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Chapter 1
 

SQUIRMING, SPIRITUAL SQUALOR AND THE INTEGRITY OF FAITH
 

PHASE 1

TYPE THE HYPE ?

THE CLASSIC CASE OF AHAZ AND THE UNLIMITED CELESTIAL OFFER
DECLINED

Ahaz was a king of a special category. He not merely rejected the legs of faith, but involved himself in a sort of spiritual amputation*1 which put on artificial ones and called them real, without apparently realising what he had cut off. He was MOST orthodox sounding; and MOST unorthodox. There is for some a peculiar appeal about the unorthodox, although to be sure our contemporary world is now so unorthodox in reality, that its social concept of orthodoxy IS the very essence of spiritual unorthodoxy. We can all be weary with those who heady, want to be different and differentiate themselves in the meantime from reason, logic and truth, in a sort of post-adolescent spree that carries on to middle, and even old age. Nowadays they sometimes carve up a few thousand or even million witless souls, if not stricken bodies, while they persist in their unorthodoxy.

However, with their survival of the fittest magic (cf. That Magnificent Rock Chs.  6, 1 and  8, Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Ch. 13, SMR Ch. 2), they are beginning to find that these exponents are more and more only carrying over the cruelties into  the physical world, which they have already perpetrated against all logic and reason. Bodies readily roll where truth has fallen (Isaiah 59:14).

Ahaz seems to have been likewise in one thing: he trusted in what he could see. He was like Stalin, perhaps, who reputedly asked how many divisions (of soldiers) the pope had. Actually, he has many,  but of another kind; and as a very epitome of unorthodoxy (Biblically defined SMR pp. 1032ff.), he is not without his powers of the day. Ahaz was a this world man; and he did not believe the magnitude of the offer of the prophet Isaiah to render open, a staggering spiritual invitation from God Almighty, who made the nation, and for that matter, the world! (Isaiah 7:4-11).

Couched in details, exposed with energy, meeting the immediate and offering the whole vast canopy of protection and power needed, the presentation of the prophet was wilily despised by the King. Wearisome in his canniness (Isaiah 7: 13), the king was on warning, that "if you will not believe, you shall not be established." The words relate, and the concept is this: If you do not take that stable and assured certainty, then will not be an assured and founded fellow. Truth out, will out; and the fact that it is out of his heart means that his life will be out of the ways of God, and his religious profession being spurious, will render him merely unstable.

Therefore God offered a sign. They would not believe; so just as it is predicated of our own generation (Answers to Questions Ch. 5), to see amazing signs of approaching world bankruptcy in multiple dimensions, so did it come to King Ahaz and his afflicted land, filled with sin like skyscrapers in reverse, built downwards to the pit. Prophet and priest alike served their own hearts and thoughts (Jeremiah 5:32), and the best were like a briar (cf. Micah 7:4, Isaiah 1, 5, 29).

A sign, then, to the house of Israel, to Judah ? What would it be ?

As to that ? It was a stunning SIGN which he gave, but it must be recalled that this was not before Ahaz had astutely rejected the personal, immediate offer of divine aid, so relegating the thing given to times too late to assist him! But what was this sign which was given to the disobedient King ? It is readily to be seen there,  in Isaiah 7.

It was all a question of God becoming man*2, in format, so that He could show Himself, bear sin for man as a man and exhibit His faithfulness, loyalty of heart, empathy and exceedingly great love for the race He had made. His coming would be such that "GOD WITH US", Immanuel, would be the impact and the presence. Indeed, this would be the very name of a startling child to be born (cf. Isaiah 9:6).

There was more. Who enjoys death ? Who does not see its implicit rebuke. It is not a simple wasting away, a running down of the battery. It is an enormous removal of a vitality which is an enterprise so vast, a wonder so celestial that men still, in unbelief, fumble with concepts and create fiascos of thought, as if primary school were their domain.

It is not because they lack intellect, for prodigious intellects are often found on this educated earth. It is not because they lack confidence, for self-confidence has become an epidemic so incalculable in consequence - unless one simply breathes the word 'hell' which certainly does cover it, the gravity of the case and its spiritual gravitation - that it is virtually pandemic, a disease moreover accosted in friendly terms, and to which educational authorities often lend applause.

It is because the spirit of man, which deals with these things, in the most colossal effrontery to itself, the more staggering in view of the resource of pride of race which is so fostered as if it were an only child, that is the human race, that ultimate racism, declines to acknowledge itself in its source. It prefers to think of itself as a succession of toys, made into a synthetic masterpiece without a master, which works in some odd way by program, or chance, or some other antithesis to actuality, for what chance ever symbolically conceived, carried in the womb and gave birth to a conceptual masterpiece, a programmatic ouster of all the advanced thoughts of man, to make them look all but infantile ? Chance as we have seen, is merely the absence of a program to the point of some purpose, which is being crossed or ignored in its setting (see Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 3, News 122, 132, Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Chs.  9,  13, SMR Ch. 3),

Chaos as such is not even definable, being a contradiction in terms. If all things lack anything in order*3A, then nothing is the only repository for it. As soon as you breach this by declaring, Yes it has this and that, it is not chaos. It is something which has inherent in it, an order so perspicuous that you can discern and discriminate that which is its feature, or composes its features, or does not.

This is not the same as chaos, which lacks ANYTHING determinable at all, or quite simply, is merely a state of assessable disorder. Disorder however is merely an array of features not in accord with what one has in mind. It is not the same as the absence of order, in pain of the above. Characteristics are not even statable except there is logic in their performance, order in their existence so that they are there to be depicted, differentiated from other characteristics, real or imaginary. WHATEVER the performance, it must be depictable. If it is, there is an order and a system, a mode and a matrix. If it is not, then there is nothing. You can talk about nothing, but there are those who have more to do.

The matter of imagination itself has been considered in this regard both in SMR Ch. 3 and News 122, together with That Magnificent Rock Ch. 7.

Ahaz however in this regard, may have been behind the times. That is, he was in terms of the actual passage of time, ahead of his times, since duplicity fully worthy of our century was most creatively wrought through him; but since the times that are our contemporary feature are regressive as well as repressive in more and more flairs of moral and physical violence, together with the cultural mental violence now normal in many universities and schools which shoo away facts as if they were to depart undesired, when it comes to the realities of God and the universe relative to Him (cf. That Magnificent Rock Ch. 8): he was behind our times.

Our times are ahead of his times, since we are so much more lively in our deaths, as societies, with so much time to squander on the derailing of thought, the intimidations of morality and the intimations of mortality, while we pursue courses on how to outwit, to impinge surreptitiously on the consciousness or conscience of others, manoeuvring, manipulating, creating 'image' as if fallen photos in some way extradited themselves from moral condemnation through the picturesque complexity of their psychological art forms.

That is why and the respect in which our times qualitatively and spiritually lag behind all times, since we take time to be timed out; an event careering upon the world like a runaway colt. But it is not runaway: it is carefully and even meticulously prepared by the Almighty, who also carefully depicted the course to be followed - not as a mandate, since it is wicked in the very extremities of fallen passion, but as a schedule which sin in fact would follow.

Behold the man! the man of the 21st century! Alas the fallen image needs no imaging to present a challenge to the imagination in sheer spectacle of evil.

But not all are so. Some still prefer to BEHOLD THE MAN! (John 19:5), as presented in vexatious and malignant cowardice by Pilate, scourged and swept by scorning glances, the very model and stature of divinity, in man-format, in love bearing, in plan performing, in sacrifice accepting, in generosity receiving  the penalty for sin in the very flearing face of its insults.
 
 

VERBAL ACROBATICS OF AHAZ DO NOT CREATE EFFECTUAL HAZE

There are still sober lovers of light, children of God; the Church of the Redeemer is still vital and filled with the love of God. The background changes as in some dramatic play; but the players may still be discerned. They grow older, and the grey hairs appear; but they are there.

The disadornment of the Gospel, through endless efforts to omit, to re-write, to ignore, to embellish, to syncretise with other things, to schematise into some simplistic substitute, in actions the very antics of Satan so clear since II Corinthians 11 gave its classic and inspirited exposť on the topic: this continues. The names of some players change, but then this is an invasion through disguise. Satan's messengers, explains Paul, masquerading as angels of light, would confound clarity with confusion. They try black-out blinds on light.

Neither Ahaz in his royal attire, however, nor modern man in his disingenuous religions of hate, psychologies of despair, philosophies of derangement, or subtle religious syntheses of opposites, telling us what in theory they first disenable themselves from knowing, yes for that matter, neither the evolutionary haze nor the Darwinian craze, the Marxist blaze nor the Freudian sleaze have done anything, except murder and incite to it, or distort and invite to it, in principle or in practice, in confusion breeding frustration or physical clanguor, or else cavort and end hiccoughing in the Spring grass, no longer fresh; for Winter approaches (cf. SMR pp. 611ff, 620ff., 333ff., 375ff., 380ff.).

It is not only in Afghanistan, alas for the woes, that it approaches. It is for the world, what it has for long besought such extremes from the God it so loves to ignore. Ignore ? but not when it is prone to criticise.

Have you ever thought of the full scope of the Ahaz style words of the dissatisfied world ? We do not, says one, want to talk of God. Behold, my knee hurts!  one declares. Now does this imply that if one lives for oneself, and then finds after many years that a mechanical problem occurs in the knee, that it is time to say to the Maker: See, I was right! You allowed my knee to hurt after 50 years of playing my game in life and ignoring, indeed eyeing you askance. How horrible ! It is like saying to an insurance company which you did not invite, See how wise I am! I never believed you, so now that all things are wrong, it is obvious you would have squirmed out of it somehow. So I am vindicated!

Logic alas has no part whatsoever. PAIN, in any case, is not the thing the Gospel avoids. It is painful to be smitten with a sense of sin, painful to be abased to acknowledge it, for many, and painful to be cleansed and scrubbed, sanctified and enlightened. Yet it is a pain which is beautiful, for it has meaning, effect and is not for ever. It is painful to be lifted to a waiting helicopter when one needs rescue, though the cords pull hard under one's arms. This, it may be a severe pang, but how does this compare with being put where one belongs! That, it is magnificent. Talent has place, truth has rule; peace invades; love sings like larks, like mounting larks, skylarks in the azure. PAIN can come in discipline, in purification, but if one loves the Lord and the quality of His life, what is that!

Pain is a happening. It is not holiness nor is it the objective, to come or to go. It goes in the end, when right is relished and realised. It is deceased when the Lord comes for His own. It is a training tedium; but the end of the training, this is not at all tedious, but glorious.

I will not tempt the Lord! say many with Ahaz, and they do tempt the Lord; and though He wait most patiently for many, they wither like dead grapes on the stem. That! it has quite a different sort of pain! They flirt with spirituality, they squirt in tiny teaspoons of knowledge, they lampoon, lie back in indolence in this sphere, engage in very mood swings about it; and then act as if all this unrealism and intemperance were in some way worthy of something other than just deserts for trifling, egotism and self-centred, self-possession and arrogance in the face of the Maker.

No, verbal acrobatics do not deceive God. You see that in Matthew 7:21ff., where those coming to the gates of heaven, attesting their (undenied 'good works' or even wonderful ones) are simply told, I never knew you. Depart ... you workers of iniquity.

That is not a quotation, above. It omits something, Let us add it now, for it is crucial in the case in question:
"I never knew you. Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity."

It is the Son of Man who as a man knew man, and what is in the heart of man, who judging from the platform of man with the wisdom of God, so speaks. Departure from the ONLY admittedly narrow (as with many precise things) way to God the Father, even from the living access route who is Himself deity expressed, it is hell in the making. It is that disregard of splendour, that divorce from reality which, chosen and desired, is now received with all the interest accrued. Where judgment is not transferred to Christ, in that almost forgotten mode of HUMILITY, and GRATITUDE, then it is according to truth (as always) but not on HIM, who is derided or ignored or downgraded, but on the soul that sins (Ezekiel 18:4).

God does not see things in a blur of verbal twisting. Not acrobatics but accuracy is needed when the Judge is concerned. He is most accurate (cf. Matthew 5:17-21). The accurate aim is one of heart directed in love, holy in kindness, illumined by Christ. Not by some candle that flickers and goes out in the undiscerned darkness, it is truth in the inner parts, mercy in the psyche, salvation in the soul.

Did not Paul make it ultra-clear in Romans 10 that the failure to deal with the righteousness of God comes from trying to grab it in one's own works. They go about to establish their OWN righteousness, he declared of the lost, and are ignorant of that of God Himself! His righteousness is not some attainment of man's imperfect efforts, and the whole idea of their being so, not merely elevates man insanely (Psalm 82), but demeans God grossly. The righteousness of God is attested in the justification of sinners by the payment of Christ of His own, then accounted to the ledgers of the soul of those who, valuing this priceless gift, seize it with delight! (II Cor. 5:19-21, Romans 5:1-11). It is only then that it is inspired and inspirited in thrust and purity, enabling the soul to grow in comradeship and relish of right, of truth, in peace, with mercy.

Aeroplanes can err; but if properly maintained, their performance can soar over the erratics of devious dynamics. Hairline fractures, so deadly in some, can be detected most readily if the advice of Psalm 139 be taken. The Psalmist REQUESTS God to SEARCH AND TRY him, in order to ascertain freely if there be ANY wicked way in him. He does not trust in his own works, his own analysis or his own concepts of merit. He trusts in the living God to account to Him His righteousness as to status, and to act with rigour in the detection and debasement of sin within him, that he might be free (Romans 8:1-11). So it is in that magnificent penitential Psalm 51, where a clean heart David seeks for, an item to be CREATED within him. For God, only God is good enough. The rest must come via redemption, sanctification, transformation, regeneration, and follow the Shepherd as sheep, not leap about as goats, and then forget whether they even ever had one!

Let us however revert to Ahaz himself.
 
 

THE IMPLICATIONS

First, we must notice that when Isaiah offered Ahaz deliverance from what seemed to the king to be massive problems, Syria and Israel of the north in combination, an alliance formed for his overthrow, it was really not such a huge problem. Certainly, it could have become one; but after all, Assyria for example was a far more powerful nation than either of these assailants of little Judah in the south, with its king Ahaz. Indeed, this may have caused Ahaz to consider in himself (as one announcer said earlier today on Radio News, 'think amongst myself') that it was really a game of chess in which he could be delivered by simple diplomacy. He would trust to his own efforts while mouthing suitable words to keep God out of the way.

Did he not have power to induce the king of Assyria to act for him, oh! fuss off a few temple things to him, some gold, this might do it. Why bother with all this divine agenda ? Must one really get so close to God that one must be in alliance with HIM! If God were for covenantally beautiful reasons interested in delivering his nation of Judah, would this not be invasive, intrusive, or at the least less interesting than going it alone, finding out what advanced diplomacy could do ? At all events, he blustered in devious language, a strange combination, declaring, Oh no! I would not TEMPT the Lord! In what then would he tempt the Lord ? In accepting a vigorously presented offer ? In accepting it from the hand of a PROPHET SPECIFICALLY SENT FOR THE PURPOSE ?

Is it to tempt your boss if you listen to what he is asking you to accept, basing it on his whole authority and good intentions for you ? Is this presumption ? Is it not rather humility and knowing your place, not trying to become the boss yourself, but finding his grace sufficient!

This rarefied use of moral language to distort a massive presumption of disbelief is of much interest to us now. Ahaz, humiliated as he was by a vast defeat at the hands of Israel, then offered a limitless cheque on the resources of God for entire deliverance, even being told of the imminent collapse of the countries then threatening him, instead of accepting a GIFT from GOD, turned rather to Assyria, a pagan and misled people with idols. Then he used one of the idols, entangling himself in ever greater presumption, misuse of the divine ordinances and grossness of heart and character.

This whole situation reminds one of the USA, since September 2001 with a comparatively small threat - oh yes! as with Ahaz, it COULD become most serious for national security, but there are far great powers available. What does it do ? Does it turn to the LORD and ask His help, being patient to all, kind to all, but in RELIGIOUS matters, seeking ONLY from the Lord ? Oh no! It does not. It will rely on an ALIEN RELIGION. But, you say, there are many Moslems in USA. True, but does the nation have to dignify a given religion with an appearance of validity when that very 'faith' so demeans Christ that it is antichristian as we have shown often enough in recent
chapters ? (e.g. More Marvels ... Ch. 4, Red Alert ... Ch. 16, Lord of Life Ch. 3). Does it have to turn to Islamic countries and say, Nice boy! nice religion!

This is an offence

  • not only to the Christian citizens whose government so acclaims what demeans what is most precious of all things to them,
  • but to any sense of separation of State and religion.

It is investing a religion as such, one which holds to what is alien from Christ, which massively departs from the Biblical record, which adds to this and subtracts from it, a religion with no logical standing or testimonial capacity as from God, with a PART and a place in the approach to God on behalf of the smitten nation. It is like Ahaz in a most remarkable degree!

Result then for Judah ? Many pronged attack on Judah, and "the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz ... for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the LORD."

But now ? Religious profusion and infusion is stirring in various meetings at the White House or prayer synthetics with many 'faiths'; but this is merely to add Ahaz-wise to the foolishness! This is the offence, to DARE to use the names of alien non-Gods (cf. cf. Lord of Life Chs.  6,  8, Red Alert ... Ch. 15), as Deuteronomy expresses it, alongside the name of God. Not merely is this to use His name in vain, contrary to the 10 commandment requirement, to contradict and rebel against Colossians 3:17 in its command to do all in the name of JESUS CHRIST, to be refractory about the perspective, God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14 cf. Questions and Answers  2), but it is follow the footsteps of spiritual mutiny already caked and now hardened in the mud, from the days of Ahaz: a thing of singular provocative power towards the actual God.

It is also to fail to follow the prescriptions for the kingdom of heaven. (Cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 2).

Nowadays, THIS is the kingdom and this is the honour, and here is the glory. It is THIS kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world and the prince of it and his conceptions of honour and glory (John 14:30) which is to be sought. It does not use force*3. It inclines to truth. It does not parade powers; it pursues the glory of the God who created, came, redeemed and is returning to rule. It does not compromise, for its dictum is this, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. It does not seek military alliances with expressly pagan powers, or powers propelled by false prophets, for it sees in the sermon on the Mount, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, and blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (cf. Questions and Answers Ch. 11).

What fellowship will light have with darkness! asks Paul in outrage (II Corinthians 6:14-15), or what communion does Christ have with Belial ? There is NO OTHER GOSPEL, says Paul (Galatians 1), and whatever has some other tidings concerning the path to and for and of God, such a one is ACCURSED! Does this mean 'good', oh USA leadership ?
 

The kingdom of heaven is the spiritual functionality and heritage where one is willing to trust God, not NOT GOD, to use the terminology of Deuteronomy 32:17-21.  Its inhabitant is not interested in 'showing them', inflicting its valour  with power of arm at the spiritual level. Where the religion of Christ Jesus the Lord  is in view, this is it. If you are talking in this theme, then that is the Christian way. That way is something you are NOT free to contradict in the name of Christ. You are especially not free to convert your religious faiths into engines of war and exploit their joint power in the names of various gods! This is prostitution of purity, degradation of divine actuality and dishonouring to the One who said this, Those who honour Me, I shall honour (I Samuel 2:30).

This however is NOT to honour Him.
 
 
 

Following the reading of this Chapter, which is the first phase only, you may wish to see its completion. If so,

use this hyperlink.
 
 
 

NOTES

*1
In Isaiah 7, we find this, and it is to be considered in more detail, later. Ahaz was told, after his dismal dismissal of the supreme offer of unlimited celestial aid, in his own devious way, that the Lord would indeed give to the house of Israel a sign. It was indeed more, a signal. It would be like a ship giving a message to all. It would be that a damsel would be with child, in a state of pregnancy: it would be a sort of invasion of the norm, a celestial spectacular, clad in nature. That child would become the very token of GOD WITH US, Immanuel. Presented as a prodigious reality, this would be in line with Isaiah 9*4, where it would in fact be "the mighty God" and Isaiah 40, where God Himself would take the lambs in His arms, with Isaiah 11 where God would be on earth in the format of a descendant of David, slaying the wicked with His mouth, and rule the nations as in Isaiah 49:6, and constitute in His own person, the covenant, as in Isaiah 42:4.

Let us revert to SMR in order to consider the import of this utterance, and its mode of presentation. The prodigious sign which was to come, even to the unbelieving nation, was this: through a mere lass, God Himself would provide Himself with the testimony for her son, "God with us", and by this would history be moved, and in Him would the wonders of God be found.

The text of SMR on this topic is here made available as from pp. 770ff.

 One should first read Isaiah 7-10-14, and preferably 7:14, to better grasp discussion. We see in Isaiah 7:14 a Hebrew term which denotes "the lass", something as E. J. Young points out in his Studies in Isaiah (p. 183) rather more definite even than 'damsel', since there is no evidence it was ever used of a married woman. A simple girl, unmarried (a 'laddess' as Dr Duff Forbes rendered it), is to be with child. This Hebrew word is unlike bethulah, a technical term which, though it may mean 'virgin' may also be associated with marriage (Joel 1:8 - where a bethulah mourns for the husband of her youth). Young notes this other term may also be used with the addition, 'who had never known a man' (loc. cit.) which, in view of the betrothal arrangements, is not meaningless.

'Almah,' however, the term in Isaiah 7:14, conveys the sense of simple, normal, as yet unwed, uninvolved, untouched youth. It is divorced from marital maturity or participation like Spring from Summer.

Now rightly denounced, in no uncertain terms, has been any sense of a fornicator or slut.

There is simply no ground for assuming an immoral or fallen or guilty young lady. "Innocent till proved guilty" is merely one facet of the case. You don't engineer a focus for deliverance (as is the context in Isaiah 7), a 'sign' as this young lady in that place undoubtedly is, with a reference to the perversion of youth or the squandering of sanctity in sexual licence - as a mere guess! The context says no such thing; nor does it censure. It speaks rather, categorically of youth outside child-birth considerations, that would in any way relate to marriage. It is indeed set in idyllic atmosphere (Isaiah 7:21 ff.). Further, for God to designate a simple young lady in His holy plan as a focus, (Behold the virgin, He announces, "the unmarried maiden with child"), and for us to assume that He has a 'dirty', distorted or specifically fallen thing in mind: this comes near to imputing to God a breach of His own principle, "whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy- meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8), and breaches this one: "Love hopes all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7).

We have no right to enter here such territory, no warrant, no ground or basis, without being instructed so to do. It would be eisegesis - that is the importation of thought from outside the passage, not exegesis - the expression and bringing out of the passage, what is written. To add to God's words is forbidden (Proverbs 30:6), and to follow such a procedure would be to become a joint author with God, without invitation so to be...

Yet the 'case' for avoiding the virgin prophecy is far worse than that. How can a straightforward and not very uncommon 'fallen woman' syndrome be a sign (Isaiah 7:11) of such magnitude as is found here, and found rather rarely in Scripture. As Machen points out (op. cit. pp. 290-291), the divine offer of the sign in this passage would naturally lead us "to think of some event like the turning back of the sun on Hezekiah's dial, or the phenomena in connection with Gideon's fleece" - the first in Isaiah, the other in Judges - such focus was made on a sign... Such focus ? some such focus, for in this case the focus is explicitly more than merely astronomical, it is CELESTIAL. "Ask a sign!", God challenges, reaching up upwards into the heights, down into the depths ... There is not only a request to ask a sign, and this being God, the limits of magnitude are not there; these limits are explicitly off as well. Here is a sign to end all signs, making history a preliminary! Events in the coming will 'unwrap' what is more than remarkable, or even unique; they will paint, portray, institute a supreme marvel even in the action of the divine One, of God Himself, upon this earth.

As Machen puts it, "Equally suggestive is the elaborate way in which the 'sign' is introduced. The whole passage is couched in such terms as to induce in the reader or hearer a sense of profound mystery as he contemplates the young woman and her child." The offer to Ahaz was virtually infinite and the Lord's choice of sign, when Ahaz declined to activate the matter, is in the category that has no bounds. Such is this setting, situation and scope.

To seek a simple, common, all too natural signal in the sight of such supernatural initiative is to ignore what is written, be blind to the context and to miss the point... which is that here is something prima facie all but incredible! But that is precisely what we have been led to expect, might expect in any case perhaps, but certainly must expect in such a context. God appoints it on His own, with scathing effect on the welfare of Ahaz, but no remission of His intended utterance. Weary God they may, but God is not wearied to perform what He will (Isaiah 7:13). "Therefore- [in the very face of this weary faithlessness of man], the Lord Himself will give you a sign!" activating on a personal basis what they failed to appropriate, in a way that might have brought blessing personally as well.

The divine irony is intense, for the onset of Assyria in desolating triumph over Jewry is announced at once (Isaiah 7:17-20), penal clauses proliferating in the face of this rejection of mercy by jesuitical jousting with God. Certainly this blessedness of Immanuel is far removed from the people whose faith was as far removed from accepting the unconditional gift and glorious deliverance so lightly esteemed by Ahaz. This, their defaulting king, was all too fitting a representative of the people (Isaiah 1:4-17), for which only chastisement was fitting; yet to whom IN THE LORD'S OWN TIME, THE virgin would nevertheless come. It WOULD come however wearisome (Isaiah 7:13) the contemporary hardness of heart and blindness of eyes, deafness of ear, might be! It would come when once the penalties were come, and the realities of trifling with God, as if to try His patience, were met with long years in which the people would need in patience to await their deliverer, so lightly esteemed.

Does not this action of Ahaz, then, rise to the peak as the very exemplar for all the straight, liberal radicalism, frothy existentialism, name of the game changing neo-orthodox and neo-evangelical lethargy now provided by the parallel deviations of the Gentiles ? He, Ahaz would not tempt the Lord by believing what He said! Such sanctified restraint by which to characterise rebellion! He would not accept the unlimited bounty of the divine gift - ASK! (Isaiah 7:11-12). God was merely mocking him perhaps in giving such a gift as this ? a gift  which was later, despite the lack of hands at that time to receive it, to come in any case as the Lord Jesus Christ, not a god without power, but the power of God and the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1).

Yes, the Gentiles have come, as in the time of judgment which began to settle on Judah, now themselves near the end of the Age appointed (SMR Ch.8), and in their falsetto evasions and spectrum of deviations to match the error of the Jews at that critical point, they too in droves will not 'tempt' the Lord by believing in obedience what He says, by acting on what He gives; but rather from the midst of the structures of many churches, they build with Ahaz a resort of verbal subterfuge, a substitute for the wholehearted acceptance that walks with God in the way He assigns, as well as talks about Him (cf. Ezekiel 33:32). But let us return to the tableau in Isaiah 7.

THE virgin then ? Not some woman of unknown character, unnamed, in the crowd whose time was coming fast for desolation, castigation and correction. Rather the one who would do the job, perform the function, encompass the man who, as sinless for a human offering (Isaiah 53, Leviticus 4:3, Hebrews 9:14) and of eternal divine character (Micah 5:1-3, Psalm 45) MUST obtain a parentage which was not encompassed by sin. THE virgin is the one predicted, THE virgin is the one written, who must bear the MIGHTY GOD (Isaiah 9:6), one who can be called the Everlasting Father (cf. John 14, Zechariah 12:10); for this is the name of Isaiah 9:6.

It is there, in Isaiah 9:6-7, that the Messiah is in focus, His works in view, His name announced with accolade, deposited in profusion. THAT, it is no name for the Father, but for the gift, the sacrifice, the ruler to come, the Son of David to bring the glory of God to the earth. THAT, it is no name for the Father, but for the Son whose kingdom shall know no end (Isaiah 9:7), for how would it be a specific for the Father when it is specialised in the precise person of the Son in this way! Is the Father to be the son of David? How far must confusion go ? as far as with Ahaz, who simply WOULD NOT ACCEPT plain dealing and unambiguous blessing from God, and who dared to pretend reason backed him, humility helped him to ruin his people by trifling with God, as if he were some magical modern theologian, inventing gods that are not there, and fittingly enough, failing to worship what he makes.

Hence THE virgin is announced with the clarity of mid-day sun overhead in the open fields; the virgin whose offspring had been so long predicted, the seed on its female side, of woman, whose heel would be bruised in crushing the serpent's head (Genesis 3:15). There is exactly no other specific for the "THE" which signalises, except the signal given, which is  'God with us', through the medium of the one chosen to bear His incarnate form.

There is then simply no other option but something like Jeremiah's "new thing" (31:22) and at that, a new thing in the world. What was that? "A woman shall encompass a man!" This is in the context of a change from catastrophe and calamity, in the midst of tender and solicitous divine love and appeal, leading to incalculable blessing. The term 'encompass' is, as Harris and Archer point out in their Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, related to concepts of damming, shutting up, encircling, being shut up to something so that it is all around you, as to God's will for our life. The totality of word and context indicates categorically a human prodigy of divine basis which is transformative of malignancy to benignancy, in the love of a tender and seeking Father.

This therefore  is precisely what we find in Isaiah 7, with the differences noted, and this we discover in particular: that this blessing is delivered to unbelief; for the day of its coming is by the sovereign will of God. On the other hand, Jeremiah adds to the total context also, despite amazing and intimate similarities: in that case, the new covenant is spelt out (Jeremiah 31:31), alike with Jeremiah 31:22 as a new thing, in all its transformative, and inward wonder and as a procedure for a new inward thing for all who receive Him. We are in the same transformative, infinitely sacred and vastly significant arena. The vistas merge both in content and uniqueness, in preliminaries and in results. As in the Isaiah 7 case, we marvel at the human vehicle in its providing certain bounds to so amazing a result as this prince; in Jeremiah we wonder at the exclusion of the human male partner.

One deals with the inclusion of deity via result; the other with the exclusion of the human male, by method. Both share the consequences, the need and the prodigious character of the stakes, significance and wonder involved, with the intense blessing to come to those over whom this incarnate Sovereign will rule in peace with hearts who know this peace (Jeremiah 31:33-34, Isaiah 9:7).

In both however, is this transcendent wonder and absolute novelty, the key, the king, the incarnate One, the penetration of God in Person into this realm, with uncontainable results. In Isaiah 7, in particular, it is to be something so categorically different, celestially filled with initiative that even among signs it will have an initiative and wonder that will stagger. So it does and that is both the demonstration and verification.

Yes, the prophecy means just what it says: not in a common way, but in a unique and celestial way, which God only could do, there will be a sign among signs, reaching as we see in the outcome - up, upwards, yes up to God Himself and coming down to earth from God Himself, in a way that will spell categorical, absolute, spiritual and effective deliverance, though not for the anti-opportunistic, unbelieving, devious seeming Ahab (Isaiah 7:11). The splendour of this thing is illimitable, boundless, incomparable: those are its criteria, this is the offer. And to this ? To this king relates his negative to a divine offer in terms of a specious humility; and small wonder it is deemed a weariness (Isaiah 7:13) to the sparkling glory of the practical and performing divine love, to encounter this jesuitical (to allow the anachronism for the sake of the spirit of the thing, which matches to perfection) substitute for faith, on the part of Ahab.

Thus there is simply no other meaning but that given by Matthew in rendering the prophecy. A young damsel is to be with child, without marriage and with morals. A donation of deity is to occur, as Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:1-3 make so clear, as does indeed Isaiah 48:16, in human format. In human form is to come One whose name is the same as God's (Psalm 45:6, Isaiah 9:6), who being on the one hand, able to be deemed "the everlasting Father", is also called "the Prince of peace". God has chosen to include Himself, not merely for display purposes, not only for performance, but for being stricken by men. The grandeur of the beginning of this action will lend lustre to the meaning of its end, and indeed, of its ends!

It is not an unknown but a declared thing that is given, focussing a stated Prince who is identical with the Father, One with an everlasting kingdom while His shoulder will bear both this and the glory (Zechariah 6:12-13), in a way stringently forbidden to any but God as we have seen; and do it in such a manner as to combine that forbidden synthesis, as far as Israel was concerned, Prince plus Priest!

What then could be both "everlasting Father" and "Prince of peace", as a man? nothing could have both except an incarnation, express and unique, categorical and complete, depictive and declarative of God without essential diminution... indeed, without being such as Paul describes in Colossians 2:9 as a matter of fact - "in Him was the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form."

For this incarnation, then, the context of Isaiah more broadly asks, as indeed does that of the prophets; and Isaiah 7 gives the medium. This is met by the young damsel, the virgin it is, the one without whom genuine incarnation could not occur: the incarnation which is so often assumed, but now as in Jeremiah and in Micah 5:1-3, is spoken of in more terrestrial terms. This is how and through whom the Christ of the Psalms and the prophets (Psalm 40 tells us that a body is to be gained by the One who is to dispense with sacrifices), is to gain that body, which as man on earth He would need to have. Not through a splendid creation of a new frame without man; but through woman will this Messiah come. This Immanuel is the crux.

To the Jew for whom, as Machen points out, Isaiah 53 would remain mysteriously obscure, for whom indeed the concept of celestial splendour reaching down to human squalor and its sin (albeit as a ransom for that part of it surrendered in repentance) could be repugnant, this passage would be a trial!

As with so much else (Luke 21:24), the plain sense of prophecy can be avoided with spectacular ability when God's prodigious and sometimes spectacular works are not faced with that simple realism with which He faces us. Taken as it undoubtedly stands, this virgin birth prophecy is so prodigious as to make many baulk at it. Yet it is in the area, the arena of prodigy, quite explicitly, that this scripture, this benign event, this hallowed offer to Ahaz is found - the sign reaching up to heaven or down to the abyss.

Hence what amazes becomes what verifies that the plain sense is meant. We are not told that the sign will be the absence of sign, or the signal will be a metaphor. Behold the unmarried and moral damsel, she is with child! Small good it may do faithless Ahaz, and indeed the prophecy is now addressed to the house of David which is to continue. It is rebuke; and this and the remarkable - are now to mix. The sign will come; it will meet the specifications; but it will not be so used as to bring on Ahaz the blessing he missed; but rather God's choice within these dimensions is a sign of magnificence formed so as to constitute contemporary rebuke, to the king who missed the opportunity of a lifetime, indeed of an epoch, and future blessing which indeed applies to any (cf. Isaiah 53:1) who will believe.

There is probably no greater rebuke to disbelief than the format of the sign which is the focus for faith. God-with-us is the name the mother (the only one involved other than God, not the father as normal child-namer, at this time) is to give this prodigy: in Himself, that is what He confers. Wherever he goes, where faith is and hence operation, that is the result. Isaiah 9:6 expatiates much more on this aspect, but here in Isaiah 7, it is already announced. It is God (Isaiah 48:16) who is being sent; and this through a human mother so that His powers and protection will be available, through faith, to man (Isaiah 11, 32:1-3, 9:6-7, 7:14).

There was disfaith then, that poignantly pathetic disease, as there is the same syndrome now; there was disheartened rejection then, with appalling consequences complementing other inducements to disaster for the Jews; and there is disfaith now, with similarly appalling disasters for the Gentiles, for all those little Ahazes indeed, who flock to the contemporary scene as if the whole world were Surfer's Paradise, and the prime sport of luxuriant folly were this: to skid down the wave of unbelief. This was crucial then; it is as crucial now; and those who have more light now (John 1) have merely this in store, more responsibility for the same folly. Let us however proceed with the exposition.

God in His grandeur is able to despatch of Himself no mere glint or glimmer, but a Person who is His very expression, bearing His name and glory (Zechariah 6:13, 2:8-10, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, Micah 5:1-3). If that is not a sign to eclipse signs, what is! The match of meaning to word is perfect; and rational alternatives do not exist.

The fact of the incarnation, its place in tribe (Genesis 49), in geography (Micah 5), and in woman (Isaiah 7, Jeremiah 31), in Jewish history (Isaiah 49:7, Zechariah 11:1-11), and in consequences in the face of sustained unbelief (Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 19:42 ff., Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 18) on the one hand, and for faith on the other (Isaiah 7:14, Psalms 2, 45) are all set forth. All that the devil had to do was to breach THE PRACTICAL AND HISTORICAL FULFILMENT of any one of these prophecies. He tried in Herod at the 'Massacre of the Innocents', as it is called (Matthew 2:16-19). He tried  at the temptation more subtly (Matthew 4), and of course, the devil tried yet again at Calvary (1 Corinthians 2:6-7). He tried and he failed. Neither his power nor his wisdom is sufficient. His negativity is overwhelmed by reality. His failure, like that of all his minions, whether conscious and committed or unconscious and duped, it  is simply one more verification of the word of God. Satan and his cohorts, whether glamorous or merely fallen and specious, always fail.

       That frustrated diabolical act and series of actions,

       like this consummated single act concerning the Messiah and His advent,


His performance according to His prophetic word, unspotted in any feature, adequate in all, never able to be exposed as error in any part or way, regard or aspect, but to the contrary, always luminous with creativity, wonder  and precision:
 

       it is part of the attestation of God.

The even vaster verification is the arresting and glorious stature of the man-as-God who did in any case come, on time (see Daniel File), and do all that was required in the physical and spiritual specifications of His task.
 
 

*2 Below is an Excerpt from SMR pp. 765ff., extended a little. The matter is taken up further in SMR pp. 770ff., for which see *2 below.

Our studies in Psalm 45, Isaiah 9, 11, 40, 49, 52-53, 61, as well as 4, 42 and 32, with Psalm 49, 22, 2, and Daniel 7, 12, Job and Zechariah 12, not forgetting Micah 5 have already given ample indications of a Being equal with God but divesting that instantly omnipotent form for the sake of a human life, as a sacrifice of sinless kind. The prerogatives of God sufficiently are exposed, to prevent confusion: on a careful survey of the evidence of this coming descendant of David, as He then was, in whom men were to trust! (Psalm 2; 45; 89). In this last case, the Psalmist makes it clear that God covenanted with David for a descendant to rule who would endure everlastingly as king (Psalm 89:36-37,29,4 with Psalm 72:1-14,17).

In Psalm 72, we see not merely the 'firstborn' status He would have (Psalm 89), but that He would in fact 'redeem' the lives of His people (verse 14, cf. Isaiah 44:6). He was to be an international basis of blessing for all peoples, kind, compassionate and deeply involved with the individual (vv. 12-13), while providing and promoting peace in tenderness and power (vv. 5-6).

Again, as already noted for Isaiah 52-3, redemption is not possible for a mere man to perform for his brothers (Psalm 49) so that this child is to be called "the mighty God", with everlasting government, to range undimmed even into the very realms of eternity (Isaiah 9).

His title in the astonishingly vast and celestially conceived introduction in Isaiah 9, includes the term 'prince of peace', He the light shining on those who sat in darkness, living in the shadow of death (9:1). His fame in this everlasting role, prince of peace (9-6-7) is supremely  associated with the preceding trumpetings of announcement of what His name shall be called - as Isaiah 9:7 goes on to express what 9:6 has impressed. The works for the name follow it like a glowing comet's trail. Associated inextricably with this title is that other, 'the mighty God', of which there is merely one (Isaiah 44:6, 45:12), that same God who in Isaiah 10:21 is shown as Him to whom Israel, or a remnant of it, is to return:

"And such as are escaped of the house of Jacob,
Will never again depend on him who defeated them,
But will depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.
The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob,
To the Mighty God" (Isaiah 10:20-21).

His eternal origin is clear, His eternal future as Redeemer is clear, His role in the flesh is clear; but where is the entrance to it? and how shall it be performed? Small wonder therefore that this sign, this signal in Isaiah 7 is expressed in language which decisively moves in its scope from heaven above to hell beneath. There is a roving thrust that indicates the realm with which we are dealing is celestial in the heights and significant beyond anything which might be compared from all creation.

Growing therefore from gestation to manhood through God's prodigious work in a simple girl (Isaiah 7), He is through this instillation and installation, to be freed from the taint of sin. How ? NOT by being a descendant of mere humans, for as Solomon and Jeremiah so clearly state, all have sinned. Indeed, as we saw, the human heart in its own estate is 'desperately wicked' (Jeremiah 17:9). Sent from God (Isaiah 48:16, Psalm 45 and so on), He comes as God's own expression, like a waterfall from a lake.

In Zechariah, as we saw, it is Himself, the God who speaks... who is to be pierced in human form, the origin of which datum is as traced, in such scriptures as those in the preceding paragraphs and pages. However, not only do we read of this in Zechariah 12:10 for example, but in chapter 6 of this prophet.
 

       Here a man called 'the Branch' is noted. He was also met in Isaiah 11, to which we referred.

       A descendant of David

       (being unique, He has to collate all these divine attributes in one - there is only one God (cf. Colossians 2:9, 1:16,19, Isaiah 44:24, 45:5,12)

       is to bear absolute rule over the earth by His very speech (Isaiah 11:4), despatching the wicked by mere utterance. It traces a time of direct expression to come, for this God-on-earth.

       His word has intrinsic power, as attested at creation (Genesis 1). He speaks - and it is done.


This leaves even top-flight executives low in another category; it is a specific to God. Nothing can contain His power (Isaiah 43:13); and as He says, there is no one else in that... category. He is the One.

 

 

He is meanwhile to act (as we see also in Isaiah 55:4 in very similar language), as a focus of meaning, an object of seeking and a source of a rest so profound as to be called glorious. (We are of course reminded of Matthew 11:28-29, and indeed of the preceding verse -27 - on the topic of Christ's total monopoly on human destiny, and of His original and dispensing power relative to the knowledge of God: it is His by right, by power, shared by grace.)

As it is to God alone that all shall bow (Isaiah 45:22-24), and He alone will be acknowledged by those foolish enough to have disputed it (Isaiah 45:24, 21), it follows with simple necessity that this son of David is to be God in human form. (Cf. Philippians 2:9-10.) God and His graces, privileges, prerogatives, distinctives and glory is not cast about among finitudes, as if a teaspoon should contain an ocean; indeed, over and again in Isaiah (e.g. 42:8, 48:11), He stresses: He will not share His glory with another. But with this Messiah, sharing is the very character of the relationship, intimate sharing of glory and name and function.

The Messiah must be human as Isaiah 55, 52, 49... show, with indeed so many Messianic depictions of His reign and treatment on earth, as son of David (Psalm 110). Since human He must become, He requires a mother. This is shown, for example in the staggering and at first almost paradoxical seeming Isaiah 7 prophecy. Here, after summoning Ahaz to seek for events to heaven or to hell in depth and height, and being given a temporising response, God proceeds to tell the nation therefore to hear, and outlines the virgin-with-child event, so well analysed (*2) by E. J. Young in his Studies in Isaiah (Chapters 6 and 7), and so extensively treated by Machen in his Virgin Birth of Christ.

In this prophecy, language is used notoriously and obstructively like that applied to Hagar and to the mother of Samson when they were pregnant in the normal way, yet designating it with an astonishingly bold, high impact, in the very way that culturally might apply to those to be married.  This is done as if to heighten the novelty of it, when applying it to one actually with child and yet a damsel; for the Lord declares of this virgin, qua virgin, the production of a child to be fundamental to the nation's peace.

Let us revert a moment to Hagar and the announcement of the coming birth for her. Genesis 16:11 uses the same formula as in Isaiah 7, and here the angel advises Hagar, now cast out from Abraham, that she is pregnant and will bear a child. The case is clear, the meaning certain.

With Hagar, torn from Abraham but with child from him, the position is one of sympathy but not novelty; with Isaiah 7 however, it is the same 'with child' attributed to one at that very time concurrently termed 'virgin'. This development makes the case the more striking: what had been normal, of a partner of Abraham, is now unique, a sign, of one who is a virgin-with-child. It adapts the familiar to shock by the crucial divergence, making it a "sign" indeed parallel to the "ask it to the heavens upwards" offer initially made to Ahaz. As E.J. Young points out, the form for the translation "with child" is that of a verbal adjective, not a participle, and simply describes what is here a vision to come. The essential point is of course that the ONE visualised in the CONDITION of a virgin, is WITH CHILD WHILE so described.

Thus the God with us phrase follows of the offspring, and we find the basis for the "mighty God" description as undoubtedly applied in Isaiah 9:6 as seen in *1 and above. For Him who is to rule with an eternal peace (Isaiah 9:7), to be there termed descendant of David,  the Messiah as predicted so often (as in Isaiah 11), and yet to gain the term used of God Almighty in Isaiah 10:21, merely asserts the incarnation. "The" virgin is the one chosen for the purpose.

As with Jeremiah 31:22 where the new thing is that a woman shall compass a man, so here in Isaiah 7, we are brought into the realm of nature surpassed, a sign, to use the divine word chosen! As in Isaiah 9:6, we see that this is the very word of God in human form, a prince of peace who is yet the Mighty God, indeed can bear the name of the "everlasting Father", the very telescope to glory, the face of the Almighty protoplasmically translated from unseeable-in-glory, to arresting reality to the eyes of man - when his eyes are opened (Matthew 11:27-28).

Naturally, the event is in context, in Isaiah 7, treated as engendering the highest astonishment possible in the whole scope of heaven and earth. God however, as Psalm 89 also indicates, is to make Him His "firstborn" (verse 27) on earth, the very express representation of Himself, eternally ruling. God calls Him God (Psalm 45:6, Isaiah 48:16, cf. Psalm 89:29,36-37, as in Psalm 45:3,5... in creation set as a man, He who was God indeed becomes for creation, the 'first born').

What however does Zechariah say of this branch (now well documented) ? "After the glory has He sent Me," says "the Lord of hosts" ! It is God who will act in the Person of His Son, in the format of servant. And He ? He will bear the glory of both priest and prince, allowable only to God, confusion of which led to leprosy as a penalty for the pride of King Uzziah! (II Chronicles 26:16ff., Zechariah 6:13). THAT glory is the joint totality that the Lord did not assign to man! He even 'sits' while He bears it, for it is consigned.

God indicates that He will assign to this servant-on-earth, the deeply penetrating sins of the believers of a people, with such potent and just effect as to remove them from His sight (Zechariah 3:8-9). Again we remind ourselves of Psalm 49 and the parallel requirements of sinlessness; for the sacrifice, to be effective, cannot possibly already have lost all virtue by deserving to die for its own sins! It must meaningfully bear those of others as indeed the picture of the scapegoat so dramatically showed (Leviticus 16:8-22).

A goat is to make a 'covering' or atonement (verse 16), and another goat is to be made a picture of a recipient of transmitted and transferred guilt (verse 21), and the goat is said to "bear on itself all the iniquities'' (verse 22).

This picture is of course a pictorial pledge, dressed in symbol, of the meaning of salvation to be wrought by the Redeemer, whom we have now several times met as David's descendant (though not wholly and solely his), in predictive prophecy. Off goes the goat, into the wilderness it goes, sent with its swag of sin. So here too, on goes the sin, inscribed in pictorial form on a stone. What is this ? We see it in the equally predictive prophecy of Psalm 118 where we read the words Christ referred to Himself:
 

       "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone."

And who is predicted as the chief, the one on whom the whole godly building to be composed of the redeemed, is to rest ? It should not now be hard to know. It is David's descendant, who is fairer than the sons of men, whose righteousness is the delight of God Himself (Psalm 45:6-7, Isaiah 42:1).

In this latter Isaiah case, it is most emphatic: almost in the very breath (verse 8) in which He refuses to have any glory sharing, God assigns the entire process of securing justice in the earth, delivering the afflicted, being "a light to the Gentiles'' and indeed being "a covenant'' in His own person (42:6), to someone else ? Impossible! A flat contradiction in the very same breath ?

No, of course not. It is God the sent, whom we met in Isaiah 48:16, Psalm 45 and elsewhere. He is the redeemer, hence deity incarnate; and hence God's salvation to the end of the earth (Isaiah 49:6). Yet besides God there is no Saviour.

Thus it is "the LORD GOD" who will come with strong hand  and "He shall feed His flock" (Isaiah 40:11), just as, despairing of false and spurious 'shepherds' (Ezekiel 34), God announces that He, in Person, will feed and be a faithful and good shepherd to His sheep, that "I shall save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle" - Ezekiel 34:22.
 

       He

       IN CONTRADISTINCTION

       to all the human agencies per se, would do it:

       "Behold, I even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places .... I will seek that which was lost .."

       and citing the failures of sub-shepherds, He declares,

       "THEREFORE, THUS SAYS THE LORD GOD TO THEM, BEHOLD I, EVEN I, WILL JUDGE BETWEEN FAT CATTLE AND THE LEAN ... THEREFORE WILL I SAVE MY FLOCK."


It is GOD HIMSELF who will redeem, and who only CAN redeem (Psalm 49:7,15, Isaiah 44:6); and it is as Messiah He does this (Isaiah 53:5-6,11, Psalm 72:14, Job 19). Moreover, this is done through the Davidic descendant so often detailed, described and  foretold as prepared for despatch. It is HE who qualifies when all men fail (41:28-29 with 42:1; 51:20 with 52:13). When the boss indicates to all his staff that he will do it himself, the case is clear. When God indicates the same, it is infinitely clear, since He is infinitely better than all.

Thus David, "he shall be the shepherd" - David long gone and past history on this earth for the time, is one, but  in his illustrious descendant, the Messiah (Psalm 110), who is also his Lord, as Christ pointed out, shall he rule, as God, for this SON (Isaiah 9:6) who is to have endless peace (9:7), the last of whose names is "The Prince of Peace", in staccato series with "the everlasting Father", SO represents the Father that as Christ put it (John 14), "He who has seen Me has seen the Father".  Thus in his international terrestrial rule, He the Son is named (9:6), and his name is "the mighty God", as attributed to God Himself in Isaiah 10:21. How Christ duly asked, is he called David's 'Lord' who is his descendant ?

The elevation comes from His heavenly base, from which He came; for if there is one thing the Bible makes clear, more than most things, it is this: that GOD IS ONE and does not ARISE and is EVERLASTING, the CREATOR of all that comes and goes (Deuteronomy 16-18,39; Isaiah 44:6 - the ONLY Redeemer is God Himself; 45:5-7, 45:12, 18-19; 45:22-24, where it is ONLY on account of God Himself, specifically contradistinct from all others,  that any justification can occur). Whatever is this God, always has been; and whichever persons are this God, always have been; and if God is in expressive and expressed persons, that is His prerogative: He needs not advice.

Salvation of course is His, the Messiah's, for He buys it (Isaiah 53:11) and is INTRINSICALLY Saviour therefore, and Redeemer; whereas the Redeemer of Israel, and the ONLY ONE who is that, is "The LORD, the King of Israel" - Isaiah 44:6. Indeed, it is THE REDEEMER, who arises to save Zion as seen in Isaiah 59:21, just as in Psalm 72 we see His just ways in operation, AS Redeemer (72:12-14) and descendant of David on earth: deity incarnate therefore. Moreover, salvation is THE UNIQUE PREROGATIVE OF GOD AS GOD, THE ONLY GOD, IN DISJUNCTION FROM ALL AND ANY! (Isaiah 43:11). The Redeemer, Saviour has come but once! His word of invitation stands these two millenia. It has been foreseen in decisive terms these 3.5 millenia, and presaged before that.

It is of course, as Job exclaimed, his Redeemer who is to STAND at the latter days upon the earth (Job 19). With his own eyes, THEREFORE, will he, Job, see God. As HE is the exalted and final court of appeal for whom Job sought for so long during his trial, SO HE is to be personal, available, upon the earth! (cf. John 5:19-22). It is He who is to BE a light to the Gentiles, a covenant to the people (Isaiah 49), and specifically, as if in case the reader with closed eyes had not noticed, the point and nature of the exercise includes just this, that "YET SHALL I BE GLORIOUS IN THE EYES OF THE LORD". So does the divine ambassador reflect the glory of the divine sender, and so is the Father well pleased, even delighted in "My servant" !

It is as in Psalm 45, the case that HIS throne IS the throne of God, and that, though without glamour (Isaiah 53), He is fairer than the sons of men. It is as GOD that HE is addressed (Psalm 45:6) in what is incontestably written! Anyone occupying indeed, the throne of God, a metonymy, has the prerogatives of God, and only one has those: God Himself, as is constantly, emphatically and with the utmost confrontation of folly, affirmed.

This specialised and specific sharing of the glory of God, having attributed to Him the zealously and acutely exclusive attributes of God (cf. Isaiah 42:8) which is not merely an occasional thing, but thematic and constant, makes His place as My salvation to the ends of the earth so striking; for we are specifically NOT dealing with abstractions, but with a PERSON who as such, is to be glorious, and whose glory not only touches but is intrinsically correlative with that of the Lord. Thus we see that trinity which is so clear in Isaiah 48:16, when God sends God, God the sender sends God the sent, God the Speaker sends God the Word.

He repeats this personal intervention with vigour in Isaiah 40-45, 48. In 40, we see that God will come, feed His flock, take in arms His lambs, is to be declared in these terms to the cities of Judah: He was, is and is to be... God! trust in this Messiah, says Psalm 2; do not put your trust in man, says the word of God continually (e.g. Jeremiah 17:5-9, Psalm 146:3). This Messiah is to be trusted for refuge and salvation, is salvation, acquires it, confers salvation, bears sin. GOD ONLY has this office (Isaiah 43:11). As the highest possible element, He is it! Hence He is Himself God, and this explains the use of language imputing to Him quite explicitly the name, the glory of which God will not share with another. Here again you see the fascinating reality that the very NAME of GOD in Hebrew is PLURAL though the verb which is to agree with it is in the singular!

It is fascinating; but it is inescapable. God has done it His own way. He draws all glory to Himself in prescribed divine attributes. By their very nature, they are inimitable, induplicable: you cannot start having lived from eternity for example...! Their allocation to another would merely be a lie. God does not do it; nor is this surprising in the least. But with His Son, God the sent, the illimitable empathy and the intimate correlation is constantly not merely allowed to appear, but declared. God then indicates emphatically the glory which is exclusive to Himself, and then heaps these divine attributes on someone else - someone yet not another. This person, onto whom He pours this glory, is seen as Himself poured in expressive mode into the form of a man, right from conception.

Man is made in His image; and then He takes that image and expresses Himself in it. It is eminently logical; and was deemed necessary for the redemption with justice, of men by a man. How else but by entire incarnation, God Himself becoming man, could we gain One great enough to cover all who come to Him, and sinless in entirety so as to escape disqualification absolutely, at the outset, as a sacrifice for sin. It fits like a key in a lock. This then is that stone to be so fatally and fatefully engraved, as shown in the prediction of Zechariah 3. He has a priest arrayed in a ceremony in this connection (Zechariah 3:3-8), figured as such, showing by this device that the 'stone', free of metaphor, is to be an effective and final executive of that priestly office - that of offering sacrifice. It is not a nuance, a myth, an effluence of some divine notion, a part, a touch, but God Himself, God as man. The brightness of His glory shows His glory in its brightness, but veiled to enable sight, in flesh (Hebrews 1:3,8, John 1:18).

He, the Branch, the son of David, the son of God, will be that sacrifice Himself, and hence offer Himself, needing no other sacrifice as would normally be the case for a priest (Psalm 40:1-3).

With Isaiah 52-53, then, Zechariah is showing the ultimate priest, God in human form as a sacrifice. Zechariah in chapter 9 refers to this same King "having salvation" - you recall, "besides Me, there is no Saviour" (Isaiah 43:11). We are reminded of Acts 4:11 and John 6:53-54: Jesus Christ made it clear salvation resided in Him. It involved the participation in His sacrifice, as individually as eating; and the very reality of Himself as crucified was to be set to our accounts, who believe; for He ransomed us (Isaiah 53:10-12, Matthew 20:28).

The arrival on the colt of an ass was merely one more of the enactments, both symbolic and actual, which Christ effected; and He was understood in so doing (Matthew 21:5-9), by the fickle crowd as well as by some who believed.

Trust Me, said Jesus through Thomas to us all (John 20:29), as not merely resurrected but resurrected because God-in-action and operative as Saviour; and again, He declares, He who believes in Me has everlasting life (John 6:47,62,64). We saw earlier the exclusive character of this trust which the Son requires in Himself, to be the very intimate prerogative of God. As such, this requirement both identifies the Son and specifies the salvation.

With all this identikit, God marked out His Son for the coming generation (Psalm 22 above, cf. 22:31), and He was not hard to recognise, though sin made the task more demanding. There was never His like before, nor has there been afterwards... and the Jews and the Gentiles, as we have seen, like pirouetting puppets, have followed precisely, relative to this Son, the course God predicted they would.

That is prediction; and that is verification. Was there ever any verification so intense, so clear, so extensive, so vulnerable to discounter, so soaring in significance, requiring such power, forecast for so long, achieved in the face of such maximal motivation to thwart it, so serenely illimitable in its fulfilment, so often attacked, so endlessly irrepressible, as this one!

The certain impossibility of the task of imitating God Almighty before discerning foes, made the identity the more obvious; the events of futile confrontation by the priests and scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees, made it the more dramatic, the more delightful to an enthralled people (some perhaps liking the show, some the Person). It also served to make the only way out, for a power hungry and envious priesthood, quite clear (cf. John 11:49-53).

They would have to kill Him. The more He was exposed, the better He seemed to perform. There was no stopping Him with logic, fear, hate, cleverness; and His power, to their unspeakable horror... was self-attesting! Acts 4:14-20 shows that the attitude of impotent hostility even continued to the exercise of the same power in His name, after His crucifixion (cf. John 14:21, Luke 24:49, Acts 2-4). How similar is the speech of the murdering priests, before and after crucifixion, for this remarkable man, whom death could not in the least tame or silence (cf. John 11:45-50, 8:37)! How unarrestable in any dynamic reality, was this presence (as illustrated in John 7:45-47 and attested in church history)! and accordingly, they met His power, both before and after death with blood, His rather than their own, that of His servants as the desired issuance.

However, it is not possible, as Peter pointed out in Acts 2, for death to hold God, and thus the ultimate 'penalty' proved merely the ultimate judgment, self-judgment on rejecters implicated. Such were the priests who sought to stop Peter and John from attesting it, since nothing but military and priestly power could have hope, when the evidence was overpowering. God said it would be; and none could prevent the testimony, although forewarned, and heavily involved with evil vested interest.

As the MAN who was GOD had to be suppressed, if it were possible, so the resurrection must not be expressed! So it became the resurrection now (Acts 4:2). THIS was the new topic for suppression. THIS must not be attested: as duly became the case in the Presbyterian Church of N.Z. upon its apostasy, which I for one had to confront. So does the world, whether the world in the church, or in itself, act. "No one has ever come back to tell us!", they tell one in insupportable elision of the factual testimony. This or that church may sink; yet the church of Christ continues whatever naval vessels, changing flags, may be sunk. It grows and does not capitulate to Inquisition of papacy or communist, or any other; to slander  or to libel, to gross caricature or 'control' where by 'registration', attempt is made to suppress through change of direction instead of more immediate destruction.

China, Russia and Yugoslavia in the Nazi era are amongst those who have carried on the infamous assault on His people in political paths (see Stepinac in Index to SMR). Albania was as if insane with looting the saints of any freedom, and if need be, of life. Our current focus, however,  is the Lord Himself when on earth, and His verification then, though this extension to later times is most relevant (cf. John 16:2), simply because such action was predicted, and predicted in principle: for as the Messiah stated, "the servant is not greater than his lord" (John 13:16,15:20,  and "If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (15:20).

Scientific method would only hasten His acceptance. Christ's appeal was to the eyes and ears, to the performance characteristics of this Son of David (Mark 2:10-11). Rebellion against what God had provided was both severe and mortal, and predicted (Psalm 2). In fact, in advance God brought out the reflection on such an attitude, which could only be futile:

"Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing" (or 'plot')
"... the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed,"
('Messiah' i.e. 'Christ' in Greek),

saying,

'Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us!' ...

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh ... 'Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion' ... Kiss the Son lest He be angry and you perish in the way ... Blessed are those who trust in Him."  (Italics added.)

Divine satire, scorn and perseverance in the presentation of His irresistible Son who, despite deadly plots, would endure: this is shown here in prediction, just as it appears in Acts later. This is like a TV interview printed before the match... nearly 3000 years before the match.Certainly, divine and at that unique level, in its categorical kindness, acuity and grace, impressive...
 

*3A
See Ch. *1A, below.

 

*3 Nations may naturally use force to resist attempts to enslave them or surge into their midst with hostile power, intending force and evil. That is a State and a national matter. War is NEVER justified for gain, for vainglory or attempted demonstration of the concept that one is wonderful! The end is never wonderful in such a case. History is littered like a lawn in a lax country, with its torn pretences and doomed wreckage.

The kingdom of heaven, however, is not a nation of a political kind; for Christ directly indicated that "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were of this world, then would My servants fight" - John 18:36.
HIS kingdom is not instituted in the heart by force; it is not maintained by suppression, coercion. The whole range of religious forces that seek to make of man a moral and spiritual midget by pushing philosophy into his head, guns into he back and directions into his soul, as if this made him different and deliberate, reached his soul and installed truth, not mere renegade and ruinous mismatches with artful robotics, a kind of spiritual cybernetics: it is utterly absurd. How often have other absurdly misled mortals tried to FORCE love in marriage or other liaisons! It is quite as wise as trying to fly without wings.

Wings are for flight, and love is for mankind; without it, he is tempestuous and cheap, like a tiresome typhoon, which understands nothing but devastation, exhibitions of blow-hard littering with soulless sanctions.

Such things can mock and challenge man to meditate. They are not however, though they may rebuke, the ways of love in its own domain. The cane is not the learning; the ring is not the wedding; the labour is not the result. Means are not ends. Shame is not glory. Man is not God. Man must first humble himself to the FACTS, and find the redemption which this both implies for any glory, and provides for a glory of a wholly different dimension. That ? it is the glory of God which like sun on the plants, both beautifies and energises, gives scope and power. It is not a glory of man, however, and the inane methods of seeking to seize whether in romance, or knowledge, space or life, learning or control, are so many willy-willies, silly and destructive.

The wind phenomenon itself is an art-form of mimicry of misled mankind.

*4 See With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Ch. 4 at this point.