters have been withdrawn, as a tree whose leaves have faded and fallen (ver. 30) - everything is parched, barren, fruitless.

II. DIVINE VISITATION. This includes:

1. Punishment; the outpouring of wrath upon the wicked, involving

(1) personal ruin (vers. 24, 28); and this

(2) the result of the sinner's evil deeds: the man himself is as tow, and his work (not the maker of it) is as a spark which enkindles it (ver. 31). The "work" of the drunkard, i.e. his intemperance, consumes him - it wastes his estate, it enfeebles his strength, it reduces the number of his friends, it brings him to destruction; and so with other vices which are the "works" of the unholy; they burn and they consume, and nothing quenches them. One part of the Divine punishment is

(3) the shame with which the guilty are confounded: "They shall be ashamed... and confounded" (ver. 29). It is one of the constant penalties of sin that, when enjoyment is over, then comes shame and confusion of face. The soul is smitten with a sense of abasement; it suffers the smartings of conscience, the pangs of remorse.

2. Purification. (Vers. 25-27.) God would turn his hand - his hand that healed and saved; and, in his purity, would purge away the dross, and restore to the favored city its ancient righteousness. Penalty would become correction, and correction would end in transformation and redemption. Whether God visits

(1) nations, or

(2) churches, or

(3) individual souls,

it is that they may "come to themselves;" that they may return unto him; that they may be purified of their iniquity, their pride, their selfishness, their worldliness, their self-indulgence; and that they may rejoice in his holy service. - C.







Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water.
The silver represents the princes and lords, viewed with reference to the nobility of mind associated with their nobility of birth and rank; for silver — sterling silver — is a symbol of all that is noble and pure, and it is the purity of light which shows itself in it, as in the pure white of byssus and of the lily. The princes and lords formerly possessed the virtues which together are in Latin called candor animi, — the virtues of magnanimity, courtesy, impartiality, and freedom from the influence of bribes; now, this silver has become dross, such base metals as are separated or thrown aside.

(F. Delitzsch.)

In a second figure, the leading men of Jerusalem in former days are compared to "choice wine," such as drinkers like. This pure, strong, and costly wine is now adulterated with water, or weakened; i.e., through this addition, its strength and flavour are diminished. The present is but the dregs and the shadow of the past.

(F. Delitzsch.)

The essential idea seems to be that of impairing strength,

(J. A. Alexander.)

There are many valuable and good things in the world that through varied causes are rendered comparatively useless.

I. THE SILVER OF THY CHARACTER HAS BECOME DROSS BECAUSE OF LITTLE FAILINGS.

II. THE SILVER OF THY SERVICE HAS BECOME DROSS BECAUSE OF UNHOLY MOTIVES.

III. THE SILVER OF THY MONEY HAS BECOME DROSS BECAUSE OF SELFISHNESS.

IV. THE SILVER OF THY TALENTS HAS BECOME DROSS BECAUSE OF INDOLENCE. Silver is bright when kept in use. Talents are valuable when active.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

"Thy wine is mixed with water" — that sounds like a compromise. Thy wine diluted; it is the corruption of the ideal. "Thy princes are rebellions" — that is the corruption of government. "Everyone loveth gifts and followeth after rewards" — that is the corruption of justice. "They, judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them" — that is the corruption of the tenderest ties of the heart. Do you see where you begin? You begin by mixing wine and water, you begin by illicit compromise, by lowering and corrupting the ideal, and you end in cruelty, you forget God, then the ideal is forgotten, then yourself is forgotten, you forget your neighbour, and the cause of the widow makes no appeal to you.

(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

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