THE GODLY EXILES ENCOURAGED . The scoffs which have long greeted those who believed God's promises and expected the restoration of Zion, will be put to shame. The silence in which Zion has lain will be broken; she will be once more a city "full of stirs, a tumultuous city" ( Isaiah 22:2 ). Suddenly, without any pains of travail, she will bring forth; and her offspring will be "a nation born at once" ( Isaiah 66:8 ). The godly exiles are called upon to rejoice at the prospect ( Isaiah 66:10 ), and promised peace and comfort in the restored city ( Isaiah 66:11-14 ).
I will extend peace to her like a river ; literally, I will direct peace to her , like a river. The waters of streams are in the East directed hither and thither by the agriculturist. God would have given his people "peace, as a river," long previously, had they permitted him ( Isaiah 48:18 ). And the glory of the Gentiles (comp. Isaiah 60:5 , Isaiah 60:11 ; Isaiah 61:6 , etc.). Like a flowing stream; literally, as an overflowing torrent. There is perhaps a contrast intended between the former and the latter times. In the former times Assyria had swept over Israel like an overwhelming flood to destroy her ( Isaiah 8:7 , Isaiah 8:8 ); now the glory of the whole Gentile world should similarly overflow and overwhelm, but only to enrich and exalt. Ye shall be borne upon her sides (see the comment on Isaiah 9:4 ). It is Jerusalem, and not the Gentile world (Delitzsch, Cheyne), that will thus care for and caress her children. The continuance of the metaphor from Isaiah 66:11 is marked by the repetition of the verb, "ye shall suck."
The blessedness of the restored Church.
The restored Church is to Isaiah the Church that will endure from the return of the captives to the end of the world. The later Jewish period and the entire Christian period are with him blended into one, and present themselves to him as constituting a single phase of the Church's life. Here he speaks to encourage the exiles, and dwells especially, though not exclusively, on the immediate blessings.
I. THE CHURCH WILL TEACH HER CHILDREN SOUND DOCTRINE . This is the special object of the existence of a Church, which claims to have a revealed "deposit" committed to it by God, and has, as the first end and aim of its being, to communicate this revelation to all who come within the sphere of its teaching. Doctrine is the milk on which the Church nourishes her children, and the restored Church will teach a doctrine which may well "satisfy" and which will be full of "consolation" (verse 11).
II. THE CHURCH WILL BE GLORIOUS , AND WILL IMPART TO HER CHILDREN OF HER GLORY . Though the Church is frequently, if not even continually, oppressed and downtrodden by the world, yet a glory attaches to her, whereof no persecution, no contempt, no contumely, can altogether deprive her. She is, whatever the world may think or say, "the holy Catholic Church," with Christ as her Founder, with Christ as her Lord and Master, with Christ as her King, the oldest and most venerable society in the Western world at any rate, and one in which membership cannot but ever be a high honour.
III. THE CHURCH WILL ENJOY , BY GOD 'S BLESSING , MUCH OUTWARD AND INWARD PEACE . Peace was our Lord's legacy to his Church: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you" ( John 14:27 ); and notwithstanding the facts of external persecutions, and internal quarrels and schisms, which occupy so large a space in Church histories, and so large a share in the thoughts of most Christians, it is nevertheless true that, on the whole, peace has flowed over the Church "like a river," and has flowed into the hearts of the bulk of her true members like an abounding stream. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked" ( Isaiah 57:21 ); but in the soul of the true Christian is a "peace that passeth all understanding," that wells up continually as from an inexhaustible fountain, and spreads around him an atmosphere of happiness.
IV. THE CHURCH WILL DERIVE HONOUR FROM THE COMING IN OF THE GENTILES . Further and further, as time goes on, does the light of Christianity shine, and more and more are the dark places of the earth illuminated. Long since did the Gentiles begin to come to the Church's light, and "kings to the brightness of her rising" ( Isaiah 60:3 ). But the process is not yet complete. Not a year passes but the gospel is carried into some new region by faithful and true missionaries, and the Lord adds to the Church fresh souls whom he wills to be saved. The incoming of the Gentiles does not now bring her wealth or worldly honor; but it is yet more for the true honour of the Church than it was when she converted the court and camp and people of the Caesars. For now her efforts bring her no worldly gain. She has to go out into the highways and hedges—the wild lauds of savage tribes or the yet wilder courts and allies of great towns—and to bring in the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind, the downtrodden, and the ignorant, and the criminal, and the houseless; to civilize and train them, and frequently to feed them and clothe them; thus following the commands of her blessed Master, and preparing for herself the high honour of hearing one day the glorious words, "Well done, good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord"
V. THE CHURCH WILL DERIVE CONTINUAL COMFORT FROM HER LORD . "I will not leave you comfortless," said the blessed Jesus; "I will come to you" ( John 14:18 ). In all their difficulties, in all their troubles, Christ comforts his people—comforts them with his Word of truth, comforts them with his gracious promises, comforts them with his presence in their hearts and souls. He comes to them, and makes his abode with them, and is a continual inward sustaining power, raising them above the cares and troubles and vexations of the world, inspiring in their hearts love and joy and peace.
Sympathy with the Church's joy.
I. SYMPATHY SHOULD BE FELT WITH THE PROSPERITY OF THE CHURCH . Zion stands for the Church of the ages; in her weal is wrapped up the weal of the world. If we love humanity, we love the institution created for the good and salvation of humanity. Every revival of religion at home, every fresh conquest in the fields of heathendom, affords fresh occasion of such joy. "Those who have no true joy when souls are born into the kingdom of God; when he pours down his Spirit, and in a revival of religion produces changes as sudden and transforming as if the earth were suddenly to pass from the desolation of winter to the verdure and bloom of summer; or when the gospel makes sudden and rapid advances in the heathen world,—have no true evidence that they love God or his cause. They have no religion. Such scenes are fitted to excite the highest joy and praise. They awaken deep interest in the bosoms of angels, and of God the Saviour, and they who love that God and Saviour will rejoice at such scenes, and mingle their joys and thanksgivings with those of the converted and saved" (Barnes).
II. THE IDEAL OF THE CHURCH . She is like a mother, and the blessings she imparts are like mother's milk (cf. Isaiah 49:23 ; Isaiah 60:16 ). "They who sympathize with her shall be nourished by the same truth and comforted with the same sources of consolation.'' She is a mother full of tenderness, even of caressing, towards her children; full also of sweetest power to comfort. Such is in every age the true ideal of the Church. All that is rich and sweet, deep and tender, should be associated with her; and in her the hearts of weary men should find full expansion and rest. Peace is also strongly associated with the Church; and that in the comprehensive sense in which the prophet uses the word—for all manner of prosperity ( Isaiah 9:6 , Isaiah 9:7 ; Isaiah 26:12 ; Isaiah 32:17 ; Isaiah 45:7 ; Isaiah 46:1-13 :16; Isaiah 52:7 ; Isaiah 54:13 ; Isaiah 55:12 ; Isaiah 57:19 ). The image seems to be that of a broad majestic river, like the Nile, overflowing its banks, and producing prosperity on every hand. Another image is that of the bones, dried up like the branches of a withered tree, now full of sap and vigour ( Isaiah 58:11 ; Proverbs 3:8 ; Proverbs 15:20 ; Proverbs 16:24 ). It is true religion which causes the family, the home, the ecclesiastical institution, the state, to flourish. Religion stimulates all that it touches—morality, art, political life; and decay of patriotism and of morals may be traced to the languor of religious life.—J.
Peace like a river.
"Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river." The prophet used the image of a river by intention, and in contrast with the figure of the sea. In ancient times, and Eastern lands, the sea was a terrible thing; so the prophet figures the wicked as like the "troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." The sea is restless, is storm-test, is a devourer. In ancient times there seemed to be no music in her ripple, her wave-swell, or the bass of her ceaseless moan. We feel quite differently, because for us the sea is almost conquered. It is a servant whom we may employ, and not a vague mysterious god whose trident we must fear. The state of mind and heart, the conditions of relation and circumstances, for those who know the redemption of God in Christ Jesus, will not go into any figures taken from the sea. Their peace is like a river. How does a river differ from a sea? We note that their peace is like a river; it is—
I. SUPPLIED FROM EXHAUSTLESS FOUNTAINS . The peace and joy of the worldly and the wicked can only be likened to the "crackling of thorns under a pot," very noisy, very short-lived. At the back of the good man's peace is the" God of all peace;" and "when he speaks peace, who shall make trouble?" Christ's peace is given to us. "My peace I give unto you." It—
II. FLOWS ON THROUGH A WHOLE LIFE . You cannot stop the rivers. Dam them up a little while, and they are sure to gather, and flood the land until they can find the stream again and flow on. So the cares and sorrows of life may seem to stop the good man's peace. But it cannot be; over and under and round the Divine waters will flow, find their way back to their channel, and flow on again. It—
III. REFRESHES AND BLESSES ALL THE LAND THROUGH WHICH IT FLOWS . The bordering fields are rich with grass and. flowers; the trees drink up its moisture, and hold out great leaf-clad branches, and the "little hills rejoice on every side." So the good man, the man of peace, the peace-lover, and the peace-maker, sweetens, soothes, sanctifies, all the society in which he takes his place. He makes a reviving, delightful atmosphere wherever he may be. We rejoice in him, even as thirsty lands rejoice in the sweet pure river, that day and night flows on unceasingly, past bank and brae.—R.T.