The Pulpit Commentary

Isaiah 60:1-22 (Isaiah 60:1-22)


A SONG OF TRIUMPH UPON GLORIFIED ZION . This is rather a detached poem than an integral portion of a book. It is complete in itself, and but slightly connected, either with what precedes or with what follows. Delitzsch and Mr. Cheyne regard it as a "counterpart" to the magnificent ode in Isaiah 47:1-15 , which describes the fall and ruin of Babylon. It is composed of five stanzas, of nearly equal length:

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Isaiah 60:5-9 (Isaiah 60:5-9)

The second stanza. Zion's wealth.

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Isaiah 60:7 (Isaiah 60:7)

Kedar … Nebaioth . Arab tribes, like the Midianites and Sabaeans. (With respect to Kedar, see the comment on Isaiah 21:15 .) "Nebaioth" stands for the tribe called by the Greeks and Romans the "Nabataeans," and by the Assyrians the "Nabaiti," who were one of the most powerful in the peninsula. About me. 645 Nathan, their king, warred with Asshur-bani-pal. During the Maccabee period we find the Nabataeans in alliance with the Jews, and giving them some valuable assistance (l Macc. 5:25; 9:35). The locality of the Nabataeans was northern Arabia, or the tract lying between the Elanitic Gulf and the Lower Euphrates. The wealth of the Nabataeans and the Kedarenes was in their flocks and herds; and this wealth, it is prophesied, they will place, at the disposal of Israel . Mine altar … the house of my glory . The renovated Zion contains a glorious temple, and the temple has in it an altar, to which the sheep and rams are brought—not, however, to be offered in sacrifice, but to be presented to God and become a part of the wealth of the Church.

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Isaiah 60:1-22 (Isaiah 60:1-22)

The characteristics of the final Church of the Redeemer.

Isaiah's teaching on this subject divides itself under three heads.

I. THE CHURCH SHALL BE RADIANT WITH A LIGHT DERIVED FROM HER LORD . The radiance spoken of (verses 1-3) is a radiance of moral and spiritual goodness. The absolute moral perfection of the Son of man can, of course, be but faintly and feebly imitated by his followers. Still, they are bound to imitate him; for he "left them an example, that they should follow his steps" ( 1 Peter 2:21 ). And they are helped in their imitation by their Lord himself, who infuses into them of his own righteousness, and gives them "grace for grace" ( John 1:16 ). And the result is that ultimately they, even in this life, more or less bear his image and are made like to him. "We all," says St. Paul, "with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" ( 2 Corinthians 3:18 ). And the resemblance will be greater hereafter. For in their final state they will be cleansed from all stain of sin.

II. THE CHURCH SHALL BE A GREAT NATION , A VAST COMMUNITY , WHICH SHALL FILL THE NEW EARTH AND NEW HEAVENS . The "little one" was to "become a thousand," and the "small one a strong nation" (verse 22). The Gentiles from every quarter were to flock in (verses 3, 4, 14), and haste to the brightness of Zion's rising. Distinctions of race were to be abolished, and Zion's gates were to stand open always, to receive all comers (verse 11). The result was to be a vast influx; and in the ultimate kingdom of the Redeemer would be contained people from every nation under heaven. Besides the mystical hundred and forty-four thousand, representative of the twelve tribes of Israel, St. John saw in the apocalyptic vision "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, which stood before the throne, and before the Lamb" in the heavenly kingdom, "clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands" ( Revelation 7:9 ).

III. THE CHURCH SHALL CEASE TO HAVE ENEMIES OR SUFFER VIOLENCE , AND SHALL ENJOY EVERLASTING PEACE . When the pit has closed on the ungodly, and Satan has been bound and shut up, and her sins have not only been forgiven, but purged away ( Isaiah 1:25 ), then the Church will find herself kept in perfect peace, with no trouble either from within or from without, with no enemy to vex her, with no faults to mourn (verse 20), with no temptations against which to struggle. Rest and peace are main objects of human desire; only the peace, to be satisfactory, must be a prolonged quiet energy, instinct with consciousness and life. Such an energy is the reverential and loving adoration which the blessed souls render continually to their present God, as they cast their crowns before his throne, and cry, "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb" ( Revelation 7:10 ). The Divine presence will be a perpetually present joy, contenting those who live in it, and causing them to feel an eternal peaceful delight.

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Isaiah 60:1-14 (Isaiah 60:1-14)

The rebuilding of the temple.

I. THE DAWN OF THE NEW DAY . Zion, lying like a prostrate woman on the ground, is bidden to arise, because the glory of her God has dawned upon her. And this in contrast to the thick darkness enwrapping the earth in general. This darkness means alienation from God. As the Israelites had light in their dwellings when thick darkness was on the land of Egypt, so again now. Israel is the "central and mediatorial people." Here a community of God; yonder a world exiled from God. The contrast continues, and ever must continue. "We are of God; the whole world lieth in the evil one." The glory of the pure Church is nothing but a reflection from the Eternal. He is a Sun to enlighten the understanding, open the eyes of the mind, thrill the heart with love. When through the faithlessness of the Church that splendour fades from her, there are no conversions, there is little interest in religion. When it reappears, nations set forth to that light, kings to the brilliance of that dawn.

II. THE RETURN FROM EXILE AND INFLUX OF WEALTH . Here the prophet exults in the contemplation of Arabian wealth flowing into the holy city. Their gifts are viewed as religions, as sacrificial,—consecrated to God. "The wealth of the heathen world shall be consecrated to the service of the Church. In part this has been the case. No small part of the great wealth of the Roman empire flowed into the Christian Church. The time will come when the wealth of India and China, and of Africa, and of the entire world, shall be devoted to the service of God."

III. THE NEW JERUSALEM . The walls shall be raised by the willing hands of strangers, probably the converted heathen, whose kings shall become servants of Zion; an endless stream of caravans shall flow through the open gates. And "eager to minister to Israel, the far-off nations force their reluctant chiefs to join them." For the very existence of these nations must depend on their organic connection with Israel. The Prophet Zechariah significantly declares that the nations who refuse to come up to Jerusalem to worship shall not enjoy the blessing of rain ( Zechariah 14:17 , Zechariah 14:18 ), which means they must perish, and their land become desolate. Whatever is said of the territory is said of the nation. To Zion, thus effulgent in her revived glory, shall be attracted also the beauty of natural products—the splendour of the trees of Lebanon, that the courts of the temple and the whole city may be decorated in honour of Jehovah. The oppressors, once so hated and feared, will come in the attitude of crouching suppliants, and they will call the city, "City of Jehovah, Zion of the Holy One of Israel." This magnificent picture may be construed:

1 . As a picture of the ideal Church in relation to mankind. True, in this imperfect state, the prophecy can be but imperfectly realized. The glorious Church, without spot or blemish, remains the dream of lofty prophets and apostles. But without such dreams religious life must become despondent and dreary, fiat and sad. While we listen to such oracles, translate them into song and set them to music, we purify and uplift our hearts. Sursum corda ! We rise a little nearer to heaven, or bring heaven a little nearer to earth.

2 . As a picture of heaven. There stands the heavenly temple; thither a vast multitude has congregated; and there a vast fund of spiritual riches has accumulated. Prophecy and religious poetry in general are but illusory enchantments unless they point to a reality in that state unseen.—J.

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Isaiah 60:1-22 (Isaiah 60:1-22)

The Church triumphant.

With other eyes than ours the Jews must have read these glowing words. They saw in them a fascinating picture of a triumphant people; they saw the Jerusalem of their knowledge and of their love made strong and glorious in some coming time. Their patriotic hopes were kindled and must have been raised to a white heat of intensity as they dwelt on the gladdening, transporting promise. In the midst of surrounding darkness covering the whole earth ( Isaiah 60:2 ), Zion shines forth with a light which proceeds from nothing less than the Divine Presence itself ( Isaiah 60:1 , Isaiah 60:2 ). Attracted by its radiant beams, her exiled sons and daughters return from the strange lands whither they have gone into captivity, while from every quarter the wealth of Gentile nations flows to her feet. She trembles for very joy, her heart expands with the fulness of its emotion, as she welcomes her children to her heart, as she receives these treasures into her gates ( Isaiah 60:4-6 ). The produce of other lands is laid on the altar of Jehovah, and brightens the lustre of that glorious house ( Isaiah 60:7 ). Precious tribute is brought from distant coasts ( Isaiah 60:9 ), and they who once contemptuously humiliated her, now build up the walls of her strength and find their safety in her service ( Isaiah 60:10-12 , Isaiah 60:14 ). In place of saddest desolation and signs of Divine departure shall be proofs of national supremacy and the recovered favour of the Lord ( Isaiah 60:15 , Isaiah 60:16 ). The excellences of earlier days will be eclipsed by the future splendour; the rude arm of force shall give place to the gentle hand of righteousness; the salvation of Jehovah shall surround the city; and songs of praise shall be on the lips of the citizens ( Isaiah 60:17 , Isaiah 60:18 ). The light of noon in all its radiance is but a picture of the glory which will rest upon her in the abiding presence of Jehovah; and joy, rectitude, and enlargement will be her blessed portion ( Isaiah 60:20-22 ). There may be intervening days before this is realized; but when the hour is reached for it to come, the Lord will hasten its arrival. But "God fulfils himself in many ways;" he redeems his promises to us otherwise than we hope and even confidently expect. Jerusalem has never attained, and is not likely to realize, the prosperity and power here depicted; in some other way than that of national glory must we look for the fulfilment of this brilliant vision. We shall find it in the triumph of the Church of Christ, of the "Israel of God," which the Divine Redeemer has lived and died to establish. The features of this "golden age," as thus realized, are indicated in the text; they are—

I. THE EXALTATION OF THE DIVINE . Its glory will be manifestly the "glory of the Lord" ( Isaiah 60:1 , Isaiah 60:2 ). And everything is to work for the exaltation of Christ ( Isaiah 60:20 , Isaiah 60:21 ). Whatever does not aim at this or make for this is alien, intrusive, harmful.

II. THE POSSESSION OF VITAL PRINCIPLES . ( Isaiah 60:12 .) All that opposes itself to those truths and principles of which the Church of Christ is the exponent and depository will fail and perish.

III. PERFECT ACCESSIBILITY . ( Isaiah 60:11 .) Its gates are never to be shut. The Church which is exclusive, the Christian society which is repelling, the minister or messenger of Christ who is forbidding, the message which does not welcome the wandering, bears on the face of it a decisive condemnation.

IV. TRIUMPH OVER ITS BITTEREST ENEMIES . ( Isaiah 60:10 , Isaiah 60:14 , Isaiah 60:15 .) Those who smote and scorned shall acknowledge its heavenly origin, and their lips shall utter the redeeming truth; their own hands shall build the walls of Zion.

V. THE INCOMING OF THE REMOTEST . ( Isaiah 60:6 , Isaiah 60:8 , Isaiah 60:9 .)

1 . Those most distant in space. They shall seek entrance who come from furthest latitudes, whose language, laws, customs, are most strange.

2 . Those most distant in spirit—they who have been farthest from God, dwelling in the thickest and grossest darkness with which the land has been covered ( Isaiah 60:2 ).

VI. LAYING ALL THINGS UNDER TRIBUTE . NO t only the glory of nature ( Isaiah 60:18 ), but also the greatness of mankind ( Isaiah 60:16 ); fairest and finest fruits of the field, and the proudest products of society, shall minister to its strength and promote its cause.

VII. SPECIAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE KINGDOM AND GLORY OF CHRIST . ( Isaiah 60:7 .) As the flocks and herds of Kedar and Nabathea would add something, by their novelty and peculiarity, to the glories of the temple; so will the especial characteristics of Christian converts, of the Englishman, of the Italian, of the Indian, of the Chinaman, etc; contribute to the glories of the Church: so will "the imagination of the East, the passion of the South, the vigour of the North, and the enterprise of the West," bring their own tribute to the glory of Christ.

VIII. THE PREVALENCE OF PEACE . ( Isaiah 60:17 , Isaiah 60:18 .)

IX. THE REIGN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS . ( Isaiah 60:17 , Isaiah 60:21 .)

X. EVER - ENLARGING PROSPERITY . ( Isaiah 60:17 , Isaiah 60:22 .)

The special lessons to be learnt from this description of the Church triumphant are:

1 . That in all matters pertaining to the kingdom of God, it is his glory that should be sedulously kept in view.

2 . That the Church of Christ must expect to prove an attractive power in the midst of encompassing evil.

3 . That it must address itself to the restoration and acquisition of those that seem least likely to be gained.

4 . That each community should consider what is the particular contribution it can bring to adorn the doctrine and strengthen the cause of its Master.

5 . That the Church should be incessantly active in its holy mission.

6 . That it should take care that moral Had spiritual excellency marks it course as well as numerical growth and the brilliancy of its conquests.

7 . That it must maintain the attitude of devout expectancy and holy gratitude, remembering that all its strength and hope are in "the Lord, its Saviour and its Redeemer."—C.

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Isaiah 60:7 (Isaiah 60:7)

God's presence the glory of God's house.

"I will glorify the house of my glory" (comp. Haggai 2:7-8 ; Malachi 3:1 ). Rendered literally, the sentence would read, "My house of beauty will I beautify." Foreshadowings of this spiritual truth are found in God's presence making the charm of the Eden-home; God's presence abiding as a glory between the cherubim in the holy of holies; and God's presence coming in the symbol of the descending cloud on Solomon's temple. It was the great glory of Herod's restored temple, that the God-Man walked and worshipped and taught within its courts. It is the exceeding great glory of the Church, the spiritual temple, that God the Spirit comes to it, dwells in it, is the inspiration of it, and glorifies it. There is no glory in a shrine without the Deity. The sunshine, streaming through the windows of the old cathedral, fills the whole place with wondrous and solemnizing lights and shades; and the sunshine of the Divine presence fills the heart and the sanctuary with the only true glory and beauty and joy. "The Church is the house of God's glory, where he manifests his glory to his people, and receives that homage by which they do honour to him."

I. WE OUGHT TO GLORIFY GOD 'S HOUSE . One idea of the text is that the restored temple at Jerusalem would be honoured by abundant supplies of sacrifices. That old way of worshipping has given place to spiritual forms, such as prayer and praise and instruction; then we should give the best possible attention to these, that in so doing we may honour God's house. The best song, the best gifts, the best architecture, all should be devoted to the glorifying of God's house. And the best, most regular, most reverent, attendance at public worship may be our way of honouring God. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord." That is the way to glorify God for his goodness.

II. GOD ALONE CAN TRULY GLORIFY GOD 'S HOUSE . If he is not present, accepting the worship, inspiring the worship, and sanctifying the worship, then it is all vain show, empty form, deluding ceremony. Write up "Ichabod," for the "glory is departed." God's presence is known in the enduement of his ministers with righteousness, and in the making of his chosen people joyful.—R.T.

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