This whole chapter is all to the same purport, all in the same strain; it is a part of God's covenant with his church, which is spoken of in the last verse of the foregoing chapter, and the blessings here promised are the fruits of the word and Spirit there promised. The long continuance of the church, even unto the utmost ages of time, was there promised, and here the large extent of the church, even unto the utmost regions of the earth; and both these tend to the honour of the Redeemer. It is here promised, I. That the church shall be enlightened and shone upon, ver. 1, 2. II. That it shall be enlarged and great additions made to it, to join in the service of God, ver. 3-8. III. That the new converts shall be greatly serviceable to the church and to the interests of it, ver. 9-13. IV. That the church shall be in great honour and reputation among men, ver. 14-16. V. That it shall enjoy a profound peace and tranquility, ver. 17, 18. VI. That, the members of it being all righteous, the glory and joy of it shall be everlasting, ver. 19-22. Now this has some reference to the peaceable and prosperous condition which the Jews were sometimes in after their return out of captivity into their own land; but it certainly looks further, and was to have its full accomplishment in the kingdom of the Messiah, the enlargement of that kingdom by the bringing in of the Gentiles into it, and the spiritual blessings in heavenly things by Christ Jesus with which it should be enriched, and all these earnests of eternal joy and glory.
The Extension of the Church.
B. C. 706.
1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. 3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. 4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. 5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. 6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord. 7 All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory. 8 Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?
It is here promised that the gospel temple shall be very lightsome and very large.
I. It shall be very lightsome: Thy light has come. When the Jews returned out of captivity they had light and gladness, and joy and honour; they then were made to know the Lord and to rejoice in his great goodness; and upon both accounts their light came. When the Redeemer came to Zion he brought light with him, he himself came to be a light. Now observe, 1. What this light is, and whence it springs: The Lord shall arise upon thee (v. 2), the glory of the Lord (v. 1) shall be seen upon thee. God is the father and fountain of lights, and it is in his light that we shall see light. As far as we have the knowledge of God in us, and the favour of God towards us, our light has come. When God appears to us, and we have the comfort of his favour, then the glory of the Lord rises upon us as the morning light; when he appears for us, and we have the credit of his favour, when he shows us some token for good and proclaims his favour to us, then his glory is seen upon us, as it was upon Israel in the pillar of cloud and fire. When Christ arose as the sun of righteousness, and in him the day-spring from on high visited us, then the glory of the Lord was seen upon us, the glory as of the first-begotten of the Father. 2. What a foil there shall be to this light: Darkness shall cover the earth; but, though it be gross darkness, darkness that might be felt, like that of Egypt, that shall overspread the people, yet the church, like Goshen, shall have light at the same time. When the case of the nations that have not the gospel shall be very melancholy, those dark corners of the earth being full of the habitations of cruelty to poor souls, the state of the church shall be very pleasant. 3. What is the duty which the rising of this light calls for: "Arise, shine; not only receive this light, and" (as the margin reads it) "be enlightened by it, but reflect this light; arise and shine with rays borrowed from it." The children of light ought to shine as lights in the world. If God's glory be seen upon us to our honour, we ought not only with our lips, but in our lives, to return the praise of it to his honour, Matt. v. 16; Phil. ii. 15.
II. It shall be very large. When the Jews were settled again in their own land, after their captivity, many of the people of the land joined themselves to them; but it does not appear that there ever was any such numerous accession to them as would answer the fulness of this prophecy; and therefore we must conclude that this looks further, to the bringing of the Gentiles into the gospel church, not their flocking to one particular place, though under that type it is here described. There is no place now that is the centre of the church's unity; but the promise respects their flocking to Christ, and coming by faith, and hope, and holy love, into that society which is incorporated by the charter of his gospel, and of the unity of which he only is the centre--that family which is named from him, Eph. iii. 15. The gospel church is expressly called Zion and Jerusalem, and under that notion all believers are said to come to it (Heb. xii. 22. You have come unto Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem), which serves for a key to this prophecy, Eph. ii. 19. Observe,
1. What shall invite such multitudes to the church: "They shall come to thy light and to the brightness of thy rising, v. 3. They shall be allured to join themselves to thee," (1.) "By the light that shines upon thee," the light of the glorious gospel, which the churches hold forth, in consequence of which they are called golden candlesticks. This light which discovers so much of God and his good will to man, by which life and immortality are brought to light, this shall invite all the serious well-affected part of mankind to come and join themselves to the church, that they may have the benefit of this light to inform them concerning truth and duty. (2.) "By the light with which thou shinest." The purity and love of the primitive Christians, their heavenly-mindedness, contempt of the world, and patient sufferings, were the brightness of the church's rising, which drew many into it. The beauty of holiness was the powerful attractive by which Christ had a willing people brought to him in the day of his power, Ps. cx. 3.
2. What multitudes shall come to the church. Great numbers shall come, Gentiles (or nations) of those that are saved, as it is expressed with allusion to this, Rev. xxi. 24. Nations shall be discipled (Matt. xxviii. 19), and even kings, men of figure, power, and influence, shall be added to the church. They come from all parts (v. 4): Lift up thy eyes round about, and see them coming, devout men out of every nation under heaven, Acts ii. 5. See how white the fields are already to the harvest, John iv. 35. See them coming in a body, as one man, and with one consent: They gather themselves together, that they may strengthen one another's hands, and encourage one another. Come, and let us go, ch. ii. 3. "They come from the remotest parts: They come to thee from far, having heard the report of thee, as the queen of Sheba, or seen thy star in the east, as the wise men, and they will not be discouraged by the length of the journey from coming to thee. There shall come some of both sexes. Sons and daughters shall come in the most dutiful manner, as thy sons and thy daughters, resolved to be of thy family, to submit to the laws of thy family and put themselves under the tuition of it. They shall come to be nursed at thy side, to have their education with thee from their cradle." The church's children must be nursed at her side, not sent out to be nursed among strangers; there, where alone the unadulterated milk of the word is to be had, must the church's new-born babes be nursed, that they may grow thereby, 1 Pet. ii. 1, 2. Those that would enjoy the dignities and privileges of Christ's family must submit to the discipline of it.
3. What they shall bring with them and what advantage shall accrue to the church by their accession to it. Those that are brought into the church by the grace of God will be sure to bring all they are worth in with them, which with themselves they will devote to the honour and service of God and do good with in their places. (1.) The merchants shall write holiness to the Lord upon their merchandise and their hire, as ch. xxiii. 18. "The abundance of the sea, either the wealth that is fetched out of the sea (the fish, the pearls) or that which is imported by sea, shall all be converted to thee and to thy use." The wealth of the rich merchants shall be laid out in works of piety and charity. (2.) The mighty men of the nations shall employ their might in the service of the church: "The forces, or troops, of the Gentiles shall come unto thee, to guard thy coasts, strengthen thy interests, and, if occasion be, to fight thy battles." The forces of the Gentiles had often been against the church, but now they shall be for it; for as God, when he pleases, can, and, when we please him, will, make even our enemies to be at peace with us (Prov. xvi. 7), so, when Christ overcomes the strong man armed, he divides his spoils, and makes that to serve his interests which had been used against them, Luke xi. 22. (3.) The wealth imported by land-carriage, as well as that by sea, shall be made use of in the service of God and the church (v. 6): The camels and dromedaries that bring gold and incense (gold to make the golden altar of and incense and sweet perfumes to burn upon it), those of Midian and Sheba, shall bring the richest commodities of their country, not to trade with, but to honour God with, and not in small quantities, but camel-loads of them. This was in part fulfilled when the wise men of the east (perhaps some of the countries here mentioned), drawn by the brightness of the star, came to Christ, and presented to him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Matt. ii. 11. (4.) Great numbers of sacrifices shall be brought to God's altar, acceptable sacrifices, and, though brought by Gentiles, they shall find acceptance, v. 7. Kedar was famous for flocks, and probably the fattest rams were those of Nebaioth; these shall come up with acceptance on God's altar. God must be served and honoured with what we have, according as he has blessed us, and with the best we have. This was fulfilled when by the decree of Darius the governors beyond the rivers (perhaps of some of these countries) were ordered to furnish the temple at Jerusalem with bullocks, rams, and lambs, for the burnt-offering of the God of heaven, Ezra vi. 9. It had a further accomplishment, and we trust will have, in the bringing in of the fulness of the Gentiles to the church, which is called the sacrificing or offering up of the Gentiles unto God, Rom. xv. 16. The flocks and rams are precious souls; for they are said to minister to the church, and to come up as living sacrifices, presenting themselves to God by a reasonable service on his altar, Rom. xii. 1.
4. How God shall be honoured by the increase of the church and the accession of such numbers to it. (1.) They shall intend the honour of God's name in it. When they bring their gold and incense it shall not be to show the riches of their country, nor to gain applause to themselves for piety and devotion, but to show forth the praises of the Lord, v. 6. Our greatest services and gifts to the church are not acceptable further than we have an eye to the glory of God in them. And this must be our business in our attendance on public ordinances, to give unto the Lord the glory due to his name; for therefore, as these here, we are called out of darkness into light, that we should show forth the praises of him that called us, 1 Pet. ii. 9. (2.) God will advance the honour of his own name by it; so he has said (v. 7): I will glorify the house of my glory. 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. And it is for the glory of this house, and of him that keeps house there, both that the Gentiles shall bring their offerings to it and that they shall be accepted therein.
5. How the church shall herself be affected with this increase of her numbers, v. 5. (1.) She shall be in a transport of joy upon this account: "Thou shalt see and flow together" (or flow to and fro), "as in a pleasing agitation about it, surprised at it, but extremely glad of it." (2.) There shall be a mixture of fear with this joy: "Thy heart shall fear, doubting whether it be lawful to go in to the uncircumcised and eat with them." Peter was so impressed with this fear that he needed a vision and voice from heaven to help him over it, Acts x. 28. But, (3.) "When this fear is conquered thy heart shall be enlarged in holy love, so enlarged that thou shalt have room in it for all the Gentile converts; thou shalt not have such a narrow soul as thou hast had nor affections so confined within the Jewish pale." When God intends the beauty and prosperity of his church he gives this largeness of heart and an extensive charity. (4.) These converts flocking to the church shall be greatly admired (v. 8): Who are these that fly as a cloud? Observe, [1.] How the conversion of souls is here described. It is flying to Christ and to his church, for thither we are directed; it is flying like a cloud, though in great multitudes, so as to overspread the heavens, yet with great unanimity, all as one cloud. They shall come with speed, as a cloud flying on the wings of the wind, and come openly, and in the view of all, their very enemies beholding them (Rev. xi. 12), and yet not able to hinder them. They shall fly as doves to their windows, in great flights, many together; they fly on the wings of the harmless dove, which flies low, denoting their innocency and humility. They fly to Christ, to the church, to the word and ordinances, as doves, by instinct, to their own windows, to their own home; thither they fly for refuge and shelter when they are pursued by the birds of prey, and thither they fly for rest when they have been wandering and are weary, as Noah's dove to the ark. [2.] How the conversion of souls is here admired. It is spoken of with wonder and pleasure: Who are these? We have reason to wonder that so many flock to Christ: when we see them all together we shall wonder whence they all came. And we have reason to admire with pleasure and affection those that do flock to him: Who are these? How excellent, how amiable are they! What a pleasant sight is it to see poor souls hastening to Christ, with a full resolution to abide with him!
The Enlargement of the Church.
B. C. 706.
9 Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee. 10 And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. 11 Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. 12 For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. 13 The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. 14 The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
The promises made to the church in the foregoing verses are here repeated, ratified, and enlarged upon, designed still for the comfort and encouragement of the Jews after their return out of captivity, but certainly looking further, to the enlargement and advancement of the gospel church and the abundance of spiritual blessings with which it shall be enriched.
I. God will be very gracious and propitious to them. We must begin with that promise, because thence all the rest take rise. The sanctuary that was desolate begins to be repaired when God causes his face to shine upon it, Dan. ix. 17. All the favour that the people of God find with men is owing to the light of God's countenance and his favour to them (v. 10): "All shall now make court to thee, for in my wrath I smote thee, while thou wast in captivity" (and the sufferings of the church, especially by its corruptions, decays, and divisions, against which these promises will be its relief, are sad tokens of God's displeasure), "But now in my favour have I had mercy on thee, and therefore have all this mercy in store for thee."
II. Many shall be brought into the church, even from far countries (v. 9): Surely the isles shall wait for me, shall welcome the gospel, and shall attend God with their praises for it and their ready subjection to it. The ships of Tarshish, transport-ships, shall lie ready to carry members from far distant regions to the church, or (which is equivalent) to carry the ministers of the church to remote parts, to preach the gospel and to bring in souls to join themselves to the Lord. Observe, 1. Who are brought--thy sons, that is, such as are designed to be so, those children of God that are scattered abroad, John xi. 52. 2. What they shall bring with them. They live at such a distance that they cannot bring their flocks and their rams; but, like those who lived remote from Jerusalem (who, when they came up to worship at the feast, because they could not bring their tithes in kind, turned them into money), they shall bring their silver and gold with them. Note, When we give up ourselves to God we must with ourselves give up all we have to him. If we honour him with our spirits, we shall honour him with our substance. 3. To whom they shall devote and dedicate themselves and all they are worth--to the name of the Lord thy God, to God as the Lord of all and the church's God and King, even to the Holy One of Israel (whom Israel worships as a Holy One, in the beauty of holiness), because he has glorified thee. Note, The honour God puts upon his church and people should not only engage us to honour them, but invite us to join ourselves to them. We will go with you, for God is with you, Zech. viii. 23.
III. Those that come into the church shall be welcome; for so spacious is the holy city that though, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, yet still there is room. "Therefore thy gates shall be open continually (v. 11), not only because thou hast no reason to fear thy enemies, but because thou hast reason to expect thy friends." It is usual with us to leave our doors open, or leave some one ready to open them, all night, if we look for a child or a guest to come in late. Note, Christ is always ready to entertain those that come to him, is never out of the way, nor can they ever come unseasonably; the gate of mercy is always open, night and day, or shall soon be opened to those that knock. Ministers, the door-keepers, must be always ready to admit those that offer themselves to the Lord. God not only keeps a good house in his church, but he keeps open house, that at any time, by the preaching of the word, in season and out of season, the forces of the Gentiles, and the kings or commanders of those forces, may be brought into the church. Lift up your heads, O you gates! and let such welcome guests as these come in.
IV. All that are about the church shall be made in some way or other serviceable to it. Though dominion is far from being founded in men's grace, it is founded in God's; and he that made the inferior creatures useful to man will make the nations of men useful to the church. The earth helped the woman. All things are for your sakes. So here (v. 10), "Even the sons of strangers, that have neither knowledge of thee nor kindness for thee, that have always been aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, even they shall build up thy wall, and their kings shall in that and other things ministers unto thee and not think it any disparagement to them to do so." This was fulfilled when the king of Persia, and the governors of the provinces by his order, were aiding and assisting Nehemiah in building the wall about Jerusalem. Rather than Jerusalem's walls shall lie still in ruins, the sons of the stranger shall be raised up to build them. Even those that do not belong to the church may be a protection to it. And the greatest of men should not think it below them to minister to the church, but rejoice that they are in a capacity, and have a heart, to do it any service. Nay, it is the duty of all to do what they can in their places to advance the interests of God's kingdom among men; it is at their peril if they do not; for (v. 12), The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; not that they must perish by the sword or by human anathemas, or as if this gave any countenance to the using of external force for the propagating of the gospel, or as if men might be compelled by penalties and punishments to come into the church; by no means. But those who will not by faith submit to Jesus Christ, the King of the church, and serve him, shall perish eternally, Ps. ii. 12. Those that will not be subject to Christ's golden sceptre, to the government of his word and Spirit, that will not be brought under, or kept in, by the discipline of his family, shall be broken in pieces by his iron rod. Bring them forth and slay them before me, Luke xix. 27. Nations of such shall be utterly and eternally wasted, when Christ shall come to take vengeance on those that obey not his gospel, 2 Thess. i. 8.
V. There shall be abundance of beauty added to the ordinances of divine worship (v. 13): The glory of Lebanon, the strong and stately cedars that grow there, shall come unto thee, as of old to Solomon, when he built the temple (2 Chron. ii. 16), and with them shall be brought other timber, proper for the carved work thereof, which the enemy had broken down, Ps. lxxiv. 5, 6. The temple, the place of God's sanctuary, shall be not only rebuilt, but beautified. It is the place of his feet, where he rests and resides, Ezek. xliii. 7. The ark is called his footstool, because it was under the mercy-seat, Ps. cxxxii. 7. This he will make glorious in the eyes of his people and of all their neighbours. The glory of the latter house, to which this refers, though in many instances inferior, was yet really greater than the glory of the former, because Christ came to that temple, Mal. iii. 1. It was likewise adorned with goodly stones and gifts (Luke xxi. 5), to which this promise may have some reference; yet so slightly did Christ speak of them there that we must suppose it to have its full accomplishment in the beauties of holiness, and the graces and comforts of the Spirit, with which gospel ordinances are adorned and enriched.
VI. The church shall appear truly great and honourable, v. 14. The people of the Jews, after their return out of captivity, by degrees became more considerable, and made a better figure than one would have expected, after they had been so much reduced, and than any of the other nations recovered that had been in like manner humbled by the Chaldeans. It is probable that many of those who had oppressed them in Babylon, when they were themselves driven out by the Persians, made their court to the Jews for shelter and supply and were willing to scrape acquaintance with them. This prophecy is further fulfilled when those that have been enemies to the church are wrought upon by the grace of God to see their error, and come, and join themselves to it: "The sons of those that afflicted thee, if not they themselves, yet their children, shall crouch to thee, shall beg pardon for their folly and beg an interest in thy favour and admission into thy family," 1 Sam. ii. 36. A promise like this is made to the church of Philadelphia, Rev. iii. 9. And it is intended to be, 1. A mortification to the proud oppressors of the church, that have afflicted her, and despised her, and taken a pleasure in doing so; they shall be brought down; their spirits shall be broken, and their condition shall be so mean and miserable that they shall be glad to be obliged to those whom they have most studied to disoblige. Note, Sooner or later God will pour contempt upon those that put contempt upon his people. 2. An exaltation to the poor oppressed ones of the church; and this is the honour that shall be done to them, they shall have an opportunity of doing good to those who have done evil to them and saving those alive who have afflicted and despised them. It is a pleasure to a good man, and he accounts it an honour, to show mercy to those with whom he has found no mercy. Yet this is not all. "They shall not only become suppliants to thee for their own interest, but they shall give honour to thee: They shall call thee, The city of the Lord; they shall at length be convinced that thou art a favourite of heaven, and the particular care of the divine providence." That city is truly great and honourable, it is strong, it is rich, it is safe, it is beautiful, it is the most desirable place that can be to live in, which is the city of the Lord, which he owns, in which he dwells, in which religion is uppermost. Such a one is Zion; it is the place which God has chosen to put his name there; it is the Zion of the Holy One of Israel; therefore, we may be sure, it is a holy city, else the Holy One of Israel would never be called the patron of it.
The Glory of the Church.
B. C. 706.
15 Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. 16 Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob. 17 For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness. 18 Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. 19 The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. 20 Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. 21 Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. 22 A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time.
The happy and glorious state of the church is here further foretold, referring principally and ultimately to the Christian church and the spiritual peace of that, but under the type of that little gleam of outward peace which the Jews sometimes enjoyed after their return out of captivity. This is here spoken of,
I. As compared with what it had been. This made her peace and honour the more pleasant, that her condition had been much otherwise.
1. She had been despised, but now she should be honoured, v. 15, 16. Jerusalem had been forsaken and hated, abandoned by her friends, abhorred by her enemies; no man went through that desolate city, but declined it as a rueful spectacle; it was an astonishment and a hissing. But now it shall be made an eternal excellency, being reformed from idolatry and having recovered the tokens of God's favour, and it shall be the joy of good people for many generations. Yet considering how short Jerusalem's excellency was, and how short it came of the vast compass of this promise, we must look for the full accomplishment of it in the perpetual excellencies of the gospel church, far exceeding those of the Old-Testament church, and the glorious privileges and advantages of the Christian religion, which are indeed the joy of many generations. Two things are here spoken of as her excellency and joy, in opposition to her having been forsaken and hated:-- (1.) She shall find herself countenanced by her neighbours. The nations, and their kings, that are brought to embrace Christianity, shall lay themselves out for the good of the church, and maintain its interests with the tenderness and affection that the nurse shows to the child at her breasts (v. 16): "Thou shalt suck the milk of the Gentiles, not suck their blood (that is not the spirit of the gospel); thou shalt suck the breast of kings, who shall be to thee as nursing fathers." (2.) She shall find herself countenanced by her God: "Thou shalt know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, shalt know it by experience; for such a salvation, such a redemption, shall be wrought out for thee as plainly discovers itself to be the work of the Lord, the work of a mighty one, for it is a great salvation, of the Mighty One of Jacob, for it secures the welfare of all those that are Israelites indeed." They before knew the Lord to be their God; now they know him to be their Saviour, their Redeemer. Their Holy One now appears their Mighty One.
2. She had been impoverished, but now she shall be enriched, and every thing shall be changed for the better with her, v. 17. When those who were raised out of the dust are set among princes, instead of brass money in their purses they have bold, and instead of iron vessels in their houses they have silver ones, and other improvements agreeable: so much shall the spiritual glory of the New-Testament church exceed the external pomp and splendour of the Jewish economy, which had no glory in comparison with that which quite excels it, 2 Cor. iii. 10. When we had baptism in the room of circumcision, the Lord's supper in the room of the passover, and a gospel ministry in the room of a Levitical priesthood, we had gold instead of brass. Sin turned gold into brass when Rehoboam made brazen shields instead of the golden ones he had pawned; but God's favour, when that returns, will turn brass again into gold.
3. She had been oppressed by her own princes, which was sadly complained of, not only as her sin, but as her misery (ch. lix. 14); but now all the grievances of that kind shall be redressed (v. 17): "I will make thy officers peace; men of peace shall be made officers, and shall be indeed justices, not patrons of injustice, and justices of peace, not instruments of trouble and vexation. They shall be peace, that is, they shall sincerely seek thy welfare and by their means thou shalt enjoy good." They shall be peace, for they shall be righteousness; and then the peace is as a river, when the righteousness is as the waves of the sea. Even exactors, whose business it is to demand the public tribute, though they be exact, must not be exacting, but must be just to the subject as well as to the prince, and, according to the instructions John Baptist gave to the publicans must exact no more than is appointed them, Luke iii. 13.
4. She had been insulted by her neighbours, invaded, spoiled, and plundered; but now it shall be so no more (v. 18): "Violence shall no more be heard in thy land; neither the threats and triumphs of those that do violence nor the outcries and complaints of those that suffer violence shall again be heard, but every man shall peaceably enjoy his own. There shall be no wasting nor destruction, either of persons of possessions, any where within thy borders; but thy walls shall be called salvation (they shall be safe, and means of safety to thee) and thy gates shall be praise, praise to thee (every one shall commend thee for the good condition they are kept in), and praise to thy God, who strengthens the bars of thy gates," Ps. cxlvii. 13. When God's salvation is upon the walls it is fit that his praises should be in the gates, the places of concourse.
II. As completed in what it shall be. It should seem that in the close of this chapter we are directed to look further yet, as far forward as to the glory and happiness of heaven, under the type and figure of the flourishing state of the church on earth, which yet was never such as to come any thing near to what is here foretold; and several of the images and expressions here made use of we find in the description of the new Jerusalem, Rev. xxi. 23; xxii. 5. As the prophets sometimes insensibly pass from the blessings of the Jewish church to the spiritual blessings of the Christian church, which are eternal, so sometimes they rise from the church militant to the church triumphant, where, and where only, all the promised peace, and joy, and honour will be in perfection. 1. God shall be all in all in the happiness here promised; so he is always to true believers (v. 19): The sun and the moon shall be no more thy light. God's people, when they enjoy his favour, and walk in the light of his countenance, make little account of sun and moon, and the other lights of this world, but could walk comfortably in the light of the Lord though they should withdraw their shining. In heaven there shall be no occasion for sun or moon, for it is the inheritance of the saints in light, such light as will swallow up the light of the sun as easily as the sun does that of a candle. "Idolaters worshipped the sun and moon (which some have thought the most ancient and plausible idolatry); but these shall be no more thy light, shall no more be idolized, but the Lord shall be to thee a constant light, both day and night, in the night of adversity as well as in the day of prosperity." Those that make God their only light shall have him their all-sufficient light, their sun and shield. Thy God shall be thy glory. Note, God is the glory of those whose God he is and will be so to eternity. It is their glory that they have him for their God, and they glory in it; it is to them instead of beauty. God's people are, upon this account, an honourable people, that they have an interest in God as their sin covenant. 2. The happiness here promised shall know no change, period, or allay (v. 20): "Thy sun shall no more go down, but it shall be eternal day, eternal sunshine, with thee; that shall not be thy sun which is sometimes eclipsed, often clouded, and, though it shine ever so bright, ever so warm, will certainly set and leave thee in the dark, in the cold, in a few hours; but he shall be a sun, a fountain of light to thee, who is himself the Father of all lights, with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning," James i. 17. We read of the sun's standing still once, and not hasting to go down for the space of a day, and it was a glorious day, never was the like; but what was that to the day that shall never have a night? Or, if it had, it should be a light night; for neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; it shall never wane, shall never change, but be always at the full. The comforts and joys that are in heaven, the glories provided for the soul, as the light of the sun, and those prepared for the glorified body too, as the light of the moon, shall never know the least cessation or interruption; how should they when the Lord shall himself be thy everlasting light--a light which never wastes nor can ever be extinguished? And the days of thy mourning shall be ended, so as never to return; for all tears shall be wiped away, and the fountains of them, sin and affliction, dried up, so that sorrow and sighing shall flee away for ever. 3. Those that are entitled to this happiness, being duly prepared and qualified for it, shall never be put out of the possession of it (v. 21): Thy people, that shall inhabit this New Jerusalem, shall all be righteous, all justified by the righteousness of the Messiah, all sanctified by his Spirit; all that people, that Jerusalem, must be righteous, must have that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. They are all righteous, for we know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. There are no people on earth that are all righteous; there is a mixture of some bad in the best societies on this side heaven; but there are no mixtures there. They shall be all righteous, that is, they shall be entirely righteous; as there shall be none corrupt among them, so there shall be no corruption in them; the spirits of just men shall there be made perfect. And they shall be all the righteous together who shall replenish the New Jerusalem; it is called the congregation of the righteous, Ps. i. 5. And, because they are all righteous, therefore they shall inherit the land for ever, for nothing but sin can turn them out of it. The perfection of the saints' holiness secures the perpetuity of their happiness. 4. The glory of the church shall redound to the honour of the church's God: "They shall appear to be the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, and I will own them as such." It was by the grace of God that they were designed to this happiness; they are the branch of his planting, or of his plantations; he broke them off from the wild olive and grafted them into the good olive, transplanted them out of the field, when they were as tender branches, into his nursery, that, being now planted in his garden on earth, they might shortly be removed to his paradise in heaven. It was by his grace likewise that they were prepared and fitted for this happiness; they are the work of his hands (Eph. ii. 10), are wrought to the self-same thing, 2 Cor. v. 5. It is a work of time, and, when it shall be finished, will appear a work of wonder; and God will be glorified, who began it, and carried it on; for the Lord Jesus will then be admired in all those that believe. God will glorify himself in glorifying his chosen. 5. They will appear the more glorious, and God will be the more glorified in them, if we compare what they are with what they were, the happiness they have arrived at with the smallness of their beginnings (v. 22): "A little one shall become a thousand and a small one a strong nation." The captives that returned out of Babylon strangely multiplied, and became a strong nation. The Christian church was a little one, a very small one at first--the number of their names was once but 120; yet it became a thousand. The stone cut out of the mountain without hands swelled so as to fill the earth. The triumphant church, and every glorified saint, will be a thousand out of a little one, a strong nation out of a small one. The grace and peace of the saints were at first like a grain of mustard-seed, but they increase and multiply, and make a little one to become a thousand, the weak to be as David. When they come to heaven, and look back upon the smallness of their beginning, they will wonder how they got thither. And so wonderful is all this promise that it needed the ratification with which it is closed: I the Lord will hasten it in his time--all that is here said relating to the Jewish and Christian church, to the militant and triumphant church, and to every particular believer. (1.) It may seem too difficult to be brought about, and therefore may be despaired of; but the God of almighty power has undertaken it: "I the Lord will do it, who can do it, and who have determined to do it." It will be done by him whose power is irresistible and his purposes unalterable. (2.) It may seem to be delayed and put off so long that we are out of hopes of it; but, as the Lord will do it, so he will hasten it, will do it with all convenient speed; though much time may pass before it is done, no time shall be lost; he will hasten it in its time, in the proper time, in the season wherein it will be beautiful; he will do it in the time appointed by his wisdom, though not in the time prescribed by our folly. And this is really hastening it; for, though it seem to tarry, it does not tarry if it come in God's time, for we are sure that that is the best time, which he that believes will patiently wait for.