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THE OUTAGE OF ISRAEL
from the Forecast of Isaiah and his Companion Prophets
IS LIKE THE OUTAGE OF THE MITRAL VALVE
OF THE HEART
WHAT THIS IS NOT
No, emphatically no. This is not to be on the topic of Israel the renegade, or Israel the pet target of the UN, or of the Arabs, or of Islam, now cashed up and terrorising as it may, from many of its subsidiaries, the people who escaped not this time, Pharaoh, but Hitler (cf. Deliverance from Disorientation Ch. 11). Perhaps in a little they will be known as the people who escaped Islam. Assuredly it will not be, when it DOES escape ALL its antagonised adversaries, that Judaism, itself an enterprising but dashed piece of spiritual adventurism, will be glorified. On the contrary, it is not the perversion of the Messianic truth but the consummation of it which will have glory. That, it is the due glory as Isaiah 60-61, positively, and 65:13-15, negatively, make it so clear. The Lord alone, in His Messianic splendour will be glorified in that day (Isaiah 2:10-17, 40:10, 11:1ff.).
Our excursion today is with another emphasis.
WHAT IT IS
Rather we are concerned now with the outrageous outage served on Israel as the recipient of divine promises IN OUR DAY. It seems that if one is a Jew (and this author is not), that it becomes a sort of coconut gallery affair in which the brave and the cognoscenti and the envious and the exploiters have a field day, almost as if it were - if not a duty, but it is this, it seems, for some - an affair of fun, social prestige or some kind of enlightenment. The perverse attempt to dispose of Israel this time in theological inaccuracy is, after all, one of a bunch. It is however the one in which our interest lies today.
As the picture above signifies, there is a rock which holds up the truth, and the Lord is that Rock, and indeed He is it. Upon Him is the scene set. Through Him is the written word fulfilled, as the Spirit of God moves upon the face of the earth, this time not brooding or hovering over creation as it comes into being, as seen in Genesis 1:2, but over history as it comes to fulfilment (Jeremiah 1:12, Ezekiel 37:13-14,27-28).
We have on various occasions seen this point, but today our concern is with some details in Isaiah concerning the divine plan for Israel, so adequately presented elsewhere, and so stimulatingly and suffusively found in much of this prophecy.
First however let us recall Calibrating Myths, Machining Dreams and Keeping Faith Ch. 2. This dealt with Deuteronomy 32 in depth, and showed that God will act in a drastic manner which will summarily deal with the antagonistic nations set to defile and destroy a weakened Israel, WHEN the time comes, and this, it is when Israel lacks strength. As Zechariah 12 also shows, in its prelude to the announcement of Israel in large numbers beholding in mortification and grief, the Lord whom they pierced, this action occurs as the conflicts rage, if not in their very teeth, then in their milieu. Its has a further culmination in Zechariah 13:1, where the efficacy of the blood of Christ to wash from sin is seen, and a climacteric consequence in Zechariah 14:5ff., when the Lord Himself returns to the site of His own crucifixion, not however to be impaled again, but to be invested with Majesty.
In SMR Appendix A, with It Bubbles ... Ch. 10, we have considered the unequivocal testimony to the return of Israel, that once divinely accredited, that decisively divinely disciplined, that covenant-breaking body, that nation whose history is traced in Deuteronomy 32 so decisively, as in Ezekiel, yes in the Psalms (Joyful Jottings) and in Micah (cf. Galloping Events Chs. 1 and 8). In Ezekiel, moreover, we have been finding the prediction that there is a body of that description, in effect, an out-then-in-then-out body, relative to the Lord, which has an unconditional promise concerning the land (Genesis 17:7-8, cf. Galloping Events Ch. 4, Genesis 49:3-4); and that this body was to be brought back in a rather humiliating manner, but one wholly in accord both with fact and divine mercy, jointly.
In Ezekiel 36:22 we see this, NOT FOR YOUR SAKES, the Lord asseverates as He shows prophetically the time of their return to Statehood (which this author and many of the readers will likewise have seen in 1948 with the collateral wars of 1967, 1973 and 1990-1), declaring their unfaithfulness categorically. The return is a testimony to HIS FAITHFULNESS, and not to theirs, no, even by contrast, not to theirs.
Further, we find there that upon their return, they will still be unconverted, for a symbolic thing (now known as baptism, sprinkling with water) is shown to occur (Ezekiel 36:25), as an aftermath. That this is not coincidental with the return is made dramatically and pictorially obvious in the next chapter, 37, where the famed parable of the dry bones is written. FIRST, the stripped and scattered people, previously defined as above, are to be brought back like an assemblage of BONES, from the countries into which they had been drastically scattered. This bones symbol graphically depicts their naked estate; and then, in a perfectly separate action, shown by a SECOND command given to the prophet, they are to be given SPIRIT or life, and this is made clear in its significance, in that we hear this, that "then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it" (37:14).
What then is to be known ? That they were a people called for His praise (Isaiah 43:21), who breached the covenant (Zechariah 11:10), as divinely attested, a deed to which He Himself responds! They are brought back to their land, in which they had previously lived, from which they had been excluded by their rebellious attitude and actions, without honour, but not without divine MIGHT, to secure this result. WHEN they are so brought back, in this precise manner, THEN they will realise that the Lord did the discipline as He had promised, that it was indeed He! There is no other nation on earth, nor has there been, of which these things are true, neither spiritual nor temporal, symbolic nor actual. Further, the two arms, Judah and the North, precise and particular designations of Israel, will then be unified, as is the case in effect now, in secular Israel.
No other 'Israel' has been excluded with broken covenant, included by divine honour, and brought back to a land from which they were long exiled, spiritual or actual. Thus when Ezekiel is speaking to Israel, he is not engaged in some sort of jujitsu or literary kamikazi, as if to slaughter sense and present an interesting Saturday afternoon mystery. He is speaking to and of Israel, the one of which he was an inhabitant, the one to have a sojourn away in the near future to the time of his speech, and the one to which a new covenant would come (Jeremiah 31:31, Ezekiel 11:19), from the same Messiah (Zechariah 12:10) which they slew.
Of this returned nation, it is further affirmed that
"they shall not defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable tings,
nor with any of their transgressions, but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places
in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people,
and I will be their God. David My servant shall be king over them,
and they shall all have one shepherd..."
We are NOT told that they will instantly be converted on return, but that this is a second blessing in the proper sense of the term, one dependent on the first and divinely bestowed, unlike the other and anomalous phrasing, which often presupposes that a person becomes a Christian-minus-Christ-as-Lord which is a contradiction in terms (Romans 10:9, Luke 6:46, 14:27ff.), quite literally!
We ARE told that they will fall into their disgraceful conduct no more, obviously when they have received that second blessing, which is their conversion, the first outpouring of blessing being their physical return to the land, as the prophet so dramatically portrays.
Further, we learn that they will dwell in this land without cessation (37:25ff.). Nothing could be more explicit. Nothing could be more Jewish, geographically, historically and culminatingly, just as Romans 11 shows, in its own use of Isaiah 59:21 (cf. The Biblical Workman Chs. 1, 3, which also shows the teaching of this same kind in Jeremiah, and parallels points in Romans as they apply).
Thus their return as and to be a nation again, is stage one. Their return is to be permanent; it is to be succeeded by their conversion in large numbers (as in Romans 11:26ff.), to the Lord whom their nation would crucify (as it did, predictively portrayed in their repentance from it as in Zechariah 12:10, some half millenium before it happened), and followed by their non-eviction. They would now STAY there till the very heavens moved, till the Lord finished His day on earth, till the earth would be no more (Isaiah 51:6).
All this has of course happened, in perfect fulfilment to this present time and phase; as have the triumphant wars and the tedious tensions alike as Zech. 12 also showed in that phase of the divine forecast. It is always necessary to remind oneself that it would be impossible for anyone to forecast such things, since each event impacts on each other with an almost endless resurgence of change, when once something new enters unexpectedly, let alone over millenia, except in one case. That case ? It is God Almighty whose power protects the eventuation of history, instils the flow of understanding (as in Daniel's case personally), and moves men, not into sin, but into that apt eventuation which fits the dynamic in view (as in Ezekiel 21:21ff.). Indeed, so relevant is that instance that we cite it below:
"For the king of
Babylon stands at the parting of the road, at the fork of the two roads,
Ignoring the signals which his false religion dictated, the King of Babylon would call it a false auspices, and would invade Jerusalem anyway. That is because, given the arrogant heart of the mighty potentate and his motives, yet the Lord without either causing this or making it worse, could direct events so that the resultant in mind comes to pass. Without this power, prophecy could not occur; for if knowledge were supreme, yet events could overmaster it; and if power were supreme, then knowledge could overpower it; but with all power and knowledge the Lord has what is needed to bring to pass what does, as it is written, "He works all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).
That is HOW these things happen; the prophetic word of God is WHAT is to happen, and the power and wisdom of God ensure that it does. There is in this great rest for the Christian, whose love is for the Lord, the best, the most wise and powerful of all, over all, inhabiting eternity and bringing many children of God there to enjoy His splendid counsel and majesty, His love and delight in His praise.
We have then seen these things, and reflect on their significance.
Today, however, our interest is rather in Isaiah on this topic of Israel in particular, its return. We shall commence with the review found in Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Ch. 5, and then add our cream to the dessert. (It may be worth noting here that this volume in Chs. 4ff., has a collation concerning Isaiah in various of that prophet's chapters.)
Here, then, in the very face and light of the Messiah's coming, Himself to BE the covenant (for it is, after all, in His OWN BLOOD, Isaiah 53:10ff.), we find some repercussions for the nation which assailed Him (Isaiah 49:7). Let us look through this prophetic chapter.
DESPITE the fact that He is come to be a LIGHT to the Gentiles (49:6 cf. Appendix, Biblical Blessings, End-note *1), opening blind eyes, and removing those in the prison house of servitude to sin, and in the very midst of stating that He will NOT give His glory to another while at that very time of instituting on earth His servant as a light to the Gentiles, and in 53, as the Saviour, whereas ONLY GOD is Saviour (43:10-11): despise all these exquisite facts , focusses, features and facets, there is a sudden contrast. What is this absorbing injection, this new thing ?
Even though the Messiah, God Himself on earth (Ezekiel 34), doing the job as the Good Shepherd that those witheringly exposed 'shepherds' of Ezekiel 34 vintage so despitefully, disgracefully and emptily used, and abused, we come to an abysmal contrast. There, exposed to our eyes, as likewise in 49:10ff., is a people who for all that, are still BLIND, and are dubbed His servant, a failed one (42:18ff)..
What then is this development ? "Who," the LORD asks, 49:19, in sublime irony, "is blind as he who is perfect, and blind as the LORD's servant!" HOW BLIND to you have to be not to NOTICE these magnitudes of divine splendour reported and exposed here, as THIS MESSIAH! WHO is so blind as this ? WHO has such a blindness as to ignore what is predicted when it comes, what is in Jewish format when it arrives, what is the culmination of centuries of prophecy, when it surges into their midst... WHO is so blind as THIS! God exclaims with total justice.
This divine disengagement from the sinning nation (as in Isaiah 1 and 65), mocks their pretensions just as in Ch. 1 He scorns their ceremonial substitutes for spirituality, the end of all conceivable claim from the sacramentalists of this world (cf. Questions and Answers Ch. 2).
Clearly then, we are seeing sinning Israel in the sort of colours witnessed in Isaiah 30:8ff., and 30:15ff.. "Seeing many things, but you do not observe," God chides, very much as in the message to Isaiah concerning the nation in Isaiah 6:9ff.. THIS is made the worse, since in the intervening verses from the exposé on the Messiah, in 42:1-9, the LORD has been exposing ground for new rejoicing. Acting like an invisible but wholly effective magnet, the Lord is seen bringing back to their forsaken land, a rebellious people, with gratuitous grace, amazing power, tremendous determination, irresistible resolution. He carries, they come. He wills it; they are there. This is after a "long time" (49:14); but it comes. Twelve midnight seems far off at 5 a.m., but it comes. Wait for it, it will surely come. The LORD ... far more surely than that, for HE MADE TIME! It serves Him, He does not serve it!
- In this process, there is, as in Isaiah 66 at the dénouement, to be a strong work in battle:
- "The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man:
He shall stir up His zeal, like man of war,
He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud;
He shall prevail against His enemies" - Isaiah 49:13.
- "I will lay waste the mountains and hills...
I will bring the blind by a way they did not know...
I will make darkness light before them,
And crooked places straight.
These things I will do for them,
And not forsake them" - Isaiah 42:15-16.
Thus the focus coming on this so disappointing servant, of such pretensions to spirituality as to be "perfect", but of such lapses into unloveliness as to be "blind", after all this grace of God, astonishes the reader. HOW COULD anyone be so unreceptive, unperceptive, in a word, BLIND! Well, that is the word of which the Lord makes use!
Despite their being a "people robbed and plundered", God "will exalt the law and make it honourable". The divinely long announced schema will be fulfilled; the promises will be redeemed; the Messiah will come and the restoration and restitution alike. WHO, He asks, "gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel for the robbers", concerning the covenantal people who as such are still a "servant", and as a disciplined servant have been lavishly exposed to plunder by explicit and often expressed divine design, from Leviticus 26 on.
Since it is undoubtedly His own removal of the divine shield to the covenant forsakers, which led to these disasters for this people, it is clear that He is making obvious one simple fact: HE acted in discipline, and it was NOT the power of the enemy which accomplished it. At HIS will and discretion, in HIS time, He will use the same power that instituted the nation (cf. Micah 7:15), to deliver it; the same resolution which left it in just rebuke, to bring it back, so making the nations look to their own foolish pride and imagination and forcing them to face this fact: GOD did it and GOD will restore it. HE took away and HE will restore, AS He will. It is HIS affair; and so, not quite so incidentally, are the sins of those who plundered what He disciplined! (Cf. Ezekiel 36:15, 37:28).
What then ? THIS: "All flesh shall know
That I, the LORD, am your Saviour,
And your Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob" -
just as in Deuteronomy 32 we find that the Lord proceeds to
"raise My hand to heaven,
And say, 'As I live forever,
If I whet My glittering sword,
And My hand takes hold on judgment,
I will render vengeance to My enemies..."
Then the Gentiles are asked to "rejoice... with His people...
He will provide atonement for His land and His people" - Deut. 32:43, precisely as inscribed in the detailed words of Zechariah 12:10ff.. It is then that the Redeemer, fulfilled in the Messiah in His works, is recognised, so that the faithfulness of God leads now to the faith perception of a changed people, who in large numbers receive the crucified, the pierced Messiah (as in Psalm 22, Isaiah 53) as Saviour, and wash in the fountain of blood which becomes to faith available (Zechariah 13:1ff), when the significance of their former folly leads to repentance, repentance to life.
Now let us note further that God confirms, in Isaiah 42:25, the grounds of special, specific, historic anger on this servant people, who have had to be replaced by MY SERVANT, in WHOM MY SOUL DELIGHTS (Isaiah 42:1). Indeed, the Lord stressed in 41:26ff., the entire absence of anyone else whatsoever to fulfil the role of Saviour being unfolded at once thereafter, as in Isaiah 42, and reflected in 49 and 52-53 (cf. 51:18ff.).
Thus is the Jewish nation, located by divine restitution and grace once more in its land made desolate for their sins, which led to this "servant" being so plundered, and this "servant" being so blind.
In this, it has been wholly unlike any other, for there are no others who have been as a nation in this position, and then being repudiated, have remained to be called a servant, and blind simultaneously! Gentile unbelievers have not the historic preliminaries, and so it is indeed to Jacob, as He says, that the Lord speaks. He means what He says, and the covenantally unqualified promise is confirmed, both in its express statement and its sublime spiritual significance. GOD ALWAYS carries out His resolutions, duly set down and inscribed is His word.
By all means have fear about the sun rising tomorrow (cf. Jeremiah 33's promise of continuation of what is in view, Israel the nation); but never doubt this, that God is so honourable that it is a sweet rejoicing of the heart to behold it. HE IS TRUTH, as well as the way and the life for us who know Him; and there is no other for those who don't!
In Isaiah 49, the next major focus on the Messiah, we see these things, not unexpectedly, extended. Again we see the Messiah in 49:1-9, with all the wonder of His being, facing the desolatory task assigned in its cost-effective ransoming aspect (49:4), as when He cried as in Psalm 22, "My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken Me!" as sin hit (Isaiah 53:6 cf. Joyful Jottings 21, 22, 25), and the necessary sense of separation accrued (Isaiah 66:1-2).
Here, He cries, as with the bleak experience of the gaunt and unhallowed weight of sin coming to Him as assigned:
"I have laboured in vain,
I have spent My strength for nothing and in vain.
Yet surely My just reward is with the LORD,
And my work with my God."
His "reward" is the multitude of children whom He redeemed, for though He lacked His own, in this He gains more, even from every tribe and nation. His NAME attests who and of whom He is, God in fleshly format (as in Philippians 2:1-10); and in this name has He exalted His Father who has exalted His Son.
With this immense payment of God the Sent (Isaiah 48:16), there is a magnification of the dimensions of the task: not as if it were suddenly thought of, but the weight of accomplishment by the Messiah, makes it now apt to expose this facet in the 8th. century B.C. prophecy, concerning His exalted mission, framed in ignominy, fulfilled in glory (cf. Luke 24:25-26). Now we find this:
"Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel.
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth' " -
Isaiah 49:6, cf. Biblical Blessings, Appendix 1, esp. End-note 1.
With this augmentation of role for the Messiah, we find nevertheless the original sustained, to restore the preserved of Israel - for many fell, and raise up the tribes of Jacob. In the process, as already seen in Isaiah 42:10ff., we have this amazing phenomenon of the blind servant, in total contrast to the effectual one, who so far from being blind, IS the light!
- Nevertheless, then, the love of God is not quenched, and to this sinning people,
and He declares:
"See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands,Your walls are continually before Me.
Your sons shall make haste;Your destroyers and those who laid you waste
Shall go away from you" - Isaiah 49:16-17.
So we see the walls of the spent nation, the disciplined, blind servant, as a divine focus as He restores the people from their destroyers, who had reduced the prior magnificence of their servant post, to this desolation. This, it is a thing true of no other people, as a nation, and the just opposite of Gentiles, themselves lacking any magnificence or post of past divine relationship; and here He is, performing this noble task, as becomes Him, with one amazingly and almost immeasurable one to be added! That ? The Gentiles, to be their light also.
It is not the world or the church, or Britain or Panama, it is not in the Himalayas or in Ireland, or in some South American place once patronisingly thought of for the "Jews", those wanderers, those dispossessed, those plundered and robbed, that people served with contempt by so many for so long, extending into the Middle Ages and well beyond, Hitler himself, a mere consummation. It is not another than those for whom so many have been assassins, and so many have THIEVED.
It is Israel the nation, to be restored, the perfect who is blind, the ex-grandee who is robbed, the servant who does not serve.
"For your waste and desolate places,
And the land of your destruction.
Will even now be too small for the inhabitants,
And those who swallowed you up will be far away.
The children you will have
After you have lost the others,
Will say again in your ears,
'The place is too small for me:
Give me a place where I may dwell' " -
just as if it were said by the hundreds of thousands reputedly demonstrated in Israel and Jerusalem. And what did they want, that they so demonstrated ? This: that they did NOT WANT ARAB CONTROL of the Mount, and this was their concern, in parallel with those Israelis who for long and loudly have proclaimed, Enough! in the give-away mission of the rulers of Israel, seen so often of late. But this Israel, this restored nation, this suddenly reborn nation, they are indeed being crammed into the forsaken nation, to what the Lord calls so exactly, "the land of your destruction". It is there, not in heavenly places, that the action is to occur, it is here rather than in some spiritual condition, that the restoration statedly occurs, with battle, not balm, with blood, not choral items. It has been ghastly, but this is the prediction. It has happened as forecast. Sin involves costs to many, and when there is also redemption, this is even greater.
Thus it is to the land of their desolation, that they come, are returned by the resolution and faithfulness of the Lord, back to the site of the destroyed Jerusalem and the place from which went an exiled Judah and little Benjamin, and even in greater tragedy, aggravated after the murder of the Messiah, in a real saga of suffering, that nation. The suffering as itemised in kind in Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 32, with the clinical precision of a syndrome, addressed by the doctor, when diagnosed: it has come. The return has come. The nations in their turbulence have come; and the intervention by the Lord as so often predicted, both has come and is to come. But listen, to the recording in advance of the nation, Israel, on its restoration, phase 1 (see earlier chapters) ...
"You will say in your heart,
'Who has begotten these for me,
Since I have lost my children and am desolate,
A captive, and wandering to and fro?
Who has brought these up?
There I was, let alone;
But these, where were they?' " (from Isaiah 49:21).
In verse 23, we find the international actions which helped this staggering result of the murdered crush of Jews, yet yielding a nation so crammed. KINGS were to have helped; and how the British Government has helped since 1917 right up to the World War II time; and how Germany repaid in reparations, and how Nixon helped in 1973 with an incredible largesse of aid to the beleaguered Jewish people, with a SHUTTLE OF ENORMOUS SCOPE, through monster US cargo planes, constantly equipping and re-equipping the Israeli armies until they, in dashing bravado and initiative, drove the Holy Day attack of the Arabs back, with their allies, beyond Suez and surrounded and Egyptian Army on the FAR SIDE of that body of water!
Yes it is fulfilled (Isaiah 49:24ff.).
- "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty,
Or the captives of the righteous be delivered ?
"But thus says the LORD:
'Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,
And the prey of the terrible be delivered:
For I will contend with him who contend with you,
And I will save your children.
'I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh,
And they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine.
All flesh shall know that I, the LORD, am your Saviour,
And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.' "
There is, as often noted on this site, MUCH MORE to come. But this much has in large part already happened, with just that zeal and bloodshed stated so pithily, pointedly and didactically by the Great Teacher, the LORD Himself.
HOW GERMANY suffered for the sins of her false and foolish government of World War II, and what German blood was shed for these follies. How USSR was bled in WWII, also as she was prepared for the eventual liberation of great numbers of Jews from her once entrapping midst! What developments have liberalised the Russian ways, to this end! How nations like France have suffered humiliation for their treatment under Louis XIV and others, of the Jews, in ways Hosmer points out in his story of the Jews. The Lord knows well how to repay, as He declares so, roundly (Deuteronomy 32:41).
Thus have the captives of the mighty been restored amid widespread bloodshed, and thus has the "land of your destruction", the very site on which the former grandeur of this 'blind servant' was so desolated, causing grief all but unspeakable to the rebelling people, the Jewish nation, thus has it become a source of concern for land sufficient for its returning sons.
End of Excerpt
THE WONDER OF THE PRESENT TENSE!
Even though for many, it is a tense present …
So GREAT will be the numbers of this 'blind servant' graciously restored, but not for its own sake, from the wrath and exile to which it had been judicially and prophetically exposed, that it will be hard to find land enough for the swelling cohorts of Israel who return to it! That is what God said would happen to this unique and now restored body. You and I, reader, especially if you are not so very young, can not only read the book to this effect, but recall the newspapers which in their own time, when the Lord was ready, RECORDED these very events. Who more blessed in the full exposure to prophecy, than Daniel in his far ranging revelation, than Isaiah and the prophets in theirs, than those who saw Christ fulfil their words in His own day on this earth, and than ... ourselves!
You and I are seeing these most amazing events, including the foolhardy insistences of humanistic bodies which play about with Israel and say that this or that should be done, minimising its history, maximising its losses, increasing its difficulties; and we are seeing that scripture fulfilled likewise that say this of such interfering muddlers. For them, Jerusalem will be a heavy and difficult stone. This was the forecast. It was but a foretaste, a trailer: now we are seeing the picture itself. Who could doubt the trouble the US, the UN, the Quartet are having in their interfering insulation from reality, with ... Jerusalem!
God's word comes to pass, just
as in Israel, so for you and for me. It is good that it does. He is the only
One of whom this is without exception, always true. The effort to excise
Israel from these events of the Biblical depiction, like the rest, is a
fiasco. It does not stand. Israel does. Let us however now enjoy a jaunt in
Isaiah, which like the Jewish State, stands on grounds beyond contention, to
mix it yet further with the other scriptures to which we have, in preparation,
ISAIAH IS AS CLEAR AS THE SUN AT NOON
IN ITS ISRAEL THE NATION PHASE
In Isaiah there are various indications concerning the return of Israel to its land, of the people of the Messiah, of salvation as a ground for life in the Messiah and the time to come on His return. These are given attention elsewhere, especially in Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength. Let us however enjoy a short tour of some passages to see their clarity, with the context given above as background, starting with Isaiah 49, and 51ff., and using 42, 63 and various lively exhibits.
Let us consider aspects of Isaiah 49 first. In verse 13, we find the Lord is talking of His people in terms of "His afflicted". This afflicted body is called "Zion" in v. 14, and her plaint is that "the LORD has forgotten me." That signifies a body formally committed to the Lord, but now finding that His presence and power are not available in the expected manner. Amongst the afflictions of this body is devastating action by enemies, though her walls still stand (49:16, cf. 62:6). If this is the Church, why does she find herself 'forgotten' and if it is unconverted sinners before conversion, what is the sacredness of their 'walls' ?
Israel itself however is assuredly "His afflicted"! First, it is His in the sense of the unconditional covenant, the past history and the coming restoration of which Paul speaks in Romans 11, and Moses in Deuteronomy 32. Secondly, it is His by virtue of the contract with Abraham, his personal knowledge of the predecessors. Thirdly, it is His by the fame of His name attached to the land where both David ruled and Christ was resurrected, which He bestowed in unconditional covenant on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 17:7-8, 26:3, 35:12).
If again it yet be deemed the Church, is she to clothe herself with Satan and the principalities and powers directed against her (49:16)? One should desire no clothing less! It is with Christ that one is clothed, and such has it been in prospect as now in retrospect (Isaiah 61:10, Colossians 3:10). It is Christ who deals with that powerful personality of evil! We do not play with lions, far less use them as clothes. Resist them certainly, but it is the Lord who holds them before Himself, in triumphant victory.
Only worse fit follows in 49:20. The land is to be too small for Israel. If this meant the Church, then is the world too small for it ? One has scarcely noticed such a thing, nor does it conform to the predictions of Christ in Matthew 24, or of Paul in II Thessalonians 2.
Is however the land too small for Israel ? Of course, since but little of it has been restored to Israel, and even that in conflict with international forces, which nowadays just murder more indifferently and appeal to the UN to help them against "His afflicted".
If again, 49:20 be made a candidate for the Israel-suppression move in the word about Israel, then one would need to question further. Will the spiritual powers against which we labour (Ephesians 6) - for Paul there tells us that as the Church we do not labour against flesh and blood - be fed with their own flesh, which they in any case do not possess ? What further monstrosities does this intrusive eisegesis exact!
We turn to Isaiah 51:17 and ask, Has the Church drunk at the Lord's hand the cup of His fury ? Let us be clear here. The cup of His fury is precisely what has been exposed from Isaiah 1 where He actively denounces the putridity of morals and the hypocrisy of spirituality which spread in the land like a plague of rodents. It is not something which the saints of God drink, for to them is no condemnation; and though discipline comes, it is as from a Father (Hebrews 12), for the very good reason that for the Church, for its people, this is precisely what He is. As Christ put it, ONE is your Father (Matthew 23:8ff.).
This too, that misconstruction of the text of Isaiah at this point, would a preposterous intrusion into the Lord's coherent and consistent word to Israel in these chapters.
However, Jerusalem did indeed drink this cup before the Lord came (as in Isaiah 52-53) and has done so not a little since (as in Deuteronomy 32 and Leviticus 26), for failing to recognise its own king (Deuteronomy 18:15ff., Luke 19:42ff.). There was indeed a new face and a new King to come into their physical midst, and though they murdered Him, yet many Jews did come to be part of His kingdom in the earliest phases of the Church's time. This feature is often reflected in Isaiah as in Ch. 60-61. While the nation did not join (Isaiah 49:7), many of the individual people did so. The cup indeed passed onto such, while those of Israel who commenced in Christ, the Church, were delivered from the worst of fates, even that deserved for spiritual perfidy.
In this way, we preserve three crucial features. The Israel whom the Lord is addressing (Isaiah 44:24ff.), who is faced first with Cyrus' deliverance (Isaiah 45), and then with that of the Messiah (Isaiah 42, 49), is a well-known recipient, and here an express one, of the Lord's word. Secondly, the appalling suffering it has been given, and that with fury from the Lord at times, is taken care of: it applies, and is not a flat contradiction of the Church's place. Thirdly, its land has indeed been devastated qua Jerusalem the city and the surrounds, and it requires reconstruction in those terms AS Zion! The Church not only is not recipient of such divine wrath, this being borne by Christ (Romans 3:23ff.), but is not generically devastated nor is it undergoing reconstruction as Zion!
Let us look now at Isaiah 51:21ff.. Are sinners, prior to conversion, people out of whose hand the Lord takes the cup of trembling ? removing the dregs of the cup of His fury ? or, is the church of converted people the recipient of His cup of fury ? and is it then removed ? and is this then some new theology to make second blessing seem like the Rock of Gibraltar by comparison, though it be a trivial and ill-considered doctrine! What is this rampant theological adventurism which so speaks, and so distorts the word of God!
Moreover is the Church no more to be walked on ? Scarcely. Rather after becoming Christians they are likely to be walked on, even killed (John 16:2), and prior to it, many will have been doing the treading themselves, such as Saul who became Paul! He trod quite heavily on the Christians themselves before being saved! While there are times of prosperity (Paul speaks of knowing how to abound and to be abased), yet the world hates the Christians, because of their Lord, His majesty, the competition with their own lusts to steal the earth and its population and govern it without God, because of its arrogance in the face of the divine humility, and because its sin makes it guilty, and Christians remind it of this fact. By no means is this a relevant promise, but rather something near to the contrary! It is assuredly not of the church that the prophet here speaks.
It does not fit. Israel however had the cup of the Lord's fury AS ISRAEL, and can be spoken of in that NAME as having that, which is entirely inapplicable to the Church. From Israel some would come, to be sure (Isaiah 53:10), who would become children of God; just as some would come too from the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6, 42:6); and this as seen in Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength, is covered elsewhere in the prophet as well as in those two verse. Here however when Israel is in the text, it is the Israel of history, the nation which is strange in some of its ways, is certainly not some metaphorical substitute, thrust into the picture, like a pedestrian falling before a motor vehicle which is moving in its own fashion.
From the standpoint of the day of Isaiah, the cup was indeed removed from Israel more than once. Israel was in fact delivered time and again, first by Cyrus, then by the Maccabees, each for a time. In the sense of its recent return to its land, it has been delivered again, that time in a specialised manner as in Ezekiel 36ff..
As to Israel, then, it here fits, since this is the body of whom the Lord is expressly speaking, identifying them in terms of Cyrus, or their sins, as the case may be, in their complex and unique history relative to Himself, and in His conversion of some of them (a remnant - as in Isaiah 49:6). It is Israel who went down to Egypt who is in view, in case anyone should forget (Isaiah 52:4).
Then the converted Jews need to extend their tent (Isaiah 54) and to them as to other Christians, the Lord extends the inveterate mercy of His own invention and Gospel (cf. Isaiah 51:11). It is then that the nation is further identified as having drunk the cup of the Lord's fury, this Jerusalem.
Are Christians as such, 'Jerusalem', converted people, to be called (Isaiah 52:2) the 'captive daughter of Jerusalem' ? Why on earth should this be ? They are liberated (John 8:34-35). It is not possible to be liberated as a CLASS when the class characterisation is to have been liberated already. They would have to be liberated so that they could BECOME 'Jerusalem', not as Jerusalem come upon this liberation at a subsequent time, categorically. A double dose is excessive, and to make your right hand your right hand when it is already, is to say no more, superfluous; but to say more, alas ridiculous, as if one were dreaming. Alas, this is the case in this outage of Israel the nation in the theologies of some, it is a dream. The text ? it becomes as we see, merely a nightmare. But what would you ? That is what dreams are apt to do.
Is God's name then to be blasphemed continually every day in the Church (Isaiah 52:5), which must be the ACTUAL church since to have the name 'Jerusalem' or 'Israel' it has to be the body properly so-called to have any relevance at all, as the 'true Jerusalem'. There is such a body of course, but it is not to this with any contextual possibility of harmony, that the Lord is speaking here. The Jerusalem which symbolised sanctity is indeed free and available; but it is not the one which took the fury of the Lord, but the one which, in order to be constituted, had already been delivered from this. It is not merely dissonant from this text, in its nature, but contradictory.
As to the actual Church of Jesus Christ, for this, that curse was constitutively absent from the first day of its existence! It is thus to Israel the nation, that the Lord speaks, and to those who will believe within it, in these contexts. In this way, He can address ALWAYS here, those who have this actual history as a nation, and at times, those from among them who will believe. When a former church lurches out of its way, its candle-stick, its divine authority and place AS a church is removed (as Revelation 2-3 show). What IS the church however, this is as far from this context as you could go, as though calling the South Pole the North, but worse than this, as though calling Jupiter the earth, or the moon a star.
It is for this reason, when the believing segment is not stylised, that Israel the nation, as a SERVANT of GOD in formal terms, but with broken covenant, not actual, can be blind!
If there is one thing which distinguishes the Church, properly so-called, and hence able in ANY sense to be 'Jerusalem', it is that it is not blind. He who sees the Son and believes in Him is saved (John 6:40), and Christians are as reflectors of the Lord Jesus Christ, the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). What sort of light is seen by the blind! Thus Isaiah 42:18ff. is certainly dealing with the Messiah who opens blind eyes. To whom is He then speaking in Isaiah 42:19 ?
Is it to Church which is the criterion of blindness ?
Is it of the body to whom He acts as the light of the world so that they do NOT walk in darkness, and this by promise, that He so speaks ? (John 8:12). Or is it of Israel, being seen here as returning to its land, still actually blind in spirit ? Does not the Lord state explicitly that He will bring them by a new way ? (42:15), showing light even though they themselves be blind! Peoples are to bring these sons to Israel, even kings! (49:22-23).
If this were Church, then kings would be helping blind people, without Christ, to come home, and even while they bear the title of 'Church', in some metaphorical style of Israel or Zion, yet are they blind while this powerful aid brings them to their land. In fact, the people who are 'Zion' are in the symbolic sense, differentially by nature wide awake, following a clear light and well able to see it, not helped by kings who bow to the earth at all (Isaiah 49:23). In fact, Israel the nation has been brought back by those who have shown awe at the Lord, such as Cyrus, and by nations which have realised their sins against her, such as Germany. She has been greatly aided in indemnities in the billions, and by the USA in its dower.
Nor does the symbolic intrusion into the text fare better when the Lord is seen coming to Israel after a slaughter in Edom in Isaiah 63, whose day of vengeance has arrived. Is the day of vengeance the Gospel, which is a way to avoid it, amongst other things ? How do you spiritualise vengeance in the domain of the Christian Church ? how do you incorporate slaughter in its ministrations, and this when the treading of the 'winepress' is in anger! Is then the Gospel not a propitiation after all, so that the Jews can be excluded from this "Israel" to whom the Lord speaks in the general survey of the chapters we have chiefly considered, namely 42,49,51,63, and the Church like some sort of ill-fitting denture inserted into the mouth of the Lord gratuitously!
This then is but one more outrageous outage despite the awesome input of the Lord.
We do well to avoid the opposite error, which makes a 'special' Gospel for the Jews. They are SPIRITUALLY bankrupt as a nation (Isaiah 65:13-15), and only when they come to that same Messiah as some of their forefathers found, in founding the Christian Church in His name through His blood and the power of the Holy Spirit, do they inherit what matters more than any land.
It is both trite and vain to cut up the Gospel which they lack, being thereby accursed, for their curse in not borne in that condition (Galatians 3:10-13); and they must find the Messiah as in Isaiah 50-55, 66, where an entirely new brand of Levite is shown, for whom there are no sacrificial duties with animals at all (cf. Jeremiah 3:16, Isaiah 66:2ff.), since their own rejected Messiah has in fact done all for ever in this domain.
There is ONE Messiah, ONE sacrifice, ONE resurrection (Psalm 16), one general resurrection (Isaiah 26:19), one LORD and one destiny for His people.
Is it really so hard that these things being all so, we need to imagine that the Lord does not know how to restore the people to their actual inheritance, to have pity on His great name, as He explicitly says in Ezekiel 36! Is it hard to find many in Israel in one last sweeping powerful thrust from the Lord, as finding their sin and their Saviour together, as in Zechariah 12:10! Is it too much to follow the context, and is it necessary multiply to contradict it! Assuredly it is not. It is a practice to be exiled from the understanding, while the requirements of the text are to be appropriated with joy, just as history itself has already appropriated the text, under the power of God, and done all He said.
Is it not possible to see the various contexts and references moreover in the rest of Isaiah, as shown in the volume Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength ? Is it really too much to leave everything in its place, the land, the Gospel, the nation, the converts, the Gentile converts, without what seems an almost obsessive desire to make everything one, rather like those naturalists who try to compress another creation, this time the material one, into some kind of underlying something, which never works out, since God varies things in life, and in land, but never in principle!
He does not change; His Gospel never changes; but His word also, it does not change. What He says, He does, and that to the jot and tittle. It is only part of His general faithfulness, that He executes His word, and indeed, as Joel declares, mighty is He who executes His word (Joel 2:11). The execution in view, however, is in the sense of DOING IT, not killing it!
Tradition alas, is most gifted at the latter. It must however be constantly restored to subjection to the word which ostensibly it respects. This respect must be one which lets the Lord speak, and does not spiritualise and temporise and apostrophise His word with all sorts of intrusive speech, as did the Pharisees of old.