For He has humbled those who dwell on high--He lays the lofty city low. He brings it down to the ground; He casts it into the dust.
Isaiah 26:5-7, 8 (latter half)
I. ITS APPARENT ABSENCE. We still find on the earth "them that dwell on high" - the arrogant, the presumptuous, the oppressor; there is to be seen" the lofty city," exalted in its pride of power, dealing its blows upon the weak and suffering, fearing not God nor regarding the rights of men. In every age, beneath every sky, these men and these cities have been known. To those who have been humiliated and ill treated, God has seemed absent; his righteousness has appeared afar off; their cry has been, "How long, O Lord, how long dost thou not avenge," etc.? Among such suffering and perplexed ones are down-trodden peoples, persecuted Churches, wronged individual men and women.
II. ITS ASSERTION IN DUE TIME. The justice of God "is not dead, but sleepeth." It may be truer to say that it waits in patience for the hour of manifestation; then it descends; and it appears:
1. In the utter overthrow of iniquity. The lofty are laid low, the proud city is brought down to the ground (ver. 5). Instead of power is utter enfeeblement; the weapon of cruelty is stricken out of its hand, the words of condemnation and cursing are taken out of its mouth. Instead of honor is humiliation; the throne is exchanged for the very dust of the ground; and instead of unholy joy is hopeless misery.
2. In the exaltation of rectitude (ver. 6). Those who have been reduced to poverty and need by the unscrupulousness of the sinful will accede to their heritage of power, of wealth, of pleasure, or - what is better than these - of influence, of sufficiency, of thankfulness. God, the Most Upright One, smooths the path of the just (ver. 7), makes it level, enables the righteous to pursue their way of fruitful activity, of Divine worship, of holy joy.
III. THE EFFECT OF ITS ASSERTION. "When God's judgments are in the earth," i.e. when the righteousness of God is seen and felt in the infliction of penalty on the guilty and the leveling of the path of the just, then "the inhabitants... learn righteousness" (ver. 8).
1. The devout are confirmed in their devotion, and they cleave to God and to his service.
2. The waverers are decided, and they resolve to unite themselves with his people.
3. The presumptuous are alarmed, and they may be awakened and redeemed. This is God's intention in, and is the fitting end of, his Divine judgments; it is our folly and our sin if we allow that purpose to be defeated. - C.
I. AS A RELIGIOUS DUTY. God, in our view, either in His wisdom, power, grace, love, or fidelity, must always be the object of religions trust and confidence; and I think it will be found that all these great qualities and perfections in God are peculiarly exercised for the benefit and happiness of believers. It is not merely in these abstract qualities that the Christian is to trust, but in their exercise and development, for his own benefit and advantage.
Trust ye in the Lord forever.I. THE DUTY ITSELF.
1. It implies an acquiescence or submission to the will of God, whatever it may be — trusting in Him, assured that He is doing, and will do, what is right. This was the spirit of Eli of old, who, though under great family trial, still said, "It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good." This was the spirit of the patriarch Job, who under all his trials could say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."
2. It implies also an application to the Lord, with confidence that the application will not be in vain. Perhaps the best passage I can give you upon this subject will be that which contains the character given of Hezekiah. In 2 Kings 18:5, we are told, "He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses." There was habitual confidence in the Lord, which led Hezekiah to apply to the Lord in his hours of trial; and therefore, when he was in danger of being besieged, he instantly felt that his whole confidence must be in the Lord! So he took the letter, and in close communion with God read aloud that letter, trusting that the Lord would deliver him from all the threatenings which the letter contained.
3. Closely connected with these two explanations is that which I may call dependence and expectation; so that we may say, in our hours of anxiety, "Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide." All this is perfectly compatible with the energetic. use of means for deliverance out of our trials. Indeed, wherever there is the neglect of means, there is simple presumption.
4. Notice, again, in the description of the duty set before us in the text, that it is to endure forever. We read here, "Trust in the Lord forever." This revolves both time and circumstances.
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT. The text tells us, "For in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength"; or, "The Lord Jehovah is the Rock of Ages." The encouragement, therefore, is based on the everlasting strength of God.
(H. M. Villiers, M. A.)
II. WHAT IS ESSENTIAL TO THE EXERCISE OF TRUST IN GOD.
1. It will be essential for you to cultivate scriptural knowledge. The more the mind is brought under the illumination of the Spirit and the Word of God — the more we are in the habit of connecting time with eternity, taking a large and extended view of both — the more we consult the nature of Divine providence, as developed in the history of His ancient people, in every age of the world, and the manner of His dealings with them — the better we become acquainted with the nature and spirit of His own work, the work of religion in the human heart, and, certainly, the more confidence we shall be enabled to exercise in God. We are very often brought into a state of darkness, doubt, perplexity, bondage, and suffering, for the want merely of enlightened and scriptural views of God, and the method of His dealings with His church.
2. Another state is also necessary-that is, living in a reconciled state with God.
III. THE EXTENT TO WHICH WE OUGHT TO CARRY THIS CONFIDENCE IN GOD. And first of all we may say, we ought to trust Him with everything. But then, there is this remark to be made — that we ought to engage in nothing that is unlawful and sinful; for we cannot trust God with that which is evil. Let us not classify events, and consider some little and some great, some to be reposed on God and others not. The fact is, we ought to take everything to Him in the spirit of humble prayer and confidence, imploring His blessing upon it. Let me remark, too, that we ought to trust God for everything, as well as with everything.
(J. Dixon, D. D.)
I. Observe THE NAME OF JEHOVAH here given as the ground of invitation to our trust. "In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength," or "the Rock of Ages." The expression that is here employed, the singular reduplication of the name, which only occurs in one other place in Scripture, is no doubt intended to emphasise the idea that underlies the name. We find here the same singular appellation which occurs in one of the Psalms, where we read of God as "riding in the Heavens by His name Jah." So here the name appears as "Jah, Jehovah" — the former name being, as I suppose, the abbreviated form of the latter, and the purpose of employing both being to call attention emphatically to the name and what it means. What does it mean It speaks —(1) Of unchangeableness.(2) Of a sure asylum and safe dwelling place and inexpugnable fortress into which we may all retreat. "His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks," and high above all possibility of escalade and safe from all fear of assault or of change they may dwell who dwell in the secret place of the Most High.(3) And besides the thought of a safe asylum is the other thought of a rock for a foundation; who builds on it builds secure.
II. THE TRUST which corresponds to, and lays hold of the Rock. "Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is the Rock of Ages." The word which is here rendered "trust" is an extremely graphic and significant one, and teaches us a great deal more of the meaning and essence of the act of faith than many more elaborate treatises would do. It simply means "to depend." Charles Wesley, in his great hymn, has, with the Christian poet's unerring instinct, laid his finger on the precise meaning of the word when he says —
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.Incongruous as the metaphor hanging on the rock may seem, It conveys to us the true idea of the trust which is peace and life. But did you ever notice that in our use of the word "depend" we have two different expressions, which convey two different though kindred meanings? To be dependent on gives a different shade of signification from to depend on. The former acknowledges inferiority, takes a position of receptivity, and recognises that from another, who is conceived as being above us, there flow down upon us all good things, strengths, and graces that we may require. So, in this hanging upon God, there is the consciousness of utter emptiness in myself and of my need of receiving all that I can have or want from His full hand. But in faith or trust we hang on God in that other sense too. We are not only consciously dependent upon Him, as conscious of our emptiness and of His fulness, but we depend upon Him, as being calmly and completely certain of Him and of His being and doing all that we need. In other words, trust is reliance. Dependence and reliance are both metaphors. Both picture resting one's whole weight on some person or thing beyond one's self, but dependence pictures the weight as hanging from and upheld by a fixed point above, and reliance pictures it as reposing on and upheld by a fixed point beneath; and each sets forth in graphic fashion the act of the soul which Old and New Testament alike regard as the condition of vital union with God. That trust is reasonable. People pit faith against reason, as if the two things were antagonists. Faith is the outcome of reason. The only difference between it and reason, in the narrow sense of the word, is that faith has got longer sight than reason, and can see into what is dark to it. There is nothing so reasonable as to trust utterly in Him whose name is Jehovah, and in whom is the Rock of Ages.
III. THE PERPETUITY OF THE CONFIDENCE which corresponds with the eternity of the Rock. "Trust ye in the Lord forever." It is a commandment and a promise. An unchanging God ought to secure an unchanging trust. "Forever!" Amid all the fluctuations of our minds and dispositions, there ought to be this one steadfast attitude of our spirits kept up continuously through a whole life. "Forever!" Whatever may happen in the way of changing conditions and altered circumstances, for the same unchanging purpose brings all changes. The same diurnal motion brings day and night. The same annual revolution brings summer and winter. It is the same unchanging purpose of the steadfast God that creates the wintry darkness through which the orb of our lives has to pass, and the long summer hours of sunshine. But my text, like an God's commandments, carries a promise hidden in its bosom. All that build on the Rock of Ages build imperishable homes, which last as long as the Rock on which they are founded.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Weekly Pulpit.Readers of Darwin will recall the description he gives of a marine plant which rises from a depth of one hundred and fifty to two hundred feet, and floats on the surface of the water in the midst of the great breakers of the Western Ocean. The stem of this plant is less than an inch through; yet it grows and thrives and holds its own against the fierce smitings and pressures of breakers which no masses of rock, however hard, could long withstand. What is the secret of this marvellous resistance and endurance? How can this little, slender plant face the fury of the elements so successfully, and, in spite of storms and tempests, keep its hold, and perpetuate itself from century to century? It reaches down into the still depths, where it fixes its grasp, after the fashion of the instinct that has been put into it, to the naked rocks; and no commotion of the upper waters can shake it loose.
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