"But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end." (Isaiah 45:17)
You will find the prophet Isaiah had been inspired by God to speak of their deliverance from Babylonish captivity, and to declare the things before ever they came to pass; yea, before they got into that captivity, that it should come to pass; so declaring God's infinite wisdom and knowledge, that He knows all things, and that He works all things together according to the counsel of His own will. Having spoken a little of that, he says, "Verily thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour." (Isa. 45:15) And so He does; He oft-times hides Himself from our view in the way He is leading us, so that we are unable to see clearly God's hand in it, that is, we can find no comfort nor consolation from the things that we see; and He also hides His power, so that we do not behold it, as well as His purpose. He hides them also from the eyes of the world, and therefore He tells us, "They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols." The men of this world have an idea that things were created for them, and for their glory; but the Lord of hosts tells us that they were created for Him, and for His glory; and He created not the world and all things in vain either, for "He formed it to be inhabited." And so He goes on down through the next two or three chapters, and shows to us what shall be the destruction of the enemies of His people.
But we will return to the words I have read to offer a few thoughts from. "But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end."
In the few thoughts I would offer from the words, I would notice, first, who they are that shall be saved in the Lord: "But Israel shall be saved in the Lord;" then, secondly, what shall be to Israel: they "shall be saved with an everlasting salvation;" thirdly, how this shall be, in whom they shall be saved: "In the Lord with an everlasting salvation;" and lastly, what God declares concerning them: "Ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end."
No doubt the expression Israel in very many cases, and in this in some part of it, referred to the children of Isaac through Jacob according to the flesh, as they were God's peculiar people, separated by Him for an especial purpose. When we look at it, that they were God's peculiar people, His national church, we have a light given us in the Word of Truth how to look at it, and in that light we should look, or we shall mistake the meaning of God in very many of His dealings with them. For all were not Israel that were of Israel; and yet God had a special care and regard of them all. Some that were exceedingly wicked and depraved God in an especial manner took care of, and made known His purpose in a great measure unto; as, for instance, king Ahaz. They were God's peculiar people, for through that race the Messiah was to come, the Promised Seed in whom all nations were to be blessed. All the ancestors of the Lord of glory do not appear to have been God-fearing people; many of them were, but not all. Yet it was in that line the Lord of glory was to come, and for His sake they were preserved as a people until He had come, until He had taken flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone, and was born a babe in Bethlehem.
God has His purpose to do by all His creatures, and we can see this much from many of them, how God has preserved even wicked people, because through them He would bring into the world His own elect in due time. For this cause it appears many of God's temporal mercies were bestowed upon them; and for this cause many of God's temporal mercies are bestowed upon people now-a-days, who know Him not. They were to be the ancestors of the Lord of glory according to the flesh, as the Scriptures inform us, "Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came," that Seed which the Apostle tells us God spake of, when He said to Abraham, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." (Gen. 22:18) "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Gal. 3:16) So when he comes to speak of Israel the children of Abraham, he takes it up in the same light, "They which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." (Gal. 3:9) And when he comes to speak of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, he says, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." (Rom. 9:7) And who was he, but a child of promise? "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise." (Gal. 4:28)
We want to look at this a little. Isaac was not born according to the natural course of things. Abraham and Sarah were both old and stricken in years, and past the time of life; but Isaac came, the child of promise. "Now we, brethren," he says, "as Isaac was, are the children of promise," that is, the seed. So the saints of God are all born according to the promise of God. And we find too that there is a distinction between them; for Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob, both born at the same time, for they were twins; and there seems to my view something rather significant in that, for there was one a carnal man, and there was another who was a spiritual man: the one labored to get what he could by his skill in hunting, by his power and prowess; but the other sought by prayer and supplication, according to the power of God. So he obtained the blessing--not Esau, who sought it by his works, his quiver and his bow; but Jacob who wrestled with God, and sought it by prayer and supplication; he is called a prince, he wrestled with God, and prevailed. One laid hold of the promise, the other stood upon his own ability; the one put God in mind of what He had said, the other was a mere carnal man, and wrought after a carnal manner; but he was rejected: "Jacob have I loved," say the Scriptures, "but Esau have I hated." (Rom. 9:13)
We have here, then, another feature of this Israel. They are a people who are born according to the promise of God, and also a people who live upon the promise of God--by that promise of God they have hope, they wrestle with that God who spake the promise; and thus it comes to something like this: they are born again of the Word of truth, which Word is called "incorruptible seed, by the Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever." (1 Pet. 1:23) It is the promise of God which begets them to a newness of life; the promise of God which, as it were, puts hope into their souls; and it is by that promise they wrestle, on that promise of God they rely, that they may thus rely upon Him who has said it. So Jacob, when he was afraid, said, "Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good," and he put God in mind of His promise; and when the Angel touched him, and he became lame through the touch, and all the powers of nature failed him, he still held fast by the promise of God--"I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." But we may see the teaching of God by His Spirit, for it is the Spirit of God that makes known the things of God unto us; they are hidden from the carnal wise--"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" (1 Cor. 2:14-16) But the Spirit searcheth the deep things of God, and He makes them known unto us; "He shall take of Mine, and shall shew it unto you." (John 16:15)
The natural mind of man looks at earthly things alone. He may fear hell and the punishment of his sins, and be under great dread with respect to them; but he understands not, he knows not the promise of God in Jesus Christ. These things he has no right conception of: God's purpose, and God's promise where His purpose is revealed to us--these things he understands not; but we find the spiritual man is said to do so. And in the instruction which the Spirit of God gives to the elect of God, the chosen of God in Christ Jesus, the children that are according to the promise, we see how He cuts them off from hope and help. Sarah was too old, and Esau was the firstborn; yet Sarah brings forth Isaac, the child of promise, and Jacob runs away with the blessing. Sarah was past age; and Jacob was lame, and Esau coming against him to cut him off; and Ishmael was in Sarah's household, ready, as it were, to pounce upon everything. But though first, they were too late; they sought after the flesh. But as it is of God, of His own free grace, what God is pleased to give, He shows to us that it is neither by might nor by power, but by Himself; it is of Himself, from Himself, and He freely gives it in such a way, that He shall have all the glory of it, and no flesh shall glory in His presence. Sarah bare Isaac; Jacob--not the firstborn--took the blessing; God saved him out of all his troubles, though lame, without might and strength. We have here a picture (if I may call it so,) an illustration, a simile of God's spiritual dealings with His own people, how He instructs them. It is not of themselves, it is not because they are capable of anything, it is not because they have wisdom or might, it is not because they have power or strength, it is not because things seem favorable unto them,--but it is of God's good pleasure toward them, and it is only the promise of God, the promise of life in Jesus Christ--God's blessing in the Son of His love, the gift of His rich, free grace, because He will give it; and it is of God Himself who gives us eyes to see it. And through all the circumstances that come upon us, what at other times would seem to be only forerunners of destruction, forerunners of despair, God through them brings us into the state, teaches us what His promise is, and enables us to lay hold of it; and so we wrestle with Him by faith and prayer.
There does not appear to be room for faith where there is natural strength; and when things have a bright appearance, according to carnal sense, there does not appear to be much room for prayer. The saints of God were strengthened in their weakness, for it was the power of God that rested upon them. They wrestled most when nature failed, for there was nothing but the Lord to lay hold of. Jacob held the fastest then, for nothing but destruction appeared before him.
Such are now the Israel of God. It is they who are taught what His promise is, what His free grace is, what helpless creatures they are; that it is of God's free grace alone that ever they are taught what His purpose is, and by His good will and pleasure alone that His Spirit is given to them, to teach them to lay hold of the promise of life in Jesus Christ, and there to rest.
"But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end." "But," though it is not in the original, is rightly put here. It seems to connect it with the verse before, where it says, "They shall be ashamed, and also confounded all of them; they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols." Ishmael came to that end, and so did Esau; and yet they had the world, and plenty of it too, and they did not appear to have half the trials that Jacob had, and half the sorrows of soul while in this time state. The saints of God are said to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, but we do not read of them sitting down with Ishmael or Esau. They had abundance of the world's goods, they had all their heart's desire, they were satisfied with it, and that was their portion, their lot; and we do not read of any portion allotted to them hereafter. On one (for so the figure leads us to look) the wrath of God rested. Ishmael was the child of the bond-woman, and under the curse; and Esau, God tells us, He hated--so there was no eternal portion for them. So it seems that all the worldly goods and all the portions people have in this world, who make it their home, all that may last through their lifetime, but it will leave them then, and there will be everlasting confusion for their portion.
"But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation." We are, then, to look at this salvation that is spoken of; and, to look at it, we must view it as that eternal, everlasting salvation which the Apostle speaks of in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where he tells us--"Having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Heb. 9:12) For he cannot mean that it should be exclusively a portion in time and time things, for they are but temporary, for a little while and are past and gone. Nations and people that have been saved from many deaths, out of great distresses and great afflictions, yet death has come; nations have been swept away, and the riches and honors people have gathered together--they have all passed away, as they are time things. We find this is "everlasting;" not a mere time deliverance, though it does include time deliverances, and for this end God's saints are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Pet. 1:5) So time salvations, they come, and are, as it were, steps in the way to that eternal "salvation ready to be revealed"--"To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Pet. 1:4) There are temptations which happen to us by the way, there are powers that come against us by the way, and these are called ofttimes in the Scriptures, temptations--"Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." The Lord of Hosts knows that we, of ourselves, have not strength to stand, and could not stand, if He were to leave us in the enemy's hand; therefore He says, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." So those things which befall His own elect, and befall others also, and which in one instance prove the ruin of the one, God in His infinite mercy saves the other from. He knows "how to deliver the godly out of temptation." Therefore the oppressions which come upon God's people at times, their sorrows and distresses would be too much for them, they could not bear up under them, they would drive them either mad or to despair. So the Lord speaks about the time of trouble that should come upon the Jews, and He says, "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." (Matt. 24:22) Thus He comes, and shows to us that, were they to continue upon His own elect, they would be too much for them. God knows how to apportion their strength to the time of trial. It was so after His ascension. The saints of God felt the persecution so heavy and bitter upon them that they cried--"how long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" They felt as if they could scarcely stand; but "it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season." Strength was given by the way, until they should be delivered out of their troubles. "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles." (Ps. 34:17)
So there is, through all that comes upon them, a time when God will deliver them. They were in Egypt, in cruel bondage, until they seemed to have no further strength left; then God sent Moses and Aaron. It appeared to the people then as though one more straw would have crushed them to death; but God saved them and delivered them, because He delighted in them--He had a purpose with respect unto them.
So in all the trials that befall God's people there is an end in them, they are not to continue for ever. Therefore these temporal salvations are extended towards them to bring them on safely unto the end, that they may attain eternal glory. Thus, "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." God delivers them out of their sorrows and distresses; there is a salvation unto the end, and that salvation unto the end of their days here on earth, their being upheld and preserved by the Lord, is to that eternal glory to which He calls them by Jesus Christ ("who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus," 1 Peter 5:10) so He stablishes, strengthens, and settles us. That eternal glory to which He calls us by Jesus Christ, is that we should be with Him to see Him as He is, and be the adopted sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty. He is the holy and blessed Jehovah, and we are poor, unholy, filthy creatures.
When Satan corrupted our first parents, he infused into their minds a sense of self-sufficiency, an exaltation of their own selves as if they were somebody, and an endeavor to make God--the Creator--subservient to their use, to their glory. "Eat this, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." There was their self-sufficiency; "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." There was the means he used to that end--"Now eat this fruit, partake of this to glorify yourself by doing so."
Man's nature has not only become corruptible, but his mind is depraved likewise; and by nature he stands enslaved by Satan, and under the curse and wrath of Almighty God.
God's salvation saves us from the curse of God and the enslavement to Satan, and brings down all the pride and high and haughty looks which we have with respect to ourselves, enslaved by Satan, and led captive by him according to his will, through the deceitful lusts and passions that work within us, under the wrath and curse of God as law transgressors, and instead of serving God, we have been endeavoring to serve ourselves in every way and manner we could. God's salvation lasts through all our days, and is the bringing us off this, bringing us away from self-sufficiency, bringing us away from the deceivings of Satan, enlightening our minds and showing us what the deceitful lusts of Satan are, what the pomps and vanities of this world are, and how the carnal mind is enslaved with them, and instead of being servants of the living God according to His holy will, we have in all these things consulted ourselves, consulted that spirit of pride and vanity that is in us, and endeavored to walk according to it; and showing us also the justice, righteousness, and holiness of God revealed in His holy law against sin and sinners too.
But there is no flesh to glory in His presence. Hence the needs be for the various exercises of our minds, and the crosses we meet with in the way; they show unto us what we are; that God is God Almighty, that He is the sovereign Lord of all, and has a right to do with His own as He pleases, to use all His creatures according to His will. How through them we see what otherwise we should not see in those precious promises of God in Christ Jesus, and a beauty and glory in the Man Christ Jesus, who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, whose nature had no spot nor stain in it; and how God calls us to union with Him, to fellowship with Him, to oneness with Him; and there in the union and communion we have with Him, we partake of His Spirit, and become acquainted with His Person. And in the fellowship we have with Him then, we find how the world hates Him, how it hates God and all conformity to God, how it knows Him not. If you speak the truth, they will not believe you; if you act honestly, they will treat you as a rogue. They did so to the Lord of glory; they knew Him not--they will know you not.
"But in this we rejoice,
To God we're no strangers,
But objects of choice."
"But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end." God worketh with a view to this end, that a knowledge of the true God may be given to us, that we, being renewed in the spirit of our mind, may be conformed to Him in our will; and then He shows us what He has for us--that the body shall be raised from the dead, freed from all this sin and corruption that we have in us, and all this self-will, and to be for ever with Him. "But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end."
I must leave these few thoughts here. May the Lord add His blessing to them. Amen.