Isaiah 28:3

I. DENUNCIATION OF WOE. The condition of Samaria was like that of Jerusalem. And judgment must first fall upon Samaria, and then upon Jerusalem (Isaiah 8:6; cf. Micah 1:6). Drunkenness is named," not as the root of the national evil, but rather as its flower. The appalling thing is that when all is on the point of collapsing, those responsible for the state should be given up to careless self-indulgence" (Cheyne). Samaria is described as the city of the "proud crown." So in Greece Athens was called the city of the violet crown, and Thebes the "well-crowned." Some explain the crown of the towers; others think that the mere beauty of the hill on which the city stands, with its cultivated terraces, covered with corn and with fig and olive trees, has given rise to the figure. But a worm is at the root of all this beauty, and Samaria must die. Drunkenness may stand for sensuality in general, which saps the root of a nation's life. The crown, or chaplet, alludes also to the custom among Greeks, Romans, and Jews, of wearing a chaplet of flowers at feasts. In the Book of Wisdom we read -

"Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments:
And let no flower of the spring pass by us:
Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds, before they be withered."

(Wisd. 2:8.)

II. THE IMPENDING DESTRUCTION. Jehovah has an unflinching instrument for destruction. And, like an overwhelming tempest and flood of waters, destruction will come down on the devoted city. The bright crown shall be trampled underfoot; and Ephraim's beauty shall be swallowed up with all the haste with which one devours the special delicacy of the "early fig" (cf. Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1; Habakkuk 3:12; Jeremiah 24:2). It ripens in June. The whole is a picture of sudden and utter destruction. (For the Assyrian king as agent in the hand of Jehovah, cf. 2 Kings 17:3-6. For the storm of hail as a symbol of desolation, cf. Job 27:21; Hosea 13:15. And for the flood as a representation of hostile devastation, cf. Psalm 95:5; Jeremiah 46:7, 8.) In the moral order, sudden destruction is always connected with great impiety. The triumphing of the wicked is short; and while they speak of peace, sudden destruction arriveth. "What Isaiah declared about the kingdom of Israel applies also to the whole world. By their ingratitude, men prevent all the goodness which the Lord has bestowed upon them from reaching maturity; for we abuse his blessings and corrupt them by our wickedness. The consequence is that hasty and short-lived fruits are produced, which cannot yield us continual nourishment" (Calvin). Luxury blinds, blindness leads to stumbling, and presently to a sudden fall.

III. FULFILMENTS OF MESSIANIC PROMISE. Here again the sky clears, and the star of hope glimmers. To the converted remnant Jehovah will be as a glittering Crown and a splendid Diadem. The royalty of the Divine King shall be more glorious than the famed beauty of Samaria, whose crown shall have been trampled in the dust, and his government a fairer chaplet to adorn the Divine seat. There will be a true beauty and glory in the Messianic times. Moreover, there will be a spirit of justice and sound intelligence diffused. The priests, the spiritual leaders, will be especially imbued with it (cf. Deuteronomy 17:8-12; Exodus 21:22; 2 Chronicles 19:5-8). But the magistracy in general will be enlightened and instructed by the Spirit of God. Further, there will be valor in the field, so that the generals and their soldiers will be able to turn back war to the gate - probably of the city whence their foes came (2 Samuel 11:23, "And we were upon them, even unto the entering of the gate"). There will, in short, in the ideal or Messianic government, be a government strong both internally and externally, wisdom and justice in home administration, strength and valor towards the foe without. These are needed for every empire and kingdom; and they come from God. "The Lord is our Defense." "Magistrates will not be able to rule and administer justice in a city, and military generals will not be able to repel enemies, unless the Lord shall direct them." To place our confidence in the world is to gather flowers, which forthwith fade and decay. We then seek to be happy without God, that is, without happiness itself. If we seek protection and good in God, then no calamities can prevent him from adorning the Church. When it shall appear that everything is on the eve of destruction, God will still be a Crown of glory to his people (Calvin). - J.

The Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel.
Let us consider this point as related to —

I. THE BIBLE AND ITS CONTENTS. This Book, to the secular world, is a perpetual puzzle. What amazing power it has exerted in the world, and what exalting energy! Yet it is the literature of a people comparatively insignificant, to whom we are not drawn as we have been toward the august grandeur of Roman genius, or to the poetic and philosophic Greek. It is the oldest of books, large, obscure in some things, but bold in its challenges to geologist, astronomer, and men of science; provoking discussion at a thousand points. Think of the mysteries of doctrine — the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the future life — what can we do? A tone of authority over our convictions and judgments is assumed. The thoughts of the Bible are God's thoughts.

II. THE REDEMPTION OF CHRIST. This is too vast, grand, marvellous to be understood without this illuminating truth.

III. IN THE SPIRITUAL SPHERE, in the soul of man. We act on man's feelings through his judgment, or upon his judgment through his sensibilities. Yet how feebly! But all these are open to the royal, inspiring Spirit of God.

IV. THE METHOD AND DEVELOPMENT OF PROVIDENCE IN THE WORLD. Gathering up some of the results of this survey, we may see —

1. How Christendom is builded. Coleridge speaks fitly of "the miracle of Christendom," for the tendency of society, unilluminated by the Gospel, ever has been downward.

2. We should read the future in the same light. If God be behind all the movements of history, there is no room for discouragement. At important crises He will interfere, putting forth silent forces, perhaps, but terrific in energy.

3. There is a city of God for me. His promises, thick as the fragments of the jasper floor, will all be redeemed.

(R. S. Storrs, D. D.)

The context presents to us physical husbandry in two very different aspects.

(1)As the effect of God's teaching.

(2)As the emblem of God's teaching.God's counsel is wonderful in all His departments of action as Creator, Sovereign, and Redeemer. Our illustration shall be taken from the nature, formation, and propagation of the redemptive system.

I. ITS NATURE IS WONDERFUL. What is it? One word, perhaps, will best describe it. Reconciliation. To see its wonderfulness think of four things.

1. That the reconciliation originates with the offended party.

2. The offended party, who seeks the reconciliation, is infinitely superior to the offender.

3. The offended party, who is infinitely superior, offers reconciliation to the lowest class of His foes. There are two great classes of enemies to God — fallen angels and fallen men; men are the inferior. Yet He passed by the angels and took hold upon the seed of Abraham.

4. The offended party, who is infinitely superior, offers reconciliation to the lowest classes of HIS foes at a most stupendous sacrifice.

II. ITS FORMATION IS WONDERFUL. How is this system of reconciliation formed? There are two things as to the mode which show the wonderfulness of the arrangement.

1. Its gradualness. We, when we have a work to do, to which we attach importance, hurry at it, and are impatient for its accomplishment; but God, to ripen this scheme, took four thousand long years.

2. Its instruments. When we have a work to do, we select the best men we can get. God employed the agency of wicked men in the working out of His great reconciling plan. "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," etc.

III. ITS PROPAGATION IS WONDERFUL. Three things show the wonderfulness of its propagation.

1. The character of the persons to whom its propagation was first entrusted. To whom did He commit the ministry of this wonderful scheme! To the magnates, or the literati of His age? No, to a few poor fishermen.

2. The class of persons to whom it was first offered. The greatest sinners on earth; the sinners at Jerusalem, who imbrued their hands in the blood of His only begotten Son.

3. The pressing of it on the attention of those who frequently reject it.


(1) The sentiment of the text on the surface is, that the art and science and skill of man, are the gifts of God.(2) Ii God thus instructs man in wisdom, how wise must He be Himself!


1. God does not work without a plan.

2. This plan is wonderful in itself, and is found to be excellent when it is carried out.(1) This is illustrated in nature.(2) In providence.(3) In personal experience.(4) In the great economy of redemption.(5) In the Gospel. This Gospel is suited to the most abject and depraved. Many preachers have had to confess the uselessness of mere moral preaching; one of them said he preached up honesty till his parish swarmed with thieves.(6) The experience d every Christian k, in some respects, different from the experience of every other, but it is the result of God's plan.(7) The use of instrumentality. It is a wonderful design of God to use one man to be the means of the conversion of another, because the man who does the work is as much benefited as the man upon whom the work is done.(8) The grandest illustration of all will be when, at the last, God's counsels shall be perfectly fulfilled.


1. I have a word to say to those unconverted persons who have some desire after salvation. I would to God that, seeing His counsel is so wondrous, you would agree to it. It is in His counsel that sinners shall be saved by grace through believing in Christ.

2. Another word to you, the people of God. Agree to this in your own particular case. You say, "I cannot understand God's dealings with me." As if it were expected that you should! But you also add, "I cannot believe that God has good designs in it." John said that if a man did not believe God, he made God a liar, and so you who do not believe in God's wisdom make Him a fool! Do you not shrink from that?

3. I now desire to speak to my fellow workers. When we are going to work for God do not let us be in such a mighty hurry. Let us have a well-formed plan, and let it be God's plan.

4. When we know God's plan we must carry it out.

5. Expect singular assistance.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Lord of hosts is seen by the enlightened eye, first of all in His council chamber, and then in His great workshop. He is "wonderful in counsel"; He is "excellent in working."

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Some may remember the story of a Rugby public school boy, who heard when studying at Oxford of the sudden death of Dr. Arnold, his old headmaster, and lamented it bitterly, as indeed everyone who had known him did, but turned to a companion who sat by, and remarked that, after all, he perhaps owed more personal benefit to a dearly loved school friend, then dead, than to his master's influence. "You did not know, then," said his companion, "that Dr. Arnold chose him for you, and gave him to you purposely for your sake?" This was a revelation to the youth which completely overcame him, and after which he was ready to fall down and worship his good headmaster's memory. A strong feeling often exists in a manly, vigorous farmer and hard working men employed under him to this effect at harvest time: "We raised those good crops, we raised and thatched those fine stacks, and we deserve what we have got." Yes, you did, replies the text, for Divine providence taught and instructed you.

(C. S. Bird, M. A.)

This last word of the chapter is very expressive. It literally means furtherance, help, salvation, and then the true wisdom or insight which ensures these: the wisdom which carries things through. It splendidly sums up Isaiah's Gospel to the Jews, cowering like dogs before the coming calamity: God is not mere force or vengeance His judgments are not chaos. But "He is wonderful in counsel," and all His ways have "furtherance" or "salvation" for their end.

(Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

Sermon by the Monday Club.
In one of the squares of the Public Garden in Boston is a unique granite monument On it are several devices symbolic of its design. On one side are the words, "To commemorate the fact that the inhaling of ether produces insensibility to pain; first proved to the world at the Massachusetts General Hospital in October A.D. 1856." On another side is a quotation from Isaiah, "This also cometh from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." On another side are the Revelator's words, "There shall be no more pain." The monument is a testimony that relief from suffering is an outcome of the Gospel, and that the means thereto are from the Lord.

(Sermon by the Monday Club.)

When you see a plan in an architect's office that is very new and very pretty to look at, you say, "Ah! nothing has been done with it"; but when you see a plan that is smudgy and torn and almost broken through where it has been folded, you know that the man has done something with it. When Dr. Guthrie wanted his ragged schools founded, he called on a certain minister, who said, "Well, you know, Mr. Guthrie, there is nothing very new in your scheme; I and Mr. So-and-so have been thinking over a similar plan to yours for the last twenty years" "Oh, yes," said Dr. Guthrie, "I dare say; but you have never carried it out." So some people are always thinking over some very fine plan of their own; but while the grass grows the steed starves. Now me God who plans, also works.

( C. H. Spurgeon.).

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