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THE EXPLOSIONS OF SPRING IN ISAIAH
For Isaiah Coverage in General:
With Heart and Soul, and Mind and Strength Chs. 4ff. and
The Glow of Predestinative Power 8, *1; Journey to God ... Ch. 8.
Without doubt, Isaiah is a book of enormous force, variety and ... comfort.
It is the sort of book which will make you uncomfortable only if you are misplaced.
When you are WITH the Messiah of which it is the harbinger, like Old Testament angels announcing the Messiah before time, then you find His fragrance and savour, strength and intimations on all sides.
Further, there is a series, one could almost say, of explosions, like Spring each, in which fresh sights, views and scenes of splendour appear, as the book progresses.
One of these comes in Ch. 6, as we see the CALL OF ISAIAH. This is not here featured as our concern is with the Messiah, but since it is an introduction of Isaiah to the purity of lips required for such a divine scribe office (that is, NOT office as DIVINE SCRIBE but SCRIBE FOR HIM WHO IS DIVINE!), one mentions it. For our present purpose, therefore, we shall not number this in our list.
SPRING PRAISE PHASE ONE
Another ingredient, and the first in our special Messianic series, comes in Chs. 7-12.
Here we find His majesty, the incarnation in its exquisite contrasts of voluntary littleness without the loss of one shred of the celestial scope of His being, perhaps most readily seen in the reference to the child of Ch. 7:14 as Immanuel, God with us. This is followed in Ch. 8:8 by a reference to a coming historical development in which the onset of affliction is poignantly referred to as occurring in "Thy land, O Immanuel." He is already Lord of it.
Again, in Isaiah 9:6-7, we find that the prince of peace who is to be on the throne of David is the same one as He who is the "mighty God" , who in turn is that same "mighty God" to the letter, as appears in Isaiah 10:21. It is to Him that there will return of the remnant of Israel. There is compression and there is sequence, as in the names so agilely compounded in 9:6-7. Thus, in the chapters where terms are as shown above, authenticated, their meaning is attested clearly and pervasively, and it proceeds consistently.
In Isaiah 11, we see the power of the King when His kingdom comes in power, so that He shall strike the wicked with the rod of His lips, peace shall supervene in the land of curse, and as in Habakkuk 2:14, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (11:9). Not only spiritual, but geographical will be this vast blessing, to take to an earth embroiled in evil, the the power of His own goodness. As in Isaiah 59, it is not heaven, for there the sinner of 100 years is mentioned, and here there is specified divine action of a kind that stays evil, where it is, rather than merely extirpates it (as in Revelation 20). In this case, however, the Gospel is paramount, for the "Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious" (11:10).
Thus in Ch. 12 it is no surprise to find people drawing water from the wells of salvation, while saying, "God is my salvation".
This is the first explosion of Messianic Spring, and in a little, after contemporary consideratons and expostulations with predictions concerning many nations, comes the second of the series of dynamic perfumes in the spreading of the zeal of the real and living God in this prophetic volume.
SPRING PRAISE PHASE TWO
The second phase of our concern appears in far more subtle fashion in Isaiah 22-35 (with a momentary diversion in 27).
Here the introduction is found in Isaiah 22, where the symbolism of Eliakim, keeper of the royal household, is used to convey two facets of the Messiah: His power of salvation to His own, and His intensive occupation of ALL the glory, which is HUNG on Him, as on a nail. The nail however will be cleft, a preliminary reference to the burden of the glory, in that it is the glory of God in bodily form which He bears. This is parallel to the earlier use of the term "Immanuel" , as also in that of "the mighty God", earlier, showing who He is.
As the nail on which the glory is hung is cut, with all the symbolisms attached, so accordingly is discerned already the suffering which is the lot of one enshrining the divine love, the Messiah. In Him, the desires of the Father's heart are expressed in the pangs of the Messiah's presence, as He occupies the entirety of the glory symbolised in the temple, and is then cut off, just as in Daniel 9:26.
In Isaiah 24 in this second Messianic outthrust, speaking of the end of the Age before the Messiah's coming in ruling power (cf. Ch. 3 above), we move from the Ch. 22 cutting of the nail on which the glory hung, to the exclamation, "Glory to the Righteous!" with the immediate reflection added, "But I said, 'I am ruined, ruined! Woe to Me!' ." This we examined in Ch. 3 above, seeing the inward impact of that cutting, with evil implication for those who DID IT, in these evocative terms: "The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously. Indeed, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously!"
HOW treacherously ? Well, in Isaiah 5 we saw the tender solicitude bestowed on Israel, depicted as a vine for which the Lord had cared with every conceivable zeal, and its failure; so now, when the Shepherd Himself (as in Ezekiel 34) comes as man, what do they do ? Do they thank Him for the glory which is to be attributed to His righteous and merciful person ? Not at all. They rather cut the nail which joins Him to their temple, so that all the glory falls as far as this earth is concerned. After all, if as MY DEAD BODY, His saints are to arise (Isaiah 26:19, Hebrew), it had to be killed first! Isaiah 49-55 specialises in this aspect, just as Daniel 9:26 features and focusses it.
Now that killing act ? It is treachery. It is those who NAME HIS NAME dealing thus with Him when He came to GIVE THEM MERCY, exactly as in the parable of Mark 12, who so acted. The wrath of God rests indeed on those concerned, except of course there should be repentance (as in John 3:16, 36, 3:19). It is not merely a matter of dealing treacherously, as the text exhibits, but "very treacherously". They reach the top rating for treachery in so acting. As Isaiah 24 in this location also tells us, this wonderful work of the Lord is to be a cause of the lifting up of voices of praise from beyond the seas, in far coasts, for it is very wonderful!
It is in the light of these things, that we read of the profound peace available in the Lord, in Isaiah 26 as we have just seen. By Isaiah 28, however, we find that there is, despite this death, and as adumbrated in the resurrection depicted in Isaiah 26:19, a SURE FOUNDATION (28:16), in the Lord, LAID IN ZION, so that the one who trusts in Him shall not make haste, scurry, flurry, hurry about, but be stable (as in Isaiah 33:6).
Isaiah 29 proceeds to mock the irresolute and vapid meanderings of the false and foolish 'scholars' who did not know the least or have the courage to state it, in their own chosen field of scripture! Rebellion and desire had drowned their senses. THUS God indicated He would do a "marvellous work", correlative in the phrasing with the marvel, sign and wonder of Isaiah 7 and 9, which would in itself rebuke false knowledge. This is precisely as occurred, seen in Luke 11:47-48, when Christ accused many of these empty professionals with neither entering in themselves, into the kingdom of heaven, nor suffering those so inclined to do so in this, that they took the "key of knowledge" but did not use it!
This is just what, in the amazingly apt parallel which has been presented by many of the Gentile churches during the last century, is to be seen now in the case of the Liberals, the Neo-Orthodox and more lately, the Neo-Evangelicals, the last of which specialise in SAYING many right things, but not DOING them, even in many cases uniting with Rome or other adventurism far from the faith as long shown by the saints (cf. SMR pp.1032-1088H, and Index).
Isaiah 30 speaks to the heart of the people of the grace of the Lord when He hears their cry, and of the coming time when their hearts shall be sated with His presence, in an era of miraculous blessing, showing that He stands ready when the time is ripe, to deliver a penitent people (as in Zechariah 12:10ff., when they "look on Me whom they pierced"). Contrasting the puny power of material pomp, as in Assyria in Isaih 31, the word of God continues in Isaiah 32 to specify, as in Isaiah 9:6-7, the wonderful rule of the king who, as in Isaiah 4:6's preliminary depiction, is to CONSTITUTE the hiding place, the tabernacle and the refuge of His people.
The point as usual, is not lost in, but exhibited BY the metaphor.
In this Spring, Ch. 25:4 refers us once again to the refuge from the tempest, as occurred in a preliminary Spring day (only) in 4:6, not to be consummated in meaning until 32:1ff., where it appears that the tabernacle in which they were to find shelter is none other than a man, a king who will rule, One in whom is all the power of God, the rock that is higher than I, of David. Isaiah 33, proceeding past those magnificent metaphors, designating faith and peace, declares that "wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation . The fear of the LORD is his treasure."
This is found in that aftermath of that great pouring forth of His Spirit, noted in Joel 2 and Acts 2, and described in Isaiah 32:15ff.: assurance forever is the result. Who then is assured ? It is they who have this strength and fear of the Lord, treasured in their hearts, so that no one will have to say, KNOW THE LORD, for they will all know Him, who are those who believe. Here is the priestless society of faith in the risen Messiah.
It is as in 27:5 and 32:17, specifying in turn, salvation through faith and justification in the same, as more specifically shown in Isaiah 53:6-12, and foreshadowed in 22:21-22 (its tenacity on the LORD ALONE being the determinant in these things, being as also shown in Jeremiah 31:34).
In Isaiah 26, in this series, comes that redolence of peace which is so pervasive in Isaiah 40, and of strength, so keenly seen in its opening verses of such just fame, 26:1-4, where the gates into which the righteous nation (or part of it) is to enter, lead to just such peace of mind. It is precisely in this chapter that the reference to the resurrection occurs, and that in terms of the Messiah, for quite literally, this declares in verse 19, that as MY DEAD BODY will the believing remnant arise from the dust, and this in terms of this proclamation: "Your dead shall live", explaining just how this is to be accomplished.
It is intensely regrettable that the KJ version adds here 'together' which is simply absent from the text, as the italics declare. This is one good illustration of the danger of idols, as appears for some, who WILL not look beyond the KJ, great and impressive as is this wonderful translation. In this writer's judgment, it is the most accurate but not the most clear of versions, even allowing for the antique language in it: and that, it is not the result of divine inspiration, but of human translation some hundreds of years ago, into the English!
WHY should the Lord be harnessed with this historical detail ? Nevertheless, wise is he who uses this version with respect, as a preliminary check on accuracy in many cases, if he or she does not have access to the original languages. Another regrettable feature of this version*1 is the fact, for example, that in Matthew 11:27, we find "he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (the Father), whereas in the Greek the concept of being willing is present, aptly exhibited in the NKJV which has - "the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." This brings the perfect co-ordination of Father and Son together most obviously, a fact that Calvin for one, was not always clear about (cf. Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2, *1).
Indeed it is here precisely that you see one of the profound and majestic, and at the same time tender and impelling glories of God. The Son and the Father show jointly, as the Speaker and the Spoken, the Sender and the eternal Word of God, their longing (as in Proverbs 1, 8, Isaiah 48, Luke 19), for the salvation of man, their infinite cost provision to cover the case, in that the Son is an infinite Being and paid with His life and their determinate decision to exclude what in the end, is found excluded in wilfulness from the divine mercy.
To subvert the passionate desire from the heart of the Almighty, or to ignore the divine constraint which will not turn love into force, yes to imagine it all rests with man, rather than in the divine knowledge in this and such provisions: all of these theological excrescences are common and necessarily in counterpoint, each with the others, and as often shown in this site, all contradict the word of God. That is why they contradict each other and often themselves.
It is not difficult to see that the divine longing and the purity proceed in payment to the uttermost, but in pollution not at all; that mercy is to the ultimate, but that it does not include in its purvey what is alien in the face of divine light and divine action. It does not violate man's will, nor make of it a case of puppetry any more than that of a sovereign creation. It is God who loves, God who knows and God who does.
Thus it is important, this error in the AV at Matthew 11:27, whatever may be its reason or the understanding any may gain from it. In modern English it is not at all the correct translation. It is not what He will reveal, but what He WILLS to reveal, that is there written; and thereby hangs a vast weight, and a glorious lift to take its burden. God IS love! He fulfils His own will in love, neither desecrating what it is in the process, nor making pomp and majesty of the will of man, though never violating it. His is the power, the dominion and the authority, but no less, the mercy and the desire for all that they might be reconciled to Himself (Colossians 1:19ff.). In integrity, He fulfils without pollution, the purity of His love. Knowing more than man, He can touch any man, and leaves none from His passion, nor takes any with it, whom only desecration of love would bring. (Cf. SMR Appendix B, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4).
Returning however to our prophetic text, we pass through Isaiah 34, which deals with judgment, but not without making one of the most famous of scriptural attestations, that when God speaks, He means business just as He did in creation, and just as He wrought magnificently, as in the commands of DNA then, so now He acts wondrously in specifying by His word in writing to be read not by the engineered premises of our physiology, in micro-biological messages, but by our eyes in plain writing to our minds.
NOT ONE of the specifications of judgment in Isaiah 34 will be lost: none will lack its mate (34:16). Why is this so ? It is because what God has said and what God will do to fulfil it, these things are "My mouth has commanded it, and His Spirit has gathered them."
Here is just that intimate interchange between Father and speech, King and command, to which Isaiah 7 and 9 have made us so sensitive, and to which Isaiah 48:16 will refer so amazingly, as we plan to see when we come to that.
In Isaiah 35, we see the prediction of that necessary miracles, wonders, for the wonderful thing which the Lord promised to do in Isaiah 29 is not restricted. Indeed, it is in word but deed also, for He never fails to attest what He says (as He emphasises in Isaiah 41, 43, 45, 48, Joel 2:30); and this is as foreshadowed in Isaiah 29. The WONDERFUL One is the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6), and the WONDERFUL DEEDS ARE TO ATTEST IT.
"The eyes of
the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
All this was done with that same meticulous accuracy by Christ when He came, as that with which it was first announced through the prophet, and as He Himself declared, it is one of the aspects of the divine nature (cf. Matthew 26:52ff., 5:17ff.). It is as forecast, not only in Isaiah 35, but in the very chapter where the "marvellous work and a wonder" were noted, namely Isaiah 29, where
deaf shall heart the words of the book,
It is then that the wisdom of the wise is declared to perish because of the truth of the Lord, incarnate, which they so shamelessly misused in their traditions then, just as does Romanism and Islam in its inventive traditions now (cf. SMR pp. 1046ff., More Marvels ... Ch. 4, Red Alert ... Ch. 16, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 8, *1).
Meanwhile, as in Isaiah 35, there is a highway of holiness on which the travellers, though fools will not err, another reference to the entire summit of wisdom which the Lord gives to His people, so that although they may indeed HELP one another, there is BUT ONE MASTER, all the rest being brethren (cf. Matthew 23:8-10, I John 2 :27). The DIVINE provisions are adequate.
How AMPLY does Isaiah, in company with the other prophets, in such places give solid testimony on the nature of the coming Age, which now draws for us who read, to its conclusion (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5)
But let us revert to our Springs in Isaiah, one of the most eloquent books dealing with the passionate heights and glorious depths of the divine mercy and love, its appeals, its actions and its fruits.
SPRING PRAISE PHASE THREE
We come now to the next great efflorescence, the new Spring of Isaiah, found in 40-42, the one to be introductory to the fourth, that found later in Isaiah 48-55. In the interim, following our last phase, two, come Isaiah 36-39.
Here is once again, a focus on Assyria and on current events, and even this has import for our point, since the king of Assyria is strongly contrasted in his lowering impotence with the grace of the blessed Lord, and His power, used in glowing deliverance (e.g. 37:22-29).
What compassion, what comfort is in the words of Isaiah 40*2. If Isaiah 26 showed a peace past all understanding, and Isaiah 33 a stability with the strength of rock, then Isaiah 40 shows a tender strength and an ascending power like that of winds blowing the Paraglide craft high over the earth and the ocean (a pretty sight indeed, as wafting, they survey the seas and land, touching near here, and wafting up again, at leisure).
You see the Messiah in Isaiah 40:10, carrying the lambs in His bosom, the young in His tender care. Here He is, amidst cries of wonder, and words of advent. His path is prepared by the famed "voice in the wilderness" which was fulfilled explicitly by John the Baptist, and now come the "good tidings", which include what Psalm 102 showed must come, when the 'set time' was come, as did Psalms 2, 16 and 22 with 40 (cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25). This is the set time (precisely set by Daniel as in 9:26ff. cf. Highway of Holiness Ch. 4) of Psalm 102, noted by Paul in Galatians 4:4. The time He had declared for the advent of the Messiah having come, with majesty does He arrive.
The Lord, precisely as in Ezekiel 34 where His OWN coming shepherding is contrasted with the all but uniformly selfish misuse of that office by a multitude of dead formalists, who was to come, now does come and is seen as if by distant time TV, at work. We see that "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom."
When He DID in turn come in the arithmetically precise time forecast, not only graphically as in the prophet's depiction, but actually in human form, and grew, then in full accord with the prediction, His love of and tender solicitude for children became famous. God both leaves nothing that He says undone, and exhibits the truth in all He says, so that word and deed are like left and right hand, a glorious unity (or left and right eye, the most amazingly reinforcing couple that quite staggers one in sheer proficiency of their joint exercises, designed by God and available to man).
Who does not know of the actions noted in Matthew 18:1-6, where setting a little child in their midst, He spoke concerning the child-like heart and the blight for misuse of little believing children! Who does not recall the praise of the children, supplementing the more general exaltation, as noted in Luke 19:38-40, at which He protested on challenge: "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
They did later, when they were taken down, stone from stone, by the Romans in the unbelieving city.
In Matthew 21:15-16, added to the adult praise of the Messiah was that of the children, and when Christ met that challenge, He used Psalm 8, to declare: "Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, you have perfected praise."
"Behold your God!" is the prophetic message which in Isaiah 40 is depicted as that to be used when the Messiah so comes, and declared with strength (Isaiah 40:9 cf. Luke 21:15, Acts 4:10-11). His work is before Him, as prescribed in emphasis: for suffering in 52-53, 61 and for glory in 54, 59, 63, 66. In view of this zestful and even sacrificial interest in His people, they should not ask or grumble, saying (40:27):
"My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God"?
but rather rejoice, and trusting wait on God (40:27-31),for ...
"Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
"He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint."
Passing through Isaiah 41, where God speaks once more of contemporary matters for this people, the prophetic word comes to the impasse reached through substantial unbelief in the land, saying this:
"The first time I said to Zion,
‘Look, there they are!’
And I will give to Jerusalem one who brings good tidings.
For I looked, and there was no man;
I looked among them, but there was no counselor,
Who, when I asked of them, could answer a word.
"Indeed they are all worthless;
Their works are nothing;
Their molded images are wind and confusion."
Thus comes that repetitively exposed vacuum, for there is none to help but God. That is repetitively, dramatically and emphatically declared.
You see it as a binding in this intensively and intimately integral book, in 51:18ff., with a cognate in 48:18ff., before the exposure once more of the ministry of the Messiah in depth, in Isaiah 49. Just so is the repetition of Immanuel as noted earlier, and the shelter refuge terminology, in 4:6 with 32, and the good tidings genre, as in Isaiah 40, 41, 52, 61, with the same sort of excruciating and yet joyous zeal as appears in the announcement of Isaiah 8:21-9:7, where it is like noting that the atomic bomb would allow the American and allied soldiers to avoid an island hopping move to Japan; yes and more, for that avoided pain, but this provides triumph!
In this way, the fresh Spring comes as in all the other cases, in Isaiah 40-42. Just as the end of Isaiah 41 expostulates on the lack of any but the LORD HIMSELF (as in 48:16 where God sends God, or in Psalm 45, where God refers to the throne of God, and calls the Messiah 'God'), so Isaiah 42 provides - as Isaiah 9 provides light for the darkness exposed at the end of Isaiah 8 - power for that very weakness shown in Isaiah 41.
Now we come to an exceedingly interesting fact. Shakespeare reputedly used historians or writers such as Plutarch, Hall and Hollinshed as a background of data for his plays. He drew on the data; then his dramatic genius presented. Each play comes with force, most with power and impact like an eruption ...
Much more so do these Springs of advent come in Isaiah. They teem, they team, they come in season, bubbling over with data, grasping each one, the other like fingers in the hands. Vehement or joyful, with power and pathos, they grip the mind, surging like ocean breakers, then pursuing themes with a gentle light like that of streams, finished for the time their active descent from the snowy mountains fastnesses, and now content to be lustrous in the shaded woodlands, where sun comes in shafts, and light is suffused.
It is however not a number of characters who come chiefly in Isaiah, but just ONE. It is the Messiah. He is seen, just as Jesus Christ declared (Luke 24:26), now in suffering, now in coming, now in execution of His power, now in being executed by His foes, now in prophetic depiction over all, now under the feet of those who are His executioners, now in healing power, now in resurrection, now in wisdom indefeasible, invincible, now in majesty coming to reign.
In Isaiah 40 we see some of the majestic and tender side; in Isaiah 41, the necessity of His coming, and in Isaiah 42 the sustaining gentleness of His grace and the universal scope of His light for this world. Breaking reeds that are bruised is not His métier, we there find; nor snuffing cloudy flax. Judgment to victory is His, and just as He does not break, so the Hebrew informs us, He will not be broken. It is always fascinating, this point. Thus Christ tells the disciples that not a hair of their heads will be lost (Luke 21:18), and yet that they will die (Matthew 24), and need divine power in testifying to adverse political or religious powers (Luke 21:15). How can this be ?
It is simple: you are KEPT IN INTEGRITY, and the loss of this life in the flesh is not critical, although most painful it can be. Your spirit will not be bruised, though your life may be tortured. You will be kept intact. It is all in the perspective that despises shame because of the joy in truth that is set before it (cf. Hebrews 12:2). "I the LORD have called You," says the Father, "and will hold Your hand. I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the Gentiles."
Such is Isaiah 42. Blind eyes will He open, and since the LORD will not give His glory to another, as He states and re-states, it is to His OWN that He gives it, not another. His apostrophe to the 'deaf' Israel proceeds in the wake of the triumphant path of the Gospel or "good tidings" which is traced, in Isaiah 42:14-20. There we learn that He will bring back the insufferably, or rather intractably blind dogmatists who refuse to know Him. We recall Jeremiah 9:6: "through deceit, they refuse to know Me."
Nevertheless, in their shame (as in Ezekiel 36:26 cf. SMR Appendix A), they yet are brought back to their land (Isaiah 42:14-20), by a way which they did not know. Such is the prophecy.
Here once more is that very precise group, those who were long-time misusers of delivered truth, pertinaciously blind, chronically rebellious in the very face of light, and a remnant of them are to return to their land (as in Isaiah 11:11 also); and though they are still blind, yet their only light for all time will be, if they find it, that of Christ, their rejected Messiah (cf. Isaiah 65:12ff.).
Here alone defined as 'sent' are those deemed blind; an important fact, for the receivers of Christ have light, and the world is not sent! Accordingly, in 42:23ff. God rehearses the case for Israel, for whom His great plans, to come to consummation in the Gospel, are here given in more of their amazing scope (cf. Romans 11, and The Biblical Workman Chs. 1 and 3).
BEFORE SPRING PRAISE PHASE FOUR
Now it is not our purpose to expound Isaiah in this short Chapter, for much of it has already been expounded before (cf. With Heart and Soul, and Mind and Strength Chs. 4ff.). Rather we are considering the Spring surges, periodic, with short intervals of contemporary matters, leading on to the outbursts, like effusions of perfume and form, when Winter departs. These range from the poignant to the powerful, from the most merciful to the tender, from the boldly sacrificial in atonement to the resurrection, from the call of the people back to their land and to their Messiah, to the challenge that ONLY in this same Messiah, whom they would (as they did) reject, is their spiritual identity to be preserved.
Phase Introduction: The Phases, they burst on the scene, not in an entirely regular fashion, nor normally does great music in its themes; but in a characterisable manner. Building to Isaiah 6 in the desolations of the land, the prophecy yet manages to look ahead to the rebuilding in Isaiah 2 as to the spiritual refuge to be further identified in Isaiah 4. This really could be called Phase 1, but as it is preliminary, it seems best to leave it as Phase Introduction and notice it now.
Thus there is Phase Intro., Isaiah 1-4, Phase Call of the Prophet, 6, the Messiah Spring Phase 1, Isaiah 7-12; then after the interval of 13-21, consisting of a contemporary series of judgments, there is borne into the mind and heart, as Messiah Spring Phase 2, Isaiah 22-35 with its own interiors. After its interval, Isaiah 36-39, this moves to Messiah Spring Phase 3, Isaiah 40-42 at which we have just been looking.
Again, contemporary issues arise in the intervening Isaiah 36-39, but not without articulation with the whole, for judgment often precedes such Spring Bursts in the prophetical writings: just as Winter in the seasons, comes before the actual Spring.
After Isaiah 42, comes the interval of Isaiah 43-48, in which the development is indeed in the field of contemporary issues (for example, in 44-45 when there is a profound focus on the fact that God is going to state the NAME of the coming King who will deliver the captive Jews, to be punished for their sins, from Babylon, the nation divinely chosen as a punishing agent for that purpose), but with that, the interval is moving to a further exposure of and expose on Israel itself; and at that, one which is exhibiting the actual nature and power of God in creation of the world, ALONE, the creation of man and of the majestic opportunities which have been exposed in the preceding Phases, 1-3.
In this inter-regnum, if you will, this interval of Isaiah 43-48, before the next Spring, we see in a more intimate manner, the coming decrepitude of the assailant Babylon, in its place, and further contrast with the vigour of God's chosen servant, Cyrus, whose nation will occasion the downfall of Babylon, from long assigned to discipline Israel, while he, Cyrus (45:1, 46:11, with Ch. 13) will lead the Jews back to their land, that is, enable their departure from the exile they were to - and did - suffer.
In all this, time flows in and out like the water of waves, except for this, that it is predictive time expressed with the fluency of visible oceanscape!
In this international gambit, in the inter-regnum of Isaiah 43-48, then, we see as in the other and earlier cases, the contemporary, or the more nearly contemporary, matters of occasion and here also especially interest for the Jews in their coming years, looking down the line as their families develop; but we see in this current interval also, a heavy underlining of the divine sadness at the human follies of His people.
Where is it more pitiful than in 48:17ff., which follows the Lord's exposure of His plan to use Cyrus for their deliverance, allowing no human king to gain glory, and even naming this one though he does not - or more aptly for us - would not even know the Lord himself! (Isaiah 45:4). Cyrus the great would PERFORM for God in restoring the Jews to their land, but in so doing, while massively helped by God to attain the power to enable him to do it, would not personally know God. In this staggering contrast between serviceability for the divine cause, even in the tenderness of restoration of Jews to Israel, the chosen instrument is known and named, but as to himself, the prophet is inspired to declare, he personally will not know God! (45:2-4).
Thus is His power, for just as Shakespeare could consult, for example, Holinshed in the PAST, for data for his plays, so the Lord consults His foreknowledge without limit, for data for His prophecies. He can as readily tell, for the FUTURE, what is to happen to the nation for its sins, via Babylonian exile, which nation will restore the Jews, and which King and his name, as one could consult a history book for the past. He emphasises this fact for example in 48:6ff., as in 44:24ff., 43:8ff., 41:21ff., in the context of the divine protestations of 41:8ff..
YOU are hopeless in weakness, yet you do not trace the testimony of power, the Lord declares to Israel; you are weak in sin, yet you do not acknowledge the testimony of your Saviour; you are oppressed with penalties, yet you do not consider the word of your God!
Such is the sort of divine expostulation with His chosen people of the day, Israel, set to glorify Him (43:21), but failing; yet in 48:17ff., its truculent tenderness is all but overpowering.
"Come near to Me, hear this:
I have not spoken in secret from the beginning;
From the time that it was, I was there.
And now the Lord God and His Spirit
Have sent Me."
"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
The Holy One of Israel:
"I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you by the way you should go.
Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
"Your descendants also would have been like the sand,
And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand;
His name would not have been cut off
Nor destroyed from before Me.
"Go forth from Babylon!
Flee from the Chaldeans!
With a voice of singing,
Declare, proclaim this,
Utter it to the end of the earth;
Say, 'The Lord has redeemed
His servant Jacob!' "
Your peace, if ONLY you had followed My word, He is saying, would have been like a river, sedate in its course, secure in its winding, wending way, surrounded by bees, cattle, lush pastures, and tranquillity.
In righteousness secure,
with sins covered by faith,
covered lives sacrificially accounted for,
with the divinely built highway of holiness for life,
strenuously and delightedly sought,
occasioning rest in the Lord (as in 11:10 more directly cf. Hebrews 4:9-11),
the result of receiving His atonement (27:5, 32:17):
there would have been a scene of
godly virtue and empirical strength, with the Lord their Protector,
a protectorate indeed.
But this has not been the way, for they WOULD NOT listen!
How readily can parents, can teachers understand such things!
BEFORE PRAISE PHASE FOUR,
LET US LOOK AHEAD AND BEHIND
AND DISCERN THE PATTERN OF PRAISE,
AND THE PROMENADE ON WHICH WE ARE WALKING
In this Praise Phase Four, which follows as Isaiah 49-55, about to come up, we find the preceding text harbouring the negative before the positive. In this instance, it has as in richly diversified music, a difference within the theme. It is pity and poignancy at their plight, it is reasoning with love and tenderness while providing their ultimate solution, first politically and then ... then it is the Spring Phase Five itself, returning to the Messiah.
So is the pattern the same, and yet diverse, and the beat of the divine music is individual and unpredictable, but characterisable and equipping the entire prophecy with an elegant intimacy of integrality.
LEAVE BABYLON, comes the charge at the end of Ch. 48 (48:20), that place from which a deliverance was to be provided through Cyrus (as archeologically transpired of course, as witnessed in the Cyrus Cylinder). In other words, you have SINNED, and God is providing a CONTEMPORARY deliverance, so TAKE it and act, as you DID NOT ACT when you sinned in the first place in your national obloquies. How easy to sin, how readily did they flow to sin more and more as if bent on the sin-first prize; and how slowly did the Lord act, patient and helping the attenuated flame; but now, the discipline past, the way back and on available, it is no time to cringe.
They must act, they must take the way, return to their land as the ruler, Cyrus, with amazing liberty allows them to do. Is it not so similar to the position now in our own era, in this twenty first century, for one and for all who have strayed from the Lord. The way in Christ is now open; it is the case that NOW is the day of salvation; but many cringe, or remain crooked, or fear, or delay, or will not go that way, eyes apprehensive, will ready to abort all opportunities, lost in spiritual sedation, blind like Israel of old as the Lord so vigorously told them (Isaiah 42:18ff., 43:8ff.).
These things naturally have an overtone of application, in the symbolic sense, for still is the call, now not in prospect at His coming, but for His return. He must be taken, received, fled to for refuge (Hebrews 6:17ff.). Who ? Why, it is the Messiah Himself, the ultimate deliverer and remedy, the one who not only knows God but is God in the flesh (as 48:16 of Isaiah makes explicit, in line with Zechariah 3:9). It is HE must be taken. HIS call is in parallel with that of the earlier time: to leave the 'babylon' of unbelief, of sophisticated crass secularism, agnosticism, religious extravaganzas which merely pollute the soul with soiled discards or even devilish preoccupations.
It is this which is the call is to OUR generation in this, that as we pass to Isaiah 49, it is to the Light not only for the Jew but for the Gentile (49:6 cf. 42:6), so that we are now moving directly into our own frame of time, when the word of God for us declares this (Romans 11:17ff.):
:And if some of the branches were broken off,
and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them,
and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,
do not boast against the branches.
"But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root,
but the root supports you.
"You will say then, '
Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.'
"Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.
Do not be haughty, but fear.
"For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God ..."
Such is the generic message to the Gentiles whose day is now fast ending (cf. Luke 21:24).
Speaking in generic terms, and not merely individually, God in Romans 11 warns the Gentiles not to boast for the Jews went (from the focus of the religious stage as children of God) for a reason, and to the Gentile peoples, there is open the same reason with the same result! While the individual Christian, Jew or Gentile is given the guarantees of God (cf. Romans 8:29ff., 5:1-11, John 10:9,27-28), yet the Gentiles as a race have no more claim than did the Jew, and lack of faith, failure to believe, is as lethal as ever relative to the divine splendour, deliverance and promises.
It is not at the Jew, racially having in much failed, and especially nationally (though it is precisely Jews who have produced the Bible, at the command of God, and been the apostles!), that Gentiles must look with disparagement, but AT THEMSELVES!
There is then the same need to leave those false religious bodies which do not abide by the scripture, as the Jew had to leave Babylon, and to follow the Lord and His word intimately, secure in His strength and peace, through justification (cf. Isaiah 53:6-11, cf. Psalm 32), and sent in His piety in initiative, to purge evil and follow truth at all costs, whatever it takes. Did not the Jew have to forsake and sacrifice MUCH to leave sophisticated Babylon and find the building energies needed for the restoration of ruined Jerusalem in that day ?
Do not Christians now, caught in the devious devices of the devil in his forays into former churches, now dead shells in many cases, have to FORSAKE BABYLON likewise, and is this not what is being said, with special reference to be sure to Romanism, but not to this only (mystery Babylon is the term - Revelation 17:5), to those so misplaced: LEAVE IT!
Is this not the word of Revelation 17:9, 18:4-5! and it is addressed to "my people"! His people will doubtless hear! as did Isaiah in his day. If moreover it applies to the people caught in false religions, churches and regions of mutable human pollution in thought (cf. Secular Myths ... , Wake Up World!), then no less is it applicable to the arid secularist, the wanton agnostic, declaring that none can know God for such truths are beyond man, while in himself, enshrining just such 'truth' in his own declaration!
This then done, this exhortation in Isaiah 48 duly considered, with its call to leave what is not godly, and to follow the door of opportunity and grace provided, we come to Praise Phase Four: for now is the indelible wonder of the witness of the Gospel in its fullest scope in Isaiah: 49-55.
Let us trace the sequence of flow in this Spring Thrust a little further.
After this Phase 4, again, comes the interval of domestic matters of more local or contemporary application, in 56-58, before the Praise Phase Five arises, as always, in the wake of the then contemporary exposés.
This next Messianic Spring time, moving from 59-62 is dramatic.
It is followed by a short excerpt of coming history, this time eschatological but discrete, in Isaiah 63. Here is a sudden change, with more internal exhortation and revelation to Israel in 64-65, mounting on wings of repudiation and confrontation: THIS GOSPEL OF YOUR MESSIAH OR NONE, and if none, then you are apostate, in derogation of truth and idle frauds! Such is the terrible word of 65:13ff.. This is their challenge.
If it seems severe, so does Auschwitz. If the Gentiles do not to 'get involved', their time too is coming. As the day of Jacob's trouble was long forecast (Jeremiah 30:4-7 cf. The Biblical Workman Ch. 1), a time without parallel for endurance, so also s the day of Gentile tribulation (Matthew 24, Luke 21, II Timothy 3, II Peter 2, Romans 1, Revelation 6, 9). And speaking of our Gentile 'times', consider Revelation 9:21:
"And they did not
repent of their murders or their sorceries
Sounds VERY MODERN, doesn't it, very up-to-date, very much like post-modernisms weary profligacy, as if sin is a wearisome matter, but has to be done with almost religious intensity, as a matter of form. Sin is growing old with the race, few of whom run for the tape!
Let us however revert to the sequence in Isaiah, moving back from our contemporary application.
As always, we come on the heels of this fascinating sequence, characterisable but individualised as well, as in great music, to Isaiah 66, to the next Praise Phase, this time the sixth.
Here we see the outworking of the Gospel on the one hand, and of the missionary testimony to it on the other, followed by the Lord's oft-predicted arising with strength, shown indeed since Deuteronomy 32:36ff., cited in v. 43 by Paul in Romans. The purpose ? the deliverance of His much maligned, much mocked, much oppressed people, restoration to their former state, land and position, yet on HIS OWN TERMS, not theirs. If they are late to come (cf. Romans 11:25), then the time is yet sure to come, and come it does (cf. Romans 11:12,25). We are advised by Paul not to be ignorant, so let us take this advice as we ponder the sequence in Isaiah.
Such then is the thrust of this melodic book of the prophet Isaiah, borne along by the inspiring power of the Spirit of God (as in I Peter 1:10ff., and esp. II Peter 1:18ff.),
this divine symphony,
its artistry and artistic devices not forced, not formal, but functional and beautiful,
marking it all one,
and that one, the Gospel,
the grace of God, the mercy of God despite the despicable and all but unutterable falsity of His people,
to bring them, degraded and lost,
back to Himself by that One Gospel in that One Messiah
whom so OFTEN He brought to their notice.
Such has been the way before the final consummation of the whole testimony, history, exposition and exhortation of Isaiah comes, a glorious culmination in this vast synthesis and pure vision in Isaiah 66.
Here comes the virtual coping stone to the book, the meaning of the arch, the beauty of holiness: practical, directive, filled with salvation, missionary zest and zeal, deliverance from oppressors and a glorious sense of completion as animal sacrifices are all but lampooned, and this, not from their inherent error, for they too were of God. Rather in Isaiah 66 are they dismissed for their inherent folly when still followed, still enacted after their MEANING and MEAT and MARVEL is fulfilled exhaustively in Christ! That would be like providing baby clothes for the wedding!
Thus does Isaiah 66:1ff. bring to light the need to follow the Lord to His Cross, the word to its reverence, and God to His and your own joy.
Since we have now looked at the intervals and the result, in order to gain perspective and a sense of the divine motion and thrust, we shall plan now to conclude simply by savouring some of the thrust of Spring Praise Phases Four, Five and Six, with due realisation that material has already been given in the reference noted above (With Heart ... Chs. 4 ff.), which embodies further references within it, for the more detailed exposition of Isaiah. Our concern here is specialised.
SPRING PRAISE PHASE FOUR
Out of the departure warning concerning Babylon - OUT ! so that those captured might at once claim their release in the day of Cyrus, and not delay, with the impact for our own times of which has already been considered, we come suddenly and as before, to the only safe exit, because this is the only sure destiny and guide, the Messiah.
Oh that you had not fallen, had listened, came the divine pathos and pity for man in this case, Israel His nation! as we saw in Isaiah 48:18. Now in Isaiah 49 we find the one hidden like an arrow and now sent, the Messiah, exposed first in the prelude to His sacrificial glory (49:4), for there is He, an Israel in whom the Lord WILL be glorified, the ONLY ONE, as Isaiah has with such emphasis repeatedly proclaimed. ALL the others fail, but THIS ONE, He alone, separate, delight in Him from the LORD, son of David, arrow of the Lord, Immanuel whose land it is: He alone will and can do the work required.
Indeed, it is too little, the LORD tells the Messiah, that you reach Israel's remnant, for You must cover the globe with the Gospel (49:6). For this LORD who does not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:10, 48:11), will DO IT HIMSELF (as in Hosea 13:14, Ezekiel 34). Here then He is, HIMSELF!
Thus in 48:11 we read:
"For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it;
For how should My name be profaned?
And I will not give My glory to another."
Thus Christ, seen in Ch. 42 as the COVENANT is here the LIGHT, as also in Isaiah 42. WHO could BE the covenant but deity, for the one who IS it, is able to be different, but the covenant is fixed: unless it be God Himself. WHO could be the light to the Gentiles, the very essence of their understanding except the Lord, the Messiah who is His incarnate completeness and exact expression, His living word! (cf. Hebrews 1).
This Messiah is in His own person to BE the salvation of God to the ends of the earth (49:6): it is He, and not something derivative which is in view, for it is the personal topic, immense in majesty, unique in person, and personally sufficient. It is as a covenant (49:8) that He is so to act, so that the thing is not impersonal projection, but personal provision, the Messiah Himself not only the agent, the executive, but the substantial reality of salvation, as in Isaiah 52-53 shortly to come, where BY HIS KNOWLEDGE SHALL MY SERVANT JUSTIFY MANY! What sort of knowledge ?
It is shown by what follows: "For He shall bear their iniquities." There is nothing abstract about this salvation to be TAKEN and not merely stated or represented, to the ends of the earth in the very Person of the slain Messiah.
Again, as in Spring Praise Phase 3, in Isaiah 42, we see Israel being brought back to its place in the geography of the race (49:14-26). Forsaken as if a nursing child ? not at all, she is not forsaken whom the Lord has, as a nation, begotten! Far from it, for Israel is inscribed in the palms of the Lord's hands (49:16), and its destroyers have coming to them a devastation such as they loved to provide for Israel! (49:25-26). The land will be too small, and those who ate up Israel in its so famous land, will not be found (49:19ff.).
The prey taken from the captors ? unlikely ! but Israel will thus be summarily delivered, indeed as seen in Isaiah 66, Joel 3, Habakkuk 3 and Micah 7, as in Ezekiel 36ff., as we have so repeatedly seen (cf. SMR Appendix A). Fed with their own flesh will be the shamelessly stripping human piranhas who seem never sated with Jewish flesh, land and liberty.
Surging through Isaiah 50, led by the torrent of triumph and tribulation, as the very aspects are covered and the history unveiled, we sudden find the Messiah in the midst of temporarily unsolaced pain and anguish, as He looks at the appearance of utter devastation, part of His role; but trust is in Him for the result, and He refuses both to be discountenanced, and to waver from His sacrificial duty (as BEING the tabernacle - 4:6 and 32:1ff., and hence priest and sacrifice alike).
"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 Isaiah 51 in this seventh Spring Time Phase, we move to the divine exposure of the very end of the world, of its day as a platform, for it grows old like a garment, and the remnant of believers in the land are exhorted to be fearless and faithful. "I, even I am He who comforts you..." the Lord declares, enjoining them not to forget Him who "stretched out the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth" and not to be among those who "feared continually". Then the message moves once more, as so often in both Psalm and Isaiah, to the Messiah, whose unique mission could be accomplished by no other (Isaiah 51:16), and we see why THIS ONLY MESSIAH is the One who will prevail, for to this purpose is He sent, long prepared; indeed, without Him, the very universe would have had no sanction so much as to start.
In this way, liberty was never
permitted by the Lord without the sanction and spiritual Prince to restore it,
for the fallen who seek Him whose they are! Thus, as in Revelation 13:8, is He
the "lamb slain before the foundation of the world"
Again, we find as Isaiah 51 ends, that summary depiction of the utter failure of ANYTHING or ANYONE or ANYONES in Israel to cover the case. "Your sons have fainted ... but I ..." There is none of any avail, the whole nation holds in itself no hope, no glimmer, nothing to the point (cf. Psalm 49:7,15). This is precisely in line with the end of Ch. 41. In Isaiah 52:13ff. we are in historical overview introduced to the appalling and appealing sight of the incredibly marred Messiah, yet lifted in praise and given exaltation unspeakable, while in Isaiah 53 we have the very Gospel prefigured, as so often quoted thereafter as in I Peter, and noted, as in Acts 8 where the explanation of this passage leads on to the preaching of Christ by Philip, to the Ethiopian eunuch.
Isaiah 54 is like a mother's heart speaking words of solace, and a father giving token of everlasting inheritance, while 55 reveals the Messiah as witness, leader and commander, where the thirst of the spirit of man is quenched (cf. John 4), and it continues with a passionately specific cry to the sinners to return and find abundance of pardon, the course being laid, the Messiah in view, the plan to operate as defined and the result inevitable in wonder and mercy. The gift is free, without money and without price, by the grace of God without alloy (cf. I Peter 1:18ff.).
We have already noted the transition to the next interval, and so now come to Isaiah 59-63, the Praise Phase 5.
SPRING PRAISE PHASE FIVE
Now in Isaiah 59-63, we find after the beautiful exhortations and promises for those heartily in accord with the Lord preceding in Isaiah 58, a sudden exposure of utter, ignominious iniquity of such proportions as to make it almost like a spiritual X-ray of stricken and now sodden man, sunk in the pits of endemic horror. This is the focus of Isaiah 59. Their evils have sunk into him, and his state is grotesque, virtue absent, evils swimming in floods of fearless folly.
It is at the end of this, with its poignant word, "truth is fallen in the street", evocative of the Messiah's suffering when another had to carry His cross, and reminiscent of Isaiah 50, that we see as we shall see in Isaiah 66, in that resonant Praise Phase 6, a sudden impact and departure siren. It is that of the Lord arising with "fury to His adversaries", so that there is deliverance and change. Indeed, as prelude and depiction of the sum, we find this word: "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him." So does the Redeemer come to Zion, as Paul relays it for the end of this our own Age in Romans 11:25, and this, it is a part of that word which generation to generation will not pass away (Isaiah 59:21cf. Matthew 5:17-19).
Then in Isaiah 60 we see this earth transformed, as in Isaiah 65, to a marvel of prosperity as Israel returns to its land as in 42, 49, being so clearly defined there; and this time we move as in Isaiah 65, to that millenial wonder in which the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters the sea (cf. Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14), and as in Zechariah 12, now with divine reinforcement and embrace, one shall become as a thousand, except that here, it is even a "little one"! Such is the strengthening provided.
Here the walls are "salvation" and the gates "praise" (60:18), emphasising that here is a component of Christ's people, not some mere political entity with its shame and soiled spirit.
It is of Israel that this is spoken, but redeemed Israel, not of the Gentile, though the blessings are comparable and there is but one kingdom, but of those of Israel the nation who are now part of that vast and glorious body, the Church of the Messiah, Messiah-ans or Christians. "Violence shall no more be heard in your land" - far removed from the plight now, is then the contrast and the wonder. It is as in Revelation 20, a time of peace. (Cf. Sparkling Life ... Ch. 10, SMR pp. 506ff..)
What is the ground of all this wonder as in Isaiah 11, and in 60 ? It is the Messiah, descendant (through the maternal line) of David (Isaiah 11:1). In Isaiah 61 therefore, in view of the insistence on 52-53 of the only way home to the Lord for ANY, we find the Messiah Himself, anointed to preach the Gospel to the poor (as in Luke 4), for it is the "acceptable year" (symbolised earlier by the jubilee - 50 year loan cancellation date) of the Lord.
Nevertheless, for all the tender zeal of 61:1, where we see the Lord as sent, for the broken-hearted, that He might heal them (as in Ezekiel 34 precisely), there is at once seen following in this very same verse of comfort (61:2), the vengeance of the Lord on what has wrought evil, does not repent and continues in shameless chagrin to the end (61:2b).
Now are the old ruins rebuilt, and now instead of shame is double honour (61:7). Believers are now priests (61:6), and in 61:10, in this exposition of the Church via the segment of it which fills the definitional criteria of those addressed (cf. SMR Appendix A), there is a delightful expression in personal form of salvation:
"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."
Just as He does repeatedly (cf. Isaiah 34:16, 59:21), the Lord makes it very clear that this is part of His word, and thus of His work, and that HE WILL DO IT!
Following this, in Isaiah 62, after the thrust of this vitality of Spring which rushes to cover the ground with perfumed blossoms as they fall, profuse in multitude, glorious even in repose, we find the yearning for the coming of such a time, and are advised that watchmen should stand on the walls of the (yet unfallen) city and proclaim and call for the restoration of Jerusalem, adding this: "give Him no rest till He establishes, and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth."
The sophisticate will of course at once want to equate this with the Church (read for 'Jerusalem'), but then it would be contra-contextual repeatedly in this phase, where the establishment of Jerusalem involves vast deployment of divine resources and vengeance on enemies repeatedly, in terms of a people who, though tenderly and covenantally Christ's, yet by their breach and defilement have lost their spiritual place. You cannot have it both ways; if you want to interpret, it must not be your own head that is the data base; but if it is, then it is not scripture that you are interpreting.
Accordingly, Israel is to be told and re-told of its place (62:10-11), and the only way in which it is to have an identity, and focussed in the Lord is that city where the He was slain, and to which His feet are to return (Zechariah 14:4ff.). It is sad that the allegorical uncertainties of liberalism should leave such a residue with many that they ignore the definitional structures and strictures of the word of God in this instance, and rush headlong into their own poetical nesciences. Yet the word remains as it is written, and its definitions are not appeased by romancing.
In just this way, we see a hideously 'real' battle's testimony, in Isaiah 63, as we behold the Lord Himself, as on earth, moving from a wallowing disaster for Edom, as One "mighty to save", for the day of vengeance and the year of His redeemed has come. History is receiving its final contributions as the day of the Lord rushes to be en scène. Then in quiet mode, the testimony turns to a reflection on the PAST deliverances of the Lord for Israel, "which He bestowed on them according to His mercies, according to the multitudes of His lovingkindnesses."
How He "bore them and carried them all the days of old"! but, the meditation continues, "they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit, so He turned against them as an enemy."
There is no doubt about the recipient of these things, plain, historical Israel, the topic centre. It proceeds to speak of yet further historical deliverances wrought, despite all these evils of His people, for them, and touches on the Exodus in its passion of deliverance and its marvel of mercies. "As a beast goes down into the valley, and the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest, so You led your people, to make yourself a glorious name."
We are not left in any doubt about the character and name of this people! for the testimony is so often reviewed as in Psalm 105, 106.
The word of the Lord then turns to a plea, which begins to use this past for a present mercy, but it is met with such an exposition of evil, of revolt, that it is in its suddenness, like so much in Isaiah, almost stunning. The repudiation of confirmed national non-repentance for the death of the Messiah as earlier exposed in detail (49:7, 52-53) is so strong that the Lord declares (65:1ff.),
"I was sought of those who did not ask for Me, I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here I am, here I am,' to a nation that was not called by My name. I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts"
So does it come to the disjoining of 65:13-15, pending repentance as forecast in Ezekiel 36 and Zechariah 12, with Deuteronomy 32 and Micah 7, indeed with Romans 11. This then, past our Praise Phase Six, has brought us to the very brink of Phase Seven! Your Messiah or your life! is the plain confrontation with Israel, who having received so much, with such divine solicitude so often, cannot be excuse a simple negation of the Lord who now, as predicted, become flesh, has ended sacrifice with the summit of sacrifice in Himself!
SPRING PRAISE PHASE SIX
Moving from the awesome severity of 65:13-15, as to those who have been 'blind' long enough (as in Romans 11, as in Isaiah 42, 49), the Lord indicates that what He desires is "him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word," rather as David, for all his gross sin, did so that we can see it, in Psalm 51.
Not wonderful powers and self-praise are needed, not self or national congratulation is required, but a heart that seeing sin, detests it, seeing abomination departs from it, seeing the Messiah comes to Him, finding thirst within, there sates it, and finding iniquity, finds its pardon in the One on whom is laid the iniquity of all those to be healed by Him, as Isaiah 53:3-6 so expressly indicates with its "we" and "us". The donor is Christ, those with the donation are healed, and this same "we" are those whose iniquity is laid on Him, all of them, who as such constitute "many" as in Isaiah 53:11 and Matthew 26:28.
Sacrifices of animals become ludicrous excrescences, intrusions without warrant (Isaiah 66:3), even repugnant, now that the Lamb of God is seen prophetically as slain, as Isaiah turns yet again, or rather is shown in the presence of the Lord, the pages of the book of history, turning to this post-Messianic time. Here in the last chapter of Isaiah, in striking parallel with Deuteronomy 32, Micah 7, Ezekiel 36-39, we find the Lord determined to deal with the detractors of His people, and having REQUIRED the remnant of Israel to find Him (as they do, predicted as so acting in Zechariah 12:10), He now undertakes with fury and judgment to remove the pestilential devourers from the sight of His people, now brought back to their land.
It is in this same Gospel, without which nothing is for the people, that the whole world is to be evangelised, even by those not of the tribe of Levi (66:19-21), and with Jew and Gentile in happy harmony as believers, we see at the close, the pit of damnation now awe-fully revealed, where any of any race find their destiny, having preferred darkness to light. God does not FORCE into the light, and what prefers darkness in the end, despite all His historical explications, exhibitions, His words and His deeds in the person of His everlasting word become flesh, Jesus the Christ, this finds the wrath of God brooding over it (as also in John 3:36 with 3:19).
As to God, He SO loved that to the world His Son is sent; as to man, he so often so prefers darkness to light, even in the face of this light of redemption, even in the eyes of the Lord who knows who are His (II Timothy 2:19), that THIS IS THE CONDEMNATION. When God states its nature and His own, it is well to listen, rather than to the shuffling feet of philosophical theology, clashing with the word as did the Pharisees of old, willing to follow their own traditions (Mark 7:7ff.).
The word of God however is not made void by these or any other means.
So has Isaiah, in these dramatic, Spring-like surges, shown us what is to come, from the Lord's turning of the pages of future history, with all the graphic power that Shakespeare might use when studying his books of PAST history, but at the Lord's hand from another 'book', that of the future. Graphically in Isaiah's prophecy, these future pictures rush, like so many mini-video-camera screenings, to the eye of the beholder.
Repeatedly they claim our attention, clamouring with power, speaking with clarity, covering the future with the same ease portrayed as for us the present, yes and with more, for the perspective is at all times clear as if it were before us, but to this is added, that it is interpreted in the presence of the Lord, whose word it is.
Thus is bound in one volume this magnificent, majestic, soaring, and yet down-to-earth work, with its clear criteria and established characteristics, each part interpreting the rest, all in one pervasive whole like the movements of some symphony, including its rondos and exquisite moments, developed now here, now there, and all in one totality like a pearl, gleaming in the light.
Comfort inexpressible is to be found in such power, such dominion, such authority, for most of its pages are already NOW PAST HISTORY! How it evokes the purity in heart required as it devastates the foolish concept of simply clinging to tradition, irrespective of what is being done with the word of God by this or that religious body, as occurred indeed in Israel. It was precisely this which became the subject of one of the Lord's own most scathing assaults, as in Matthew 23, parallel in much to Mark 7:7ff., where false tradition and mere pomp and ceremony without truth and morality, is derided as a donkey's bray might be, when compared to the clear singing of the skylark on high.
It is uncomfortable for the rebellious, for it portrays them in all their errors and evils remorselessly (cf. Isaiah 1, 59), as might a doctor's case book, dealing with X-rays and patients. It is pure and sweet comfort for those (cf. Isaiah 54), in whatever way oppressed, in whatever labours for the Lord, what helps, what overcoming of hindrances, here to see from time so far back, this conversance with our own time, and to see the movements of time forecast with such sympathy and yet such reprobation of impenitent evil.
COMFORT YE, MY PEOPLE, says your God. Isaiah in our preliminary Sending Phase (which with our six would make seven) was purged before use could be made of him. This preliminary, as foundationally exposed in Titus 3:5ff., is necessary, even Peter needing scouring as in Matthew 16:22-23, and the correction of heart (Hebrews 12:3-13), as in Luke 22:54-62! What ineffable comfort followed (I Peter 1:8)! and what blessing was there for all, just as Thomas needed with his practical demeanour, to learn more of the meaning of a devotion which saw the realities without continual probing; for the case is clear, the way is sure and the destiny in Him, a thing of delight (Psalm 17), because of WHO He IS!
For detailed work on translation of the Bible, with many illustrations, going beyond prejudice or antipathy, to the actual issues which face a rendering into English, and a survey of results and reasons for them in various texts, see Bible Translations. Praise God that there are grounds for clarity, and evidence wells up for understanding, but it is not found in Football Team type passions; rather is it seen in pondering the evidence which the Lord in HIS wisdom has provided for each rendering. To be sure, many have sacrificed good textual evidence for ludicrous hypotheses, historically as empty as the notions beyond them; and this needs attention - but so does all the other evidence. The word of God is not found in any doubt, in any doctrine, and what God has said is fulfilled here as elsewhere, to the uttermost. It is important therefore to know what it is. On all these topics, see the hyperlink above.
ISAIAH 40 comes fresh with the comfort of the Lord, just after we have read of Hezekiah, a good king of enormous energy and faith, well seen in the days of the challenge from invading Sennacherib, that ranting Assyrian who had sought to use propaganda to weaken Israel before taking it. Despite this earlier career, Hezekiah is seen in Isaiah 39 as failing in his later time, in one vital point.
What had this remarkable king then done, in this later phase of his life as king ? He had acted as if , being successful, he could mix as such with other kings of the earth, receive their embassages, co-operate, talk of and show his treasures and receive condolences just as if he were in full fellowship with them.
It is just this error which is being made so profanely today, as more and more formerly notable churches make common cause
with New Age, or with old-fashioned liberalism in its ever new
whether Neo-Orthodox or Neo-Evangelical (cf.
or with society, evincing a cultural captivity of what began as a Church.
This confused combination and erratic spiritual collaboration is utterly biblically condemned (cf. Separation), and is exemplified at the national level whether in the USA's recent exhibit of its President referring to the teachings of the Koran as good (cf. Red Alert ... Ch. 13, esp *2), or in the point recently made, that tragic as the Twin Tower disaster was, more are killed by abortion.
As to the latter, it indeed resembles vivisection in this in one of its modes, where a living human creature of feeling is subjected to being cut into literal parts!
Similarly the increasing acceptance of perversion cuts the nation, but the intention of these points is not distinctively an assault on the USA, who have helped Europe crucially more than once: but on the many national confusions of allegiance and alliance, yes and ecclesiastical ones.
What then is the point is applying Isaiah's prophecy here to our own day ? It is an assault not on nations but on wickedness within them, which destroys, which acts as if to summon God to destroy in warning, before the situation reaches its intractable terminus, at which only the personal return of the Messiah can be enough to rescue it from obliteration of life (Matthew 24:22). Has not Holland gone much further in the recognition of perversion even in 'marriage', while mercifully, Australia still has a PM who is unwilling so to designate homosexual relationships: and yet it forced Tasmania to cease making such things illegal.
Righteousness does not cease to exalt a nation, and if FREEDOM means that people can do what they please, then how is this freedom for those who suffer the pathogenic consequences ? You can CHOOSE till you are sick of it, but unless it is a good choice, you are likely to PAY! That is part of the message of Isaiah as in 65:13-15, or 59. There is an end, and a final one of auditing to come. Even in the interim, there are bounds and results. Sow the wind and reap the whirl-wind is not dead (cf. Hosea 8:7), though man gives increasing attestations of his own spiritual death in wild sowing.
England alas has joined the throng, this time forced in the case of the British Army, to tolerate homosexual soldiers on grounds that the EU demanded it! That we considered under the heading of the Corruption of Protestant Britain! (Wake Up World! Ch. 3), and we can see this in the context provided by With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength ... Chs. 10, 9 , but also A Question of Gifts VII, News 73, Joyful Jottings 14, 21.
This is but the modern application of that ennui, that inertia and tradition, which forgetting function, considers forms and leaves faith in vast bodies with enormous results. Israel did it; now the Gentiles are blindly following that path in massive numbers. Religions are mixed, a fatal mischief, and morals are submerged, where like jagged rocks, hidden, they still wreak results on the blind.
However, individuals are not required to follow such things, though it may sometimes involve penalties from some nations or religious bodies if they do not; and while free speech lasts, must be vocal in warning, and beyond!
From this beginning, the error of Hezekiah, then, comes the sudden SPRING beginning with Isaiah 40, as the prophet, under the watchful eye of the Lord, is as it were taken to a fresh chapter of coming history, and cries COMFORT! to the people. It is the time following the storm, now opened as if by a flick of the pages.
Before the Lord, to the prophet, the FUTURE could look as simple as the past would have done, and the Lord opens his mind and heart to the message to be given. In these terms, with fresh and crisp certainty, he begins with the comfort which comes from the predicted invasion which Hezekiah's action merely precipitated, a failure in the already bursting and volcanic rush of failures which over long preceding periods had been moving to the devastation of that nation - this, for a time until, discipline past, it would return to its land following the assigned 70 year period, after its fall. This span was determined by God and shown through Jeremiah in Ch. 25.
This past, there is room for comfort and in what power and beauty does it come. That is what we find in Isaiah 40.
How it reminds one of Jeremiah 31:20ff., where we are shown something of the Lord's eventual tenderness to the straying nation of Israel, when many return to Him (as in Deuteronomy 32, Zechariah 12:10ff.), at last.
"Like an untrained bull;
Restore me, and I will return,
For You are the Lord my God.
"Surely, after my turning, I repented;
And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh;
I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated,
Because I bore the reproach of my youth.
"Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a pleasant child?
For though I spoke against him,
I earnestly remember him still;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord."
It is in this very chapter that Jeremiah (v. 22) speaks of the coming virgin birth (cf. Isaiah 7 and see SMR pp. 770ff.), and also most aptly, of the New Covenant which is to be that in the blood of the Messiah (exactly as in Isaiah 52-53). How the prophetic words intertwine, like cords of grape vine, stretching together with power on their lattice work!
Meanwhile Isaiah 40 proceeds to remind Israel and all of the Lord's majesty in His creation, in His counsel, in His needing no help, and depicts His faithfulness in providing power for those who wait for Him. This comes like a renewal of youth and like eagles soaring, which is indeed true and may be found experientially for and in His service.
It moves then to Isaiah 41's challenge to realise that the power and quality of the word of God, able to be effectively tested, is without parallel, and challenging Israel to account for a perversity which refuses to recognise and act on it, it leaves the nation, revealed as having no help, no, not from one person (as in Isaiah 51 preceding 52's revelation of the Messiah). With the nations eroded, denuded, incapable, and so determined, the Lord then in Isaiah 42 presents ... the Messiah. It is in Him that is found the Lord's own DELIGHT! we there learn, and moving through His revelation, we find the Messiah Himself to be constitutive of the COVENANT. It exists IN HIMSELF!
This naturally is only possible for the LORD Himself (as sent from heaven, while still being deity - Isaiah 48:16, Phillippians 2), since others might change, but He swears that HE does NOT change (Malachi 3:6). The covenant is sure because He, the Lord, is it!