Therefore I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He has poured out His life unto death, and He was numbered among the transgressors. Yet He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.
I. THAT A RIGHTEOUS MAN, though he is righteous, MAY BE CHARGED WITH WRONG. If Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, was accused of sin, how much more may we, who are only comparatively and imperfectly righteous, be so charged!
II. THAT A RIGHTEOUS MAN MAY, in virtue of his righteousness, BE ACCUSED OF WRONG. Jesus Christ was charged with blasphemy because he said what he said and acted as he did in pursuance of his great and beneficent mission; he was accused of fellowship with sin because he was bent on carrying his gospel of grace to the very worst of mankind (Luke 15:2). In the same way, a good man may lay himself open to the charge of transgression in virtue of his very excellency; a devout man, because of his devotion, to the charge of pietism or hypocrisy; a zealous man, because of his ardour, to the charge of fanaticism; a courageous man, to the charge of rashness; a trustful man, to the accusation of presumption, etc.
III. THAT THE FALSELY ACCUSED HAVE THREE GREAT CONSOLATIONS.
1. The approval of their own conscience.
2. The knowledge that they take rank with their great Leader, who was himself numbered with the transgressors, and with all the best of the good in every age and land (Matthew 5:11, 12).
3. The assurance that they have the commendation and the sympathy of their Divine Lord. Enemies may accuse us; brethren may fail us; notwithstanding, "the Lord stands with us, and strengthens us" (2 Timothy 4:16, 17). - C.
Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great.I. CHRIST'S CONFLICT.
II. CHRIST'S CONQUEST. The conflict is last in the order of the words, but first in order of nature and time.
( T. Manton, D.D.)
1. That He should be great.
2. That He should attain His commanding position, not as the founder of a new school of thought, nor as the leader of a social reformation, nor as possessed of exceptional saintliness — but as a Sufferer.
I. THE GREATNESS GIVEN BY THE FATHER AS THE REWARD FOR CHRIST'S OBEDIENCE TO DEATH. It was meet that such a reward should be bestowed, for the sake of those who should afterwards follow in the footsteps of their Divine Master. None could ever deserve more or better than Christ; and if He were without recognition or reward, might it not be thought that Heaven had no prize to give for faithful service? Surely He must have a reward, or the very order of the universe might be deemed at fault? But what reward should He have? What could compensate Him for having laid aside the exercise of His Divine prerogative; for having assumed our nature; for having passed through the ordeal of temptation, sorrow, and pain; for having become obedient to death, even the death of the Cross? All worlds were His by native right; all holy beings owned His sway as Creator and God; all provinces of thought, emotion, power, and might, sent Him their choicest tribute. What reward could He claim, or have? The answer may be suggested by recalling our own pleasure in conferring pleasure, our joy in giving joy. Let the limitations imposed by our mortality or circumstances be removed; let us be able to realize to the full the yearnings and promptings of our noblest hours; lot the wish to help be accompanied by a sympathy that cannot hurt the most sensitive, a wisdom that cannot mistake, a power that cannot be daunted or thwarted; and probably we should at once drink deep draughts of blessedness like God's. This is the blessedness of Christ, and this is the reward which the Father has given Him. God Himself could not give, nor the Saviour ask for, a greater reward than this. And, in its magnificence, it appeals to all who would tread in His steps. This is Heaven's supreme reward: that all who pour out their souls to death shall obtain enlarged opportunities and possibilities of service.
II. THE GREATNESS THAT CHRIST'S DEATH HAS SECURED HIM AMONG MEN. He is worthy to take the mysterious scroll of destiny, and break its seals, because of the light Its has cast on the great mysteries by which our lot is shadowed.
1. Pain. When it enwraps us in its fiery baptism, we are apt to accuse ourselves or to doubt God. But Jesus has taught us that there is yet a third way of regarding pain. He had not sinned, yet He suffered as none of woman.born ever did. Evidently, then, pain is not always symptomatic of special sin. He was once so submerged in anguish that for a time He lost the sense of His Father's love; but He never suggested that there was failure or obliquity in the moral government of the world. The death of Jesus has therefore robbed death of these two implications, and has taught us that it is often sent, and must be borne, with the view of benefiting others. What a priceless service was this — to transform pain; to persuade sufferers that by their travail of soul they were enriching the whole world of men.
2. Death. Men dread it. But He, by His dying, has abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light. For this we count Him great, that through death He undid death.
3. Sin When Jesus died on the Cross, He was numbered with transgressors; but He stood over against all transgressors, distinct from them and bearing their sin. This surely constitutes an overmastering claim for us to count Christ great.
III. THE GREATNESS WHICH HIS DEATH WILL WIN FOR CHRIST IN THE ESTIMATION OF OTHER RACES OF BEING. Not to the Mount of Beatitudes, but to the Cross, will distant worlds send their deputations in all coming ages, to learn the manifold lessons which it alone can teach. There they will learn to know the very heart of God, His hatred against sin, His love for the sinner, His fidelity to covenant engagements, His righteousness, His truth. The Cross is the heavenly prism that enables us to distinguish the constituents of the Divine nature.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
He shall divide the spoil with the strong
(Howard Crosby, LL.D.)
1. There is the devil, who is a powerful adversary. But "the prince of this world is judged" (John 16:11).
4. The flesh (Romans 8:3).
5. The world (John 16:33).
6. All the adverse powers in the world (Psalm 2:10-12).
II. THE MEANS. The weapons of this warfare are not carnal.
1. As to His death.
2. By the Word of the Cross, called the foolishness of preaching.
3. By His Spirit; a great force, but secret and undiscerned.
4. By His prayers and intercessions.
III. THE MANNER OR NATURE OF THE CONQUEST, how it is achieved.
1. The enemies are overcome and terribly broken: there is a total dissipation of all the powers of darkness.
2. Not barely overcome, but spoiled and rifled (Colossians 2:15).
3. Such a victory as endeth in a solemn triumph; as conquerors in public view carried their spoils and their enemies tied to their chariots, so Christ would expose them to open shame.
IV. WHAT SPECIAL BENEFITS WE HAVE BY THE CONQUEST OF CHRIST.
1. The banishment of distracting fear (Hebrews 2:15).
2. An encouragement to the spiritual conflict.
3. Joy unspeakable and glorious.
4. Hopes of glory; we shall conquer with Him, and reign with Him.
5. The very exaltation of Christ is a great comfort to us.
6. Christ's conquest is a token, earnest and pledge of our victory.
7. What Christ did in this conquest, He did it for our sakes. He will have nothing but we shall share in it.
8. Another benefit is usefulness and serviceableness for all that befalls us. Christ doth so effect it that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).
( T. Manton, D.D.)
He hath poured out His soul unto deathI. HIS DEATH. "He hath poured out," etc.
II. THE IGNOMINY OF IT. "He was numbered with the transgressors."
III. THE CAUSE OF IT. "He bare," etc.
IV. THE NOTED CIRCUMSTANCE IN IT. "He made intercession for the transgressors."
( T. Manton, D.D.)
I. THE GIFT. "His soul."
II. THE MANNER OF GIVING. "Poured out."
III. THE INTENT.
( T. Manton, D.D.)
(C. Clemance, D.D.)I. The first source of the Mediator's glory is, that He, out of His love to guilty men, has POURED OUT HIS SOUL UNTO DEATH. The penalty of sin is death. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." The Lord Jesus came into such connection with men that He bore the death penalty which guilty men had incurred. Remark the expression: "He hath poured out His soul unto death." It is deliberate. It is a libation presented with thought and care; not the mere spilling of His blood, but the resolute, determinate pouring out of His whole life unto its last drop — the pouring it; out unto death. Christ's resolve to die for you and me was not that of a brave soldier who rushes up to the cannon's mouth in a moment of excitement; but He was practically pouring out His life from the day when His public ministry commenced, if not before. He was always dying by living at such a rate that His zeal consumed Him.
2. It was most real and true. I pray you do not think of Christ as pouring out His soul, as though it made Him spend a sort of ecstatic life in dream-land, and suffer only in thought, intent, and sympathy. My Lord suffered as you suffer, only more keenly; for He had never injured His body or soul by any act of excess, so as to take off the edge from His sensitiveness.
3. See how complete it was. Jesus gave poor sinners everything. His every faculty was laid out for them. Put your trust; m Him, then, without reserve.
II. OUR LORD WAS NUMBERED WITH SINNERS. "He was numbered with the transgressors." There is a touch of nearness to the sinner about this which there is not in the first clause. He bears death for the sinner; but you could not suppose, if you had not read it, thus He would be written in the sinner s register. He was not, and could not be, a sinner; but yet it is written, "He was numbered with the transgressors." Is there a census taken of sinners? Then, the name of Jesus is written down. How was He numbered with the transgressors? This makes it the more marvellous, because it is so hurtful to a man who is pure, to be numbered with the impure.Our Lord Jesus was numbered with the transgressors —
1. By the tongue of slander. They called Him a drunken man and a wine-bibber: they even called Him Beelzebub. That was sharp enough for Him to bear, whom all the angels salute as "Holy, holy, holy!"
2. In the earthly courts of justice. He stood at the bar as a common felon, though He was judge of all. Though they could not find witnesses whose testimony agreed, yet they condemned Him (Mark 15:28).
3. Our Lord Jesus Christ, on earth, was treated, in the providence of God, as transgressors are treated. Transgression sometimes brings on men poverty, sickness, reproach, and desertion; and Jesus Christ had to take His share of all these with sinful men. All things in this world that are so keen and terrible to man, because man has become so guilty, were just as keen and terrible to Him. The nails that pierced Him tore His tender flesh as they would have torn that of the sinful. Fever parched Him till His tongue cleaved to His jaws.
4. The Holy God treated Him as if He were one of us. "It pleased the Father to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief.". God not only turned His back on transgressors, but He turned His back upon His Son, who was numbered with them.
III. The third matter by which the Lord Jesus Christ has won His victories, and earned reward of God, is this: "HE BARE THE SIN OF MANY."
IV. The last thing is this: "HE MADE INTERCESSION FOR THE TRANSGRESSORS." Who among us will take up the part of the guilty? Who will plead for the guilty? I know, in certain oases, the lawyer will sell his tongue to the most polluted; but if a man were perfectly pure, you would not find him saying a word in defence of the guilty. So far as the man was guilty he could not be defended. But our Lord made intercession for transgressors. When He was here on earth how tender He was with transgressors! He bore on His heart the names of guilty men. He was always pleading their cause, and when He came to die he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He took their part. He would exculpate them if He could. I dare say that He has often prayed like that for you. Now He has gone up yonder He is pleading still. Application:(1) Jesus Christ does not shrink from sinners; ye sinners, do not shrink from Him.(2) As Jesus does not shrink from sinners, do not yourselves shrink from them.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
He was numbered with the transgressorsI. To the sinner, troubled and alarmed on account of guilt, there will be much comfort in the thought that CHRIST IS ENROLLED AMONG SINNERS. "He was numbered with the transgressors."
1. In what sense are we to understand this?(1) He was numbered with them, in the census of the Roman empire.(2) Years rolled on, and that child who had been early numbered with transgressors, and had received the seal of transgression in the circumcision, which represents the putting away of the flesh — that child, having come to manhood, goes forth into the world and is numbered with transgressors in the scroll of fame. Ask public rumour "What is the character of Jesus of Nazareth?" and it cannot find a word in its vocabulary foul enough for Him. "This" they sometimes said; and our translators have inserted the word "fellow" because in the original there is an ellipsis, the evangelists, I suppose, hardly liking to write the word which had been cast upon Christ Jesus. They called the Master of the house, Beelzebub!(3) But to make the matter still more forcible, "He was numbered with transgressors in the courts of law." The ecclesiastical court of Judaism, the Sanhedrim, said of Him, "Thou blasphemest;" and they smote Him on the cheek. Written down among the offenders against the dignity of God and against the security of the Jewish Church, you find the name of Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified. The courts civil also asserted the same.(4) Then, the whole Jewish people numbered Him with transgressors; nay, they reprobated Him as a more abominable transgressor than a thief and a murderer who had excited sedition.(5) His name is written in the calendar of crime by the whole universe; for He is despised and rejected of men; of all men is He accounted to be the offscouring of all things, and is put to grief.
2. Why was Christ numbered with transgressors?(1) Because He could the better become their advocate. I believe, in legal phraseology, in civil cases, the advocate considers himself to be part and partner with the person, for whom he pleads. You hear the counsellor continually using the word "we;" he is considered by the judge to represent the person for whom he is an advocate.(2) That He might plead with them. Suppose a number of prisoners confined in one of our old jails, and there is a person desirous to do them good, imagine that he cannot be admitted unless his name is put down in the calendar. Well, out of his abundant love to these prisoners he consents to it, and when he enters to talk with them, they perhaps think that he will come in with cold dignity; but he says, "Now, let me say to you first of all that I am one of yourselves." "Well," they say, "but have you done aught that is wrong?" "I will not answer you that," saith he; "but if you will just refer to the calender you will find my name there; I am written down there among you as a criminal." Oh, how they open their hearts now!(3) That sinners may feel their hearts drawn to Him.(4) That we might be written in the red roll of His saints.
II. We are taught in the next sentence, that Christ "BARE THE SINS OF MANY."
1. Here it is as clear as noon-day that Christ dealt with sinners.
2. As He did bear their sins, other texts tell us that He did bear them away.
3. There is now no sin abiding upon those for whom Jesus died.
III. Our third sentence tells us that JESUS INTERCEDES FOR SINNERS. "And made intercession for the transgressors."
1. He pleads for their forgiveness.
2. He next prays that those for whom He intercedes may be saved, and may have a new life given them.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. By imputation.
2. By reputation.
Made intercession far the transgressors
1. As a holy, godly man; so He was to fulfil all righteousness.
2. As a mediator and public person, that was to be our High Priest, to satisfy and intercede.
( T. Manton D. D.)1. Who prayeth. Christ, one that could destroy them with His glory easily enough.
2. When He prayed. In the very act of His sufferings.
3. For whom He prayed. For them that offered Him all the indignities in the world.
4. How He prayed. He pleadeth for them; "Forgive them," etc.
( T. Manton, D.D.)
I. I have to direct your attention to our ever-living Lord making intercession for the transgressors; and I shall pray God that all of us may be roused to ADMIRATION FOR HIS GRACE.
1. If you will consider His intercession for transgressors I think you will be struck with the love, and tenderness, and graciousness of His heart, when you recollect that He offered intercession verbally while He was standing in the midst of their sin. Sin heard of and sin seen are two very different things. Our Lord actually saw human sin, saw it at its worst. He saw it all, and felt the sin as you and I cannot feel it, for His heart was purer, and therefore tenderer than ours: He saw that the tendency of sin was to put Him to death, and all like Him, yea and to slay God Himself if it could achieve its purpose, for man had become a Decide and must needs crucify His God — and yet, though His holy soul saw and loathed all this tendency and atrocity of transgression, He still made intercession for the transgressors.
2. Another point of His graciousness was also clear, namely, that He should thus intercede while in agony.
3. But it is marvellous that He being pure, should plead for transgressors at all: for you and for me amongst them — let the wonder begin there.
4. Further, it is to me a very wonderful fact that in His glory He should still be pleading for sinners.
5. Again, it is gloriously gracious that our Lord should continue to do this. He hath never ceased to make intercession for transgressors.
II. I do earnestly pray that we may be led of the Holy Ghost so to view His intercession for transgressors as to put our CONFIDENCE IN HIMSELF. There is ground for a sinner's confidence in Christ, and there is abundant argument for the believer's complete reliance in Him, from the fact of His perpetual intercession.
1. Because His intercession succeeds.
2. There is reason for transgressors to come and trust in Jesus Christ, seeing He pleads for them.
3. I am sure, too, that if Jesus Christ pleads for transgressors as transgressors, while as yet they have not begun to pray for themselves, He will be sure to hear them when they are at last led to pray.
4. In order that our confidence may be increased, consider the effect of our Lord's intercession for transgressors.(1) Many of the worst of transgressors have been preserved in life in answer to Christ's prayer.(2) The gift of the Holy Spirit which is needful for the quickening of transgressors was the result of Christ's intercession.(3) It is through Christ's intercession that our poor prayers are accepted with God.(4) It is through the prayers of Christ, too, that we are kept in the hour of temptation. Remember what He said to Peter, "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not," when Satan desired to have him and sift him as wheat. "Father, keep them from the evil" is a part of our Lord's supplication, and His Father hears Him always.(5) Indeed, it is because He pleads that we are saved at all. He is "able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."
III. I pray that our text may inspire us with the spirit of OBEDIENCE TO HIS EXAMPLE. I take the example of Christ to be an embodied precept as much binding upon us as His written commands.
1. Imitate Him by forgiving all transgressions against yourself.
2. Imitate Christ, in pleading for yourselves. Since you are transgressors, and you see that Jesus intercedes for transgressors, make bold to say, "If He pleads for such as I am, I will put in my humble petition, and hope to be heard through Him."
3. If we have been forgiven our transgressions, let us now intercede for transgressors, since Jesus does so.
4. Let us take care, that if we do plead for others we mix with it the doing of good to them, because it is not recorded that He made intercession for transgressors until it is first written, "He bare the sin of many"
5. If Christ appears in heaven for us, let us be glad to appear on earth for him.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)Luke 23:34): — Here prophecy and history unite in taking us to the place which is called Calvary.
I. IN WHAT LIGHT SHOULD WE REGARD THESE WORDS?
II. WHAT IS THE REQUEST? For whom? "Forgive them," those who were the instruments and agents in His crucifixion. These were —
1. The people.
2. The chief priests and scribes.
3. The rulers.
4. The soldiers.
5. The Roman governor.
6. The passers-by, who were reviling Him.
7. Those who were crucified with Him, joining in the mockery and jests.What is the plea by which the petition is urged? "They know not what they do." Not one of them knew the full extent of the crime. Not even the disciples could have estimated the guilt of the people (Acts 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:6). There was only One, even the Sufferer Himself, who could view that sin in all its manifold complications, and hold evenly and righteously the scales of judgment.
III. WHAT A SPIRIT OF LOVE THESE WORDS BREATHE! Their self-forgetfulness is wonderful. The sin of those thus wronging the Saviour was a far greater cause of distress to Him than all the degradation, ignominy, and pain He was enduring; on these things He could be altogether silent, in order to plead for the forgiveness of others sin. We see here, too, a love which, rising above human repulsiveness and guilt, ever regards itself as sent to save; a love which would carry on a redeeming work, even when stretched in agony on the Cross. Here, too, is not only the love of One, whose saving energy could neither be repulsed nor trammelled, but of One who, though He is most fully acquainted with the greatness of their guilt, pleads before Him, to whom sin is an abominable thing, the mitigation of their crime. Truly, it is a marvel of comfort that He, who judges sin most exactly, deals with the sinner most tenderly! Here, too, is Divine love making intercession for the transgressors; not for the good, but for the bad; not for the penitent, but for the impenitent; that they may be brought to repent; showing us. how Christ's love goes after men always, under all circumstances, in the lowest depths of guilt. Nevertheless, Divine love so pleads, as to imply that if this sin had been committed with full understanding of its enormity, He dared not have asked for its forgiveness. "For they know not what they do." Thus the spirit of this prayer has its terrors as well as its comforts. "There is a sin unto death," for which the Redeemer does not intercede, and for which we have no commission or authority to pray. Where that sin lies, what is its precise character, whether this or that man has committed it, we dare not say. We can tell four things about it: — we know the region in which it lies, the sign it has been committed, the sign it has not been committed, and why there is no mercy for it. Where one who has the fullest light indulges in the greatest sin, he is getting very near the unpardonable sin. The sign that it has been committed, would be hard, final, impenitence. True repentance is a sure sign it has not been committed. It is not pardonable, because at such a stage the sinner will not repent.
IV. WHAT ARE THE DOCTRINES THESE WORDS INVOLVE?
1. They teach us that the Father saves us through the Son.
2. That sins of ignorance need forgiveness. Paul sinned "ignorantly in unbelief," and yet was the "chief of sinners."
3. Whatever palliation of guilt may be allowed, owing to ignorance, full recognition is taken thereof by the great Intercessor.
4. We are taught that the fuller the light the greater the sin (Hebrews 10:26, 27).
5. That forgiveness of sin, by God, is so precious to us, because it is made over to us in. perfect knowledge of every aggravation and mitigation.
V. WHAT RESULTS DID THIS INTERCESSION SECURE? We are sure that this prayer was answered. It did not indeed avert the destruction of the doomed city, but —
1. It secured the forgiveness of every penitent who might be, nevertheless, involved in its temporal disasters.
2. The Great Pleader's work soon proved its power in the salvation of the thief on the Cross, and shortly after of thousands more.
3. By means of the intercession of our Lord, begun on earth, and now carried on in heaven, we are "not under the law, but under grace."
(C. Clemance, D. D.)Isaiah 53:12; 'He made intercession for the transgressors.' I well remember being so dazzled that for a time I thought it a delusion, a misprint. It was something so altogether new to my proud, hard-working spirit, that I could almost wonder that I did not erase it and put in 'the penitent' or 'the humble' or one of nature's proud epithets. Yes, I think that word 'transgressors' was the first that ever glowed on me with all the attraction of 'free grace.'".
Sing, O barren.: — The direct address refers to Jerusalem, which resembled Sarah in her early barrenness and later fruitfulness (Isaiah 51:1-3).
(F. Delitzsch, D.D.)Isaiah 53and 54.: — From Calvin to Ewald and Dillman, critics have all felt a close connection between Isaiah 52:13-53. and chap. 54. "After having spoken of the death of Christ," says Calvin, "the prophet passed on with good reason to the Church: that we may feel more deeply in ourselves what is the value and efficiency of His death." Similar in substance, if not in language, is the opinion of the latest critics, who understand that in chap. 54. the prophet intends to picture that full redemption which the Servant's work, culminating in chap. 53., could alone effect. Two keywords of chap. 53. had been "a seed" and "many." It is "the seed" and the "many" whom chap. 54. reveals.
(Prof. G.A. Smith, D.D.)The two chapters deal with the same subject from two distinct standpoints. Whatever view be held as to the Servant's personality, there is no doubt that His exaltation implies the restoration of Israel, and that His work is the indispensable condition of that restoration being accomplished. Thus while chap. 53. describes the inward process of conversion by which the nation is made righteous, chap. 54. describes the outward deliverance which is the result; and the impression is probably correct that the glowing hopes here uttered are sustained in the last resort by the contemplation of the Servant s mission as described in chap. 53.
(Prof. J. Skinner, D.D.)
(W. H. Barlow, B.D.)
I. WE HAVE A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH IN HER SADNESS. The figures used by the prophet, while easy enough to apply generally, present some points of difficulty when we attempt the detail.
1. At the first glance of the opening verses of the chapter we see that the figures are drawn from the very closest tie that nature knows, even that of the marriage relationship. This figure, so frequently used in the Old Testament, is based on a profound truth. The truth on which it is based is this: that as both male and female are incomplete without each other, so the happiness of God is incomplete without the love of the creature whom He has made to love Him, and the happiness of man is incomplete without an object above him in which his love can rest. Such a figure served a holy educating purpose to Israel, and ought still to do so to us. In one direction it shows us how holy and tender is the relationship between man and God, and how loving is the heart of God towards man; in another direction it lifts up the sacred tie of marriage into a higher and Diviner light, and lets us see it in the light of the Divine idea, as not only a union of bodies but also of spirits, in a tie which can never be broken without a rupture of the laws of God!
2. Another truth lying at the foundation of the chapter is this, that the Church, in God's eye, is seen at a glance, through all the vicissitudes of her chequered career, till her completion in the fulness of time. That Church, chosen in Christ "before the foundation of the world, in Him is one. He sees that Church passing, through gloom to glory! And truly, sad enough is the picture of the Church s sorrow which is presented here. She is like one whose husband has forsaken her. She is barren, desolate, rejected, contemned; and is consequently sad, afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted. The chief question is, at what period was God s Church like this, and what Church was ever in such gloom?(1) The Hebrew Church was primarily intended. Her bondage in Egypt was "the shame of her youth, her captivity in Babylon was" the reproach of her widowhood."(2) The figures would apply, to some extent, to that idea!, Gentile Church which the Saviour saw in vision when He said, "Other sheep I have, etc., including all those in the east and west and north and south who were yearning after God, but to whom the Lord had not yet revealed His love, and who were not yet brought to rest in the Infinite heart of God.(3) The description will apply also to the whole Church of God now: which, during the transition period through which we are now passing, while the great problem of sin and its treatment is being worked out, is often in shade, often mourning the paucity of those who join her ranks, often the object of the world s ridicule and scorn!(4) The passage will befit also the individual believer, in whose chequered experience of sorrow, temptation and care all the varied phases of the troubles of the Church are presented in miniature.
II. WE HAVE A SECOND PICTURE AS BRIGHT AS THE FIRST IS DARK. The second is given on account of the gloom of the first, for the special purpose of cheering the saints of God, throughout the period of shade. In the picture given with this view, an entirely different set of figures is made use of; even such as belong to the erection of a building. And there are, scattered throughout this chapter, no fewer than nine main features which go to make up the outline of this beauty and glory which, in spite of present gloom, the prophet sees far ahead. Regarding the Church of the future, then, under the figure of a building, let us observe —
1. God Himself is the Founder of it. The foundation is Jesus Christ.
2. Men from every nation under heaven will gather within it. "The God of the whole earth shall He be called." The restrictions of the past shall be done away.
3. Righteousness shall he its basis (ver. 14).
4. Close and endearing relationship with God will be its privilege (ver. 5). "Thy Maker is thine Husband." He who formed by the hand of His power, will make Himself known to you in the tenderest love.
5. Light will be its heritage. "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord" (ver. 13).
6. Peace will be its possession. "Great shall be the peace of thy children" (ver. 13).
7. Beauty will be its adornment. "Behold I will set thy stones in stibium" (ver. 11). Stibium was a peculiar dye with which the Hebrew women tinged the eyelashes, in order that, being surrounded with this tinge, the beauty of the eye might flash forth more brightly. So the stones with which this building of God was to be erected, were to be set, as it were, in cement of so rich a dye as to set forth their lustre in richer beauty. And thy battlements of rubies, thy gates of flashing gems, and all thy borders of precious stones." Thus the mineral world is made to yield its meed of illustration; its choicest gems are used as symbolic of the glory and beauty of the Church. Why? Because all beauty and glory of jasper, amethyst, ruby, sapphire, and pearl, when so set that their radiance gleams out most brilliantly, are but a reflection of that higher spiritual beauty of Him who created all.
8. Divine protection will be its safeguard (vers. 14, 15). "Thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. Behold, they (thine enemies) shall surely gather together, but not by Me (not by My consent): whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake" (rather, shall fall upon thee). "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall he broken." Adverse weapons shall be blunted. Adverse tongues shall be condemned — both by the force of powerful argument, and by the mightier demonstration of a holy life (ver. 16). "I have created the waster to destroy," the same power which builds the Church, has created all her foes; hence the inference is inevitable, God will not suffer those who arc opposed to Him to use their power so as to destroy that part of His work which He values most.
9. Perpetuity shall be its everlasting law (vers. 7-10). This is expressed in various forms of antithesis. Everything is wrapped up in this ninefold glory!
(C. Clemance, D.D.)Nehemiah 1:3; Nehemiah 2:3, 13-17). But how is this? Have we not learnt that the Mediator has put away sin at the cost to Himself of wounds and bruises, stripes and death? Is that redemption complete which fails to grapple with all the results and consequences of wrong-doing? This opens up a great subject, and one that touches us all. Though our sin is forgiven, yet certain consequences remain, of which that ruined city is a type. We cannot undo the past; God Himself cannot undo it. It can never be as though it had never been. The seventy years of captivity, the shame, the sorrow, the anguish to God, the forfeited opportunities, attended by a multitude of hypocrites, and her courts were crowded with formalists, but the genuine children of Israel were sadly few; and when the Lord, the Husband of the Church, Himself arrived, the Church was in no happy condition. After that the Lords had been lain in the grave and risen again and ascended and left the Church, then were the days of refreshing, and the times of the visitation of the Spirit. At all seasons when the Church has been desolate and has become barren, God has appeared to her.
II. I now intend to use the text in reference to ANY ONE CHURCH.
1. There are some separate Churches which are in a very sad condition, and may most truly be said to be barren and desolate.
2. Brethren will ask me what is their present duty as members of such Churches? Your duty is very plain Labour to be conscious of the sad barrenness of the Church to which you belong: Spread the case before Jehovah, and be sure that you look away from everything that you yourself can do to Him, and to him alone. But mind you do not pray without proving the sincerity of your prayers by action.
III. THE POOR HELPLESS SINNER HAS HIS CASE WELL DESCRIBED BY THE PROPHET AS BARREN AND DESOLATE. "Barren! ah, that I am. I have not one meritorious fruit that I can bring before God." You are desolate, too; no one can comfort you. Your barrenness is barrenness for ever if left to itself, and your desolation is utter and helpless unless some one intervene. May I ask you to look at the chapter which precedes my text? Jesus has taken the sinner's sin upon Himself, and made a complete atonement; therefore, "Sing, O barren!" The mighty Redeemer has come out of His dwelling-place, and has fought the enemy, and won the victory. "Sing, O barren!"
IV. Does not this text belong to THE DEPRESSED BELIEVES? You and I, though we have brought forth some fruit unto the, Lord Jesus, yet sometimes feel very barren. What are we to do? "Sing, O barren, etc. But what can I sing about? I cannot sing about the present; I cannot even sing concerning the past. Yet I can sing of Jesus Christ. What is my barrenness. It is the platform for Divine power. What is my desolation? It is the black setting for the sapphire of His everlasting love.
V. Our text ought to have a special voice to THOSE CHRISTIANS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN DOING GOOD.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE CHILDLESS MOURNER. The passage is the present heritage of the Gentile Church. Gentiledom was for a long time without a spiritual child. Now she may sing over a multitudinous family of true Christians. Addressed to the Jews as a prophecy — showing, in their sadness and depression, that though matters looked so dark for the cause of God now, yet there was a bright and blessed hope. Cheers them, not so much by showing grounds of present rejoicing, but by providing a telescope by which they might behold "the good time coming." We may here note —
1. One great use of prophecy. It can cheer when things immediately around cause depression.(1) To a sad Church the minister should speak much of unfulfilled prophecy.(2) The Christian, in the "present distress should do the same for himself (2 Peter 1:19).
2. The imagery. It rings poetic changes on the idea of childlessness. Expressive imagery to Jewish women, who so longed for children, in hope of Messiah.(1) Such should be the Church's longing. Her prayer should be, "Give me children, or I die!" Bad sign when a Church seems content to be barren or to have no spiritual increase.(2)When she remains without new births (or conversions), she should mourn. Contemplate the once barrenness of Christendom. Its comparative barrenness in vast tracts now, even in Christian England!
II. THE REJOICING MOTHER. Gentiledom for ages "unmarried" — "desolate." When Christ came, He "called her by name," and espoused her. Then how rapidly a family was brought forth. In Pentecostal times, what "multitudes were added to the Lord" (Acts 6:7; Acts 16:5). What joy this caused! (Acts 2:46, 47, etc.)
1. The great subject of the verse, the joy of the Church in multitudes of conversions. This joy of the Lord is her strength (Nehemiah 8:10). She is then encouraged to labour with fresh zeal and hope in works of evangelization. Therefore "new births should be, as it were, registered; the successes of the Gospel should be published to evoke this healthful joy. hence the reflex benefits of missionary gatherings.
2. Reasons for such joy. Not only because souls are saved, but because —(1) Increase is a sign that God's power is with His Church.(2) It confirms our own faith. The more they are who believe what we believe, the more confident we must feel in the truth of our faith.(3) It makes heaven appear attractive by the "sympathy of numbers." We may use the text as a test . How far are we in sympathy with the Church in joy over conversions to God?
(R. Glover, M. A.)
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