TEXT FOR PRAYER
“The Soil–By The Wayside”
We shall read from Christ’s Object Lessons, beginning on page 43, the last paragraph:
“That with which the parable of the sower chiefly deals is the effect produced on the growth of the seed by the soil into which it is cast. By this parable Christ was virtually saying to His hearers, It is not safe for you to stand as critics of My work, or to indulge disappointment because it does not meet your ideas. The question of greatest importance to you is, How do you treat My message? Upon your reception or rejection of it your eternal destiny depends…
“The seed sown by the wayside represents the word of God as it falls upon the heart of an inattentive hearer…. Absorbed in selfish aims and sinful indulgences, the soul is ‘hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.’ The spiritual faculties are paralyzed. Men hear the word, but understand it not. They do not discern that it applies to themselves. They do not realize their need or their danger. They do not perceive the love of Christ, and they pass by the message of His grace as something that does not concern them.”
We should pray that we not fall after the manner of those who are always ready to find fault and to criticize, but that we give undivided attention, laying aside all prejudice and preconceived ideas, be they private or Denominational; that we open our hearts to truth, not because it is popular, but because the Bible teaches it, realizing that anything short of this is sure to lead us where it led the ancient Jews.
Our subject this afternoon is found in Isaiah, chapters 40 and 41. We shall begin with the first verse of the fortieth chapter:
Isa. 40:1, 2 – “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
Inspiration, we see, is here urging someone to comfort God’s people. They are to be told, not that their warfare will be accomplished, but that their warfare is accomplished; that their iniquity is pardoned; that Jerusalem, the Church, has already received double for all her sins.
This warfare, of course, could not have been accomplished in Isaiah’s time, nor in John the Baptist’s time, – no, not even in the Middle Ages. These comforting tidings can be said to the Church only after she has been delivered from the yoke of the Gentiles, during which time the people have paid double for their sins before and after the dispersion. This chapter, therefore, as a whole applies to the time of the end, to our time.
Verse 3 – “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
This is the verse in which John the Baptist found his text as the messenger to prepare the way for Christ’s first advent. But since we have already seen that the chapter begins with a message for the people of God who live in the time of the end, the time they have paid for all their sins, and since the time of their redemption has at last arrived, obviously the chapter has a primary as well as final application: It applies both to Christ’s first and to His second advent. The last of these is figurative – a voice crying in the wilderness, not in the vineyard, not in the land of Judah (Isa. 5:7), but in the desert, in the lands of the Gentiles.
Verse 4 – “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”
The burden of the message to be proclaimed is to prepare the people to meet the Lord: to level the high places, to raise the low, to remove all the impediments, so that the highway of the Lord, the way for His coming, be cleared. These terms, of course, figuratively say: The exalted ones are to be humbled; the humbled ones and those who have been cast out are to be exalted; wrongs are to be made right, for in God’s domain equality and justice must prevail.
“When the Spirit of God, with its marvelous awakening power, touches the soul, it abases human pride. Worldly pleasure and position and power are seen to be worthless. ‘Imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God,’ are cast down; every thought is brought into captivity ‘to the obedience of Christ.’ Then humility and self-sacrificing love, so little valued among men, are exalted as alone of worth. This is the work of the gospel, of which John’s message was a part.” – The Desire of Ages, pg. 135.
Verse 5 – “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
Here we are told that when this “revival and reformation” takes place, the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. Let us therefore realize that if we do these things we all would be the forerunners of these glorious promises, and the servants of God for this time.
Verses 6-8 – “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand for ever.”
The message of the hour is to point out that all men are mortal, no more enduring than the grass; that even their virtues are no more lasting than the flowers of the field; but that the Word of God is everlasting; that those who desire to obtain eternal life, to become as eternal as the Word Itself, should not put confidence in any man, but in the Word of God only: that they should inquire for themselves, “Is it Truth?” and not, “From whom does it come?”
Verse 9 – “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain: O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, behold your God!”
Those who shall finally stand on Mount Sion, and who are now preparing the way of the Lord by bringing these good tidings, are all counselled to get on a high mountain, as it were, and to lift up their voices together without any fear whatever, to proclaim to the cities of Judah (to the churches everywhere) to prepare the way of the Lord and to say, “Behold your God.”
Verse 10 – “Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.”
The arm of the Lord that rules for Him must be figurative of those through whom He works (Isa. 51:9), of those who are to stand with Him on Mt. Sion (Rev. 14:1), – the Church spotless and without guile. “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.” Hos. 3:4, 5.
The messengers of the hour are to declare, too, that the Lord’s reward (life forevermore) is with Him, but that His work is still before Him, yet to be finished.
Verse 11 – “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
This care over His people is to be felt when His arm rules for Him. He shall then take charge of His work, and of His people, as a shepherd takes charge of a flock. He shall exercise personal care over all, old and young alike.
Verse 12 – “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?”
Since there is none other than God Himself who can do all these things, and since He Himself is to take charge of His Own flock, we know that His care over them will be matchless. And why should we not hasten that time?
Verses 13, 14 – “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counsellor hath taught Him? With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and shewed to Him the way of understanding?”
We know that the Spirit Who leads into all Truth and all knowledge is not Himself led or taught by any man. Hence, why should we depend on any man that is divested of Inspiration to pass judgment on inspired Truth? The Word points out that not men only but even the nations are as nothing:
Verses 15-17 – “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity.”
When we realize that the nations on earth in comparison with God’s power are as nothing, that neither the timber nor the beasts of Lebanon are sufficient for even burnt offering, just that soon we will see all men, including ourselves, as insignificant, and as worthless as the dust. Then we shall see our dependence upon Him as important and as complete as is the dependence of an infant upon its parents.
Verse 18 – “To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?”
This is now a question for each one to answer in his own mind.
Verses 19, 20 – “The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.”
In these verses is shown how foolish men are: They do not stop to consider that though a piece of wood may be good for fuel, yet when man tries to make of it a likeness of God, it is but foolishness and that to bow down to it, is degrading and blasphemous.
Verses 21-26 – “Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: that bringeth the princes to nothing; He maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold Who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one faileth.”
Since God is greater than human imagination can fathom, why do men depend so little upon Him, – and so much upon their own words? True, we may not actually bow down to an image, but we may do other things that are equally idolatrous. Indeed, if such were not the case these exhortations would not have come to us through this timely-revealed prophecy.
Verses 27-31 – “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Is it not surprising that the Church, having come down through the ages this far, must now be taught the very first fundamentals of her faith?
Isa. 41:1, 2 – “Keep silence before Me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment; Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? He gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.”
To renew their strength is to put away sin, and to come near to God, is to learn of Him. Having done this they are then to invite others to come to judgment. The nations will keep silence until that time, and then will they say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Micah 4:2.
Our work is therefore to prepare the way of the Lord for the gathering of the people.
Verses 3-5 – “He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that He had not gone with His feet. Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am He. The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.”
These verses plainly show that the manifestation of God’s power is to be felt everywhere.
Verse 6 – “They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.”
God’s people are indeed to help their neighbor. The foolish nevertheless shall do foolishly, and shall continue in their idolatry.
Verses 7-10 – “So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved. But thou, Israel, art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art My servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”
God’s promises to His servants are sure. Let us take hold of them now. We shall never find an opportunity as good as we have today. Tomorrow will be too late; we had better respond while God is pleading.
Verses 11, 12 – “Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.”
Now is our opportunity to do all we can for those who oppose us, for here we are plainly told that if they continue in their hostility they shall perish.
Verse 13 – “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”
If we as a people are not fearful, then why all these pleadings and encouragements? Why the urgings that we cast out our fears?
Verses 14, 15 – “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.”
To thresh the mountains (kingdoms) is to take the wheat (saints) out of them. The servants of God, therefore, are here promised a new instrument, different from any ever used before; that is, the gathering of the saints in the harvest time is to be accomplished in a way un-dreamed of, – contrary to every human planning. This instrument will have teeth; it will suddenly separate the wheat from the straw and blow out the chaff. Christ, “Whose fan is in His hand, …will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matt. 3:12. For this cause we are called, and for this great and grand work we are to prepare the way.
Verses 16, 17 – “Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”
Yes, the chaff shall be blown out and the whirlwind shall carry it away to be burned with consuming fire. But God’s people shall rejoice in the Lord, and their poor will He comfort.
Verse 18 – “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”
The latter rain, we here see, is to be plentiful. It will make rivers, springs, and pools where not expected. All this is a forecast of a great harvest, even from the desert places – from the heathen lands. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” Rev. 7:9.
Verse 19 – “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together.”
God will beautify the lands of the Gentiles with people having Christian characters and graces as beautiful as the myrtle, the oil, the fir, the pine, and the box trees together. There is nothing in the world today to give men hope and peace of mind but these promises of God.
Verses 20-24 – “That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it. Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together. Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.”
Here is a challenge to all our adversaries. Let them tell you what shall happen hereafter if they can, or let them tell the past if they will, God challenges them. Thus they may now know that they are as nothing, and those who choose to follow them, even they shall be an abomination to Him.
Verse 25 – “I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon My name: and he shall come upon princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.”
This one that is in prophecy comes from somewhere north of the Promised Land. He calls on the Lord early – as early as the rising of the sun. He also comes upon princes as upon mortar, and as the potter that treads the clay. “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a Kingdom…it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms.” Dan. 2:44.
Verse 26 – “Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and before time, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.”
Is there anyone who ever declared these things to the people? asks the Lord. Then He answers His Own question: “Yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.”
Verses 27, 28 – “The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings. For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.”
When God visits His people with these good tidings, He finds no man among His servants to do this work, and no counsellor among them to give an answer to these things! We nevertheless are to do all we can to awaken them. We should exalt the Word, comfort His people, and prepare the way so that He can make a new threshing instrument of us.
Till then,–nor is my boasting vain,–
Till then I boast a Saviour slain;
And O, may this my glory be,
That Christ is not ashamed of me!