The Pulpit Commentary

Isaiah 49:1-26 (Isaiah 49:1-26)

- The Pulpit Commentary

Isaiah 49:13-26 (Isaiah 49:13-26)

ZION COMFORTED IN HER DESPONDENCY . While the future is thus glorious, both for the "Servant of the Lord" and for his people Israel, the present is gloom and misery. Zion—not here the city, but the people of God—desponds and says, "Jehovah has forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me" ( Isaiah 49:14 ). This burst of grief, though arising from weakness of faith, is forgiven by the compassion of God, and "afflicted" Israel is "comforted" and consoled through the remainder of the chapter ( Isaiah 49:15-26 ).

- The Pulpit Commentary

Isaiah 49:22 (Isaiah 49:22)

I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles . The new children—the new converts—are to come from the Gentiles; the fresh "sons" and "daughters" will be carried by the nations in their arms, and by the peoples upon their shoulders. It is usual to expound this and parallel passages ( Isaiah 60:4 ; Isaiah 66:20 ) of the return of the Jews to their own land by favour of the Gentiles, either when the decree of Cyrus went forth, or at some still future period. But perhaps the children intended are foster-children , actual Gentiles, whom their parents will bring to baptism. In the Assyrian sculptures, mothers are constantly represented as carrying their children upon their shoulders .

- The Pulpit Commentary

Isaiah 49:14-26 (Isaiah 49:14-26)

Despondency comforted.

I. THE TEMPTATION . "Jehovah hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me." The temptation is to ascribe the cause of feeling in our own mind to a Being outside us; forgetting that "'tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus." It does not follow, because our hearts are dry, that the fountain of comfort is sealed. It does not follow, because we feel ourselves lonely, that the good God has deserted us; nor, because we do not realize the Divine presence, that God has forgotten us. But the mind naturally leans on signs and symbols and outward manifestations. The act of faith—so simple to speak about—the "walk by faith, not by sight," is really most difficult. There are times when even the noblest of mankind are unequal to such an effort. Reason will hardly meet the case. "He that despairs," it has been said, "limits an infinite Power to a finite apprehension, and measures Providence by his own little contracted model." True; and the truth is not consoling. The sense and assurance of love alone can console.

II. DESPONDENCY MET . Not by censure, not by argument, but by the assurance of uninterrupted and undying love. It is a Divine love; surpassing, therefore, the noblest manifestations of human love—that of father or moth, or. A woman may, like a Lady Macbeth, allow some mightier passion to get the better even of maternal love. But there is no mightier passion in the heart of God than the love to his children. Human memory is infirm; but God cannot forget. The picture of Israel is graven on the palms of his hands. "It is indelible, like the sacred marks of devotees. Jehovah inverts the usual order. A worshipper needs a consecrating mark to remind him of his relation to God. Zion's God, though not needing such reminder, has condescended to grave Jerusalem on the palms of his hands. The objects of human interest are changing; God concentrates his thought on his people. "Thy walls are ever before me." The visible city was indeed destroyed, but God had his eye upon the preservation of the spiritual building for eternity. "Dost thou think that that is the city of which I said, 'I engraved thee on the palms of my hands'? Nay; that building is not now built in the midst of you. It is that which shall be revealed in my presence; it was prepared from the time when I meditated to produce a Paradise, and I showed it to Adam before he sinned; when he cast away my command, it was removed from him. And now, lo! it hath been kept by me, even as Paradise." Men ' s thoughts decline to the material; God is concerned with the ideal and eternal. And in this truth lies profound encouragement. Forms decay, institutions come down with a mighty crash; the building of the ages is ever going on. And it must go on by means of the labours of Zion's children. The desolate city will yet be clothed with ornaments like a lonely bride; and she who has been as a desolate widow will have a family too numerous to be contained within present narrow bounds.

III. UNFAILING HOPE IN JEHOVAH . At his bidding, and with the hearty aid of the Gentiles, the exiles shall return to their own houses, as the foster-father carries the child in the bosom of his garment. The custom is Oriental (see on 2 Kings 10:1-36 ). The meaning is that the princes of the Gentiles shall favour and respect Israel. Some fulfilment may be seen in the conduct of the Persian kings, of Alexander and his successors towards the Jews; another kind of fulfilment in the patronage of the Church by Constantine. But the full accomplishment of the prediction remains for the future. But incredulity breaks in. "Can the tyrant be made to disgorge his prey?" This shall take place. Jehovah shall appear in battle-might, as Avenger and Hero of Jacob, and the foes shall be put to shame. Jehovah—those that hope in him shall not be ashamed. The strain that began with the mutterings of despondency ends in the triumph of confidence and exultation. Hope in the Eternal—this must be our sure stay in the times of the nation's, the Church's, the individual's need. Our conduct cannot rise higher than our hopes, no more than the water in the pipe can rise higher than the spring-head. He who lives by the hopes of the present and passing world, acts and suffers with a strength that is less than might be his. Nothing in this world can support us against trials which threaten the loss of our worldly all. We can only be borne up by something mightier and greater than this world, not to be found in it, but in the Eternal himself.—J.

- The Pulpit Commentary