on Isaiah 58 :14
Then shalt thou delight thyself - If all fasts and religious observances be carried on in the spirit and manner recommended above, God's blessing will attend every ordinance. But in public fasts, prescribed not in the Book of God, but by the rulers of nations in general (very unfit persons) care should be taken that the cause is good, and that God's blessing may be safely implored in it.
France has lately fasted and prayed that they might be able to subjugate Spain, restore and establish the horrible inquisition, and utterly destroy all the liberties of the people! Is this such a fast as God hath chosen? - a.d. 1823.
on Isaiah 58 :14
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord - That is, as a consequence of properly observing the Sabbath, thou shalt find pleasure in Yahweh. It will be a pleasure to draw near to him, and you shall no longer be left to barren ordinances and to unanswered prayers. The delight or pleasure which God's people have in him is a direct and necessary consequence of the proper observance of the Sabbath. It is on that day set apart by his own authority, for his own service, that he chooses to meet with his people, and to commune with them and bless them; and no one ever properly observed the Sabbath who did not find, as a consequence, that he had augmented pleasure in the existence, the character, and the service of Yahweh. Compare Job 22:21-26, where the principle stated here - that the observance of the law of God will lead to happiness in the Almighty - is beautifully illustrated (see also Psalm 37:4).
And I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth - A phrase like this occurs in Deuteronomy 32:13 : 'He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of fields.' In Habakkuk 3:19, the phrase also occurs: 'He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.' So also Psalm 18:33 : 'He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.' In Amos 4:13, it is applied to God: 'He maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth.' Kimchi, Calvin, and Grotius suppose that the idea here is, that God would restore the exiled Jews to their own land - a land of mountains and elevated places, more lofty than the surrounding regions. Vitringa says that the phrase is taken from a conqueror, who on his horse or in his chariot, occupies mountains, hills, towers, and monuments, and subjects them to himself. Rosenmuller supposes it means, 'I will place you in lofty and inaccessible places, where you will be safe from all your enemies.' Gesenius also supposes that the word 'high places' here means fastnesses or strongholds, and that to walk over those strongholds, or to ride over them, is equivalent to possessing them, and that he who has possession of the fastnesses has possession of the whole country (see his Lexicon on the word במה bâmâh, No. 2). I give these views of the most distinguished commentators on the passage, not being able to determine satisfactorily to myself what is the true signification. Neither of the above expositions seems to me to be entirely free from difficulty. The general idea of prosperity and security is undoubtedly the main thing intended; but what is the specific sense couched under the phrase 'to ride on the high places of the earth,' does not seem to me to be sufficiently explained.
And feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father - That is, thou shalt possess the land promised to Jacob as an inheritance.
For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it - This formula often occurs when an important promise is made, and it is regarded as ample security for the fulfillment that Yahweh has promised it. What more ample security can be required, or conceived, than the promise of the eternal God?
Remarks on Isaiah 58:1-14
I. From Isaiah 58:1-6, and the exposition given of these verses, particularly Isaiah 58:6, we may make the following remarks respecting slavery.
1. That the prophets felt themselves at entire liberty to animadvert on slavery as an evil. They did not feel themselves restrained from doing it by the fact that slavery was sustained by law, or by the plea that it was a civil institution, and that the ministers of religion had nothing to do with it. The holy men who were sent by God as his ambassadors, did not suppose that, in lifting up the voice against this institution, they were doing anything contrary to what fairly came within their notice as religious teachers, nor did they regard it as, in such a sense, a civil institution that they were not to advert to it.
It is often said in our country that slavery is a civil institution; that it pertains solely to political affairs; that the constitution and the laws suppose its existence, and make provision for its perpetuity; that it is not appropriate for the ministers of religion, and for ecclesiastical bodies to intermeddle with it. This plea, however, might have been urged with much more force among the Hebrews. Their constitution was, what ours is not, of divine appointment, and it would have been easy for a friend of slavery to say that the prophets were interfering with what was sanctioned by the laws, and with the arrangements which were made for its perpetuity in the commonwealth. Why would not such an argument have as much weight then as it should be allowed to have now?
2. The prophet Isaiah felt himself at entire liberty to exhort the people to restore their slaves to freedom. He considered that slavery was as proper a subject for him to discuss as any other. He treated it as entirely within his province, and did not hesitate at all to express his views on it as an evil, and to demand that the evil should cease, in order to an acceptable worship of God.
3. He does not speak of it as a good and desirable institution, or as contributing to the welfare of the community. It is, in his view, a hard and oppressive system; a system which should be abandoned if people would render acceptable service to God. There is no apology made for it; no pleading for it as a desirable system; no attempt made to show that it is in accordance with the laws of the land and with the laws of God. It would not be difficult to imagine what would be the emotions of Isaiah if, after he had written this 58th chapter of his prophecies, it should be represented that he was the friend of slavery, or if he were to read some of the vindications of the systems published in this Christian land by ministers of the gospel, and by ecclesiastical bodies, or should hear the sentiments uttered in debate in Synods, Assemblies, Conferences, and Conventions.
4. It may be inferred from the exposition given, that Isaiah did not suppose that slavery was in accordance with the spirit of the Mosaic institutions, or that those institutions were designed to perpetuate it. His treatment of it is just such as would be natural on the supposition that the Mosaic institutions were so made that, while it was for a while tolerated - just as polygamy and divorce were - yet that it was the tendency and design of the Mosaic system ultimately to remove the evil entirely, and to make the Hebrews throughout a free people, and that it was therefore proper for him, as a prophet, to enjoin on them the duty of letting all the oppressed go free. It may be added, that if this was proper in the time of Isaiah, it cannot be less proper under the light of the gospel and in the nineteenth century.
II. From the closing portion of this chapter Isaiah 58:13-14, we may derive the following important inferences respecting the Sabbath:
1. It is to be of perpetual obligation. The whole chapter occurs in the midst of statements that relate to the times of the Messiah. There is no intimation that the Sabbath was to be abolished, but it is fairly implied that its observance was to be attended with most happy results in those future times. At all events, Isaiah regarded it as of binding obligation, and felt that its proper observance was identified with the national welfare.
2. We may see the manner in which the Sabbath is to be observed. In no place in the Bible is there a more full account of the proper mode of keeping that holy day. We are to refrain from ordinary traveling and employments; we are not to engage in doing our own pleasure; we are to regard it with delight, and to esteem it a day worthy to be honored; and we are to show respect to it by not performing our own ordinary works, or pursuing pleasures, or engaging in the common topics of conversation. In this description there occurs nothing of unique Jewish ceremony, and nothing which indicates that it is not to be observed in this manner at all times. Under the gospel, assuredly, it is as proper to celebrate the Sabbath in this way, as it was in the times of Isaiah, and God doubtless intended that it should be perpetually observed in this manner.
on Isaiah 58 :14
58:14 In the Lord - In his goodness and faithfulness to thee, and in the assurance of his love and favour. To ride - Thou shalt be above the reach of danger. Feed thee - Thou shalt enjoy the good of the land of Canaan, which God promised as an heritage to Jacob, and his seed, Gen 35:12.