Matthew Poole (1624-1679): Gospel of John Ch-01

Commentary on

The Gospel According To John

Chapter One


Matthew Poole (1624-1679)

Copyright Public Domain

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The penman of this Gospel is generally taken to have been John the son of Zebedee, Mat 10:2, not either John the Baptist, or John surnamed Mark, Act 15:37. He was a person mightily honoured by Christ’s personal favours, and therefore often called the beloved disciple; you may read of these favours in these scriptures following, Mat 17:1 Luk 9:28 Luk 22:8 Joh 13:23 Joh 19:26-27 Joh 20:2 Act 3:3 Act 4:13 Gal 2:9. Thus far the Scripture guides us. He is thought to have gone to and continued in Asia till the third of the ten persecutions in the time of Trajan. He was by Domitian banished into Patmos, where he wrote the Revelation.

The time when he wrote this Gospel is uncertain; some think about the latter part of his life: he died the last of all the apostles, judged about a hundred years after the birth of Christ. It is said that the heresies of Ebion and Cerinthus, who denied Christ’s Divinity, and of the Nicolaitanes, who held many absurd things about his person, gave occasion to the writing of this Gospel; himself mentions the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, Rev 2:6; and Ebion and Cerinthus are thought to be those antichrists which he in his Epistles reflects upon.

Two things are observed of him:

1. That he insists more on the proof of Christ’s Divinity, than any of the evangelists; producing his miracles most evidently to prove it.

2. That he mentions very little reported by the other evangelists:

to which I think may be added, that he delivereth the history of the gospel after Christ’s resurrection more fully than any of them; he gives us also a more distinct account of the four passovers happening after Christ’s baptism; the necessity of faith in Christ, and regeneration; the doctrine of our mystical union with Christ; the sending of the Holy Spirit, and end of his mission, and the advantage that the apostles and others should receive from it. His Gospel is most particularly remarkable for the sublimeness and mysteriousness of the matter, and sweetness of the phrase.

John Chapter One

Joh 1:1-5        The Divinity of Christ.

Joh 1:6-13      The mission of John, and end of Christ’s coming.

Joh 1:14         The incarnation of the Word.

Joh 1:15-18    Christ’s superior dignity witnessed by John, and evinced by his gracious dispensation.

Joh 1:19-28    John’s record of himself to the messengers of the Jews.

Joh 1:29-34    His public testimony to the person of Christ.

Joh 1:35-42    Two of his disciples, hearing it, follow Jesus: Simon is brought to Christ, and surnamed Cephas.

Joh 1:43-51    Philip is called, who bringeth Nathanael to Jesus.

In the beginning; in that beginning which Moses mentions, Gen 1:1, the beginning of all things, when the foundations of the world were laid, Pro 8:27,28; the beginning of time; for before that was no measure of time, all was eternity.

Was the Word, that is, the eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom more is spoken afterward. Nor is Christ in this text alone called the Word, but 1Jo 1:1, the Word of life; so Rev 19:13: and there are some who think he is so called, Luk 1:2, comparing that text with 2Pe 1:16, as also Psa 33:6. Nor is it an improper term by which to express the Son of God; for it both expresses something of his ineffable generation, as the word is begotten in our thoughts, and is the express image of them; and also his office in the revelation of his Father’s will unto the sons of men, and revealing his Father to us, Mat 11:27: and there are some (if they be not too curious in their notion) who think by that phrase of David, 2Sa 7:21, For thy word’s sake, ( expounded for thy servant’s sake, 1Ch 17:19, which is the title of Christ, Isa 42:1), that Christ is meant. Besides, it is observed, that this term was more acceptable both to the Jews and the heathens, than the term of Christ, or the Son of God, would have been; for there was nothing more abhorred by the Jews than the latter; and the heathen writers made (as is noted by divers) a great use of this term, to express the name and the power of God. Nor is any thing more ordinary with the Chaldee paraphrast than this expression: Isa 45:12, I have made the earth; Chald. I in my word have made the earth. So Isa 48:13, Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth; Chald. By my word I have laid the foundations of the earth: this is taken from Moses’s describing the creation by God’s word of command, Let there be light, and there was light; the manner of expressing it by the word command, is significative that all things were made by his eternal Word; for would any Jew deny, that God by his word created the world? The evangelist therefore calleth Christ, to whom he was about to attribute the creation, the Word; not the word of God (so the Scriptures are called); to distinguish Christ in this notion from the revelation of the Divine will to the prophets, he is only called the Word, though he was the Son of God. Nor is it said, that in the beginning was the Word created, (as is said of the heavens and the earth, Gen 1:1), but was the Word: this proveth the eternal existence of the Second Person in the Trinity; for what was in the beginning did not then begin to be: the term the Word, without the addition of God, speaketh him a subsistence; and it being said, that in the beginning he was, speaks his eternal existence; for what had a being in the beginning of time must needs be eternal, nothing being when time began but what was eternal. To this purpose are those texts, Psa 90:2 Pro 8:22-31 Joh 17:5 Eph 1:4 2Th 2:13, which two texts compared show, In the beginning, here used, to be the same with before the foundation of the world: so 2Ti 1:9.

The Word was with God: lest any should say, Where was this Word before the foundations of the earth were laid? The evangelist saith, with God, which agreeth with Pro 8:27,30. This both distinguishes Christ from all creatures, (none of which were with God in the beginning), and also showeth the vanity of Sabellius, and those we call quakers, who will not allow Christ to be a distinct subsistence, or person, from his Father: it also denotes the Son’s co-existence and his equality with his Father; and yet his filial relation; for God is not said to have been with the Word, but the Word was with God, which also speaks a perfect unity and consent between them.

And the Word was God: lest any should say, What but God can be eternal, or be said to have been and had an existence in the beginning of the world? The evangelist addeth, that the Word was God: that is, the person or subsistence spoken of and intended by him was the Divine Being, which is but one; though in it there be three distinct subsistences, all make but one and the same Divine Being. The first thing spoken here of Christ attributes to him eternity; the second speaks his relation to the Father; this speaks the oneness and sameness of his essence with that of the Father. The term God, which in the foregoing words is to be taken personally for God the Father, is here to be taken essentially, as it signifieth the Divine Being.

These words of the evangelist are a further confirmation and explication of what the evangelist had said before; asserting the eternity of the Son, and his relation to the Father, and oneness of essence with the Father. Whether the evangelist, forewarned by the Spirit of God, did add this repetition to forearm Christians against those errors which did afterward trouble the church, I cannot say; but certain it is, that these words do effectually confute the Eunomians, who distinguished between the Word which in the beginning was with God, and that Word by which all things were made; and the Arians, who make the Father to have existed before the Son; as also the Anomians, who would make the Father and the Son diverse both in nature and will. Some others make this verse a transition to Joh 1:4, and the sense to be, This same was not manifest to the world from the beginning of the world, but was with God until he came to be manifested in the flesh: thus, 1Jo 1:2, it is said, he was with the Father, and was manifested unto us. He was manifested in the flesh, 1Ti 3:16.

All things were made by him: the Divine nature and eternal existence of the Lord Christ, is evident from his efficiency in the creation of the world: what the evangelist here calleth all things, the apostle to the Hebrews, Heb 1:2, calleth the worlds; and St. Paul, Col 1:16, calleth, all things that are in heaven and earth, visible and invisible; Moses calls, the heaven and the earth, Gen 1:1. These were all made by the Word; not as an instrumental cause, but as a principal efficient cause; for though it be true, that the preposition dia is sometimes used to signify an instrumental cause; yet it is as true, that it is often used to signify the principal efficient cause; as Joh 6:57 Act 3:16 Rom 5:5 11:36 Eph 4:6, and in many other texts: it here only denotes the order of the working of the holy Trinity.

Without him was not any thing made that was made; nothing that was made, neither the heavens nor the earth, neither things visible nor invisible, were made without him. There is nothing more ordinary in holy writ, than after the laying down a universal proposition, (where no synecdoche is used), to add also a universal negative for the confirmation of it: so Rom 3:12, There is none that doeth good; then is added, no, not one; Lam 2:2, and in many other texts. The term without him, doth not exclude the efficiency either of the First, or Third Person in the Trinity, in the creation of all things; the Father created the world by the Son, his Word; and the creation of the world is attributed to the Spirit, Gen 1:1 Job 33:4 Psa 33:6.

In him was life; in this Word was life corporal, spiritual, eternal; it was in him as in the fountain. Some understand this of corporal life, both in the first being and preservation of it; it is certain that this is in Christ, for he upholdeth all things by the word of his power, Heb 1:3 Act 17:28; and thus it is another demonstration of the Deity of Christ. Others think that here is rather a transition from creation to redemption; you hath he quickened, Eph 2:1. Others understand it of eternal life, because our evangelist most generally taketh the term life, as a benefit flowing from Christ, in this sense, as Eph 3:16, and Eph 4:14, and in a multitude of other texts. I know no reason why we should not understand it of all life; all life being in Christ, as God equal with the Father; and spiritual and eternal life flowing also from him in a more peculiar consideration, as Mediator.

And the life was the light of men: but though as God he distributes life according to their degree to all his creatures, yet he is the peculiar light of men, enlightening their minds with light of which vegetative and sensitive creatures are not capable; so as by light is not here to be understood the emanations of any lucid bodies, as that of the sun or stars, for other creatures as well as men are capable of that; nor is it to be understood of the light of reason, though that be the candle of the Lord in the soul; but that light by which we discern the things of God; in which sense the apostle saith, Eph 5:8, Ye were darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord. And therefore he saith of men, exclusively to angels, who though lightsome, noble creatures, yet had not their nature assumed by Christ, Heb 2:16. Besides that it is said in the next verse, that this light shineth in darkness, that is, amongst many men who yet had reasonable souls, but the darkness comprehended it not. That cannot be, that men did not comprehend reason, but even rational men comprehended not this light of supernatural revelation. So John is said to have come to testify of that light; who did not come to testify of Christ, as the author of reason. Nor is there any text of Scripture in which the term light signifieth reason.

The light shineth in darkness: he had said before, that life was in Christ, in him as in the fountain; and the life in him was the light of men, giving light to men. Now this light which was in him had its emanations (as light in the sun); and the darkness, that is, men of dark minds, (the abstract being put for the concrete), comprehended (that is, received) it not. This was true concerning the Jews in former times, upon whom Christ the true Light had shined in many types and prophecies; it was also true concerning the Jews of that present age, to whom, through the favour of him who had undertaken the redemption of man, the means of grace were continued; through the blindness of their minds and hardness of their hearts, they wilfully rejected those means of illumination which God granted to them.

There was a man sent from God; not the Christ, not an angel, but a man; yet one, than whom (as our Saviour saith) there had not risen a greater amongst those that were born of women. He did not come of his own head, but was sent; for it was he of whom it was written, Mal 3:1, Behold, I will send my messenger before thy face, & c., Luk 7:27, he was not sent of men, but from God, foretold by the angel, as to his existence, name, work, and success, Luk 1:13-17.

Whose name was John; his name was John, named by the angel, Luk 1:13, before he was born; by his father and mother, Luk 1:60,63, when he was born. John signifieth grace; and doubtless the Baptist obtained that name, because he was to be the first and a famous preacher of the grace of the gospel which came to the world through Jesus Christ.

The same came for a witness: John was called a messenger to denote his authority; a witness, to denote his work, which is the work of every true minister of the gospel. John was the first witness, and witnessed a thing wholly unknown (before him) to the generality of the world; for though the shepherds, and Simeon, and Anna, had given some testimony to Christ, when he was born, and brought into the temple to be offered to the Lord, yet that was thirty years since, and generally forgot; neither could they bear a testimony to him as an actual minister of the gospel. The apostles were to be witnesses to Christ, Act 1:8; witnesses of his resurrection, Act 1:22 4:33 5:32 10:41 13:31. All the prophets bare witness to him, that whosoever believeth in his name should be saved, Act 10:43. So did John also; and John further pointed to him passing by, and witnessed that it was he of whom the prophets spake. So that the apostles, and so following ministers, were and are greater witnesses than John the Baptist. The prophets witnessed that he should come, John Baptist witnessed that he should come; the apostles witnessed that he was not only come, but had died, and was again risen from the dead.

To bear witness of the Light; for John’s office was to give a testimony to Christ the true Light, mentioned before; so called, because he maketh manifest, Eph 5:13. He revealeth his Father, Mat 11:27. He is the brightness of his Father’s glory,  Heb 1:3, who is light, 1Jo 1:5, and the world is by him enlightened. It was prophesied of his times, Isa 11:9, that the earth should be full of the knowledge of the Lord. That all men through him might believe; the end of John’s testimony was, that multitudes of all sorts might believe by him, or by it, as an instrumental cause of their faith. If we read it by him, it is most proper to understand the pronoun of John the Baptist; for we are not said to believe by Christ, but in him, in his name, & c.

He was not that Light: John the Baptist was a light, as all saints are light in the Lord, Eph 5:8; nay, in a peculiar sense our Saviour beareth him witness, that he was a burning and shining light; but he was not that Light before mentioned, Joh 1:5, that shineth in darkness; and again Joh 1:9 which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. John borrowed his light from that original Light; that Light was God, he was but a man sent from God. The men of the world are ordinarily in extremes, either wholly rejecting God’s ministers and witnesses, or else adoring them; as the world is concerned to take heed of the former, so the ministers of Christ are also highly concerned not to admit the latter. See Luk 7:33 Act 14:13,14; but both John here, and Paul there, were very cautious not to rob their Master of the honour due unto him alone.

But was sent to bear witness of that Light: John, as was said before, came only to bear witness of that Light, that he was come, and shined forth, and was the true Light, as it followeth.

That was the true Light: true is sometimes opposed to what is false, Eph 4:25; sometimes to what is typical and figurative, Joh 1:17; sometimes to what is not original, and of itself: in opposition to all these Christ is the true Light; he who alone deserved the name of light, having light in himself, and from himself, 1Jo 2:8, and shining more gloriously than the prophets or apostles.

Which lighteth every man that cometh into the world; he lighteth not the Jews only, (as the prophets of old), but both the Jews and Gentiles. Some understand this of the light of reason; but besides that reason is no where in holy writ called light, neither did this illumination agree to Christ as Mediator. It is rather therefore to be understood of the light of gospel revelation, which Christ caused to be made to all the world, Mat 28:19 Mar 16:15. Those who interpret it of the more internal illumination by the Holy Spirit of God, by which Christ is not revealed to us only, but in us, say, that Christ hath done what lay in him (as a Minister of the gospel) so to enlighten all that came into the world; and that Christ is said to enlighten every man, because none is enlightened but by him, and that some of all sorts are by him enlightened; in one of which two latter senses the terms all and every man must be interpreted in a multitude of texts in the Gospel. The words in the Greek are so, as they may either be translated as we read them, or thus, who coming into the world, enlightened every man: a more universal spiritual light, or means to come to the knowledge of God, overspreading the world after Christ’s coming, than before. So Joh 7:46, I am come a light into the world. And it is by some observed, that the phrase cometh into the world, doth not barely signify a being born, but being sent into the world by the Father, being sanctified, as in Joh 10:36 17:18.

He was in the world; he was in the place called the world, and amongst the men of the world; for so the term world is often taken, Joh 16:28 2Pe 3:6. Christ, before he came in the flesh, was in it; filling both the heavens and the earth, and sustaining it by the word of his power, and manifesting his will to it, more immediately to Moses and to the prophets, and more mediately by Moses and by the prophets.

And the world was made by him; and the heavens and the earth, all things visible and invisible, (as was said before), were made by him.

And the world knew him not; and the men of the world took no notice of him, did not acknowledge him, believe in him, nor were subject to him; so the word knew often signifies, (according to the Hebrew idiom), Joh 10:14,15,27; not a bare comprehension of an object in the understanding, but suitable affections: so Mat 7:23 1Jo 3:1. This is not to be understood of all individual persons in the world; for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and David, and many particular persons, did in this sense know him; but the generality of the world did not. The heathens did not, (who are sometimes called the world, distinctively from the Jews, 1Jo 2:2 1Co 1:21), and most of the Jews did not, though some did.

He came unto his own; Christ came into the world, which being made by him, was in the most proper sense his own; or, to the Israelites, which were as his own house, land, and possession, Psa 85:1 Joh 16:32. The Greek word is in the plural number, and used in the places before mentioned, as also Act 21:6; sometimes signifying men’s proper country, sometimes their proper house. But it is a further question, what coming is here spoken of: though it be generally (or by many at least) interpreted of Christ’s coming by his incarnation, yet that seemeth not to be the sense; partly, because that coming is spoken of, Act 21:14; and partly, because in that sense the Jews did receive him; nor was it in their power to hinder his manifestation in the flesh. The coming therefore here mentioned seemeth to be intended of his coming by his prophets, John the Baptist, and his own personal preaching of the gospel.

And his own received him not; whom in this way of coming they did not receive, believing neither the testimony given by his prophets, nor by the Baptist, nor by himself, Joh 5:43.

But as many as received him; though the generality of those amongst whom Christ came received him not in the manner before expressed, yet some did own him, believed in him and submitted to him; and to as many as thus received him, not into their houses only, but into their hearts, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; he gave a power, or a right, or privilege, not that they might if they would be, but to be actually, to become, or be, the sons of God by adoption; for believers are already the sons of God, Gal 3:26, though it doth not yet appear what they shall be in the adoption, mentioned Rom 8:23, which the apostle calls the redemption of our body, viz. in the resurrection; hence the children of God are called the children of the resurrection, Luk 20:36.

To them that believe on his name; this is the privilege of all that believe in the name of Christ; by which term he opens the former term of receiving: to receive Christ, and to believe in his name, are the same thing. To believe in his name, is either to believe in him, Act 3:16 or in the revelation of himself in the promises of the gospel. The proposition of God’s word is the object of faith of assent: but the person of the Mediator is the object of that faith which receiveth Christ; and those alone have a right to be the sons of God, and to the privileges peculiar to sons, who believe in Christ as revealed in the promises of the word of God, and there exhibited to men.

Which were born, not of blood; not of the blood of men and women; or, not of the blood of Abraham (which was the boast of the Jews, We have Abraham to our Father).

Nor of the will of the flesh; nor from the lusts of the flesh.

Nor of the will of man; nor from a power in man’s will, or men’s free act in adopting other men’s children. To be born, signifieth to receive our principle of life: those who are the children of God hard not the principle of their life, as they are such, from the motions of nature, nor from the will of men.

But of God: whatever be the sense of the former words, these words plainly affirm God to be the principal efficient, and procreant cause, of all those who are the sons of God; for faith, by which we are the children of God, Gal 3:26, is the work of God, Joh 6:29, his gift, Phi 1:29; and men are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of that which is incorruptible, 1Pe 1:23: they are sanctified and cleansed with the washing of water by the word, Eph 5:26; the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Tit 3:5.

The Word was made flesh; the Son of God, called the Word, for the reasons before specified, was made ruly man, as flesh often signifieth in holy writ, Gen 6:12 Psa 65:2 Isa 40:5,6; not a vile, despicable, mortal man. The evangelist rather saith he was made flesh, than he was made man, more plainly to distinguish the two natures in Christ; to assert the truth of his human nature; to let us know that Christ assumed human nature in common, not the particular nature of any; to commend the love of God, and to let us see, that his plaster was proportioned to our sore, it reached all flesh.

The evangelist saith not he was changed into flesh; but, by assuming, he was made flesh. And dwelt amongst us: and he tabernacled amongst us; amongst us men, or amongst men that were his disciples: the word signifieth properly, he made no long stay.

And we beheld his glory; and we beheld the signs and effects of his glory; many of which were seen, both at the time of his transfiguration, and at his passion, resurrection, and ascension; the glory of his grace, holiness, truth, miraculous operations, &c.

The glory as of the only begotten of the Father; which glory was the glory of the only begotten of the Father; for the particle as here doth not signify likeness, but truth, Neh 7:2 Job 24:14.

Full of grace and truth, as he was God manifested in the flesh. Grace signifieth love and good will, out of which it was that he delivered us from the curse and rigour of the law (to which grace is opposed). He was also full of truth, both as truth is opposed to falsehood, and to the shadows and figures of the law; and Christ was full of truth as he was the antitype to all the ceremonies, and all the promises had and have their completion and reality in him: see Joh 14:17 Rom 15:8 2Co 1:20. Truth also may signify the sincerity and integrity of Christ’s life, as he was without guile.

John bare witness of him, and cried, saying: John was not he, but only a witness to him; and he continueth to bear witness (the verb is in the present tense); nor did he give an obscure or cold testimony, but an open, and plain, and fervent testimony, according to the prophecies, his testimony was the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

This was he of whom I spake; he first testified that Christ was he of whom he had before spoken; possibly when he was preaching in the wilderness, and Christ came to him to be baptized of him, Mat 3:11,14.

He that cometh after me is preferred before me; he that cometh after me, in order of time, or in the ministerial office and employment, or, as if he were my disciple, Joh 8:12, is become, or is made, before me.

For he was before me, both in the eternal destination, and in respect of his Divine nature; as also in dignity and eminency, considered as a prophet, i.e. one that revealeth my Father’s will. This John said before, though not in terms, yet in effect, when he said, Mat 3:11, He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, & c. So Mar 1:7 Luk 3:16. This is the first thing which is here mentioned, as John’s testimony concerning Christ, respecting the excellency of his person.

And of his fulness have all we received; of that plenty of grace which Christ hath, (who hath not the Spirit given him by measure, Joh 3:34, as other saints have, Act 2:4,6,8), we who by nature are void of grace, whether taken for the favour of God, or gracious habits, have received, as the skirts of Aaron’s garment received the oil which was plentifully poured out on Aaron’s head.

And grace for grace: nor have we received drops, but grace upon grace; not only knowledge and instruction, but the love and favour of God, and spiritual habits, in proportion to the favour and grace which Christ hath (allowing for our short capacities); we have received grace freely and plentifully, all from Christ, and for his sake; which lets us see how much the grace receiving soul is bound to acknowledge and adore Christ, and may be confirmed in the receiving of further grace, and the hopes of eternal life; and it may mind all (according to that of the apostle, 2Co 6:1), to take heed that they receive not the grace of God in vain.

For the law was given by Moses; the law, moral and ceremonial, came not by Moses, but was given by Moses as God’s minister and servant; that law by which no man can be justified, Rom 3:28. In this was Moses’s honour, of whom you glory, Joh 5:45. God indeed made an eminent use of him, as his minister, by whom he revealed his will to you; both in matters of his worship, according to that dispensation; and in matters which concern you in your whole conversation; but yet there is an eminent difference between him and Jesus Christ. The law is no where called grace, neither doth it discover any thing but duty and wrath; it showeth no remission, in case that duty be not done, nor affordeth strength for the doing of it.

But grace and truth came by Jesus Christ; all that is from Christ; all the favour of God for the remission and pardon of sin, and for strength and assistance to the performance of duty, is (not given from God by Christ, as the law by Moses, but) from Christ as the fountain of grace; and not grace only, but truth, whether taken for solid and real mercy, or with respect to the law; the fulfilling of all the types and prophecies in it was by and in Christ.

No man has seen God at any time; no man hath at any time seen the essence of God with his eyes, Joh 4:24; nor with the eyes of his mind understood the whole counsel and will of God, Mat 11:27 Rom 11:34. Moses indeed saw the image and representation of God, and had a more familiar converse with God than others; upon which account he is said to have talked with God face to face; Num 12:7,8, God saith he would speak unto him mouth to mouth, even apparently; but he tells us how in the same verse, and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold; and God, who had spoken to the same sense, Exo 33:11, saith, Joh 1:20, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me, and live. Now to whom he did not discover his face, he certainly did not discover all his secret counsels.

The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father; but he who is the only begotten and beloved Son, hath such an intimate communion with him in his nature, and such a free communication of all his counsels, as it may be said, he is continually in his bosom.

He hath declared him; hath declared him, not only as a prophet declareth the mind and will of God, but as the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work, Psa 19:1; being the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, Heb 1:3. So as the Father can only be seen in the Son; nor is so full a revelation of the Father’s will to be expected from any, as from the Son.

John’s former testimony was more private to the common people; this testimony was given to a public authority.

The Jews (most probably the rulers of the Jews, who made up their sanhedrim, or great court, answering a parliament with us, for the cognizance of false prophets belonged to them) sent priests and Levites, which were Pharisees, Joh 1:24, of the strictest sect of the Jews as to rites and ceremonies; these came from Jerusalem, where the sanhedrim constantly sat, and the chief priests were, (if the message were not from the sanhedrim itself), to ask John Baptist who he was; that is, by what authority he preached and baptized? What kind of prophet he was? For they could not but know his name and family, he descending from a priest amongst them: and this appeareth to be their sense from what followeth.

And he confessed; he being asked openly and plainly, professed, and denied not; and did not dissemble nor halt in his speech. These negatives are in Scripture often added to affirmatives, to exclude all exceptions, Job 5:17 Psa 40:10-12. But confessed: he did not tell them once so, but again and again, because many were musing about it, Luk 3:15.

I am not the Christ; I am not that great Messiah which God hath promised you, and in the expectation of whom you live, Luk 2:26,38 Lu 19:11 Joh 4:25. The diligence we shall constantly observe in the servants of God in holy writ, to avoid the arrogating of that honour to themselves which is due only to God and Christ; and this, together with John’s steadiness and plainness, doth very well become all professors, but the ministers of the gospel especially.

John was at Bethabara when these messengers came to him, Joh 1:28. They asked him if he were Elias. The Jews had not only an expectation of the Messias, but of Elias to come as a messenger before him, according to the prophecy, Mal 4:5; as appeareth, Mat 17:10 Mar 9:11; of which they had a gross conception here, that Elias should come out of heaven personally, or at least that his soul should come into another body, according to the Pythagorean opinion. Now the meaning of the prophecy was, that one should come like Elias; and this was fulfilled in John, Luk 1:17, as our Saviour tells us, Mat 17:12 Mar 9:13; but they asked the question according to that notion they had of Elias. To which John answereth, that he was not; neither that Elias that ascended in a fiery chariot to heaven; nor any body informed with Elias’s soul: and thus the words of our Saviour, Mat 17:12 Mar 9:12, are easily reconciled to this text. They go on, and ask him if he were that prophet, or a prophet. Some think that they meant the Prophet promised, Deu 18:18; but that was no other than Christ himself, which he had before denied himself to be; nor doth it appear from any text of Scripture that the Jews had any expectation of any other particular prophet; but it is plain from Luk 9:8, that they had a notion that it was possible one of the old prophets might rise again from the dead, for so they guessed there concerning Christ. But others think that the article in the Greek here is not emphatical, and they only asked him if he were a prophet; for the Jews had a general notion, that the spirit of prophecy had left them ever since the times of Zechariah and Malachi; which they hoped was returned in John the Baptist, and about this they question him if he were a prophet. To which he answereth, No; neither that Prophet promised, Deu 18:18, nor yet any of the old prophets risen from the dead; nor yet one like the prophets of the Old Testament, who only prophesied of a Christ to come; but, as Christ calls him, Mat 11:9, more than a prophet, one who showed and declared to them a Christ already come; for the law and the prophets prophesied but until John; the law in its types foreshowing, the prophets in their sermons foretelling, a Messiah to come; John did more. His father indeed, Luk 1:76, called him the prophet of the Highest; but there prophet is to be understood not in a strict, but in a large sense, as the term prophecy is taken, Rom 12:6. And the term prophet often signifieth one that revealeth the will of God to men; in which large sense John was a prophet, and yet more than a prophet in the stricter notion of the term; and in that sense no prophet, that is, no mere prophet: so, Num 11:19, Moses tells the people they should not eat flesh one, or two, or five, or ten, or twenty days, because they should eat it a whole month together.

Hitherto John had given them only a negative answer, and told them who he was not; he was neither Christ, nor the Elias, nor that prophet they expected; neither any of the old prophets risen from the dead; nor any prophet at all in a strict sense (as were the prophets of the Old Testament): they press him to a direct, plain, positive answer, that they might give an answer to those that sent them, who did not send them to inquire what he was not, but what he was. And there were various talks and discourses of the people about him, which they were not willing to take up and run away with; but they desired to have it from himself.

We had the same, See Poole on “Mat 3:3”, See Poole on “Mar 1:3”. Chemnitius thinks, that John chose rather to preach and fulfil his ministry in the wilderness, than in the temple; to make an illustrious difference between himself, who was but the Lord’s messenger, and whose office was but to prepare the Lord’s way, and his Lord himself, of whom it was prophesied, Mal 3:1, The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his holy temple; upon which account Haggai prophesied. Hag 2:9, that the glory of that latter house (built by Ezra, and Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah) should be greater than of the former.

Who these Pharisees were hath been before explained in our notes on Mat 3:7. They were of the strictest sect of the Jewish religion, Act 26:5. The greatest part of their councils was made up of those of this sect, as may be learned from Act 23:1-10. They were the men most zealous for and tenacious of the Jewish rites; and would allow nothing to be added to the Jewish worship to what they had received concerning it, either from the law of God, or the traditions of the elders.

The Pharisees themselves would allow the Messiah, or Elias, or a prophet, to make any additions to or alterations in the worship of God, but none else: hence it is they ask, by what authority he baptized, if he were none of these? From whence we may learn, that although they might have some umbrage of that baptismal washing which was under the gospel, to commence into a sacrament, or federal sign, in the washing of their proselytes, or of Jewish children when they were circumcised; yet John’s action was looked upon as new, who baptized adult Jews: now the care of the sanhedrim was to keep the worship of God incorrupt, and the Pharisees amongst them had a particular zeal in the case, especially so far as the traditions of the elders were concerned.

This was no strict answer to their question, which was not, how, but why he baptized? But proper replies are often called answers in Scripture, though not apposite to the question.

I baptize with water; I baptize you with mere water:

but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; but there hath stood one amongst you, esthken, or (by a usual putting of one tense for another) there standeth one; Christ had been there with the crowd, Luk 3:15,21, and possibly was amongst them still when John spake these words; whom you know not, not so much as ore tenus, by face.

John the Baptist had before told them, He that cometh after me is preferred before me, See Poole on “Joh 1:15”. He now repeateth those words; and it is observable, that the three other evangelists all put this passage before the history of Christ’s coming to him to be baptized. So as it is probable that these messengers came to John as he was baptizing; and either immediately before or after Christ’s baptism, Christ being yet in the crowd, he repeateth to his hearers what he had a little before said of him, that he was to be preferred before him.

Whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose; he here enlargeth upon it with a proverbial speech, which the other evangelists have, with a very little variation: Matthew saith, Whose shoe’s I am not worthy to bear; that is, to perform unto him the very meanest service or office. We have such forms of speech in use at this day amongst us; when we would express the great preeminence of some one above another, we say of that other, He is not worthy to tie his shoes; or, to carry his shoes after him. There is a vast difference between Christ and the most excellent of his ministers; which as to baptism lieth here; the ministerial baptism is but with water; Christ baptizeth with the Holy Ghost and with fire, Mat 3:11, or, with the Holy Ghost, as Mar 1:8.

The evangelist had before told us what was done, these words tell us where. Some ancient writers will have the place to have been Bethany; but they seem not to have so well considered Joh 11:18, where Bethany is said to have been but fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem, and consequently on this side Jordan; whereas the evangelist saith, that this place was peran, beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Reuben, in the country of Peraea, where John at this time was baptizing, and probably had been so for some time.

The next day; the most think, the day following that day when the messengers from Jerusalem had been examining the Baptist. Heinsius thinks it was the same day, and saith, the Hellenists usually so interpret en epaupion, for meta tauta, after these things; but the former sense is more generally embraced.

John seeth Jesus coming to him, out of the wilderness, as some think, where he had been tempted by the devil; but then it must follow, that he was not amongst the crowd, Joh 1:2, standing in the midst of them, when the messengers were there; and it should appear by Joh 1:32,33, that this which is here recorded happened after Christ’s baptism by John (of which this evangelist saith nothing): it seemeth rather to be understood of another coming of Christ to John after he had been baptized, when John, seeing him, pointed as it were with his finger to him, (for the term Behold seemeth to be here used demonstratively), showing them the person whom he would have them cast their eye upon; whom he calls, the Lamb of God, not only to denote his excellency, as we read of the night of the Lord, Exo 12:42, and the bread of God,  Lev 21:21; which indeed Christ was, being without blemish,  1Pe 1:19; but with reference to the lambs used in the Jewish sacrifices, not only at the passover, Exo 12:5, but in the daily sacrifice, Exo 29:38 Lev 1:10, or the burnt offering; and in the peace offering, Lev 3:7, and in the sin offering, Lev 4:32. He calls Christ the Lamb of God, probably, because divers of the priests were there to hear, and (as appears, Joh 1:39) it was nigh the time of their daily sacrifice; that so he might remind them that Christ was the truth and Antitype to all their sacrifices.

Which taketh away the sin of the world; o airwn, the word signifies both to take up, and to take away: which taketh away the sin of the world, as God, to whom it belongs to forgive sin; and this he did by taking it upon himself, (so it is translated, Mat 16:24), expiating it, which expiation is followed by a plenary remission, and taking it away, both the punishment of it, and the root, and body, and power of it; redeeming them as from the grave and hell, due to man for sin; so from a vain conversation, 1Pe 1:18; and not doing this for the Jews only, but for the Gentiles also, 1Jo 2:2, for many in the world, being he without whom there is no remission, Act 4:12. Nor doth his gracious act cease at any time, it is a work he is always doing, and which none but he can do: ministers may persuade, priests of old offered lambs and other beasts in sacrifice; but he alone taketh away sin. So that, as what he said to the messengers of the sanhedrim gave all the honour of any valuable effect of baptism to Christ; so, what he saith here gives him all the honour of any good effect of preaching, or any good effect of our ministry; it is he alone, who (when we have said or done what we can) taketh away the sin of the world.

And (saith he) this is he of whom I said, (as Joh 1:15), He cometh after me in order of time and ministry, but is more excellent than I am.

See Poole on “Joh 1:15”.

This verse is best expounded by Joh 1:33, where the same words are repeated, I knew him not; and it is added, but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, &c. Lest any should think that Christ and John had compacted together to give one another credit, or that there was some near relation between John and Christ, John saith, I knew him not; for Christ had spent his time at home, Luk 2:51, John had lived in desert places; the providence of God so ordering it, that John should not know Christ so much as by face, until that time came when Christ was to be made manifest to Israel. But that God might make his Son manifest unto Israel, when God by an extraordinary mission sent John to baptize with water, he gave him this token, That he upon whom he should see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, as Joh 1:33, that was the Messiah, the Lamb of God, that should take away the sin of the world; he who should baptize with the Holy Ghost.

And therefore (saith John) am I come baptizing with water. I did not run without sending, nor introduce a new rite or sacrament without commission; but being thus sent of God, and that I might give Christ an opportunity of coming to me, that I might see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him. From whence we learn, that none but Christ can institute a sacrament. John baptized not, till he was sent to baptize with water.

Saith John, According to the revelation which I had, when I received my extraordinary commission to baptize, so it fell out to me, I did see, when he was baptized, the heaven opening, and a representation of the Spirit of God (for no man can see God and live) descending. The form of the representation was like that of a dove. And it was not a mere transient sight, but it did for some time abide upon that person, in that sensible representation; by that token I knew that he was the Son of God.

And I knew him not; I was a stranger to him; I knew him in a sense, when I leaped in my mother’s womb, upon his mother’s coming to see my mother, Luk 1:41; but that (as impressions made upon infants use to do) wore off. I had some impression upon me at that time when he came towards me to be baptized, which made me say to him, {as Mat 3:14} I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? But yet I was not certain, though I knew he was in the crowd of people, that he was the person designed, and whose work it should be to baptize with the Holy Ghost, until the same God that had given me that sign fulfilled it to me.

But when I saw that, I could not but believe, and also bear an open testimony to the world, that this man was not mere man, but the eternal Son of that God, who sent me to baptize with water; reserving still to himself the Divine power of blessing that holy sacrament, and conferring the Holy Ghost in regenerating habits, working like fire, in purging away the dross of souls, and like water, washing away the filth of sin, Mat 3:11 Joh 3:5.

Ver. 35,36. The next day after that the messengers who came from Jerusalem had been with John, John stood, and two of his disciples; whether he was preaching or no it is not said; but John standing with them, saw Christ walking, whence, or whither, is not said; but as a good man is always taking opportunity to commend Christ to others, so John upon this occasion took advantage further to make Christ known to those two men, (who they were, we shall hear in the following verses), and repeats the words he had said before, Behold the Lamb of God! (See Poole on “Joh 1:27”). Thus good and faithful ministers will continually be inviting their disciples to Christ, taking them off from further consideration of themselves, and, as ministers, to show them the way to Christ.

See Poole on “Joh 1:35”

God blessed the verbal testimony that John had given so far, that they stood in no need of any miracle to confirm it, but upon their hearing John speak, they followed Jesus: as yet, not as his apostles; for their call to that office was afterward (as we shall hear); nor yet, so as no more to depart from him: but there was created in them a further desire of knowledge of him and acquaintance with him.

Christ, as he walked, turning him, and seeing two men following him, inquires of their end, what they sought; to teach us, in all our religious motions and actions, to do the like; for the end will contribute much to specify the action, and to make it good or bad. They gave him that honourable title which was then in fashion, by and under which they were wont to speak to those upon whom they relied for instruction, whose doctrine they desired to know, and with whom they desired to converse, and to learn of him. They asked him where he abode, or where he lodged.

Our Lord discerning the end of their following him to be sincere and good, invites them to come and see where his lodging was; for he elsewhere telleth us, that he had not a house wherein to hide his head.

They came and saw his lodgings; where, or of what nature they were, we are not told, but we never read that he during his whole pilgrimage amongst us had any stately or splendid lodgings.

The text saith that these two disciples abode with him that day; whether only the two or three remaining hours of the same day, (for it was now about four of the clock afternoon, which answers the tenth hour according to the Jewish account), or another whole day, being the sabbath day, (as some think), we are not told, nor can conclude; certain it is, they abode with him the remaining part of that day, from four of the clock till night.

Concerning the call of this Andrew to the apostleship, See Poole on “Mat 4:18”. See Poole on “Mat 4:19”. See Poole on “Mar 1:16”. See Poole on “Mar 1:17”. That was at another time, and in another manner: Christ here only invited them to come and see where he lodged.

It should seem that both the disciples (after their converse with Christ at the place where he lodged) went together to look for Peter, Andrew’s brother. Andrew first found him, and tells him (with great joy) that he and that other disciple had found the Messiah, prophesied of by Daniel, and in the expectation of whom the disciples and the Jews lived. The term Messiah in Hebrew is the same with Christ in Greek, and both signify the same with Anointed in English. The article in this place is emphatic, not merely prepositive, as in other places, but signifying, that Anointed; for other kings, and priests, and prophets were also anointed, and God’s people are called anointed; but he was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, having the Spirit not given him by measure.

Andrew having found his brother Simon, conducts him to Jesus. Andrew, and Simon, and Philip were citizens of Bethsaida, Joh 1:44, which was a city of Galilee; how near to the place where John baptized, or Christ lodged, we cannot say. Probably Simon was one of John’s disciples, and came to attend his ministry; so as the disciples only sought him in the crowd, and came with him to Christ. When Christ beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon; he knew him, and called him by name, and told him his father’s name, Jonas, and giveth him a new name, Cephas, which by interpretation doth not signify a head, (as the popish disputant at Berne urged, to prove him the head of the church, as if it had been a Greek word, and came from kefalh; or, as he pretended, ridiculously enough, from an old Greek word, kefav), but a stone (as this text tells us); by which name we find him called, 1Co 1:12 3:22 9:5 15:5 Gal 2:9: in other places Peter, which signifieth a stone also, or a rock. Cephas is a Syriac word, Peter a Greek word: Christ gave him the name. Both Cephas and Peter are by interpretation, a stone. Beza thinks that our Saviour did not here give him that name, but foretell that he should be so called. Casaubon thinks that the name was here given to him, and with it a new spirit; that whereas before he was (according to his father’s name Jonas, which signifies a dove) fearful and timorous, from this time forward he was as a rock, steady, firm, and full of courage and constancy: but it is a greater question how this text is to be reconciled with Mat 4:18-20, where Andrew and Peter are both said to be espied by Christ, walking by the sea of Galilee; and Luk 5:10, where Simon is reported to be called after they had taken a great draught of fish; and with Mar 3:13, and Luk 6:13, where all the apostles are named as called at one and the same time. Doubtless the calls were different. This in John seems rather to be a prophecy than a call. Those texts, Mat 4:18-20, and Luk 5:10, seem to be their calls to a discipleship. The other texts, Mar 3:13 Luk 6:13, respect their election to the apostleship, and the mission of them.

All this while Christ seemeth to have been in Judea, which was the most famous province. The day after Peter had thus been with him, he had a mind to go into Galilee; out of that he designed to choose his disciples; and that being the country where he had been educated, he designed in a more special manner to honour it with the first fruit of his public ministry. There findeth Philip (the name signifieth, a lover of horses). He calleth him to be his disciple.

This Philip was a citizen of Bethsaida (the word signifies in the Hebrew, The house of fruits, or of huntsmen). Andrew and Peter (mentioned before) both of them lived there. It was one of those cities where Christ did most of his mighty works, Mat 11:20.

Philip having himself discovered Christ, is not willing to eat his morsels alone, but desires to communicate his discovery to others; he finds (whether casually, or upon search, is not said) one Nathanael, he was of Cana in Galilee, Joh 21:2. (The name is a Hebrew name, signifying, The gift of God; some think it the same with Nethaneel, 1Ch 15:24.) Having found him, he tells him with great joy, that they had found him of whom Moses had wrote in the law, the Shiloh, mentioned Gen 49:10, the Prophet, mentioned Deu 18:15, the Branch of the Lord, mentioned Isa 4:2, the Messiah, mentioned by Daniel, Dan 9:25,26, and all the other prophets, him whom they usually called Jesus of Nazareth, ( there he was conceived, there he was bred, Luk 2:4,51, though he was born in Bethlehem of Judah, Luk 2:4), and who was commonly thought to be the son of Joseph. If Philip did only cum vulgo loqui, speak as was commonly said, though himself knew and believed other things, he is not to be blamed; but the most think Philip discovered here his own weakness, both in thinking Christ the son of Joseph, and to have been born at Nazareth. It is certain that the apostles themselves at first, yea, and till Christ’s resurrection from the dead, had a very imperfect notion of Christ as the true Messiah. Grace may consist with great weakness as to knowledge.

The words of Philip begat a prejudice in Nathanael, as to what he said. It was prophesied, Mic 5:2, that the Messiah should come out of Bethlehem. So, Joh 7:41,42, some of the people said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? Nazareth was not only a poor little place, (for so Bethlehem also was), but a place which the Scripture never mentioned as the place from whence the Messiah should arise; a place that God had not honoured with the production of a prophet. By any good thing seems to be meant, the Messiah, or any prophet, or (more generally) any thing which is noble and excellent, and of any remark. So prone are we to think that the kingdom of God comes with observation, that we know not how to fancy how great things should be done by little means, and great persons should arise out of little, contemptible places. Whereas God chooseth the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and the weak things to confound the mighty; and base things of the world, to confound the wise, 1Co 1:25-28.

Philip saith unto him, Come and see; Philip, not knowing how to answer Nathanael’s objection, and to remove his prejudice, wishes him himself to go, and make up a judgment. Wise men ought to do this, and not to take up prejudices from reports and common vogue.

They are not all Israel, which are of Israel, Rom 9:6. For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, Rom 2:28,29. Christ seeing Nathanael (though he was prejudiced by Philip’s mistake, or the common mistake of his nation) coming to see him, and seeing not only his body and bodily motion, but his heart also, and the motions of that, saith of him, Behold one who is not only born an Israelite, but is a true Israelite, like his father Jacob, a plain man, Gen 25:27; in whom is no guile; in whom there is no deceit, no doubleness of heart. Such ought Christians to be, no crafty, deceitful, double minded men, but men of great sincerity and plainness of heart, laying aside all malice, and all guile, 1Pe 2:1, like little children, Mat 18:3.

Nathanael wonders how Christ should know him, having not been of his familiar acquaintance. Christ tells him he saw him under the fig tree, before ever Philip called him. That was a very hot country, wherein people sought shadowy places; hence we read of sitting under their own vines and fig trees, Mic 4:4 Zec 3:10; and it is likely that those being two luxuriant plants, that had large leaves, and ran out in long boughs, in hot weather they might under the covert of these plants not only sit as in an arbour to converse one with another, but also perform religious duties. Whether Christ saw him there eating and drinking, or conversing with friends, or reading, or praying, the Scripture saith not, and it is but vainly guessed; it is enough that by his telling this to him, he let him know that he saw him, though he was not in his view, and so was omnipresent and omniscient. Christ seeth us, where we are, and what we do, when we see not him; and he seeth our hearts, whether they be single or double, plain, or false and deceitful; which as in many cases it affords us much comfort, so it admonishes us to be at all times in the fear of the Lord.

The term Rabbi, which Nathanael here giveth to Christ, is of the same significance with Rabban, and Rabboni, Joh 20:16, Rabban, Rabhi, Rabbi, all which signify Master, and my Master; a name which in that age they usually gave their teachers, as a title of honour, Mat 23:7,8, titles that began about the time of our Saviour; for Buxtorf tells us, purer antiquity gave no such titles to their teachers or prophets, thinking it not possible to give those persons (extraordinarily sent of God) titles answerable to their dignity. They say, Hillel, about our Saviour’s time, was the first who was so called; Rabban was counted the highest, Rabbi the next, Rabbi the least. Rabban, they say, lasted about two hundred years, given to seven after Hillel. Nathanael calls him also

the Son of God, as Peter and the other disciples did, Mat 14:33, and Peter, Mat 16:16. But it appeareth, by many following passages, that they had but a faint persuasion of this, till he was declared so with power, by his resurrection from the dead, Rom 1:4. He acknowledgeth Christ also the King of Israel, that is, the true Messiah. This was the title of the Messiah, Mat 21:5 27:11.

Christ encourages the beginnings of faith in the souls of his people, and magnifies Nathanael’s faith from the revelation which he had, which was but imperfect; for Christ had said no more, than that he had seen him under the fig tree before Philip called him. He tells him that he should see greater things than these. To him that hath, shall be given. What those greater things are, which our Lord here meaneth, he telleth him, in part at least, Joh 1:51.

These things he ushers in with a Verily, verily, and declareth them spoken not to Nathanael alone, but unto you; viz. all you that are my disciples indeed, who are (like Nathanael) true Israelites, in whom there is no guile. For the terms, Amen, Amen, (by us translated, Verily, verily), some of the ancients accounted them an oath; but the most learned modern writers have seen no reason to agree with them. Surely (see a large discourse about these particles in our learned Fuller, his Miscellan. 1.1. cap. 2, to which nothing need be added) if Amen is never used in the Old Testament but as a term of prayer or wishing, in the New Testament it is used to assert or affirm a thing, or as a particle of wishing and prayer. The word in the Hebrew properly signifies, truth, Isa 65:16; whence Christ (the truth) is called the Amen, Rev 3:14. As the prophets were wont to begin their discourses with The word of the Lord, and Thus saith the Lord, to assert the truth of what they were about to say; so Christ, to show that himself was God, and spake from himself, begins with Amen; and Amen, Amen, sometimes: it is observed that John constantly doubles the particle, and saith Amen, Amen, that is, Verily, verily; either (as interpreters say) for further confirmation of the thing, or to get the greater attention, or to assert as well the truth of the speaker as of the thing spoken. Now the thing spoken followeth as a thing promised, not to Nathanael only, but to all believers, that they should see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. Some think that hereby is meant the spiritual, metaphorical opening of heaven to believers by Christ. But it seems more properly to signify such an opening of the heavens as we read of, Mat 3:16. Some understand it of the appearances of angels to Christ at his passion, and resurrection, and ascension; but it seems rather to refer to the day of judgment, when ten thousands of angels shall wait upon Christ, as the Judge of the quick and the dead, and minister unto him; which ministration, they say, is expressed by the terms of ascending and descending, with reference (doubtless) to Jacob’s vision, Gen 28:12: Jacob saw it sleeping, Nathanael and other believers shall see it with open eyes. Others interpret it more generally, viz. You shall see as many miracles as if you saw the heavens opened, and the angels ascending and descending. Others think it refers to some further appearances of the angels to Christ in their ministration to him than the Scripture records. Christ doth not say, You shall see angels ascending and descending upon me, but upon the Son of man; by which our learned Lightfoot saith, he did not only declare himself to be truly man, but the Second Adam, in whom what was lost in the first was to be restored. It is observed, that only Ezekiel in the Old Testament, and Christ in the New Testament, are thus called; and that Christ was never thus called but by himself. Ezekiel was doubtless so called to distinguish him from those spiritual beings with which he often conversed: Christ, to distinguish his human nature from his Divine nature, both which (in him) made up one person. Christ’s calling himself so was but a further indication of his making himself of no reputation, while he was in the form of a servant. Others think, that the Son of man in the gospel, used by Christ, signifies no more than I, and me; (it being usual in the Hebrew dialect for persons to speak of themselves in the third person); so, upon the Son of man, is, upon me, who am truly man. Chemnitius thinks, that as the term Messiah (by which the people commonly called Christ) was taken out of Daniel; so this term, by Christ applied to the same person, is taken out thence too, Dan 7:13, where it is said, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, & c.; and that Christ did ordinarily so call himself, to correspond with the prophecy of Daniel, to assert himself truly man, and to declare himself his Father’s servant, according to the prophecy, Isa 42:1.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Psalm 44

Commentary on Psalm 44

To Include Romans 8:35-39 and Isaiah 53:4-12


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright Public Domain

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Online Bible references for the above verses in Psalm 44, Romans 8, and Isaiah 53.

Psalms 44

We are not told either who was the penmen of this psalm or when and upon what occasion it was penned, upon a melancholy occasion, we are sure, not so much to the penman himself (then we could have found occasions enough for it in the history of David and his afflictions), but to the church of God in general; and therefore, if we suppose it penned by David, yet we must attribute it purely to the Spirit of prophecy, and must conclude that the Spirit (whatever he himself had) had in view the captivity of Babylon, or the sufferings of the Jewish church under Antiochus, or rather the afflicted state of the Christian church in its early days (to which Psa 44:22 is applied by the apostle, Rom 8:36), and indeed in all its days on earth, for it is its determined lot that it must enter into the kingdom of heaven through many tribulations. And, if we have any gospel-psalms pointing at the privileges and comforts of Christians, why should we not have one pointing at their trials and exercises? It is a psalm calculated for a day of fasting and humiliation upon occasion of some public calamity, either pressing or threatening. In it the church is taught, I. To own with thankfulness, to the glory of God, the great things God has done for their fathers (Psa 44:1-8). II. To exhibit a memorial of their present calamitous estate (Psa 44:9-16). III. To file a protestation of their integrity and adherence to God notwithstanding (Psa 44:17-22). IV. To lodge a petition at the throne of grace for succour and relief (Psa 44:22-26). In singing this psalm we ought to give God the praise of what he has formerly done for his people, to represent our own grievances, or sympathize with those parts of the church that are in distress, to engage ourselves, whatever happens, to cleave to God and duty, and then cheerfully to wait the event.


To the chief musician for the sons of Korah, Maschil.

Psalms 44:1-8

Some observe that most of the psalms that are entitled Maschilpsalms of instruction, are sorrowful psalms; for afflictions give instructions, and sorrow of spirit opens the ear to them. Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest and teachest.

In these verses the church, though now trampled upon, calls to remembrance the days of her triumph, of her triumph in God and over her enemies. This is very largely mentioned here, 1. As an aggravation of the present distress. The yoke of servitude cannot but lie very heavily on the necks of those that used to wear the crown of victory; and the tokens of God’s displeasure must needs be most grievous to those that have been long accustomed to the tokens of his favour. 2. As an encouragement to hope that God would yet turn again their captivity and return in mercy to them; accordingly he mixes prayers and comfortable expectations with his record of former mercies. Observe,

I. Their commemoration of the great things God had formerly done for them.

1. In general (Psa 44:1): Our fathers have told us what work thou didst in their days. Observe, (1.) The many operations of providence are here spoken of as one work – “They have told us the work which thou didst;” for there is a wonderful harmony and uniformity in all that God does, and the many wheels make but one wheel (Eze 10:13), many works make but one work. (2.) It is a debt which every age owes to posterity to keep an account of God’s works of wonder, and to transmit the knowledge of them to the next generation. Those that went before us told us what God did in their days, we are bound to tell those that come after us what he has done in our days, and let them do the like justice to those that shall succeed them; thus shall one generation praise his works to another (Psa 145:4), the fathers to the children shall make known his truth, Isa 38:19. (3.) We must not only make mention of the work God has done in our own days, but must also acquaint ourselves and our children with what he did in the times of old, long before our own days; and of this we have in the scripture a sure word of history, as sure as the word of prophecy. (4.) Children must diligently attend to what their parents tell them of the wonderful works of God, and keep it in remembrance, as that which will be of great use to them. (5.) Former experiences of God’s power and goodness are strong supports to faith and powerful pleas in prayer under present calamities. See how Gideon insists upon it (Jdg 6:13): Where are all his miracles which our fathers told us of?

2. In particular, their fathers had told them,

(1.) How wonderfully God planted Israel in Canaan at first, Psa 44:2, Psa 44:3. He drove out the natives, to make room for Israel, afflicted them, and cast them out, gave them as dust to Israel’s sword and as driven stubble to their bow. The many complete victories which Israel obtained over the Canaanites, under the command of Joshua, were not to be attributed to themselves, nor could they challenge the glory of them. [1.] They were not owing to their own merit, but to God’s favour and free grace: It was through the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour to them. Not for thy righteousness, or the uprightness of thy heart, doth God drive them out from before thee (Deu 9:5, Deu 9:6), but because God would perform the oath which he swore unto their fathers, Deu 7:8. The less praise this allows us the more comfort it administers to us, that we may see all our successes and enlargements coming to us from the favour of God and the light of his countenance. [2.] They were not owing to their own might, but to God’s power engaged for them, without which all their own efforts and endeavours would have been fruitless. It was not by their own sword that they got the land in possession, though they had great numbers of mighty men; nor did their own arm save them from being driven back by the Canaanites and put to shame; but it was God’s right hand and his arm. He fought for Israel, else they would have fought in vain; it was through him that they did valiantly and victoriously. It was God that planted Israel in that good land, as the careful husbandman plants a tree, from which he promises himself fruit. See Psa 80:8. This is applicable to the planting of the Christian church in the world, by the preaching of the gospel. Paganism was wonderfully driven out, as the Canaanites, not all at once, but by little and little, not by any human policy or power (for God chose to do it by the weak and foolish things of the world), but by the wisdom and power of God – Christ by his Spirit went forth conquering and to conquer; and the remembrance of that is a great support and comfort to those that groan under the yoke of antichristian tyranny, for to the state of the church under the power of the New Testament Babylon, some think (and particularly the learned Amyraldus), the complaints in the latter part of this psalm may very fitly be accommodated. He that by his power and goodness planted a church for himself in the world will certainly support it by the same power and goodness; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

(2.) How frequently he had given them success against their enemies that attempted to disturb them in the possession of that good land (Psa 44:7): Thou hast, many a time, saved us from our enemies, and hast put to flight, and so put to shame, those that hated us, witness the successes of the judges against the nations that oppressed Israel. Many a time have the persecutors of the Christian church, and those that hate it, been put to shame by the power of truth, Act 6:10.

II. The good use they make of this record, and had formerly made of it, in consideration of the great things God had done for their fathers of old.

1. They had taken God for their sovereign Lord, had sworn allegiance to him, and put themselves under his protection (Psa 44:4): Thou art my King, O God! He speaks in the name of the church, as (Psa 74:12), Thou art my King of old. God, as a king, has made laws for his church, provided for the peace and good order of it, judged for it, pleaded its cause, fought its battles, and protected it; it is his kingdom in the world, and ought to be subject to him, and to pay him tribute. Or the psalmist speaks for himself here: “Lord, Thou art my King; whither shall I go with my petitions, but to thee? The favour I ask is not for myself, but for thy church.” Note, It is every one’s duty to improve his personal interest at the throne of grace for the public welfare and prosperity of the people of God; as Moses, “If I have found grace in thy sight, guide thy people,” Exo 33:13.

2. They had always applied to him by prayer for deliverance when at any time they were in distress: Command deliverances for Jacob. Observe, (1.) The enlargedness of their desire. They pray for deliverances, not one, but many, as many as they had need of, how many soever they were, a series of deliverances, a deliverance from every danger. (2.) The strength of their faith in the power of God. They do not say, Work deliverances, but Command them, which denotes his doing it easily and instantly – Speak and it is done (such was the faith of the centurion, Mat 8:8, Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed); it denotes also his doing it effectually: “Command it, as one having authority, whose command will be obeyed.” Where the word of a king is there is power, much more the word of the King of kings.

3. They had trusted and triumphed in him. As they owned it was not their own sword and bow that had saved them (Psa 44:3), so neither did they trust to their own sword or bow to save them for the future (Psa 44:6): “I will not trust in my bow, nor in any of my military preparations, as if those would stand me in stead without God. No; through thee will we push down our enemies (Psa 44:5); we will attempt it in thy strength, relying only upon that, and not upon the number or valour of our forces; and, having thee on our side, we will not doubt of success in the attempt. Through thy name (by virtue of thy wisdom directing us, thy power strengthening us and working for us, and thy promise securing success to us) we shall, we will, tread those under that rise up against us.

4. They had made him their joy and praise (Psa 44:8): “In God we have boasted; in him we do and will boast, every day, and all the day long.” When their enemies boasted of their strength and successes, as Sennacherib and Rabshakeh hectored Hezekiah, they owned they had nothing to boast of, in answer thereunto, but their relation to God and their interest in him; and, if he were for them, they could set all the world at defiance. Let him that glories glory in the Lord, and let that for ever exclude all other boasting. Let those that trust in God make their boast in him, for they know whom they have trusted; let them boast in him all the day long, for it is a subject that can never be exhausted. But let them withal praise his name for ever; if they have the comfort of his name, let them give unto him the glory due to it.

Psalms 44:9-16

The people of God, being greatly afflicted and oppressed, here apply to him; whither else should they go?

I. By way of appeal, concerning their integrity, which he only is an infallible judge of, and which he will certainly be the rewarder of. Two things they call God to witness to: –

1. That, though they suffered these hard things, yet they kept close to God and to their duty (Psa 44:17): “All this has come upon us, and it is as bad perhaps as bad can be, yet have we not forgotten thee, neither cast off the thoughts of thee nor deserted the worship of thee; for, though we cannot deny but that we have dealt foolishly, yet we have not dealt falsely in thy covenant, so as to cast thee off and take to other gods. Though idolaters were our conquerors, we did not therefore entertain any more favourable thoughts of their idols and idolatries; though thou hast seemed to forsake us and withdraw from us, yet we have not therefore forsaken thee.” The trouble they had been long in was very great: “We have been sorely broken in the place of dragons, among men as fierce, and furious, and cruel, as dragons. We have been covered with the shadow of death, that is, we have been under deep melancholy and apprehensive of nothing short of death. We have been wrapped up in obscurity, and buried alive; and thou hast thus broken us, thou hast thus covered us (Psa 44:19), yet we have not harboured any hard thoughts of thee, nor meditated a retreat from thy service. Though thou hast slain us, we have continued to trust in thee: Our heart has not turned back; we have not secretly withdrawn our affections from thee, neither have our steps, either in our religious worship or in our conversation, declined from the way (Psa 44:18), the way which thou hast appointed us to walk in.” When the heart turns back the steps will soon decline; for it is the evil heart of unbelief that inclines to depart from God. Note, We may the better bear our troubles, how pressing soever, if in them we still hold fast our integrity. While our troubles do not drive us from our duty to God we should not suffer them to drive us from our comfort in God; for he will not leave us if we do not leave him. For the proof of their integrity they take God’s omniscience to witness, which is as much the comfort of the upright in heart as it is the terror of hypocrites (Psa 44:20, Psa 44:21): “If we have forgotten the name of our God, under pretence that he had forgotten us, or in our distress have stretched out our hands to a strange god, as more likely to help us, shall not God search this out? Shall he not know it more fully and distinctly than we know that which we have with the greatest care and diligence searched out? Shall he not judge it, and call us to an account for it?” Forgetting God was a heart-sin, and stretching our the hand to a strange god was often a secret sin, Eze 8:12. But heart-sins and secret sins are known to God, and must be reckoned for; for he knows the secrets of the heart, and therefore is a infallible judge of the words and actions.

2. That they suffered these hard things because they kept close to God and to their duty (Psa 44:22): “It is for thy sake that we are killed all the day long, because we stand related to thee, are called by thy name, call upon thy name, and will not worship other gods.” In this the Spirit of prophecy had reference to those who suffered even unto death for the testimony of Christ, to whom it is applied, Rom 8:36. So many were killed, and put to such lingering deaths, that they were in the killing all the day long; so universally was this practised that when a man became a Christian he reckoned himself as a sheep appointed for the slaughter.

II. By way of petition, with reference to their present distress, that God would, in his own due time, work deliverance for them. 1. Their request is very importunate: Awake, arise, Psa 44:23. Arise for our help; redeem us (Psa 44:26); come speedily and powerfully to our relief, Psa 80:2. Stir up thy strength, and come and save us. They had complained (Psa 44:12) that God had sold them; here they pray (Psa 44:26) that God would redeem them; for there is no appealing from God, but by appealing to him. If he sell us, it is not any one else that can redeem us; the same hand that tears must heal, that smites must bind up, Hos 6:1. They had complained (Psa 44:9), Thou hast cast us off; but here they pray (Psa 44:23), “Cast us not off forever; let us not be finally forsaken of God.” 2. The expostulations are very moving: Why sleepest thou? Psa 44:23. He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps; but, when he does not immediately appear for the deliverance of his people, they are tempted to think he sleeps. The expression is figurative (as Psa 78:65, Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep); but it was applicable to Christ in the letter (Mat 8:24); he was asleep when his disciples were in a storm, and they awoke him, saying, Lord, save us, we perish. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, that we may not see thee and the light of thy countenance?” Or, “that thou mayest not see us and our distresses? Thou forgettest our affliction and our oppression, for it still continues, and we see no way open for our deliverance.” And, 3. The pleas are very proper, not their own merit and righteousness, though they had the testimony of their consciences concerning their integrity, but they plead the poor sinner’s pleas. (1.) Their own misery, which made them the proper objects of the divine compassion (Psa 44:25): “Our soul is bowed down to the dust under prevailing grief and fear. We have become as creeping things, the most despicable animals: Our belly cleaves unto the earth; we cannot lift up ourselves, neither revive our own drooping spirits nor recover ourselves out of our low and sad condition, and we lie exposed to be trodden on by every insulting foe.” 2. God’s mercy: “O redeem us for they mercies’ sake; we depend upon the goodness of thy nature, which is the glory of thy name (Exo 34:6), and upon those sure mercies of David which are conveyed by the covenant to all his spiritual seed.”

Romans 8:35-39

III. We have good assurance of our preservation and continuance in this blessed state, Rom 8:35, to the end. The fears of the saints lest they should lose their hold of Christ are often very discouraging and disquieting, and create them a great deal of disturbance; but here is that which may silence their fears, and still such storms, that nothing can separate them. We have here from the apostle,

1. A daring challenge to all the enemies of the saints to separate them, if they could, from the love of Christ. Who shall? None shall, Rom 8:35-37. God having manifested his love in giving his own Son for us, and not hesitating at that, can we imagine that any thing else should divert or dissolve that love? Observe here,

(1.) The present calamities of Christ’s beloved ones supposed – that they meet with tribulation on all hands, are in distress, know not which way to look for any succour and relief in this world, are followed with persecution from an angry malicious world that always hated those whom Christ loved, pinched with famine, and starved with nakedness, when stripped of all creature-comforts, exposed to the greatest perils, the sword of the magistrate drawn against them, ready to be sheathed in their bowels, bathed in their blood. Can a case be supposed more black and dismal? It is illustrated (Rom 8:36) by a passage quoted from Psa 44:22, For thy sake we are killed all the day long, which intimates that we are not to think strange, no not concerning the fiery bloody trial. We see the Old Testament saints had the same lot; so persecuted they the prophets that were before us. Killed all the day long, that is, continually exposed to and expecting the fatal stroke. There is still every day, and all the day long, one or other of the people of God bleeding and dying under the rage of persecuting enemies.

Accounted as sheep for the slaughter; they make no more of killing a Christian than of butchering a sheep. Sheep are killed, not because they are hurtful while they live, but because they are useful when they are dead. They kill the Christians to please themselves, to be food to their malice. They eat up my people as they eat bread, Psa 14:4.

(2.) The inability of all these things to separate us from the love of Christ. Shall they, can they, do it? No, by no means. All this will not cut the bond of love and friendship that is between Christ and true believers. [1.] Christ doth not, will not, love us the less for all this. All these troubles are very consistent with the strong and constant love of the Lord Jesus. They are neither a cause nor an evidence of the abatement of his love. When Paul was whipped, and beaten, and imprisoned, and stoned, did Christ love him ever the less? Were his favours intermitted? his smiles any whit suspended? his visits more shy? By no means, but the contrary. These things separate us from the love of other friends. When Paul was brought before Nero all men forsook him, but then the Lord stood by him, 2Ti 4:16, 2Ti 4:17. Whatever persecuting enemies may rob us of, they cannot rob us of the love of Christ, they cannot intercept his love-tokens, they cannot interrupt nor exclude his visits: and therefore, let them do their worst, they cannot make a true believer miserable. [2.] We do not, will not, love him the less for this; and that for this reason, because we do not think that he loves us the less. Charity thinks no evil, entertains no misgiving thoughts, makes no hard conclusions, no unkind constructions, takes all in good part that comes from love. A true Christian loves Christ never the less though he suffer for him, thinks never the worse of Christ through he lose all for him.

(3.) The triumph of believers in this (Rom 8:37): Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors.

[1.] We are conquerors: though killed all the day long, yet conquerors. A strange way of conquering, but it was Christ’s way; thus he triumphed over principalities and powers in his cross. It is a surer and a nobler way of conquest by faith and patience than by fire and sword. The enemies have sometimes confessed themselves baffled and overcome by the invincible courage and constancy of the martyrs, who thus overcame the most victorious princes by not loving their lives to the death, Rev 12:11.

[2.] We are more than conquerors. In our patiently bearing these trials we are not only conquerors, but more than conquerors, that is, triumphers. Those are more than conquerors that conquer, First, With little loss. Many conquests are dearly bought; but what do the suffering saints lose? Why, they lose that which the gold loses in the furnace, nothing but the dross. It is no great loss to lose things which are not – a body that is of the earth, earthy. Secondly, With great gain. The spoils are exceedingly rich; glory, honour, and peace, a crown of righteousness that fades not away. In this the suffering saints have triumphed; not only have not been separated from the love of Christ, but have been taken into the most sensible endearments and embraces of it. As afflictions abound, consolations much more abound, 2Co 1:5. There is one more than a conqueror, when pressed above measure. He that embraced the stake, and said, “Welcome the cross of Christ, welcome everlasting life,” – he that dated his letter from the delectable orchard of the Leonine prison, – he that said, “In these flames I feel no more pain than if I were upon a bed of down,” – she who, a little before her martyrdom, being asked how she did, said, “Well and merry, and going to heaven,” – those that have gone smiling to the stake, and stood singing in the flames – these were more than conquerors.

[3.] It is only through Christ that loved us, the merit of his death taking the sting out of all these troubles, the Spirit of his grace strengthening us, and enabling us to bear them with holy courage and constancy, and coming in with special comforts and supports. Thus we are conquerors, not in our own strength, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. We are conquerors by virtue of our interest in Christ’s victory. He hath overcome the world for us (Joh 16:33), both the good things and the evil things of it; so that we have nothing to do but to pursue the victory, and to divide the spoil, and so are more than conquerors.

2. A direct and positive conclusion of the whole matter: For I am persuaded, Rom 8:38, Rom 8:39. It denotes a full, and strong, and affectionate persuasion, arising from the experience of the strength and sweetness of the divine love. And here he enumerates all those things which might be supposed likely to separate between Christ and believers, and concludes that it could not be done. (1.) Neither death nor life – neither the terrors of death on the one hand nor the comforts and pleasures of life on the other, neither the fear of death nor the hope of life. Or, We shall not be separated from that love either in death or in life. (2.) Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers. Both the good angels and the bad are called principalities and powers: the good, Eph 1:21; Col 1:16; the bad, Eph 6:12; Col 2:15. And neither shall do it. The good angels will not, the bad shall not; and neither can. The good angels are engaged friends, the bad are restrained enemies. (3.) Nor things present, nor things to come – neither the sense of troubles present nor the fear of troubles to come. Time shall not separate us, eternity shall not. Things present separate us from things to come, and things to come separate and cut us off from things present; but neither from the love of Christ, whose favour is twisted in with both present things and things to come. (4.) Nor height, nor depth – neither the height of prosperity and preferment, nor the depth of adversity and disgrace; nothing from heaven above, no storms, no tempests; nothing on earth below, no rocks, no seas, no dungeons. (5.) Nor any other creature – any thing that can be named or thought of. It will not, it cannot, separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It cannot cut off or impair our love to God, or God’s to us; nothing does it, can do it, but sin. Observe, The love that exists between God and true believers is through Christ. He is the Mediator of our love: it is in and through him that God can love us and that we dare love God. This is the ground of the stedfastness of the love; therefore God rests in his love (Zep 3:17), because Jesus Christ, in whom he loves us, is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

Mr. Hugh Kennedy, an eminent Christian of Ayr, in Scotland, when he was dying, called for a Bible; but, finding his sight gone, he said, “Turn me to the eighty of the Romans, and set my finger at these words, I am persuaded that neither death nor life,” etc. “Now,” said he, “is my finger upon them?” And, when they told him it was, without speaking any more, he said, “Now, God be with you, my children; I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus Christ this night;” and so departed.

Isaiah 53:4-9

In these verses we have,

I. A further account of the sufferings of Christ. Much was said before, but more is said here, of the very low condition to which he abased and humbled himself, to which he became obedient even to the death of the cross. 1. He had griefs and sorrows; being acquainted with them, he kept up the acquaintance, and did not grow shy, no, not of such melancholy acquaintance. Were griefs and sorrows allotted him? He bore them, and blamed not his lot; he carried them, and did neither shrink from them, nor sink under them. The load was heavy and the way long, and yet he did not tire, but persevered to the end, till he said, It is finished. 2. He had blows and bruises; he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted. His sorrows bruised him; he felt pain and smart from them; they touched him in the most tender part, especially when God was dishonoured, and when he forsook him upon the cross. All along he was smitten with the tongue, when he was cavilled at and contradicted, put under the worst of characters, and had all manner of evil said against him. At last he was smitten with the hand, with blow after blow. 3. He had wounds and stripes. He was scourged, not under the merciful restriction of the Jewish law, which allowed not above forty stripes to be given to the worst of male factors, but according to the usage of the Romans. And his scourging, doubtless, was the more severe because Pilate intended it as an equivalent for his crucifixion, and yet it proved a preface to it. He was wounded in his hands, and feet, and side. Though it was so ordered that not a bone of him should be broken, yet he had scarcely in any part a whole skin (how fond soever we are to sleep in one, even when we are called out to suffer for him), but from the crown of his head, which was crowned with thorns, to the soles of his feet, which were nailed to the cross, nothing appeared but wounds and bruises. 4. He was wronged and abused (Isa 53:7): He was oppressed, injuriously treated and hardly dealt with. That was laid to his charge which he was perfectly innocent of, that laid upon him which he did not deserve, and in both he was oppressed and injured. He was afflicted both in mind and body; being oppressed, he laid it to heart, and, though, he was patient, was not stupid under it, but mingled his tears with those of the oppressed, that have no comforter, because on the side of the oppressors there is power, Ecc 4:1. Oppression is a sore affliction; it has made many a wise man mad (Ecc 7:7); but our Lord Jesus, though, when he was oppressed, he was afflicted, kept possession of his own soul. 5. he was judged and imprisoned, as is implied in his being taken from prison and judgment, Isa 53:8. 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, for he was buried in a sepulchre that belonged to Joseph, an honourable counsellor. Though he died with the wicked, and according to the common course of dealing with criminals should have been buried with them in the place where he was crucified, yet God here foretold, and Providence so ordered it, that he should make his grave with the innocent, with the rich, as a mark of distinction put between him and those that really deserved to die, even in his sufferings.

II. A full account of the meaning of his sufferings. It was a very great mystery that so excellent a person should suffer such hard things; and it is natural to ask with amazement, “How came it about? What evil had he done?” His enemies indeed looked upon him as suffering justly for his crimes; and, though they could lay nothing to his charge, they esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted, Isa 53:4. Because they hated him, and persecuted him, they thought that God did, that he was his enemy and fought against him; and therefore they were the more enraged against him, saying, God has forsaken him; persecute and take him, Psa 71:11. Those that are justly smitten are smitten of God, for by him princes decree justice; and so they looked upon him to be smitten, justly put to death as a blasphemer, a deceiver, and an enemy to Caesar. Those that saw him hanging on the cross enquired not into the merits of his cause, but took it for granted that he was guilty of every thing laid to his charge and that therefore vengeance suffered him not to live. Thus Job’s friends esteemed him smitten of God, because there was something uncommon in his sufferings. It is true he was smitten of God, Isa 53:10 (or, as some read it, he was God’s smitten and afflicted, the Son of God, though smitten and afflicted), but not in the sense in which they meant it; for, though he suffered all these things,

1. He never did any thing in the least to deserve this hard usage. Whereas he was charged with perverting the nation, and sowing sedition, it was utterly false; he had done no violence, but went about doing good. And, whereas he was called that deceiver, he never deserved that character; for there was no deceit in his mouth (Isa 53:9), to which the apostle refers, 1Pe 2:22. He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. He never offended either in word or deed, nor could any of his enemies take up that challenge of his, Which of you convinceth me of sin? The judge that condemned owned he found no fault in him, and the centurion that executed him professed that certainly he was a righteous man.

2. He conducted himself under his sufferings so as to make it appear that he did not suffer as an evil-doer; for, though he was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth (Isa 53:7), no, not so much as to plead his own innocency, but freely offered himself to suffer and die for us, and objected nothing against it. This takes away the scandal of the cross, that he voluntarily submitted to it, for great and holy ends. By his wisdom he could have evaded the sentence, and by his power have resisted the execution; but thus it was written, and thus it behoved him to suffer. This commandment he received from his Father, and therefore he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, without any difficulty or reluctance (he is the Lamb of God); and as a sheep is dumb before the shearers, nay, before the butchers, so he opened not his mouth, which denotes not only his exemplary patience under affliction (Psa 39:9), and his meekness under reproach (Psa 38:13), but his cheerful compliance with his Father’s will. Not my will, but thine be done. Lo, I come. By this will we are sanctified, his making his own soul, his own life, an offering for our sin.

3. It was for our good, and in our stead, that Jesus Christ suffered. This is asserted here plainly and fully, and in a very great variety of emphatical expressions.

(1.) It is certain that we are all guilty before God. We have all sinned, and have come short of the glory of God (Isa 53:6): 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.

(2.) Our sins are our sorrows and our griefs (Isa 53:4), or, as it may be read, our sicknesses and our wounds: the Septuagint reads it, our sins; and so the apostle, 1Pe 2:24. Our original corruptions are the sickness and disease of the soul, an habitual indisposition; our actual transgressions are the wounds of the soul, which put conscience to pain, if it be not seared and senseless. Or our sins are called our griefs and sorrows because all our griefs and sorrows are owing to our sins and our sins deserve all our griefs and sorrows, even those that are most extreme and everlasting.

(3.) Our Lord Jesus was appointed and did undertake to make satisfaction for our sins and so to save us from the penal consequences of them. [1.] He was appointed to do it, by the will of his Father; for the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. God chose him to be the Saviour of poor sinners and would have him to save them in this way, by bearing their sins and the punishment of them; not the

idemthe same that we should have suffered, but the tantundem – that which was more than equivalent for the maintaining of the honour of the holiness and justice of God in the government of the world. Observe here, First, In what way we are saved from the ruin to which by sin we had become liable – by laying our sins on Christ, as the sins of the offerer were laid upon the sacrifice and those of all Israel upon the head of the scape-goat. Our sins were made to meet upon him (so the margin reads it); the sins of all that he was to save, from every place and every age, met upon him, and he was met with for them. They were made to fall upon him (so some read it) as those rushed upon him that came with swords and staves to take him. The laying of our sins upon Christ implies the taking of them off from us; we shall not fall under the curse of the law if we submit to the grace of the gospel. They were laid upon Christ when he was made sin (that is, a sin-offering) for us, and redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us; thus he put himself into a capacity to make those easy that come to him heavily laden under the burden of sin. See Psa 40:6-12. Secondly, By whom this was appointed. It was the Lord that laid our iniquities on Christ; he contrived this way of reconciliation and salvation, and he accepted of the vicarious satisfaction Christ was to make. Christ was delivered to death by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. None but God had power to lay our sins upon Christ, both because the sin was committed against him and to him the satisfaction was to be made, and because Christ, on whom the iniquity was to be laid, was his own Son, the Son of his love, and his holy child Jesus, who himself knew no sin. Thirdly, For whom this atonement was to be made. It was the iniquity of us all that was laid on Christ; for in Christ there is a sufficiency of merit for the salvation of all, and a serious offer made of that salvation to all, which excludes none that do not exclude themselves. It intimates that this is the one only way of salvation. All that are justified are justified by having their sins laid on Jesus Christ, and, though they were ever so many, he is able to bear the weight of them all. [2.] He undertook to do it. God laid upon him our iniquity; but did he consent to it? Yes, he did; for some think that the true reading of the next words (Isa 53:7) is, It was exacted, and he answered; divine justice demanded satisfaction for our sins, and he engaged to make the satisfaction. He became our surety, not as originally bound with us, but as bail to the action: “Upon me be the curse, my Father.” And therefore, when he was seized, he stipulated with those into whose hands he surrendered himself that that should be his disciples’ discharge: If you seek me, let these go their way, Joh 18:8. By his own voluntary undertaking he made himself responsible for our debt, and it is well for us that he was responsible. Thus he restored that which he took not away.

(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, Isa 53:4. 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 (Mat 8:17) 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 (Isa 53:5): 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, Isa 1:6. 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 Isa 53:8, 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 4:25. Hence it is said to be according to the scriptures, according to this scripture, that Christ died for our sins, 1Co 15:3. 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, Act 2:23. 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 9:24.

(5.) The consequence of this to us is our peace and healing, Isa 53:5. [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 1:20. He is our peace, Eph 2:14. 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. 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.

(6.) The consequence of this to Christ was his resurrection and advancement to perpetual honour. This makes the offence of the cross perfectly to cease; he yielded himself to die as a sacrifice, as a lamb, and, to make it evident that the sacrifice he offered of himself was accepted, we are told here, Isa 53:8, [1.] That he was discharged: He was taken from prison and from judgment; whereas he was imprisoned in the grave under a judicial process, lay there under an arrest for our debt, and judgment seemed to be given against him, he was by an express order from heaven taken out of the prison of the grave, an angel was sent on purpose to roll away the stone and set him at liberty, by which the judgment given against him was reversed and taken off; this redounds not only to his honour, but to our comfort; for, being delivered for our offences, he was raised again for our justification. That discharge of the bail amounted to a release of the debt. [2.] That he was preferred: Who shall declare his generation? his age, or continuance (so the word signifies), the time of his life? He rose to die no more; death had no more dominion over him. He that was dead is alive, and lives for evermore; and who can describe that immortality to which he rose, or number the years and ages of it? And he is advanced to this eternal life because for the transgression of his people he became obedient to death. We may take it as denoting the time of his usefulness, as David is said to serve his generation, and so to answer the end of living. Who can declare how great a blessing Christ by his death and resurrection will be to the world? Some by his generation understand his spiritual seed: Who can count the vast numbers of converts that shall by the gospel be begotten to him, like the dew of the morning?

When thus exalted he shall live to see

A numberless believing progeny

Of his adopted sons; the godlike race

Exceed the stars that heav’n’s high arches grace.

– Sir R. Blackmore

Of this generation of his let us pray, as Moses did for Israel, The Lord God of our fathers make them a thousand times so many more as they are, and bless them as he has promised them, Deu 1:11.


Isaiah 53:10-12

In the foregoing verses the prophet had testified very particularly of the sufferings of Christ, yet mixing some hints of the happy issue of them; here he again mentions his sufferings, but largely foretels the glory that should follow. We may observe, in these verses,

I. The services and sufferings of Christ’s state of humiliation. Come, and see how he loved us, see what he did for us.

1. He submitted to the frowns of Heaven (Isa 53:10): Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, to put him to pain, or torment, or grief. The scripture nowhere says that Christ is his sufferings underwent the wrath of God; but it says here, (1.) That the Lord bruised him, not only permitted men to bruise him, but awakened his own sword against him, Zec 13:7. They esteemed him smitten of God for some very great sin of his own (Isa 53:4); now it was true that he was smitten of God, but it was for our sin; the Lord bruised him, for he did not spare him, but delivered him up for us all, Rom 8:32. He it was that put the bitter cup into his hand, and obliged him to drink it (Joh 18:11), having laid upon him our iniquity. He it was that made him sin and a curse for us, and turned to ashes all his burnt-offering, in token of the acceptance of it, Psa 20:3. (2.) That he bruised him so as to put him to grief. Christ accommodated himself to this dispensation, and received the impressions of grief from his Father’s delivering him up; and he was troubled to such a degree that it put him into an agony, and he began to be amazed and very heavy. (3.) It pleased the Lord to do this. He determined to do it; it was the result of an eternal counsel; and he delighted in it, as it was an effectual method for the salvation of man and the securing and advancing of the honour of God.

2. He substituted himself in the room of sinners, as a sacrifice. He made his soul an offering for sin; he himself explains this (Mat 20:28), that he came to give his life a ransom for many. When men brought bulls and goats as sacrifices for sin they made them offerings, for they had an interest in them, God having put them under the feet of man. But Christ made himself an offering; it was his own act and deed. We could not put him in our stead, but he put himself, and said, Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit, in a higher sense than David said, or could say it. “Father, I commit my soul to thee, I deposit it in thy hands, as the life of a sacrifice and the price of pardons.” Thus he shall bear the iniquities of the many that he designed to justify (Isa 53:11), shall take away the sin of the world by taking it upon himself, Joh 1:29. This mentioned again (Isa 53:12): He bore the sin of many, who, if they had borne it themselves, would have been sunk by it to the lowest hell. See how this dwelt upon; for, whenever we think of the sufferings of Christ, we must see him in them bearing our sin.

3. He subjected himself to that which to us is the wages of sin (Isa 53:12): He has poured out his soul unto death, poured it out as water, so little account did he make of it, when the laying of it down was the appointed means of our redemption and salvation. He loved not his life unto the death, and his followers, the martyrs, did likewise, Rev 12:11. Or, rather, he poured it out as a drink-offering, to make his sacrifice complete, poured it out as wine, that his blood might be drink indeed, as his flesh is meat indeed to all believers. There was not only a colliquation of his body in his sufferings (Psa 22:14, I am poured out like water), but a surrender of his spirit; he poured out that, even unto death, though he is the Lord of life.

4. He suffered himself to be ranked with sinners, and yet offered himself to be an intercessor for sinners, Isa 53:12. (1.) It was a great aggravation of his sufferings that he was numbered with transgressors, that he was not only condemned as a malefactor, but executed in company with two notorious malefactors, and he in the midst, as if he had been the worst of the three, in which circumstance of his suffering, the evangelist tells us, this prophecy was fulfilled, Mar 15:27, Mar 15:28. Nay, the vilest malefactor of all, Barabbas, who was a traitor, a thief, and a murderer, was put in election with him for the favour of the people, and carried it; for they would not have Jesus released, but Barabbas. In his whole life he was numbered among the transgressors; for he was called and accounted a sabbath-breaker, a drunkard, and a friend to publicans and sinners. (2.) It was a great commendation of his sufferings, and redounded very much to his honour, that in his sufferings he made intercession for the transgressors, for those that reviled and crucified him; for he prayed, Father, forgive them, thereby showing, not only that he forgave them, but that he was now doing that upon which their forgiveness, and the forgiveness of all other transgressors, were to be founded. That prayer was the language of his blood, crying, not for vengeance, but for mercy, and therein it speaks better things than that of Abel, even for those who with wicked hands shed it.

II. The grace and glories of his state of exaltation; and the graces he confers on us are not the least of the glories conferred on him. These are secured to him by the covenant of redemption, which these verses give us some idea of. He promises to make his soul an offering for sin, consents that the Father shall deliver him up, and undertakes to bear the sin of many, in consideration of which the Father promises to glorify him, not only with the glory he had, as God, before the world was (Joh 17:5), but with the glories of the Mediator.

1. He shall have the glory of an everlasting Father. Under this title he was brought into the world (Isa 9:6), and he shall not fail to answer the title when he goes out of the world. This was the promise made to Abraham (who herein was a type of Christ), that he should be the father of many nations and so be the heir of the world, Rom 4:13, Rom 4:17. As he was the root of the Jewish church, and the covenant was made with him and his seed, so is Christ of the universal church and with him and his spiritual seed is the covenant of grace made, which is grounded upon and grafted in the covenant of redemption, which here we have some of the glorious promises of. It is promised,

(1.) That the Redeemer shall have a seed to serve him and to bear up his name, Psa 22:30. True believers are the seed of Christ; the Father gave them to him to be so, Joh 17:6. He died to purchase and purify them to himself, fell to the ground as a corn of wheat, that he might bring forth much fruit, Joh 12:24. The word, that incorruptible see, of which they are born again, is his word; the Spirit, the great author of their regeneration, is his Spirit; and it is his image that is impressed upon them.

(2.) That he shall live to see his seed. Christ’s children have a living Father, and because he lives they shall live also, for he is their life. Though he died, he rose again, and left not his children orphans, but took effectual care to secure to them the spirit, the blessing, and the inheritance of sons. He shall see a great increase of them; the word is plural, He shall see his seeds, multitudes of them, so many that they cannot be numbered.

(3.) That he shall himself continue to take care of the affairs of this numerous family: He shall prolong his days. Many, when they see their seed, their seed’s seed, wish to depart in peace; but Christ will not commit the care of his family to any other, no, he shall himself live long, and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, for he ever lives. Some refer it to believers: He shall see a seed that shall prolong its days, agreeing with Psa 89:29, Psa 89:36, His seed shall endure for ever. While the world stands Christ will have a church in it, which he himself will be the life of.

(4.) That his great undertaking shall be successful and shall answer expectation: The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. God’s purposes shall take effect, and not one iota or tittle of them shall fail. Note, [1.] The work of man’s redemption is in the hands of the Lord Jesus, and it is in good hands. It is well for us that it is in his, for our own hands are not sufficient for us, but he is able to save to the uttermost. It is in his hands who upholds all things. [2.] It is the good pleasure of the Lord, which denotes not only his counsel concerning it, but his complacency in it; and therefore God loved him, and was well pleased in him, because he undertook to lay down his life for the sheep. [3.] It has prospered hitherto, and shall prosper, whatever obstructions or difficulties have been, or may be, in the way of it. Whatever is undertaken according to God’s pleasure shall prosper, Isa 46:10. Cyrus, a type of Christ, shall perform all God’s pleasure (Isa 44:28), and therefore, no doubt, Christ shall. Christ was so perfectly well qualified for his undertaking, and prosecuted it with so much vigour, and it was from first to last so well devised, that it could not fail to prosper, to the honour of his Father and the salvation of all his seed.

(5.) That he shall himself have abundant satisfaction in it (Isa 53:11): He shall see of the travail of his sous, and shall be satisfied. He shall see it beforehand (so it may be understood); he shall with the prospect of his sufferings have a prospect of the fruit, and he shall be satisfied with the bargain. He shall see it when it is accomplished in the conversion and salvation of poor sinners. Note, [1.] Our Lord Jesus was in travail of soul for our redemption and salvation, in great pain, but with longing desire to be delivered, and all the pains and throes he underwent were in order to it and hastened it on. [2.] Christ does and will see the blessed fruit of the travail of his soul in the founding and building up of his church and the eternal salvation of all that were given him. He will not come short of his end in any part of his work, but will himself see that he has not laboured in vain. [3.] The salvation of souls is a great satisfaction to the Lord Jesus. He will reckon all his pains well bestowed, and himself abundantly recompensed, if the many sons be by him brought through grace to glory. Let him have this, and he has enough. God will be glorified, penitent believers will be justified, and then Christ will be satisfied. Thus, in conformity to Christ, it should be a satisfaction to us if we can do any thing to serve the interests of God’s kingdom in the world. Let it always be our meat and drink, as it was Christ’s, to do God’s will.

2. He shall have the glory of bringing in an everlasting righteousness; for so it was foretold concerning him, Dan 9:24. And here, to the same purport, By his knowledge (the knowledge of him, and faith in him) shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear the sins of many, and so lay a foundation for our justification from sin. Note, (1.) The great privilege that flows to us from the death of Christ is justification from sin, our being acquitted from that guilt which alone can ruin us, and accepted into God’s favour, which alone can make us happy. (2.) Christ, who purchased our justification for us, applies it to us, by his intercession made for us, his gospel preached to us, and his Spirit witnessing in us. The Son of man had power even on earth to forgive sin. (3.) There are many whom Christ justifies, not all (multitudes perish in their sins), yet many, even as many as he gave his life a ransom for, as many as the Lord our God shall call. He shall justify not here and there one that is eminent and remarkable, but those of the many, the despised multitude. (4.) It is by faith that we are justified, by our consent to Christ and the covenant of grace; in this way we are saved, because thus God is most glorified, free grace most advanced, self most abased, and our happiness most effectually secured. (5.) Faith is the knowledge of Christ, and without knowledge there can be no true faith. Christ’s way of gaining the will and affections is by enlightening the understanding and bringing that unfeignedly to assent to divine truths. (6.) That knowledge of Christ, and that faith in him, by which we are justified, have reference to him both as a servant to God and as a surety for us. [1.] As one that is employed for God to pursue his designs and secure and advance the interests of his glory. “He is my righteous servant, and as such justifies men.” God has authorized and appointed him to do it; it is according to God’s will and for his honour that he does it. He is himself righteous, and of his righteousness have all we received. He that is himself righteous (for he could not have made atonement for our sin if he had had any sin of his own to answer for) is made of God to us righteousness, the Lord our righteousness. [2.] As one that has undertaken for us. We must know him, and believe in him, as one that bore our iniquities – saved us from sinking under the load by taking it upon himself.

3. He shall have the glory of obtaining an incontestable victory and universal dominion, Isa 53:12. Because he has done all these good services, therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and, according to the will of the Father, he shall divide the spoil with the strong, as a great general, when he has driven the enemy out of the field, takes the plunder of it for himself and his army, which is both an unquestionable evidence of the victory and a recompense for all the toils and perils of the battle. Note, (1.) God the Father has engaged to reward the services and sufferings of Christ with great glory: “I will set him among the great, highly exalt him, and give him a name above every name.” Great riches are also assigned to him: He shall divide the spoil, shall have abundance of graces and comforts to bestow upon all his faithful soldiers. (2.) Christ comes at his glory by conquest. He has set upon the strong man armed, dispossessed him, and divided the spoil. He has vanquished principalities and powers, sin and Satan, death and hell, the world and the flesh; these are the strong that he has disarmed and taken the spoil of. (3.) Much of the glory with which Christ is recompensed, and the spoil which he has divided, consists in the vast multitudes of willing, faithful, loyal subjects, that shall be brought in to him; for so some read it: I will give many to him, and he shall obtain many for a spoil. God will give him the heathen for his inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, Psa 2:8. His dominion shall be from sea to sea. Many shall be wrought upon by the grace of God to give up themselves to him to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him, and hereby he shall reckon himself honoured, and enriched, and abundantly recompensed for all he did and all he suffered. (4.) What God designed for the Redeemer he shall certainly gain the possession of: “I will divide it to him,” and immediately it follows, He shall divide it, notwithstanding the opposition that is given to him; for, as Christ finished the work that was given him to do, so God completed the recompence that was promised him for it; for he is both able and faithful. (5.) The spoil which God divided to Christ he divides (it is the same word), he distributes, among his followers; for, when he led captivity captive, he received gifts for men, that he might give gifts to men; for as he has told us (Act 20:35) he did himself reckon it more blessed and honourable to give than to receive. Christ conquered for us, and through him we are more than conquerors. He has divided the spoils, the fruits of his conquest, to all that are his: let us therefore cast in our lot among them.

LNW Note: When God, in our trials, brings a verse of scripture or verse fragment to our remembrance, we are to run it down through the use of parallel references in the margin or concordance until we arrive at God’s firm purpose for bringing it to our conscious thoughts.  We will indeed gain insight and wisdom, and that unto salvation of our soul and the better management of our current trial.  Remember always that God loves us with an everlasting and steadfast love; He will neither fail us nor forsake us though the trial be lengthy and arduous – pray for grace to grow and trust God all the more.  As Jesus said in John 11, if you will believe, you will see the glory of God.  Everything God does and/or allows in our lives is for our good as His children for whom His only begotten Son died as a sacrifice for our sins; trust God and keep putting one foot in front of the other, persevering to the end, trusting God in all things, for all things for He loves us more than we could ever know. And may we say with Job, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Nehemiah 4

Commentary on Nehemiah 4


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright Public Domain

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An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of The Book of Nehemiah

This book continues the history of the children of the captivity, the poor Jews, that had lately returned out of Babylon to their own land. At this time not only the Persian monarchy flourished in great pomp and power, but Greece and Rome began to be very great and to make a figure. Of the affairs of those high and mighty states we have authentic accounts extant; but the sacred and inspired history takes cognizance only of the state of the Jews, and makes no mention of other nations but as the Israel of God had dealings with them: for the Lord’s portion is his people; they are his peculiar treasure, and, in comparison with them, the rest of the world is but as lumber. In my esteem, Ezra the scribe and Nehemiah the tirshatha, though neither of them ever wore a crown, commanded an army, conquered any country, or was famed for philosophy or oratory, yet both of them, being pious praying men, and very serviceable in their day to the church of God and the interests of religion, were really greater men and more honourable, not only than any of the Roman consuls or dictators, but than Xenophon, or Demosthenes, or Plato himself, who lived at the same time, the bright ornaments of Greece. Nehemiah’s agency for the advancing of the settlement of Israel we have a full account of in this book of his own commentaries or memoirs, wherein he records not only the works of his hands, but the workings of his heart, in the management of public affairs, inserting in the story many devout reflections and ejaculations, which discover in his mind a very deep tincture of serious piety and are peculiar to his writing. Twelve years, from his twentieth year (Neh 1:1) to his thirty-second year (Neh 13:6), he was governor of Judea, under Artaxerxes king of Persia, whom Dr. Lightfoot supposes to be the same Artaxerxes as Ezra has his commission from. This book relates, I. Nehemiah’s concern for Jerusalem and the commission he obtained from the king to go thither, Neh 1:1-11, 2. II. His building the wall of Jerusalem notwithstanding the opposition he met with, ch. 3, 4. III. His redressing the grievances of the people, ch. 5. IV. His finishing the wall, ch. 6. V. The account he took of the people, ch. 7. VI. The religions solemnities of reading the law, fasting, and praying, and renewing their covenants, to which he called the people (ch. 8-10). VII. The care he took for the replenishing of the holy city and the settling of the holy tribe, ch. 11, 12. VIII. His zeal in reforming various abuses, ch. 13. Some call this the second book of Ezra, not because he was the penman of it, but because it is a continuation of the history of the foregoing book, with which it is connected (Neh 1:1). This was the lasthistorical book that was written, as Malachi was the last prophetical book, of the Old Testament.

Nehemiah 4

We left all hands at work for the building of the wall about Jerusalem. But such good work is not wont to be carried on without opposition; now here we are told what opposition was given to it, and what methods Nehemiah took to forward the work, notwithstanding that opposition. I. Their enemies reproached and ridiculed their undertaking, but their scoffs they answered with prayers: they heeded them not, but went on with their work notwithstanding (Neh 4:1-6). II. They formed a bloody design against them, to hinder them by force of arms (Neh 4:7, Neh 4:8, Neh 4:10-12). To guard against this Nehemiah prayed (Neh 4:9), set guards (Neh 4:13), and encouraged them to fight (Neh 4:14), by which the design was broken (Neh 4:15), and so the work was carried on with all needful precaution against a surprise (Neh 4:16-23). In all this Nehemiah approved himself a man of great wisdom and courage, as well as great piety.

Nehemiah 4:1-6

Here is, I. The spiteful scornful reflection which Sanballat and Tobiah cast upon the Jews for their attempt to build the wall about Jerusalem. The country rang of it presently; intelligence was brought of it to Samaria, that nest of enemies to the Jews and their prosperity; and here we are told how they received the tidings. 1. In heart. They were very angry at the undertaking, and had great indignation, Neh 4:1. It vexed them that Nehemiah came to seek the welfare of the children of Israel (Neh 2:10); but, when they heard of this great undertaking for their good, they were out of all patience. They had hitherto pleased themselves with the thought that while Jerusalem was unwalled they could swallow it up and make themselves masters of it when they pleased; but, if it be walled, it will not only be fenced against them, but by degrees become formidable to them. The strength and safety of the church are the grief and vexation of its enemies. 2. In word. They despised it, and made it the subject of their ridicule. In this they sufficiently displayed their malice; but good was brought out of it; for, looking upon it as a foolish undertaking that would sink under its own weight, they did not go about to obstruct it till it was too late. Let us see with what pride and malice they set themselves publicly to banter it. (1.) Sanballat speaks with scorn of the workmen: “These feeble Jews” (Neh 4:2), “what will they do for materials? Will they revive the stones out of the rubbish? And what mean they by being so hasty? Do they think to make the walling of a city but one day’s work, and to keep the feast of dedication with sacrifice the next day? Poor silly people! See how ridiculous they make themselves!” (2.) Tobiah speaks with no less scorn of the work itself. He has his jest too, and must show his wit, Neh 4:3. Profane scoffers sharpen one another. “Sorry work,” says he, “they are likely to make of it; they themselves will be ashamed of it: If a fox go up, not with his subtlety, but with his weight, he will break down their stone wall.” Many a good work has been thus looked upon with contempt by theproud and haughty scorners.

II. Nehemiah’s humble and devout address to God when he heard of these reflections. He had notice brought him of what they said. It is probable that they themselves sent him a message to this purport, to discourage him, hoping to jeer him out of his attempt; but he did not answer these fools according to their folly; he did not upbraid them with their weakness, but looked up to God by prayer.

1. He begs of God to take notice of the indignities that were done them (Neh 4:4), and in this we are to imitate him: Hear, O our God! for we are despised. Note, (1.) God’s people have often been a despised people, and loaded with contempt. (2.) God does, and will, hear all the slights that are put upon his people, and it is their comfort that he does so and a good reason why they should be as though they were deaf, Psa 38:13, Psa 38:15. “Thou art our God to whom we appeal; our cause needs no more than a fair hearing.”

2. He begs of God to avenge their cause and turn the reproach upon the enemies themselves (Neh 4:4, Neh 4:5); and this was spoken rather by a spirit of prophecy than by a spirit of prayer, and is not to be imitated by us who are taught of Christ to pray for those that despitefully use and persecute us. Christ himself prayed for those that reproached him: Father, forgive them. Nehemiah here prays, Cover not their iniquity. Note, (1.) Those that cast contempt on God’s people do but prepare everlasting shame for themselves. (2.) It is a sin from which sinners are seldom recovered. Doubtless Nehemiah had reason to think the hearts of those sinners were desperately hardened, so that they would never repent of it, else he would not have prayed that it might never be blotted out. The reason he gives is not, They have abused us, but, They have provoked thee, and that before the builders, to whom, it is likely, they sent a spiteful message. Note, We should be angry at the malice of persecutors, not because it is abusive to us, but because it is offensive to God; and on that we may ground an expectation that God will appear against it, Psa 74:18, Psa 74:22.

III. The vigour of the builders, notwithstanding these reflections, Neh 4:6. They made such good speed that in a little time they had run up the wall to half its height, for the people had a mind to work; their hearts were upon it, and they would have it forwarded. Note, 1. Good work goes on well when people have a mind to it. 2. The reproaches of enemies should rather quicken us to our duty than drive us from it.

Nehemiah 4:7-15

We have here,

I. The conspiracy which the Jews’ enemies formed against them, to stay the building by slaying the builders. The conspirators were not only Sanballat and Tobiah, but other neighbouring people whom they had drawn into the plot. They flattered themselves with a fancy that the work would soon stand still of itself; but, when they heard that it went on a prospered, they were angry at the Jews for being so hasty to push the work forward and angry at themselves for being so slow in opposing it (Neh 4:7): They were very wroth. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel. Nothing would serve but they would fight against Jerusalem, Neh 4:8. Why, what quarrel had they with the Jews? Had they done them any wrong? Or did they design them any? No, they lived peaceably by them; but it was merely out of envy and malice; they hated the Jews’ piety, and were therefore vexed at their prosperity and sought their ruin. Observe, 1. How unanimous they were: They conspired all of them together, though of different interests among themselves, yet one in their opposition to the work of God. 2. How close they were; they said, “They shall not know, neither see, till we have them at our mercy.” Thus they took crafty counsel, and digged deep to hide it from the Lord, and promised themselves security and success from the secresy of their management. 3. How cruel they were: We will come and slay them. If nothing less than the murder of the workmen will put a stop to the work, they will not stick at that; nay, it is their blood they thirst for, and they are glad of any pretence to glut themselves with it. 4. What the design was and how confident they were of success: it was to cause the work to cease (Neh 4:11), and this they were confident that they should effect. The hindering of good work is that which bad men aim at and promise themselves; but good work is God’s work, and it shall prosper.

II. The discouragements which the builders themselves laboured under. At the very time when the adversaries said, Let us cause the work to cease, Judah said, “Let us even let it fall, for we are not able to go forward with it,” Neh 4:10. They represent the labourers as tired, and the remaining difficulties, even of that first part of their work, the removing of the rubbish, as insuperable, and therefore they think it advisable to desist for the present. Can Judah, that warlike valiant tribe, sneak thus? Active leading men have many times as much ado to grapple with the fears of their friends as with the terrors of their enemies.

III. The information that was brought to Nehemiah of the enemies’ designs, Neh 4:12. There were Jews that dwelt by them, in the country, who, though they had not zeal enough to bring them to Jerusalem to help their brethren in building the wall, yet, having by their situation opportunity to discover the enemies’ motions, had so much honesty and affection to the cause as to give intelligence of them; nay, that their intelligence might be the more credited, they came themselves to give it, and they said it ten times, repeating it as men in earnest, and under a concern, and the report was confirmed by many witnesses. The intelligence they gave is expressed abruptly, and finds work for the critics to make out the sense of it, which perhaps is designed to intimate that they gave this intelligence as men out of breath and in confusion, whose very looks would make up the deficiencies of their words. I think it may be read, without supplying any thing: “Whatever place you turn to, they are against us, so that you have need to be upon your guard on all sides,” Note, God has many ways of bringing to light, and so bringing to nought, the devices and designs of his and his church’s enemies. Even the cold and feeble Jews that contentedly dwell by them shall be made to serve as spies upon them; nay, rather than fail,a bird of the air shall carry their voice.

IV. The pious and prudent methods which Nehemiah, hereupon, took to baffle the design, and to secure his work and workmen.

1. It is said (Neh 4:14) he looked. (1.) He looked up, engaged God for him, and put himself and his cause under the divine protection (Neh 4:9): We made our prayer unto our God. That was the way of this good man, and should be our way; all his cares, all his griefs, all his fears, he spread before God, and thereby made himself easy. This was the first thing he did; before he used any means, he made his prayer to God, for with him we must always begin. (2.) He looked about him. Having prayed, he set a watch against them. The instructions Christ has given us in our spiritual warfare agree with this example, Mat 26:41. Watch and pray. If we think to secure ourselves by prayer only, without watchfulness, we are slothful and tempt God; if by watchfulness, without prayer, we are proud and slight God; and, either way, we forfeit his protection.

2. Observe, (1.) How he posted the guards, Neh 4:13. In the lower places he set thembehind the wall, that they might annoy the enemy over it, as a breast-work; but in the higher places, where the wall was raised to its full height, he set them upon it, that from the top of it they might throw down stones or darts upon the heads of the assailants: he set them after their families, that mutual relation might engage them to mutual assistance. (2.) How he animated and encouraged the people, Neh 4:14. He observed even the nobles and rulers themselves, as well as the rest of the people, to be in a great consternation upon the intelligence that was brought them, and ready to conclude that they were all undone, by which their hands were weakened both for work and war, and therefore, he endeavours to silence their fears. “Come,” says he, “be not afraid of them, but behave yourselves valiantly, considering, [1.] Whom you fight under. You cannot have a better captain: Remember the Lord, who is great and terrible; you think your enemies great and terrible, but what are they in comparison with God, especially in opposition to him? He is great above them to control them, and will be terrible to them when he comes to reckon with them.” Those that with an eye of faith see the church’s God to be great and terrible will see the church’s enemies to be mean and despicable. The reigning fear of God is the best antidote against the ensnaring fear of man. He that is afraid of a man that shall die forgets the Lord his Maker, Isa 51:12, Isa 51:13. [2.] “Whom you fight for. You cannot have a better cause; you fight for your brethren (Psa 122:8), your sons, and your daughters. All that is dear to you in their world lies at stake; therefore behave yourselves valiantly.

V. The happy disappointment which this gave to the enemies, Neh 4:15. When they found that their design was discovered, and that the Jews were upon their guard, they concluded that it was to no purpose to attempt any thing, but that God had brought their counsel to nought. They knew they could not gain their point but by surprise, and, if their plot was known, it was quashed. The Jews hereuponreturned every one to his work, with so much the more cheerfulness because they saw plainly that God owned it and owned them in the doing of it. Note, God’s care of our safety should engage and encourage us to go on with vigour in our duty. As soon as ever a danger is over let us return to our work, and trust God another time.

Nehemiah 4:16-23

When the builders had so far reason to think the design of the enemies broken as to return to their work, yet they were not so secure as to lay down their arms, knowing how restless and unwearied they were in their attempts, and that, if one design failed, they would be hatching another. Thus must we watch always against our spiritual enemies, and not expect that our warfare will be accomplished till our work is. See what course Nehemiah took, that the people might hold themselves in a readiness, in case there should be an attack. 1. While one half were at work, the other half were under their arms, holding spears, and shields, and bows, not only for themselves but for the labourers too, who would immediately quit their work, and betake themselves to their weapons, upon the first alarm, Neh 4:16. It is probable that they changed services at stated hours, which would relieve the fatigue of both, and particularly would be an ease to the bearers of burdens, whose strength had decayed (Neh 4:10); while they held the weapons, they were eased and yet not idle. Thus dividing their time between the trowels and the spears, they are said to work with one hand and hold their weapons with the other (Neh 4:17), which cannot be understood literally, for the work would require both hands; but it intimates that they were equally employed in both. Thus must we work out our salvation with the weapons of our warfare in our hand; for in every duty we must expect to meet with opposition from our spiritual enemies, against whom we must still be fighting the good fight of faith. 2. Every builder had a sword by his side (Neh 4:18), which he could carry without hindering his labour. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, which we ought to have always at hand and never to seek, both in our labours and in our conflicts as Christians. 3. Care was taken both to get and give early notice of the approach of the enemy, in case they should endeavour to surprise them. Nehemiah kept a trumpeter always by him to sound an alarm, upon the first intimation of danger. The work was large, and the builders were dispersed; for in all parts of the wall they were labouring at the same time. Nehemiah continually walked round to oversee the work and encourage the workmen, and so would have speedy intelligence if the enemy made an attack, of which, by sound of trumpet, he would soon give notice to all, and they must immediately repair to him with a full assurance that theirGod would fight for them, Neh 4:18-20. When they acted as workmen, it was requisite they should be dispersed wherever there was work to do; but when as soldiers it was requisite they should come into close order, and be found in a body. Thus should the labourers in Christ’s building be ready to unite against a common foe. 4. The inhabitants of the villages were ordered to lodge within Jerusalem, with their servants, not only that they might be the nearer to their work in the morning, but that they might be ready to help in case of an attack in the night, Neh 4:22. The strength of a city lies more in its hands than in its walls; secure them, and God’s blessing upon them, and be secure. 5. Nehemiah himself, and all his men, kept closely to their business. The spears were held up, with the sight of them to terrify the enemy, not only from sun to sun, but from twilight to twilight every day, Neh 4:21. Thus ought we to be always upon our guard against our spiritual enemies, not only (as here) while it is light, but when it is dark, for they are the rulers of the darkness of this world. Nay, so very intent was Nehemiah upon his work, and so fast did he hold his servants to it, that while the heat of the business lasted neither he himself nor his attendants went into bed, but every night lay and slept in their clothes (Neh 4:23), except that they shifted them now and then, either for cleanliness or in a case of ceremonial pollution. It was a sign that their heart was upon their work when they could not find time to dress and undress, but resolved they would be at all times ready for service. Good work is likely to go on successfully when those that labour in it thus make a business of it.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Isaiah 41

Commentary on Isaiah 41


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright Public Domain

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Isaiah 41:1-9

That particular instance of God’s care for his people Israel in raising up Cyrus to be their deliverer is here insisted upon as a great proof both of his sovereignty above all idols and of his power to protect his people. Here is,

I. A general challenge to the worshippers and admirers of idols to make good their pretensions, in competition with God and opposition to him, Isa 41:1. Is renewed (Isa 41:21): Produce your cause.The court is set, summonses are sent to the islands that lay most remote, but not out of God’s jurisdiction, for he is the Creator and possessor of the ends of the earth, to make their appearance and give their attendance. Silence (as usual) is proclaimed while the cause is in trying: “Keep silence before me, and judge nothing before the time”; while the cause is in trying between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan it becomes all people silently to expect the issue, not to object against God’s proceedings, but to be confident that he will carry the day. The defenders of idolatry are called to say what they can in defence of it: “Let them renew their strength, in opposition to God,and see whether it be equal to the strength which those renew that wait upon him (Isa 40:31); let them try their utmost efforts, whether by force of arms or force of argument. Let them come near; they shall not complain that God’s dread makes them afraid (Job 13:21), so that they cannot say what they have to say, in vindication and honour of their idols; no,let them speak freely: Let us come near together to judgment.” Note. 1. The cause of God and his kingdom is not afraid of a fair trial; if the case be but fairly stated, it will be surely carried in favour of religion. 2. The enemies of God’s church and his holy religion may safely be challenged to say and do their worst for the support of their unrighteous cause. He that sits in heaven laughs at them,and the daughter of Zion despises them; for great is the truth and will prevail.

II. He particularly challenges the idols to do that for their worshippers, and against his, which he had done and would do for his worshippers, and against theirs. Different senses are given of Isa 41:2, concerning the righteous man raised up from the east; and, since we cannot determine which is the true, we will make use of each as good.

1. That which is to be proved is, (1.) That the Lord is God alone, the first and with the last(Isa 41:4), that he is infinite, eternal,and unchangeable, that he governed the world from the beginning, and will to the end of time. He has reigned of old, and will reign for ever; the counsels of his kingdom were from eternity, and the continuance of it will be to eternity. (2.) That Israel is his servant(Isa 41:8), whom he owns, and protects, and employs, and in whom he is and will be glorified. As there is a God in heaven,so there is a church on earth that is his particular care. Elijah prays (1Ki 18:36), Let it be known that thou art God, and that I am thy servant. Now,

2. To prove this he shows,

(1.) That it was he who called Abraham, the father of this despised nation, out of an idolatrous country, and by many instances of his favour made his name great, Gen12:2. He is the righteous man whom God raised up from the east. Of him the Chaldee paraphrast expressly understands it: Who brought Abraham publicly from the east? To maintain the honour of the people of Israel, it was very proper to show what a figure this great ancestor of theirs made in his day; and Isa 41:8seems to be the explication of it, where God calls Israel the seedof Abraham my friend; and (Isa 41:4)he calls the generations (namely, the generations of Israel) from the beginning. Also, to put contempt upon idolatry, and particularly the Chaldean idolatry, it was proper to show how Abraham was called from serving other gods (Jos 24:2,Jos 24:3, etc.), so that an early testimony was borne against that idolatry which boasted so much of its antiquity. Also,to encourage the captives in Babylon to hope that God would find a way for their return to their own land, it was proper to remind them how at first he brought their father Abraham out of the same country into this land, to give itto him for an inheritance, Gen 15:7. Now observe what is here said concerning him. [1.] That he was a righteous man, or righteousness, a man of righteousness, that believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness; and so he became the father of all those who by faith in Christ are made the righteousness of God through him,Rom 4:3, Rom 4:11;2Co 5:21. He was a great example of righteousness in his day, and taught his household to do judgment and justice, Gen 18:19. [2.] That God raised him up from the east, from Ur first and afterwards from Haran, which lay east from Canaan. God would not let him settle in either of those places, but did by him as the eagle by her young, when she stirs up her nest: he raised him out of iniquity and made him pious, out of obscurity and made him famous. [3.] He called him to his foot, to follow him with an implicit faith; for he went out, not knowing whither he went, but whom he followed, Heb 11:8.Those whom God effectually calls he calls to his foot, to be subject to him, to attend him, and follow the Lamb whither soever he goes; and we must all either come to his foot or be made his footstool. [4.] He gave nations before him, the nations of Canaan, which he promised to make him master of, and thus far gave him an interest in that the Hittites acknowledged him a mighty prince among them, Gen23:6. He made him rule over those kings whom he conquered for the rescue of his brother Lot, Gen. 14. And when God gave them as dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow(that is, made them an easy prey to his catechised servants), he then pursued them, and passed safely, or in peace, under the divine protection, though it was in a way he was altogether unacquainted with; and so considerable was this victory that Melchizedec himself appeared to celebrate it. Now who did this but the great Jehovah? Can any of the gods of the heathen do so?

(2.) That it is he who will, ere long, raise up Cyrus from the east. It is spoken of according to the language of prophecy as a thing past, because as sure to be done in its season as if it were already done. God will raise him up in righteousness (so it may be read, Isa 45:13), will call him to his foot, make what use of him he pleases, and make him victorious over the nations that oppose his coming to the crown, and give him success in all his wars; and he shall be a type of Christ, who is righteousness itself, the Lord our righteousness, whom God will, in the fulness of time,raise up and make victorious over the powers of darkness; so that he shall spoil them and make a show of them openly.

III. He exposes the folly of idolaters, who,notwithstanding the convincing proofs which the God of Israel had given of his being God alone, obstinately persisted in their idolatry, nay, were so much the more hardened in it (Isa 41:5): The isles of the Gentiles saw this, not only what God did for Abraham himself, but what he did for his seed, for his sake, how he brought them out of Egypt, and made them rule over kings, and they feared, Exo 15:14-16. They were afraid, and, according to the summons (Isa 41:1),they drew near, and came; they could not avoid taking notice of what God did for Abraham and his seed; but, instead of helping to reason one another out of their sottish idolatries, they helped to confirm one another in them, Isa 41:6, Isa 41:7. 1. They looked upon it as a dangerous design upon their religion, which they were jealous for the honour of, and were resolved, right or wrong, to adhere to, and therefore were alarmed to appear vigorously for the support of it, as the Ephesians for their Diana. When God,by his wonderful appearances on the behalf of his people, went about to wrest their idols from them, they held them so much the faster, and said one to another, “Be of good courage; let us unanimously agree to keep up the reputation of our gods. Though Dagon fall before the ark, he shall be set up again in his place.” One tradesman encourages another to come into a confederacy for the keeping up of the noble craft of god-making. Thus men’s convictions often exasperate their corruptions, and they are made worse both by the word and the works of God, which should make them better. 2. They looked upon it as a dangerous design upon themselves. They thought themselves in danger from the growing greatness both of Abraham that was a convert from idolatry, and of the people of Israel that were separatists from it; and therefore they not only had recourse to their old gods for protection, but made new ones, Deu 32:17. So the carpenter, having done his part to the timber work, encouraged the goldsmith to do his part in gilding or overlaying it; and, when it came into the goldsmith’s hand, he that smooths with the hammer that polishes it, or beats it thin, quickened him that smote the anvil, bade him be expeditious, and told him it was ready for the soldering, which perhaps was the last operation about it, and then it is fastened with nails, and you have a god of it presently. Do sinners thus animate and quicken one another in the ways of sin?And shall not the servants of the living God both stir up one another to, and strengthen one another in, his service? Some read all this ironically, and byway of permission: Let them help every one his neighbour; let the carpenter encourage the goldsmith; but all in vain; idols shall fall for all this.

IV. He encourages his own people to trust in him (Isa 41:8, Isa 41:9):“But thou, Israel, art my servant. They know me not, but thou knowest me, and knowest better than to join with such ignorant besotted people as these” (for it is intended for a warning to the people of God not to walk in the way of the heathen); “they put themselves under the protection of these impotent deities, but thou art under my protection.

Those that make them are like unto them, and so is every one that trusts in them; but thou, O Israel! art the servant of a better Master.” Observe what is suggested here for the encouragement of God’s people when they are threatened and insulted over. 1. They are God’s servants, and he will not see them abused, especially for what they do in his service: Thou art my servant (Isa 41:8), and (Isa 41:9) “I have said unto thee,Thou art my servant; and I will not go back from my word.” 2. He has chosen them to be a peculiar people to himself. They were not forced upon him, but of his own good-will he set them apart. 3. They were the seed of Abraham his friend. It was the honour of Abraham that he was called the friend of God (Jas 2:23),whom God covenanted and conversed with as a friend, and the man of his counsel; and this honour have all the saints, Joh 15:15. And for the father’s sake the people of Israel were beloved. God was pleased to look upon them as the posterity of an old friend of his, and therefore to be kind to them; for the covenant of friendship was made with Abraham and his seed. 4. He had sometimes,when they had been scattered among the heathen, fetched them from the ends of the earth and taken them out of the hands of the chief ones thereof, and therefore he would not now abandon them. Abraham their father was fetched from a place at a great distance, and they in his loins; and those who had been thus far-fetched and dear-bought he could not easily part with. 5. He had not yet cast them away, though they had often provoked him, and therefore he would not now abandon them. What God has done for his people, and what he has further engaged to do, should encourage them to trust in him at all times.

Isaiah 41:10-20

The scope of these verses is to silence the fears,and encourage the faith, of the servants of God in their distresses. Perhaps itis intended, in the first place, for the support of God’s Israel, in captivity;but all that faithfully serve God through patience and comfort of this scripture may have hope. And it is addressed to Israel as a single person, that it might the more easily and readily be accommodated and applied by every Israelite indeed to himself. That is a word of caution, counsel, and comfort, which is so often repeated, Fear thou not; and again (Isa 41:13), Fear not;and (Isa 41:14), “Fear not,thou worm Jacob; fear not the threatenings of the enemy, doubt not the promise of thy God; fear not that thou shalt perish in thy affliction or that the promise of thy deliverance shall fail.” It is against the mind of God that his people should be a timorous people. For the suppressing of fear he assures them,

I. That they may depend upon his presence with them as their God, and a God all-sufficient for them in the worst of times.Observe with what tenderness God speaks, and how willing he is to let the heirs of promise know the immutability of his counsel, and how desirous to make them easy: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee, not only with in call, but present with thee; be not dismayed at the power of those that are against thee, for I am thy God, and engaged for thee. Art thou weak? I will strengthen thee.Art thou destitute of friends? I will help thee in the time of need. Art thou ready to sink, ready to fall? I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness, that right hand which is full of righteousness, in dispensing rewards and punishments,” Psa 48:10. And again (Isa41:13) it is promised, 1. That God will strengthen their hands, that is,will help them: “I will hold thy right hand, go hand in hand with thee” (so some): he will take us by the hand as our guide, to lead us in our way, will help us up when we are fallen or prevent our falls; when we are weak he will hold us up – wavering, he will fix us – trembling, he will encourage us, and so hold us by the right hand, Psa 73:23. 2. That he will silence their fears: Saying unto thee, Fear not. He has said it again and again in his word, and has there provided sovereign antidotes against fear: but he will go further; he will by his Spirit say it to their hearts, and make them to hear it, and so will help them.

II. That though their enemies be now very formidable, insolent, and severe, yet the day is coming when God will reckon with them and they shall triumph over them. There are those that are incensed against God’s people, that strive with them (Isa 41:11), that war against them (Isa 41:12), that hate them, that seek their ruin,and are continually picking quarrels with them. But let not God’s people be incensed at them, nor strive with them, nor render evil for evil; but wait God’s time, and believe, 1. That they shall be convinced of the folly, at least, if not of the sin of striving with God’s people; and, finding it to no purpose, they shall be ashamed and confounded, which might bring them to repentance, but will rather fill them with rage. 2. That they shall be quite ruined and undone (Isa 41:11):They shall be as nothing before the justice and power of God. When God comes to deal with his proud enemies he makes nothing of them. Or they shall be brought to nothing, shall be as if they had never been. This is repeated (Isa 41:12): They shall be as nothing and as a thing of nought, or as that which is gone and has failed. Those that were formidable shall become despicable; those that fancied they could do any thing shall be able to bring nothing to pass; those that made a figure in the world, and a mighty noise, shall become mere ciphers and be buried in silence. They shall perish, not only be nothing, but be miserable: Thou shalt seek them, shalt enquire what has become of them,that they do not appear as usual, but thou shalt not find themas David, Psa 37:36. I sought him, but he could not be found.

III. That they themselves should become a terror to those who were now a terror to them, and victory should turn on their side, Isa 41:14-16. See here, 1. How Jacob and Israel are reduced and brought very low. It is the worm Jacob, so little, so weak, and so defenceless, despised and trampled on by every body,forced to creep even into the earth for safety; and we must not wonder that Jacob has become a worm, when even Jacob’s King calls himself a worm and no man, Psa 22:6. God’s people are sometimes as worms, in their humble thoughts of themselves and their enemies’ haughty thoughts of them – worms, but not vipers, as their enemies are, not of the serpent’s seed. God regards Jacob’s low estate, and says, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob; fear not that thou shalt be crushed;and you men of Israel” (you few men,so some read it, you dead men, so others) “do not give up yourselves for gone notwithstanding.” Note, The grace of God will silence fear seven when there seems to be the greatest cause for them. Perplexed but not in despair. 2. How Jacob and Israel are advanced from this low estate, and made as formidable as ever they have been despicable. But by whom shall Jacob arise, for he is small? We are here told: I will help thee, saith the Lord; and it is the honour of God to help the weak. He will help them, for he is their Redeemer, who is wont to redeem them, who has undertaken to do it. Christ is the Redeemer, from him is our help found. He will help them, for he is the Holy One of Israel, worshipped among them in the beauty of holiness and engaged by promise to them. The Lord will help them by enabling them to help themselves and making Jacob to become a threshing instrument.Observe, He is but an instrument, a tool in God’s hand, that he is pleased to make use of; and he is an instrument of God’s making and is no more than God makes him. But, if God make him a threshing instrument, he will make use of him, and therefore will make him fit for use, new and sharp, and having teeth, or sharp spikes;and then, by divine direction and strength, thou shalt thresh the mountains, the highest, and strongest, and most stubborn of thy enemies:thou shalt not only beat them, but beat them small; they shall not be a corn threshed out, which is valuable, and is carefully preserved(such God’s people are when they are under the flail, Isa21:10 : O my threshing! yet the corn of my floor, that shall not be lost); but these are made as chaff, which is good for nothing, and which the husbandman is glad to get rid of. He pursues the metaphor, Isa 41:16.Having threshed them, thou shalt winnow them, and the wind shall scatter them. This perhaps had its accomplishment, in part, in the victories of the Jews over their enemies in the times of the Maccabees; but it seems in general designed to read the final doom of all the implacable enemies of the church of God, and to have its accomplishment likewise in the triumphs of the cross of Christ, the gospel of Christ, and all the faithful followers of Christ, over the powers of darkness, which, first or last, shall all be  dissipated, and in Christ all believers shall be more than conquerors, and he that overcomes shall have power over the nations, Rev 2:26.

IV. That, hereupon, they shall have abundance of comfort in God, and God shall have abundance of honour from them: Thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, Isa 41:16.When we are freed from that which hindered our joy, and are blessed with that which is the matter of it, we ought to remember that God is our exceeding joy and in him all our joys must terminate. When we rejoice over our enemies we must rejoice in the Lord, for to him alone we owe our liberties and victories.“Thou shalt also glory in the Holy One of Israel, in thy interest in him and relation to him, and what he has done for thee.” And, if thus we make God our praise and glory, we become to him for a praise and a glory.

V. That they shall have seasonable and suitable supplies of every thing that is proper for them in the time of need; and, if there be occasion, God will again do for them as he did for Israel in their march from Egypt to Canaan, Isa 41:17-19.When the captives, either in Babylon or in their return thence, are in distress for want of water or shelter, God will take care of them, and, one way or other, make their journey, even through a wilderness, comfortable to them. But doubtless this promise has more than such a private interpretation. Their return out of Babylon was typical of our redemption by Christ; and so the contents of these promises, 1. Were provided by the gospel of Christ. That glorious discovery of his love has given full assurance to all those who hear this joyful sound that God has provided inestimable comforts for them, sufficient for the supply of all their wants, the balancing of all their griefs, and the answering of all their prayers. 2. They are applied by the grace and Spirit of Christ to all believers, that they may have strong consolation in their way and a complete happiness in their end. Our way to heaven lies through the wilderness of this world. Now, (1.) It is here supposed that the people of God, in their passage through this world, are often in straits: The poor and needy seek water, and there is none; the poor in spirit hunger and thirst after righteousness. The soul of man,finding itself empty and necessitous, seeks for satisfaction somewhere, but soon despairs of finding it in the world, that has nothing in it to make it easy: creatures are broken cisterns, that can hold no water;so that their tongue fails for thirst, they are weary of seeking that satisfaction in the world which is not to be had in it. Their sorrow makes them thirsty; so does their toil. (2.) It is here promised that,one way or other, all their grievances shall be redressed and they shall be made easy. [1.] God himself will be nigh unto them in all that which they call upon him for. Let all the praying people of God take notice of this, and take comfort of it; he has said, “

I the Lord will hear them, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them; I will be with them, as I have always been, in their distresses.” While we are in the wilderness of this world this promise is to us what the pillar of cloud and fire was to Israel, an assurance of God’s gracious presence. [2.] They shall have a constant supply of freshwater, as Israel had in the wilderness, even where one would least expect it (Isa 41:18): I will open rivers in high places, rivers of grace, rivers of pleasure, rivers of living water, which he spoke of the Spirit (Joh7:38, Joh 7:39), that Spirit which should be poured out upon the Gentiles, who had been as high places, dry and barren, and lifted up on their own conceit above the necessity of that gift.And there shall be fountains in the midst of the valleys,the valleys of Baca (Psa 84:6), that are sandy and wearisome; or among the Jews, who had been as fruitful valleys in comparison with the Gentile mountains. The preaching of the gospel to the world turned that wilderness into a pool of water, yielding fruit to the owner of it and relief to the travellers through it. [3.] They shall have a pleasant shade to screen them from the scorching heat of the sun, as Israel when they pitched at Elim, where they had not only wells of water, but palm-trees (Exo 15:27): “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, Isa 41:19. I will turn the wilderness into an orchard or garden, such as used to be planted with these pleasant trees, so that they shall pass through the wilderness with as much ease and delight as a man walks in his grove. These trees shall be to them what the pillar of cloud was to Israel in the wilderness, a shelter from the heat.” Christ and his grace are so to believers, as the shadow of a great rock, Isa 32:2.When God sets up his church in the Gentile wilderness there shall be as great a change made by it in men’s characters as if thorns and briers were turned into cedars, and fir-trees, and myrtles; and by this a blessed change is described, Isa 55:13. [4.] They shall see and acknowledge the hand of God, his power and his favour, in this, Isa41:20. God will do these strange and surprising things on purpose to awaken them to a conviction and consideration of his hand in all: That they may see this wonderful change, and knowing that it is above the ordinary course and power of nature may consider that therefore it comes from a superior power, and, comparing notesupon it, may understand together, and concur in the acknowledgment of it, that the hand of the Lord, that mighty hand of his which is stretched out for his people and stretched out to them, has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it, made it anew, made it out of nothing, made it for the comfort of his people. Note, God does great things for his people, that he may be taken notice of.

Isaiah 41:21-29

The Lord, by the prophet, here repeats the challenge to idolaters to make out the pretentions of their idols: “Produce your cause (Isa 41:21)and make your best of it; bring forth the strongest reasons you have to prove that your idols are gods, and worthy of your adoration.”Note, There needs no more to show the absurdity of sin than to produce the reasons that are given in defence of it, for they carry with them their own confutation.

I. The idols are here challenged to bring proofs of their knowledge and power. Let us see what they can inform us of, and what they can do. Understanding and active power are the accomplishments of a man.Whoever pretends to be a god must have these in perfection; and have the idols made it to appear that they have? No;

1. “They can tell us nothing that we did not know before, so ignorant are they. We challenge them to inform us,” (1.) “What has been formerly: Let them show the former things, and raise them out of the oblivion in which they were buried” (God inspired Moses to write such a history of the creation as the gods of the heathen could never have dictated to any of their enthusiasts); or “let the defenders of idols tell us what mighty achievements they can boast of as performed by their gods informer times. What did they ever do that was worth taking notice of? Let them specify any thing, and it shall be considered, its due weight shall be given it, and it shall be compared with the latter end of it; and if, in the issue,it prove to be as great as it pretended to be, they shall have the credit of it.” (2.) “We challenge them to tell us what shall happen, to declare to us things to come (Isa 41:22),and again (Isa 41:23), show the things that are to come hereafter. Give this evidence of your omniscience, that nothing can be hidden from you, and of your sovereignty and dominion. Make it to appear that you have the doing of all, by letting us know beforehand what you deign to do. Do this kindness to the world; let them know what is to come, that they may provide accordingly. Do this, and we will own that you are gods above us, and gods to us, and worthy of our adoration.” No creature can foretell things to come, otherwise than by divine information, with any certainty.

2. “They can do nothing that we cannot do ourselves, so impotent are they.” He challenges them to do either good or evil, good to their friends or evil to their enemies:“Let them do, if they can, any thing extraordinary, that people will admire and be affected with. Let them either bless or curse, with power. Let us see them either inflict such plagues such as God brought on Egypt or bestow such blessings as God bestowed on Israel. Let them do some great thing, and we shall be amazed when we see it, and frightened into a veneration of them, as many have been into a veneration of the true God.” That which is charged upon these idols, and let them disprove it if they can, is that they are of nothing, Isa 41:24. Their claims have no foundation at all, nor is there any ground or reason in the least for men’s paying them the respect they do; there is nothing in them worthy our regard.“They are less than nothing, worse than nothing;” so some read it. “The work they do is of nought, and so is the ado that is made about them. There is no pretence or colour for it; it is all a jest; it is all a sham put upon the world; and therefore he that chooses you, and so give you your deity, and” (as some read it) “that delights in you, is an abomination;” so some take it. A servant is at liberty to choose his master, but a man is not at liberty to choose his God. He that chooses any other than the true God chooses an abomination; his choosing it makes it so.

II. God here produces proofs that he is the true God, and that there is none besides him. Let him produce his strong reasons.

1. He has an irresistible power. This he will shortly make to appear in the raising up of Cyrus and making him a type of Christ (Isa 41:25): He will raise him up from the north and from the rising of the sun. Cyrus by his father was a Mede, by his mother a Persian; and his army consisted of Medes, whose country lay north, and Persians, whose country lay east, from Babylon. God will raise him up to great power, and he shall come against Babylon with ends of his own to serve. But, (1.) He shall proclaim God’s name; so it may be read. He shall publish the honour of the God of Israel; so he did remarkably when, in his proclamation for the release of the Jews out of their captivity, he acknowledged that the Lord God of Israel was the Lord God of heaven, and the God: and he might be said to call on his name when he encouraged the building of his temple, and very probably did himself call upon him and pray to him, Ezr 1:2, Ezr 1:3.(2.) All opposition shall fall before him: He shall come upon the princes of Babylon, and all others that stood in his way, as mortar, and trample upon them as the potter treads clay,to serve his own purposes with it. Christ, as man, was raised up from then orth, for Nazareth lay in the northern parts of Canaan; as the angel of the covenant, he ascends from the east. He maintained the honour of heaven (he shall call upon my name), and broke the powers of hell, came upon the prince of darkness as mortar and trod him down.

2. He has an infallible foresight. He would not only do this, but he did now, by his prophet, foretell it. Now the false gods not only could not do it, but they could not foresee it. (1.) He challenges them to produce any of their pretended deities, or their diviners, that had given notice of this, or could (Isa 41:26):“Who has declared from the beginning any thing of this kind, or has told it before-time? Tell us if there be any that you know of, for we know not any; if there be any, we will say, He is righteous,he is true, his cause is just, his claims are proved, and he is in the right in demanding to be worshipped.” This agrees with Isa 41:22,Isa 41:23. (2.) He challenges to himself the sole honour of doing it and foretelling it (Isa 41:27):I am the first (so it may be read) that will say to Zion, Behold, behold them, that will let the people of Israel know their deliverers are at hand (for there were those who understood by books, God’s books, the approach of the time, Dan 9:2),and I am he that will give to Jerusalem one that brings good tidings, these good tidings of their enlargement. This is applicable to the work of redemption, in which the Lord showed himself much more than in the release of the Jews out of Babylon: he it was that contrived our salvation, and he brought it about, and he has given to us the glad tidings of reconciliation.

III. Judgment is here given upon this trial. 1.None of all the idols had foretold, or could foresee, this work of wonder.Other nations besides the Jews were released out of captivity in Babylon by Cyrus, or at least were greatly concerned in the revolution of the monarchy and there transferring of it to the Persians; and yet none of them had any intelligence given them of it beforehand, by any of their gods or prophets: “There is none that shows (Isa 41:26),none that declares, none that gives the least intimation of it; there is none of the nations that hears your words, that can pretend to have heard from their gods such words as you, O Israelites! have heard from your God, by your prophets,” Psa 147:20. None of all the gods of the nations have shown their worshippers the way of salvation, which God will show by the Messiah. The good tidings which the Lord will send in the gospel is a mystery hidden from ages and generations, Rom 16:25,Rom 16:26. 2. None of those who pleaded for them could produce any instance of their knowledge or power that had in it any colour of proof that they were gods. All their advocates were struck dumb with this challenge (Isa 41:28): “I beheld, and there was no man that could give evidence for them, even among those that were their most zealous admirers; and there was no counsellor, none that could offer any thing for the support of their cause. Even among the idols themselves there was none fit to give counsel in the most trivial matters, and yet there were those that asked counsel of them in the most important and difficult affairs. When I asked them what they had to say for themselves they stood mute; the case was so plain against them that there was none who could answer a word.” Judgment must therefore be given against the defendant upon Nihil dicitHe is mute. He has nothing to say for himself. He was speechless, Mat 22:12. 3.Sentence is therefore given according to the charge exhibited against them (Isa 41:24): “Behold, they are all vanity (Isa 41:29); they are a lie and a cheat; they are not in themselves what they pretend to be, nor will their worshippers find that in them which they promise themselves. Their works are nothing, of no force, of no worth; their enemies need fear no hurt from them; their worshippers can hope for no good from them. Their molten images, and indeed all their images, are wind and confusion, vanity and vexation; those that worship them will be deceived in them, and will reflect upon their own folly with the greatest bitterness. Therefore, dearly beloved, flee from idolatry,1Co 10:14.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Psalms 27

Commentary on

Psalms 27


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright Public Domain

Psalms 27

Some think David penned this psalm before his coming to the throne, when he was in the midst of his troubles, and perhaps upon occasion of the death of his parents; but the Jews think he penned it when he was old, upon occasion of the wonderful deliverance he had from the sword of the giant, when Abishai succoured him (2Sa 21:16, 2Sa 21:17) and his people thereupon resolved he should never venture his life again in battle, lest he should quench the light of Israel. Perhaps it was not penned upon any particular occasion; but it is very expressive of the pious and devout affections with which gracious souls are carried out towards God at all times, especially in times of trouble. Here is, I. The courage and holy bravery of his faith (Psa 27:1-3). II. The complacency he took in communion with God and the benefit he experienced by it (Psa 27:4-6). III. His desire towards God, and his favour and grace (Psa 27:7-9, Psa 27:11,Psa 27:12). IV. His expectations from God, and the encouragement he gives to others to hope in him (Psa 27:10, Psa 27:13,Psa 27:14). And let our hearts be thus affected in singing this psalm.

 A psalm of David.

Psalms 27:1-6

We may observe here,

I. With what a lively faith David triumphs in God, glories in his holy name, and in the interest he had in him. 1. The Lord is my light. David’s subjects called him the light of Israel,2Sa 21:17. And he was indeed a burning and a shining light: but he owns that he shone, as the moon does, with a borrows light; what light God darted upon him reflected upon them: The Lord is my light. God is a light to his people, to show them the way when they are in doubt, to comfort and rejoice their hearts when they are in sorrow. It is in his light that they now walk on in their way, and in his light they hope to see light for ever. 2. “He is my salvation, in whom I am safe and by whom I shall be saved.” 3. “He is the strength of my life, not only the protector of my exposed life, who keeps me from being slain, but the strength of my frail weak life, who keeps me from fainting, sinking, and dying away.” God, who is a believer’s light, is the strength of his life, not only by whom, but in whom, he lives and moves. In God therefore let us strengthen ourselves.

II. With what an undaunted courage he triumphs over his enemies; no fortitude like that of faith. If God be for him, who can be against him? Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid? If Omnipotence be his guard, he has no cause to fear; if he knows it to be so, he has no disposition to fear. If God be his light, he fears no shades; if God be his salvation, he fears no colours. He triumphs over his enemies that were already routed, Psa 27:2. His enemies came upon him, to eat up his flesh, aiming at no less and assured of that, but they fell; not, “He smote them and they fell,” but, “They stumbled and fell;” they were so confounded and weakened that they could not go on with their enterprise. Thus those that came to take Christ with a word’s speaking were made to stagger and fall to the ground, Joh 18:6. The ruin of some of the enemies of God’s people is an earnest of the complete conquest of them all. And therefore, these having fallen, he is fearless of the rest: “Though they be numerous, a host of them, – though they be daring and their attempts threatening, – though they encamp against me, an army against one man, – though they wage war upon me, yet my heart shall not fear.” Hosts cannot hurt us if the Lord of hosts protect us. Nay, in this assurance that God is for me “I will be confident.” Two things he will be confident of: – 1. That he shall be safe. “If God is my salvation, in the time of trouble he shall hide me; he shall set me out of danger and above the fear of it.” God will not only find out a shelter for his people in distress (as he did Jer 36:26), but he will himself be their hiding-place, Psa 32:7. His providence will, it may be, keep them safe; at least his grace will make them easy. His name is the strong tower into which by faith they run,Pro 18:10. “He shall hide me, not in the strongholds of En-gedi (1Sa 23:29), but in the secret of his tabernacle.” The gracious presence of God, his power, his promise, his readiness to hear prayer, the witness of his Spirit in the hearts of his people – these are the secret of his tabernacle, and in these the saints find cause for that holy security and serenity of mind in which they dwell at ease. This sets them upon a rock which will not sink under them, but on which they find firm footing for their hopes; nay, it sets them up upon a rock on high, where the raging threatening billows of a stormy sea cannot touch them; it is a rock that is higher than we,Psa 61:2. 2. That he shall be victorious (Psa 27:6): “Now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies, not only so as that they cannot reach it with their darts, but so as that I shall be exalted to bear rule over them.” David here, by faith in the promise of God, triumphs before the victory, and is as sure, not only of the laurel, but of the crown, as if it were already upon his head.

III. With what a gracious earnestness he prays for a constant communion with God in holy ordinances, Psa 27:4. It greatly encouraged his confidence in God that he was conscious to himself of an entire affection to God and to his ordinances, and that he was in his element when in the way of his duty and in the way of increasing his acquaintance with him. If our hearts can witness for us that we delight in God above any creature, that may encourage us to depend upon him; for it is a sign we are of those whom he protects as his own. Or it may be taken thus: He desired to dwell in the house of the Lord that there he might be safe from the enemies that surrounded him. Finding himself surrounded by threatening hosts, he does not say, “One thing have I desired, in order to my safety, that I may have my army augmented to such a number,” or that I may be master of such a city or such a castle, but “that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, and then I am well.” Observe,

1. What it is he desires – to dwell in the house of the Lord. In the courts of God’s house the priests had their lodgings, and David wished he had been one of them. Disdainfully as some look upon God’s ministers, one of the greatest and best of kings that ever was would gladly have taken his lot, have taken his lodging, among them. Or, rather, he desires that he might duly and constantly attend on the public service of God, with other faithful Israelites, according as the duty of every day required. He longed to see an end of the wars in which he was now engaged, not that he might live at ease in his own palace, but that he might have leisure and liberty for a constant attendance in God’s courts. Thus Hezekiah, a genuine son of David, wished for the recovery of his health, not that he might go up to the thrones of judgment, but that he mightgo up to the house of the Lord,Isa 38:22. Note, All God’s children desire to dwell in God’s house; where should they dwell else? Not to sojourn there as a wayfaring man, that turns aside to tarry but for a night, nor to dwell there for a time only, as the servant that abides not in the house for ever, but to dwell there all the days of their life; for there the Son abides ever. Do we hope that praising God will be the blessedness of our eternity? Surely them we ought to make it the business of our time.

2. How earnestly he covets this: “This is the one thing I have desired of the Lord and which I will seek after.” If he were to ask but one thing of God, this should be it; for this he had at heart more than any thing. He desired it as a good thing; he desired it of the Lord as his gift and a token of his favour. And, having fixed his desire upon this as the one thing needful, he sought after it; he continued to pray for it, and contrived his affairs so as that he might have this liberty and opportunity. Note, Those that truly desire communion with God will set themselves with all diligence to seek after it, Pro 18:1.

3. What he had in his eye in it. He would dwell in God’s house, not for the plenty of good entertainment that was there, in the feasts upon the sacrifices, nor for the music and good singing that were there, but to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple. He desired to attend in God’s courts, (1.) That he might have the pleasure of meditating upon God. He knew something of the beauty of the Lord, the infinite and transcendent amiableness of the divine being and perfections; his holiness is his beauty (Psa 110:3), his goodness is his beauty, Zec 9:17. The harmony of all his attributes is the beauty of his nature. With an eye of faith and holy love we with pleasure behold this beauty, and observe more and more in it that is amiable, that is admirable. When with fixedness of thought, and a holy flame of devout affections, we contemplate God’s glorious excellencies, and entertain ourselves with the tokens of his peculiar favour to us, this is that view of the beauty of the Lord which David here covets, and it is to be had in his ordinances, for there he manifests himself. (2.) That he might have the satisfaction of being instructed in his duty; for concerning this he would enquire in God’s temple. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? For the sake of these two things he desired that one thing, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life; for blessed are those that do so; they will be still praising him (Psa 84:4), both in speaking to him and in hearing from him. Mary’s sitting at Christ’s feet to hear his word Christ calls the one thing needful, and the good part.

4. What advantage he promised himself by it. Could he but have a place in God’s house, (1.) There he should be quiet and easy: there troubles would not find him, for he should be hid in secret; there troubles would not reach him, for he should be set on high,Psa 27:5. Joash, one of David’s seed, was hidden in the house of the Lord six years, and there not only preserved from the sword, but reserved to the crown, 2Ki 11:3. The temple was thought a safe place for Nehemiah to abscond in,Neh 6:10. The safety of believers however is not in the walls of the temple, but in the God of the temple and their comfort in communion with him. (2.) There he should be pleasant and cheerful: there he would offer sacrifices of joy, Psa 27:6. For God’s work is its own wages. There he would sing, yea, he would sing praises to the Lord. Note, Whatever is the matter of our joy ought to be the matter of our praise; and, when we attend upon God in holy ordinances, we ought to be much in joy and praise. It is for the glory of our God that we should sing in his ways; and, whenever God lifts us up above our enemies, we ought to exalt him in our praises. Thanks be to God, who always causeth us to triumph, 2Co 2:14.


Psalms 27:7-14

David in these verses expresses,

I. His desire towards God, in many petitions. If he cannot now go up to the house of the Lord, yet, wherever he is, he can find a way to the throne of grace by prayer.

1. He humbly bespeaks, because he firmly believes he shall have, a gracious audience: “Hear, O Lord, when I cry, not only with my heart, but, as one in earnest, with my voice too.” He bespeaks also an answer of peace, which he expects, not from his own merit, but God’s goodness: Have mercy upon me, and answer me, Psa 27:7. If we pray and believe, God will graciously hear and answer.

2. He takes hold of the kind invitation God had given him to this duty,Psa 27:8. It is presumption for us to come into the presence of the King of kings uncalled, nor can we draw near with any assurance unless he hold forth to us the golden sceptre. David therefore going to pray fastens, in his thoughts, upon the call God had given him to the throne of his grace, and reverently touches, as it were, the top of the golden sceptre which was thereby held out to him. My heart said unto thee (so it begins in the original) or of thee, Seek you my face; he first revolved that, and preached that over again to himself (and that is the best preaching: it is hearing twice what God speaks once) – Thou saidst (so it may be supplied), Seek you my face; and then he returns what he had so meditated upon, in this pious resolution, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Observe here, (1.) The true nature of religious worship; it is seeking the face of God. This it is in God’s precept:Seek you my face; he would have us seek him for himself, and make his favour our chief good; and this it is in the saint’s purpose and desire: “Thy face, Lord, will I seek, and nothing less will I take up with.” The opening of his hand will satisfy the desire of other living things (Psa 145:16), but it is only the shining of his face that will satisfy the desire of a living soul, Psa 4:6,Psa 4:7. (2.) The kind of invitation of a gracious God to this duty: Thou saidst, Seek you my face; it is not only permission, but a precept; and his commanding us to seek implies a promise of finding; for he is too kind to say, Seek you me in vain. God calls us to seek his face in our conversion to him and in our converse with him. He calls us, by the whispers of his Spirit to and with our spirits, to seek his face; he calls us by his word, by the stated returns of opportunities for his worship, and by special providences, merciful and afflictive. When we are foolishly making our court to lying vanities God is, in love to us, calling us in him to seek our own mercies. (3.) The ready compliance of a gracious soul with this invitation. The call is immediately returned:My heart answered, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. The call was general; “Seek you my face;” but, like David, we must apply it to ourselves, “I will seek it.” The word does us no good when we transfer it to others, and do not ourselves accept the exhortation. The call was, Seek you my face; the answer is express, Thy face, Lord, will I seek; like that (Jer 3:22), Behold, we come unto thee. A gracious heart readily echoes to the call of a gracious God, being made willing in the day of his power.

3. He is very particular in his requests. (1.) For the favour of God, that he might not be shut out from that (Psa 27:9): “Thy face, Lord, will I seek, in obedience to thy command; therefore hide not thy face from me; let me never want the reviving sense of the favour; love me, and let me know that thou lovest me; put not thy servant away in anger.” He owns he had deserved God’s displeasure, but begs that, however God might correct him, he would not cast him away from his presence; for what is hell but that? (2.) For the continuance of his presence with him: “Thou hast been my help formerly, andthou are the God of my salvation; and therefore whither shall I go but to thee? O leave me not, neither forsake me; withdraw not the operations of they power from me, for then I am helpless; withdraw not the tokens of thy good-will to me, for then I am comfortless.” (3.) For the benefit of divine guidance (Psa 27:11): “Teach me thy way, O Lord! give me to understand the meaning of thy providences towards me and make them plain to me; and give me to know my duty in every doubtful case, that I may not mistake it, but may walk rightly, and that I may not do it with hesitation, but may walk surely.” It is not policy, but plainness (that is, downright honesty) that will direct us into and keep us in the way of our duty. He begs to be guided in a plain path, because of his enemies, or (as the margin reads it) his observers. His enemies watched for his halting, that they may find occasion against him. Saul eyed David, 1Sa 18:9. This quickened him to pray, “Lord, lead me in a plain path, that they may have nothing ill, or nothing that looks ill, to lay to my charge.” (4.) For the benefit of a divine protection (Psa 27:12): “Deliver me not over to the will of my enemies. Lord, let them not gain their point, for it aims at my life, and no less, and in such a way as that I have no fence against them, but thy power over their consciences; for false witnesses have risen up against me, that aim further than to take away my reputation or estate, for theybreathe out cruelty; it is the blood, the precious blood, they thirst after.” Herein David was a type of Christ; for false witnesses rose up against him, and such as breathed out cruelty; but though he was delivered into their wicked hands, he was not delivered over to their will, for they could not prevent his exaltation.

II. He expresses his dependence upon God,

1. That he would help and succour him when all other helps and succours failed him (Psa 27:10): “When my father and my mother forsake me, the nearest and dearest friends I have in the world, from whom I may expect most relief and with most reason, when they die, or are at a distance from me, or are disabled to help me in time of need, or are unkind to me or unmindful of me, and will not help me, when I am as helpless as ever poor orphan was that was left fatherless and motherless, then I know the Lord will take me up, as a poor wandering sheep is taken up, and saved from perishing.” His time to help those that trust in him is when all other helpers fail, when it is most for his honour and their comfort. With him the fatherless find mercy. This promise has often been fulfilled in the letter of it. Forsaken orphans have been taken under the special care of the divine Providence, which has raised up relief and friends for them in a way that one would not have expected. God is a surer and better friend than our earthly parents are or can be.

2. That in due time he should see the displays of his goodness, Psa 27:13. He believed he should see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; and, if he had not done so, he wouldhave fainted under his afflictions. Even the best saints are subject to faint when their troubles become grievous and tedious, their spirits are overwhelmed, and their flesh and heart fail. But then faith is a sovereign cordial; it keeps them from desponding under their burden and from despairing of relief, keeps them hoping, and praying, and waiting, and keeps up in them good thoughts of God, and the comfortable enjoyment of themselves. But what was it the belief of which kept David from fainting? – that he should see the goodness of the Lord, which now seemed at a distance. Those that walk by faith in the goodness of the Lord shall in due time walk in the sight of that goodness. This he hopes to see in the land of the living, that is, (1.) In this world, that he should outlive his troubles and not perish under them. It is his comfort, not so much that he shall see the land of the living as that he shall see the goodness of God in it; for that is the comfort of all creature-comforts to a gracious soul. (2.) In the land of Canaan, and in Jerusalem where the lively oracles were. In comparison with the heathen, that were dead in sin, the land of Israel might fitly be called the land of the living; there God was known, and there David hoped to see his goodness; see 2Sa 15:25,2Sa 15:26. Or, (3.), In heaven. It is that alone that may truly be called the land of the living, where there is no more death. This earth is the land of the dying. There is nothing like the believing hope of eternal life, the foresights of that glory, and foretastes of those pleasures, to keep us from fainting under all the calamities of this present time.

3. That in the mean time he should be strengthened to bear up under his burdens (Psa 27:14); whether he says it to himself, or to his friends, it comes all to one; this is that which encourages him: He shall strengthen thy heart, shall sustain thy spirit, and then the spirit shall sustain the infirmity. In that strength, (1.) Keep close to God and to your duty.Wait on the Lord by faith, and prayer, and a humble resignation to his will; wait, I say, on the Lord; whatever you do, grow not remiss in your attendance upon God. (2.) Keep up your spirits in the midst of the greatest dangers and difficulties: Be of good courage; let your hearts be fixed, trusting in God, and your minds stayed upon him, and then let none of these things move you. Those that wait upon the Lord have reason to be of good courage.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Zephaniah 2.1-3

Commentary on

Zephaniah 2.1-3


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright Public Domain

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In this chapter we have, I. An earnest exhortation to the nation of the Jews to repent and make their peace with God, and so to prevent the judgments threatened before it was too late (Zep 2:1-3), and this inferred from the revelation of God’s wrath against them in the foregoing chapter. II. A denunciation of the judgments of God against several of the neighbouring nations that had assisted, or rejoiced in, the calamity of Israel. 1. The Philistines (Zep 2:4-7). 2. The Moabites and Ammonites (Zep 2:8-11). 3. The Ethiopians and Assyrians (Zep 2:12-15). All these shall drink of the same cup of trembling that is put into the hands of God’s people, as was also foretold by other prophets before and after.

Zephaniah 2:1-3

Here we see what the prophet meant in that terrible description of the approaching judgments which we had in the foregoing chapter. From first to last his design was, not to drive the people to despair, but to drive them to God and to their duty – not to frighten them out of their wits, but to frighten them out of their sins. In pursuance of that he here calls them to repentance, national repentance, as the only way to prevent national ruin. Observe,

I. The summons given them to a national assembly (Zep 2:1): Gather yourselves together. He had told them, in the last words of the foregoing chapter, that God would make a speedy riddance of all that dwelt in the land, upon which, one would think, it should follow, “Disperse yourselves, and flee for shelter where you can find a place.” When the decree had absolutely gone forth for the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, that was the advice given (Mat 24:16), Then let those who are in Judea flee into the mountains; but here it is otherwise. God warns, that he may not wound, threatens, that he may not strike, and therefore calls to the people to use means for the turning away of his wrath. The summons is given to a nation not desired. The word signifies either, 1. Not desiring, that has not any desires towards God or the remembrance of his name, is not desirous of his favour or grace, but very indifferent to it, has no mind to repent and reform. “Yet come together, and see if you can stir up desires in one another.” Thus God is often found of those that sought him not, nor asked for him, Isa 65:1. Or, 2. Not desirable, no ways lovely, nor having any thing in them amiable, or which might recommend them to God. The land of Israel had been a pleasant land, a land of delight (Dan 11:41); but now it is unlovely, it is a nation not desired, to which God might justly say, Depart from me; but he says, “Gather together to me, and let us see if any expedient can be found out for the preventing of the ruin. Gather together, that you may in a body humble yourselves before God, may fast, and pray, and seek his face. Gather together, to consult among yourselves what is to be done in this critical juncture, that every one may consider of it, may give and take advice, and speak his mind, and that what is done may be done by consent and so may be a national act.” Some read it, “Enquire into yourselves, yea, enquire into yourselves; examine your consciences; look into your hearts; search and try your ways; enquire into yourselves, that you may find out the sin by which God has been provoked to this displeasure against you, and may find out the way of returning to him.” Note, When God is contending with us it concerns us to enquire into ourselves.

II. Arguments urged to press them to the utmost seriousness and expedition herein (Zep 2:2): “Do it in earnest; do it with all speed before it is too late, before the decree bring forth, before the day pass.” The manner of speaking here is very lively and awakening, designed to make them apprehensive, as all sinners are concerned to be, 1. That their danger is very great, that their all lies at stake, that it is a matter of life and death, which therefore well requires and well deserves the closest application of mind that can be. It is not a trifle, and therefore is not a thing to be trifled about. It is the fierce anger of the Lord that is kindled against them, and is just ready to kindle upon them, that devouring fire which none can dwell with, which none can make head against or hold up their head under. “It is the day of the Lord’s anger, the day set for the pouring out of the full vials of it, that you are threatened with, that great day of the Lord” spoken of, Zep 1:14. “Are you not concerned to prepare for that day?” 2. That it is very imminent: “Bestir yourselves now quickly, before the decree bring forth, and then it will be too late, the opportunity will be lost and never retrieved. The decree is as it were big with child, and it will bring forth the day, the terrible day, which shall pass as chaff, which shall hurry you away into captivity as chaff before the wind.” We know not what a day may bring forth (Pro 27:1), but we do know what the decree will bring forth against impenitent sinners, whom therefore it highly concerns to repent in time, in the accepted time. Note, It is the wisdom of those whom God has a controversy with to agree with him quickly, while they are in the way, before his fierce anger comes upon them, not to be turned away. In a case of this nature delays are highly dangerous and may be fatal; they will be so if by them the heart is hardened. How solicitous should we all be to make our peace with God before the Spirit withdraw from us, or cease to strive with us, before the day of grace be over or the day of life, before our everlasting state shall be determined on the other side of the great gulf fixed!

III. Directions prescribed for the doing of this effectually. It is not enough to gather together in a consternation, but they must seriously and calmly apply to the duty of the day (Zep 2:3): Seek you the Lord. That they might find mercy with God, they are here put upon seeking; for so is the rule – Seek, and you shall find. A general call was given to the whole nation to gather together, but little good is to be expected from the far greater part of them; if the land be saved, it must be by the interest and intercession of the pious few, and therefore to them the exhortation here is particularly directed. And observe, 1. How they are described – they are the meek of the earth, or of the land. It is the distinguishing character of the people of God that they are the meek ones of the earth; this is their badge; it is their livery. They are modest, and humble, and low in their own eyes; they are mild, and gentle, and yielding to others, not soon angry, not very angry, not long angry; they are the quiet in the land, Psa 35:20. And they are subject and submissive to their God, to all his precepts and all his providences. Actuated by this principle and disposition, they have wrought his judgments, that is, have obeyed his laws, observed his institutions, have made conscience of their duty to him, and have laid out themselves for the advancement of his honour and interest in the world. 2. What they are required to do; they must seek, which denotes both a careful enquiry and a constant endeavour, that they may know and do their duty. (1.) They must seek the Lord, seek his favour and grace, address him upon all occasions, ask of him what they need, seek him early, seek him diligently, and continue seeking him. (2.) They must seek righteousness. “Seek to God for the performance of his promises to you, and see to it that you abound yet more in duty to him; seek for the righteousness of Christ to be imputed to you, for the graces of God’s Spirit to be implanted in you; hunger and thirst after them.” (3.) They must seek meekness. This is a grace they were so eminent for that they were denominated the meek of the land, and yet this they must seek. Note, Those that are ever so good must still strive to be better, those that have ever so much grace must be still praying and labouring for more. Nay, those that excel in any particular grace must still seek to excel yet more in that, because in that most assaults will be made upon them by their enemies, in that most is expected from them by their friends, and in that they are most apt to be themselves secure. Si dixisti, Sufficit, periistiSay but, I am all that I ought to be, and you are undone. In the difficult trying times approaching, the meek will find exercise for all the meekness they have, and all little enough, and therefore should seek it earnestly, and pray that when God in his providence gives them occasion for it he would by his grace enable them to exercise it, to show all meekness to all men, in all instances, that, as the day is, so may the strength be.

IV. Encouragements given to take these directions: It may be, you shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger. 1. “You particularly that are the meek of the earth. Though the day of the Lord’s anger do come upon the land, yet you shall be safe, you shall be taken under special protection. Verily it shall be well with thy remnant, Jer 15:11. Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey, Jer 45:5. I will deliver thee in that day, Jer 39:17. It may be, you shall be hid; if any be hid, you shall.” Good men cannot be sure of temporal preservation, for all things come alike to all, but they are most likely to be hid, and stand fairest for a distinguishing care of Providence. It is expressed thus doubtfully to try if they will trust the goodness of God’s nature, though they have but the it may be of a promise, and to keep up in them a holy fear and watchfulness lest they should seem to come short, and should do any thing to throw themselves out of the divine protection. Note, those that hold fast their integrity, in times of common iniquity, have reason to hope that God will find out a hiding-place for them, where they shall be safe and easy, in times of common calamity. They shall be hid (as Luther says) aut in coelo, aut sub coeloeither in heaven or under heaven, either in the possession of heaven or under the protection of heaven. Or, 2. “You of this nation, though it be a nation not desired, yet, in the day of the Lord’s anger with the neighbouring nations, when his judgments are abroad, you shall be hid; your land shall be preserved for the sake of those few meek ones that stand in the gap to turn away the wrath of God.” It concerns us all to make it sure to ourselves that we shall be hid in the great day of God’s wrath; and, if we hide ourselves in the chambers of duty, God will hide us in chambers of safety, Isa 26:20. If we prepare an ark, that shall be our hiding-place, Gen 7:1.

AW Pink (1886-1952): Comfort for Christians (P1 of 2)

Comfort for Christians (P1 of 2)
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain

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The work unto which the servant of Christ is called is many-sided. Not only is he to preach the Gospel to the unsaved, to feed God’s people with knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15), and to take up the stumbling stone out of their way (Isa 57:14), but he is also charged to “cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgression” (Isa. 58:1 and cf. 1 Tim. 4:2). While another important part of his commission is stated in, “Comfort ye, My people, said your God” (Isa 40:1).

What an honorable title, “My people!” What an assuring relationship: “your God!” What a pleasant task: “comfort ye My people!” A threefold reason may be suggested for the duplicating of the charge. First, because sometimes the souls of believers refuse to be comforted (Psa 77:2), and the consolation needs to be repeated. Second, to press this duty the more emphatically upon the preacher’s heart, that he need not be sparing in administering cheer. Third, to assure us how heartily desirous God himself is that His people should be of good cheer (Php 4:4).

God has a “people,” the objects of His special favour: a company whom He has taken into such intimate relationship unto Himself that He calls them “My people.” Often they are disconsolate: because of their natural corruption’s, the temptations of Satan, the cruel treatment of the world, the low state of Christ’s cause upon earth. The “God of all comfort” (2Co 1:3) is very tender of them, and it is His revealed will that His servants should bind up the broken-hearted and pour the balm of Gilead into their wounds. What cause have we to exclaim “Who is a God like unto Thee!” (Mic 7:18), who has provided for the comfort of those who were rebels against His government and transgressors of His Law.

May it please Him to use His Word as expounded in this book to speak peace to afflicted souls today, and the glory shall be His alone.

—A. W. Pink, 1952

Chapter 1

No Condemnation

Rom 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”

“There is therefore now no condemnation.” The eighth chapter of the epistle to the Romans concludes the first section of that wonderful epistle. Its opening word “Therefore” (“There is” is in italics, because supplied by the translators) may be viewed in a twofold way. First, it connects with all that has been said from 3:21. An inference is now deduced from the whole of the preceding discussion, an inference which was, in fact, the grand conclusion toward which the apostle had been aiming throughout the entire argument. Because Christ has been set forth “a propitiation through faith in His blood” (Rom 3:25); because He was “delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:25); because by the obedience of the One the many (believers of all ages) are “made righteous,” constituted so, legally, (Rom 5:19); because believers have “died (judicially) to sin” (Rom 6:2); because they have “died” to the condemning power of the law (Rom 7:4), there is “therefore now NO CONDEMNATION.”

But not only is the “therefore” to be viewed as a conclusion drawn from the whole of the previous discussion, it is also to be considered as having a close relation to what immediately precedes. In the second half of Romans 7 the apostle had described the painful and ceaseless conflict which is waged between the antagonistic natures in the one who has been born again, illustrating this by a reference to his own personal experiences as a Christian. Having portrayed with a master pen (himself sitting for the picture) the spiritual struggles of the child of God, the apostle now proceeds to direct attention to the Divine consolation for a condition so distressing and humiliating. The transition from the despondent tone of the seventh chapter to the triumphant language of the eighth appears startling and abrupt, yet is quite logical and natural. If it is true that to the saints of God belongs the conflict of sin and death, under whose effect they mourn, equally true is it that their deliverance from the curse and the corresponding condemnation is a victory in which they rejoice. A very striking contrast is thus pointed. In the second half of Romans 7 the apostle treats the power of sin, which operates in believers as long as they are in the world; in the opening verses of chapter eight, he speaks of the guilt of sin from which they are completely delivered the moment they are united to the Saviour by faith. Hence in 7:24 the apostle asks “Who shall deliver me” from the power of sin, but in 8:2 he says, “hath made me free,” i.e. hath delivered me, from the guilt of sin.

“There is therefore now no condemnation.” It is not here a question of our heart condemning us (as in 1Jn 3:21), nor of us finding nothing within which is worthy of condemnation; instead, it is the far more blessed fact that God condemns not the one who has trusted in Christ to the saving of his soul. We need to distinguish sharply between subjective and objective truth; between that which is judicial and that which is experimental; otherwise, we shall fail to draw form such Scriptures as the one now before us the comfort and peace they are designed to convey. There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. “In Christ” is the believer’s position before God, not his condition in the flesh. “In Adam” I was condemned (Rom 5:12); but “in Christ” is to be forever freed from all condemnation.

“There is therefore now no condemnation.” The qualifying “now” implies there was a time when Christians, before they believed, were under condemnation. This was before they died with Christ, died judicially (Gal 2:20) to the penalty of God’s righteous law. This “now,” then, distinguishes between two states or conditions. By nature we were “under the (sentence of) law,” but now believers are “under grace” (Rom 6:14). By nature we were “children of wrath” (Eph 2:2), but now we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6). Under the first covenant we were “in Adam” (1Co 15:22), but now we are “in Christ” (Rom 8:1). As believers in Christ we have everlasting life, and because of this we “shall not come into condemnation.”

Condemnation is a word of tremendous import, and the better we understand it the more shall we appreciate the wondrous grace that has delivered us from its power. In the halls of a human court this is a term which falls with fearful knell upon the ear of the convicted criminal and fills the spectators with sadness and horror. But in the court of Divine Justice it is vested with a meaning and content infinitely more solemn and awe-inspiring. To that Court every member of Adam’s fallen race is cited. “Conceived in sin, shapen in iniquity” each one enters this world under arrest – an indicted criminal, a rebel manacled. How, then, is it possible for such a one to escape the execution of the dread sentence? There was only one way, and that was by the removal from us of that which called forth the sentence, namely sin. Let guilt be removed and there can be “no condemnation.”

Has guilt been removed, removed, we mean, from the sinner who believes? Let the Scriptures answer: “As far as the east is from the west so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psa 103:12). “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions” (Isa 43:25). “Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isa 38:17). “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 10:17).

But how could guilt be removed? Only by it being transferred. Divine holiness could not ignore it; but Divine grace could and did transfer it. The sins of believers were transferred to Christ: “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6). “For he hath made him to be sin for us” (2Co 5:21).

“There is therefore no condemnation.” The “no” is emphatic. It signifies there is no condemnation whatsoever. No condemnation from the law, or on account of inward corruption, or because Satan can substantiate a charge against me; there is none from any source or for any cause at all. “No condemnation” means that none at all is possible; that none ever will be. There is no condemnation because there is no accusation (Rom 8:33), and there can be no accusation because there is no imputation of sin (Rom 4:8).

“There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” When treating of the conflict between the two natures in the believer the apostle had, in the previous chapter, spoken of himself in his own person, in order to show that the highest attainments in grace do no exempt from the internal warfare which he there describes. But here in 8:1 the apostle changes the number. He does not say, There is no condemnation to me, but “to them which are in Christ Jesus.” This was most gracious of the Holy Spirit. Had the apostle spoken here in the singular number, we should have reasoned that such a blessed exemption was well suited to this honored servant of God who enjoyed such wondrous privileges; but could not apply to us. The Spirit of God, therefore, moved the apostle to employ the plural number here, to show that “no condemnation” is true of all in Christ Jesus.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” To be in Christ Jesus is to be perfectly identified with Him in the judicial reckoning and dealings of God: and it is also to be one with Him as vitally united by faith. Immunity from condemnation does not depend in any-wise upon our “walk,” but solely on our being “in Christ.” “The believer is in Christ as Noah was enclosed within the ark, with the heavens darkening above him, and the waters heaving beneath him, yet not a drop of the flood penetrating his vessel, not a blast of the storm disturbing the serenity of his spirit. The believer is in Christ as Jacob was in the garment of the elder brother when Isaac kissed and blessed him. He is in Christ as the poor homicide was within the city of refuge when pursued by the avenger of blood, but who could not overtake and slay him” (Dr. Winslow, 1857). And because he is “in Christ” there is, therefore, no condemnation for him. Hallelujah!

Chapter 2

The Christian’s Assurance

Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.

How many of God’s children have, through the centuries, drawn strength and comfort from this blessed verse. In the midst of trials, perplexities, and persecutions, this has been a rock beneath their feet. Though to outward sight things seemed to work against their good, though to carnal reason things appeared to be working for their ill, nevertheless, faith knew it was for otherwise. And how great the loss to those who failed to rest upon this inspired declaration: what unnecessary fears and doubtings were the consequence.

“All things work together.” The first thought occurring to us is this: What a glorious Being our God be, who is able to make all things so work! What a frightful amount of evil there is in constant activity. What an almost infinite number of creatures there are in the world. What an incalculable quantity of opposing self-interests at work. What a vast army of rebels fighting against God. What hosts of super-human creatures over opposing the Lord. And yet, high above all, is GOD, in undisturbed calm, complete master of the situation. There, from the throne of His exalted majesty, He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11). Stand in awe, then, before this One in whose sight “all nations are as nothing; and they are counted as less than nothing, and vanity ” (Isa 40:17). Bow in adoration before this “high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” (Isa 57:15). Lift high your praise unto Him who from the direct evil can educe the greatest good.

“All things work.” In nature there is no such thing as a vacuum, neither is there a creature of God that fails to serve its designed purpose. Nothing is idle. Everything is energized by God so as to fulfill its intended mission. All things are laboring toward the grand end of their Creator’s pleasure: all are moved at His imperative bidding.

“All things work together.” They not only operate, they co-operate; they all act in perfect concert, though none but the anointed ear can catch the strains of their harmony. All things work together, not simply but conjointly, as adjunct causes and mutual helps. That is why afflictions seldom come solitary and alone. Cloud rises upon cloud: storm upon storm. As with Job, one messenger of woe was quickly succeeded by another, burdened with tidings of yet heavier sorrow. Nevertheless, even here faith may trace both the wisdom and love of God. It is the compounding of the ingredients in the recipe that constitutes its beneficent value. So with God: His dispensations not only “work,” but they “work together.” So recognized the sweet singer of Israel—”He drew me out of many waters” (Psa 18:16).

“All things work together for good to,” etc. These words teach believers that no matter what may be the number nor how overwhelming the character of adverse circumstances, they are all contributing to conduct them into the possession of the inheritance provided for them in heaven. How wonderful is the providence of God in over-ruling things most disorderly, and in turning to our good things which in themselves are most pernicious! We marvel at His mighty power which holds the heavenly bodies in their orbits; we wonder at the continually recurring seasons and the renewal of the earth; but this is not nearly so marvelous as His bringing good out of evil in all the complicated occurrences of human life, and making even the power and malice of Satan, with the naturally destructive tendency of his works, to minister good for His children.

“All things work together for good.” This must be so for three reasons. First, because all things are under the absolute control of the Governor of the universe. Second, because God desires our good, and nothing but our good. Third, because even Satan himself cannot touch a hair of our heads without God’s permission, and then only for our further good. Not all things are good in themselves, nor in their tendencies; but God makes all things work for our good. Nothing enters our life by blind chance: nor are they any accidents. Everything is being moved by God, with this end in view, our good. Everything being subservient to God’s eternal purpose, works blessing to those marked out for conformity to the image of the Firstborn. All suffering, sorrow, loss, are used by our Father to minister to the benefit of the His elect.

“To them that love God.” This is the grand distinguishing feature of every true Christian. The reverse marks all the unregenerate. But the saints are those who love God. Their creeds may differ in minor details; their ecclesiastical relations may vary in outward form; their gifts and graces may be very unequal; yet, in this particular there is an essential unity. They all believe in Christ, they all love God. They love Him for the gift of the Saviour: they love Him as a Father in whom they may confide: they love Him for His personal excellencies – His holiness, wisdom, faithfulness. They love Him for His conduct: for what He withholds an for what He grants: for what He rebukes and for what He approves. They love Him even for the rod that disciplines, knowing that He doth all things well. There is nothing in God, and there is nothing from God, for which the saints do not love Him. And of this they are all assured, “We love Him because He first loved us.”

“To them that love God.” But, alas, how little I love God! I sofrequently mourn my lack of love, and chide myself for the coldness of my heart. Yes, there is so much love of self and love of the world, that sometimes I seriously question if I have any real love for God at all. but is not my very desire to love God a good symptom? Is not my very grief that I love Him so little a sure evidence that I do not hate Him? The presence of a hard and ungrateful heart has been mourned over by the saints of all ages. “Love to God is a heavenly aspiration, that is ever kept in check by the drag and restraint of an earthly nature; and from which we shall not be unbound till the soul has made its escape from the vile body, and cleared its unfettered way to the realm of light and liberty” (Dr. Chalmers).

“Who are called.” The word “called” is never, in the New Testament Epistles, applied to those who are the recipients of a mere external invitation of the Gospel. The term always signifies an inward and effectual call. It was a call over which we had no control, either in originating or frustrating it. So in Rom 1:6-7 and many other passages: “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called saints.” Has this call reached you, my reader? Ministers have called you: the Gospel has called you, conscience has called you: but has the Holy Spirit called you with an inward and irresistible call? Have you been spiritually called from darkness to light, from death to life, from the world to Christ, from self to God? It is a matter of the greatest moment that you should know whether you have been truly called of God. Has, then, the thrilling, life-giving music of that call sounded and reverberated through all the chambers of your soul? But how may I be sure that I have received such a call? There is one thing right here in our text which should enable you to ascertain. They who have been efficaciously called, love God. Instead of hating Him, they now esteem Him; instead of fleeing from Him in terror, they now seek Him; instead of caring not whether their conduct honored Him; their deepest desire now is to please and glorify Him.

“According to His purpose.” The call is not according to the merits of men, but according to the Divine purpose: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to this own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2Ti 1:9). The design of the Holy Spirit in bringing in this last clause is to show that the reason some men love God and others do not is to be attributed solely to the mere sovereignty of God: it is not for anything in themselves, but due alone to His distinguishing grace.

There is also a practical value in this last clause. The doctrines of grace are intended for a further purpose than that of making up a creed. One main design of them is to move the affections; and more especially to reawaken that affection to which the heart oppressed with fears, or weighed down with cares, is wholly insufficient—even the love of God. That this love may flow perennially from our hearts, there must be a constant recurring to that which inspired it and which is calculated to increase it; just as to rekindle your admiration of a beautiful scene or picture, you would return again to gaze upon it. It is on this principle that so much stress is laid in Scripture on keeping the truths which we believe in memory: “By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you” (1Co 15:2). “I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance,” said the apostle (2Pe 3:1). “Do this in remembrance of me” said the Saviour. It is, then, by going back in memory to that hour when, despite our wretchedness and utter unworthiness, God called us, that our affection will be kept fresh. It is by recalling the wondrous grace that then reached out to a hell-deserving sinner and snatched you as a brand from the burning, that your heart will be drawn out in adoring gratitude. And it is by discovering this was due alone to the sovereign and eternal “purpose” of God that you were called when so many others are passed by, that your love for Him will be deepened.

Returning to the opening words of our text, we find the apostle (as voicing the normal experience of the saints) declares, “We know that all things work together for good.” It is something more than a speculative belief. That all things work together for good is even more than a fervent desire. It is not that we merely hope that all things will so work, but that we are fully assured all things do so work. The knowledge here spoken of is spiritual, not intellectual. It is a knowledge rooted in our hearts, which produces confidence in the truth of it. It is the knowledge of faith, which receives everything from the benevolent hand of Infinite Wisdom. It is true that we do not derive much comfort from this knowledge when out of fellowship with God. Nor will it sustain us when faith is not in operation. But when we are in communion with the Lord, when in our weakness we do lean hard upon Him, then is this blessed assurance ours: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isa 26:3).

A striking exemplification of our text is supplied by the history of Jacob—one whom in several respects each of us closely resembles. Heavy and dark was the cloud which settled upon him. Severe was the test, and fearful the trembling of his faith. His feet were almost gone. Hear his mournful plaint: “And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me” (Gen 42:36). And yet those circumstances, which to the dim eye of his faith wore a hue so somber, were at that very moment developing and perfecting the events which were to shed around the evening of his life the halo of a glorious and cloudless sunset. All things were working together for his good! And so, troubled soul, the “much tribulation” will soon be over, and as you enter the “kingdom of God” you shall then see, no longer “through a glass darkly” but in the unshadowed sunlight of the Divine presence, that “all things” did “work together” for your personal and eternal good.

Chapter 3

Sufferings Compensated

Rom 8:18  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us

Ah, says someone, that must have been written by a man who was a stranger to suffering, or by one acquainted with nothing more trying than the milder irritations of life. Not so. These words were penned under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and by one who drank deeply of sorrow’s cup, yea, by one who suffered afflictions in their acutest forms. Hear his own testimony: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2Co 11:24-27).

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” This, then was the settled conviction not of one of “fortune’s favorites,” not of one who found life’s journey a carpeted pathway, bordered with roses, but, instead, of one who was hated by his kinsmen, who was oft-times beaten black and blue, who knew what it was to be deprived not only of the comforts but the bare necessities of life. How, then shall we account for his cheery optimism? What was the secret of his elevation over his troubles and trials?

The first thing with which the sorely-tried apostle comforted himself was that the sufferings of the Christian are but of brief duration—they are limited to “this present time.” This is in sharp and solemn contrast from the sufferings of the Christ-rejector. His sufferings will be eternal: forever tormented in the Lake of Fire. But far different is it for the believer. His sufferings are restricted to this life on earth, which is compared to a flower that cometh forth and is cut down, to a shadow that fleeth and continueth not. A few short years at most, and we shall pass from this vale of tears into that blissful country where groans and sighs are never heard.

Second, the apostle looked forward with the eye of faith to “the glory.” To Paul “the glory” was something more than a beautiful dream. It was a practical reality, exerting a powerful influence upon him, consoling him in the warmest and most trying hours of adversity. This is one of the real tests of faith. The Christian has a solid support in the time of affliction, when the unbeliever has not. The child of God knows that in his Father’s presence there is “fullness of joy,” and that at His right hand there are “pleasures forever more.” And faith lays hold of them, appropriates them, and lives in the comforting cheer of them even now. Just as Israel in the wilderness were encouraged by a sight of what awaited them in the promised land (Num 13:23, Num 13:26), so, the one who today walks by faith, and not by sight, contemplates that which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, but which God by His Holy Spirit hath revealed unto us (1Co 2:9-10).

Third, the apostle rejoiced in “the glory which should be revealed in us.” All that this means we are not yet capable of understanding. But more than a hint has been vouchsafed us. There will be:

1. The “glory” of a perfect body. In that day this corruption shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal, immortality. That which was sown in dishonor shall be raised in glory, and that which was sown in weakness shall be raised in power. As we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly (1Co 15:49). The content of these expressions is summarized and amplified in Php 3:20-21 : “For our conservation is in heaven: from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.”

2. There will be the glory of a transformed mind. “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1Co 13:12). O what an orb of intellectual light will be each glorified mind! What range of light will it encompass! What capability of understanding will it enjoy! Then will all mysteries be unraveled, all problems solved, all discrepancies reconciled. Then shall each truth of God’s revelation, each event of His providence, each decision of His government, stand yet more transparently clear and resplendent than the sun itself. Do you, in your present quest for spiritual knowledge, mourn the darkness of your mind, the weakness of your memory, the limitations of your intellectual faculties? Then rejoice in hope of the glory that is to be revealed in you—when all your intellectual powers shall be renewed, developed, perfected, so that you shall know even as you are known.

3. Best of all, there will be the glory of perfect holiness. God’s work of grace in us will then be completed. He has promised to “perfect that which concerneth us” (Psa 138:8). Then will be the consummation of purity. We have been predestinated to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29), and when we shall see Him, “we shall be like him” (1Jn 3:2). Then our minds will be no more defiled by evil imaginations, our consciences no more sullied by a sense of guilt, our affections no more ensnared by unworthy objects.

What a marvelous prospect is this! A “glory” to be revealed in me who now can scarcely reflect a solitary ray of light! In me—so wayward, so unworthy, so sinful; living so little in communion with Him who is the Father of lights! Can it be that in me this glory shall be revealed? So affirms the infallible Word of God. If I am a child of light—through being “in Him” who is the effulgence of the Father’s glory—even though now dwelling amid the world’s dark shades, one day I shall outshine the brightness of the firmament. And when the Lord Jesus returns to this earth. he shall “be admired in all them that believe” (2Th 1:10).

Finally, the apostle here weighed the “sufferings” of this present time over against the “glory” which shall be revealed in us, and as he did so he declared that the one is “not worthy to be compared” with the other. The one is transient, the other eternal. As, then, there is no proportion between the finite and the infinite, so there is no comparison between the sufferings of earth and the glory of heaven.

One second of glory will outweigh a lifetime of suffering. What were the years of toil, of sickness, of battling with poverty, of sorrow in any or every form, when compared with the glory of Immanuel’s land! One draught of the river of pleasure at God’s right hand, one breath of Paradise, one hour amid the blood-washed around the throne, shall more than compensate for all the tears and groans of earth. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” May the Holy Spirit enable both writer and reader to lay hold of this with appropriating faith and live in the present possession and enjoyment of it to the praise of the glory of Divine grace.

Chapter 4

The Great Giver

Rom 8:32  He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

The above verse supplies us with an instance of Divine logic. It contains a conclusion drawn from a premise; the premise is that God delivered up Christ for all His people, therefore everything else that is needed by them is sure to be given. There are many examples in Holy Writ of such Divine logic. “If God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you?” (Mat 6:30). “If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). “If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Mat 7:11). So here in our text the reasoning is irresistible and goes straight to the understanding and heart.

Our text tells of the gracious character of our loving God as interpreted by the gift of His Son. And this, not merely for the instruction of our minds, but for the comfort and assurance of our hearts. The gift of His own Son is God’s guarantee to His people of all needed blessings. The greater includes the less; His unspeakable spiritual gift is the pledge of all needed temporal mercies. Note in our text four things:

1. The Father’s Costly Sacrifice.

This brings before us a side of the truth upon which I fear we rarely meditate. We delight to think of the wondrous love of Christ, whose love was stronger than death, and who deemed no suffering too great for His people. But what must it have meant to the heart of the Father when His Beloved left His Heavenly Home! God is love, and nothing is so sensitive as love. I do not believe that Deity is emotionless, the Stoic as represented by the Schoolmen of the middle ages. I believe the sending forth of the Son was something which the heart of the Father felt, that it was a real sacrifice on His part.

Weigh well then the solemn fact which premises the sure promise that follows: God “spared not His own Son”! Expressive, profound, melting words! Knowing full well, as He only could, all that redemption involved—the Law rigid and unbending, insisting upon perfect obedience and demanding death for its transgressors. Justice, stern and inexorable, requiring full satisfaction, refusing to “clear the guilty.” Yet God did not withhold not the only suitable Sacrifice.

God “spared not His own Son,” though knowing full well the humiliation and ignominy of Bethlehem’s manger, the ingratitude of men, the not having where to lay His head, the hatred and opposition of the ungodly, the enmity and bruising of Satan—yet He did not hesitate. God did not relax ought of the holy requirements of His throne, nor abate one whit of the awful curse. No, He “spared not His own Son.” The utmost farthing was exacted; the last dregs in the cup of wrath must be drained. Even when His Beloved cried from the Garden, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me,” God “spared” Him not. Even when vile hands had nailed Him to the tree, God cried “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the man that is My Fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts; smite the Shepherd” (Zec 13:7).

2. The Father’s Gracious Design.

“But delivered him up for us all.” Here we are told why the Father made such a costly sacrifice; He spared not Christ, that He might spare us! It was not want of love to the Saviour, but wondrous, matchless, fathomless love for us! O marvel at the wondrous design of the Most High. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” Verily, such love passeth knowledge. Moreover, He made this costly sacrifice not grudgingly or reluctantly, but freely out of love.

Once God had said to rebellious Israel, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?” (Hos 11:8). Infinitely more cause had He to say this of the Holy One, His well-beloved, the One in whom His soul daily delighted. Yet, He “delivered Him up”—to shame and spitting, to hatred and persecution, to suffering and death itself. And He delivered Him up for us—descendants of rebellious Adam, depraved and defiled, corrupt and sinful, vile and worthless! For us who had gone into the “far country” of alienation from Him, and there spent our substance in riotous living. Yes, “for us” who had gone astray like sheep, each one turning to “his own way.” For us “who were by nature the children of wrath, even as others,” in whom there dwelt no good thing. For us who had rebelled against our Creator, hated His holiness, despised His Word, broken His commandments, resisted His Spirit. For us who richly deserved to be cast into the everlasting burnings and receive those wages which our sins so fully earned.

Yes, for thee fellow Christian, who art sometimes tempted to interpret your afflictions as tokens of God’s hardness; who regard your poverty as a mark of His neglect, and your seasons of darkness as evidences of His desertion. O, confess to Him now the wickedness of such dishonoring doubtings, and never again question the love of Him who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.

Faithfulness demands that I should point out the qualifying pronoun in our text. It is not God “delivered him up for all,” but “for us all.” ‘This is definitely defined in the verses which immediately precede. In v. 31 Rom 8:31  the question is asked, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” In v. 30 Rom 8:30 this “us” is defined as those whom God did predestinate and has “called” and “justified.” The “us” are the high favorites of heaven, the objects of sovereign grace. God’s elect. And yet in themselves they are, by nature and practice, deserving of nothing but wrath. But yet, thank God, it is “us all” —the worst as well as the best, the five-hundred-pounds-debtor equally as much as the fifty-pence-debtor.

3. The Spirit’s Blessed Inference.

Ponder well the glorious “conclusion” which the Spirit of God here draws from the wondrous fact stated in the first part of our text, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things.” How conclusive and how comforting is the inspired reasoning of the apostle. Arguing from the greater to the less, He proceeds to assure the believer of God’s readiness to also freely bestow all needed blessings. The gift of His own Son, so ungrudgingly and unreservedly bestowed, is the pledge of every other needed mercy.

Here is the unfailing guaranty and talisman of perpetual reassurance to the drooping spirit of the tried believer. If God has done the greater, will He leave the less undone? Infinite love can never change. The love that spared not Christ cannot fail its objects nor begrudge any needed blessings. The sad thing is that our hearts dwell upon what we have not, instead of upon what we do have. Therefore the Spirit of God would here still our restless thoughts and quiet the ignorant discontent with a soul-satisfying knowledge of the truth; by reminding us not only of the reality of our interest in the love of God, but also of the extent of that blessing that flows from that love.

Weigh well what is involved in the logic of this verse. First, the great Gift was given unasked; will He not bestow others for the asking? None of us supplicated God to send forth His Beloved; yet He sent Him! Now, we may come to the throne of grace and there present our requests in the virtuous and all-efficacious name of Christ.

Second, the one great Gift cost Him much; will He not then bestow the lesser gifts which cost Him nothing save the delight of giving! If a friend were to give me a valuable picture, would he begrudge the necessary paper and string to wrap it in? Or if a loved one made me a present of a precious jewel, would he refuse a little box to carry it in? How much less will He who spared not His own Son, withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly.

Third, the one Gift was bestowed when we were enemies; will not then God be gracious to us now that we have been reconciled and are His friends? If He had designs of mercy for us while we were yet in our sins, how much more will He regard us favorably now that we have been cleansed from all sin by the precious blood of His Son!

4. The Comforting Promise.

Observe the tense that is used here. It is not “how has he not with him also freely given us all things,” though this is also true, for even now are we “heirs of God” (Rom 8:17). But our text goes further than this: “How shall he not with Him also freely give us all things?” The second half of this wondrous verse contains something more than a record of the past; it supplies reassuring confidence both for the present and for the future. No time-limits are to be set upon this “shall.” Both now in the present and forever and ever in the future God shall manifest Himself as the great Giver. Nothing for His glory and for our good will He withhold. The same God who delivered up Christ for us all is “without variableness or shadow of turning” (Jas 1:17).

Mark the manner in which God gives: “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” God does not have to be coaxed; there is no reluctance in Him for us to overcome. He is ever more willing to give than we are to receive. Again; He is under no obligations to any; if He were, He would bestow of necessity, instead of giving “freely.” Ever remember that He has a perfect right to do with His own as He pleases. He is free to give to whom He wills.

The word “freely” not only signifies that God is under no constraint, but also means that He makes no charge for His gifts, He places no price on His blessings. God is no retailer of mercies or barterer of good things; if He were, justice would require Him to charge exactly what each blessing was worth, and then who among the children of Adam could find the wherewithal? No, blessed be His name, God’s gifts are “without money and without price” (Isa 55:1), unmerited and unearned.

Finally, rejoice over the comprehensiveness of this promise: “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” The Holy Spirit would here regale us with the extent of God’s wondrous grant. What is it you need, fellow Christian? Is it pardon? Then has He not said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jn 1:9)? Is it grace? Then has He not said, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2Co 9:8)? Is it a “thorn in the flesh”? this too will be given “there was given to me a thorn in the flesh” (2Co 12:7). Is it rest? Then heed the Saviour’s invitation, “Come unto Me . . . and I will give you rest (Mat 11:28). Is it comfort? Is He not the God of all comfort (2Co 1:3)?

“How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Is it temporal mercies that the reader is in need of? Are your circumstances adverse so that you are filled with dismal forebodings? Does your cruse of oil and barrel of meal look as though they will soon be quite empty? Then spread your need before God, and do it in simple childlike faith. Think you that He will bestow the greater blessings of grace and deny the lesser ones of Providence? No, “My God shall supply all your need” (Phil. 4:19). True, He has not promised to give all you ask, for we often ask “amiss.” Mark the qualifying clause: “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” We often desire things which would come in between us and Christ if they were granted, therefore does God in His faithfulness withholds them.

Here then are four things which should bring comfort to every renewed heart. (1) The Father’s costly sacrifice. Our God is a giving God and no good thing does He withhold from them that walk uprightly. (2) The Father’s gracious design. It was for us that Christ was delivered up; it was our highest and eternal interests that He had at heart. (3) The Spirit’s infallible inference. The greater includes the less; the unspeakable Gift guarantees the bestowment of all other needed favors. (4) The comforting promise. Its sure foundation, its present and future scope, its blessed extent, are for the assuring of our hearts and the peace of our minds. May the Lord add His blessing to this little meditation.

Chapter 5

The Divine Rememberer

Psalm 136:23  Who remembered us in our low estate: for His mercy endureth forever

“Who remembered us.” This is in striking and blessed contrast from our forgettings of Him. Like every other faculty of our beings, the memory has been affected by the Fall and bears on it the marks of depravity. This is seen from its power to retain what is worthless and the difficulty encountered to hold fast that which is good. A foolish nursery-rhyme or song heard in youth, is carried with us to the grave; a helpful sermon is forgotten within twenty-four hours! But most tragic and solemn of all is the ease with which we forget God and His countless mercies. But, blessed be His name, God never forgets us. He is the faithful Rememberer.

We were very much impressed when, on consulting the concordance, we found that the first five times the word “remember” is used in Scripture, in each case it is connected with God. “And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark” (Gen 8:1). “And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth” (Gen 9:16). “And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt” (Gen 19:29), etc. The first time it is used of man we read, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (Gen 40:23)!

The historical reference here is to the children of Israel, when they were toiling amid the brick-kilns of Egypt. Truly they were in a “low estate”: a nation of slaves, groaning beneath the lash of merciless task-masters, oppressed by a godless and heartless king. But when there was none other eye to pity, Jehovah looked upon them and heard their cries of distress. He “remembered” them in their low estate. And why? Exo 2:24-25 tells us: “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto it.”

Our text is not to be limited to the literal seed of Abraham: it has reference to the whole “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). The saints of this present Day of salvation also unite in saying, “Who remembered us in our low estate.” How “low” was our “estate” by nature! As fallen creatures we lay in our misery and wretchedness, unable to deliver or help ourselves. But, in wondrous grace, God took pity on us. His strong arm reached down and rescued us. He came to where we lay, saw us, and had compassion on us (Luk 10:33). Therefore can each Christian say, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” (Psa 40:2).

And why did He “remember” us? The very word “remember” tells of previous thoughts of love and mercy towards us. As it was with the children of Israel in Egypt, so it was with us in our ruined condition by nature. He “remembered” His covenant, that covenant into which He had entered with our Surety from everlasting. As we read in Tit 1:2 of eternal life “which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world was. Promised to Christ, that He would give that eternal life to those for whom our covenant Head should transact. Yes, God “remembered” that He had “chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4), therefore did He, in due time, bring us from death unto life.

Yet this blessed word goes beyond our initial experience of God’s saving grace. Historically, our text refers not only to God remembering His people while they were in Egypt, but also, as the context shows, while they were in the Wilderness, on their way to the Promised Land. Israel’s experiences in the desert but foreshadow the saints’ walk through this hostile world. And Jehovah’s “remembrance” of them, manifested in the daily supply of their every need, adumbrated the rich provisions of His grace for us while we journey to our Home on High. Our present estate, here on earth, is but a lowly one, for we do not now reign as kings. Yet, is our God ever mindful of us, and hourly does He minister to us.

“Who remembered us in our low estate.” Not always are we permitted to dwell upon the mount. As in the natural world, so in our experiences. Bright and sunny days give place to dark and cloudy ones: summer is followed by winter. Disappointments, losses, afflictions, bereavements came our way, and we were brought low. And ofttimes just when we seemed to most need the comfort of friends, they failed us. Those we counted on to help, forgot us. But, even then, there was One “who remembered us” and showed Himself to be “the same yesterday and today and forever,” and then did we prove afresh that “His mercy endureth forever” (1Ch 16:34)

“Who remembered us in our low estate.” There are some who may read these lines that will think of another application of these words: namely, the time when you left your first love, when your heart grew cold, and your life became worldly. When you were in a sadly back-slidden state. Then, indeed, was your estate a low one; yet even then did our faithful God “remember” thee. Yes, each of us has cause to say with the Psalmist “He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psa 23:3).

“Who remembered us in our low estate.” Still another application of these words may be made, namely, to the last great crisis of the saint, as he passes out of this world. As the vital spark of the body grows dim and nature fails, then too is our “estate” low. But then also the Lord remembereth us, for “His mercy endureth for ever. Man’s extremity is but God’s opportunity. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. It is then that he “remembers” us by making good His comforting promises, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness” (Isa 41:10).

“Who remembered us in our low estate.” Surely this text will furnish us with suitable words to express our thanksgiving when we are at Home, present with the Lord. How we shall then praise Him for His covenant faithfulness, His matchless grace, and His loving kindness, for having “remembered us in our low estate! Then shall we know, even as we are known. Our very memories will be renewed, perfected, and we shall remember all the way the Lord our God hath led us” (Deu 8:2), recalling with gratitude and joy His faithful remembrances, acknowledging with adoration that “His mercy endureth for ever.”

Chapter 6

Tried by Fire

Job 23:10  But he knoweth the way that I take; when he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold

Job here corrects himself. In the beginning of the chapter we find him saying: “Even today is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning” (Job 23:1-2). Poor Job felt that his lot was unbearable. But he recovers himself. He checks his hasty outburst and revises his impetuous decision. How often we all have to correct ourselves! Only One has ever walked this earth who never had occasion to do so.

Job here comforts himself. He could not fathom the mysteries of Providence but God knew the way he took. Job had diligently sought the calming presence of God, but, for a time, in vain. Behold I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him. On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him” (vv. 8, 9). But he consoled himself with this blessed fact—though I cannot see God, what is a thousand times better, He can see me—”He knoweth.” One above is neither unmindful nor indifferent to our lot. If He notices the fall of a sparrow, if He counts the hairs of our heads, of course “He knows” the way that I take.

Job here enunciates a noble view of life. How splendidly optimistic he was! He did not allow his afflictions to turn him into a skeptic. He did not permit the sore trials and troubles through which he was passing to overwhelm him. He looked at the bright side of the dark cloud—God’s side, hidden from sense and reason. He took a long view of life. He looked beyond the immediate ‘fiery trials” and said that the outcome would be gold refined. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold.” Three great truths are expressed here: let us briefly consider each separately.

1. The Divine Knowledge of My Life.

“He knoweth the way that I take.” The omniscience of God is one of the wondrous attributes of Deity. “For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings” (Job 34:21). “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Pro 15:3). Spurgeon said, “One of the greatest tests of experimental religion is, What is my relationship to God’s omniscience?” What is your relationship to it, dear reader? How does it affect you? Does it distress or comfort you? Do you shrink from the thought of God knowing all about your way? perhaps, a lying, selfish, hypocritical way! To the sinner this is a terrible thought. He denies it, or if not, he seeks to forget it. But to the Christian, here is real comfort. How cheering to remember that my Father knows all about my trials, my difficulties, my sorrows, my efforts to glorify Him. Precious truth for those in Christ, harrowing thought for all out of Christ, that the way I am taking is fully known to and observed by God.

“He knoweth the way that I take.” Men did not know the way that Job took. He was grievously misunderstood, and for one with a sensitive temperament to be misunderstood, is a sore trial. His very friends thought he was a hypocrite. They believed he was a great sinner and being punished by God. Job knew that he was an unworthy saint, but not a hypocrite. He appealed against their censorious verdict. “He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold.” Here is instruction for us when like circumstanced. Fellow-believer, your fellow-men, yes, and your fellow Christians, may misunderstand you, and misinterpret God’s dealings with you: but console yourself with the blessed fact that the omniscient One knows.

“He knoweth the way that I take.” In the fullest sense of the word Job himself did not know the way that he took, nor do any of us. Life is profoundly mysterious, and the passing of the years offer no solution. Nor does philosophizing help us. Human volition is a strange enigma. Consciousness bears witness that we are more than automatons. The power of choice is exercised by us in every move we make. And yet it is plain that our freedom is not absolute. There are forces brought to bear upon us, both good and evil, which are beyond our power to resist. Both heredity and environment exercise powerful influences upon us. Our surroundings and circumstances are factors which cannot be ignored. And what of providence which “shapes our destinies”? Ah, how little do we know the way which we “take.” Said the prophet, “O Lord I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps (Jer 10:23). Here we enter the realm of mystery, and it is idle to deny it. Better far to acknowledge with the wise man, “Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Pro 20:24).

In the narrower sense of the term Job did know the way which he took. What that “way” was he tells us in the next two verses. “My foot hath held his steps. his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:11-12). The way Job chose was the best way, the scriptural way, God’s way—”His way.” What do you think of that way, dear reader? Was it not a grand selection? Ah, not only “patient,” but wise Job! Have you made a similar choice? Can you say, My foot hath held his steps. his way have I kept, and not declined?” (Job 23:11). If you can, praise Him for His enabling grace. If you cannot, confess with shame your failure to appropriate His all-sufficient grace. Get down on your knees at once, and unbosom yourself to God. Hide and keep back nothing. Remember it is written “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jn 1:9). Does not Job 23:2 verse 12 explain your failure, my failure, dear reader? Is it not because we have not trembled before God’s commandments, and because we have so lightly esteemed His Word, that we have “declined” from His way! Then let us, even now, and daily, seek grace from on high to heed His commandments and hide His Word in our hearts.

“He knoweth the way that I take.” Which way are you taking?—the Narrow Way which leadeth unto life, or ‘the Broad Road that leadeth to destruction? Make certain on this point, dear friend. Scripture declares, “So every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom 14:12). But you need not be deceived or uncertain. The Lord declared, “I am The Way” (Joh 14:6).

2. Divine Testing

“When he hath tried me.” “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts” (Pro 17:3). This was God’s way with Israel of old, and it is His way with Christians now. Just before Israel entered Canaan, as Moses reviewed their history since leaving Egypt, he said, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, and to know what as in thine heart, whether thou wouldst keep his commandments, or no” (Deu 8:2). In the same way God tries, tests, proves, humbles us.

“When he hath tried me.” If we realized this more, we should bear up better in the hour of affliction and be more patient under suffering. The daily irritations of life, the things which annoy so much—what is their meaning? why are they permitted? Here is the answer: God is “trying” you! That is the explanation (in part, at least) of that disappointment, that crushing of your earthly hopes, that great loss; God was, is, testing you. God is trying your temper, your courage, your faith, your patience, your love, your fidelity.

“When he hath tried me.” How frequently God’s saints see only Satan as the cause of their troubles. They regard the great enemy as responsible for much of their sufferings. But there is no comfort for the heart in this. We do not deny that the Devil does bring about much that harasses us. But above Satan is the Lord Almighty! The Devil cannot touch a hair of our heads without God’s permission, and when he is allowed to disturb and distract us, even then it is only God using him to “try” us. Let us learn then, to look beyond all secondary causes and instruments to that One who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11). This is what Job did.

In the opening chapter of the book which bears his name we find Satan obtaining permission to afflict God’s servant. He used the Sabeans to destroy Job ‘s herds (Job 1:15): he sent the Chaldeans to slay his servants (Job 1:17 ): he caused a great wind to kill his children (v. 19). And what was Job’s response? This: he exclaimed “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Job looked beyond the human agents, beyond Satan who employed them, to the Lord who controls all. He realized that it was the Lord trying him. We get the same thing in the New Testament. To the suffering saints at Smyrna John wrote, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried” (Rev 2:10). Their being cast into prison was simply God trying them.

How much we lose by forgetting this! What a stay for the trouble-tossed heart to know that no matter what form the testing may take, no matter what the agent which annoys, it is God who is “trying” His children. What a perfect example the Saviour sets us. When He was approached in the garden and Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the Saviour said, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” (Joh 18:11). Men were about to vent their awful rage upon Him, the Serpent would bruise His heel, but He looks above and beyond them. Dear reader, no matter how bitter its contents, (infinitely less than that which the Saviour drained) let us accept the cup as from the Father’s hand.

In some moods we are apt to question the wisdom and right of God to try us. So often we murmur at His dispensations. Why should God lay such an intolerable burden upon me? Why should others be spared their loved ones, and mine taken? Why should health and strength, perhaps the gift of sight, be denied me? The first answer to all such questions is, “O man, who art thou that repliest against God?”! It is wicked insubordination for any creature to call into question the dealings of the great Creator. “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?” (Rom. 9:20). How earnestly each of us need to cry unto God, that His grace may silence our rebellious lips and still the tempest within our desperately wicked hearts!

But to the humble soul which bows in submission before the sovereign dispensations of the all-wise God, Scripture affords some light on the problem. This light may not satisfy reason, but it will bring comfort and strength when received in child-like faith and simplicity. In 1Pe 1:6 we read; “Wherein (God’s salvation) ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations (or trials): That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Note three things here. First, there is a needs-be for the trial of faith. Since God says it, let us accept it. Second, this trying of faith is precious, far more so than of gold. It is precious to God (cf. Psa 116:15) and will yet be so to us. Third, the present trial has in view the future. Where the trial has been meekly endured and bravely borne, there will be a grand reward at the appearing of our Redeemer.

Again, in 1Pe 4:12-13 we are told: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings: that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” The same thoughts are expressed here as in the previous passage. There is a needs-be for our “trials” and therefore we are to think them not strange—we should expect them. And, too, there is again the blessed outlook of being richly recompensed at Christ’s return. Then there is the added word that not only should we meet these trials with faith’s fortitude, but we should rejoice in them, inasmuch as we are permitted to have fellowship in “the sufferings of Christ.” He, too, suffered: sufficient then, for the disciple to be as his Master.

“When he hath tried me.” Dear Christian reader, there are no exceptions. God had only one Son without sin, but never one without sorrow. Sooner or later, in one form or another, trial-sore and heavy—will be our lot. “And sent Timotheus our brother . . . to establish you, and comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions; for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” (1Th 3:2-3). And again it is written, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Act 14:22). It has been so in every age. Abram was “tried,” tried severely. So, too, were Joseph, Jacob. Moses, David, Daniel, the Apostles, etc.

3. The Ultimate Issue

“I shall come forth as gold.” Observe the tense here. Job did not imagine that he was pure gold already. “I shall come forth as gold,” he declared. He knew full well that there was yet much dross in him. He did not boast that he was already perfect. Far from it. In the final chapter of his book we find him saying, “I abhor myself” (Job 42:6). And well he might: and well may we. As we discover that in our flesh there dwelleth “no good thing,” as we examine ourselves and our ways in the light of God’s Word and behold our innumerable failures, as we think of our countless sins, both of omission and commission, good reason have we for abhoring ourselves. Ah, Christian reader, there is much dross about us. But it will not ever be thus.

“I shall come forth as gold.” Job did not say, “When he hath tried me I may come forth as gold,” or “I hope to come forth as gold,” but with full confidence and positive assurance he declared, “I shall come forth as gold.” But how did he know this? How can we be sure of the happy issue? Because the Divine purpose cannot fail. He which hath begun a good work in us “will finish it” (Php 1:6).How can we be sure of the happy issue? Because the Divine promise is sure: “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me” (Psa 138:8). Then be of good cheer, tried and troubled one. The process may be unpleasant and painful, but the issue is charming and sure.

“I shall come forth as gold.” This was said by one who knew affliction and sorrow as few among the sons of men have known them. Yet despite his fiery trials he was optimistic. Let then this triumphant language be ours. “I shall come forth as gold” is not the language of carnal boasting, but the confidence of one whose mind was stayed upon God. There will be no credit to our account—the glory will all belong to the Divine Refiner (Jas 1:12).

For the present there remain two things: first, Love is the Divine thermometer while we are in the crucible of testing—”And he shall sit (the patience of Divine grace) as a Refiner and Purifier of silver,” etc. (Mal 3:3). Second, the Lord Himself is with us in the fiery furnace, as He was with the three young Hebrews (Dan 3:25). For the future this is sure: the most wonderful thing in heaven will not be the golden street or the golden harps, but golden souls on which is stamped the image of God—”predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son!” Praise God for such a glorious prospect, such a victorious issue, such a marvelous goal.

Chapter 7

Divine Chastisement

Hebrews 12:5  Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of him

It is of first importance that we learn to draw a sharp distinction between Divine punishment and Divine chastisement: important for maintaining the honour and glory of God, and for the peace of mind of the Christian. The distinction is very simple, yet is it often lost sight of. God’s people can never by any possibility be punished for their sins, for God has already punished them at the Cross. The Lord Jesus, our Blessed Substitute, suffered the full penalty of all our guilt, hence it is written “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1Jn 1:7). Neither the justice nor the love of God will permit Him to again exact payment of what Christ discharged to the full. The difference between punishment and chastisement lies not in the nature of the sufferings of the afflicted: it is most important to bear this in mind. There is a threefold distinction between the two. First, the character in which God acts. In the former God acts as Judge, in the latter as Father. Sentence of punishment is the act of a judge, a penal sentence passed on those charged with guilt. Punishment can never fall upon the child of God in this judicial sense because his guilt was all transferred to Christ: “Who his own self bear our sins in his own body on the tree” (1Pe 2:24)

But while the believer’s sins cannot be punished, while the Christian cannot be condemned (Rom 8:3), yet he may be chastised. The Christian occupies an entirely different position from the non-Christian: he is a member of the Family of God. The relationship which now exists between him and God is that of parent and child; and as a son he must be disciplined for wrongdoing. Folly is bound up in the hearts of all God’s children, and the rod is necessary to rebuke, to subdue, to humble.

The second distinction between Divine punishment and Divine chastisement lies in the recipients of each. The objects of the former are His enemies. The subjects of the latter are His children. As the Judge of all the earth, God will yet take vengeance on all His foes. As the Father of His family, God maintains discipline over all His children. The one is judicial, the other parental.

A third distinction is seen in The design of each: the one is retributive, the other remedial. The one flows from His anger, the other from His love. Divine punishment is never sent for the good of sinners, but for the honoring of God’s law and the vindicating of His government. But Divine chastisement is sent for the well-being of His children: “We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Heb 12:9-10).

The above distinction should at once rebuke the thoughts which are so generally entertained among Christians. When the believer is smarting under the rod let him not say, God is now punishing me for my sins. That can never be. That is most dishonoring to the blood of Christ. God is correcting thee in love, not smiting in wrath. Nor should the Christian regard the chastening of the Lord as a sort of necessary evil to which he must bow as submissively as possible. No, it proceeds from God’s goodness and faithfulness, and is one of the greatest blessings for which we have to thank Him. Chastisement evidences our Divine son-ship: the father of a family does not concern himself with those on the outside: but those within he guides and disciplines to make them conform to his will. Chastisement is designed for our good, to promote our highest interests. Look beyond the rod to the All-wise hand that wields it!

The Hebrew Christians to whom this Epistle was first addressed were passing through a great fight of afflictions, and miserably were they conducting themselves. They were the little remnant out of the Jewish nation who had believed on their Messiah during the days of His public ministry, plus those Jews who had been converted under the preaching of the apostles. It is highly probable that they had expected the Messianic Kingdom would at once be set up on earth and that they would be allotted the chief places of honour in it. But the Millennium had not begun, and their own lot became increasingly bitter. They were not only hated by the Gentiles, but ostracized by their unbelieving brethren, and it became a hard matter for them to make even a bare living. Providence held a frowning face. Many who had made a profession of Christianity had gone back to Judaism and were prospering temporally. As the afflictions of the believing Jews increased, they too were sorely tempted to turn their back upon the new Faith. Had they been wrong in embracing Christianity? Was high Heaven displeased because they had identified themselves with Jesus of Nazareth? Did not their suffering go to show that God no longer regarded them with favour?

Now it is most instructive and blessed to see how the Apostle met the unbelieving reasoning of their hearts. He appealed to their own Scriptures! He reminded them of an exhortation Found in Pro 3:11-12, and applied it to their case. Notice, first, the words we place in italics: “Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you. This shows that the exhortations of the Old Testament were not restricted to those who lived under the old covenant: they apply with equal force and directness to those of us living under the new covenant. Let us not forget that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” (2Ti 3:16) The Old Testament equally as much as the New Testament was written for our learning and admonition. Second, mark the tense of the verb in our opening text: “Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh.” The Apostle quoted a sentence of the Word written one thousand years previously, yet he does not say “which hath spoken,” but “which speaketh.” The same principle is illustrated in that sevenfold “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith (not “said”) unto the churches” of Rev. 2 and 3. The Holy Scriptures are a living Word in which God is speaking today!

Consider now the words “Ye have forgotten.” It was not that these Hebrew Christians were unacquainted with Pro 3:11-12, but they had let them slip. They had forgotten the Fatherhood of God and their relation of Him as His dear children. In consequence they misinterpreted both the manner and design of God’s present dealings with them, they viewed His dispensation not in the light of His Love, but regarded them as signs of His displeasure or as proofs of His forgetfulness. Consequently, instead of cheerful submission, there was despondency and despair. Here is a most important lesson for us: we must interpret the mysterious providences of God not by reason or observation, but by the Word. How often we “forget” the exhortation which speaketh unto us as unto children: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.”

“Unhappily there is no word in the English language which is capable of doing justice to the Greek term here. “Paideia” which is rendered “chastening” is only another form of “paidion” which signifies “young children,” being the tender word that was employed by the Saviour in Joh 21:5 and Heb 2:13. One can see at a glance the direct connection which exists between the words “disciple” and “discipline”: equally close in the Greek is the relation between “children” and “chastening.” Son-training would be better. It has reference to God’s education, nurture and discipline of His children. It is the Father’s wise and loving correction.

Much chastisement comes by the rod in the hand of the Father correcting His erring child. But it is a serious mistake to confine our thoughts to this one aspect of the subject. Chastisement is by no means always the scourging of His refractive sons. Some of the saintliest of God’s people, some of the most obedient of His children, have been and are the greatest sufferers. Oftentimes God’s chastenings instead of being retributive are corrective. They are sent to empty us of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness: they are given to discover to us hidden transgressions, and to teach us the plague of our own hearts. Or again, chastisements are sent to strengthen our faith, to raise us to higher levels of experience, to bring us into a condition of usefulness. Still again, Divine chastisement is sent as a preventative, to keep under pride, to save us from being unduly elated over success in God’s service. Let us consider, briefly, four entirely different examples.

David. In his case the rod was laid upon him for grievous sins, for open wickedness. His fall was occasioned by self-confidence and self-righteousness. If the reader will diligently compare the two Songs of David recorded in 2 Samuel 22 and 23, the one written near the beginning of his life, the other near the end, he will be struck by the great difference of spirit manifested by the writer in each. Read 2Sa 22:22-25 and you will not be surprised that God suffered him to have such a fall. Then turn to chapter 23, and mark the blessed change. At the beginning of 2Sa 23:5 there is a heart-broken confession of failure. In 2Sa 23:10-12 there is a God-glorifying confession, attributing victory unto the Lord. The severe scourging of David was not in vain.

Job. Probably he tasted of every kind of suffering which falls to man’s lot: family bereavements, loss of property, grievous bodily afflictions came fast, one on top of another. But God’s end in it all was that Job should benefit therefrom and be a greater partaker of His holiness. There was not a little of self-satisfaction and self-righteousness in Job at the beginning. But at the end, when He was brought face to face with the thrice Holy One, he “abhorred himself” (Job 42:6). In David’s case the chastisement was retributive, in Job’s corrective.

Abraham. In him we see an illustration of an entirely different aspect of chastening. Most of the trials to which he was subjected were neither because of open sins nor for the correction of inward faults. Rather were they sent for the developmen of spiritual graces. Abraham was sorely tried in various ways, but it was in order that faith might be strengthened and that patience might have its perfect work in him. Abraham was weaned from the things of this world, that he might enjoy closer fellowship with Jehovah and become the “friend” of God.

Paul. “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure (2Co 12:7). This “thorn” was sent not because of failure and sin, but as a preventative against pride. Note the “lest” both at the beginning and end of the verse. The result of this “thorn” was that the beloved apostle was made more conscious of his weakness. Thus, chastisement has for one of its main objects the breaking down of self-sufficiency, the bringing us to the end of our selves.

Now in view of these widely different aspects chastenings (retributive, corrective, educative, and preventative), how incompetent are we to diagnose, and how great is the folly of pronouncing a judgment concerning others! Let us not conclude when we see a fellow-Christian under the rod of God that he is necessarily being taken to task for his sins. In our next meditation we shall consider the spirit in which Divine chastisements are to be received.