The scope of these verses is to show that when God is coming towards us in a way of mercy we must go forth to meet him in a way of duty.
I. God here tells us what are his intentions of mercy to us (Isa. 56:1): My salvation is near to come—the great salvation wrought out by Jesus Christ (for that was the salvation of which the prophets enquired and searched diligently, 1 Pet. 1:10), typified by the salvation of the Jews from Sennacherib or out of Babylon. Observe, 1. The gospel salvation is the salvation of the Lord. It was contrived and brought about by him; he glories in it as his. 2. In that salvation God’s righteousness is revealed, which is so much the beauty of the gospel that St. Paul makes this the ground of his glorying in it. (Rom. 1:17), because therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. The law revealed that righteousness of God by which all sinners stand condemned, but the gospel reveals that by which all believers stand acquitted. 3. The Old-Testament saints saw this salvation coming, and drawing near to them, long before it came; and they had notice by the prophets of its approach. As Daniel understood by Jeremiah’s books the approach of the redemption out of Babylon, at the end of seventy years, so others understood by Daniel’s books the approach of our redemption by Christ at the end of seventy weeks of years.
II. He tells us what are his expectations of duty from us, in consideration thereof. Say not, “We see the salvation near, and therefore we may live as we list, for there is no danger now of missing it or coming short of it;” that is turning the grace of God into wantonness. But, on the contrary, when the salvation is near double your guard against sin. Note, The fuller assurances God gives us of the performance of his promises the stronger obligations he lays us under to obedience. The salvation here spoken of has now come; yet, there being still a further salvation in view, the apostle presses duty upon us Christians with the same argument. Rom. 3:11; Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. That which is here required to qualify and prepare us for the approaching salvation is,
1. That we be honest and just in all our dealings: Keep you judgment and do justice. Walk by rule, and make conscience of what you say and do, that you do no wrong to any. Render to all their dues exactly, and, in exacting what is due to you, keep up a court of equity in your own bosom, to moderate the rigours of the law. Be ruled by that golden rule, “Do as you would be done by.” Magistrates must administer justice wisely and faithfully. This is required to evidence the sincerity of our faith and repentance, and to open the way of mercy. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. God is true to us; let us be so to one another.
2. That we religiously observe the sabbath day, Isa. 56:2. We are not just if we rob God of his time. Sabbath-sanctification is here put for all the duties of the first table, the fruits of our love to God, as justice and judgment are put for all those of the second table, the fruits of our love to our neighbour. Observe, (1.) The duty required, which is to keep the sabbath, to keep it as a talent we are to trade with, as a treasure we are entrusted with. “Keep it holy; keep it safe; keep it with care and caution; keep it from polluting it. Allow neither yourselves nor others either to violate the holy rest or omit the holy work of that day.” If this be intended primarily for the Jews in Babylon, it was fit that they should be particularly put in mind of this, because when, by reason of their distance from the temple, they could not observe the other institutions of their law, yet they might distinguish themselves from the heathen by putting a difference between God’s day and other days. But it being required more generally of man, and the son of man, it intimates that sabbath-sanctification should be a duty in gospel times, when the bounds of the church should be enlarged and other rites and ceremonies abolished. Observe, Those that would keep the sabbath from polluting it must put on resolution, must not only do this, but lay hold on it, for sabbath time is precious, but is very apt to slip away if we take not great care; and therefore we must lay hold on it and keep our hold, must do it and persevere in it. (2.) The encouragement we have to do this duty: Blessed is he that doeth it. The way to have the blessing of God upon our employments all the week is to make conscience, and make a business, of sabbath-sanctification; and in doing so we shall be the better qualified to do judgment and justice. The more godliness the more honesty, 1 Tim. 2:2.
3. That we have nothing to do with sin: Blessed is the man that keeps his hand from doing evil, any wrong to his neighbour, in body, goods, or good name—or, more generally, any thing that is displeasing to God and hurtful to his own soul. Note, The best evidence of our having kept the sabbath well will be a care to keep a good conscience all the week. By this it will appear that we have been in the mount with God if our faces shine in a holy conversation before men.