Isaiah 26:18
We were pregnant, we writhed in pain, we gave birth to wind. We have brought no salvation to the earth, nor brought any life into the world.
The Argument from the PastW. Clarkson Isaiah 26:12-18
The Resurrection of IsraelE. Johnson Isaiah 26:15-21
Lord, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them. The "other lords," mentioned in the thirteenth verse, are all impotent in the hour of tribulation. Truly they are dead, as Carlyle says. "These idols of yours are wood; you pour wax and oil on them; the flies stick on them; they are not God, I tell you; they are black wood." So at the Reformation. Speaking of Luther, he says, "The quiet German heart., modest, patient of much, had at length got more than it could bear. Formalism, pagan-popeism, and other falsehood and corrupt semblance, had ruled long enough; and here once more was a man found who durst tell all men that God's world stood, not on semblances, but realities; that life was a truth, and not a lie!" There are idolatries in every age; but the idols of rank and fame and pleasure are of no avail in the hour of trouble.

I. HERE IS RECEPTION. The Lord receives them. He does not spurn their approach because they have kept away till then. The great Father never reproaches the repentant, returning Israel. No. Unlike the proud, resentful spirit of man, "the Lord God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness." The haughty spirit of man would resent the approach of one who was simply driven by stress of weather into the haven of his protection.

II. HERE IS REALITY. They are filled with earnestness. It is no easy ritual of the lips. They "poured out" a prayer. Very expressive indeed is that. The rock was rent, and the waters flowed forth. The poor bruised heart could contain its agony no longer. There was confession. There was that blessed "outness" which of itself brings relief. These men had seen the pouring forth of the swollen Jordan, and of the storm-filled streams of Lebanon. So is it that the earnestness of the soul at once engages the attention and interest of God. It matters little whether prayer be liturgical or free, whether it be in the sanctuary or the closet, so long as the soul seeks God as the hart desireth the water-brooks; and the literal rendering of "prayer" here is "secret speech."

III. HERE IS DISCPLINE. "When thy chastening was upon them." This is very different from self-chosen and self-inflicted chastisement. Some Christians in every age have become self-tormentors: some, with the Flagellants, in the infliction of physical torture, and some in constant introspection - painful searching of their own motives, and mourning over their own want of faith and of feeling. But this text speaks of God's own discipline - a Father's discipline, and therefore a wise, a kind, and a safe discipline. Moreover, it is but for "a season." We read, "when thy discipline was upon them," which, in its very language, suggests that it is not a lasting condition. The Jews came back from exile. Their punishments for idolatry gave place to pardon and restoration. So it is now. God does not delight in the sufferings of his children. "Tribulation worketh patience;" our "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." In the heart of the prickly encasement there is opening out a beautiful flower. - W.M.S.

Lord, in trouble have they visited Thee.
It is a blessed loss that makes us find our God! What we gain is in. finitely more than what we have lost. What a mercy that God is willing to hear us in the time of trouble, that all our putting off and rejection of Him do not make Him put us off! I remember one who wished to hire a conveyance to go to a certain town, and he went to the place where he could hire it, and asked the price; he thought that it was too much, so he went round the town to other people, and found that he could not get it any cheaper; but when he came back to the place visited first, the man said to him, "Oh, no, no! I will not let my horses to you. You have been round to everybody else, and now you come back to me because you cannot get what you want elsewhere; I will have nothing to do with you." That is man's way of dealing with his fellow man; but it is not the Lord's method of dealing with us. When you and I have gone round to everybody else, the Lord still welcomes us when we come back to Him. Yes, just as harbours of refuge are meant for ships in distress that would not have put in there except for the storm and danger, such is the mercy of the Lord God in Jesus Christ. If you are forced to accept it, you are still welcome to it. If you are driven to it by stress of weather, you may come in, for the harbour was made for just such as you are.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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