Jehovah's salvation again fully manifested. A renewed insistence
on the observance of the Sabbath, as it shall be by Israel in the future.
now come to the third and last subdivision of the third and last part
of Isaiah, and both name and number again remind us that we have "The
salvation of Jehovah fully manifested." Here the book begins again, as
it were, since we have in these closing addresses a reiteration of the
exposure of sins, the pleadings of love, the warnings of danger, the
divine discrimination between pride and penitence as at first, and in
all we may discern graphic pictures of what affects us today. The Word
of God, like its Author, never becomes aged, but bears the vitality of
youth through centuries and millennia. Yes; thousands of years may
intervene, generations, as we count them, may come and go, yet these
are all linked vitally together, and so unified by a common nature that
they are morally one generation—a truth that throws its light on Matt.
23:36 and 24:30. That generation repeats its sad history constantly;
Christendom is only heathendom veneered with a form of godliness. So
our chapter begins with the wrestling of the Spirit of God with us,
poor foolish Jacob-like men, who ever seek to maintain our "standing"
in the flesh before Him, and in verse after verse of convicting power
He touches the hollow of the thigh, till we again hang helpless,
dependent and therefore happy, upon Him who thus overcomes that He may
bless, without any sorrow accompanying the blessing.
1: Cry aloud! Spare not! Lift up thy voice!
Yea, lift it up as a bugle!1
Show to the house of Jacob its sins,
Their rebellion unto My people.
2: Day after day do they seek after Me,
Take delight in My ways to be learning,
As though 'twere a nation that always did right,
Nor the judgment of God had forsaken;
They call upon Me for the judgment of right,
In approaching to God they take pleasure.2
prophet must not whisper, but cry aloud so unpalatable a truth,
bringing home to them as constituting God's witness on earth, what is
its true condition. It is in rebellion! They would never have
recognized it, nor owned to it, apart from this Voice thus lifted up.
If a reasonable degree of "religion" be maintained, a sleepy conscience
readily acquits of so heinous a crime as rebellion. Is it then to be
wondered at that the gift of prophecy is by no means popular? People do
not love unpalatable truths, and when they have the alternative of
listening to soothing assurances, moving eloquence, pleasing
illustrations, and entertaining anecdotes, they not unnaturally avoid
and withdraw as far as they can from the scathing rebukes of the
prophet, and so prophecy is despised (1 Thess. 5:20). They rebellious!
What steady attendants they are in the Temple, or Synagogue, or as we
should say, "How consistently we 'go to Church,' or attend some
'Meeting'! What more can we do?" So confident are those here addressed,
that they call on God to intervene in the most thorough judicial
investigation, which they are assured can but issue in their
justification. Do they not take pleasure in Temple ritual? Do we not
enjoy the Church-services? There is a Prophet who is lifting up His
Voice aloud this very day. Have you heard It, reader? (Rev. 3:14-23).
There is great blessing attached to hearing that Voice, incalculable
loss in being deaf to it. Here they actually indict Jehovah for lack of
response to their religious fidelity:
3: Why do we fast? Thou dost not see!
Why humble our souls?
Naught Thou carest!
and He answers:
Lo, in your fasts, 'tis your pleasure ye find,
Exact a full tale from your labor.
4: Lo, ye do fast with wrangling and strife,
And smite with the fist closed in anger.
Your fasting today doth not avail
To make your voice heard in the heavens.
5: Is it such fast as this that I choose?
A day for a man's soul's affliction?
Is it to bow his head as a rush?
To spread sackcloth and ashes beneath him?
Wilt thou indeed call this a true fast,
A day of delight to Jehovah?
6: Is not this rather the fast that I choose,
T'unfasten the fetters of falsehood?
That ye loosen the bands of the yoke
And let the oppressed go in freedom,
Break every yoke into pieces?
7: That thou divide with the hungry thy food,
And bring to thy home the poor outcasts?
When seeing the naked, thou provide him with clothes,
And from thine own flesh never hide thee?
8: Then shall thy light break forth as the dawn,
And thy health shall speedily spring up;
Then shall thy righteousness march in thy van,
Jehovah's full glory thy rear-guard.
9: Then shalt thou call, and Jehovah respond;
Thou shalt cry. Here I am, shall He answer.
If thou dost banish the yoke from thy midst,
Cease pointing the finger; stop slander;
10: If to the hungry thou draw out thy soul;
Comfort the soul of the mourner;
Then shall thy light stream out of the gloom,
Thy darkness be as the noonday!
11: Then shall Jehovah constantly guide,
Thy soul in dry seasons replenish,
Infuse with new vigor thy wearying bones,
Thou shalt be as a well-watered garden:
As a fountain whose waters fail never.
12: The ruins of ages thy children shall build,
Thou shalt raise up again the foundations.
So shalt thou be called, Repairer of breach,
Restorer of streets for man's dwelling.
13: If thou shalt turn from the sabbath thy foot,
My holy day using for pleasure,
But shalt call the sabbath a day of delight,
The holy day of Jehovah;
Owning that He hath honored that day,
For thus shalt thou give Him full honor;
Walking no longer in thine own ways,
Nor seeking to do thine own pleasure,
Nor speaking the words that are idle;
14: Then shalt thou have thy joy in the Lord,
Shalt ride upon earth's highest places;
I'll feed thee the lot of Jacob, thy sire:
For the mouth of Jehovah hath said it.
we have Jehovah's probe going deep into the wound that sin has made.
Here we see the contrast between religious man's idea of fasting and
Jehovah's. As to man, self and self-interest being the center of all
his thoughts, even while he himself religiously fasts, he seeks his own
profit by making others work for him. Further, the very fasting, the
very abstinence from food, results in an increased irritability that
leads to wrangling, and even smiting with clenched fist.3 Is
that, says Jehovah, the conception you have of your God? Does that show
that you have any true knowledge of Him? What pleasure can He take in
seeing a man merely put on sackcloth, sit on ashes, and bow down his
head as a bulrush! Prayers from such self-centering can never rise
higher than the petitioner's own head. The very fasting fills you up
full with pride! The very humbling is a source of boasting!
is what delights Him—to see unloosened the bonds of sin wherewith all
men are shackled, those works of the devil; that the burdened
conscience be relieved; the hungry fed; that thou take to thine own
house the homeless, and clothe the naked, finding thy "neighbor"
wherever there is need among men. Remember that thou sharest their
flesh; withdraw not thyself then from any in suffering, sorrow or need.
had He to wait before He saw that which perfectly answered these
desires in any on earth. At length One comes, who goes about doing
good, healing all oppressed by the devil, feeding the hungry in
thousands, clothing the naked, till they sit in their right mind at His
feet. On Him, the Spirit of God as a dove that had long sought a
resting-place as He hovered over this sea of humanity, at last found a
congenial home. So He went on, never hiding Himself from His own
flesh—that is, from any man. Let the publican, Matthew, make Him a
feast, He despises not the company of publicans and sinners. Let the
Pharisee invite Him to dine, and He refuses not the cold invitation.
Till at length that "path uncheered by earthly smiles," led Him to the
Cross, and there, the very spear that pierced His side—the spear at the
point of which all man's hate may be said to have been focused, became
the point at which all God's love was also focused, for it drew forth
the Blood to save.
Yes; One, and One only, ever thus gave to God
perfect delight; but here is a very precious secret: as we abide in
conscious helplessness in Him even we too please God, and in no other
way. He, Christ, is the Fountain whence flows perennial floods of all
goodness. We are but leaky vessels, yet abiding under the flow of that
Fountain, we, even we, may be channels of those living waters (John
7:37). In the few days that may be left to us may their flow be not
hindered by our own self-sufficiency or unbelief!
Note the lovely
circle of blessing that verses 6 to 12 puts before us. Grace leads to
self-forgetful holiness, and this receives such tokens of approving
love as He told of in John 14:21-23. Does one speak for any beside
oneself in mourning the rare enjoyment of these tokens? Then let us not
indict His truth, but draw nearer to Him in assured confidence that it
is not due to any change in His love, for He longs to make us each a
channel of that goodness that actually needs human channels for its
The address is indeed to Israel on earth, but we are
dull indeed if we cannot hear under it a word for ourselves. The gloom
of Israel's sorrows shall all pass away; the gracious light of His love
shall shine upon her in her remnant, not at first with that noonday
brilliancy that would blind under present conditions (for we need to be
ourselves like Him to endure that, 1 John 3), but in the lovely rose of
dawn. Then, by a second figure, sickness shall give place to perfect
health, and Israel (and we) shall be led in triumph, as He here speaks:
"Then shall thy righteousness march in the van, and the glory of
Jehovah be thy rear-guard"—a triumphant procession of safety,
certainty, and enjoyment; for Jehovah here puts Himself as listening
for the very first appeal or cry, and at once answering, "Here am I."
Think of that, my fellow-believers, think of the "high and exalted One
who inhabits eternity" waiting on such poor creatures as we, and
instantly responding to our cry with "Here am I!"
But there may
still be some obscurity as to the precise force of "Thy righteousness
shall go before thee." Might we not say, "My righteousness, Lord! Why,
what righteousness have I, when it is, at its best, only filthy rags,
and does not all Scripture confirm this verdict? Both Old and New
Testament concur in crying: 'There is none righteous; no, not one.'
What righteousness then have I?"
But both Old and New Testament
also concur in this, that there is another righteousness that is still
ours: "Not having my own righteousness which is of the law, but that
which is through the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is
of God by faith" (Phil. 3:9). And with this our prophet is in perfect
harmony: "And their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord" (chap.
54:17) and again, another prophet writes (Jer. 23:6): "The Lord our
righteousness," Jehovah Tzidkehnu.
The promise cannot refer to
our own works, of whatever character they are; it is Christ our Lord
who of God is made unto us "righteousness" (1 Cor. 1:30), and who, thus
preceding, is indeed our Guide and Protector. We are on our way to God:
Apollyon bestrides the way and by constant accusation opposes our
advance. Let our Righteousness answer him, and this what we hear: "Who
shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that
justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea
rather, that is risen again" (Rom. 8:33, 34). Can he answer that? No,
indeed; he flees from "our Righteousness," and our van is secure.
may "the glory of Jehovah," the perfect outshining of His highest
divine excellencies, bring up the rear, for there are always some weak
stragglers, who cannot, for one cause or another, keep up with the main
body. Shall these be cut off by the flying squadrons of the foe? How
much the "glory of God" would suffer! It is secured by gathering up4 those poor, feeble, halting ones with whom some of us have much sympathy. God be thanked for both vanguard and rearguard.
verse 9 we have three present evils that prevent the expressions of the
Lord's love; first oppression (or the yoke) of those over whom some
social or financial advantage may give that power. Then scoffing
(pointing the finger) at those on the same social level; and, lastly,
feigning friendliness publicly, yet speaking evil (or vanity) of those
in some superior position to ourselves. These are the muddy waters from
the cesspool of the first Adam, and not the clear crystal spring that
flows from Christ who "is the Fountain, the clear sweet spring of
love"; and apart from whom all human love is but a shadow of what flows
from His gracious heart.
Self-forgetful solicitude for others in
distress will never lack tokens of our Father's approval (see John
14:23). Nor does this good Shepherd leave His poor sheep to find their
way by themselves. He so leads them by the waters of quietness, that,
let the drought be ever so prolonged, they shall not be affected. Nay,
more; they themselves shall not be as a mirage that deceives the
thirsting traveler, but their ministry shall be refreshing to all. And
those old foundations, that have been covered up with earth for many
generations, shall be again built upon, till far and wide shall
Israel's fame spread, and the very name of "Breach-repairer" shall be
given her (ver. 12).
This reference to the dirt-covered
foundations being again used, has its first application to the cities
of Palestine; but who can fail to see the striking spiritual
correspondence in the history of the Church of God? We know well that
at the Reformation there was a marvelous uncovering of the "foundation"
of justification by faith; and that uncovering has gone on ever since,
till within comparatively recent years the Lord's return as a present
hope has been "uncovered," and given great joy to myriads.
chapter closes with another strong reference to the sabbath, which
shall be in the millennial day the "sign" of Israel's complete
restoration. Man by nature loves his own way, and ever looks after his
own interests. The legal sabbath, calling him from this, is, and ever
will be anything but a delight, for it severs him from what is that; so
that if his pursuit for gain be prevented by long-established custom,
he will turn what is thought to be the sabbath to an opportunity for
his pleasure, as the crowds of pleasure-seekers do on Sunday. If then
he can genuinely and sincerely find his truest joy in cessation from
everything that is for his own profit or fleshly pleasure, it evidences
a new birth, and then indeed restored Jacob's portion shall be his.
this mark out our path as to the sabbath? Must the Christian if he
would please God (and there can be no true Christian to whom this is
not the first desire) observe, by absolute rest, the seventh day of the
week? For let tradition say what it will, Scripture at least knows no
substitution of the first day for the seventh. Nay, he lives in a
sphere where, as far as true rest goes, of conscience and of heart, his
sabbath is perpetual; and he neither knows nor looks for a sabbath
beyond this, save that future rest of God—that sabbath-keeping that
remains still for the people of God (Heb. 4:9) and to enter into which
he now "labors." Rest and labor are antithetical, and can never
As to any day being observed as a religious
obligation, that is, from a scriptural point of view, impossible. The
Christian does indeed delight in the law of God after the "inward man";
and what Scripture calls "the righteous requirements of the law"5
are indeed fulfilled in him as he walks after the Spirit. But the
sabbath, as given to the Jew, and, in the decalogue never to any but
the Jew, although its primary institution was for man as man, he soon
lost all claim to it, which became lodged alone in the "Son of Man"
(Matt. 12:8). The observance of the sabbath is never pressed in the New
Testament as one of those "righteous requirements," but rather is the
believer warned against any who would judge him "in respect of a
sabbath," for to him even that is but a shadow, the substance of which
he has in Christ (Col. 2:16).
Here the addressed are the children
of Jacob; a word that with peculiar force attaches the mind to that
people whose path nationally has reduplicated that of their father
Jacob in its wandering from their home, in its long toiling service, in
its sure restoration to its land, in its there passing through that
time called "Jacob's trouble" (the night of the wrestling), and finally
in its complete restoration to Bethel.
The sabbath must be
considered in the light of the present place of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, in the heavenlies, above the sun, and therefore above
all those divisions of time that result from the earth's revolutions
around it. He now is not resting only on the seventh day; nor do
angelic Principalities and Powers observe the sabbath. In the world we
have tribulation, whether on the seventh or any other day; but in
Christ, and in Christ alone, have we rest and peace. The very
observance of days, months, times and years (apart from that love which
would not stumble any) is in itself a practical denial of the
Christian's position (Gal. 4:10).
1 The word involves a sharp, clear awakening sound.
Delitzsch renders: "They desire the drawing near of God." I have
hesitated long before adopting the alternative as in the text, but
Matt. 15:8 seems decisive.
3 Possibly this may have been the reason the Papacy permits a full meal on fish and calls it fasting!
4 The very word rendered "rearward" is asaph, which means "to gather," and so, "bring up the rear."
5 A strictly literal rendering of the Greek dikaioma in Rom. 8:4 (See Revised Version, margin).