Isaiah 56:12


Dumb dogs; "Greedy dogs;" "Shepherds that cannot understand." The prophet's messages are in the main addressed to the pious and believing among the exiles. But he knows well how many of them were living in self-indulgence and sin, and were not in the least likely to heed his words, and prepare themselves for the coming deliverance. The evils were especially manifest in the leading people, who ought to have been leaders in goodness to the people. Instead of this, they were neglecting their duty, and presenting a debasing example of self-indulgence, and even of covetousness. The term "watchmen' is used for chief men, princes, priests, prophets. These were utterly unable to comprehend or to meet the spiritual wants of the nation at this time, when God was so near, for carrying out his redeeming purpose. "The language here employed strikingly depicts the feelings of the voluptuous in every age."

I. THE HELPLESSNESS OF THE LEADERS AND TEACHERS OF THAT AGE. Observe the blending of figures suitable to the shepherd and to the shepherd's dog. Such a blending of figures is common in poetry and in Scripture. Inefficiency and sinful neglect are suggested in the terms

(1) blind;

(2) ignorant;

(3) dumb;

(4) loving to slumber;

(5) greedy;

(6) void of understanding;

(7) drunken.

II. THE REAL SECRET OF THEIR HELPLESSNESS. They thought of self. They did not live for their charge, but for themselves. "They all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter." And this is the root of evil in all who are placed in positions of responsibility, authority, and influence - all who are in any sense leaders and teachers. They must serve others, not get for self. Therefore the Apostle Paul pleads, saying, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." Compare the plea of the noble Samuel, on giving up his life-ministry, "Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith?" (1 Samuel 12:3). In this way St. Paul counsels the young teacher Timothy, "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." And a bishop is thus described, "Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous" (1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Timothy 3:3). St. Paul complains of the teachers of his time, "All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's" (Philippians 2:21). - R.T.









To-morrow, shall be as this day.
The future is very differently contemplated by different individuals. Men of a sanguine temperament gild it with golden visions that are never realized. Such persons meet with many disappointments. It is quite right to expect good in the future, providing we eagerly seize the opportunities and avail ourselves of the advantages of the present. But it is in the field of to-day that we must sow the seed of what we are to reap on the morrow. Men of a directly opposite temperament are constantly foreboding evil. This desponding disposition is itself a very heavy burden to bear. If there be evil in the future, it doubles it by the anticipation, and the anticipation is frequently a heavier burden than is the reality; and if the future brings no such evil, we have been carrying a burden, when in reality there was no burden to bear. How wise are the words of Jesus, "Take no thought for the morrow," etc. Both these dispositions need to be corrected. There is still another class who are morally reckless about the future. This results neither from temperament nor imagination, but from their moral condition: the madness is in their hearts. They were persons of this class who made use of the words contained in our text. These words, although polluted by the sense and circumstances in which they are here used, express a truth as well as a falsehood.

I. THEY MAY BE THE EXPRESSION OF A ]PERFECTLY RATIONAL FAITH AND REASONABLE SENTIMENT.

1. It is reasonable to expect that nature will be as productive in the future as it has ever been in the past. Why should we fear that seed-time and harvest or summer and winter will fail, or that the soil will be less productive than it has been? Surely if we are to expect any change, it is a change for the better; the sun will shine as brightly as it has done, and the rains will fall as abundantly, and the earth will be more extensively reclaimed and better cultivated. The soil yields a great deal more now than it used to do; and still there remaineth much land to be possessed.

2. This is a reasonable sentiment when used in the light of human progress. The progress made in arts and sciences ought greatly to increase the resources of society. Labour is the wealth of a nation, and therefore the more labour can be made to produce, the wealthier a nation must be. Not only so, but the productions of one country have by these means been brought within easy access of other countries, so that failure in one part is largely compensated for by a more abundant supply in other places.

3. This is also a rational sentiment when we remember the goodness and unchangeableness of God. His goodness to us in the past ought to inspire us with confidence in Him for the future; and this confidence ought to have respect to all the concerns of life.

4. This is a reasonable sentiment when you consider the promises of God and the predictions concerning the future. Is it not said that the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose? Let the Gospel be preached to the savage and the uncivilized; if they receive it they will not only sit at the feet of Jesus, but they will also soon become clothed, and begin to cultivate the soil, and the change thus produced on the face of nature will correspond with the change in their moral and spiritual condition.

5. Then there is a future beyond the present life in relation to which these words may be used with still deeper emphasis. The man who has fled for refuge to the hope set before him, and has striven to walk with God here, may say with confidence, as he enters into the valley of the shadow of death, "I will not fear," for "to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant."

II. THIS MAY ALSO BE THE LANGUAGE OF WICKED PRESUMPTION.

1. It is so when it is the utterance of idleness. No man has a right to neglect the duties of to-day, and to flatter himself that his life will be crowned with increased abundance on the morrow.

2. It is so when it is the language of extravagance and profligacy. The latter is the spirit in which it is used in this verse. "Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine," etc. The men who used these words had evidently closed their ears to warning, and given themselves up to a life of self-indulgence. This was no doubt the feeling of the prodigal, who wasted his substance in riotous living. He promised himself that the debauches of to-day should be succeeded by still greater debauches on the morrow. We are not to burden ourselves with anxious cares about the future, but neither are we to pledge our future income to meet our present expenses. Nor are we to use, as bread for to-day, what God has sent to be sown as seed for the morrow. We ought to study the law of proportion, and to live in proportion to our income, to give in proportion to our income, and to save in proportion to our income and the position of responsibility in which we are placed, either as to family or work-people.

3. This is the language of sinful presumption when it is used as an excuse for the neglect of present privileges and opportunities.

(1)It is often so used in relation to secular things.

(2)But it is still more frequently used in relation to religion.Many plead this as an excuse for the neglect of religion. The time is not convenient. They are too young, or their temptations and difficulties are at present too great. They hope that their circumstances will undergo a change. But some, who have flattered themselves that they were too young, have not lived to become old. This excuse is also pleaded by some who have in them some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, for delay in publicly avowing themselves on the Lord's side, and casting in their lot with His people. There is something in the way to-day which they expect will be removed to-morrow. But, perhaps when to-morrow comes the difficulties are increased, and the resolve, which was almost formed, is wholly abandoned. This excuse is also pleaded for not entering into some sphere of usefulness to which you were clearly called. But the door closes and it is too late.

(A. Clark.)

Whether we are warranted in expecting the future to be better than the present, depends upon our standpoint; upon whether we look at the future as men of the world, purely and simply, or as followers of Jesus Christ. It may be the height of folly to say by our lips, or by out lives, "To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant;" but, on the other hand, our so saying may involve the highest wisdom.

I. HOW IN PROPHESYING GOOD OF THE MORROW, WE MAY NOT BE SPEAKING CORRECTLY.

1. It is folly to prophesy good of to-morrow in respect to worldly things.

2. It is folly to prophesy good of to-morrow just because the future promises development. If to-morrow be more abundant than to-day, it will be because we have well spent to-day, and have not dreamed away our time and our opportunities.

3. It is folly to prophesy good of to-morrow unless we take steps to bring the good to pass.

II. HOW IN PROPHESYING GOOD OF THE FUTURE WE MAY BE SPEAKING ABSOLUTE TRUTH. Is there anything about which we may say with certainty, "To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant"? Ability to talk thus, however, presupposes two things. —

1. That we know the grace God.

2. Patient continuance in well-doing.

(J. S. Swan.)

In this picture, that exaggerated hopefulness which it describes seems to have been the result of intoxication. It is one who has filled himself with strong drink, who, from the midst of his revels, cries out, "To-morrow shall be as this day, nay, much more abundant." In point of fact, however, such artificial stimulus is in no wise necessary for the excitement of extravagant hopes. Such hopes are born out of circumstances the most discouraging and amid surroundings the most dismal and dreary, Let us bless God that it is so. I doubt whether life would be long endurable if it were otherwise. In fact, it is at the point when the spring of hopefulness fairly snaps that men and women break down. And yet, like some other forms of so-called nourishment, this is one which has a perilous power of enervation. It is worth while to remember that the future is simply and inevitably and inexorably the outgrowth and outcome of the present. The man or woman of ungoverned temper imagines that age will cool their blood and so diminish their provocations. But age weakens nothing save our powers of demonstration. And so of the rest of the infirmities of our nature. Does the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eye, or the pride of life — do our covetousness and our selfishness and our untruthfulness go through a sort of transformation-scene process, and emerge at some given point in our future in the guise of the Christian graces or the cardinal virtues? The future does not create progress, but only reveals it. And thus we see the province and, if I may so speak, the function in the moral and spiritual world of Hope. That function is to inspire the present. And, therefore, if I were asked to indite that legend or motto which should be the rule and law for every young life among us, I would write the one word "Now."

(H. C. Potter, D. D.)

They were wicked men who spoke these words. Just think of what these words are in the mouth of a wicked man.

1. To-morrow shall be another day in which I shall rob God of His due.

2. I will tempt God another day; I will stand out against God.

3. Or, looking at God's mercy, he says, "Well, God is merciful, God is willing to bless me, but I will not be blessed."

4. If the man says this, it implies that he will give another day to fasten the fetters of sin firmer upon him.

5. Again, the wicked man says, " I will encourage sinners another day to continue in their sin; I will set them the example of sinning still further than I have done hitherto." But what are you doing when you are thus encouraging men in sin? You are doing your best to seal that sinner's doom. You are doing your best to make that sinner's death-bed terrible. You are doing the best you can to harden that sinner in defiance of God and in his rejection of all that might save his soul; you are making that man laugh his life away in frivolity and evil

6. You are strengthening Satan in his great argument to keep men from Christ. What is that great argument? No hope for you; how can you expect to be saved? Have you not been living away from God! You have sinned away the day of grace.

7. If you say, "To-morrow shall be as this day then what is your state.? Why, that if you die to-morrow you shall go to hell. If you were to die to-day in your sins, you would go to hell. Then, if to-morrow is to be as to-day, you are deciding — I shall live to-morrow in such a state that if I die to-morrow I shall go to hell.

7. You are keeping Christ another day standing at the door.

8. You mean to have another day of resisting the strivings of God's spirit.

(J. M. Hussey.)

These words, as they stand, are the call of boon companions to new revelry. They are part of the prophet's picture of a corrupt age when the men of influence and position had thrown away their sense of duty, and had given themselves over, as aristocracies and plutocracies are ever tempted to do, to mere luxury and good living. Base and foolish as they are on such lips, it is possible to lift them from the mud, and take them as the utterance of a lofty and calm hope which will not be disappointed, and of a firm and lowly resolve which may ennoble life. Like a great many other sayings, they may fit the mouth either of a sot or a saint.

I. THIS EXPECTATION IF DIRECTED TO ANY OUTWARD THINGS, IS AN ILLUSION AND A DREAM. It is base and foolish to be forecasting our pleasures, the true temper is to be forecasting our work. But, leaving that consideration, let us notice how useless such anticipation, and how mad such confidence, as that expressed in the text is, if directed to anything short of God. We are so constituted as that we grow into a persuasion that what has been will be, and yet we can give no sufficient reason to ourselves why we expect it. "The uniformity of the course of nature" is the corner-stone, not only of physical science, but, in a more homely form, of the wisdom which grows with experience. We all believe that the sun will rise to-morrow because it rose to-day, and for all the yesterdays. But there was a to-day which had no yesterday, and there will be a to-day which will have no to-morrow. The sun will rise for the last time. The uniformity had a beginning and will have an end. So, even as an axiom of thought, the anticipation that things will continue as they have been because they have been, seems to rest on an insufficient basis. How much more so, as to our own little lives and their surroundings! We shall be nearest the truth if we take due account, as we do so to-day, of the undoubted fact that the only thing certain about to-morrow is that it will not be as this day.

II. BUT YET THERE IS A POSSIBILITY OF SO USING THE WORDS AS TO MAKE THEM THE UTTERANCE OF A SOBER CERTAINTY WHICH WILL NOT BE PUT TO SHAME. We may send out our hope like Noah's dove, not to hover restlessly over a heaving ocean of change, but to light on firm, solid certainty, and fold its wearied wings there. Forecasting is ever close by foreboding, hope is interwoven with fear, the golden threads of the weft crossing the dark ones of the warp, and the whole texture gleaming bright or glooming black according to the angle at which it is seen. So is it always until we turn our hope away from earth to God, and fall the future with the light of His presence and the certainty of His truth. We have an unchanging and an inexhaustible God, and He is the true guarantee of the future for us. The more we accustom ourselves to think of Him as shaping all that is contingent and changeful in the nearest and in the remotest to-morrow, and as being Himself the immutable portion of our souls, the calmer will be our outlook into the darkness, and the more bright will be the clear light of certainty which burns for us in it.

III. LOOKED AT IN ANOTHER ASPECT, THESE WORDS MAY BE TAKEN AS THE VOW OF A FIRM AND LOWLY RESOLVE. There is a future which we can but very slightly influence, and the less we look at that the better every way. But there is also a future which we can mould as we wish — the future of our own characters, the only future which is really ours at all. In that region, it is eminently true that "to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant. The law of continuity shapes our moral and spiritual characters. The awful power of habit solidifies actions into customs, and prolongs the reverberation of every note, once sounded, along the vaulted roof of the chamber where we live. To-day is the child of yesterday and the parent of to-morrow. That solemn certainty of the continuance and increase of moral and spiritual characteristics works in both good and bad, but with a difference. To secure its full blessing in the gradual development of the germs of good there must be constant effort and tenacious resolution. As we grow in years, we shall grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, until the day comes when we shall exchange earth for heaven. That will be the sublimest application of this text, when, dying, we can calmly be sure that though to-day be on this side and to-morrow on the other bank of the black river, there will be no break in the continuity, but only an infinite growth in our life, and heaven's to-morrow shall be as earth's to-day and much more abundant.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

To-day's wealth may be to-morrow's poverty, to-day's health to-morrow's sickness, to-day's happy companionship of love to-morrow's aching solitude of heart, but to-day's God will be to-morrow's God, to-day's Christ will be to-morrow's Christ. Other fountains may dry up in heat,, or freeze in winter,, but thin" knows no change, "in summer and winter it shall be. Other fountains may sink low in their basins after much drawing, but this is ever full, and after a thousand generations have drawn from it its stream is broad and deep as ever. Other fountains may be left behind on the march, and the wells and palm trees of each Elim on our road be succeeded by a dry and thirsty land where no water is, but this spring follows us all through the wilderness, and makes music and spreads freshness ever by our path. What may be round the next headland we know not; but this we know, that the same sunshine will make a broadening path across the waters right to where we rock on the unknown sea, and the same unmoving mighty star will burn for our guidance, me we may let me waves and currents roll as they list — or rather as He wills, and be little concerned about the incidents or the companions of our voyage, since He is with us.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Experience is ever the parent of hope, and the latter can only build with the bricks which the former gives.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

How dreadfully that law of the continuity and development of character works in some men l By slow, imperceptible, certain degree the evil gains upon them. Yesterday's sin smooths the path for to-day s. The temptation once yielded to gains power. The crack in the embankment which lets a drop or two ooze through is soon a hole which lets out a flood. It is easier to find a man who has done a wrong thing than to find a man who has done it only once. Peter denied his Lord thrice, and each time more easily than the time before. So, before we know it, the thin gossamer threads of single actions are twisted into a rope of habit, and we are "tied with the cords of our sin."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

How important the smallest acts become when we think of them as thus influencing character! The microscopic creatures, thousands of which will go into a square inch, make the great white cliffs that beetle over the wildest sea and front the storm. So, permanent and solid character is built up out of trivial actions, and this is the solemn aspect of our passing days, that they are making us.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

We might well tremble before such a thought, which would be dreadful to the best of us, if it were not for pardoning mercy and renewing grace. The law of reaping what we have sown, or of continuing as we have begun, may be modified as far as our sins and failures are concerned. The entail may be cut off, and to-morrow need not inherit to-day's guilt, nor to-day's habits. The past may be all blotted out through the mercy of God in Christ. No evil habit need continue its dominion over us, nor are we obliged to carry on the bad tradition of wrong-doing into a future, day, for Christ lives, and. "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, all things are become new.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

We have all read of that Persian prince who, having grown to man's estate and completed his education, divided his life into four decades. The first ten years of his life he would devote to travel, since travel, he rightly argued, was as much an educator as were books. The second decade he would employ in the affairs of government, since government is part of the duty of a prince. The third decade he would reserve for the pleasures and the benefits of friendship, since friendship is, after all, the melody and fragrance of life. And then the fourth decade he would give to God. It was a most taking and attractive plan of life. But it was marred by one considerable defect. During the first ten years the prince died, and for that contingency he had made no provision whatever.

(H. C. Potter, D. D.)

is the most wonderful of days, or, as Isaiah has it, "a day great beyond measure." Its history outshines the record of centuries. It is the day on which idle men labour and fools reform. It is the day when every man does his duty. It is the harvest-time of good intentions. To-morrow the worst of sinners will be a saint. To-morrow the frivolous pleasure-seeker will be transformed into a serious-minded devotee, a whole-souled worker for the good of humanity. To-morrow the dishonest man will be honest, the immoral man will be pure, the selfish man will be benevolent. To-morrow bad habits will be resolutely overcome, evil tempers will be conquered, wrong desires will be banished. To-morrow myriads of men and women will heed the call of Christ. If the world could but see the bright dawning of its mythical glory! But it never can. To-morrow is like the rainbow's end, which continually moves on and keeps its distance undiminished when foolish children seek its golden treasure.

(G. H. Hubbard.)

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