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2. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
3. Incline your ear, and come l unto me: hear, and your soul shall live ; and I will make 2 an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure 3 mercies of David.
4. Behold, I have given him 4 for a witness to the people, a leader and commander 5 to the people. 1 Matt. 11:28. ? Isa. 54:8; 61: 8. 8 2 Sam. 7:8, etc. Ps. 89:28. Acts 13 : 34 John 18:37.
Rev. 1:5. 5 Dan. 9:25. Hos. 3: 5. world are those which money cannot buy, and which are absolutely free to all. Fresh air, and sunlight, and pure water, and health, and character, and contentment, and love, and forgiveness, and joy, and peace, cannot be purchased; but all may have them who will, Money has its uses, but it never brings the things which are best worth having. The poor can have the choicest treasures of the rich, whatever else they lack. It is only the lower plane possessions which are dependent on money. – Rev. H. C. Trumbull. Much more is this true of salvation; since salvation is spiritual, and belongs to the character, it cannot, from its very nature, be bought. Forgiveness, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the blessings of atoning love, heaven, must be received as free gifts from God, or they cannot be received at all.- P.
2. Wherefore do ye spend money? Why will ye weigh money? There is reference to the primitive custom of weighing instead of counting money. - Alexander. Even at the present day, silver is paid out of the Bank of England by weight, and not by count. — Todd. For that which is not bread. For that which will not satisfy. Men expend labor and toil and energy in obtaining riches, honors, worldly good, pleasure, and many other things, which yet do not satisfy the heart, or give the conscience peace, or bring salvation. And your labour for that which satisfieth not. There never was a more simple and true description of this whole world than in this expression of Isaiah. The immortal mind will not be satisfied with wealth, pleasure, or honor: it never has been. There is a void in the heart which these things do not, cannot fill. Nothing but God can meet the boundless desires of the soul.— Barnes. Alexander conquered the world, but it did not satisfy his soul; and, if he could have conquered all the worlds that stud the heavens, he would still have wept for more. For God has not created a single human soul so small and poor that all the material universe can fill it. All literature is full of expressions of the failure of worldly things to satisfy the soul. — P. Eat ye that which is good. Come and obtain that which will satisfy the hungers of your soul. Let your soul delight itself in fatness. “Fatness" in the Scriptures is used to denote the richest food (Gen. 27; 28–39; Job 36: 16; Ps. 65:11), and hence is an emblem of the rich and abundant blessings resulting from the favor of God (Ps. 36:9; 63:5). - Barnes. The blessings which Christ gives are not merely good, they are full of the choicest delights of which human nature is capable; "as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:9, 10).
3. Incline your ear. Listen, be attentive. Many fail of eternal life because they will not pay attention to the claims of religion. Come unto me. Go to him for salvation and help. But it is more than this: it implies a moral approach, a nearness of sympathy, and feeling, and character, till at last we are one with him. And your soul shall live. Life is more than mere existence: it is the natural, healthful, and joyous activity of every part of the being. It is eternal life; it stands opposed to spiritual and eternal death. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. An agreement with promises which can never be broken. This covenant constitutes permanent relations between God and men; God, on his part, becoming their Father and friend, their refuge and portion; they, on their part, engaging in like manner to be his people in humble trust and true obedience. Even the sure mercies of David. Even according to and including those blessings which I promised so surely to David, and of which the Messiah was the great central element. The account of this covenant may be seen in 2 Sam. 7: 12-29, and i Chron. 17:7-27; re-stated substantially in Ps. 89:1-4, 19-37 (see Luke 20:41-44).
II. The One Who Gives this Invitation. - Vers. 4, 5. 4. Behold, I have given him. There is no need to say who he is. It can only be the Messiah. — Cook. He
5. Behold, I thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel ; for 3 he hath glorified thee.
6. Seek 4 ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near :
7. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts : 5 and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him ; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
1 Eph. 2: 11, 12.
? Isa. 60: 5.
3 Acts 3:13.
Ps. 32:6. Matt. 5:25. John 7: 34. Heb. 3: 13.
has just been referred to in the “sure mercies of David," one of which mercies was the promise of the Messiah. For a witness to the people. One who stood forth to bear solemn testimony in regard to God, — to his law, and claims, and plans; and one who was therefore designated to be the instructor, guide, and teacher of men. — Barnes. What man needs is one who, being the Son of God, knows all the universe, natural and spiritual, and who, therefore, can bring infallible testimony about God, and heaven, and the life to come, and all the things we wish to know about the far country to which we are going. A leader. The idea is, that he would sustain the relation of a sovereign. One of the important offices of the Messiah is that of king. Commander. Supreme head; fountain of all authority. The “Son of David” is not only King of Israel, but Supreme Governor of the nations (Matt. 28: 18-20). — Cook. One of the greatest needs of the human soul is a wise and powerful leader, an infallible guide, an invincible king to lead us safely through this dangerous world to the final victory and reward. - P.
5. Behold, thou. The Messiah. Shalt call a nation that thou knowest not. The word " nation" denotes, not the Gentiles at large, but the Christian church, called mainly from among them, the holy nation and peculiar people, to whom the kingdom of God would now be given (Matt. 21: 4; Rom. 9:2-4). — Birks. It is a nation which at the date of the prophecy was not in existence, and therefore was not then known. Nations that knew not thee. The heathen nations that were strangers to thee. Shall run unto thee. Indicating the haste and anxiety which they would have to partake of the benefits of the true religion. - Barnes. Because of the Lord thy God. Because God has given them to thee, and calls them with his effective voice. Christ crucified and exalted is the power that draws them. – P. For the Holy One. The same as the Lord thy God, in the aspect of his goodness and his work in making men holy. For he hath glorified thee. God had so exalted the Messiah, had made him so glorious in character, and works, and teachings, and power, that nations were attracted to him. And by that coming the Messiah is glorified in the world. How true this verse is to-day! How glorious Christ is among the nations ! How many nations are being attracted by the fruits of Christianity! And yet this is but the beginning of his glory. — P.
III. How and When to Accept the Invitation.— Vers. 6, 7. 6. Seek ye the Lord. The only way to find is to seek. Seek what? The Lord himself, in whom is all good; and himself in personal communion and love better than all the good he can bestow. While he may be found. Implying that there may be times when he cannot be found. But the occasion is in us, not in the Lord. We become hardened, we wander far away, we do so wrong that our hearts will not seek, and we are punished by the withdrawal of God from us, so that we may call in vain. Call ye upon him while he is near. In one sense God is always near us, but there is another kind of nearness. We may live in the same house with persons, and yet in sympathy, in mutual understanding and helpfulness we may be as far away as if a Chinese wall was built between us. We cannot help them because we cannot get near them. So at times God is nearer to us than at others; we feel his presence, the heart is receptive, it seems easy to pray, to love, to enjoy. Every person almost has these times when God seems near. Then, of all times, we should seek the Lord. -- P.
7. Let the wicked forsake his way. His evil course of life, “HIS THOUGHTS,” his purposes, wrong objects of pursuit, his selfish and sinful aims and plans of life; two phrases being designed to include all that pertains to the outer and inner life of man. He must make his heart right, and his outer life also; not his heart only, but his life; not his life only, but his heart no less. — Cowles. This verse is a continuation of the foregoing call, and at the same time an explanation of the way in which it was to be obeyed. — Alexander. No one can come to Christ unless he does forsake his wicked ways and thoughts. The
8. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9. For l as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10. For as the rain 2 cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater :
? Ps. 103:11. Deut. 32: 2. unrighteous man. Literally, the man of iniquity, every one who does wrong and belongs to the kingdom of evil, inwardly and secretly as well as in outwardly wicked ways. His thoughts. Not merely or primarily “ opinions,” views of things, but the moral purposes, the chosen objects for which one lives; the preferences, determinations which control all his subordinate activities. — Cowles. Let him return. Man in the Scriptures is everywhere described as having wandered away from the true God. Religion consists in return. ing to him for pardon, consolation, protection, and support. - Barnes. The farther we go in sin, the farther we are morally from God, in nature, in life, in sympathy, in aims. We must return, “ turn back again” to God, and come again toward his nature, life, work, and love. This is repentance, this is the new heart. And he will have mercy upon him. He is assured that however far away he has gone, however aggravated his sin, God will not reject him. This takes away one great hinderance to returning to God. And this is the first essential condition of restoring men to God. A religion without forgiveness is of necessity a failure in saving men. For sinners cannot come to God freely, as children, leaving the past behind them, without first having the assurance that God will receive and forgive. -- P. Our God. The God of his people, the Christian's God, the true God. Pardon. From Latin“ per," through, thoroughly, perfectly, and “donare," to give, to present; hence to completely give over the debt or penalty due; to treat a person as if he had not sinned. Abundantly. When we consider our sins, that they are as high as heaven, as deep as hell, as broad as the universe, as long as eternity, as many as the moments we have lived, we see the need of God's pardoning abundantly. Every one can be sunk out of sight in the infinite ocean of his love. - P.
IV. Reasons for Accepting the Invitation. — Vers. 8-11. FIRST REASON, — God's readiness to forgive and receive (ver. 7). SECOND REASON, — The richness and vastness of Goa's mercy.
8. For my thoughts. Plans, purposes, views, ideas. Are not your thoughts. The contrast here is not between the holiness of God's ways and the unholiness of the thoughts and ways of sinners, but between the largeness of his ways of grace, the vastness of his thoughts of mercy, and the selfishness of the sinner, or the low conceptions of the penitent when first he turns to God. This is the earliest and simplest exposition. “Let the sinner forsake his evil ways and turn to the Lord,” not as to one who is a hard master, but one who is rich in mercy, whose name is Love. As the depths of his wisdom, so the heights of his grace are unsearchable. — Birks. Neither are your ways. Thoughts put into action. My ways, saith the Lord. Do not judge of God as to what he will do to the sinner by what you see among men. How revengeful they are to those who have wronged them, how cruel to their enemies, how unforgiving of injuries, how slow to forget! Such is not God's way.
9. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, etc. This is a natural and beautiful illustration of the previous verse. All the wonderful revelations of astronomy, and the telescopic vision of worlds beyond worlds and suns beyond suns but show the greatness of the mercy and pardoning love of God. -- P. These verses affirm God's mercy to be great above man's rather than that his moral nature is unlike man's. — Cowles.
THIRD REASON, — The certainty of God's promises (vers. 10, 11). The thoughts and ways of God are wonderful even in the works of nature, but far more in the kingdom of grace. The rain, the snow, the fruitful soil, the herbs and fruit that clothe the earth with beauty and sustain the life of men, are emblems of deeper truths that affect the soul, and types of the powerful operation of the word of God. - Birks.
10. For as the rain cometh down. The hearts of men by nature are what the earth would be without the rains of heaven, - barren and sterile. But God says that his truth shall accomplish an effect similar to that produced by descending showers. It makes the earth fertile, beautiful, lovely. – Barnes. And the snow from heaven. The snow from heaven 11. So I shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void : but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
1 Isa. 54:9.
is of great use in various ways for promoting the fruitfulness of the earth. It is a great blessing when it falls on the almost treeless mountains, and then does not return again, but is distributed in the life-giving streams during the whole season. Were it not for the height of Hermon and Lebanon, so great as to preserve snow all the year round, many a stream would come as a devastating flood for a few hours or days, and then leave a dry and barren bed for the rest of the year. — Prof. I. H. Hall. Then in our more northern climates the snow is one of the most wonderful compensations in all the works of God. The cold that would destroy the roots in the ground during our long winters forms out of the air a covering of snow to protect them from its own ravages, and the colder the climate the thicker this blanket of snow. Then the snow brightens and cheers the long winter by covering up the brown earth with a bright reflector. And the snow is the treasure-house of spring. Rain would run off from the frozen ground, and when spring came, and the ground needed an unusual amount of water, it would be dry, or else there must be continual rain, while in the spring there is also especial need of sunshine. But the snow treasures the winter's supply of water, and keeps it till needed for the fresh life of spring. - P. And returneth not thither. This has no bearing on the ultimate re-ascent of the rain in the form of vapor (it will not return void, empty, ver. 11), but means “ will not be turned back, defeated.” It remains here working out God's beneficent purposes. — Cook. Maketh it bring forth and bud. It does the work God intended it to do. It does not fail of accomplishing God's purpose of blessing to man.
11. So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth. The word is not merely prophecy or promise, but everything that God utters either in the way of prediction or command. - Alexander. Here God's word, compared to the descending, fertilizing rain, admits of two possible applications : either (1) to his Gospel promises with reference to their sure fulfilment, or (2) to his Gospel truth in general, with reference to its moral power in renewing human hearts and regenerating the moral face of the world. Both are blended and involved in these verses. God's word of promise is to be fulfilled; his word of truth shall go forth and fall upon the face of the earth as the rain falls from heaven, and like it shall be gloriously fertilizing and renovating, till it has richly furnished seed for the sower and bread for the eater, and made the sin-cursed earth a second Eden. — Cowles. It shall not return unto me void. Empty of results, a failure. But it shall accomplish that which I please. The purposes for which God sent it forth. Whatever apparent failures there may be, however long the good seed lies dormant, it is sure to be successful in the end. - P. God's purposes accomplished in nature, the stability of the seasons, of seed-time and harvest, the perfect reliability of every law and force of nature, are the assurance and proof that God's spiritual word will be successful in its work and purposes. The kingdom of nature is the proof forever before our eyes of the success of the kingdom of heaven.
Here we can apply the words of ver. 10, "seed for the sower and bread for the eater.” God's word does two things: (1) it satisfies the hungry soul; it is indeed bread from heaven, giving strength and growth, and satisfying every desire of the soul. But (2) it furnishes the means by which the worker in God's vineyard can feed other souls. Here we get the seed we are to sow in the fields of the world; here only can we find the best seed, free from tares, and full of vitality. — P.
THE GOSPEL INVITATIONS. 1. Vers. 1, 2. “Whoever has any sense of need, or any longing of soul, has a special invitation from God to come and be supplied.”
2. The invitation is absolutely free to all. 3. Therefore we should extend this invitation to all, of every grade and every degree.
4. The best things of God cannot be bought. They can be received, but not purchased. Here the poor are as well off as the rich.
5. He who offers them has no need of us, nor of any returns we can make him. He makes us these proposals, not because he has occasion to sell, but because he has a disposition to give. — M. Henry.
6. The invitation is to the best things of God, and the things most needed by man, for his life, his comfort, and his salvation. 7. The soul of man is full of longings and desires, aspirations and needs.
8. The things of this world can never satisfy the hunger of the soul. They are like the salt waters of the sea, which increase instead of quenching the thirst.
9. Jesus Christ satisfies every hunger and thirst of the soul.
10. Vers. 4, 5. In particular he satisfies the longing for certainty in reference to the other world. He is God's witness, testifying to us the things he knows and has seen beyond the veil of death.
II. He also satisfies the need of a personal leader, - one to look up to, one who knows how to guide aright, one who is able to lead to victory, one whom we can love and trust.
12. There are times when God is specially near us, and when it is easier than at other times to become his disciples.
13. Vers. 6,7. If any person would come to the Lord, he must give up his old course and his old thoughts, and come into God's way of looking at life and duty. — S. S. Times.
14. Vers. 8-11. Nature is full of types and symbols of spiritual things, and is often the key by which we unlock the mysteries of the spiritual life, and see clearly the divinest truths.
15. The regular and unfailing operations of God in nature are the proof to us that God's word will be as certain as his works, and never fail of being accomplished.
16. God's word is like snow and rain. It is commanded to obey the sweet and pleasant law of the productive forces, and to do its work in a way extremely gradual, but also extremely cherishing and quickening. The mountain torrent, like the thunderbolt, is wild, furious, defiant, and powerful in voice; and yet reflection shows that the quieter forces of nature, with time for their ally, are far more thoroughly pervaded and more abundantly provided with power. One crash will send a railway train to destruction; but how many times the fearful power thus expended is consumed in propelling that same train a few hundreds of miles. So the rain, the snow, and the word are greatest in their quiet, gradual, productive effect; no destructive exhibition that would return void to its Author would, to a reflecting human view, be as great as that wonderful and wide-spread exercise of power which accomplisheth that which he pleaseth, and prospereth in the thing whereto he sent it. — S. S. Times.
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS. The three chapters of Isaiah, the 53d (our last lesson), the 54th, and the 55th (to-day's lesson), are all closely connected. It is well briefly to note this connection as a method of introducing the gracious invitation we study to-day.
SUBJECT, — GOD'S INVITATION TO MAN.
I. WHO ARE INVITED (vers. 1, 2). Dwell on the freeness and largeness of this invitation. Our weakness, poverty, needs, are not reasons why we should stay away, but why we should come to God. God loves to give. He gives as largely as men will take. Hence the only limitation is to those who hunger and thirst. Food is no attraction unless we are hungry.
II. TO WHAT THEY ARE INVITED (vers. 1-3). The living waters, – the best and choicest of food. Life is not only sustained, but made delightful. Set forth the attractiveness of religion.
Illustration from Scripture. The Gospel feast, as a wedding festival, the most delightful and attractive of feasts (Matt. 22:1-10).
Illustration. The House Beautiful in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, a most attractive and perfect description of the Christian church.
Illustration. One of Trench's poems, “The monk and the bird,” is the story of a monk who feared lest he should in heaven grow weary of the monotony of goodness and worship. One day, wandering in the woods, he heard a bird singing very charmingly, and stopped to listen, as he thought, for a short hour. But on returning to the convent he found that he had listened for two whole generations, and all the monks were now perfect strangers to him. So great are the delights of heaven, and of religion, which is a foretaste of heaven.
III. BY WHOM INVITED (vers. 4, 5). By Jesus, the witness and leader from heaven.
IV. WHAT WE SHOULD DO WITH THE INVITATION (vers. 6, 7). Accept, seek after God, forsake our selfish and evil ways. Note that there are times when it is more easy than at others to go to Christ, -in youth, under religious impressions, under special influences of the Holy Spirit, led by special providence. The best time is always Now.
Illustrations. (1) There are best times to plant, to transplant, to sow seeds, etc.
A point, we know not where,
To glory or despair.”
V. SOME REASONS WHY WE SHOULD ACCEPT THE INVITATION (vers. 7-11). (1) God's readiness to forgive. (2) His greater wisdom. (3) The certainty that he will keep his word.