“And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame.” – Isaiah x. 17.
The absolute predestination of God may in many respects be termed the basic principle of all revealed Truth. If our God is not the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of all time and eternity His decrees are uncertain, His government unreliable; this must be in the Divine development, in order that any thing else should exist. Destroy this most fundamental principle, and you strike a successful blow at the entire Gospel economy. Hence this Truth of the absolute predestination of all things whatsoever cometh to pass so dear to the children of the Regeneration, shines in types and in substance throughout the whole Scripture testimony. Absolute predestination introduces the whole genesis of man, with “In the beginning God. . .” (Genesis i, 1) for nothing then existed except the Sovereign of the soon-to-be creation.
Our text with its connections clearly reveals the Truth of what we write. The government of God extends over all the works of His hands; not simply in a permissive sense, (as some would have it,) but by absolute decree. He works and none can hinder. He takes counsel with none in His work. His authority is complete; His word is absolute over all the armies of the earth; over all the armies of the skies; nothing is too small to be beneath His notice and utility, nothing too large. The twinkling of an eye lid, the flash of a sun beam; the fall of a snow flake; the crash of a thunderbolt; the birth of an empire; the revolving of a world within a set orbit; all absolutely all things, large or small; good, bad, or seemingly indifferent, are eternally, irrevocably, and absolutely ordained of God before all worlds were made, to be accurately and exactly as they are, not varying a hair-breadth from the predestinated design of God. When Christ would teach His disciples to pray, He taught them what they could be absolutely certain He would answer: “Thy Kingdom come,” and it did and yet will; “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven,” and it shall ever be so. If one fails to grasp this by the revelation of faith, such can clearly see nothing else in the Gospel of the sovereign grace of God; all else must be confused, misunderstood, misapplied; and at variance with the perfect designs of Him who has “declared the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do ALL My pleasure.” – Isaiah xlvi, 10. “There is no God else beside Me.” – Isaiah xlv, 21.
This Truth is absolutely essential to the fulfillment of the Divine promise to Israel; “I will preserve thee.” – Isaiah xlix, 8. If Israel is to be preserved the power that protects her must have universal dominion over all with which, or with whom she comes in contact; anduniversal government is founded alone upon absolute power.
As the clay lies helpless in the hands of the potter, under his care, control, purpose and design; so all, absolutely and eternally all things, in shades of darkness or of light are in the faithful hands of Him who gives them life in their appointed sphere, and controls them upon their destined track to the end that no harm shall befall the election of His grace; and that His glory shall be revealed to the setting aside of all human empire, and the dethronement of all idol gods. “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me.” – Isaiah xlv, 5. “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.” – Deuteronomy xxxii, 39. These and kindred declarations of Holy Scripture show clearly to a believer the unbounded Sovereignty of Israel’s God over all creatures and things; of all other gods it is written, “They were no gods, but the work of men’s hands.” – Isaiah xxxvii, 19. They cannot rise above their little creator – man!
In the connection of our text attention is called to the use which had been made of Assyria to divest Jerusalem and her idols; that the God of Israel had no more respect to idolatry among His nominal people than among their enemies. He says: “As My hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria, shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols.” – Isaiah x, 10-11. He would therefore let loose upon this idolatrous nation of natural Israel the devouring armies of Assyria; who “Should come down like a wolf on the fold.”
But when their work was done, and they could go no further than God’s predestination ordained; their career of destruction should be stopped; and He would punish the “Stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith by the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom.”
Well indeed is the inquiry made in the 15th verse, “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, send among his fat ones (those whose eyes “stand out with fatness,” who have “more than heart could wish,” – Psalm lxxiii, 7,) leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire.”
“And the light of Israel shall be for a fire.” Leaving for a moment the immediate connection of our subject let us notice the first expression of our text: “The light of Israel.” Whatever is embodied in the glorious system which it represents must be admitted to be God and not of man, as He has been pleased to declare, “I form the light.” It is an heavenly, not a human; a spiritual, not a natural; an invisible (to mortal eyes,) not a visible system. A system which is of God in design, in purpose, development and glorious fulfillment.
In the original language, and first typical declaration it is written; “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” An echo of this is heard in the very dawn of the Gospel morning; “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” The light shone across the dark chaotic, confused and forming mass in the beginning; bringing order out of chaos; supplying each several part to the stupendous whole; writing in lines of living beauty the testimony of a system to be made manifest in the ages to come; each day opening successive chapters of the creative wisdom and power and perfect of God; unfolding the eternal purposes for which all things were brought into being.
“Each opening leaf and every stroke,
Fulfills some deep design.”
Light; the name itself is significant of triumph; of justice and holiness. Darkness cannot stand before it, nor comprehend it. It conquered all obstacles in creation, moving step by step; clearly defining the pictures of life; drawing the outlines set by predestination, and accurately developing all the mighty or minute parts of creation’s wonders from the mightiest planet that glides through space, to the smallest atom of matter hid in the dark recesses of earth and the universe. Light! What a wonderful name. Its rays steal through the curtains of darkness; open the hidden recesses; unveil the deformities, depravities, and abominations covered by darkness; exposing all in the glare of blazing noon.
Let us come again to the connection of our text. Revealing the manner in which He would bring down the pride of this haughty Assyrian king, the God of Israel says, “Under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire.” What more forcible language could be employed to illustrate the complete destruction of this proud, haughty earthly king – a fire should consume, destroy and scatter to the four winds like ashes, all semblance of his power.
“And the light of Israel shall be for a fire.” Our readers will remember that the “pillar of the cloud” which guided the marching tribes of Israel, while it gave light to Israel, was to the Egyptians darkness. – (Exodus xiv, 19, 20,) that it stood between them and their enemies, and that the Lord looked through this “pillar of fire” in the “morning-watch,” and troubled “the host of the Egyptians.”It was the “pillar of the cloud” floating peacefully before the gaze of the chosen tribes, but “the pillar of fire” troubling and destroying the enemies of Israel.
“The light of Israel shall be for a fire.” Wonderful and mysterious testimony! A light on the one hand, a fire on the other; a light to the one class, a devouring flame the the other; to the one “the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life.” – 2 Corinthians ii, 16. This glorious system of Gospel grace beaming with life and immortality is death to all the means and instrumentalities, the pride and haughtiness of the human heart. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” – Isaiah xl, 7. The Light referred to is the “Light of Israel;” – “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” – John i, 9. The Gospel world is evidently here referred to. It is as in days of old when “the children of Israel had light in their dwellings, and thick darkness covered the land of Egypt.” – Exodus x, 22,23. “Thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” – Isaiah lx, 1. No wonder then that of all people to day this chosen heritage, this “little flock” of high heaven understand the Truth and order of the Gospel; and dense ignorance and unconcern reigns in the world of religion all around them. No wonder then that on either hand are marks of the crumbling of earthly empire, the blasting of human pride; the passing of mortal power with fast passing time!
“And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and His Holy One for a flame.” In this last expression is certainly seen the Word of His power which “was in the beginning with God, and was God;” the sun of the glorious system of life and light; through which is made manifest the purposes of His grace and glory. “The Holy One of Israel!” matchless name! Holy as set apart to execute the eternal decrees, fill full the purposes, manifest the glory of Almighty God; “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” – 1 Timothy vi, 15,16.
It is written of the effect of this testimony upon the Assyrian enemies of Israel; “It shall burn and devour his thorns and his briars in one day * * * and they shall be as when a standard bearer fainteth.” – Isaiah x, 17-19. It shall paralyze all opposition, strike down, destroy, and consume every foe. “And it shall come to pass in that day that there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and His rest shall be glorious.” – Isaiah xi, 10. Here is the Holy One of Israel, whose coming in the sense of which we are writing shall not be to send peace on earth; but a sword. “To set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” – Matthew x, 34-36.
The testimony of the text is a key which unlocks a connection of rare Gospel beauty, distinctly defining the day of Gospel grace of which Christ is the fount; the Sun of righteousness to rise with healing in His wings; and under whose sheltering wings the spiritual tribes of Israel are to gather, as under the shadow “of a great Rock in a weary land.” – Isaiah xxxii, 1, 2. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in Truth. The remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, unto the Mighty God.” – Isaiah x, 20-21.
“With what delight faith lifts her eyes,
To view the courts where Jesus dwells;
Jesus who reigns above the skies,
And here below His grace reveals.”
Elder William Smoot