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THE BIBLICAL WORKMAN - APPENDIX ON FAITH
Faith! It is not a subjective ingredient which you produce in order to please God! Ephesians 2:8 tells us that FAITH is in the cycle,
That is the force of the Greek "saved" here! It is also the force of the Greek "that", in view of its gender.
That is what the
apostle says. YOU do not impress God by having faith. GOD impresses you by
giving it! It is the same, as we see in Repent or Perish, with
repentance (Acts ). When it comes to the
actual dynamic of the thing, the merit of it, it is ONLY GOD who acts. It is
entirely, immeasurably a gift. Man is indeed the recipient, and God indeed does
not force, and those things also we cover in the above noted volume; but here,
it is this undoubted aspect which concerns us.
1. ITS SOURCE
FAITH is not the GROUND of your acceptance in Christ. You have only to see Romans 9 to know that it is NOT of him who wills. Now the will, as we show in Predestination and Freewill, is RELEVANT TO GOD, but it is not in this respect operative by US, as indeed the above text makes quite clear. God is NOT selecting the most attractive by some sort of survey, for it is BY GRACE, which means unmerited favour; and it is OF MERCY, which is not the same as a yielding to the sheer glamour of someone's personality, or the like! Mercy is what takes from deserved condemnation, not what is attracted to potential! If it were a matter of God responding differentially to someone's potential, and hence making that person, willy-nilly His own, then all this talk of grace and mercy would be misleading. It would really be a self-indulgence, or a yielding to some desire on the divine part; but this is emphatically NOT what is said. It is directed to WHOSOEVER believes in Him, as an advance of love into this world; the intention is directed to the ones to be found, not the satisfaction of the desire, differentially according to taste, on the part of the Almighty.
Indeed, the whole concept of this sort of thing is contrary to the clear determinations of the word of God, who does not lie. Thus in Isaiah 64:6 we find someone of great spirituality speaking, and the prophet Isaiah here makes it clear that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags!" Indeed, we are like an unclean thing: but no! the actual words are these - "We are all like an unclean thing!" There is no difference. Not the ALL in both dimensions! The people as to scope and the quality as to depth... Without exception, this is the natural state of that disaster area called mankind (cf. I Corinthians ).
Now we need to be clear in this. We are not now discussing whether or not it required mercy to save us; or whether it needed grace to accept us. That is dismissed from the first. The question now is this, does God indicate clearly whether the grace and mercy were conditioned to our appeal in some way, so that they were worth-while showing to us because something in our character or nature was ... well, frankly, worth the effort! THAT is the question we are examining.
The Bible is quite
explicit. FAR FROM IT. Filthy rags are not attractive, and unclean things are
not possessed of appeal. GOD IS OF PURER EYES THAN TO BEHOLD INIQUITY, the
prophet Habakkuk tells us; and we without Christ, are seen in striking
conformity to iniquity (Ephesians 4:18, Habakkuk 1;13). Indeed, the natural
state of the unconverted is described by Paul in this manner:
The means is the cross of Christ, the virtue is His and His alone, the transformation is wrought and bought, and the good is donated. There was there, NOTHING TO THE POINT.
It is precisely for this reason that there is a vast conundrum facing those who reject the biblical emphasis on the human will as relevant to God, who alone chooses, and that sovereignly, and this by grace alone according to His own will. The Bible, as we see in Repent or Perish 1, 2, and The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4, as in SMR Appendix Band Predestination and Freewill, presents the Lord as willing to save all (as in I Tim.2 and Col. 1:19-23 as shown in detail) but meeting with obstructive disinclination. It is HIS will which allows for that, and it is HIS WILL which nevertheless brings in His own, and it is HIS predestination which knows who they are, and they are NOT chosen on the basis of foreseen faith or works, for this is specifically excluded, as an additive, since it is "not of him who runs". It is NOT a function of the sinful personality which is ultimately the selective medium; it is GOD in contradistinction to all this.
We have in Predestination
and Freewill shown a merely practical construction to illustrate how
God COULD if He chose choose His own without making the will either irrelevant
or sovereign, either in ANY way sense or degree, operative, or in any sense
dismissed. That satisfies everything, all enigma, all scripture and shows the
supreme and superlative wonder of the gracious reasonableness of God in the way
it should be shown. Now it is NOT known whether this procedure is the one God
used; it IS shown that since it could be, we have neither problem nor
difficulty. We simply then attend to what HE SAYS, knowing the perfect
coherence of all His words, and not in the last tempted to "adjust"
as is the way of some, this word or that, to give differential attention to
this phase or that, far less to call ourselves after "names", as shown
to be so unbiblical in the Ch.8 above.
2. ITS PURITY
At the moment, then we are
dismissing the error that God is merely responding to human appeal. ALL have
appeal in this, that GOD WOULD SAVE THEM ALL, as the Bible states. He laments
the lost, even saying, I would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed, and
this, "When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was
uncovered!", and, that He has "no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but
that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways. For
why should you die, O house of
Nor is this to the Jew only, for if there is one thing Paul makes excruciatingly clear, it is this, that there is no difference, all have sinned, and the branch of Israel was removed from the tree of saving faith when the faith was not present, and the Gentile branch was implanted when it was present. The Gentile branch is then warned that the reason the Jew was removed was lack of faith, and that he should be not high-minded, for there is simply NO DIFFERENCE, in this that God deals with one as with all, and is no respecter of persons (cf. Romans 11, The Biblical Workman III, Romans 3:19-27, Ephesians 2:1-10, Acts 10:34).
In fact, over and over, as
above, Paul declaims against ANY POSSIBILITY OF BOASTING. It is unmerited
favour intruding into merited shame, and removing the saved sinner by grace
that has neither additive nor ground for anything but gratitude without solace,
except in the Cross. NO FLESH shall glory is fundamental, basic, constant in
consideration, often focussed in the word of God (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10, I Cor.
1:31, Jeremiah 9:17, Isaiah 2:17-22).
3. ITS CHARACTERISATION
Thus the characterisation of
1) the accountability of all, such that it is limitless, unpayable
2) the condition of all, that is unclean, like filthy rages
3) the result of salvation, that NONE may even conceivably glory except in the Lord
4) the love of God, that it is TOWARDS ALL in the very depth and dimension of the attitude to their salvation,
removes any thought of appeal.
The actual biblical picture shows the will in the face even of this light of the Lord, and this free salvation, in some inscrutable but actual way known only to the Lord, as intruding in much for the damnation of those to whom it is in any case the just consequence of their deeds, the nature of their spirits as of that of others, being cited. It is cited by God. It is thus to be cited! It is not merit but the ultimate rejection of the Lord which figures. The foreknowledge which predestines (Romans ) KNOWS who are HIS OWN. This moves past mere reaction or response: it is a matter of the KNOWLEDGE of GOD, that is final. It has restraint and it has chasteness, and it moves in purity and grace, with mercy.
FAITH then is a gift of the Lord. It is however perfectly real and personal. It is the desire of the heart of the converted person to have it. It is not PRODUCED by the converted person, but accorded. It is a non-meritorious operational reality in the heart and mind and the life of the converted.
In Hebrews 11:1-3, we find that it is characterisable in turn.
"FAITH IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN"...
(1. 'Substance' -
assurance, substantiating force;
2."evidence" - ground of evidence, attestation, conviction - can be used in law.)
Perhaps we could render this, with some liberty:
Faith is the
substantiating thrust of things hoped for, the attestation of things not seen.
. . or even:
Faith is the assured certainty of things hoped for, the bulking evidence of things not seen.
Thus WITH the assured conviction, comes action, with the action comes re-assurance, deposition all over again, since when a thing works, it shows itself to be what it declares it is, more and more. It is a self-strengthening function, because as you use it, it attests itself, and by that is meant, shows the reality all over again of what it relates to, which by working in this world, from that of the Creator, re-assures faith. It is assured from the works and ways of God, and then again, through the working of God's ways. it is a wonderful thing to have, faith; but it is because of God that there is this wonder. In the end, it is God whose name is WONDERFUL!
It is of immediate interest that ONE of the operations which characterises faith, is this: that
Faith moves in the domain of the invisible, visibly attested; and it is at home in that domain, able to see creation as it is able to move mountains and to understand the gospel. Let us look at 11:1, then, and the characterisation of faith there.
1) It involves a profound ASSURANCE which nothing is able to dismiss. It becomes integral and integumental. It is not mechanical however, and there is such a thing as reprovable small faith, as we see in episode after episode with the disciples, in the presence of faith - O you of little faith! He cries (cf. Matthew 6:30, , , 16:8, Luke 12:28.).
2) It also includes, incorporates, EVIDENTIAL IMPACT, as of a document drawn up in law. It has an outlook, an outcome and an income. It has CONVICTION based on reality. There is attestation as well as assurance.
It is, in other words, subjectively and objectively related; and both of these in a milieu in which the Lord Himself, from whom come the unseen magnificences to which we are introduced, is present.
That concerns its qualitative nature. Now we come to its operational functions!
This faith works miracles, moves mountains, overcomes kingdoms, receives persecution and beats it (Hebrews 11), in historical ways both basic to the whole development of the testimony of the Lord on earth from earliest times, and illustrative of its object, God Himself, in His use of it to bring mankind to the brink of deliverance, of salvation, of knowledge of the most High - though the turning from Him at times is also singular. Once in the faith, however, the man is justified, and will be glorified, yes and the woman and child equally (Romans 5:1-11, 8:29-36, John 10:9,27-28, and see Biblical Blessings, Ch.16 on Assurance).
Faith is the link; God is the power source, and the source of the faith. Faith is the trusting alliance; but when thus, on this objective ground of Christ crucified and risen, as the OBJECT of faith, the SUBJECT of faith, that is the believer, acts IN this faith, then WHAT GOD DOES is the next question. What HE does has of course all the habiliments of supernatural power, for such is His. It is rather like some 4 year old speaking to another:
A: How did you get that car to take
you home ?
I asked my Mummy!
B: My, what a voice you have!
A: Not at all, what a mummy! She is like that!
Certainly these would be
exceptional 4-year olds, but not past the realm of the imagination. They are
quite marvellous sometimes in picking things up, and speaking them, when given
... a good example.
4. ITS SIMPLICITY
Faith is not something that glories in itself, either, any more than it glories in its attainments, its achievements or its possession. After all, if as Paul declares, citing the Old Testament, Let him who glories glory in the Lord, not in anything else, then faith not being the Lord, it cannot be gloried in, in its genesis or its exodus of mighty acts, or indeed in anything whatever. Whatever glories in itself is at variance with the Lord, not in execution "by faith" of His will!
What is it like ? Imagine if some aircraft were busily being refuelled in the air from some tanker aircraft, and almost the connection snapped. Would the pilot then address ( if poetically inclined) the HOSE through which the petrol comes, in which is the power, and say to the hose: "Oh superb and estimable hose, how great is your power, what wonders do you perform, how altogether magnificent you are!" or does he more simply regard it as a rather inconspicuous medium through which the actual need is coming from an altogether different source.
Faith is needed, but it has no glory.
Thus when Paul says this, "But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness", he does not and could not mean that although faith is the basis, the reception of divine grant (Ephesians 2:1-10), the faith itself IS counted and it is your faith which is put in the scales to determine whether or not you qualify. Obviously, if that were the case, then faith would become a work, its operation, its function, its performance vouchers would be considered, an invisible work, and its sweat would achieve salvation! That would simply and flatly contradict all that Paul has been labouring to show in the immediate context!
NO BOASTING is possible (Roman 3:2;7), and the propitiation necessary for acceptance is achieved through the redeeming blood of Christ (Romans 3:25), and it is in THOSE terms that the redeemed soul is JUSTIFIED, on that basis on the work of Christ, and it is a case of divine JUSTICE which is thus exhibited in according salvation on the basis of the one who died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God, as Peter puts it.
What then is the meaning of this statement, "his faith is accounted for righteousness". It means of course simply that NO works are relevant, works of faith or anything else; for the category is excluded from the topic of justification, and "faith" therefore comes to be a term which is contradistinct from works. Thus it is used to signify that channel with this emphasis.
If you like the term, it is
metonymy, or the use of something closely and logically associated with
something else, to signify that thing. Thus "the sceptre rules" does
not mean that someone other than the Crown (another metonymy) rules. It means
simply that the sovereign has power to rule, and uses it. So "his faith is
accounted for righteousness" means that the fact that faith is in operation is the
signal for the according of righteousness - faith receives that, as a gift, so
its presence is the symbol of salvation, for which it is the conduit. Where the
cheque is the draft is honoured; IT is not the money, but it signifies the
presence of the money, so that cheque is accounted for money. But it is not
really money in the sense that it has intrinsic purchasing power, like gold. It
is trust, that makes it accepted. It is faith which SIGNIFIES the divine
actions which make it a criterion in the accounting of righteousness. IT did
not do it. IT has received this salvation, so where it is, so is the
righteousness which it freely accepts.
5. ITS NATURALNESS.
Is faith then natural ?
Now one has here deliberately used a term which could be misunderstood, as the best way of ensuring the issue is not misunderstood. It IS natural to have faith in this, that one is BORN in the image of God and it is the appropriate channel of relationship, like the natural trust of a child in the parents. It is UNNATURAL that it is lacking, and this is a product of sin.
WHEN it is given to man by grace, so that the Christian appears as a person brought again to the image of Him who created him/her (Ephesians ), then that is a restoration of what is natural.
It is of course equally true that it required a SUPERNATURAL act to open the way to this operation, in Christ's death to cover the catastrophe of sin and resurrection, to give the ground of justification through authentication, and life (cf. Romans 5:1-21). It is also true that there is another SUPERNATUAL action in the bringing of the lost person to the knowledge of God (dramatised in Acts 9 in Paul's conversion, and shown in John 3 to Nicodemus - a work of the Holy Spirit, cf. John 16:7ff.).
WHEN the matter is
rectified however, it is the appropriate relationship, supernaturally restored,
that is operative. It is not an oddity, an existential bout; it is the natural,
normal working of the creature made in the image of God when restored to it. It
IS subject in a sinful world, in the case of a redeemed sinner, to assault! It
however is NOT lost, even when the saint (which all converted persons become,
and where the word seems ludicrous, it may be because the case is bogus) is
disciplined (cf. Psalm 51, David's famous case), or distraught (cf. II Cor.
1:1ff.), though it may be tested indeed (I Peter 1:7ff.). It is enhanced by the
personal action of the Lord (1:8, Ephesians ).
6. FALLACIES ABOUT FAITH
We have already dismissed the "faith" -as- object fallacy, since the Lord is the object and the faith is the handclasp; and distinguished between operational efficiency, as if of faith, and operational felicity, as from the Lord, to whom the faith turns on a covenantal basis, that of the New Covenant in His blood, so being assured, like a cheque to a good account.
Now let us notice one last feature. People sometimes "struggle" with various Biblical concepts, promises and provisions, including creation, though as shown in That Magnificent Rock 1, 8and The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Chs. 1-3, 9-10, scientific method actually tolerates nothing else.
However, many may turn, apparently mischievously, but in practice sometimes simply blindly, to almost any, opportunistically seized substitute for the concepts of faith, for the world of the invisible, for the activities of the Lord, for the grasping of simple truths. It is like someone billed as a genuine 100 m. athlete. If he constantly and remorselessly turns in 20 seconds for the performance: we know he is injured, or sick or a fraud.
If it is established that it is neither of the former two, the latter clearly stares us in the face.
It is not good to judge, for it is so easy to become self-assured and insensitive, knowing little and assuming much (Matthew 7). It is well that the LORD is the ONLY judge, for HE is the only one competent! (II Cor. 4:5, 3:5, I Cor. 4:1-5). Nevertheless, the possibility of self-deception where the whole realm of the invisible seems always somehow not grasped, is vast! These areas are as NATURAL to the Christian, as the sand of a play-pen at once becomes to the normal child, as - forgive the banal but that is the whole point here - a duck to water!
Where this nature is not attested, seen, a natural question arises, IS it a duck, or simply sick ? or just recently born ?
This is not really an endeavour to make pastor's hearts hard to the slow; but is to suggest to the Christian, that worldliness has such a confine of crassness in these matters, that if you are consciously or unconsciously trying to live it up with your worldly companions in work or friendship (cf. I Peter 4:3-4), that before long you may become infected with a sort of spiritual tuberculosis, by which your spiritual lungs begin to fail.
It is NATURAL to act in faith; it is NATURAL to understand by faith (Ephesians -19), to SHARE in faith, IF YOU HAVE FAITH. It is so if that faith, being biblically defined, is in the LIVING LORD JESUS CHRIST, and thus, not in some other Jesus (II Cor. 11), not in the One who took the trouble to come from everlasting heaven to earth in order to exhibit the truth, die in love and be bodily raised in that power of God by which we thus by faith may receive salvation; and if Christians and so having received it, then equally inheritors of our eternal redemption, and of our justification, to use the language and specify the results of Romans and Hebrews.
It is crucial to realise this, that some other Jesus is allied to some other gospel and some other spirit as in II Cor.11, and this is the way of it. Barking like dogs or rolling around in laughter while the Bible is being read, or worshipping a bit of bread, when any representation of the Lord is expressly forbidden in the 10 commandments, and Christ would have committed suicide at the Last Supper, if He had meant that He actually turned into bread, like a tadpole into a frog: this is something ... else. (Cf. SMR pp. 1042ff..)
People may for a time be deceived, but they do not stay that way if they are the Lord's, for the word is this, "to deceive, if possible, even the elect!" (Matthew 24:24). Of course, if they were deceived, they would not be His, being taken like lambs by the eagle! Thus, "God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation" - I Thess. 5:9-10. NONE shall snatch HIS from His hand, says Christ (John -28), and they do not perish!
HAVING FAITH, BEING HIS, then in the end, they are NOT deceived. That is what the word of God indicates. The test may be strong (cf. Luke -32), but the result is such, that if it is faith, it shows it. That is what James is so intensely clear about.
It is authentic. What it is, it does. It has this assured link with the keeping God; and through this, what God is, faith can receive, and to God as to Him who is invisible, it in fact looks - for that is its nature as for all the world we see in little children towards their parents, even in this sinful world.
With God, where the connection is FROM HIM for salvation, the faith is associated with a changed nature in which it resides (I John 3:9), which has a genealogy so secure that it is no more possible to remove this divinely accorded reality of being a son/daughter of God, than it would be to remove the inherited genes, one by one, from all the cells of the body; indeed, it is less possible, for the power of God it is which KEEPS His own (I Peter 1, Romans 5).
His ? They have faith; with
it, an enactment like birth, which gives them a new, inalienable nature, an
indissoluble inheritance (Ephesians 1) and an assured place reserved in heaven
(I Peter 1), while the Lord of that place, abiding in their hearts (Col. 1:27),
fills them with strength (Eph.3:16), and with that joy inexpressible and full
of glory (I Peter 1), which is associated with the normal relationship of the
great and good God, the God of all comfort, of compassion and mercy, with His
own. It is thus that the faith, export from the celestial, inherits the site
from which it came, on the ground of Him who gave the licence, and purchased
the same, Jesus Christ the righteous; and faith, like darkness at sunrise,
turns into sight.
left for dead by The Truth in its Beauty;
Barbs, Arrows and Balms, Chs. 14, From Doubt to Delight, 19,
Missiles, Meaning and Faith, and 22,
For "ORDO SALUTIS" , as it is called, that is, the order of events in salvation, to the extent these are made clear for us in any form of pattern, see SMR p. 476, Endnote 6.
Gresham Machen's book, What is Faith ? is undoubtedly on this topic, a
classic of simplicity and great value. In the end, it is a matter of going to
the word of God, and through that to God Himself; but a reason for the faith is
like the feel of a well-worn glove, it gives to one so readily the sense of the
reality of what one has in hand. When one puts it on, it speaks for itself. It
carries out what it is meant for.
Isaiah gives us an
illustration of the need in faith, and of the function OF FAITH, for rapid,
We shall thus pursue this aspect of faith under this separate heading.
7. MOBILITY OF FAITH
Isaiah gives a beautiful expression of faith, its mobility, agility, responsiveness like a sports car, or fast patrol boat, to the mind of Christ.
Let us rove with this fast-moving vehicle of expression given from the Almighty in the rushing torrent of revelation of Isaiah 59-66, at which it ends.
In Ch. 59 you see a devastating exposure of corruption and inveterate wickedness. As in Matthew 23 and Jeremiah 23, you find such a denouement of moral disaster, such a cyclone of vicious decline, swept by compulsive winds of unspiritual pride and spiritual madness, that you can hardly believe the Lord could be so merciful and patient as to tolerate it AT ALL, for ANY time. But He does - and II Peter 3:9 shows us the continuing, but far from eternal, bearing and forbearing, as the end draws near, in the time of the New Covenant epoch, in which we are all now placed.
Ponder these words:
"For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us,
And as for our iniquities, we know them:
In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving and uttering from the heart, words of falsehood.
"Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands afar off;
For truth is fallen in the street, ]
And equity cannot enter.
Thus the prophet moves to tell us of the coming intervention in magnificent power, of the Redeemer.
At once, Isaiah 59:20-21, God makes this declaration of the end, an end seen in the light of the sufferings and resurrection of Christ in Isaiah 26, 42,49,52-55, to be solemn, assured, and to be destined at the end of the generations of trial, without fail, by divine appointment and certainty. The Redeemer comes in prevailing power, just as (v.21), His word as always, amidst the mobilities of divine action, remains immovable, immutable, disjoined from life only by the sick surgeons of nominalism, adventurism and that genuine antinomianism, which while wanting a free gospel, wants to divorce God from His own mouth, so making a new 'god'! Not so - Matthew 4:4 arrests their folly, as does II Corinthians 11:1-15,4:I-4, John 5:1-4, John 14:21-23, and in Matthew 5:17-20, 28:19-20, where TEACHING ALL that He has commanded is as real as the Gospel of grace. THIS is a result of it!
As we are committed to His word, SO IS HE! Thus He comes as He said, and the lustre and loveliness of His ways, comes in its varied marvels, though He, He is always the same.
In Isaiah 60, then, you see such a merger of Jerusalem and salvation as makes the heart glad - the walls are called salvation, the gates praise (60:18) in a Jerusalem of international focus and value, where (60:19):
"The sun shall no longer be our light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord shall be your everlasting light,
And your God your glory."
glory and victory, triumph and vindication, peace and power all mix in what is
like a celestial sunset at the end of the day of pride. Restoration of Israel
merges with triumphant new faith for the many, the symbolisation of the
international kingdom of heaven, as in 66:19ff., 65:13-15, and the very light
of heaven seems to shine on the preparatory structure as it day of wonder
settles in, like heavy rain in Winter, showing more and more of its targeted
we are looking at a city which is almost like an architectural expression of
the body of Christ, the format of Paul in Romans 12, I Cor. 12; and this,
following Isaiah 52-53, not to mention 49:6 (the Gentile extension
proclamation), is certainly not limited to Israel racially, but rather is a
focus for each of those who is a "Jew inwardly" (Romans 2:29) and in
whom Christ lives (Col. 1:27), "Christ in you, the hope of glory".
The former things are transformed, the earlier modes are sculptured in light,
and the city becomes a show of glory with the Lord lighting it up like a
citadel into which Moses might have gone, had it been in his time.
But this is now, or soon to come, and not then; it is for all, and not for some; it is for those called by the "new name" (Isaiah 65:13-15), who inherit all things (Romans 8:32ff.).
goes Isaiah 60. In Ch.61, we turn yet again, and swiftly. We find the focus now
in an ecstasy of gentleness and grace, in the Messiah in His lowly helpfulness
- and effectual deliverance of bound souls, with personal delicacy and adapted
strength. So do we come to those verses cited by Christ when He spoke in the
In Isaiah 62, you see watchmen standing on the walls of
You shall no longer be termed 'Forsaken' ... So shall your sons marry you."
In Isaiah 63 you find yourself joining in a survey of the prodigious performances of the Lord in kindness and care in the past, after seeing Him enter, blood-stained and "mighty to save" as a tableau, a flash to the future when action shall indeed come for the deliverance of His people, as presaged in Isaiah 59.
At the end of Ch. 63 (vv.15ff.) to early 64 in Isaiah, the prayer is swept into our ears, the supplication being made, and it moves from poignancy to desperation as the desire mounts to the heavens for needed divine action.
entreaty is from those of whom Abraham was ignorant, we read, those whom
the Lord rejects an intervention once and for all to deliver the people at this
time, for alas their hearts are not ready. Instead, coming events are pictured,
not it is true, as far forward as the Messiah pictured so often previously, but
events to come instead of the total deliverance sought. Indeed, Isaiah at this
time identifies in spirit with those soon to inherit a ruined, burnt temple in
line with the negatives of Isaiah 65:1, where the Lord in the light of the
painful insincerity of the people of the land, rather becomes known to "those who sought not for
Me", indeed He declares, "I said, 'Here I am!, Here
I am !' to a nation which was not called by my name." These two negatives are
of the essence of negation!
is then Gentiles find the lake of His peace, while the people who had been
called by His name, faithless (cf. Isaiah 30:8-9, and the challenge of Isaiah
1), inherit for the time, desolation and destruction, amid humiliation in a
torrent of horror, a physical match to the moral degradations and spiritual
rebellion noted at the outset of this segment of Isaiah, in Ch. 59.
The mounting rejection of the plea of those who still love Him, seeking for intervention instead of judgment in this epoch (cf. Ezekiel 14:14, 14:20, where even Daniel, Noah and Job could only deliver themselves, not the people, even if they interceded, such is the corruption), rises to a negative crescendo in Isaiah 65:13-15.
Here it is made clear that no abiding deliverance comes to the Jews, until they share the "new name" (Isaiah 62:2, 65:13) for the Lord's adopted people, which as Isaiah 65 shows, is to be for the Gentile peoples, with Himself the criterion, and not merely for some nation, or any one people. It is then that He will be found by "those who sought not for Me".
The final phase of new heavens and anew earth suddenly flashes,
an instant tableau (65:17), like that case Isaiah 63:1ff., where the Lord,
mighty to save, is seen coming from vigorous action in
that case, a phase of the final deliverance, most likely correlative with
Ezekiel 38-39, is seen; and perhaps both parallel Isaiah 59:17-20. Now the
"final solution" , not for Jews only, but for the believing remnant
of the whole human race, is seen in vision of a whole new celestially visited
site (Isaiah 65:18-25).
turning from the plan for a new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17), back to
this earth, we see next a scene of such millenial favour as links the presence
of sinners subdued, but humble with a peace which is a paramount item. It is
then that the Lamb and lion lie down together, and
but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed" - 65:20.
vast has been the focus on the redeeming work through the blood of the Messiah,
on the part of Isaiah hitherto, that it is now clear that in this end arena of
terrestrial history, we are leaving the obsolete for the new, paralleled by
covenant" (Ch.31) in which the altar will not come to mind (Jeremiah
3:16); and that thus alone is the saving action sought in Isaiah 63:15-64:6, to
be obtained. Here, for that earlier impassioned prayer, is the answer's place,
and nowhere else; so that until this place of heart is found, neither is the
answer to that eloquent and poignant prayer (63:15ff.).
eventual deliverance that is to come with such vigour and splendour, reminds us
of the enormous saving realisation to come to Israel, as in Zechariah 12:10,
leading on to what then becomes appropriate, the drastic deliverance of
Zechariah 14, in which the Lord's feet are seen to come to Mt Olivet, the King
whose quality is so well attested, returning to the place of His torment, in
triumph for His people.
we see a vindication in these new and glorious terms (cf. the tableau of 63:1),
in 66:5ff. The land, now seen as pressed with the mass of newly arrived
occupants (Isaiah 49:19), is here presented as incorporated into renewed
existence in a moment, in an epochal way that is staggering to the historian
(66:8). Its restoration to its people is sudden,
dramatic, astonishing (in fact, happening in May 1948 after nearly 2000 years,
in this post-crucifixion prophetic era, clear alike in Isaiah 52-53, and in
the time for the Jewish deliverance does come just as it did for the
Messiah's first but unwisely rejected entry (cf. Isaiah 53:1-5, 49:7, Psalm
102:13,16-21). Prayer's answer does come, but not until the time
is ripe, the people readied, with the predestinatively prepared scene and
scenario appropriate (cf. Romans 11:25-26). Then it is, that for Jerusalem,
enormous peace is prepared; and in these NEW terms, it is to be provided. Thus
the Lord intervenes with overwhelming power (66:15-16). It is practical,
particular and amply adequate to counter and subdue the most active and violent
The reflection (66:18) is next made in terms of
- the contrast
- between the salvation He offers (cf. Psalm 92:2, 107:10-2)
- and the wanton ways of men that call for it;
- and thus is introduced His procedure for evangelising the earth (having set a "sign" in their midst, 66:19 - doubtless, metonymically that of "the Cross" cf. Galatians 6:14, The Kingdom of Heaven... Appendix). In this, Jew and Gentile alike will co-operate in the rules of the kingdom of heaven.
in THAT necessary process of proclamation, without which the sought peace
CANNOT be known, Jew and Gentile alike serve in the ministry, teaching all
nations (cf. Matthew 28:19-20).
is this all. The glory of the Lord is to be revealed to ALL (Isaiah 66:14-16,
friend and enemy alike) in action whether hostile or protective, in dealing
with this ultimate revolt from Himself, His rule and His clemency, and then and
(66:18), for they shall be gathered.
just and gracious preliminary to this final power of the Lord who overcomes the
folly of militant man, is thus lovingly and long exposed To those in the
interim, which is now, those not yet met with the glory of the Lord, THIS is
the prelude to the finale, these pervasive, international, Jew-Gentile
messengers; for through them the word is sent to "those who have not heard My fame nor
seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles"
then that Gentile ministers are to abound (66:20 cf. Romans 15:16), as in due fulfilment of this precious word of God, cried out for centuries before Christ,
and for many centuries since, it now is! Then the end comes (cf. Matthew
Then, is the aftermath of the vindication of the believers, here focussed in the Jewish contingent, yet not without their companions in the Gospel, which is one (Isaiah 49:6) -
"Hear the word of the LORD,
You who tremble at His word:
'Your brethren who hated you,
Who cast you out for My name's same, said,
'Let the Lord be glorified,
That we may see your joy'".
But they shall be ashamed" - Isaiah 66:5.
The nature of the deliverance to effect and achieve this manifest result, follows.
"For behold the LORD will come with fire
And with His chariots, like a whirlwind" - 66:15.
It issues in a peace .. .
"Behold I will extend peace to her like river", and
"so I will comfort you;
And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem" - 66:17.
So in this ultra-Exodus, this ultimate act to endue and deliver His people Lord enters the situation to produce a peace which is that magnificent attestation of His pre-eminence in the heart, in the universe, and over all creation.
Then is seen a millenial/celestial picture in which the reality of hell, though far removed form the elect through the good news the work of the Messiah constitutes, is "all too near". .. constituting a fearful reminder of hell, a Gehenna in its eternal format (Isaiah 66:24). NO GOSPEL, no glory; no glory, no salvation; for the salvation is the glory of the Lord, EXHIBITING IT, EXPRESSING IT, ATTESTING IT; and Christ Jesus is that salvation (Isaiah 42:6, 49:5-6, 51:6, 60:2, Galatians 6:14, John 17:1-3, Jeremiah 9:23-24, Revelation 5:9-10,13, Romans 5:8) for whom the people of Israel are too small a field, for whom all the world is the parish, from which He shall heal and remove His own, with everlasting joy upon their heads (Isaiah 35:10).
Overview of Our Excursion into Isaiah
Firstly, we note this:
1) Thus faith must turn at every movement of this athletic vision, following like a bounding hunting dog, every movement of the Master. Faith loves, for it is a connecting cord to the God of all comfort, and love is able to be agile to adapt to every passing change in the face of the beloved (cf. Psalm 123:2).
The hunting dog bounds joyfully over the terrain of revelation, full of surprises, sudden pictures, slopes and hills, with the "sun of righteousness" arising over all, "with healing in His wings" (cf. Malachi 4:2), which in turn follows the challenging reality:
"For behold the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes all who do wickedly will be stubble."
Secondly, let us reflect:
2) in our walk as Christians with the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of God who proceeds from Father and Son (John 15:26), we must be ready for adjustments to our practical course, as a captain adjusts the course at the helm as the waves, weather and currents move. The objective is the same, the substance of the commission is unalterable; while the method is trained to the elements, to overcome them: to do so only within the realms of right, and with that caveat, under the guidance of the God of all comfort, that we need to be agile, as Paul teaches, like trained athletes (II Timothy 1:4-5, I Timothy 4:7), who "exercise... towards godliness".
In toleration, we are "all things to all men", in the matters which are non-essential, bending as we may, within the word of God, so that all may be drawn the better to Him (cf. I Corinthians 9:15-23); in purity we must exercise ourselves, lest in anything we are drawn by the currents and tides of the times from the very direction of the course. THAT is unprofitable, unfaithful and foolish.
Is it not then great, knowing the Lord, to see how faith is in His hands, an instrument well able to relay and realise what is needed, mobile, sure, steadfast and steady, reinforced (Ephesians 3:16), and growing in the soil of an enlarged heart, fashioned by the Lord (Isaiah 40:26ff.).
3) Inspiration is gained from Isaiah's long-term predictions. Carefully developed, enlivened by flashes of perspective - as when the mist moves aside in a mountain-top view of the lands beneath, revealing what was obscured, and giving sudden realisation of terrain and its inter-relationships, part with part; equipped with vignettes, tableaux, graphic depictions, gaunt solemnities, endearing entreaties, tender compassions, the words of the prophet show the price of the victory, the purging that goes with its acceptance by those to whom it is given, the deep counsel of the Lord, the unalterable Gospel, the grace that abounds like a geyser, all from the Lord who speaks as He pleases, and acts when He will.
While the mobility of method is sensitive, adept (cf. Hosea 12:10), just as the love is vast, enduring (Isaiah 55:1-6, cf. Ezekiel 33:11, I Timothy 2:1-3), the profundity is continually searching, and the development of the scope of judgment is paralleled by the imperial, majestic, unalterable progress of predicted history and evangelical truth. As it is written, so it is. As it was to be, so it has been, and so it will be. Both history and gospel have come precisely as described in the prophets, and as in Isaiah, our current locus of focus (cf. SMR Ch.9)..
In this prophetic writing, the Messiah Himself is exhibited as by an historical artist, with a continuing appointment, centuries before the "subject" appears. Meanwhile, His surroundings are limned in, with ever-increasing detail, like the background to the portrait.
In some ways, it resembles the computing picture program which over a short time, fills in first the outline then the detail, and that in increasing definition, till the depiction on the screen is done. (Cf. SMR pp. 901-902, and pp. 17ff, Ch.1 , above.)
Truly it is maintained as Isaiah 59:21 has said, to the generations, and the vision form the Lord, splendid, succinct yet uncramped, cohesive, integral and growing like an oak, with side branches to the contemporary history of the prophet himself, strong and sweeping, presents itself alive, lively, fearless, faithful, undeterrable, as given by the Spirit of the Lord (I Peter 1:10-12, II Peter 1:17-21). This as Peter indicates, and like all scripture of the Lord God, came not from man's mental mechanics or machinations, but from the thrust of the Almighty which carried His messengers along like a torrent or uncontainable wind, till the divulgement was done.
Done, it now stands, as it has stood and will stand, in superb solemnity, uncompromising in rigour and vigour, of inconceivable power, containing the inevitable remedy for man in the invincible words of God. The world will go first (Isaiah 51:6); but His salvation and His righteousness go on with scant regard to the erection or folding up of the stage. It is the actors who are of concern.
The world, the universe is to go, as Isaiah declares. In the meantime, it goes according to plan - His (cf. Ephesians 1:10-11). "The word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:6-8), while those who wait upon Him "renew their strength," from His (Isaiah 40:26-31), and He knows them, and their way (cf. Psalm 1:6).
Truly, the prophecy is like a light in a dark place (II Peter 1:19), until there arises that celestial ultimacy, when in the direct presence of the Lord Himself, the triune Majesty (22:1,3), of the throne of the Lord Almighty and the Lamb, both the both the Temple, the Lamb the light, we see Him face to face (II Peter 1:19, Revelation 22:4, 21:22).