to provide for those who grieve in Zion--to give them a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise in place of a spirit of despair. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
I. CHARACTER. "Beauty for ashes." The penitent is uplifted from the dust. Instead of standing before God in sad confession, with all the stains of sin upon his heart and the liturgy of woe upon his lips, he has new life. The beauty of the Lord is given to him - there is transformation.
II. EMOTION. "The oil of joy for mourning." No longer looking at the dark side of personal history and personal prospect. The very countenance is anointed with fresh oil - a type of what has taken place within the man. Because you cannot force joy, nor can yon pretend it. Nature sets herself against all forgeries. Such joy as a godly man experiences can only come from the good treasure of his heart.
III. EXPRESSION. "The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." The outward life is all so different. As God is said to clothe himself with light as with a garment, so the Easterns understood the garment of light to be the expression of the man himself, even as we now look to the habiliments of the mourner as testifying to his grief. The spirit of heaviness is distressing. It is not a thankful spirit, nor a hopeful spirit, nor an inspiring spirit. But the garment of praise is like the melody of the temple choir; like the music of the river; like the "lark that sings at heaven's gate." "Awake, psaltery and harp; I myself will awake right early." - W.M.S.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE PERSONS WHO HAVE A PRESENT INTEREST IN THE MEDIATION OF CHRIST. Such as "mourn in Zion." They differ from others —
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion.Isaiah 66:10) or those that mourn in her.
(Prof. J. Skinner, D.D.)
1. In respect of the spring or principle of their mourning. They mourn, as others do, in a natural way, for what is contrary to their natures and is considered hurtful to them. But they likewise mourn for what is most agreeable to their nature, in its present corrupt state. The corruption of their nature is itself a principal cause of their mourning, and therefore can proceed from no principle inherent in corrupt nature. It is the fruit of "the Spirit of grace and of supplication."
2. In respect of the object for whom they mourn. Self is always the reigning principle with unrenewed men. The inhabitant of Zion mourns also for himself, and while actuated by a principle of self-preservation it must be so: But he. mourns also —(1) For. his brethren.; for every fellow-creature whom he sees in misery; even for his enemies if any owl befall them.(2) For Zion, for the Church of God.(3) For Christ. They have a believing view of their own sin as laid upon Christ; therefore they consider every sin they have committed as a mortal wound given to Him.
3. In respect of the subject of their grief, or the thing for which they mourn.(1) For sin as well as for suffering.(2) For the filthiness as well as the guilt of sin.(3) For the sin of their nature as well as of their life.(4) For sins against Christ and the Gospel, as well as against God and the law.(5) For the sins of others as well as for their own.
4. In respect of the fruits and effects of their sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10, 11).(1) Whereas the sorrow of the world excites men to take methods of their own devising to still the clamours of conscience, the mourning here intended leads to that remedy which God Himself hath provided.(2) Whereas the sorrow of the world worketh death, crucifies the false hopes the man had entertained of safety in the way of sin, and, when rising to excess, tends to drive him to despair, the Christian mourning is a happy means of his being begotten again to a lively hope.(3) The sorrow of the world inflames the person's enmity against God, but the Christian's mourning stirs him up to embrace the offers of reconciliation with God. Being accompanied with hatred of sin, it serves to increase his love to God, His holy law and His service.(4) In a word, that sorrow for sin that may be found in an unrenewed man leaves him as it found him. Godly sorrow, on the contrary, worketh "repentance, not to be repented of" The person convinced of the evil and folly of sin, and encouraged by a heart-affecting view of the mercy of God in Christ, turns from sin with loathing of it turns to God with full purpose of heart, and from that time forth persists in a constant endeavour to walk with Him in all the ways of new obedience.
II. THE CONDITION THAT THESE PERSONS ARE IN, FOR THE MOST PART, WHILE IN THE WORLD. They are covered with "ashes"; employed in "mourning"; and under the prevailing influence of "the spirit of heaviness."
1. They are subject to all the ordinary miseries of this life, in common with other men.
2. They are affected to a great depth of sorrow by many things which are no affliction to the rest of mankind. They are affected with spiritual as well as temporal evils; sin, the hiding of God's face, the low state of the Church, the divisions among Church members, spiritual judgments, etc.
3. They are subject to many causes of mourning that either fall not upon others or befall them only in a small degree. They live in a foreign land while others consider themselves as at home. They run, and agonize, and strain themselves, in the race that is set before them, while others sit still and are at ease.
4. They are often subject to groundless discouragements through the prevalence of temptation and unbelief.
III. THE HAPPY CONDITION TO WHICH THESE MOURNERS SHALL BE BROUGHT. "Beauty for ashes," etc.
1. Even while the causes of their mourning continue, they are supported, encouraged, and comforted in such a manner as to afford them a happiness superior to what others enjoy in their best times.
2. They shall be completely, though gradually, delivered from all their mourning, and from all the causes of it.
3. They shall, at length, enjoy all that positive happiness which their natures are capable of.
4. They shall, at last, be fully sensible of all the happiness of their condition, and shall express their sense of it in songs of eternal praise.
IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH CHRIST WILL BRING ABOUT THIS HAPPY CHANGE.
1. He is commissioned to appoint these things for them. The word signifies to ordain by a judicial sentence. Christ, as King in Zion, is invested with the highest authority: God has committed to Him all judgment.
2. He is sent to give unto them what He has thus appointed for them.
Beauty for ashes.
(Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
2. Like the old processes of nature are the new ones that take place still. Out of the ashes of the local conflagration that has reduced the fields and forests to one uniform blackened waste comes forth the beauty of greener fields and forests of species unknown there before. Very strikingly is this seen on the dry hill-sides of the Sierra Nevada, covered with dense scrub which is often swept by fire. All the trees in the groves of pine that grow on these hill-sides, however unequal in size, are of the same age, and the cones which they produce are persistent, and never discharge their seeds until the tree or the branch to which they belong dies. Consequently, when one of the groves is destroyed by fire, the burning of the trees causes the scales of the cones to open, and the seed which they contain is scattered profusely upon the ground; and on the bare, blackened site of the old grove a young, green plantation of similar pines springs forth. This curious adaptation explains the remarkable circumstance that all the trees of the grove are of the same age. In an equally remarkable way the fires in the Australian bush, which are so destructive to the forests of that country, are made the very means of reproducing the vegetation.
3. Another illustration of the principle may be derived from volcanic regions. No scenes of earth are lovelier than those which are subjected to the frequent destructive action of volcanoes. The Bay of Naples is confessedly one of those spots in which scenic beauty has culminated. And yet this second Eden is the creation of volcanic fires. No soil is so fertile as crumbling lava and volcanic ashes. The destroyer of the fields and gardens is thus the renovator The ashes of the burning that has devastated homestead and vineyard reappear in the delicate clusters of the grape, and the vivid verdure of the vine-leaves which embower a new home of happiness on the site.
4. And — a case of extremes meeting — frost has the same effect as fire. No meadows are greener, no corn-fields more luxuriant, than those which spread over the soft that has been formed by the attrition of ancient glaciers. The cedars of Lebanon grow On the moraines left behind by ice-streams that had sculptured the mountains into their present shape; and over the ranges of the Sierra Nevada, the coniferous forests, the noblest and most beautiful on earth, are spread in long, curving bands, braided together into lace-like patterns of charming variety — an arrangement determined by the course of ancient glaciers, upon whose moraines all the forests of the Nevada are growing, and whose varied distribution over curves and ridges and high rolling plateaus, the trees have faithfully followed. Elsewhere throughout the world pine-woods usually grow, not on soil produced by the slow weathering of the atmosphere, but by the direct mechanical action of glaciers, which crushed and ground it from the solid rocks of mountain ranges, and in their slow recession at the end of the glacial period, left it spread out in beds available for tree-growth.
5. Is there not beauty for ashes, when the starchy matter which gives the grey colour to the lichen is changed by the winter rains into chlorophyl, and the dry, lifeless, parchment-like substance becomes a bright green pliable rosette, as remarkable for the elegance of its form as for the vividness of its colour? Does not the corn of wheat, when God, as Ezekiel strikingly says, "calls" for it and increases it, develop out of the grey ashes that wrap round and preserve the embers of its life, the long spears of bright verdure which pierce through: the dark wintry soil up to the sunshine and the blue air of heaven? All the beauty, of the green fields and woods, springing from the root, or the seed, or the weed, in produced from the ashes of previous vegetation. Some plants are found only where something has been burnt. Farmers say that wood ashes will cause the dormant white clover to spring up; and fields treated in this manner will suddenly be transfigured with the fragrant bloom. A lovely little moss, whose seed-vessels, by the twisting and untwisting of their stems, indicate the changes of the weather like a barometer, grows on moors and in woods in spots where fires have been; and it covers with its bright green verdure the sites of buildings, marking with its soft, delicate cushions where the hearthstone had been. From its fondness for growing in such places, it is known in France by the familiar name of La Charbonniere. After the great London fire, a species of mustard grew up on every side, covering with its yellow blossoms the charred ruins and the recently exposed soil strewn with ashes; and, as if to show some curious affinity between the conflagration of cities and the mustard tribe, after the more recent burning of Moscow, another species of the same family made its appearance among the ruins, and is still to be met with in the neighbourhood of that city.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)Thou show wonders to the dead?" And, in our days, cruel science comes and employs all its strength in ruthlessly rolling a great stone to the mouth of the sepulchre. But the Christian religion assures us that for the ashes of our dead we shall yet have immortal beauty.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)I. WHO GIVES THIS WORD? It comes from Him who said, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me;" "He hath sent Me to bind up the broken.hearted." Now, in a subordinate sense, Christian ministers have the Spirit of God resting upon them, and they are sent to bind up the broken-hearted; but they can only do so in the name of Jesus, and in strength given from Him. This word is not spoken by them, nor by prophets or apostles either, but by the great Lord and Master of apostles and prophets, and ministers, even by Jesus Christ Himself. If He declares that He will comfort us, then we may rest assured we shall be comforted! The stars in His right hand may fail to penetrate the darkness, but the rising of the Sun of Righteousness effectually scatters the gloom. If the Consolation of Israel Himself comes forth for the uplifting of His downcast people, then their doubts and tears may well fly apace, since His presence is light and peace. But who is this anointed One who comes to comfort mourners?
1. He is described in the preface to the text as a preacher. Remember what kind of preacher Jesus was. "Never man spake like this Man." He was a son of consolation indeed. It was said of Him, "A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench."
2. In addition to His being a preacher, He is described as a physician. "He hath sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted." Some hearts want more than words. The wounds are deep, they are not flesh cuts, but horrible gashes which lay bare the bone, and threaten ere long to kill unless they be skilfully closed. It is, therefore, a great joy to know that the generous Friend who, in the text, promises to deal with the sorrowing, is fully competent to meet the most frightful cases. Jehovah Rophi is the name of Jesus of Nazareth. "By His stripes we are healed."
3. As if this were not enough, our gracious Helper is next described as a liberator. "He hath sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound" There were many downcast persons in Israel in the olden times — persons who had become bankrupt, and, therefore, had lost their estates, and had even sunk yet further into debt, till they were obliged to sell their children into slavery, and to become themselves bondsmen. But the fiftieth year came round, and never was there heard music so sweet in all Judea's land as when the silver trumpet was taken down on the jubilee morn, and a loud shrill blast was blown in every city, and hamlet, and village, in all Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba. It meant: "Israelite, thou art free. If thou hast sold thyself, go forth without money, for the year of jubilee has come." Jesus has come with a similar message.
4. As if this were not all, one other matter is mentioned concerning our Lord, and He is pictured as being sent as the herald of good tidings of all sorts to us the sons of men. "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." Behold in the person of the incarnate God the sure pledge of Divine benevolence. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all," etc.
II. TO WHOM IS THIS WORD SPOKEN? To those who mourn in Zion. They are in Zion; they are the Lord's people, but they mourn. To mourn is not always a mark of grace. Nature mourns. Fallen human nature will have to mourn for ever, except grace shall change it. But the mourning here meant is a mourning of gracious souls. It assumes various shapes.
1. It begins in most hearts with lamentation over past sin.
2. True hearts also sorrow over their present imperfections.
3. The Christian mourner laments, also, because he cannot be more continuously in communion with God. A native of sunny Italy deplores the absence of heaven's bright blue, when made to dwell in this land of the fleecy clouds; and he who has dwelt in unclouded fellowship with the Lord bemoans his hard lot, if even for awhile he beholds not that face which is as the sun shining in its strength.
4. The real Christian mourns, again, because he cannot be more useful.
5. Moreover, like his Lord, he mourns for others. He mourns in Zion because of the deadness of the Christian Church, its divisions, its errors, its carelessness towards the souls of sinners. But he mourns most of all for the unconverted.
III. WHAT IS THAT WHICH IS SPOKEN in the text to those that mourn? Come, mourning souls, who mourn in the way described: there is comfort appointed for you, and there is also comfort given to you. It is the prerogative of King Jesus both to appoint and to give. Observe the change Christ promises to work for His mourners.
1. Here is beauty given for ashes. In the Hebrew there is a ring in the words which cannot be conveyed in the English. The ashes that men put upon their head in the East in the time of sorrow made a grim tiara for the brow of the mourner; the Lord promises to put all these ashes away, and to substitute for them a glorious head-dress — a diadem of beauty. Or, if we run away from the words, and take the inner sense, we may look at it thus: — mourning makes the face wan and emaciated, and so takes away the beauty; but Jesus promises that He will so come and reveal joy to the sorrowing soul that the face shall fill up again: the eyes that were dull and cloudy shaft sparkle again, and the countenance, yea, and the whole person, shall be once more radiant with the beauty which sorrow had so grievously marred.
2. Then, it is added, "He will give the oil of joy for mourning. Here we have first beauty, and then unction. The Orientals used rich perfumed oils on their persons — used them largely and lavishly in times of great joy. Now, the Holy Spirit comes upon those who believe in Jesus, and gives them an anointing of perfume, most precious, more sweet and costly than the nard of Araby. "We have an unction from the Holy One.
3. Then, it is added, to give still greater fulness to the cheering promise, that the Lord will give "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.' The man is first made beautiful, next he has the anointing, then afterwards he is arrayed in robes of splendour. "The garment of praise," what a dress is this! When a man wraps himself about, as it were, with psalmody, and lives for ever a chorister, singing not with equal voice, but with the same earnest heart as they do who day and night keep up the never-ending hymn before the throne of the infinite! AM, what a life is his, what a man is he!
4. Notice what will be the result of this appointment, "That they might be called trees of righteousness," etc. The original is like "oaks of righteousness," that is, they shall become strong, firmly rooted, covered with verdure; they shall be like a well-watered tree for pleasantness. But the very pith of the text lies ",m, a little word to which you must look. "Ye shall be called trees of righteousness. There are many mourning saints who are trees of righteousness, but nobody calls them so; they are so desponding that they give a doubtful idea to others. Observers ask, "Is this a Christian?" But, O mourners I if Jesus visits you, and gives you the oil of joy, men shall call you "trees of righteousness," they shall see grace in you. I know some Christian people who, wherever they go, are attractive advertisements of the Gospel. Nobody could be with them for half-an-hour without saying, Whence do they gain this calm, this peace, this tranquillity, this holy delight and joy?" Many have been attracted to the Cross of Christ by the holy pleasantness and cheerful conversation of those whom Christ has visited with the abundance of His love.
5. The result of all this goes further, "They shall be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord," that is to say, where there is joy imparted, and unction given from the Holy Spirit, instead of despondency, men will say, "It is God's work, it is a tree that God has planted, it could not grow like that if anybody else had planted it; this man is a man of God's making, his joy is a joy of God's giving."
6. Another word remains, "That He might be glorified." That is the great result we drive at, and that is the object even of God Himself, "that He might be glorified." For when men see the cheerful Christian, and perceive that this is God's work, then they own the power of God. Meanwhile, the saints, comforted by your example, praise and bless God, and all the Church lifts up a song to the Most High.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)I. JESUS CHRIST IS THE JOY-BRINGER TO MEN BECAUSE HE IS THE REDEEMER OF MEN. In the original application of my text to the deliverance from captivity, this gift of joy, and change of sorrow into gladness, was no independent and second bestowment, but was simply the issue of the one that preceded it, viz. the gift of liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. The gladness was a gladness that welled up in the heart of the captives set free, and coming out from the gloom of the Babylonian dungeon into the sunshine of God's favour, with their faces set towards Zion "with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads." You have only to keep firm hold of this connection between these two thoughts to come to the crown and centre-point of this great prophecy, as far as it applies to us, and that is that it is Christ as the Emancipator, Christ as He who brings us out of the prison and bondage of the tyranny of sin, who is the great Joy-giver. For there is no real, deep, fundamental and impregnable gladness possible to a man until his relations to God have been rectified, and until, with the consciousness of forgiveness and the Divine love nestling warm at his heart, he has turned himself away from his dread and his sin, and has recognized in his Father God "the gladness of his joy." There are many: us who feel that life is sufficiently comfortable without any kind of reference to God at all. But about all that kind of surface joy, the old words are true, "even in laughter the heart is sorrowful," and hosts of us are satisfied with joys which Jesus has no part in brining, simply because our truest self has never once awakened. When it does you will find out "that no one can bring real joy who does not take away guilt and sin.
II. JESUS CHRIST TRANSFORMS SORROW BECAUSE HE TRANSFORMS THE MOURNER. All that this Joy-bringer and Transmuter of grief into its opposite is represented as doing, is on the man who feels the sorrow. In regard to the ordinary sorrows of life, He affects these not so much by an operation upon our circumstances as by an operation upon ourselves, and transforms sorrow and brings gladness, because He transforms the man that endures it. The landscape remains the same, the difference is the colour of the glass through which we look at it. How does He do it?
1. By giving to the man sources of joy, if he will use them, altogether independent of external circumstances. "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom," etc. The paradox of the Christian life is "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
2. There is another way by which for us, if we will use our privileges, the sorrows of life may be transmuted, because we, contemplating them, have come to a changed understanding of their meaning. We shall never understand life if we class its diverse events simply under the two opposite categories of good — evil; prosperity — adversity; gains-losses; fulfilled expectations — disappointed hopes. Put them all together under one class — discipline and education; means for growth; means for Christlikeness. When we have found out, what it takes a long while for us to learn, that the lancet and the bandage are for the same purpose, and that opposite weathers conspire to the same end, that of the harvest, the sting is out of the sorrow, the poison is wiped off the arrow.
3. Here we may suggest a third way by which a transformation wrought upon ourselves transforms the aspect of our sorrows, and that is that possessing independent sources of joy, and having come to learn the educational aspect of all adversity, we thereby are brought by Jesus Christ Himself to the position of submission. That is the most potent talisman to transform mourning into praise. An accepted grief is a conquered grief; a conquered grief will very soon be a comforted grief; and a comforted grief is a joy.
III. JESUS GIVES JOY AFTER SORROW. Jesus Christ, even here and now, gives these blessed results of our sorrows, if they are taken to the right place, and borne in the right fashion. For it is they "that mourn in Zion that He thus blesses. There are some of us, I fear, whose only resource in trouble is to fling ourselves into some work, or some dissipation. And there are some of us whose only resource for deliverance from our sorrows is that, after the wound has bled all it can, it stops bleeding, and that grief simply dies by lapse of time, and for want of fuel. An affliction wasted is the worst of all waste. But if we carry our grief into the sanctuary, then, here and now, it will change its aspect, and be a solemn joy. I say nothing about the ultimate result, where every sorrow rightly borne shall be represented in the future life by some stage in grace or glory, where every tear shall be crystallized, if I might so say, into a flashing diamond, which flings off the reflection of the Divine light, where "there shall be no sorrow nor sighing, nor any more pain," for the former things are passed away. When the lesson has been learnt, God burns the rod. But there is another sadder transformation of joy into its opposite. I saw a few days ago, on a hill-top, a black circle among the grass and heather. There had been a bonfire there on Coronation night, and it had all died down, and that was the end — a hideous ring of scorched barrenness amidst the verdure. Take care that your gladnesses do not die down like that, but that they are pure, and being pure are undying. Separation from Christ makes joy shallow, and makes it certain that at last, instead of a garland, shall be ashes on the head, and that, instead of a festal robe, the spirit shall be wrapped in a garment of heaviness.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.).
Trees. of Righteousness.
Homilist.Notice some points of comparison which this figure suggests when used to represent the redeemed.
I. THEY ARE TREES. This indicates —
1. That they have life. They are not inanimate objects.
2. That they have dependent life. They are planted in the ground.- Their fertility depends on the soil. Those planted in Christ shall be fruitful.
3. That they have a life of growth. Spiritual life is a development.
II. THEY ARE GOODLY TREES. "Trees of righteousness." Not poisonous or useless objects. The object of trees is —
1. To afford shelter. They shade from the heat and the storm.
2. To adorn the world. They are the beauty of earth, its crown and delight.
3. To give fruit. They are the profit and sustenance of the sower. Trees of righteousness are all this in the spiritual world.
(Homilist.)Psalm 1:3; Psalm 92:12; Jeremiah 17:8; Hosea 14:5-7; John 15:1.; Revelation 22:2).
I. IN WHAT RESPECT DO TREES REPRESENT CHRISTIANS .II. Trees contribute largely to keep the atmosphere pure and healthful. When human beings, and indeed all animals, breathe out, there is given off a gas which is injurious and destructive to animal life. But this deleterious air is needful to the life and growth of plants; so trees and vegetation eagerly appropriate the air which is hurtful to us. At the same time the leaves of trees give off oxygen, which tends to purify the air, and render it fit for us to breathe. When the air around us has passed through an extent of leaf surface it is pure and invigorating There is a moral atmosphere, and the presence of Christian people in that moral atmosphere contributes to make it pure.
2. Trees supply many articles which are most useful in commerce — such as food, clothing, medicine. These things, as products in which men trade, tend to the enrichment and general benefit of society. Trees yield timber, with which our houses are built and our furniture is made. Palms yield edible fruits, and a great quantity of oil. And so, like these trees, true Christians contribute in many ways to benefit society at large. Look around on our own country, and notice the immense number of charitable institutions, etc. To what do they owe their existence? Unquestionably to the power of Christian love.
3. Trees are objects of great beauty. Scripture and poetry recognize the beauty of trees, and every one who has any eye to enjoy the charm of the country will readily admit that trees are objects of indescribable beauty. So there is a beauty, a charm, in the graces of Christian character as seen in purity of life, a loving, self-denying spirit which lays out its powers for the good of others (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Philippians 4:8).
4. Trees are endowed with great strength. There are grand old oaks which have stood for more than a thousand years. A friend told me that an engineer in his employ saw a cedar in Algiers which must have been more than two thousand years old. A writer in the Times gives the following calculation as to the age of the Mammoth pine of California. He says, "A friend has sent me two specimens of the wood of the Wellingtonea gigantea. Of the timber sent there are two pieces: one a specimen of the older, or heart-wood; the other a specimen of the more recent, or sap-wood." He then goes into a careful and elaborate calculation as to the age of the tree, and on the lowest estimate, he makes out that the tree was five thousand five hundred and forty-four years old. This long duration suggests how many storms and dangers the grand old tree has had to weather. So true Christians are possessed of great strength. Think of the many temptations, the many severe trials, through which such believers have had to pass!
II. THE PLANTING OF THESE TREES. They are not self-planted. They are not of man's planting. "The planting of the Lord."
1. Their nature in its fruit-bearing power and in its beauty and strength is given to them by the Lord. How did they become "trees of righteousness?" Not by any serf-originated choice or act of their own. The Gentiles are spoken of by Paul as being "cut out of the wild olive tree, which is wild by nature, and grafted contrary to nature into the good olive tree." Here the scion of the wild olive is represented as grafted on the stock of the productive oil-bearing one; and they are called on to remember that they derive their life and nourishment from the root of the stock, which, being holy, makes the branches holy (Romans 11:16, 18). All their life and sufficiency are from Christ alone.
2. The culture, as well as the nature, of these trees is of the Lord. "My Father is the Husbandman." "Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."
III. THE GREAT DESIGN AND END OF OUR BEING MADE TREES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. "That He might be glorified."
1. The glory of the Lord and our spiritual welfare go together. The beauty of the flower, the fruitfulness Of the tree, are the glory of the gardener.
2. The glory of the Lord is the highest end which any created being can serve. This was the grand end Christ kept before Himself, and accomplished: "I have glorified Thee on the earth." This in the deepest desire of every saint in his holiest moments: "that God in all things maybe glorified."
(G. W. Humphreys, B. A.)
I. WHY THEY ARE CALLED TREES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1. A tree is the beauty of the landscape. The Church of God is the beauty of the world.
2. A tree is remarkable for its strength. And there is that in the believer that gives one the conviction of strength. Where is his strength? He is united to Christ — "Rooted in Him."
II. THEY ARE DESCRIBED AS "THE PLANTING OF THE LORD." There are some trees that are not of His planting, and yet they seem for a time to be good trees. There is a good deal of outward acquaintance with Divine things, a good deal of outward change; yet, after all, it is not a tree of the Lord's right hand planting. It is a solemn truth — "Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." It may look well for a time; it may be fair and promising to the outward eye; but not being rooted in Christ, not bringing forth fruit, it shall be destroyed. But these are trees of "the Lord's planting." He chose them for His own. And with His own hand He transplants them out of the "waste howling wilderness, and plants them in His own garden. All the "trees of righteousness" are transplants. The end for which the Lord did it was that they might be," trees of righteousness.'
III. THE GREAT END. "That He might be glorified. It shall be His Glory when they exhibit the beauty of a consistent profession. He shall be glorified especially by their fruitfulness. Concluding remarks: If you are trees of the Lord, do not be surprised if He should take His knife. You must be exposed to storms.
(J. H. Evans, M. A.)I. HEN AS TREES.
1. As all trees have roots, so have all men. These roots are the principles which lie at the foundation of their character. These principles perform the same functions in the moral organism of a man as the root does in the material organism of a tree. The peculiar business of a tree-root is to collect the necessary food for sustaining the living body of the tree; and for this purpose it seems to be endowed with a kind of instinct which enables it to attract only those substances which correspond to the nature of the tree and will contribute to its growth, and to repel those which are different and would accordingly prove hurtful. Similarly, the principles which underlie human character are virtually the food-finders and life-sustainers of the soul, groping about among the scenes and circumstances and events by which they are surrounded, for such moral or immoral entertainment as is demanded by the nature of the being with which they are connected.
2. As all trees grow by assimilation from within, so do all men. You cannot build a tree, as you can build a house or construct a ship, by mechanical additions from without. The tree must build itself, by a delicate machinery of its own. In the same way does human nature grow by assimilation from within.
3. As all trees put forth leaves, so do all men. They put forth the leaves of an outward profession, not necessarily in words, but tacitly in external behaviour. A man without a profession is an impossibility. If there be vitality in a tree the annual approach of spring will make it bud and put forth tender sprouts; and so if there be vitality in a soul it will as surely clothe itself in a garment of speech and action. And as the leaves assume a shape and tint corresponding to the nature of the tree, so do the words and deeds of men contract a character from their souls.
4. As all trees produce fruit of some kind or other, so do all men. There is an endless variety among the fruits of the earth, but there are no trees that have not fruit of some kind; and there are no souls that are not continually producing fruit, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.
II. SAINTS AS TREES.
1. The saints as trees differ from the rest of men as to the kind of fruit they produce. They are "trees of righteousness, lit. oaks of righteousness, a phrase susceptible of different renderings, though the obvious one is perhaps as good as any, "oaks that bear the fruits of righteousness." Saints are instruments of holy service "created in Christ Jesus unto good works." They produce good works by the very same necessity as an oak bears acorns — a necessity of nature. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace," etc.
2. Saints as trees differ from the rest of men as to the special training or culture they receive. They are "the planting of the Lord." Other trees grow wild on the open common of an unprotected and sin-accursed world, enjoying no other culture than the laws of nature and the winds and rains of heaven are able to impart; but these have been uprooted from the sterile soil in which they grew and planted in the garden of the Church — uprooted by the skilful hand of the Great Husbandman of souls, and planted beside the gentle streams of grace that proceed from the throne of God, in some quiet and secluded corner, where they are carefully trained and tended.
3. Saints as trees differ from the rest of men as to the ultimate end for which they grow. Other trees have no end to serve beyond bearing their appropriate fruits, but these have a special view to the honour and reputation of the Husbandman who planted them; being "the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified." So does Christ say of saints, "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit."
(W. Jones.)1. One thing which strikes us in connection with trees is their very small beginnings, e.g. the oak. The trees of righteousness are small in their beginnings. Faith, as exercised at first, is only as a grain of mustard seed. Grace, as first experienced in the heart, is a very tender plant. Look at , and Wesley, and Whitefield, and many others, who illustrate the perfection that is attainable here. And see what perfection these trees of righteousness may attain hereafter.
2. Trees are slow and progressive in their growth. The concentric circles that may be seen within certain kinds of trees, have come there by the annual addition of one; and in full-grown ones there may be counted as many as a hundred or more. Hence an idea may be gathered of the gradualness of development in tree life. The trees of righteousness are often similarly slow and progressive in their growth. We should not be discouraged because we do not reach perfection at once. Walking is a favourite Scriptural mode of describing the progress of a godly life. The believer is represented first as a babe, then as passing through a state of youthhood, and then as having reached the maturity of manhood in Christ Jesus.
3. Great varieties distinguish trees. Among the well-known kinds are the strong and kinglike oak, the lofty and aspiring pine, the graceful and lovely beech, the timid and trembling aspen, the unsocial thorn, the dependent ivy, and many others. There are equally great varieties within the sphere of religious life. Moses' nature was equable, Elijah's stern, and inflexible, Isaiah's buoyant, Jeremiah's plaintive, Peter's impulsive, and John's amiable. And what varieties are met with in the sphere of modern religious life! We may be reminded, in relation to this fact, that we should not trouble ourselves because we are not like somebody else.
4. Observe in trees a dependence on external conditions for their growth and development. In all the stages of vegetable life the influences of the soil and of the atmosphere are necessary to a full and healthy growth. The trees of righteousness require certain outward conditions for their growth and development. Their spiritual vitality is not self-originated and underived. We should therefore not neglect communion with Him who is "the fountain of life and of grace," by the means which are intended to secure us these benefits.
5. Notice also the different effects upon trees of the sun's powerful influence at certain seasons of the year, and of the diminution of that influence at other seasons. When the sun comes forth "as a bridegroom from his chamber," and "rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race," as he does in the vernal season of the year, how beautifully the trees begin to exhibit signs of returning life! How they put forth shoots! How they cover themselves with foliage! And how, by and by, they are laden with fruits! But when his influence is partially withdrawn or modified, as in the autumnal season, how quickly there appear the tints which are sure signs of decay. God's people are similarly affected by the Sun of Righteousness. When they enjoy His radiant and genial beams, as they never fail to do when they do not interpose their own unbelief, how admirable is the effect! But when the Sun of Righteousness withdraws Himself, or hides His face from His people through their unfaithfulness, then there ensues a period of decay, and even death.
6. Trees arc useful. This is not merely the case with such trees as provide us with delicious fruit, or furnish us with materials for the manufacture of articles of clothing, or supply us with certain medicines, or yield us timber for the construction of our dwellings, it is the ease with all trees. A writer, who is an authority, tells us, "Every tree in nature makes itself felt in the good it does the air." The trees of righteousness arc useful. This is the case with all. We may not have the commanding abilities of some, nor occupy the positions of influence of others; but all who are living truly Christian lives, however hidden from public gaze, are helping to purify the moral atmosphere of society, and of the world. And this is usefulness that receives Divine approval.
(J. A. Rimmer.)I. THE SUGGESTIVE DESCRIPTION OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD'S PEOPLE AND OF THEIR RELATION TO HIM. "Trees."
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS CHARACTER IS TO BECOME THE POSSESSION OF MEN. "The planting of the Lord." God is His own gardener, and those who would know the blessedness of being "God's husbandry" are to be in all things submitted to God's hand.
1. God chooses the position in which His trees are to be planted.
2. He hides the roots in life-giving soil.
3. He visits our life with the renewing power of His own life. "As the rain cometh down and watereth the earth and maketh it bring forth and bud," so is the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the inner life of those who "ask the Father" that it may be so.
III. THE GREAT PURPOSE WHICH THIS CHARACTER IS TO SERVE. "That He might be glorified." Christians are called to increase the honour of the Divine name.
1. In the spiritual condition of their" own life. Trees of righteousness must exhibit, the beauty, and symmetry of a rightly-formed and healthily-developed spiritual life..
2. This character has to be shown as the most truly living thing the world contains.. If you erect a building and fill it with industrious or noisy people, and by the side, of it plant a few elm trees, you will find that "life's little day ebbs out" from within the house, that even the building crumbles towards decay, and that the trees, living and increasing in force of life, will run their roots beneath and through the foundations until they have warped the whole structure and brought it to its overthrow. One has standing room for its lifeless form on the earth, the other lives, and therefore overcomes. And the Christian has to show the world that though it may erect the sturdiest structures out of itself, there is a mightier presence in the character of godliness which by roots of living union gathers its power from Christ, and which will overthrow resistance and establish itself with the calm irresistibleness of eternal life planted and watched over by the almighty and unchangeable God.
3. Trees of righteousness must cause men to taste the fruit of righteousness and to live under its shadow. We all love shadow. None would like to be deprived of its beauty or of its refreshment. And even to think afar off of some fruit-trees is to experience real pleasure. Oh! for the spirit of Christ to dwell in us so richly that to have our society would be like walking beneath thickly overhanging trees in the noontide heat, or roaming at will in a well watered garden, and would cause men to give ungrudging testimony that Christian character was earth's true similitude of heaven.
(W. H. Jackson.)
(W. H. Jackson.)
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