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Isaiah in a vision is commissioned to prophesy.
1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
12 And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
13 But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
The risk of being given up to an impenitent mind.
S. John refers in his Gospel to the commission here given to the prophet, and to the burden of woe here laid upon God's people, that they should be unwilling to believe, saying, "These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him;" John 12. 41; that is, when he saw Christ's glory, and spake of Christ. So that it is certain that Isaiah beheld in this vision the glory of our Saviour. And it is highly probable that this is one of the earliest visions, if not the very first, vouchsafed to this prophet. For it seems to relate to his most solemn divine commis
sioning to undertake the prophetic office. He saw, in the spirit, as it were a temple, and One seated on a throne therein; One whose train filled the temple; the Lord, whose glory fills his church. In a similar vision in the Book of Revelation, there appear four living creatures, with six wings each, of whom it is said, that "they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." Rev. 4. 8. Like to these are the seraphim seen on this occasion; and their voices are heard singing the like hymn of praise. And if the temple of God's presence is moved at the sound, no wonder that the heart of the prophet fails within him; no wonder that the consciousness of his own sins, and of the sinfulness of those amongst whom he dwelt, should fill him with lively apprehensions upon beholding, after this lively sort, "the King, the Lord of hosts." But what a sudden refreshment of his spirits was this, which was ministered unto him by one of the seraphim! What a comfort to us, as we reflect on God's dread presence, and think how all our sins will stare us in the face, when we shall stand before his throne, what a comfort to hope, that the altar, whereof we have partaken, will suffice to purge away all our iniquity; not by its coals touching our lips, but by the virtue of the sacrifice offered thereon, being applied to purify our souls!
The spirits of the prophet being thus revived, he undertakes, at the divine invitation, the prophetic office. But most fearful is the tenour of his instructions. He was to tell the people of their wilful blindness to God's truth; and he was to warn them, that for their sins God would render them yet more blind, and deaf, and unbelieving. And this state of things was to last, he is told, until their cities were wasted, and their land made desolate, and their people removed far away. But at the same time he was to let them know, that a remnant would return, a remnant which after a while would be again devoured, of which there would however still be a "holy seed," even as of a teil tree or of an oak, "whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves," which are alive when they seem all dead. A dreadful message taken all together, though not unmixed with mercy! A profitable warning to those among ourselves, who hear, but understand not, and see, but perceive not. They think perhaps to repent ere it be too late. But if they wilfully put off repenting, the time may be more nigh at hand than they suppose, when the sentence shall go forth against them, that as they have begun so they must go on, impenitent and faithless to the end.
PART VII. O. T.
In the jeopardy of Judah the Lord himself giveth a sign. 1 And it came to pass in the it come to pass. days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.
2 And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind. 3 Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field; 4 And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.
5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, 6 Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:
7 Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall
8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.
9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
The birth of Jesus our pledge of salvation.
This confederacy of the kings of Israel and Syria, against Ahaz king of Judah, is recorded in the books of Kings and Chronicles. See 2 Kings 16; 2 Chron. 28. There also we read how wicked Ahaz was, and how little deserving the protection of the Lord. Yet it pleased the Lord to protect him, out of regard to the promises made unto David his father. And it pleased God also to send by Isaiah an assurance of protection. At the very spot where the Assyrians in after times defied the city and people
of the Lord, See 2 Kings 18. 17, there did the prophet give assurance to Ahaz, that he need not fear his foes; there did he make light of their furious purposes, and declare, in the name of the Lord, that Syria, and no more, should appertain to the monarch of Damascus; Ephraim and not Judah, to the king of Israel; and moreover, that within threescore and five years from that time, the kingdom of Ephraim should be utterly destroyed. To which assurance the prophet adds these words of warning, "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established." Judah should be cut off as well as Ephraim. And in like manner, Christians, no less certainly than Jews. We may seem to have safety for the present. And very probably the most impenitent amongst us may be visited by no signal chastisement on earth, or like Ahaz may be protected from the evils which they most justly deserve. But surely they shall not be established. If like Ahaz, and like Judah and Jerusalem, they persist in disobedience, their sin will find them out at length; and that, when it will be too late to repent.
It was probably in reference to this promise of protecting "the house of David," that "the Lord spake again unto Ahaz," and offered him by the prophet a sign, by way of pledge of protection. And it was because Ahaz would fain apply to the Assyrians for help, see 2 Kings 16. 17, that he refused the proffered sign, pretending to do so in compliance with a precept of the Law. See Deut. 6. 16. Upon which refusal, the Lord gives a sign unasked, a sign well fitted to raise the hopes, and to confirm the faith, of those who still believed and hoped in Him; a sign that it would be in vain for the gentiles and the people of Israel to be gathered together, with a view to put down the son of David from the throne of Judah, to put down God's anointed King from his holy hill of Sion. See Acts 4. 27. " Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." For this sign God's faithful people were to wait. Till this sign took place, nay and further, till the child thus marvellously conceived, but fed in the ordinary manner during infancy, should grow of age to refuse the evil and choose the good, the sceptre should not depart from Judah; and the holy land which Ahaz was abhorring, or, was provoking God to visit with the height of his displeasure, should then, and not till then, be finally "forsaken of both her kings." Such was the sign given by the Lord himself to his people aforetime, as the object of their hope. Such is the sign which we know to have been fulfilled in the miraculous conception and birth of Christ. See Matt. 1. 23. Let it be to us a pledge of salvation. Let us think of God's power manifested in this else unheard of miracle. Let us think of the child thus born, the holy child Jesus, as "Immanuel," or God with us. And let us rejoice in belonging to that kingdom of his, before which all others must fade away, in being subjects of that King, of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end. See Ch. 9. 7.
The wasting of Judah by Assyria foretold.
17 The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria. 18 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
19 And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.
20 In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet and it shall also consume the beard.
21 And it shall come to pass in
that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep; 22 And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give that he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.
23 And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns.
24 With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns.
25 And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.
The desolation of those who trust in the world.
The land spoken of in this chapter, as doomed to be "forsaken of both her kings," ver. 16, is usually supposed to mean the two countries of Samaria and Syria. But that it rather means the holy land of Canaan, the one land divided for a time into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, appears probable, for this reason amongst others, that this remainder of the chapter points plainly to evil about to betide the realm of Judah, and the kings of the house of David. And these prophetic warnings seem to be immediately connected with the prophetic note of time previously set down, according to which, the holy land, which Ahaz had so largely helped to pollute, would have lost both its proper kings, if not before the birth of the Messiah, yet previously to his growing up to man's estate. In confirmation of which view, it may be mentioned, that according to the opinion of many who are learned in the history of those times, Judea was reduced into the form of a Roman province at or about the twelfth year after the birth of our blessed Lord; the very year in which "all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers." Luke 2. 47. Ahaz then and Judah are here warned, that though they should not be destroyed by this particular invasion of the kings of Israel and Syria, yet were their days numbered, the sceptre must at