Here the different states of the godly and wicked, of the Jews that believed and of those that still persisted in unbelief, are set the one over—against the other, as life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse.
I. Here is the fearful doom of those that persisted in their idolatry after the deliverance out of Babylon, and in infidelity after the preaching of the gospel of Christ. Observe,
1. What the doom is that is here threatened: “I will number you to the sword as sheep for the slaughter, and there shall be no escaping, no standing out; you shall all bow down to it,” Isa. 65:12. God’s judgments come, (1.) Regularly, and are executed according to the commission. Those fall by the sword that are numbered or counted out to it, and none besides. Though the sword seems to devour promiscuously one as well as another, yet it is made to know its number and shall not exceed. (2.) Irresistibly. The strongest and most stout-hearted sinners shall be forced to bow before them; for none ever hardened their hearts against God and prospered.
2. What the sins are that number them to the sword. (1.) Idolatry was the ancient sin (Isa. 65:11): “You are those who, instead of seeking me and serving me as my people, forsake the Lord, disown him, and cast him off to embrace other gods, who forget my holy mountain (the privileges it confers and the obligations it lays you under) to burn incense upon the mountains of your idols (Isa. 65:7), and have deserted the one only living and true God.” They prepared a table for that troop of deities which the heathen worship and poured out drink-offerings to that numberless number of them; for those that thought one God too little never thought scores and hundreds sufficient, but were still adding to the number of them, till they had as many gods as cities and their altars were as thick as heaps in the furrows of the field, Hos. 12:11. Some take Gad and Meni, which we translate a troop and a number, to be the proper names of two of their idols, answering to Jupiter and Mercury. Whatever they were, their worshippers spared no cost to do them honour; they prepared a table for them, and filled out mixed wine for drink-offerings to them; they would pinch their families rather than stint their devotions, which should shame the worshippers of the true God out of their niggardliness. (2.) Infidelity was the sin of the later Jews (Isa. 65:12): When I called, you did not answer, which refers to the same that Isa. 65:2 did (I have stretched out my hands to a rebellious people), and that is applied to those who rejected the gospel. Our Lord Jesus himself called (he stood and cried, John 7:37), but they did not hear, they would not answer; they were not convinced by his reasonings nor moved by his expostulations; both the fair warnings he gave them of death and ruin and the fair offers he made them of life and happiness were slighted and made no impression upon them. Yet this was not all: You did evil before my eyes, not by surprise, or through inadvertency, but with deliberation: You did choose that wherein I delight 6efc ed not; he means that which he utterly detested and abhorred. It is not strange that those who will not be persuaded to choose that which is good persist in their choice and pursuit of that which is evil. See the malignity of sin; it is evil in God’s eyes, highly offensive to him, and yet it is committed before his eyes, in his sight and presence, and in contempt of him; it is likewise a contradiction to the will of God; it is doing that, of choice, which we know will displease him.
II. The aggravation of this doom, from the consideration of the happy state of those that were brought to repentance and faith.
1. The blessedness of those that serve God, and the woeful condition of those that rebel against him, are here set the one over—against the other, that they may serve as a foil to each other, Isa. 65:13-16. (1.) God’s servants may well think themselves happy, and for ever indebted to that free grace which made them so, when they see how miserable some of their neighbours are for want of that grace, who are hardened, and likely to perish for ever in unbelief, and what a narrow escape they had of being among them. See Isa. 66:24. (2.) It will add to the grief of those that perish to see the happiness of God’s servants (whom they had hated, and vilified, and looked upon with the utmost disdain), and especially to think that they might have shared in their bliss if it had not been their own fault. It made the torment of the rich man in hell the more grievous that he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom, Luke 16:23. See Luke 13:28. Sometimes the providence of God makes such a difference as this between good and bad in this world, and the prosperity of the righteous becomes a grievous eye-sore and vexation of heart to the wicked (Ps. 112:10), and it will certainly be so in the great day. We fools counted his life madness and his end without honour; but now how is he numbered with the saints and his lot is among the chosen. Now,
2. The difference of their states lies in two things:—
(1.) In point of comfort and satisfaction. [1.] God’s servants shall eat and drink; they shall have the bread of life to feed, to feast upon, continually, shall be abundantly replenished with the goodness of his house, and shall want nothing that is good for them. Heaven’s happiness will be to them an everlasting feast; they shall be filled with that which now they hunger and thirst after. But those who set their hearts upon the world, and place their happiness in that, shall be hungry and thirsty, always empty, always craving; for it is not bread; it surfeits, but it satisfies not. In communion with God, and dependence upon him, there is full satisfaction; but in sinful pursuits there is nothing but disappointment. [2.] God’s servants shall rejoice and sing for joy of heart. They have constant cause for joy, and there is nothing that may be an occasion of grief to them but they have an allay sufficient for it; and, as far as faith is in act and exercise, they have a heart to rejoice, and their joy is their strength. They shall rejoice in their hope, because it shall not make them ashamed. Heaven will be a world of everlasting joy to all that are now sowing in tears. But, on the other hand, those that forsake the Lord shut themselves out from all true joy, for they shall be ashamed of their vain confidence in themselves, and their own righteousness, and the hopes they had built thereon. When the expectations of bliss wherewith they had flattered themselves are frustrated, O what confusion will fill their faces! Then shall they cry for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit, perhaps in this world, when their laughter shall be turned into mourning and their joy into heaviness, and certainly in that world where the torment will be endless, easeless, and remediless—nothing but weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, to eternity. Let these two be compared, Now he is comforted and thou art tormented, and which of the two will we choose to take our lot with?
(2.) In point of honour and reputation, Isa. 65:15, 16. The memory of the just is, and shall be, blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot. [1.] The name of the idolaters and unbelievers shall be left for a curse, shall be loaded with ignominy and made for ever infamous. It shall be used in giving bad characters—Thou art as cruel as a Jew; and in imprecation—God make thee as miserable as a Jew. It shall be for a curse to God’s chosen, that is, for a warning to them; they shall be afraid of falling under the curse upon the Jewish nation, of perishing after the same example of unbelief. The curse of those whom God rejects should make his chosen stand in awe. The Lord God shall slay thee; he shall quite extirpate the Jews and cut them off from being a people; they shall no longer live as a nation, nor ever be incorporated again. [2.] The name of God’s chosen shall become a blessing: He shall call his servants by another name. The children of the covenant shall no longer be called Jews, but Christians; and to them, under that name, all the promises and privileges of the new covenant shall be secured. This other name shall be an honourable name; it shall not be confined to one nation, but with it men shall bless themselves in the earth, all the world over. God shall have servants out of all nations who shall all be dignified with this new name. They shall bless themselves in the God of truth. First, They shall give honour to God both in their prayers and in their solemn oaths, in their addresses for his favour as their felicity and their appeals to his justice as their Judge. This is a part of the homage we owe to God; we must bless ourselves in him, that is, we must reckon that we have enough to make us happy, that we need no more, and can desire no more, if we have him for our God. It is of great consequence what we bless ourselves in, what we most please ourselves with and value ourselves by our interest in. Worldly people bless themselves in the abundance they have of this world’s goods (Ps. 49:18; Luke 12:19); but God’s servants bless themselves in him, as a God all-sufficient for them. He is their crown of glory and diadem of beauty, their strength and portion. By him also they shall swear, and not by any creature or any false god. To his judgment they shall refer their cause, from whom every man’s judgment doth proceed. Secondly, They shall give honour to him as the God of truth, the God of the Amen (so the word is); some understand it of Christ who is himself the Amen, the faithful witness (Rev. 3:14), and in whom all the promises are yea and amen, 2 Cor. 1:20. In him we must bless ourselves, and by him we must swear unto the Lord and covenant with him. He that is blessed in the earth (so some read it) shall be blessed in the true God, for Christ is the true God and eternal life, 1 John 5:20. And it was promised of old that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed, Gen. 12:3. Some read it, He shall bless himself in the God of the faithful people, in God as the God of all believers, desiring no more than to share in the blessings wherewith they are blessed, to be dealt with as he deals with them. Thirdly, They shall give him honour as the author of this blessed change which they have the experience of; they shall think themselves happy in having him for their God who has made them to forget their former troubles, the remembrance of them being swallowed up in their present comforts: Because they are hidden from God’s eyes, that is, they are quite taken away; for, if there were any remainder of their troubles, God would be sure to have his eye upon it, in compassion to them and concern for them. They shall no longer feel them; for God will no longer see them. He is pleased to speak as if he would make himself easy by making them easy; and therefore they shall with a great deal of satisfaction bless themselves in him.