PMW 2019-092 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Isaiah 19:18ff is an encouraging prophecy that relates the postmillennial hope of the gospel conquering the world. It shows the gospel will even overwhelm the historic enemies of God. Calvin’s exposition of this passage is extremely helpful for encouraging the postmillennial outlook. I am continuing citing Calvin’s material, beginning now with Isa 19:21.
And the Lord shall be known by the Egyptians (Isa 19:21).
Isaiah now adds what was most important; for we cannot worship the Lord, or call upon him, till we have first acknowledged him to be our Father. “ How” says Paul, “ can they call on him whom they know not?” (Rom 10:14.) We cannot be partakers of the gifts of God for our salvation without previously having true knowledge, which is by faith. He therefore properly adds, the knowledge of God, as the foundation of all religion, or the key that opens to us the gate of the heavenly kingdom. Now, there cannot be knowledge without doctrine; and hence infer, that God disapproves of all kinds of false worship; for he cannot approve of anything that is not guided by knowledge, which springs from hearing true and pure doctrine. Whatever contrivance therefore men may make out of their own minds, they will never attain by it the true worship of God. We ought carefully to observe passages like this, in which the Spirit of God shews what is the true worship and calling of God, that, having abandoned the inventions to which men are too obstinately attached, we may allow ourselves to be taught by the pure word of God, and, relying on his authority, may freely and boldly condemn all that the world applauds and admires.
The Egyptians shall know.
It is not without good reason that he twice mentions this knowledge. A matter of so great importance ought not to be slightly passed by; for it holds the chief place, and without it there is nothing that can properly be called worship.
And shall make sacrifice and oblation. This passage must be explained in the same manner as the former, in which he mentioned an altar. What would have been the use of sacrifices after the manifestation of Christ? He therefore describes metaphorically confession of faith and calling on God, which followed the preaching of the gospel. Here he includes everything that was offered to God — slain beasts, bread, fruits of every description, and all that was fitted to express gratitude. But we must attend to the difference between the Old and New Testaments, and under the shadows of ceremonies we must understand to be meant that” worship” of which Paul speaks (Rom 12:1) .
Special Studies in Eschatology (6 mp3 downloads)
by Ken Gentry
In this collection of individual lectures you will find presentations of important eschatological themes, including a lecture given at Criswell College in Dallas, Tex. Click on tile (above) to read more.
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And shall vow vows to the Lord and perform them.
What he adds about vows is likewise a part of the worship of God. The Jews were accustomed to express their gratitude to God by vows, and especially they rendered thanksgiving by a solemn vow, when they had received from God any extraordinary blessing. Of their own accord also, when any one chose to do so, they made vows on various occasions (Deu 12:6). And yet every person was not at liberty to make this or that vow according to his own pleasure; but a rule was laid down (Num 30:3). Whatever may be in that respect, it is evident that by the word vows the Prophet means nothing else than the worship of God, to which the Egyptians devoted themselves after having learned it from the word of God; but he mentions the acts of devotion by which the Jews made profession of the true worship and religion.
Hence the Papists draw an argument to prove, that whatever we vow to God ought to be performed; but since they make vows at random, and without any exercise of judgment, this passage lends no aid to defend their error. Isaiah foretells what the Egyptians will do, after having embraced and followed the instruction given by God. In like manner, when David exhorts the people to vow and to perform their vows, (Psa 76:11,) they think that he is on their side; but be does not therefore exhort them to make unlawful and rash vows (Ecc 5:2). There always remains in force the law of vows, which we are not at liberty to transgress, namely, the word of God, by which we learn what he requires from us, and what he wishes us to vow and perform. We never received permission to vow whatever we please, because we are too much disposed to go to excess, and to take every kind of liberty with regard to God, and because we act more imprudently towards him than if we had to deal with men. It was therefore necessary that men should be laid under some restraint to prevent them from taking so great liberties in the worship of God and religion.
This being the case, it is evident that God permits nothing but what is agreeable to his law, and that he rejects everything else as unacceptable and superstitious. What a man has vowed of his own accord, and without the support of the word, cannot be binding. If he perform it, he offends doubly; first, in vowing rashly, as if he were sporting with God; and secondly, in executing his resolutions wickedly and rashly, when he ought rather to have set them aside and repented. So far, therefore, is any man from being bound by vows, that he ought, on the contrary, to turn back and acknowledge his sinful rashness.
Now, if any one inquire about the vows of Papists, it will be easy to shew that they derive no support from the word of God. If those things which they highly applaud and reckon to be lawful, such as the vows of monks, are unlawful and wicked, what opinion must we form of the rest? They vow perpetual celibacy, as if it were indiscriminately permitted to all; but we know that the gift of continence is not an ordinary gift, and is not promised to every one, not even to those who in other respects are endued with extraordinary graces. Abraham was eminent for faith, steadfastness, meekness, and holiness, and yet he did not possess this gift (Gen 11:29). Christ himself, when the apostles loudly commended this state of celibacy, testified that it is not given to all (Mat 19:11). Paul states the same thing (1Co 7:7). Whosoever, therefore, does not possess this gift of continence, if he vow it, does wrong, and will be justly punished for his rashness. Hence have arisen dreadful instances of want of chastity, by which God has justly punished Popery for this presumption.
Sovereignty of God
(7 mp3 Gentry downloadable sermons)
In these seven sermons will be found a practical demonstration of God’s absolute sovereignty.
This series serves as an excellent introduction to this difficult doctrine.
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They likewise vow poverty, as if they would have nothing of their own, though they have abundance of everything beyond other men. Is not this an open mockery of God? The obedience which they vow is full of deceit; for they shake off the yoke of Christ, that they may become the slaves of men. Others vow pilgrimages, to abstain from eating flesh, to observe days, and other things full of superstition. Others promise to God toys and trinkets, as if they were dealing with a child. We would be ashamed to act thus, or to pursue such a line of conduct towards men, among whom nothing is settled till it has been agreed to on both sides by mutual consent. Much less is it lawful to attempt anything in the worship of God but what has been declared by his word. What kind of worship will it be, if the judgment of God has no weight with us, and if we yield only to the will of men? Will it be possible that it can please God? Will it not be “ will-worship,” which Paul so severely censures? (Col 2:23). In vain, therefore, do they who make such vows boast that they serve God; and in vain do they endeavor to find support in this passage; for the Lord abhors that kind of worship.
Therefore Jehovah will smite Egypt (Isa 19:22)
From what has been already said the Prophet draws the conclusion, that the chastisement which he has mentioned will be advantageous to the Egyptians, because it will be a preparation for their conversion; as if he had said, that it will be for the good of Egypt that the Lord will punish her. Those who translate the words,” will strike with a wound that may be healed,” misinterpret this passage, and greatly weaken the Prophet’ meaning; for it means that the wounds will be advantageous to them, and that by means of these wounds the Lord will bring them back. Hence we ought to conclude, that we must not refuse to be chastised by God, for it is done for our benefit (Pro 3:11; Heb 12:5). Exemption from punishment would cherish a disposition to sin with less control. As men are exceedingly prone to give way to their own inclinations, whenever God spares them for a little, it is necessary on this account that the Lord should prevent this danger, which he does by chastisements and stripes, which excite and arouse us to repentance. A remarkable instance of this is here exhibited in Egypt, which abounded in superstitions and wickedness, and went beyond all nations in idolatry, and yet experienced the mercy of God.
For they shall be turned to Jehovah.
We must attend to the manner of its accomplishment, which is, their conversion to God. It is the explanation of the former clause; as if he had said, “ will heal the Egyptians, because they shall be converted.” The copulative vav signifies for. Hence we infer that conversion may be said to be a resurrection from eternal death. We are utterly ruined so long as we are turned away from God; but when we are converted, we return to his favor, and are delivered from death; not that we deserve the favor of God by our repentance, but because in this manner God raises us up, as it were, from death to life. To repentance is added a promise, from which we conclude, that when we sincerely repent, we do not in vain implore forgiveness. Now, when the Prophet says that the Lord will be gracious and reconciled to the Egyptians, he at the same time shews, that as soon as they have been converted, they will obtain forgiveness. It will therefore be a true conversion when it is followed by a calling on God. But without faith (Rom 10:14) it is impossible to call on God; for even the ungodly may acknowledge sin; but no man will have recourse to the mercy of God, or obtain reconciliation, till he be moved by a true feeling of repentance, which is likewise accompanied by faith.
And will heal them.
He does not repeat what he had said, that God strikes in order to heal; but he promises healing in another sense, that is, that God will cease to inflict punishments. The former healing, which he mentioned a little before, was internal; but the latter relates to stripes and wounds. In short, he means that it will be a speedy remedy for all their distresses. After having been reconciled to God, there is nothing in us that calls for punishment; for whence comes punishment but on account of guilt? and when guilt is pardoned, exemption from punishment will quickly follow. And if we be chastised, it is an evidence that we are not yet sufficiently prepared for repentance.
In a word, let us remember this order, which the Prophet points out to us; first, that stripes prepare men for repentance; secondly, that they are healed, because they are delivered from eternal destruction; thirdly, that when they have been brought to the knowledge of their guilt, they obtain pardon; fourthly, that God is gracious and reconciled to them; fifthly, that chastisements cease after they have obtained pardon from God. There is no man who ought not to acknowledge in himself what Isaiah here declares concerning the Egyptians, in whom the Lord holds out an example to the whole world.
In that day (Isa 19:23).
The Prophet now foretells that the Lord will diffuse his goodness throughout the whole world; as if he had said,” will not be shut up in a corner, or exclusively known, as it formerly was, by a single nation.” Here he speaks of two nations that were the most inveterate enemies of the Church, and that appeared to be farther removed than any other from the kingdom of God; for much more might have been expected from distant nations, because the nations here mentioned openly made war with God and persecuted his Church. And if the Lord is so gracious to the deadly enemies of the Church, that he pardons and adopts them to be his children, what shall be the case with other nations? This prophecy thus includes the calling of all nations.
There shall be a highway. Now, when he says that, in consequence of a highway having been opened up, there will be mutual access that they may visit each other, he describes brotherly intercourse. We know that the Egyptians carried on almost incessant wars with the Assyrians, and cherished an inveterate hatred towards each other. He now foretells that the Lord will change their dispositions, and will reconcile them to each other, so that they will have mutual communications, mutual coming in and going out, in consequence of laying open the highways which were formerly shut. Here we ought to observe what we formerly remarked at the fourth verse of the second chapter, namely, that when men have been reconciled to God, it is likewise proper that they should cherish brotherly kindness towards each other. Strife, quarreling, disputes, hatred, and malice, ought to cease when God has been pacified. We need not wonder, therefore, that he says that a highway to Egypt is opened up for the Assyrians; but this ought undoubtedly to be referred to the reign of Christ, for we do not read that the Egyptians were on a friendly footing with the Assyrians till after they had known Christ.
And the Egyptians shall serve the Assyrians (or, with the Assyrians). This clause may be rendered,” serve God;” but as the name of God is not expressed here, it may refer to the Assyrians, which is also pointed out by the particle eth. It may therefore be explained thus. They who formerly burned with a desire to injure one another will be changed in their dispositions, and will desire to shew kindness. In short, the fruit of true repentance will be made evident, for they who formerly distressed each other in mutual wars will lend mutual aid. And this opinion will agree very well with those words of the Prophet with which they stand connected. Yet I do not set aside another interpretation which is almost universally adopted, namely,” who formerly worshipped other gods will henceforth acknowledge one God, and will assent to the same confession of faith.” I leave every one to adopt that interpretation which he thinks best. If the latter interpretation be preferred, the Prophet makes brotherly love to flow from godliness, as from its source.
Stay tuned for the finale of Calvin’s exposition of Isa 19:18–25.