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the church exactly answered to the language of the fifth verse. They were not Israelites by birth; but, invited by the Gospel call, they voluntarily surrendered themselves to the “ God of Israel," and enrolled themselves among his people, and the title of “ Israel of God” was conceded to them. They were acknowledged as “ Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” As St. Paul represents this transaction:-“ Some of the branches were broken off,” and the Gentile church, being “ a wild olive tree," " was grafted in among them,” “ and with them hath partaken of the root and fatness of the olive tree.”
It is foreseen, however, that this people, the adoptive Israel, like the natural Israel of old, will lapse into idolatry, and form them new gods. The faithful remnant, however, are told not to be discouraged when they behold this state of things:
8. Tremble ye not, neither faint ye,
Have I not from the beginning declared it to you,
We perceive therefore for whom, in this connexion, the exposure of the extreme folly of idolatry, in the worshipping of images, contained in the ten following verses, is intended. It is for the apostate churches of Christendom: and the twentieth verse will strongly remind us of the apostle's exhibition of the same judicial hardness of heart. “ For this cause God will send them a strong delusion, that they may believe a lie,” &c. *
Again ; in the twenty-first verse, Israel is addressed:21. Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for thou art my servant:
* 2 Thess. ii. 11.
I formed thee, thou art my servant,
O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. 22. I have dispelled as a cloud thy transgressions,
And as a gathering mist thy sins :
23. Sing, O ye heavens, for Jehovah hath done it,
Shout, ye lower parts of the earth!
O forest, and every tree therein. 24. For Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob,
And he hath vindicated his honour on Israel.
This seems to intimate that the apparently desperate cause of the church of God, at this era, will be only relieved by the recovery of the natural Israel; which appears indeed to be consonant with the general voice of prophecy. Heaven and earth, the whole creation in general, are called upon to offer songs of congratulation for this event; the redemption of Israel :- the event foretold more expressly in a subsequent chapter," when the Redeemer comes to Zion, to turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
Here, then, we arrive at the consummation of all the theme of prophecy. A break must carefully be remarked in this place, indicated in the usual style by the expression, « Thus saith the Lord.",
What follows, from the twenty-fourth to the seventh verse of the following chapter, is to be regarded in the nature of an episode, introduced to show the impending fate of Babylon, which at that time stood immediately in the way, as it were, of Messiah's kingdom — was an obstacle first in order to be removed out of the way,
though others would afterwards arise, and would meet with a similar fate.
The opening of this oracle concerning Babylon acquaints us, that it is the same Almighty Redeemer who is to appear in the final controversy of Zion, whose right hand is now stretched out to save by the instrumentality of another. Jehovah is about to falsify all the predictions of the famous magicians of Chaldea, and to fulfil the predictions of his own servants, the Jewish prophets. Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, - not the cities of Israel in general, but the cities of Judah alone, are to be rebuilt. This plainly distinguishes the partial return from Babylon from the mightier theme of the general prophecy.
The manner in which that city shall be taken is next foretold : the name of the prince is mentioned who, a hundred and seventy years after the date of this prophecy, should accomplish God's pleasure on Babylon : Cyrus was to be the instrument; and he was to lay dry the deep waters of the Euphrates. It was the providence of God, we learn from the first verse of the forty-fifth chapter, that had given Cyrus the victory over the many kings and nations which had been subdued by his arms previously to his attack on Babylon : and it was the same Providence that suggested and aided his extraordinary attack upon that city; the fulfilment of which prediction has been well pointed out by commentators on the place.
After this episode on the impending fate of Babylon, the great theme of prophecy is again resumed. A Savi
our's coming, and the glorious salyation with which he would visit his people, is anticipated under the idea of the heavens distilling a copious dew of righteousness, which the earth opens her parched bosom to receive, and brings forth the fruits of salvation and just judgment:
8. Drop down, ye heavens, from above,
And let the skies distil righteousness :
This clearly describes, on the one hand, the destitute state of mankind; on the other hand, that all his spiritual wants must be supplied from above. Bishop Lowth compares with this passage the latter part of the eighty-fifth psalm, and very justly remarks on the two passages, that “ justice” and “ salvation," “ mercy” and “ truth,'». righteousness, and peace, and glory, dwelling in the land, cannot, with any sort of propriety in one or the other, be interpreted as the consequence of that event “ the restoration from Babylon :” “ they must mean the blessings of the great redemption by: Messiah.”
This is corroborated by what follows:
9. Ah! he that contendeth with his Maker,
The potsherd with the moulder of the clay!
Shall thy workmanship say, “ He hath no hands ?” 10. Ah, he that saith to his father, “ What hast thou begotten?"
And to a mother, “ What hast thou brought forth ?”
11. Thus hath Jehovah said, the Holy One of Israel,
The Framer of the things that are coming to pass.'
And I created man upon it.
This proud opposition of human reason against the plan of salvation by“ supernal grace," and divine regenerating influences, is referred to by St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, and applied by him to those opponents of the Gospel who found fault with the doctrines of God's grace, as though these doctrines argued unrighteousness in God, and as though blame attached to him in his moral government of the world, on account of the entrance of sin and death into his creation, with the partial interposition of sovereign mercy. This was in fact, as the apostle says, for the thing formed to say to him that made it, Why hast thou made me thus ? Such is all human reasoning against the revealed doctrines of the Christian faith. They may appear to us as “hard sayings;" but “ God is wiser than man,” and we must learn
* Following the Septuagint version. See Lowth.
Or thus ;-
The Holy One of Israel, and his
Of things to come to pass do
ye question me concerning my sons, And concerning the works of my hands would you give me directions,
Or, “ Founder."