and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment; that shall raise any calumny upon thee, or bring any charge against thee, or enter into a lawsuit with thee, litigate a point with thee in any court of judicature, or claim, in right and law, a power, authority, and dominion over thee, as the pope of Rome does over the consciences of men:
thou shalt condemn; disprove and roll off the calumny, refute the charge and accusation, put to silence the clamours and pretences of wicked men, carry the cause against them, and shake off the yoke of bondage they would bring them under; and, instead of being condemned by them, condemn them. By "weapon" may be meant all the attempts made by force to ruin the interest and church of Christ in the world, such as the bloody persecutions of the Roman emperors, who, though they made sad havoc of the professors of Christianity, and designed hereby to have rooted it out of the world, and thought they should have accomplished it, yet could not do it; so far from it, that the Christians yet more and more increased, insomuch that it became a common saying, that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church; also the wars of the Papists with the Albigenses and Waldenses, and all the cruel methods they have taken by fire and faggot, and the bloody inquisition, to hinder the growth of what they call heresy; yet all have been in vain, a reformation has taken place, and many nations have embraced the truth, and shook off the yoke of Popery; together with all their efforts since to crush the Protestant interest; and though the kings of the earth will be stirred up, and gather together to the battle of the Lord God Almighty, they will not succeed, but be overcome and slain, and the beast and false prophet at the head of them will be taken and cast alive into the lake of fire: and by the "tongue" may be designed the edicts of the Pagan emperors, forbidding the exercise of the Christian religion, and threatening the preachers and professors of it with imprisonment, confiscation of goods, and death itself; and the anathemas, bulls, and interdicts of the popes of Rome, as well as the reproaches, scandals, and calumnies uttered by the emissaries of that church against all that depart from it; together with the errors and heresies of false teachers of all sorts in all ages of the world, which, though levelled against the faith and doctrine of the church of Christ, have not been able to subvert it, nor ever will:
this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord; this, with all that is said in this chapter, is the part, portion, and privilege, that such shall enjoy who serve the Lord Christ, and not antichrist; they shall be treated rather as sons than as servants, and have an inheritance assigned them; not only protection from all enemies, and absolution from all charges, but they shall receive the reward of the inheritance in heaven, that which is incorruptible and undefiled, and reserved there, since they serve the Lord Christ:
and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord; the vindication of their righteousness, of their cause, and of their character; or the reward of their righteous works in a way of grace; even all that righteousness and true holiness that is in them, and that righteousness which is imputed to them, and by which they are justified, are from the Lord; by which they are secured from all the charges of law and justice, and, from all the accusations of men and devils, and which will answer for them in a time to come, and acquit them at the bar of God before men and angels; see Romans 8:33.
INTRODUCTION TO Isaiah 55
As the two preceding chapters are prophecies of Christ and his church, this treats of his word and ordinances, and of the nature, use, and efficacy of them. It begins with an invitation of thirsty souls to them, Isaiah 55:1, an expostulation with them for taking wrong methods, and a dissuasive from them, Isaiah 55:2, which is followed with an exhortation to hear the word of Christ, attend on his ordinances; to which they are encouraged with promises of life and covenant blessings, Isaiah 55:2. Christ is prophesied of in his offices; and the conversion of the Gentiles to him is foretold, Isaiah 55:4, men are called upon to seek the Lord, where and while he might be found; and both wicked and unrighteous persons, forsaking their ways and thoughts, are encouraged to turn to the Lord, in hopes of pardon, and in consideration of his ways and thoughts not being like theirs, Isaiah 55:6, the nature and efficacy of the word of God are expressed and illustrated by the similes of rain and snow, Isaiah 55:10, and the conversion of the Lord's people, in consequence of the word being made effectual, is predicted, the issue of which is the glory of God, Isaiah 55:12.
"ho, everyone that would learn, let him come and learn;''
but the Gospel, and the doctrines and ordinances of that, seem rather designed:
and he that hath no money; not in a natural, but in a spiritual sense: unconverted persons have nothing to support themselves or pay off their debts with, though they fancy they have, and that they are rich, and stand in need of nothing; but sensible souls know they have none, and that they are poor and needy; yet these are invited to come where provisions are to be had, since they are to be had at free cost:
come ye, buy and eat; come to the ordinances, partake of them freely, and feed upon the provisions therein made:
come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price; by wine and milk are meant the Gospel and its doctrines, compared to good old generous wine, for the antiquity of them, and for their being of a reviving and refreshing nature; and to "milk", for its purity and sweetness, and for its cooling and nourishing nature, and because easy of digestion; these are to be bought, and not to be sold. Proverbs 23:23, but not in a proper sense; no valuable consideration can be given for them, for they are of more worth than thousands of gold and silver; nor have we anything to give to God for them, and the blessings of grace conveyed by them, which is not his own, or can be profitable to him; but in an improper sense, when something thought valuable is parted with for them, as sinful and righteous self, and even everything in life, when called for, and that itself; these are bought without any money or price on our part; they are freely given and received; and on this basis may men expect them, and have them. The Targum is,
"he that hath no silver, come, hear and learn; come, hear and learn, without price and money, doctrine better than wine and milk.''
and your labour for that which satisfieth not? labouring to seek for happiness in worldly things, which is not to be had; or to obtain righteousness by the works of the law, which is not to be attained to in that way; all such labour is in vain, no satisfaction is enjoyed, nor peace and comfort had, nor any solid food; these are husks which swine eat:
hearken diligently unto me; not the prophet, but the Lord himself. The Targum renders it,
the essential Word, Christ Jesus, hearken to his doctrine, which is bread, and of a satisfying nature:
and eat ye that which is good; not the law, as the Jewish commentators; but the good word of God, the Gospel, which being found and eaten by faith, or mixed with faith by them that hear it, and so digested, is the joy and rejoicing of the heart:
and let your soul delight itself in fatness; in the goodness and fatness of the Lord's house, attending on the word and ordinances with spiritual pleasure and delight; and which is the way to become fat and flourishing in spiritual things; see Psalm 36:8.
hear, and your soul shall live; or, "that your soul may live (f)"; spiritually and eternally. There must be life before hearing; men must be made alive before they can come to Christ spiritually, or hear his word so as to have a spiritual understanding of it, or savingly believe it; but the meaning is, that by coming and hearing the word of the Lord, they should have something to live upon, good, solid, substantial food; and that they should live comfortably and plentifully, and that for ever. It was reckoned a great absurdity in Sunlungus, a Chinese philosopher, who asserted (g) that a man had three ears, one different from the two that are seen; it is true in a spiritual sense.
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you; which is to be understood not of the covenant of works, nor of the covenant of circumcision, nor of the Sinai covenant; but of the covenant of grace, which is an "everlasting one"; it is from everlasting, being founded in the everlasting love of God, is according to his eternal purposes; Christ is the Mediator of it, who as such was set up from everlasting, and the promises and blessings of it were so early put into his hands; and it will continue to everlasting, sure, firm, unalterable, and immovable. This, properly speaking, was made with Christ from all eternity, and his people in him; it is made manifest to them at conversion, when they are shown it, and their interest in it; when God makes himself known to them as their covenant God, and Christ as the Mediator of it is revealed to them; when the Lord puts his Spirit into them, and makes them partakers of the grace of it; shows them their interest in the blessings of it, and opens and applies the promises of it unto them; and these are made manifest in the ministration of the Gospel, and in the administration of ordinances: even "the sure mercies of David"; that is, the Messiah, the son of David, and his antitype, whence he is often called by his name, Ezekiel 34:23, and so Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and others (h), interpret it. The blessings of the covenant are called "mercies", because they spring from the mercy of God, as redemption, pardon of sin, regeneration, salvation, and eternal life; and they are the mercies of David, or of Christ, for the promises of them were made to him, and the things themselves put into his hands, and are ratified and confirmed by his blood, and through him come to his people: and these are "sure", firm, and steadfast, through the faithfulness and holiness of God, who has given them to Christ; through being in a covenant ordered in all things and sure; and also being in the hands of Christ, in whom the promises are yea and amen, and the blessings sure to all the seed; see Acts 13:34, Acts 13:34.
(f) "ut vivat", Junius & Tremellius, Vitringa. (g) Martin. Hist. Sinic. l. 4. p. 170. (h) Abarbinel, Mashmiah Jeshuah, fol. 26, 1.
a leader and commander to the people; he is a "leader", as he is a teacher of his people, who teaches them to profit, and leads them in the way they should go; as a king that guides his subjects with the skilfulness of his hands, as David the type of him did; as a general leads out and on his armies to battle; as a shepherd leads his flock to good pastures; as a guide to those that know not the way; and as one that goes before others by way of example: Christ leads his people out of their own ways into his ways; and he leads them in a right way to the city of their habitation, to heaven at last; and he leads them on gradually and gently, as they are able to bear. He is a "commander" in a military way, a wise, powerful, valiant, and courageous one, and always victorious; and in a political sense, as a King commands his subjects, whose commands are to be obeyed; and indeed they are written on the hearts of his people; they are not grievous, though they cannot be performed in their own strength; nor is it designed that life and salvation should be obtained by the observance of them, but are done to testify subjection to Christ, and gratitude to him. The Targum is,
"behold, I have appointed him a Prince to the people, a King, and a ruler over all kingdoms.''
and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee; knew not even God himself, as the Gentiles did not, much less the Messiah; they knew neither his person nor his offices, nor the way of peace, life, and salvation by him; were in a state of gross darkness; and to whom the Gospel was not known, which is a revelation of Christ, and of good things by him. Now the promise is, that, upon the above call, such persons should "run" unto Christ; light goes along with that call, directing to the object, where all grace and salvation be; life is infused, by which they are quickened, and move; and strength is given, by which they stand upon their feet, walk and run; efficacious grace, then exerted, draws them; and under a sense of danger, and in a view of safety in Christ, they run with all readiness and cheerfulness to him, and lay hold on him the hope set before them. The Targum adds,
"to bring tribute unto thee.''
Because of the Lord thy God; because of the love of God, with which they are drawn; and because of his power, which is put forth upon them; because of his grace, and the proclamations of it in Christ, and the declaration of his will, that whoever believes in him shall have everlasting life; and because he has appointed Christ, and him only, to be their Saviour and Redeemer; and because there is no coming to God but by him:
for the Holy One of Israel; or, "and" or "even to the Holy One of Israel" (i); that is, Christ, who is holy in his natures and offices, and the sanctifier of his people; to him shall they run, for the cleansing of their filthy souls in the fountain of his blood; and for the expiation of their sin and guilt, by his atoning sacrifice; and for righteousness and strength; for grace, and all the supplies of it; for peace, pardon, and eternal life:
for he hath glorified thee; that is, God the Father has glorified his Son, through the miracles wrought by him in his state of humiliation; by supporting him, as man, in his work, and under all his sufferings; and by raising him from the dead, and at his ascension to heaven; and by bestowing on him the gifts of the Spirit without measure, to give to others; which, with the reasons before suggested, induce, engage, and encourage sons to run to Christ, when called by his grace. Some understand all this of the first Christian church, consisting of believing Jews, who should call the Gentiles by her ministers unto Christ, by the conversion and accession of which she would be glorified. These nations are those the apostles were sent and preached unto, after the resurrection of Christ, all the nations of the world, even most distant and remote; and particularly those the Apostle Paul preached unto from Jerusalem, round about to Illyricum; and which the ministers of the word preached unto, in the first ages of the Gospel; such as those mentioned by Tertullian (k) in his time, as the Parthians, Medea, Elamites; the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, and Pamphylia; the Egyptians, Africans, Romans, Getulians, Moors, Spaniards, Gauls, Britons, Sarmatians, Dacians, Germans, and Sythians; besides many other nations, provinces, and isles unknown, too many to enumerate, who professed the name of Christ; and yet more, when the whole Roman empire became Christian, in the times of Constantine; to which may be added the various kingdoms in Europe, which cast off the Romish yoke at the Reformation; together with many of the American nations, or new found world, who now embrace and profess the Christian religion.
(i) "et ad Sanctum Israel", Montanus, Cocceius. (k) Adversus Judaeos, c. 7.
"seek the fear of the Lord, while ye are alive.''
Kimchi compares it with Ecclesiastes 9:10. The Jewish writers, as Aben Ezra and others, generally interpret it before the sealing of the decree, or before the decree is gone forth. It may be understood of place, as well as time, and be rendered, "seek the Lord in the place where he may be found" (l); God is to be found, as Aben Ezra observes, in all places, and at all times; under the Old Testament there was a particular place appointed for the worship of God, the tabernacle and temple, where he was to be sought unto, and might be found; under the New Testament, all places are alike, and wherever the church and people of God meet together, there he is to be sought, and there he may be found, even in his house and ordinances:
call ye upon him while he is near; the same thing designed by different words: seeking and calling design not only prayer, but the whole of public worship, and the time and place when and where the Lord is to be found, and is near. Aben Ezra thinks it refers to the Shechinah in the sanctuary. Perhaps it may have some respect to the time of Christ's incarnation, and his being in the land of Judea; and to the destruction of the temple by the Romans, when the Lord could be no more sought unto, and found in that place; or when the Christians were obliged to move from Jerusalem, because of the siege of it; and when the Jews had no more an opportunity of hearing the Gospel there.
(l) So in the Jerusalem Talmud, as quoted by Abendana on the place,
"seek the Lord, where he is found, in the synagogues, and in the schools; call upon him, where he is near, in the synagogues, and in the schools.''
And so another Jewish writer, mentioned by him, interprets the words,
"whilst the Shechinah is found in the sanctuary; before he hides his face, and causes his Shechinah to remove from you.''
and the unrighteous man his thoughts: not his natural thoughts, but his sinful ones, his wrong thoughts of religion, righteousness, and salvation; particularly his thoughts of being justified by his own righteousness; which thoughts are to be forsaken, as being contrary to God's way of justifying sinners; and as all men are unrighteous, are destitute of righteousness, and full of unrighteousness, so is the self-righteous person; and he must be divested of all thoughts of his own righteousness, and acknowledge himself an unrighteous man, ere he receives mercy, forgiveness, righteousness and salvation, at the hands of the Lord:
and let him return unto the Lord; from whom he has departed, against whom he has sinned, and who only can save him; and this he does when he comes and acknowledges his sin before the Lord, implores his grace and mercy, and attends his word and worship; all which is the fruit and effect of powerful and efficacious grace, in turning and drawing. The Targum is,
"and let him turn to the worship of the Lord:''
and he will have mercy upon him; which shows that the returning of the sinner to God is not meritorious, it is mercy still to receive him; and which is here mentioned as the motive to return; there is an abundance of it with the Lord, and he has resolved and promised to show it, and he takes delight in it, and many are the instances of it:
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon; God is to be applied unto, not as an absolute God, or out of Christ; but as our God in Christ, in whom he has proclaimed his name, a God gracious and merciful, and so he does abundantly pardon. The promise of pardon is absolute and unconditional, and is here observed as the motive to forsake sin, and not that as the condition of pardon; the design is to comfort those that are distressed with sin; God does and will pardon, and none but he can, and he has declared that he will; forgiveness is with him, and it is published in the Gospel, and there have been many instances of it.
The Lord does abundantly pardon, or "multiply to pardon" (m); he pardons all sorts of sinners, and all sorts of sins; original sin, actual sins and transgressions; all backslidings and revoltings; all but the sin against the Holy Ghost.
(m) "multiplicabit ad parcendum vel ut parcat", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus; "multiplicabit condonare", Cocceius; "multus erit ut proritietur": Munster.
Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord; the ways which God prescribes and directs men to walk in are different from theirs; his are holy, theirs unholy; his are plain, theirs crooked; his are ways of light, theirs ways of darkness; his are pleasant, theirs not so, at least in the issue; his lead to life, theirs to death; and therefore there is good reason why they should leave their evil ways, and walk in his. Moreover, the ways which he takes in the salvation of men are different from those which they, naturally pursue, and especially in the pardon of sin; he pardons freely, fully, without any reserve, or private grudge, forgetting as well as forgiving.
so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts; which may denote the heavenliness of the ways and thoughts of God, the eternity and unsearchableness of them, and their excellency and preciousness; as well as the very great distance between his ways and thoughts and men's which this is designed to illustrate.
but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud; or, "inebriateth the earth" (n); soaks into it, and reaches the seed that is sown in it, and causes that to spring up, and rise into stalk and ear:
that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater; produce a sufficiency for food both for man and beast, and enough for seed to sow the ground with the following year.
(n) , Sept.; "sed inebriats" Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius; "quin imo inebriavit terram", Montanus.
it shall not return to me void; it is accompanied with a divine energy; it is the power of God to salvation:
but it shall accomplish that which I please; in the conversion of sinners, and comfort of saints:
and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it: whether it be the savour of life unto life, or the savour of death unto death; whether for the quickening of sinners, and reviving of saints; or whether for the hardening of men, and leaving them without excuse to perish in their sins, both in the Jewish and Gentile world.
"for with joy shall ye go out from among the people, and with peace shall ye be brought to your own land;''
yet they may be spiritually applied to the conversion of men, in consequence of the word being made effectual, of which the deliverance from the Babylonish thraldom was a type; when men "go out" of a state of bondage to sin, Satan, and the law; out of a state of darkness and ignorance; out of the pit of nature's misery and distress; out of themselves and their own righteousness; out of their own sinful ways, and from among the men of the world: and though here is a divine power exerted in all this, yet they go out freely, being led by the Spirit of God; who takes them by the hand as it were, and leads them in ways before unknown to them; he leads them to Christ, his person, fulness, blood, and righteousness; to the house of God, and to the ordinances of it; and from one degree of grace to another, till he brings them to glory: all which is attended with "joy and peace" to themselves; finding themselves released from bondage, in a state of light and comfort, out of the horrible pit, and on a rock; brought to Christ, and clothed with his righteousness; to the angels in heaven, who rejoice over every sinner that repenteth; to the ministers of the Gospel, who are the instruments of their conversion; and to all the saints into whose fellowship they are brought; which joy is further illustrated by the following strong figures:
the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing; or the people that dwell upon them: and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands; or clap with their branches; as the Targum, the tops of them, being moved with gentle breezes of wind, bow themselves, and the branches intertwining and clasping each other like hands and arms. Kimchi observes, that "mountains and hills" may signify the kings of the nations; and "the trees of the field" the people rejoicing at the deliverance of the Jews, as they pass along: it may be as well applied to the ministers of the word, and common believers rejoicing at the conversion of sinners, in whom as wonderful a change is wrought, as in the following cases. Vitringa interprets this of the apostles and ministers of the word going forth into the Gentile world, attended with joy in themselves, and among the converts there.