The increase of the church by the conversion of the Jews and Gentiles. (1-5) Its certain deliverance. (6-10) Its triumphant state is described. (11-17)
Verses 1-5 Observe the low state of religion in the world, for a long time before Christianity was brought in. But by preaching the gospel, multitudes were converted from idols to the living God. This is matter of great rejoicing to the church. The bounds of the church were extended. Though its state on earth is but mean and movable, like a tent or tabernacle, it is sometimes a growing state, and must be enlarged as the family increases. But the more numerous the church grows, the more she must fortify herself against errors and corruptions. Thy Maker is thy Husband. Christ is the Holy One of Israel, the Mediator of the covenant made with the Old Testament church. Long he had been called the God of Israel; but now he shall be called the God of the whole earth. And he will cleanse from sin, and cause every true believer to rejoice in this sacred union. We never can enough admire this mercy, or duly value this privilege.
Verses 6-10 As God is slow to anger, so he is swift to show mercy. And how sweet the returns of mercy would be, when God should come and comfort them! He will have mercy on them. God's gathering his people takes rise from his mercy, not any merit of theirs; and it is with great mercies, with everlasting kindness. The wrath is little, the mercies great; the wrath for a moment, the kindness everlasting. We are neither to despond under afflictions, nor to despair of relief. Mountains have been shaken and removed, but the promises of God never were broken by any event. Mountains and hills also signify great men. Creature-confidences shall fail; but when our friends fail us, our God does not. All this is alike applicable to the church at large, and to each believer. God will rebuke and correct his people for sins; but he will not cast them off. Let this encourage us to give the more diligence to make our calling and election sure.
Verses 11-17 Let the people of God, when afflicted and tossed, think they hear God speaking comfortably to them by these words, taking notice of their griefs and fears. The church is all glorious when full of the knowledge of God; for none teaches like him. It is a promise of the teaching and gifts of the Holy Spirit. All that are taught of God are taught to love one another. This seems to relate especially to the glorious times to succeed the tribulations of the church. Holiness, more than any thing, is the beauty of the church. God promises protection. There shall be no fears within; there shall be no fightings without. Military men value themselves on their splendid titles, but God calls them, "Wasters made to destroy," for they make wasting and destruction their business. He created them, therefore he will serve his own designs by them. The day is coming when God will reckon with wicked men for their hard speeches, ( Jude 1:15 ) . Security and final victory are the heritage of each faithful servant of the Lord. The righteousness by which they are justified, and the grace by which they are sanctified, are the gift of God, and the effect of his special love. Let us beseech him to sanctify our souls, and to employ us in his service.
Isaiah 54:1-17 . THE FRUIT OF MESSIAH'S SUFFERINGS, AND OF ISRAEL'S FINAL PENITENCE AT HER PAST UNBELIEF ( Isaiah 53:6 ): HER JOYFUL RESTORATION AND ENLARGEMENT BY JEHOVAH, WHOSE WRATH WAS MOMENTARY, BUT HIS KINDNESS EVERLASTING.
Israel converted is compared to a wife ( Isaiah 54:5 , Isaiah 62:5 ) put away for unfaithfulness, but now forgiven and taken home again. The converted Gentiles are represented as a new progeny of the long-forsaken but now restored wife. The pre-eminence of the Hebrew Church as the mother Church of Christendom is the leading idea; the conversion of the Gentiles is mentioned only as part of her felicity [HORSLEY].
1. Sing--for joy ( Zephaniah 3:14 ).
barren--the Jewish Church once forsaken by God, and therefore during that time destitute of spiritual children ( Isaiah 54:6 ).
didst not bear--during the Babylonian exile primarily. Secondarily, and chiefly, during Israel's present dispersion.
the children--the Gentiles adopted by special grace into the original Church ( Isaiah 54:3 , Isaiah 49:20 Isaiah 49:21 ).
than . . . married wife--than were her spiritual children, when Israel was still a married wife (under the law, before the Babylonian exile), before God put her away [MAURER]. So Paul contrasts the universal Church of the New Testament with the Church of the Old Testament legal dispensation, quoting this very passage ( Galatians 4:27 ). But the full accomplishment of it is yet future.
2. ( Isaiah 49:19 Isaiah 49:20 , Jeremiah 31:31-36 Jeremiah 31:38 Jeremiah 31:39 ). Thy children shall be so many that thy borders must be extended to contain them.
curtains--the cloth forming the covering of the tent.
spare not--give abundantly the means for the enlargement of the Church ( 2 Corinthians 9:5-7 ).
cords . . . stakes--The more the tent is enlarged by lengthening the cords by which the cloth covering is fastened to the ground, the more the stakes supporting the tent need to be strengthened; the Church is not merely to seek new converts, but to strengthen those she has in the faith. The image is appropriate, as the tabernacle was the symbol of the old Israelitish Church
3. break forth--rather, "burst forth" with increase; thy offspring shall grow, answering to "thy seed" in the parallel clause.
thy seed--Israel and her children, as distinguished from "the Gentiles."
desolate cities--of Israel ( Isaiah 44:26 ).
4. ( Isaiah 41:10 Isaiah 41:14 ).
shame of thy youth--Israel's unfaithfulness as wife of Jehovah, almost from her earliest history.
reproach of widowhood--Israel's punishment in her consequent dismissal from God and barrenness of spiritual children in Babylon and her present dispersion ( Isaiah 54:1 , Isaiah 49:21 , Jeremiah 3:24 Jeremiah 3:25 , 31:19 , Hosea 2:2-5 ).
5. ( Isaiah 62:5 , Jeremiah 3:14 ). That God was Israel's "Maker," both as individuals and as the theocratic kingdom, is the pledge of assurance that He will be her Redeemer ( Isaiah 43:1-3 ). Hebrew, "makers . . . husbands"; plural for singular, to denote excellency.
of Israel . . . whole earth--Not until He manifests Himself as God of Israel shall He appear as God of the whole earth ( Psalms 102:13 Psalms 102:15 Psalms 102:16 , Zechariah 14:5 Zechariah 14:9 ).
6. called--that is, recalled: the prophetic past for the future.
forsaken--that had been forsaken.
when thou--or, "when she was rejected"; one who had been a wife of youth ( Ezekiel 16:8 Ezekiel 16:22 Ezekiel 16:60 , Jeremiah 2:2 ) at the time when (thou, or) she was rejected for infidelity [MAURER]. "A wife of youth but afterwards rejected" [LOWTH].
7. small moment--as compared with Israel's coming long prosperity ( Isaiah 26:20 , 60:10 ). So the spiritual Israel ( Psalms 30:5 , 2 Corinthians 4:17 ).
gather thee--to Myself from thy dispersions.
8. In a little wrath--rather, "In the overflowing of wrath"; as Proverbs 27:4 , Margin, [GESENIUS]. The wrath, though but "for a moment," was overflowing while it lasted.
hid . . . face--( Isaiah 8:17 , Psalms 30:7 ).
everlasting--in contrast to "for a moment."
9. I am about to do the same in this instance as in Noah's flood. As I swore then that it should not return ( Genesis 8:21 , 9:11 ), and I kept that promise, so I swear now to My people, and will perform My promise, that there shall be no return of the deluge of My wrath upon them. LOWTH, on insufficient authority, reads (the same will I do now as), "in the days of Noah."
10. ( Isaiah 51:6 , Psalms 89:33 Psalms 89:34 , Romans 11:29 ).
covenant of my peace--( 2 Samuel 23:5 ). The covenant whereby I have made thee at peace with Me.
11. not comforted--by anyone; none gave her help or comfort.
lay . . . with fair colours--rather, "lay . . . in cement of vermilion" [LOWTH]. The Hebrew for "fair colors" means stibium, the paint with which Eastern women painted their eyelids and eyelashes ( 2 Kings 9:30 ). The very cement shall be of the most beautiful color ( Revelation 21:18-21 ).
12. windows--rather, "battlements"; literally, "suns"; applied to battlements from their radiated appearance.
carbuncles--literally, "sparkling gems"; the carbuncle when held to the sun becomes like a burning coal.
all thy borders--rather, "thy whole circuit," consisting of precious stones. The glory of the Church on earth, when the Hebrew Church, according to the original design, shall be the metropolis of Christendom.
13. Quoted by the Saviour ( John 6:45 ), to prove that in order to come to Him, men must be "drawn" by the Father. So Jeremiah 31:34 , Micah 4:2 , 1 Corinthians 2:10 , Hebrews 8:10 , 10:16 , 1 John 2:20 .
great . . . peace--generally ( Psalms 119:165 ). Specially referring to the peaceful prosperity which shall prevail under Messiah in the latter days ( Isaiah 2:4 , 9:6 ).
14. righteousness--the characteristic of the reign of Messiah ( Isaiah 11:4 Isaiah 11:5 , Psalms 72:2 Psalms 72:4 , Revelation 19:11 ).
far from oppression, &c.--far from suffering oppression; "for thou shall have nothing to fear."
15. gather together, &c.--that is, If it should happen that enemies "gather together" against thee ( Psalms 2:2 ), they will not have been sent by Me (compare Hosea 8:4 ) as instruments of My wrath (nay, it will be with My disapproval); for "whosoever shall gather together," &c. ( Psalms 59:3 ).
fall for thy sake--rather, "shall come over to thy side" [LOWTH]. Literally, "fall to thee" ( Jeremiah 21:9 , 39:9 ). To be fully fulfilled to Jerusalem hereafter ( Zechariah 14:16 ).
16. The workman that forms "weapons against thee" ( Isaiah 54:17 ) is wholly in My power, therefore thou needest not fear, having Me on thy side.
for his work--rather, "by his labor [HORSLEY]. "According to the exigencies of his work" [MAURER].
waster to destroy--( Isaiah 10:5-7 , Isaiah 37:26 Isaiah 37:27 , 45:1-6 ). Desolating conquerors who use the "instruments" framed by "the smith." The repetition of the "I" implies, however, something in the latter half of the verse contrasted with the former understand it, therefore, thus: "I have in My power both him who frames arms and him who destroys them (arms)" [ROSENMULLER].
17. tongue . . . condemn--image from a court of justice. Those who desire to "condemn" thee thou shalt "condemn" ( Exodus 11:7 , Joshua 10:21 , Psalms 64:8 , Romans 8:1 Romans 8:33 ).
righteousness . . . of me--( Isaiah 45:24 , 46:13 ). Rather, "(this is) their justification from Me." Their enemies would "condemn" them, but I justify and vindicate them, and so they condemn their enemies.