Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
We have here the commission and instructions given, not to this prophet only, but, with him, to all the Lord's prophets, nay, and to all Christ's ministers, to proclaim comfort to God's people. 1. This did not only warrant, but enjoin, this prophet himself to encourage the good people who lived in his own time, who could not but have very melancholy apprehensions of things when they saw Judah and Jerusalem by their daring impieties ripening apace for ruin, and God in his providence hastening ruin upon them. Let them be sure that, notwithstanding all this, God had mercy in store for them. 2. It was especially a direction to the prophets that should live in the time of captivity, when Jerusalem was in ruins; they must encourage the captives to hope for enlargement in due time. 3. Gospel ministers, being employed by the blessed Spirit as comforters, and as helpers of the joy of Christians, are here put in mind of their business. Here we have,
I. Comfortable words directed to God's people in general, v. 1. The prophets have instructions from their God (for he is the Lord God of the holy prophets, Rev. xxii. 6) to comfort the people of God; and the charge is doubled, Comfort you, comfort you--not because the prophets are unwilling to do it (no, it is the most pleasant part of their work), but because sometimes the souls of God's people refuse to be comforted, and their comforters must repeat things again and again, ere they can fasten any thing upon them. Observe here, 1. There are a people in the world that are God's people. 2. It is the will of God that his people should be a comforted people, even in the worst of times. 3. It is the work and business of ministers to do what they can for the comfort of God's people. 4. Words of conviction, such as we had in the former part of this book, must be followed with words of comfort, such as we have here; for he that has torn will heal us.
II. Comfortable words directed to Jerusalem in particular: "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem (v. 2); speak that which will revive her heart, and be a cordial to her and to all that belong to her and wish her well. Do not whisper it, but cry unto her: cry aloud, to show saints their comforts as well as to show sinners their transgressions; make her hear it:" 1. "That the days of her trouble are numbered and finished: Her warfare is accomplished, the set time of her servitude; the campaign is now at an end, and she shall retire into quarters of refreshment." Human life is a warfare (Job vii. 1); the Christian life much more. But the struggle will not last always; the warfare will be accomplished, and then the good soldiers shall not only enter into rest, but be sure of their pay. 2. "That the cause of her trouble is removed, and, when that is taken away, the effect will cease. Tell her that her iniquity is pardoned, God is reconciled to her, and she shall no longer be treated as one guilty before him." Nothing can be spoken more comfortably than this, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. Troubles are then removed in love when sin is pardoned. 3. "That the end of her trouble is answered: She has received of the Lord double for the cure of all her sins, sufficient, and more than sufficient, to separate between her and her idols," the worship of which was the great sin for which God had a controversy with them, and from which he designed to reclaim them by their captivity in Babylon: and it had that effect upon them; it begat in them a rooted antipathy to idolatry, and was physic doubly strong for the purging out of that iniquity. Or it may be taken as the language of the divine compassion: His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel (Judges x. 16), and, like a tender father, since he spoke against them he earnestly remembered them (Jer. xxxi. 20), and was ready to say that he had given them too much correction. They, being very penitent, acknowledged that God has punished them less than their iniquities deserved; but he, being very pitiful, owned, in a manner, that he had punished them more than they deserved. True penitents have indeed, in Christ and his sufferings, received of the Lord's hand double for all their sins; for the satisfaction Christ made by his death was of such an infinite value that it was more than double to the demerits of sin; for God spared not his own Son.
The time to favour Zion, yea, the set time, having come, the people of God must be prepared, by repentance and faith, for the favours designed them; and, in order to call them to both these, we have here the voice of one crying in the wilderness, which may be applied to those prophets who were with the captives in their wilderness-state, and who, when they saw the day of their deliverance dawn, called earnestly upon them to prepare for it, and assured them that all the difficulties which stood in the way of their deliverance should be got over. It is a good sign that mercy is preparing for us if we find God's grace preparing us for it, Ps. x. 17. But it must be applied to John the Baptist; for, though God was the speaker, he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and his business was to prepare the way of the Lord, to dispose men's minds for the reception and entertainment of the gospel of Christ. The way of the Lord is prepared,
I. By repentance for sin; that was it which John Baptist preached to all Judah and Jerusalem (Matt. iii. 2, 5), and thereby made ready a people prepared for the Lord, Luke i. 17.
1. The alarm is given; let all take notice of it at their peril; God is coming in a way of mercy, and we must prepare for him, v. 3-5. If we apply it to their captivity, it may be taken as a promise that, whatever difficulties lie in their way, when they return they shall be removed. This voice in the wilderness (divine power going along with it) sets pioneers on work to level the roads. But it may be taken as a call to duty, and it is the same duty that we are called to, in preparation for Christ's entrance into our souls. (1.) We must get into such a frame of spirit as will dispose us to receive Christ and his gospel: "Prepare you the way of the Lord; prepare yourselves for him, and let all that be suppressed which would be an obstruction to his entrance. Make room for Christ: Make straight a highway for him." If he prepare the end for us, we ought surely to prepare the way for him. Prepare for the Saviour; lift up your heads, O you gates! Ps. xxiv. 7, 9. Prepare for the salvation, the great salvation, and other minor deliverances. Let us get to be fit for them, and then God will work them out. Let us not stand in our own light, nor put a bar in our own door, but find, or make, a highway for him, even in that which was desert ground. This is that for which he waits to be gracious.
We must get our hearts levelled by divine grace.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low:
the crooked straight, and the rough places plain:
Those that are hindered from comfort in Christ by their dejections and despondencies are the valleys that must be exalted. Those that are hindered from comfort in Christ by a proud conceit of their own merit and worth are the mountains and hills that must be made low. Those that have entertained prejudices against the word and ways of God, that are untractable, and disposed to thwart and contradict even that which is plain and easy because it agrees not with their corrupt inclinations and secular interests, are the crooked that must be made straight and the rough places that must be made plain. Let but the gospel of Christ have a fair hearing, and it cannot fail of acceptance. This prepares the way of the Lord; and thus God will by his grace prepare his own way in all the vessels of mercy, whose hearts he opens as he did Lydia's.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see
it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
When this is done the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, v. 5. (1.) When the captives are prepared for deliverance Cyrus shall proclaim it, and those shall have the benefit of it, and those only, whose hearts the Lord shall stir up with courage and resolution to break through the discouragements that lay in their way, and to make nothing of the hills, and valleys, and all the rough places. (2.) When John Baptist has for some time preached repentance, mortification, and reformation, and so made ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke i. 17), then the Messiah himself shall be revealed in his glory, working miracles, which John did not, and by his grace, which is his glory, binding up and healing with consolations those whom John had wounded with convictions. And this revelation of divine glory shall be a light to lighten the Gentiles. All flesh shall see it together, and not the Jews only; they shall see and admire it, see it and bid it welcome; as the return out of captivity was taken notice of by the neighbouring nations, Ps. cxxvi. 2. And it shall be the accomplishment of the word of God, not one iota or tittle of which shall fall to the ground: The mouth of the Lord has spoken it, and therefore the hand of the Lord will effect it.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, a little while, and I will
shake the heavens, and the earth, the sea, and the dry land;
And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.
(2.) They shall have the Messiah among them shortly--him that should come. To him bore all the prophets witness and this prophet particularly here, v. 6, 7. Here is an intimation of the time of his coming, that it should not be long ere he came: "Yet once, it is a little while, and he shall come. The Old-Testament church has but one stage more (if we may say so) to travel; five stages were now past, from Adam to Noah, thence to Abraham, thence to Moses, thence to Solomon's temple, thence to the captivity, and now yet one stage more, its sixth day's journey, and then comes the sabbatism of the Messiah's kingdom. Let the Son of man, when he comes, find faith on the earth, and let the children of promise continue still looking for him, for now it is but a little while and he will come; hold out, faith and patience, yet awhile, for he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." And, as he then said of his first appearance, so now of his second, Surely I come quickly. Now concerning his coming it is here foretold, [1.] That it shall be introduced by a general shaking (v. 6): I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. This is applied to the setting up of Christ's kingdom in the world, to make way for which he will judge among the heathen, Ps. cx. 6. God will once again do for his church as he did when he brought them out of Egypt; he shook the heavens and earth at Mount Sinai, with thunder, and lightnings, and earthquakes; he shook the sea and the dry land when lanes were made through the sea and streams fetched out of the rock. This shall be done again, when, at the sufferings of Christ, the sun shall be darkened, the earth shake, the rocks rend--when, at the birth of Christ, Herod and all Jerusalem are troubled (Matt. ii. 3), and he is set for the fall and rising again of many. When his kingdom was set up it was with a shock to the nations; the oracles were silenced, idols were destroyed, and the powers of the kingdoms were moved and removed, Heb. xii. 27. It denotes the removing of the things that are shaken. Note, The shaking of the nations is often in order to the settling of the church and the establishing of the things that cannot be shaken. [2.] That it shall issue in a general satisfaction. He shall come as the desire of all nations--desirable to all nations, for in him shall all the families of the earth be blessed with the best of blessings--long expected and desired by the good people in all nations, that had any intelligence from the Old-Testament predictions concerning him. Balaam in the land of Moab had spoken of a star that should arise out of Jacob, and Job in the land of Uz of his living Redeemer; the concourse of devout men from all parts at Jerusalem (Acts ii. 5) was in expectation of the setting up of the Messiah's kingdom about that time. All the nations that are brought in to Christ, and discipled in his name, have called him, and will call him, all their salvation and all their desire. This glorious title of Christ seems to refer to Jacob's prophecy (Gen. xlix. 10), that to him shall the gathering of the people be.
(3.) The house they are now building shall be filled with glory to such a degree that its glory shall exceed that of Solomon's temple. The enemies of the Jews followed them with reproach, and cast contempt upon the house they were building; but they might very well endure that when God undertook to fill it with glory. It is God's prerogative to fill with glory; the glory that comes from him is satisfying, and not vain glory. Moses's tabernacle and Solomon's temple were filled with glory when God in a cloud took possession of them; but this house shall be filled with glory of another nature.
The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the
messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come,
saith the Lord of hosts.
The first words of this chapter seem a direct answer to the profane atheistical demand of the scoffers of those days which closed the foregoing chapter: Where is the God of judgment? To which it is readily answered, "Here he is; he is just at the door; the long-expected Messiah is ready to appear; and he says, For judgment have I come into this world, for that judgment which you have so impudently bid defiance to." One of the rabbin says that the meaning of this is, That God will raise up a righteous King, to set things in order, even the king Messiah. And the beginning of the gospel of Christ is expressly said to be the accomplishment of this promise, with which the Old Testament concludes, Mark i. 1, 2. So that by this the two Testaments are, as it were, tacked together, and made to answer one another.
II. A prophecy of the appearing of the Messiah himself: "The Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the God of judgment, who, you think, has forsaken the earth, and you wot not what has become of him. The Messiah has been long called he that should come, and you may assure yourselves that now shortly he will come." 1. He is the Lord--Adonai, the basis and foundation on which the world is founded and fastened, the ruler and governor of all, that one Lord over all (Acts x. 36) that has all power committed to him (Matt. xxviii. 18) and is to reign over the house of Jacob for ever, Luke i. 33. 2. He is the Messenger of the covenant, or the angel of the covenant, that blessed one that was sent from heaven to negotiate a peace, and settle a correspondence, between God and man. He is the angel, the archangel, the Lord of the angels, who received commission from the Father to bring man home to God by a covenant of grace, who had revolted from him by the violation of the covenant of innocency. Christ is the angel of this covenant, by whose mediation it is brought about and established as God's covenant with Israel was made by the disposition of angels, Acts vii. 53; Gal. iii. 19. Christ, as a prophet, is the messenger and mediator of the covenant; nay, he is given for a covenant, Isa. xlix. 8. That covenant which is all our salvation began to be spoken by the Lord, Heb. ii. 3. Though he is the prince of the covenant (as some read this) yet he condescended to be the messenger of it, that we might have full assurance of God's good-will towards man, upon his word. 3. He it is whom you seek, whom you delight in, whom the pious Jews expect and desire, and whose coming they think of with a great deal of pleasure. In looking and waiting for him, they looked for redemption in Jerusalem and waited for the consolation of Israel, Luke ii. 25, 38. Christ was to be the desire of all nations, desirable to all (Hag. ii. 7); but he was the desire of the Jewish nation actually, because they had the promise of his coming made to them. Note, Those that seek Jesus shall find pleasure in him. If he be our heart's desire he will be our heart's delight; and we have reason to delight in him who is the messenger of the covenant, and to bid him welcome who came to us on so kind an errand. 4. He shall suddenly come; his coming draws nigh, and we see it not at so great a distance as the patriarchs saw it at. Or, He shall come immediately after the appearing of John Baptist, shall even tread on the heels of his forerunner; when that morning-star appears, believe that the Sun of righteousness is not far off. Or, He shall come suddenly, that is, he shall come when by many he is not looked for; as his second coming will be, so his first coming was, at midnight, when some had done looking for him, for shall he find faith on the earth? Luke xviii. 8. The Jews reckon the Messiah among the things that come unawares; so Dr. Pocock. And the coming of the Son of man in his day is said to be as the lightning, which is very surprising, Luke xvii. 24. 5. He shall come to his temple, this temple at Jerusalem, which was lately built, that latter house which he was to be the glory of. It is his temple, for it is his Father's house, John ii. 16. Christ, at forty days old, was presented in the temple, and thither Simeon went by the Spirit, according to the direction of this prophecy, to see him, Luke ii. 27. At twelve years old he was in the temple about his Father's business, Luke ii. 49. When he rode in triumph into Jerusalem, it should seem that he went directly to the temple (Matt. xxi. 12), and (v. 14) thither the blind and the lame came to him to be healed; there he often preached, and often disputed, and often wrought miracles. By this it appears that the Messiah was to come while that temple was standing; that, therefore, being long since destroyed, we must conclude that he has come, and we are to look for no other. Note, Those that would be acquainted with Christ and obtain his favour must meet him in his temple, for there he records his name and there he will bless his people. There we must receive his oracles and there we must pay our homage. 6. The promise of this coming is repeated and ratified: Behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts; you may depend upon his word, who cannot lie, he shall come, he will come, he will not tarry.
But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He
appeareth? for He is like a refiner's fire.
III. An account given of the great ends and intentions of his coming, v. 2. He is one whom they seek, and one whom they delight in; and yet who may abide the day of his coming? It is a thing to be thought of with great seriousness, and with a holy awe and reverence; for who shall stand when he appears, though he comes not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might have life? This may refer,
1. To the terrors of his appearance. Even in the days of his flesh there were some emanations of his glory and power, such as none could stand before, witness his transfiguration, and the prodigies that attended his death; and we read of some that trembled before him, as Mark v. 33.
2. To the troublous times that should follow soon after. The Jewish doctors speak of the pangs or griefs of the Messiah, meaning (they say) the great afflictions that should be to Israel at the time of his coming; he himself speaks of great tribulation then approaching, such as was not since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall be, Matt. xxiv. 21.
3. To the trial which his coming would make of the children of men. He shall be like a refiner's fire, which separates between the gold and the dross by melting the ore, or like fuller's soap, which with much rubbing fetches the spots out of the cloth. Christ came to discover men, that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed (Luke ii. 35), to distinguish men, to separate between the precious and the vile, for his fan in his hand (Matt. iii. 12), to send fire on the earth, not peace, but rather division (Luke xii. 49, 51), to shake heaven and earth, that the wicked might be shaken out (Job xxxviii. 13) and that the things which cannot be shaken might remain, Heb. xii. 27. See what the effect of the trial will be that shall be made by the gospel.
(1.) The gospel shall work good upon those that are disposed to be good, to them it shall be a savour of life unto life (v. 3): He shall sit as a refiner. Christ by his gospel shall purify and reform his church, and by his Spirit working with it shall regenerate and cleanse particular souls; for to this end he gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word (Eph. v. 26) and purify to himself a peculiar people, Tit. ii. 14. Christ is the great refiner. Observe,
And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the
Lord an offering in righteousness.
Henry:[1.] Who they are that he will purify--the sons of Levi, all those that are devoted to his praise and employed in his service, as the tribe of Levi was, and whom he designs to make unto our God spiritual priests (Rev. i. 6), a holy priesthood, 1 Pet. ii. 5. Note, All true Christians are sons of Levi, set apart for God, to do the service of his sanctuary, and to war the good warfare. [2.] How he will purify them; he will purge them as gold and silver, that is, he will sanctify them inwardly; he will not only wash away the spots they have contracted from without, but will take away the dross that is found in them; he will separate from them their indwelling corruptions, which rendered their faculties worthless and useless, and so make them like gold refined, both valuable and serviceable. He will purge them with fire, as gold and silver are purged, for he baptizes with the Holy Ghost and with fire (Matt. iii. 11), with the Holy Ghost working like fire. He will purge them by afflictions and manifold temptations, that the trial of their faith may be found to praise and honour, 1 Pet. i. 6, 7. He will purge them so as to make them a precious people to himself. [3.] What will be the effect of it: That they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness, that is, that they may be in sincerity converted to God and consecrated to his praise (hence we read of the offering up, or sacrificing, of the Gentiles to God, when they were sanctified by the holy Ghost, Rom. xv. 16), and that they may in a spiritual manner worship God according to his will, may offer the sacrifices of righteousness, (Ps. iv. 5), the offering of prayer, and praise, and holy love, that they may be the true worshippers, who worship the Father in spirit and in truth, John iv. 23, 24. Note, We cannot offer unto the Lord any right performances in religion unless our persons be justified and sanctified. Till we ourselves be refined and purified by the grace of God, we cannot do any thing that will redound to the glory of God. God had respect to Abel first, and then to his offering; and therefore God purges his people, that they may offer their offerings to him in righteousness, Zeph. iii. 9. He makes the tree good that the fruit may be good. And then it follows (v. 4), The offering of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasant unto the Lord. It shall no longer be offensive, as it has been, when, in the former days, they worshipped other gods with the God of Israel, or when, in the present days, they brought the torn, and the lame, and the sick, for sacrifice; but it shall be acceptable; he will be pleased with the offerers, and their offerings, as in the days of old and as in former years, as in the primitive times of the church, as when God had respect to Abel's sacrifice and smelled a savour of rest from Noah's, and when he kindled Aaron's sacrifice with fire from heaven. When the Messiah comes, First, He will, by his grace in them, make them acceptable; when he has purified and refined them, then they shall offer such sacrifices as God requires and will accept. Secondly, He will, by his intercession for them, make them accepted; he will recommend them and their performances to God, so that their prayers, being perfumed with the incense of his intercession, shall be pleasant unto the Lord; for he has made us accepted in the Beloved, and in him is well pleased with those that are in him (Matt. iii. 17) and bring forth fruit in him.
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his
IV. The prophet, in God's name, gives them a sign: "You will not ask a sign, but the unbelief of man shall not make the promise of God of no effect: The Lord himself shall give you a sign (v. 14), a double sign."
1. "A sign in general of his good-will to Israel and to the house of David. You may conclude it that he has mercy in store for you, and that you are not forsaken of your God, how great soever your present distress and danger are; for of your nation, of your family, the Messiah is to be born, and you cannot be destroyed while that blessing is in you, which shall be introduced," (1.) "In a glorious manner; for, whereas you have been often told that he should be born among you, I am now further to tell you that he shall be born of a virgin, which will signify both the divine power and the divine purity with which he shall be brought into the world,--that he shall be a extraordinary person, for he shall not be born by ordinary generation,--and that he shall be a holy thing, not stained with the common pollutions of the human nature, therefore incontestably fit to have the throne of his father David given him." Now this, though it was to be accomplished above 500 years after, was a most encouraging sign to the house of David (and to them, under that title, this prophecy is directed, v. 13) and an assurance that God would not cast them off. Ephraim did indeed envy Judah (ch. xi. 13) and sought the ruin of that kingdom, but could not prevail; for the sceptre should never depart from Judah till the coming of Shiloh, Gen. xlix. 10. Those whom God designs for the great salvation may take that for a sign to them that they shall not be swallowed up by any trouble they meet with in the way. (2.) The Messiah shall be introduced on a glorious errand, wrapped up in his glorious name: They shall call his name Immanuel--God with us, God in our nature, God at peace with us, in covenant with us. This was fulfilled in their calling him Jesus--a Saviour (Matt. i. 21-25), for, if he had not been Immanuel--God with us, he could not have been Jesus--a Saviour. Now this was a further sign of God's favour to the house of David and the tribe of Judah; for he that intended to work this great salvation among them no doubt would work out for them all those other salvations which were to be the types and figures of this, and as it were preludes to this. "Here is a sign for you, not in the depth nor in the height, but in the prophecy, in the promise, in the covenant made with David, which you are no strangers to. The promised seed shall be Immanuel, God with us; let that word comfort you (ch. viii. 10), that God is with us, and (v. 8) that your land is Immanuel's land. Let not the heart of the house of David be moved thus (v. 2), nor let Judah fear the setting up of the son of Tabeal (v. 6), for nothing can cut off the entail on the Son of David that shall be Immanuel." Note, The strongest consolations, in time of trouble, are those which are borrowed from Christ, our relation to him, our interest in him, and our expectations of him and from him.
[Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and
they shall call his name Emmanuel,] "God with us".
The prophecy here quoted is justly ushered in with a Behold, which commands both attention and admiration; for we have here the mystery of godliness, which is, without controversy, great, that God was manifested in the flesh.
1. The sign given is that the Messiah shall be born of a virgin. A virgin shall conceive, and, by her, he shall be manifested in the flesh. The word Almah signifies a virgin in the strictest sense, such as Mary professes herself to be (Luke i. 34), I know not a man; nor had it been any such wonderful sign as it was intended for, if it had been otherwise. It was intimated from the beginning that the Messiah should be born of a virgin, when it was said that he should be the seed of the woman; so the seed of the woman as not to be the seed of any man. Christ was born of a virgin not only because his birth was to be supernatural, and altogether extraordinary, but because it was to be spotless, and pure, and without any stain of sin. Christ would be born, not of an empress or queen, for he appeared not in outward pomp or splendour, but of a virgin, to teach us spiritual purity, to die to all the delights of sense, and so to keep ourselves unspotted from the world and the flesh that we may be presented chaste virgins to Christ.
2. The truth proved by this sign is, that he is the Son of God, and the Mediator between God and man: for they shall call his name Immanuel; that is, he shall be Immanuel; and when it is said, He shall be called, it is meant, he shall be, the Lord our righteousness. Immanuel signifies God with us; a mysterious name, but very precious; God incarnate among us, and so God reconcilable to us, at peace with us, and taking us into covenant and communion with himself. The people of the Jews had God with them, in types and shadows, dwelling between the cherubim; but never so as when the Word was made flesh--that was the blessed Shechinah. What a happy step is hereby taken toward the settling of a peace and correspondence between God and man, that the two natures are thus brought together in the person of the Mediator! by this he became an unexceptionable referee, a days-man, fit to lay his hand upon them both, since he partakes of the nature of both. Behold, in this, the deepest mystery, and the richest mercy, that ever was. By the light of nature, we see God as a God above us; by the light of the law, we see him as a God against us; but by the light of the gospel, we see him as Immanuel, God with us, in our own nature, and (which is more) in our interest. Herein the Redeemer commended his love. With Christ's name, Immanuel, we may compare the name given to the gospel church (Ezek. xlviii. 35). Jehovah Shammah--The Lord is there; the Lord of hosts is with us.
Nor is it improper to say that the prophecy which foretold that he should be called Immanuel was fulfilled, in the design and intention of it, when he was called Jesus; for if he had not been Immanuel--God with us, he could not have been Jesus--a Saviour; and herein consists the salvation he wrought out, in the bringing of God and man together; this was what he designed, to bring God to be with us, which is our great happiness, and to bring us to be with God, which is our great duty.
O thou, that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high
mountain; O thou, that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy
voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of
Judah, Behold your God!
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is
risen upon thee.
It is here promised that the gospel temple shall be very lightsome and very large.
I. It shall be very lightsome: Thy light has come. When the Jews returned out of captivity they had light and gladness, and joy and honour; they then were made to know the Lord and to rejoice in his great goodness; and upon both accounts their light came. When the Redeemer came to Zion he brought light with him, he himself came to be a light.
For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the
people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
Now observe, 1. What this light is, and whence it springs: The Lord shall arise upon thee (v. 2), the glory of the Lord (v. 1) shall be seen upon thee. God is the father and fountain of lights, and it is in his light that we shall see light. As far as we have the knowledge of God in us, and the favour of God towards us, our light has come. When God appears to us, and we have the comfort of his favour, then the glory of the Lord rises upon us as the morning light; when he appears for us, and we have the credit of his favour, when he shows us some token for good and proclaims his favour to us, then his glory is seen upon us, as it was upon Israel in the pillar of cloud and fire. When Christ arose as the sun of righteousness, and in him the day-spring from on high visited us, then the glory of the Lord was seen upon us, the glory as of the first-begotten of the Father. 2. What a foil there shall be to this light: Darkness shall cover the earth; but, though it be gross darkness, darkness that might be felt, like that of Egypt, that shall overspread the people, yet the church, like Goshen, shall have light at the same time. When the case of the nations that have not the gospel shall be very melancholy, those dark corners of the earth being full of the habitations of cruelty to poor souls, the state of the church shall be very pleasant. 3. What is the duty which the rising of this light calls for: "Arise, shine; not only receive this light, and" (as the margin reads it) "be enlightened by it, but reflect this light; arise and shine with rays borrowed from it." The children of light ought to shine as lights in the world. If God's glory be seen upon us to our honour, we ought not only with our lips, but in our lives, to return the praise of it to his honour, Matt. v. 16; Phil. ii. 15.
II. It shall be very large. When the Jews were settled again in their own land, after their captivity, many of the people of the land joined themselves to them; but it does not appear that there ever was any such numerous accession to them as would answer the fulness of this prophecy; and therefore we must conclude that this looks further, to the bringing of the Gentiles into the gospel church, not their flocking to one particular place, though under that type it is here described. There is no place now that is the centre of the church's unity; but the promise respects their flocking to Christ, and coming by faith, and hope, and holy love, into that society which is incorporated by the charter of his gospel, and of the unity of which he only is the centre--that family which is named from him, Eph. iii. 15. The gospel church is expressly called Zion and Jerusalem, and under that notion all believers are said to come to it (Heb. xii. 22. You have come unto Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem), which serves for a key to this prophecy, Eph. ii. 19. Observe,
1. What shall invite such multitudes to the church: "They shall come to thy light and to the brightness of thy rising, v. 3. They shall be allured to join themselves to thee," (1.) "By the light that shines upon thee," the light of the glorious gospel, which the churches hold forth, in consequence of which they are called golden candlesticks. This light which discovers so much of God and his good will to man, by which life and immortality are brought to light, this shall invite all the serious well-affected part of mankind to come and join themselves to the church, that they may have the benefit of this light to inform them concerning truth and duty. (2.) "By the light with which thou shinest." The purity and love of the primitive Christians, their heavenly-mindedness, contempt of the world, and patient sufferings, were the brightness of the church's rising, which drew many into it. The beauty of holiness was the powerful attractive by which Christ had a willing people brought to him in the day of his power, Ps. cx. 3.
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that
dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light
At this time when the prophet lived, there were many prophets in Judah and Israel, whose prophecies were a great light both for direction and comfort to the people of God, who adhered to the law and the testimony. Besides the written word, they had prophecy; there were those that had shown them how long (Ps. lxxiv. 9), which was a great satisfaction to them, when in respect of their outward troubles they sat in darkness, and dwelt in the land of the shadow of death. (2.) This was to have its full accomplishment when our Lord Jesus began to appear as a prophet, and to preach the gospel in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, and in Galilee of the Gentiles. And the Old-Testament prophets, as they were witnesses to him, so they were types of him. When he came and dwelt in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali, then this prophecy is said to have been fulfilled, Matt. iv. 13-16. Note, [1.] Those that want the gospel walk in darkness, and know not what they do nor whither they go; and they dwell in the land of the shadow of death, in thick darkness, and in the utmost danger. [2.] When the gospel comes to any place, to any soul, light comes, a great light, a shining light, which will shine more and more. It should be welcome to us, as light is to those that sit in darkness, and we should readily entertain it, both because if is of such sovereign use to us and because it brings its own evidence with it. Truly this light is sweet.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the
government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The
Prince of Peace.
But who, where, is he that shall undertake and accomplish these great things for the church? The prophet tells us (v. 6, 7) they shall be done by the Messiah, Immanuel, that son of a virgin whose birth he had foretold (ch. vii. 14), and now speaks of, in the prophetic style, as a thing already done: the child is born, not only because it was as certain, and he was as certain of it as if it had been done already, but because the church before his incarnation reaped great benefit and advantage by his undertaking in virtue of that first promise concerning the seed of the woman, Gen. iii. 15. As he was the Lamb slain, so he was the child born, from the foundation of the world, Rev. xiii. 8. All the great things that God did for the Old-Testament church were done by him as the eternal Word, and for his sake as the Mediator. He was the Anointed, to whom God had respect (Ps. lxxxiv. 9), and it was for the Lord's sake, for the Lord Christ's sake, that God caused his face to shine upon his sanctuary, Dan. ix. 17. The Jewish nation, and particularly the house of David, were preserved many a time from imminent ruin only because that blessing was in them. What greater security therefore could be given to the church of God then that it should be preserved, and be the special care of the divine Providence, than this, that God had so great a mercy in reserve for it? The Chaldee paraphrast understands it of the man that shall endure for ever, even Christ. And it is an illustrious prophecy of him and of his kingdom, which doubtless those that waited for the consolation of Israel built much upon, often turned to, and read with pleasure.
1. See him in his humiliation. The same that is the mighty God is a child born; the ancient of days becomes an infant of a span long; the everlasting Father is a Son given. Such was his condescension in taking our nature upon him; thus did he humble and empty himself, to exalt and fill us. He is born into our world. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. He is given, freely given, to be all that to us which our case, in our fallen state, calls for. God so loved the world that he gave him. He is born to us, he is given to us, us men, and not to the angels that sinned. It is spoken with an air of triumph, and the angel seems to refer to these words in the notice he gives to the shepherds of the Messiah's having come (Luke ii. 11), Unto you is born, this day, a Saviour. Note, Christ's being born and given to us is the great foundation of our hopes, and fountain of our joys, in times of greatest grief and fear.
2. See him in his exaltation. This child, this son, this Son of God, this Son of man, that is given to us, is in a capacity to do us a great deal of kindness; for he is invested with the highest honour and power, so that we cannot but be happy if he be our friend.
(1.) See the dignity he is advanced to, and the name he has above every name. He shall be called (and therefore we are sure he is and shall be) Wonderful, Counsellor, &c. His people shall know him and worship him by these names; and, as one that fully answers them, they shall submit to him and depend upon him. [1.] He is wonderful, counsellor. Justly is he called wonderful, for he is both God and man. His love is the wonder of angels and glorified saints; in his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, he was wonderful. A constant series of wonders attended him, and, without controversy, great was the mystery of godliness concerning him. He is the counsellor, for he was intimately acquainted with the counsels of God from eternity, and he gives counsel to the children of men, in which he consults our welfare. It is by him that God has given us counsel, Ps. xvi. 7; Rev. iii. 18. He is the wisdom of the Father, and is made of God to us wisdom. Some join these together: He is the wonderful counsellor, a wonder or miracle of a counsellor; in this, as in other things, he has the pre-eminence; none teaches like him. [2.] He is the mighty God--God, the mighty One. As he has wisdom, so he has strength, to go through with his undertaking: he is able to save to the utmost; and such is the work of the Mediator that no less a power than that of the mighty God could accomplish it. [3.] He is the everlasting Father, or the Father of eternity; he is God, one with the Father, who is from everlasting to everlasting. He is the author of everlasting life and happiness to them, and so is the Father of a blessed eternity to them. He is the Father of the world to come (so the LXX. reads it), the father of the gospel-state, which is put in subjection to him, not to the angels, Heb. ii. 5. He was, from eternity, Father of the great work of redemption: his heart was upon it; it was the product of his wisdom as the counsellor, of his love as the everlasting Father. [4.] He is the prince of peace. As a King, he preserves the peace, commands peace, nay, he creates peace, in his kingdom. He is our peace, and it is his peace that both keeps the hearts of his people and rules in them. He is not only a peaceable prince, and his reign peaceable, but he is the author and giver of all good, all that peace which is the present and future bliss of his subjects.
(2.) See the dominion he is advanced to, and the throne he has above every throne (v. 6): The government shall be upon his shoulder--his only. He shall not only wear the badge of it upon his shoulder (the key of the house of David, ch. xxii. 22), but he shall bear the burden of it. The Father shall devolve it upon him, so that he shall have an incontestable right to govern; and he shall undertake it, so that no doubt can be made of his governing well, for he shall set his shoulder to it, and will never complain, as Moses did, of his being overcharged. I am not able to bear all this people, Num. xi. 11, 14. Glorious things are here spoken of Christ's government, v. 7. [1.] That it shall be an increasing government. It shall be multiplied; the bounds of his kingdom shall be more and more enlarged, and many shall be added to it daily. The lustre of it shall increase, and it shall shine more and more brightly in the world. The monarchies of the earth were each less illustrious than the other, so that what began in gold ended in iron and clay, and every monarchy dwindled by degrees; but the kingdom of Christ is a growing kingdom, and will come to perfection at last. [2.] That it shall be a peaceable government, agreeable to his character as the prince of peace. He shall rule by love, shall rule in men's hearts; so that wherever his government is there shall be peace, and as his government increases the peace shall increase. The more we are subject to Christ the more easy and safe we are. [3.] That it shall be a rightful government. He that is the Son of David shall reign upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, which he is entitled to. God shall give him the throne of his father David, Luke i. 32, 33. The gospel church, in which Jew and Gentile are incorporated, is the holy hill of Zion, on which Christ reigns, Ps. ii. 6. [4.] That it shall be administered with prudence and equity, and so as to answer the great end of government, which is the establishment of the kingdom: He shall order it, and settle it, with justice and judgment. Every thing is, and shall be, well managed, in the kingdom of Christ, and none of his subjects shall ever have cause to complain.
There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their
flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
See here how the shepherds were employed; they were abiding in the fields adjoining to Bethlehem, and keeping watch over their flocks by night, v. 8. The angel was not sent to the chief priests or the elders (they were not prepared to receive these tidings), but to a company of poor shepherds, who were like Jacob, plain men dwelling in tents, not like Esau, cunning hunters. The patriarchs were shepherds. Moses and David particularly were called from keeping sheep to rule God's people; and by this instance God would show that he had still a favour for those of that innocent employment. Tidings were brought to Moses of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, when he was keeping sheep, and to these shepherds, who, it is probable, were devout pious men, the tidings were brought of a greater salvation. Observe, 1. They were not sleeping in their beds, when this news was brought them (though many had very acceptable intelligence from heaven in slumbering upon the bed), but abiding in the fields, and watching. Those that would hear from God must stir up themselves. They were broad awake, and therefore could not be deceived in what they saw and heard, so as those may be who are half asleep. 2. They were employed now, not in acts of devotion, but in the business of their calling; they were keeping watch over their flock, to secure them from thieves and beasts of prey, it being probably in the summer time, when they kept their cattle out all night, as we do now, and did not house them. Note, We are not out of the way of divine visits when we are sensibly employed in an honest calling, and abide with God in it.
How they were surprised with the appearance of the angel (v. 9): Behold, an angel of the Lord came upon them, of a sudden, epeste--stood over them; most probably, in the air over their heads, as coming immediately from heaven. We read it, the angel, as if it were the same that appeared once and again in the chapter before, the angel Gabriel, that was caused to fly swiftly; but that is not certain. The angel's coming upon them intimates that they little thought of such a thing, or expected it; for it is in a preventing way that gracious visits are made us from heaven, or ever we are aware. That they might be sure it was an angel from heaven, they saw and heard the glory of the Lord round about them; such as made the night as bright as day, such a glory as used to attend God's appearance, a heavenly glory, or an exceedingly great glory, such as they could not bear the dazzling lustre of. This made them sore afraid, put them into great consternation, as fearing some evil tidings. While we are conscious to ourselves of so much guilt, we have reason to fear lest every express from heaven should be a messenger of wrath.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good
tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
What the message was which the angel had to deliver to the shepherds, v. 10-12. 1. He gives a supersedeas to their fears: "Fear not, for we have nothing to say to you that needs be a terror to you; you need not fear your enemies, and should not fear your friends." 2. He furnishes them with abundant matter for joy: "Behold, I evangelize to you great joy; I solemnly declare it, and you have reason to bid it welcome, for it shall bring joy to all people, and not to the people of the Jews only; that unto you is born this day, at this time, a Saviour, the Saviour that has been so long expected, which is Christ the Lord, in the city of David," v. 11. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed; he is the Lord, Lord of all; he is a sovereign prince; nay, he is God, for the Lord, in the Old Testament, answers to Jehovah. He is a Saviour, and he will be a Saviour to those only that accept him for their Lord. "The Saviour is born, he is born this day; and, since it is matter of great joy to all people, it is not to be kept secret, you may proclaim it, may tell it to whom you please. He is born in the place where it was foretold he should be born, in the city of David; and he is born to you; to you Jews he is sent in the first place, to bless you, to you shepherds, though poor and mean in the world." This refers to Isa. ix. 6, Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. To you men, not to us angels; he took not on him the nature of angels. This is matter of joy indeed to all people, great joy. Long-looked for is come at last. Let heaven and earth rejoice before this Lord, for he cometh.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly
host, praising God, and saying:
The message was no sooner delivered by one angel (that was sufficient to go express) than suddenly there was with that angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts; sufficient, we may be sure, to make a chorus, that were heard by the shepherds, praising God; and certainly their song was not like that (Rev. xiv. 3) which no man could learn, for it was designed that we should all learn it.
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill toward men!
Let God have the honour of this work: Glory to God in the highest. God's good-will to men, manifested in sending the Messiah, redounds very much to his praise; and angels in the highest heavens, though not immediately interested in it themselves, will celebrate it to his honour, Rev. v. 11, 12. Glory to God, whose kindness and love designed this favour, and whose wisdom contrived it in such a way as that one divine attribute should not be glorified at the expense of another, but the honour of all effectually secured and advanced. Other works of God are for his glory, but the redemption of the world is for his glory in the highest. 2. Let men have the joy of it: On earth peace, good-will toward men. God's good-will in sending the Messiah introduced peace in this lower world, slew the enmity that sin had raised between God and man, and resettled a peaceable correspondence. If God be at peace with us, all peace results from it: peace of conscience, peace with angels, peace between Jew and Gentile. Peace is here put for all good, all that good which flows to us from the incarnation of Christ. All the good we have, or hope, is owing to God's good-will; and, if we have the comfort of it, he must have the glory of it. Nor must any peace, and good, be expected in a way inconsistent with the glory of God; therefore not in any way of sin, nor in any way but by a Mediator. Here was the peace proclaimed with great solemnity; whoever will, let them come and take the benefit of it. It is on earth peace, to men of good-will (so some copies read it), en anthropois eudokias; to men who have a good-will to God, and are willing to be reconciled; or to men whom God has a good-will to, though vessels of his mercy. See how well affected the angels are to man, and to his welfare and happiness; how well pleased they were in the incarnation of the Son of God, though he passed by their nature; and ought not we much more to be affected with it? This is a faithful saying, attested by an innumerable company of angels, and well worthy of all acceptation, That the good-will of God toward men is glory to God in the highest, and peace on the earth.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:
behold, thy King cometh unto thee.
He is the righteous Saviour and He shall speak peace unto the heathen.
That here begins a prophecy of the Messiah and his kingdom is plain from the literal accomplishment of the ninth verse in, and its express application to, Christ's riding in triumph into Jerusalem, Matt. xxi. 5; John xii. 15.
I. Here is notice given of the approach of the Messiah promised, as matter of great joy to the Old-Testament church: Behold, thy king cometh unto thee. Christ is a king, invested with regal powers and prerogatives, a sovereign prince, an absolute monarch, having all power both in heaven and on earth. He is Zion's king. God has set him upon his holy hill of Zion, Ps. ii. 6. In Zion his glory as a king shines; thence his law went forth, even the word of the Lord. In the gospel-church his spiritual kingdom is administered; it is by him that the ordinances of the church are instituted, and its officers commissioned; and it is taken under his protection; he fights the church's battles and secures its interests, as its king. "This King has been long in coming, but now, behold, he cometh; he is at the door. There are but a few ages more to run out, and he that shall come will come. He cometh unto thee; the Word will shortly be made flesh, and dwell within thy borders; he will come to his own. And therefore rejoice, rejoice greatly, and shout for joy; look upon it as good news, and be assured it is true; please thyself to think that he is coming, that he is on his way towards thee; and be ready to go forth to meet him with acclamations of joy, as one not able to conceal it, it is so great, nor ashamed to own it, it is so just; cry Hosanna to him." Christ's approaches ought to be the church's applauses.
He will himself undertake their protection, will himself be a wall of fire about Jerusalem and give his angels charge concerning it (those chariots of fire and horses of fire), and then the chariots and horses they had in their service shall be discarded and cut off as altogether needless. 2. It shall be propagated and established by the preaching of the gospel, the speaking of peace to the heathen; for Christ came and preached peace to those that were afar off and to those that were nigh; and so established his kingdom by proclaiming on earth peace, and good-will towards men. 3. His kingdom, as far as it prevails in the minds of men and has the ascendant over them, will make them peaceable, and slay all enmities; it will cut off the battle-bow, and beat swords into plough-shares. It will not only command the peace, but will create the fruit of the lips, peace.
Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.
I. Wonders shall be wrought in the kingdoms both of nature and grace, wonders of mercy wrought upon the children of men, sufficient to evince that it is no less than a God that comes to us. 1. Wonders shall be wrought on men's bodies (v. 5, 6): The eyes of the blind shall be opened; this was often done by our Lord Jesus when he was here upon earth, with a word's speaking, and one he gave sight to that was born blind, Matt. ix. 27; xii. 22; xx. 30; John ix. 6. By his power the ears of the deaf also were unstopped, with one word. Ephphatha--Be opened, Mark vii. 34. Many that were lame had the use of their limbs restored so perfectly that they could not only go, but leap, and with so much joy to them that they could not forbear leaping for joy, as that impotent man, Acts iii. 8. The dumb also were enabled to speak, and then no marvel that they were disposed to sing for joy, Matt. ix. 32, 33. These miracles Christ wrought to prove that he was sent of God (John iii. 2), nay, working them by his own power and in his own name, he proved that he was God, the same who at first made man's mouth, the hearing ear, and the seeing eye. When he would prove to John's disciples his divine mission he did it by miracles of this kind, in which this scripture was fulfilled. 2. Wonders, greater wonders, shall be wrought on men's souls. By the word and Spirit of Christ those that were spiritually blind were enlightened (Acts xxvi. 18), those that were deaf to the calls of God were made to hear them readily, so Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened, so that she attended, Acts xvi. 14. Those that were impotent to every thing that is good by divine grace are made, not only able for it, but active in it, and run the way of God's commandments. Those also that were dumb, and knew not how to speak of God or to God, having their understandings opened to know him, shall thereby have their lips opened to show forth his praise. The tongue of the dumb shall sing for joy, the joy of God's salvation. Praise shall be perfected out of the mouth of babes and sucklings.
II. The Spirit shall be poured out from on high. There shall be waters and streams, rivers of living water; when our Saviour spoke of these as the fulfilling of the scripture, and most probably of this scripture, the evangelist tells us, He spoke of the Spirit (John vii. 38, 39), as does also this prophet (ch. xxxii. 15); so here (v. 6), in the wilderness, where one would least expect it, shall waters break out. This was fulfilled when the Holy Ghost fell upon the Gentiles that heard the word (Acts x. 44); then were the fountains of life opened, whence streams flowed, that watered the earth abundantly. These waters are said to break out, which denotes a pleasing surprise to the Gentile world, such as brought them, as it were, into a new world. The blessed effect of this shall be that the parched ground shall become a pool, v. 7. Those that laboured and were heavily laden, under the burden of guilt, and were scorched with the sense of divine wrath, found rest, and refreshment, and abundant comforts in the gospel. In the thirsty land, where no water was, nor ordinances (Ps. lxiii. 1), there shall be springs of water, a gospel ministry, and by that the administration of all gospel ordinances in their purity and plenty, which are the river that makes glad the city of our God, Ps. xlvi. 4. In the habitation of dragons, who chose to dwell in the parched scorched ground (ch. xxxiv. 9, 13), these waters shall flow, and dispossess them, so that, where each lay shall be grass with reeds and rushes, great plenty of useful productions. Thus it was when Christian churches were planted, and flourished greatly, in the cities of the Gentiles, which, for many ages, had been habitations of dragons, or devils rather, as Babylon (Rev. xviii. 2); when the property of the idols' temples was altered, and they were converted to the service of Christianity, then the habitations of dragons became fruitful fields.
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs
with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those
that are with young.
God is the Shepherd of Israel (Ps. lxxx. 1); Christ is the good Shepherd, John x. 11. The same that rules with the strong hand of a prince leads and feeds with the kind hand of a shepherd. (1.) He takes care of all his flock, the little flock: He shall feed his flock like a shepherd. His word is food for his flock to feed on; his ordinances are fields for them to feed in; his ministers are under-shepherds that are appointed to attend them. (2.) He takes particular care of those that most need his care, the lambs that are weak, and cannot help themselves, and are unaccustomed to hardship, and those that are with young, that are therefore heavy, and, if any harm be done them, are in danger of casting their young. He particularly takes care for a succession, that it may not fail or be cut off. The good Shepherd has tender care for children that are towardly and hopeful, for young converts, that are setting out in the way to heaven, for weak believers, and those that are of a sorrowful spirit. These are the lambs of his flock, that shall be sure to want nothing that their case requires. [1.] He will gather them in the arms of his power; his strength shall be made perfect in their weakness, 2 Cor. xii. 9. He will gather them in when they wander, gather them up when they fall, gather them together when they are dispersed, and gather them home to himself at last; and all this with his own arm, out of which none shall be able to pluck them, John x. 28. [2.] He will carry them in the bosom of his love and cherish them there. When they tire or are weary, are sick and faint, when they meet with foul ways, he will carry them on, and take care they are not left behind. [3.] He will gently lead them. By his word he requires no more service, and by his providence he inflicts no more trouble, than he will fit them for; for he considers their frame.
Come unto Him, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and He will
give you rest.
Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him; for He is meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
We must come to Jesus Christ as our Rest, and repose ourselves in him (v. 28), Come unto me all ye that labour. Observe, [1.] The character of the persons invited; all that labour, and are heavy laden. This is a word in season to him that is weary, Isa. l. 4. Those who complain of the burthen of the ceremonial law, which was an intolerable yoke, and was made much more so by the tradition of the elders (Luke xi. 46), let them come to Christ, and they shall be made easy; he came to free his church from this yoke, to cancel the imposition of those carnal ordinances, and to introduce a purer and more spiritual way of worship; but it is rather to be understood of the burthen of sin, both the guilt and the power of it. Note, All those, and those only, are invited to rest in Christ, that are sensible of sin as a burthen, and groan under it; that are not only convinced of the evil of sin, of their own sin, but are contrite in soul for it; that are really sick of their sins, weary of the service of the world and of the flesh; that see their state sad and dangerous by reason of sin, and are in pain and fear about it, as Ephraim (Jer. xxxi. 18-20), the prodigal (Luke xv. 17), the publican (Luke xviii. 13), Peter's hearers (Acts ii. 37), Paul (Acts ix. 4, 6, 9), the jailor (Acts xvi. 29, 30). This is a necessary preparative for pardon and peace. The Comforter must first convince (John xvi. 8); I have torn and then will heal. [2.] The invitation itself: Come unto me. That glorious display of Christ's greatness which we had (v. 27), as Lord of all, might frighten us from him, but see here how he holds out the golden sceptre, that we may touch the top of it and may live. Note, It is the duty and interest of weary and heavy laden sinners to come to Jesus Christ. Renouncing all those things which stand in opposition to him, or in competition with him, we must accept of him, as our Physician and Advocate, and give up ourselves to his conduct and government; freely willing to be saved by him, in his own way, and upon his own terms. Come and cast that burden upon him, under which thou art heavy laden. This is the gospel call, The Spirit saith, Come; and the bride saith, Come; let him that is athirst come; Whoever will, let him come.
[3.] The blessing promised to those that do come: I will give you rest. Christ is our Noah, whose name signifies rest, for this same shall give us rest. Gen. v. 29; viii. 9. Truly rest is good (Gen. xlix. 15), especially to those that labour and are heavy laden, Eccl. v. 12. Note, Jesus Christ will give assured rest to those weary souls, that by a lively faith come to him for it; rest from the terror of sin, in a well-grounded peace of conscience; rest from the power of sin, in a regular order of the soul, and its due government of itself; a rest in God, and a complacency of soul, in his love. Ps. xi. 6, 7. This is that rest which remains for the people of God (Heb. iv. 9), begun in grace, and perfected in glory.
His yoke is easy, His burthen is light.
[1.] The yoke of Christ's commands is an easy yoke; it is chrestos, not only easy, but gracious, so the word signifies; it is sweet and pleasant; there is nothing in it to gall the yielding neck, nothing to hurt us, but, on the contrary, must to refresh us. It is a yoke that is lined with love. Such is the nature of all Christ's commands, so reasonable in themselves, so profitable to us, and all summed up in one word, and that a sweet word, love. So powerful are the assistances he gives us, so suitable the encouragements, and so strong the consolations, that are to be found in the way of duty, that we may truly say, it is a yoke of pleasantness. It is easy to the new nature, very easy to him that understandeth, Prov. xiv. 6. It may be a little hard at first, but it is easy afterwards; the love of God and the hope of heaven will make it easy.
[2.] The burden of Christ's cross is a light burden, very light: afflictions from Christ, which befal us as men; afflictions for Christ, which befal us as Christians; the latter are especially meant. This burden in itself is not joyous, but grievous; yet as it is Christ's, it is light. Paul knew as much of it as any man, and he calls it a light affliction, 2 Cor. iv. 17. God's presence (Isa. xliii. 2), Christ's sympathy (Isa. lxxiii. 9, Dan. iii. 25), and especially the Spirit's aids and comforts (2 Cor. i. 5), make suffering for Christ light and easy. As afflictions abound, and are prolonged, consolations abound, and are prolonged too. Let this therefore reconcile us to the difficulties, and help us over the discouragements, we may meet with, both in doing work and suffering work; though we may lose for Christ, we shall not lose by him.
(3.) We must come to Jesus Christ as our Teacher, and set ourselves to learn of him, v. 29. Christ has erected a great school, and has invited us to be his scholars. We must enter ourselves, associate with his scholars, and daily attend the instructions he gives by his word and Spirit. We must converse much with what he said, and have it ready to use upon all occasions; we must conform to what he did, and follow his steps, 1 Pet. ii. 21. Some make the following words, for I am meek and lowly in heart, to be the particular lesson we are required to learn from the example of Christ. We must learn of him to be meek and lowly, and must mortify our pride and passion, which render us so unlike to him. We must so learn of Christ as to learn Christ (Eph. iv. 20), for he is both Teacher and Lesson, Guide and Way, and All in All.
Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.
(1.) That Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, which bespeaks him the great sacrifice, by which atonement is made for sin, and man reconciled to God. Of all the legal sacrifices he chooses to allude to the lambs that were offered, not only because a lamb is an emblem of meekness, and Christ must be led as a lamb to the slaughter (Isa. liii. 7), but with a special reference, [1.] To the daily sacrifice, which was offered every morning and evening continually, and that was always a lamb (Exod. xxix. 38), which was a type of Christ, as the everlasting propitiation, whose blood continually speaks. [2.] To the paschal lamb, the blood of which, being sprinkled upon the door-posts, secured the Israelites from the stroke of the destroying angel. Christ is our passover, 1 Cor. v. 7. He is the Lamb of God; he is appointed by him (Rom. iii. 25), he was devoted to him (ch. xvii. 19), and he was accepted with him; in him he was well pleased. The lot which fell on the goat that was to be offered for a sin-offering was called the Lord's lot (Lev. xvi. 8, 9); so Christ, who was to make atonement for sin, is called the Lamb of God.
(2.) That Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world. This was his undertaking; he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, Heb. ix. 26. John Baptist had called people to repent of their sins, in order to the remission of them. Now here he shows how and by whom that remission was to be expected, what ground of hope we have that our sins shall be pardoned upon our repentance, though our repentance makes no satisfaction for them. This ground of hope we have--Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. [1.] He takes away sin. He, being Mediator between God and man, takes away that which is, above any thing, offensive to the holiness of God, and destructive to the happiness of man. He came, First, To take away the guilt of sin by the merit of his death, to vacate the judgment, and reverse the attainder, which mankind lay under, by an act of indemnity, of which all penitent obedient believers may claim the benefit. Secondly, To take away the power of sin by the Spirit of his grace, so that it shall not have dominion, Rom. vi. 14. Christ, as the Lamb of God, washes us from our sins in his own blood; that is, he both justifies and sanctifies us: he takes away sin. He is ho airon --he is taking away the sin of the worldd, which denotes it not a single but a continued act; it is his constant work and office to take away sin, which is such a work of time that it will never be completed till time shall be no more. He is always taking away sin, by the continual intercession of his blood in heaven, and the continual influence of his grace on earth. [2.] He takes away the sin of the world; purchases pardon for all those that repent, and believe the gospel, of what country, nation, or language, soever they be. The legal sacrifices had reference only to the sins of Israel, to make atonement for them; but the Lamb of God was offered to be a propitiation for the sin of the whole world; see 1 John ii. 2. This is encouraging to our faith; if Christ takes away the sin of the world, then why not my sin? Christ levelled his force at the main body of sin's army, struck at the root, and aimed at the overthrow, of that wickedness which the whole world lay in. God was in him reconciling the world to himself. [3.] He does this by taking it upon himself. He is the Lamb of God, that bears the sin of the world; so the margin reads it. He bore sin for us, and so bears it from us; he bore the sin of many, as the scape-goat had the sins of Israel put upon his head, Lev. xvi. 21. God could have taken away the sin by taking away the sinner, as he took away the sin of the old world; but he has found out a way of abolishing the sin, and yet sparing the sinner, by making his Son sin for us.
(3.) That it is our duty, with an eye of faith, to behold the Lamb of God thus taking away the sin of the world. See him taking away sin, and let that increase our hatred of sin, and resolutions against it. Let not us hold that fast which the Lamb of God came to take away: for Christ will either take our sins away or take us away. Let it increase our love to Christ, who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, Rev. i. 5. Whatever God is pleased to take away from us, if withal he take away our sins, we have reason to be thankful, and no reason to complain.
He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted
He is despised and rejected, abandoned and abhorred, a reproach of men, an abject, one that men were shy of keeping company with and had not any esteem for, a worm and no man. He was despised as a mean man, rejected as a bad man. He was the stone which the builders refused; they would not have him to reign over them. Men, who should have had so much reason as to understand things better, so much tenderness as not to trample upon a man in misery--men whom he came to seek and save rejected him: "We hid as it were our faces from him, looked another way, and his sufferings were as nothing to us; though never sorrow was like unto his sorrow. Nay, we not only behaved as having no concern for him, but as loathing him, and having him in detestation." It may be read, He hid as it were his face from us, concealed the glory of his majesty, and drew a veil over it, and therefore he was despised and we esteemed him not, because we could not see through that veil. Christ having undertaken to make satisfaction to the justice of God for the injury man had done him in his honour by sin (and God cannot be injured except in his honour), he did it not only by divesting himself of the glories due to an incarnate deity, but by submitting himself to the disgraces due to the worst of men and malefactors; and thus by vilifying himself he glorified his Father: but this is a good reason why we should esteem him highly, and study to do him honour; let him be received by us whom men rejected.
He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked
off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting.
He continued very free and forward to his work even when he came to the hardest part of it. Note, As a good understanding in the truths of God, so a good will to the work and service of God, is from the grace of God. 2. His obedient patience in his suffering work. I call it obedient patience because he was patient with an eye to his Father's will, thus pleading with himself, This commandment have I received of my Father, and thus submitting to God, Not as I will, but as thou wilt. In this submission he resigned himself, (1.) To be scourged: I gave my back to the smiters; and that not only by submitting to the indignity when he was smitten, but by permitting it (or admitting it rather) among the other instances of pain and shame which he would voluntarily undergo for us. (2.) To be buffeted: I gave my cheeks to those that not only smote them, but plucked off the hair of the beard, which was a greater degree both of pain and of ignominy. (3.) To be spit upon: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. He could have hidden his face from it, could have avoided it, but he would not, because he was made a reproach of men, and thus he would answer to the type of Job, that man of sorrows, of whom it is said that they smote him on the cheek reproachfully (Job xvi. 10), which was an expression not only of contempt, but of abhorrence and indignation. All this Christ underwent for us, and voluntarily, to convince us of his willingness to save us.
Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows;
He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.
(4.) Having undertaken our debt, he underwent the penalty. Solomon says: He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it. Christ, being surety for us, did smart for it. [1.] He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, v. 4. He not only submitted to the common infirmities of human nature, and the common calamities of human life, which sin had introduced, but he underwent the extremities of grief, when he said, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful. He made the sorrows of this present time heavy to himself, that he might make them light and easy for us. Sin is the wormwood and the fall in the affliction and the misery. Christ bore our sins, and so bore our griefs, bore them off us, that we should never be pressed above measure. This is quoted (Matt. viii. 17) with application to the compassion Christ had for the sick that came to him to be cured and the power he put forth to cure them. [2.] He did this by suffering for our sins (v. 5): He was wounded for our transgressions, to make atonement for them and to purchase for us the pardon of them. Our sins were the thorns in his head, the nails in his hands and feet, the spear in his side. Wounds and bruises were the consequences of sin, what we deserved and what we had brought upon ourselves, ch. i. 6. That these wounds and bruises, though they are painful, may not be mortal, Christ was wounded for our transgressions, was tormented or pained (the word is used for the pains of a woman in travail) for our revolts and rebellions. He was bruised, or crushed, for our iniquities; they were the procuring cause of his death. To the same purport is v. 8, for the transgression of my people was he smitten, the stroke was upon him that should have been upon us; and so some read it, He was cut off for the iniquity of my people, unto whom the stroke belonged, or was due. He was delivered to death for our offences, Rom. iv. 25. Hence it is said to be according to the scriptures, according to this scripture, that Christ died for our sins, 1 Cor. xv. 3. Some read this, by the transgressions of my people; that is, by the wicked hands of the Jews, who were, in profession, God's people, he was stricken, was crucified and slain, Acts ii. 23. But, doubtless, we are to take it in the former sense, which is abundantly confirmed by the angel's prediction of the Messiah's undertaking, solemnly delivered to Daniel, that he shall finish transgression, make an end of sin, and make reconciliation for iniquity, Dan. ix. 24.
(5.) The consequence of this to us is our peace and healing, v. 5. [1.] Hereby we have peace: The chastisement of our peace was upon him; he, by submitting to these chastisements, slew the enmity, and settled an amity, between God and man; he made peace by the blood of his cross. Whereas by sin we had become odious to God's holiness and obnoxious to his justice, through Christ God is reconciled to us, and not only forgives our sins and saves us from ruin, but takes us into friendship and fellowship with himself, and thereby peace (that is, all good) comes unto us, Col. i. 20. He is our peace, Eph. ii. 14. Christ was in pain that we might be at ease; he gave satisfaction to the justice of God that we might have satisfaction in our own minds, might be of good cheer, knowing that through him our sins are forgiven us. [2.] Hereby we have healing; for by his stripes we are healed. Sin is not only a crime, for which we were condemned to die and which Christ purchased for us the pardon of, but it is a disease, which tends directly to the death of our souls and which Christ provided for the cure of.
And with His stripes we are healed.
By his stripes (that is, the sufferings he underwent) he purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls, and to put our souls in a good state of health, that they may be fit to serve God and prepared to enjoy him. And by the doctrine of Christ's cross, and the powerful arguments it furnishes us with against sin, the dominion of sin is broken in us and we are fortified against that which feeds the disease.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his
own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
It is certain that we are all guilty before God. We have all sinned, and have come short of the glory of God (v. 6): All we like sheep have gone astray, one as well as another. The whole race of mankind lies under the stain of original corruption, and every particular person stands charged with many actual transgressions. We have all gone astray from God our rightful owner, alienated ourselves from him, from the ends he designed us to move towards and the way he appointed us to move in. We have gone astray like sheep, which are apt to wander, and are unapt, when they have gone astray, to find the way home again. That is our true character; we are bent to backslide from God, but altogether unable of ourselves to return to him. This is mentioned not only as our infelicity (that we go astray from the green pastures and expose ourselves to the beasts of prey), but as our iniquity. We affront God in going astray from him, for we turn aside every one to his own way, and thereby set up ourselves, and our own will, in competition with God and his will, which is the malignity of sin. Instead of walking obediently in God's way, we have turned wilfully and stubbornly to our own way, the way of our own heart, the way that our own corrupt appetites and passions lead us to. We have set up for ourselves, to be our own masters, our own carvers, to do what we will and have what we will. Some think it intimates our own evil way, in distinction from the evil way of others. Sinners have their own iniquity, their beloved sin, which does most easily beset them, their own evil way, that they are particularly fond of and bless themselves in.
All they that see Him laugh Him to scorn: they shoot out their lips,
and shake their heads, saying,
See what abuses were put upon him. 1. He was reproached as a bad man, as a blasphemer, a sabbath-breaker, a wine-bibber, a false prophet, an enemy to C??sar, a confederate with the prince of the devils. 2. He was despised of the people as a mean contemptible man, not worth taking notice of, his country in no repute, his relations poor mechanics, his followers none of the rulers, or the Pharisees, but the mob. 3. He was ridiculed as a foolish man, and one that not only deceived others, but himself too. Those that saw him hanging on the cross laughed him to scorn. So far were they from pitying him, or concerning themselves for him, that they added to his afflictions, with all the gestures and expressions of insolence upbraiding him with his fall. They make mouths at him, make merry over him, and make a jest of his sufferings: They shoot out the lip, they shake their head, saying,
He trusted in God that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, if
He delight in Him.
This was he that said he trusted God would deliver him; now let him deliver him. David was sometimes taunted for his confidence in God; but in the sufferings of Christ this was literally and exactly fulfilled. Those very gestures were used by those that reviled him (Matt. xxvii. 39); they wagged their heads, nay, and so far did their malice make them forget themselves that they used the very words (v. 43), He trusted in God; let him deliver him. Our Lord Jesus, having undertaken to satisfy for the dishonour we had done to God by our sins, did it by submitting to the lowest possible instance of ignominy and disgrace.
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full of heaviness: He looked
for some to have pity on Him, but there was no man; neither found He any
to comfort Him.
[The psalmist] pleads the unkindness of his friends and his disappointment in them (v. 20): I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; they all failed him like the brooks in summer. This was fulfilled in Christ, for in his sufferings all his disciples forsook him and fled. We cannot expect too little from men (miserable comforters are they all); nor can we expect too much from God, for he is the Father of mercy and the God of all comfort and consolation.
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow.
I. The church in distress here magnifies her affliction, and yet no more than there was cause for; her groaning was not heavier than her strokes. She appeals to all spectators: See if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, v. 12. This might perhaps be truly said of Jerusalem's griefs; but we are apt to apply it too sensibly to ourselves when we are in trouble and more than there is cause for. Because we feel most from our own burden, and cannot be persuaded to reconcile ourselves to it, we are ready to cry out, Surely never was sorrow like unto our sorrow; whereas, if our troubles were to be thrown into a common stock with those of others, and then an equal dividend made, share and share alike, rather than stand to that we should each of us say, "Pray, give me my own again."
II. She here looks beyond the instruments to the author of her troubles, and owns them all to be directed, determined, and disposed of by him: "It is the Lord that has afflicted me, and he has afflicted me because he is angry with me; the greatness of his displeasure may be measured by the greatness of my distress; it is in the day of his fierce anger," v. 12. Afflictions cannot but be very much our griefs when we see them arising from God's wrath; so the church does here.
He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgressions
of Thy people was He stricken.
God having made him sin for us, he was proceeded against as a malefactor; he was apprehended and taken into custody, and made a prisoner; he was judge, accused, tried, and condemned, according to the usual forms of law: God filed a process against him, judged him in pursuance of that process, and confined him in the prison of the grave, at the door of which a stone was rolled and sealed. 6. He was cut off by an untimely death from the land of the living, though he lived a most useful life, did so many good works, and they were all such that one would be apt to think it was for some of them that they stoned him. He was stricken to death, to the grave which he made with the wicked (for he was crucified between two thieves, as if he had been the worst of the three) and yet with the rich.
Our sins were the thorns in his head, the nails in his hands and feet, the spear in his side. Wounds and bruises were the consequences of sin, what we deserved and what we had brought upon ourselves, ch. i. 6. That these wounds and bruises, though they are painful, may not be mortal, Christ was wounded for our transgressions, was tormented or pained (the word is used for the pains of a woman in travail) for our revolts and rebellions. He was bruised, or crushed, for our iniquities; they were the procuring cause of his death. To the same purport is v. 8, for the transgression of my people was he smitten, the stroke was upon him that should have been upon us; and so some read it, He was cut off for the iniquity of my people, unto whom the stroke belonged, or was due. He was delivered to death for our offences, Rom. iv. 25. Hence it is said to be according to the scriptures, according to this scripture, that Christ died for our sins, 1 Cor. xv. 3. Some read this, by the transgressions of my people; that is, by the wicked hands of the Jews, who were, in profession, God's people, he was stricken, was crucified and slain, Acts ii. 23. But, doubtless, we are to take it in the former sense, which is abundantly confirmed by the angel's prediction of the Messiah's undertaking, solemnly delivered to Daniel, that he shall finish transgression, make an end of sin, and make reconciliation for iniquity, Dan. ix. 24.
But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy
Holy One to see corruption.
he should be brought through his sufferings, and brought from under the power of death by a glorious resurrection. (1.) That his soul should not be left in hell, that is, his human spirit should not be long left, as other men's spirits are, in a state of separation from the body, but should, in a little time, return and be re-united to it, never to part again. (2.) That being God's holy One in a peculiar manner, sanctified to the work of redemption and perfectly free from sin, he should not see corruption nor feel it. This implies that he should not only be raised from the grave, but raised so soon that his dead body should not so much as being to corrupt, which, in the course of nature, it would have done if it had not been raised the third day. We, who have so much corruption in our souls, must expect that our bodies also will corrupt (Job xxiv. 19); but that holy One of God who knew no sin saw no corruption. Under the law it was strictly ordered that those parts of the sacrifices which were not burnt upon the altar should by no means be kept till the third day, lest they should putrefy (Lev. vii. 15, 18), which perhaps pointed at Christ's rising the third day, that he might not see corruption--neither was a bone of him broken.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting
doors; and the King of Glory shall come in!
Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in!
Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.
What is spoken once is spoken a second time in these verses; such repetitions are usual in songs, and have much beauty in them. Here is, 1. Entrance once and again demanded for the King of glory; the doors and gates are to be thrown open, thrown wide open, to give him admission, for behold he stands at the door and knocks, ready to come in. 2. Enquiry once and again made concerning this mighty prince, in whose name entrance is demanded: Who is this King of glory? As, when any knock at our door, it is common to ask, Who is there? 3. Satisfaction once and again given concerning the royal person that makes the demand: It is the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle, the Lord of hosts, v. 8, 10. Now,
I. This splendid entry here described it is probable refers to the solemn bringing in of the ark into the tent David pitched for it or the temple Solomon built for it; for, when David prepared materials for the building of it, it was proper for him to prepare a psalm for the dedication of it. The porters are called upon to open the doors, and they are called everlasting doors, because much more durable than the door of the tabernacle, which was but a curtain. They are taught to ask, Who is this King of glory? And those that bore the ark are taught to answer in the language before us, and very fitly, because the ark was a symbol or token of God's presence, Josh. iii. 11. Or it may be taken as a poetical figure designed to represent the subject more affectingly. God, in his word and ordinances, is thus to be welcomed by us, 1. With great readiness: the doors and gates must be thrown open to him. Let the word of the Lord come into the innermost and uppermost place in our souls; and, if we had 600 necks, we should bow them all to the authority of it. 2. With all reverence, remembering how great a God he is with whom we have to do, in all our approaches to him.
II. Doubtless it points at Christ, of whom the ark, with the mercy-seat, was a type. 1. We may apply it to the ascension of Christ into heaven and the welcome given to him there. When he had finished his work on earth he ascended in the clouds of heaven, Dan. vii. 13, 14. The gates of heaven must then be opened to him, those doors that may be truly called everlasting, which had been shut against us, to keep the way of the tree of life, Gen. iii. 24. Our Redeemer found them shut, but, having by his blood made atonement for sin and gained a title to enter into the holy place (Heb. ix. 12), as one having authority, he demanded entrance, not for himself only, but for us; for, as the forerunner, he has for us entered and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The keys not only of hell and death, but of heaven and life, must be put into his hand. His approach being very magnificent, the angels are brought in asking, Who is this King of glory? For angels keep the gates of the New Jerusalem, Rev. xxi. 12. When the first-begotten was brought into the upper world the angels were to worship him (Heb. i. 6); and accordingly, they here ask with wonder, "Who is he?--this that cometh with dyed garments from Bozrah? (Isa. lxiii. 1-3), for he appears in that world as a Lamb that had been slain." It is answered that he is strong and mighty, mighty in battle, to save his people and subdue his and their enemies. 2. We may apply it to Christ's entrance into the souls of men by his word and Spirit, that they may be his temples. Christ's presence in them is like that of the ark in the temple; it sanctifies them. Behold, he stands at the door and knocks, Rev. iii. 20. It is required that the gates and doors of the heart be opened to him, not only as admission is given to a guest, but as possession is delivered to the rightful owner, after the title has been contested. This is the gospel call and demand, that we let Jesus Christ, the King of glory, come into our souls, and welcome him with hosannas, Blessed is he that cometh. That we may do this aright we are concerned to ask, Who is this King of glory?--to acquaint ourselves with him, whom we are to believe in, and to love above all. And the answer is ready: He is Jehovah, and will be Jehovah our righteousness, an all-sufficient Saviour to us, if we give him entrance and entertainment. He is strong and mighty, and the Lord of hosts; and therefore it is at our peril if we deny him entrance; for he is able to avenge the affront; he can force his way, and can break those in pieces with his iron rod that will not submit to his golden sceptre.
In singing this let our hearts cheerfully answer to this call, as it is in the first words of the next psalm, Unto thee, O Lord! do I lift up my soul.
Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this
day have I begotten Thee?
The superiority of the name and nature of Christ above the angels is declared in the holy scriptures, and to be deduced thence. We should have known little or nothing either of Christ or of the angels, without the scriptures; and we must therefore be determined by them in our conceptions of the one and the other. Now here are several passages of scripture cited, in which those things are said of Christ that were never said of the angels.
1. It was said of Christ, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Ps. ii. 7), which may refer to his eternal generation, or to his resurrection, or to his solemn inauguration into his glorious kingdom at his ascension and session at the right hand of the Father. Now this was never said concerning the angels, and therefore by inheritance he has a more excellent nature and name than they.
2. It was said concerning Christ, but never concerning the angels, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son; taken from 2 Sam. vii. 14. Not only, "I am his Father, and he is my Son, by nature and eternal promanation;" but, "I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son, by wonderful conception, and this his son-ship shall be the fountain and foundation of every gracious relation between me and fallen man."
Let all the angels of God worship Him.
It is said of Christ, When God bringeth his First-begotten into the world, let all the angels of God worship him; that is, when he is brought into this lower world, at his nativity, let the angels attend and honour him; or when he is brought into the world above, at his ascension, to enter upon his mediatorial kingdom, or when he shall bring him again into the world, to judge the world, then let the highest creatures worship him. God will not suffer an angel to continue in heaven who will not be in subjection to Christ, and pay adoration to him; and he will at last make the fallen angels and wicked men to confess his divine power and authority and to fall before him. Those who would not have him to reign must then be brought forth and slain before him. The proof of this is taken out of Ps. xcvii. 7, Worship him, all you gods, that is, "All you that are superior to men, own yourselves to be inferior to Christ in nature and power."
Thou art gone up on high, Thou hast led captivity captive and received
gifts for men; yea, even for Thine enemies rebellious also, that the
Lord God might dwell among them.
Of his ascension the psalmist here speaks, and to it his language is expressly applied (Eph. iv. 8): Thou hast ascended on high (v. 18); compare Ps. xlvii. 5, 6. Christ's ascending on high is here spoken of as a thing past, so sure was it; and spoken of to his honour, so great was it. It may include his whole exalted state, but points especially at his ascension into heaven to the right hand of the Father, which was as much our advantage as his advancement. For, 1. He then triumphed over the gates of hell. He led captivity captive; that is, he led his captives in triumph, as great conquerors used to do, making a show of them openly, Col. ii. 15. He led those captive who had led us captive, and who, if he had not interposed, would have held us captive for ever. Nay, he led captivity itself captive, having quite broken the power of sin and Satan. As he was the death of death, so he was the captivity of captivity, Hos. xiii. 14. This intimates the complete victory which Jesus Christ obtained over our spiritual enemies; it was such that through him we also are more than conquerors, that is, triumphers, Rom. viii. 37. 2. He then opened the gates of heaven to all believers: Thou hast received gifts for men. He gave gifts to men, so the apostle reads it, Eph. iv. 8. For he received that he might give; on his head the anointing of the Spirit was poured, that from him it might descend to the skirts of his garments. And he gave what he had received; having received power to give eternal life, he bestows it upon as many as were given him, John xvii. 2. Thou hast received gifts for men, not for angels; fallen angels were not to be made saints, nor standing angels made gospel ministers, Heb. ii. 5. Not for Jews only, but for all men; whoever will may reap the benefit of these gifts. The apostle tells us what these gifts were (Eph. iv. 11), prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers, the institution of a gospel ministry and the qualification of men for it, both which are to be valued as the gifts of heaven and the fruits of Christ's ascension. Thou hast received gifts in man (so the margin), that is, in the human nature which Christ was pleased to clothe himself with, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God. In him, as Mediator, all fulness dwells, that from his fulness we might receive. To magnify the kindness and love of Christ to us in receiving these gifts for us, the psalmist observes, (1.) The forfeiture we had made of them. He received them for the rebellious also, for those that had been rebellious; so all the children of men had been in their fallen state. Perhaps it is especially meant of the Gentiles, that had been enemies in their minds by wicked works, Col. i. 21. For them these gifts are received, to them they are given, that they might lay down their arms, that their enmity might be slain, and that they might return to their allegiance. This magnifies the grace of Christ exceedingly that through him rebels are, upon their submission, not only pardoned, but preferred. They have commissions given them under Christ, which some say, in our law, amounts to the reversing of an attainder. Christ came to a rebellious world, not to condemn it, but that through him it might be saved. (2.) The favour designed us in them: He received gifts for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them, that he might set up a church in a rebellious world, in which he would dwell by his word and ordinances, as of old in the sanctuary, that he might set up his throne, and Christ might dwell in the hearts of particular persons that had been rebellious. The gracious intention of Christ's undertaking was to rear up the tabernacle of God among men, that he might dwell with them and they might themselves be living temples to his praise, Ezek. xxxvii. 27.
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of the preachers.
That he often gave them victory over their enemies; armies, and kings of armies, appeared against them, from their first coming into Canaan, and all along in the times of the judges, till David's days, but, first or last, they gained their point against them, v. 11, 12, 14. Observe here, 1. That God was their commander-in-chief: The Lord gave the word, as general of their armies. He raised up judges for them, gave them their commissions and instructions, and assured them of success. God spoke in his holiness, and then Gilead is mine. 2. That they had prophets, as God's messengers, to make known his mind to them. God gave them his word (the word of the Lord came unto them) and then great was the company of the preachers--prophets and prophetesses, for the word is feminine. When God has messages to send he will not want messengers. Or perhaps it may allude to the women's joining in the triumph when the victory was obtained, as was usual (Exod. xv. 20, 1 Sam. xviii. 7), in which they took notice of the word of God, triumphing in that as much as in his works.
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace,
and bring glad tidings of good things!
How beautiful are the feet, that is, how welcome are they! Mary Magdalene expressed her love to Christ by kissing his feet, and afterwards by holding him by the feet, Matt. xxviii. 9. And, when Christ was sending forth his disciples, he washed their feet. Those that preach the gospel of peace should see to it that their feet (their life and conversation) be beautiful: the holiness of ministers' lives is the beauty of their feet. How beautiful! namely, in the eyes of those that hear them. Those that welcome the message cannot but love the messengers. See 1 Thess. v. 12, 13.
Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends
of the world.
That those who would not believe the report of the gospel, yet, having heard it, were thereby left inexcusable, and may thank themselves for their own ruin, v. 18, to the end. [1.] The Gentiles have heard it (v. 18): Have they not heard? Yes, more or less, they have either heard the gospel, or at least heard of it. Their sound went into all the earth; not only a confused sound, but their words (more distinct and intelligible notices of these things) are gone unto the ends of the world. The commission which the apostles received runs thus: Go you into all the world--preach to every creature--disciple all nations; and they did with indefatigable industry and wonderful success pursue that commission. See the extent of Paul's province, ch. xv. 19. To this remote island of Britain, one of the utmost corners of the world, not only the sound, but the words, of the gospel came within a few years after Christ's ascension. It was in order to this that the gift of tongues was at the very first poured so plentifully upon the apostles, Acts ii. In the expression here he plainly alludes to Ps. xix. 4, which speaks of the notices which the visible works of God in the creation give to all the world of the power and Godhead of the Creator. As under the Old Testament God provided for the publishing of the work of creation by the sun, moon, and stars, so now for the publishing of the work of redemption to all the world by the preaching of gospel ministers, who are therefore called stars.
Why do the nations so furiously rage together, why do the people
imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed.
1. We are here told who would appear as adversaries to Christ and the devil's instruments in this opposition to his kingdom. Princes and people, court and country, have sometimes separate interests, but here they are united against Christ; not the mighty only, but the mob, the heathen, the people, numbers of them, communities of them; though usually fond of liberty, yet they were averse to the liberty Christ came to procure and proclaim. Not the mob only, but the mighty (among whom one might have expected more sense and consideration) appear violent against Christ. Though his kingdom is not of this world, nor in the least calculated to weaken their interests, but very likely, if they pleased, to strengthen them, yet the kings of the earth and rulers are up in arms immediately. See the effects of the old enmity in the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman, and how general and malignant the corruption of mankind is. See how formidable the enemies of the church are; they are numerous; they are potent. The unbelieving Jews are here called heathen, so wretchedly had they degenerated from the faith and holiness of their ancestors; they stirred up the heathen, the Gentiles, to persecute the Christians. As the Philistines and their lords, Saul and his courtiers, the disaffected party and their ringleaders, opposed David's coming to the crown, so Herod and Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews, did their utmost against Christ and his interest in men, Acts iv. 27.
2. Who it is that they quarrel with, and muster up all their forces against; it is against the Lord and against his anointed, that is, against all religion in general and the Christian religion in particular. It is certain that all who are enemies to Christ, whatever they pretend, are enemies to God himself; they have hated both me and my Father, John xv. 24. The great author of our holy religion is here called the Lord's anointed, or Messiah, or Christ, in allusion to the anointing of David to be king. He is both authorized and qualified to be the church's head and king, is duly invested in the office and every way fitted for it; yet there are those that are against him; nay, therefore they are against him, because they are impatient of God's authority, envious at Christ's advancement, and have a rooted enmity to the Spirit of holiness.
3. The opposition they give is here described. (1.) It is a most spiteful and malicious opposition. They rage and fret; they gnash their teeth for vexation at the setting up of Christ's kingdom; it creates them the utmost uneasiness, and fills them with indignation, so that they have no enjoyment of themselves; see Luke xiii. 14; John xi. 47; Acts v. 17, 33; xix. 28. Idolaters raged at the discovery of their folly, the chief priests and Pharisees at the eclipsing of their glory and the shaking of their usurped dominion. Those that did evil raged at the light. (2.) It is a deliberate and politic opposition. They imagine or meditate, that is, they contrive means to suppress the rising interests of Christ's kingdom and are very confident of the success of their contrivances; they promise themselves that they shall run down religion and carry the day. (3.) It is a resolute and obstinate opposition. They set themselves, set their faces as a flint and their hearts as an adamant, in defiance of reason, and conscience, and all the terrors of the Lord; they are proud and daring, like the Babel-builders, and will persist in their resolution, come what will. (4.) It is a combined and confederate opposition. They take counsel together, to assist and animate one another in this opposition; they carry their resolutions nemine contradicente--unanimously, that they will push on the unholy war against the Messiah with the utmost vigour: and thereupon councils are called, cabals are formed, and all their wits are at work to find out ways and means for the preventing of the establishment of Christ's kingdom, Ps. lxxxiii. 5.
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
4. We are here told what it is they are exasperated at and what they aim at in this opposition (v. 3): Let us break their bands asunder. They will not be under any government; they are children of Belial, that cannot endure the yoke, at least the yoke of the Lord and his anointed. They will be content to entertain such notions of the kingdom of God and the Messiah as will serve them to dispute of and to support their own dominion with: if the Lord and his anointed will make them rich and great in the world, they will bid them welcome; but if they will restrain their corrupt appetites and passions, regulate and reform their hearts and lives, and bring them under the government of a pure and heavenly religion, truly then they will not have this man to reign over them, Luke xix. 14. Christ has bands and cords for us; those that will be saved by him must be ruled by him; but they are cords of a man, agreeable to right reason, and bands of love, conducive to our true interest: and yet against those the quarrel is. Why do men oppose religion but because they are impatient of its restraints and obligations? They would break asunder the bands of conscience they are under and the cords of God's commandments by which they are called to tie themselves out from all sin and to themselves up to all duty; they will not receive them, but cast them away as far from them as they can.
He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn: the Lord shall
have them in derision.
The attempts of Christ's enemies are easily ridiculed. God laughs at them as a company of fools. He has them, and all their attempts, in derision, and therefore the virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised them, Isa. xxxvii. 22. Sinners' follies are the just sport of God's infinite wisdom and power; and those attempts of the kingdom of Satan which in our eyes are formidable in his are despicable. Sometimes God is said to awake, and arise, and stir up himself, for the vanquishing of his enemies; here is said to sit still and vanquish them; for the utmost operations of God's omnipotence create no difficulty at all, nor the least disturbance to his eternal rest.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in
pieces like a potter's vessel.
Thou shalt break them (those of them that oppose thy kingdom) with a rod of iron, v. 9. This was in part fulfilled when the nation of the Jews, those that persisted in unbelief and enmity to Christ's gospel, were destroyed by the Roman power, which was represented (Dan. ii. 40) by feet of iron, as here by a rod of iron. It had a further accomplishment in the destruction of the Pagan powers, when the Christian religion came to be established; but it will not be completely fulfilled till all opposing rule, principality, and power, shall be finally put down, 1 Cor. xv. 24; Ps. cx. 5, 6. Observe, How powerful Christ is and how weak the enemies of his kingdom are before him; he has a rod of iron wherewith to crush those that will not submit to his golden sceptre; they are but like a potter's vessel before him, suddenly, easily, and irreparably dashed in pieces by him; see Rev. ii. 27. "Thou shalt do it, that is, thou shalt have leave to do it." Nations shall be ruined, rather than the gospel church shall not be built and established. I have loved thee, therefore will I give men for thee, Isa. xliii. 4. "Thou shalt have power to do it; none shall be able to stand before thee; and thou shalt do it effectually." Those that will not bow shall break.
In singing this, and praying it over, we must give glory to Christ as the eternal Son of God and our rightful Lord, and must take comfort from this promise, and plead it with God, that the kingdom of Christ shall be enlarged and established and shall triumph over all opposition.
Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, Hallelujah!
By the seat of his empire; and that is heaven; his throne is there, and his power and authority are heavenly and divine. he has a penetrating insight into all the strength and stratagems of his enemies, he has a large and extensive dominion, many crowns, for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords.
The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His
Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever, Hallelujah!
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and He shall reign for ever and
The ensigns of his authority, his coat of arms--a name written on his vesture and thigh, King of kings, and Lord of lords, asserting his authority and power.
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter
day upon the earth:
And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
1. He believes the glory of the Redeemer and his own interest in him (v. 25): I know that my Redeemer liveth, that he is in being and is my life, and that he shall stand at last, or stand the last, or at the latter day, upon (or above) the earth. He shall be raised up, or, He shall be, at the latter day, (that is, in the fulness of time: the gospel day is called the last time because that is the last dispensation) upon the earth: so it points at his incarnation; or, He shall be lifted up from the earth (so it points at his crucifixion), or raised up out of the earth (so it is applicable to his resurrection), or, as we commonly understand it, At the end of time he shall appear over the earth, for he shall come in the clouds, and every eye shall see him, so close shall he come to this earth. He shall stand upon the dust (so the word is), upon all his enemies, which shall be put a dust under his feet; and he shall tread upon them and triumph over them. Observe here, (1.) That there is a Redeemer provided for fallen man, and Jesus Christ is that Redeemer. The word is Go??l which is used for the next of kin, to whom, by the law of Moses, the right of redeeming a mortgaged estate did belong, Lev. xxv. 25. Our heavenly inheritance was mortgaged by sin; we are ourselves utterly unable to redeem it; Christ is near of kin to us, the next kinsman that is able to redeem; he has paid our debt, satisfied God's justice for sin, and so has taken off the mortgage and made a new settlement of the inheritance. Our persons also want a Redeemer; we are sold for sin, and sold under sin; our Lord Jesus has wrought out a redemption for us, and proclaims redemption for us, and proclaims redemption to us, and so he is truly the Redeemer. (2.) He is a living Redeemer. As we are made by a living God, so we are saved by a living Redeemer, who is both almighty and eternal, and is therefore able to save to the uttermost. Of him it is witnessed that he liveth, Heb. vii. 8; Rev. i. 18. We are dying, but he liveth, and hath assured us that because he lives we shall live also, John xiv. 19. (3.) There are those that through grace have an interest in this Redeemer, and can, upon good grounds, call him theirs. When Job had lost all his wealth and all his friends, yet he was not separated from Christ, nor cut off from his relation to him: "Still he is my Redeemer." That next kinsman adhered to him when all his other kindred forsook him, and he had the comfort of it. (4.) Our interest in the Redeemer is a thing that may be known; and, where it is known, it may be triumphed in, as sufficient to balance all our griefs: I know (observe with what an air of assurance he speaks it, as one confident of this very thing), I know that my Redeemer lives. His friends have often charged him with ignorance or vain knowledge; but he knows enough, and knows to good purpose, who knows Christ to be his Redeemer. (5.) There will be a latter day, a last day, a day when time shall be no more, Rev. x. 6. That is a day we are concerned to think of every day. (6.) Our Redeemer will at that day stand upon the earth, or over the earth, to summon the dead out of their graves, and determine them to an unchangeable state; for to him all judgment is committed. He shall stand, at the last, on the dust to which this earth will be reduced by the conflagration.
2. He believes the happiness of the redeemed, and his own title to that happiness, that, at Christ's second coming, believers shall be raised up in glory and so made perfectly blessed in the vision and fruition of God; and this he believes with application to himself. (1.) He counts upon the corrupting of his body in the grave, and speaks of it with a holy carelessness and unconcernedness: Though, after my skin (which is already wasted and gone, none of it remaining but the skin of my teeth, v. 20) they destroy (those that are appointed to destroy it, the grave and the worms in it of which he had spoken, ch. xvii. 14) this body. The word body is added: "Though they destroy this, this skeleton, this shadow (ch. xvii. 7), this that I lay my hand upon," or (pointing perhaps to his weak and withered limbs) "this that you see, call it what you will; I expect that shortly it will be a feast for the worms." Christ's body saw not corruption, but ours must. And Job mentions this, that the glory of the resurrection he believed and hoped for might shine the more brightly. Note, It is good for us often to think, not only of the approaching death of our bodies, but of their destruction and dissolution in the grave; yet let not that discourage our hope of their resurrection, for the same power that made man's body at first, out of common dust, can raise it out of its own dust. This body which we now take such care about, and make such provision for, will in a little time be destroyed. Even my reins (says Job) shall be consumed within me (v. 27); the innermost part of the body, which perhaps putrefies first. (2.) He comforts himself with the hopes of happiness on the other side death and the grave: After I shall awake (so the margin reads it), though this body be destroyed, yet out of my flesh shall I see God. [1.] Soul and body shall come together again. That body which must be destroyed in the grave shall be raised again, a glorious body: Yet in my flesh I shall see God. The separate soul has eyes wherewith to see God, eyes of the mind; but Job speaks of seeing him with eyes of flesh, in my flesh, with my eyes; the same body that died shall rise again, a true body, but a glorified body, fit for the employments and entertainments of that world, and therefore a spiritual body, 1 Cor. xv. 44. Let us therefore glorify God with our bodies because there is such a glory designed for them. [2.] Job and God shall come together again: In my flesh shall I see God, that is, the glorified Redeemer, who is God. I shall see God in my flesh (so some read it), the Son of God clothed with a body which will be visible even to eyes of flesh. Though the body, in the grave, seem despicable and miserable, yet it shall be dignified and made happy in the vision of God. Job now complained that he could not get a sight of God (ch. xxiii. 8, 9), but hoped to see him shortly, never more to lose the sight of him, and that sight of him will be the more welcome after the present darkness and distance. Note, It is the blessedness of the blessed that they shall see God, shall see him as he is, see him face to face, and no longer through a glass darkly. See with what pleasure holy Job enlarges upon this (v. 27): "Whom I shall see for myself," that is, "see and enjoy, see to my own unspeakable comfort and satisfaction. I shall see him as mine, as mine with an appropriating sight," Rev. xxi. 3. God himself shall be with them and be their God; they shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is, that is seeing for themselves, 1 John iii. 2. My eyes shall behold him, and not another. First, "He, and not another for him, shall be seen, not a type or figure of him, but he himself." Glorified saints are perfectly sure that they are not imposed upon; it is no deceptio visus--illusion of the senses. Secondly, "I, and not another for me, shall see him. Though my flesh and body be consumed, yet I shall not need a proxy; I shall see him with my own eyes." This was what Job hoped for, and what he earnestly desired, which, some think, is the meaning of the last clause: My reins are spent in my bosom, that is, "all my desires are summed up and concluded in this; this will crown and complete them all; let me have this, and I shall have nothing more to desire; it is enough; it is all." With this the prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.
For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that
1 Corinthians 15:20
On the resurrection of Christ. 1. Because he is indeed the first-fruits of those that slept, v. 20. He has truly risen himself, and he has risen in this very quality and character, as the first-fruits of those who sleep in him. As he has assuredly risen, so in his resurrection there is as much an earnest given that the dead in him shall rise as there was that the Jewish harvest in general should be accepted and blessed by the offering and acceptance of the first-fruits. The whole lump was made holy by the consecration of the first-fruits (Rom. xi. 16), and the whole body of Christ, all that are by faith united to him, are by his resurrection assured of their own. As he has risen, they shall rise; just as the lump is holy because the first fruits are so. He has not risen merely for himself, but as head of the body, the church; and those that sleep in him God will bring with him, 1 Thess. iv. 14. Note, Christ's resurrection is a pledge and earnest of ours, if we are true believers in him; because he has risen, we shall rise. We are a part of the consecrated lump, and shall partake of the acceptance and favour vouchsafed the first-fruits. This is the first argument used by the apostle in confirmation of the truth; and it is,
Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22
2. Illustrated by a parallel between the first and second Adam. For, since by man came death, it was every way proper that by man should come deliverance from it, or, which is all one, a resurrection, v. 21. And so, as in Adam all die, in Christ shall all be made alive; as through the sin of the first Adam all men became mortal, because all derived from him the same sinful nature, so through the merit and resurrection of Christ shall all who are made to partake of the Spirit, and the spiritual nature, revive, and become immortal. All who die die through the sin of Adam; all who are raised, in the sense of the apostle, rise through the merit and power of Christ. But the meaning is not that, as all men died in Adam, so all men, without exception, shall be made alive in Christ; for the scope of the apostle's argument restrains the general meaning. Christ rose as the first-fruits; therefore those that are Christ's (v. 23) shall rise too. Hence it will not follow that all men without exception shall rise too; but it will fitly follow that all who thus rise, rise in virtue of Christ's resurrection, and so that their revival is owing to the man Christ Jesus, as the mortality of all mankind was owing to the first man; and so, as by man came death, by man came deliverance. Thus it seemed fit to the divine wisdom that, as the first Adam ruined his posterity by sin, the second Adam should raise his seed to a glorious immortality.
Behold, I tell you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
He here tells them what had been concealed from or unknown to them till then--that all the saints would not die, but all would be changed. Those that are alive at our Lord's coming will be caught up into the clouds, without dying, 1 Thess. iv. 11. But it is plain from this passage that it will not be without changing from corruption to incorruption. The frame of their living bodies shall be thus altered, as well as those that are dead; and this in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, v. 52. What cannot almighty power effect? That power that calls the dead into life can surely thus soon and suddenly change the living; for changed they must be as well as the dead, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. This is the mystery which the apostle shows the Corinthians: Behold, I show you a mystery; or bring into open light a truth dark and unknown before. Note, There are many mysteries shown to us in the gospel; many truths that before were utterly unknown are there made known; many truths that were but dark and obscure before are there brought into open day, and plainly revealed; and many things are in part revealed that will never be fully known, nor perhaps clearly understood. The apostle here makes known a truth unknown before, which is that the saints living at our Lord's second coming will not die, but be changed, that this change will be made in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and at the sound of the last trump;
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1 Corinthians 15:52-53
for, as he tells us elsewhere, the Lord himself shall descend with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God (1 Thess. iv. 16), so here, the trumpet must sound. It is the loud summons of all the living and all the dead, to come and appear at the tribunal of Christ. At this summons the graves shall open, the dead saints shall rise incorruptible, and the living saints be changed to the same incorruptible state, v. 52.
He assigns the reason of this change (v. 53): For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. How otherwise could the man be a fit inhabitant of the incorruptible regions, or be fitted to possess the eternal inheritance? How can that which is corruptible and mortal enjoy what is incorruptible, permanent, and immortal? This corruptible body must be made incorruptible, this mortal body must be changed into immortal, that the man may be capable of enjoying the happiness designed for him. Note, It is this corruptible that must put on incorruption; the demolished fabric that must be reared again. What is sown must be quickened. Saints will come in their own bodies (v. 38), not in other bodies.
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is
swallowed up in victory.
1 Corinthians 15:54
He lets us know what will follow upon this change of the living and dead in Christ: Then shall be brought to pass that saying, Death is swallowed up in victory; or, He will swallow up death in victory. Isa. xxv. 8. For mortality shall be then swallowed up of life (2 Cor. v. 4), and death perfectly subdued and conquered, and saints for ever delivered from its power. Such a conquest shall be obtained over it that it shall for ever disappear in those regions to which our Lord will bear his risen saints. And therefore will the saints hereupon sing their epinikion, their song of triumph. Then, when this mortal shall have put on immortality, will death be swallowed up, for ever swallowed up, eis nikos. Christ hinders it from swallowing his saints when they die; but, when they rise again, death shall, as to them, be swallowed for ever. And upon this destruction of death will they break out into a song of triumph.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
1 Corinthians 15:55-56
1. They will glory over death as a vanquished enemy, and insult this great and terrible destroyer: "O death! where is thy sting? Where is now thy sting, thy power to hurt? What mischief hast thou done us? We are dead; but behold we live again, and shall die no more. Thou art vanquished and disarmed, and we are out of the reach of thy deadly dart. Where now is thy fatal artillery? Where are thy stores of death? We fear no further mischiefs from thee, nor heed thy weapons, but defy thy power, and despise thy wrath. And, O grave! where is thy victory? Where now is thy victory? What has become of it? Where are the spoils and trophies of it? Once we were thy prisoners, but the prison-doors are burst open, the locks and bolts have been forced to give way, our shackles are knocked off, and we are for ever released. Captivity is taken captive. The imaginary victor is conquered, and forced to resign his conquest and release his captives. Thy triumphs, grave, are at an end. The bonds of death are loosed, and we are at liberty, and are never more to be hurt by death, nor imprisoned in the grave." In a moment, the power of death, and the conquests and spoils of the grave, are gone; and, as to the saints, the very signs of them will not remain. Where are they? Thus will they raise themselves, when they become immortal, to the honour of their Saviour and the praise of divine grace: they shall glory over vanquished death.
2. The foundation for this triumph is here intimated, (1.) In the account given whence death had its power to hurt: The sting of death is sin. This gives venom to his dart: this alone puts it into the power of death to hurt and kill. Sin unpardoned, and nothing else, can keep any under his power. And the strength of sin is the law; it is the divine threatening against the transgressors of the law, the curse there denounced, that gives power to sin. Note, Sin is the parent of death, and gives it all its hurtful power. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, Rom. v. 12. It is its cursed progeny and offspring. (2.) In the account given of the victory saints obtain over it through Jesus Christ, v. 56. The sting of death is sin; but Christ, by dying, has taken out this sting. He has made atonement for sin; he has obtained remission of it. It may hiss therefore, but it cannot hurt. The strength of sin is the law; but the curse of the law is removed by our Redeemer's becoming a curse for us. So that sin is deprived of its strength and sting, through Christ, that is, by his incarnation, suffering, and death. Death may seize a believer, but cannot sting him, cannot hold him in his power. There is a day coming when the grave shall open, the bands of death be loosed, the dead saints revive, and become incorruptible and immortal, and put out of the reach of death for ever. And then will it plainly appear that, as to them, death will have lost its strength and sting; and all by the mediation of Christ, by his dying in their room. By dying, he conquered death, and spoiled the grave; and, through faith in him, believers become sharers in his conquests. They often rejoice beforehand, in the hope of this victory; and, when they arise glorious from the grave, they will boldly triumph over death. Note, It is altogether owing to the grace of God in Christ that sin is pardoned and death disarmed. The law puts arms into the hand of death, to destroy the sinner; but pardon of sin takes away this power from the law, and deprives death of its strength and sting. It is by the grace of God, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, that we are freely justified, Rom. iii. 24. It is no wonder, therefore, (3.) If this triumph of the saints over death should issue in thanksgiving to God: Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through Christ Jesus, our Lord, v. 57.
But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus
1 Corinthians 15:57
The way to sanctify all our joy is to make it tributary to the praise of God. Then only do we enjoy our blessings and honours in a holy manner when God has his revenue of glory out of it, and we are free to pay it to him. And this really improves and exalts our satisfaction. We are conscious at once of having done our duty and enjoyed our pleasure. And what can be more joyous in itself than the saints' triumph over death, when they shall rise again? And shall they not then rejoice in the Lord, and be glad in the God of their salvation? Shall not their souls magnify the Lord? When he shows such wonders to the dead, shall they not arise and praise him? Ps. lxxxviii. 10. Those who remain under the power of death can have no heart to praise; but such conquests and triumphs will certainly tune the tongues of the saints to thankfulness and praise--praise for the victory (it is great and glorious in itself), and for the means whereby it is obtained (it is given of God through Christ Jesus), a victory obtained not by our power, but the power of God; not given because we are worthy, but because Christ is so, and has by dying obtained this conquest for us. Must not this circumstance endear the victory to us, and heighten our praise to God? Note, How many springs of joy to the saints and thanksgiving to God are opened by the death and resurrection, the sufferings and conquests, of our Redeemer! With what acclamations will saints rising from the dead applaud him! How will the heaven of heavens resound his praises for ever! Thanks be to God will be the burden of their song; and angels will join the chorus, and declare their consent with a loud Amen, Hallelujah.
If God is for us, who can be against us?
The ground of the challenge is God's being for us; in this he sums up all our privileges. This includes all, that God is for us; not only reconciled to us, and so not against us, but in covenant with us, and so engaged for us--all his attributes for us, his promises for us. All that he is, and has, and does, is for his people. He performs all things for them. He is for them, even when he seems to act against them. And, if so, who can be against us, so as to prevail against us, so as to hinder our happiness? Be they ever so great and strong, ever so many, ever so might, ever so malicious, what can they do? While God is for us, and we keep in his love, we may with a holy boldness defy all the powers of darkness. Let Satan do his worst, he is chained; let the world do its worst, it is conquered: principalities and powers are spoiled and disarmed, and triumphed over, in the cross of Christ. Who then dares fight against us, while God himself is fighting for us? And this we say to these things, this is the inference we draw from these premises. More particularly.
We have an answer ready to all accusations and a security against all condemnations (v. 33, 34): Who shall lay any thing? Doth the law accuse them? Do their own consciences accuse them? Is the devil, the accuser of the brethren, accusing them before our God day and night? This is enough to answer all those accusations, It is God that justifieth. Men may justify themselves, as the Pharisees did, and yet the accusations may be in full force against them; but, if God justifies, this answers all. He is the judge, the king, the party offended, and his judgment is according to truth, and sooner or later all the world will be brought to be of his mind; so that we may challenge all our accusers to come and put in their charge. This overthrows them all; it is God, the righteous faithful God, that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? Though they cannot make good the charge yet they will be ready to condemn; but we have a plea ready to move in arrest of judgment, a plea which cannot be overruled. It is Christ that died, &c. It is by virtue of our interest in Christ, our relation to him, and our union with him, that we are thus secured. 1. His death: It is Christ that died. By the merit of his death he paid our debt; and the surety's payment is a good plea to an action of debt. It is Christ, an able all-sufficient Saviour. 2. His resurrection: Yea, rather, that has risen again. This is a much greater encouragement, for it is a convincing evidence that divine justice was satisfied by the merit of his death. His resurrection was his acquittance, it was a legal discharge. Therefore the apostle mentions it with a yea, rather. If he had died, and not risen again, we had been where we were. 3. His sitting at the right hand of God: He is even at the right hand of God--a further evidence that he has done his work, and a mighty encouragement to us in reference to all accusations, that we have a friend, such a friend, in court. At the right hand of God, which denotes that he is ready there--always at hand; and that he is ruling there--all power is given to him. Our friend is himself the judge. 4. The intercession which he makes there. He is there, not unconcerned about us, not forgetful of us, but making intercession. He is agent for us there, an advocate for us, to answer all accusations, to put in our plea, and to prosecute it with effect, to appear for us and to present our petitions. And is not this abundant matter for comfort? What shall we say to these things? Is this the manner of men, O Lord God? What room is left for doubting and disquietment? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Some understand the accusation and condemnation here spoken of of that which the suffering saints met with from men. The primitive Christians had many black crimes laid to their charge--heresy, sedition, rebellion, and what not? For these the ruling powers condemned them: "But no matter for that" (says the apostle); "while we stand right at God's bar it is of no great moment how we stand at men's. To all the hard censures, the malicious calumnies, and the unjust and unrighteous sentences of men, we may with comfort oppose our justification before God through Christ Jesus as that which doth abundantly countervail," 1 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His
blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and
honour, and glory, and blessing.
Blessing, and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
They are said to be innumerable, and to be the attendants on the throne of God and guardians to the church; though they did not need a Saviour themselves, yet they rejoice in the redemption and salvation of sinners, and they agree with the church in acknowledging the infinite merits of the Lord Jesus as dying for sinners, that he is worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. (1.) He is worthy of that office and that authority which require the greatest power and wisdom, the greatest fund, all excellency, to discharge them aright; and, (2.) He is worthy of all honour, and glory, and blessing, because he is sufficient for the office and faithful in it.
This doxology, thus begun by the church, and carried on by the angels, is resounded and echoed by the whole creation, v. 13. Heaven and earth ring with the high praises of the Redeemer. The whole creation fares the better for Christ. By him all things consist; and all the creatures, had they sense and language, would adore that great Redeemer who delivers the creature from that bondage under which it groans, through the corruption of men, and the just curse denounced by the great God upon the fall; that part which (by a prosopopoeia) is made for the whole creation is a song of blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, (1.) To him that sits on the throne, to God as God, or to God the Father, as the first person in the Trinity and the first in the economy of our salvation; and, (2.) To the Lamb, as the second person in the Godhead and the Mediator of the new covenant. Not that the worship paid to the Lamb is of another nature, an inferior worship, for the very same honour and glory are in the same words ascribed to the Lamb and to him that sits on the throne, their essence being the same; but, their parts in the work of our salvation being distinct they are distinctly adored. We worship and glorify one and the same God for our creation and for our redemption.
We see how the church that began the heavenly anthem, finding heaven and earth join in the concert, closes all with their Amen, and end as they began, with a low prostration before the eternal and everlasting God. Thus we have seen this sealed book passing with great solemnity from the hand of the Creator into the hand of the Redeemer.
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This libretto was taken from by
1 February 1996
The commentary is taken from Classical Christian Ethereal Library
Last Revision - 07 May 2003