W W W W World Wide Web Witness Inc. Home Page Contents Page for Volume What is New
DEITY PERSONALLY SENT,
AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD, IN ISAIAH 48-55
AS IN TRUTH
In Chapter 8, we were
looking at Isaiah 48:16 and its triune wonder
as God comes to do His great, His remarkable and strange work for man;
but strange though it is to carnal ears,
it is shining with the light of eternal splendour
to those who realise, at last, the way, will and wisdom of God.
Indeed, this declaration of 48:16, that God is moving from heaven to earth for a task to be performed, sent by God and His Spirit, is not only trinitarian. It shows the mode of relationship, just as does John 15:26, with 16:5ff., 14:25ff. and especially 16:7.
There we find that on Christ's DEPARTURE from this earth, then the Spirit of God will continue the application of His power in His name. It is expedient that He at the completion of His incisive, sacrificial work and demonstration, should depart so that the Spirit of God more broadly and most intimately should continue His work. It is this which Acts 1:1 reflects, and Acts 2ff. illustrates, just as Christ in Luke 24:49 implied.
In this context of Isaiah, it is well to ponder its depth and purport.
Thus, the Lord, having shown the coming ruin of Babylon, in Isaiah 47, in 48 asks Jacob to listen as He makes a personalised address of some length. Challenging them because of their unbelief, despite His unique and demonstrated power to show what is to come, and then do it, stating "I have declared the former things," God tells them that new things are to be told them, which were not in this depth and scope before known, so that there is no chance for them to pretend "Of course I knew them," in that know-all and idolatrous lapse for which Israel was so noted, so often.
For His own name's sake, in accord with His mercy, pity and truth, God then opens the books and tells Israel what is to be, and what deliverance He is about to unveil.
LISTEN! He says (48:12), and setting the perspective, that He has founded heaven and earth, He declares that He will indeed subdue and demolish Babylon (as in Isaiah 47 just preceding), but He has more than Cyrus in mind (as in Isaiah 44-45).
Now begins a lament and exhortation combined of the most moving and heartfelt kind. There is a way, the Lord indicates, in which they should go. It is not hidden, obscure but declared and demonstrated. If ONLY they had followed it, what peace and order would have been theirs! But they did not ... (Isaiah 48:17-19).
In speaking thus, the Lord makes a stupendous revelation about His name and way. It is to this that we next must give attention
Continuing to speak and demand as God their attention, He says this:
While Babylon is about to receive her recompense for the assault on Israel Isaiah (48:14), as in Isaiah 47, yet God has a deeper message, for which He asks them to come near, listening intently.
Thus not only has God poured scorn on idols, including pomposity and self-belief (Isaiah 48:5,7), but He has differentiated Himself in the whole realm of history and His long association with Israel, from ALL that is not God, pursuing it back to the creation itself, and insisting multiply on speaking in His name, in the most direct, infinitely discrete and separate fashion from all else. In fact, as has been seen from Deuteronomy 32, in Ch. 4 and Ch. 5 above, this differentiation from NOT-GOD is fundamental at all times to the word and way of God - just as parents are not to be confused with other children, so God is not to be confused with NOT-GOD! This is a call to the revelation from the first, in order in those very terms, to extend it and divulge what is amazing in the very texture of divine communication for man.
Having brought things to this focus, then, the Lord proceeds with more.
He then divulges as a thing that Israel cannot know, find out or pretend to have discovered in itself, and shows that this is nothing less than what proceeds from Him who is the first and last and the Lord, and that He for His name's sake, thus established in their minds and memories, is about to ACT! In what way is He then to do this ?
Firstly, the generic, the fashion of it is shown and declared. He declares that He has not been a secretive God, and from the first has revealed Himself (Isaiah 48:16). From the first, in all time, all things, He was there, as to the last, He knows and declares, foreseeing what is to be (as in 45:7,19,21,22); and it is He who is their salvation (as in 45:22, 42:6, 49:6). Having demolished the fraud of idols (46), and shown the fate of powerful and imposing Babylon in its imperial strength brought to the dust (47), He now identifies Himself in this manner, beyond all human thought and ascription, but dependent on revelation alone: this being His very name, mode of being, status and majesty.
Always there, never absent, God from everlasting to everlasting (cf. 45:12, Psalm 90:2, 44:24ff.), without parallel, gives death and shame to pretenders and postulations. It is He now reveals that He is SENT TO ISRAEL, and who is sending Him ? Who is this but "the Lord God and His Spirit."
As God, God comes: it is precisely as in Psalm 2, 45, where in Him must man trust, even in the Messiah, and where His is the very throne of God. Thus as God, the LORD of Israel, that special name which is His, He is sent from the Lord God and the Spirit which is God also. In this threefold communion, not as synthetic, for that implies a constitution of what was separate and hence something else to do it, or some environment: as this One sent, He comes.
He acts, and He is sent.
Just as each and all are eternal and all one, so each is able to act in the name of the Being who is God, and who is one. Thus the LORD is sent to them as God.
The ONE speaking to them in Isaiah 48 has throughout been God, and not only so: God as intensively separated from all other beings, situations and powers. He says to listening Israel,
"I knew that you would deal very treacherously" - 48:8,
and He who so declares, it is "the LORD of hosts", that very one sent.
Yes, this is His name (48:2). In continuing to speak in the first person, in an intensive and extensive concentration and exclusivistic focus, He now indicates that He who has thus revealed Himself and is as He has been, the LORD, is sent by the Lord of hosts and the Spirit. Obviously, then, in God there are specialised functions which are more than items: they are persons! Instead of ruminating within oneself, as in the image of God, as created man may do, with God the movements and actualities are far more profound. God expresses Himself, for His own part, IN a Person, and that person is the LORD who is sent. His expression is not just personalised thoughts or intimations within oneself, it IS the Person who is the Messiah, the Word (as John 1:1 shows). This is precisely as in Isaiah 49:2.
The Spirit of God moves with this as does the Sender. The One sent comes in this communion, with this trinitarian reality as to His very Being. In this way, quite simply, God sends God, the Sender the Sent, the person who sends the person who is sent, beyond man, while man is made to hear and to respond, in His image, but as created. Nothing can duplicate the eternal, being made, but what is made may be made to hear, to respond, to love, to obey, to understand, to participate in the glorious fellowship of this unique, eternal and majestic Being.
Thus we come in the One Sent, to the incarnation of 40:10, where God on earth takes lambs in His arms, and of Zechariah 12:10, where in this format, it is GOD who is pierced, who speaks, precisely as here, as God when in the person of the SENT being, the Messiah. That God should send God, that His Spirit should also be sending the Messiah is merely intimation of the infinite intimacy of God.
Families are one human expression for man in God's image of this fact. With God, however, increate, these intimacies are not ones of generation, as if what had not been comes into being: rather they are personal. The arm of action and the speech of revelation are not just power and words, for there are no created members in God. It is person to person action, at a far more elevated level than function to function as in man; and in this unity of ONE BEING, the THREE persons who comprise Him, move as one, being one in heart, character, nature, but distinguishable in operation and inter-relationship (cf. SMR pp. 532ff.).
That having been made clear, that it is none less than GOD HIMSELF who is to come and act, who is to be this humanly undiscoverable secret, this acme and wonder to be revealed in detail never before known to Israel: then God proceeds from ontology to action. He will act in this COMING which is the obverse of His being SENT.
Demanding action on their part, to leave the premises of Babylon, that religious renegade, dizzy setting for idols and confusion, an empire He has already judged and one soon to be destroyed, lamenting on their earlier wilful and fateful disobediences, the Lord then continues in the first person to indicate the nature of His being as the SENT ONE. He is to have a mother for the earthly format... (Isaiah 49:1).
Thus does Isaiah 49 proceed. From the womb this incarnate SENT one is to be declarative in Being, and from the first as He grows up into youth and manhood, He is to be specially elect, select and secure. In the shadow of the Lord's hand is He hidden, secured, and "He made Me a polished shaft, in His quiver has He hidden Me." There is thus the profound potentiation for maturity coming in this incarnate being, sent for a specialised purpose to recalcitrant Israel, to deliver them not only in time, but for ever. However, they must HEAR (cf. John 5:24).
We then find that there is a tragedy, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing," but that this is only the appearance of horror, for "surely My just reward is with the LORD, and my word with my God."
Here the immense weight of being human (as in Psalm 22:1 echoed in Matthew 27:46) is shown, and that of performing the task for which He is sent! and for all of that, and in terms of who He IS, the Lord is yet inseparable despite anguish and agony, from His celestial identity. If the pangs are of the order of infinity, so is the power to bear them, and overcoming, triumph.
He is formed from the womb, He declares, still in the first person in this sequence and spiritual saga of action and power, grace and deliverance, and His purpose is to bring Jacob, Israel back to Himself, and "My God shall be My strength" - 49:5. Events are evidently exerting on Him a pressure intense and elemental, and what this is, we are to be shown.
Indeed, it is not enough for His purpose to be to redeem Israel, it is to be "as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth."
When it is God who is concerned, this is scarcely surprising, although from the very flood on, there has been a catastrophic element for man in the most manifest manner. It is thus good to hear these comforting and indeed glorious words of divine composure and plan: He no mere observer, nor even a participant alone, but One as SENT, for a time submerged in the smog of the sinners, as He redeems. Yet does the light shine undivestible, amid the gloom, the horror and the ransom procedure (cf. John 1:5), as becomes the One who He is (as in John 1:3, Colossians 1:15, John 8:;58).
This amazing development revealed in Isaiah 49:6, is from one called "He", evidently the One who sent Him, and indicates that the intense unity in heaven is not breached one earth, despite the rigours of the task the LORD has in person undertaken, its horrors and its invasive dynamic as if to delete.
Having shown speech from heaven, the prophet is now inspired to show speech of the target, Israel, in earth. This is found in 49:14ff.. Indeed, now we come to an elemental conversation which interprets and applies the realities into the human field. We look at the body, the recipients, at man.
Israel feels forsaken ? But He has "inscribed you on the palms of My hands." It is as a child, a nursing child to its mother that He is concerning Himself with Israel. He has not forgotten them.
The inscribing on the hands of course is in line with Psalm 22, written around 1000 B.C. by David, in his own prophetic prediction, that His hands and feet are pierced, although He is to be resurrected (Psalm 16). It puts the redeeming medium and the depth of compassion and concern into one glorious unity.
Moving to Isaiah 50, we find an excoriating flash of challenge and exposure from the Lord to Israel, and in this once more the first personal account.
"The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens My ear, to hear as the learned."
Thus we are here introduced to more of the incarnation of one person of the trinity, to see how it was that, as would transpire, that He would know more than scholars and be better versed than those who had had all the advantages of the utmost of Jewish culture, when the time came (Luke 2:41ff.). We continue then, with the first personal account of the LORD Himself, as emphatically pre-identified, and now step by step, expressing His revelation in advance, concerning what He is to do. It is like an interview, but before time, with the Victor. We see the pangs on the way!
Thus, if there is majesty and knowledge, learning and understanding beyond all, there is no less suffering beyond all in this mission of majesty and this declaration of deity.
"I gave My back to those who struck Me,
and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;
I did not hide My face from shame and spitting."
In this revelation there is thus a new feature in detail. There is to be striking of His very body, and tearing of His beard, yes He is quite simply, to be spat upon. Indeed, the thing is to go far further than this, as we see in Isaiah 52:14, when His visage is to become scarcely recognisable as human, an excellent portrayal of what sin does, shown as He vicariously bore it. Worst of all is to come in Isaiah 53:6, but we anticipate.
Let us return to Isaiah 50:5-10.
This is then used to show that for all who suffer for Him, there is the resource AS MAN, and even within mankind to STAY on your God, and trust in His NAME! This is an example in the meantime.
In Isaiah 51, we learn that "the LORD will comfort Zion," in her day of affliction, and just as Isaiah 49:2 showed the Lord Himself, incarnate, with the divine words put in His mouth for His mission, so here we learn that if this so distinct Being had not been scheduled to come on mission (with His joyful willingness - Psalm 40), the very heavens and earth would not even have been created (Isaiah 51:16, 49:2). "Your sons have fainted" and "they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of your God."
Yet in the way, God is intent to declare, there is to be a deliverance, and godless nations will know it (Isaiah 51:20,23). The One who has made His mouth like a sharp sword, and hidden Him in His quiver (Isaiah 49:2), who has in Him an Israel, or one prevailing, a prince with God, who unlike the nation, does NOT fail and is NOT awry but true (Isaiah 49:3), here speaks to His Messiah in that intimacy which we have already seen in Isaiah 49:3.
The Person is shown by the notation, the task, the performance, the victory, for by stated definition there is in all Israel, only ONE and He is the Lord Himself, who either can or will do what is necessary, that earth be made, that salvation be ready, that all may proceed to its consummate end in the culmination of the Cross and the climax of the resurrection. Here is the one IN Israel, who is the ONE FOR Israel, by whom alone Israel may become Israel indeed, for in itself, it has failed, and that miserably.
Meanwhile, as in Isaiah 52, we learn this of the nation being addressed, itself in some ways symbolic of all, since all are to have the same salvation, even by name, the Gentiles also (42:6, 49:6):
"You have sold yourself for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money,"
a fact made explicit after redemption in Isaiah 55, where the folly of seeking relief from any source other than God, who gives it freely, is shown.
What then is this redemption without money ? It has beauty in it: 52:7. How beautiful, indeed, are the very feet of the One who brings good tidings, making clear that God does indeed reign, and that His salvation is to be seen by the very extremities of the earth! (52:10).
We turn now to Isaiah 52:13, the narration of the Sender concerning the Sent:
"Behold, My servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high."
Before however any might imagine that perhaps he misunderstood the suffering just revealed in the first personal narration of the one SENT, we are told something even deeper in the realm of suffering.
"Just as many were astonished at You,
So His visage was marred more than any man,
and His form more than the sons of man."
The Sender is speaking with that glorious intimacy to His Sent one, His servant, the One appointed to do the task of redemption, in terms of many being "astonished at You," as if in a communiqué there is an element of direct speech to the recipient, as when an Official in Whitehall is speaking in official terms of what is to be done, and then turns to speak to the well-known recipient in a more personal manner.
More is told: just as this horror impacted on the Sent One (52:15), so "shall He sprinkle many nations."
At once we see the sacrificial element, for sprinkling with sacrificial blood, as one can see endlessly in Leviticus, in the sense of covering ever so many actions and situations, such even as leprosy, is part of the very life of the nation. It is now not merely Israel, but in parallel with the word of 49:6 (which is the same in essence as that in 42:6), for many nations! In other words, just as the SENT one is to be salvation not only to Israel but to many nations, so here does He sprinkle not just in Israel, but many nations. It is a sacrificial service on which the action becomes centred.
Then in Isaiah 53, the plan of salvation is spelt out in great detail, the poverty of placement of the Saviour, as He grew up on earth towards that maturity in which He would act effectually as Messiah: thus none can claim it was the flesh rather than the incarnation that mattered.
We find this as the service reaches its crescendo: "Surely He has borne our griefs", so that there is now not an animal death merely, but a sense of burden and investment with human weakness and penalty, on the SENT one. Indeed, "He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed." Although grief is a strong feature, sin is the centre; and the punishment for it is His lot to bear, indeed its very evil dynamic and awfulness, vicariously.
From prison He comes (53:8), so that we learn there is to be a judicial assault on Him, an incredible seeming thing, since this is the Creator of the heaven and the earth who comes to receive this at the hands of created, merely human agents, whose intense evil dares even in the name of 'religion' so to act! This essentialises the rebellion of centuries, on the part of Israel which was in view, just as departure increasingly from it in the Gentile nations is occurring now. Man does not lightly take the heaviness of his eccentric burden and cast it on the Lord! But let us examine from Isaiah further the work of the SENT one.
No children are His (53:8), and He is indeed to be BURIED! (53:9), and there the historical specifications are given: it is to be in association with both the rich and the criminal element, that He is to be placed in His death, as of course happened, this being an obvious and crucial test, not only in overall and amazing fact, but in detail.
Why is this so ? It was "because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth." This means that had He used His power, this would never have been able to reach Him; but He being SENT to DO this, of course He did not use that power to violate His whole purpose, but instead to fulfil it. To use it to deliver Himself ? that would contravene His whole purpose and mission (as in John 19:36ff., and in accord with His prohibition seen in Matthew 26:52ff.). Christ rejected any thought of armed help, declaring of His coming captivity, "How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus ?"
There is fidelity.
Indeed, there is in all of this just that resonance to which one has earlier much referred: everything resonates, the reality, the phrasing, the history, the actions, the atmosphere, the whole concoction of forecast and actuality, like a body, with all its parts working as one, in place.
It is the body of language of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 34:16, 8:20). It is the work of the Book of the Lord and of the Lord of the Book, the Creator of man, declaring and revealing His deliverance, salvation, redemption and restoration for man. He does it, as the text has greatly emphasised, in COMPLETE CONTRAST and contradistinction to any power, word, idea, philosophy, action or work of mankind! He does it all Himself and on Himself alone must the one who seeks and finds Him, rely (Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2:1-10).
NATURALLY, as Isaiah declares from the Lord in 8:20, if people despite this amazing grace and glorious sovereignty, staggering salvation and immense participatory kindness, do not speak in accordance with this, His word (as in Isaiah 48), there is no light in them!
There is, as the text has again and again made clear from Isaiah 44 on, ONE GOD, and no other, and ONE who expresses and is the salvation for man, and who intimates its precise method and substance in great detail many centuries before it happens (cf. Barbs ... 17, TMR Ch. 4). HE is ONE only, His word is HIS only, and His way is ONE only; and how He laments for those who pertinaciously refuse to follow it (Isaiah 49:17ff.)
Now we see, there is accordingly, ONE SALVATION, and this the LORD SENT constitutes! To speak differently: to to turn out the light, the very light of God, and to add to the incredible opacity of not believing all His earlier actions, that of dismissing this ultimately glorious and intimately marvellous divine action in His own name, the very PERSON of God the SENT, being spat on, stripped, condemned and buried, this is the depth of the abyss, an awesome horror, an unspeakable disrelish, the ultimate of shame.
How should any escape if this be ignored! It was enough before, how His word was disregarded or even hypocritically used for ulterior purposes; but this is the ultimate shame and endless disgrace, when such things are bypassed (cf. Hebrews 2:1-4).
we move in Isaiah 54 to the tender consolations of God to those who come, and
its comforting beauty, before at last we come to Isaiah 55, where God speaks
directly to Israel in view of all this, declaring:
"Incline your ear and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live, and I will
make an everlasting covenant with you - the sure mercies of David.
THIS then becomes a mission, as in the early Church with its Jewish constituency and apostles; and it did indeed do just that. Why pay money for what does not profit! He declares. If you have no money, fine, as if seeking water from water sellers but not having means of purchase, "Come buy wine and milk without money and without price."
So is the ransom complete, the message complete, the payment finished, the gift in freedom, requiring only to be accepted (as in John 4).
As we move to Isaiah 61, again we find this epitome and Lord of redemption, the payor, speaking in the first person, as in Isaiah 48, 49, 50. Thus the introduction per deity in 48, through sin-bearing sacrifice of 50,52-53, through free atonement of 54-55, in an everlasting covenant to those who come, moves on to the view, following the intervening accounts in which as in immense and intense pity the Lord from heaven moves like a cloud over the griefsthe redemption, to the nexdt phase. Now we see or rather hear from the Messiah Himself, so identified, so exposed in His bitter program, and sweet fruit of it, in His proclamation.
This goes back to the means of procurement of redemption, now already written, and moves to the impact of it all through His own power.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty the captives
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound,
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD .."
When Christ cited these words from Isaiah in the synagogue, and announced that on that very day they were fulfilled, namely in Himself (as in Luke 4), He stopped there. He did not continue as does Isaiah in the next phase of judgment (in the latter part of Isaiah 61:2). He did not COME to judge the world, but that the world might be saved (John 3:17). That, the arena of judgment, although relevant to His work (John 12:47ff., 9:39-41, 15:21-23), since its rejection occasions it, yet in its essence is post-mission, it is consequential on the rejection of the mission, but He was intent on fixed on His mission.
Occasionally it had to be mentioned, as a doctor might mention what happens if you reject cancer cure; but it is the hill to fall down, not the mountain to ascend, which is for a moment in view. Even in Matthew 23, where His excoriating thrust of judgment is immense, yet it is not because of sin as such, but the squalid substitute of religion for piety, of self-will and self-preservation for salvation which occasions it. The tenderness of Matthew 23:37ff. comes out in the end, and the piercing is not to kill, but to cure, if by any means any might come: yet it is also to warn all.
Christ in speaking then of His mission, as in Luke 4 and Isaiah 61, cut it short from the "day of vengeance of our God," for as seen above, although this is not only to happen, but has been abundantly testified in both Testaments, by Christ and the prophets, yet this was Summer without water, when water was being supplied not only freely but abundantly, paid for to the uttermost.
The abundance of love and the cascades of mercy in the Man of Sorrows and the Prince of Peace, no mere autocrat, but one who went way beyond empathy into personal payment for those whom He redeemed, this would not add to His quotation from Isaiah. He was still present, and presenting the power and purpose of His coming.
Therefore He stopped there; but look at what He did cite. Here He was, equipped with authority to release not only in prospective hope of the just sacrifice of God as man, for man as man (Hebrews 1-2), but in the very power of the purchase and payment about to occur: that death of Himself, the Just One, that He was to "accomplish" in Jerusalem.
It was this which was the topic of the transfiguration conversation with Moses and Elijah as watched in Matthew 17, Luke 9:30-31. Thus in Christ's word from Isaiah 61, written in Luke 4, we see bondage of various kinds being swept aside, but chiefly that of sin in its condign evil and guilt, while its tentacular but feeble effects to be spectacular accrue, only to be negated in their power to taunt, tamper and mock. Through grace and love and mercy shown, He incites to the very showing of it on the part of those whom He has redeemed.
In this way does the "I", the first personal account of Isaiah 48,49,50 come to fruition in 61.
Earlier, did we not have the introduction, with the
clear exhibit of the status of deity in the speaker, 48:12-16,
the lament of 48:17ff., for those who need His redemption
the hidden power for sending, as that of an arrow ready in its quiver in 49,
the whipping, scourging of 50 !
and did we not move on from this to the account of
the preparation of 51, where all others are inadequate,
the introduction to horror in 52:12ff.,
the measures of the payment for sin of 53,
the profundity of kindness and mercy
the free mercy and pardon of 55!
Assuredly we did.
Now in Isaiah 61 we have come to this proclamatory, this appealing inscription of the mercy in the Gospel as if onto the very ear drums of the listeners, the whole scope so forcibly and so fondly expressed. It is amazing to be enabled to share in this way in the innermost divine thoughts of this most public expression of that most private and spiritually spectacular wonder, the redemption of the living God, whose word encircles all time, and controls the passage of history: not as if to excuse any, but to give NO EXCUSE to those who seek to make their freedom an invention of the puny aspirations of ineffectual autonomy, that leads only to just disgrace.
The word breaches the heart, anoints the hear, delights the spirit and spreads it message of fact together with the depth of its penetration and the dynamic of its truth.
So does the work of God, Father, Son and Spirit receive its account, its reportage, its soliloquies and its splendour.