Isaiah 54:1-17 - Homilies By E. Johnson
The future of the Church.
"The person addressed is the ideal Zion, who is practically identical with the ideal or spiritual Israel."
I. HER FRUITFULNESS . Nothing to an Israelitish mind can suggest more forcibly the idea of desolation and sorrow in a nation or spiritual community than the childless woman. Historically , the restored exiles may be referred to; physically and to some extent spiritually Israelites, but, while on a foreign soil, and unbaptized with the Spirit, their union was not complete. In a wider spiritual application , the Church of God, in the Old Testament, confined within the narrow limits of the Jewish nation, and still more so in respect to the very small number of true believers, and which seemed sometimes deserted of God her Husband (Lowth). The conversion of the Gentiles is the accession of a vast progeny to the spiritual Israel—a vast extension of the Church of God ( Isaiah 49:20-22 ).
II. HER ENLARGEMENT . The figure of a tent is employed. The canopy or coverings of the tent are to be widened, its cords lengthened, and the tent-pins made strong. The wandering is to be exchanged for the permanent habitation (For the image cf. Jeremiah 10:20 .) The boundaries of the Church are to be enlarged to accommodate the vast accession from the pagan world. On all hands she is to break forth, even as it had been promised to Jacob ( Genesis 28:14 ), to take possession of the nations, and inhabit desolate cities. The period of reproach, figured by maidenhood or widowhood, is to come to an end.
III. HER INTIMATE RELATION TO GOD .
1 . He is Maker and Goel , Mediator and Redeemer, of her family rights. (For the Christian application, see Ephesians 2:19 , "Fellow-citizens of the saints, and members of the family of God.") As the nearest kinsman is bound to interpose for the defence of members of his family, so the Almighty is bound to avenge and succour his chosen. In his Name, Jehovah of hosts, is found a further guarantee of his saving mercy for the future. It means that he is God of the whole earth, that his glory fills the creation. (For the application to the Christian Church, see Romans 3:29 , "God of the Gentiles also.")
2 . The relation of marriage in its Divine application points to an indissoluble and eternal union. The Church may appear in times of distress as "an outcast and downcast woman," divorced from her God. But "even many an earthly husband cannot bear to see the misery of his divorced wife, and therefore at length recalls her: how much more, then, Jehovah!" In a "gush of wrath" it was that his face was hidden from her. In everlasting kindness he will have mercy; the sea being contrasted with the momentary outburst, or "gush" of displeasure. "Never shall this dispensation of wrath be repeated, no more than that of Noah's floods. Mountains are symbolic of the unchangeableness of the Eternal (cf. Psalms 36:6 ; Psalms 65:6 ). They seem to be the solid pillars and foundations of the earth. They may totter; but the loving-kindness of God must be like himself, eternal. The covenant of peace, which has been ratified between him and his people, will abide amidst all vicissitudes of nature and of history. The love of the Eternal is, then, the first and last secret of all things. At the basis of the universe lies law, and law itself is the expression of love. Law wears to us often a stern face; it is the expression of wrath. But a holy wrath is itself the expression of a loving heart. He who has made the world cannot hate it. He who is the Author of the soul is its affianced Spouse and self-constituted Protector. Language and imagination labour in vain with so immense a conception as that of the Divine love. It must follow from this that the Church, as a spiritual and mystical community, must be safe through all the change of time.
IV. THE FUTURE GLORY OF THE CHURCH . She appears under the figure of a city, the new Jerusalem. Her brilliant stones will be set in a beautifying cement. Her battlements will be of rubies, her gates of carbuncles, her outer walls of precious stones. Yet this will only be the outward manifestation of an inward and spiritual glory. The people will be disciples of Jehovah (cf. Numbers 11:29 ; Joel 2:23 , Joel 2:29 ), that is, in effect, prophets, filled with utterance as with inspiration. Her constitution will rest upon a sound, because a moral basis—on righteousness, on fidelity to her covenant with God. Not being built, like the cities of the heathen, of fraud and rapine, oppression and destruction will be far from her thoughts. She will enjoy security. Should any foe presume to molest her, he will stumble—he will be like a blind traveller who falls headlong over an obstacle. For all the agencies which work either a people's weal or woe are in the hands of the Eternal. He is the Creator of the smith, and so mediately of the destroying weapon he forges. So the great Oriental kings are his tools. But no weapon turned against Israel shall succeed in its aim; and every abusing tongue shall be pronounced guilty in the day of judgment. Such is the spiritual inheritance of the servants of Jehovah, such their justification at his hands. "It is not gold and the triumph of battle. It is not the laurel won in fields of blood. The inheritance is the protection of God in all times of trouble; his friendship in all periods of activity; complete victory in all the contests with error and false systems of religion; and prevention when foes rise up in any form and seek to destroy the Church, and to blot out its existence and its name." "God defend the right!" has been an ancient prayer in times of anxiety and conflict. He does defend the right and the righteous at all times, the prophet declares.—J.
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