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A MATTER OF SUMMONING HEIGHTS AND DEPTHS
HEIGHTS AND DEPTHS
There are the heights, as in the atmosphere stretching out above, to yield to other planets, sun and stars so that space might be circumnavigated, for nothing is endless except God, who is the beginning and the end of all that is not God. His own power and creativity begins all, ends all, and keeps some. What does it keep ? It keeps faith, for He is faithful. But with what does He keep faith ? Even if "we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself," as in II Timothy 2:13. That is, what He is remains fact, and there is no wind of change to blow in upon Him, such as a century might tend to bring to the history of man through malicious inventions of heart or mind or hand, or seasons of repentance. There is no place from which it could come. Time is His spawn, as we know it, and eventuation is for what is subject to events. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:8).
He is faithful in curse as in cure; and even when Peter denied Him both vigorously - if not trenchantly - and repeatedly in a baneful episode, He did not mistake confused militancy, duly rebuked on earth by Jesus the Christ, for utter rebellion. He is discerning, delightful and reliable, and can overturn mountains of facts with outpourings of mercy, and seeks abundance of life (John 10), not by human prescription, that of the made, but by divine knowledge, that of the Maker. Even a dog is expected to be - and often is amazingly - faithful; and is it too grievous to seek in all things entirely to be faithful to Him, however many flecks or failures may come rushing or impelling, to resisted, fought and overcome by His grace!
One of the heights is His word. Of His incarnate Word, eternal in the heavens, murdered on earth, sacrificial substitute for the sinners, even those who killed Him, as many as repented and sought and found His mercy in that very sacrifice by faith in Him who was and is and is to be Saviour and Lord (Romans 14:9), there is ground for faith, reason for reliance and place for praise. Such is Jesus the Christ. Of His written word, the Bible, there is stimulus to learn, perspective to imbibe, factuality to find and revelation in abundance, each point His own (I Corinthians 2:9ff., Matthew 5:17-20).
One of its depths is that it is the glory of God to hide some things to be found out (Proverbs 25:2), and the honour of man to discover them. Even in a Class of students, much for those in earnest, must be FOUND for in the finding is effort and control and shaping of ideas, and investigative thought, with a remaining tenure from the thrust of it.
Thus we may make progress in understanding, sharing something of the mind of Christ, His ways of procedure and teaching, finding joy in our Lord; but if for any He is not yet Lord, then here you may see something of His ways, deep for the burrowing, high for the aspiring, ready for all.
HEBREWS 2 AND ISAIAH 8 IN THEIR BIBLICAL NEXUS
Take now Hebrews 2 and Isaiah 8:18 and their contexts. What a glory is to be discovered here!
Hebrews 2 refers to Isaiah 8:18 and Psalm 18:2 in terms of words spoken by the Lord, the Messiah, distinctively. It declares that the Lord who appeared in human form as Jesus Christ, "I will put My trust in You," and made this declaration, "Here am I and the children whom God has given Me," Hebrews 2:13.
Let us take the former first. We find such a statement in Psalm 18:2.
Here as the Psalm progresses, we find there is a vast, celestial-terrestrial outpouring of the strength of the Lord in defence of the King, and it resembles in intensity the Exodus events, but becomes quite foundational to the whole earth in its revelation of the impact of the Lord in answer to this prayer.
Why is there such amplitude of Alpha and Omega, the everlasting God in His answer to the calling upon His name as in verse 1, enabling deliverance from enemies ? We at once become involved as observers in a prodigy of power, a searching of the very foundations of the earth, an intervention of marvels.
Why ? why such a scale of majestic grandeur and earth penetrating totality in response to this prayer ?
It is because, as we see in Psalm 18:42-50, the matter has come to rest in the Messiah, in His deliverance, in His sin-bearing, death-breaking mission as in Psalm 16, and 22, and in the divine answer (Psalm 22:24, 118:5 - two Messianic Psalms), given in sustaining the Saviour in His murder and overcoming death in resurrection of that very body pierced (as in I Corinthians 15:1ff, for what went into the tomb, came out alive). Vast is the intervention of God on behalf of this One, exposed as the Psalm progresses, as the Messiah to rule all the earth. It is none less who is in view, as so often in the Psalms, now altogether, now in gathering impact as in Psalm 110 for example, and in Psalm 69. Such is the figure found in Psalm 18, such is the feature and such is the explanation of the magnificence of divine action there traced in answer to the stated prayer.
Yet in Psalm 18:2 we find also that this being, looking through David to the Lord's Anointed, His Messiah (Psalm 18:50), is not ashamed to declare His trust in the Lord, as in verse 2. As in form, as Messiah, He is to be one of the brethren, so that He is not ashamed to look to HIS heavenly Father in all humility, being so placed and formatted as a man, in this one of many brethren (cf. Romans 8:1ff.). He is not disdainful, is the message of Hebrews 2, but being God Himself, as shown in Hebrews 1, He humbled Himself to the form becoming to Him, in instituting salvation and knew in personal experience as well in oversight and insight, what it is to bear suffering and to be shot at barbarously in intrigues and horrors, and to seek from heaven's resources NOT what is needed for escape from the divine duty (Psalm 40), but to fulfil it.
That is answer to the first part of Hebrews 2:13, "I will put My trust in Him."
As to the second part, "Here am I, and the children whom God has given Me," let us pursue this, and in doing so, we come to Isaiah 8:18, from which this citation in Hebrews is taken.
In the Isaiah 8:18 reference, we find there is a wonder and a stark thing. There is an intermeshing series of considerations. Who is this speaking, as cited there ? just as we ask and find in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 50:4-10 ? It is the Lord, seen with His own as signs and wonders, astonishing grouping, with the Leader the Head. Let us now review it. Initially, we turn to the context.
Firstly, preceding Isaiah 8:18 and its use of the prophet's coming son as a time-check on how very soon will be the overthrow of threatening enemy Syria (Isaiah 8:1-4), and the 'shaving' of the other such, namely Israel to the North of Judah, so that they will themselves by stricken and humiliated, rather than to be feared, there has been a celestial parallel. That occured most notably in the preceding Chapter, the famed Isaiah 7.
In this case the topic was not one of dealing with a stated time from the speaking of the prophet, to the affliction of Judah's enemies, but with something far deeper and grander.
Here it was a matter of an offer. Trembling before threatening invasion, the people wonder what is to be done, their hearts moved. At this juncture, Isaiah the prophet is commissioned to speak. He offers to the King in the name of the Lord a vast SIGN which was to be made available, an astonishing divine action to deliver. All Ahaz had to do was to ASK! Here is an immediate lesson to Christians in terms of Mark 11:23, but you have to know the Lord to deal with Him, something with no small application to any friend! If you do not, then you are in a no man's land of no-faith. Ahaz was sitting in a central location in that land!
Hence we see a divine offer so great that Ahaz, the King of Judah concerned with the prophet Isaiah in the offer of divine intervention, had presented before him as on a platter, remedy, relief, deliverance through the One above mand, and in terms of whom is His very existence (as in Hebrews 1:3). Here was a grand opportunity for faith to receive from whatever depth or height or dimension desired, what was needed in the confrontation of the King with his enemies, apparently impending in attack mode, like a vast reservoir about to be bombed.
You did not need to be Einstein to grab the thing; to grasp the point. God whose prophet Isaiah was well-known was offering an answer, in terms of a very prodigy of divine power, and He gave opportunity to ask UPWARDS, GOING UP, or DOWNWARDS, GOING DOWN. What a back-drop to wonder! Pure offer in the face of tempestuous circumstances and impending ruin. Who would not grasp it ? Ahaz NOT ONLY would not grasp it, but used sanctimonious religious language in the process! I will not tempt God, he declared. What! by accepting the offer ? Is that to tempt, to take what is offered!
Such is the beginning of Isaiah 7. In common with Isaiah 8:18, which lacked such a prodigy, there is neverthless a common element. In BOTH of these passages, God declares mighty action to come, in Isaiah 7 in terms of an offer, in Isaiah 8 in terms of a prediction for which the prophet calls witnesses, to attest it so that when it comes to pass, there will be no questions. God is faithful and wills to show it, that it might be tested. There is nothing secretive, but the opposite as in the resurrection, pre-announced, timing foretold, steps declared. The Isaiah 7 offer involved asking; the Isaiah act, did not depend on anything.
But what of the Isaiah 7 action ? Let us investigate to see that though not ASKED for by Ahaz, it had results in the dimensions noted, though too far off, now, to help the faithless. For all that, the temporary relief would come as noted, but to be followed by a worse thing; for faith when dead, inhabits death, which is not uplifting.
In common, then, between the divine actions in view in Isaiah 7 and 8, is supernatural action. In Isaiah 7, it is a matter of the vast OFFER, one which would be a SIGN, a sort of divine signature on the event for reassurance. we note the term SIGN, in its setting of something prodigious (as in Psalm 18). In parallel, Isaiah 8 has this,
"Behold I and the children whom the LORD has given Me
are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts,
who dwells in Mount Zion."
Thus there is the common element in these two successive chapters in Isaiah, of a SIGN, of prodigious character.
Secondly, this SIGN is in each case associated with a child to be born! In neither case is it born already. In each case, its birth has great significance. In the case of Isaiah to Ahaz in Isaiah 7, it is the Lord's provision DESPITE King Ahaz's sophisticated sophistry, not appearing simply to disbelieve, but for all that, NOT asking for the sign offered, and so jibbing like a nervous horse, at the profundity of the deliverance offered. That, indeed, is the lot of all those now who jib at the Gospel and its offer of eternal life, to be set free from ALL enemies, past the rule of sin, perfected in heaven from which this CHILD of Isaiah 7, came.
A child-bearing virgin is seen in the scene in Isaiah 7*1, following Ahaz's folly. As to that non-participatory folly of Ahaz, it was so great that the prophet expostulated, Is it bad enough to weary man, but must you weary God also! That is, here was to be found a weak-kneed, faithless King still keeping some form of approach to God, without heart, thus constituting a feeble and faithless failure so great that it is simply wearisome. In the very face of enormous, colossal aid, he engages in slick, tricky conversation, ignoring the realities of the affair.
In fact, here is an application for our time. it is precisely like Australia which, having had children heartlessly taught the nullity of organic evolution for years, in a monopolistically exclusive manner, in breach of scientific method and open-hearted learning alike, in a cabal from kindergarten, now has taken two more deplorable steps. First as the thing ramped up, it threatened freedom in the press*2, and then, that at least for the present past, it still threatens freedom in expression*3; it makes mouths at free speech, following an effort to task people if they offend others in word, as if truth were absent. Thus are adults in utter danger of being trivialised, as were and are the children. Not all abuse is physical; vast is the mental and spiritual abuse going on in many a school and college, intractable before the truth (cf. The gods of naturalism have no go! , SMR pp. 140ff., News 57 and Ch. 4 above). Great funds are to be spent on education, in planning; but where is the plan for purity and truth, discovery and genuine enterprise, not lordly declamation of feeble philosophies that cannot even marshal facts to show the things operating, that are announced so grandly and glibly!
Let us revert to the two infant declarations of Isaiah 7 and 8. There is in each case, an announcement of what is to be; and there is for each a sign associated, or indeed a sign in the one, and signs and wonders in the second, Chapter 8.
Thirdly, as to those in view, the two children differ. One is simply the child of the prophet*4, giving a very short term limit to the taking of Damascus, foe of Israel, by Assyria; and this was fulfilled in that short time as Delitzsch points out in his Old Testament Commentary (co-authored with Keil). That case is simple, a prediction of impending ruin for the attacking powers, in a period of very few years indeed. In this, internationally significant as it is, there is yet a contrast to the depth of the case in Isaiah 7. Nevertheless, even this forecast in Isaiah 8, in setting so short a time for the stated assault on, and humbling of both of Israel's then threatening enemies, followed by this actually happened, there was a massive international prophecy. This helps both to pinpoint the tone of the earlier prophecy in Isaiah 7, and to show on the other hand, its grandeur, as if an elephant being impressive, yet compared to a mount, it is much less so!
The other announced child, then, that of Isaiah 7, is to figure as "God with us," Immanuel, and in Him is the entire messianic apparatus to be shown and seen. A virgin bearing a son, what a sign is this! But a virgin bearing a son who is God with us! something in itself as vast an expression of divine power as anyone could conceive! that is even more intense, immense, arresting. It is in Isaiah 9, after both of these predictions, that we learn more of the dimensions of this act of deity, where the child is named The Mighty God, Counsellor, Wonderful, collecting signature names of God*5. In addition, His is to be an everlasting Kingdom, only to increase. As in Psalm 2, His is to be dominion; as in Psalm 16, His is to be resurrection of the body, itself not to rot; and as in Psalm 22, His is to be crucifixion, while as in Isaiah 53, the reason is to be, and remains, the divine provision for nothing less than the deliverance from enemies far more frightful than either Israel or Syria could ever be (remember that Judah was at that time separate from the rest of Israel, the latter called 'Israel').
How is grand plan wrought ? We are told in Isaiah 53. It is there found to be in terms of a personally adopted atonement or reconciliation before God, available to man, one to be drawn from the reservoir and resource provided through this child, supernaturally born, vicariously offered, sin bearer and Saviour.
Fourthly, though the parallel is drawn between the two children in view, the view given through the arrival of each involves moving from significance (signifying something) to substance (their utterly different natures). With the Isaiah 8 child, there is a simple index showing in timing, how near is the devastation to come to Syria (to be conquered) and Samaria (to become source of a trophy - in fact some of its territory was lost, a territorial trophy indeed! but as in the prediction, not then total overthrow). These two events occurred in precisely the terms stated in the prediction.
Meanwhile and this brings us to the fifth point, there is by no means to be an exemption in the suffering, on the part of Judah itself.
Fifthly, then, as in Isaiah 7:20ff., there is to be a shaving of Judah by Assyria. As in Isaiah 8:19-20 (cf. Isaiah 30-31), deliverance is NOT to be found in secular intrigues, treaties or arrangements, as for example with Egypt, but in the Lord on whose behalf Israel even EXISTS (cf. Isaiah 43:21 with Deuteronomy 4, 7, 12 and Joshua 24:14ff.). That is, Judah would also be assailed and assaulted, but as in any shaving, this did not involve utter ruin, though it stung sufficiently! (cf. Isaiah 37:21ff.). God both authorised the attack and organised the repulse, an historic event of no small magnitude, involving the humbling of a major tyrant of ancient times, as ravaging, he came to the capital, and failed through divine action (II Chronicles 32:1-23).
This assault and repulse as predicted, was precisely accomplished by the Assyrian King Sennacherib, who indeed almost to a whisker, had Jerusalem in his sights, before the Lord used His own means to overthrow his army, leading to his departure and eventual death at the hand of his own sons while he was engaged in the temple of one of his idolatrous religions. Here is irony perfected!
One CHILD, therefore, speaks of the early devastation to be wrought on the two threatening nations, a smaller but substantial one. By contrast, the other in Isaiah 7, speaks of deliverance from a yet more deadly devastation, including death itself, on the part of those of whichever nation (clarified in Isaiah 42:6) is concerned. It is a universal offer in this case. Here it is the HUMAN RACE which is threatened, and the enemy is doubt and sin, breach of truth and ruinous rebellion; and its price-tag of death. Here the child is not a time-measurer but a tidings exhibit so that beautiful on the mountains are even the FEET of those engaged in the godly feat of spreading the news of the VICTORY He has obtained. This would come, as it has come, when born and grown, glorifying His Father in deed and word, healing many, supernatural in power and humble in spirit, He was killed and overcoming all in sin-free innocence, He was raise from the very dead). When death cannot harm you, you are free indeed.
Sixthly, just as the precision of the case in Isaiah 8 (Isaiah called for witnesses to his giving of this prediction, which at the time was a very dramatic thing, with the enemies in menacing mode), concerning the assault threatened by Israel to the North and by Syria could be checked in short form, so is there precision predicted for the other. As the international reality of the Isaiah 8 case, on a smaller scale, was available for test, so would be that of the celestially significant child of Isaiah 7.
Witnesses in each case would be prominent, the event in view being not only one of supernatural origin (whether in secular plan or in salvation, the two indeed, as in Romans 9, being related) but duly worked by divine power. Whether of Lazarus through Christ, or Christ without human agency, bodies blighted in days of death do not rise by themselves. Indeed, the Lord would have no children of His own (that is the Isaiah 7 and 9 child, when grown); yet there would be THE GENERATION, as in Psalm 22 as it concludes, who would be His children, who would testify of Him, even to generations to come, to people not yet born.
HIS 'family', not physical as in Isaiah 53:8-10, would be spiritual, from those to whom the risen Messiah would attest His deliverance as in Psalm 22:25 and Psalm 69:30ff.. So it has come to be, on an international scale, this SIGN of the child-bearing virgin giving birth to God with us, is fulfilled not only in the works of Christ on earth, but in the testimony of His spiritual children, something not for the generation in which the Psalmist wrote (as in Psalm 22:30-31, 102:18-28), but for that spiritual generation to come till His return, constantly having addition as souls were won to Him as Lord and Saviour .
Seventhly, there is the verbal usage. Thus the SIGN in Isaiah 7 is of the uttermost significance, astonishing beyond measure. That in substance we have seen. In Isaiah 8:16-18, the one who declares this, that Himself and the children who are with Him, will be for SIGNS AND WONDERS, is their leader and to Him those with Him are in one essential feature, as children (Matthew 18:3, John 21:5).
THINGS OF WONDER
They are indissolubly bound in the height of grandeur. In other words, the Messiah in His incarnation is the vast SIGN to come in His own time, as in Isaiah 7 (they would wait till Daniel to find HIS date cf. The Christian Prescription Ch. 2), and the SIGNS and WONDERS of Isaiah 8, as it moves from Isaiah 7's prelude to Isaiah 9's full furnishing of the wonder of the Messiah, are those associated with Him, both at His time on earth, and in due time in the Gospel Age. Thus coming as a child at the outset is sign supernal; the results in His following and their attestations to come, these are are a plurality, indeed a amultiplicity of signs. Especially was this so while He gathered the apostles who spoke!
SIGNS, singular supernatural events, are in focus equally in both cases, indeed in all three presentations, in Chs. 7-9, and in both in Ch. 8. In this last, signs AND wonders we find, are to be the Lord and His disciples.
God is revealed as wonderful in the Old Testament before this*6, and it is this dimension here in view in this running series in Isaiah, which is to be consummated, as we find in both Isaiah 11 and 50-55. This is tound both in His saving work and His coming everlasting dominion, when this comes into view as in Isaiah 9:7, 11:1ff., and 65-66. Here are rich veins of wonder. Here are salient signs, actual wonders, things - as with Ahaz - such that seek them high as salvation, or low as in sin, which are on display to the uttermost exhibition of the wisdom and the glory, and indeed the love of God. Here then we find this coming through Isaiah in these events, in these notations, in these witnessed events, in these correlations with history, in these predictions, in these empowerments.
It is the LORD then who speaks, as the focus, Ï and the children whom You have given Me, in Isaiah 8:18; and that is precisely what Hebrews 2:13 declares it to be, in showing His utter glory. It is found as that which is above all, past all parallel, as God amid men, sent from heaven, therapy for death, power for purification, ground of our salvation, not ashamed to call many His brothers, even all who BELIEVE the report (Isaiah 53:1), all who receive Him, thus sent, thus to be resurrected and in due time bodily risen from the dead, as death conqueror (Romans 10:9), life purifier, the Lord, as their sacrifice for sin (Isaiah 53:10).
*1 See SMR pp.
*2 See Ch. 8 of Now the Highway, then the Heights, with Ch. 8 of Not only is God Great, but Glorious and The King's Counsel Ch. 9. See more generally, Freedom, the Nation, the Internet.
The current Attorney General has admitted faults in the oddly named Anti-Discrimination Bill (in fact a highly discriminatory document, making law subjectivistic in conception, with facts a minor matter and feeling a feint-hearted thing more than a little). He has however set himself, it is reported, to redraft it. Anything of this character is so misshapen in injustice, so that whatever is felt becomes a brand, allowing revenge, envy, relevant and irrelevant issues alike, not only in the mentally disturbed but in the calculatingly manipulative where it may become a spring for action, whether recognised or not, is apt to become a new religion, both subverting and subversive! All such moral dictation based on various foundational ideas of some secular character becomes merely mob commandments, whether the mob be a Parliament, or other. OUR constitution REFUSES such things. Only a referendum could legitimise, at least politically, any such changes, and behold, it is not even mentioned in this connection!
So does our wounded nation study its burial cloths. However, it is possible that the Government will lose its legislative power as the authority, this particular one, before any such irresponsible and unconstitutional law lives.
Endeavours to form what in much is a kind of copy-cat Communism (cf. John 3), to make a 'new man' and a new atmosphere, a new-morality (though morality is not recognised by Marx, except in practice since all condemnation is based on it), are as insurgent as some of the other religions of physically militant kind, and capitulation to such is neither democratic nor lacking in enforced religious enterprise.
It is of course not only politicians who may become manipulative, whether realising the sham, shame and insidiousness of such actions relative to the prohibitions in the Constitution; but this merely aggravates the problem when matters of faith become so feisty, that even those who do not seem to realise that they have an invasive type of faith, may try to enact a new religion under another name.
*4 The child of the prophet, yes, as distinct from any supernaturally incarnated child is not strange conception; but even then, it is a child commanded for the Lord, a child He has indicated is to be born, and is to signify a salient fact. In the case of Isaiah 7, it is a universally transmutative fact also (Isaiah 9:7), as broad in significance as high, as deep as wonderful.
Thus both cases, for each child, the aura is one to directed attention to a great thing. In the case of Isaiah 7, however, while it includes history, and will utterly transform it, in the process it moves upward to the heights of heaven for its advent (not merely a command but a transmission of the divine nature is the lot of that celestial child), and downward to the depths of need for man, thus and thus only to be met.
On this topic, see Isaiah 53:10
See Judges 13:18 shows this in relation to the father of Samson, when he was asking for the name of the spiritual being speaking to him. Why, He replied, do you ask considering it is WONDERFUL. This word, we read in The Theological Word Book of the Old Testament ((Harris, Archer and Waitke), tends to focus something concerning acts of God, whether of cosmic or historical significance, a thing unusual, beyond normal human comprehension. It is used in Isaiah 9:6 similarly as one of the names signifying deity relative to the child, since it is very NAME or character or nature for the child, to be so, to be so named. See also Isaiah 9:6.