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Isaiah 63:10-14 - Homilies By E. Johnson

The remembrance of the past.

I. THE MEMORY OF GOD . If God is thought of, as he must be thought of, after the analogy of human experiences, he must be thought of as remembering, calling the past to mind, and as undergoing changes of mind in consequence. These are ways of representing first to thought, then in language, an infinite love, which must be capable of all the scale and gamut of feeling—anger, wrath, jealousy, and the revulsion almost to the tenderness of tears. So in the wilderness, he, being full of compassion, forgave the iniquity of the rebels in the wilderness, turning his anger away, because he remembered that they were flesh, or but as the passing wind; he called to mind his covenant; he repented according to the multitude of his mercies (Le 26:45; Psalms 78:39 ; Psalms 106:45 ). In the history of Israel there was nothing more memorable than the coming up out of Egypt, and the leadership of Moses and Aaron.

II. THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL EXPLAINED FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD . The outward wonders, the deeds of might, were but the manifestation of an inward waking of his Spirit in the breast el the people. A Spirit of instruction, of "providential guidance and sagacious government"—"Thy good Spirit to instruct them" ( Nehemiah 9:20 ). A holy light seemed in the retrospect to rest upon that period. It was said that the people "served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that over-lived Joshua," for "they had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel." The next generation knew not the works of the Lord, nor the works he bad done for Israel ( Joshua 24:31 ; 2:6-10 ). The Spirit of Jehovah appears to mean much the same as the face of Jehovah above (cf. Exodus 33:14 ; Haggai 2:4 , Haggai 2:5 ; cf. Numbers 11:10-30 ). The term "holiness" reminds of the covenant, and the covenant of the obligations of fidelity on the part of the people, in response to the oath-keeping of God. Another image, almost carrying the same meaning, is that of the "arm of Jehovah's splendour" ( Isaiah 40:10 ; Isaiah 45:1 ), ready to support Moses, to hold him up from falling ( Isaiah 41:10-13 ). Then the sublime picture of the crossing of the Red Sea rises up in imagination ( Exodus 14:21 ; cf. Psalms 106:9 ; Psalms 77:16 ), and the wide and dreary steppe. Finally, as a herd goes down from the mountain-side into the pasture-land of the plain, so, under the same guidance, the people came to their rest— a beloved word ( Exodus 33:14 ; Deuteronomy 3:20 ; Deuteronomy 12:9 ; Joshua 1:13 ; Joshua 22:4 ; Psalms 95:11 ; Jeremiah 31:2 ; Hebrews 4:1 , Hebrews 4:9 ). The spiritual sum and substance of all is, "Thus thou didst guide thy people to make unto thyself a monument of glory." By his work he became for ever known among the heathen. It was a work not to be executed by any false god, nor by any human arm. "Egypt was at this time the centre of all science, art, and culture; arid what occurred there would be known in other lands. God designed to make a signal demonstration of his existence and power, that should be known in all lands and should never be forgotten." God's glory is the grand end of all he does, and consequently ought to be likewise of all that we either do or suffer. And whatever, therefore, befalls any man makes for God's glory and for his own good, if he be a child of God. We should learn, then, to estimate things by their use and tendency. Poison may enter into the composition of an antidote; and things essentially good may, under certain circumstances, become pernicious. Prosperity may harden and adversity may humble us; the one may prepare us for judgment, the other for mercy.—J.

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