Isaiah 1:25


I. THE JUDGE. He is "Jehovah of hosts, the Strong One of Israel." He saith, "By the strength of my hand I have done it" (Isaiah 10:13). He has power to carry out his sentences. The holy fire of his indignation breaks forth like a volcanic flood. From one point of view evil men must be conceived as the enemies of God, and their punishment as his vengeance. If alone dwelt upon, such a representation becomes false, because it ignores the aspect of Divine love, which converts this holy vengeance into a remedial process. Human vengeance would extinguish the sinner and the sin in one act; Divine vengeance would save the sinner by extinguishing the sin.

II. THE PURPOSE OF JUDGMENT.

1. It is separation. The dross and the lead are to be detached from the silver. Human nature is a mixture. There are two extremes to be avoided in thinking of it - one that it is all evil, the other that it is all pure. Pessimism enervates, and optimism hoodwinks us. The Bible always takes the middle view. Things are bad enough with us, but they might be worse. We are sunk low enough, but cannot sink out of sight of our spiritual end, nor beyond the redeeming power of God. The separation of the gross and base element from the spiritual in men involves a fiery process. This fire is always burning in the heart of mankind, sometimes breaking out into flame and fume of war or pestilence, to remind of its presence. God has in constant operation his purgatory for souls. It is this truth which only can reconcile us to the presence of suffering. As mere pain it seems intolerable; as the means to the removal of evil it is blessed.

2. It is restoration. The better on golden age is ever ready to begin; good judges and rulers will again be given to the city, and it will deserve the title of Righteous and Faithful once more. When we see clearly the abuses that exist, and the necessity of fiery suffering for the renewal of purity, we have grasped a hope that cannot fail. God is ever remaking and recasting life. Not a day passes but some rust gathers, some disintegration of solid structure takes place. It may appear in any and every day that society is becoming hopelessly choked in its vices; or that we ourselves are slipping down into moral ruin. Yet in a happier morning mood it seems that all is mending with ourselves and the world. God's holiness is the vital sap of human life, and when we die to hope of ourselves, we live anew in him. Conversion, if real, will take place, not once, but many times in a life. The heliotrope turns every morning by a fresh effort to the sun. The result of many such personal acts is seen now and again in times of religious revival, when the multitude turns as one man, saying, "Let us walk in the light of Jehovah!"

III. THE PERDITION OF THE OBSTINATE. One will may defeat the remedial purposes of God. If man says, "I will be joined to my idols and my sins, "no fire, no earthquake has power to dislodge him. If we will not relax our hold on the evil object, we must share its fate. To fix our affections on objects unworthy of our choice is to bring on ourselves shame and self-contempt. The terebinth trees and the pleasant gardens, the seats of ancient idolatry, are typical of all scenes of spurious enjoyment. The voluptuary, the mammon-worshipper, the votary of ambition, create around them a world of objects, fascinating, but unreal. The terebinth shall wither; the garden, parched for want of water, shall lose all its charm. The man who seemed but now the very type of force, shall feel himself slack as tow, and his life-work the spark that sets it on fire. So both shall irretrievably be consumed. What are the "terebinth trees and pleasant gardens" of our idolatry? Each man's soul must answer. Any and every pleasure is good under right conditions; pernicious else. Everything that is naturally precious to the human heart should be precious to each one of us. In the soul lies the only test. In the way that objects react upon our finest feeling we know whether they are objects for our personal pursuit or no: idols that must degrade us to their level, or symbols and sacraments of God. It is in the life of imagination and association that we differ. Any scene supposed to be holy may become an idolatrous pleasure-garden to the ill-ordered fancy; and the soul that lives in God, seeking ever the true amidst the false, will ever convert the terebinth tree of ill repute into an altar of pure religion. The world is to us what our will permits it to seem. Wedded to the sensual, we must perish from the spiritual; united to the spiritual, the sensual becomes transformed and acquires new associations. - J.









And l will turn My hand upon thee.
I. THE REFORMATION OF A PEOPLE IS GOD'S OWN WORK.

II. HE DOTH IT BY BLESSING THEM WITH GOOD MAGISTRATES AND GOOD MINISTERS OF STATE (ver. 26).

III. HE DOTH IT BY RESTORING JUDGMENT AND RIGHTEOUSNESS AMONG THEM (ver. 27).

IV. THE REFORMATION OF A PEOPLE WILL BE THEIR REDEMPTION. Sin is the worst captivity, the worst slavery.

V. THE REVIVING OF A PEOPLE'S VIRTUE IS THE RESTORING OF THEIR HONOUR. "Afterward thou shalt be called, the city of righteousness, the faithful city."

( Matthew Henry.)

And purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin.
"Purely"; R.V. "thoroughly"; lit. "as with lye," i.e., potash, which was used as a flux to facilitate the separation of the metals.

(Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

Notice the imagery. Here is a community, an individual, that knows and belongs to God; redeemed of the Lord; His own. Yet into life, and into work, and into testimony and service, there has come that which He compares to dross and to alloy in metal The two words in the imagery (dross and alloy) are not precisely the same in idea, Dross suggests to us that which is repulsive, as well as worthless — the glaring inconsistency, crude, and ugly. In the alloy or tin, which looks so much like silver, and yet is different, we see rather the ore, specious and subtle ingredients of evil that enter into the Christian's work and life — not crying inconsistencies so much as the more interior and hidden evil of silent self-complacency; of a tacit search for our own glory under colour of the Lord's; things which the soul has never fairly traced out, but which it may plainly trace if it will firmly use God's tests. And these are the things of which we read: "I will turn my hand upon them and thoroughly purge them."

(Bp. H. C. G. Moule, D. D.)

"I will purge away thy dross." What is the dross? That which is openly flagrant in the life. It is different from the metal, and is comparatively easily separated from it. But God goes further. He says, "I will take sway all thy alloy." This is far more wonderful, because the alloy is something which enters into the nature of me metal, as is were, and it requires a chemical process to separate them. God says that He will deal not only with the outcrop of sin in act, but He will deal with the sin of which the act is the outcrop.

(G. H. C. Macgregor, M. A.)

What is the dross which God sees in our heart and life? Lack of truthfulness, showing itself in simple lying, in exaggeration, in fraud, in deceit, in slander, in gossiping, in prevarication, in equivocation, in guile, in evil speaking. Lack of justice and due regard to the rights of others, showing itself in a spiteful temper, in unwillingness to give up our own way to others, in incivility, in rudeness, in disregard of the comfort of others, in thoughtlessness, in ingratitude, in unthankfulness. Lack of wisdom, showing itself in the misuse of the opportunities God gives us, in our ignorance, in our thoughtlessness, in our stupidity, in our blindness to the things of God. Lack of love, showing itself in our pride, in envy, in malice, in hate, in unwillingness to forgive, in unwillingness to apologise for evils which we have done. Lack of self-control, showing itself in our avarice, in covetousness, in sloth, in lethargy, in laziness, in sleepiness, in lust, in sensuality, in gluttony, in self-indulgence in all sorts of ways. What shall we say about our sins against God, our want of prayerfulness, our want of knowledge of God's Word, our want of trust in God, showing itself in our worry; our want of love to God, showing itself in our shameful hankering after the things of this world? The case is indeed desperate, and calls for the Divine interference. I should go mad at the sight of my own heart if I did not believe in the power of God to cleanse that heart.

(G. H. C. Macgregor, M. A.)

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