July 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 15
The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (2)
“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that
seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to
the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham
your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him
alone, and blessed him, and increased him. For the Lord
shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places;
and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert
like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found
therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody” (Isa.
51:1-3). This is the Word of God that we are studying in the
Those who are addressed in Isaiah 51:1-3 are described not
only as those “that follow after righteousness,” as we saw
in the last issue, but also as those “that seek the Lord”
(1). They seek the Lord exclusively—no idols! They seek the
Lord by faith alone, in the Messiah. They seek the Lord in
His Word, in prayer and in His church. They seek the Lord
with all their hearts, continually, sincerely, earnestly.
They seek the Lord for all their salvation and peace.
This is what the Lord says to such people: “Hearken to me,
ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord”
(1). Jehovah is saying, in effect, “Listen to Me, for you
alone are the ones who are troubled by the desolation and
fewness of the church, and you alone will be comforted by
what I say to you in My Word. The ungodly, who lack faith,
will not be consoled by My promises, but you who seek Me and
My glory and righteousness will be.” This is true, beloved,
not only back then when Jerusalem was destroyed by the
Babylonians, but also for us now who are grieved for the
weakness and smallness of the true church in our day.
Isaiah begins to pour in the comfort by taking them to a
quarry, of all places: “look unto the rock whence ye are
hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (1)!
I say “quarry” because this verse speaks of a “pit” or, more
precisely, “the hole of the pit” from which comes a “rock”
which is “hewn.” A “pit” that contains “rock” which is
“hewn” is called a quarry.
But you understand that this is not a literal, physical
quarry, for the text says, “look unto the rock whence ye are
hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (1).
People are not manually chiselled from a flinty rock dug
from a quarry on the side of a hill.
So what is this picture getting at? Origin! Let us say that
you see a stone bust of an important person or an obelisk
made of smooth marble. Where did these materials come from?
What is their origin? A rock, a rock from a pit or quarry.
The phrase is almost proverbial in English: “look unto the
rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence
ye are digged” (1). “Look back to where you came from!
Consider your origins! This will help you, O My people,”
says the Almighty.
So what was the origin of Israel? We are not here referring
to their sinful and shameful beginnings. Ezekiel 16:3-5
describes that graphically: “Thy birth and thy nativity is
of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy
mother an Hittite. And as for thy nativity, in the day thou
wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in
water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor
swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these
unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast
out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the
day that thou wast born.”
Titus 3:3 is a portrait of us before our conversion to
Christ: “For we ourselves also were sometimes [i.e., once or
formerly] foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers
lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and
hating one another.” Ephesians 2 described us as “dead in
trespasses and sins” (1), walking after the ungodly world
and Satan (2), and “fulfilling the desires” and “lusts” “of
the flesh and of the mind” (3).
We are not here speaking either of the origin of Israel in
Jehovah’s eternal decree, whereby He elected Israel in Jesus
Christ before the world began, and loved and pitied her in
His sovereign grace (Deut. 7:6-7; Ps. 135:4-6).
The origin of Israel here is her origin in history (not in
her original sin or eternal election). Where did it all
start? What was the quarry from which she was hewn in
history? Abraham and Sarah! “Look unto Abraham your father,
and unto Sarah that bare you” (Isa. 51:2). “O, My afflicted
people, you should go back to Genesis,” says the Lord, “back
to Genesis 11-25, back to Genesis for the genesis (or
beginning) of Israel in father Abraham to comfort you in
your present distress.”
But what is the key thing said about Abraham here? Remember
that the Abrahamic narrative is lengthy—some 15 chapters. It
contains many important points or lessons.
What is the one crucial aspect that unlocks this Word of God
in Isaiah 51? Is it justification: “[Abraham] believed in
the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen.
15:6)? This is vital: vital for the whole gospel and vital
for the Reformation. The Apostle Paul elaborates on this
truth, especially in Romans 4 and Galatians 3. However, it
is not the idea here.
What about circumcision? It was given to Abraham and his
seed in Genesis 17, explained theologically in Romans 4 and
Colossians 2, and replaced by baptism in the New Testament
era (Belgic Confession 34). But the connection between
Abraham and circumcision is not the idea in Isaiah 51.
Our text does not even highlight Abraham’s faithfulness, as
an example to us, or his life of pilgrimage, important
though this is (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16).
Read Isaiah 51:2 very carefully: “Look unto Abraham your
father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him
alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” There is one
word that is crucial here. Do you know what it is? It is the
little word “alone.” But this will have to wait for
explanation in the next issue of the News. Rev. Stewart
The Work of the Holy Spirit (1)
In 2008, the British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) held its
tenth biennial conference at the Share Centre on the shores
of Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland. The subject was,
“The Work of the Holy Spirit.” Some time after the
conference, the speeches and sermons delivered by Lough Erne
were published in book form. Many of the readers of the News
have read that book. One reader recently came with a series
of questions about the contents of the speeches and sermons
delivered at that conference, and asked to have the answers
included in the News. I propose to do this in the next few
We will take these questions one by one as they appear in
the letter sent to me. Question 1: “First, can you expand
upon the idea that the Spirit was poured out on the church
in heaven and what that accomplished?”
The reader refers to a statement I made in one of my
speeches in which I mentioned the fact that on Pentecost the
Holy Spirit was poured out on the whole church, that is, the
church already in heaven as well as the church here on
earth. Apparently, the idea is new to him.
It is true that there is no direct proof in Scripture that
Christ gave His Holy Spirit to the saints already in heaven,
as well as to the church as it existed in Jerusalem on
Pentecost. The church there at that time consisted of one
hundred and twenty followers of Jesus, including the eleven
apostles and Matthias. But the proof that the Spirit was
given to all the saints is firmly established by the meaning
of the outpouring of the Spirit. The most wonderful part of
the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost is, in my opinion,
not so much that the Spirit was poured out on the church in
heaven, which we would expect, but that Christ also gave His
Spirit to the church on earth.
Consider the fact that not all of God’s people were present
in Jerusalem on Pentecost. There were proselytes throughout
the Mediterranean basin who, while people of God, had not,
prior to Pentecost, received the Holy Spirit. But the Holy
Spirit is given to all God’s people, everywhere in the
world. And Christ continues to give His Holy Spirit to the
church throughout the new dispensation, who, possessing the
Holy Spirit when they go to heaven, would certainly not meet
people there in heaven who did not possess the Spirit of
Pentecost merely because they died in Old Testament days.
The Spirit whom Christ gave to His church is the One through
whom Christ unites believers to Himself. As our Heidelberg
Catechism so beautifully puts it, in insisting that,
spiritually, we do eat the body of Christ in the Lord’s
Supper and drink His blood: “What is it then to eat the
crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ? It is not
only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings
and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin
and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become more and
more united to His sacred body by the Holy Ghost, who dwells
both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in
heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding flesh of His
flesh, and bone of His bone; and that we live and are
governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body
are by one soul” (Q. & A. 76).
We are united to Christ by the bond of faith. This is true
of all the saints. All, therefore, receive all the blessings
of salvation from Christ to whom they are united. This is
true of the saints in heaven as well as the saints upon
According to Revelation 22:17, “the Spirit and the bride
say, Come.” Not only does the church on earth pray for
Christ’s coming at the end of this age but this is also the
prayer of the saints in heaven. That the saints in heaven
also pray for Christ’s coming is evident in Revelation
6:9-10: “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under
the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of
God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried
with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true,
dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell
on the earth?” If the Holy Spirit works this prayer in the
hearts of the saints on earth (as He does), He works it in
the hearts of the saints in heaven as well.
The Holy Spirit works in such a way that we receive all that
Christ earned for us from the Holy Spirit. We are not
Arminians who proudly think they can do good works of one
kind or another by their ability and, therefore, they do not
need the Holy Spirit for everything. With a strange
insistence on their arrogant assertion that they do
something to save themselves, they claim that the Holy
Spirit comes to them only when they pray for Him. But we
know that even our prayers are the Spirit’s work and not
ours. All, and I mean ALL, our blessings, even the blessing
of the privilege of prayer, come to us by the work of the
Holy Spirit. Even the desire to do good works—and the
spiritual ability to perform them—comes from Christ who
works in us by His Holy Spirit. God works in us “both to
will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). He works
in us both to will and to do good works because it is, as
this Scripture says, His good pleasure for us and in us.
Finally, John writes of the church in heaven, at the time of
the ascension of Christ, proclaiming, “Now is come
salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the
power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast
down, which accused them before our God day and night” (Rev.
12:10). They were, of course, saved before this but, with
Christ’s ascension, He who earned salvation for them came to
them and by His Spirit unites even the saints in heaven to
And this answers the second part of the question above: What
did the outpouring of the Holy Spirit accomplish with
regards to the saints in heaven?
But that question involves the question of what the Holy
Spirit, given on Pentecost, gave the church that it did not
have before? Or, more particularly, what did the saints in
heaven receive from the Spirit that they did not have before
We will answer that question in a later News, Lord willing.
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